Letter from the Tropics

This letter is my response to various one-word challenges for today.

Beach scene

Dear Mom & Dad,

Not much doing here this evening so I thought I’d write you a letter — by battery-powered lamp-light, if you can believe it. My room-mate’s doing exercises to burn off the calories from last night’s feast. We were supposed to be lying on the beach enjoying a sunlit sea but they can’t schedule the weather here anymore than we can at home. Good thing our hotel puts a couple these lamps in every room. Now if only the air-conditioning would work!

Hope you like the postcard I’ve enclosed. Yesterday at the market I bought a bunch to send back to the folks at work with the usual, “Wish you were here.” Now I’m debating: should I leave them to envy me, thinking I’m having a wonderful trip? Or should I tell them the truth: we’re in the grip of a tropical deluge, wind and rain like you wouldn’t believe! And no power. 😦

Hurricane

There’s a beautiful sandy beach in front of our hotel just like you see in this photo — at least it was there yesterday — but it’s been evacuated because of the storm and the huge breakers rolling in. Hopefully the sand will still be there when this storm ends, not all washed out to sea.

The power went out at noon. You’ll be thinking, surely the hotel has generators? Yes, and the management got them running within half an hour. But by 2pm they ran out of gas. The shortage was investigated and we heard the janitor’s assistant was sacked when management found out he’s been selling gallons of gas to his poor relatives on the sly. They’ve ordered a delivery of more gas, but it hasn’t arrived yet, so we’re sweltering in this heat and humidity. Oppressive, our Prof says, for lack of a longer word.

You’ll see I’ve picked a postcard with the quintessential beach scene. Prof’s word for today. I told you in my last letter about Professor Hoffmeyer, one of the men who bought this holiday package deal. Of course we call him Prof-meyer. A lover of big words. “Oxford-educated and he can’t speak English,” Kyle says.

Kyle and Caylee are a young couple from Philadelphia. I doubt either of them is more than eighteen. Kyle has Grade Eight, he says, but I’m sure it’s only because teachers can’t fail anyone nowadays. Grew up dirt poor in some tenement slum — been together for a couple of years now. Two months ago they happened to pick the lucky ticket and won a two-million dollar lottery. Wonders never cease.

First thing Kyle did was buy Caylee an engagement ring. You should see that rock! They’re planning to tie the knot at some special place on this tour.

Of course as soon as their relatives heard the news, they all came to “borrow a bit” for some sudden emergency, so K & C knew they’d better make themselves scarce or friends and needy relations would bleed them dry. Smart move. A tropical holiday may not have been their best first choice but family can’t follow them here and we’re trying to help them acquire some dollar-and-sense smarts.

They seem like good kids, really. They’re ready to spend, but we plead with them to be careful. It’s amazing how fast money can disappear and none of us wants to see them flat broke a few years from now. One of the men on this tour is a retired banker and he’s taken them under his wing, giving some fatherly financial advice — something they’ve likely never had in their lives. The important thing is, they’re listening and learning.

Anyway, they don’t see eye to eye — or should I say tongue to tongue? — with Prof-meyer’s highbrow English. He means well, but he just can’t talk in one-syllable words. Yesterday when we hit the local outdoor market — where I bought this postcard, by the way — Prof looked over the scene and exclaimed, “Ah, the quintessential local market!” Kyle looked blank for a moment, then said, “It looks pretty typical to me. We have these in Philly, too.”

The rest of us grinned and adopted “quintessential” as our new buzzword of the day. We’re making a game of sticking it in wherever we can. And once we got our money changed to the local currency, Prof-meyer announced that he was going to “sally forth to acquire the accouterments of the typical tourist.” (Accouterments will have to be our word tomorrow.)

Kyle was stumped for a bit, then said, “Not us. We’re just gonna buy some stuff to show the folks back home where we been.”

“Be very careful, kids,” Prof warned them. “Folks here aren’t very conscientious with the truth about market prices.”

Kyle and Caylee looked blank until another tourist whispered, “He means they’re apt to fleece you if you don’t watch it.”

“Oh, that I understand,” Kyle told him. “We’ll be careful.”

Of course, before long we were surrounded by the quintessential haggling merchants and starving waifs begging coins, with the quintessential ‘Artful Dodger’ mixed in. And the usual gregarious sorts wanting to welcome you to their island with a hearty embrace while an accomplice slips your wallet out of your pocket. Prof lost his, but it held nothing of special value. Guess he’s traveled a lot in his day.

