There are so many things I haven’t done

Does it really matter, you ask?

Perhaps not, but now seems to be an appropriate time, flying past the age of 65, to take stock.

We have achieved a lot in the last 15 or so years once the children had grown up and could look after themselves.

Unlike a lot of more modern couples who are doing the traveling in their 20’s and 30’s then having children, we chose to do it the other way around.

To me, it seemed easier to deal with teenagers when we were in our 40’s rather than our 60’s.  With the benefit of hindsight, I can truthfully say we were right.

We were older and wiser when we traveled and more aware of the dangers around us, sometimes overlooked or ignored by a youthful devil may care attitude.

But, in saying that ….

No, I don’t think I’ll be getting to see Mt Kilimanjaro, observing the wild animals in the Serengeti, climbing Mt Everest, or seeing the ancient pyramids.

Which is a sad state of affairs given the world has changed so much in recent years and has pretty much ruled out going to a lot of places, and in particular, the middle east, and because of COVID 19, just about everywhere else.

But, if it is ever possible before I die, I still want to go to the Greek Islands, and, Santorini is at the top of my travel bucket list.

We’ve been to London.  We’ve been to Paris and Euro Disney.  We’ve been to Rome and seen the ancient ruins.  We’ve been to Vienna, Schonbrunn Palace, and, particularly for us, a visit to Swarovski crystal world, near Innsbruck, we’ve been to Salzburg, and been on the Sound of Music tour.

We’ve been to Florence and loved it, we’ve been to Venice and loved that too, and we’ve spent a few days in the heart of Tuscany, and want to go back for longer, much longer, if time and disease doesn’t defeat us.

In fact, that’s the second item on the travel bucket list.

We’ve also been to Singapore and Hong Kong, at first out of necessity as an airline stopover, but then we went back to see the city and tourist, and non-tourist attractions.

I will not forget staying at the Hong Kong Conrad hotel as a Diamond Hhonors member.  Oh, the memories.

Sadly, I don’t think we as Australians will ever be welcome back in Hong Kong now that China had completely taken it over, and is a sad statement of the relations between the two countries.

We’ve also stayed on the French Riviera, in a timeshare apartment in Antibes where every morning when out back you had a view of the shimmering Mediterranean if the sun was out.

Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo, the billionaire’s yachts in Antibes harbor, Monte Carlo and ‘that’ casino, taking the same drive along the coast as Grace Kelly did in To Catch a Thief, and feeling like James Bond arriving for a new adventure, minus the half-million-dollar sports car.

But, now, crashing back to earth with a very hard thump ….

Travel in the future is looking difficult for both of us, not only financially but from a health aspect.  We are both not as sprightly as we used to be.

Yet given the restraints and if it is at all possible, aside from the Greek Islands and Tuscany, the next items on the list are:

Germany, visiting both Berlin, from a cold war aspect, the Brandenburg gate springs to mind, and Munich at the time of the Octoberfest.  As a beer drinker that is also high on the bucket list.

Scotland, more so since we’ve started watching Outlander, and besides being a beer drinker, I am also partial to a good Single Malt, and the Whiskey trail.

Ireland, because my wife’s previous name was Murphy and at some point, in the long distant past some relatives emigrated to Australia, and she would like to visit the country of her forebears.

But, again, with the current state of the world, our health issues, and that all-important requisite money, or the lack of it, perhaps it’s time to visit other parts of our own country.

Perhaps it’s time to do a culinary trip, in the Barossa Valley in South Australia, the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, or Rutherglen in Victoria.  It’s practical and achievable and safe.

And it’s a big country.

Do you remember when…

We could travel on real airplanes instead of having models hanging in our writing rooms to reminds us of those days

Turn a dream about travelling to a distant oasis, or city that never sleeps

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And in planes that had seatback screens where you could watch the planes progress?

It feels like we are never going to be able to travel anywhere ever again, even in a country where the COVID 19 virus has basically been controlled.

