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Alison Alexandra Meets R/Jane-the-Ghost For The First Time

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“That is a peculiar-looking ship.”

“It is,” agrees Alison Alexandra. She agrees because it is a peculiar-looking ship. She is studying it through her military-grade binoculars as she stands near the edge of her cliff, leaning against a waist-high barrier she had constructed just for this purpose.

Three sturdy posts painted blue.

There is a wooden knob atop each post, painted red. Four broad boards, painted white, are securely nailed to the posts, with slight gaps between them. There is room for five people to stand side-by-side. Alison Alexandra has never had more than one person at a time accompany her on this venture. A slight problem at the moment is that this is not one of those times. She is standing alone, binoculars to eyes, looking out to the ship in the harbour. The peculiar-looking ship.

“In fact, it is not just peculiar-looking, it is actually peculiar.”

It is,” agrees Alison Alexandra, who does not lower her binoculars. “Though that is not the only peculiar thing at the moment.”

“It is not?”

“It is not,” says Alison Alexandra. “One other peculiar thing is that I am standing here by myself.”

“I see.”

“I don’t,” says Alison Alexandra.

“I’m out of your vision.” The voice does not falter. “I’m R/Jane-the-Ghost.”

“R/Jane-the-Ghost?” asks Alison Alexandra.

“Yes,” confirms R/Jane-the-Ghost.” Yes.”

“A for real ghost?” asks Alison Alexandra. “Not a figment produced by an undigested piece of potato?”

“I like that idea,” says R/Jane-the-Ghost. “Being a Dickensian ghost. I liked reading Dickens.”

“As do I,” says Alison Alexandra.

“But – no – no Dickensian ghost am I. I bring no warnings.”

“”No festive cheer?”

“Nary a candle.” Says R/Jane-the-Ghost. “No bony finger have I, pointing at anything.”

“You did – in your way – point out the peculiar ship.”

“In my way.”

“Point taken,” says Alison Alexandra.

There is a low chuckle, bordering on hearty, close beside her right ear. She does lower her binoculars at that, and moves her head to look. Her view is unobstructed all the way down her cliff. The water sparkles.

“It’s a fine, clear day, isn’t it?” asks R/Jane-the-Ghost.

“Remarkably clear.” Alison Alexandra keeps staring toward the point where she perceives a voice to be. “One might think one could see forever.”

“Perhaps you do.” R/Jane-the-Ghost chuckles again. “All things considered.”

(Image)https://digbyhotels.com/wp-content/gallery/admiral-digby-photos/Fundy-Rose-Princess-of-Acadia-.jpg

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Cruise Control … Except For The Weather

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(Oceania Marina)

When I wrote about the Oceania Marina yesterday (see blog below) I had no thought that the voyage would make the National News that night.
Perhaps a bit of interest about the *first* cruise of the season might make some local newscast. But, what caught the eye of the  national network was the fact that the ship (and, of course, its passengers) landed in the middle of a snow storm.
Probably the possibility had been mentioned. After all, one does not set out on an Atlantic cruise without the chance of poor weather. And, the cruise ship, with its myriad of dining options, would be a nice place to hole up.
I know I would have no trouble saying that I would just get to a restaurant or two earlier than I had planned on the twenty-eight day trip. No problem.
And, the Oceania Marina’s next port of call was Newfoundland and Labrador, a rugged place in it’s own right; once a country in its own right; and currently well-known as the location of the hit play, Come From Away
But, most of the passengers interviewed seemed right happy to be where they were. One gentleman of solid years announced that he had “Moved to Florida twenty-five years ago so he would never have to shovel snow again.”
Which is newsworthy enough for me, who was out shovelling at 6:30 this morning.

 

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This cruise on the Oceania Marina caught my eye because 1) it actually comes to the Atlantic coast of Canada the second week of April (the earliest I have seen) and 2) it ends in Barcelona – a destination I would appreciate.

In between it goes to Ireland, France, England, France again, Spain, Portugal, Spain (again). It takes twenty-eight days out of New York.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a publicity writer for pricey cruises. If I ever did go on such a jaunt, I’d prefer a ship much smaller (the Marina can handle 1258 – 1447 passengers). And – in truth – I would rather go on a Freighter that only handles a dozen or so paying passengers. Oddly,  the main character in my  work-in-progress, Alison Alexandra, went on such a Freighter cruise and enjoyed herself immensely. But she’s that type of gal.

However, Alison Alexandra also enjoys the finer things in life (she also had a hearty jaunt on The Orient Express), and would not eschew the accommodations and offerings aboard The Marina.

