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- A Mushroom’s Perspective: Silent Sunday August 2, 2020
- Train to Winton: Railway and Trains: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge July 29, 2020
- The Great Wall of China: China: Travel Thoughts 4 July 29, 2020
- The Woman on the Stairs: A Book Review July 27, 2020
- Soaring to heaven: Silent Sunday July 26, 2020
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I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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As an adult I have had three distinct train/railroad experiences. One at Dorrigo when I stumbled across a train museum, another in New Zealand when we went from Dunedin to Taieri Gorge an incredibly scenic journey. For today’s challenge I have the fortune of just returning from a train trip to Winton. Winton is in the far west of North Queensland, 1,325 kms by train from where we live. We decided to travel by economy class as it is part of Australia my husband has not experienced, it is steeped in dinosaur history and it was a place we could travel with COVID 19 restrictions.
I was excited until I realised that the length of time we would be sitting up would be longer than a trip to Switzerland and that knocks us about. We hopped on at Cooroy late afternoon. Not 100% certain what the equipment on the platform was for – perhaps grabbing the mail bags or dropping coal in when the train was steam powered but I’m fairly certain it is no longer in use. As night fell we flashed past the odd light and then the odd town.
Because of the pandemic there were no people sitting either in front or behind us and we were given the entire row. The seats were from the first class seating from the Sunlander (another Queensland rail route) and incredibly comfortable allowing us to sleep reasonably well. There was also the dining car shown above and below. We went and ordered our meal from the galley which was a bit of a test for Roger, who is a little unsteady on his feet, as we had to move between cars but it made a big difference being able to move around.
In the morning as the scenery changed from grassy to desert like we arrived at a place called Alpha.
We were allowed out for a 10 min stop. The platform was tiny (reminded me of the Australian film Wake in Fright) and the train hung over at either end of the platform. Anyone who wanted to get off had to come down to our carriage so where you see the ramp that was where we were situated on the train.
Despite the small size of the town it boasted four pubs of which two are featured above. The brick one being creatively called the brick pub.
Whilst there we saw our first road train. These are lorries that have a minimum of three hook ons at the back and are very common in the Northern Territory, Queensland and probably Western Australia. They hurtle along at great speed and are terrifying to attempt to overtake. Back to our train…
Another stop at Barcoldine but that will be the subject of another post and eventually Longreach. Bus to Winton. And then the home journey
Waving goodbye to Longreach.
As we crossed the Great Dividing Range back to the coast we snaked around the mountains giving us great views of the train and scenery.
We enjoyed this rail journey so much that we have booked another – this time to Cairns. We hope it will be as enjoyable as this one.
Thanks to Cee for hosting the Fun Foto Challenge.
We were taken to a part of the Great Wall approximately 35 kms to the north from Beijing. The Juyongguan Great Wall was the first of three passes that previously had proved impenetrable. Our tour company sold it as the best part of the wall because not many tourists went to it and therefore you didn’t have to wait in queues to climb.
I had then read up on this part of the wall and discovered not many tourists visit because of the difficulty in climbing the stairs and in order to get to the best views you had to clim to at least the 7th station. I can do it I thought. As we travelled in the bus I kept an eye out for the wall and wondered if the above photo was part of it. I still don’t know.
It was quite clear however when we did see it and looking out to the right I thought I can climb that easily. The right however was not accessible to us and we turned into a parking area on the left and saw the steepness of the incline. I still was determined to climb it.
Views of the path upwards. The castle like areas are the stations and I was determined to get to number 7.
We were told that an easier way to the second station was via a bushwalk and as it was easier I decided to take it. Roger had taken one look at the stairs and said he was happy with the view he could get from the entry level. I took off alone and the track was hit and miss. Obviously few people used it and I was uncomfortable so I returned to the conventional stairs upwards.
The rise on the stairs was high the step was narrow making it difficult unless you did a kind of crawl. The hand rails were of little use for me because I had to bend almost double to reach them they were so low to the ground.
People sat unable to move further – I made it to the second station and decided that I couldn’t afford to take a tumble and if up was so difficult I could only imagine that down would be worse with legs turning to jelly and doing the involuntary shake as used to happen when I climbed the giant staircase at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
I could see how spectacular it would be from higher up where you got a 360 degree view but I was happy with what I could see. It was obvious the strategic military advantage that was afforded situated in a lower area (valley ridge?) surrounded by two huge mountains.
This section was built 770 – 476 BC and again later in 476- 221 BC as fortification. It was linked to the Great Wall of China 386 – 589 AC.
It was further strengthened during the Ming dynasty to protect from Mongol invasion. Looking to the east you can see the gentler slope of the wall.
We could not cross over the river however, you could buy a ticket that let you do both sides and you could do a full loop starting on the east side – a gentler climb and descending on the west. We did not have the time to do that.
