Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top ten reads of 2014

The end of the year is the perfect time for top ten lists and everyone knows that top ten lists attract attention, especially if you use hashtags. So as well as providing the fascinating revelation of the ten 5 star books that I read in 2014, I am also, as always trying to attract additional readers to this much underrated blog.

Without further ado.. Here they are in no particular order.

Till We Have FacesOut of Time  (Out of Time, #1)In God They Trust?1984When "I Do" Becomes "I Don't": Practical Steps for Healing During Separation & DivorceFor One More DayDebris (The Veiled Worlds, #1)Heart of DarknessThe Four LovesEl Magic

Click here My Year in Books for the full list of books I read in 2014. 29 in total.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Redeemed Part 2

Today is a rest day. I'm reflecting once more on a busy Christmas period during which my feelings of dread were destroyed. Here is the next five in my Top Ten Christmas moments for 2014 again in chronological order.

6. Scattergories is a fun game and one which I usually play well. On Christmas Day I played with my son and daughter, and managed to get stuck on the letter 'H', writing a second list of words starting with 'H' when we had changed the letter. The next go, I started with the correct letter, then for some reason reverted to 'H' again. When I finally sorted myself out, I managed to fill all ten slots for the letter 'M' and was very proud of myself until we started checking our answers and the nominated letter was actually 'N'. This caused my children to almost die of laughter.

7. The pleasure of giving gifts.

8. On the way to my girlfriend's friend's place for Christmas dinner we struck heavy struck on the southern outskirts of Sydney. I needed a pit stop so I pulled into a service station. There was a long queue for the ladies' toilet and another shorter one for the men's. To pass the time and to take my mind off the urgent call of nature, I wished everyone a Merry Christmas and began a conversation with the guy in front of me in the queue. When the bathroom was free, the man with whom I was chatting amiably allowed me to go before him. Merry Christmas.

9. My girlfriend has had a lot of bad luck at Christmas over the years. She even resisted putting up the Christmas tree, believing it was cursed. However, by the end of Boxing Day, I saw sparkle return to her eyes as she rediscovered a little of the Christmas magic.

10. A head measuring competition at my dad's place after Christmas lunch on Boxing Day. For the record my son won and I came equal second with my cousin.

Please share your Christmas highlights.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Redeemed

In the aftermath of Christmas, I want to reassure my readers that my Christmas was far better than I imagined it could be. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and at Christmas we celebrate his birth, the beginning of God's plan of redemption. By keeping my eyes on Him, my saviour, this Christmas has also been redeemed.

I want to share my top ten Christmas moments for 2014. As I don't generally like long blog posts, I am going to split them in two. Here are the first five, in chronological order.

1. My aunty and uncle hosted a Christmas lunch/dinner/breakfast for my mum's side of the family the Sunday before Christmas. She purchased a number of small items from a second hand shop, wrapped them and distributed them to us as we sat around the table. We were instructed to chose a gift from the basket, unwrap it and tell a story about it. We could then chose to keep it or give it to someone else, and explain why we were giving it to that particular person.

2. Images on television of babies and toddlers sleeping peacefully in the arms of their parents at the annual Carols in the Domain concert in Sydney.

3. My girlfriend and I drove around on Christmas Eve looking at
Christmas lights. The trouble that some people go to to produce such spectacular displays, and the way they welcome strangers to join together on their lawns and enjoy, still makes me smile.

4. Singing "You are the Light of the World" at church on Christmas morning. A pumping song with lots of energy, hand clapping, gestures and a simple, powerful message of hope.

5. I began a new Christmas tradition with my family many years
ago which involves a trip to the beach on Christmas Day. December is notorious in Australia for un summery weather, and Christmas Day itself is often rainy and cool. This year, we had warmth and sunshine and we swam in the ocean under the watchful eye of individual lifeguards. Yes, there were enough lifeguards on duty to rescue each and every swimmer should we have encountered any trouble in the surf.

While you wait for the next five, why not share some of your Christmas highlights.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Worst Christmas ever

I love Christmas. I think I love it more as an adult than I did when I was a  child but I can't really remember what I thought when I was a child. I love Christmas because it is a celebration of everything good. It represents the things we all want from life. Hope, peace and happiness. It is meaningful because of Christ. For me, nothing is meaningful without Jesus.