In addition to the extensive voyage, and numerous ports of call, (and the complementary 24 hour room service) Alison Alexandra would enjoy a night or two in the twelve dining venues offered.

Alison Alexandra could dip into various menus to have :

Roasted veal rack: marsala sauce, mascarpone polenta, sautéed asparagus, tomato

Tournedos rossini: foie gras, truffle sauce, fried lorette potatoes

Roasted Beetroot and Garlic Goat Cheese Napoleon with Champagne and Truffle Vinaigrette

Pancetta Wrapped Filet of Veal with Bay Lobster Tail Oscar Style

Bone-In Milk-Fed Veal Chop prepared in your choice of style: Grilled to perfection and topped with Sautéed Piedmonte Wild Porcini Mushroom Sauce Pounded thin, lightly breaded and sautéed in Lemon-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil Vinaigrette, crowned with Trio of Diced Roma Tomatoes, Radicchio and ArugulaAged Marsala Wine Sauce

Gambas Sautées ProvençaleSautéed Jumbo Shrimp in Lessatini Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Garlic, Parsley and Tomatoes

And, from he Dom Pérignon Experience:

Curry jaune de homard bleu, nuage de coco: Brittany blue lobster, yellow curry broth, coco foam:

w/ Dom Pérignon 2006

Alison Alexandra is not (unlike her author) much for desserts.

All the menus, and other cruise details, can be found here: https://www.oceaniacruises.com/ships/marina/cuisine/

“The Alexandra” Arrives In Port On Sea And On Page

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I am four hundred pages into my new novel, There was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When the Stones Were Not So Smooth. In the current chapter I am writing, my main character, Alison Alexandra, is getting a tour on the bridge of The Alexandra.
This is a real ship, and  I have researched the ship over the course of a week. Alison Alexandra wanted to go aboard solely because of its name. However, her expectations of the visit are disappointing, in part to find that real life can not necessarily equal the fantasy about it.

 

I have just seen, in my daily News of the Port, that The Alexandra is arriving in Halifax this afternoon at 15:00. I will be down on the harbour with my binoculars to see her arrive. However, I could actually stay home and see the ship, as it passes through The Narrows at the bottom of my street, on its way to the Fairview Container Terminal.
Perhaps that is what I will do tomorrow, with a coffee in hand, and watch The Alexandra depart.

In Port, & Dry Land Ain’t All That Great

It’s Thursday in the Port, and I’m walking in what some folk call the rougher part of the city. This always means “poorer”. Which always seems comparable to what the more genteel folk of a place class as, well, genteel. Go three streets over and one down. You’ll be walking where the genteel live and money talks up a storm. In a genteel way, of course.

But where I’m walking, money only whispers if it says anything at all, and there are bars and used furniture shops and tenement buildings. The cars are old, not vintage. As I walk along the sidewalk a van enters the driveway immediately ahead of me. Stops so its ass is on part of the sidewalk and I have to swerve.

The side doors slide open and out come a dozen or so men and women. Poorly dressed. Unkempt. Quiet if not sullen. They are intent, and follow the gestures of the driver. This way. This way. They are all headed to a tavern on the corner. I follow the group along the sidewalk, although not into the drinking establishment. As I pass I notice the marker-on-cardboard signs in the window. ‘Two Bucks a Drink Thursday’.

I continue up a hill and then down a hill. I’m aiming for the harbour because I like the water, and the boats, and the vistas. This part of the harbour is also genteel, because there is a large hotel and retirement homes along the genteel boardwalk. There are benches upon which to sit. I appreciate all this. I chose a bench and I sit.

I can sit literally for an hour and more. I am no where near my quota when a roughly, though neatly dressed, young man sits on a bench a couple away from me. He stares out to sea in silence for a number of minutes. Then he starts to talk loudly enough for me to hear. I am the only one present.

“Gotta storm coming down the coast.”

“I heard.” And I have.

“Going to be bad.”

“So they say.”

“Not good to go out on that.”

“I bet.”

“I gotta boat waiting for me.” He mentions the name of a fishing village. “Haven’t been out for awhile.”

“I wouldn’t start today.” And I wouldn’t, but I don’t fish.

“It’s a bugger.” He has not once looked at me. “Gotta go back sometime.”

“I’m sure you do.” And I am.

“Lost a man last time.” I’m not sure I hear him correctly. “Messy death. The sea’s like that.”

