The thing about writing novels, they are – ‘must be’ – based on fact. You see something on TV or the movies and you say “I wouldn’t have done that.” Or “I wouldn’t have acted that way.” Thus when you create a situation in a novel, you make the character react as you think he should, based on your own knowledge, or what you think is true. If in reality you have been through these situations you have a better and more realistic understanding of what would or might happen. Of course it is reasonable that different people would react in different ways.
How would you react? I lived in a luxury 6 apartment building which was situated in a large wooded piece of land that had lawns at the front and a large parking area. The building was in an elite area of Nairobi on State House Road. Quite countryish for a major city.
One morning around three o’clock I was awakened by the sound of the door bell ringing, and a few moments later I heard another door bell. Obviously some drunk or prankster at work. Some time later I heard unusual noises. I climbed from my bed and quietly exited our front door, there I stood silently in the shadows listening. Sure enough there was activity in the corridor above. I remained quiet and in the shadows, unseen. After some time the noises ceased and I assumed all was well and returned to my bed. Only minutes after laying down I heard more unusual noises, this time outside. Quietly and gingerly I eased the curtain aside and peered out of the window. I saw two men carrying of all things a hi-fi cabinet. Piled on top of the hi-fi were lots of other things, making the trip difficult for the thieves. Without doubt these ‘gentlemen’ were absconding with someone’s private property. What would you have done?
What I did, in after thought is quite humorous. Making as little noise as possible I walked to the kitchen and took the largest knife I could find – a bread knife. Then in pajamas and slippers I eased my way out through the front door of the building. Outside I could see the thieves still struggling with their load. By now they were at least a hundred paces away and heading for the main road. I screamed at the top of my voice and ran at them waving the knife.
They must have thought it was some fearful demon from hell. They dropped their ill gotten gains and fled. One ran for the main road and one ran toward the back of the gardens. Not a swift move. At the rear of the grounds was an old pit dug for rocks to make the apartment building’s foundations. It had become filled with garden rubbish and thorn bushes. I heard the man scream as he descended into the dark hole.
Although I saved the day, I received no thanks, but I did have the satisfaction of knowing these particular crooks would think twice before trying it again.
They do say, “A man is the sum of his experiences.” I would suppose women are included. It’s difficult to write about something if it is purely imagination. Sometimes reality is totally different to what you would think. In the mid 1960’s I went to East Africa – my vision of Africa was what I had seen in the Tarzan movies. I expected everyone to live in grass huts, and there would be jungle and wild animals everywhere, and of course it would be stinking hot.
We landed at Embakasi Airport, a very modern place with no grass huts, now it is known as Kenyatta International. Nairobi is on a hilly plane just above the Rift Valley. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful – vast open spaces with occasional trees or thorn bushes. The temperature hovers around 70 F or 20 ish C. – all day every day.
Another surprising experience was when I went to the Caribbean. We visited some five different islands. Oh, I’ve been to the tropics before, what would be so new there? Island people are not like mainlanders, they have a different outlook. On the Island of St Kitts we took the Sugar Train; it’s especially for the tourists. A narrow gauge railway that was originally for hauling sugar cane from the farms to the mills, it’s now decked out to carry passengers and travels roughly halfway round the island. The centre of the island is the massive Mount Liamuiga, a 1156 metre (3750 feet) tall extinct volcano and dominates the entire trip.
Not wishing to be an advocate for travel, but wow! I truly recommend the ride, with beautiful scenery, a fabulous look at the entire island, gorgeous Caribbean singers and free rum. But at $107 per person, it’s not something to do every day.
The second and probably the most profound was when we visited Barbados. From Bridgetown we took a boat out into the bay, just a couple of miles and there we met a miniature submarine.
As soon as my wife saw the sub surface close to us, she stated flatly, “I’m not going on that thing.”
By the time we had safely moored alongside I’d persuaded her to go. I think it was me that needed the encouragement. We walked along the sub’s deck to the conning tower where with the aid of a sailor we descended into the inner sanctum. At that point all fears fled. It was just like entering any ship, or even the lower deck of a double deck bus. We sat and glared out the windows at the bottom of the vessel that brought us. The trip was wonderful. One little fish followed us for miles and occasionally looked in the window at all the funny looking occupants of the sub. There were magnificent shoals of electric blue fish they swam in perfect synchronisation. A giant school of Horseeye silver fish passed by.
“We are passed the reef,” said the intercom. “and will be descending to 150 feet.”
I saw my first sunken ship as the ghostly image drifted slowly by my view port. There was absolutely no fear, no sense of depth or danger. A beautiful world of mystery and strange animals. The soft hum of the sub’s engines seemed comforting. I strongly recommend it, but at $126 per person, probably once is enough.