Digging into the past

It seems rather strange reading letters that were written by my parents before they were married.

They’re not love letters, but just words, words that knowing my father and mother as I do, seem so totally at odds with that knowledge.

The thing is, I never knew anything of that era existed, even though I knew my mother was a hoarder, and we didn’t discover the extent of that phobia until it was time to move them from their last residence to the retirement home.

There were cases and boxes filled with papers, letters, cuttings, and everything else in between.  Nothing had been thrown out.

And whilst I knew those letters existed, there was the yuk factor involved, such that I would never want to read them because, well, that was my parents’ stuff.

So, all of it was sorted, most of it thrown away, and only what we thought was of any intrinsic value was kept.  Those letters were part of the ‘keep’ pile and ended up in an old metal steamer trunk, and there they have lived for about ten years.

With the recent cleaning of my office, much to Chester’s disdain, the trunk suddenly looked out of place in a clean room.

My grandchildren ‘found’ this trunk and started looking through the contents and finished up with the letters.

And, being the curious people, they were, they started reading them, of course, stumbling over understanding the handwriting, which was based on what we learned in school, cursive script.  That meant I had to interpret the writing for them.

Talk about morbid curiosity!

And like I said, in reading them, formed the impression that these two correspondents were nothing like the people I knew growing up.

These letters dated from 1948 and 1949 when they were married in June of 1949.  There was no doubt it was a different time, and they were different people.  My mother came from a country town and went to work in Melbourne around that time.  I know that during the war, those years from 1939 to 1945 she was a student at Dandenong High School.

It was odd to realize that considering we eventually moved to Dandenong, and that may have had something to do with it.

My father served in the war till 1946, and then after being discharged from the army, worked as a projectionist until he went overseas for nearly a year, ostensibly to see how the war had affected Europe.  After that, he went back to being a projectionist at the Athenaeum in Melbourne, and later on, not knowing much of his work history, he would always tell us about the movies, especially those that came up on television.

There’s more I’m sure, like the fact my mother had another chap on the go at the same time, but it seems he was not interested in settling down.

Perhaps more will come to light in further reading, but like it said, it seems very strange to be reading those letters, much like walking over a grave; it gives me the odd shiver down the spine.

No doubt, the next time the grandchildren visit there will be another installment.

They, at least, think the story is fascinating.

Conversations with my cat – 80

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This is Chester. We’re back watching the Maple Leafs.

This isn’t going to be pretty. While they have won a few in the last week or so they have also lost, and by large numbers.

I know this is a mistake watching it with Chester, the eternal pessimist, because his initial statement, ‘You know Anderson’s going to let you down again’ even before the match started, is a sign of things to come.

Yep. There it is 21 seconds into the game the other side scores.

Damn.

He turns his head and gives me the look, “I told you so.”

Double damn.

Nothing worse than a smart-ass cat is there, and especially when he’s right.

The game progresses, and then the internet dies on me, leaving a frozen screen. Bigger fish to fry now, with the internet provider, where we are, the NBN, which is little more than a joke. Try streaming anything…

It’s the same result.

Pixellation, blank screens, endless loading signs and then a seized screen.

Good.

For once I don’t mind because I don’t have to listen to the negativity.

Yes, they score again. And again. And yes, once again we’re looking down the barrel of another huge loss.

“Just what is wrong with your goalie,” Chester asks.

“Too many games and not enough faith in the backup, I guess.”

It’s hard to explain wat’s going wrong. I don’t know the ins and outs of the Toronto team because we’re not there. It’s the lot of a supporter whose 12,000 miles away.

Perhaps our year will be next year.

Chester doesn’t think so. Halfway through the third period, he walks off, the internet giving up the ghost. We all know how this end, don’t we, he says.

Yes. We do. The food you hate the most is in your tray.

Revenge doesn’t sound as good as it did in my head a few minutes ago.

Triple Damn.

What means this ‘every cloud has a silver lining’?

People use this expression a lot, and despite their best intentions, what does it really mean?

Perhaps, literally, it means that bad times are like dark clouds, blocking out the sun, but we can see the lights rays behind them, and that is the silver lining.  This seems to be the most common explanation.

Where did it originate?

