In a word: Top

Spinning like a …  yes, had a few of those dizzy spells, especially after too much to drink.  It’s where you say, ‘stop the world, I want to get off’.

And, ages ago, I think it was a musical production.

But…

Top, well there’s sides, a bottom, and a top.  Have you been to the top of the world, I think I’ve been to the bottom, and it’s not the poles I’m talking about.

But then the top of something is the highest point, such as a mountain.  For some odd reason, I’ve never had the inclination to climb to the top of a mountain, but I’m guessing the view from the top of Mt Everest would be interesting.

Are you at the top of your game?

We say this when a player, or athlete, is winning or playing at their best.  I just keep hoping this year will be when the Maple Leafs will be playing at the top of their game.

Especially when I personally attend at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

If you read thrillers then you’ll know the assassin is always about to top someone, that is to say, kill them.

Will you top up my drink?  It’s where someone asks you how many glasses of wine you’ve had, and the correct answer is one, it just never got empty!

Can you put the top back on the bottle?

I’m headed straight to the top of the company.  The roof maybe, certainly not as CEO.

Top gear, aside from being a motoring show on TV, it could also be third, fourth, of fifth gear, depending on the type of gearbox.

And, of course, there are about another hundred ways it could be used.

Confusing?  to say the least.

Have you another?  Let me know…

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 17

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new instalment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.

 

I could hardly say no, but it was not going to be a place either of us would want to be if he came back, and especially if he had company.

But, Boggs didn’t seem to care, and strolled up to the dock, and then walked down to the boat.  IT wasn’t gated like some of the others were, but they had very expensive yachts that no doubt belongs to the local millionaires, people like the Benderby’s and their country club friends.

I remember my father talking about them once, and he had little respect for any of them.,  They, he said, had no time or money to worry about the welfare of their employees, but never lacked for anything themselves.

Looking at those yachts now, I could believe him.

I couldn’t say the same for Rico’s boat.  It was old, made of wood, and looked like boats I’d seen in old movies.  It was about 40 or 50 foot long, with a tall mast and a sail tied up ready to unfurl when out to see.

It had a large diesel engine, and it was this Rico used to get out of the bay until he was past the sandbank at the entrance.

On the transom, it had the words ‘Freedom Runner’ starting to peel and fade, and you could just make out the old name of the boat, ‘Elsie’, perhaps the wife or lover of the previous owner.  That must have been a long time ago, because I’d known Rico as long as I’d known Boggs, and that was nearly 18 years.

I had to ask, “You think Rico is running a collection service?”

“Someone is, according to the police chief.”

“How do you know that?  I thought the police were our sworn enemy.”

Considering the trouble we’d got into over the years, and the number of times the police chief had locked us up in the cells as punishment, we just spent our days avoiding him..  Perhaps the punishment had worked.

“He was around out place the other night.”

I wasn’t aware that Boggs was up to anything that would interest the law, but, then, he never told me everything he did.

“Why?”

“Come to see my mother.”

“What’s she been doing?”

“Nothing.  He was asking her out on a date.  Probably trying to cosy up to her so he can snoop on what Rico’s doing.  There’s no other reason why he would be interested in her.”

Actually, he was wrong.  Boggs mother was, for her age, quite attractive, or so my mother said.  She said a few other uncomplimentary things about her, but I was not going to repeat them to Boggs.

Nor did I agree with my mother’s assessment.  At times I saw more of Boggs mother than my own.

“Or maybe not.  But if she was to go out with him, that would make Rico think twice about doing anything, including giving you a hard time, or trying to steal the map.”

“You don’t know Rico.  He is just plain stupid.”

“He hasn’t been caught.”

“Yet.”

Then Boggs decided to walk over to the side of the boat and step onto the deck.

”What are you doing?” I hissed.

People on the other boats tied up to the pier were looking or pretending not to look, but I had no doubt they would report our actions to Rico

“Going on board.  I don’t think Rico would mind.”

It was said with a fair degree of bravado, but the halting tone told me otherwise.

“Are you coming?”

Damn him.  It was not as if he was going me a choice.

I shrugged.  God help us if Rico came back.

 

 

© Charles Heath 2019

“Call me!” – a short story

You know what it’s like on Monday morning, especially if it’s very cold and the double glazing is failing miserably to keep the cold out.

It was warm under three blankets thick sheets and a doona, and I didn’t want to get up.

