In a word: Yellow

It was an easy choice from the start, yellow is a colour, in any number of shades from very pale to very dark.

We have yellow egg yolks, yet another y word, and depending on whether the eggs are farmed in cages or free range can dictate the shade of yellow.  Free-range gives the brightest yellow, by the way.

We have yellow cabs, but oddly enough these cabs are orange, not yellow as in this country, though the same may not be the case overseas, particularly in New York.  Good thing they are bright yellow so you can see them coming if you are crossing the road, perhaps illegally.

We have yellow bananas and lemons, probably the most common answers when asked, what is yellow?  That, and perhaps the yellow rose of Texas.

Then there is a more sinister meaning of the word, and it is associated with cowardice, and cowards are said to have a yellow streak down their backs.

If you have yellow fever then you are in a whole world of pain.

You can sometimes have what appears to be yellow skin, a sign of jaundice.

There is a yellow sea, and then there are the yellow pages, sometimes a substitute name for a telephone directory of businesses.

And lastly, an expression that comes out of the past, and not used so much these days, but people from Asia were thought to have yellow skin.

Searching for locations: The Lingering Gardens, Suzhou, China

The Lingering Garden

These gardens are very tightly put together and are interspersed with buildings that you can go in and look at as distinct from just looking in from the outside.

There are lots of paths that wind around interspersed with rocks which may or may not be sculpted, and equally interspersed with trees, bushes, and small plants.  In the middle is a lake which usually has lotus plants in bloom, but they are not in season.

The gardens were built around a small lake that was filled with fish of all sizes and colours

The buildings were also a contrast for those built for the men

and those for the women

In the middle of the garden was a significant rock pillar

surrounded by certain areas of the garden that had smaller rock formations

 

At the end of the garden is a large collection of bonsai trees, some of which are quite exquisite.

An excerpt from “Betrayal” – a work in progress

It could have been anywhere in the world, she thought, but it wasn’t.  It was in a city where if anything were to go wrong…

She sighed and came away from the window and looked around the room.  It was quite large and expensively furnished.  It was one of several she had been visiting in the last three months.

Quite elegant too, as the hotel had its origins dating back to before the revolution in 1917.  At least, currently, there would not be a team of KGB agents somewhere in the basement monitoring everything that happened in the room.

There was no such thing as the KGB anymore, though there was an FSB, but such organisations were of no interest to her.

She was here to meet with Vladimir.

She smiled to herself when she thought of him, such an interesting man whose command of English was as good as her command of Russian, though she had not told him of that ability.

All her knew of her was that she was American, worked in the Embassy as a clerk, nothing important, who life both at work and at home was boring.  Not that she had blurted that out the first tie she met, or even the second.

That first time, at a function in the Embassy, was a chance meeting, a catching of his eye as he looked around the room, looking, as he had told her later, for someone who might not be as boring as the function itself.

It was a celebration, honouring one of the Embassy officials on his service in Moscow, and the fact he was returning home after 10 years.  She had been there one, and still hadn’t met all the staff.

They had talked, Vladimir knew a great deal about England, having been stationed there for a year or two, and had politely asked questions about where she lived, her family, and of course what her role was, all questions she fended off with an air of disinterested interest.

It fascinated him, as she knew it would, a sort of mental sparring as one would do with swords, if this was a fencing match.

They had said they might or might not meet again when the party was over, but she suspected there would be another opportunity.  She knew the signs of a man who was interested in her, and Vladimir was interested.

The second time came in the form of an invitation to an art gallery, and a viewing of the works of a prominent Russian artist, an invitation she politely declined.  After all, invitations issued to Embassy staff held all sorts of connotations, or so she was told by the Security officer when she told him.

Then, it went quiet for a month.  There was a party at the American embassy and along with several other staff members, she was invited.  She had not expected to meet Vladimir, but it was a pleasant surprise when she saw him, on the other side of the room, talking to several military men.

A pleasant afternoon ensued.

And it was no surprise that they kept running into each other at the various events on the diplomatic schedule.

By the fifth meeting, they were like old friends.  She had broached the subject of being involved in a plutonic relationship with him with the head of security at the embassy.  Normally for a member of her rank it would not be allowed, but in this instance it was.

She did not work in any sensitive areas, and, as the security officer had said, she might just happen upon something that might be useful.  In that regard, she was to keep her eyes and ears open, and file a report each time she met him.

