Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review: ST KILDA BLUES Geoffrey McGeachin

Paperback304 pages
Published May 23rd 2014 by Penguin Books Australia

The 3rd in the Charlie Berlin series. Geoffrey McGeachin is a two-time Ned Kelly Award winner so I had high expectations for this book.

Set in Melbourne in 1967, there was a lot to like about it. Lots of references to places and things that were part of my adolescence. Charlie's two children are now pretty much grown up. His daughter is in Israel discovering her Jewish heritage and his troublesome son is serving in Vietnam.

The daughter of a wealthy German builder goes missing and Charlie, who is on the outer with the powers that be is asked to do an unofficial investigation. All this is done to the backdrop of an enquiry into police corruption and Charlie isn't sure he can trust his partner. He also comes to believe that the girl's disappearance may be connected to the deaths of some other girls. Could Melbourne have its first serial killer?

Add to the mix the fact that Charlie thinks he recognises the missing girl's father. During the war he witnessed an SS Officer execute a young girl. The officer had a missing middle singer and so does the father of the girl.

Geoffrey McGeachin is a two-time Ned Kelly Award winner so I had high expectations for this book.

I found myself somewhat disappointed in a few aspects of ST KILDA BLUES. It started promisingly enough with dual threads of both Charlie and the background of the yet un-named killer. The investigation for the most part was fine. However, I guessed whodunit quite some time before it was revealed and the end of the investigation felt rushed and not really satisfactorily resolved. 

There was also a plot line added after the reveal of the murderer that had Charlie and his wife travel to Israel and Germany. This came after the main plot and felt tacked on. It certainly had nothing to do with the main storyline. It's a pity that couldn't have been woven into the investigation somehow as the information was fairly interesting but totally irrelevant to to the rest of the book.

So we had the main investigation, the corruption of police, the question whether or not the father of the missing girl was a war criminal and a thread involving travel. I won't say the purpose of that exactly because that would be a spoiler, but all in all there was perhaps a little too much going on in the book that weren't directly related to one another and justice really wasn't done to any of them.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

TO the spammer who leaves a comment every day.

STOP NOW. I'm never going to approve those ridiculous comments advertising whatever. Every morning without fail there is yet another one. Does this nonsense work? I don't see how. I wish there was a way to stop it.

If there are any marketing experts out there I'd love to learn how anyone thinks this is how to promote stuff.

That is all.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Welcome to Sri Lanka and victims of a scam.

Arrived in Sri Lanka at some ungodly hour of the morning. Made more tedious by the fact that I was still feeling unwell and had transposed 2 numbers on my visa application when filling InPassport details.  After many minutes of scrutinising immigration  sent me back to an office where I sat with other similarly blighted souls. Eventually I was told Id have to submit a new application and take it to the counter. This all took an extra half hour by which time Mick and Bern had collected all the luggage fortunately. At last released from the clutches of the airport we met our guide, Janaka.

A couple of hours rest, lunch in the dining room of our hotel which overlooked the harbour and time to venture out into this new country.

I suppose it had to happen at some stage.

Sunday afternoon in Colombo.   The place pretty much shuts down so it was pretty quiet. And hot. We were appreciating that the street was quiet and that it was actually clean with no open drains, no smell of stale urine and actually a footpath. We were standing on a corner debating which way to go, waving away tuk tuk drivers who were very persistent; probably the most we've been pestered all trip when a gent came over to us, asked if he could help. He offered some suggestions where we could go for sightseeing.  He talked about gemstones and how he knew a place that had good ones and they were having an exhibition and it was worth going. We thanked him politely and told him we weren't interested and he went on his way.

We kept walking and not long after another guy approached  and asked us if we were staying at the Oriental Grand.  "Don't you remember me? I was on the front desk."  We didn't but not surprising as we had been exhausted after a sleepless night.

He said there was a nice park nearby and he was going in that direction anyway.  He'd show us and set off at a clip.  He was a bit ahead of us and was talking to Bernadette telling her he had relatives in Australia. I missed chunks of the conversation so didn't pick up on everything. Next thing there was a tuk tuk and they were getting in.  I was a bit suspicious but said nothing. After showing us a Buddhist temple and asking us to put 1000 rupee in the donation box (still suspicious but the donation box was genuine and it was a Buddhist temple, he began telling us about this gemstone exhibition alarm bells were ringing.
We went there and yes, the jewellery was stunning (and expensive) as we got the hard sell. It all fell on stones ground and we left them no better off financially than when we arrived.after that our "helpful" friend lost interest in us and dropped us off near our hotel.  Then demanded 4,000 rupees for their trouble! That's between 30 and 40$ no way!  For the distance 500 would have been generous.  I told him I want paying test much. Our guide expressed outrage that theis price was being rejected and the driver feigned anger. "  $40. Not paying that"

"Madam, this is Sri Lanka. Rupees not $"
Still the same amount though and I wasn't paying it.
As it happens the QE2 is here filled to the gunwhales with well heeled passengers who may have thought $40 was nothing. By this time I was very cross that not only had we been scammed but they wanted so much money for not very much service which we hadn't wanted anyway. And told these two that there might be some rich QE2 tourists about but we weren't among them and just because we were visiting their country didn't mean we had wads of cash to throw around. In the end Bernadette face them 2000 rupees, about half they were demanding. And they went off probably happy. I wasn't though.  Told her she had  been generous. Bern said it was worth it just to be rid of them. I'd probably gave continued to haggle these scam artists. I'm convinced though that we'd been tagg teamed and that the first helpful gent who went merrily on hiis way will get a cut.