It doesn’t help if in the last few months, the dream job you once had turned into a drudge, and there was any number of reasons to stay home rather than go into the office. Once, that was trying to find an excuse to stay home because you’d rather go to work.

That was a long time ago or felt like it.

My cell phone vibrated; an incoming message, or more likely a reminder. I reached out into the icy wasteland that was the distance from under the covers to my phone on the bedside table. It was very cold out there, and for a moment I regretted that impulse to check.

It was a reminder; I had a meeting at HR with the manager. I had thought I might be eligible for redundancy since the company was in the throes of a cost-cutting exercise. Once I might have been apprehensive, but now, given my recent change in department and responsibility, I was kind of hoping now that it was.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Time to get up sleepy head. You have a meeting to go to, not one to be late.”

It felt strange to wake up with someone else in the bed. My luck in that department hadn’t been all that hood lately, but something changed, and at the usual Friday night after-work drinks at the pub, I ran into one of the PA’s I’d seen around, one who was curious to meet me as much as I was to meet her.

One thing had led to another and when I asked her if she wanted to drop in on the way home, she did.

“I’d prefer not to. I can think of better things to do.”

“So, could I but that’s not the point. Five more minutes, then I’m pushing you out.”

She snuggled into my back, and I could feel the warmth of her body, and having the exact opposite effect than she intended. But she was right. It was important, and I had to go. But, in the meantime, it was four more minutes and counting.

When you get a call from the head of HR it usually means one of two things, a promotion, or those two dreaded words, ‘you’re fired’, though not usually said with the same dramatic effect.

This year had already been calamitous enough getting sidelined from Mergers and Acquisitions because I’d been usurped. That was the word I was going with, but it was to a certain extent, my fault. I took my eye off the ball and allowed someone else to make their case.

Of course, it helped that the person was connected to all the right people in the company, and, with the change in Chairman, it was also a matter of removing some of the people who were appointed by the previous incumbent.

I and four of my equivalent managers had been usurped and moved to places where they would have less impact. I had finished up in sales and marketing, and to be quite honest, it was such a step-down, I had already decided to leave when the opportunity presented itself.

My assistant manager, who had already put in his resignation, was working out his final two weeks. I told him to take leave until the contract expired, but he was more dedicated than that. He had got in before me and was sitting at his desk a cup of coffee in his hand and another on the desk.

“How many days?”

“Six and counting. What about you? You should be out canvassing. There are at least three other places I know would be waiting to hear from you.”

“It’s still in the consideration phase.”

“You’re likely to get the chop anyway, with this thing you have with Sharkey.”

Sharkey was the HR manager.

You know something I don’t?” I picked up the coffee, removed the lid, and took in the aroma.
“They’re downsizing. Broadham had decided to go on a cost-cutting exercise, and instead of the suggested efficiencies we put up last year, they’re going with people. I don’t think he quite gets it.”

“You mean my replacement doesn’t know anything about efficiency. He makes a good yes man though, telling Broadham exactly what he wants to hear.”

Broadham, the new Chairman, never did understand that people appointed to important positions needed to have the relevant qualifications and experience. My replacement had neither. That was when the employees loyal to the previous Chairman had started leaving.

We had called it death, whilst Broadham had called it natural attrition. He didn’t quite understand that so far, over 300 years of experience had left, and as much again was in the process of leaving.

“Are you going to tell Sharky you’re leaving?”

“I’ll wait and see what he has to say. I think he knows the ship is sinking.”

There wasn’t much I didn’t know about the current state of the company, and with the departures, I knew it was only a matter of time. Sharky was a good man, but he couldn’t stem the tide.

He also knew the vagaries of profits and share prices, and we had been watching the share price, and the market itself. It was teetering, and in the last few months, parcels of shares were being unloaded, not a lot at one time, but a steady trickle.

That told me that Broadham and his cronies were cashing in while the going was good, and quite possibly were about to steer the ship onto the rocks. The question was who was buying, and that, after some hard research I found to be certain board members. Why, I suspected, was to increase their holdings and leverage, but I don’t think they quite realized that there would be nothing left but worthless stock certificates.

It was evidence, when I finally left, that I would pass on to the relevant authorities.

In the meantime, I had a meeting to go to.

“Best of luck,” my assistant muttered as I passed his desk.

