#32 - Pentecostal Sunday by Mark Boyter
Sunday. I’ve been hitch-hiking for 4 days. 730 miles. Tenting. Tonight is Lethbridge. Southern Alberta. Bible belt Canada. A red Corolla stops. “I’m Leela,” she says. My age. Pretty. “Hop in.” I can pitch my tent in her parents’ backyard, she says. First, she’s heading to evening service. Pentecostal. “You wanna come? It’s at the Ramada Inn.” At coffee she introduces me to Mel, late 50s and full of vibrating voices. “Come with me,” and he walks to the front desk. He pulls out his credit card. “Get this fellow a room,” he says. “With a shower,” and he winks.
#31 - Everybody Goes by Mark Boyter
The Eagles Club, Oceanshores, Washington. Paint stick lotto Monday. My first visit.
“Gotta get there early,” Jewel says. “Everybody goes.”
I pay Marge my dollar and pull number 23. Jewel pays and pulls 77.
“We got 5 left,” Willie shouts. “Can we sellout?” and Marge lifts the sticks high to show. Hands shoot up, Marge sells the last stick “Ok!” and Willie shouts “Here we go.”
He spins the wheel and it clacks to a stop at “Number 57.”
John waves his stick, makes his way forward, tips his cowboy hat and chooses the Tequila.
“Ok,” Willie shouts. “Round two.”
#30 - Shopping in France by Beth Haslam
I peek around the corner.
Nooo, wrong. Lost again! But time’s running out.
Wheeling around, I dash down another identical street, slipping on wet cobbles, skidding to a halt at the T-junction.
Which way now?
Frantically scanning, nothing but interminable cobbles and…stairs. Aha! I remember these.
Clattering up near-vertical steps I pause at the top – panting.
Surely it’s close now.
Two paces right – it’s there. Thank heavens! I gallop towards my goal, panic-stricken – seconds to go.
If I don’t reach it before midday I’ve failed, the pâtisserie will shut.
Grandma deprived of her favourite cupcakes is an inconceivable thought!
#29 - France in the Mist by Beth Haslam
Exploring a lane flanked by late sunflowers, all blanketed in thick rolling mist. Noises deadened, flower heads sodden, quiet, still, so still.
Ahead, an ancient hamlet enveloped in the grey, nestled between woods and open flatland.
Fragmented baying of hounds boom in the eerie distance.
I start in shock.
A terrified wild boar, prehistoric-like form, tusks, pelt, stink, breaks cover and claims sanctuary in the woods below.
The hounds, close now, indefinable in colour and shape, men with guns, whips and curses. The mist conceals all and they are gone.
France, still medieval, frozen in a preternatural moment in time.
#28 - April in Venice by Helen Chambers
April in Venice, evening, first-ever visit: as exciting as I’d imagined. Our attic room looked over red-tiled roofs, a bell-tower and home-built roof gardens. When I heard the screaming, I peered outside once more. Boomeranging silhouettes jack-knifed, avoiding collision, swerving amongst chimney pots, agile and graceful despite their raucous voices. Teen-aged gangs of swifts, long before they would arrive in England. Harbingers to summer, and my heart soared with them.
#27 - Sense and Scents of Tuscany by Judian TJ Cooney
There is something special about reliving memories from back in time. The kind of place where the scents in the air are thick with smells of beautiful heirloom roses, aromas of honey making and wonderful wine. The vineyards and soil, the incredible Terroir that sneaks into your sense of smell, as if you had been there before..spend the day exploring the towns of Montepulciano, a Renaissance Village, where the sunsets are a special kind of Gold, in this tiny little place in the world. Toasting in front of a Smokey real fire from a stone fireplace. That's Tuscany in September!
#26 - Notes from a Small Island by Elizabeth Moore
I love Guam. I love the torrential warm rains that leave the earth steaming and impromptu waterfalls careening down cliffs. I love the diving in Apra Harbor where war machinery and wrecks skulk amid colourful fish and coral. I love red rice and local fish steamed in coconut milk. I love the palms and breadfruit trees growing in profusion. I love the colourful painted statues of the carabao – the island’s huge water buffalo -scattered across the landscape. I even love the smell of jungle decay and leaf litter on the forest floor.
#25 - Niagara by Elizabeth Moore
As we near the falls, the air is heavy with spray. I expect a salty taste but it is fresh. My face is sodden, my plastic attire barely able to withstand the watery assault, but I am oblivious. These are the Horseshoe Falls and they are mesmerising. Instantly I understand the foolhardy barrel riding and fateful canoe attempts. This watery Everest demands to be conquered, but success is denied to most comers. When the full thrust of our motors attains equilibrium with the oncoming torrent, we pause in silent salute to this moment and then turn back to the pier.
