The Write Way
18 December 2009
Twilight Zone ...
If you emailed me recently and I was a little tardy in replying, it's because we've been away on one of our many trips Down South -- not all the way to Melbourne this time, just to the border of NSW and Victoria. On the way down, we stopped in at Bowral on the Southern Highlands to catch up with friends, and since we were unable to book into our usual motel, we spent two nights instead at Robertson.
This is a picturesque little town right on the edge of the escarpment of the Great Dividing Range; from here, the road drops down through Macquarie Pass to the coastal plains around Wollongong. Those of you who've seen the Babe movies will be familiar with the area. There was great excitement among our Robbo friends when the movie-makers came to town, especially when lots of locals were roped in as extras!
Apart from the spectacular scenery, its fame as a film location and its principal products (cheese and spuds), Robertson also has a fabulous old hotel, which was where we stayed.
This place started life as the Hotel Robertson in the early 20s, when it was built as a destination for the flappers of Sydney who used to travel down by train or in one of those new-fangled motor cars. It reportedly won an award for the “most luxurious hotel in the Commonwealth” in 1925 and was the first hotel in Australia to have phone lines to every room! Set in 14 acres of gardens, it had tennis courts, a golf course and swimming pools. Sadly for the owners, the Good Times were short-lived (does the year 1929 ring any bells?)
It was thrown a life-line in 1930, when it re-opened as an elite country club and was renamed Ranelagh House (so the new owners could keep all the sand-blasted glass doors with their RH logos and the hotel's monogrammed linen). But again, the timing was wrong and the club shut its doors in 1934.
During W W II, the hotel was used by the WRAAF (Women's Royal Australian Air Force) as a depot, and after the war, as a hospice for returned pilots.
Then in 1947, the building was sold to the Franciscans, who renamed it St Anthony's College and made it into a friary and seminary for their monks. With all those idle hands needing to be kept busy, it's no surprise that this is the time when major works were undertaken, and most of the terraces, raised gardens and rock walls date to these years of free labour!
The Franciscans also added all the beautiful stained glass panels throughout the building (as you'll see in the photos anon ...)
But Ranelagh still wasn't happy with its tenants, and the monks called it quits in the early 70s, heading for quarters closer to Sydney. Ranelagh was sold again and reverted to its original role as a hotel.
Our association with it dates back to this era, in fact, to the late 70s, when one of my aunts spent time there. She'd managed motels in country towns for a friend of hers during her working days, and when she retired and her friend bought this amazing old hotel, it was only natural that my aunt would jump at the chance to get back to doing what she loved.
The first time we went there was before it was ready for its latest incarnation and public opening, so we had a full tour of all the Upstairs and Downstairs areas ... and what a place! It's huge, built in the style of a grand English Manor, with 80+ guest rooms and suites, soaring ceilings, sweeping stair cases, wings heading off in all directions, a ball room, lounge areas on every floor, massive open fire-places ... Just wonderful, but also a teensy bit spooky, and we marvelled at my 60-something aunt who was often there on her own.
Fast forward to our recent visit, when we arrived in a Sunday afternoon to check in and were surrounded by about a dozen laughing couples who'd been down for one of those Music-in-the-Vineyard dos that are so popular everywhere now. After oohing and aahing at how it all looked the same as it had when we were there before, we wandered around the gardens and noted how much had grown and changed since our last visit (only ... gulp ... 30 years ago ... Egad!)
Our rooms (in a corner on the top floor of the three-storeys) had lovely views and one of those genuine (i.e. un-renovated) 1920s bathrooms with ancient plumbing ... it was fabulous. After dinner in town, and post-prandial drinkies on the lounge listening to the piano player and chatting with other guests, we settled ourselves in for the night and enjoyed hearing the sounds of our fellow guests as they returned to their rooms, chatting and still laughing. (Maybe it was more a case of Wine in the Vineyard rather than Music.)
We tried to imagine what it must have been like in the 20s with all the Beautiful People down for their weekend, taking the cool mountain air to escape the heat of the city and soon fell asleep to those noises common to old buildings ... gurgling pipes, creaking floors and things going bump in the night.
Breakfast next morning was taken on the sunny enclosed verandahs on the ground floor and was one of those artery-thickening affairs consisting of eggs, lashings of bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes etc, followed by sweet pastries, crumpets and muffins with full-cream butter and 100% salt content ... Sheer heaven!
We spent the second day of our stay catching up with friends and didn't get back to the hotel until around 5 pm, when we chatted to the receptionist on our way up to our rooms. The Love of My Life commented that it was much quieter than the previous day, to which the receptionist replied that we were the only guests that night.
