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R/Jane-the-Ghost Is Not The Ghost Of Christmas (Past, Present or Future)

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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.

 

[Image] http:/cdn.notonthehighstreet.com/fs/06/90/c0b3-fff4-4518-b7d7-527c4703c9d8/original_little-ghost-acrylic-brooch.jpg

Ship And Sailor Both Await The Danger of Fog

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The sea plays a big part for Alison Alexandra in my manuscript There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Stones Were Not So Smooth.  This is at the beginning of a night that is going to last a long time.

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There seems to be a touch of mist coming over the ocean as Alison Alexandra looks from the windows of her prow of a ship house on the top of her cliff. Well, she calls it her cliff and no one – yet – has said ‘nay’. But then, she thinks of it as her ocean, so what is someone going to do with that?

She turns the lights out in her prow of a ship room and settles into her comfortable winged chair. The sun is in its last minute of setting and Alison Alexandra concentrates on the positions of the ships settling in for the night. There are always ships that have no space for a berth until the next day. One or two always seem to have to wait until the day after that.

The vagaries of shipping and commerce, and the whims of an erratic sea, can only be predicted with moderate success. The tides and the winds and the atmospheric pressures high and low make merry over and under the endless horizons. They whirl and they twirl and they scud and skip with gay abandon. ‘Catch them and predict them?’ – well, Alison Alexandra knows better than that.

As it is, her sea eye – well-honed after these many years of coastal watching – is certain the touch of mist that kisses the top of the waves in a most flirtatious manner is deciding whether or not to settle in for the night and become mistress to sea and ships and those swabbies who – oh, so quickly – will be told that the watch must be doubled.

No matter that they are within sight of shore and already have their imaginations stirred by what will be offered at fine establishments such as The Tugboat Wharf And Seafood Lounge with its All You Can Eat Beef Buffet and waitresses who are never going to give them the attention they crave but will still be a damn good source to stroke the imagination and then they can hit the streets and hope to find some pliable bodies with whom to hit the sheets if only by the hour.

(Image) https://i.ytimg.com/vi/uDF-z2ZPzRg/maxresdefault.jpg

What Really Happened When The Alexandra Arrived In Port On Sea And Page

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Yesterday, I wrote the following blog, explaining my attempts to perhaps wed fiction and reality.

[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.]

 

TODAY, I’ll relate what really happened.

I did get down to a chill and cloudy harbour in time to see The Alexandra. In fact, I was in good early time, for the ways of the sea don’t always fit schedules.

I stayed an hour and a half, with no sight of the ship. I would have stayed longer on a more pleasant day, but I was reaching a degree of cold that it is best not to ignore. So I returned home.

I started to follow The Alexandra on three different Marine sites. I could not fix an exact location, but it was obvious by its speed that it was not coming into a harbour. I then came across an arrival time of 19:00, instead if the original 15:00. But, even following it at that time, it was obvious it was not in Halifax harbour.

So, I kept a periodic watch from my windows, the manuscript for my own Alison Alexandra literally at hand. perhaps that was in some way more of a connection of reality to my fictional world.

At 21:00, well after dark, I watched The Alexandra and its tug boats pass along the harbour. It was a good view, though not as good a view as from a pier. I’m sure Alison Alexandra was pleased. Or, as she sometimes says, “pleased enough”.

I made the assumption that a ship six hours late would leave around six hours late. And, although I awoke well before such an assumed departure time, I found it had already left. I was, however, able to see The Alexandra depart the mouth of Halifax via port web cams.

(image)https://photos.fleetmon.com/vessels/alexandra_9635676_1850863.570×1140.jpg

 

“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)

Anniversary Of The Sinking Of The Titanic

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Halifax is significant to the Titanic, and vice versa. It is the port where 209 of the victims from the Titanic were brought after being retrieved. 150 of these bodies were eventually buried in Halifax.   I live a short city bus ride  from one graveyard where many Titanic victims are buried.  I am also a longer bus trip to another graveyard where more of the dead are buried. I usually visit each once a year.
When cruise ships come to Halifax, one of the ‘tours’ offered the passengers is a visit to the Titanic graveyard. I assume the irony of this is lost, but I do wonder about the ‘tempting fate’ aspect of such an excursion.
One year I went to a Titanic “parade” down on the waterfront. The event started one hour late. The horse-drawn “hearse” was really a waggon from a local farm. The candles were  fake electric. Still, the team of Percheron horses was wonderful, and the folk in period costume were well done.
The ‘undertaker’ driving the team had a black frock coat and black top hat but – alas – no black riband around the hat. There was a plain, grey wooden box in the back.
Whatever the reason, a half dozen present-day undertakers from Snow’s Funeral Home (the funeral home which had tended to the actual Titanic victims) marched behind the waggon.
As a macabre aside (and I generally favour the macabre, but I found this creepy) there were meals to be had in some of the downtown restaurants which featured the menu of the last meal eaten on the Titanic.
One of these restaurants was The Five Fishermen. At the time The Titanic sank, Snow’s Funeral Home was in the building The Five Fishermen now occupies. So – literally – the coffins were once stacked in the same room where present day patrons were chowing down on The Titanic’s last meal.
I did learn one new thing. One of the people crowded around the ‘hearse’ opined  there would have been no women undertakes in 1912. The group following the waggon did have one woman. A member of the real undertaker group said that was not true. Indeed, two women embalmers from the city of Saint John (a port city in the adjoining province of New Brunswick) were brought in by train to help with the vast numbers of dead.

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.

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(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.”

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