It’s late, I’m tired…

But…

There’s more to this story.

Or that’s what I keep telling myself, struggling to stay awake and write the next sentence then the next sentence, and the one after that.

Long after I should have gone to bed.

Does that sound like your life?

Of course, it doesn’t.  The rest of the world is sane, goes to work, come home, have dinner, watch a little television or play with the children, or maybe not, then go to bed.

None of this writing business, trying to finish the page, the scene, the chapter while the ideas are fresh in your mind.

Only your mind isn’t fresh, it’s been a long day, an argument with the significant other, a bigger argument with the cat, there’s the washing, the cooking, the cleaning…

When do I get five minutes for myself?

At the dead of night when everyone else has gone to bed, getting their eight hours sleep.

In the dark with only the screen to light the keyboard, I’m trying to find the way around the keyboard and turn out what has to be the next international best selling thriller.

The dog next door barks, it means the cat got out and is terrorizing it.

A door slams, it’s old Joe getting home late from the pub, probably drunk again.

Yep, right on target, the vitriol of a bitter woman, and I have to say, I don’t blame her.

Then I hear it, that voice from the deep, “Poppy.”

The youngest of the grandchildren, the very devil to get to sleep.

Writing for the night is over, time to read other people’s stories.

Nothing is infallible, computers or memory

It’s late at night and there are twenty other story ideas that are currently running around in my head, instead of the story I should be working on.

These ideas are impinging on the current story, and somehow are finding their way onto the page.

Writing, cursing, deleting, re-writing, deleting, cursing.

I’m working on the latest book and it is not going well.  I don’t have writer’s block, I think it is more a case of self-doubt.  It’s why I can’t concentrate.

It’s why I’m thinking about the next story and not staying on track.  And that pesky outline, or synopsis, or whatever it wants to be called has gone missing under a pile of paper.

Next resolution, clean up this goddam mess!

This leads me to be over critical of what I have written and much pressing of the delete key.  Only to realize that an action taken in haste can be regrettable, and makes me feel even more depressed when I realize the deletions are irrecoverable.

Damn.  Whatever happened to ‘undo’?

I think I’d be happier in a garret somewhere channeling van Gogh’s rage.

Lesson learned – don’t delete, save it to a text file so it can be retrieved when sanity returns.

If it returns…

I was not happy with the previous start.  Funny about that, because until a few weeks ago I thought the start was perfect.

What a difference a week makes or is that politics?

Perhaps I should consider adding some political satire.

But I digress…

It seems it’s been like that for a few weeks now, not being able to stick to the job in hand, doing anything but what I’m supposed to be doing.  I recognize the restlessness, I’m not happy with the story as it is, so rather than getting on with it, I find myself writing words just for the sake of writing words.

Any words are better than none, right?

So I rewrote the start, added about a hundred pages and now I have to do a mass of rewriting of what was basically the whole book.

But here’s the thing.

This morning I woke up and looked at the new start, and it has inspired me.

Perhaps all I needed was several weeks of teeth gnashing, and self doubt to get myself back on track.

 

Burning the midnight oil

It is an interesting phrase, one that means someone is working overtime at the office till late at night, or early next morning.

You know, “Been burning the midnight oil again, Frank?”

It prompted me to look up its real meaning.  It goes back to the days before electricity where a worker toiled on into the night using only an oil lamp or candles.

In my office, I have neon lights that are so bright you would think it was a television studio.  Not quite the atmosphere needed when looking for inspiration.  That inspiration might be better attained in a more subdued light, and an oil lamp or candles.

That aside, those hours leading up to and after midnight are the best time for me to write.

At times the silence is deafening, another rather quaint but relatively true expression.

At others, there are what I call the sounds of silence, which for some reason are much easier to hear than during the daylight hours.

The bark of a dog.

The rustle of leaves in the trees.

The soft pattering of rain on the roof.

The sound of a train horn from a long way away.

THe sound of a truck using its brakes on the highway, also a long way away.

The sound of people talking in the street.

I’ve never really thought about it until now, but it will be something I can use in one of my stories.

Perhaps it will be the theme of another.

Damn, sidetracked again!

We all have our sport, and varying degrees of supporting our particular team

One has to travel to different countries to discover that our pathological love for our sport is mirrored elsewhere for games that we may never see, or even hear of, much less understand.

In England, as for much of the world, it is soccer, and to some the traditional game of football.  Stadiums are filled and fans can take their support to amazing and unfamiliar to us levels.

In the USA it is Grid Iron, another form of football, and basketball.

In Canada, it is Ice Hockey, and those games are a true test of skill and stamina, and then, at times, pure luck for one side, and utter bad luck for the other.

In all, fans wear jerseys of their favorite players, and ex-players are revered, as much as current players.  Even in far-flung counties like Australia, we have heard of the legends, such as Jordan and Johnson in Basketball.

In Australia or some of it, it is AFL, our own version of football.