Except…

It hasn’t.  We were doing so well when everything went haywire in the southern state of Victoria, and it proves that with a moment’s complacency, it will come back.

I suspect we will never get to travel again until a vaccine is found.

Certainly, we are being told overseas travel may not return until July 2021.

Let’s hope it’s not that long.

I remember visiting Washington when times were calmer


I don’t think anyone in the whole world could miss what happened in Washington on the 6th January.

I watched in horror.

But, why would it matter to anyone who is not American?

12 years ago, in January before Obama’s inauguration, we were visiting a very different Washington.  It was a cold but sunny winter’s day, and at the time there were very few people about.

We had come down from Baltimore by train to visit the sights, and monuments, which included the Capitol.

I remember going into the building, and through the rooms that we saw being invaded, and was struck by a sense of awe in that these were the hallowed halls of democracy.

We have all been taught that democracy and the United States go hand in hand, and that it is enshrined in these buildings and in their constitution.   I saw and read a copy of this constitution, even bought a copy of it to read in more detail later.  Even I could understand what it meant, not only for America, but for the rest of the world.

I wonder if any of those people who invaded the Capitol had taken the time to understand just what their constitution stood for or how sacred their monuments to democracy are.

I did, and I’m not American

Searching for locations: Washington DC, USA

Washington is a city with bright shiny buildings and endless monuments, each separated by a long walk or a taxi ride if you can find one.

We might have picked the wrong day, shortly after New Year’s Day when the crowds were missing along with everything else.  Or, conversely, it was probably the right time to go, when we didn’t have to battle the crowds.

Sunny but very cold, the walking warmed us up.

First stop was the Lincoln Memorial

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It was built to honor the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

It is located on the western end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., across from the Washington Monument.

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The building is in the form of a Greek Doric temple and contains a large seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln and inscriptions of two well-known speeches by Lincoln.

The next stop was the Washington Monument

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The Washington Monument is an obelisk on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate George Washington. Construction of the monument began in 1848 and not completed until 1888.  It was officially opened October 9, 1888.


We then took a taxi ride to the Jefferson Memorial

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This monument is dedicated to Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), one of the most important of the American Founding Fathers as the main drafter and writer of the Declaration of Independence.

Construction of the building began in 1939 and was completed in 1943.

The bronze statue of Jefferson was added in 1947.

The January update…

So, where am I in the greater scheme of things?

Still scribbling frantically.  January is usually the time of the year we go jetting off to somewhere exotic, or, rather, somewhere very cold because here it is usually 36 degrees centigrade plus 100 percent humidity, day after day after day.

Well, this is me, stuck in the endless heat, slowly melting away.

And writing.

I have had a few great ideas springing out of the void, while I’m trying very hard not to think about how hot it is, or how recalcitrant Chester used to be when he was hot.  What I don’t get is that in winter he used to sit on top of the fire where it is about 2000 degrees and yet in 34-degree heat, he complained.

But enough about that cat…

With one of my stories, back in WW2, my hero, if he could be called that, is on the run from the Reich, a rocket scientist who can see the writing on the wall.  He is heading for the castle in southern Italy, not knowing that there’s a bunch of Nazi’s waiting for him to send him back home.

Of course, there is a another player in the high risk stakes, but he’s with the resistance and who hasn’t been told exactly who the high-value target is that he’s supposed to save.  You know the story, it’s a need to know basis, and he doesn’t need to know … just in case he’s captured by the enemy.

Where it is now, the scientist is stuck at Brenner Pass in the forest freezing and waiting for the Germans to find him.  Or not.  It has a lot to do with just how much he wants to be saved.

Meanwhile the resistance has just suffered a huge defeat, and it’s leader capture, and languishing in a dungeon under the castle.  Can she be saved?

It’s still a work in progress, but the last episode is here:  https://bit.ly/3bulAXD

On another front, there is the Treasure story, one that I’ve been meaning to write ever since I read Stevenson’s Treasure Island.  My characters are not quite as colorful, but…

Our intrepid searchers have been trying to work out which part of the Florida coastline matches their map, and that’s no mean feat.  But, there’s more, and yes, another treasure hunter was trying to find the treasure.

