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The Moon Looms And Man Lands

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In my novel, The Rags Of Time, travel to the outer edges of Earth’s solar system has been accomplished. But the Moon still holds its sway – literally.

To celebrate the space outing of fifty years ago. Here is the group of segments of my written ascent through the heavens. My crew are returning  from their trip to the outer reaches of our solar system. and something goes awry. There is no Huston to contact, but there is a problem.

And, finally, is the connection to the spiritual/supernatural aspect of the novel, where the Druids of the old religion become a conduit to what is happening in outer space.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It is a navigator’s moon.

That is how Eric the Red thinks of it, as his space craft enters Earth’s solar system. He is called Eric the Red for his facial hair, and his ancestry. But behind his back, his romantic notions of the ancient ways is more the reason for his name.

Even when they fly past it, Earth’s moon generates little influence upon their return. A minor compensation of the thrusters, and its only effect on the ship, is the ritualistic kiss which crew members bestow against the aft window for the man in the moon. However, as soon as his gravity sensors register the distant presence of Pluto, Eric the Red enhances their output to catch the faintest twinge of the Earth’s moon.

His navigator’s moon.

Tomorrow, Eric will alter course to sweep past Pluto’s satellite, Charon. He plans to use the combined gravity as a sling to amplify his own trajectory, although he will lose some directional control to achieve speed.

Opportunities to observe this unknown planet are still scarce, and he makes adjustments to confront the dual gravity. He decides to attempt the `Film Technique’, which met with success among the moons of Jupiter. The Technique is named after the way film had been threaded in the antique movie projectors of the Twentieth Century.

He plans to wind through the gravities of the various moons, in such a manner that each helps accelerate his ship around the next. There are many factors to consider which affect the interplay of gravities between solar bodies. And they will, in turn, exert their control over his vessel. At times like this Eric wonders how much really has been learned since the existence of gravity was acknowledged.

**************************************************************************************

Eric the Red decides to get back to business. He keys the delay coordinates for the radioscope, and checks his map.

“Follow through on your consoles.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll admit, Malcolm, the surprises of Pluto will be inconvenient to experience. Until the surface is accurately defined, I agree it’s too dangerous for a landing.”

“Transfer at fifty percent, sir.”

“Acknowledged.” The captain glances at the various instruments. “As you know, our probes to Pluto can not be retrieved.”

“That might not be due to the surface, sir.”

“True. There seems to be an electro-gravitational bind.” Eric the Red looks intently at his view screen. “Reason enough to keep our distance.” He magnifies the image in front of him. “Personally, I feel as uncomfortable attempting a landing on Pluto, as I would setting out to explore Iris.”

“The mysterious tenth planet.” Malcolm whistles softly into his microphone. “That might be for our children, sir. The scientists don’t even understand the orbital path of Iris. I don’t imagine I’ll ever get to look at its surface.”

“You sound interested.”

“Iris is intriguing. During its centuries of orbit, it has penetrated space far more deeply than we ever have.”

*************************************************************************************

The Captain turns to again look at Pluto.

“If it’s not internal, then it must be external.”

He shifts the image of Pluto to a larger screen.

“Although, quite frankly, that concept isn’t much better than its alternative.”

He tries to sharpen the focus on the large screen. After a minute of adjusting the controls, he shrugs his shoulders in failure.

“That indistinct picture is not due to our sensors. Have the other stations turn their view screens to Pluto. See if they get the same results.”

“Yes, sir.”

While Malcolm checks with the other observation officers, Eric the Red again runs a sweep of his instruments. As he thoroughly goes over each one, he pays attention to the responses received by his first officer. It is quickly apparent the same fuzzy image appears over the whole ship.

“Any ideas, Number One?”

“I think our movement is being disrupted.” Malcolm looks at the same sequence of instruments. “I’d guess there’s agitation in our centrifugal rotation.” He peers closely at the view screen. “It can’t be much. Our artificial gravity doesn’t seem affected.”

