I had a dream last night. I was at an airport searching for my luggage and every case on the carousel looked identical. I frantically pulled each one from the conveyor belt and checked the label for mine, but they were all labelled in Arabic script. The dream probably came about after seeing news reports about the disasters being experienced across the world as a result of the post Covid dash for travel. I can really sympathise with travellers as flights are cancelled and luggage lost, not to mention the long, long queues at airports and below par service that’s being provided. As airlines and customers come to grips with a return to business, not everything is going to plan.

After a lifetime of travel for work and leisure, I dream a lot about planes, airports, hotels and cities. I’m usually lost in a labyrinth of hotel hallways or wandering up blind alleys looking for a way to the airport.  It’s not the first time I’ve dreamt about luggage either, and it usually ends just before the strip search at the hands of a belligerent customs officer. Thankfully that never happened in real life, but lost baggage was certainly a constant hazard of my travels. Most times I had my luggage back and delivered to my hotel within hours, but there were a few bags that never returned from the lost luggage black hole that it went down.

I recall one instance when I arrived for an important meeting in Bologna. I was to meet the directors of a large company with a view to a new business partnership. The airport was busy with excited passengers, anxious to get to their final destinations. There’s nothing worse than standing at the luggage carousel and watching others grab their bags and haul them from the conveyor, the crowd of passengers dwindling down to nothing as the last bags are taken from the belt. You can’t help thinking that the last passenger to leave the hall with their bags intact had a little giggle and a smirk as they left you standing alone, still waiting. Occasionally there’s one piece of luggage going around and around with no one to claim it, but it’s not yours and all hopes are in tatters. On this occasion, I eventually conceded defeat and registered my claim at the lost luggage office.

Unfortunately, as it always seems to be with catastrophes, it happened to be the weekend – Sunday to be exact – and Sunday in Italy is still very much a rest day for everyone. So, as you might guess, finding a shop to buy emergency clothing proved to be an impossible task. With no other option available, I prayed that by morning I would have my suitcase and hoped I could still look my best for an introduction to what I hoped would be a long and fruitful association.

I stunk like an old dog blanket

Monday morning came and with it no sign of the luggage. With my meeting scheduled for 9am, I still had time to rush out and buy some suitable attire. Not so. Everywhere I went, the signs read: Chiuso! aperto alle dieci. 10am opening. This was a disaster. I’d spent 36 hours travelling from Sydney to Rome and then on to Bologna. My tee-shirt looked like old rags, jeans had red wine stains and I’d already turned my undies and socks inside out as a refresher. And, though I’d been able to shower, it seemed to me that I still stunk like an old dog blanket.

After a frantic search, I came across a sports shop where I begged the arriving owner to open up early and help save my trip. The clock was against me, but after some quick selections I was able to don fresh clothes and head swiftly for my negotiations. I wasn’t sure what was said exactly but the interpreter who had been called in to facilitate the meeting was able to explain to the immaculately dressed Italians in their Brunello Cucinelli, Giorgio Armani and other finely tailored Milanese fashions, why I’d shown up in track pants and a bright new Nike tee-shirt that read: BIRTH-SOCCER-DEATH across the chest. (I couldn’t resist it.) At least I had clean undies and my new collegues had a good laugh.

Lost bags aren’t the only luggage disasters in my catalogue of travel adventures. My wife and I were in Osaka when calamity struck. We had arrived in the city after driving a rental car from the north of Japan (an adventure for another blog) and had dropped the car off at the train station from where we would take the train across the city to our hotel. Unfortunately, we had arrived just in time for rush hour. Anyone who’s taken a train in a Japanese city at rush hour knows that it’s not for the faint hearted.

We’d boarded the packed train and were taking deep breaths so as not to panic over the crush, when our largest suitcase, packed to bursting, did exactly that; it burst completely. The zipper decided to let go under force, like a Jack-in-the-box, shooting the contents of our case into the air and spilling it around the feet of bemused commuters who tried to dodge the fallout. We tried to appear unfazed, in that embarrassed sort of nonchalant way in which we English tend to act when disaster strikes. Don’t panic!

Remaining calm and composed, we gathered our belongings from the floor, even as they became tangled under foot in the stampede for the exit. “Sumimasen! Excuse me, sir, you’re standing on my knickers.” Now, while Japanese people are wonderfully polite and accommodating folk, they tend to be more single-minded during rush hour in the city. No one felt obliged to come to our aid as we scrambled for our things, and when the doors opened, we were lucky to get out in one piece. To this day, I’m sure I saw some guy getting off the train carrying a briefcase and wearing Christine’s nightie.  

