Is it a holiday, or are you just ‘going away’?

Some people we know have come up for a holiday in what could be described as a very touristy location.

But is it for a ‘holiday’?

They have come from one state and are staying in what could be called an apartment, not a hotel.  They are here for a week.

So, they have a kitchen of sorts and can cook their own meals, unlike staying in a hotel room and having to eat out or in the hotel restaurant, and the apartment has a mini laundry.

How much different is this to being at home?

Perhaps we need to have a definition of the word ‘holiday’ and its variations.

A lot of people use the term ‘vacation’.  Others use the term ‘leave’.  Leave’s a difficult term because it can cover a number of types such as annual, sick, and maternity.

But whatever we want to call it, is it when you’re taking some time away from work.

But is it when you go ‘away’, that is to say anywhere but home?

You say, ‘I’m going on vacation.”

We say, “Oh, where are you going?”

Some say camping.  Is that any different than staying in an apartment, or even a holiday house?  Still all the same chores, cooking, cleaning, washing.

Some might say they’re staying with relatives either on the other side of the country or on the other side of the world.

There are those who go camping.  Just mind the bugs, wild animals, and bears.

Some stay in self serve apartments where it’s just like being at home, only somewhere a little different.

But to truly have a holiday in every sense of the word, it seems that can only be achieved by staying in a 5-star hotel, or by going on what is a more recent phenomenon, embarking on an all-inclusive cruise where you don’t have to do anything at all.

For me, I’ll stick to the 5-star hotels.

Betwixt metaphorical houses

It’s like working in two offices, one uptown, and one downtown.

I have two blogs, this one, and another which is purely for writing, and generally, a lot of starts and not a lot of finishes. I get ideas, and it’s a place to store them, and give a few people some amusement at my, sometimes, improbable situations and far-fetched stories.

Here I try to be more serious.

I have the ceiling, the cinema of my dreams. Here anything is possible, like jumping from a helicopter about to explode, and survive, and get out of a sinking ship, like Houdini. Of course, there is always one time when it doesn’t work, and Houdini knows that all too well.

Over there, I have a series which I started here, long ago, where I take a photograph and write a story inspired by it. The interesting thing about that is I could probably use the same photograph over and over, and it would inspire a different tale.

I know, if I was running a writing class, everyone would see that photograph differently.

But what amazes me sometimes is the fact the story is not directly related to the theme. It got me thinking about how we view our experiences, and what triggers memories. I’ve discovered that it doesn’t necessarily happen by correlation, say, for instance, a memory of being in New York might be triggered by a visit to a cafe in Cloncurry.

I try to do one of these every day, but sometimes it’s hard work. Writing itself can be some days, particularly when the words are lurking there, behind that invisible, impenetrable, rock wall.

OK, so I’m stuck in the middle of writing a piece over there, and I’ve come over here to whinge.

But, enough. I’ll let you know what the cinema of my dreams is showing, later.

It’s hot outside, time for a moment of nostalgia before the doom and gloom

Whilst I can’t be where I would like to be, it’s not that bad inside thanks to the air conditioning.

And I’m studying up on how far I would need to wind down the air conditioner in order for it to snow inside the house.

A foolish notion maybe, but oddly enough living in a country where most of the inhabitants rarely see snow, if at all, Hollywood has a lot to answer for my expectations of a white Christmas.

But, venturing outside for no reason, in particular, the heat hits you as bad as if you walked into a brick wall.

It reminds me of the first time we visited Singapore, the plane arrived around midnight, and we were heading to an overnight hotel before picking up the next leg into London.

Yes, another trip to the cold side of the world.

We thought, late at night, how hot could it be. We soon found out. The short walk from the terminal to the waiting limousine was like wading through head-high water.

What does all this waffle have to do with anything?

Nothing.

Just wallowing in nostalgia.

I was once hoping with our impeccable COVID record, that places like New Zealand and Singapore might allow us to travel there again, but no. The government decided to open the borders to everyone and COVID came marching in.

I’ve lost count of the number of waves we’ve had, but now, unlike every other time, people are dying in larger numbers, and case numbers are heading for 7 figures, and for a country with only 28 million or so, that’s nearly one twenty-fifth of everyone.

