Author: Alex

Anecdotally #1

Remembering days in the sun. Remembering good days spent with a family I once had …

Saturdays. Saturdays were special in our household when we lived abroad. In a place where the sun always seemed to shine, except, when it didn’t. That time was called: The Monsoon. On those days it poured, and I mean, poured down. Torrential rain that creates rivers in a matter of moments. Rivers of rain that swept away cars and trucks.

But this isn’t the story about the day our four ton truck was swept into the huge drainage ditch, at the end of our road. Including the occupants. No, that story is for another day.

Today I want to talk about balmy days, sunny days, days spent with the family in a country that was both exotic and, for me at least, all so normal. This was were I lived. I didn’t really have much memory of that other place, that cold place where white people lived. A place I didn’t really like, because I had mostly bad memories of this place, these people, and the cruelty of them both.

No, today I want to talk about my mother, and how our love of reading was part of the bond we share, if but for a short time during those balmy days.

I was 8 when we flew out to Singapore, a hot, humid world of extremes, and friendly people and the Saturdays we would spend the whole day out, exploring everything this amazing island nation had to offer. My favourite Saturdays where the days my mother insisted we go to the Book market, and they hundreds of small stalls clogging the streets, so my mum, and yes, me, could buy books, as well as a lot (and I mean, a lot) of comics.

My dad always indulged my mother and we go to do this usually first thing in the morning. This area, and the book market opened at what felt like, first light.

My dad would order us a taxi to take the whole family, me, my parents, 4 brothers, and sometimes, my older sister. Though, more often or not, she went to meet friends when we arrived, and we never saw her again, till later in the evening, if that. But I digress.

The whole family would squeeze into Pops’ taxi—an old Mercedes Benz and yes, we all fit in—and we’d be whisked off, in style, to our destination, stopping along the way at a street vendor to pick up breakfast. Sometimes we’d sit out under palm trees at a table, sometimes we ate in the taxi. It depended on the food my mother wanted.

This, you had to understand, was her day. A day with everyone together.

By 8 am, fed and watered, we’d arrive at the book market and split into groups, me with my mother, usually, hand held tight till she relaxed and started browsing. My dad with the boys, riding rough shot over them, as they bought nearly every comic in sight. We had a limit of 15 comics apiece. Still, that was quite the haul, and our family became infamous at the market.

People would call us by name, calling us to their stalls. I vividly remember they way they said our names, and loved how they called my eldest brother Neil, NI AL. And my brother Ian became I AN. Always two separate words. Always with affection, and, in time, accompanied with bottles of coke or 7-Up (for free) or an ice lolly.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Mum and I always made for certain book stalls and they knew her well, because within less than a year, she got a chair, and they came to her, bringing their latest all fussing for a sale they knew they’d get. And she bought. Bought a lot. For her, this was heaven. Books were so cheap, by European standards. What she would have paid shillings for, she got for a Singapore dollar, or less.

I should point out, that my dad hired Pops, our taxi driver, for the entire day. I never knew what he paid him, but obviously it was enough to make him happy to trail us around and, after a short time, he, and yes, his family too, became a part of our family. (But that’s a whole other story, of being invited to special occasions, and weddings).

I often thought our entire family spent my dad’s monthly wage in that single day alone. But looking back, a lot of items were given freely to us, as a family, like the lollies and coke.

Books and comics loaded into Pops taxi, we’d pop off then to spend the rest of the morning at places like the Botanical Gardens, or Raffles Hotel. But lunch would be at the St. John’s road club, which had a pool. From about noon to late afternoon, we’d encamp along with several other families, keeping out of the heat of the day. Us kids would spend 4-5 hours pool side, swimming and playing. While the wives played Mah Jong or whist, and the men … the men? I haven’t a clue what the men did.

By late afternoon, a lot of us, tired out, would have a 1-2 hour sleep. And then, by 5-6 pm, it was time to eat. Not that we hadn’t spent the day already eating this and that. Mostly a lot of fresh local fruit, or lollies.

Dinner, was once again, a family affair, and huge tables were filled and the place full of noise, laughter, and alcohol. I often wonder just how much soda as kids, we drank back then, in a day? But then, a coke or 7-Up bottle was small compared to drinks served today.

Evenings could be spent here, depending on my mother’s mood, who else was at the ‘club’ and whether the wives wanted to do a Tombola night or play more Mah Jong into the evening. Or we went off out, again, to another area of the island, and one of the infamous street markets. Most of which were either held very early in the morning, or after sunset, in the cool of the evening.

These markets went on until quite late, well after 11, and yes, sometimes we were out till midnight, watching a traditional Chinese street play being performed, in Mandarin. Not that any of us understood, let alone spoke the language. But my parents loved exposing us to new things, and the cultures we lived with on a daily basis.