Sumimasen! Excuse me, sir, you’re standing on my knickers

After millions of kilometres (yep, 2.4 million by my calculation) of travel since leaving England in 1982, it’s no wonder I dream about it. There’ve been a few nightmares, but all in all I’ll take them along with the wonderful experiences. May there be many more dreams to come, but I might wait a little longer until they sort out the luggage problems.

May there be more dreams to come

Sweet Sorrow

I remember sitting with my young son once, watching a movie, a sad movie about a dog. I knew the scene was having an effect on him because it had a similar one on me. I watched him for a moment, feeling for him as the tears began to flow. When he realised I was watching, he turned and said he had an onion in his eye. It’s an excuse I’ve used myself since then.

Photo by Steve Buissinne

Sometimes, emotions get the better of us, even when we try to control them. They set the tone for each of us in our daily lives. We wake in an emotional state, be it happy, sad, stressed, angry or relaxed, and head out into our day, reacting to the world and coping with our many moods. But these feelings can change in an instant. You awake to the sun shining through your window; the birds are singing; life is good. But then you glance at the alarm. Why didn’t it go off after you set it? You’ve overslept for crying out loud, and now you’ve missed the bus to work. Disaster has struck, and all because you lay there thinking happy thoughts. We’ve all been there. A letter in the mail to say you owe back-taxes just after getting a pay rise. A bump in your brand new car even though you never got a scratch on the old one. Emotions have a way of swinging with the breeze and with the events surrounding us. And, of course, they can play out in the opposite direction; you start off irritable but the day keeps getting better. By evening your floating on air. Bring on that bottle of wine before dinner; life is great. (might not be in the morning when you regret the second bottle of wine) Emotions play a significant part in our decision making; they affect everything from impulse buying to picking a partner, job decisions to which shoes you should wear. It’s impossible to go through life without experiencing an emotional response to everything in it.

Photo by Gino Crescoli

There are generally recognised lists of emotions that include all the usual suspects. Anger, joy, sadness, fear, disgust, surprise. There are others like embarrassment, shame and pride. And what’s clear is that we can experience different, even opposing emotions simultaneously. The anxiety we feel on the first day of work, for instance, is usually accompanied by excitement, perhaps even pride, along with terror at the thought of failure. Scientists have all manner of explanations to tell us what, how and why emotions evolved in humans, and why they play such an essential role in daily life. Many of those explanations go back to basic survival instincts, like fight-or-flight, getting pleasure from eating certain foods, or the need to jealously protect your mate from intruders. Science can explain the physiological responses by talking about neurotransmitters and chemical stimulation. They’ll highlight the importance of hormones like cortisol, adrenalin, and melatonin. These all play a part in our emotional state. To most of us, however, it’s merely a question of how we feel at any one moment and how we interpret the emotions. We also need to react to the feelings of those around us.

Photo by John Hain

Understanding body language is vital in our interactions with others. How we express our emotional state helps us communicate our state of mind. A smile can bring instant ease when confronted with a stranger. But subtle changes in that same smile can turn it from a greeting to a smirk, and in an instant to an aggressive warning of contempt or bravado. Tears are a display of pain, but also a way of saying to others that we may need help. We learn these cues from birth.

Sometimes we cry for no reason at all

Of all the physiological responses to emotions, tears are perhaps the most telling, but once again, they can be the result of very different emotions that can run side-by-side. We cry for many reasons, and in recent years, we’ve been encouraged to use tears freely as a vent for our emotions, especially when it comes to men. There are still those alpha-males who think tears are for the girls, but more and more men feel free to express their feelings by letting the tears flow. It’s long been known to have a therapeutic effect, a powerful way to get past grief. Sometimes laughter brings us to tears, and again, this brings conflicting emotions into close relationships. We cry when we are overwhelmed by emotions at either end of the scale; joy vs pain, despair vs happiness. We cry at weddings and funerals, at winning and losing, and we sometimes cry for no reason at all. I recall a moment when driving alone one day. I switched on the radio just in time to hear a boy chorister singing a requiem at Westminster Abbey, the sound so pure, I felt suddenly overwhelmed and brought to tears. I’ve heard of such instances before, but to be affected to such extreme emotion, purely by the beauty of sound, was indeed something I’ll never forget. I’ve been reduced to blubbering many times in my life, times when nothing could hold back the need to weep, though I’ve often felt the need to hide it. Perhaps the younger generations will feel less inhibited, but I’ve a feeling they’ll have a lot more to cry about.

