Past conversations with my cat – 41


This is Chester. He had been shocked by my transformation into someone he least likely expected to find in his domain.

After a chastisement, I told him he could expect more shocks in the days to follow.

Why he asks. All I want is a peaceful life lying in the sun by the window, and no pesky mice to chase.

Sorry, I say. I’m playing roles for my next book. Trying to get the feel for the character.

A drunk, a fool, and a man who does household chores. You’re failed in all three, just in case you want to know what I think.

I don’t.

The cat doesn’t have a sense of humour, or if he does, I’m not seeing it.

I think you’ve got it wrong. Not a drunk, a man with physical disabilities, not a fool but a clown who’s lost his will to perform, and yes, I am the one who does the cooking and cleaning,

And who’s in charge of feeding you?  Anything else you care to add?

Looking good, keep up the good work, but how about fresh fish rather than that packet stuff.

Writing about writing a book – Day 18

It’s time to go back to working on Bill’s backstory now that we’ve filled in some of the gaps.

Like some TV shows and books, some of the action sometimes takes the form of flashbacks.

In Starburst, Bill has a complete backstory, of a time that he had mainly forced into the deep dark part of his memory, waiting for something or someone to trigger it.

This whole back story, from the moment he entered the war zone, to the moment his war ended, and those that participated throughout that time, will be in the form of flashbacks, the first of which is triggered by the painkiller Bill is given after being shot in the Aitcheson incident.

These flashbacks will not necessarily be in any sort of order, but I have been thinking about this part of the story and produced an outline of the sequences I will require, give or take.  There may be more, or less, depending on how the story progresses.


Part 1 – From arrival in the war zone to being assigned to Davenport’s squad

Being sent to, and the first patrol in Vietnam

Death and mayhem some months after sent to Vietnam

First meeting Barry in army mobile hospital

R and R in Saigon, with the first of the Vietnamese girls

Psychiatric help, time in the stockade


No soldier who trains for war, nor can they have a real idea what war is like, and certainly a war in the jungle, on the enemy’s terms.  Bill is like any other soldier, happy to go into service, but soon the reality, and death becomes apparent.

Endless rain, endless heat, endless and sometimes needless death, and a deep mistrust of those whom you are supposed to protect, start to work on the mind of a person young enough not to understand what is going on.

Then, when trying to blot out the memories of death, enemy and friend alike, something has to give.  Of course, the last place you want to end up in the stockade.


Part 2 – A lifeline, and a pass into the so-called Davenport Operation

Training as a spy?

Colonel, calling Bill into a briefing on the Davenport operation

Talking to the Commanding officer in Stockade, as a preliminary to Davenport service


Was Bill sent to the stockade because he committed an act of folly, or his incarceration a part of a much larger plan, a plan to have an inside man to report on Davenport?

It’s not the first time someone higher up the chain of command has had ideas of trying to find out what Davenport is doing, and where only rumors abound of his ‘interests’.  Agents had been sent in before, and those agents had disappeared.

Was Bill about to be the next, or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time?


There is more, but I’m still working on it.


© Charles Heath 2015-2020

In a word: Straight

Yes, that man is straight as an arrow.

Well, in my experience based on the fact many years ago I used to play Cowboys and Indians, and I was always an Indian, I used to make a bow, and arrows, from the limbs of a tree in our back yard, those arrows were never straight.

How they got them so back in the middle ages without a lathe is anybody’s guess.

We all know what straight means, level, even, true, not deviating.  It could be a board, a road, the edge of a piece of paper.

But, of course, there are other meanings like,

He was straight, meaning heterosexual, a question not 50 odd years ago anyone would ask you, and 100 years ago, you wouldn’t dare admit anything but.

In poker, a card game, it is a sequence of five cards, and the sort of straight I’d like to get is ace high.  Chances of that happening, zero per cent.

It can mean being honest, that is, you should be straight with her, though I’m not sure telling your wide you’re having an affair would be conducive to continuing good health.

It could mean immediately, as in, I’ve got a headache and going straight to bed, probably after hearing news of that affair that was best left unspoken.

Perhaps that would be the time to have a whiskey straight, that is without mixers or ice.  I’ve tried, but still, at the very least I need ice.

This is not to be confused with the word strait, which is a narrow waterway between to areas of land.

But, here’s where it gets murky because a company can be in dire straits after being in desperate straits, and a person can be strait-laced, and just to be certain, most lunatics finish up in a straitjacket.


Searching for locations: Queenstown from the Skyline observatory

You take the gondola up to the Skyline and get some of the most amazing views.

Below is a photo of The Remarkables, one of several ski resorts near Queenstown.

You can see the winding road going up the mountainside.  We have made this trip several times and it is particularly frightening in winter when chains are required.


In the other direction, heading towards Kingston, the views of the mountains and the lake are equally as magnificent.