In Melbourne, it’s an institution even a religion.  Traditionally it is played on a Saturday afternoon and luckily for us, we are attending such a game.

The stadium is the mcg, one of the best in Australia.  Shortly after the start, I’d estimate there are about 40,000, but eventually, there was 53,000, spectators here for a clash between the two Melbourne based teams.  It is not unheard of to have in closer to 90,000 spectators, and the atmosphere is at times electric.

For the die-hards like me who can remember the days when there were only Victorian-based teams,  in the modern day form of the game, to have two such teams is something of a rarity.

However, it’s not so much about the antics on the field as it is the spectators.  They are divided into three groups, the members, the private boxes and the general public.

But in the end, there is no distinction between any of them because they all know the rules, well, their version of them, and it doesn’t matter who you are, If there is something that goes against your team, it is brings a huge roar of disapproval.

Then there are ebbs and flows in the crowd noise and reactions to events like holding the ball attracting a unified shout ‘ball, or a large collective groan when a free kick should have been paid or by the opposite team’s followers if it should have been.

It is this crowd reaction which makes going to a live game so much better than watching it televised live.  The times when players take marks, get the ball out of congestion, and when goals are scored when your team is behind and when one is needed to get in front.

This is particularly so when one of the stars goes near the ball and pulls off a miracle 1 percent movement of the ball.  These are what we come to see, the high flying marks, the handball threaded through a needle, a kick that reaches one of our players that looked like it would never get there, an intercept mark or steal that throws momentum the opposite way.

This game is not supposed to be a game of inches but fast yards, a kick, a mark, a handball, a run and bounce.  You need to get the ball to your goal as quick as possible.

That’s the objective.

But in this modern game, much to the dismay of spectators and commentators alike, there is this thing called flooding where all 36 players are basically in a clump around the ball and it moves basically in inches, not yards.

It is slow and it is ugly.

It is not the game envisioned by those who created it and there is a debate right now about fixing it.

Here, it is an example of the worst sort.  This game is played in four quarters and for the first two, it is ugly scrappy play with little skill on display.  The third shows improvement and it seems the respective coaches had told their players to open it up

They have and it becomes better to look at.

But this is the point where one team usually gets away with a handy lead, a third-quarter effort that almost puts the game out of reach.  The fourth quarter is where the losing team stages a comeback, and sometimes it works sometimes it does not.

The opposition gives it a red hot try but is unsuccessful.  Three goals in a row, it gave their fans a sniff of hope but as the commentators call it, a kick against the flow and my team prevails.

It is the moment to stay for when they play the winning teams song over the stadium’s loudspeaker system, and at least half the spectators sing along.  It is one of those hair raising on the back of your neck moments which for some can be far too few in a season

We have great hopes for our team this year, and it was worth the trek from Brisbane to Melbourne to see it live rather than on the TV

Leaving the ground with thousands of others heading towards the train station for the journey home there is a mixture of feelings, some lamenting their teams, and others jubilant their team won.  There is no rancor, everyone shuffles in an orderly manner, bearing the slow entry to the station, and the long lines to get on the train.

Others who perhaps came by car, or who have decided to wait for a later train or other transport, let their children kick the football around on the leaf-covered parkland surrounding the stadium.

It is an integral part of this game that children experience the football effect.  Kicking a ball with your father, brothers, and sisters, or friends on that late autumn afternoon is a memory that will be cherished for a long long time.

It’s where you pretend you are your favorite player and are every bit as good.  I know that’s what I used to do with my father, and that is what I did with my sons.

But no matter what the state of the game, it is the weekend the football fans look forward to and whom turn out in their hundreds of thousands.  It is a game that ignites passions, it brings highs and it brings incredible lows.

And, through thick and thin, we never stop supporting them.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day…

OK, I’m sure I’ve heard these words before, like the rhythm of a song you can’t get out of your head, perhaps because the guy next door won’t stop playing it over and over.

There’s a story there, but it can wait.

I’ve just been reading the news, and there’s a lot of plotlines in the offing, but I’ve changed the names even though you will have no trouble recognizing the perpetrators.

 

Plotline 1

It’s a conspiracy doosie, beleaguered President realizes that if he can get a particular candidate into the Supreme Court, all his troubles with his extramarital affairs, and one in particular, will go away.  It happens and changes the course of history forever.

No, hang on, it’s removed the past 200 years of history and we’re back where we started from, the dark ages.  The Vatican is in the process of posting help wanted ads, “soldiers required for inquisition”.

Talk about a blockbuster time travel novel that doesn’t just shift one, two, or even three people, but the whole world…

 

Plotline 2

Why is it that every journalist that disappears had to be a ‘dissident’?  Journalists disappear all the time, some on long boozy lunches, some down the rabbit hole called taking a hiatus, but it’s only a story if there are a few ‘so-called’ secret agents flying in around about the same time.

