28 January 2015

Dave the Dinosaur

When there is a knock on my door these days I can pretty much guarantee that it is wee Liam from the apartment across the way. 

There are only three apartments on each floor of the complex in which I live and we have secure access – so no one else can get up.

There was a rapping just a little while ago and I dragged myself wearily from my couch and opened the door.

It has been a long day.

It has been a long week.

Liam was there in his Spiderman pajamas and he aimed his wrist at me and made a ‘Phshhhhh” noise and I took a mock step back as if I was struck and then entangled in a Spiderman web.

“You got me dude” I sputtered.

“Spiderman” he retorted.

Then he raised his wrist and he ‘Phsshed’ me again.

Spiderman is Liam’s thing at the moment. He is only five year’s old and about three feet tall and he has been mostly Fireman Sam in recent weeks so an arachnid superhero is a nice variation.

Is your brother here yet?” Liam enquired.

“I told you yesterday Liam, he’s not arriving until Wednesday’

“Oh yeah”

“Are you coming in then?”

We both looked back at Liam’s apartment door and his Dad Warwick shrugged his shoulders and I waved an OK back.

“Y’oright Wazza?” I enquired.

I’ll bring him back in a while” I added.

Earlier if you want” Warwick responded.

“Behave yourself Liam” Warwick told his pint-sized son

“He’s no trouble at all mate” I told Liam’s Dad.

He isn’t.

Any trouble at all.

He is a gem actually and he quite often lights up my day.

Liam normally has insightful thoughts and we have pleasant and interesting conversations that intrigue and amuse me. Our conversations flow as they should between friends.

“Where’s your brother then dude?” I asked of Liam as he hoisted himself up onto my black leather couch.

“He’s asleep”

“Did you web him like you webbed me?”

‘Mum wouldn’t let me” he complained.

“So I’m the only victim here then?”

“Yes” – then he Phsshed’ again at me and I held my arms tight to my side as if they were bound by super spider silk. I toppled over onto the floor flapped about a bit and told Liam that I couldn’t move.

It seemed to please him.

“How do I get out of these sticky webs Liam? I’m really stuck.”

He removed what must have been an invisible can of some sort from his utility belt/pajama cord and sprayed me with yet another Phssh noise and I was miraculously released from the web.

“That is pretty sticky stuff Liam that you should really use on your enemies and not your mates don’t you think?”

“I don’t have any enemies yet Peter. I am only five years old”

‘Well said little friend’ I thought to myself.

The sapience and sagacity of infancy is a remarkable thing.

It is an inestimably precious commodity.

“So you are just practicing on me?”

“Yes and if any bad men come I will shoot web on them to protect you”

He was being deadly earnest.

It is pretty cool having a five-year-old protector.

“How is Dave going then?” Liam enquired.

“He seems to be thriving” I replied.


Liam’s ‘th’s’ get lost into ‘f’s’ sometimes - as they do with little kids

“It means doing very well”

Liam gave me Dave the other day.

Dave is a small plastic dinosaur.

I admired the dinosaur when I crossed paths with Liam and his Mum in the lift lobby and Liam handed him to me. I closely inspected the small lump of green plastic and told him that it was a fine looking dinosaur. When I went to hand it back Liam told me to keep it. I refused of course but he was obstinate and insistent. He told me that the dinosaur would cheer me up and protect me.

I am not sure why Liam thinks that I need protecting but it seems to be a fairly recurrent theme.

Perhaps I do.

Need protecting.

I have been a bit under the weather and down in the dumps of late - and the little kid has picked up on it.

The percipience of children astounds me at times.

It dazzles and delights me.

I thanked Liam and pretended that there was a speck of dust in my eye as I cradled the dinosaur - then I told him that I would just look after him for a while. When I asked him what the dinosaur’s name was Liam told me that he didn’t have one yet. He then told me I could choose one if I wanted. I asked him if it was a boy or a girl and he snorted and said that it was a boy of course.

He told me that there weren’t any girl dinosaurs.

What was I thinking?

I then suggested that we could perhaps name the dinosaur Dave and he nodded his little blonde head in agreement.

So Dave it is.

I poured us both tall glasses of milk and we then reclined on my couch with our feet up on the table.

It was a blokey moment.

“How was your day then Liam?” I enquired.

