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The Cat Lady And The Seal

Well, she was dressed like a cat though, I realise as I write the sentence, how really does a cat dress?

Really, the only dress-up cat that comes to mind was a cat called Tuxedo, who was – I assume – so named because of his attire of black and white fur – right down (or up) to his bow tie. And, I remember him because he ran in every civic election for years, and always garnered 500 -700 votes. He lived a few blocks from me and always had his lawn signs out. Yeah, he probably had a human manager – but still.

But I digress.

The cat lady, it is true, had an exceedingly colourful set of clothes, with a frilly shirt and what looked like a square dance dress. I didn’t note if there were dancing shoes. I was down on the harbour, sitting on my favourite bench, looking out to sea. Summer is picking up and there were many, many other folk walking and taking in the view. So, it wasn’t really her garb that meowed “cat”, but the fact the had her face painted up as a cat, with accented eyes and tufts of fur and a set of cat ears. It’s summer, and there are lots of entertainments on the harbour, and it is possible she was part of some CATS revue that was giving entertainment for the masses. (or that could just be me, trying to make sense of it all).

However, she broke the tranquil evening by starting to yell.

“WHAT’S THAT?

“WHAT’S THAT?

“OVER THERE!

“IN THE WATER

“IS IT A SEAL!?!”

She was becoming so excited and agitated that I finally yelled back:

“YES, IT’S A SEAL”

“I’VE NEVER SEEN A SEAL. EVER IN MY WHOLE LIFE. ARE YOU SURE?’

“YES!”

Yes, I was sure. I had already been watching the animal, and it was putting on a good display. Not many seals venture so far into the harbour, and when they do they are usually above the water less than a minute before they dive to come up somewhere else. This seal was swimming tranquilly along, in nearly a straight line, for longer than a minute at a time. Perhaps basking in the sun. Or watching the people, so he would have tall tale to tell to his friends.

“A REAL SEAL?”

“YES.”

“I NEVER SAW ONE BEFORE.”

And with that she walked away, the sight, apparently, not being as earth-shattering as her voice.

Onions And Eggs Feed A Crew On A Sailing Ship To China

Excerpt from the novel “China Lily”

In 1293,  Cepa  and Matzerath  were part of the crew of The Pegasus, a ship that had sailed from Italy to China on a trading mission. After a couple of months, they arrived in the port of Zaitun,  where they encountered a local trader, Lu-Hsing.

Lu-Hsing takes the two men to a communal dining hall. This is part of their meal.

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

Compared to others of his experience, the crew of The Pegasus appears content with their lot. They are certainly fitting in well in the dining hall, and even mingling with other diners. Thanks to the Captain’s instructions, they are willing to try any of the dishes they encounter, though it helps that they are ignorant of many of the ingredients.

“You want something other than onions?” Lu-Hsing jabs Cepa in the ribs with his shoulder.

“I want something with my onions.”

“You’ve been looking intently at everything.” Lu-Hsing opens his arms expansively. “What do you wish?”

“What do you suggest?”

“Look at me.” Lu-Hsing rubs his belly with a roar. “I am not a picky eater. I’ll suggest anything.”

“You’ve already warned me away from soup.”

“Not warned.” Lu Hsing points back to the bubbling soup they had been looking at. “You can add a lot to soup and make a stew.” He grimaces. “But you still slurp more than you chew. Lu-Hsing wants to use his teeth when he eats.”

“We can stay away from soup.” Cepa smiles. “And I’d just as soon avoid fish.”

“Me, too.” Matzerath puts his hands up in surrender. “We eat enough salted fish to swim.”

“You boys are in the Port of Zaitun.” Lu-Hsing speaks in an authoritative tone. “Fish a specialty.”

“There must be something else.” Matzerath points. “Look at all the cooks.”

“No soup?”

“Pah!”

“Trouble-making Round Eyes.” Lu-Hsing points to a wok near the end of the aisle and starts to walk. “We’ll try there.”

“What does he have?” Cepa falls into step behind Lu-Hsing, followed by Matzerath.

“Oyster omelette.”

“Eggs?” asks Matzerath.

“As many as you want.”

“That will take a big pan.”

“He can use a high-sided wok.” Lu-Hsing pretends to whisk something in a wok. “Plop it right onto a plate.”

“We don’t have dishes.” Cepa suddenly realizes the fact. “We haven’t been back to The Pegasus all day.”

“Lu-Hsing share you his.” He barks an order at the cook, and then turns back to Cepa. “Stay right here. I’ll get them from my table.”

