All in the planning

 

Celebrity Silhouette

Celebrity Silhouette

Our winter has just started – everyone tells me it will end on the 1st September, but I still believe it is the 21st Sept (Equinox), but regardless it is still cold at the moment.
During the last couple of months my thoughts have been considering how best to avoid at least a month of winter.
Obviously, where ever we go must be in the northern hemisphere, preferably for the month of June & July, but as two months will be too expensive it must be one or the other. At least August is shaking off winter so one starts to look forward to the warmer weather.

september-equinox-factsAutumn Equinox northern Hemisphere

080706 wattle 02Spring equinox in Sydney – same date 21st September.

We know when spring has arrived in Sydney because of the abundance of flowering wattle. The 1st September is National Wattle Day, to celebrate the national flower of Australia, perhaps this is why Australia considers the 1st September to be Spring.

There are other things to consider when booking a holiday – the monsoon seasons in Asia. The southwest monsoon is July through to September, so India is not a consideration.
Having experienced the heat of the Persian Gulf during my time when I was at sea, a visit to Dubai or Abu Dhabi in June, July or August is also out. An outside temperature of 44 c (111 f) does not make for a pleasant stroll outside, even if the bus stops are air conditioned, as they are in Dubai.

High humidity and heavy evening rain in certain Asian countries caused me to turn to Europe, and perhaps the UK.
Getting to Europe requires further consideration, because if we use a Middle Eastern airline, will they still serve wine during Ramadan, so when is / was Ramadan?
This year it was from the 15th May to the 14th June so if we travel in July, Ramadan will not be a consideration.
A couple of years ago we did travel during Ramadan, with a Middle Eastern airline, and Ramadan was during our homeward leg. During the outward journey the cabin crew would walk up and down the aisle with a bottle of red wine in one hand and a bottle of white in the other and top up passenger’s wine glasses.
On the homeward trip, which was during Ramadan, your empty glass was removed and refilled in the galley. A slightly odd compromise I thought, considering that the faithful don’t drink alcohol.
I mention religion, because I have been caught out a few times, and not just with Ramadan, but also holy days, when all bars are closed and the serving of alcohol even in top hotels is forbidden. This has happened also on Buddhist holy days, and the phases of the moon in one country that forbids alcohol one day a month, due to the full moon.

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If you are passing through, or just overnighting, various restrictions can be inconvenient for those of us who like a glass of wine with our meals. If a religious period carries on over several days then these restrictions might compromise or even spoil your holiday. So being aware of holy days / holy weekends etc when booking your holidays is a ‘must’.

Taking all in to account it was decided that we will cruise from Southampton to the Baltic in Celebrity Silhouette. Maureen hasn’t been to this part of the world and it will be over fifty years since I sailed in the Baltic during my time as a British India Steam Navigation Company cadet in Dunera, when she was a school ship.

Dunera03Dunera’ school ship in the mid 1960’s.

As a school ship she carried hundreds of school children to various ports around Europe. The children had daily lessons about the port / country that they would visit, and afterwards they had to write essays about their experience.
The school ship concept was started by BISNC in the 1930’s, and reinitiated in the early 1960’s using converted troop ships, after the British government started flying troops to British possessions rather than sending the troops by sea. The project was a huge success with school children, and young adults when the ship was charted by organisations in various other countries. I can remember one cruise when some of the ‘school children’ where older than me. It was a Swiss charter for seventeen to twenty-year-old students.

The cruise in the Celebrity Silhouette will be a ‘I remember when for me’ and hopefully enjoyable for Maureen.

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Nynashamn is about 45 minutes drive outside Stockholm, and the last time I was in the Baltic, St Petersburg was called Leningrad, and Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and later became General Secretary.

Now that we have decided to take the trip, which airline should we use?
Qantas, the Australian airline, is too expensive, and when returning they have night flights which we hate.
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Up until recently Qantas’ partner on the Kangaroo route to the UK was Emirates,

emirates-airline-united-arab-emirateswhich would require a transit stop in Dubai. We flew with Emirates last year and it worked out well, but this year the ticket cost is much more expensive, plus the night flight syndrome.
I did see a special offer of flying with Finnair, who don’t currently fly in to Australia.