He paused in careful contemplation before declaring that it was good.

“How so small friend?” I asked.

There was a bit of deliberation again before he said, “Daniel ate all of his breakfast and Mummy let us pat the dog in the park and we played on the swings”

“That sounds pretty much like perfection”


“How come your Mum and Dad and brother and kids and family don’t live here with you?” he then asked.

“It’s complicated dude and they are all grown up. Besides there is only room here for me”

“That nice lady who was here was your little girl wasn’t she?”

“Yes she is my daughter Liam and she was visiting from Australia and she is a nice lady isn’t she?”

“She gave me milk too and she read me stories”

“I know she did”

“Do you miss your brother?”

“Every minute of every day”

“But he will be here soon?”

“Next week dude”

"Wednesday" I added and emphasized. The day of my brother's arrival in Singapore has been almost a daily enquiry from Liam and he seems almost as excited as I am about the impending visit.

“Can I come over and visit?”

“Anytime you want to but I told you we are going away for awhile”

“Yeah I remember up on a big mountain. Can I bring Daniel?”


We both had a big gulp of milk and I asked Liam if he wanted a biscuit and he said he did but he better get home. He told me he didn’t want Daniel to wake up and miss him.

I walked him to his door and said goodnight and he hugged my leg as he is want to do nowadays. As I turned to leave he said, “Hey Peter”

“Yes Liam”

“Brothers are good aren’t they?”

“They certainly are mate” I replied.

25 January 2015

A Haunting

I am back in Taipei.

It has been a while since my last visit however I use to visit and work here a lot.

It is a fine city with fine people.

I arrived yesterday afternoon and checked into the Grand Hyatt hotel. I have only stayed in this hotel once before and it was not by choice. The hotel I usually stayed in was full and at the end of the day I am not really too fussed where I stay – as long as the bed is comfortable, and there is a spa and a swimming pool.

I like massages and I like to swim each morning.

I had a haunting the last time I was here.


It was as unexpected as it was disconcerting.

I have written about this previously in a piece I most unimaginatively titled “Spooky Things”.

Rather than re-hash the whole event – here is what happened:

I was here in Taipei on business.

It was in 2012.

I have only ever been here on business.

I used to come here often for work.

I like Taiwan and I have quite a few friends here.

I normally stayed at the Landis Hotel as it is comfortable and luxurious and spanking. These are my three main criteria for overseas hotel accommodation. 

And a swimming pool.

On this occasion though there was some big convention on in town so the Landis was full and I was booked into the Grand Hyatt instead.

No drama.

The Grand Hyatt was close to my office so I could walk there. 

I like walking.

I arrived in Taipei in the morning and I went straight to the office. I had meetings from dawn to dusk.

I did my stuff.

My day was busy but it was mostly uneventful.

I like the Taiwanese and I very much like the way that they choose their own Western names.

They do this as adults.

One of my friends in Taipei chose the name Elton because he likes the music of Elton John.

A work colleague of mine chose the name Snoopy because he likes Snoop Dogg.

The Rapper.

I associate Snoopy with the Charlie Brown cartoons.

It must be my age.

I giggle inside when I meet with Snoopy as I have this Charlie Brown image firmly in my mind. Snoopy is a very nice bloke though and I would never giggle to or at him.

That would be rude.

So I went back to my hotel at about 8pm and I ordered room service. I ordered a club sandwich with a side order of fries and a chocolate milkshake.

No booze.

I checked my emails and I made some phone calls then I channel surfed the TV. Taiwanese soap operas are hysterical. There is a lot of screaming involved and delightful and colourful costumes.

I can't understand a word of course but it amuses me regardless.

I felt a bit weary about 11.00pm so I had a shower and I got under the covers then I read my book. At the time I was reading "A Fraction of the Whole" which is a novel by Steven Tolz.

I regard this work to possibly be the greatest Australian novel of all time.

It is a cracker.

I read until about 11.30 by which time I felt quite sleepy so I put down my book and I turned off the lights and went to sleep. At exactly 1.12 am I was awoken by the feeling of someone sitting on the end of my bed! I recall the exact time as I saw the digital glow of the bedside clock.

I sat upright.

I turned the bedside lamp on.

There was nothing there so I assumed that I must have been dreaming. 