After that discussion she got the impression her superiors considered Vladimir more than just a casual visitor on the diplomatic circuit.  She also formed the impression the he might consider her an ‘asset’, a word that had been used at the meeting with security and the ambassador.

It was where the word ‘spy’ popped into her head and sent a tingle down her spine.  She was not a spy, but the thought of it, well, it would be fascinating to see what happened.

A Russian friend.  That’s what she would call him.

And over time, that relationship blossomed, until, after a visit to the ballet, late and snowing, he invited her to his apartment not far from the ballet venue.  It was like treading on thin ice, but after champagne and an introduction to caviar, she felt like a giddy schoolgirl.

Even so, she had made him promise that he remain on his best behaviour.  It could have been very easy to fall under the spell of a perfect evening, but he promised, showed her to a separate bedroom, and after a brief kiss, their first, she did not see him until the next morning.

So, it began.

It was an interesting report she filed after that encounter, one where she had expected to be reprimanded.

She wasn’t.

It wasn’t until six weeks had passed when he asked her if she would like to take a trip to the country.  It would involve staying in a hotel, that they would have separate rooms.  When she reported the invitation, no objection was raised, only a caution; keep her wits about her.

Perhaps, she had thought, they were looking forward to a more extensive report.  After all, her reports on the places, and the people, and the conversations she overheard, were no doubt entertaining reading for some.

But this visit was where the nature of the relationship changed, and it was one that she did not immediately report.  She had realised at some point before the weekend away, that she had feelings for him, and it was not that he was pushing her in that direction or manipulating her in any way.

It was just one of those moments where, after a grand dinner, a lot of champagne, and delightful company, things happen.  Standing at the door to her room, a lingering kiss, not intentional on her part, and it just happened.

And for not one moment did she believe she had been compromised, but for some reason she had not reported that subtle change in the relationship to the powers that be, and so far, no one had any inkling.

She took off her coat and placed it carefully of the back of one of the ornate chairs in the room.  She stopped for a moment to look at a framed photograph on the wall, one representing Red Square.

Then, after a minute or two, she went to the mini bar and took out the bottle of champagne that had been left there for them, a treat arranged by Vladimir for each encounter.

There were two champagne flutes set aside on the bar, next to a bowl of fruit.  She picked up the apple and thought how Eve must have felt in the garden of Eden, and the temptation.

Later perhaps, after…

She smiled at the thought and put the apple back.

A glance at her watch told her it was time for his arrival.  It was if anything, the one trait she didn’t like, and that was his punctuality.  A glance at the clock on the room wall was a minute slow.

The doorbell to the room rang, right on the appointed time.

She put the bottle down and walked over to the door.

A smile on her face, she opened the door.

It was not Vladimir.  It was her worst nightmare.

© Charles Heath 2020

In a word: Happy

“I’m happy to be being here.”

Yes, I actually heard that answer given in a television interview, and thought, at the time, it was a quaint expression.

But in reality, this was a person for whom English was a second language, and that was, quite literally, their translation from their language to English.

Suffice to say, that person was not happy when lost the event she was participating in.

But that particular memory was triggered by another event.

Someone asked me how happy I was.

Happy is another of those words like good, thrown around like a rag doll, used without consequence, or regard for its true meaning.

“After everything that’s happened, you should be the happiest man alive!”

I’m happy.

I should be, to them.

A real friend might also say, “Are you sure, you don’t look happy.”

I hesitate but say, “Sure.  I woke up with a headache,” or some other lame reason.

But, in reality, I’m not ‘happy’.  Convention says that we should be happy if everything is going well.  In my case, it is, to a certain extent, but it is what’s happening within that’s the problem.  We say it because people expect it.

I find there is no use complaining because no one will listen, and definitely, no one likes serial complainers.

True.

But somewhere in all those complaints will be the truth, the one item that is bugging us.

It is a case of whether we are prepared to listen.  Really listen.

And not necessarily take people at their word.

 

Searching for locations: Shanghai, China, by night.

When we arrive at the embarkation site we find at least 100 buses all lined up and parked, and literally thousands of Chinese and other Asians streaming through the turnstiles to get on another boat leaving earlier than ours.

Buses were just literally arriving one after the other stopping near where we were standing with a dozen or so other groups waiting patiently, and with people were everywhere it could only be described as organized chaos.

Someone obviously knew where everyone was supposed to go, and when it was our turn, we joined the queue.  There were a lot of people in front of us, and a lot more behind, so I had to wonder just how big the boat was.

