The Unsinkable Ship Sinks. The Fireproof Building Burns.

Julianne Alcott

I thought it would be interesting to include some time travel in my next science fiction novel. Time travel is fun; I have always enjoyed it in movies like Back to the Future, and TV programs like Quantum Leap and The Voyagers, (which was a science fiction series from the 80s starring the incredibly hunky Jon-Erik Hexum who died so tragically). I didn’t realise what a huge undertaking it would be though.

If I’m doing something like that, I need to make sure I am as historically accurate as possible, so for the last few months, I have been immersed in all things 1912. Pondering the way of life, what the streets smelled like and what food was like. Unfortunately, Googling “life in New York in 1912” doesn’t yield all the answers, so I have been sifting through websites about the history of refuse removal, the changing face of Coca Cola and what meals you could order from your local tea room. Corned Beef Hash seems to have been popular.

1912 was also a year of important things, some of which still impact our lives today.

The Republic of China was established. There was the first parachute jump from an airplane. The doomed Scott expedition reached the South Pole, and Roald Amundsen made the announcement that he had found it first.

Close to home, the ANC was founded.

For baseball fans (and for any of us lovers of Rom Coms who saw Drew Barrymore in Perfect Catch/Fever Pitch), 1912 was the opening of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.

Paramount Pictures was started then. They have definitely made an impression on us with movies such as Grease, Indiana Jones, Crocodile Dundee, Ghost, Forrest Gump, Mission Impossible, Titanic, Ironman, Kung Fu Panda and my favourite fantasy movie Stardust.ogaaaisfgugibpi3bf5y9kg-1

The use of plastic was started by General Electric, and the Oreo cookie was invented. George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion which later became My Fair Lady. Coca Cola could only be bought in a bottle, which was straight up and down, and not the distinctive curved shape it is now.times-square

I also studied the changing face of New York. Times Square is just mind-blowing, from elegant beginnings to a nightmare place for people with a phobia for bright lights!

The Waldorf- Astoria is credited with being the first hotel in the USA to offer room service, and the home of the Waldorf salad, but it too was demolished to make way for the Empire State Building.

Of course, almost everyone knows about one of the most infamous tragedies in world history; that of the sinking of the Titanic. The ship that was spok120405051718-titanic-ship-cobh-horizontal-galleryen of as “unsinkable” did indeed sink, but not many people know about the story of the Equitable Life Building. It was New York’s first skyscraper (7 storeys). It was said to be a fireproof building, but one day, a worker threw a lit match into a waste paper basket after lighting a cigarette, and the whole building caught alight.x2010_11_09141-copy-wurts

Buildings catch on fire all the time, but not in the spectacular way this one did. The weather conditions were freakishly cold, freezing the water from the firemen’s hoses in streams all down the building. Fire fighters had to have ice chipped off them because they couldn’t move. It must have been a truly bizarre sight to see the fireproof building burning under a cascade of ice!

I learned so much about that fascinating year, and even though it was hard work, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I hope it will give my new novel an authentic ring…

Picture credits:

Times Square 1912
Times Square modern


Shackles Off

by Penny M

There used to be a program on the telly in the U.K. It was called ‘This is your Life’. The show was live. Eamonn Andrews, the host at the time would read out biographical details about a pre-selected guest. At various points in their journey, he would mention a person from their past who would then appear on the set to surprise them. Reunions were cheerful, tearful and sometimes fearful. I loved it.

Since breaking out of the employment bubble, travelling extensively and meeting new people, I find myself on stage wondering who my surprise guests would be and what they would say about me. I’ve done a lot of thinking about what defines me. Mary Mary’s song Shackles never fails to get my heart tapping.

“Shackles (Praise You)”
It sure is hot out here
Ya know?MP900405192
I don’t mind though
Just glad to be free
Know what I’m saying, uh!

Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance
I just wanna praise you
(What’cha wanna do?)
I just wanna praise you
(Yeah, yeah)
You broke the chains now I can lift my hands
(Uh feel me?)
And I’m gonna praise you
(What’cha gon do?)
I’m gonna praise you

Without the shackles of youth, the expectations of failure, the limitations of living, I find myself in unknown territory.
The concept of arranged marriages doesn’t appeal to me, but arranged appointments?

I recently met a gentleman in a Melbourne bar. Most of my guests for This is your Life may now be reaching for the Rescue Remedy. A pub is not where you would find me. I was filling time, typing up some interview notes while waiting for somebody who was working there. What are the odds?

Being a writer, I was on the alert for a story. His was of interest to me. I failed to realise just how misunderstood such interest could be. I was mortified to discover during a recent presentation on Body Language by Claire Newton that looking at people’s lips is a sexual message. When you’re in a bar, the light is bad, the background chatter is loud, lip reading is an essential skill. Fortunately he was a gentleman so my penance was a distant admirer and a pen pal with an interesting life story.