Sadly, Christmas like all things in this corrupt and fallen world has become, for many people, a sad time. For example, people who have had bad things happen at Christmas: loss of loved ones, relationship breakdowns etc. Someone told me recently that she did not want to put up a Christmas tree because it brought bad luck, and I scoffed even as I struggled, and am struggling to find joy this Christmas. I'm trying but it's really hard.

In 1991 I was alone in Thailand where they do not celebrate Christmas. That was my worst Christmas. I fear this year will surpass it. My personal life is a mess, and I am unhappy most of the time. The extreme emotional highs and lows I have experienced this year have left me jaded and anxious about the future. I have made some bad decisions this year and I am living with the consequences of those choices. I have to accept this, and try to find myself again. I have to remember who I am in Christ.

I pray that things will get better and I believe they will, but it's hard. Very hard. Peace, happiness and hope. God help me to have a Merry Christmas. Maybe I should stop thinking about myself so much.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Lovesick is proving a difficult creature to handle. I finished chapter 15 this morning and chapter 16 is already complete, but it really isn't flowing. I'm attempting something different with this, my fifth novel, experimenting a little with structure, and while I have a strong overall sense of the narrative and a very strong main character (in my humble opinion), it has been tricky to assemble the pieces. I'm enjoying the challenge but it's taking longer than I anticipated. A Muddy Red River which will be available from Rogue Phoenix Press in 2015, was easy to write.

I'm excited to see how Lovesick will develop. I'm also excited to see how readers react. I don't know how much more I have to write. Despite having a chapter outline, my novel, like all novels, is a living thing so it grows and changes, and I go with it. In that way it resembles its author: a work in progress.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

You Only Live Twice

Here are some different perspectives on life and death for you to consider:

"So we only get one chance, can we take it?And we only got one life, can't exchange it." -Age of Innocence by Iron Maiden

"You only live twice: once when you are born and once when you  look death in the face." - Japanese proverb

"It is appointed unto to men to die once and then face the judgement." - Hebrews 9:27

Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." - John 11:25,26

"Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he will never see death." - Jesus Christ (John 8:51)

The fact that I have included three quotes supporting the Christian world view tells you where I stand, but I think most people, including many professing Christians, live according to the Iron Maiden lyrics. It is said that what you believe about death determines the nature of your life. Interesting theory but I'm not sure there is much evidence for it in reality.

People sing songs about living life to the full because it's all there is but they don't live that way. People who have near death experiences receive a second chance: the second life as presented in the Japanese proverb which Ian Fleming quoted in his James Bond novel. However, many of them also lack a true eternal perspective on life.

I believe that although my body will die, my soul is immortal. Jesus will give me a new imperishable body in which I will live forever in Heaven where there are no tears, and no pain or suffering. This is the hope which both sustains me and inspires me.

What are your thoughts on the after life, or perhaps you agree with the late business tycoon, Kerry Packer who, after he was brought back to life after a massive heart attack, famously said, "I have been to the other side mate, and there's nothing there."

Photo source:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Post Nuptial Assessment 5

I wonder if there would be less racists if more marriages were interracial.You may have a view on that. You may be one of those strange people who live in the global village of the 21st century yet still believe in the superiority of one race over another, or one of the moderately more understandable people who fear what they do not know or understand, and therefore avoid, denigrate and discriminate against those who are different.

What is the connection to my cousin's wedding? He and his new wife recently returned from their honeymoon in New York. Now there's a city which knows something of cultural diversity and yet within multicultural societies, like New York and Sydney, the seeds of xenophobia thrive. What can prevent the weed of racism from strangling the flowers of interracial love and harmony?

My cousin married an Indonesian lady so the wedding not only joined two people together, but also brought two cultures together. People had travelled from far and wide to attend the wedding: from Indonesia, the United States, the Northern Territory and Victoria. They came together for one purpose and differences meant nothing. What differences may have divided were forgotten, and those which were manifested like the Indonesian dancers who performed for the wedding guests, only served to enrich the experience for everyone.

Sensible people acknowledge that life is enhanced significantly by diversity. An appreciation of, and respect for other cultures makes life more interesting, and facilitates harmony. Generally people marry people from their own race, their own ethnic background and although perfectly understandable, this promulgates separateness, and strengthens the tribe mentality. Tribes by nature war against each other. 