Now we have so many people in isolation with Omicron, there’s no one left to work, so, no staff for cafes or supermarkets or essential services like hospitals and ambulances, no one to deliver the fuel (or anything else for that matter), no one to harvest and process the crops, in which case, it means we’ll be roughly in the equivalent of dire straits.

How long before the lights go out because there’s no one to tend the generators.

We were, and are, not prepared and never have been.

No one saw this coming? I think people just closed their eyes and made a wish that it would just go away because we had so many vaccinated. Sorry, doesn’t work that way. The vaccine doesn’t stop you from getting it, just helps not to let it kill you.

Now the Israelis are saying a fourth booster is useless against Omicron.

And, of course, Omicron is not the last of the variants. I’m sure there’s something nastier waiting in the wings. Sorry if I’m sounding despondent, but there’s isn’t any good news. None. Zip. Zero. Even our chief health officer, a person who should be trying to calm the population, is telling us everyone is going to get Omicron, and there are going to be deaths.

Wow!

I’ve locked myself away, trying to keep COVID at bay because of a compromised immune system, but my children, their partners, and partners’ families have all got it, and it’s far too close to home.

I can’t see how I’m going to dodge the bullet, and if I get it, then my chances of survival are small, even being triple vaccinated because all the studies prove the vaccine is useless against Omicron.

I was looking for a doomsday scenario for a book. The problem is, it’s here, right now, and I may not get to finish it.

Time to stop this, and get on with it.

I fell asleep in front of the computer screen

And when I woke up, I realised that I had just had a very bad dream. Or don’t they call bad dreams nightmares?

Can you diagnose yourself as having depression?

Of course, if you were to tell someone else, in one of this very serious tones, “I think I have depression” they will ask you what you’ve got to be depressed about.

It’s a good question. My first answer would be, “why did the doctor put my on anti depressants?” You know the stuff they give you, some derivative of serapax,

Then, if you tell anyone you’re on that stuff, they turn around and tell you just how bad it is and get off it right now.

That’s all very well, but you tell them you still have depression, and so the argument goes on.

But…

These days, they use low doses of anti depressants to manage pain, and in my case back pain. The first pill they gave me was lyrica, which slowly took my memory away so that I couldn’t remember what anyone had said earlier in the day.

I thought I had early onset Alzheimer’s, or worse, dementia.

So I got off that, got the pain back, and moved to anti depressants. Now I’m seeing things.

That might help with the imagination for writing stories sometimes, but telling people you see the patterns on tiles moving is not a good start to any conversation.

Back to depression, though. It might be caused by being locked down and not being able to go anywhere, but that has never bothered me because I hate going out.

It might be a result of my childhood coming back to haunt me, and, believe me, you would not want the childhood I had, but it’s a maybe. A lot of old people find their past creeping up on them, and what happened 60 years ago seems more relevant than what happened 60 minutes ago.

You might think you’re badly done by, that everyone else is responsible for the mess you made of your life, if it is indeed a mess, but no, that isn’t true. My life is exactly what it’s meant to be, though how I got here remains the biggest of mysteries.

It’s why I’m writing the autobiography of a very ordinary nobody.

OK, that might be a hint, thinking I’m a nobody. After all, when I go out I always feel like I’m invisible.

A friend of mine tells me he always cries when there’s a sad part of a film on, and that’s his determination of depression.

I do too, but I don’t think it’s that.

After all, I did psychology and should understand the nuances of the human psyche, what makes us happy, what makes us sad, what makes us us.

So, rightly or wrongly I’ve stopped taking the anti depressants.

If suddenly my blog suddenly stops, you’ll know I’ve made the wrong decision.

How could that possibly happen… – A short story

I had hoped by the time I was promoted to assistant manager it might mean something other than long hours and an increase in pay.

It didn’t.

But unlike others who had taken the job, and eventually become jaded and left, I stayed. Something I realized that others seemed to either ignore or just didn’t understand, this was a company that rewarded loyalty.

It was why there were quite a few who had served 30 years or more. They might not reach the top job, but they certainly well looked after.

I had a long way to go, having been there only 8 years, and according to some, on a fast track. I was not sure how I would describe this so-called ‘fast track’ other than being in the right place at the right time and making a judicial selection.

When it was my turn to be promoted, I had a choice of a plum department, or one most of my contemporaries had passed over. At the time, the words of my previous manager sprang to mind, that being a manager for the most sought after department or the least sought after, came with exactly the same privileges.

