Life’s little blessings and a mulberry tree

In my saner moments, I really appreciate life’s little blessings. And a mulberry tree.

Let me explain.

Life can be tough at times and, like many people, I’ve had a few tough moments. Still, when I compare my life to that of many others, I’ve got it really easy. Sure, I may have a few serious health issues – like diabetes, for example, a condition which is a beast to manage and keep on top of. I have also had a few aches and pains in recent years, and arthritis is becoming my daily burden. Still, this goes with the territory of advancing years. I try not to regret the passing of time; reaching my age is a privilege denied many. Sadly, too many people die well before my age, and I am still going strong. For now.

We live in a peaceful country with a relatively stable government (with all its faults). When I see the television news and watch what is happening in other countries, I realise what a blessing it is to live in Australia. When I go travelling like I did recently to visit my son and family in Sydney, I experience what a blessing it is to live in this beautiful country of ours. Just being able to travel freely, unhindered, without any hassles is a great blessing. The wonderful scenery is an added bonus.

Then when I spend a few weeks living with my grandchildren, I once again realise the blessings that come from the little things in life. Like when my five-year-old grand-daughter leans over and hugs me, telling me that she loves me. Or when my eight-year-old grandson meets me at the bus-stop with a huge grin and begins relating the events of his day at school. These are precious moments and truly a great blessing.

“But what about the mulberry tree?” I hear you ask.

Good question.

My son is not a gardener. Despite that, he and his family have a magnificent old mulberry tree in their back yard. Right next to the kids’ trampoline. At the moment it is loaded with fruit. Delicious fruit. Yummy, good for your tummy fruit. Sweet, dribble down your chin kind of fruit. And while I have spent many happy hours watching the children do all kinds of  gymnastic tricks on the trampoline, I have been drawn magnetically towards the tree for a morning or afternoon snack. Another of life’s little blessings.

And it’s no use denying having eaten the fruit. The evidence is quite plain to see on my fingers. Talk about being literally caught red-handed. Memories of my childhood have come flooding back too. I remember climbing up my uncle’s huge mulberry tree to eat, and to collect the fruit. My cousins and I would come down from the tree, fingers, hands and arms stained and clothes in need of a good soaking. What blessings there are in such memories.

Good writing,


PS: for the health and nutritional benefits of mulberries click here.

It’s been a long time between posts

Hi there, readers.

Are you still there, waiting on my every word?

Mmm… maybe not.

It has been a long time since my last post here. Goodness – was it really April the last time I wrote anything here? How time flies when life gets in the way. Life has certainly thrown a few obstacles in my way over recent months which accounts, in part, for my lack of posting here.

last April 

Way back in April we had four weeks holiday with our son and his family in Sydney. This visit was timed to coincide with the school holidays. Our grandchildren are ages 8 and 5 and we love spending quality time with them, especially during the school breaks when their parents are otherwise occupied. It’s an exhausting pleasure, but we delight in it every day we are with them. Being a grandparent can be challenging, but it is wonderful. I keep reminding myself that it is a privilege and blessing denied far too many.

Terrible storm creates firewood

On returning home to South Australia we had an extremely busy and exhausting few months. First of all, we had a terrible storm which flattened many of the trees on our property. I spent many hours cleaning up the mess left behind. A wonderful by-product of all that chain-sawing will be felt during winter next year. All that extra firewood will keep us cosy and warm.

A wet, wet, wet winter

On top of all that work, we had the wettest winter for many years. We live on a rural property of five acres. The grass kept growing and growing and growing. We live in a moderate bushfire risk region, so I am conscious of keeping the grass under control.That means many hours of brush cutting and mowing on the ride-on mower. We used to have some four-legged “lawn mowers”, but sheep need constant care. I hated seeing them get fly-blown, and a dog attack some years ago left me devastated.

Sorting, packing and cleaning

In the midst of all that, we had five trips to Clare in the mid-north of South Australia. Our daughter has been teaching in the local high school there for the last 15 years. We loved visiting her during that time. On this occasion, however, it was to pack up all of her belongings ready for a removalist to take everything away. This took many days of sorting, packing, and cleaning. All of her things are now in storage in a shipping container in our paddock. It will stay there for the next two years while she teaches overseas. She is teaching at an international school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. You can read about her adventures on Rose’s Travel Jottings, though she hasn’t updated the site for a while.

So, as you can imagine, writing has taken a back seat over the last six months. I have still managed to write regularly in my personal journal and I have certainly kept up with my reading and planning. Over coming months I hope to announce some wonderful news about my writing. I also plan to add many more posts here on this site, and on my other blog, Trevor’s Birding.

In the meantime – good reading and productive writing.


PS: I am also planning on publishing a regular monthly newsletter. This will contain news and articles not included on this blog. To subscribe, go to below the comments section at the bottom of each post. I’d love to see you subscribe.


More short story starters

Over the years, I have posted many of these articles. They have become some of the most popular posts on this site.

These story starters are designed to get your creative juices flowing. We all have those dreaded times when we just can’t think of an idea to write about. These story starters are designed to get you going. You may end up not using the exact wording I have given. You may even change any names I have used. The setting I have proposed could also change. It is really up to you. Accept my ideas if they suit you; change what doesn’t ring true for you.

These short story starters could be used exactly as I have suggested. They could be the start of a story which you finish, polish up, rewrite, edit, proofread and send off to a journal or magazine or even a writing competition. Or, you may just use some or all of these ideas just as writing exercises – warm-up writing attempts to flex your writing muscles before your work-in-progress gets attention for the day. It is entirely up to you how you use these ideas. Or not.