As we were leaving the church bells started ringing and Prof-meyer started spouting about the felicitous tintinnabulation. A few of us who heard him rolled our eyes and shook our heads. My roommate and I were behind Kyle and Caylee and heard him whisper to her that ‘Tabulation means counting, my math teacher told me once. So I think the Prof’s wanting to count the ting-ting-ting of the bells.” That gave us a chuckle.

Hey. The lights just came back on! The fuel truck must have made it through. Good thing, because they say this storm is supposed to last all through tomorrow as well. SIGH! So much for our tropical holiday — “palm trees waving in the breeze,” etc.

Anyway, I hope you’re having a good week. Wish you were here. 🙂

Love from your drenched daughter,
Contessa

Fandango’s FOWC:  QUINTESSENTIAL
RAGTAG Daily Prompt:  EMBRACE
Your Daily Word:  TINTINNABULATION
Word of the Day:  GREGARIOUS
Daily Addictions prompt: PLEAD

A Letter From Home

This “letter” is from a book of poems written by Mary J MacColl, published in 1880 by Peter Paul & Brother of Buffalo, NY. The book comes with endorsements from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier and Oliver Wendell Holmes. speaking of hob-nobbing with the Greats!

Johnny’s Letter

Dear Ned, your letter’s come at last
and Nelly’s cockatoo;
Old Captain Cable brought them both,
‘Twas pretty good of you
to write so much, when it’s so hot;
how jolly brown you’ll be –
just like a heathen Hottentot –
when you come back from sea!

I don’t believe I’d care to hunt
in jungles – at a show;
I’m just as near a lion’s jaws
as I would care to go.
Suppose the cannibals you saw
had nothing left to eat?
Phew! They’d have built a fire, I’m sure
and roasted you for meat.

We’ve all been down at Grandma Lee’s
and didn’t we have fun!
We jumped the fences, climbed the trees,
and made the squirrels run.
High on a load of hay we rode
with Jake and Uncle Nate;
we hunted nests and fed the chicks,
and swung upon the gate.

We fished and waded in the creek,
shook apples off the trees—
I ate so many I was sick!—
we chased the bumble bees.
They stung poor Bobby on the nose
and Katy in the eye;
it made them look so very queer
and oh, how they did cry!

Dick made believe he had a horse –
‘twas nothing but a rail –
I tied the duster on behind,
it looked just like a tail.
But he got tired, let go the rein
and tumbled on a log
and when I ran to call Nurse Jane
I fell across the dog.

I haven’t got much more to say
and I must go to school.
I missed my lesson yesterday.
I said “a little bull”
when teacher asked what bullet meant.
Why shouldn’t it be so
when streamlet means a little stream?
That’s what I’d like to know.

There goes the bell! I must be off–
I ‘most forgot to say
that Charley has the whooping-cough
and Tom fell off a dray.
But ‘cepting them we’re all quite well.
Good-bye – remember now,
if you don’t bring a monkey home
there’ll be the biggest row.

Catching Up With Ourselves

Good morning, everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything about our activities so for those who are interested, here’s a brief review of the past week’s comings and goings.

Spring has come to our land for sure. The woods around us are getting greener by the day, more of our summer-nesting birds are showing up every day. Our neighbor told me about seeing orioles a few days ago; they’ve since been over to visit our trees too. Yesterday she saw a hummingbird at her feeder. I’d been planning to get out my feeders so when I heard that, I cleaned out our two feeders — for hummers and orioles — and hung them outside yesterday evening.

Our farmer neighbor seeded the fields around our acreage yesterday while Bob mowed the grass for the first time.

Last Friday morning we left for an overnight trip to Moose Jaw. We stopped for dinner en route and drove out to the Belle Plaine area, east of MJ, to visit an elderly friend who was Best man at our wedding. Joe’s 91-years-old now and somewhat crippled by arthritis, needs a cane, but his spirit is as vital as ever. He’s kept going all these years, refusing to let arthritis immobilize him. This week he was loading up and hauling about 20 head of cattle to the Swift Current market, about 150 kms away. He’s finally giving up feeding cattle.