Cepa and Matzerath stand and watch the cook. Cepa notes he is using wood and not the black rocks for his fire. Some oil is dropped onto the metal and immediately sizzles. The cook holds up his hand and extends his fingers; one, two, three, four, five.

“Will you want some?”

“God – yes.” Matzerath nods.

Cepa holds up five fingers and the cook grins. He takes an egg in each hand and hits them together. The upper shell is flipped off and they pour into the wok. He repeats the gesture and the eggs land on top of the others. The last egg is dispatched on the metal rim of the wok and added to the rest before a hint of cooking has begun. The cook then begins to whisk and slide the eggs along the side of the wok before Matzerath has time to make a comment.

“I’d like to see you do that on The Pegasus,” says Cepa.

“I break eggs all the time.”

“I know.” Cepa laughs. And we eat the shells to prove it.”

The cook now twists and shakes the wok by its two handles over the fire. The eggs slide up and along the sides, and then settle more thickly near the bottom. With a grin and a twist of his hands, the cook turns the wok right over. The eggs start to slide out with a couple of drops hissing into the fire. Matzerath’s mouth falls open as the cook rights the wok so quickly that the eggs drop right back into it, now cooking on the other side. The cook puts the wok back on the fire.

“Bet you can’t do that,” says Cepa.

“Just once.” Matzerath laughs. “But the whole ship was heaving at the time.”

The cook begins to nudge the eggs together with a spatula. With his other hand he sprinkles a few drops of brown liquid. Then he adds some coarsely chopped shoots of a green onion.

“Hah!” Matzerath slaps Cepa on the shoulder.

After a quick swirl of these ingredients the cook plops in a bowl of small oysters. He takes his time with these, spacing them with deliberation over the quickly cooking eggs. Then – with a flourish – he scoops up a handful of flower blossoms and sprinkles them over the whole bubbling mixture.

“What are those?” Matzerath peers into the wok.

“Chrysanthemums.”

“We’re eating flowers?’

“When in Rome …”

The cook adds a further dash of the brown liquid and then folds the eggs neatly in half. He flips the whole omelette to the center of the wok and sprinkles a palm full of spring onion – this time finely chopped – over of the still-bubbling omelette. He presses the onion in place with his spatula then removes the wok from the fire.

“Timing is everything.”

The voice startles them both. They turn to see Lu-Hsing standing behind them, holding a large platter. He barks instructions to the cook, speaking too quickly for the two men to understand.

“Stick to ribs – make you happy.”

The cook divides the omelette in half and slides it onto the platter. He then takes the wicker top off a steamer and starts to add heaping ladles of red rice along the sides of the platter.

“What’s that?” Matzerath sounds suspicious.

Hong qu mi.”

“You can see its rice,” hisses Cepa.

“But it’s red.”

“Fermented with yeast.” Lu-Hsing scoops some into his palm and eats it. “Looks good. Tastes great.”

“Aren’t you having a meal?”

“Lu-Hsing eats later – with family.” He moves his hand over the top of the platter and inhales the aroma. “We eat at home – wife is a great cook.”

“I thought you’d be joining us.” Matzerath is clearly disappointed.

“Too crowded. Too smoky.” Lu-Hsing laughs. “Just the place for Round-eyes who want to make contacts. I already know people.”

Lu-Hsing abruptly steps behind the counter and stands beside the cook. He takes a look into the bubbling pots and lifts the tops off of steamers. He finally points with a barrage of Chinese. The cook gets two porcelain bowls and ladles a heaping amount of food into each.

“Got your spoon?” asks Cepa.

Matzerath takes a spoon from his pant’s pocket and holds it up.

“You?”

“Yes.” Cepa has his spoon on a chain around his neck. He takes it out from underneath his shirt and lets it dangle against his chest.

“You boys prepared – good.” Lu-Hsing takes the platter with the omelette and rice. He then points with his chin. “Take your bowls and follow me.”

Matzerath anxiously sees the platter of steaming food being taken away. He nudges Cepa and they again get into step behind Lu-Hsing, who again clears a path through the crowded eating hall. They approach a raised platform under a row of windows, much like the noble’s section in the Cannara’s own tavern. It is still a crowded space, with ten tables set not far apart from each other. Half are vacant, so Cepa can’t tell if Lu-Hsing heads for his ‘own’ table, or has the use of any that is available. He places the platter crosswise near one end of the table.

“You need drink.” Lu-Hsing unrolls a half dozen chopsticks from a cotton napkin, so they lay beside the platter. “Tea or rice wine?”

“Dear God – wine!” Matzerath plunks his bowl on the table. “It’s been a day.”