And, he was right. I took the least sought after, much to their disdain and disapproval. One year on, that disapproval had turned almost to envy; that was when the Assistant Managers were granted a new privilege, tea, and lunch in the executive dining room.

“So, what’s it like?” John asked, when our group met on a Friday night, this the first after the privilege was granted.

He had been one of the three, including me, who had the opportunity to take the role. Both he and Alistair had both declined, prepared to wait for a more prestigious department. It hadn’t happened to them yet.

“The same as the staff dining room, only smaller. Except, I guess, the waitstaff and butler. They come and serve you when you have to go to them in the staff room. They’re the same staff, by the way, except for the butler.”

I could see the awe, or was it envy, in their eyes. “but it’s not that great. The Assistant Managers all sit at one end of the table, and we’re not part of the main group, so no sharing of information I’m afraid. And the meals are the same, just served on fancier crockery.”

“Then nothing to write home about?” Will was one of those who they also thought to be on a ‘fast track’. I was still trying to see how my ‘fast track’ was actually that fast.

“Put it this way, the extra pay doesn’t offset the long hours because you get overtime, I don’t, so on a good week, you’d all be earning more than me. Without responsibility, if anything goes wrong. I think that’s why Assistant Managers were created, to take the blame when anything goes wrong.”

That had been the hardest pill to swallow. Until I got the role, I hadn’t realized what it really involved. Nor had the others, and it was not something we could whinge about. My first-day introductory speech from Tomkins, my Manager, was all about taking responsibility, and how I was there to make his life easier. It was a speech he made a few times because he’d been Manager for the last 16 years, much the same as the others, and promotion if ever, would come when they died.

And Manager’s rarely died, because of their Assistant Managers.

“How old is Tomkins now?” Bert, a relative newcomer to our group, asked. He was still in the ‘in awe’ phase.

“About the same as Father Time,” I said. “But the reality is, no one knows, except perhaps for the personnel manager.” O looked over at Wally, the Personnel Department’s Assistant Manager. “Any chance of you telling us?”

“No. You know I can’t.”

“But you know?” I asked.

“Of course, but you know the rules. That’s confidential information. Not like what you are the custodian of, information everyone needs.”

Which, of course, was true. Communication and Secretarial Services had no secrets, except for twice a year when the company Bord of Directors met, and we were responsible for all the documents used at their meetings. Then, and only then, was I privy to all the secrets, including promotions. And be asked ‘What’s happening?’.

“Just be content to know that he’s as old as the hills, as most of them. It seems to me that one of the pre-requisites for managership is that you have been employed here for 30 years.”

Not all, though, I’d noticed, but there wasn’t one under the age of fifty.

And so it would go, the Friday night lament, those ‘in’ the executive, and those who were not quite there yet.
It seemed prophetic, in a sense, that we had been talking about Mangers and their ages. By a quirk of fate, some weeks before, that I learned of Tomkins’s currents state of health via a call on his office phone. At the time he was out, where, he had not told me, but by his the I believed it was something serious, so serious he didn’t want me, or anyone else, to know about it.

That phone call was from his wife, Eleanor, whom I’d met on a number of occasions when she came to take him home from work. I liked her, and couldn’t help but notice she was his exact opposite, Tomkins, silent and at times morose, and Eleanor, the life of the party. I could imagine her being a handful in her younger days, and it was a stark reminder of that old saying ‘opposites attract’.

She was concerned and asked me if he had returned from the specialist. I simply said he had but was elsewhere, and promised to get him to call her when he returned. Then I made a quick call around to see where he was and found that he was in Personnel. I left an innocuous message on his desk, and then let my imagination run wild.

At least for a day or so, the time it took for me to realize that it was probably nothing, the lethargy he’d been showing, gone.

I’d put it out of my mind until my cell phone rang, and it was from the Personnel Manager. On a Sunday, no less. In the few seconds before I answered it, I’d made the assumption that Tomkins’s secretive visits to the specialist meant he needed time off for a routine operation.

Greetings over, O’Reilly, the Personnel Manager, cut straight to the chase, “For your personal information, and not to be repeated, Tomkins will be out of action for about two months, and as that is longer than the standard period, you will become Acting Manager. We’ll talk more about this Tuesday morning.” Monday was a holiday.