“If I don’t return, I will have been escorted from the building. If that happens, call me.”

It had happened before. When people were sacked, they were escorted to their office, allowed to pack their belongings, and were then escorted to the front door. It would be an ignominious end to an illustrious career, or so I’d been told by the girl who was no doubt still asleep in my bed.

She had heard the whispers.

The walk to the lift, the traversing of the four floors to the executive level, and then to the outer office where Sharkey’s PA sat took all of three minutes. I had hoped it would be longer.

“He’s waiting for you,” she said, “go on in.”

I knocked on the door, then went in, closing it behind me. “Now, sir, what on earth could you want to see me about?


© Charles Heath 2021

The cinema of my dreams – It’s a treasure hunt – Episode 16

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new instalment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.

 

Rather tired and bleary eyes, I made it to the fishing store five minutes late.  I had a lot on my mind, woken late, and then had to battle traffic.  I longed for the day I could afford a car, though riding the bike kept me fit.

It also took my mind of the encounter last night, the one that had kept me away, my imagination almost getting the better of me.

Boggs was there, and he didn’t look happy.

“Where were you last night?  I tried to get you, but you weren’t answering.”

I had the phone on silent.  Ringing phones had a way of bringing unwanted attention.

“I had something I had to do.”

“You went to the Lantern without me.”

What?  Does he have a network of spies I knew nothing about?  “So, I heard it went respectable and had to check it out.”  And hoping Boggs didn’t know who was in attendance, other than me.

“We said we would go there together.”

“You apparently had something else on last night.”

“It’s not what you think.  I had to go with my mother to the hospital for her 6 monthly checks.”

It was easy to forget.  She’d had a cancer scare a few years back, and had undergone chemo for a few months, sending it into remission.  But it came with 6 monthly checks, and both Boggs and his mother were constantly worried it might come back.  It seemed it always did when you least expected it.

“And what was the verdict.”

He relented a little.  “Good.”

“Then, I assure you that was more important.”  No point in telling Boggs what I was doing, just in case it backfired, or he disagreed.  “And I can assure you the place is not worth it anymore.  Boring as shit.”

He shook his head.  Not pleased, but at least not angry.

“Has Rico shown his face?” I asked.

“Yes, about an hour back, some of those people he associates with came and they went off together.”

Perhaps he was annoyed that I hadn’t been there because I’m sure Boggs would follow him.

“You’ve been here all this time?”

“He came to our place last night.  I’m sure it was him who searched in my room.  Not much of a professional thief, he left a mess behind.  Went through the outhouse as well.”

“Looking for the map?”

“Seems so.  He didn’t find it.”

No, he wouldn’t, because Boggs had it with him.  At least that was what I thought he intimated a day or two ago.

“Copies?”

He reached for his back pocket and pulled out some folded paper.  “Thought you might like to keep a copy for yourself.”

I tried hard to keep the excitement out of my manner.  It saved me having to make up an excuse as to why I wanted a copy of the map, and I didn’t want to tell him about the plan involving Nadia, not unless I had to.

“Thanks,” I said, and slipped it into my pocket.

“Now, let’s go check out his boat.”

 

© Charles Heath 2019

In a word: bath

Everyone knows that Bath is a city in England where the rich and pampered used to ‘take the waters’, whatever that meant.  I’ve been to Bath and it has lots of terrace houses built in a crescent shape.

I’ve been to the baths, too, which is another use of the word bath, a place where you clean yourself, or just soak away the troubles of the day, usually with a glass or three of champagne.

Apparently, the Bath baths have been there since roman times, and having been there and seen how old they look, I can attest to that fact.

We had a bath before we had a shower, and these days, a bathtub is usually a garden bed full of flowers rather hand a body.

Being given a bath sometimes means that you were comprehensively beaten in a game, like football.

Throwing the baby out with the bath water, a rather quaint expression means nothing like it literally does but describes a wife or husband cleaning up a spouse’s space without due regard to what she or he might want to keep, that is throw everything out.

If you take a bath, yes, you might get wet, but in another sense, it might be when you take a large hit financially.  And, these days, it doesn’t take much for super funds to suddenly have negative growth.

A bathhouse could be a place where there might be a swimming pool, not just baths, where people gather.  A notable one was seen in the movie ‘Gorky Park’.