“You don’t look in danger of floating away.” The captain smiles. “So I doubt this explains my `light-headedness’.”

“No, sir.” Malcolm can not tell how serious the older man is. “The rotation alteration is minimal. It is just enough to make our cameras waver.” He taps the view screen. “Considering how sensitive they are, I would judge this force to be weak.”

“Any guess what it is?”

“No data suggests a malfunction within the ship.” Malcolm moves a dial a millimetre. “Which leaves an outside cause.”

“Well.” The captain leans so close his nose touches the view screen. “I think we’re being influenced by the mysterious Tenth.”

“Iris?”

“Yes.” He turns back to his first officer. “With Pluto and Charon positioned the way they are, and our attempt to execute the Hohmann-ellipse to take advantage of the Film Technique, we may have added the weight of Iris to our backs.”

“The alignment shouldn’t be intense enough to – ”

“Iris is so perversely inconsistent, it doesn’t have to fit into our ideas of alignment to make itself felt.” The captain makes some inclusions into the library computer. “After all, we’re the ones entering its sphere of influence.”

“It is a minor influence.” The first officer makes some quick calculations in his head. “We could accept a reduction of our artificial gravity for the duration of the manoeuvre.”

“That’s a viable option.” Eric the Red looks up co-ordinates to enter into the computer. “But we can negate the problem without weakening our reserves.” He inserts a bar of information into the computer. “Run an evaluation of our solar cells.”

“Yes, sir.”

Malcolm walks to the banks of light-activated monitors surrounding the doorway. He takes a laser probe from his instrument pouch, and traces it across a screen. As the figures appear, he reads them aloud. Most are at full capacity.

“Do you see what I’m getting at, Number One?”

“Yes, sir. We use some of this power to counter the effect of Iris.”

“Exactly.” The captain smiles. “We don’t touch our reserve fuel, and we replenish the solar storage during our last month of earth approach.”

The captain pauses to read a number off his computer screens. He performs some equations on his hand-calculator, then turns to look at his first officer.

“If the Film Technique is successful, we’ll save nine to fourteen days.”

Eric takes a binder from under his work station, and flips through its pages. He enters data into both his computer and his calculator, and talks over his shoulder.

“If we use solar packs A7, A12, A17, K12, K13, O2, O5, S37, then form a Perpetual Loop between the GOT Terminal and the S37 Positive Outtake, we’ll only exhaust 252 of the solar cells. The depletions will be uniform, and restricted to known sectors.”

Malcolm is also doing calculations from the laser screens. He doesn’t look up as he speaks.

“That will give us more excess power than necessary to confront the drag from Iris.”

“Yes.” The captain closes the binder. “But with the Loop, we have the option of creating a surge to replenish some used cells, instead of venting the surplus.” He swivels around in his chair. “We should begin the manoeuvre at the first opportune time.”

“That will be five hours and thirty-seven minutes.” Malcolm crosses the floor to stand beside the captain.

“Advise the crew, and have them double monitor until we correct the interference of our rotation.”

******************************************************************************

Ogma has never been to the moon.

He takes a certain satisfaction in the fact. He is the object of some good-natured banter by the other members of the council, although most of them have not made the trip either.

Ogma has been told such a voyage is expected of him, since he is the scientist of the group. Even the Head Druid, who has not only gone to the moon, but far beyond, occasionally jokes about it. Because the Head Druid has a quiet sense of humour, Ogma is never sure how serious the laughter is.

Ogma does not fear the travel, nor is he disinterested. The descriptions of the Head Druid make such a trip sound appealing. However, Ogma has a strong affinity for tradition – and the weight of tradition centres on the earth. According to Ogma, these two centuries of travel from earth are a drop in the bucket of the universe.

He often refers to examples from the past to explain his own reasoning. This causes the comment to be made that he should have been the historian of the council, instead of the expert on the sciences. His response is acute, and often times lengthy.