I feel I should say something, and I’m sure I should have. But what? I am not certain, truth be told, that he is even – really – talking to me. There is no emotion in his voice. He has yet to look at me. At best it’s a monologue and I’m the audience.

He then opens his outer windbreaker and takes a large bottle from an inner pocket. It looks like a bottle that commercial mouthwash is sold in. He screws off the cap and starts to drink. He does not gargle.  He takes a number of drinks in quick succession, and I am convinced it is not mouthwash. But I do not know. He screws the cap back on and puts the bottle back in his pocket. He sits. He sits in silence.

“Sea’s getting rough.” He stands. “Lot of wind.” He starts toward the railing along the boardwalk. “I’ve got the Spring run, but I’m not going out after that.” He leans against the railing. “Time to stop. Yes, it is.”

He stands, looking out over the raising waves for a couple of minutes. Then he walks away.

 

(Jacques Brel’s “Port of Amsterdam” via David Bowie)

TRAVEL The Ocean: Atlantic Container Line’s North Atlantic Cargo-Passenger Service Opens This Week Between Hamburg, Antwerp and Liverpool and Halifax, New York and Baltimore With Return To Liverpool — The Cruise People Ltd

This is how i would like to cross the ocean.

The Cruise People Ltd is pleased to announce the opening this week of a new cargo-passenger service between Europe and North America with five new ACL vessels called the G4’s. Delivered over the past two years to Grimaldi Lines subsidiary ACL, these ships now offer a weekly year-round fixed day of the week passenger service […]

via Atlantic Container Line’s North Atlantic Cargo-Passenger Service Opens This Week Between Hamburg, Antwerp and Liverpool and Halifax, New York and Baltimore With Return To Liverpool — The Cruise People Ltd

Cheese And Rum Aged At Sea In Ancient And Modern Times

 

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(image) images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large-5/1-sailing-ship-anonymous.jpg

This is not only an idea whose time has come, but it is an idea I have used in three novels starting over three decades ago. In my novels, I have some edible substance aged through transport at sea.

In A Lost Gospel, set in the time of Christ, I have seafarers strengthen an unnamed gruel stored in a barrel that is used to relieve the effects of seasickness. It tastes vile.

In my two  historical “Onion” novels, I have special cheeses aged during the two year long sea trips my characters take for trading purposes. They return tasting right (and ripe) fine.


Here is a current news story set along the same lines.

A Nova Scotia distillery is sending its spirits out Monday on an around-the-world trip on a tall ship, promising it will taste better for the journey.

Four barrels of rum from Lunenburg’s Ironworks Distillery will spend the next 15 months in the cargo hold of the three-masted tall ship Picton Castle.

https://www.halifaxtoday.ca/local-news/nova-scotia-distiller-sending-four-barrels-of-rum-on-round-the-world-voyage-837196?utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Email

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And here is an excerpt from my novel, China Lily.

The storage hold for the cheese is actually a room partitioned from the main hold by thick oak planks. Its back wall is the side of The Pegasus. There is a raised floor to keep the cheese from the bilge, and a barred door with heavy locks. The Cannaras had the room designed, and placed specifically, so it would not hinder the running of the ship through either weight or volume displacement. In addition, the Cannaras paid the other owners an impressive surcharge for the space.

Matzerath steps back as Cepa unlocks and opens the door. The cheeses have not been moved for over two years, except through the motions of The Pegasus itself. They are tightly packed with straw and wax, three to a wooden crate. The crates are kept in place through the use of ropes and webbing that allows them to move with the motion of the ship. If they break loose they can dent, break, or even shatter their thick outer shell of wax. The exposure to air would turn them to rot.

The two and more years of exposure to the sea salt atmosphere tightens the ropes and webbing. They reach a point where it is not worth the effort to unbind them. Cepa begins to use his knife on all the ties.

He is quickly followed by Matzerath, who does not question the reason for Cepa’s actions, but just follows suit. Together they make short work of the ropes and webbing. Matzerath gets by the doorway and takes his place in the human chain. Cepa hands a crate of the cheese to him. He carries it to the first man on the steps who, in turn, takes it up the steps to the next man. In this way the cheeses go from man to man until they are placed in the carts. It is not backbreaking work, but it is awkward and exhausting enough that Cepa eventually calls for a break. They all go up to stand on deck to take advantage of the fresh air.

“How long have you been selling this ‘voyage cheese’?” Matzerath is watching the frenzied activity on the dock.

“Over two hundred years.” Cepa keeps an attentive eye on the cheeses already on deck. “But never any trip as long as this one.”

