Searching for locations: We’ve just arrived in Beijing International Airport, China

Instead of making a grand entrance, arriving in style and being greeted by important dignitaries, we are slinking in via an airplane, late at night. It’s hardly the entrance I’d envisaged. At 9:56 the plane touches down on the runway.  Outside the plane, it is dark and gloomy and from what I could see, it had been raining.  That could, of course, simply be condensation.

Once on the ground, everyone was frantically gathering together everything from seat pockets and sending pillows and blankets to the floor.  A few were turning their mobile phones back on, and checking for a signal, and, perhaps, looking for messages sent to them during the last 12 hours. Or perhaps they were just suffering from mobile phone deprivation.

It took 10 minutes for the plane to arrive at the gate. That’s when everyone moves into overdrive, unbuckling belts, some before the seatbelt sign goes off, and are first out of their seats and into the overhead lockers.  Most are not taking care that their luggage may have moved, but fortunately, no bags fall out onto someone’s head. The flight had been relatively turbulent free.

When as many people and bags have squeezed into that impossibly small aisle space, we wait for the door to open, and then the privileged few business and first-class passengers to depart before we can begin to leave. As we are somewhere near the middle of the plane, our wait will not be as long as it usually is.  This time we avoided being at the back of the plane.  Perhaps that privilege awaits us on the return trip.

Once off the plane, it is a matter of following the signs, some of which are not as clear as they could be.  It’s why it took another 30 odd minutes to get through immigration, but that was not necessarily without a few hiccups along the way. We got sidetracked at the fingerprint machines, which seemed to have a problem if your fingers were not straight, not in the center of the glass, and then if it was generally cranky, which ours were, continue to tell you to try again, and again, and again, and again…That took 10 to 15 minutes before we joined an incredibly long queue of other arrivals,

A glance at the time, and suddenly it’s nearly an hour from the moment we left the plane.

And…

That’s when we got to the immigration officer, and it became apparent we were going to have to do the fingerprints yet again.  Fortunately this time, it didn’t take as long.  Once that done, we collected our bags, cleared customs by putting our bags through a huge x-ray machine, and it was off to find our tour guide.


We found several tour guides with their trip-a-deal flags waiting for us to come out of the arrivals hall.  It wasn’t a difficult process in the end.  We were in the blue group.  Other people we had met on the plane were in the red group or the yellow group.  The tour guide found, or as it turned out she found us, it was simply a matter of waiting for the rest of the group, of which there were eventually 28.Gathered together we were told we would be taking the bags to one place and then ourselves to the bus in another.  A glance in the direction of the bus park, there were a lot of busses.

Here’s a thought, imagine being told your bus is the white one with blue writing on the side.

Yes, yours is, and 25 others because all of the tourist coaches are the same.  An early reminder, so that you do not get lost, or, God forbid, get on the wrong bus, for the three days in Beijing, is to get the last five numbers of the bus registration plate and commit them to memory.  It’s important.  Failing that, the guide’s name is in the front passenger window.

Also, don’t be alarmed if your baggage goes in one direction, and you go in another. In a rather peculiar set up the bags are taken to the hotel by what the guide called the baggage porter.  It is an opportunity to see how baggage handlers treat your luggage; much better than the airlines it appears.


That said, if you’re staying at the Beijing Friendship Hotel, be prepared for a long drive from the airport.  It took us nearly an hour, and bear in mind that it was very late on a Sunday night.

Climbing out of the bus after what seemed a convoluted drive through a park with buildings, we arrive at the building that will be our hotel for the next three days.  From the outside, it looks quite good, and once inside the foyer, that first impression is good.  Lots of space, marble, and glass.  If you are not already exhausted by the time you arrive, the next task is to get your room key, find your bags, get to your room, and try to get to be ready the next morning at a reasonable hour.

Sorry, that boat has sailed.

We were lucky, we were told, that our plane arrived on time, and we still arrived at the hotel at 12:52.  Imagine if the incoming plane is late.

This was taken the following morning.  It didn’t look half as bland late at night.

This is the back entrance to Building No 4 but is quite representative of the whole foyer, made completely of marble and glass.  It all looked very impressive under the artificial lights, but not so much in the cold hard light of early morning.