Photo by Cheryl Holt

Loss is a common reason people tear up and bawl. Like most people, I’ve lost family, friends and loved ones who’ve passed away, and, my family and I have said goodbye many times when we’ve migrated around the world, leaving behind those we hold dear. But the loss of those close to us is when those darned emotions start playing tricks again. Our tears are full of mixed feelings, and sadness is tinged with the happy memories we’ve shared. In grieving a loss, we experience all manner of emotions, and they are often at odds with one another. This is because you can’t have grief without knowing the joy of love, and if you never had love, you can never know the real tragedy of grief. That’s why parting is such sweet sorrow.

Photo courtesy of S. Hermann & F. Richter


That’s why parting is such sweet sorrow

Unconditional Love

I started to write a very different blog

I started to write a very different blog but was distracted by the tap of a paw on my knee. My ever-present writing buddies wanted my attention. Whenever I sit down at the computer and start writing, it’s usually a signal for Charlie and Ruby–our King Charles Cavaliers–to stretch out and sleep, only to stir at coffee time, when they know they’ll get their morning treat.

Photo by Rick Lee                                                                        Charlie and Ruby

They don’t need to smell the coffee; they don’t even need to hear the coffee machine buzzing or the fridge door slapping shut; they have an impeccable built-in clock that says, it’s bikkie time. It’s incredible that they can tell to the second, just when they should be eating, sleeping, or going out for walks. Not only that, they are psychic, knowing long before I don my coat and grab the car keys that I’m planning to leave without them. Try sneaking out of the house; it’s impossible. Not only are they psychic, but my furry friends are mind-benders. They sit and stare for hours if necessary just so I’ll get up and clean the dinner dishes of potential food scraps. Look into my eye, my eyes. The movie can wait; you will get up and feed me. Look into my eyes; you are mine to command. And it works. I find myself drawn to those big baby browns and the sad, neglected expression. Who could resist? It’s like I’m sleepwalking to the kitchen.

Photo by Paolo Nicolello

People like to own pets and they come in all shapes, sizes, species and breeds (people and pets). Some keep reptiles, snakes and spiders. I know people who love mice, ferrets and rats. There are even people who keep cockroaches, though I’ve got to say, that really bugs me. I’ve got four chickens, and they have a special kind of character, and I’d love to keep horses. I wouldn’t have pigs; they live like animals. I like cats. We’ve had plenty over the years. But dogs are different, aren’t they? Once you’ve had dogs in your life, there’s no going back. So what is it about dogs that makes them man’s–or woman’s–best friend?

I wouldn’t have pigs; they live like animals

Photo by Rick Lee                                                                                      Charlie & Jay


Unconditional love; that’s what dogs give that other animals–or humans–don’t. They’re there when you call–even when you don’t. They’ll risk their lives for you, and you for them. I remember the time they pulled me from a burning building… Okay, maybe I dreamt that one, but they would if they could. Dogs never judge you, even when you feel judged by everyone else. And they make you smile, even when you don’t feel like smiling.

Photo by _-Drz-_

Dogs will sit for hours, waiting at the window for your return. Give you cuddles when no one else understands how you feel. They do poop a lot, and I am their faithful pooper scooper. It’s like that Last Emperor movie where the loyal servant stands waiting for the poo to arrive, picking it up and inspecting it for irregularities. And talking about poop, they love to indulge. Total bliss for Charlie is a good roll in a pile of Wombat poo, just to get rid of that nasty rose shampoo smell. Ruby, on the other hand, enjoys nothing better than a good munch on chicken poop. It sweetens her breath before she showers me in licks and kisses. Sorry if you’re trying to enjoy breakfast while reading this post.

Photo by Rick Lee                                                                                      Ruby

Total bliss is a good roll in a pile of Wombat poo

Like most who have dogs, I find myself talking to Ruby and Charlie like they’re humans and understand every word. But it’s always in a squeaky voice, like when you’re talking to a baby.

“I’ve had a bad day today,” I say sometimes.

“Ruff,” they answer sympathetically.

“Yes, it was,” I reply. “A dog of a day.”

They understand what I’m going through, and when I need to take a break. Which brings me to that tap on the knee. It’s Ruby, and she figures it’s a good time to shut down the computer and enjoy the day while the sun is shining and the sky is blue. Both she and Charlie will curl up contentedly at my side, with one eye on the world passing by, the other on that internal clock that says when it’s dinner time.