It is said that John Milton used the phrase ‘silver lining’ in his ‘Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle in 1634, but it was not until much later, in Victorian England that it was expressed in more uplifting language in The Dublin Magazine in 1840, in the review of a novel, Marian; or, a Young Maid’s Fortunes.

But, figuratively, we like to think that in the event of something bad happening, there will always be something better to come from it.

It probably goes hand in hand with two other interesting expressions, things can’t get any worse, maybe because I’ve hit rock bottom.

Of course, in the first instance, you say things can’t get any worse, but they generally do, as in bad things happen in threes.

We tend to believe, for whatever reason, that if it has happened twice then it’ll happen again.  So, while we may think lightning never strikes twice in the same place, in fact, it has.  What are the odds it’ll happen to me?

Then, misfortunes never come singly, which tends to suggest that bad events or situations always come in groups.  That’s why when one person dies, it’s unfortunate, two people die, it prompts the notion that there will be another.

We always hope it doesn’t, but we are not necessarily surprised if it does.

In the second instance, rock bottom is said to be caused by poor lifestyle choices.  Can you go any lower, supposedly not, but…

There’s another saying which came out of an old movie I was watching one night, very late, and that was ‘he’s lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut’.

Wow!

Just saying.

To compound this line of thought, let’s add one more, ‘It never rains, it just pours’, with several variations on the wording, but the intent is the same and suggests that unfortunate events happen in quantity.

Sadly, it happens more often than not.

 

 

 

 

Past conversations with my cat – 41

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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.

“Echoes From The Past”, buried, but not deep enough

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What happens when your past finally catches up with you?

Christmas is just around the corner, a time to be with family. For Will Mason, an orphan since he was fourteen, it is a time for reflection on what his life could have been, and what it could be.

Until a chance encounter brings back to life the reasons for his twenty years of self-imposed exile from a life only normal people could have. From that moment Will’s life slowly starts to unravel and it’s obvious to him it’s time to move on.

This time, however, there is more at stake.

Will has broken his number one rule, don’t get involved.

With his nemesis, Eddie Jamieson, suddenly within reach, and a blossoming relationship with an office colleague, Maria, about to change everything, Will has to make a choice. Quietly leave, or finally, make a stand.

But as Will soon discovers, when other people are involved there is going to be terrible consequences no matter what choice he makes.

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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

Trying to pick up the pieces

I can see how it is that a writer’s life is one that, at times, has to be shut off from the outside world.

It’s a bit hard to keep a stream of thoughts going when in one ear is some banal detective show, and in the other, a conversation that you have to keep up with.  I know how hard it is because I’ve tried doing three things at once, and failed miserably in all three.

So, out I slink to the writing room and start by re-reading the previous chapters, to get back into the plot.  I should remember where I am, and get straight to it, but the devil is in the detail.

Going back, quite often I revise, and a plotline is tweaked, and a whole new window is opened.  God, I wish I didn’t do that!

Then I get to the blank page, ready to go, and…

The phone rings.

Damn.  Damn.  Damn.

Phone answered, back to the blank page, no, it’s gone, got yo go back, blast, another revision, and back to the blank page.

Half an hour shot to pieces.

The phone rings again.

Blast scam callers.  I nearly rip the cord out of the wall.

All through this the cat just watches, and, is that a knowing smile?

It can’t be, I’ve just learned that cats can’t smile, or make any sort of face.

I’m sure his thoughts are not a vague or scrambled, or wrestling with the ploys of several stories on the go, getting locations right, getting characters to think and do their thing with a fair degree of continuity.

The cat’s world is one of which chair to lie on, where is that elusive mouse be it real or otherwise, and is this fool going to feed me, and please, please, don’t let it be the lasagna.  I am not that cat!

Unlike other professions, it’s a steady, sometimes frustrating, slog where you can’t just walk away, have a great time, and come back and pick up where you left off.  Stories have to be written from beginning to end, not a bit here and a bit there.

It’s a bit like running a marathon.  You are in a zone, the first few miles are the hardest, the middle is just getting the rhythm and breathing under control, and then you hope you get to the end because it can seem that you’ve been going forever and the end is never in sight.

But, when you reach the end, oh, isn’t the feeling one of pure joy and relief.

Sorry, not there yet.

And no comment is required from the cat gallery, thankyou!