All Assistant Managers knew the rules. Any absence of a manager for longer than a month, promotion to Acting Manager. Anything less, you sat in the office, but no change in title. There was one more rule, that in the event of the death of a manager, the assistant manager was immediately promoted to Manager. This had only happened once before. 70 years ago. If a manager retired, then the position of Manager was thrown open to anyone in the organization.

It was an intriguing moment in time.

Tuesday came, and as usual, I went into the office, with only one thought in mind, let the staff in the department know what was happening, of course, the moment I was given the approval to do so by Personnel.

Not a minute after I sat down, the phone rang. I picked it up, gave my name and greeting. It was met with a rather excitable voice of the Assistant Manager, Personnel, “I just got word from on high, you’ve been promoted to manager. How could that possibly happen…”

Then a moment later, as realization set in, “Unless…”

—-

© Charles Heath 2020-2021

A twitter biography

Every year I come back to revisit this, and each year it becomes a harder issue to deal with.  All that’s recently changed is the number of characters you can use

I’ve been trawling the endless collection of twitter descriptions provided by their users, noting that there is a restriction of 280 characters.

How do you sum yourself up in 280 characters?

I don’t think I can, so we tend to put down a few catchphrases, something that will draw followers.  I’m thinking the word ‘aspiring’ will be my catchword.

I’m aspiring to be a writer, or is that author?  Is there a difference, like for instance, one publishes ebooks on Amazon, one publishes hard copies in the traditional manner?

Is there a guide to what I can call myself?

Quite simply put, but in more than 140 characters, married happily, two wonderful children, three amazing grandchildren, and a wealth of experience acquired over the years.

Actually, that sounds rather boring, doesn’t it?

Perhaps it would be better if I was a retired policeman, a retired lawyer, a retired sheriff, a retired private investigator, a retired doctor, someone who had an occupation that was a rich mine of information from which to draw upon.

Retired computer programmers, supermarket shelf stackers, night cleaners, accounts clerks and general dogsbody s don’t quite cut the mustard.

I have also become fascinated with the expression ‘killer biography’.  Does it mean that I have to be a ‘killer’?

Better than the self-confession above.  Should we try to embellish our personal history in order to make it more appealing?

It’s much the same as writing about daily life.  No one wants to read about it, people want to be taken out of the humdrum of normalcy and be taken into a world where they can become the character in the book.

And there you have it, in a nutshell, why I write.

 

The cinema of my dreams – It’s a treasure hunt – Episode 36

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.

 

“How long have you been working on this?”

“A week. Lying in bed is boring, so I decided to look at everything I’ve got again, and then again. There were some old maps of the coastline stored with the treasure maps, so I think my father was trying to find the actual location his treasure maps were based on and came up against the same problem. Physical landmarks on the treasure maps are no longer there, and if you didn’t know any better, I would think you were looking in the wrong place.”

“So, in actual fact, what you’re saying now is that your father had no idea where the treasure was buried, that he was just producing maps for the Cossatino’s’ to sell.”

That, of course, could be looked at from a different angle, one that I wasn’t going to suggest right then because Boggs was not ready to hear it. I think the real maps Boggs had found with eh treasure maps were the basis for the treasure maps, that is, his father had to give them real-life elements to keep the punters interested.

“No, not necessarily. I think he knew it was somewhere along this coastline give or take a hundred miles, because of its proximity to the Spanish Maine, but essentially you’re right. He probably had no idea.”

So, he hadn’t come to the same conclusion I had. Yet.

And if I could come to that conclusion, surely Cossatino also would, after all, he was the one who got Boggs senior to make the maps. Why all of a sudden did he think that there was a real treasure map. It couldn’t be simply because Boggs had said there was one. He’d have to know that anything Boggs junior found was an invention commissioned by him,

Or hadn’t Vince told his father what he was doing? Surely the father would have told the son about the treasure map scam.

As for Benderby, senior could base his assumption of the fact that he’d found some old coins off the coast nearby that could be part of the trove. Alex then may have decided to usurp his father’s search with one of his own, conveniently forgetting the treasure maps were an invention of the Cossatino’s. IT was a tangled web of lies deceit and one-upmanship, one that was going to leave a trail of human wreckage in its wake.

Boggs and I were two of the first three. We had lived to tell about it, Frobisher was the first casualty.

