Now that a semblance of normality is returning…

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 country safe enough to travel we are being offered incentives to travel within our own country, and in a small measure revive the economy.

I don’t think I will be.  Not yet, anyway.  Not until there is a larger roll out of the vaccine, and we don’t have the sporadic fires caused by people coming back from overseas.  And of course there are the variants that the current vaccines are not so effective against.

So, enough of the bad news.

The good news, we can now travel if we want to.

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.

It’s my second favorite job involving grandchildren

Whilst schools are open again, there one small issue, none of the parents are willing to let their children catch public transport home, well, not for the time being.  

The thing is, I usually have the job picking them up on a Friday, but as their parents are both working during the week, it falls to me to go five minutes up the road to the school to get one.  

The other goes to secondary school, and, both schools miles apart, I can only be in one place.   And, as with the Friday afternoon routine I’m tasked with the job of finding her something to eat.  Luckily she is more easily pleased these days as when she was younger, it was almost impossible to find something she liked to eat.  Today it will be a meat pie, but not just any pie, it has to come from a particular pie shop..  

Fun times indeed, given the finicky likes and dislikes children develop.   For the moment they don’t mind but I suspect when they get older, as children’s ideas about post-school activities might eventually not include spending time with grandparents, though I’m guessing the open pantry and being spoilt might sway them for a little bit longer.    

But…

The waiting line is longer, and instead of going a quarter of an hour before the pickup time, I now have to go three-quarters of an hour, just if I want a place in the queue, which by my estimation is nearly a mile long.

It gives me time to consider, not for the first time, what makes children tick in this modern world, one which to me seems to be very different from when I was their age.

We did not have television, computers, mobile phones, or social media.

If you wanted to talk to your friends out of school, a parent had to take you, otherwise, it could wait.  There was no calling them up on the phone, sending an email or a text.  Not like these days where both have mobile phones

And, where we had to do homework, play outside using our imagination, or hanging out with other kids who lived in the street, these days they seem glued either to their computers or phones, playing games on the computer, texting friends, or watching TV.

It’s not the sort of TV I would watch, all screaming and violence, and it’s no wonder a lot of small children are traumatized at such a young age.

Computer games are no better with extreme and very graphic violence.  What do we really expect feeding them this sort of material?

Talking them into going outside to play like we did at the same age would be a good idea if it was not for the possibility of them being snatched off the street.  It is indicative of the times, and who’s to say it will not happen even if it hasn’t happened before in the neighborhood. Now it seems predators are everywhere.

It was less likely in our time as children.  Back then you were more likely to be assaulted by a parent or a relative.  It was nothing to walk, as a seven or eight years old, for a mile or two alone on the street, to and from school, and not even think about being whisked away by a predator.

So, this afternoon, it’s not a time to dredge up the past.  It’s where it belongs, in the past.  What I have to look forward to is another session with my youngest granddaughter playing a game that rewards you with carrots.

Oh, and having to be quite the horsewoman, fending off rivals, dodging bombs and dragons, in order to build up your carrots so that you can breed a better horse, and, of course, win more carrots.

I’m sure there’s a message there somewhere.

It’s my second favorite job involving grandchildren

Whilst schools are open again, there one small issue, none of the parents are willing to let their children catch public transport home, well, not for the time being.  

The thing is, I usually have the job picking them up on a Friday, but as their parents are both working during the week, it falls to me to go five minutes up the road to the school to get one.  

The other goes to secondary school, and, both schools miles apart, I can only be in one place.   And, as with the Friday afternoon routine I’m tasked with the job of finding her something to eat.  Luckily she is more easily pleased these days as when she was younger, it was almost impossible to find something she liked to eat.  Today it will be a meat pie, but not just any pie, it has to come from a particular pie shop..  

Fun times indeed, given the finicky likes and dislikes children develop.   For the moment they don’t mind but I suspect when they get older, as children’s ideas about post-school activities might eventually not include spending time with grandparents, though I’m guessing the open pantry and being spoilt might sway them for a little bit longer.    