In the corners of mind
I just can’t seem to find a reason to believe
That I can break free
Cause you see I have been down for so long
Feel like the hope is gone
But as I lift my hands, I understand
That I should praise you through my circumstance

If nothing else, this experience snapped me out of my self-limitations. I must admit that I rather enjoyed writing in such a setting. I have decided that a local coffee bar with free Wi Fi could become my haunt in future. Who knows what might happen?

Been through the fire and the rainBallet Dancer Mid-air in Jump
Bound in every kind of way
But God has broken every chain
So let me go right now

Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance …
Photos from Microsoft Clipart

The psychology of job hunting

By Sue Trollip

I’m looking for a job. It’s tedious and soul destroying in a place where I have no reference points and no one knows that I exist.

There are the chancers like the company wanting a payroll clerk with a bachelor’s degree to do the company bookkeeping and offering juav-_9st above minimum wage.

And the adverts that say you must be able to deal with unhappy customers. (Who wants to deal with unhappy customers? Shouldn’t they rather say looking for employees who will generate happy customers?)

What about the warehousing company looking for a bookkeeper/administrator who must like mountain biking. (Have they attached Quickbooks to the bicycle handlebars so I can work and ride at the same time?)

It makes no sense and it scares me somewhat.

I got confused when I saw an advert for a gift shop assistant; these were the questions to be answered when you sent in your resume.
1. Coffee or tea?
2. Book on your nightstand?
3. Favourite meal of the day?
4. Anyone living or dead you would want to have coffee with?
5. What’s the last thing you made?
6. Title of your memoir?
7. Top 3 ingredients you cook with?
8. Your favourite artist?

Can anyone help me with the answers? What does it say about me whether I like tea or coffee and bear in mind that tea here is berry tea, it’s seldom tea as I know it?

Question 2 is understandable, you want to know where my interests lie.

And while my favourite meal of the day may be breakfast, if I had big dinner, or am running late, it’s probably going to be lunch, or if I’m going out for dinner, I have a feeling it will be dinner. Then again when Mom is baking it’s definitely tea time. (Do you think they want one word answers?)

I never know what to say for the meet anyone living or dead I feel like there’s a correct answer and I am sure I don’t have it. Do they want to know who my heroes are, in which case how am I supposed to pick one? Memoir I can do that, are you happy or unhappy with your life so far … question 7 are you a baker, a cook or an open a box add 2 ingredients and there’s your meal kind of person. Okay, but is that going to affect your work performance?

Does no one trust their own judgment anymore? Is there no more good old-fashioned handshake and a bit of basic chemistry. By all means check my credentials, but then use a bit of gut instinct people!av-_275

I think my biggest worry is, what if I am the exception to all these psychological rules? Will I remain unemployed forever?

I am not static. I like lists, ask me my top five, not for my favourite, those fluctuate. Perhaps it has something to do with my coffee addiction … I like to think it makes me more interesting.

A Hairy Awakening

by Jacqueline Dowling

I thought he was joking when our estate agent told us that his wife had an early morning visit from a baboon. He wasn’t! Apparently he’d gone for run, left a cup of tea and some biscuits beside her and, when she awoke and fumbled drowsily for same, instead of biscuits, she found fur. We should have been warned, but we still bought in the baboon belt and had our own encounters of a spectacularly hairy nature.

The first visit was from a huge male who, having sussed out that our guests breakfasted regularly between 08.00 and 10.00, slipped into the kitchen via the back door, grabbed a tray of eighteen eggs, a loaf of bread and several bananas. He then jumped up onto the kitchen wall, ate the bananas, threw the peels at us and disappeared up the mountain with a tray of eggs under one arm and the bread under the other. Fine, I thought, we’ll keep the back door closed in future. Haha. A few days later I found him in the breakfast room helping himself to my beautifully arranged fruit platter and scones. Fortunately no guests had appeared at that stage and we hurriedly made good the damage.

His next visit was on a wet and miserable Cape winter’s day. He’d somehow found his way back into the kitchen, leaving gross muddy footprints across the tiles, and on the fridge door. After a few minutes he appeared, cautiously peering out from behind the fridge and tried to make a run for it, clutching what he’d raided from its shelves. Desperate, we invited our loyal and loving Rottweiler, Max, into the kitchen during breakfasts and the visits ceased: until the day our daughter, watching East Enders put out her hand to stroke what she thought was Max and found a baboon sitting very quietly, just behind her, equally engrossed in the programme.

By this stage we were growing a tad weary of the regular visits and installed trelliguards on doors and windows. This worked for a bit, but the troop seemed to have uber sensitive sensors and sent their young in to do the raids, pass the loot out to the adults and depart. On one occasion I found a young female sitting on the kitchen counter with the telephone in one hand and a jar of sugar in the other. She escaped to our neighbour’s garden, ate the sugar and left the jar under a tree. Neighbour kindly returned it, washed and with the lid firmly in place.

Hermanus baboons

That was four years ago. Since then we’ve had the excellent services of the baboon monitors who manage to keep their charges well away from the houses, and seem to have an unusual empathy with the animals. So it is with great sadness and a certain lack of understanding, that we heard recently that they are being stood down at the end of the month. Will the hairy encounters resume? Time will tell.


Photograph courtesy of