I loved these long, long days, meeting and greeting complete strangers, the street food, which my dad loved: including the extremely HOT satay, which I would pilfer at least one stick from my dad. And the kindness shown our family, and the friends my parents made, relationships that lasted well beyond my parents time on the island, till decades later. Letters and cards were still swapped every year, for a long time afterwards.

These are the memories I loved so well. The days in the sun, with my mother, hearing her laugh, hearing her sing, and feeling like, for a short time at least, I belonged. ♥

Day #100

It’s official. I have been in self isolation—quarantine/lockdown/seclusion—for ONE HUNDRED DAYS!

The time is actually longer, as the last time we were out, was Saturday, March 7th, for my birthday lunch at the Cachon Dingue restaurant. Where I remember having the most delicious eggs bene with home cured/baked ham and pan-fried potatoes and onion. And free drinks: a Shirley Temple. I felt like a kid again, a princess.

Five days later, on my actual birthday, Thursday, March 12th, our province and, in fact, the whole of Canada, went into lockdown mode. Everyone was told to stay home, where possible, and hunker down for the duration. Humanity’s greatest menace, to date, was on the loose, and tens of hundreds (at the time) were losing their lives.

Although we now know this could end up being worse than the influenza outbreak of WWI. As hundreds of thousands are now dead, world wide, and millions are infected with corona virus. And still, despite some people’s best efforts, the scourge is not totally in check. Even in the best intentioned countries, like New Zealand, when attention waned, and people became complacent about enforcing the mandatory 14 day quarantine for two ladies visiting from London, to see a dying relative (which no doubt swayed someone to do something stupid) these two ladies were let out of quarantine, early, and without being tested.

And we all know how that ended. It ended NZ having rid their shores of COVID-19 by reintroducing it to the country. And now, no one knows just how many might have been infected by these two women driving 400km (800km round trip). They are, in effect, back to square one.

Meanwhile, here, the numbers have not flattened, the curve has not been maintained, and mostly the elderly are still the worse hit by this insidious disease. We are, in effect, the leaders at something … and as a province you would think we would be ashamed of this milestone, but no. I see it from my balcony every day. People outside in the little park adjacent to our buildings, all without masks on, socialising without a care in the world, like they think they’re all immune to dying.

So ask me now, if I am willing to go another 100 days staying inside, in the confines of my apartment. And I’ll tell you, YES! Yes, I am, and yes, I will, if it means waiting it out till we either have a vaccine or people start listening to the experts warning against wilful, selfish behaviour and understand the ramifications of their actions.

No, this is not AIDS. We all know AIDS has no vaccine either, but unlike AIDS, a sexually transmitted disease, COVID-19 doesn’t need people to kiss, swap bodily fluids, or, have sex. It’s in the air you breathe in close proximity to other who is not wearing a mask, and in the cough and sneeze you cannot be bothered to catch in your elbow. And it’s as deadly as Ebola on a good day for far too many people with compromised immune systems.

Just ask someone who’s survived a mild case and they’ll tell you, it’s like living through hell.

So once again, let me tell you, yes, I’m willing to go the distances, for as long as it takes. I have infinite patience when it comes to waiting this out, I just wish others did as well.

100 DAYS and counting!

Book Review: Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

Title: THIRTEEN [Eddie Flynn #4]
Author: Steve Cavanagh
Publisher: Orion Books
ISBN: 9781409170662
Genre: Legal Thriller

BACK COVER BLURB

They were Hollywood’s hottest power couple. They had the world at their feet. Now one of them is dead and Hollywood star Robert Solomon is charged with the brutal murder of his beautiful wife.

This is the celebrity murder trial of the century and the defence want one man on their team: con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn.

All the evidence points to Robert’s guilt, but as the trial begins a series of sinister incidents in the court room start to raise doubts in Eddie’s mind.

What if there’s more than one actor in the courtroom?

What if the killer isn’t on trial? What if the killer is on the jury?

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. 

— Christopher McQuarrie, The Unusual Suspects

WHAT I THOUGHT

It doesn’t get any better than this! Steve Cavanagh has done it again, pulling out all the stops to bring another fast-paced, thrilling, rollercoaster read. A thoroughly compelling story in which the Devil truly is in the details. 

Eddie Flynn is back in the arena, the courtroom that is, playing the ‘fall’ guy and sitting second chair to Rudy Carp, the lawyer representing actor, Bobby Solomon, in the case of the century. Thing is, Eddie has been talked into playing the fall guy by going after the cops who, Carp has convinced Eddie, planted evidence at the scene of a heinous crime, implicating Bobby Solomon in the murder of his wife and security guard. 

While Eddie isn’t convinced either way, not yet at least, he’s taken the ‘second’ chair and, in doing so, the opportunity to do what he does best, because Carp Law has offered him something he needs right now. A boring, secure job in a big law firm, in order to win back his wife. He needs this, he tells himself. Because the one thing Eddie Flynn doesn’t want to lose right now, is his daughter. And if it means going ‘straight,’ and getting out of the way of the bad guys, Eddie is going to give it his best shot.

