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Home: 100 Wild Islands Nova Scotia Canada

Birds on the wing and fish on the fin.

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100 Wild Islands Nova Scotia Canada

Birds on the wing and fish on the fin.

Source: Home

Getting Published In New York In The Old Days

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Over The Transom

My friend Google tells me that “over the transom” is still a viable term. In this case it refers to a manuscript accepted by an editor submitted cold – perhaps even from the dreaded slush pile.

At any rate, my manuscript for A LOST TALE was accepted “over the transom”, and I was asked to New York to meet the editor. Although I had experienced and appreciated Montréal, Toronto, London, Berlin and other large cities by that time, I had not been to New York. Many events of that trip are memorable, but none more than my “lunch” with the editor.

The editor took me to a dark and trendy place for a late lunch. There were not many people there and, restaurant fiend though I am, the food was not my top priority. Discussion of “the work” and proposed changes was more on the menu for me.

As I sit across the table from my editor, I can not help but notice a man seated by himself beside the wall. He is tieless and shirtless and, though the lighting is dim, what there is reflects from his naked skin. He sits with a beverage and seems to hum to himself.

My editor is discussing both the menu and some confusion he perceives at the beginning of my novel. I note items on the menu unknown to me and am doubly confused.

The shirtless man at the other table increases the volume of his humming and eventually a waiter goes to him and has words. The shirtless man has words back, but they sound like gibberish. At my table the editor suggests something from the menu and I happily comply. There is wine.

Whilst I eat and listen to suggestions, the shirtless man is spoken to by two other waiters. As I (wisely) restrict myself to a second glass of wine, two uniformed policemen enter the restaurant and approach the shirtless man, whose gibberish had increased even more in volume. In the course of a few minutes three other uniformed police officers – one of them female  – arrive on the scene. They are now ranged around the shirtless man and his table. I finally tell my editor what is happening behind him and why I am not concentrating fully upon his suggestions. He turns around.

Two of the officers remove the table from in front of the shirtless man. Two others, one on each side of him, haul him to his feet. It is then that we see his shirtless state continues all the way to his naked feet. The female officer takes the tablecloth from the table and drapes it around him. The four male officers form a circle around the naked, shrouded man uttering his gibberish, and hustle him from the restaurant. The female officer picks up what appears to be a pile of clothes from beneath the table, and a pair of roller skates, and follows them.

I say to my editor that I have never seen anything like that.

My editor concurs.

Train Station Saved By Becoming House of Booze

 

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I was first at this train station in the late 1950s, to greet my Mother’s mother, who travelled by ship from England.
She first went to Saint John’s, and then (I guess) Halifax. She stayed with us two months or more, with one trip (I bet by train) to Ontario to see a sister (Great Aunt Lizzie, who sent me a toy where you squeezed a rubber ball attached to a hose that pushed air into a small box which made it pop open and a snake coiled out. I called the snake Lizzie, which caused some consternation).

Also, my brother’s first memory of my father was seeing a pair of legs waiting at the bottom of a rail car as he and Mom disembarked. I assume this was also the York St. Station. He would have been three. Dad was away on the continent fighting a war when he was born and, at war’s end, had been shipped directly back to Canada.

And – of course – I lived ten minutes away from this station for thirty-four years. Many and many are the times I walked the tracks to go to UNB, both as a student, and for work at the University Library. Many was the Sunday walk I took from the Station to the Princess Margaret Bridge, which was two kilometres away. Then I walked back beside the river.

I also took a number of train trips to and from this station. And during those times the train finally did not physically come into this station, one took a bus from here, to and fro the Fredericton Junction station.

This  unexpected walk down memory lane is caused by my current character, Alison Alexandra. For the last three days I have been describing Alison Alexandra sitting beside a disused train station (now a museum), waiting for a train to pass so she can wave at the engineer. Which she did.

Here is the link that describes how this station – eventually – was revived from its years of abandonment, and its derelict situation, to become a modern place of commerce.