Photo by Nathalie Spehner

Dogs; you’ve got to love em.

The Music of Life

Hey Google, play some 60s rock!

I don’t usually listen to music when I’m writing; I can’t concentrate because I’m either listening to the lyrics or sitting back to admire the funky melody. But I’d taken timeout the other day, just to chill. “Hey, Google!” I said. “Play some 60s rock.” Google duly obliged and within seconds I was tapping my fingers and singing the words to some obscure Manfred Mann number. How is it that after fifty-odd years I remember every word? It’s crazy that it’s been there, lying in wait for the right prompt to come along and set it free. Music can do that; it can stick in your head and resist all attempts to shake it free. And it’s often the worst of songs that linger, like… No, I won’t even go there in case I dislodge some annoying song like the Macarena and end up singing it all day. (D’oh!)

Chilling to the groove                                                                               Photo by Holger Link


Anyway, it got me to thinking about how music shadows life. It’s always there somewhere, either up-front and centre or playing in the background. It’s like the backing track to your very existence. Think back through the years, even to childhood, and there’s usually a song or two that stand out as significant memories. Does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight? Now, that was a classic for a young boy with a fossilised collection of gum stuck behind the bedhead. Mum didn’t like it. It’ll tangle round your tonsils, twist from left to right, does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight?

Photo by Matthew Brodeur

I have three older brothers who blazed the trail before me, so my appreciation of music was well and truly entrenched by the teenage years. Everything was groundbreaking through those years, and so many artists were going in new directions and making an impression on me. I remember watching Roy Orbison singing Pretty Woman. The performance had such an effect that for months after, I donned sunglasses and wore black, even when going to bed. I sang songs into a hairbrush using his baritone style while watching myself in the mirror looking cool as. That was where my musical ambitions finished. The endeavour was there but the rhythm wasn’t. Music evolved quickly during those years. It was such an exciting time for someone with eclectic tastes; I didn’t know where to turn or who to follow next.

Photo by Paulette Wooten

As a Liverpool boy, The Beatles were naturally kings of the strings. They had so many truly great songs, it would be hard to pick out one in particular, but I definitely thought we were going to change the world when we grew our hair and sang along to Love, love, love.  It was the late sixties when I met the love of my life; like most teens of the era, we lived for music, booze and dance. I recall us crammed into the Victoriana Club in Liverpool, a tiny venue with wall to wall people, and live music every night. There was barely room to get the band inside. We grooved there to Marvin Gaye live, singing: I Heard It Through the Grapevine. It was like having him in our living room.

Photo by Edward Cisneros

Like most teens, I didn’t yet know what I wanted to do with my life. So when The Graduate came out in cinemas, I identified with Dustin Hoffman’s restless and confused spirit. The songs of Simon and Garfunkel that accompanied the film echoed my own feelings of uncertainty, and still bring to mind the crossroad decisions I faced at the time. There are other important songs and artists that reflect my teen years and cause me to remember those days. Songs like Bob Dylan’s Tangled Up In Blues, Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog, and Cat Stevens’ Wild World.

With the days of youth fading fast, David Bowie’s Life On Mars marked the preparations for our wedding, (Perhaps it was an omen.) and life was never the same again. In the early years of married bliss, Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road hardly left the turntable, and I could only look back on the good old days of Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting with nostalgia. Every song on that album reminds me of our first steps at building a home together. And who could forget the house parties and everyone dancing in a line to Saturday Night Fever in the back yard?

Who could forget the house parties?

John Lennon released Starting Over as we prepared to leave for Canada. It seemed an appropriate song to mark a new life abroad. Not long after arriving in Canada, we bought a new turntable and our very first new album was Men at Work’s Business As Usual, not realising that one day we would live in the Land Downunder, and it would virtually become our theme tune.

Photo by Ana Grave

There soon came a time when the music that marked important events were not always of our choosing, but those of our kids. Metallica, Iron Maiden and Slayer reverberated from the bedrooms, and though I do like the occasional heavy metal session, I have to admit we started looking for homes that would take the kids on a permanent basis. Heavy metal became the staple diet and I began to think that the devil had moved in-house. I recall waiting outside a theatre in Toronto for our son who had gone to a Metallica concert. The doors opened, spilling the exuberant, bare-chested crowd onto the street where they mobbed our car, jumping on the hood and banging on the roof, screaming Seek & Destroy, and, Kill Em All, with all the accompanying facial expressions of angry young men. (I knew we weren’t going to die, really I did.) Thankfully things mellowed at home as the kids discovered Pink Floyd, Guns & Roses and Bon Jovi, and other more moderate forms of music followed. Dark Side Of The Moon accompanied many a camping expedition, and Life Is A Highway played on every road trip across Canada and the States.