FinnaitThe last time we flew with Finnair was out of Bangkok to Venice via Helsinki. The flight and cabin service were very good, so if the price was right we wouldn’t have any complaints.
Finnair flies out of Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok. Getting to any of the transit stops using Finnair’s relationship with either Qantas (via Bangkok), Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong), or Qantas (via Singapore) can involve a night flight on the way / from London.
I did find a cheaper rate via Cathay Pacific over Hong Kong, but the return flight from Hong Kong to Sydney was a night flight.
After a considerable amount of research to find the best combination of daylight flights, seating, price, acceptable airline, and arriving a few days before the cruise, which I like to do just in case the airline mishandles our bags, I ended up choosing Garuda.

Logo Garuda Indonesia

The last time I flew with Garuda was in the 1980’s so using them today would be new experience.

A few years ago, I would never have considered this airline because ten years ago they were banned from flying in European air space. Since 2007 their reputation has slowly recovered, and now they are one of only ten airlines in the world classed as a five-star airline – the list (in alphabetical order) are

All Nippon Airlines (aka ANA) – Japanese

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Asiana Airlines – S. Korea

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Cathay Pacific Airlines – Hong Kong

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Etihad Airlines – Abu Dhabi

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EVA Air – Taiwan
Eva
Garuda Airlines – Indonesia

Logo Garuda Indonesia

Hainan Airlines – China

Hainan
Lufthansa – Germany

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Qatar Airlines – Qatar

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Singapore Airlines – Singapore

You’ll notice that the African, American, South American, Australian, and New Zealand airlines are missing off the five-star list, and only one European airline has been included. The star rating is voted by passengers.

Our plan was to fly Sydney to Jakarta – daylight of course, sleep overnight near Jakarta airport and fly daylight to London or Amsterdam. The best flight as far as I could see was the London bound flight even though it was more expensive than flying in to Amsterdam. Flying from Amsterdam to London would increase the overall cost above flying direct in to London.
Just before I was about to buy the tickets I read that the authorities had arrested twenty-five baggage handlers at Jakarta airport for theft of the contents of passenger’s bags at the airport. As our bags would be staying overnight at the airport this was a concern.
Later I logged on to Trip Advisor and used the forum area to find out about attractions in and around Jakarta if we were to stay for three days during our return journey.
The one thing that stood out on the forum was that Jakarta seemed to be grid-locked with traffic, plus we should be aware of possible bombings.

Unfortunately, five-star Garuda lost my interest, through no fault of the airline. I decided to find an alternative airline.

A few days later I came across a special offer with Singapore Airlines – a little more expensive than Garuda, but daylight flights all the way to / from London.
Daylight Sydney to Singapore – overnight at a local hotel – daylight to London. For the return journey 9.35 am departing London for maximum daylight time to Singapore, fly all day (13.25 hours) and put our clocks forward seven hours to arrive Singapore at 5.30 am local time. We would have a ninety minute transit and depart Singapore for Sydney at 07.10 am. Another daylight flight, which is just what we wanted.

I booked Singapore Airlines.  sq

In five days time, on Thursday, it will be the northern summer solstice, which means it is our winter solstice and on Friday the sun starts its journey back to where it belongs, shining over Australia.

 

 

The Robert Taylor Museum

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The above statues sit outside the Robert Taylor Museum , which I had to photograph because they reminded me of the current crop of politicians – you pick the country.

None so blind as those who will not see what those who elected them can see.

If I don’t hear the complaints, there mustn’t be any.

I never said that, you misunderstood me . . . .   

If you click on the above link you will see a page in Vietnamese, click on the top right hand black box to have a choice of English or Vietnamese. The English is not all that clear, but it will allow you to click on the gallery for more detailed images.

