Friday, December 01, 2006

Due to Circumstances ...

from Jacqueline

My laptop threw in the towel three days ago, so I have had to wait all morning to use my husband's computer. After four years of hard labor, soldiering on through all sorts of user abuse, the iBook I bought with the advance on my first novel (yep, it was that much!) finally went on strike, refusing to boot up. It had put its little Macintosh foot down. Of course, I had been in denial about the seriousness of the situation, my usually obedient servant becoming recalcitrant for the past week (what do you mean, you can't find the file?), but when I rushed it into the local Mac dealer's ER (hang on there, little fella, I'll have you there soon ...) I realized that we might be on our way to laptop oblivion.

I called on Wednesday to find out how "things" were going, to be told that "diagnostics" were in progress, then when I called yesterday, the technician, Matt, said, "Oh, hold on, Joel wants to talk to you." Oh dear, the last time Joel wanted to speak to me, when the laptop had gone in for some overhauling a couple of years ago, it was to admonish me about the state of my untidy desktop. "You think this is bad," I said, "You ought to see my office." He was not amused. It was like being pulled up in front of the school principal, to be given a lecture on keeping the desktop tidy, files put away, that sort of thing. So, yesterday, when Joel came on the line, I thought I'd make a quip about my desktop again. Oh, if only the problem had been my laptop housekeeping.

So, the upshot is that very soon I will be taking delivery of a new Macbook, complete with all sorts of bells and whistles and enough rope to hang myself, technically speaking. Of course, I have skimmed over the problems with the old iBook mainly because I didn't understand a word he said, but seeing as a sick horse has brought me close to the debtors prison this year, I thought, "Oh, what the heck, might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb." So, seeing as I am about to start a new novel anyway, and I don't want any setbacks when I am (hopefully) in full flow, I am going the whole hog and having the data transfer done by the experts, rather than me at home. Heck, by the time I get this puppy, I might even be able to add a photo or two to my posts - who knows?

Speaking of circumstances beyond my control, many moons ago, while I was working as a flight attendant (I've told you that story - straight out of college and wanted to travel, but didn't have the money. Decided to work for an airline), I felt a certain kinship with that saying: One day my ship will come in, and with my luck I'll be at the airport.

Who knew how true that might one day become? Let me tell you a story.

I confess, I have harbored (sorry - pun) a desire to be on board the QE2 for a transatlantic crossing. The QE2 is one of the last ships that was originally built as an ocean liner, rather than a cruise ship, in the last gasps of an era when people still crossed the Atlantic on board ship for purpose rather than pleasure (though it certainly seems pretty pleasureable to me). She was also built to reflect the classes, though I don't think they called third class "steerage." There was still the old closed deck system when she was first built. I always imagined how lovely it would be, swanning around my stateroom - not a mere cabin - knocking back a glass of champagne while lounging in my evening gown, however, the nearest I came to the QE2 was when I was crewing a yacht in Southampton water and we were thrown around a bit by the wave created as she went screaming by - it was a bit like having a sub-division passing you.

And I have to tell you that the QE2 has made me cry. The British have a great affection for ships that have gone to war, whether that ship is a destroyer, a battleship, or one of the "little ships" that set sail to Dunkirk to snatch the boys back from the jaws of the German army and Luftwaffe in 1940. The "Queen" is no stranger to war, having been requisitioned as a troop ship during the Falklands war in 1982. The crew chose to stay with her and, so the story goes, reported that the 3000-odd soldiers and marines on board were the most well-behaved passengers they'd ever served. I remember Cunard's poignant advertisement for the first commercial sailing following the QE2's post-war refit. It was a breathtaking shot of the ship sailing into the sunset, with the words, "She's been to war, now she's going on holiday. Join us." I cried when I saw it.

If only, if only ....

So, you can imagine my joy, my excitement, when, towards the end of my book tour, when I was so tired of flying that I could barely even look up into the sky, I was called by my publisher's publicist to inquire as to whether I would be interested in a transatlantic crossing on the QE2, with the only stipulation being that I would have to write about it for a (rather prestigious) weekly magazine. WOULD I, HECK? I all but choked, said "yes" immediately, then, of course, had the presence of mind to ask when the crossing was taking place. "I'll get back to you," she said. I called my husband, jumping up and down as I spoke, "And you know they're not going to shove us (I had assumed I could take my spouse) into a dinky cabin, don't you?"

She called back within minutes. "OK, you would have to sail on November 5th, arriving in Southampton on November 11th."


My tour finished on November 4th, and I had my ticket to fly to the UK on November 5th to see my Dad - I had missed seeing him on his 80th birthday due to the tour. I pictured my parents, heard their voices excitedly looking forward to my visit. Some things are non negotiable, they're just far too important.

"Sorry, can't go. I'll be at the airport on that day - I'm going home."

So, that was that. I was in my imaginary luxury stateroom for all of five minutes, but what a great five minutes - the bittersweet anticipation of a dream come true.

And before I go, speaking of dreams come true, prayers answered, let me tell you about Sara, my beautiful horse. Though we are taking it just one day at a time, trying not to be overly optimistic, her health seems to be improving daily, and she is looking really, really good. Of course, the winter is still ahead of us, when sinus infections can come back with a vengeance, but we will try to navigate the challenges as best we can, because there aren't any medical options left. But there is a man called Charlie.