Searching For Locations: Disneyland, Paris, France

Whilst I found this tree house to be interesting, it seems to be far from practical because there was little to keep the wind and rain out, though I suppose, in the book, that might not be such a problem.

Be that as it may, and if it was relatively waterproof, then the furnishings would probably survive, and one had to also assume that much of the furnishings, such as the writing desk below, would have washed up as debris from the shipwreck.

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The stove and oven would have to be built by hand, and it is ‘remarkable’ such well-fitting stones were available.  It doesn’t look like it’s been used for a while judging by the amount of gree on it.  Perhaps it is not in a waterproof area.

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The dining table and the shelf in the background have that rough-hewn look about them

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A bit of man-made equipment here for drawing water from the stream

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And though not made in the era of electricity, there is an opportunity to use the water wheel to do more than it appears to be doing

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And tucked away in a corner the all-important study where one can read, or play a little music on the organ.  One could say, for the period, one had all the comforts of home.

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The cinema of my dreams – It’s a treasure hunt – Episode 14

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new instalment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.

 

Before the waterfront cleanup, the Shingle Inn was another of those places respectable people didn’t go to.  And those from out of town only stayed there if everything else was taken, or they were looking for a reason to visit a hospital.

I knew this not because it was advertised on the radio or television, or it was in the newspapers, or it probably was but I never read any of them, but because several of my senior year classmates went there on a dare to sample ‘the fare’.

They learned the lesson the hard way so all the rest of us wouldn’t make the same mistake.

So, the question I had to ask myself when I reached the safety of a bus shelter about 100 yards from the bar, was the reason Nadia was staying there, or if she was not, how did she have a room key.

I was hoping she had not fallen into the ways some of the girls did, going down the path of drugs, loans they couldn’t pay, and ending being owned by some seedy man.  That had happened too, and to girls, I had believed knew better.

I guess I was no judge of character, then or now.

Should I go there now and wait for her, perhaps check the place out, and the room, and see if she was staying there.

Or should I read between the lines, and consider this might be a trap of some sort, and that her brother, Vince, would turn up and ‘teach me a lesson not to meddle in their affairs’.  The latter seemed more likely.

And yet it was the dumb ass stupid streak I had that was telling me to go, just to see what happened.  I wasn’t looking for nor did I expect that she was offering me anything, so, giving her the benefit of the doubt, it might mean she was entertaining my suggestion of getting the map to get her off Alex’s hook.

That would then leave only one question, what did I want from her in return.

Fifteen minuted before the hour was up, I was standing in the shadows watching the Inn.  In the hour since the bar, the sun had gone down, and now the Inn, shrouded in gaudy colours from broken neon lights, and a sign that made it look like a hotel in paradise, looked like it was, a den of iniquity.

The girls for hire were still there.  The rooms had different lights above the door of each room that I could see, one red one green which I guessed let others know the room was free or occupied.

The room the key Nadia had given me had no lights on, so I was not sure what that meant.

Ten minutes to go, a car pulled up outside the office, and I saw Vince get out.

Illusion shattered.  It was a setup, she was upset by my appearance at the bar and had called in the punishment crew.  Two minutes later he came back out of the office with a briefcase, got in the car, and drove off.

Was the Inn one of the Cossatino’s establishments, or was that for protection, or picking up drugs?  Or all three?

I shrugged.  Time to find out what Nadia’s intentions were.

I kept to the shadows, crossed the road where it was darkest, and came upon the room from the rear fire stairs.  The room was the second from the end, so I would not have to walk along the balcony very far, and risk being seen.

At the door, a look in either direction, I unlocked the door, opened it, and waited to see if there were any surprises inside waiting, nothing stirred, so I went in and closed the door behind me.

There were no surprises inside; it was just a room with two beds and a bathroom.  A suitcase was beside one of the beds, and its contents spread over the bed.

The aroma of some recognisable perfume came from the bathroom, looking a mess with worn clothes on the floor in one corner, and used towels in the other.

She was staying here.  One of the questions I was going to ask was why?

 

© Charles Heath 2019

In a word: Hide

Hide and seek

As children, we all played hide and seek, where one person counted to a hundred and all the others hid themselves and you had to find them.

I was the spoilsport; I gave up looking very quickly because the kids I played with were very good at hiding.