Most people want peace but either ignore, eschew and resist those things which lead to peace. Are more interracial marriages the key to the destruction of racism? It can't hurt, can it?

Photo sources:

Friday, November 28, 2014

We Interrupt This Program

Gripped as you no doubt are by the post nuptial assessment series, I must interrupt it to bring you a W.A.S on my W.I.P. Or in words less acronymonic (new word I just invented), I want to update you on the progress of what will hopefully be my fifth novel, Lovesick. I have now completed 15 chapters and am working on chapter 16. 

I have also made a lot of progress with organisation. Lovesick is being put together in the same haphazard way that Loathe Your Neighbor was which means I need to spend a lot of time concentrating on the timeline. However, I just write chapters as they come to mind. If I have to figure out later how the chapters fit together so be it. I don't have preconceived ideas how about to put my novels together, I just write.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Post Nuptial Assessment Part 4

Curzon Hall on Agincourt Road in Marsfield, Sydney was built in 1898 by businessman Harry Smith and named after his wife Isabella Curzon-Smith. Designed by David Thomas Morrow, it is a large castle-like manor in neo-Romanesque style (for the architecturally inclined) which is now a function centre, and was last Saturday the magnificent setting for my cousin's wedding reception. This beautiful old building actually hosted three other weddings that night, and it is clear from the moment you drive into the wonderfully manicured garden surrounds why it is so popular as a wedding venue.

Curzon0134.jpgThe Smith family lived at Curzon Hall until 1921. Following its short life as a family home, it was a Catholic seminary for 60 years, and then commenced its current incarnation as a wedding/function centre. It reeks of class, history and money. One look at the superbly crafted high ceilings tells you everything.

Weddings are big business requiring huge investments of time and money, but the emotional investment far exceeds the hours and the dollars. Marriage is a lifelong commitment which forms the cornerstone of society and therefore requires more than the husband and wife alone can provide. It is unsurprising that with around half of all marriages ending in divorce, society is commensurately impoverished. Sad but true.

Nevertheless, the ideal of marriage remains something to which most people aspire. We lament those unions which fail, but we never let go of the dream of lifelong love and happiness. That's why I love weddings because they best represent the pillars of humanity: faith, hope and love.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Post Nuptial Assessment Part 3

A harpist (if that's what you call a person who plays a harp) played John Legend's All of Me during the signing of the registers at my cousin's wedding. 

A small team of photographers skittered around inside the chapel, and at the end of the service, as the bridge and groom were leaving, their leader stood up on the mezzanine and had the whole congregation pose for an aerial view group shot. 

The priest loudly whispered instructions to the wedding party, and also the wedding vows for the bride and groom to repeat. There was no sermon but Father 'I didn't catch his name' talked to the congregation like a kindly grandfather would talk to his grandchildren, and he made me smile.

As Maria said, 'these are a few of my favourite things.' 

It was a very relaxed ceremony, although the groom's face at the beginning where a storm of emotion twisted his face, and the bride's inability to remember lines just given to her by the priest might have suggested otherwise

Not for a moment during the service did I want to be anywhere else. I consider, in hindsight, the bride and groom and how they might have been thinking about 'getting through the day' rather than savouring every second of it. I hope the latter was true for them. It makes me wonder how often we miss the full enjoyment of now because of wishing we were somewhere else. Either anticipation or dread, or simply a desire not to be present, steals chunks of our lives which we cannot have again. What a waste. What a shame.

Photo source:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Post Nuptial assessment part 2

The thrum of excitement swells and abates rhythmically as family and friends await the bride. The groom stands with his best man and groomsmen, at the front of the church, facing the door at the back, through which will soon parade the woman with whom he has chosen to spend the rest of life.

He smiles and jokes with the men who stand with him. The bride is always late, and although somewhat of a tradition, it is the source of some anxiety for the groom. Keen anticipation monsters his emotions as he stands and waits. The bride is busy: she's moving, coming towards him. She's anxious too because she knows he's waiting. She doesn't want to keep him waiting. He would wait forever but she would never ask him to do that. More than passion, a deferential and reverential love has brought them to this place. They are crazy about each other and everyone in the church hopes that they always will be, even though they know they won't.

To last, love must be strong, self sacrificing and reciprocal. It must have the strength to persist when the madness and obsessiveness of being 'in love' fades or dies. No one who comes to the altar and makes their vows realizes how much marriage will require of them. They know nothing of the agony and ecstasy which lies ahead. They are not ready. No one is truly ready for that.