But…

The waiting line is longer, and instead of going a quarter of an hour before the pickup time, I now have to go three-quarters of an hour, just if I want a place in the queue, which by my estimation is nearly a mile long.

It gives me time to consider, not for the first time, what makes children tick in this modern world, one which to me seems to be very different from when I was their age.

We did not have television, computers, mobile phones, or social media.

If you wanted to talk to your friends out of school, a parent had to take you, otherwise, it could wait.  There was no calling them up on the phone, sending an email or a text.  Not like these days where both have mobile phones

And, where we had to do homework, play outside using our imagination, or hanging out with other kids who lived in the street, these days they seem glued either to their computers or phones, playing games on the computer, texting friends, or watching TV.

It’s not the sort of TV I would watch, all screaming and violence, and it’s no wonder a lot of small children are traumatized at such a young age.

Computer games are no better with extreme and very graphic violence.  What do we really expect feeding them this sort of material?

Talking them into going outside to play like we did at the same age would be a good idea if it was not for the possibility of them being snatched off the street.  It is indicative of the times, and who’s to say it will not happen even if it hasn’t happened before in the neighborhood. Now it seems predators are everywhere.

It was less likely in our time as children.  Back then you were more likely to be assaulted by a parent or a relative.  It was nothing to walk, as a seven or eight years old, for a mile or two alone on the street, to and from school, and not even think about being whisked away by a predator.

So, this afternoon, it’s not a time to dredge up the past.  It’s where it belongs, in the past.  What I have to look forward to is another session with my youngest granddaughter playing a game that rewards you with carrots.

Oh, and having to be quite the horsewoman, fending off rivals, dodging bombs and dragons, in order to build up your carrots so that you can breed a better horse, and, of course, win more carrots.

I’m sure there’s a message there somewhere.

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.

Waiting to pick up children from school can give you thinking time

Now that the COVID 19 problem has improved slightly, some schools are open again.  But there one small issue, none of the parents are willing to let their children catch public transport home, well, not for the time being.

The thing is, I usually have the job picking them up on a Friday, but as their parents are both working during the week, it falls to me to go five minutes up the road to the school to get one.

The other goes to secondary school, and, both schools miles apart, I can only be in one place.

Conveniently, for now, the secondary school is not yet open, so she is schooling from home, our home, thus during the day, I become a supervisor.

The best part is her cooking lessons, but I digress..,

So for the next few weeks, when required, my job is to get the youngest granddaughter from primary school.

And, as with the Friday afternoon routine of having both over for the afternoon, we give them dinner then take them home.  That of course changes the usual meal routing we have, and I’m cooking for different palates.

Fun times indeed, given the finicky likes and dislikes children develop.

For the moment they don’t mind but I suspect when they get older, as children’s ideas about post-school activities might eventually not include spending time with grandparents, though I’m guessing the open pantry and being spoilt might sway them for a little bit longer.

But…

The waiting line is longer, and instead of going a quarter of an hour before the pickup time, I now have to go three-quarters of an hour, just if I want a place in the queue, which by my estimation is nearly a mile long.

It gives me time to consider, not for the first time, what makes children tick in this modern world, one which to me seems to be very different from when I was their age.

We did not have television, computers, mobile phones, or social media.

If you wanted to talk to your friends out of school, a parent had to take you, otherwise, it could wait.  There was no calling them up on the phone, sending an email or a text.  Not like these days where both have mobile phones

And, where we had to do homework, play outside using our imagination, or hanging out with other kids who lived in the street, these days they seem glued either to their computers or phones, playing games on the computer, texting friends, or watching TV.

It’s not the sort of TV I would watch, all screaming and violence, and it’s no wonder a lot of small children are traumatized at such a young age.

Computer games are no better with extreme and very graphic violence.  What do we really expect feeding them this sort of material?

Talking them into going outside to play like we did at the same age would be a good idea if it was not for the possibility of them being snatched off the street.  It is indicative of the times, and who’s to say it will not happen even if it hasn’t happened before in the neighborhood. Now it seems predators are everywhere.