Or manage to capture a photo of the Earnslaw making its way across the lake towards Walter Peak Farm.  It seems almost like a miniature toy.

Writing about writing a book – Day 17

There is more, and it has been forming in my mind overnight after I read, and re-read yesterday’s work.


This operation was led by two ex American army lieutenants who had served in the Vietnam war and afterward searching for lost comrades.  The Colonel told me they had spent a few years looking for lost POW’s held in camps just over the border in Cambodia or Laos and had a good track record in the jungle.  He trusted them and said I could too.

I thought it odd he felt the need to reassure me.

He said they’d had marginal success, but my own impression was that they were ex CIA, gone rogue, and were part of the burgeoning drug trade that had sprung up during and after the war had ended.   For all that, I had also begun to suspect the Colonel had sold out and we were more about protecting the criminals rather than trying to catch them, and for me, that unquestioning obedience he demanded was beginning to slip.

They also had the look of men who had spent their time sampling the product, and as such were treading a fine line between sanity and insanity.  Still, at first, they didn’t seem all that different to us.

Thoroughly soaked, we made the camp on schedule, planned the attack, and carried it out.  Only there was no one there, it was empty, and had been for some time.  I turned to question the two ‘experts’.

Pity then I hadn’t noticed his partner coming up from behind.  If I had, my situation may have been very, very, different.


When I woke up, it was not in a nice warm or comfortable bed.  It was a dirt floor.  I looked up and realized I was in a hut.  Daytime, very hot, with sharp, bright shards of light leaking through the cracks in the wall and around the doorway.

My head was hurting, as was just about every other part of me, but a cursory examination showed nothing was broken.  Yet.

It took only a moment for clarity to return, and the realization we were prisoners.  Survivors from the group, the only survivors.

The other occupant, a soldier whom I only knew by his first name, Barry, stirred, and then rolled over.

“Where are we?” he asked.

‘In a hut.”


“Your guess is as good as mine.”

He groaned, and then tried to sit up, only to slowly sink back down again.  Perhaps he had tried harder to escape and paid a heavier price.

“This is not looking good,” he said.

“No.”  An understatement, I thought, but to my knowledge, this was the first time I’d heard they took prisoners.  Usually, everyone was summarily executed, and the bodies set up as an example to others.

I heard the sound of boots on gravel coming towards the hut, then, in an instant, the harsh light coming in, temporarily blinding me as the door was yanked open.

When my eyes adjusted I saw two bulky men holding machine guns standing behind another, a short Chinese, with a very familiar face.

Where?  When?

Then I remembered.  A week ago, in Hong Kong, at a hastily arranged meeting between Davenport and the police who were supposed to be helping us with information on a smuggling group known to be operating in the Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos area.  He was the Chinese liaison, connected with the Government.

Apparently not.

This was bad.  Very, very bad.

“Mr. Chandler.  So nice of you to join us.  Colonel Davenport and I are so disappointed in you.”


© Charles Heath 2015-2020

Conversations with my cat – 79


This is Chester.  Now we’ve cleaned up the room there’s nowhere to hide.

That might just become a real problem for our furry friend.

The girls are on a mission, as we’ve set them a series of tasks in order to earn some pocket money during the school holidays.  And keep them out of mischief.

But, what does Chester think of all of this?

Not happy at all.

He was apprehensive at their arrival as he always is, and tries to hide away while they are here, but all that rummaging and boxes moving hither and thither, it’s not long before he comes out to see what’s happening.

The office is clean, the hiding spots are gone.  I watch him slink from spot to spot, the look of dismay lengthening.

This is wrong, he says, coming up and sitting at my feet.  You know I need to get away from time to time, spend some alone time to contemplate new ways to catch mice.


There were seven different spots where I know Chester hides away, and these are spots in cupboards and under beds, places that need cleaning and we can’t get to.

His ears prick up, hearing a noise from the other end of the house, and he’s off like the flash.  A few minutes later he’s back.  Another hiding spot is gone.

Absolutely not happy now.

In a word: Great

Or is it grate?

Is it possible to mix the two up?  I don’t think so.

Great usually means: everything is great, or good, or excellent, whatever degree of goodness you want to put to it.

It could also mean something else, like:  Well, you were a great help! when in fact you want to say how useless they were.

Large or little.

Like all creatures great and small,  Why not say big or small.  Big doesn’t quite have the same effect.

Of course, you could be a great person, well, what I really mean is distinguished.  Besides, great could mean way above average, too.  Or grand, or impressive, the list goes on.

And haven’t we all, at some time had a great-aunt.  No not the good one, the ‘great’ one, denoting her seniority, not necessarily how nice she is.


As for the other grate, we can build a fire in it.

Or add an ‘un’ in front and ‘ful’ at the end, to denote what parents sometimes think of their children

Or get a block of cheese and ‘grate’ it into small shreds.

Or speak in a voice that grates on your nerves, possibly by that great-aunt.