This the foyer of the floor our room was on.  Marble with interesting carpet designs.  Those first impressions of it being a plush hotel were slowly dissipating as we got nearer and nearer to the room.  From the elevator, it was a long, long walk.

So…Did I tell you about the bathroom in our room?

The shower and the toilet both share the same space with no divide and the shower curtain doesn’t reach to the floor.  Water pressure is phenomenal.  Having a shower floods the whole shower plus toilet area so when you go to the toilet you’re basically underwater.

Don’t leave your book or magazine on the floor or it will end up a watery mess.

And the water pressure is so hard that it could cut you in half.  Only a small turn of the tap is required to get that tingling sensation going.

It’s after 1:30 before we finally get to sleep.

As for the bed, well, that’s a whole other story.

Searching for locations: Sydney to Beijing, China – Every flight is different

Sydney to Beijing – Qantas A330-200
Boarding 11:45, everyone on board by 12:02, for a 12:10 departure. Pushing back 12:12 Take off 12:27

Lunch
Airline food is getting better but the fact they serve it up to you in a metal tray with a thick aluminum lid does nothing for the quality of the food inside.  I get what the chef is trying to do but often there is too little of one thing and too much of another and what you finish up with is slop in a tray.  Sometimes it’s edible sometimes it’s not.  Sometimes the meat is tender and other times it’s like boot leather.  As it is today. I think it’s pork, I should have had the chicken.  Or perhaps it was chicken.  I hate it when you can’t tell what it is that you’re eating. But, the drinks were good.

Rest or Sleep, maybe
It’s going to take 11 hours and 20 minutes from Sydney to Beijing, a long time to sit in a plane with nothing much to do other than crosswords, read a book or newspaper or magazine, listen to music on your own device, or the in-flight entertainment, watch a movie again by the in-flight entertainment – if it works – or try to get some sleep. I started with the crosswords but got bored quickly. I fiddled with the in-flight entertainment, looked at the movies and tv shows but none really interested me, not then at least, so I set it to the flight path. Not exactly stellar entertainment, but it’s always interesting to know where the plane is. Or is it? If we crash, what good would it do me to know it’s somewhere over the ocean, not far from Manila, or somewhere else.  It’s not as if I could phone someone up, on the way down, to let them know where we are. But, just after dinner, we still haven’t left Australia

However, by the time I’ve finished fiddling with and dismissing all of the entertainment alternatives, it’s back to the flight path and now we are…

Somewhere approaching the Sulu Sea, which I’ve never heard of before, so it looks like I’ll have to study up on my geography when I get home.

OK, Manila looks like somewhere I’ve heard of, so we have to be flying over the Philippines.  Not far left of that is Vietnam.  Neither of those places is on my travel bucket list, so I’ll just look from up here and be satisfied with that.

Working, or not
Chronic boredom is setting in by the time we are just past halfway to our destination. We are over 6 hours into the flight and there no possible way I’m going to get any sleep. I brought my Galaxy Tab loaded with a few of my novel outlines, and planning for missing chapters, thinking I might get a little thinking time in.  Plane rides, I find, are excellent for getting an opportunity to write virtually unhindered by outside interruptions, if, of course, you discount the number of times people brush past, knocking your seat, the person in front lowering the seat into your face, or people around you continually asking you to turn off your light because they’re trying to sleep. Sorry, I say, but you can suffer my pain with me.  It’s one of the joys of flying with over two hundred others in a claustrophobic environment.  Besides, aren’t the lights supposed to be slanted so only I get the rays of light?  Except, I guess when the fixed light doesn’t line up with where the airline has fixed the seat (usually so they can squash more people in).So, sorry, not sorry, take it up with the airline.

Back to work, and I put in some quality time on a part of the story that had been eluding me for a while.  I knew what I wanted to write, but not how I was going to approach it, so that blissfully quiet and intense time worked in my favor, something that would not have happened back hope. I won’t bore you with the synopsis, just suffice to say it’s finally down on paper, digitally that is, and it’s a huge step forward towards finishing it. There is, of course, the end play, the reading of the will but not before there’s a few thrusts and parry’s by some of the players, but all in all the objective was to showcase a group of people with their strengths and weaknesses pushing their characters in various directions, some at odds with what is expected of them. But enough of that.   A quick check of our position shows we’re still over water but closer to our destination, so much so, we might start the pre-landing rituals, starting with food.