We drove through Belle Plaine, the town where Bob and I met. He ran a grain elevator for UGG — a company that no longer exists— while my folks bought the local café when I was thirteen. Needless to say, things have changed a lot, especially in the past 20 years. We had trouble figuring out what was what anymore; the café ha disappeared completely. And how can fifty years go by so fast?!

We saw a small herd of antelope on the way to Joe’s home, and I spotted a group of cormorants at a dug-out right near Belle Plaine. This dug-out was made when we lived there, when dirt was needed to build the overpass over the train tracks. So it’s quite a large body of water and there were a number of waterfowl.

We had supper with Bob’s cousin Dennis and wife; in the evening we met my sister Rose for coffee at a Tim Horton’s. All of these live in Moose Jaw.

We stayed night at a motel across the street from Crescent Park and the Public Library + Art Gallery. All day Saturday we attended a writers’ conference at the Library. Met a few people we know and heard various speakers, including a retired Regina police officer. He spoke about how a homicide investigation is REALLY conducted. As you can imagine, he detests all the nonsense shown on TV cop shows. Two other speakers were romance writer Ellie Lynn and mystery writer Gail Bowen.

We came home Saturday evening and attended church as usual Sunday morning, then were invited to our son-in-law’s folks for an extended family Mother’s Day dinner: their three children who live here and in-laws like ourselves.

Tuesday morning our son-in-law and daughter very kindly drove us back down to Moose Jaw to attend the funeral of Bob’s cousin Julia. She’d celebrated her 94th birthday in early February; in the funeral service we heard how she’d enjoyed a long, love-filled, productive life. Her five children have all done well and their descendants seem to have, too.

After the funeral we met and visited with my sister Donna for half an hour or so. It’s been too long since we last connected! I last saw Donna — and only to exchange a quick hello — at our nephew’s funeral at the beginning of Sept 2010. She’s been living in Regina for years and only moved back to Moose Jaw last summer. Hopefully we can connect more often now.

When we got home Tuesday evening around 8pm, we all noticed how much the trees around our yard had greened up just while we were gone. And they’ve continued to leaf out in yesterday’s heat.

Today is cloudy and cooler — and we’re off to Saskatoon later to have coffee and a gabfest with several other writers who live in this area. We’re only about eight who like to touch base now and then — but try to find a date and time when everyone’s free!

Tomorrow we’ll stay home and catch up with some work that’s been neglected while we gallivanted. 🙂 Now I’ll end my “catch-up” post with this short poem by an unknown writer:

The slightest word of comfort
to help us on our way,
the slightest smile from someone
to brighten up our day;
the slightest act of kindness
to lessen care and such
all these cost so little,
but they mean so very much.

Winnie and the Optimist

It’s been awhile since I posted any stories about Winnie and Raylene. You can read about their travels here:
Winnie on Tour

Nature Makes Cats Too Smart

In today’s story they are dealing with an overly optimistic great-nephew. 🙂

Winnie and the Optimist

“Looks like your gas tank is a little low, Willie.” Raylene commented from the back seat.

Willie waved his hand in a dismissive way. “Don’t worry about that gauge. It’s broken. I been meaning to get it fixed, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.”

Winnie, sitting beside her great nephew, leaned sideways and eyed the gas gauge. “The needle shows almost empty. So how do you know when you’re really low on gas?”

“By the odometer. I just keep track in my head. Only a few times I’ve actually run out.”

“A few times? But not today, I hope? We want to make it to the airport in good time, Willmont.”

Willie gave her a reassuring glance. “Chill, Aunt Winnie. I’ve got this.”

“Um… Here’s a service station coming up,” Raylene said. “Maybe you could fill your tank before we hit the freeway. Always be on the safe side, you know.”

“I’m sure I have enough gas to get you to the plane. You ladies just relax and leave it to me. No point worrying about things before they happen.”

The ladies exchanged glances and Raylene shrugged as if to say, After all, we can’t force him to stop for gas. She sat back and tried to forget the gas gauge, focussing rather on the scenery. Soon they were on the freeway headed for the big city and their holiday cruise.

The gas station was several kilometers behind them and the sign coming up read: Airport Exit 8 km when they felt the car give a slight jerk. Then another. The motor gave a few little coughs, ran rough for a moment, then stalled.

“What gives?” Willie guided his car to the shoulder. “We can’t be out of…” He peered at the odometer. “Oh, spaz! I thought that was a three. It’s an eight.”