But, that’s the nature of treasure myths, everyone wants to find it, but don’t want to put in the hard yards.

This is where it’s got to:  https://bit.ly/2FgwFzy

Yes, there are two other stories, but I’ll let you know about them later.

So, it’s the new year

I just watched America ring in the new year.

15 hours after we did here in Brisbane.  It was, if anything, a non event.  Covid put paid to anything as lavish as it had been in the past.  It reminded me of thetwo times we were in New York for New Year’s Eve and the first time we couldn’t get near tTimes Square, and saw the ball drop in Central Park, and the second, in a Times Square hotel not far from the action.

This year we saw it on TV.  Oh, hang on, the TV coverage didn’t cover the ball drop.  What the?

But not to put too fnei a point to it, I didn’t really miss it.  Notthere, and not here.

Any other year?  Perhaps.

Two years ago we were in Lake Louise in Canada, and it was amazing to say the least.  The Fairmont hotel had been setting up for it all day, right down to watching a hoard of staff trying to put together the portable dance floor, and later, when exiting the restaurant, watching the crowded hoards dancing to their own music.  Or so it appeared.

We dined in the restarant, and it was a magic night of dining, in a magical setting.

Just saying that I don’t think that New Years Eve will be topped in what might be the rest of my lifetime.

This year, nothing.  I was up writing, and on the dot of midnight there was 15 seconds of fireworks.

We usually watch Sydney’s New Year’s Eve party and the fifteen to twenty minutes of fireworks after, but Covid put paid to that too.

Ten or so years ago, when imbibed with more enthusiasm, we went to a club on the border between Queensland and New South Wales where one had daylight saving and the other didn’t.   It was fun to celebrate New Year’s Eve twice, but not when we went back to the motel and discovered, after a rain deluge, all our rooms had sprung leaks and everything was wet.

The days of those adventures are more.

I’ve got used to staying in five and six star accommodation, but now we have retired and the income doesn’t match the lifestyle we used to have.

And with Covid always lurking in those dark corners waiting to pounce when least expected, I’m guessing my 2021 will be much the same as 2020, in isolation until we get a vaccine and the idiots finally realise they’re dicing with death, ours not theirs.

Still, it could be worse.

But, despire the glass half empty attitude, I hope everyone else has a happy new year and a much better 2021.

Searching for locations: Lake Louise to Toronto, via Calgary

All the worries we thought we might have in getting from Lake Louise to Calgary, in the end, it was just like driving to work, only a little longer.

When we left the Fairmont, the car had two frozen bottles of water and a frozen donut, left in the car for the two days we were there, so hiding in the garage might not be a good idea.

At the garage where we refueled, it was so cold I could barely clean the windows and glad to get back into the warmth inside the car.

Thankfully as we got closer to Calgary, it got warmer.

We bypass the city going to the airport, but, as it turns out, we would not have had much time to look around anyway.It’s nice to go to an airport and actually find the car rental returns first go with adequate signing to get there.

Returning the car took a few extra minutes because we were at the end of a dozen or so others who turned up at the same time.  All good, they remembered giving us a half full petrol tank.

At the check-in, it is very smooth sailing, the kiosk working and once the booking reference was entered, it spat out the desired number of boarding passes and baggage tags.

Then to baggage drop, through customs where I managed to lose my jacket, which is amazing that you would be allowed to leave anything behind.

So…

We have an hour and a half to kill, so a long soda and two long island teas settle the pre-flight nerves if we had any to start with.

Time to consider the vagaries of the flight.

Today we’re on an Airbus a320, and we are seated in the very last row, row 33.  It’s always a bad thing to look up planes on seatguru.com, because it has painted them as the worst on the plane.

