I am presently immersed in China in the years 1914 to 1920. It is an immense job and very time consuming. But oh so much fun! And I am able to place my characters, my grandparents, in the place and see them laughing together, holding hands, walking along. It is so nice. Aw.
Yichang, China. In 1915 it was called Ichang and, as it is today, a major port on the Yangtze River. Today it is the last port before the massive Three Gorges Dam complex. When I was there in 2009, I felt such a strong presence of my grandparents, Oliver and Darl. They were married there in late 1915. We arrived in Yichang late one evening, went to a restaurant in the red light district for dinner (go figure??), and then later headed down an ancient road, the ONLY road from the city centre to the wharves. This road, cobblestoned and rough, so narrow that our bus could barely make its way through, passed at snail pace through an urban ancient area. I said to Robyn, this would not have changed since they came through here. It is the ONLY road from the city to the wharf. As our bus was sometimes stationary for ages, we could see inside people’s homes. They were cooking, sitting around, some were watching TV, some were outside smoking, just watching the one lane of traffic. How they must hate living on this busy road. This was an OLD area. Oliver and Darl would have passed on this very road to board the river boat to take them back to Shanghai. I cannot describe how close I felt to them that night.
Okay... an excerpt from my work in progess...
Singapore wharf was noisy, hectic, exotic. Darl and Annie were leaning on the ship railing looking down at the chaotic scene below them. Oriental men carried heavy luggage and trunks by a stick across their shoulders and the loads dangling from either end. Barefoot and wearing strangely shaped round straw hats, they ran sure-footed up and down the gangways with their heavy loads. The girls saw large baskets of exotic and strange fruits and foodstuffs being brought onboard. There was no band, just a cacophony of sounds emanating from the busy wharf. People shouting, the creak and squeak of pulleys and chains, metal clanging, hawkers calling out to sell their wares. The air was thick and heavy with humidity, dark clouds hung threateningly above the ramshackle shacks and buildings on the wharf. Annie and Darl reeled from the strong smells that wafted up to their vantage point. They could not identify what the smells were, but the ladies were fanning themselves to keep some air circulating about their faces, and this helped to dispel some of the unpleasant odours. Dressed in their normal shipboard attire, they looked longingly at the colourful, sleeveless frocks and broad brimmed straw hats that the handful of European ladies on the wharf were wearing. They would have gone into the salon to await the departure from hot and smelly Singapore, but it was far too hot in there. No breeze at all to blow away the thick air. They were better off watching with interest all that was happening in this strange place.
After a whole day of unloading and loading, of farewelling passengers that they had become friendly with, the Tasman was finally ready to depart. The hausers were dropped, and a tug slowly pulled the ship out from the wharf into the harbour, and then left them when the Tasman reached the South China Sea. Next stop, Hong Kong.
On the first night at sea, the Tasman rocked and rolled alarmingly. The wind was so strong it was screeching through the rigging on the fore and aft mastheads. The acrid smoke from the single funnel was being pushed back down into the ship making it most unpleasant. The cabin boys were hurriedly running up and down the hallways of the passenger accommodation carrying china bowls. The smell of vomit was becoming worse as passengers succumbed to sea sickness.
Okay, that's all for now. You will have to fork out money to read the rest of it. :-)