What the hell time is it anyway, and why should I care?

And why is a coyote baying?

Oh, that’s right, we’re in Canada, and the ice hockey channel is running in the background while I’m trying to work.

it’s an interesting concept, the movement through time zones, and how it is possible to live the same day for nearly two days, which is as close as I’m going to get the ‘Groundhog Day’.

It’s not something that I’ve considered when writing stories because usually we are grounded in one particular time zone, or if we’re travelling, we just go from one chapter to the next, each a different location, and the reader is no wiser.

Except the editor is and pulls me up when it appears I think it’s during the day, when in reality it’s really 3am.

But, just to illustrate my point, the following is what I wrote two Christmas’s ago, and boy was it confusing at times.

Alright, we’ve arrived in Lake Louise from Kamloops, and there’s been a time change.  Being from Australia, we lost or gained so many hours I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.

Yes, I left on the 26th December, travelled around half the planet, and it’s still the 26th, after a stopover in Shanghai where it was the 27th.

Can someone tell me what the hell is going on?

Today it is the 30th.  Yesterday was my wife’s birthday in Australia and we got a number of calls on the 29th, which was amusing, to say the least.

Now, we’ve gone from Kamloops to Lake Louise, and apparently now that we are in Alberta, it’s an hour later.

The rental car we’re driving didn’t get it, and we’re still an hour behind.

My phone didn’t get it, but it is understandable because I didn’t connect it to the Canadian network to give us an internet connection because it will cost money.

It did on my wife’s phone which is connected to the network and it’s the only device we have that tells the correct time.

And why do we really need to know what time it is?

So we make the plane the day after tomorrow, from Calgary to Toronto.

I never realized that time was so important, and I wonder how people who travel the world remain sane with all the changes to the time zones.

Just how do road warriors get on?

Searching for locations: Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia, and resorts Wyndham style

We have stayed in two different types of accommodation in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia, as a timeshare owner who can trade their week for a week anywhere in the world.

Both are resorts, but different sorts of resorts.  The first was a typical RCI resort, where everything is laid back and relaxing, with all the amenities one can expect from a resort.

The other, this one, the Wyndham in Coffs Harbour, is very different, and you notice it when you walk in the front door.  You are virtually assaulted by hard-nosed timeshare sales staff who really don’t take no for an answer, and then when you finally escape, ring you every day to make an appointment.

I left the phone off the hook.

Aside from that, the place is excellent, the accommodation very good, and the situation one of the best with what could be called a private beach.  There are also a number of bushwalks that cater to old people like me.

As you can see, lakes and greenery, and even a putting green.

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And in places, they try very hard to hide the ugly multi-story buildings in amongst the trees

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It is only a short walk to the ‘private beach’ and it is sufficiently long enough for a morning walk before breakfast.  You could even try to catch some fish for breakfast, though I’m not sure if anyone actually caught anything

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Or you can just stare out to sea

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And, back in the room, this is the view we had from our verandah

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The story behind the story – Echoes from the Past

The novel ‘Echoes from the past’ started out as a short story I wrote about 30 years ago, titled ‘The birthday’.

My idea was to take a normal person out of their comfort zone and led on a short but very frightening journey to a place where a surprise birthday party had been arranged.

Thus the very large man with a scar and a red tie was created.

So was the friend with the limousine who worked as a pilot.

So were the two women, Wendy and Angelina, who were Flight Attendants that the pilot friend asked to join the conspiracy.

I was going to rework the short story, then about ten pages long, into something a little more.

And like all re-writes, especially those I have anything to do with, it turned into a novel.

There was motivation.  I had told some colleagues at the place where I worked at the time that I liked writing, and they wanted a sample.  I was going to give them the re-worked short story.  Instead, I gave them ‘Echoes from the past’

Originally it was not set anywhere in particular.