“You don’t realize who actually goes to these places.” If the Head Druid is present, Ogma always makes an exaggerated nod in his direction. “Male and female of the Homo Sapiens species enter their protective suits, and board an extravagant machine. They put themselves at the far end of a cylinder of all-consuming fuel.” Here Ogma will pause and look quizzical. “Then these inquisitive – and sometimes reckless – people, leave their terrestrial or lunar surfaces, and set out on a quest of knowledge or commerce.”

Now Ogma will stroke his beard.

“They use magnified eyes, and radio-wave ears. Every particle of information is ingested by computers.” Here Ogma leans forward, his eyes moving from face to face. “But what makes sense of these sensors and compilers? What is the final arbiter of all this knowledge?” A wink – one of Ogma’s knowing winks. “The irreplaceable human brain.”

Out of Ogma’s hearing, the Head Druid agrees with him totally. He points out that the anomaly of having a scientist so interested in the ways of the past, adds strength to the continuance of their traditions. Without traditions and beliefs, they can not be part of the order – the progression – which their religion and knowledge has shaped through the ages. They must never make the mistake of living in the past, but they must never make the error of forgetting the past.

If Ogma is present however – particularly at one of the full council meetings – the Head Druid allows this banter at Ogma’s expense to continue. He realizes Ogma can well use balance to his own opinionated attitude. Although Ogma listens carefully to what others say, he has no patience with unfounded speculation. He is vicious with those found in error.

It is not just travel to the moon, or any of the stations and colonies beyond, which draws Ogma’s ire. Although he ranges extensively over all parts of the earth, he does not even like the fuss and upheaval these trips cause. As he so often states: “Man can move through the air only so quickly – and it is never quickly enough.”

Ogma has not moved `quickly enough’ on his present trip, though it has taken him as close to the moon as one can get, and still be on planet earth. He is in the mountains – the familiar mountains of the Druids’ traditions and tales.

He is here because he is certain this is the place where a conjunction of knowledge, space, and elusive time will occur. If it is not already occurring. Or has always been occurring, ever since time itself became a concept.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As A Bonus – here is a link to:

APOLLO 11
IN REAL TIME
A real-time journey through the first landing on the Moon
This website consists entirely of original historical mission
material.
https://apolloinrealtime.org/11/
(Image) https //upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/34/Moon_landing_sites.svg/1920px-Moon_landing_sites.svg.png
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Trump And Putin Walk Into A Bar In Japan

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~ Have you been drinking the vodka, Donald?

~ Why do you ask, Vlad?

~ Because you are acting like Russian.

~ You know what Ivanka told me?

~ Nyet

~ That I was Putin you in your place.

~ Maybe I’ll have other drink.

~ We all laughed, believe me.

~ A double, I think.

~ Even President Xi. I didn’t know a Chinaman laughed.

~ To hell with double. Leave the bottle.

~ You know what Ivanka said about Kim Jong-un?

~ Let me fill glass.

~ She said take a little walk in the DMZ.

~ Ivanka walks the wild side.

~Two countries, no waiting, she said.

~ Maybe she’d like to sell dresses in Russia.

~ She’ll sell you the best dresses, believe me.

~ Maybe some fur hats – made in Crimea.

~ You don’t want her starting a war, do you?

~ Donsky – you’re a funny man.

~ It’s where she gets it. Believe me.

[Image]http://mietspiegelnews.com//images/resize/100/656×400/haberler/2019/06/Trump-Blasten-fake-news-vor-Putin-bei-G-20-Gipfel.jpg

Will A Lucious Cake Help Seduce Alison Alexandra?

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Alison Alexandra is back for her second trip on The Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express – and why not? The first led to a supper with three sisters/widows (none of them wearing black) that is as memorable as any Alison Alexandra has had. And that’s saying a lot.

But on this trip, Alison Alexandra dines alone, and piques the interest of the chef. And there is no better sweet talk, than with a sweet dessert.

So, I went in search of a decadent dessert, looking as gorgeous as I am sure it tastes. And up I end with a Fragilité Cake, which I would appreciate having delivered to my door after the sun has set, whether I was on the The Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express or not. And, I would not automatically be predisposed to ignore any other intentions in the eye of the beholder.