Shakespeare Born And Dead Day, April 23rd

 

is-shakespeare-overrated

I bet Shakespeare could look you in the eye and tell you who you are – so well-versed in the ways of people he was. And he could then place you upon the stage, and have an actor have a go at you. With puns and foibles and insights.

Thus do I repeat my Shakespeare (if not Shakespearean) homage.

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

The stage is as bare as my lady’s ass in his lordship’s bedchamber. Rough-hewn in the most knockabout way, leaving splinters in the palace lawns of the imagination.

There’s many a dip ‘twixt the trap and the lip.

It fares little better than hastily strewn boards covering parched ground, and barely enough elevation to keep the understanding masses at bay.

Were one fool enough to come from out the wings, and at centre front begin a soliloquy about the beauty of the wretched arena on which he stands, to fight the resulting and justified spontaneous combustion, there would not be found one drop of piss from any a Thespian’s hose.

For who could allow this sacrilege to be spoken?

Even the flag atop the pole knows that the magic is not yet arrived.

A stage without commercial trappings:

without solid doors and thick drapes;

uncluttered by pillars and arches, tables and chairs, windows and fireplaces;

sans orchestra, sans balcony, sans pit.

A stage revealing all its secrets. Profound as emptiness.

A stage in wait.

For in this world writ small – as in the globe around – the audience has nothing to know, nothing to learn, until the actor makes an entrance, and prepares to fight past our eyes to battle with those thoughts and fears which lurk in sheltered halls.

What’s Hecuba to him?

Why – nothing.

Merely a name on a page of script, a cue at which to turn his profile thus.

It is what Hecuba becomes to we who wait,

that turns the key upon the heavy gate.

DE

(image)https://netivist.org/uploads/forum/discussions/pictures/543d4f6f55f4f713c0069828/is

In Honour Of The Queen’s 92nd Birthday

<> on June 24, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.

 

In my novels where HM The Queen occasionally appears, one of those instances is after her own mother’s death at 101 years. Here is a meeting between my protagonist, ST, facilitated by the Royal Steward, Howard.

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

 

“Howard?”

“Sir.”

As it is the most of formal protocol days ST must accept that Howard is first and foremost a Steward of the Queen. He will be guided, he will be ushered, he will be tended to with the utmost of discretion.

“A sad occasion, Howard.”

“Leavened a touch this time around, Sir.”

This is Howard’s way of informing him that all – more or less – is as it should be.

“Please convey to Her Majesty my deepest condolences.”

“You may do so yourself, Sir.” Howard indicates for another member of the staff to continue greeting the flow of arriving vehicles. “If you’ll follow me.”

This is unexpected. ST had been surprized enough to be invited back to what he assumed would be a somber buffet in one of the State reception rooms. There would be small talk and a hurried atmosphere as most of the Royal family would soon be on their way to the internment at Windsor Castle.

“Whose idea is this?” ST asks the question to Howard’s retreating back as he follows the other man along the front of the palace.

“Whilst on duty, Sir, I have no ideas of my own.”

They enter a section of the palace unknown by ST. They come to a door that Howard has to unlock. He uses no swipe card nor keypad but a substantial metal key upon an equally impressive key ring. When they are through the door Howard locks it behind them.

The corridor is far shorter than the length they have just walked. ST guesses they are near the back lawns and gardens. He wonders if he is going to be taken to the pond he stood beside so many years ago, and if he will have the chance to skip stones again. However, in less than a minute, Howard turns sharply along an unexpected hallway and shortly stops in front of a set of double doors.

“Our destination, Sir.”

ST makes a quick appraisal of his person, tugging a coat tail and smoothing his hair. He questions the steward with a glance and Howard nods his head before he knocks on the door. ST can’t tell if Howard actually hears a response or if there is a designated seven seconds before he swings the doors open.

“Your Majesty.”

“Come in, Howard.”

ST notes that Howard unusually precedes him into the room instead of standing aside and then following. He is also surprized that when he himself enters the room Howard does not close the door behind him.

“Your Majesty.”

“Thank you for attending.”

“Your mother made a profound passage through Time. You’re welcome.”