“Sometimes it’s better to…” Raylene timidly began.

Winnie drowned her out. “We’re going to miss our plane, Willmont! Your dad was in the Boy Scouts when he was a youngster, wasn’t he. Didn’t he ever teach you the Boy Scout motto: ‘Always Be Prepared’?”

Willie rolled his eyes. “No sweat. We’ve still got lots of time. I’ll hitchhike back to the service station and get a can of gas. Won’t take long at all.” He got out of the car.

Winnie and Raylene joined him and all three stared at the car.

“Be back in a jiff.” Willie crossed the highway and held up his thumb. A few minutes later a car stopped. The driver nodded sympathetically at the ladies as Willie got into his car and they were off.

“Optimism can go along way,” Raylene commented, trying to inject an upbeat note.

Winnie snorted. “Just not all the way to the airport.”

Winnie and Raylene were still pacing around on the shoulder five minutes later when a car slowed and pulled up behind Willie’s. They recognized the driver as one of the fellows from the Senior Apartments in their town. He stuck his head out the window. “Damsels in distress?”

Winnie hurried over, exclaiming, “Howard Downing! You are a sight for sore eyes! My nephew Willmont was driving us to the airport and he ran out of gas. He got a lift to the garage back up the road.”

“But we’re scared we’re going to miss our plane,” Raylene added. Never hurts to stir up a little sympathy.

“What a coincidence. I’m headed to the airport myself. My brother and his wife are coming in at 12:15 from Vancouver. Would you like a ride?”

Raylene and Winnie both exclaimed. “Would we!”

Howard helped them transfer their baggage to his car. Winnie beamed at him. “You’re a lifesaver!”

Raylene stashed her tote in the back seat. “We should leave Willie a note to say what we’ve done, don’t you think, Winnie?”

“Nope. We can call him when we get to Toronto. He should be home chilling by then.”

“Don’t you think he’ll be worried if we just disappear?”

Winnie gave a dismissive wave with her hand. “He can just relax and leave it to us.” She sat on the passenger side and firmly shut the door.

Howard held the door open for Raylene and winked at her as she sat in the back seat. “The young gotta learn sometime.”

The Tide Comes In

I read this little anecdote years ago and have retold it in my own words. Thought I’d share it with you today.

A youngster from an inland English city was taken on a day trip to the seashore for the first time. It was an amazing outing; he stared in awe at the vastness of the rolling sea and listened with interest as his father and others around him explained the wonder of oceans and tides.

Then he enjoyed an hour or so of paddling around in the sea and playing on the beach. When it was time to go he wanted to take along some sea water to show his mother. So his dad found him a bottle, which he filled halfway and wrapped in his towel for the ride home.

Later, when he was carrying in his things from the trip, he told his mum all about his wonderful visit to the ocean and showed her the sample he’d brought home.

She thrilled to hear the excitement in his voice and examined the bottle he held up. “That’s great, dear! But why did you only fill the bottle half full?”

“I’ve left room for the tide to come in.”

This clever lad may have gone far in the world of science. 🙂

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of tales of the sea, did you hear about the terrible accident when a red cruise ship collided with a purple cruise ship? All the passengers were marooned.

Short Time to Travel Together

One day a young girl on her way home boarded a city bus and took a seat. Mary enjoyed the ride for the first few blocks, but then a large lady sat down beside her, taking up most of the seat and squashing Mary up against the window.

Worse yet, the woman was hanging onto several big packages; these bumped Mary in the face whenever the bus jounced or the woman shifted in her seat. She was thankful when the woman finally reached her destination and got off.

Later she told her brother about her ride home and he became indignant on her behalf. “Why didn’t you just tell her she should move over and stop crowding you. After all, you were in the seat first.”

“Oh, well,” Mary replied. “We had such a little way to travel together. I thought I could bear it for that short while.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At times we feel we can hardly put up with certain people, co-workers or relatives. Their attitudes or behavior just grates on us. We’re all into the moment and think this will never end. Then in a short while they’re gone from our lives and we carry on, a bit relieved. Later we may even look back and appreciate some aspect of their personalities, or some lesson we learned from them. If we adopt Mary’s attitude, the ride can be less irritating.

In the end we’ll see that we had such a short distance to go together.

“Our understanding of how to live with one another is still far behind our knowledge of how to destroy one another.” – Lyndon B Johnson