We laughed and joked about having the place to ourselves, and she repeated that we would most definitely be the only ones there ... all the staff would be gone by 6. She must have misinterpreted the quick looks we exchanged, because she added, "But the cook will be here in the morning to prepare breakfast. Just tell her what you want and she'll make it for you."
"Lovely," I murmured, as I managed a small smile and glanced up the sweeping staircase to the shadows beyond and the stairs twisting up and disappearing yet further into the stygian gloom ... where our rooms were.
Already I could feel the prickle up the back of my neck as I tried not to think of all the empty rooms around us. Tuning back in, I heard her giving instructions to the LoML about how to operate the huge television downstairs in the lounge, where to find extra coffee etc and how to get out -- and back in -- the front doors.
Does she honestly think we're going to be wandering around here in the dark ... alone?
Not this little black duck!
With a final cheery wave, she vanished into her office to complete her work for the day before leaving us to our fate.
Since we'd spent the day eating far too much, we weren't hungry and there was no way known I was going to go into town for a meal, drive back here in the dark and then let ourselves in ... What if we couldn't get the door to open? What if someone else pulled up and wanted to stay the night? What if someone had come earlier and we didn't know and ...?
So back in our rooms, we rummaged through our bags and found a packet of savoury biscuits we'd bought on our travels, and that was dinner for the night!
We heard the receptionist and other staff drive off after 6, and while I was ready to lock our door and stay put, the LoML decided he wanted a coffee. He offered to bring one back up for me ... Stay here on the top floor alone? In the deepening gloaming? While he was three floors below? (See previous comment re duck.)
Putting on a brave face, I followed him down two flights of stairs, along two sets of corridors, past countless empty rooms (Oh please, let them all be empty ...) through the bar area and out into the dining area to get our coffee. Skilfully masking my mounting unease, I maintained my lively girlish chatter, until the LoML turned to me with that knowing grin that comes after many years together, poked me in the ribs and said, "You're scared, aren't you?"
"Huh!" I declared, scurrying after him as he made his way into the lounge to watch the big telly.
"Aren't we going back upstairs?" I squeaked. The response was another annoying chuckle as he patted the seat beside him and proceeded to channel surf.
Now, lest you think me a real sook, I must say in my defence that it is a big place, nay, not just big, but really big, and that can be scary -- especially when you have an over-active imagination.
And did you notice the skilful use of epanorthosis there?
What's that you say?
What's epanorthosis when it's at home?
It is, dear reader, the rephrasing of an immediately preceding word or statement for the purpose of intensification, emphasis or justification, as in “Seems, madam! Nay, it is; I know not "seems.'”
Another way of saying this is that it's "a figure of speech in which a word is recalled, in order to substitute a more correct or stronger word."
e.g. "I am angry -- no, I am furious about the delay."
" ...the infernal combustion engine -- er, the internal combustion engine. "
And it comes from the Greek epanorthosis (correction, revision), which is from the prefixes epi- (upon) ana- (again) and orthosis (making straight).
While not may of us may use words like "nay" in everyday chat, we do quite frequently resort to a little epanorthosis ...
e.g. "I've told you ten times already that you're not going to that party. No, not ten, twenty!"
I've rabbited on even more than usual today, so I'll spare you the rest of the story. If you want to find out about our night spent alone, (and see some photos ... including some straight from the Twilight Zone, you non-believers) click for the rest of the Ranelagh story ...
This week's Little Something Extra has lots of inspiration for your writing ... No, I'm not going to tell you, you'll see when you get there ...
And did you hear about the butler who came running into his important master's office. "Sir, sir, there's a ghost in the corridor. What shall I do with him?"
Without looking up from his work the master said, "Tell him I can't see him now."
This week's quiz:
How familiar are you with things that go bump in the night?
Match 'em up:
clairvoyance, poltergeist, simulacra, amulet, vortex, banshee, ectoplasm, demon, ignis fatuus, telekinesis
1. phosphorescent or spectral light that that is alleged to be an indication of death. This phenomenon is thought to be caused by spontaneous combustion of gases emitted by rotting organic matter
2. an object that is thought to bring good luck or have the power to protect from ghosts or spirits and ward off evil
3. demonic or parasitic entity that feeds upon human remains
4. acute insight or perceptiveness that enables you to see objects or events that cannot be perceived by the senses in the form of mental imagery and intuition
5. the seeing of faces, figures and images in ordinary, everyday object such as rocks, foliage, etc.
