Monday, March 31, 2014

A is for Ashmore Grief

A is for Ashmore Grief

‘Bloody birdwatchers, eh?’

Mark nodded and made some noise which he hoped would satisfy his companion on deck, Able Seaman van DeKlyf. The Kimberly Birdwatching tour groups were a familiar site on Ashmore Reef.  They visited this National Nature Reserve which comprised three islands bi annually in a luxury catamaran in pursuit of birds. To see them, hear them, photograph them and tick them off a list.

‘Bobbys, Petrells, Shearwaters. Thirty two species.’

Van DeKlyf shook his head. ‘Birds are birds mate. Not that interesting. Not the feathered kind anyway.’

‘You’ve obviously never seen a Masked Bobby then, have you?’

‘You’re full of it, Muddy.’   -excerpt from chapter 3

The title of my novel, Ashmore Grief, refers to the three islands comprising Ashmore Reef which together with Cartier Island and the 12 nautical mile sea between them form a distinct territory of Australia. Located 320 km off Australia’s northwest coast, they are uninhabited, mostly covered with coral and sand, and to all extents and purposes is quite insignificant.

Apart from the fact that it gets regular mentions in the news because of the fact that it has becme a popular target for people smuggling boats transporting asylum seekers to Australia. Once arrived, the illegal arrivals would claim that they were now in Australian territory and request asylum. Lives have been lost in the pursuit of freedom by desperate people. Boats sink. People drown. They die of illness. This is the human tragedy beneath the political rhetoric. This is the grief to which I refer in the title of my novel.

Other less notorious visitors to these islands include birdwatchers who travel there with special permission on organized tours. The birds are protected by law, and some may argue that more care is shown for their welfare than for the welfare of asylum seekers and refugees.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bang, where are you?

The 2014 A-Z Blogging Challenge is only two days away, so today, as I prepare for the challenge, I just wanted to share this story with you.

It was written by one of my students, nicknamed Bill, who is 18 and from Thailand. He has recently completed Year 12 year and is studying with me, working on his English language skills, until he begins a course at TAFE.

Bang where are you?

This story takes place in Spain and is an adventure and drama story. It's about a young girl who was looking for her pig that had been kidnapped by a stranger.

Her name is Alice, she is Spanish. A week ago Alice took her pig named 'Bang' out for a walk at the park in the morning around 7am. She met an old looking man with a big back pack. The man walk toward Alice and asked her to sell Bang to him. Alice was very upset and refused, and then the man walked away.

After that Alice and Bang went back to their house. Alice leaved Bang to play in her courtyard. Then Alice went inside to get soem food for bang. But when she came back she saw Bang was taken away right before her eyes. That man ran on to the train. Alice tried to chase him.

Alice had been walk for a week on the railway. She was very feeble. But finally she found that train. The train was docked at the station. This station was 200km-400km away from her town. Alice went into the city and walking around and asked the people about her pig. But unfortunately there was no clue. So Alice decided to fill her guts before continuing and search for bang. Alice stopped at a restaurant called "The Bob" that's probably the name of the owner.

Alice sat down and ordered "grill pork with three seasoning". When the food was ready! Someone come to serve the food. But when Alice looked up at his face it happens to be the same guy who took Bang. Alice grabbed his neck then shakes his and asked for Bang. But Bob said "Bang is right in front of you!! (Alice shock.)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

When Opportunity Knocks

I've been posting articles here every week for around five years, and last year I wrote 26 in April alone for the A-Z Challenge. Incidentally, I have signed up again for this year's challenge, and I will be posting articles related to my latest novel, Ashmore Grief.

I write to a very small audience whose thoughts are most often unknown to me, and although that is disappointing, I write mainly for myself. I'm not really a mainstream kind of man. I'm a Square Peg who most of the time feels exactly like my tag says, "like I don't really belong." I write because often it is the best way for me to express myself and to explore life as I see it and experience it.

Today, I just want to give some unasked for advice. To those of you who are being presented with an opportunity and you aren't sure if you should take it.

If it sounds good and you want to go for it, then go for it. Imagine how good it could be. Don't think the worst, dream the best. Don't be afraid. Don't confuse fear with prudence. Fear can be a thief.

Open your heart and take a chance because the only way to grow your heart is to share it with others. Grab the opportunity offered to you and watch your heart grow. The more you love, the more you will be able to love. Don't hold back. Don't hide from your feelings.

Happiness is hard to find. If you can find someway to be happy without hurting anybody, including yourself, then don't be a spectator, grab it with both hands and play the game of life. The greater the risk, the greater the reward.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Out of Time  (Out of Time, #1)On Friday I started reading a book called Out of Time by Monique Martin. It's a time travel mystery and the first of a series. Being the first it lacks pace and the time travel/mystery elements have so far, (I'm up to chapter 15), been incidental but I love it. I love it because I have become totally engrossed in the relationship between the two main characters, Simon and Elizabeth. I love them and I don't care what time they are in, or where they are. I am completely wrapped up in them, as they are in each other. The author has made me care about Simon and Elizabeth. She has connected with me through these characters.

This is what makes fiction work: connection. We all want to be connected to other people, even if it is vicariously through fictional characters. We want to know that other people feel how we feel, that someone understands us. That others have experienced what we have. We don't want to be alone. We want to belong.