But what I suppose was more despairing was how taken Boggs was with the notion that the treasure was real, hidden out there somewhere, and that his father had ‘the’ map. I was loath to label him delusional, but his pathological desire to prove his father’s so-called legacy was going to not end well, especially when we found nothing.

And, yet, I had to admire the lengths he had gone to, to prove his case. Even now, looking at the overlaid maps, there was no guarantee we’d find anything, but at first look, the evidence was compelling.

Except I had a feeling Boggs had something up his sleeve. I had to ask the question. “Where did you get the idea of matching the treasure map to the real map?”

“My father’s journal. It was tossed in the bottom of a box of his other stuff. There are about ten boxes stacked in the shed, stuff my mother just couldn’t be bothered sorting through after he disappeared. Again, boredom pushed me into going through everything over and over just in case I missed something.”

He reached in under the mattress of his bed and pulled out an old leather-bound notebook. It had a strap that bound it together, and by the look of it had extra papers inserted or glued to pages, as well as papers at the start and back of the volume, making it look about twice the original size.

He handed it to me. The leather was old, cracked, and had that distinctive aroma of the hide. I loosened the strap and the top cover opened. The first page was a newspaper cutting, a small piece about some old coins being found about a hundred yards offshore by some surfers. Were these the same coins that Benderby had claimed were part to the trove?

“Benderby was getting that antiquarian that was murdered to identify some coins,” I said after a quick glance through the article.

“I spoke to one of the surfers the other day,” Boggs said. “He told me he came off his board on a big wave and as he was going down saw something glinting on the seabed. He managed to pull up three coins. There were more but he had to come up for air. When he went down again, he realized he’d been dragged away by the current.”

Tides and currents along this part of the coast were particularly bad, and the undertow, at times could get surfers and swimmers alike into a lot of trouble. I’d been caught out once in a dinghy myself, finishing up ten miles further down the coast that I expected to be.

“Then, I take it he can’t remember the exact spot so he could go back.”

“He tried, but alas no. Said he sold the coins to old man Benderby for a hundred apiece and told him approximately where he thought the others were, but nothing’s been found since.”

Not that Benderby would tell anyone if he did. But it explained where the coins came from that he gave to Frobisher.

“Except we can assume that it’s off our coastline somewhere, right?”

“Five miles of coastline to be precise. He and his mate always had a few reefers before they went out, made the ride more interesting he said. He could have been off the coast of Peru for all he knew.”

Surfers, drugs and a colorful story.

“It explains why Benderby and a team of divers have been out in his new boat,” Boggs added, “probably trying to either find the location or line up landmarks on his map from the seaward side at the same time. But he doesn’t know what we know.”

What did we know? I leafed through a few more pages of the diary, but the scrawled notes were almost illegible. I picked up various words, like a marina, underground river, dry lakebed, but none of it made any sense.

“Which map did we give to Alex?”

Boggs went over to a drawer in the wardrobe and leafed through the papers in it and pulled out one and gave it to me. Like the rest it showed the shore, the hills, the lake, and two what looked to be rivers flowing into the sea. Each of the maps had those same features but in different places.

I didn’t want to say it, but it seemed to me we were playing a very dangerous game. The maps might look different in some respects, but the chances were, if Alex was smart enough to hire an expert, that we might run across him out there, and, to be honest, he would be the last person I’d want to see.

“You do realize our paths are going to cross at some point.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

A shiver went down my spine, an omen I thought. Boggs has something up his sleeve, and I really didn’t want to know.

Not right then.

 

© Charles Heath 2020

How could that possibly happen… – A short story

I had hoped by the time I was promoted to assistant manager it might mean something other than long hours and an increase in pay.

It didn’t.

But unlike others who had taken the job, and eventually become jaded and left, I stayed. Something I realized that others seemed to either ignore or just didn’t understand, this was a company that rewarded loyalty.

It was why there were quite a few who had served 30 years or more. They might not reach the top job, but they certainly well looked after.

I had a long way to go, having been there only 8 years, and according to some, on a fast track. I was not sure how I would describe this so-called ‘fast track’ other than being in the right place at the right time and making a judicial selection.

When it was my turn to be promoted, I had a choice of a plum department, or one most of my contemporaries had passed over. At the time, the words of my previous manager sprang to mind, that being a manager for the most sought after department or the least sought after, came with exactly the same privileges.

