Searching for locations: Venice, ships come and go

Through this window, which wasn’t one of those floor to ceiling, walk out onto a balcony type windows, we saw big ships, little ships, small boats, and then huge ocean liners.

And when that wasn’t enough, sunrise and sunset, or just the sight of Venice in the sunshine

The many vaporettos that came and went

It was simply a matter of watching ships go by, or watching the Venetians go about the daily business

Ferries that would arrive in the morning, and leave at night, small

and large

Small ocean liners

Very, very large ocean liners

And everything in between

And, whilst COVID 19 would make it a very difficult decision to take to the sea in one of these large ships, before that time, it was a matter of picking a destination and a day, for ships came and went every day, to Athens, to the Mediterranean, to Turkey, anywhere really.

All you needed was the money and the time.

And, as for plots and writing, it is a writer’s paradise, where you are limited only by your imagination.

We have this sport called Australian Rules Football

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

Of course, this was last year.  This year, with the COVID 19 virus everything, including football has been called off.

Except now we have ‘flattened the curve’ football can start again, only without the spectators.  Social distancing means we can’t pack the stadium, or go to a game.  For a while, it was just be from our lounge rooms, watching it on the TV.

But, as some of the states began to get on top of the virus, football teams moved from Victoria, and played in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and the Northern Territory.

And as the Victorian situation got worse, the decision was made to move the grand final, which had never left the MCG in Victoria, to Brisbane. It was like America never losing the Americas Cup, until they did.

But, below, is the atmosphere that we have been missing, and has returned in a limited sense as coronavirus restrictions eased (but not completely), a game we attended last year:

The stadium is the MSG, one of the biggest and best in Australia.  Shortly after the start, I’d estimate there are about 40,000, but eventually, we were told 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 quickly 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 that 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 who 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.

Wishful thinking…

My phone, being smart and all, has been creating a notification that tells me I have some memories stored on it for this day a year ago, or two years, or many years.

The pictures it is showing are of our trip to Coffs Harbour one year, and Melbourne another year.

It serves as a reminder, but I wonder if those that came up with the idea might have considered that some people might not want to be reminded of events and places in the past.

Like now, when we are forced to stay at home and not travel because of the pandemic.  More and more this pandemic is impinging on us living what we might call normal life, thinking nothing of getting on a plane and going someplace else, other than home.

Of course, there are those who wrap this desire up in a package called ‘human rights’ and then go out to protest the fact we cannot do these things, failing to realise in their selfishness that we are in a pandemic, the virus hasn’t gone away, and it takes very little to create a second, or third, or even a fourth wave.

Perhaps I’m old enough to understand that rights aren’t been trampled, and it’s just a matter of prevention is better than cure.  Now, that prevention has managed to make our state, at least, safe enough to travel small distances, and to some other, but not all, states if we want to.

I don’t.  Not yet.  Not until there is a preventative measure in place, being one of the more vulnerable.  But something those selfish people don’t get or understand, we are learning that if you get it and survive, you don’t always return to your former health.  People who got it months ago, and so-called recovered, haven’t really, so if there is a second wave, they join us in becoming vulnerable, and could die.

So, enough of the bad news.

The good news, we can now visit nearby family and friends.

That’s the other side of the coin with these reminders.  It pops up photos of our grandchildren, reminders that one day all will be well again.

And until then, it’s not a bad thing my smartphone is going to keep sending me gentle reminders of what it was like in another lifetime.

And for something different

This month is nearly over, and once again, I don’t feel like I’ve got much further on than the end of the last month.

September has all but disappeared.

What were my expectations? 

I had set a list of projects for the month, more episodes for the three continuing stories, and a start to the next episodic story, ‘motive, means, and opportunity’, though for this story I have brought together all the writing I’ve been doing in past weeks.

Then there is the completion of ‘the things we do for love’ and at the moment, there are three chapters to be completed.  I didn’t get to ‘strangers we’ve become’ at all, which is particularly disappointing.

It would be easy to blame COVID 19, but that’s not the problem.  I’ve been home and had the time, but there have been a number of distractions, and ideas for new stories that seem to divert my attention from what I should be doing.