As for Tony who claimed to work here. I mused out loud whether to report him to the hotel but the others vetoed this saying his mates might work here and we didn't want our possessions interfered with.  We check out today and begin our tour with our guide who is a lovely man whose none begins with a J which none of us can remember.  If I see "Tony" on duty though there may be words said.

In the end, it's all part of the experience.  It only cost us $20. Or at least Bernadette $20. If it was up to me, I may well have been still standing in the street haggling over the cost of their scam.

It's Groundhog Day in hell

Ok. Here's the thing. India is insane and it makes travellers insane too.
We had a 6.35 flight from Goa. If we thought the system there was confusing it was nothing compared to Mumbai International departures.

We fumbled out way through Goa and got on the right plane by sheer good luck I think. We landed in Mumbai where luckily we didn't have to check our bags. They're going right through. We hope.  So off the plane and into a line for international transfers. It moved slowly as hand luggage had to be screened before getting onto the transfer bus.  Then a jolly 20 minute ride through Mumbai. Feeling rather smug right now because after all we had plenty of time. We hadn't eaten since about 8 am but once through customs, security and immigration we had time to spare.
The bus deposited us in the road outside the terminal which had us wondering about the point of security screening before getting on the bus.

Mumbai international is an impressive building but that's about the only thing that is.  We couldn't see any signage so we asked.  That way said helpful lady on information desk.  We trudged over to security where a very chatty lass patted us down and waved us through. Right we thought plenty of time we'll have a quick look at duty free and time to eat. That was nearly 2 1/2 hours ago. We still haven't eaten.

What's the problem?immigration that's what.  We rocked up after a brisk 15 minutes in a glacier like speeding queue. Only to be told our flight isn't in the system yet.  Come back at  10. Only 10 minutes away. What the hell.we got back in line at the end of the queue again. Flight not in system. I was told 11. Bernadette told midnight. We waited some more. Then a man in airline uniform assured our flight Was in the system .back in queue once more. Flight not in system. 3 times now.  We talked to 2 English girls whose flight was apparently about to board who weren't allowed through because flight not in system.

So here we sit in no mans land between security and immigration. We can't go forward and we are told we can't go back out either. There are no toilets in this airport twilight zone hell and we are starving. We are debating whether to get back into the ever increasingly long line.  Oh . And there is no way of finding out if your flight is in the system unless you get in line.  So do we get in line for the 4th time and hope like hell that by the time we get to the front our flight will be there or do we wait until midnight and hope likehell that we don't miss our flight because it's taken so long in line.  It's beginning to feel like Groundhog Day. This way lies insanity.

Update. We got through on 4th go in the line. Even then Bernadette and I went through and the bloke Mick copped tried to tell him flight not in system. Mick muttered something about how many times he'd been in the line and pointed to us waiting on the other side. Man left his booth without explanation while I watched steam come out of Micks ears. Then he came back and stamped his passport. At last. Goodbye India. Leaving the country proved to be more frustrating then getting the visa to go there. And that's saying something.

Oh and the squits returned last night. Siiigh

Sent from my iPad

Sleeping (or not) on a train and swimming pools in Goa

The overnight train from Mumbai to Goa was uneventful.  Sleeping on a train if you're not paying an arm and a leg is never going to be particularly restful, but when you have a little man going up and down saying "coffee, coffee" at regular intervals it becomes almost impossible.  By the time the sun came up I was ready to murder him.

We alighted around 9am hot and tired and boarded a bus for our hotel.   At this point in time all anyone wanted was to get to the hotel and rest. But it was not to be yet.  It was a fairly long drive punctuated by a visit to a local fish market and a vegie market. After several weeks we arrived at our hotel and flopped down in chairs for the usual ritual of handing out of keys.  Rooms, refreshing showers and beds would soon be ours.  But no.  This hotel didn't do things that way. We had to check in one by one, fill out forms and give our passport details. After several months we finally got to our rooms.  A demonstration cooking Goan fish curry for lunch. Not sure how enthused everyone was about this. Tiredness had taken its toll.

 After a short walk to the beach it was decided  to hit the swimming pool as the sand was so hot you felt your feet cooking.  There was also a little bit of an undertow.  Never has a pool been more welcome.
Evening meal came with entertainment. 3 African acrobats.  Given the limitations of space and budget they were very impressive.

The pool was the main attraction of this stay, interrupted the next day by a visit to a couple of Old Goan Churches with a guide whose English was almost incomprehensible.  He gave us facts and figures I suppose but as we couldn't understand a word he said we have no idea what they might be. We just nodded from time to time.

A visit to a spice garden was considerably more informative. The young woman walked us around the exhibition garden.  We learned that the apple part of the cashew nut is made into alcohol named Feni (or fenny as our hotel cocktail menu called it.). A tasty lunch and back to the main attraction: the pool!

That evening we had our farewell dinner, followed by cocktails at one of the beach bars
 With Ravi keeping us all entertained with stories.  It had been a fun two weeks with wonderful travelling companions.  A very harmonious group who were missed on the next leg of our trip.