And, he was right. I took the least sought after, much to their disdain and disapproval. One year on, that disapproval had turned almost to envy; that was when the Assistant Managers were granted a new privilege, tea, and lunch in the executive dining room.

“So, what’s it like?” John asked, when our group met on a Friday night, this the first after the privilege was granted.

He had been one of the three, including me, who had the opportunity to take the role. Both he and Alistair had both declined, prepared to wait for a more prestigious department. It hadn’t happened to them yet.

“The same as the staff dining room, only smaller. Except, I guess, the waitstaff and butler. They come and serve you when you have to go to them in the staff room. They’re the same staff, by the way, except for the butler.”

I could see the awe, or was it envy, in their eyes. “but it’s not that great. The Assistant Managers all sit at one end of the table, and we’re not part of the main group, so no sharing of information I’m afraid. And the meals are the same, just served on fancier crockery.”

“Then nothing to write home about?” Will was one of those who they also thought to be on a ‘fast track’. I was still trying to see how my ‘fast track’ was actually that fast.

“Put it this way, the extra pay doesn’t offset the long hours because you get overtime, I don’t, so on a good week, you’d all be earning more than me. Without responsibility, if anything goes wrong. I think that’s why Assistant Managers were created, to take the blame when anything goes wrong.”

That had been the hardest pill to swallow. Until I got the role, I hadn’t realized what it really involved. Nor had the others, and it was not something we could whinge about. My first-day introductory speech from Tomkins, my Manager, was all about taking responsibility, and how I was there to make his life easier. It was a speech he made a few times because he’d been Manager for the last 16 years, much the same as the others, and promotion if ever, would come when they died.

And Manager’s rarely died, because of their Assistant Managers.

“How old is Tomkins now?” Bert, a relative newcomer to our group, asked. He was still in the ‘in awe’ phase.

“About the same as Father Time,” I said. “But the reality is, no one knows, except perhaps for the personnel manager.” O looked over at Wally, the Personnel Department’s Assistant Manager. “Any chance of you telling us?”

“No. You know I can’t.”

“But you know?” I asked.

“Of course, but you know the rules. That’s confidential information. Not like what you are the custodian of, information everyone needs.”

Which, of course, was true. Communication and Secretarial Services had no secrets, except for twice a year when the company Bord of Directors met, and we were responsible for all the documents used at their meetings. Then, and only then, was I privy to all the secrets, including promotions. And be asked ‘What’s happening?’.

“Just be content to know that he’s as old as the hills, as most of them. It seems to me that one of the pre-requisites for managership is that you have been employed here for 30 years.”

Not all, though, I’d noticed, but there wasn’t one under the age of fifty.

And so it would go, the Friday night lament, those ‘in’ the executive, and those who were not quite there yet.
It seemed prophetic, in a sense, that we had been talking about Mangers and their ages. By a quirk of fate, some weeks before, that I learned of Tomkins’s currents state of health via a call on his office phone. At the time he was out, where, he had not told me, but by his the I believed it was something serious, so serious he didn’t want me, or anyone else, to know about it.

That phone call was from his wife, Eleanor, whom I’d met on a number of occasions when she came to take him home from work. I liked her, and couldn’t help but notice she was his exact opposite, Tomkins, silent and at times morose, and Eleanor, the life of the party. I could imagine her being a handful in her younger days, and it was a stark reminder of that old saying ‘opposites attract’.

She was concerned and asked me if he had returned from the specialist. I simply said he had but was elsewhere, and promised to get him to call her when he returned. Then I made a quick call around to see where he was and found that he was in Personnel. I left an innocuous message on his desk, and then let my imagination run wild.

At least for a day or so, the time it took for me to realize that it was probably nothing, the lethargy he’d been showing, gone.

I’d put it out of my mind until my cell phone rang, and it was from the Personnel Manager. On a Sunday, no less. In the few seconds before I answered it, I’d made the assumption that Tomkins’s secretive visits to the specialist meant he needed time off for a routine operation.

Greetings over, O’Reilly, the Personnel Manager, cut straight to the chase, “For your personal information, and not to be repeated, Tomkins will be out of action for about two months, and as that is longer than the standard period, you will become Acting Manager. We’ll talk more about this Tuesday morning.” Monday was a holiday.

