Tuesday 20 February 2018

Channelling Otto and Lady Bracknell

That's Otto as in Kevin Kline's character in A Fish Called Wanda, and specifically this scene:
"Disappointed!" is what I frequently feel should be carved on my gravestone, were I to have one instead of requesting that my ashes be dispersed to the elements some breezy day hopefully a year or several yet in the future. And I would have it read out in exactly Otto's tones of anger and disbelief. I'll spare you a description of all the other regularly-occurring situations in which this is my reaction, and restrict myself to this morning's.

It's Tuesday, which means Travel in the NZ Herald, and a day on which I awake in the hope of seeing in print at least one of the currently 10 stories of mine that are in the paper's files. Unlike other publications, which keep writers (me) in the loop, the Herald blithely accepts stories and then consigns them to some distant electronic attic, there to moulder and lose relevance until one day - quite possibly one year (three years+ is the record so far) later - on some unpredictable whim of the editor, it eventually appears in print, to my surprise. And satisfaction, since then I can send in my invoice and get paid. 

Though there are still some hallowed publications that pay on acceptance, the Herald's financial tardiness would still be tolerable, if the payment were reasonable - but, having been writing for the Herald for well over a dozen years now, I've watched the pay rate drop and drop. A 1000-word story would once have earned me a heady $500. Now it's a scant "hundy" as the editor cheerfully terms it.

Blame the internet, of course. That's caused dropping newspaper circulation and smaller budgets, and also fewer staff, which leads me to today's disappointment. For, I promise you, the second time in five months, the satisfaction of seeing a story of mine finally in print has been shattered by its being cut off mid-sentence, the final paragraph missing. "Production error. Entirely my fault," says the editor. "Sorry."

Understood. Too much to do, too few people to do it. But... twice? Which brings me to Lady Bracknell:

 ‘To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.’

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Shackleton, Scott, shrapnel and Sholes*

Skipping over for the moment the slight awkwardness of finding myself having to write advertorial for the Azamara cruise line straight after having sailed with Silversea - it's not ideal, people, the only comparison possible is not flattering to Azamara, however "luxurious" they claim to be - I was diverted to discover, nevertheless, some connections. The Silversea cruise to Antarctica, as regular readers (gidday, Queen!) will remember, was heavy on Shackleton, what with visiting his grave at Grytviken on South Georgia, and then snooping around Elephant Island and all.
Well, it turns out - and hooray for this blog, which is now indispensable as my defacto memory - that my Azamara cruise almost a year ago had its own Shackleton links too. In Akaroa, strolling back to the waterfront after my visit to the delightfully idiosyncratic - and also lovely to look at - Giant's House, I stopped to take a photo of one of that little town's characteristic pretty wooden villas. It was only then that I saw the plaque by the gate and read that it was the birthplace of Frank Worsley, the magnificently skilled captain of the Endurance on Shackleton's doomed 1914-16 exploration. It was down to him that, when six of them left the rest of the ship's crew on Elephant Island and made their run for rescue in the hastily-adapted lifeboat James Caird, he steered them, despite rough weather and almost continuous cloud cover, straight to South Georgia. Impressive. If he'd missed by even a smidgen, the boat would have headed into the South Atlantic and the whole lot of them would have died.
And then, strolling again back towards the Journey at our next stop, Dunedin, I went into the Maritime Museum in Port Chalmers and found, amongst other miscellaneous items (including a bit of shrapnel from the Japanese attack on Darwin - that's how miscellaneous) a standard issue Overseas Expeditionary Service Sholes typewriter, claimed to have been used by not only Shackleton, but also by the fated Scott. A bit more primitive than the Imperial I learned to type on, but clearly a relation.
Well, at least now, having been reminded about other kinds of cruise maritime journey, I can type on, and be a bit more complimentary about Azamara. Thank you once again, random connections.**

* Real name, as you see in the photo - so no, I didn't omit the ellipsis. Probably a good thing they went out of business before these sweary times, eh?

**Which can also be more than a bit creepy. Only this morning, reading about Chicago's blizzard and mayor Rahm Emanuel's reassurance that the city can handle it, I was remembering having shaken his hand at IPW in 2014. And when I publish today's post, what does Blogger throw up at the bottom of it as a suggestion to read? Sinister...


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