Of course, it works better if it isn’t necessarily a journalist, but some rocket scientist that’s suddenly dropped dead in the street, particularly if it is one from a perceived ‘enemy’ country.
Plotline 3

Space travel for the common man, well, a common man who will be able to afford it.  Seems HG Wells stories are about to come true.

Will a real-life Star Trek be next?  I kind of like the idea of being instantly beamed from one place to the next.  I’m sure it will be far less than a plane ticket and thank the Lord, there’ll no longer be a ‘middle’ seat!

 

Thoughts impinging on reality

You know how it is, you’re sitting at the lights waiting for the green, and everything is calm around you.

It’s a warm day, the sun is out, the sky is blue, and because they’re taking so long to change, you’re almost drifting off, somewhere else than in traffic.

Bang!

That awful sound of two metal cars crashing, short, sharp, incisive, intruding.

Lights changed, driver next to me, in a lane that ends on the other side of the intersection, pushes his foot to the floor, trying to get in front.  Another driver running a red light hits him.

I sit in stunned silence before moments after the scene bursts into life, people getting out of cars to help.

My eyes are on the car than ran the red light.  The door slowly opens, and a person is getting out.  I look closer, it’s a woman, bright red hair, and blood running down her face.

She is standing, stunned, looking around, then sees a man coming towards her.

Is that panic.  She looks in my direction, our eyes meeting for a brief second, then she’s running.

Towards my car.

Seconds later the door opens, she gets in, and the door slams shut.

Two men are now running towards my car.

“Drive,” she yells.

“You’re injured, you should wait for …”

“Drive, now, or I’ll shoot you.”

I see the gun, now pointing at me.

“You’re joking.”

One of the men is pounding on her door, which I noticed she’d locked.

“Drive.”

I did, pushing the accelerator pedal to the floor.

The two men were now running towards another car, reaching it before I’d got more than 50 yards.  My car was tired, old, and not very quick in a standing 100.

I didn’t tell her she’d picked the wrong car and driver if she hoped to make a getaway.

Before I made a 100 yards, there was a large black 4×4 hurtling towards us.

“Turn left here,” she commanded, pushing the barrel of the gun into my side for emphasis.

I did, nearly losing the rear end of the car in a slide towards the curb, just touching it before moving forward.

My heart was now in my mouth and pounding.

Death by a bullet or an accident, both were high probabilities.

Who was this woman, now indistinguishable because her face was covered in blood.  She should be bleeding out.  Perhaps she might, and that would save me from an ignominious death.

I could see the 4×4 closing the distance between us quickly.

Perhaps there was another way to die.

“Right,”

Another swerving turn.

“Left,” she yelled almost instantly after the last order.

A few seconds later, “Right”.  Then another “left, then floor it.”

The wrong car, I muttered under my breath.

No sign of the 4×4.  Had we lost it?

At intersection coming up, one I recognized.  The railway station.

“Don’t slow down, straight across.”

“Are you mad?”

Prod.

Apparently so, and with a death wish.

The front of the car crunched on the driveway, as I hit it at speed, the slammed my foot on the brake.  A train was waiting at the platform.

She was out and gone before the car had stopped, and the doors of the carriage had closed, all just before the 4×4 pulled into the station carpark.

 

Tap, tap, tap.

I looked over at the passenger side and saw my granddaughter looking in.

“Have you been daydreaming again, Poppy?”

 

© Charles Heath 2018

 

Time Wasting

Have you ever wondered how much of your life you have spent

a) waiting for a doctor’s surgery or hospital appointment, and

b) waiting on the end of the phone to reach customer service or a public servant.

In the first instance, I have had a lot of recent experience with injured children and spouse, and, more recently myself.

What bothers me is that they give you a time and place and issue all the threats around the place if you don’t turn up on time, but it seems to be perfectly ok if they are late.

It could be for some perfectly logical reason but most of the time they don’t tell you why they’re running late, and sometimes don’t even apologize.

Then there are the chairs they make you sit in, obviously specially designed so you do not get comfortable, especially in hospitals.

But the most infuriating aspect?  Just how small the waiting room is and how often it is overcrowded with people also waiting to see a doctor.

They ask if we remain respectful but after an hour and a half in those chairs and not treating us with that same respect they ask for, I’m surprised I have only witnessed one case of the angry patient.

In the second instance, there are two circumstances I take issue with.

The first is where you have to select from a menu and what you want isn’t one of the menu items and there’s no catch-all just disconnection, and

After waiting patiently on the line for up to thirty minutes or more you hear the connection, you think you are about to get to an agent and the call disconnects.

That is only one step removed from being connected … back at the selection menu and then sent to the back of the queue.

I’m sorry, but this technology is no advancement but I doubt if we will get back to the ‘old days’.

Of course, there is that other major advancement in telephone answering technology, voice recognition.  I’ve been on the end of it, and quite frankly, it just doesn’t understand me.

Odd, I Know, because I speak very good English with no accent.  Perhaps that’s the problem.

I can’t wait for the first humanoid robots.  I hope they can understand me better than the inhuman phones do!