“Any magic secret in making it?”

“The choice of the onions. But I don’t actually make the cheese – that is for others in the family.” Cepa smiles. “I help create the mystique.”

“Mystique?”

“Yes.” Cepa turns to scan the dock. “Look at those three men on horseback.”

“Yes?”

“One is a priest; one from the noble’s house; and the third leads the cheese maker’s guild.” Cepa holds up his hand to shade his eyes from the morning sun. “Their sole reason to be here is to verify that these cheeses actually come off The Pegasus. They will affix a seal onto each crate.”

“They don’t trust the Cannaras?” Matzerath turns to Cepa in surprise.

“They trust us because this was our idea.”

“Ha! You Cannaras are crafty.”

“There are few questions asked about items brought back from far away. They are so foreign they have to be authentic.”

“But cheese made right here …” begins Matzerath.

“Yes – anyone can make cheese.” Cepa indicates that he wants to walk around the deck. “And it all looks the same once covered and waxed.”

 

Cruise Ship Queen Mary 2 Heads Out To Sea

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The larger-than-life cruise ship, Queen Mary 2, was in Halifax for the day, and departed this evening. It probably gets special attention because of its grandeur. Also, the Cunard Shipping Line, nominal owner of the ship, was the creation of a Halifax chap, Samuel Cunard, back in 1839. The Cunard Line is now folded into the Carnival empire, but that’s business.

As The Queen Mary 2 left, it was escorted by a Canadian Navy Coastal Defence Vessel – the HMCS Summerside, a harbour fire boat spraying arcs of water, and even a helicopter flew overhead. It took its time leaving.

I have written about the the launch of Queen Mary 2 in my novel Fame’s Victim. The main character of my novel, known as ST, is good friends with the actual Queen Elizabeth the Second, who launched the ship. ST and his lady friend, a famous actress whom he always refers to as Garbo (though she be not the actual Garbo) are on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary 2. That chapter is below.

DE

(image)https://www.ctvnews.ca/polopoly_fs/1.2462900.1436552018!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/image.jpg

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Excerpt From Fame’s Victim:

“Your Majesty.”

ST extends his hand just as a volley of the extensive fireworks light up The Queen Mary 2 and the harbour side where she has just been launched. He flinches but the Queen does not.

“So much for the Queen’s weather.” The Queen points to the torrents pelting the dock. “It rains on my reign.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” ST hears Garbo’s barely repressed giggle behind him. “I believe you have not met – “

“This charming lady with the delightful sense of humour.” The Queen looks past ST. “No, I have not.”

ST takes a side step as Garbo extends her hand.

“Your Majesty.”

Garbo has been instructed that formal curtsies are not in fashion, but the actress in her makes her modified one very graceful. The Queen is obviously amused and pleased.

“We understand you both are on the maiden voyage to the United States.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Is he attempting some sort of record, do you think?” The Queen points to ST.

“Ma’am?” Garbo is confused.

“The last flight of the Concorde and now the first voyage of QM2.” The Queen smiles. “It sounds to me like some type of Time muddle.”

“Ma’am.” Garbo giggles and ignores protocol by touching the Queen’s arm. “I don’t make theories about Time and he doesn’t try to act.”

“Very sensible.” The Queen looks from one to the other. “I don’t act either.”

There is another eruption of fireworks, and they look into the dark sky. The vibrant colours flash against the side of the ship and sparkle on the water’s surface.

“We had best go in.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Even before ST has agreed, ship’s crew and members of the Queen’s entourage have opened doors and produced umbrellas for the twenty second walk.

“I’m not sure what my grandmother would think of her namesake.” The Queen indicates that ST and Garbo walk beside her, which causes some manoeuvring as the Queen is using a cane because of her hip operation. “Perhaps a ship which dwarfs the Titanic would be beyond her comprehension.”

Three abreast confuses those in attendance though the ranks quickly settle into place. As they approach the doorway ST executes a couple of half steps so the women go through the entrance without crowding. He then quickly returns to his place.

“Mind you, Queen Mary would certainly appreciate the opulence.” There is a quick royal chuckle. “And she could tally the worth of each item to within ten pound, if not sometimes to the shilling.”

ST assumes the Queen would know the powers of her own grandmother, but he wonders if anyone could rightly cost the grandeur that surrounds them. He and Garbo will shortly be taking a tour of the high points while the Royal party will be given a different tour of other high points. He has been told that a complete tour of all the high points would take ten hours. A leisurely inspection will take three days of their trip if he so desires. It is a far cry from the Concorde where twenty minutes served the same purpose.

