Planes of First World War: Anything to do with Planes and Jets: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020

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.

Thanks to Cee for the prompt for this weeks Fun Foto Challenge

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The Forbidden City: China: Travel Thoughts 3

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

Through another tunnel into yet another huge square.

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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.

© irene waters 2020

The buildings were ornate and colourful.

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020

Only three obedient party members – the rest of us either lost in the magnificence of the palace.

© irene waters 2020

Setting up for a selfie in this area was a complicated business that had to be got just right.

© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

Told you I was fixated on the nappy toilet training saga.

© irene waters 2020

Every bit of the architecture meant something. Mostly I didn’t know what.

© irene waters 2020

Dragons, phoenixes and lions adorn the roof ridges of the most important buildings to invoke prosperity and good fortune.

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

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.

© irene waters 2020

Again outside the Forbidden City an impenetrable wall surrounds the palace.

© irene waters 2020

And a channel runs parallel to the wall. Next we will visit another wall – The Great Wall of China.

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Looking Down on You: Wordless Wednesday

© irene waters 2020
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Survival: Scream inside my Heart: 99 Word Flash Fiction

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.

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Girl, Woman, Other: A book Review

Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a modern novel telling the stories of twelve women in the United Kingdom. They are predominantly black, female and many are in the LGBTQI community. Evaristo is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University in London which shows in the books structure and form. The lack of punctuation annoyed the heck out of me and I struggled with the first quarter of the book for this reason. After that it didn’t seem to worry me so much and I wondered if it lulled me into the headspace of the women whose stories we were told. It was certainly a world that I have had little, if any knowledge of.

To me it appeared as though a number of short stories had been placed together with some tenuous linking. My old brain struggled to remember how the characters fitted together and found myself having to revisit earlier parts of the book to work it out. For me there were too many characters in a book that had little storyline. The characters were well described and we knew their background, thoughts and sexual predilections but they were there for such a short time that it was hard for the reader to form a relationship with them. However, it did educate me and the difficulties of being black in a white society came through strongly and I think that is a good thing.

The book won the 2019 Booker Prize and in 2020 the British Book Award’s Author of the Year and the Indie Book Award for fiction. It is also currently nominated for awards in Australia and USA. It is No 1 on the UK top selling list and has been there for 23 weeks – a first for an author who is a woman of colour. Obviously it is worth reading.

I have often asked the question ” what is more important – the writing or the story?” For me this book answers that question – Most definitely the story. However, this book did keep me reading, the writing was good (minus punctuation) and I don’t regret having read it.

Would I recommend it: Probably but not with as much enthusiasm as with some of the other books I have reviewed. I did get a feel for a style of life outside my own and as we know – my thoughts are subjective – many others have loved this book. Nicola Sturgeon on twitter says of it “Beautifully interwoven stories of identity, race, womanhood, and the realities of modern Britain. The characters are so vivid, the writing is beautiful and it brims with humanity.” 

I’d love to know your thoughts if you read it or have already read it.

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Desert Sunset: Silent Sunday

© irene waters 2020
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Incongruous: Cars and Trucks: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

© irene waters 2020

These two vehicles are two worlds apart, mismatched…incongruous. The truck we saw in Vietnam – a three wheeler that probably cost its owner a huge fortune but he had no choice as he needed it to earn the paltry salary that possibly fed not only his own family but his extended one. We would call it a rusted, worn out rattletrap that we wouldn’t give you tuppence for yet I’m sure it gives his owner status in his society.

© irene waters 2020

The owner of this car already has status. He is a specialist at Sunshine Coast University Hospital and all I can say is there must be money in hearts because at a minimum this car sells for over $500,000. By percentage of salary it probably is the same as the truck owner in Vietnam – the only difference being one is essential and one is for fun.

© irene waters 2020

We also have a new car which doesn’t give us any status but is an essential. We sold our two cars to buy this small SUV and feel justified as we got it for a very good price – half of what they are now selling for. You just have to be lucky and get in at the right moment. MG hasn’t had a presence in Australia so to introduce the car they made them a very good price, gave 7 years warranty and roadside service. At first we were lucky to see another one a week (not counting Doc Martin where the taxi is an MG) but now we see one at least every couple of days. It was essential for us as Roger was finding it difficult to get into either of our other cars having to throw himself in sideways and hoping for the best. This car has good height and is easy to get in and out of plus the dogs are in the back so we always have room for passengers without them having to sit on sand, and the wetness the dogs bring from the river.