It’s not writers block.  It’s not laziness.  It seems that I just don’t want to work on them, and that might be because there are problems with the narrative, and I’m just not ready to address them.

What has got my attention then?

I’m not sure how or why, but something triggered the idea of passing through a portal into another time, in the past.  I think I might have been looking for photographs to write another photo/story, and I came across a covered bridge, and that led to looking for photographs of ghost towns.  What topped it off, there was an old western in black and white, High Noon, which provoked a whole lot of memories of many westerns I’d seen in the past.

What other reason do you need to write your won story?

Then, when visiting my grandchildren, we just happened to do some star gazing, using Google Sky Map, picking out the planets.  Somehow I managed take a photo, and looking at it, took me back to the days of Star Trek, and the many series, which sort of gave me an idea for another story.

Equally, I’m always on the lookout for photo opportunities that I can use to write short stories, and these continue apace, the latest, number 129.  These are being formed into anthologies, stories 1 to 50, and stories 51 to 100.  The first has been assembled into book form, and is awaiting the editors first reading and report.  I’m still working on the second.

Perhaps some of the time has been spent keeping up with Twitter, where over the last six months, and more recently, sales of my books on Amazon have been increasing.  Not to best seller numbers, but people are reading my stories, and the reviews have been very good.

It has, of course, pushed me to work harder on marketing and that had consumed some of my time, which unfortunately takes me away from writing.  It sometimes feels like a self defeating exercise, but it is the same for all of us.

Oh, and something else that cropped up this month, my brother has been digging into out family history, and around the middle of the month he found some interesting revelations about some family members, including a pseudo luddite, and then later on, when chasing down the places that we, as a family, lived, and this brought out some very interesting information about our father.

I’m discovering for what I’d always assumed was an ordinary man, he had done a lot of very interesting things in his life, and not only that, I’ve been fictionalising the story.  I have potted pieces written over various stages, and, one day, it might come together as a sort of biography.  It is astonishing just how much you don’t know about your family, until much later on, at least for some of us.  Our relatives have always been a mystery to me, and it’s fascinating as each one is brought to life with a new detail here and there.

Looking back on what I’ve just written, perhaps the passing of the month had been more productive that I first thought.  It just seems like nothing major has happened.

A Long Day’s Journey into Night

That was the name of a play, the script of which I once took out of a library, but never got around to reading it.

It sparked a momentary interest in Eugene O’Neill’s work, but I found it a little hard to understand.  Of course, back then, when I knew little about anything, it was basically a mystery.

It did fuel a brief dalliance with books with a deeper meaning for a short time, one of which was Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, but more intriguing of his works was called The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.

While it could be said the literal meaning of that title was rather true, having done a little long-distance running mostly in the final years of school, and realizing it was a lonely sport, it was probably the first time I discovered allegory.

But aside from all that, it led to a foray into more salacious books such as The Postman Always Rings Twice.

And, don’t get me started on D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

However, I’m doing my usual digression, so back to the point…

Taking it in the literal sense, you can do a long day’s work, not get finished by the time you are supposed to go home, and then decide to burn the midnight oil, i.e., work on into the night.

And some days, you know the ones, where time literally drags, and it feels like forever before it’s time to go home, sometimes in darkness, for a variety of reasons, not just the obvious!

Other times, like when reading a good book, you pick it up in the morning, and the next thing you know, it’s night, and the day is gone.  That was a ‘journey’ but a pleasant one.  Long ago, that used to happen to me a lot.

Now, I hardly get time to read, let alone write, and for some strange reason, retirement is much harder than being at work.

Perhaps I should have taken those time management courses when they were offered.

Where would I like to be today?

Long after you have been on a holiday and forgotten about it, basically those places you visited are just a distant memory.  And, the likelihood of getting back there is getting more remote by the day.
Let’s face it unless something calamitous happens to remind you, and generally not in a good way, they just become place names on a map.  For most of us, living a hectic life where there’s little time to think of anything else but the job, looking after the family, and rest, that generally sums up your day.
Perhaps, in the ensuing days, the only reminder that you actually had a holiday is the last of the washing.
So, what you need are little reminders that you actually went.  This might take the form of postcards or fridge magnets, but these tend to get lost among the everyday collections of bills and children’s paintings, drawings, and certificates.
And, there’s only so much you can stick on the fridge door.