The Robert Taylor Museum of Worldwide Arms is the full title of the museum, Robert Taylor is the owner and the operator.

Mr Taylor, who is British, visited Vietnam to work in 1991 to establish a company specialising in the construction of anti-corrosion, insulation, sound insulation and personnel training. He later married a local girl, and in 1996 he settled in Vung Tau, the city in which he now lives.

From a young age he had a passion for collecting old weapons and military uniforms. Over the years he has collected 2500 items; guns, swords and uniforms. About 1500 items are between two and three hundred years old.

In 1996 he began procedures to obtain permission to import the various weapons and uniforms in to Vietnam so as to create a museum. This took four years before he receive the licence to do so. When this happened he sold his assets in the UK.

The museum opened, but in 2012 he divorced his wife, and because of property problems with his wife, the museum was closed.

In 2015 the provincial government offered, as a loan, the current building that Robert  now occupies, and the museum reopened.

The museum has become a ‘must see’ attraction for visitors to Vung Tau City, not just for foreigners, and it is open from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm.

DSC00628rForecourt of the museum – the entrance to the building is on the left.

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Welcome

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    There are two floors of exhibits – the above is on the 1st Floor.

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Also on the first floor are exhibits of
Chinese, Mongols, Samurai, Greeks, Romans & Vikings uniforms and arms.

DSC00630rAs we climbed the stairs we met some old friends, Henry VIII

DSC00641rAdmiral Nelson

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Napoleon Bonaparte

DSC00636cPikeman from the 1600’s

DSC00642rThe 2nd floor focused on the Napoleonic wars – French, British, Russian & Dutch exhibits.

DSC00643rA display of British uniforms through the ages.

There is a special area within the museum complex for the Australians.

DSC00652rA display of mementos for Long Tan, and the 50th anniversary of the battle,
which was in 2016.

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Australian evening dress uniforms, with the wall covered in mementos.

DSC00655rMemorial service for the 50th anniversary of the battle.

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WW2 has not been forgotten.

The portrait is of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, who ruled from 1888 to 1918, after which he abdicated and lived in exile in the Netherlands.
He lived long enough to see the rise of Hitler.

Wilhelm died in 1941 and is interned in a mausoleum in the grounds of the house in which he lived from 1919.

German monarchists visit the house frequently, and in 2012 the house had 25,000 visitors from Germany.

For $5 USD the visit to Robert Taylor’s museum was well worth the fee, and extremely interesting.

 

 

 

 

Should I write or research?

old-dock

The first commercial wet dock in the world was opened in Liverpool in 1715. It was known originally by the engineer’s name Thomas Steer’s Dock, but later, as other docks were built it became known as the Old Dock. This Old Dock was infilled in 1826.

When Liverpool One was being created they found the Old Dock during excavations in 2001. The Old Dock has been preserved as much as possible and is now part of Liverpool Maritime Museum and you can take tours of this Old Dock and see where the original stream flowed in to the Pool.

As Rome was built by the local people who lived on seven hills, Liverpool, nearly 2000 years later, planned its layout in 1207, based on seven streets.

High Street, (1207), which used to have a weekly market and annual fairs and was originally called Jugglers Street

Chapel Street, (1257), named after the Chapel of St Mary, which no longer exists, having been demolished in 1814.

Water Street (1207), used to be called Bonk (Bank) St, the street to the river bank of the River Mersey.

Castle Street (1235), the street that lead to the castle.

Dale Street (1207), used to be called Dell St., through which the stream ran to the pool (Liver Pool).

Tithebarn Street, used to be called Moor St, which I think was connected to the Salthouse Moor district, or perhaps the Moor family. It ran from Castle Street to the river. Later in 1523 Sir William Molyneux bought the tithe rights from the monks of Shrewsbury Abbey and erected a tithe barn to collect produce as a tithe. The street then became known as Tithebarn St

Old Hall Street (1207), (used to be called Milne or Mill St) and changed to Old Hall Street after the Moore family moved from this hall to another on the outskirts of the city. The Moore’s ‘old hall’ remained, so the street’s name changed over time to Old Hall Street.