Short story starters:

  1. Frank found what he was looking for, but not where he had expected. He felt totally perplexed. How did it get in the washing machine?
  2. It was moments like these that Greta enjoyed. The sudden appearance of her best friend in the cafe opened up the day to untold opportunities.
  3. How on earth could Harry complete this task in the time allotted? He knew that his fate was in his own hands. What he did in the next hour would determine the course of his life, one way or the other.
  4. ‘What are we to do now?’ asked Ingrid. ‘That was the last chance we had.’
  5. Finding her husband lying on their bed in his pajamas was the last thing Jenny expected that day.
  6. Karen raced to the check-in desk and stopped. Hardly able to breathe she waved her boarding pass and waited to be served. ‘What if I’m too late?’ She suppressed the thought and smiled.
  7. Tony and Lauren knew from the first day that it was going to be a struggle. Despite the challenges ahead, they stepped out believing that they were up to the task set before them.
  8. At the beginning of the week, Murray had believed that he was on top of the workload for the month. What he hadn’t foreseen was the accident.
  9. Naomi blinked. She couldn’t believe what she had just witnessed.
  10. The children ran screaming towards the open door. They crowded around the visitor, jumping and reaching towards the box he carried.

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
  • Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your website or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
  • Now start writing.

Good writing.


Book review

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

I must say from the beginning that this is more of a personal response than an actual review. I have done many book reviews on this site over the years, and I plan to continue writing reviews from time to time. So much has already been said about this novel that what I could possibly add would be lost in a very crowded space.

Why did I read this book now?

I had always intended reading this classic. I just never got to read it. Throughout my other life as a primary classroom teacher here in South Australia for 35 years, I mostly read children’s books. After one disastrous event, I always made it a personal policy to read a book myself before reading it to my class. It had to be suitable and appropriate for those in my class. Now in retirement, I am enjoying being able to read anything that interests me. Because of all the hype about Harper Lee’s recently released second novel, Go Set a Watchman, and her more recent demise, I thought that it was about time I focussed my attention on her classic.

I am pleased that I did.

Classic status

I am not a good judge of what constitutes a classic piece of literature. I will leave that to the experts in the field. As with art, I am more of the “like it” brigade; I know what I like, and if I don’t like it but others do, then that merely shows a difference of taste and opinion. Let’s not get too upset with one another.

By any of the standards that I judge a book by, this has to be a classic work. It certainly has stood the test of time and is possibly more popular and more widely read than ever before. It is certainly well written and engages the reader like any great book should. It has memorable characters that stay with you forever – or certainly for a long time after reading. It has a simple premise and an intriguing plot. The story line carries the reader on, always turning the pages to see what happens next. I could go on, but I promised a personal response.

My response to this book:

In the previous paragraph, I indicated some of the elements that make this book a memorable classic work of literature. While I certainly concur with all of these statements, for me this book was far more than that. It has left a lasting impression. It is a glimpse into the times and culture of a small American town in the 1930s. It has made me realise the importance of the little events of life which have such an impact on ordinary people. I couldn’t help thinking of my own period of growing up in a small Australian farming community in the 1950s, and comparing the two.

Racial tensions

The most outstanding theme of this book – and arguably what makes it so outstanding – it the author’s portrayal of the racial tensions of the times in which it is set. The contrasts are stark. The legacy seems to be ongoing. (That’s if I read the current American culture correctly.) The inequalities and differences between all levels of society are certainly drawn starkly, and the reader is left in no doubt about those divisions.

Australian literature

Australia has been largely free of racial tensions until the last few decades. And so far, we do not have an outstanding classic work of literature which has addressed the obvious tensions in our society. Layered upon that is the multicultural aspect of modern Australia and we have a simmering melting pot. Our country is ready for such a work as this. Or am I being too critical of Australian literature? The only works which seem to come close to Mockingbird would be Kate Grenville’s The Secret River and David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon. Remember, though, I have not yet read widely in classic Australian literature, so listing only two titles seems rather inadequate.


In summary, I can now understand why To Kill a Mockingbird has received so many accolades. I can appreciate its place in the annals of American literature; indeed, it stands tall in the literature of the world. It is one of those books which should appear on every “Top 100 Books You Must Read” list.

One question remains: Did I enjoy the book?

To that I give an unqualified “YES”.


Questions for my readers:

  • What are your responses to this book?
  • What about the book did you enjoy – or hate?
  • Leave a few comments, please.

Good reading – and good writing.



Writing prompts: Who lived here?

Who lived here?

Who lived here?

During our tour of Morocco some years ago now we came across many beautiful buildings. Many of them have exquisite tiled floors, decorated walls and ceilings and were architecturally very interesting. As we travelled through the Berber regions in the southeast of the country, through the Atlas Mountains and the intervening valleys, we came across many abandoned kasbahs, similar to the building shown above. In fact, this photo was taken on the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs.

Writing prompts:

  1. The Road of a Thousand Kasbahs has an exotic and interesting ring to it. Write a story explaining how this road came to be so named.
  2. Ask yourself the question: ‘Who lived in this kasbah?” Write about their lives, their romances and perhaps why this was their chosen place to reside.
  3. Write about how this particular kasbah came to be deserted sometime in the distant past.
  4. Write a series of love poems about a person who had lived in this kasbah, and how their love had been thwarted by political or family events.
  5. Research the history of the Berber people or the kasbahs in this region. Incorporate some of your discoveries in a story of fiction, weaving real events into your fiction.


Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
  • Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your website or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
  • Now start writing.

Good writing.