“My walking stick shortens my own look around.” The Queen smiles up at the couple. “However there is a Wedgwood Panel I have insisted upon. Do try to see it on your own – it graces a wall in Kings Court.”

“Yes. Ma’am.” ST answers with less enthusiasm though he will give it a close examination, as he will no doubt be queried the next time they meet.

The three of them now cross a wide and carpeted expanse where ship’s crew and invited guests line both walls. The Queen notes a decidedly younger crowd mingling together and glances at Garbo.

“Let’s work either side of the room. I would guess that section is more for you than me.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Garbo blushes. “I’m sure they would be happy to see you.”

“Not ‘as happy’.” The Queen nods in their direction. “One knows one’s time and place.”

As Garbo approaches the now-applauding group, the Queen slows her pace, making ST do likewise. Her voice is low enough to make him lean closer to her.

“”You’ve been in the news.”

“Ma’am?”

“Hollywood sightings and Paris auctions and the trailing of Google.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Welcome back.”

Down To The Sea In Ships On National Lighthouse Day

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Cape George Lighthouse

Since it is National Lighhouse Day, let me celebrate.

I have enjoyed going to lighthouses, and have done so for years. If anything, I keep finding them more and more evocative. A number of years ago, from high cliffs over the Northumberland Straight, this is what I saw one afternoon from a lighthouse.

One old fishing boat:

One sleek new fishing boat:

One chubby fishing boat:

One fading green fishing boat:

One distant white sailboat under sail:

One close white sailboat under sail:

Two small outboard boats:

One tugboat pulling . . .

One rusting barge.

Happily, the Cape George Lighthouse is now listed as a Heritage Site by the government of Canada.

(photo)https://opto.ca/sites/default/files/pictures/featured_items/nova_scotia_-_cape_george_lighthouse.jpg

DE

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I have also written a couple of chapters in one of my novels that were set in a lighthouse. This is a section of one of them.

Let the light shine.

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Excerpt from: He Lives In The City / He Drives To The Country

“Well, Blaine, the place is as sturdy as the rock it’s on. Government inspected every spring. We even sat pretty through the Great Groundhog Day Gale in 1976, the worst storm in over a hundred years.”

Fred Gannet nudged Blaine to the huge windows. He pointed into the distance, although neither could see through the fog.

“Waves forty feet smashed up against us. We clocked winds at one hundred and thirty-seven miles an hour. We had the warning, so we got most of this battened down. Turned over my van, but I had it far from the cliff. Smashed out a window in the living room. I had a bitch of a time getting plywood over it. Lost power and phone of course, but everything here can run on emergency generator. And part of the roof lifted, but it didn’t do that much damage.” He jabbed his finger at the rain spattered windows. “This is a baby compared to that whore.”

He gave a whoop of a laugh, and took off his cap.

“Old George Crenshaw, he’s the keep on Goat Island, a mile square drop of nothing about eight miles further out to sea. Well, he took the brunt of that bitch, and we were all sure he was a goner. For hours after it passed, there was no boats could get through the waves, or helicopters through the wind. Even the radios were gone, and no one had talked to the old bugger for twelve hours.

“We kept trying and trying, and finally I heard his call letters, but real faint like. I turn my juice ’til the needle’s in the red, and I’m yelling, to find out how he is. You know the first thing any of us hear that old son of a bitch say?”     The large man’s body was actually shaking with laughter, something Blaine had rarely seen in anyone.

“Old George’s thin voice comes out of the radio, like a fart out of a ghost, and he says: `Well, boys, that was quite a breeze’.”

There Will Be Scampi



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There will be scampi on a plate with breakfast.

Quarts of wild strawberries will float in flagons of cold Rhinish wine.

Blueberries will be hidden by thick cream, and golden honey shall trickle from plates of buttered toast.

Braces of quail and brown roasted turkey will be surrounded by steaming heaps of new potatoes and tender ears of corn.

Joints of beef and lightly curried lamb will stand between bottles of red Anjou wine and jugs of red Italian fire.

A smoking, suckling pig will have bowls of dry, yellow squash at its feet and stacks of cheeses at its head.

Pastry and pies and a foot high chocolate cake will stand among jars of brandied fruit.

A cask of aged port will remain, to do justice at the end.

Then I shall settle back to patiently await my dinner.

DE

(image) https://s3-media2.fl.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/-v7NytmayyRWevrX2_O64A/o.jpg

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