Stories of Adventure and Misadventure is a collection of diverse narratives telling of unexpected perils faced by families or individuals. While many of the stories feature physical action and danger, others tell of more psychological crises, such as the postman who wonders if he has witnessed a murder or not, while another relates a historical event through the eyes of two fictitious children in World War II Czechoslovakia, while yet another reveals the terror of being caught in an Australian bushfire.
Throughout the book, man's best friend pops up in numerous rolls: hero, mate or central figure, because as Josh Billings put it, 'A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than himself.'
The stories are capped off with three experiences from the author's own life, each occurring in a different time period and a different country.
The sixteen stories were selected from a collection of eighty she has enjoyed writing over the last six years of her life.
We were on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center North Tower.
‘What a fantastic view of New York it is from up here,’ someone said to me. Then quickly, ‘Oh, sorry, I see you have a guide dog. What’s his name?’
‘Her name’s Rosie,’ I said, holding out my hand and smiling, ‘and my name’s Jack McIntosh.’
‘Oh, apologies Rosie, and glad to meet you Jack.’ The man gave my hand a firm shake.
‘It’s OK to call her a him, Rosie’s a forgiving dog,’ I laughed. ‘I’d like to see the view too, but we came up in one of the express elevators from the ground floor to here and that was exciting enough for me.’
‘You have an accent; Australian perhaps?’
‘Yes, I’m an Australian student here in New York to finish my PhD on certain aspects of the Civil War.’ There was no reply from my companion, so I added, ‘I’m a bit early for my appointment, so there’s time for my insides to go back into place, after that lift ride thank goodness!’
Still nothing. Then the voice said with alarm, ‘A plane’s flying very low out there. It’s coming from the left side of the Empire State Building. If it doesn’t stop it’ll hit something.’
‘Did you say a plane?’
‘Christ! It’s not stopping. It’s a big passenger jet aircraft. It’s coming straight at us. No, he’s lifted the nose and dropped a wing.’ Then more quickly, ‘Here it comes ... it’s going to hit just above us. Look out!’
After a second’s silence there was a massive noise like cracking and thunder all at the same time, the building swayed, the crashing noise didn’t stop and I felt several long trembles up and down the whole structure, like an earthquake. Next thing I was flung to the floor. I jumped to my feet, and bent over to protect my dog from material raining down from the ceiling. It was chaotic. I was shaking badly in fright and my breath was coming in short bursts because my heart was beating at a mad rate. Was I going to die, I wondered?
My companion grabbed my arm and said, ‘Over here to the stairs. The lifts are out of action. We’re lucky. Like the lifts, this is the only stairway that goes from the 78th floor directly down to the lobby, so we’re free from the mess above us, but hurry.’ Then silence as he let go of my arm and must have sped off. Rosie and I were alone and I started to panic. Rosie tugged at me, past the hot doors of the lifts, and led me down what felt like a narrow, roughcast concrete staircase. We could feel the heat rushing down at us from above. Would we be cooked alive here? Probably.
Amit felt steadily more depressed. As afternoon turned into early evening he wandered back to the engineering faculty lawn
and garden area. No-one was about and he walked past his lecturer’s room. Dr Campbell’s office was on the ground floor, one of several with a sturdy planting of greenery and shrubs outside the windows. He glanced in, catching a glimpse of Dr Campbell’s desk, and his heart gave a thud. He pulled the shrubbery aside for a moment and confirmed to himself that there was a neat pile of exam papers sitting on the desk and the obvious answer sheets placed on top. They were waiting to be marked in the morning as all the lecturers had long left for the car park and home. There would be no-one back that night.
He stared at the pile of papers. If only he could get in, pull out his answers and copy the correct ones from the doctor’s own notes! He sat in the gloom on a nearby seat and thought about this. It would be easy. A towel against the glass wall, near the bottom, would dampen any sound of breakage. Once inside he’d be invisible because all those northern facing windows had tinted glass. The more he thought about it, the more feasible it became and, of course, it would solve all his problems immediately.
Amit left it another two hours. Then with a hammer, towel, writing pad and pen all tucked into a satchel over his shoulder he set off to bring about a more fortunate result to his examination. Everything was going to plan. He was invisible from the garden, although no-one was around anyway. The towel deadened any noise of breaking glass, and all he had to do was make an opening large enough to crawl through without being cut.
He was in! In front of him were the papers, and a lamp on the desk meant he didn’t have to use his torch after all. He soon had his own paper out in front of him and compared his answers to the correct ones.
Soon after the New Year my mother went to visit her cousin in Prague city and stayed away for five days. When she returned we overheard her talking to Dad, saying she’d queued for four days to be put on a list because an Englishman had made all these arrangements in Prague and some more in England, making an escape route through the Netherlands.
Dad put his arm round Mum, who was crying, and said, ‘We have to let them go.’
We didn’t understand any of this. Who was going to escape? And from what? It couldn’t be us. Why should anyone bother us here in Czechoslovakia? It was only in Germany we had to be afraid.
We forgot about it until March when our mother started packing two small suitcases with our clothes and, with a wobbly voice, told us that we’d be going to England in two days’ time. It turned out that Emil and I were the ones to ‘escape’.
Sure enough, one morning two days later, on the 14th of March 1939, we were taken to Platform No. 1 at the big station in Prague, and were startled to see over 200 other children
waiting in front of a big black train. We all had cards round our necks with photos on the front and information written on the back.
I hugged my mother and father, as, although this was for our safety, I wondered what would happen to them. We were all in tears in a moment. My heart was pounding, and then a gentle, soft-spoken lady named Muller whom everyone called ‘Aunty Truus’ called out our names. We hugged our Mum and Dad again but Emil wouldn’t let go, and I was hanging on to Mum’s dress until Mum told us we must leave.
Aunty Truus gently took our hands and was so kind and friendly. We turned at the door and waved to our Mum and Dad. Emil was crying and I was fighting back tears.
Showing us to our seats, Aunty Truus told us where to put our cases, made sure we were comfortable, said we’d be on our way ‘very soon’, gave us a little friendly hug and was gone to look after the next lot of children. We couldn’t see our parents on the platform because we were on the wrong side of the carriage, and all the other parents had crowded round the train windows. The train moved off and I had a huge lump in my throat. To distract Emil, I kept pointing through the window to things we were passing, and, as he hadn’t been on a train before he liked this and the tears stopped for both of us.
Where were we going? Who would look after us in England? What was going to happen at home? The questions kept going round and round my head.