Just be sure to bring a fork.

++++++++++++++++++++

The classic fragilité cake with coffee buttercream originates from the same Danish pastry chef, Johannes Steen, who also made The Sarah Bernhardt cookie. And must originate from the beginning of the 1900s, when Denmark was very influenced by everything French.

Fragilité means fragile, and it describes the cake well. It’s made with delicate layers of crispy meringue with hazelnuts, layered with a mocha/coffee buttercream. The cake feels very light and fluffy, but don’t let it fool you, it’s filled with great tasting calories😋

Ingredients:

Meringue:

  • 100 g hazelnuts
  • 200 g confectionary sugar
  • 4 egg whites

Mocha buttercream:

  • 3 pasteurised  egg yolks
  • 100 g confectionary sugar
  • 150 g butter, salted and room temperature
  • 3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1,5 teaspoons instant coffee

Directions:

Preheat the oven for 400℉ (200℃).

Chop the hazelnuts. I used the mini chopper that came with my immersion blender, and ended up with a coarse hazelnut flour. Mix the hazelnuts with half of the confectionary sugar.

Whip the egg whites, in a stand mixer, until you have soft peaks. Add the sugar and keep whipping until you have a shiny meringue with stiff peaks. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down.

Fold the hazelnut mixture in.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper, spray it and sprinkle with sugar. I used a 9″ x 13″ (20×30 cm) pan.

Spread the meringue evenly in the pan, and level of the top.

Bake the meringue for 2 minutes at 400℉ (200℃), then lower the temperature to 305℉ (150℃) and keep on baking foe another 40 minutes.

Buttercream:

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, and whip the buttercream until thick and fluffy over a double boiler. I used a saucepan with very hot water, and placed my bowl on top of that. I didn’t have it on the stove. It takes some time to get the buttercream nice and fluffy.

 

Cut the meringue in two, and place the one part on a cake stand, spread all the buttercream  on it in an even layer. Put the other half of the meringue on top.

Decorate the cake with some melted chocolate or a sprinkle of confectionary sugar.

(Found At) https://sweetsoursavory.com/blog/2014/2/16/classic-fragilit-cake

(Image) https: //i.pinimg.com/originals/14/b6/49/14b6491cfc731a143c195a3927623c4c.jpg

Going Through Checkpoint Charlie Where East Meets West (Berlin)

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[Checkpoint Charlie]

30 May

I first visited Europe years before the Euro was the accepted coin of the realm. In fact, there were many coins of many realms, and all that money caused a fuss.

I kept a daily diary of this trip, and plan to make it a part of any memoirs I might write. So I’ve hauled it out and will make some blogs from it. But they will be greatly abridged.

********************************************

30 May

Around ten o’clock I set out for Checkpoint Charlie. I say that I set out for Checkpoint Charlie, but i would be less than truthful if I stated I got there easily. In fact, I threw my destiny into the hands of Fate to get there at all. For the first time I did what I understand is a favourite pass time of tourists, I executed a complete circle and returned to the Hostel. At least I wasn’t lost.

I set out again, knowing I was to go past a particular building, and also go through a large field. Surprisingly enough,  after a ten minute walk, I unexpectedly came to Checkpoint Charlie. And there were the people from the group I was travelling with, who shuffled me into their midst and thus near the front of the line.

Going past the British soldiers was a matter of seconds. You gave your name and the time you expected to return and that was it. Then told you were not allowed to take any photos, you headed to the East German barrier. Here they took your passport; you filled in forms; you had to exchange some of your money for East German money (which you had to spend in the East); got little slips of paper stuck into your passport; walked to a further barrier where you again showed your passport, and then the next thing you were doing was walking in East Berlin.

We had been told to walk along the street until we came to Unter den Linden and then stay on it. We could go down side street, but always return to Unter den Linden. And that is what we did – more or less.