May God bless all those who make the commitment. May He give them the strength they need to find lasting happiness and peace in marriage. The risk may be great but the rewards are greater.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Post Nuptial Assessment

I love weddings. I love them because they make me feel warm and fuzzy, representing as they do the highest ideals of faith, hope and love. I also love them because they are all different. Each ceremony and reception reflects the individual taste, style and personalities of both the bride and the groom.

My cousin got married yesterday, so this evening - not this morning because it was a long day and a late night - I am beginning a mini series of philosophical musings inspired by the joining of Scott and Anastasia in holy matrimony.

The ceremony took place at Holy Name of Mary church at Hunters Hill in Sydney. The beautiful old Roman Catholic edifice was adorned with blue plastic and scaffolding for the occasion which although disappointing, ignited my cogitation with regard to appearances. Once inside the church, and surround by spiritual and elegant artistry, and the heavenly sounds of a harp, I forgot all about the blue plastic and scaffolding. Once I saw and appreciated the beauty inside the chapel, I forgot all about its dishevelled exterior.

Furthermore, I considered the assembly of family and friends, all dressed in their finest clothes, sitting uncomfortably on hard wooden pews: conversation bubbling with anticipation, and perhaps reflecting on the occasion through the lenses of their own relational circumstances. Among them the single, the engaged, the married, the divorced, the separated, the widowed. As many stories beneath the veneer of smiling faces and sophisticated apparel, as there were people. Happy stories. Sad stories. Tragic stories. Tales which undoubtedly coloured their emotional involvement and enjoyment of the occasion. Cynics and dreamers, believers and unbelievers, all gathered in God's house. Fascinating.

Here's you first chance to share your wedding stories: good or bad, sick or healthy, rich or poor. I'd love to hear from you.

Photo source:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I'm back in business

A thousand words yesterday afternoon, and another five hundred this morning. The words flow, and I am back in business. Feels good to be moving again. Feels good to be imagining characters and situations, inventing drama, creating conflict. I am a writer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Due to a number of factors, only some of which were beyond my control, I have not done any creative writing for many weeks. I miss it, and I'm ready to resume. I've decided to forge ahead with my ten chapter old WIP. For you precious few readers of Square Pegs, here is a scoop: the title of my next book, the aforementioned WIP is Lovesick.

Stay tuned for progress updates. Also, I'm looking for some beta readers, so if you have the time and the inclination, please let me know.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


After failing to make the short list for the inaugural Lane Cove Literary Award with my short story Still It Bleeds, I recently received a rejection from a magazine which I had forgotten I submitted to. I keep track of all my submissions electronically because there's no way I could remember, so this morning I need to update my submissions history with another rejection.

Still it Bleeds is one of my favourite stories but it has been passed over 8 times now. I've had lesser stories, in my opinion, accepted more readily. I wrote it in 2012 which I think was my best year, so far, for short story writing. 12 stories of, again this is only my own estimation, high quality, mostly literary fiction. 3 of them were published while the others are racing to be next to find a sympathetic editor and the readers beyond.

What I think about myself and my work is both important and not important. It is significant because in order to continue the hard and lonely road of the writer, I must believe in myself and my ability. I must be satisfied that I am giving it my best. I must have the confidence to go on with only a quantum of encouragement, or none at all. I must remind myself that my work is good.

On the other hand, what I think of myself is inconsequential in terms of attracting readers. No matter how good I think my work is, I have to find someone who agrees. Initially I need an editor to dig what I do, and then I need readers. People have told me that they love my work. I will never forget the woman at the Meet the Author night at Dapto Library who told the audience that she thought Ashmore Grief was a great book and everyone in Australia should read it. Her words were encouraging but they did nothing for sales.

It's easy for me to write. I have to restrain myself which is what I am doing here. This was only going to be a mini Writing Activity Statement abut the latest short story rejection.

Share an encouraging word you received from someone about your writing, or about anything.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Just tell me what's going on

I now have an iPhone. It's my first. It's a 4s which I purchased from a student of mine who has upgraded. I'm not one to follow the trends. I don't need the latest. I probably wouldn't line up all night for a new release from Apple even if it was being given away. I've owned my HTC Desire Z for four or five years, and it has done the job, but of late it has started to show its age. The battery runs out very quickly and I can't do simple things like send and receive photos. I can't download the latest Facebook app either. So when it was offered to me for a very reasonable price I decided to bite the bullet and change phones.