“Bring both, please.” Cepa sits across the table from Matzerath. “For both of us.”

“Tea is for thirst.” Matzerath takes his spoon from his pocket. “I want drink for more than that.”

“We can’t have you getting drunk.” Cepa lifts his own spoon from around his neck. “Even the crew has orders not to get drunk.”

You are sticking to tea?” Matzerath begins to wield his chopsticks over the rice.

“No.” Cepa laughs. “Although I am also thirsty, I have no objection to feeling ‘mellow’ as I eat.”

“And it will help you sleep.” Lu-Hsing slaps Cepa on the back. “Like mother’s milk.”

“I wish my mother had had tits of wine.” Matzerath wipes some rice from his chin and sucks his fingers. “I would have been a better child.”

Slip Sliding Away – Not The Dock On The Bay

Since it had nothing to do with my childhood, upbringing, or my university days, I have no idea why I am now so enamoured by harbours, ports and the ocean. I’ve lived within a half day of them all my life, yet never yearned – let alone took advantage – to visit.


At the end of my second year of university I flew over the ocean to work on a farm in Germany – a student exchange.  I was near the port of Hamburg, where I both visited and took boat tours. I worked on a farm that was nearly on the banks of the Elbe river, which flowed into the North Sea. Canals on the farmland rose and fell with the tide.


I crossed the English Channel twice (one way in a storm so bad it made the crew sick – as it did to me).


So, perhaps with this sea and port exposure, I became enthralled with harbours and the ocean. I crave fishing villages with their small ports, and have visited many. I currently live in one of the largest harbours in the world.


Over the decades I have visited and lived in Halifax, I have walked the waterfront hundreds of times. I never tire of it.  I have written four novels where harbour and ocean play a significant part – more than just as a setting.


Decades ago, when I was just visiting Halifax, there was an anomaly on the harbour. At the very edge of where the tugboats were berthed, there was narrow slip. It looked as if it was not made on purpose, but was an erratic triangle of water  between a dock and a (at the time) jutting shoreline of rocks. Someone kept their small and narrow sailboat there. There was no signage, and I never knew if it was done legally. I never saw the boat come or go, but I often found the slip empty. This situation lasted for years, and although the sailboat was long gone, the slip itself only disappeared this year through massive changes to the shoreline.


However


At the other end of the harbour shore, where additional major changes are being made (a huge hotel, condos. restaurant, shops), between an established peer and the new construction, there is an anomaly. A narrow triangle of a slip, suitable for one solitary boat – if it is ever used.


Such a slip has now appeared in my current novel.

Alison Alexandra And Amanda Ponder A Seaman’s Help For A Storm At Sea

“It is a dark and stormy night.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Isn’t it?”

“No.”

“But it could be.”

“Could it – if it isn’t?”

“Oh – I think so.”

“Well … maybe – possibly.”

“Oh – think of the possibilities.”

“On such a night?”

“Yes.”

“In such darkness?”

“Yes.”

“With a storm raging.”

“Oh – such a storm.”

“Putting us at the whims of the ocean toss.”

“Tossing our good barque – yes.”

“Will Ellerton save us?”

“Ellerton has his other duties to the safekeeping of the ship.”

“He won’t come knocking with his manly hand upon the door?’

“No.”

“Not to direct us to our lifeboat station?”

“If he comes knock knock knocking with his manly hand upon my door, he won’t find me there.”

“He will get no response to his manly knock?”

“No.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I will be in here with you.”

“On a dark and stormy night?”

“Yes.”

“Then he will come to knock knock knock on my door.”

“Yes. With his manly hand.”

“And will I answer?”

“Will you wish him to join us beneath the covers?”

“Oh – I think so. Do you?”

“Yes – I think so.”

“Then I will answer his manly hand and ask him to come in and he will say that the door is locked and I will say then use your master key and he will ask if I am sure and I will say …”

“What?”

“I will whisper to you for your assent that he is supposed to join us.”

“I will so consent.”

“Then I will most firmly and directly answer that he can come in and he will enter and we will hear the door open and  he will comment about how dark the room is and I will tell him to follow my voice and we will hear him close the door and …”

“What?”

“Won’t you be nervous?”

“I’ll be expectant, which is a positive nervous.”

“Then I will guide him with my voice.”

“What will you say?”

“I’ll ask you for your advice.”

“And what will he think when he hears both of our voices together?”

“He will think he is in heaven.”

“And he will be.”

“Yes.”

“Then I will advise you to tell him that, since there is a storm -“

“On a dark night.”