What’s the downside, sometimes the seat pitch is less than further up the plane, the seats don’t recline and you get the seat in front in your face, and you get the constant flushing of the toilets.  And my major bugbear there’s no overhead luggage space.

What’s the reality?

To begin with, the seats recline, but not very much.  We’ll wait till the plane is cruising before judging how far the seats recline in front of us.

The seat pitch is good and it doesn’t feel like were cramped into a small space, but again this is relative to what happens with the seat in front.

Overhead baggage space, none whatsoever, so if you don’t get on first you are basically screwed.  We were almost first to the rear of the plane so I suspect others also know about the lack of overhead bin space.

Being at the read most part of the plane affords you a view of how the baggage handlers treat your baggage, and it’s interesting, to say the least.  They smile a lot, so I suspect that a few bags might get the ‘treatment’.

Enough already.

We’re now backing out of the bay ready to leave.

We’re getting endless announcements in foreign languages so when next I fly with Air Canada I should at least learn French.

Or not…

Ah, the smell of kerosene floods our end of the plane.  So much for air quality, which so it happens is being covered in the safety video at the exact same time.

But as it turned out, the flight was uneventful.

I feel as though I need a holiday

But is it really a holiday where you do nothing, or is it just moving to another place and doing all the same stuff?

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.

Searching for locations: The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong

The sight of the Peninsula Hotel is very familiar to all who visit Hong Kong, if not to stay but certainly if you want to see the last vestiges of British influence in what was once a far eastern colony.

That is, we’re talking about the front building, not the new tower at the back.  In the older days there would have been a great view of the harbor from the Veranda (that area with the blue striped canopy) where today, breakfast is taken.

We had breakfast, lunch, and the famous afternoon tea in the ground floor cafe.

These days you would mostly see taxis, buses, and Teslas, if not a flurry of Mercedes and green Rolls Royces in the small car park below.  There is no clear view of the harbor anymore.

From our room, one facing the harbor we could see the space museum, and on the day we arrived, rain, at times, blotting out the harbor and Hong Kong Island barely discernable in the distance.

As for the room itself, it was excellent, a junior suite, I think, because it had two distinctive areas.  Everything was run from a tablet computer, blinds, lights, television, and most importantly, air conditioning.  This was the first hotel I’ve stayed in where it was neither too hot or too cold, but just rights.

The bed was very large and extremely comfortable, as were the pillows.  Pillows, I’m afraid, are a bugbear with me, as no hotel seems to be able to get it right.  They’re either too soft or too hard, too tall, or too shallow.  Here, they managed to get it right.

The windows were just the right size not to affect the air conditioning, ie. let too much heat in.

I’m not sure I could say the lounge chair was comfortable, but there was only one, which makes it difficult if there are two of you.  I wasn’t going to fight for it.

The desk had a surprise in the bottom drawer, a printer!

And the bathroom, though slightly smaller than expected, had some hint of what it may have been like in the early days.  It had both a shower and a bath.

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 82

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

This is Chester.

It’s been a long summer, and it’s not only the heat that’s been bothering him.

It’s been school holidays, and along with many households where it’s not possible for parents to go on holidays, it falls to the grand parents to mind children. It’s a job I take seriously, and also a time to be spent with them before they grow up and disappear into the adult world.

Chester, however, only sees it from a cat’s point of view. To him, they’re trouble, but perhaps not without reason. They did torment him something terrible when they were young.

Of course, what he fails to realise is that children when young don’t quite understand animal etiquette, that is they should be treated with care.

But, I said in their defence, when you were a kitten you were an absolute monster, sinking your claws into everything, ruined lounge chairs and curtains, unravelled balls of wool, and, this was the cruncher, refused to chase mice.

Of course, as usual, when the arguement goes against him, those eyes close, and he pretends he’s asleep. It doesn’t fool me. But once that happens, no one scores any points.

And something else I’ve noticed, his memory is fading.

Of course, I didn’t tell him that they don’t officially go back till Wednesday, so he’s in for a surprise tomorrow morning.