6. wailing spirit or “death omen” that will appear to be in two different places at the same time
7. the power to move something by thinking about it without the application of physical force
8. a non-human spirit entity which literally means "noisy ghost" but is usually more malicious and destructive than ghosts of dead human beings; traditional activities are thumping and banging, levitating or the moving of objects, stone throwing and starting fires
9. immaterial or ethereal substance associated with spirit manifestations
10. anomaly that appears as a funnel or rope-like image in photographs; these images are sometimes thought to represent ghosts, collections of orbs or gateways which travel to a wormhole in time-space
One night, after closing time, a barman was sitting at his bar minding his own business, when a spectral hound floated in through the door. The barman, being an exceptionally cool kind of man, said, "Yeah, what do you want?"
The phantom hound explained, in a haunting voice, "I've lost my tail and cannot rest until a kindly barman stitches it back on."
At this request the barman stood back astonished and said to the phantom dog, "Sorry, but we don't re-tail spirits at this time of night."
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Last week's quiz:
abaft, benthic, ebb, ichthyology, lek, detrivore, gyre, pelagic, crepuscular, anadromous
1. an animal (such as a salmon) that spends much of its life at sea and then returns to a freshwater stream or lake to spawn - ANADROMOUS
2. a communal area used by adult males during the breeding season as a stage for the competitive attraction of females - LEK (Not to be confused with a singles bar)
3. an organism that feeds on large bits of dead and decaying organic matter - DETRIVORE (What detrivores leave behind is used by decomposers. Crabs and seabirds are examples of detrivores.)
4. of or relating to or happening on the bottom under a body of water - BENTHIC
5. the outward flow of the tide - EBB
6. relating to or occurring or living in or frequenting the open ocean; the plants and animals that live in the water column or in the open waters of the ocean rather than the ocean floor - PELAGIC
7. at or near or toward the stern of a ship or tail of an aeroplane - ABAFT
8. a round shape formed by a series of concentric circles; the large loop of interconnected surface currents within a single ocean basin, usually spanning 20 to 30° in latitude - GYRE (Fans of W B Yeats will be familiar with this word from The Second Coming: (Source)
9. the branch of zoology that deals with fishes - their classification, structure, habits and life history - ICHTHYLOLOGY
10. appearing or active at twilight - CREPUSCULAR
And then there was the woman reading in bed late at night when a ghost floated in the window. "Aaarh!" she screamed, "a ghost just floated into my room!"
The ghost turned to her and said, "Don't worry, ma'am, I'm just passing through."
A Little Something Extra
Read all about Ranelagh in its latest guise as Fountaindale Grand Manor here
An interesting Timeline of the Great Depression here
And here's how to write a book about your paranormal experiences, about your times of economic hardship, about the time you fell in love ... or just about anything here
I have this program and it's a little ripper, taking you easily and painlessly through all the steps from coming up with ideas (and where to find them ... you'll wonder why you didn't think of this!), creating believable characters your readers will care about, to devising a plot (and keeping track of it), to editing your book.
And it's not just fiction ... you can use the methods here to write a non-fiction book as well -- in fact, you'll discover the most important step in writing any non-fiction book, and that is what kind of book the market will buy!
This is a great way to spend some of your Silly Season Holiday time ... and if you have any budding writers in your circle of family and friends, this would make a t'riffic gift! Find out more here (And of course, you understand that if you buy this, you also toss a few pennies into my Running Away Fund!)
Oxymoron of the week: scientific paranormal investigation
Word of the week: Doppelganger (n) exact spirit double or mirror image of a person which is considered to be very negative; alter ego
This deliciously spooky word comes to us from German: doppel, meaning 'double' and Gänger, 'a goer'
dictionary.com tells us more: "(German: "double goer"), in German folklore, a wraith or apparition of a living person, as distinguished from a ghost.
"The concept of the existence of a spirit double, an exact but usually invisible replica of every man, bird, or beast, is an ancient and widespread belief. To meet one's double is a sign that one's death is imminent.
"The doppelganger became a popular symbol of horror literature, and the theme took on considerable complexity. In The Double (1846), by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, for example, a poor clerk, Golyadkin, driven to madness by poverty and unrequited love, beholds his own wraith, who succeeds in everything at which Golyadkin has failed. Finally the wraith succeeds in disposing of his original.
"An earlier, well-known story of a doppelganger appears in the novel Die Elixiere des Teufels, 2 vol. (1815-16; "The Devil's Elixir"), by the German writer of fantastic tales E.T.A. Hoffmann."
And a Latin phrase for those days when you feel as welcome as Banquo's ghost at the banquet ...
Populus me sibilat
[poh-POO-loos MAY see-BEE-laht]
(Everybody hisses at me)
Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)? Click here for these and more: http://www.cafepress.com/write101
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Copyright Jennifer Stewart 2009
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Copyright 2009 Jennifer Stewart Write101.com