Archive for the 'Opinion' Category

A wonderful sound in the morning

Laughing Kookaburra, Lane Cove National Park, Sydney

I love that wonderful feeling, first thing in the morning, when one wakes up after a good night’s sleep. That feeling of contentment on being totally rested. That feeling of cosiness in a warm bed on a frosty morning. That feeling of wanting to stay wrapped up in a comfortable envelope of blankets and quilt.

I had those feelings yesterday morning. Right about when the light of dawn was creeping into my room. My brain was still in neutral. I wasn’t yet fully awake, nor fully asleep.

Then all this suddenly changed.

From one of the street trees came the unmistakable call of two Laughing Kookaburras. This is the sound that is so delightful that I love hearing it. I rarely get to hear it at home in Murray Bridge, South Australia. But here, staying in Sydney with my son and his family, it is so commonplace that many locals probably are not even aware of it.

The joyous laughing call of the Kookaburra is completely iconic in the Australian bush. It is also readily heard in many urban environments as well. It is unmistakable; most people would easily recognise this call. There is nothing else like it. It certainly made my day yesterday.

Laughing Kookaburras only occasionally visit my garden. In fact, I have only recorded this species once in the last twelve years despite being present in many nearby locations. On the other hand, I have many other species of birds in my garden and many of them go a long way to filling the gap left by absent kookaburras.

I love hearing the carolling of the Australian Magpies which are a resident species in my garden. The delightful song of the Willie Wagtail is also an everyday occurrence – and sometimes at night when there is a bright moon shining. The various species of honeyeaters also join in the dawn chorus, and the endearing mewing of the White-browed Babblers is a joy too as they hop around outside my bedroom window seeking their breakfast.

When I am home there is only one bird sound I do not like to hear. For a few days some years ago a Little Raven came to my bedroom window around dawn and tapped loudly on the glass with its large beak. It was responding to the perceived threat from its reflection in the glass. It was very annoying.

Further reading:

Little Ravens feeding their young
Little Ravens caught thieving
A cheeky raven at Monarto Zoo
A short visit to Lane Cove National Park

Laughing Kookaburra, Lane Cove National Park, Sydney

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Back in April I wrote about the fact that I had finally relented and procured an eReader. It was interesting adapting to a new form of technology. It was also quite a different reading experience. I found it very easy to use and quickly downloaded several books to read.

I also included my wife in this wonderful new addition to our reading regime. I was quite surprised how easily she also took to it. In fact, during the first few weeks we had to share the reader. She usually heads off to bed before me and reads for 20 – 30 minutes, and then when I arrive in bed it is lying there waiting for me. So far, we have not argued over its use at all. Not yet.

But I digress.

Well, not so much of a digression but more of an introduction to the review I want to do. The first book I bought and read on my eReader was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. When I mentioned this on Facebook many of my friends said how enjoyable this book was, as well as being totally gripping in its exciting subject matter.

I have to disagree.

Yes – I was totally absorbed by the storyline. At times I had trouble putting the reader down. I even took it out in the back yard to read – when the grandchildren allowed me this luxury. We were staying with my son and family in Sydney at the time. The utter fascination with the characters and the events in this novel had me spellbound, and about half way through the book, this began to bother me, and towards the end it concerned me greatly.

While I concede that this is a brilliantly written book – it has the reader in its grip right from the beginning – it was the subject matter which rang alarm bells in my conscience. I found the sadistic subject matter towards the end of the novel to be quite repulsive; I guess that was what the author was trying to achieve. I also found that many of the characters had no moral compasses at all. Instead, they displayed very strong ‘immoral compasses.’


Certainly it is a very well written novel – no disputing that. I just found that this type of novel is not for me – especially when I have so many other books waiting to be read.

And I have resolved not to read the sequels in this series. Good thing I didn’t buy them.

Good reading.

Good writing.


A troubled people


I have been planning on writing this article for a few days now, but world events have overtaken me. I just have to write this. The idea for this post started out being a review of a book – and I will do that, but the underlying story is much, much bigger. I was just going to write a simple, straight forward review of a novel for young people, but the news headlines of the last few days shout louder than any review.

The people of Syria are experiencing something I can never imagine. War in recent times has ravaged their beautiful country and continues to do so as I write. It is daily in our news broadcasts. I don’t know enough about the politics of the conflict to comment, but I do appreciate the massive humanitarian crisis which has developed over recent months, culminating in very recent events.

None can forget the image of the drowned body of a small boy on the beach. His family was one of millions attempting to escape the war zone. Many are heading towards European countries by any means possible. The scale of the tragedy is unimaginable. I cannot imagine a body of refugees the size of a large part of the Australian population migrating in part on foot with only a few hand-held possessions. I cannot begin to imagine what they are going through, the terror they must feel, the sense of dislocation, and the utter hopelessness of their actions. We cannot sit idly by and ignore their plight.