So I turned off the light and went back to sleep.

At 3.10 am I was awakened again.


Someone had sat at the end of my bed.

What the fuck?

On went the light again.

I got out from under the covers and I looked around the room. I checked in the bathroom and I even peeked under the bed. I felt uncomfortable and I was a bit frightened.

There was no one there though.

Was I going mad?

I left the bathroom light on and got back under the covers. I must have drifted off to sleep again then thump again.

4.42 am.

Someone had definitely sat down right next to my feet.

But there was no-one there!

I turned all the lights on. 

I sat up in bed. 

I was very nervous.

At 6.30 am I went downstairs to breakfast. This was when the restaurant opened. On my way there I went to the concierge desk and I told them what had happened. The man there looked at me strangely but he nodded politely then he brushed me off. I began to doubt myself.

I went to the office and told Snoopy what had happened and I told some of my other Taiwanese colleagues too.

"Didn't I know?" they asked. “That hotel is haunted, there had been many reports”.

I jumped straight on to Google and I searched for information myself. 

For fucks sake - the place was built on a killing field. During the occupation of Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek's soldiers had slaughtered thousands of Japanese on the very spot that the hotel was constructed.

It was a blood bath!

Google reported dozens of instances of guests seeing and hearing ghosts.

I asked my colleagues to immediately find me another hotel. I told them that I would not stay there another night. Try as they did there were no rooms to be had in all of Taipei.

The bloody convention!

When I went back to my room that night I found that the hotel had put two small statues on either side of my bed. There was also a single red rose in a vase on the TV cabinet. I immediately rang Snoopy again and I also consulted Google. These were Buddhist ghost warding devices!

They would supposedly protect me.

I took two very powerful sleeping pills that night. 

I knocked myself out and I had no further visitations. 

I checked out the next morning and have not returned since. 

I vowed that I would never stay there again and I am now a believer. 
There are spooky things out there.

So you may ask why have I checked in here again?

A fair question.

I am seeking a haunting.

The research I have done on the hotel suggests the banshees that wander the halls and sit on people’s beds have actually hurt no one - and I am more curious than afraid of what I might encounter.

I have prepared a list of questions I would like to ask the undead and I am hopeful they are prepared to answer.

My friend the anagram Iman  - the sender of the Octopus picture - has informed me that she would not stay a night here but suggested I greet the ghost and then release it.

I will do the former – but not the latter.

I wish to yack to the spirit.

I have charged my phone and also a small video recorder to try and capture the ghosty – and to record any noises or utterings.

These will likely be in Japanese as I understand all of the spirits are slaughtered Japanese soldiers.

So when I checked in yesterday I was given the old, “Welcome back Mr. Hepenstall” to which I thanked the Taiwanese Receptionist who spoke with a distinctive American accent.

“It has been a while since you last stayed with us” she commented as she clicked my details into her computer.

“It has” I replied.

“May I please have your most haunted smoking room?” I enquired.

There was a pause in her clicking and she said, “I beg your pardon”

“May I please have your most haunted smoking room?” I repeated.

“None of our rooms are haunted” she responded.

“Really?” I said – cocking my eyebrow in a most exaggerated fashion.

“Really” she asserted.

“Well I was in a haunted room in here the last time I stayed” I declared

“It was very haunted indeed,” I added.

The young lady stopped her clicking and gave me a long and blank stare. For a moment I thought she might be Singaporean as the blank stare is a common phenomena there.

“Perhaps we could Google ghosts and the Grand Hyatt Taipei?” I suggested

“There are many hundreds of reports of restless spirits in this establishment”

The blank stare continued.

“OK - do you have a record of which room I stayed in when last I was here?”

The lady recommenced her clicking and after a minute or so she said, “You were in room 1704”

“Is that room available then?”

“It is”

“Then I will take that one please”

“Yes sir”

“If there are any of you ghost inhibiting statues in the room may I please have them removed?” I asked

“Yes sir” she replied.

“Aha - so you concede the hotel is haunted then?” I enquired.

No response.

I stayed up late last night with the lights off and awaiting a visitation. A couple of times I thought I heard something and asked in both English and in Japanese if there was anyone there.

Alas there was not.

It was a little disappointing.

I am hoping for better luck tonight.

I am looking forward to a haunting.