The Queen is mid-room, standing beside an ornate floor lamp. The room is not a large audience chamber but a smaller sitting room or den. There are comfortable chairs and books on shelves and a writing table. In one corner is a television and a discreet bar.

“Yes, she did.” The Queen finally approaches ST with hand outstretched. “She put every year to use.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” ST takes the Queen’s hand, ungloved and barely adorned, and shakes it gently. He looks her in the eye as she does to him and finds a calmness he did not expect.

“Come to the window.”

“Ma’am.”

He follows her across the room and notes that Howard, although unbidden, does the same. They stand in a line before the broad panes of glass.

“My mother did not often reside in this palace as she believed it rightfully belonged to the current monarch.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Appearances.”

“Ma’am.”

“Howard tells me you are finding out about appearances.”

“Yes.” ST does not hide his glance toward the steward. “I am discovering that it is others who do not permit me to be on an equal footing.”

“Exactly so.” The Queen smiles. “And does Howard instruct?”

“I suspect so, Ma’am.” ST also smiles. “But with Howard, who can ever know?”

“Oh, we live and learn from that one.”

The Queen looks away from the men and stares out the window. Since ST is here by request and no polite dismissal has occurred, he realizes the audience is not over. He also realizes, standing and looking onto a burgeoning garden, that this may be one of the quietest rooms he has ever been in. There is not a sound reaching them from the great city of London, nor from the bustle of the palace.

“When my mother did come here, this was her favourite room with her favourite view.” The Queen points out the window. “She would often spend an afternoon here after some public or family function – the two often intertwined.”

“As she would often point out, Ma’am.”

ST almost snorts in surprize for Howard has just given the Queen a verbal nudge. He assumes this is part of a steward’s job, but ST has never seen it done.

“Yes, Howard.” The Queen glances at him. “My mother was a ‘public’ person over sixty years. She both resented and appreciated the fact that she had forty years without.”

“Both, Ma’am?” ST is struck by the notion for not only does it sound contradictory but he is startled to realize he has similar feelings.

“Yes.” The Queen turns and looks directly at ST. “She appreciated the fact she did experience the younger portion of her life where she lived almost normally. She resented the fact that by having that experience she lived the rest of her life knowing what she was missing.”

“And you, Ma’am?”

“I was not born to be a Queen but as long as Uncle David had no issue I was always reminded I was Heir Presumptive. My youth had some normality but I was never allowed to go my own way. “She pauses to look out the window. “I have never known what I am missing but I am aware I am always missing something.”

“Do you think that is worse?”

“How can I compare?”

ST has no answer for this and hopes it is rhetorical. That you can’t really know one thing without experiencing its opposite is a nugget found in the core of Space/Time – and Space/Time rules the world.

“Howard’s body language is urging me on.”

“Is it, Majesty?” It is Howard himself who asks the question. “Uncharted waters, Ma’am. I apologize.”

“You’re being protective, Howard.” The Queen nods. “It’s appreciated.”

Escape From The House of Hell

alh5baf0f_ottla[Franz & Ottla]

Franz Kafka lived way too long with his parents (his discord with his father is famous), and stayed in the city of Prague (which he described as “The little mother with claws”) for most of his life. But his sister, Ottla, escaped both. In my rendition of Kafka’s missing diary entries, in Kafka In The Castle, I show his reaction to his sister’s escape.

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

20 April 1917

Fate laughed up its sleeve, and this morning’s post brought a letter from Felice. A letter of no consequence, except for its arrival.

And I, in fact, have answered it. Perhaps too hastily. Perhaps too truthfully.

I have praised Ottla so much previously that F. has, upon occasion, made comments about my admiration.

That was her word, and I think it was not used favourably.

But the truth is – I have great admiration for my youngest sister. She does not think and think and think.

She does not discuss things for weeks.

She acts.

My God – she got away from Prague!

With The Queen In The Queen’s Garden At Buckingham Palace

buckingham-palace-garden-lake

In my novel, More Famous Than The Queen, I follow the life of ST, so famous he is only known my his initials. One of his friends is the Queen of England. They have the occasional meeting.