We soon found out.

And it was amusing to watch people running, yes, they were actually running, to get to the third level, or found available seating.  Being around the first to board, we had no trouble finding a seat on the second level.

I was not quite sure what the name of the boat was, but it had 3 decks and VIP rooms and it was huge, with marble staircases, the sort you could make a grand entrance on.  The last such ornate marble staircase we had seen was in a hotel in Hong Kong, and that was some staircase.

But who has marble staircases in a boat?

We’re going out across the water as far as the Bund and then turn around and come back about 30 to 40 minutes.   By the time everyone was on board, there was no room left on the third level, no seats on the second level nor standing room at the end of the second level where the stairs up to the third level were.

No one wanted to pay the extra to go into the VIP lounge.

We were sitting by very large windows where it was warm enough watching the steady procession of the colored lights of other vessels, and outside the buildings.

It was quite spectacular, as were some of the other boats going out on the harbor.

All the buildings of the Bund were lit up

And along that part of the Bund was a number of old English style buildings made from sandstone, and very impressive to say the least.

On the other side of the harbour were the more modern buildings, including the communications tower, a rather impressive structure.

I had to go to the rear of the vessel to get a photo, a very difficult proposition given here was no space on the railing, not even on the stairs going up or down.  It was just luck I managed to get some photos between passengers heads.

And, another view of that communications tower:

There was no doubt this was one of the most colourful night-time boat tours I’ve ever been on.  Certainly, when we saw the same buildings the following day, they were not half as spectacular in daylight.

I never did get up to the third level to see what the view was like.

Searching for locations: The Great Wall of China, near Beijing, China

This is in a very scenic area and on the first impression; it is absolutely stunning in concept and in viewing.

As for the idea of walking on it, well, that first view of the mountain climb when getting off the bus, my first question was where the elevator is?  Sorry, there is none.  It’s walk on up or stay down the bottom.

Walk it is.  As far as you feel you are able.  There are quite a few who don’t make it to the top.  I didn’t.  I only made it to the point where the steps narrowed.

But as for the logistics, there’s the gradual incline to the starting point, and what will be the end meeting place.  From there, it’s a few steps up to the guard station no 7, and a few more to get up to the start of the main climb.  The top of the wall is guard station no 12.

Ok, those first few steps are a good indication of what it’s was going to be like and it’s more the awkwardness of the uneven heights of the steps that’s the killer, some as high as about 15 inches.  This photo paints an illusion, that it’s easy.  It’s not.

If you make it to the first stage, then it augers well you will get about 100 steps before you both start feeling it in your legs, particularly the knees, and then suffering from the height if you have a problem with heights as the air is thinner.  And if you have a thing with heights, never look down.

This was from where we stopped, about a third of the way up.  The one below, from almost at the bottom.  One we’re looking almost down on the buildings, the other, on the same level.

It requires rest before you come down, and that’s when you start to feel it in the knees, our tour guide called it jelly legs, but it’s more in the knees down.  Descending should be slow, and it can be more difficult negotiating the odd height steps, and particularly those high ones.  You definitely need to hang onto the rail, even try going backward.

And, no, that rail hasn’t been there as long as the wall.

While you are waiting for the guide to return to the meeting place at the appointed time, there should be time to have some jasmine tea.  Highly refreshing after the climb.

In a word: Under

Under by itself is a rather boring word, you know, under the moon, under the sea, under the influence, which is not hard to be if you’ve been hypnotised or after a few drinks.

Under is anything beneath something else.

But lts add it to some other words like,

Under rated, which means it is better that what others give it credit.

Under wear, what you would wear underneath your clothes.

Under study, the person who takes over a lead role when the lead is incapacitated. And how many understudys are guilty of harming the lead, in order to get a big break?

And not get away with it?

Under stood, an agreement that might or might not be in writing that something will happen, that is, it is understood that I will be the next president.

Or not. Who on earth would really want to be president of anything.

So in the spirit of trying to cionfuse everyone all of the time, I have a conundrum in thr form of a question, whar is the difference between under and underneath.

To me there is none, you can be under the sea or underneath the sea, or under the table or underneath the table, but then there’s another, you can be under the influence but not underneath the influence, though technically you could, if you wanted to used confusing English.

And, just to add to the confusion further, I can say that the submarine sailed under the sea, underneath the sea, but, in actual fact, it doesnt.

What is under the sea is the sand, or sea bed, and a submarine does not plow its way through the sand, does it.

