I wrote this piece quite a few years ago as a response to an exercise given at my writing workshop. I had to choose two unseen sentences from a pile. The one in the left hand was the opening sentence and the one in my right hand was the conclusion. It was at Easter time and this was the result.
A quirky take on a famous event!
Two men, who were in the pub at the time, tried to lift him up but he was quite helpless. I sat and watched him. He was obviously in deep despair. Mutterings and mumblings spewed intermittently from his mouth. Great gulps of anguish hovered around him. I was repulsed yet fascinated by his distress. He proceeded to drink himself into oblivion. He did not succeed.
Eventually, recognition dawned on him and realisation passed over his features straightening out his creased face. Resolutely, he rose and walked stumblingly erect from the room. I followed him unobserved. He seemed to know where he was going. He made his way through the crowded streets where the macabre celebrations were still continuing. He weaved his way expertly to the council chamber. He lifted his fist and pounded on the door, shouting for them to let him in. Lights appeared. I heard the sound of bolts being drawn back and the door opened.
The two leaders; all- powerful, dressed in black with evil satisfied smiles stood there facing him down. He argued with them gesticulating wildly. I could not hear the conversation but it was a heated exchange of words.
Finally, I saw him take out a bag and throw it to the ground. In the darkness pure silver twinkled. He turned and ran away as if devils were chasing him and at that moment I knew that this was in fact the case. I ran too. I was determined to find him and offer help if need be. For now, I knew who he was!
I could hear his footsteps so I followed; this time trying to keep in touch. But as I left the busy, noisy streets and turned into a peaceful garden area of the town, I knew that I was too late!
In the misty distance, I could see his body outlined in the pale glow of the moonlight. He had taken his belt and hanged himself in contrition for his terrible deed.
I bent my head praying, hoping that he would finally be forgiven for his wrong doings. I commended his soul to heaven, remembering that Jesus told us to trust in the Lord our God.
We sat on a bench in Circular Quay, Sydney and my lovely husband was busy sketching, so I sat and relaxed beside him.
After a short while, I took out my pen and notepad and began to write. Here is the result.
The rumble of the trains
The crunch of the gravel
The whisper of the breeze
The laughter of the people
The murmuring of the discussions
The rattle of the cars
The rustle of the trees
The squawk of the seagulls
The horns of the boats
The music of the buskers
The slap of the flip flops
The roar of the motorbikes
The beep of the phones
The chatter of the children
The steady beat of my heart.
I enjoyed listening to the city’s song.
Disappointment reigned supreme for hundreds of people who lined Circular Quay for the Chinese New Year firework display. Both sides of the quay were filled with excited crowds who waited patiently for the advertised event to take place. The large inflatable animal sculptures were ablaze with colour, the bridge was festooned with lights and the buzz of anticipation was electric as tourists from distant lands mingled with locals ready to ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ in entente cordial unison.
Unfortunately, the 8.15 pm start did not happen and as the minutes dragged by the ebullient crowd seemed shaken and uneasy and so the atmosphere seemed to lose life. Speculation ran rife throughout the quayside with rumours flying thick and fast. We, along with hundreds of others waited for over an hour to no avail.
By 9.30pm, the crowds began to disperse with disgruntled rumbles echoing around as tired leg aching people made their way home. Apparently, according to some locals, who had WIFI connections, said that the fireworks will be scheduled again for the next night but I won't hold my breath.
The only winners here were the bars and restaurants that soaked up the migrating crowds, who like us, drowned our disappointment in alcohol.
Not a very auspicious start to the Chinese New Year. What was also annoying was the fact that no official notice was given as the waiting time grew longer and longer. For a huge city like Sydney, surely there should have been some announcement that the advertised firework display had been cancelled or at the very least postponed. There were no stewards around to ask about what was happening.
Ferries and water taxis still did their trade and my lovely husband pointed out the fact that The Harbour Bridge was still open to traffic gave an indication that nothing was going to happen.
A badly organised event, which did not show, in my opinion, Sydney in a good light!
Friday 16th February; it was the start of the Chinese New Year today and around Circular Quay, where Sydney Harbour bridge stands proudly across from the iconic Sydney Opera House landmark, the area is preparing for the celebrations, which are advertised for later in the evening.