Making sure that the background of Liverpool was correct for my novel Ice King, which is set between 1804 to 1807 was very time consuming , but for me, very interesting. I had to make sure that I didn’t refer to any location in Liverpool that didn’t exist in 1804.

So the research was to find out what did exist in 1804.

imgp2403r I was safe in using St Nicholas Church – the sailors’ church, because it was used as a guide by sailors to bring their ship in to port in 1804. It had been a place of worship since 1257, so I felt safe if I had to refer to the church building. The above photograph taken a few years ago.

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The above photograph of St Nicholas’ church taken a few years after William King’s, my main character, adventures.

So what else can I use from 1804? After a great deal of searching I found just what I wanted, an old map of Liverpool which was produce by John Britton (1771 – 1857) and as far as I can make out he produced the map in 1807!

liver-map

From the above map I was able to expand the area that was of my particular interest – the area around George’s Dock. As sailors did in the early days they used the tower of St Nichols’ church to navigate in to the ‘Bason’ and then in to George’s Dock.

map-cropped

George’s dock was opened in 1771, and named after King George III.

In 1874 the Bason was filled in, and in 1899 the dock itself was filled in to create what we know today as the Pier Head.
Later (1914) Cunard Shipping Line commissioned a new headquarters,which was opened in 1917. The Cunard Building, which is to the right of the Liver Building, can be seen in the picture below. A section of the George’s dock wall can still be seen in the basement of the  Cunard Building.

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What was the river like in 1804 (sand banks, wrecks etc), so I need a chart.

chart  Chart of the Mersey Bar area dated 1801; produced by William Morris, (the link will take you to the National Library of Wales) a fascinating man who also charted the seas around the island of Angelsey.

When researching for an appropriate gentleman’s club, one where a prosperous ship owner and trader would frequent in 1804, I came across the Athenaeum Club. I wanted to develop the background and life style of the main character’s father.

This club was opened in 1797 and the location of the club as in Ice King is correct for 1804, but not for today, because the club moved from Church St to  Church Alley in 1928. The club is still active in Liverpool.
There is an Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall, London, which was founded in 1824.

One of the founder members of the Liverpool Atheneum Club was William Roscoe who was a very strong anti- slavery advocate. Other founder members were some of the most prosperous slave traders in Liverpool. I found it odd that the needs of the members for a club, such as the Athenaeum, over came their like or dislike of the African slave trade. Perhaps William Roscoe thought that he might be able to influence the slave traders, to reject the trade, in a social situation.
Roscoe was a strong Christian and fought in Parliament, as the member for Liverpool, for the rights of Catholics and other denominations to hold high office. In 1807 he voted with William Wilberforce to stop the slave trade, which successfully passed in to law, but caused William Roscoe trouble back home in Liverpool. He lost his seat at the next election.

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William Roscoe

In the novel I referred to a character who had won £20,000 in a lottery in 1776 – this is true.
His name was Thomas Leyland and he was the Mayor of Liverpool three times. When he died in 1827 he was one of the richest men in the Britain. His wealth was due to him investing a large amount of his winnings in to the slave trade. In 1807 when Britain made it illegal to trade in slaves he switched to banking.

leyland

Thomas Leyland

The bank stayed in the Leyland family until 1901, at which time it merged with the North & South Wales Bank.
Later, in 1908, they were taken over by the the London City and Midland Bank. Eventually this bank became just ‘Midland Bank’, before being taken over itself by the HSBC Bank. I wonder if they realise that part of their foundation is based on slavery?

The hours of research helped produced less than a chapter, but hopefully a reader would enjoy the story that much more because of the research, but I am still not sure if Maureen is correct when she said that I  prefer the research to the writing. . . .

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Fact or fiction for historical stories.

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Writing historical fiction is time consuming to say the least. Each scene that surrounds a character must be true for the reader, and the easiest way to make this scene true, is research and more research. You cannot afford to be wrong, unless of course you do it deliberately, because you are writing an ‘alternate history’ novel.

