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?