What we really should be saying is that a submarine moves through water.

Just saying…

An excerpt from “Betrayal” – a work in progress

It could have been anywhere in the world, she thought, but it wasn’t.  It was in a city where if anything were to go wrong…

She sighed and came away from the window and looked around the room.  It was quite large and expensively furnished.  It was one of several she had been visiting in the last three months.

Quite elegant too, as the hotel had its origins dating back to before the revolution in 1917.  At least, currently, there would not be a team of KGB agents somewhere in the basement monitoring everything that happened in the room.

There was no such thing as the KGB anymore, though there was an FSB, but such organisations were of no interest to her.

She was here to meet with Vladimir.

She smiled to herself when she thought of him, such an interesting man whose command of English was as good as her command of Russian, though she had not told him of that ability.

All her knew of her was that she was American, worked in the Embassy as a clerk, nothing important, who life both at work and at home was boring.  Not that she had blurted that out the first tie she met, or even the second.

That first time, at a function in the Embassy, was a chance meeting, a catching of his eye as he looked around the room, looking, as he had told her later, for someone who might not be as boring as the function itself.

It was a celebration, honouring one of the Embassy officials on his service in Moscow, and the fact he was returning home after 10 years.  She had been there one, and still hadn’t met all the staff.

They had talked, Vladimir knew a great deal about England, having been stationed there for a year or two, and had politely asked questions about where she lived, her family, and of course what her role was, all questions she fended off with an air of disinterested interest.

It fascinated him, as she knew it would, a sort of mental sparring as one would do with swords, if this was a fencing match.

They had said they might or might not meet again when the party was over, but she suspected there would be another opportunity.  She knew the signs of a man who was interested in her, and Vladimir was interested.

The second time came in the form of an invitation to an art gallery, and a viewing of the works of a prominent Russian artist, an invitation she politely declined.  After all, invitations issued to Embassy staff held all sorts of connotations, or so she was told by the Security officer when she told him.

Then, it went quiet for a month.  There was a party at the American embassy and along with several other staff members, she was invited.  She had not expected to meet Vladimir, but it was a pleasant surprise when she saw him, on the other side of the room, talking to several military men.

A pleasant afternoon ensued.

And it was no surprise that they kept running into each other at the various events on the diplomatic schedule.

By the fifth meeting, they were like old friends.  She had broached the subject of being involved in a plutonic relationship with him with the head of security at the embassy.  Normally for a member of her rank it would not be allowed, but in this instance it was.

She did not work in any sensitive areas, and, as the security officer had said, she might just happen upon something that might be useful.  In that regard, she was to keep her eyes and ears open, and file a report each time she met him.

After that discussion she got the impression her superiors considered Vladimir more than just a casual visitor on the diplomatic circuit.  She also formed the impression the he might consider her an ‘asset’, a word that had been used at the meeting with security and the ambassador.

It was where the word ‘spy’ popped into her head and sent a tingle down her spine.  She was not a spy, but the thought of it, well, it would be fascinating to see what happened.

A Russian friend.  That’s what she would call him.

And over time, that relationship blossomed, until, after a visit to the ballet, late and snowing, he invited her to his apartment not far from the ballet venue.  It was like treading on thin ice, but after champagne and an introduction to caviar, she felt like a giddy schoolgirl.

Even so, she had made him promise that he remain on his best behaviour.  It could have been very easy to fall under the spell of a perfect evening, but he promised, showed her to a separate bedroom, and after a brief kiss, their first, she did not see him until the next morning.

So, it began.

It was an interesting report she filed after that encounter, one where she had expected to be reprimanded.

She wasn’t.

It wasn’t until six weeks had passed when he asked her if she would like to take a trip to the country.  It would involve staying in a hotel, that they would have separate rooms.  When she reported the invitation, no objection was raised, only a caution; keep her wits about her.

Perhaps, she had thought, they were looking forward to a more extensive report.  After all, her reports on the places, and the people, and the conversations she overheard, were no doubt entertaining reading for some.

But this visit was where the nature of the relationship changed, and it was one that she did not immediately report.  She had realised at some point before the weekend away, that she had feelings for him, and it was not that he was pushing her in that direction or manipulating her in any way.

It was just one of those moments where, after a grand dinner, a lot of champagne, and delightful company, things happen.  Standing at the door to her room, a lingering kiss, not intentional on her part, and it just happened.