But, there is another way.

If you stay in hotels as most of us do, they always, or nearly always, provide you with several very important items that can give us a little reminder of where we been and the associated memories, whether good or bad, but hopefully good.

The first is a writing pad and pen.  You don’t get much paper on that pad so it’s only good for writing down plot points, if you’re a writer like me, particularly if you’re in an overseas location.

The second is the toiletries, like hair shampoo and conditioner, along with other items, like soap and bath gel.  These invariably have the hotel name and sometimes location on them, but often the hotel name is all that is needed.

Of course, some hotels are different, like the Hilton, because every Hilton has the same pen and the same toiletries, so with these hotels, you’re going to have to have a good memory, or as I do, take the pad.  It has the hotel’s address.

With other hotels, like the Bruneschelli in Florence, or the Savoir in Venice, they have their name on both.

Some people will use the toiletries and therefore will not have a keepsake reminder, or they may not see the use in taking the pen or the pad that comes with the room, but I suggest you do.

Then, when you least expect it, there will be that little reminder of where you go been and hopefully, it will bring back good memories, and that, for me, is on the shower.

Like today.
I’m in Florence.
Well, for the duration of the shower, that is.

The march of progress inevitably destroys the past.

There is this thing called the march of progress.

It can be good, or it can be bad.

But the inevitability of it means that we have to destroy our past in order to build for the future.  It’s a pity no one back around a hundred years ago worked out that a certain amount of land needed to be set aside for future infrastructure, and then build around it.

The pity of it is that those same practices are with us now, and unfortunately either the infrastructure is too costly to build because of the necessity to buy back, and it will never change.  No one, sadly, is thinking of the future.

So, all I have of my childhood years, some fifty to sixty years ago is memories, and when I go, they will be lost forever.

I remember, a long time ago now, the many holidays I spent at my grandmother’s place in the ‘country’.  Back then it was.

Now it is just another suburb of Melbourne.

I remember the drive, and it used to take about half an hour, perhaps longer, and as we travelled, it was mostly the countryside we saw.  Little towns like Beaconsfield, Officer, Berwick, oases in the middle of farming land.

The last time I went for that same drive, there was endless houses.

My grandmother’s house was very large, and the land it was built on, extensive.  There used to be gardens, several garages, a number of old cars, and a huge workshop.

My brother and I used to spend our Christmases exploring, and on a particular one, found some tools and decided to recover some of it.

We found a huge fountain buried beneath the overgrowth, the centrepiece a statue part of what must have been a remarkable display.

It was like we had our own secret garden.

There was also a fernery, also overgrown.

Now, sadly, all of it is gone, and in its place a multilane highway that follows an alternate coastal route between Melbourne and Sydney.

All I have left is the memories of a time that will never return.

Perhaps it’s time to write it all down, and preserve it for future generations.

Wishful thinking will not get us there any faster!

My phone, being smart and all, has been creating a notification that tells me I have some memories stored on it for this day a year ago, or two years, or many years.

The pictures it is showing are of our trip to China last year.

Not much chance of going back, and, back then, neither of us could imagine that everything that has happened in the last six months could happen.

But, it did.

And one of the effects of those events is no more overseas travel

No more travel of any sort at the moment with the travel restrictions in place.  We can’t even fly to another state.  Come to that, we might not have an airline to fly on.

Travel, of course, is the main escape, where we can get away from our daily lives, and go somewhere quite different from where we live and experience a different world.  The people, the food, the sights.

What is probably more significant is that we might not be able to go away again, if there is no cure for the virus.  No one will want to risk catching it in another country, simply because of the medical expenses, the chances are that travel insurance will not cover you for the Coronavirus.

And no cover, no travel, even if you are able to.

So, it means that any travel we will be doing, when we can, will be in our own country.  We can do this without a vaccine because we have so few active cases, and the measures we have is stopping it in its tracks.

So too for New Zealand, and we may be able to travel there.

One day.

Until then, my smartphone is going to keep sending me gentle reminders of what it was like in another lifetime.