All Assistant Managers knew the rules. Any absence of a manager for longer than a month, promotion to Acting Manager. Anything less, you sat in the office, but no change in title. There was one more rule, that in the event of the death of a manager, the assistant manager was immediately promoted to Manager. This had only happened once before. 70 years ago. If a manager retired, then the position of Manager was thrown open to anyone in the organization.

It was an intriguing moment in time.

Tuesday came, and as usual, I went into the office, with only one thought in mind, let the staff in the department know what was happening, of course, the moment I was given the approval to do so by Personnel.

Not a minute after I sat down, the phone rang. I picked it up, gave my name and greeting. It was met with a rather excitable voice of the Assistant Manager, Personnel, “I just got word from on high, you’ve been promoted to manager. How could that possibly happen…”

Then a moment later, as realization set in, “Unless…”

—-

© Charles Heath 2020-2021

I’ve been reading a lot

And at times wish I hadn’t.

Having been a journalist in a previous lifetime, and one that always believed that the truth mattered, it didn’t take long to realise that journalists should never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Newspapers, and all other forms of media, will only write what they believe will sell, or what they think the public wants to read. The truth, sadly, is not the first thing on the readers mind, only that someone is to blame for something they have no control over, and it doesn’t matter who.

And the more outlandish the situation, the more the public will buy into it.

This, I guess, is why we like reading about celebrities and royalty, not for the good they might do, but the fact they stumble and make mistakes, and that somehow makes us feel better about ourselves.

Similarly, if the media can beat up a subject, like the corona-virus, and make it worse that it is, then people will lap up the continuing saga, as it relates to them, and will take one of two stances, that they believe the horror of it, and do as they’re asked, or disbelieve it because nothing can be that bad, and ignore it and the consequences of disobedience. knowing the government will not press too hard against the non compliers simply because of domocracy issues it will stir up.

That is, then the media will get a hold of this angle and push it, and people will start to think disobedience is a good thing not a bad.

So, our problems of trying to get a fair and balanced look at what the coronavirus is all about is nigh on impossible. We are continuously bombarded with both right and wrong information, and the trouble is, both sides are very plausibly supported by facts.

And that’s the next problem we have in reporting. We can get facts to prove anything we want. It;s called the use and abuse of statistics, and was an interest part of the journalism degree I studied for. We were told all about statistics, good and bad, and using them to prove the veracity of our piece.

I remember writing a piece for the tutor extolling the virtues of a particular person who was probably the worst human since Vlad the Impaler, using only the facts that suited my narrative. I also remember the bollocking he gave me for doing so, but had to acknowledge that sometimes that would happen.

Integrity of reporting only went as far as the editor, and if the editor hated something, you had to hate it too. This is infamously covered in various texts where newspaper publishers pick sides, and can influence elections, and governments. It still happens.

So, the bottom line is, when I;m reading an article in the media, I always take it with a grain of salt, and do my own fact checking, remembering, of course, not just to fact check to prove the bias one way of the other, but the get a sense of balance.

You can see at the moment when elections don’t matter, no one is talking about what they’re going to do for us, no one is telling us what their policies are. It’s simply schoolyard tit for tat garbage speak. What happened to the town hall meeting, a long and winding speech encompassing what the government plans to do for its people now, and then genuinely answer questions?

Perhaps we should ban campaigning, and just get each party to write a book about what they intend to do, and keep them away from the papers, the TV, and any other form of media, in other words, don’t let them speak!

And don’t get me started about the drivel they speak in the parliament. Five year olds could do a better job.

OK, rant over.

The cinema of my dreams – It’s a treasure hunt – Episode 35

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.

 

It was an understatement to say I was dreading going to Boggs’ place.

In fact, in the hour it took to get through the morning chores I had time to consider how and why I was in this position.  Boggs was a friend.  We were friends at school and as best we could we had each other’s back when the bullies came out to play.

At times that didn’t amount to much because as everyone knows, bullies hunt in packs.  Six against two wasn’t much of an equation.  And it those days, the teachers spent more time hiding from the students than being in front of them.

It was simply a case of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

It didn’t feel like that, not for a very long time.