Nothing but trouble since. I won't bore you with the catalogue of error messages and random disconnections, and network blockages. Suffice to say I am not a happy camper. I'm now on my third SIM card and I haven't had internet access for a week. Apple says it's the SIM. Amaysim and Optus say it's the phone. No one can help me and I am ready to abandon Apple forever. Forever.

I just switched the SIM, and I have telephony. No 3G internet yet but it takes longer: up to four hours. I'll let you know what happens but I am ready to swear off Apple for life.

Share your mobile phone irritations.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Small Things

Sometimes you have to try really hard to see the good in a particular person or situation. Sometimes you really need to strain your ocular devices to perceive what might otherwise, with less intent, be lost in the jungle of the paraphernalia which inhabits our lives. Sometimes you have to take a minor victory, and celebrate it as though it were a triumph of universal and eternal significance.

Yesterday I only heard one report (on the radio in the evening) about the biggest news story of the day. I barely gave it a thought though I knew it was happening, and I knew that many people would have organised, or would be organising their life around this event. I did not have a single conversation about it. It never came up. This annual event barely registered on my radar. And I rejoice!

Why should I, I remind myself with a defiant tone, participate in something which holds no interest at all for me, merely because it is popular? I am an eschewer of bandwagons, (and I might have just made up a word.)

The event I'm talking about was...sorry can't do it. First Tuesday of November every year in Melbourne. That's it. That's all I'm going to say.

Which bandwagon/bandwagons do you, or have you avoided jumping on?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Out of Control

It's interesting to consider how much control we really have of our lives. Most people like to think they are the masters of their own destinies, yet we do not know for sure if we will even wake up each morning. It's a safe assumption, particularly if we are in good health and slumbering in a secure place, but you never know.

You never know if the next time you drive to work may be your last. You might be a careful driver but if a less circumspect operator, or worse still a reckless or drunk one, crosses your path, what can you do? I don't mean to be fatalistic and gloomy but the fact remains that our lives are fragile. We are fragile. Already broken, truth be told, and unable to heal completely, we are subject to the vagaries and mysteries of life: at the mercy of other people's choices.

We choose many things in life while many others are chosen for us. Some of our choices are good, and some are not. Some seem right when we make them only to be later proved unwise. The future is the undiscovered country. We make our plans, and as the saying goes...God laughs. Whether you believe in a sovereign God as I do, or in fate or whatever you call it, only a fool thinks he is the master of his own destiny. Control is an illusion. Embrace the uncertainty and put your trust in someone who knows everything and is actually in total control.

Are you the master of your destiny?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

What I Don't Know

The things that I don't know would easily fill a library of books, several libraries perhaps. I could probably fill another book with things that I think I know but I'm not sure about. One thing I do know for sure is that I don't know much. It's all relative of course. I know a lot more than a baby but that is only by default. Most knowledge is automatically acquired as a result of life. The longer you live, the more you know. Therefore saying that I know more than a baby is meaningless.

If I compared myself with my contemporaries, I can at best say that I know more about some things than other people do. I'm a teacher and a writer so naturally I know more about teaching and writing than someone who doesn't teach, or has never taught, or someone who doesn't write, or even read very much. I have a friend who seems knowledgeable about most subjects. If you start talking about something, he knows stuff and is happy to talk at length about what he knows. He's not bluffing either. He actually has an amazing ability to retain and recall facts. I admire him for it.  I would happily concede that he knows more than me. 

I don't have a problem with people knowing more than I do. I recognize my limits. I often confess to my students that I do not know everything. I cannot answer all of their questions.

I read an article this morning which got me thinking about people who pretend they know stuff. People who bluff their way through conversations on topics about which they are ignorant. People who can't admit that they don't know. And then there are people who have opinions on everything but nothing, no knowledge upon which to base their opinions.

Why does conversation have to be some competitive? Why do some people seem not to understand the concept of turn taking? Where is humility and openness? Why do people to protect themselves from a loss of face by lying? Why are some people so certain about things which they cannot possibly be certain about? How can the racist hate all Chinese people when he's never meet one? How can the atheist say there is no God? What is wrong with saying, "I don't know." 