But when considering a location, I had, at the time, recently been to New York in December, and visited Brooklyn and Queens, as well as a lot of New York itself.  We were there for New Years, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

One evening we were out late, and finished up in Brooklyn Heights, near the waterfront, and there was rain and snow, it was cold and wet, and there were apartment buildings shimmering in the street light, and I thought, this is the place where my main character will live.

It had a very spooky atmosphere, the sort where ghosts would not be unexpected.  I felt more than one shiver go up and down my spine in the few minutes I was there.

I had taken notes, as I always do, of everywhere we went so I had a ready supply of locations I could use, changing the names in some cases.

Fifth Avenue near the Rockefeller center is amazing at first light, and late at night with the Seasonal decorations and lights.

The original main character was a shy and man of few friends, hence not expecting the surprise party.  I enhanced that shyness into purposely lonely because of an issue from his past that leaves him always looking over his shoulder and ready to move on at the slightest hint of trouble.  No friends, no relationships, just a very low profile.

Then I thought, what if he breaks the cardinal rule, and begins a relationship?

But it is also as much an exploration of a damaged soul, as it is the search for a normal life, without having any idea what normal was, and how the understanding of one person can sometimes make all the difference in what we may think or feel.

And, of course, I wanted a happy ending.

Except for the bad guys.

 

Get it here:  https://amzn.to/2CYKxu4

newechocover5rs

 

There are so many things I haven’t done

Does it really matter, you ask?

Perhaps not, but now seems to be an appropriate time, flying past the age of 65, to take stock.

We have achieved a lot in the last 15 or so years once the children had grown up and could look after themselves.

Unlike a lot of more modern couples who are doing the traveling in their 20’s and 30’s then having children, we chose to do it the other way around.

To me, it seemed easier to deal with teenagers when we were in our 40’s rather than our 60’s.  With the benefit of hindsight, I can truthfully say we were right.

We were older and wiser when we traveled and more aware of the dangers around us, sometimes overlooked or ignored by a youthful devil may care attitude.

But, in saying that ….

No, I don’t think I’ll be getting to see Mt Kilimanjaro, observing the wild animals in the Serengeti, climbing Mt Everest, or seeing the ancient pyramids.

Which is a sad state of affairs given the world has changed so much in recent years and has pretty much ruled out going to a lot of places, and in particular, the middle east, and because of COVID 19, just about everywhere else.

But, if it is ever possible before I die, I still want to go to the Greek Islands, and, Santorini is at the top of my travel bucket list.

We’ve been to London.  We’ve been to Paris and Euro Disney.  We’ve been to Rome and seen the ancient ruins.  We’ve been to Vienna, Schonbrunn Palace, and, particularly for us, a visit to Swarovski crystal world, near Innsbruck, we’ve been to Salzburg, and been on the Sound of Music tour.

We’ve been to Florence and loved it, we’ve been to Venice and loved that too, and we’ve spent a few days in the heart of Tuscany, and want to go back for longer, much longer, if time and disease doesn’t defeat us.

In fact, that’s the second item on the travel bucket list.

We’ve also been to Singapore and Hong Kong, at first out of necessity as an airline stopover, but then we went back to see the city and tourist, and non-tourist attractions.

I will not forget staying at the Hong Kong Conrad hotel as a Diamond Hhonors member.  Oh, the memories.

Sadly, I don’t think we as Australians will ever be welcome back in Hong Kong now that China had completely taken it over, and is a sad statement of the relations between the two countries.

We’ve also stayed on the French Riviera, in a timeshare apartment in Antibes where every morning when out back you had a view of the shimmering Mediterranean if the sun was out.

Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo, the billionaire’s yachts in Antibes harbor, Monte Carlo and ‘that’ casino, taking the same drive along the coast as Grace Kelly did in To Catch a Thief, and feeling like James Bond arriving for a new adventure, minus the half-million-dollar sports car.

But, now, crashing back to earth with a very hard thump ….

Travel in the future is looking difficult for both of us, not only financially but from a health aspect.  We are both not as sprightly as we used to be.