But not everything is going to go according to plan, as always. Cavanagh throws every possible spanner into the works, and mixes it up, putting Eddie back in the firing line, and in the sights of not just a couple of corrupt cops, but a serial killer. 

As always, the author amps up the tension on several levels, as Flynn and Carp get set to defend Bobby Solomon, unaware there is another player in the room. One who has his own agenda and, a need to kill. Cavanagh alternates between Flynn’s side of the story, told in the first person, and that of serial killer and clever chameleon, Joshua Kane—and if this creepy unnerving guy doesn’t give you goose bumps, no one will. 

I particularly like the way the author has written the alternating parts of this story, because while Kane is clearly a main story component, it’s through Eddie’s eye and thoughts that the story really opens up. Eddie is at the emotional heart of the story. Here’s a man trying hard to keep it altogether, because not only has he vowed to himself to do the right thing, but if he doesn’t change, he knows he will lose his wife and daughter for good. 

So while we read about Kane and his past, and what makes him a cold-blooded killer, heartless to a fault. Eddie keeps us grounded in reality. And, in between the sensational details of a murder trial, a game of cat and mouse begins. But rest assured, Eddie Flynn is no mouse. He’s going to need his background as a conman not just to help get Bobby Solomon off a murder conviction, but to out-smart, and out-play a killer in their midst.  

Aided by a well-round cast of characters that each have their own unique personalities, with some crackling twists and turns that had me furiously page turning, the climatic end left me almost breathless and dizzy. 

Intense, taut, adrenaline-fuelled, plausibly plotted, cleverly twisted, and masterly engineered to leave you wanting more. Eddie Flynn and his author deliver a thoroughly absorbing and entertaining read.

Highly recommended!

Rating: 9 / 10

Consulting the Stars

Sometime I think that everything I ever learnt about how to write, I learnt from reading Ursula K. Le Guin novels [with humble apologies to my favourite English teacher of way back when]. Even now, I still find myself reaching for one of Le Guin’s works, not just for that spark of inspiration, but to remind myself how did she write this scene, capture that character, orRmake it all work?

And just to interject here, Le Guin also wrote some edifying articles and posts. One need only look here, “On Rules of Writing, or, Riffing on Rechy” to get a taste of her knowledge, wit, and insight. Certainly, you can’t do any worse than reading through her articles on writing, especially, and specifically, “What Makes A Story?

“I define story as a narrative of events (external or psychological) which moves through time or implies the passage of time, and which involves change.

I define plot as a form of story which uses action as its mode usually in the form of conflict, and which closely and intricately connects one act to another, usually through a causal chain, ending in a climax.

Climax is one kind of pleasure; plot is one kind of story. A strong, shapely plot is a pleasure in itself. It can be reused generation after generation. It provides an armature for narrative that beginning writers may find invaluable.”

My research isn’t just confined to Mme. Le Guin. I also find myself referring to other great SF luminaries such as Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and Herbert. They each have added to my knowledge, to stretching my horizons well beyond Earth’s gravity well, and aided me in building my language of description. And while I hope I’ve learned my lessons, I’m not naive enough to simply think I can stop learning. On the contrary, I know I will never—as a writer never mind as a human being—stop learning.

Not until they nail the coffin lid down and tell me to shut up already!

Day #93: The Positivity Wave

Following on from Jonetta over at the Blue Mood Cafe and Megs over at Chocolate ‘n’ Waffles, I thought today’s post should be centred around the positive things I have to be grateful for, in my life right now.

First of all, I am ever grateful to my partner, who stands by me each and every day. A rock for me to rest upon in turbulent times, and always there no matter what. 22 years and counting Babe!

I’m also thankful for old movies and TV shows right now as I seem to have lost my reading mojo. We’re binge watching quite a few programs like Versailles, which has been great fun, let me tell you. But we’re also doing movie night as well, in which we each pick a movie for the evening, and watch it together. Our last one was my choice, last Saturday, Elizabeth: The Golden Age. So yes, you guessed it, tonight (because we’re like that) we’re watching, Elizabeth! Nothing like seeing them in the wrong order.

I’m also truly thankful, this week, for stalwart online friends who have shown their unwavering support of me, my blog, and friendships forged through books and blogging. I love these people for their honesty, integrity, and the friendship they have shown me and continue to share with me. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Lastly, being stubborn to a fault, my hard work walking and keeping careful watch on my diet, intake, and attitude, I’ve managed to lose another couple of pound, and I am getting closer, and closer to my target weight. I think I might even reach it, sometime this summer. I think I’m going to impress my doctor, never mind me.

My sincere thanks to you all for continuing to visit, comment, and show your support. You change the world, daily!

Take care and stay safe, where ever you are in the world.

Love,
Alex