Large inflatable sculptures of animals depicting the Chinese zodiac are emerging. These are bright and colourful and are scattered around the bay area. It is the Year of the Dog and this sculpture has pride of place on the forecourt of the Opera House. To enhance the celebration there is a large guide dog for the blind and many smaller ones, which have been decorated by residents, offices and schools. There is a competition for the favourite dog and a prize to be won.
I particularly like the Year of the Rabbit installation, which represents the year that my lovely husband was born. It is a set of eight inflatable rabbits in bright colours demonstrating Tai Chi.. All the rabbits are positioned in the same posture as if they are practising their moves in a class.
As I sat and watched; the interaction between the sculptures and the public was a joy to behold. They mirrored the stance of the rabbits and posed in front of them, as if too, they were members of the class. The artist explained in the accompanying notes that she wanted this to happen and it worked very well. Even my lovely husband, who is a third Dan martial artist, took part and mimicked the rabbits’ pose.
My Chinese animal is the horse and I was eager to see what this sculpture would look like. I was not disappointed. It was based on the terracotta warriors who were found in Xian in China. Hundreds of clay soldier statues were uncovered by archaeologists and many of them rode chariots pulled by horses. The four magnificent horses are depicted with their hooves raised in the air, as if they are straining to gallop. It was lovely.
Other animals were a giant tiger sitting on a rooftop, a serpent suspended underneath a railway bridge, and two cockerels picking at imaginary food. The year of the monkey was represented by three monkeys showing the famous see no evil hear no evil speak no evil. There was a rather fat ram or sheep and a set of mice, which represented the year of the rat.
Outside the Contemporary Art gallery sat a huge dragon, which was in keeping with the contemporary feel. Its tongue was sticking out and a child holding, what looked like an apple, was sitting on the end of it! A modern look at an ancient mythical creature.
It was also interesting to see that two exhibits were a little different. An ox, which like the pig sculpture, was not made from a balloon material but looked like marble tiles that would be found on a game of Ma-Jong.
All in all, the area was exciting, and I enjoyed strolling around the quayside and stopping at each sculpture and reading the thoughts of the artists as they explained their ideas for each sculpture.
I also looked forward to the evening show, where apparently the inflatables would be lit up and a firework display was also to be held to greet the New Year.
We arrive in Sydney early morning and we grab a taxi to take us to our hotel. As expected our room isn’t ready so a quick- clothes change in the washroom, we leave our cases and set off to explore.
We noticed straight away that Sydney is undergoing extensive renovations since we were here three years ago. A new tram line is being built in the town centre. The centre is busy with builders and disruption. Alongside it, new buildings are going up and the city seems to be expanding.
We wander down to the tourist area around Circular Quay, where the famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House are situated. Running alongside the Quay, in an area called the Rocks, there has been much development, which is now full of new galleries, shops, restaurants and bars. We saunter around here stopping for a quick snack and then we follow a new promenade, which has been built since we were last here. This borders a new reserve area called Bangeroo, which joins the Quay to Darling Harbour; a good half-hour walk away. There is a Stargazers lawn and greenery surrounded by huge colourful rocks. It is still to be completed but when it is the esplanade walk will be stunning.
As we reach Darling Harbour, we search for the hotel, in which we stayed last time, but it has been taken over by another company. The local bar next door is no longer here, and we are disappointed as we wanted to have an Australian pie, from here for our lunch but it was not to be. We decide to cross the bridge to the shopping mall food courts, where we hope to find honey chicken and rice!
Again, we were unlucky as the Chinese vendors no longer sell our favourite choice and so as the rest of the menus are too spicy, we opt for Subway! We notice some of the same shops selling the same t-shirts and then venture outside to explore how the area has changed.
Darling Harbour has lots of new hotels and apartment blocks have been erected and the waterfront has been developed. It is the place to be- especially for the upward mobile city dwellers. These people seem to have money and enjoy their relaxation and play. Cockle Bay Wharf hasn’t really changed that much; the introduction of a large Ferris Wheel for the tourists but the area beyond that, which leads to Chinatown is being renovated with the buildings already started.
By now we are struggling in the heat and jet lag is kicking- in, so we make our way back to the hotel. My lovely husband takes photographs of things that he finds interesting and could possibly sketch although not today.
Our hotel, Mantra 2 Bond Street is conveniently situated with a 5-minute walk to Circular Quay and maybe 10 minutes to Darling Harbour. It is on the corner of George Street, which is one on the central streets in the city. Shops and restaurants are with in easy reach and all in all we are happy.
