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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.

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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.

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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

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Cruise Control

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(Oceania Marina)

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

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

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

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

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

Alison Alexandra could dip into various menus to have :

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

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

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

Pancetta Wrapped Filet of Veal with Bay Lobster Tail Oscar Style

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

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

And, from he Dom Pérignon Experience:

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

w/ Dom Pérignon 2006

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

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

 

 

You’re In The Army Now

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Bus rides do give one time to observe people – particularly a bus trip longer than one might want to take.

So, I had time on my hands to observe the fellow across the aisle. I’ll take a guess at early thirties, well-dressed, though well-dressed for travel on a bus. He had a fashionable pea coat, tailored jeans, and rugged dressy boots or dressy rugged boots. He was of slender but muscular build, with short hair and a chiseled face.  The man exuded military.

He had a neatly appointed carry bag for his food stuffs. It seemed each compartment had its own designation. There was one for sandwiches, one for granola bars, one for fruit. There was even a compartment for a slender, space age-looking thermos. I am not certain what it might have held.

When he used his iPhone, though I was too far away to actually read anything, I noted  the cycle of images he went through.  There was a deep red shield with a crest and wings; a large silver image of vertical slashing lightning bolts; and a photo of an almost-smiling attractive brunette. Whatever messages he sent seemed to consist of only a couple of lines of text, all done with his thumb.

About half way through the trip he took a book from another case. It was large enough to read the title across the aisle. It was “Merry Hell: The Story of the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Regiment), Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919” .

No, I wasn’t able to read all that from across the aisle, but a book search of key words led me to it a few minutes ago. And a fitting tale, think I, for a military chap.

When the bus reached its destination, he kindly indicated that I could precede him to disembark. For which I thanked him. And, as I waited to get my luggage, I saw him embraced – fulsomely – by the attractive brunette on his iPhone. A smiling brunette. An embrace he, as-fulsomely, returned.

 

 

The Baby Jesus Worked Overtime

Grand-River-Valley
I am not, and have not been for decades, a great fan of Christmas. It is more of a chore than a snore. But I don’t blame Jesus.
However, as I wended my way westward for the season, I was given a Christmas gift I would never have expressed that I wanted. It was a rustic blend of the old times and the old ways, which I’m led to believe is – in great part – what Christmas is all about.
For part of the trip, the bus took the *old* route. I imagine I had not been along that stretch of rural road for a quarter of a century. I later queried the driver about this change in the usual way. I was told that, at this holiday time of year and night, traffic on the major highway in and out of the city was massive. The roads avoiding the main highway were a time-saver.
It was a back, country road, after dark, single lane in both directions. Many of the country, rural, and village houses were alight  with Christmas decorations. Poor and rich alike. External and internal Christmas trees, with multi-coloured lights, or of a solid hue. Flashing, twinkling, changing colour, or one solid block of light.
The outside lights were festooned on everything. In addition to trees, they outlined windows, eves and chimneys. They were strung on shrubs, bushes and hedges. They adorned mailboxes, carts, rows of chopped wood, outbuildings and barns. There were a couple of waggons and one vintage automobile with their own outline of Christmas lights.
In addition to the festive additions, just being on the back roads was a memory adventure. There was no (admittedly efficient, but boring) straight highway with, across a grass verge, two streams of vehicles going in the other direction. No uniform band of trees across the uniform ditch to the side. No seemingly endless Endless.
No, this road had dips, and hills, and curves. You could see if a car was approaching by noting their lights shining on the telephone wires (I had forgotten that). There were wrought-iron bridges going over streams and small rivers, that rattled and rumbled as the heavy bus crossed them. There were pastures without their cows, vistas to darkened hills beyond, and actual forest where wild animals prepared for their sleep.
It took me back to my distant youth, it did. I do so enjoy driving at night (as long as I’m not the driver).
See – it’s already a Merry Christmas.

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.”

 

An Ex-Con And A Biker Meet On A Bus

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There are all sorts and conditions of people who take the bus (myself included). A few years ago I made particular note of the two talkative folk who sat in front of me, one on either side of the aisle.

Directly in front was a handsome young man in his twenties. He had, that morning, just been released from penitentiary. He was on his way home. Across the aisle from him was a grizzled and bearded man in his mid-life who had never taken a bus ride before.

 They talked. I listened.

The convicted felon (a cheerful and polite fellow) had, with a partner, robbed a grocery store. Stole the safe. Got a lot of money (thousands in the double digits).

They got away with it.

However, some days later, his partner got a case of the ‘guilts’ and turned himself in.

And told what had happened.

His buddy, unplanned and unwanted, soon followed. Fourteen months.

The bearded fellow – never on the bus – had a host of motorcycles and vans, and travelled in them.  He took a header when he hit an empty pop bottle. He was a hippy from way back, and more or less continues to this day. Even the bus driver recognized the van he described, famous for its art work.

The former inmate revealed:

how to make ‘moonshine’ from unimaginable ingredients;

how to make money from ‘nicotene patches’ (by cutting them into strips and selling the contents);

how cigarettes behind bars cost $15 each.

Oh – yes – he also  lost his girlfriend because of his actions. “A BIG mistake,” he said.

I gotta admit, all this plus the beautiful scenery wiled away the time.

DE

(image)http://m-2tvextreme.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/cropped-NScotian-Nov-2014-DSCF8122.jpg

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