Yet given the restraints and if it is at all possible, aside from the Greek Islands and Tuscany, the next items on the list are:

Germany, visiting both Berlin, from a cold war aspect, the Brandenburg gate springs to mind, and Munich at the time of the Octoberfest.  As a beer drinker that is also high on the bucket list.

Scotland, more so since we’ve started watching Outlander, and besides being a beer drinker, I am also partial to a good Single Malt, and the Whiskey trail.

Ireland, because my wife’s previous name was Murphy and at some point, in the long distant past some relatives emigrated to Australia, and she would like to visit the country of her forebears.

But, again, with the current state of the world, our health issues, and that all-important requisite money, or the lack of it, perhaps it’s time to visit other parts of our own country.

Perhaps it’s time to do a culinary trip, in the Barossa Valley in South Australia, the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, or Rutherglen in Victoria.  It’s practical and achievable and safe.

And it’s a big country.

Searching for locations: Kaikoura, New Zealand, and, of course, the whales

I’m sure a lot of people have considered the prospect of whale watching.  I’m not sure how the subject came up on one of our visits to New Zealand, but I suspect it was one one of those tourist activity leaflets you find in the foyer of motels, hotels, and guesthouses.

Needless to say, it was only a short detour to go to Kaikoura and check out the prospect.

Yes, the ocean at the time seemed manageable.  My wife has a bad time with sea sickness, but she was prepared to make the trip, after some necessary preparations.  Seasickness tablets and special bands to wear on her wrist were recommended and used.

The boat was large and had two decks, and mostly enclosed.  There were a lot of people on board, and we sat inside for the beginning of the voyage.  The sea wasn’t rough, but there was about a meter and a half swell, easily managed by the boat while it was moving.

It took about a half hour or so to reach the spot where the boat stopped and a member of the crew used a listening device to see if there were any whales.

That led to the first wave of sickness.

We stopped for about ten minutes, and the boat moved up and down on the waves.  It was enough to start the queasy stomachs of a number of passengers.  Myself, it was a matter of going out on deck and taking in the sea air.  Fortunately, I don’t get seasick.

Another longish journey to the next prospective site settled a number of the queasy stomachs, but when we stopped again, the swell had increased, along with the boat’s motion.  Seasick bags were made available for the few that had succumbed.

By the time we reached the site where there was a whale, over half the passengers had been sick, and I was hoping they had enough seasick bags, and then enough bin space for them.

The whale, of course, put on a show for us, and those that could went out on deck to get their photos.

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By the end of the voyage, nearly everyone on board was sick, and I was helping to hand out seasick bags.

Despite the anti sickness preparations, my wife had also succumbed.  When we returned and she was asked if the device had worked, she said no.

But perhaps it had because within half an hour we were at a cafe eating lunch, fish and chips of course.

This activity has been crossed off the bucket list, and there’s no more whale watching in our traveling future.  Nor, it seems, will we be going of ocean liners.

Perhaps a cruise down the Rhine might be on the cards.  I don’t think that river, wide as it is in places, will ever have any sort of swell.

Searching for locations: Castello di Monterinaldi, Tuscany, Italy

As part of a day tour by Very Tuscany Tours, we came to this quiet corner of Tuscany to have a look at an Italian winery, especially the Sangiovese grapes, and the Chianti produced here.

And what better way to sample the wine than to have a long leisurely lunch with matched wines.  A very, very long lunch.

But first, a wander through the gardens to hone the appetite:

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And a photo I recognize from many taken of the same building:

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Then a tour of the wine cellar:

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Then on to the most incredible and exquisite lunch and wine we have had.  It was the highlight of our stay in Tuscany.  Of course, we had our own private dining room:

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And time to study the paintings and prints on the walls while we finished with coffee and a dessert wine.

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And of course, more wine, just so we could remember the occasion.

Do you remember when…

We could travel on real airplanes instead of having models hanging in our writing rooms to reminds us of those days

Turn a dream about travelling to a distant oasis, or city that never sleeps

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And in planes that had seatback screens where you could watch the planes progress?