The room is basically a studio apartment with a large lounge area and open plan kitchen with everything we need. It has a fridge, freezer, dishwasher and microwave. A large breakfast bar and two TVs; one is situated in the bedroom section, which is partitioned from the living space.
There is a restaurant and bar in the lobby and a small swimming pool and Jacuzzi on the roof and the staff are friendly. The house-keeping staff have looked after us well. We settle down, unpack and rest.
However, for those of you who know me well, will not be surprised by next comments.
The most amazing thing of all; is that our hotel room has its own washing machine and dryer!! Heaven!
I like the idea of flying. I mean you must wonder at the science that led to such a huge and heavy object being lifted into the air; stay there and move across it at such speeds. The miracle that can take you across to the other side of the world in a day.
Our journey is in two parts. Seven and half hours, stop for refuelling and then thirteen hours to our destination., which is Sydney.
Fortunately, we were able to book our seats (and get the over- head locker space as well!) so we were lucky.
I was pleasantly pleased with the amount of leg room and if there had been a couple of inches more width then everything would have been perfect. It’s amazing how long your arms grow on an airplane. I seem to have developed gigantic elbows, which have minds of their own. I often lose control over them and bump, nudge and even barge everything on either side of me. Apologies were muttered frequently to the lady on my right!
Once we are settled we take out our brand-new headphones-ones with padded cushion ear muffs. Mine are bright blue and the film feast begins. Even before we take off, my lovely husband and I are watching our first choice. Again, it amazes me that we never choose the same one. We do swap though throughout the flight after we have given each other reviews on the films that we have watched.
Now padded ear muffs are supposed to be more comfortable than the ear bud ones. This type didn’t stay in my ears. I’m sure that I have specially formed ears that don’t conform to the standard earbud design. However, after seven and half hours with a few short breaks my poor ears are so sore. They turn red and I’m sure that they glow and what’s more they hurt to the touch. Now, I still have a couple of movies that I want to watch so I turn on subtitles and read the film instead!
I mentioned short breaks and one of these is the arrival of the inflight meal. My lovely husband and I are plain eaters-a lot of people would say that we are boring but hey each to their own!
Because of this we struggle with airplane food as many of them have cheese somehow incorporated in them or they are loaded up with spices.
What is it with people who enjoy burning their taste buds to a cinder! Even pepper is too strong for us!
We mentioned this to our travel advisor when we booked the flight. We were offered two options that should fit our criteria; a bland meal and a diabetic meal. We order one of each. Now, this means that you get served first and I must admit we could eat both. So, well done to the airline where the stewardesses dress like mediaeval princesses with their flowing scarves.
Now comes my bug-bear! What is it with reclining seats? I know that some people find them more comfortable but when the person in front of you reclines theirs back fully; it is not nice! Not nice at all. For this flight and I know it was over the night time and people wanted to sleep but to recline straight away is to my mind just bad manners.
It has a domino effect. I then need to recline my seat a little, to function in the already confined state. Which means in turn that the person behind most probably will be uncomfortable to find the back of my seat thrust into his space and so and so down the seating rows. I don’t like them at all and think people should learn to doze sitting up. I bet they do when they are home watching TV. A nod of the head; a snore and a grunt should suffice everyone.
However, onto the better things. We had a good flight, however, along the way we lost Wednesday! We left on Pancake Tuesday so missed out on having pancakes and suddenly when we arrived it was Thursday!
And as everyone knows Wednesday was Valentine’s Day. So, my poor, lovely husband must have been devastated, as the lovely bunch of flowers and box of chocolates that he most probably would have bought me got lost as well! (Ha! Ha!)
Oh well, there’s always next year!
This is a killer of a place! A place where all sense and sensibility are left behind. Where you are enticed to buy things that you would never buy in a month of Sundays.
Who has the money to spend £60 on a bottle of perfume before they set off on an expensive holiday? Who needs to buy at least three bottles of spirits? Most holidays now are all inclusive!
And don’t get me started on the technology booths. They all claim to be duty free but if you can afford to spend the amount of money that these objects are priced at, then really you have no need to worry about the tax that you are saving. Any normal person would have already bought whatever they needed before coming on the holiday.
Here I must digress again. I really don’t understand duty free and the appeal of it! Most of the items on sale are more expensive here than they are in any local supermarket. But again, who am I to judge what people want to spend their money on. So, let’s move on.
