That’s two days of my life I won’t get back

Yep…

I just spent 26 and a half hours in planes and in airport terminals getting home, and lost two days in the process.  The 15th of January just didn’t exist for us.

This is what happens when you fly from Vancouver in Canada to Brisbane Australia, via Shanghai.  The thing is, everywhere way, way overseas is a two-stop run.  We have to break our journey somewhere, like Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, and for the sake of managing delays at the originating end, we usually end up with a mid airports stay of five to ten hours.

It all means that when you finally arrive in Australia, you are tired, and look it.  I feel sorry for the Immigration officials who must rarely see people looking good on their arrival.

This time we were fortunate to get back in the morning.  To save being picked up by relatives we arranged for a limousine service, and it worked out well.

I couldn’t say the same for some of the pickup services overseas, but that was more the fault of the travel agent here than anything else.

It only reinforced my thoughts on travel agents, some are excellent, and some are complacent, relying too much on travel wholesalers whose knowledge of the products they sell is appalling.

The original bookings were fine, the agent we used knew her stuff.  But she left and someone else took over, and not so good I’m afraid.

However…

On the whole, it was an incredible expedition, from temperatures of 30 plus celsius to temperatures of -21 degrees Fahrenheit, and rarely above 6 degrees Fahrenheit.

The highlight:  Lake Louise in Canada.  Everyone should see this place in Winter at least once in their lifetime.  Certainly, my wife’s 65th birthday, spent there, was something she will never forget.

And the sleigh ride, in -14 or -15 degrees, well, we might be eligible to be declared start staring mad, but seeing the frozen waterfall was just another of those magical moments that reinforces why we should be preserving the planet, not trying to destroy it.

But…

We’re back home and glad to be so.

 

 

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.

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

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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.

Searching for locations: Hong Kong

This is not so much about searching for a location, as it was for the experience.  Seeing is one thing, but experiencing a different culture, and what it might have been like back in another era made that visit all the more worthwhile.

Not that I’m about to be writing about Hong Kong in the early 20th century, but you never know.

 

I’ve seen in many times when we visited Hong Kong, but never quite made it to stay at the Peninsula Hotel, not until I decided to put it on my bucket list, and, having just turned 65, we decided to spend my birthday there.

 Of course, arriving in a green Rolls Royce helps to enhance the experience. and is, if you are going to stay at the Penisula, a mandatory extra.

It is rather difficult to imagine what the hotel would have been like in 1928 when it was built.  Without the central tower behind the old hotel building, the tall buildings around it, and all the buildings between the hotel and the waterfront, it would be easy to say it had a prime position.

It’s not far from the Star Ferry terminal, the main transport from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.  Since then, there is the MTR and the underground tunnel for vehicles, but back then it was the ferry or nothing.

Outside, the centerpiece to the driveway is a fountain.  Around the edges are the cars, the Tesla’s, the Mercedes, the Audi’s and a Rolls Royce or two.  There was even a Lamborghini.  I could see myself doing a tour of the island by Lamborghini.

Or not.  The traffic would be very unkind to such a machine.

Inside the front door, the main part of the ground floor foyer stretches from one side of the building to the other, save for arcades of shops at the ends.  High priced goods can be bought here by the rich and famous.

What is interesting is that they have a very smartly dressed porter at the front door to open it for you.  It seemed very appropriate for a hotel steeped in old world charm.

Either side of the entrance walkway that leads to reception and the concierge desk, and two magnificent staircases.  It is all marble floor, marble columns with sculptures at the top and ornate ceilings.

And the endless cacophony of sounds you would expect in such a large space.  Either side of the central walkway is the cafe, elegantly set tables, each with its own flower.

People coming and going, people meeting other people, people arriving, people departing.  Hotel staff bustling from place to place and serving staff moving among the guests dining in the Foyer cafe.

The staircase leads to the mezzanine floor where there are more shops, and then up to the first floor where the veranda cafe and the Spring Moon restaurant is located.  The Spring Moon is where we will be having dinner tonight.

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Writing about writing a book – Day 15

Our main character Bill probably needs to give an account of the situation he found himself in.  I have, for a while, considered that he is just another soldier who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, but now, I want to add a dimension.

He finishes up where he is, in the end, because he chose to be there, and it was something of a rocky ride to get there.

That I’m still planning in my head.

In the meantime, this is the initial piece I wrote for his situation description:

 

I used to joke about telling people my middle name was ‘danger’.  It seemed I was not the only one, and for a time, worked with a group of soldiers and ex-soldiers in a capacity similar to that of being a mercenary.

Each one of us had a specialty.  Mine was being the sniper.  Johnny had knife skills and not the sort that was used in a kitchen.  Freddie, explosives, Bill, well, you just left Bill alone because he had a grudge against the world and everyone in it.

The Colonel used to say we were all handpicked, but that wasn’t necessarily the case.  I knew for a fact some of the team came straight out of the stockade before their time was up.

Because some of us were expendable.

The thing was; none of us cared.  For those who were ‘rescued’, it was better out in the jungle, dodging bullets, than being inside, your fate left in the hands of the Gods. 

I knew how it was.  I’d been there once or twice myself.

This morning had started the same as many others.  Rise and shine, a breakfast of sorts, into the chopper, and after an hour or so, dropping into a grassy patch, with nothing but jungle in every direction.  Our mission was to find and liberate a number of our people who had gone missing, read captured, on the border between Cambodia and Vietnam.  It was a familiar country because I had, over the last year or so, gone hunting missing POW’s in the area.  Old prisons had been converted into drug laboratories, and we’d broken up a few of those too.