“Yes – that is, of course, the basis of it – to tell him that he better have his sea legs steady to cross the room so he can firmly handle two damsels in distress.”

“He must be firm?”

“Oh – yes – I think so. As firm as firm can be. Don’t you think that should be his preexisting state?”

“When he reaches the bed?”

“Yes.”

“Then – yes – Yes, I think so also.”

“And we will give him an appropriate welcome and make room for him on the perhaps-not-quite-wide-enough bed and he will say ‘no-no, I think I should be in the middle if I am to tend to you both, and ease your minds about the storm in the night’, and you will say – “

“ – what?”

“Then you will move closer to the edge of the bed and you will say ‘climb over me, Ellerton, for there is now space for you’, and when he carefully climbs across you …”

“ – what?”

“Then you will find out if he is indeed firm as firm can be to handle both of our needs.”

“And if he is?”

“Then you and me will go paper/scissors/rock in the dark to see whose needs are tended to first.”

[Image] https://i.ytimg.com/vi/EGpZwUV7IXs/maxresdefault.jpg

Ghosts At Sea Make Sailors Sing A Song

sea-shanty

And the wind is whistling past the  graveyard and past the land and past the sea and past the ships upon the sea and past the sailors upon the decks and in the companionways, tethered by their ropes and harnesses and heaving their axes and mauls against the shattering ice coating their still upright ships and even here even in this peculiar time the sailors revert to their age-old method of coping with their labours at sea and the perils of the sea and they break out into thunderous shanties – yes, even thunderous enough to best and beat the thunderous wind and crashing waves – that tell of wind and waves and women and graveyards and ghosts and the whistling that is supposed to keep the ghosts at bay, and, keep the bodies beneath the ground.

“Heave ‘er to, boys/

“Heave ‘er to and smash her down/

“Get the rhythm, boys/

“Get the rhythm so we won’t drown//

“It’s girls or ghosts, boys//

“Girls or ghosts that we next meet/

“Smash that ice boys/

“If you want our meeting sweet.”

“They’re singing about you,” says Alison Alexandra.

“And you, too,” says R/Jane-the-Ghost. “And I don’t mind if you’re the one to win.”

“It’s the wind, boys/

“Screaming like Banshees from Hell//

“Give ‘er Hell, boys/

“Or that’s where we will dwell.”

(Image) https://www.stives-cornwall.co.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/Sea-shanty.jpg

A Hurricane, The Elephant, And God

The elephant was lost to the wind.

He stood foursquare against the tumult, head lowered as if ready to charge. It wrapped his body in its flags and banners, and then as quickly ripped them away. He had to close his eyes in some of the gusts, and occasionally his tail stuck straight out behind.     Many of the other animals found shelter, and even the monkeys came down to the lower branches of their trees. But the elephant flapped his ears in ecstasy as the wind battered against him, and trumpeted as loudly as the rowdydow would permit.

“I hear you,” said a frolicking cloud, as it whipped past his head. It turned a summersault back over the elephant’s back, and positioned itself with much dexterity in the elephant’s line of vision. “And I hazard the guess I’m the only one who can.”

“It’s like flying.”

“Now, now. You’ve tried that before.”

“But I’m staying on the ground, this time.”

“Well,” conceded God. “You’re standing on the ground. And it’s probable you will be staying on the ground. But, as you know, nothing in life is certain.”

“It certainly isn’t,” agreed the elephant, who then attempted to nod his head in agreement. But the wind took a particular bend, and not only could he not nod his head, but his trunk got thrown back into his face, hitting him in the eye.

“Ouch,” said the elephant.

“A cautionary God,” said God, “would go `tsk tsk’, and tell you to come in out of the wind.”

“And is that what you’re going to tell me,” shouted the elephant over the roar.

“God, no,” said God. “This is great stuff.”

“You’re a reckless God, then?” asked the elephant.

“Reckless. And cautious. There is a time for both. There is a need for both. Life demands that you run with it. And sometimes you run scared, and sometimes you run joyful.” The cloud was now tangled in the elephant’s tusks. ” And sometimes you get so caught up in it all that you can’t tell the difference.” The cloud shouted. “And sometimes you get hit in the eye. And sometimes you don’t.”

“And sometimes both,” suggested the elephant.

“You’re catching on.”

“But to you,” protested the elephant. “It is all so simple.”

“But …” The cloud sounded perplexed. “It is as simple as it sounds. Everything is everything. What you seem to do is pay too much attention to the individual parts. Concentrate on the whole.”

“I can hardly think of everything when I’m in the middle of this.”