#24 - NIGHT WALK by Syd Blackwell
The hunters of the night who stalk their prey
along the daylight trail we walked today
when we so arrogantly thought to claim
some kind of control over their domain
now have their sovereignty restored by night
which we minutely penetrate with light
so not to stumble over root or rock
or grab lianas or thick woody stalks
where poison spiders ants and snakes abound
not hindered by the blackness so profound
The jungle rings the jungle sings and brings
primordial fears to human beings
We pass through blackness all these nightly sounds
just thankful that no jaguars are around
somewhere on Rio Ibaré, Bolivia
#23 - THIS IS THE ONE by Phil Canning
We arrived in Santa Marta around noon and first impressions were promising but I was searching for more.... We saw a hill that led out of the village and went to investigate
As we reached the plateau I stopped and looked up at the biggest sky I'd ever seen .... deep blue with occasional wisps of white cloud..... I turned 360 degrees taking in the amazing unbroken views of the Campo..... I stood and listened .... turned to my partner and said ..."You hear that"?
She looked at me quizzically and said ... "hear what"?...... I grinned broadly and replied "exactly"
#22 - NO MORE CURRY! by Jill Dobbe
After a month of eating only spicy Indian food, I couldn’t take it any longer. What I craved more than anything was just a normal cheese pizza. Overjoyed to find Dominos Pizza in Gurgaon, India, I picked up the phone and called in my order.
Dominos: “HellowelcometoDominoswillyoubewantingapizzatoday?” (Spoken with a very rapid and lilting Indian accent.)
Me: “Yes I would like to order a large margherita pizza.”
Me: “NO! I said a large MARGHERITA pizza!”
Me: “Okay, yes, whatever!”
Dominos: “Wewillbeseeingyouinthirtyminuteswithyoursmallspicydelightpizzaand thecostwillbe*!@# (unintelligible) rupeesthankyouforcallingDominos,Madam.”
I hung up ten minutes later completely baffled.
#21 - The First Tapa Is All It Takes! by Bob Manning
Hesitating at the door; Stopped in my tracks by the bedlam within.
I peered through the smog.
The congested bar stretched into inconspicuousness.
Sinister and sublime.
Pinpointing a space amongst the revelers, I cut through the sultry atmosphere, kickin-up the debris of discarded delights.
I clung to the glutinous counter.
The barman’s raised eyebrows questioned me.
“Caña” I smiled.
With brutal efficiency he slopped a small beer in front of me, whilst summoning “the first”.
Indeed it was.
An old crone delivered a small plate of orange gunge. Temptingly dangerous.
“Foreigner” she spat.
The air thickened.
#20 - Lost in Washington D.C. by Sandra Staas
Driving around Washington D.C. for the first time in 8 years, going 70 miles an hour in the slow lane. Lost.
“We need to take the George Washington Parkway.” I search hopefully for signs.
“Are you sure? Do you really know where you’re going?!”
“I think I do.”
“Make a left. Make a left HERE! Now!”
I swerve abruptly zooming across lanes, almost getting hit by a tour bus and make a sharp left. Hands clenched on the steering wheel, I mutter, “Now where are we?”
“How should I know? I thought you knew where you were going!”
#19 - Nets by Philippa Hawley
Hot off the Lake Iseo ferry, the sun peeps with me, through a small window where hangs a hammock. This is the place I’m seeking.
In the cool interior sits a lone worker, an artist of threads, at a sewing machine as wide as my desk. He doesn’t raise his head, but reaches for coloured reels of string.
If he can make fisherman’s nets, or nets for a tennis court; Wimbledon they say – then he is the man for me. I buy a bunch of string shopping bags, one in every colour. Mission accomplished.
#18 - "How much meat!?" by Lin Middleton
“How much meat?!”
“A 72oz steak , baked potato, salad, shrimp cocktail, bread roll” Ken replied.
We were at the Big Texan Restaurant, Amarillo – home of the 72oz steak challenge.
People sat at the table. An hour to eat their meal. One man remained with just one more forkful. He gave in. His green pallor told his story.
Others tried, only to be defeated. We weren’t going to see anyone win the battle tonight.
“A woman holds the record, eating three steaks in 20 minutes” said Ken.
“That's more than 13lbs of meat!”, Ken replied, reading my thoughts.