My answer to that question is, "I don't know." What's yours?
We Are Confident Idiots

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Point of View on Point of View

I've heard and read a lot about showing not telling, and various other no nos in writing. I've heard a lot about what it is exactly that constitutes good writing. I've taken care to try to at least consider the advice I've been given via the mountain of rejection letters I've received over the years, if not incorporate it into my work, but I reckon it all boils down to two things. I'll get to them later.

Many years ago I was given a story in a dream, or should I say an idea for a story. The idea was of a gorilla who lived underground with his human father. I wrote the story soon after the dream: a nearly 4000 word story titled Goyyou. (The name of the story and the lead character was given to me in the story as well.) The story was rejected by 7 editors before finding a friend and a home at Aphelion. One of the rejection letters stated that the point of view in the story was confusing.

I'm currently reading Rebellion by New York Times best selling author Nora Roberts. I'm not a huge fan of romance but I like to read it sometimes, and I'm enjoying this one. The reason I mention this book is that I am finding the point of view confusing. Roberts frequently switches between what Serena is thinking and feeling, and what Brigham is feeling and thinking. I did the same thing in Goyyou and was criticized for it, but apparently Roberts can do it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not being critical, I'm just making a point about what is acceptable writing technique and what is not.

Of course the other possibility is that I don't know what I'm talking about it, and I don't understand point of view, or the difference between show and tell, or what it is exactly that constitutes good writing. I do know that that good writing is not necessarily popular writing, nor conversely, is popular writing good writing.

Without further ado, here are the two things I alluded to earlier. Firstly, good writers read a lot: not just in their genre, and not just popular books by well known authors, and not just good books (however they define them). Secondly, a book is good if a reader says it is good. If someone reads it and likes it, if they connect with it, if they tell their friends about it, then it's good.

What do you think makes a good book? What makes a good writer?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rewarded not Awarded

The much anticipated inaugural Lane Cove Literary Award was held on Wednesday night. I was invited to attend as one of over 500 writers who entered their work in one of three categories: memoir, poetry and short story. I had a short story in the mix.

Attended by around 100 people, the award ceremony was held in the library and was a fine affair with complimentary wine, finger foods, and live music. Two local writers judged the awards, and were present to speak about the writing and announce first the short listed writers, and then the winners.

I did not win the $2000 first prize nor did I even make the short list but I did enjoy the occasion and I'm glad I went. It was inspiring to be among a community of writers, and hear the speakers talk with enthusiasm about the art of writing.

I'll keep entering competitions (free ones mostly) because I want to win and I want recognition which will lead to more readers. I haven't written a new short story since December 2012. My focus of course at the time switched to novels and I had two published in 2013. This year has been quiet and different and interesting.

Anyway, hats off to the winners and thanks to the organizers of the event.

Lane Cove Literary Award winners

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fair Weather Friends

My higher level students are given more challenging vocabulary worksheets when they finish set tasks. This keeps them busy and helps expand their vocabulary. Once you master the grammar, and incidentally many migrants do not, no matter how long they live in Australia, once you master the grammar then it's all about vocabulary. English has the largest vocabulary of all the world's languages. If language is all about communication and self expression then the more words you know, the better.

Anyway, I digress. A recent gap fill worksheet was about friends and one of the phrases to be used to complete a sentence was fair weather friend. None of the students knew what this was until I explained it, and then of course there were numerous "a-ha" moments as a succession of pennies dropped.

I'm currently re reading The Four Loves by C.S.Lewis. Here is just one of the many profound things he has to say about friendship. 

The mark of a perfect friendship is not that help will be given when the pinch comes (of course it will) but that, having been given, it makes no difference at all. It was a distraction, an anomaly.

If you have at least one real friend, you should be thankful. I am.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Like ice in boiling water

I nearly wrote something last night. I was lying on my bed having just finished a phone call, and I had an urge to grab my laptop and try to bang out a short story, or add a thousand words to my WIP. Before I could get up, the moment passed, vanishing like ice in boiling water, and I found something else to do. 

I'm coming to see this hiatus as necessary. Although I'm not willing to call it writer's block because it isn't, it is the first time since I began this long and arduous journey to fame and fortune with my pen that I have had trouble writing. Sixteen years. If it's tough now, so what? I'm a writer and I have good reason to be off my game at the moment. I'll be back, and it will be sooner rather than later.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


This is not the scene which greeted us this morning. Port Kembla Beach is an award winning beach on the south coast of New South Wales which at its best shows this face and is resplendent with the bright colours of summer.