“This is the perfect place.” The cloud played tag with the elephant’s ears. “Race with it. Race with it. Race with it. You

will never dance a better dance than here. With me.”

And the elephant watched the cloud tumble around his head, and bounce against his back, and twist around his tail.

And the elephant laughed, and laughed so loud that it broke through even the racing wind, and made the other animals peek from their shelters to watch.

And the elephant bobbed and weaved with the cloud, and the cloud held the elephant in a wispy embrace, and the wind turned to music.

The Cruise Ship And The Bride’s House

I once lived in a mansion that even had its own ornate wooden sign; “The Bride’s House”. The house was built in the time of Queen Victoria and had an unique history (sometimes disputed)..
In those day,s the riverfront land was the location of a shipbuilding industry.. The daughter of the shipbuilder was getting married. As a wedding present, the father built The Bride’s House. In those days, new ships were built within tall wooden fencing, so competitors could not see the type of ship being constructed. Thus, it was assumed that a ship was being built. A wonderful surprise was revealed to the bride and groom when the fencing was removed after the wedding.
Sounds good to me.
Regardless, it is a very fancy mansion/house, and proved so to be by the international tourist industry. To my surprise.
One summer, I started to notice small buses stopping at the mouth of the driveway, just a few steps from the ornate wooden sign. They would stop for about five minutes, and then be on their way. Odd behaviour, and irregular. They generally came at the same time, early afternoon. And, there were odd lights coming from the interior of the buses.
Over the course of a couple of weeks, I realized the buses.were part of the tours that passengers on cruise ships were offered, when their ship came into port for a day. There was a seaport a half hour away.
Looking at a web site or two, I saw various sightseeing trips were offered, generally for no more than an hour distant from the port itself.If passengers didn’t want to tramp around the city,they could see some of the local sites. The Bride’s House fell into one of those tours..
This explained the odd irregularity of the buses, yet their consistent times of visit. The odd lights from inside the buses were folk taking photos. However The Bride’s House was not interesting/important enough to let them off the bus.
I confess, I sometimes made a point to be outside in the garden when the tour buses made their stop. I was diligently nonchalant in my activities, though I did wave a couple of times.. I could see no response through the tinted windows. But, I did wonder then – and I do wonder now – how far-flung some photographs of myself might have traveled. And did my cheery appearance  garner any comments.
(image) https:www.busesforsale.com/assets/images/catthumbs/activity-buses-for-sale.jpg

To The Lighthouse – A Tale Of A Keeper

 

I have been thinking of lighthouses, as I am very fond of them. I came across new information about some local ones, and even found a web site (courtesy of some lighthouse articles) which is excellent for all of North America. https://www.lighthousefriends.com/index.html

So, I will share a lighthouse story which is part of one of my novels. It is a fictitious lighthouse, but the story has roots (as so many tales do) in reality.

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’.” 

     Blaine started to laugh as hard as the other man, who was now wiping his eyes with the cap he had in his hands. 

     “His place was a wreck. He had no heat, no power, there was three feet of water in his bedroom, and they even found a crack at the base of the tower. That crazy old guy had hand-cranked the generator on and off for ten hours to keep some light going. Jeez, Blaine, they don’t make them like that anymore.”

(Image) https://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large-5/lighthouse-in-the-storm-simple-beauty.jpg

The Ghosts In The Fog

robbie-george-sea-smoke-rises-up-around-maine-s-portland-head-light-on-a-cold-winter-s-day
I can see my hand
In the fog,
And
The building,
Across the street.
 
That is about all.
 
So, I know
The ghosts,
Are not
As close
As they sound.
 
The Ghosts sound like Fog Horns
 
And that’s what folk
Up
And down
The coast
Say
That they are.
 
Fog Horns.
 
But – they aren’t.
 
They are ghosts that moan,
And wail,
And cough,
And even
Sputter,
On the wind,
In the fog,
Where they can hide
Out in the open.
 
It is true that they do moan
For ships.
That they do give warnings
In the fog,
Where they can not
Be seen,
Because they look
Like fog.
 
They give warnings
Because
They have all come
From ships,
Where once they lived.
 
But now they don’t.
 
They went down with ships
At sea
And
Along the coast
To their
Cold and wet
Death.
 
Days ago
Years ago
Centuries ago.
 
To be buried at sea
Is not
To be buried
At all.
~ D.E. BA U.E.
(image) imgc.allpostersimages.com/images/P-473-488-90/89/8955/8SOR300Z/posters/robbie-george-sea-smoke-rises-up-around-maine-s-portland-head-light-on-a-cold-winter-s-day.jpg

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