What I had expected of East Berlin was a dark, grey, dirty city, with haggard, suspicious-looking people in 1950’s clothing slinking along the streets with large bundles in their hands. I actually saw little difference in the people, or the place, than what I had seen in West Berlin.

Yes, it was more run-down looking, and there were more ruined buildings, and even buildings that were war-scarred, but it was clean and neat, and the people were like anyone else, though there were far fewer on the streets.

[More to come another day]

 

 

 

Berlin A City After A War

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[Site of Hitler’s bunker today]newnormative.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/germany_berlin_fuhrerbunker_2.jpg

I first visited Europe years before the Euro was the accepted coin of the realm. In fact, there were many coins of many realms, and all that money caused a fuss.

I kept a daily diary of this trip, and plan to make it a part of any memoirs I might write. So I’ve hauled it out and will make some blogs from it. But they will be greatly abridged.

********************************************

May 29

Our guide took us to an Observation Tower which overlooked the old section of Berlin (now, of course, in the East), and where the government buildings once stood. I saw a part of the Kaiser’s Palace in the distance (you must remember that these buildings are restored or being restored) plus other buildings from that era.

What was most interesting for me, however, were the structures that were so prominent in Hitler’s Thousand Years – the War Ministry, Gobble’s Propaganda Office, the Air Ministry and, the place where Hitler’s Chancellery stood., from which he unleashed so much destruction, and now no more than a grassy mound in a field. A mound remains because Hitler’s Bunker is still there. It can not be destroyed because it would do too much damage to the surrounding area to blow it up. I wonder how long this symbol of Hitler, this place so close to him, will remain – perhaps a thousand years? [2019 – it is still there]

We left the Wall (though the Wall never left us) and continued on our way. We went to a stone building and stopped before it. We got out of the bus and walked into a pleasant court yard. It was a memorial – a place called Plötzensee. It was here that many of the people in the unsuccessful revolt against Hitler on June 20, 1944, were executed.

How strange it was to be standing in this grisly place of history. It was a stark, bare, small room, like a clean little room you would find in somebody’s cellar. The hooks sticking from the ceiling from which people were hung were very real. Here people died, here members of the Gestapo stood and smirked, hands on hips. I had heard of places like this, and read books, and now I saw what it was like.

At Work And Play In Europe Long Before The Euo

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I first visited Europe years before the Euro was the accepted coin of the realm. In fact, there were many coins of many realms, and all that money caused a fuss. This was partially rectified by using Traveller’s cheques. And though Traveller’s cheques are still available, their use is not recommended, as so many places won’t even take them.

I kept a daily diary of this trip, and plan to make it a part of any memoirs I might write. So I’ve hauled it out and will make some blogs from it. But they will be greatly abridged

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

May 28

Berlin, a city (to say the least) that I had heard about, once upon a time. It’s most noteworthy fame, in my opinion, the capital of Hitler’s Germany. And the present, the only city cut in twain by a wall – that infamous wall which causes so much consternation. And I was landing there – and walking into history.

We eventually arrived at the Youth Hostel, or Red Cross building, or whatever it really was. It was a cold, grey, imposing stone structure that reminded me of a second-rate castle somewhere in the Alps. It was plain and simple, there was never any hot water. I was very tired and dead feeling, so I grabbed a bottom bunk and rested/slept for a few hours. I eventually roused myself and went to take a shower. I do not know how the Germans managed to do it (they manage to do many things), but they were able, by some device, to get their water straight from the head ponds of Siberia.

I went out for a walk after my shower, not so much to sight see as to thaw. I didn’t go very far, just looked in some store windows, and went down to the end of the road, a short distance really, for it ended quite quickly with an old, decrepit-looking wall. I thought to myself, that if this were all the East Germans had to get over, there wouldn’t be much trouble to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crows As An Alarm Clock At Break Of Day

crows

After a nine hour trip yesterday, I had aimed for, planned for, hoped for, to wake up as I pleased this morning. However, the crows had different ideas, and not too long after sunrise I was drawn unceremoniously into the new day. To my surprise – considering all the noise – there were only half a dozen roosting and hopping on The Crow Tree. Perhaps their promised gold was the golden rays of the sun.