We planned this trip to the beach a week ago, determined to get to in the surf more often than every other summer we have had such intentions. We woke this morning to grey skies and so began the inevitable debate as to whether we should go or not go.

In the end we decided to go for it despite the thick fog and the slightly cooler than anticipated air temperature. My dad, my nephew and my children braved the uninviting weather, the threat of freezing water and the absence of other swimmers, and we plunged in (after consulting with the life guard who was still trying to figure out the safest place to put the flags.)

The fog stayed and we had the breath stolen from our lungs as we dived into the waves but it was great. A half an hour later, the flags were up and other people flooded the sand, stripping to swim in the refreshing waters of the Pacific Ocean. We had a great time. It was super invigorating and a great way to start the day.

I'm so glad we went for it instead of making excuses to stay in bed. Ever had that feeling?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Warm and Fuzzy

Students where I teach receive 800 hours of English language training for free as part of the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program which is funded by the government. It is, however, rare for students to actually complete 800 hours, and this is so for a number of reasons.

Some move, either to another town, interstate or overseas. Some withdraw due to health or other personal issues. Some find work (which is the purpose of the whole program). Some enrol in vocational courses such as aged care or childcare at other institutions, and some are just plain lazy and don't want to work, so they either get kicked out of the program for non or poor attendance, or they quit.

Yesterday one of my students, Thomas, completed 800 hours, and in doing so he also earned his Certificate III in Spoken and Written English. The latter achievement is also a feather in my cap as his teacher. Thomas decided that he would like to bring his guitar to class on his last day and play a song for us. Great idea.

We finished the lesson early and I made a short speech and presentation to Thomas which included his laminated certificate, and a farewell card signed by all of us. Then he sang Halo which he said was written by Lionel Ritchie, but turned out to be Hello. It was a beautiful, albeit heavily accented version. A round of applause for Thomas (front left in photo) before he played the second song: a Vietnamese song which he delivered with equal intensity and aplomb. More applause followed, then handshakes and well wishes. A few photographs and then goodbye. I felt very happy and proud, but I will miss Thomas.

That was my warm and fuzzy moment for the week. Do you have anything to share?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How long is too long?

How long is a piece of string? Waiting is such a waiting game. (Jot that down so you will remember it and can pass it on to your children and grandchildren). I'm wondering when I will start writing again. I'm pondering whether I may be turning into a professional procrastinator. 

I've been reading news articles on line this morning: about the death and legacy of former Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, about ways to use money better, and advice on what not to buy new, a bit about the cricket test between Australia and Pakistan which starts today in Dubai (I would love to be able to go and watch it), and a nice piece about the largest spider in the world.

I just shared all that riveting information with you so now I can sign off and say I ticked the 'write a blog post' box.

But seriously, will I leave it too long before starting to write again? So long that I cannot resume? Ridiculous! I'm a writer. It's what I do, so stay tuned.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The X Factor

Many people will be talking about Marlisa's win on The X Factor last night, and therefore I will. I had a beef, and have that very same beef with young contestants on these types of shows. Marlisa is undoubtedly a good singer, and developed during the course of the show into a fine performer, and I am happy for her and her family, (and for Ronan who finally cracked a win after 5 years) but...

Marlisa's age was constantly referred to during the competition which gave her an unfair advantage over the other contestants. It was used to excuse poor performances and to garner sympathy. Secondly, this young lady clearly struggled more than others with the emotional strain of being on The X Factor. It may only be a television show but the contestants work very hard, and are under a lot of pressure and public scrutiny. I don't think children should be subjected to such stress. Thirdly, I felt uncomfortable watching Marlisa: dressing beyond her years, and singing songs with which she could not possibly have had any emotional connection.

I wish her well, and I am happy for her success, but...

Any thoughts on young contestants on TV shows?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Reader's Flow

Here's a reading update in case you missed my statuses on Facebook and/or you don't follow me on Goodreads. I just finished Meditations by Marcus Aurelias (long, repetitive and hard to read but very interesting and thought provoking), and The Many Loves of Marriage by Thomas and Nanette Kinkade (a lemonade and apple pie look a marriage with lots of inspirational analogies and anecdotes)

I added Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express and The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner to my exclusive 'to read' (only 20 places available). I started reading The Four Loves by my favourite author, C.S.Lewis, and I purchased Never by Crash Froelich to read on my phone.