It feels like we are never going to be able to travel anywhere ever again, even in a country where the COVID 19 virus has basically been controlled.

Except…

It hasn’t.  We were doing so well when everything went haywire in the southern state of Victoria, and it proves that with a moment’s complacency, it will come back.

I suspect we will never get to travel again until a vaccine is found.

Certainly, we are being told overseas travel may not return until July 2021.

Let’s hope it’s not that long.

Searching for locations: Auckland, New Zealand – Another city that has a tower

Nearly every city has a high building, a tower, or a large Ferris wheel.

London had the London eye
Paris has the Eiffel tower
The Galata in Istanbul
The CN Tower in Toronto
The towers of San Gimignano
Pisa has a leaning tower

We’ve managed to see all of the above bar the Galata in Istanbul.  One day we might get there.

But, on this side of the world, there are two, the Sydney Tower, and the Sky Tower in Auckland, which we just visited recently.

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It’s not a tall tower, but it definitely gives great vies of Auckland, particularly to the north

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The mountain in the background at the top of the photo is of a volcano on Rangitoto Island.  When we were visiting, there were reports that it might become active again.

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To give a height perspective, it didn’t seem all that far down to the apartment building and gardens nearby.

The story behind the story – Echoes from the Past

The novel ‘Echoes from the past’ started out as a short story I wrote about 30 years ago, titled ‘The birthday’.

My idea was to take a normal person out of their comfort zone and led on a short but very frightening journey to a place where a surprise birthday party had been arranged.

Thus the very large man with a scar and a red tie was created.

So was the friend with the limousine who worked as a pilot.

So were the two women, Wendy and Angelina, who were Flight Attendants that the pilot friend asked to join the conspiracy.

I was going to rework the short story, then about ten pages long, into something a little more.

And like all re-writes, especially those I have anything to do with, it turned into a novel.

There was motivation.  I had told some colleagues at the place where I worked at the time that I liked writing, and they wanted a sample.  I was going to give them the re-worked short story.  Instead, I gave them ‘Echoes from the past’

Originally it was not set anywhere in particular.

But when considering a location, I had, at the time, recently been to New York in December, and visited Brooklyn and Queens, as well as a lot of New York itself.  We were there for New Years, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

One evening we were out late, and finished up in Brooklyn Heights, near the waterfront, and there was rain and snow, it was cold and wet, and there were apartment buildings shimmering in the street light, and I thought, this is the place where my main character will live.

It had a very spooky atmosphere, the sort where ghosts would not be unexpected.  I felt more than one shiver go up and down my spine in the few minutes I was there.

I had taken notes, as I always do, of everywhere we went so I had a ready supply of locations I could use, changing the names in some cases.

Fifth Avenue near the Rockefeller center is amazing at first light, and late at night with the Seasonal decorations and lights.

The original main character was a shy and man of few friends, hence not expecting the surprise party.  I enhanced that shyness into purposely lonely because of an issue from his past that leaves him always looking over his shoulder and ready to move on at the slightest hint of trouble.  No friends, no relationships, just a very low profile.

Then I thought, what if he breaks the cardinal rule, and begins a relationship?

But it is also as much an exploration of a damaged soul, as it is the search for a normal life, without having any idea what normal was, and how the understanding of one person can sometimes make all the difference in what we may think or feel.

And, of course, I wanted a happy ending.

Except for the bad guys.

 

Get it here:  https://amzn.to/2CYKxu4

newechocover5rs

 

Searching for locations: Auckland, New Zealand, a rare day for the port

We were staying at the Hilton and advised there would be a large cruise liner berthing next to the hotel.  There was the Arcadia.

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This is the view from the other side of the hotel.  Where our room was, we could almost walk onto the aft end of the ship.

We were also told this was a rather extraordinary day because there were two cruise ships in the port. particularly because it was near the end of the cruising season.

The other ship was two berths along, the Sun Princess.

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Not as big as the Arcadia, up close it was still very impressive.