From typewriters to computers to distraction

I first started writing by longhand, still do, in fact, then graduated to my mother’s portable typewriter, right down to the sticking keys and overused ribbon, then moved upwards into the electric world having a pair of IBM electric typewriters I bought from one of the places I worked as second-hand cast-offs.

Just remembering those days gives me the shudders, from the tangled ribbons and messy hands to using carbon paper, how many times before they were useless?

Then the age of the electric typewriter went the same way as the manual ones, simply because I could no longer buy ribbons for my IBM Selectric, so it, too, had to go the way of the dinosaurs.

It was a good thing, then, that computers and word processing software started at about the same time.   Word Perfect, to begin with, and then, in the early days of Windows, Word, and others.  Sometimes it was easier just to use the text editor, and for convenience, it’s often by choice to get ideas down, quick and dirty.

This was before the days of the internet, where you physically had to do something about finding inspiration.  And that, sometimes, was more difficult that it seems.  I do not have a writing room with large windows looking out on a rural or urban panorama.  The window looks onto a fence, and the house next door.

So much for my dream of owning a castle and having a writing room on the second or third level, with astonishing views.

Which leads me to today.  Enough with the reminiscing.  I have all the tools I need to get on with the job, but that isn’t enough to switch on the brain and start typing perfect prose.  I have to go in search of some inspiration.

It’s just that in that short distance, from, say, the couch where you were reading the latest blog posts in the WordPress reader, and the writer’s chair, your preparation for writing ends up getting confused at some of the blogger’s points because it’s hard to find anything relevant that backs up their assertions, or how things work for them.

I guess success form anyone’s standpoint, is what worked for them.  In relaying that to others, two things come to mind.  It worked for them, but in telling a million others, and they all take the same approach, no, sorry, it ain’t going to work no how.  The other, there’s usually a fee attached to gain the knowledge, and, yes, the same proviso applies.  If everyone does it, it ain’t going to work no how.

But, there you are, my attention has been distracted, and unless I’m about to indulge in writing a version of how to achieve success myself, which I haven’t so I’m not, I’m off track, with an out of balance mindset, and therefore unable to write.

Perhaps I should not read blog posts, but the newspapers.

Or not, because they all have an editorial policy that leans either and one way or another, which means their views are not necessarily unbiased.

I was a journalist once and hated the idea of having to toe the editorial line.  Or as luck would have it, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  It lends to the theory that you can never quite believe anything the media tells you, which is a very sorry place to be when there are no external influences you can trust.

I’m coming around to thinking that it’s probably best left to the dark hours of the night when you would think all the distractions are behind you.  After all, isn’t that what daytime is for?

Except that’s when the ghosts come out to play.

I think.

Was that the lounge room door opening?

We all change over time

The other day when visiting a friend I was asked if I would like some camomile tea. I said it was something I had tried once and didn’t like, which prompted the comment ‘you don’t seem to like very much’.

It was not a comment made in malice, we have known each other a long time, but I didn’t realize it until then that our individual tastes had changed over time, more particularly in my case.

I used to drink tea with milk and three, sometimes more, sugars once, drink the archetypal Australian beer like Fosters Lager and Carlton Draught, but in recent years found I could no longer drink it and had switched to European beers such as Peroni or Heineken.

It got me thinking about how our likes and dislikes change over time, sometimes through a bad experience (as is the case with a type of alcohol – mine is tequila), sometimes for other reasons, like for dietary or health reasons (one is having diabetes).

My steak preference has changed from medium to medium-rare to rare, I no longer have tea with milk and sugar, and drastically cut down on chocolate.

Another phenomenon I have noticed particularly in my and my wife’s case is how our tastes have changed together, so I’m assuming that is from familiarity.

In the case of friends, you do not necessarily see them all that often, so it would be possible for them to change and you do not know about it, and no doubt eventually prompt a comment.

There is also the case of external influences on each of us that bring changes, such as those who have children and those who do not, those who travel to particular places and those who travel to different places, even having a different job can affect our lives.

This is why, over time, our friends come and go, going off in different directions for one or many reasons.

I guess that’s why the saying ‘change is not always for the better’ came into being, but, there again, for some the exact opposite might be true.