We departed the Great Wall glad that we had seen a structure of such immense proportions it can be seen from outer space, overawed at the structural feat this must have been for such a long time ago but perhaps a little disappointed that I was unable to climb as far as I needed to get that 360 degree view. Still, it was a great adventure.
Next we were off to Beijing Zoo.
Maleny Botanical Gardens and Bird World is a wonderful place to visit. Superb views of the Glass House Mountains are to be had from within the gardens. The mountains are so named because Captain Cook was reminded of glasshouses back in England when he first saw them.
The last time we visited it was with Roger’s family from Germany, this time with mine from Switzerland. Although the gardens are beautiful it is the birds that stay in your memory – this time for devastating (at least for me) reasons.
We hired a cart as we had my 93 year old mother with us for the day and as her mobility was limited it was the only way she was going to enjoy the gardens.
Helmeted guinea fowl wander the grounds
giving me beautiful feathers to photograph.
While we visited the bird world Mum waited outside – in safety. The birds were predominantly rescue birds whether from the wild or captivity. Some would not have survived in the wild.
All were beautiful. There are four massive walk in aviaries. The first is for the smaller and more fragile birds. The second is the ones who need help. The third is for the smaller parrots and the fourth for the big parrots such as the macaws and other bully birds. The birds were not frightened and happily landed on anyone they choose. Everyone was warned to remove hearing aids, earrings, jewellery, and remove caps if you didn’t want to lose the button from it. The birds loved stealing things. Feather dusters were available to take with you in case you wanted to remove a bird from your head or other part of your body. They could be quite painful.
Mainly though they were a delight.
and then Felix transferred a bird he was having trouble with to my brother.
and as I photographed
The parrot came forward and ate my lens shutter to a point it no longer operated as it should and hung down over the lens preventing any further photography. I could have shot myself.
The next day I went to the camera shop only to find that to replace the malfunctioning apparatus the entire lens had to be replaced at a cost greater than we had paid for the camera. I declined and started researching new cameras. Roger delicately removed the offending piece and it didn’t appear that the lens had been damaged. I decided I would use it until I could decide on a replacement. I am still using it over a year later.
It’s lens is covered by a spectacle cloth and then it lives in a bubble wrap bag. Not great for quick photos but so far it works.
So if you go anywhere near birds – be warned.
The Aircraft Museum near Blenheim on the South Island of New Zealand is well worth a visit. We only had time to do one war and we chose to do World War 1. It was well set out and displayed planes that looked so ancient it brought home just how brave these pilots were.
The displays included scenes from the day and inside the workshops that repaired the damaged planes that had managed to limp home. In WWI, unlike the German pilots, British pilots weren’t issued with parachutes. The rationale of the British Government was that the pilots may not be quite as focused on carrying out the task at hand and might bale earlier, ditching expensive aircraft that potentially could limp home. It took them some time to realise that trained fighter pilots were a more valuable commodity than the plane. Once they realised this parachutes became standard issue.
The US Navy had 22 Curtiss MF Flying Boat delivered before the contract was terminated due to Armistice in 1918. However, it was found to be an excellent trainer so 80 more were ordered. It was later used as a rum running plane during prohibition and in the filming of the Amazon in the Alexander Hamilton Rice Expedition 1919-20. This is one of only four known to exist in the world.
A piece of flash fiction written in 2018 in response to the story that went with this plane.
The night before the mission Squadron 74 threw back their beers and cuddled their girls They knew there would be empty seats and some broken-hearts the following night.
1100 hours the bugle sounded. A quick briefing. No longer carefree, they ran to their planes. Commander Keith ‘Grid’ Caldwell headed out with his men. “On your bikes, chaps” he ordered.
The formation crossed the line at 1330 hrs. Soon they ferreted out some enemy planes. Bratatattat. Bratatattat. Sparks flew from the machine guns. Grid, in his element, attacked, then spiralled, righting his plane to appear from nowhere shooting the German out of the sky. He dipped away. His plane shuddered. He had collided with one of his own at 7000 feet. The plane with it damaged wing spun downward another 2000 feet. Without a parachute Grid had a choice of death. He decided to jump. He leant out over the wing and the plane steadied, flattening out. Holding the right rudder with his left foot he kept his weight on the wing and managed to fly his crippled aircraft to safety.
In the WWI exhibit I learnt about this NZ pilot who had a narrow escape and was one of the few pilots to survive WWI where the average lifespan of these young men was two weeks from commencing flying missions. Grid went on to become a Air Commodore in WWII. He gained the nickname Grid as it is NZ for bicycle and this is what he called the planes.
No record of planes in WW1 would be complete without the Red Baron, Capt Von Richthofen who shot down 80 aircraft in his wood and fabric plane. He was shot down by Capt Brown – an Australian. The looting of the downed plane was immense with people taking trophies back to memorialise the day, with pieces being found in Darwin.
If you are ever in Blenheim, make sure you take a trip out to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre – it is well worth a visit.