#17 - SKOPELOS KAT by Syd Blackwell
is not fat
is lean and mean
for fish head
or chicken bone
or territorial home
or slow with broken hip
too obscene to lick
is sore of eye
or missing fur
or short of tail
Skopelos postcard cat
in orange door
on woven mat
in blue window
with potted flowers
eats whole fish
from fishing boat
is not Skopelos cat
July 17, 1989
#16 - Grouse Mountain by Susan Brown
We stepped off the gondola into a different world. From the hustle and bustle of the town we had arrived at an area with stunning views and crisp, fresh air. Exploring the area we came across some beautiful wood carvings of animals and birds. In the hills we could see brown bears wandering around and eagles gliding across the sky. The cafe was a welcome sight after a few hours walking. We had coffee as we watched the sun set over Vancouver and the Pacific ocean. Amazing experience!
#15 - Wrong Way - Right Words by Mike Cavanagh
Lost. Some sheep track in south-west Ireland. We’d past an elderly, local shepherd with his collie on the way in. I’d waved hello; he’d largely ignored us; just more tourists.
U-turning at a locked gate in the dry-stone wall, we headed back down the track. The shepherd stood aside as we neared. I stopped and asked directions. He answered briskly, pointed vaguely.
“Go raibh maith agat!” – ‘Thanks’, I said.
He grabbed my arm:
“Begorrah! You have the Irish!”
Well, a few words – but his smile beamed. Not tourists now, but a long lost relative, to be sure, to be sure.
#14 - The Portuguese Plate by Shirley Ledlie
We drove speedily down the motorway, in Portugal, eager to reach our destination in the beautiful Algarve.
We collect decorative plates from the countries we visit, so when I spotted some in the petrol station I pointed them out to my husband.
“How much is the one you like?” He asked.
“13 Euros, not bad eh?” Or so I thought.
“Oh, don’t bother, we can find a cheaper one when we’re there.”
Of course we didn’t, and ended up buying one from a petrol station on the way back home…At the cost of 18 euros!
#13 - LEGS-SEA, CHICKEN AND OTHERS! by Julie Haigh
I went on a day trip sailing the Grenadines on holiday in Barbados. A very early start so no time for breakfast. A short flight in a small 6-seater plane and then on the boat all day. I get travel sick, but, if I have a good breakfast before I go I’m much better! Felt very queasy and just sat still for a couple of hours looking out to sea going "Oh, oh, oh". The midday meal was served up-chicken I thought-I really enjoyed it-and felt fine after that! People kept saying they didn't think it was chicken legs though…….
#12 - Hummingbirds and Cowboys by Lin Middleton
The Medina River meandered gracefully. Some children swung from ropes tied to branches, whilst others swam in the cool water in the dappled shade of the trees to cool down from the September heat. Hummingbirds darted colourfully gathering nectar. They would soon head south to warmer climates once the weather changed.
Suddenly, the sound of gunfire pierced the silence, followed by more shots! People were running! Cowboys! It's a shoot-out!
It was just Saturday in downtown Bandera where Cowboys reenact the old west lifestyle on Main Street.
Welcome to “The cowboy capital of the world”! Welcome to Texas!
#11 - QUAKE MISTAKE by Frank Kusy
At 8.46am on January 26th 2001, I was shaken out of my bed in India by what I assumed to be a super-loud banging at my door.
I was so incensed, I stormed to the door, grabbed the person standing outside, and blindly shook him. ‘It’s taken me hours to get to sleep!’ I shouted. ‘Bog off and leave me alone!’
Two hours later, I found the hotel manager, Mr Singh, cowering behind his desk in terror.
‘What are you doing down there?’ I asked him, and he said, ‘Big earthquake this morning. Whole hotel is shaking. No more attack, please!’
#10 - Lost in Japan by Judy Testard Bauer
I got lost in my travels in Japan in the underground tunnels that are there for you to cross the street. I went up the wrong stairs and found myself where I could not recognize the surroundings. Come to find out I went to the wrong side of the street. Well it made me disorientated. I was completely turned around. I went up to a Japanese lady and said my hotel name and she actually walked me there. She did not speak English and I did not know Japanese. I was touched by her kindness.
#9 - WHILE DRINKING SUMO LIMA by Syd Blackwell
At Torreira today
I saw a father and son
each in his own way
on a bicycle built for one
With both hands on the handle bar
was not far
from dropping ash on the crossbar
but had not done so yet
With shoulders inside father's arms
son balanced on the bar
oblivious to ash or other harm
which had worked out well so far
I wondered as I quenched my thirst
ash or son which would fall first
July 18, 1991
#8 - La Tortuga Island, Venezuela 1998 by Susan Joyce
We joined divers near an uninhabited island off the coast of Venezuela for a week of exploring. One evening the captain invited us to join his family for a spin around a mangrove swamp nearby. Honored, we climbed aboard his small motor boat.