And for not one moment did she believe she had been compromised, but for some reason she had not reported that subtle change in the relationship to the powers that be, and so far, no one had any inkling.

She took off her coat and placed it carefully of the back of one of the ornate chairs in the room.  She stopped for a moment to look at a framed photograph on the wall, one representing Red Square.

Then, after a minute or two, she went to the mini bar and took out the bottle of champagne that had been left there for them, a treat arranged by Vladimir for each encounter.

There were two champagne flutes set aside on the bar, next to a bowl of fruit.  She picked up the apple and thought how Eve must have felt in the garden of Eden, and the temptation.

Later perhaps, after…

She smiled at the thought and put the apple back.

A glance at her watch told her it was time for his arrival.  It was if anything, the one trait she didn’t like, and that was his punctuality.  A glance at the clock on the room wall was a minute slow.

The doorbell to the room rang, right on the appointed time.

She put the bottle down and walked over to the door.

A smile on her face, she opened the door.

It was not Vladimir.  It was her worst nightmare.

© Charles Heath 2020

Searching for locations: Driving in ice and snow, Canada

This morning started with a visit to the car rental place in Vancouver.  It reinforced the notion that you can be given the address and still not find the place.  It happened in Washington where it was hiding in the back of the main railway station, and it happened again in Vancouver when it was hidden inside a hotel.

We simply walked straight past it.  Pity there wasn’t a sign to let people know.

However…

We went in expecting a Grand Jeep Cherokee and walked out with a Ford Flex, suitable for three people and four large suitcases.  It actually seats 7, but forget the baggage, you’d be lucky to get two large suitcases in that configuration.

It is more than adequate for our requirements.

Things to note, it was delivered with just over a quarter of a tank of gas, and it had only done about 11,000 km, so it’s relatively new.  It’s reasonably spacious, and when the extra seats are folded down, there is plenty of baggage space.

So far, so good.

We finally leave the hotel at about half-past ten, and it is raining.  It is a simple task to get on Highway 1, the TransCanada Highway, initially, and then onto Highway 5, the Coquihalla Highway for the trip to Kamloops.

It rains all the way to the top of the mountain, progress hampered from time to time by water sprays from both vehicles and trucks.  The rain is relentless.  At the top of the mountain, the rain turns into snow and the road surface to slush.  It’s 0 degrees, but being the afternoon, I was not expecting it to turn to ice very quickly.

On the other side of the mountain, closer to Kamloops, there was sleet, then rain, then nothing, the last 100kms or so, in reasonably dry conditions.

Outside Kamloops, and in the town itself, there was evidence of snow recently cleared, and slushy roads.  Cars in various places were covered in snow, indicating the most recent falls had been the night before.

We’re staying at the Park Hotel, a heritage building, apparently built in the later 1920s.  In the style of the time, it is a little like a rabbit warren with passages turning off in a number of directions, and showing it is spread across a number of different buildings.

It has the original Otis elevator that can take a maximum of four passengers, and a sign on the wall that says “no horseplay inside the elevator” which is a rather interesting expression that only someone of my vintage would understand.  And, for those without a sense of humor, you definitely couldn’t fit a horse in it to play with.

The thing is, how do you find a balance between keeping the old world charm with modern-day expectations.  You can’t.  Some hotels try valiantly to get that balance.  Here, it is simply old world charm, which I guess we should be grateful for because sooner rather than later it’s going to disappear forever.

In my writer’s mind, given the importance of the railways, this was probably a thriving place for travelers, and once upon a time, there were a lot more hotels like this one.

In a word: Rain

Well, isn’t it just like you to rain on my parade?

Yes, and don’t we need a lot of rain because of the bushfires that are burning out of control?

Rain is that stuff that falls from the sky, sometimes at the awkwardest of times, like when you leave your umbrella in the car.

And rain can be a problem in sub-zero temperatures and high winds when it almost takes on the form of multiple miniature knives.  Rain and snow together, sleep, but that’s something else.

Of course, it could always rain cats and dogs, a rather interesting occurrence if it ever happened.

This should not be confused with the word rein.

As any horseperson would know this is what helps control a horse

But, it doesn’t have to be a horse, it might be that you are told to rein in your attack dog

Or rein in your excesses

Or alternatively, give a person free rein to go about their business.

Then there is reign, that period of time when a monarch rules, and it seems in England women hold the record for the longest reign, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth II

That’s distinct from the office oligarchs who seem to think they reign over the plebs