But, in the end, misfortune can make strange bedfellows, and in a town that depended on a single industry, it soon became apparent that there were more people against the Benderby’s and the Cossatino’s than for, and in small-town politics, that was more than an evening up.  Out of school and separated from their acolytes, both Alex and Vince found that whatever influence they had once, was now gone, and all that was left was a grunt, and we were basically left alone.

Boggs was the dreamer.

He had idolized his father and when he went missing it broke him.

This map thing was the first signs of Boggs finally coming back to life, but the problem was, it was all pinned on false hopes.  The Sherriff was right.  Boggs was in over his head, playing with the two most vicious families from around here, and it was bad enough that his father had fallen foul of them, the Sherriff was not about to see his son go the same way.  I was going to try and talk Boggs out of it.

Yet, on the other hand, it was people like us who needed a win, just to show there was still hope in this place.  With threats every day that the factory might have to close, there were dark clouds hanging over everyone’s head.

If the factory closed, there was going to be a very large hole in the local economy and a lot of people in financial trouble.  I’m not sure how finding the treasure might solve all of that, but I suspect Boggs’ had something up his sleeve.

I knocked on the door and his mother answered.  She looked harried.  She was a nurse and looked as though she just got home from the night shift at the hospital.  

“Boggs is in his room.”

“How are you this morning?”

“Tired.  And an afternoon shift, which I might not get to if I don’t get some sleep.  You know where he is.  Try not to make any noise.”

“Will do.”

I came in and closed the door, watching her dash off down the passage to the other end of the house.

She could not work endless double shifts for much longer, but like all of us, it was not out of desire but necessity.  She had implored Boggs to get a job and help, but he seemed oblivious to the problem.  I’d tried to speak to him, but he had that insufferable way of just not listening.

Boggs was in his room, sitting on the bed and staring at the ceiling.

I looed up too, but there was nothing there.

“Don’t tell me,” I said, “but you’ve suddenly discovered you’ve got X-Ray vision.”

“If only.  I could use it right now to find something that’s missing>”

“Your cell phone?”  Boggs was always misplacing something, of forgetting it.  I’d lost count how many times he’d misplaced his phone.

“No.  An underground river.”

OK.  That was out of left field.  I had no idea any rivers were missing, or, in fact, they could actually go missing.

Apparently, they could.

“There’s two,” he said.  300 years ago five or take this part of the coastline had several rivers that ran down from the mountain range.  What we now call the hills on the edge of the coastal plain.  There was also a lake, not very large, but it used to have several streams flow into it all year round and had an aqua flow that came out along the coastline.”

“And you figured all of this out from what?  A copy of the treasure map.”

The moment he started quoting rivers, streams, and lakes, I remembered each of those geographical features appeared on several of the map versions.  I had suggested, rather comically, that it would be funny if the treasure was buried in the lake.

It wasn’t all that funny.  It was also possible.

“Imagine this.  Drop anchor out to sea, in other words on the other side of the natural sandbar that formed at the seaward side of the river, get in the longboats and row inshore to the lake, across the lake, up another river to the base of the hills.  Then do a little exploring, north or south, and find a cave.  I reckon the treasure was buried in a cave.  We know there are caves up there, not many, but I think there used to be more.”

“Someone already did a survey with some rather fancy electronic equipment with the same idea in mind.  He found three, not very long, and certainly without treasure.  Two had substantial falls inside, which is why they were buried.”

“There’s more.”

He jumped up off the bed and went over to the robe and opened the door.  Tacked on the back was a copy of an ordnance survey map of this part of the coastline, and a tracing of the treasure map, to the same scale on top.

“As you can see, I think ‘I’ve found the correlation between the real, and what was real 300 years ago.”

Except there’s no rivers and no lake.  And no sand bar as I recall.  There was a small marina in what might have been where the river met the sea, but that’s gone.  They filled it in and build a shopping mall on it.  A huge, now half empty, shopping mall.  A modern wonder 40 years ago that was supposed to bring business and shoppers to the town.  For a few years it did, until another town 50 miles away got the same idea, sold the land for half the price, and made the rents a quarter of what they were here.

They called it progress.

We called it piracy.

“Then we can hardly row our boat inshore and up the stream, if it’s not there.”

I hated to state the obvious.

“But,” he said, looking like the cat who’d swallowed the canary.  “What if it is still there, but we just can’t see it?”

© Charles Heath 2020