Thanks Cee for Cee’s Fun Foto where you asked us to show anything about cars and trucks.

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I’m holding my laugh in! : Wordless Wednesday

© irene waters 2020
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Tiananmen Square: China: Travel Thoughts 2

© irene waters 2020 Tiananmen Gate Tower

Naturally we were interested to visit the place of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4th 1989. I don’t think that anyone that saw the news footage of the military armed with assault rifles and accompanied by armoured tanks will ever forget the squashing of the democracy movement that was in progress from April until the massacre of goodness knows how many hundreds? thousands? that occurred here.

© irene waters 2020 Railway museum and peoples museum

We weren’t going to be fortunate enough however to walk in the square itself as a government convention was in progress and that side of the road was closed to all but participants. We had to content ourselves to what we could see from the road (although the guide constantly told us that we were in the Square itself. We made one attempt to find out th guide’s version of the massacre to discover it was a waste of time. They would only tell you what they had been taught to say and the people on the whole did not know about it or saw it as a lesser deal than we in the west did.

panorama courtesy Wikipedia
© irene waters 2020

The police and military presence was massive and the lighting was fitted with video cameras, loud speakers and flood lights. It felt like a place you wouldn’t want to put a step wrong.

© irene waters 2020 Zhengyangmen Gate Tower

The square has been used for a meeting place. It is totally flat and devoid of any seating or ornamentation. Anyone entering is subjected to a thorough search and international visitors have their documentation examined. We didn’t have ours looked at which makes me believe that we were on the edge of the square in a street called Chang’an Ave. A wide street that is used for street parades and marches. At the end of it is the Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) and nearby is the Forbidden City.

© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020

On the East side of the square (where we were walking) is the National Museum of China. We didn’t go in but I loved the leafy floral display on the outside.

© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020

The Monument to the People and Mao Ze Dong’s mausoleum were opposite. Mao wished to be cremated but instead he was embalmed and placed to rest on view to the public every day except Mondays. We visited Ho Chi Minh who lies in state in Hanoi, waiting in a queue for hours and then silently filing past looking at his preserved body as we went. Even if we’d had a choice I don’t think I would have joined the queue here to do similar.

© irene Waters 2020
© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020
© irene waters 2020

As I mentioned earlier, the street lighting served dual purposes. I’d never been anywhere that was like this before.

© irene waters 2020

Finally we were leaving Tiananmen Square and entering into the Forbidden City. Suddenly it felt as though we were again in a peaceful place. The uniforms gone. The crowds didn’t feel as large. The feeling of oppression lifted and I felt like I’d gone back in time.

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Blossoms for my lady: 99 Word Flash Fiction

Sometimes Jess brought her flowers. Unexpectedly for no reason. ” A blossom for a blossom” he’d say. He brought her happiness.

Occasionally Jess would tell her he had meant to buy her flowers but….. She always forgave him. The intent was there and so was her happiness.

Her tears rivered down her face as he promised to still bring her flowers. Both knew the bloom had died.

Now a year on, the white scented blossoms overhung his grave. She hadn’t seen them last year but she would every year from now on. “Thank you my love. You kept your promise.”

This week Charli asks: July 2, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the word blossom. You can use the word as a noun or a verb, or even as a name. How does it fit into your story? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 7, 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.

Blossoms for my Lady 2

She lay looking skywards on the blanket of grass populated with daisies. The blue was obliterated by the huge cherry blossom in full bloom. Strange she’d never noticed it this time last year. Happiness washed over her for the first time since he’d left and she felt the coldness finally leaving her. Sometimes he brought her flowers and other times he meant to but didn’t. Either way had made her happy but that now seemed so long ago. “You kept your promise,” she whispered. “You’ve brought me flowers.” Her hand stretched out to caress the cold granite beside her.

Process: Since returning I have been struggling to get back into creative writing, particularly the prompts for Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction. I realise their are a couple of reasons for this. 1. my head space is not quite as free as it was a year ago.

2. I don’t give myself enough time to digest the prompt before the work has to be submitted.

3. a year away has allowed that monkey on my shoulder to be shouting in my ear big time.

To overcome this I have been submitting the first thing that comes to mind. Today I have also submitted the second thing. Over time who knows – the juju may again flow.

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