Once you have run the shopping gauntlet that is the Duty Free shopping complex (it reminds me of the Father Ted episode, where he and his fellow priests are trapped in the lingerie section in a department store and they can’t find their way out!) you can make your way to the lounge area.
Is it just me or can you remember that once upon a time, you had a choice whether you went into the duty-free shop in the airport, but not now- Oh no! It is the walkway through to the notice boards for flights and gate numbers.
However, you may, like me, navigate around this and ignore this fancy plastic card trap and move on to the concourse, where you can buy something to eat and drink.
You may think that you are safe from predatory money takers but believe you me your problems are not over
Now, my flight is at 8.30pm and so I can understand that the restaurants are selling evening meals and alcohol. (However, I have been on a 6am flight and the bars are open and still selling alcohol!) Oh well! Fortunately, we have budgeted this year for a meal and aren’t we glad that we did!
Honestly, I feel that we should have taken out a second mortgage in order to eat here. Why are they so expensive?
I always thought, like motorway cafes, it was because they were so far out that it was more difficult to get staff or the goods themselves, but I was much younger then and more naïve than I am now (but not much). It is simply a monopoly; simply supply and demand! If you want it you must pay for it, because you can’t get it anywhere else. They’ve got you by the short and curlies.
After an expensive, yet, mediocre meal and drink, our gate is called. Oops! Sorry, our gate number appears on the board and we make our way there.
Is it just me or have airport concourses gotten bigger and longer. I feel as if I should have trained for a marathon to reach my gate. But gasping for breath, we decide that next year to join those who take small cases on board with them; rather than lugging our backpacks with us. I don’t think that my shoulders could cope with this again; I mean my hunched back is growing by the minute!
We sit down making sure that we guard our bags, as well as our seats, as the gate area is filling up. We wait with hundreds of others for our seats to be called.
What a queue! I always wonder why people rush to queue; I mean you have a seat, and you will get on the plane! But, like lemmings, we join the queue and it is only when we reach our seats do I realise why people rush to get on the plane. It’s because you haven’t been guaranteed your baggage space in the over head lockers and who wants to sit with their large (small) suitcase between their knees for eight hours!
Any way, we are lucky; we have our over-head space and we settle down and wait for takeoff.
Now that you are sitting in the taxi, you realise that your holiday is about to begin. You are looking forward to the experience, after all, you have paid a fortune for it. What with the extra costs in the preparation; you can now breathe. Only spending money to go through.
But I want you to wait for a minute because what you don’t realise is that you are soon to be a lot poorer than you anticipated. You see, you must survive the ...airport!
You know the place; The plastic card ‘money-no-object’ city!
Don’t get me wrong, the check in procedure is much better and quicker than it used to be with online check in. You are still asked the question; ‘Has anyone but yourself packed your bag?’ I honestly wonder what they would do if you answered facetiously; “Oh yeah. I let a stranger have a rummage around in it for a short while.”
However, jokes aside, once your cases are allowed through the weighing scales- (blessed relief). You are free to move on to departures.
But may I digress here; is it just me or does everyone else on your flight take advantage of the cases and on-board bags. I mean I worry about the size and weight of mine and then when I see what other people are taking my mind boggles. Are they packing for a family of refugees as well as themselves? And I’m 10kg under!! 10kg! I don’t know how I could fit another 10kg into my bulging cases and then when I look around, mine are quite small compared to the gargantuan monstrosities that are being loaded!
Sorry, I must get off my soap box and move on. Yes - security!
First, comes the security corridor, where everyone starts to fuss about whether they have to take their shoes off or what do you do with your lap tops and kindles and do mobile phones count ? There are plenty of signs up telling you what to do but the whispers in the queue get more and more frenzied as you move along the ‘Disney’ invention- the zig-zag queueing system.
Just when you think that you are at the front, someone appears and moves the elasticated barrier and you are sent down another long pathway before you reach the security cameras and conveyor belt.
I love watching the people who have their plastic bags out for inspection. Are they greedy and bring two or are they like the ‘all you can eat buffet eaters’ who try to fill as much on their plates(bags) as they can. As for me I’m a greedy person; I always take two just in case something goes wrong with the first one!
So, you finally sort this out and then there is the dreaded gate test to see who’s radio -active or not. Who has some metal secreted about their person? (One holiday that I went on every woman beeped the machine because everyone was wearing an underwire bra!)