This hunger we have for connection is why we love movies and books, and music as well. We have feelings, and sometimes through these media we find clearer and truer expressions of these inner passions.

We also seek out other people with whom we can share our lives through conversations, and relationships. However, interactions with real people are infinitely more complex, and much more dangerous. With the risk though comes the promise of much greater reward, and the reward, the prize of loving someone, and being loved  by them is considered by most of us, to be worth the fight.

Being connected to another human is at the very heart of our search for meaning. We cannot console ourselves, nor make sense of ourselves, or of the world in which we live, without an external point of reference. We need others because we were designed for relationships. The problem is most people think they can complete themselves in a relationship. Everyone is looking for the Jerry Maguire moment, "You complete me." The truth is that we cannot complete each other. We are broken. Broken plus broken does not equal fixed.  We connect to each other through the highs and lows, the suffering and the joy, we help each other and we should comfortably rely on each other but we cannot complete each other. That is a fairytale.

If you want the fairytale, stick to fiction and don't participate in real life. Let's accept our brokenness, and love each other the best way we can, and cease the counter-productive quest for perfection.

Photo source:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

64 Days of Darkness

Atqasuk, AlaskaBarrow is the northernmost village in America's largest state, Alaska. In winter the sun does not rise above the horizon for 64 days. That's just over two months of darkness. Can you imagine that. Nine weeks without daylight.

To compensate, and I use the word loosely, for this period of darkness, Barrow receives almost three months of continuous daylight in summer. 84 days without a sunset.Obviously Paul was not thinking of the Alaskans when he wrote, 'Be angry but do not let the sun go down on your anger.' (Ephesians 4:26) In Barrow, you can stay mad at someone for 12 weeks if you want to. With a population of only 4000 people, I bet there are some serious grudges going on.

When the Bible talks about day and night, and light and dark, it often has nothing to do with the actual rising or setting of the sun. Light is a metaphor for goodness and darkness is a metaphor for evil and ignorance.

We have been, are being called, out of the darkness and into God's marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9) to be children of the light.

City Hall, Barrow, AlaskaBarrow, Alaska may endure extended periods of darkness, but much worse is the permanent spiritual darkness in which so many people live, and worse still, many people choose darkness because they are afraid of the light. The residents of Barrow don't have a choice about the physical darkness which nature thrusts upon them. We, as moral people with free will, do have a choice whether to walk in the light or in the darkness.

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Sound of Truth

Spoiler alert. If you are planning to watch Mud, you may not want to read this post.

Mud is a engaging drama with excellent acting performances by Matthew McConaughey and the supporting cast. The title of the film is also the name of McConaughey's character and further refers to the murky ambivalence of the adults in the film. Mud is a coming of age story focused on 14 year old Ellis, who looks for love, truth and security in the midst of the breakdown of his parent's marriage. What I particularly liked was the uncertainty I felt about the characters' actions and motives. I really cared about all of them, especially Ellis, who made a curious decision to trust a complete stranger which led to a potentially disastrous chain of events. His friendship with Mud didn't make sense and I worried the whole time that Mud was going to hurt him. Mud spun a tale of love, a fairy tale romance about a girl he had loved all his life and for whom he would do anything. With his parent's love for each other evidently dying, Ellis latched on to the fairy tale and decided fight for it, alongside Mud. Ellis also fell in love with an older girl who flirted with him and invited him on a date.

The problem for Ellis was that he wanted so badly to believe in love that he was blinded to reality. Mud was a violent criminal, obsessed with the love of his life, Juniper, who kept running off with other men. Mud had allowed a fantasy, a distortion to dictate the terms of his life. He was a fugitive. Juniper loved him but did not want to be with him. She simply liked having him as her fall back guy, and the man who could take care of her problems. Mud and Juniper presented two different sides of the story to Ellis. Tom, Mud's surrogate father, told Ellis some harsh facts about Mud as well, yet Ellis wanted the fairy tale ending so he got deeply involved. The older girl led him on, then dumped and humiliated him. His parents separated and lost their family home as a result. Ellis desperately wanted everything to work out, but it didn't, and his foolish pursuit nearly cost him his life.

However, who could blame him? Haven't we all ignored the facts as we chased down an infinitely more desirable fiction? Don't we all want to believe in happy endings? Haven't we all been blinded by the dazzling light of love? Don't we want love to conquer all? How often have we allowed our feelings, rather than our minds to dictate our actions? How much trouble has that got us into? Haven't we all suffered from the inevitable consequences of romanticism? Haven't we all been hurt, yet invited more pain by trying again for happiness? Haven't we all battled against the odds to get what we wanted?

Where do we draw the line? How far would you go to get what you want? What would you be prepared to do to fulfill your dream? Sometimes, we don't like the truth and we don't want to accept it, so we don't. Sometimes this results in success. Sometimes it results in catastrophic heartbreak.

As I lay Dying have a song called The Sound of Truth which contains profound insights into the human heart. I leave you with a couple of lines from the song.

But what wisdom is there within in us,
to live based on the feelings of our hearts.
How many times has instinct let us down,
never to be thought through,
never to be questioned.
We have all heard what we wanted to hear:
Truth that sounds right to our ears.