A calm sea beckoned us into lush inlets.
Halfway around, the engine sputtered and stopped.
“Dirty gas” the captain said.
No toolbox on board. No oars. No life jackets.
Crazy, especially with a baby aboard.
We drifted and waited.
We watched, listened, and shouted for joy when fishermen came to our rescue.
#7 - Apricot Sunshine by Elizabeth Moore
An afternoon in the medieval town of Minerve, France. I walked cobbled streets and looked down from this cliff hugging hamlet to the dry gorge below.
A barrow of apricots announced – ‘fruits non arroses-producteur a Minerve’ – unsprayed, local fruit. I tasted the soft, yellowness of this beautiful region – mouth-melting sunshine; delicious, golden harvest.
Early Australian summer and my husband surprised me with a single apricot. He’d battled predators, fruit-fly and weather to bring me a sunbeam. One bite and I was back in the little village once more, as the juice dribbled slowly down my chin.
#6 - Mmmmm……Chocolate! by Jill Dobbe
Nervous and shy, I entered the hut made of flimsy grass walls. The dark-skinned Mayan woman handed me a thick white towel and told me to take off my clothes. I lay on the table stark naked while musical flutes crooned quietly in the background. The sweet, seductive smell of warm chocolate overwhelmed me as the masseuse spread globs of the heavenly confectionery over my entire body.
“Do you want to taste?” she asked.
I dipped my finger in and licked off the rich chocolatey goodness, sighing with undeniable pleasure.
#5 - Crosswind Pilot By Mike Cavanagh
Forty knot crosswind. Last plane before the airport is closed. ‘Windy’ Wellington, New Zealand, rated by international pilots as one of the three worst places in the world to land a plane.
‘Yaw’ – twist horizontally.
‘Pitch’ – rock nose up and down.
‘Roll’ – twist on own forward axis.
All three with shuddering, stomach-churning force.
185 souls on board, seatbelts and bottoms clenched, travelling 140 miles per hour, thirty metres off the ground, and already a third along the runway.
One split second, plane aligned.
‘Thump!’ Instantly down, tyres squeal, hold.
Cabin pulsating with 185 souls spontaneously clapping and cheering.
To Rome from Florence, last days. To spend a night near the sea. Unbeknown to us, Ferragosto, every Italian in the country at coasts. Every hotel, no vacancy. Toll-taker tells us, “go to Fregenae.” Room $15. No A/C, no bathroom. Sweat pooling in the hollows of body and mosquitos. Morning, to husband, “start the car, we’re out of here.” Hotel’s daytime manager, grabs my wrist, “no American woman should sleep in a room like that.” Horrified by his servitude. Tour remodeled rooms of hotel, A/C so cold and bathroom. Mile from the ocean. 3 more days, $15 a night. Yes.
#3 - Bewitched by Nancy McBride
Dancing with pick-up partner, “Billie from Belfast”, to the throbbing, rhythmic blues of Wolfie Witcher and his Brew, in Camdentown, I was in full-blown, dirty-dancing heaven. Squeezed, like on a spawning salmon ladder, we flowed up onto chairs, then easily ONTO the table, never missing a beat, frenzied. The burly bouncer politely requested that we, “Please dance on the chairs, not on the tables.” My daughter’s partner, impressed, shouted, "Who's your chum?" She shouted, "It's my MUM!" Stopped him cold in his tracks! His “mum”, apparently, was home baking biscuits! I'd love to see the band again, and “Billie”.
Floating downstream past the ghats of Varanasi at sunrise is leisurely and mystical, the shoreline of the City of Light softened in the fine haze left behind by the day before. The rabble on the ghats fades into timeless echoes from another reality. The wailing of a sitar, real or imagined, pours out all the joys and sorrows of life in India across the cosmos. And I am just a privileged onlooker, stirred for a moment by passion for a people and a country where both the ancient and the infinite are mutually inclusive concepts.
#1 - Off the Rails by Tony James Slater
I sprinted down the platform, ignoring all sounds of pursuit.
The train was like something from 1970’s Britain, only daubed with indecipherable Chinese characters. The air was hot and spicy.
I swung into my carriage with one thought: Must Reach My Wife.
She was already aboard; if it left without me we’d be completely adrift, separated by a thousand miles of deepest China.
“Thank God!” she said, “I was so worried!”
“Yeah,” I panted, “but we have a problem…”
Her eyes widened as she saw the policemen forcing their way down the carriage towards me. All were carrying machine guns.