I often get beeped and searched; or I must be the nth number allocated to be stopped for a pat down with their magic wand. I have been asked, on many occasions, to move over to the new full -bodied cameras where they x-ray all of you. I’m so glad that I put on new underwear as you never know what these machines reveal!
Anyway, I’m relieved to sail on through all these checks, which is a good omen for the rest of the procedures.
Once through all these, my lovely husband (who was stopped and searched! Ha! Ha!) and I reach the next part of the process the departure lounge. But that’s another blog!
I don’t know about you but the anticipation of going on holiday is intoxicating. The thought of leaving behind the stress and strains of everyday life; getting away from the news and politics and Brexit and who did what to whom is enticing. The thought of sunshine and warmth instead of the greyness that is the UK in February and March.
So yeah! We’re going on holiday to Sydney Australia; before joining a cruise, which will take us up the East coast and round to Darwin; the capital of the Northern Territories and stopping off at four different destinations along the way. Then travelling over to visit three Indonesian islands of Komodo, Bali and Semerang before disembarking at Singapore for a few days. The thought of this was yes very exciting and one that my lovely husband and I had looked forward to for a long time.
But then as the holiday draws nearer the business of getting ready for it begins. Finding the cases in the loft and unpacking all last year’s holiday clothes. Looking through them and seeing how some of the t-shirts, which you wore last year are now misshapen and look a little dull or the fact that every time you go on holiday you seem to wear the same clothes on all your photographs, which doesn’t look good!
So, if like me this happens, then it means a trip to the shops for new supplies. However, my lovely husband convinces me that the clothes are fine, and the t-shirts still look good so, as I am a dutiful wife (HA! HA!) I agree.
Disappointment and disbelief also drop in unannounced when you try on the shorts, which fit perfectly last year but now when you need them too, they don’t, or they do if you hold in your tummy. “Hey, if they zipper up - you’ll be fine!” says a voice in my head. Those few extra pounds will disappear; what with all the worry before you set foot on your travels, you’ll have stopped eating. And if like me, you have a lovely husband, who can still fit into all his holiday clothes, you grit your teeth and smile as you move on.
I don’t know about you, but I seem to take Boots the chemist with me on holiday – just in case. I mean, you never know -you might not be able to purchase Paracetamol in Australia and what about Germolene if you get a cut and don’t forget the mosquito stuff and the plasters and the toiletries. So once this has been established you visit the chemist and spend, spend, spend; with little regard to the cost and the weight that you will have to add to your already overloaded suitcase.
But if you are like me, you still haven’t finished, as you must iron everything and then set about packing. Now here I digress a little – but do you have problems with which shoes to take with you? Flats? Heels? How many pairs? Remember, it is going to be hot, so your feet might swell and what if they rub? Should you pack tights or those little hidden sock type thingies, which usually roll up inside the shoe but if you don’t take them!
So, after this discussion with my lovely husband and decisions are made rightly or usually wrongly, you are now ready to pack!! Now if like me you worry over these things then packing becomes a bit of a nightmare. For instance, what if the airline loses your case or it is damaged. If this happens then you are glad that you packed like me.
I colour co-ordinate the content of our cases, making sure that everything is divided up equally between the two of them so that both my lovely husband and I will have clothes, if one case goes missing. I put the beige and blue bottoms and matching tops in one case and the black and whites in another. It does take time I know, and I do become more and more like an angry Rottweiler, but I do like to be prepared!
By this time, I must admit that the thrill of going on holiday is wearing off but undeterred everything is finally in the cases. Then panic sets in! I’m sure that everyone who has ever flown must go through this stage. What about the weight? What was the limit? Have I gone over the top? Out comes the spring balance, which has a hook on one end and the measuring gauge on the other. We struggle as the hook never quite catches and the case totters to one side and expletives are uttered until eventually we are successful, and we get a weight reading. Phew! A sigh of relief as we seem to be under, which is fine, so I can breathe again!
However, I’m not finished yet as we must sort out money and travel cards because we are going to quite a few countries who use different currencies. Not only do we need to buy it, but we then must distribute it equally between us so that if one of our backpacks goes missing we still have enough to get by with; before we can claim some back.
By now I’m exhausted and declare that I am not going on holiday! But after a sleepless night, morning comes and with the arrival of the taxi ,we are finally ready to set off; after leaving detailed instructions to family and friends about looking after the post and the house whilst we are away. We set off to the airport! Yeah!