As we entered into the Forbidden City through the wide nail studded doors, walking through an arched entry tunnel that gave access through the thick wall that encloses it – we entered another world.
Gone were the soldiers and police that had populated Tiananmen Square and despite the crowds of visitors there was a sense of peace and calm. The UNESCO listed ForbiddenCity is a huge complex covering 720,000 square metres which is 3 times larger than the Louvre. For comparison the Vatican is 444,000 sq m and the Kremlin 275,000 sq m. It is huge.
You find yourself in a huge courtyard surrounded by buildings. It wasn’t the buildings that caught my eye however. I was intrigued by the special pants that the toddler wore. It was explained to me that these pants are an aid to toilet training which starts at a very young age.
The palace (Forbidden City) is now home to the Palace Museum. It houses Chinese historical artifacts and is considered one of the best museums in the world, despite the fact that some of it is now housed in Taiwan – removed during WW11 to prevent damage from Japanese attack. Apart from looking through a few windows we did not enter any of the rooms. The place was so huge that just walking from one side to the other took most of the afternoon. Certainly you would have to spend a couple of days to see it properly.
The Forbidden City is also the world’s largest collection of well preserved ancient wooden structures. There are over 980 buildings with around 8,728 rooms. Built between 1406 – 1420 the architecture has influenced cultural and architectural developments all over Asia. The detail demonstrates every aspect of Chinese architecture and culture.
Through another tunnel into yet another huge square.
This time with a water filled channel crossed by many curved bridges. The crowds were massive but the grounds even bigger preserving that sense of peace and calm.
The buildings were ornate and colourful.
We were given a set of headphones enabling our guide to explain the buildings to us as we walked without him having to shout. We were expected to keep our eye on the blue flag. I did most of the time but I was distracted by the reflections in the channel.
There were few trees and statues because (it is believed) it gives the would be assassins no place to hide but it is also possible that the trees may overshadow the imperial godliness. In the inner sanctums which were predominantly residential a few statues were found. The Chinese Imperial Guardian lions sit on either side of an entrance way and symbolise strength, stability and superiority.
Noticeable by their absence were birds on roofs. This is due to the unique design of the roofs. They made the slope steeper and the roof spine wider than the width between a bird’s claws thus preventing them from landing. The tiles are glazed and are thus very slippery acting as a further preventive.
Into yet another courtyard entered from a higher level and leading down into the courtyard was a set of stairs on either side of a ramp, identical to what can be seen on the far side of the courtyard. The ramp was for the litter chair. I can see in times past those seeking an audience with the Emperor would probably crawl from one side to the other and look up to the godly being.
Only three obedient party members – the rest of us either lost in the magnificence of the palace.
Setting up for a selfie in this area was a complicated business that had to be got just right.
The Forbidden City was the Imperial residence of twenty four Chinese Emperors. Emperor Yongle from the Ming Dynasty commenced construction and 14 Ming Emperors lived there until the Manchurians took possession in 1644 and moved the Capital. When the Qing Dynasty regained control they moved back to the Forbidden City with 10 Qing emperors living there until the last abdicated in 1912 with the creation of the Republic of China.
Told you I was fixated on the nappy toilet training saga.
Every bit of the architecture meant something. Mostly I didn’t know what.
Dragons, phoenixes and lions adorn the roof ridges of the most important buildings to invoke prosperity and good fortune.
The place was as clean as a whistle and everywhere people, with what I would call witches brooms, were sweeping and emptying garbage bins. As the biggest tourist attraction in China (greater even than any part of the Great Wall) over 14million visit annually so the rubbish generated must be enormous.
Most of the gates in the palace complex are decorated with nine by nine gilded door nails. Nine symbolises supremacy and eternity in the Chinese Culture.
Only 40% of the palace complex is open to tourists but renovation work is being undertaken that should see up to 65% open by 2021. You’d then need three days to visit and imagine if there was a fire with all these wooden structures. Apparently there are underground hydrants, 4,866 fire extinguishers and a number of fire plans. A daily exercise is performed running along the walls with the fire hoses. Every fireman has to commit to memory the plan of the palace and have orders to run as fast as they can if a fire breaks out. Lets hope one doesn’t.
Again outside the Forbidden City an impenetrable wall surrounds the palace.
And a channel runs parallel to the wall. Next we will visit another wall – The Great Wall of China.
I walk, away from people on the edge of the park. I need to be alone. I can’t trust myself if I have to speak to someone. The tears I keep well hidden at home are always close to the surface here, where I am by myself with only the dogs for company.
“How’s it going?”
“All good.” I will them to go. Don’t ask me more. The scream inside my heart is shifting. It wants to be let out but I repress it. Not here, not there. For now it has to remain buried. It’s time will come.
Thanks to Charli who asks in this weeks prompt for Carrot Ranch’s 99 word flash fiction:
July 16, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that expresses the phrase, “scream inside your heart.” Who is involved and why is the scream contained? Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by July 21, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.