Sara (real name: Serendipity), came out of the equine hospital on October 7th, after two months and some really dreadful procedures. One involved a full general anesthetic, hoisting her upside down to get her head in the CT scan, then opening up her cheek and elevating the bone so that the whole sinus could be operated on. By the time she came home, she was still a bit swollen, but we hoped she was turning the corner. Not so. Three days later her face was up like a balloon, she couldn't open her left eye, and the "drain" was weeping furiously. And I could see the pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel being extinguished. She went back on antibiotics, even though she is all but immune to them, and meanwhile I had to leave her in the care of my trainer while I hit the road again. Then someone told me about Charlie, a man who was not a vet, but a "healer" who uses different protocols to do his job. I was warned that he was a bit "out there" (I didn't care where he was, frankly), and that he was in southern California for a while. He has the gypsy in his soul and spends time in different places, tending horses. I tracked him down and he came to see Sara.

Now, my horse has been through the mill, and though she trusts me to touch her face, she just throws up her head when anyone else tries the same thing. Well, suffice it to say that within twenty minutes, Charlie had accupuncture needles around her eyes, along her cheek, up around her ears, down her neck, and was working on the rest of her body. And she just stood there. "It's OK, she gets it," said Charlie, "she knows what's going on." By the time Charlie left that day, Sara had some sort of theraputic mud around her eyes, had magnets glued to her face, and I had been left with two herbal potions for her nose and mouth, plus a container of the mud. The next day the swelling had gone down considerably, and has continued to go down ever since. Charlie came back twice more, but is now on his way again. As he was placing needles in her two days ago, he told me that he had to follow the warm weather, so he's on his way to work in Florida, where a team of equine veterinary surgeons want him to join their practice, to help them offer a more "holistic" approach. He left me with a list of herbs to buy for Sara, and instructions for her ongoing care.

The truth is that I don't think Sara would have even made another month without the amazing work of the surgeons at the Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in the Santa Ynez Valley. And I don't think she would have made such good progress without Charlie. Sara and I are now back in training, nice and easy does it. I take off her fly mask every morning and hold my breath until I see that she hasn't swollen up again - so it's one day at a time, as I said. Two months ago I hardly dared to dream that she would even be alive now, let alone back in training. So, keep your fingers crossed for Sara - she's a very special horse. (And I may even have pics next week ...).

Now, I'd better call and see if that new Macbook is ready for me yet.

Have a great weekend!


  1. I heard myself utter a big WHEW! when I read the good news about Sara. What an ordeal you two have endured.

    And let's hope the QEII will welcome you on one of its future voyages. You deserve to ride in style.


  2. HI Jacqueline!
    Bummer about your little MAC. It did it's job for four years, so I suppose it did really well. I'm nursing my desktop PC along - been at it for some time now - so I know how it feels.

    Yahoo for Sara!! And hooray for her mum sticking with it. Thank heaven for dedicated doctors and yes, for Charlie too: all it seems have worked wonders. But mum has kept the faith. :-D Got my fingers crossed for a stress free winter for both of you.

    Oh, the QE2- cool. We picked up one of my mother-in-law's friends off that once when it stopped in Newport. The Queen Mary has more family connections though. We were promised that the QM was where an awards ceremony that Bob judges was going to be held this year. Unfortunately there was a change of plans, and I wasn't the only one who was peeved about the change in plans. My Grandfather sailed to and from the Middle East on that beauty during his wartime service in WWII. I had looked forward to the ghost tours on her while Bob was going to be busy giving lectures. Sigh. Not to be.

    HOpe you get a second chance on that grand old dame, the QEII.


    PS: This week I've been working on blog sites both for my self and for Bob - but both aren't quite in action yet.

  3. Wonderful wonderful news about Sara!!! And good for you for choosing those near and dear over the QE2, though I have a strong feeling "she" will understand and make sure you are invited again.

  4. from Jacqueline

    Thanks, all, for thinking of Sara - I will have some photos taken this week and (if the new laptop obliges) will include them in next week's blog.

    Marianne - my mother-in-law sailed to England on the old Queen Mary in 1942 - she was an army nurse and was being stationed in England.

    Look forward to checking in on your blog!

  5. Indeed good news about Sara!

    And that new Macbook will be a treat. Think of it as a reward for a job well done.

  6. from Jacqueline

    Thanks, Louise. I actually have a great affection for that old iBook - I was so excited when I ordered it, that I had used my first ever book advance (at that time I only dared to think I might sell another book) to buy a tool of the trade that I really wanted but, because I had spent the previous six months recovering from an accident (and not working), could not afford. It represented a real milestone for me, which is why I think I kept it long past its expiry date.

  7. from Jacqueline

    Thanks, Louise. I actually have a great affection for that old iBook - I was so excited when I ordered it, that I had used my first ever book advance (at that time I only dared to think I might sell another book) to buy a tool of the trade that I really wanted but, because I had spent the previous six months recovering from an accident (and not working), could not afford. It represented a real milestone for me, which is why I think I kept it long past its expiry date.

  8. They hang sheep!?!

    I hope that Sara has a serendipitous full's obvious how much you love one another.

  9. from Jacqueline

    Thanks, Jeff - she's a wonderful horse, the horse I dreamed of having when I was a kid. It took a while, but proves that dreams come true - if with a bit of angst along the way.

  10. Yes! Hooray (or 'Hurrah'?) for Sara, named after my granddaughter?

    Now, if only you could find a laptop whisperer.

    Tom, T.O.