At any rate, I re-post this Crow blog from a couple of years ago.  I bet many of the crows are the same crows. Who has murdered sleep, indeed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The crows are in The Crow Tree. They have not been there for months. Sitting at the top above the red and orange foliage.

There are 50 and more crows in The Crow Tree. Making a mighty ruckus as if in strenuous debate. They are greatly agitated.

Crows leave The Crow Tree in droves, circle and return. They are clustered on the top branches with constant noise. More arrive.

Stark contrast on The Crow Tree. A ridge of black crows on top of the red and orange leaves against the blue sky. They keep circling.

It is a picket fence of crows on The Crow Tree. When they perch they cast large shadows. They seem less agitated.

The crow discourse on The Crow Tree seems to be over. Most have moved on and the few remaining are silent. I wonder what they decided.

At The Crow Tree, the rest is silence.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

An hour ago my walk took me to a small park/garden across from a church. There are three benches, and I sit there often. Part way through my contemplations, a crow settled into the birdbath. A large crow and a birdbath that would not comfortably accommodate two crows. There had been  a big rainstorm the day before and the birdbath was full.

At first I thought the crow was just drinking from the water. But, within a couple of minutes, he was splashing and cavorting and dousing himself in water from his active dance. Head to tip of tail and all feathers in between. A right good soaking.

Then, with a great shake and some flying sprays of water, he flew away.

(image) 1.bp.blogspot.com/-cRCIbfTBLsE/URGows8HcsI/AAAAAAAACPE/oSjE2-RI8r8/s1600/crows.jpg

Travel But No Sex On The Night Train Of Years Ago

women-in-pullman-section-berths-january-1930-hulton-archive-getty-images_600px

The night train goes between Halifax and Montreal, and Montreal and Halifax. You can’t get there from here in daylight . . . by train. The train chug chug chugs out of Halifax early afternoon, and out of Montreal early evening. The two pass somewhere in Quebec. Arrival in Montreal is early morning (breakfast time) and early evening (supper time).

Although I’ve had some association with trains for decades (the father of a next-door childhood friend was even the conductor on a train) I came to my pleasure and interest in trains from my first trip to Europe. Both in Great Britain, and the continent, I had great pleasure on the trains (much due to the scenery I had never seen). It was really after that first trip that I travelled with any seriousness by train in Canada. And, as I said, any travel from east to west must include the night train to Montreal.

I have been blessed in that I have never had to ‘sit up’ on this trip (though, these days, even that is not too bad). I’ve had berths (upper and lower) and compartments (these days – again – even with their own shower). And I love the dome cars, sitting there for hours even after dark. It is a grand sensation travelling though the darkened forests with often no more than moon light and stars. And the red and green signal lights of the track itself.

Back ‘in the day’ I even almost had a Night train romance.

This was in the upper berths, where nothing more than a curtain flap and a zipper kept the sleepers private. One usually undressed while supine upon the mattress, sloughing off one’s outer clothes.

On one particular journey to Montreal, in the dark of that Quebec landscape, across the narrow aisle, was a beautiful teen-aged gal, not many years younger than myself. And she indicated ‘interest’, with smiles and giggles and some gentle teasing of undress.

However, she travelled with her (I presume) parents, safely ensconced in the lower berths. And Daddy looked as if he:

a) would brook no nonsense

and (more to the point)

b) would cease and desist any interest by me

The sweet lass keep appearing from behind her curtain with smiles and gestures, but finally realized that an athletic leap from my side to hers was neither safe nor wise. We arrived in Montreal as pure as we set out.

*Sigh*

(image)http://www.museumoftheamericanrailroad.org/Portals/0/Gallery/Album/21/Women-in-Pullman-Section-Berths-January-1930-Hulton-Archive-Getty-Images_600px.jpg

Travel and Dine on The Orient Express With Alison Alexandra

vsoe-rest-int-07

A few days ago, Alison Alexandra unceremoniously ended my chapter. I had planned another week of work to arrive at the ending. She did away with my ending, put in her own, and ignored the intricate back story I had planned.