You have some hide

Well, this means someone you know and probably hate has insulted you, or you’d you something you really did want to know

It’s an old expression often used by my mother on her sister, mostly because her sister was wiser and more sensible and sometimes sailed too close to the wind telling her the painful truth

Sailing too close to the wind?  Yes, quite an interesting analogy – saying what is true without heed to the consequences or taking unnecessary risks.

We spent the morning in the hide

Ah, to be a birdwatcher.  These are in my experience a very strange bunch.  I prefer to be a trainspotter, but then we have been described as a very strange bunch.

However, not to be distracted, birdwatchers hand out in hides and camouflaged buildings where they can observe birds in their natural habitat without disturbing them.

And the camera some of these watchers have a very expensive.

Then, of course, there are the hunters, who lie in wait for say duck season to start, then shoot them.

It’s not my idea of fun, nor does it seem sporting.

We use cowhide to make shoes

After sending it to the tannery.  Animal hides have Bern used over the centuries for many purposes such as clothes, shoes and bags.

Sheep hides make excellent fluffy mats beside the bed.

Mink hides were once used in fur coats, but now it’s frowned upon.

In a word: Leg

Aside from the fact it is one of those necessary items to walk with, and the fact we can have two or four for most humans and animals, there are a few other uses for the word ‘leg’.

Like…

‘You haven’t got a leg to stand on’, doesn’t necessarily mean you have no legs, but that you are in a precarious position.

“the table had ornate legs’, yes, even non-living objects can have legs, like tables and chairs.

“It was the fifth leg of the race’, meaning it can be a stage of a race.

“He was legless’, meaning that he was too drunk to stand up.  Some might think being legless is a badge of honour, but I suspect those people have been drinking a long time and the alcohol has destroyed most of their brain cells.

“leg it!’, meaning get the hell out of here before you’re caught.

Then, finally, ‘he’s on his last legs’, meaning that he’s exhausted, or about to die.

I’m sure there’s more but that’ll do for now.

I have to use my legs to get some exercise, of which the first leg is to the tripod to check if its legs are stable, and the second leg is to come back to the table and replace one of the legs which is broken.  Then I’ll leg it to the pub where hopefully I won’t become legless.

Hmm…

Searching for locations: From X’ian to Zhengzhou dong by bullet train, China

Lunch and then off on another high-speed train

We walked another umpteen miles from the exhibition to a Chinese restaurant that is going to serve us Chinese food again with a beer and a rather potent pomegranate wine that has a real kick.  It was definitely value for money at 60 yuan per person.

But perhaps the biggest thrill, if it could be called that, was discovering downstairs, the man who discovered the original pieces of a terracotta soldier when digging a well.  He was signing books bought in the souvenir store, but not those that had been bought elsewhere.

Some of is even got photographed with him.  Fifteen minutes of fame moment?  Maybe.

After lunch, it was off to the station for another high-speed train ride, this time for about two and a half hours, from X’ian to Zhangzhou dong.

It’s the standard high-speed train ride and the usual seat switching because of weird allocation issues, so a little confusion reigns until the train departs at 5:59.

Once we were underway it didn’t take long before we hit the maximum speed

Twenty minutes before arrival, and knowing we only have three minutes to get off everyone is heading for the exit clogging up the passageway.  It wasn’t panic but with the three-minute limit, perhaps organized panic would be a better description.

As it turned out, with all the cases near the door, the moment to door opened one of our group got off, and the other just started putting cases on the platform, and in doing so we were all off in 42 seconds with time to spare.

And this was despite the fact there were about twenty passengers just about up against the door trying to get in.  I don’t think they expected to have cases flying off the train in their direction.

We find our way to the exit and our tour guide Dannie.  It was another long walk to the bus, somewhat shabbier from the previous day, no leg room, no pocket, no USB charging point like the day before.  Disappointing.

On the way from the station to the hotel, the tour guide usually gives us a short spiel on the next day’s activities, but instead, I think we got her life history and a song, delivered in high pitched and rapid Chinglish that was hard to understand.

Not at this hour of the night to an almost exhausted busload of people who’d had enough from the train.  Oh, did I forgot the singing, no, it was an interesting rendition of ‘you are my sunshine’.

The drive was interesting in that it mostly in the dark.  There was no street lighting and in comparison to X’ian which was very bright and cheerful, this was dark and gloomy.

Then close to the hotel our guide said that if we had any problems with the room, she would be in the lobby for half an hour.

That spoke volumes about the hotel they put us in.