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A few years ago I wrote an historical novel, which took me at least two years to research. I’d write a scene and then study it to make sure that a character could do what I wanted. For example, I had the main character board a coach in London to travel to Liverpool in 1804. The first thing that comes to mind, was from where in London would he leave – research.

stagec-coach-travel

How big was the coach, how many horses, how many passengers, did they all sit inside or did some sit on top and if so was it cheaper to travel ‘up top’ than inside? Research, research and more research.

My wife considers that I more interested in the research side of writing than I am in producing the finished novel. There may be some truth in her comment . . .
Small details can pop up that you consider and then either use or discard. Too many details will slow the story and you are trying to entertain, not educate, but you do inadvertently educate, so accuracy matters.
One small detail that I didn’t use was that the cost for sitting inside was 5d (five pence) per mile and if you sat up top it was 2 1/2d (twopence h’penny). If I play trivia pursuit on NYE I wonder if I’ll get this question?
How fast did the coach travel, – the average speed being about eight to ten miles an hour until the roads were improved by Mr. McAdam allowing the speed average to increase to fourteen miles an hour.

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How long was it before the horses were changed?
The route was cut in to ‘stages ‘ hence the coach was a ‘stagecoach’- and they would change the horses every ten to fifteen miles.
Some stage stops would allow the passengers to have a meal, but if a coach carried mail many stage stops would be to just change horses, and the post office would only allow five minutes for this procedure, but a crack team could do it in three minutes. To warn the inn and to save time the guard at the rear of the coach would sound his horn in a way to warn the coaching inn that they were approaching, and to have the horses ready for the change.The tone of the sound informed the inn keeper that the coach only wanted fresh horses or that it was a meal stop.

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Was there anything special about the coach; – a Royal Mail coach would have the origin city’s name and the destination city’s name blazoned on the side along with the Royal coat of arms. Royal Mail coaches used numbers whereas commercial coaches gave their service names ‘The Flyer’, ‘The Union’, ‘The Courier, and ’Umpire’ was a Liverpool bound coach and so on.
One would think that a novelist could make up the answers to many of the questions, but if he was wrong then this would taint the overall story and if a reader thought that the author had ‘cheated’ then the reader might not finish the book or the they might post a negative review, which would be worse.
In my novel I had the London to Liverpool coach stop at an inn at Stony Stratford, which was well known as a stopping place for stagecoaches on their way north to Liverpool, Manchester etc, Stony Straford being a day’s ride from London.

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The picture illustrates the inside of a coaching inn (not Cock Inn).
The inn I used was the Cock Inn, which is just up the road from the Bull Inn, which was also a coaching inn. It is known the both inns would exaggerate their services and after a time a story teller would be told that his story was a load of Cock and Bull.
Jon Cok was the original landlord in 1480, which is how the inn got its name not from the bird. Although the pub sign shows the bird.

cock-sign

Stony Stratford has been around since 1194, and the word ‘Stratford’ in Anglo-Saxon means a ford on a Roman road – the ford being across the River Ouse. The ‘stony’ bit is referring to the stones on the bed of the river.
A friend of mine from my Conway days, who lives near Stony Stratford and had read my book, sent me photographs of the same street today.

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The Cock Inn is now a hotel.

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As is the Bull Inn, which is to the right of the Cock Inn.

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The Bull Inn can be seen on the right of the picture with its Bull Inn sign and further along the road, near the flower baskets close to the lady in red, is the Cock Inn.

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Cock Inn late 1800’s – I doubt that this coach & four was on its way to Liverpool.

All this research for a small part of one chapter – if nothing else I learned a lot.

If you wish to know the connection between the slave picture and my book, read the blurb on the book’s cover. If it is unclear or too small, try this link

https://www.amazon.com/Ice-King-Geoff-Woodland-ebook/dp/B0042P52VG/ref=sr_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483139337&sr=1-15&keywords=ice+king