It was less likely in our time as children.  Back then you were more likely to be assaulted by a parent or a relative.  It was nothing to walk, as a seven or eight years old, for a mile or two alone on the street, to and from school, and not even think about being whisked away by a predator.

So, this afternoon, it’s not a time to dredge up the past.  It’s where it belongs, in the past.  What I have to look forward to is another session with my youngest granddaughter playing a game that rewards you with carrots.

Oh, and having to be quite the horsewoman, fending off rivals, dodging bombs and dragons, in order to build up your carrots so that you can breed a better horse, and, of course, win more carrots.

I’m sure there’s a message there somewhere.

The past creeps back when you least expect it

Over the last few weeks I’ve been lamenting the loss of many things that once existed, once upon a time.

All children have memories of their childhood, but some dissipate over time and become forgotten, almost to the point where it is as if they never existed.

Like my grandmothers house in the country, bulldozed to widen a main highway. I have a lot of difficulty in remembering it even though we had spent many Christmas holidays there.

Other, more insignificant items just simply disappeared into the mists of time, as the manufacturers were slowly bought out by overseas companies and in their desire for globalisation, parochial items made for what seems, to them, to be too small for their economies of scale were no longer made.

No thought is ever given to the consumer. Nor does it matter that the item, made in this country for a hundred years, is especially attuned to the tastes of the people of this country, and therefore have a continuous core market.

Of course, as a child over 60 years ago, most of thise items were confectionary. Names of brands such as Hoadleys and Rowntree have long since disappeared. Products like licorice squares, polly waffles, toscas and crispins have gone too.

Some products like Kit Kats still exist, but are made by new manufacturers like Nestle but with the change no longer taste anything like they used to.

But what started of this lament for the old days was triggered by seeing an old, old favourite called Life Savers, which came in friut flavours, peppermint, and musk. My all time favourite was musk and walking through the supermarket I saw the words Life Savers on a box almost hidden on the bottom shelf and lo and behold they had musk.

The packaging had changed, the manufacturer had changed, but that timeless confectionary had reappeared. Given its shelf location, I don’t think it will be for long.

Now, if only they could bring back Toscas, and Tarax soft drinks in small bottles. Raspberry and cola were my all time favourites.

In every town, in every country…

The Railway Hotel

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It seems to me that in a lot of towns where the railway passes through, and there’s a station, there is a ubiquitous Railway Hotel.

And, for some reason, they are all very old, as if they were built when the railway first went through, and it was the nearest hotel to the station.

In some railway towns, there’s more than one hotel, because I’m sure the Railway Hotel did actually fill up, and people had to stay somewhere else.

I’ve stayed in one or two over the years, and they are monuments to the past, a glimpse into how the notion of grand hotels was, a hundred years ago.

Now, they’re just tired.

Peeling or fading wallpaper, threadbare and stained carpets, creaking floorboards, staircases that were once grand, but now don’t quite feel as solid as they used to be.

There’d be no sneaking upstairs because there’s always two or three stairs that creak.

And what’s that interesting aroma that seems to permeate everywhere?  Brass polish.  Wood polish.  Or just the remnants of the last meal; was that cabbage?

There’s always a lounge with a huge fire burning in winter, and there’s nothing like the warmth and smell of burning wood.  All the better to toast marshmallows!

The dining room had the wooden walls, the wooden floors and the wooden tables with crisply starched tablecloths and silverware that’s been polished every day for a hundred years.  Here you are served from a limited menu that has the basics and plenty of it,  Roast beef, lamb, or chicken, potatoes, carrots, mash potatoes, and beans and peas, and gravy that’s to die for.

Dining in that room is still an experience, and perhaps more so than the new hotel’s soulless restaurants with cordon bleu meals, sometimes scraps on a very large plate.

Give me a Railway Hotel any day.

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.

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.

January has all but disappeared, getting lost in the politics of the US. I feel as though I know more about US history than my own country.

But, what were my writing 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. It has holes than need to be filled.

Then there is the completion of two new novels that will be in the editors hands by now, so I will be waiting with dread after the umpteenth edit, supposedly the last. Then there is the next two …

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 own 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 135.  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.

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.