Dinner
7:00 – Dinner is served, well, the lights go on and a lot of tired people try to shake the sleep, and sleeplessness, out of their systems. Then flight attendants that are far too cheerful, and must have beamed in from somewhere else, serve another interesting concoction that says what’s in it but you can’t really be sure of the ingredients.  It comes and it goes.

9:10 – We begin our descent into Beijing, you know, that moment when the engines almost stop and there’s a sickening lurch and the plane heads downward. 9:56 – We touch down on the runway, in the dark and apparently it has been raining though from inside the plane you’d never know. 10:10 – the plane arrives at the gate,  the usual few minutes to open the door, and, being closer to the front of the plane this time, it doesn’t take that long before the queue is moving.

Early or late, it doesn’t matter.  After clearing customs and immigration, we have to go in search of our tour guide, waiting for us somewhere outside the arrivals terminal.

That word: Line – in sayings

There’s more to that word ‘line’, a lot more, making it more confusing, especially for those learning English as a second language.

I keep thinking how I could explain some of the sayings, but the fact is, it’s only my interpretation, which could possibly have nothing to do with its real meaning if it has one.

Such as,

Hook, line, and sinker

We would like to think that this is only used in a fishing depot, but while it is generally, there are other meanings, one of which is, a con artist has taken in a victim completely, or as the saying goes, hook, line, and sinker.

At the end of the line

Exactly what it t says though the connotations of this expression vary.

For me, the most common use is when you’re waiting, like for a table in a restaurant with a time-specific reservation, and you see people who arrive after you, getting a table before you, it’s like being continually sent to the end of the line.

Line ball decision

This is a little more obscure, but for me, it means the result could go either way, and it’s a matter of making a call. The problem is both decisions are right, and unfortunately, you’re the poor sod who has to decide.

It of course partners very well with you can’t please everyone all of the time.

These are the most difficult because one side is going to be aggrieved at the decision especially when it is supposed to be impartial and sometimes isn’t.

Get it over the line

This, of course, has many connotations in sport, particularly rugby when the aim is to get the ball over the try line.

But another more vicarious meaning might be from a senior salesman to a junior, get [the sale] over the line, i.e. get it signed sealed and delivered by any means possible by close of business.

Line of credit

A more straight forward use of the word, meaning the bank will extend credit up to a certain limit, but it’s generally quite large and can feel like its neverending.

Until you have to pay it back.

There’s more, but it can wait till another day.

Searching for locations: Windsor Castle, London, England

A fine day, on this trip a rarity, we decided to take the train to Windsor and see the castle.

This is a real castle, and still in one piece, unlike a lot of castles.

Were we hoping to see the Queen, no, it was highly unlikely.

But there were a lot of planes flying overhead into Heathrow.  The wind must have been blowing the wrong day, and I’m sure, with one passing over every few minutes, it must annoy the Queen if she was looking for peace and quiet.

Good thing then, when it was built, it was an ideal spot, and not under the landing path.  I guess it was hard to predict what would happen 500 years in the future!

2013-06-30 12.09.56

I’m not sure if this was the front gate or back gate, but I was wary of any stray arrows coming out of those slits either side of the entrance.

You just never know!

2013-06-30 13.58.11

An excellent lawn for croquet.  This, I think, is the doorway, on the left, where dignitaries arrive by car.  The private apartments are across the back.

2013-06-30 13.58.00

The visitor’s apartments.  Not sure who that is on the horse.

2013-06-30 14.07.25

St George’s Chapel.  It’s a magnificent church for a private castle.  It’s been very busy the last few months with Royal weddings.

2013-06-30 12.12.29

The Round Tower, or the Keep.  It is the castle’s centerpiece.  Below it is the gardens.

2013-06-30 13.59.57

Those stairs are not for the faint-hearted, nor the Queen I suspect.  But I think quite a few royal children and their friends have been up and down them a few times.

2013-06-30 12.13.04

And well worth the effort to reach the bottom.

2013-06-30 14.00.40

Any faces peering out through the windows?

Searching for locations: Windsor Castle, London, England

A fine day, on this trip a rarity, we decided to take the train to Windsor and see the castle.

This is a real castle, and still in one piece, unlike a lot of castles.

Were we hoping to see the Queen, no, it was highly unlikely.