Only minutes ago I checked the news, and this morning the Australian Government announced that we will be accepting an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees into Australia. While this is good news, I feel that it is pitifully short of what we could, and should be doing. Double, or triple that amount would be more like it, in my opinion. In the same news bulletin the government announced that it is giving the go-ahead for our planes to join forces in bombing raids on Syria. I, like so many others, despair at news like this. This is not our conflict. Surely Australian involvement can only cause more suffering?

Book Review: “Zafir” written by Prue Mason. (Published by Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2015.)

“Zafir” is another in the highly acclaimed series of novels in the “Through My Eyes” series for young adults. This series aims to tell first hand accounts of war zones through the eyes of children caught in conflict. Zafir, a young boy caught in the start of the conflict in Syria a few years ago, grapples with what war means to him, and how it impacts various members of his family. Not only are immediate family members injured, some are arrested and imprisoned without trial and many in the close, loving family are displaced persons in their own country.

When Zafir is on his way to school he sees a body dumped from a moving car. He is concerned that nobody stops to help and he is told to forget he ever saw it. The conflict he feels as a result, and the rapidly deteriorating situation politically and socially, brings a nervous uneasiness into his life, and the downward spiral into his family’s displacement begins. Add to this is the conflicting spiritual influences in his life and we observe his whole world collapse around him – literally due to bombing of his home, and metaphorically with the arrest of his father.

This is a fast moving, intense story which feels like an action movie, reads like an adventure story, confronts the reader with the reality of war and mirrors today’s newspapers and television news broadcasts. Highly recommended.

Further reading:

This really annoys me

WARNING: This post is not much about writing. I felt the need to vent a little online. I don’t do it very often.

Most of the time I am very calm and don’t let minor things upset, but every now and then something gets up my nose.


Then I try to let it slide; life’s too short to let a minor irritation get the better of me.

For many years now I’ve had a watch which had a stopwatch facility. Whenever I am writing, or doing research linked to my writing, I have used this facility. At the end of each day I record on a chart how many hours I’ve spent on my writing that day, as well as how many blog posts I’ve written and a word count for the day. These figures are kept as a tally on this chart so I can see if I’m reaching my writing goals. It’s a way of keeping me accountable to myself. Works for me.

Just over two years ago I bought a new watch. The old one had seen many years of faithful, reliable service, save for an occasional new battery. The jewellery shop I usually go to no longer stocked the watch, and batteries were no longer available. Time for an upgrade after many years, I thought. The new watch was good, albeit a little bulky/clunky in appearance, but I coped.

A few weeks ago the battery failed. Suddenly – right in mid-sentence. So I went to have it replaced – not a problem.  It was a few weeks out of warranty, but that wasn’t what upset me. A few days later the rubber/plastic strap threatened to break at any moment. Oh no. Having just spent money on a battery, I wasn’t keen to fork out more for a strap. It would have almost been cheaper to have bought a new watch. So I did.

The old watch is still very functional; I just can’t wear it, so it sits on my writing desk still performing nicely in timing my writing patterns. I am determined to get my money’s worth out of that battery.

The throw away society mentality really gets up my nose. Built in obsolescence has always pushed my button.

And I won’t even start on about having to replace a perfectly good – but very old – mobile phone this last week. SIGH.

Good writing.

What every man needs

Warning: This post has little to do with writing. In fact, it probably has nothing to do with writing – except that I’m writing it.

What does every man need?

Quite a few things, I dare say. Generally most of those “needs” could easily be reclassified as “wants”.

In my opinion, however, there is one thing this man needs: a good pair of slippers. After a hard day’s work there are few more comforting or relaxing things as a good pair of comfortable slippers.

Now I haven’t had a proper pair of slippers in several decades. Instead I have replaced slippers with Ugg boots, that wonderful Australian invention with its soft fleecy lining that ease any aches in the feet and is deliciously warm in the winter, cool in the summer and just about perfect for the rest of the year.

Sadly, my old pair of Ugg boots met an unfortunate end recently; they were thrown unceremoniously into the rubbish bin accompanied by rapturous applause from She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. (I made that last bit up – the bit about the applause.) My wife has been encouraging me to find a suitable replacement pair for longer than I care to remember. The fleecy lining had been flattened many years ago. The side of one had developed a rip to rival the San Andreas Fault and the outsides no longer looked in prime condition. They could have been mistaken for a oddly shaped refugee from a compost heap.

I tried. I really tried to find a replacement pair but extensive searches and numerous test fittings of potential replacements unearthed nothing suitable. (To be honest, I only went to one local store, and then only tried on about 3 pairs.) Imagine my delight, and my wife’s approval, when I found a pair recently that not only felt comfortable as to size, but also reminded me what I had been missing for so many years.

They are wonderfully comfortable.

Just perfect for relaxing every evening. Don’t know why I didn’t throw the old ones away several years ago.

Read more about Ugg boots here.

Good writing.