Writing? How's the writing going, I hear you ask. Nothing to report. 

What are you reading at the moment?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Rain Storm

Still on my mind this morning is the rain storm which hit Sydney and Wollongong during the week, and in particular the interview conducted with a home owner after a flash flood destroyed his home, endangering his life and the lives of his wife and children.

His description of what happened was delivered so matter of factly that it was clear he was still in shock. In the blink of an eye their situation worsened from a little water coming in under the door to a raging torrent smashing down the door and filling their house almost to the ceiling.

They managed to escape with some assistance from their neighbours as the water rose to knee level. They were lucky. The house was a complete mess. Imagine the contents of your home thrown into a mud filled tumble dryer.

This story reminds me again of the fragility of our lives, and the God given resilience of people to fight back from and overcome adversity. We are both weaker than we care to admit and stronger than we realize.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Shock departure

Jarryd Hayne 2011 (cropped).jpgJarryd Hayne is a rugby league superstar. Rookie of the year in 2006, and Dally M Player of the year in 2009. The 2014 season was his best, with another Player of the Year award, the highest number of tries and player of the series in New South Wales State of Origin series triumph. At just 26 years of age, Hayne is a player of rare and ubiquitous talent who has achieved everything in the game except for a premiership with the only NRL club he has played for: the Parramatta Eels. With the signing of a new contract, he was set to become the highest paid player in the game.

Now he has quit rugby league, and is heading to the United States to have a crack at American Football. He has his sights set on playing in the NFL, and who could deny that such prodigious talent will not be as highly prized in the US as it is here. It's a huge shock for the rugby league community and a massive risk for Hayne personally, but I say good luck to him.

Hayne said in the press conference that his goal was to become a professional rugby league player so he could buy his mum a house. He said he had achieved that, and everything since had been icing on the cake. It is time, he said, for a new challenge.

Thanks for entertaining us Jarryd, and all the best with the pursuit of your dreams. When you are ready, come back to us and we will welcome you with open arms. Champion.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Assuming most of my regular readers will remember what the acronym W.A.S. stands for, won't help deal with the ignorance, no offence, of new readers or casual visitors. There is an army of Square Pegs fans who storm the gates of hyperspace every morning to see what the great and not at all famous writer, D.A.Cairns has to say.

Sadly but not quite inexcusably, I have been neglecting my fans, and my writing. I've been neglecting a lot of things lately as a matter of fact, due to...let's call it an emotional distraction or two.

This Writing Activity Statement (W.A.S.) is proudly brought to you by...I've been watching too much television. Since the last W.A.S. I have had three short stories rejected, and zero published. I have added barely a paragraph to my novel and I have not written any new short stories. I'm barely a writer. I'm a shadow of a literary craftsman. I'm a vague idea. A long held but inconsistently pursued dream. I'm a bit stuck.

Never mind. It's raining and cold today. Winter has returned uninvited and unwelcomed. Never mind. It's all good. I feel good. How are you doing?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Shine with me

Out on the road this morning with my iPod shuffle supplying tunes for my mind while my legs and lungs battled on, I found peace. I felt settled in my mind, my thoughts clear despite the lack of oxygen in my brain. The song which particularly struck me, resonating encouragement, was Shine With Me by POD. Just a song. Just a guy singing some words while his mates play instruments. How beautiful is the way music connects us to each other, and to the Almighty. How it touches us, moves us, inspires us.

It's actually not that hard to find peace, you just need to know where to look. The God of all peace is never far away, you just need to find a way to connect. Shine With Me is an invitation to a perfect relationship.

How and where do you find peace?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tennis anyone?

My family gets together once a month or so to play tennis. None of us are very good although I have noticed some improvement. However, it's not about being good or winning (official lie: if you play, you should always play to win), it's about spending time together. We get together on other occasions naturally, both organised and spontaneous, but playing tennis is something we do to make sure life doesn't pull us away from each other.

Life can tear us loose from the moorings of our family and friends, so we must be vigilant with the maintenance of our anchors. (Sorry for the double boating analogy. I don't even like boats very much.)

Aside from family and friends, do you have any anchors in your life?