But there were a lot of planes flying overhead into Heathrow.  The wind must have been blowing the wrong day, and I’m sure, with one passing over every few minutes, it must annoy the Queen if she was looking for peace and quiet.

Good thing then, when it was built, it was an ideal spot, and not under the landing path.  I guess it was hard to predict what would happen 500 years in the future!

2013-06-30 12.09.56

I’m not sure if this was the front gate or back gate, but I was wary of any stray arrows coming out of those slits either side of the entrance.

You just never know!

2013-06-30 13.58.11

An excellent lawn for croquet.  This, I think, is the doorway, on the left, where dignitaries arrive by car.  The private apartments are across the back.

2013-06-30 13.58.00

The visitor’s apartments.  Not sure who that is on the horse.

2013-06-30 14.07.25

St George’s Chapel.  It’s a magnificent church for a private castle.  It’s been very busy the last few months with Royal weddings.

2013-06-30 12.12.29

The Round Tower, or the Keep.  It is the castle’s centerpiece.  Below it is the gardens.

2013-06-30 13.59.57

Those stairs are not for the faint-hearted, nor the Queen I suspect.  But I think quite a few royal children and their friends have been up and down them a few times.

2013-06-30 12.13.04

And well worth the effort to reach the bottom.

2013-06-30 14.00.40

Any faces peering out through the windows?

Searching for locations: Windsor Castle, London, England

A fine day, on this trip a rarity, we decided to take the train to Windsor and see the castle.

This is a real castle, and still in one piece, unlike a lot of castles.

Were we hoping to see the Queen, no, it was highly unlikely.

But there were a lot of planes flying overhead into Heathrow.  The wind must have been blowing the wrong day, and I’m sure, with one passing over every few minutes, it must annoy the Queen if she was looking for peace and quiet.

Good thing then, when it was built, it was an ideal spot, and not under the landing path.  I guess it was hard to predict what would happen 500 years in the future!

2013-06-30 12.09.56

I’m not sure if this was the front gate or back gate, but I was wary of any stray arrows coming out of those slits either side of the entrance.

You just never know!

2013-06-30 13.58.11

An excellent lawn for croquet.  This, I think, is the doorway, on the left, where dignitaries arrive by car.  The private apartments are across the back.

2013-06-30 13.58.00

The visitor’s apartments.  Not sure who that is on the horse.

2013-06-30 14.07.25

St George’s Chapel.  It’s a magnificent church for a private castle.  It’s been very busy the last few months with Royal weddings.

2013-06-30 12.12.29

The Round Tower, or the Keep.  It is the castle’s centerpiece.  Below it is the gardens.

2013-06-30 13.59.57

Those stairs are not for the faint-hearted, nor the Queen I suspect.  But I think quite a few royal children and their friends have been up and down them a few times.

2013-06-30 12.13.04

And well worth the effort to reach the bottom.

2013-06-30 14.00.40

Any faces peering out through the windows?

Searching for locations: Windsor Castle, London, England

A fine day, on this trip a rarity, we decided to take the train to Windsor and see the castle.

This is a real castle, and still in one piece, unlike a lot of castles.

Were we hoping to see the Queen, no, it was highly unlikely.

But there were a lot of planes flying overhead into Heathrow.  The wind must have been blowing the wrong day, and I’m sure, with one passing over every few minutes, it must annoy the Queen if she was looking for peace and quiet.

Good thing then, when it was built, it was an ideal spot, and not under the landing path.  I guess it was hard to predict what would happen 500 years in the future!

2013-06-30 12.09.56

I’m not sure if this was the front gate or back gate, but I was wary of any stray arrows coming out of those slits either side of the entrance.

You just never know!

2013-06-30 13.58.11

An excellent lawn for croquet.  This, I think, is the doorway, on the left, where dignitaries arrive by car.  The private apartments are across the back.

2013-06-30 13.58.00

The visitor’s apartments.  Not sure who that is on the horse.

2013-06-30 14.07.25

St George’s Chapel.  It’s a magnificent church for a private castle.  It’s been very busy the last few months with Royal weddings.

2013-06-30 12.12.29

The Round Tower, or the Keep.  It is the castle’s centerpiece.  Below it is the gardens.

2013-06-30 13.59.57

Those stairs are not for the faint-hearted, nor the Queen I suspect.  But I think quite a few royal children and their friends have been up and down them a few times.