The noise of the chopper put paid to any sort of stealthy approach and, by the time it dropped us off, if there was anyone nearby, our advantage, if we ever had one, was gone.  The trouble was, to cover the same distance by foot would take a week, and, by the time we arrived, if we arrived, more than half the team would be dead.  We may have been good, but we were not that good.  It was not our home turf.

It was hot, sticky, and nothing like home.  There wasn’t a day that passed when I thought to myself it was getting harder and harder to remember when I wasn’t constantly hot and sweaty, nor as frightened.  It happened that way, towards the end of a tour.

Once on the ground, every man was on full alert.  We changed the lead and tail end constantly, to make sure we didn’t lose anyone.  And it was hard going, the constant heat, sweat, punctuated with slight relief when it rained.

Then as quickly as it came, it went, leaving you wet then sticky.

And if that wasn’t enough to contend with, there was the enemy.   You couldn’t see them, nor hear them yet you had the feeling he was watching you the whole time, and it made your skin crawl.

Sometimes the enemy attacked when we had to camp, invisibly swooping, shooting from the trees, and firing a mortar or two, then disappearing back into the luminous greenery without a trace.  These were the remnants of the Viet Cong, Cambodian armed forces, disaffected Laotians, or the Chinese, or so we believed, but they were well-trained mercenaries and just the sort of people the drug cartels would use.

And surviving the operation, any operation, was like playing Russian roulette.  Was it your turn this time, or someone else’s?  You could be walking along, straining your eyes and ears, and next minute, find the man who was covering your back, dead.  Booby traps were silent and swift.  Landmines are loud and very messy.  Both hangovers from the war, and never cleaned up.  People you’d meet, you never knew whose side they were on, so it was best to avoid all contact.

 

© Charles Heath 2015-2020

It’s dark, it’s late, we’re waiting for the rain…

Yes, it’s dark and late at night on this side of the world, and I’m guessing where you are, it’s probably winter, the sun’s gone, the day is cold, even freezing, and you’ve got better things to do than go outside and shovel snow

Here, in the so-called land down under, which surprisingly a lot of people from the other side of the world do not know about…

Now, hang on, that can’t be true, because we all know the world is round and there had to be something or somewhere opposite.  I know that north we have China, and Europe, and further away, the United States.

Been to China, and Europe and the United States, so I know you’re all there, somewhere.

And, as you can see, the impending rain and the rather warm night has amped up the boredom factor and pushing me to do anything other than writing.  I have three jobs I’m supposed to be doing,

  1. Writing the next Walthenson case, the next Private Detective novel
  2. Writing several episodes of a serial story about surveillance going wrong, and
  3. Finishing off the last of the edits for “Strangers We’ve Become” the last before publication (Yea!!!!)

None of them is appealing to me at the moment.

Instead, I find myself looking at what is showing on Winter TV in the US and Canada, trying to find out when Murdoch Mysteries restarts, what’s going to happen next in God Friended Me, and curiously interested in a show called Emergence.

Fascinating, they are, but no Murdoch yet.  Guess I’ll have to settle for Masnifenst, series 2, FBI, and something called Lincoln Rhyme.

Then there’s one of my favorites, Elementary, on the re-runs.  I’m a Sherlock Holmes nut, but what’s getting me is the fact Lucy Liu has blondish hair.  Sorry, it’s distracting.

There’s the InBetween I’m watching again, you know, that spooky place between life and death, much the same as saying I see dead people, hang on, didn’t Bruce Willis say that once upon a time?  It was interesting, but will. there be a second series.

But, the thing I like most about northern winters, the ice hockey.  Yes, we are huge Maple Leaf fans, and even though they are having an up and down year so far, and a change of coach which doesn’t seem to be helping, we are glued to the TV watching the live-action.  Fortunately, that’s on at about 9 am or 10 am here so we can watch it at a respectable hour.

Good thing, then I’m almost retired, except for the writing thing.

There’s more, but I better get back to work.

 

 

In a word: Blank

Yes, I’m drawing a blank, which means I have no idea

It seems that I do this a lot these days, perhaps one of the perils of being a writer

But…

Using blank in a story doesn’t necessarily convey the antagonist is clueless, more likely he or she just used one in a gun, put there by a person who didn’t want to get shot.

No, still drawing a blank on this one.

A blank space means there’s nothing in it, and you see a lot of these in crosswords and sudoku, even when the user has been toiling for hours

I’m thinking anyone who met me might misinterpret my blank expression, well, it’s not too expressive in the first place

Perhaps before the coin becomes a coin; it is a piece of blank metal to begin with.  How good would it be to get a one-sided coin, that’d be worth a lot?

And the very worst description of blank; having a blank piece of paper in front of you, and you really are drawing a blank!

Searching for locations: Waitomo caves house, North Island, New Zealand

A relatively unassuming lane leads to what could be described as a grand hotel, called Waitomo Caves Hotel.

The original hotel was built in 1908, and it was later extended in 1928 it was extended.  Part of it is ‘Victorian’, based on an eastern Europe mountain chalet, and part of it is ‘Art Deco’, the concrete wing, and a feature, if it could be called that, is none of the four corners are the same.

Views from the balcony show part of the surrounding gardens

and the town of Waitomo in the distance.

In gloomy weather, it does look rather spooky, and I suspect there may be a ghost or two lurking somewhere in the buildings.