Here, written a number of years ago, is an abridged account of one of his meetings with Her Majesty, in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

So, why not share, on the heels of the recently released documentary of Her Majesty, walking and talking in her gardens – itself quickly becoming famous.

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

ST walks half way along the lake without seeing anyone else. He assumes he will quickly be notified when the Monarch is ready to receive him. He knows his progress is being monitored by sensors and security devices.

He slows his pace. He is past the turn in the path, and nearly to the head of the lake. He can not be more obviously present as he stands beside the glistening body of water.

ST absently gazes at the ground in search of a skipping stone. The lake is so narrow, he will have to throw along its length. It seems he won’t get to practice his rusty skills, for the earth is totally absent of suitable stones.  Crushed, white pebbles border the lake. All of the strategically placed rocks are too hefty – some even large enough to sit upon. It is apparent the area is regularly raked.

He pushes his shoe through the pristine arrangement, hunting for an errant rock which might have missed a ground keeper’s eye. Not a particle of dust accumulates on his highly-shined toe.

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

ST’s hunt is futile, and he begins to search in earnest around one of the large rocks. Instead of using his toe, he carefully reaches forward to push the polished pebbles out of the way. He even picks some up, hefting them in his palm.

“Is it your intent to stone our fish?”

ST is so startled he drops the pebbles. He has heard not the slightest sound behind him. He turns with much surprise and shock, prepared to rebuke whichever ground keeper or security person he confronts. His angered preparations are for naught.

“They will prove adept at avoidance.”

“Your Majesty.”

“They have survived many a grandchild.”

ST stares at the small woman, and actually feels a twinge of reverence. They have met before, and had conversations – not just two minutes of “chat” during some reception. Even though ST knows all about the smoke and mirrors employed by fame, there is always something at the core to be obscured and reflected.

A small woman in black, glancing at him while squinting into the sun. It is not who she is, but all the things people believe when they meet. For the first time, he realizes what others may be seeing when they come to look at him.

“Skipping stones, Ma’am.”

“A poor choice here.” She turns from the sun.

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

It seems to ST she would like to be alone, but for him to leave in any direction would be acutely apparent. Startled by royalty at the beginning, and offending royalty at the end, is not the way he wants to remember this encounter.

He stands his ground, keeps silent, and watches the small woman’s back, as if he were a faithful yeoman of the guard. Give him a halberd and pike, and he would be the most diligent defender the kingdom has ever seen.

She is staring into the water, which reflects the blue sky and the trailing white clouds. The surface is so calm their reflections sparkle. “Do you know they call this the Queen’s weather?”

“Yes.”

“That seems rather a lot of responsibility to us.” She takes an unhurried look into the sky, then points to a huge swath of blue. “As if we could command such a thing.”

“It’s just as easy to take the credit.”

“Then credit must be taken for the poor weather. To be accorded jurisdiction over fifty percent, demands a responsibility over the other fifty.” She turns and looks directly at ST. “And so much more, beyond our expertise.”

“I understand.”

And although ST does understand, he speaks because he is spoken to. And he does not speak the first words which spring into his head, which would be impertinent.

“You hesitate.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” He has forgotten how perceptive she is.

“Many do.” She is waiting.

“`Heavy is the head that wears the crown’.”

“Our Mr. Shakespeare knew his Royalty.” Her eyes definitely change, ST will swear to it. “Although we suspect he would prefer a correct rendition. `Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown’.”    “Henry IV, Part 2.”

“Are you playing catch-up?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“It is to be commended.”

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

She glances toward the palace, and then looks into the sky. “In the country, we generally tell time by the sun.” She again walks toward the lake, and stands so close her toes seem to touch the water.

“This conversation must never have taken place.”

“Ma’am. My plan is to make my memoirs a tissue of lies.”

 

(image)http://www.britmums.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Buckingham-Palace-Garden-lake.jpg

Anniversary Of The Sinking Of The Titanic

titanic_in_southampton
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.

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