2013-06-30 12.13.04

And well worth the effort to reach the bottom.

2013-06-30 14.00.40

Any faces peering out through the windows?

Searching for locations: Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand

Mount Ngauruhoe is apparently still an active volcano, has been for 2,500 years or so, and last erupted on 19th February 1975, and reportedly has erupted around 70 times since 1839.

The mountain is usually climbed from the western side, from the Mangatepopo track.

This photo was taken in summer from the Chateau Tongariro carpark.

In late autumn, on one of our many visits to the area, the mountain was covered with a light sprinkling of snow and ice.

On our most recent visit, this year, in winter, it was fully covered in snow.

It can be a breathtaking sight from the distance.

Social media is such a distraction

I’m back to writing, sitting at the desk, pad in front of me, pen in hand.

The only thing lacking, an idea.

It’s 9:03 am, too early to start on a six pack.

I need a distraction.

Blogging, web sites, twitter and facebook, all of these social media problems are swirling around in my mind.

The more I read the more it bothers me that if I don’t have the right social media presence, if I do not start to build an email list, all of my efforts in writing a book will come to nought.

Then I start trawling the internet for information on marketing and found a plethora of people offering any amount of advice for anything between a ‘small amount’ to a rather large amount that gives comprehensive coverage of most social media platforms for periods of a day, a week or a month.  I don’t have a book so it’s  a bit early to be worrying about that.

I move onto the people who offer advice for a cost on how to build a following, how to build a web presence, how to get a thousand Twitter followers, how to get thousands of email followers before the launch.
The trouble is I’m writing a novel not a non fiction book, or have some marvellous 30 page ebook on how to do something, for free just to drive people to my site.

I’m a novelist not a handyman so those ideas while good are not going to help me.

Yet another problem to wrestle with along with actually creating a product to sell in the first place.

Except I’m supposed to be writing for the love of it without the premeditated idea of writing for gain or getting rich quick.

What am I missing here?

So should l be writing short stories and offering them for free to drive people to my site?  These would have to be genre specific so it needs time and effort and fit into a convenient size story that will highlight or showcase my talent.

Or should I create a web site for the novel and set up pages for the characters an get some interaction going that way?

It will be difficult without giving the whole plot away so if I do it will have to be carefully managed.

I don’t think I will have a good night’s sleep again with all of these social media problems I’m going to have.

Oh well, back to the book.  It’s time to have a nightmare of a different sort!

My cell phone is going off

I’m back to writing, sitting at the desk, pad in front of me, pen in hand.

The only thing lacking, an idea.

It’s 9:03 am, too early to start on a six-pack.

To be honest, the last thing I needed was a distraction, and, having forgotten to put my cell phone on silent, it starts buzzing, indicating there are new messages, or notifications from all those social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Blogger…

Then the advice from all the so-called marketing gurus starts to swirl around in my head, and instead of writing, I’m now fretting over my social media presence.

The more I read the more it bothers me that if I don’t have the right social media presence if I do not start to build an email list, all of my efforts in writing a book will come to naught.

That’s when I start trawling the internet for information on marketing and found a plethora of people offering any amount of advice for anything between a ‘small amount’ to a rather large amount that gives comprehensive coverage of most social media platforms for periods of a day, a week or a month. 

I move on to the people who offer advice for a cost on how to build a following, how to build a web presence, how to get a thousand Twitter followers, how to get thousands of email followers before the launch.

The trouble is I’m writing a novel, not a nonfiction book, or have some marvelous 30-page ebook on how to do something, for free just to drive people to my site.

I’m a novelist, not a handyman so those ideas while good is not going to help me.

Yet another problem to wrestle with along with actually creating a product to sell in the first place.

Except I’m supposed to be writing for the love of it without the premeditated idea of writing for gain or getting rich quick.

What am I missing here?

So should l be writing short stories and offering them for free to drive people to my site?  These would have to be genre-specific so it needs time and effort and fit into a convenient size story that will highlight or showcase my talent.

Some time ago I created a website on one of those so-called free sites, but it’s rather basic and not great. Of course, if I want it to be better, all I have to do is hand over a great wad of money I don’t have to make it better. So much for free!

I don’t think I will have a good night’s sleep again with all of these social media problems I’m having.

Oh well, back to the book.  It’s time to have a nightmare of a different sort!