So, I sat myself down and wondered what would happen in its place. It turns out Alison Alexandra wants to take a vacation, and the one place where she might just get away from herself (as she seems to desire) is the . She previously had a few pages (literally writing-years ago) on the train.

Sounded good enough for me.

A half hour later, the Face Book page for the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express popped up in my feed.

Full steam ahead, think I.

The following is a portion of Alison Alexandra’s previous trip on the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the reflection in the glass of her for-the-time-being-stateroom window, Alison Alexandra notices the glances from people on the platform watching her peering, and she doesn’t want to give them any ideas of turning into spies themselves so she stops and turns from the train and continues to walk its length to the engine. Of course, she is looking for spies herself, as befits the aura of the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express. Spies and temptresses and writers and countesses and moustached gentlemen of natty appearance with zee little grey cells working overtime. And criminals and murderers and explorers and adventurers and (no doubt) adulterers and placid businessmen with fettered imaginations and the old wealth and the nouveau rich and folk on the run from the past and folk hoping to run to the past and not once in her complete walk to the engine did she once stop for all those posing to take a Selfie with the Orient Express in the background because – really – if you can’t remember it with your own memory then what’s the point?

She looks up at the engine and realizes that it has never belched billowing smoke and that it never will and she has been prepared for this disappointment – but still. It is a pleasant fantasy as is the whole trip as is the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express itself since the *real* train stopped years ago and even then there had been so many variations with so many destinations that someone could have taken several “Orient Express” trips and travelled on several different routes. In fact, two of the most famous books set on the Orient Express”, Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express and Greene’s Stamboul Train, are set on two different trains, neither of them the “Orient Express”. So Alison Alexandra is not really miffed there is no smoke-belching engine with escaping steam. She can make her own fantasy as others have done before her.

She returns along the platform, rubbing her fingers across the side of the blue-and-gold Waggons-Lits Sleeping Cars. She has kept out of the way of the ceremonial line-ups of the train staff greeting passengers. Enough attention has been paid. She again peers into her compartment window of the S-Series sleeper – slightly smaller and slightly less ornate – more suitable for a sole traveller who plans no assignations. The train is five minutes away from leaving. Alison Alexandra will indeed change for her evening meal. Not all her interests in the fashion of her youth have dissipated. And- after all –she is on the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express. She is not present only for the transportation.

Alison Alexandra wants to blend in and not be either a fashion statement nor a fashion disaster. Black is always the new black, so she enters her Waggon-Lit, enters her compartment, opens a travel case much older than she, and slips into spiffy clothing and accessories that would have allowed her to slip into any of the fantasies of the fantastic Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express with nary a comment of discord but with a nod of appreciation.

In the Etoile du Nord dining car, she has the desire to sit with three other people instead of one. She has made her request known, and will be hailed by a seated trio. She hopes for the best but her anticipation is tinged with a trace of concern. She does not want to be bored, nor does she want to spend the meal warding off unwanted attention. She felt it futile to make such stipulations up front. Sometimes you have to go with the flow.

“Hello.” A face turns up to her. “Are you Missy Alison?”

“Alison Alexandra.”

“I told you so.” Another head turns in her direction. “Your black attire will slide right well into a trio of  three widows.”

“Now, Blanche.” The third voice speaks without raising her head. “We’re sisters first, and widows second.”

“Which one of our husbands would have gone on this trip?”

“True.”

“So that’s why we’re here.”

“Is that why you’re here, Alison Alexandra?” The sister who has yet to look at her now does. “Death allowing you to escape into life?”

“No widow me.” Alison Alexandra looks at each face in turn. “Nor wife neither.”

“Do you still want to sit?”

“Oh, yes.” Alison Alexandra pulls out the final chair. “And as I am the only one in black, might I suppose your widowhoods are not recent.”

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