Photo by Alessandro Porri

Life is a highway!

Life in Australia had a different rhythm and an Aussie flavour, as we embraced all things unique to the big Southern Land. We immersed ourselves in all the classics, like Sounds of Then, Flame Trees and Beds Are Burning. Once again, our kids had their own favourites at the time, from bands like Green Day, Tragically Hip and The Offspring, but soon it was their own songs and their own music we were listening to, songs written and performed by our own kids, like Six Degrees and Sandalwood by Paper View. Music is in their blood and will be as important to them later when they look back and put together their own compilations to mark their paths through life.

Photo by Jernej Graj

So what’s in the background now, you may ask? What new gems are marking this phase of life for me? Well, the eclectic taste is still there, but there’s a leaning to mellow and melodic. You’re more likely to hear Sam Smith or Ed Sheeran than Five Finger Death Punch. I guess it’s an age thing. As for the tracks on my life album, I hope there’s plenty more to come before I reach the final tune. Maybe the needle will slip on the turntable and I’ll be forever waiting for the album to end, or maybe it will just skip to the beginning and start all over again. I could live with that.

Photo by Jace Afsoon


Citizen of the World

The world has always been a tribal sphere, a place of kingdoms, borders and empires. Throughout history, borders have changed, lands have been occupied, won and lost, or simply decimated by invaders. The dominant forces have changed over the centuries, but the stories have remained the same; the strong, bully the weak and hold all the power until someone stronger comes along.

Photo by Ali Yahya

That pattern looked like changing for a while. Relative peace took hold between old foes, East and West. Walls came down in Europe and new friends were embraced, taken into the wider community. China looked beyond its own wall, becoming part of the narrative, even if it had a long way to go before it could truly be called an open society. Borders came down between nations, and alliances replaced grievances, trading agreements replaced ceasefires. The world looked like it may, at last, be moving towards global cooperation and mutual respect on an unprecedented scale. John Lennon imagined it; “a brotherhood of man.” At the same time, global, affordable travel bridged gaps between people of far-flung nations. It was easier to live, work and trade overseas. Along with the internet, this era allowed us to interact and understand each other, despite our differences. We were becoming citizens of the world.

A brotherhood of man

Photos by Rick Lee

Perhaps it was naïve of me to think the world had slowly been changing, that we were embracing cultures of every colour and creed, and creating a new world order. Like so many travellers who hop the planet, I had come to think of myself as a global species, a nomad who found a home wherever I hung my hat. I’ve spent more time abroad now than in my native England, calling Canada home before settling here in Australia. I’ve worked for Germans, French Canadians, worked with Italians, Spaniards, Dutch, Americans, and Chinese. I have friends of every colour and faith–real friends–in countries all around the world, eaten and slept in their homes in Japan, China, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Taiwan and more. I cherish these relationships because they go beyond borders, there are no barriers between friends.

There are no barriers between friends

Photo by Duy Pham

Of one thing I’m certain, people are the same the world over; there’s good, bad and indifferent, no matter what the culture, no matter how distant the lands. I’ve seen enough to know that good, loving, generous people come from all walks of life. All we have to do is open up our arms and greet them. So it makes me mad to see so-called leaders, turning the clock back. Putting up new walls, isolating countries that have previously preached freedom, and leaving friends behind as a consequence.

All we have to do is open our arms and greet them

The new America promotes self above all others, suspicion above trust; it wants to block its borders, build barbed wire fences and concrete walls to keep the world at bay. Britain wants to go back in time, live behind its moat and dream of the glory days. Forget the community of friends beyond the channel, a community that’s done more for European peace and unity than any army over the preceding years.

Photo by Humberto Chavez 

No one is saying that life was on the road to perfect; true global unity is a lengthy, ongoing process, one that needs work and cannot be taken for granted. Open markets bring their own problems, rampant consumerism for one. But I’d rather have to deal with that than war and the destruction it brings. When leaders whip up sentiments of division and hate, create enemies by conjuring up unwarranted fear and suspicion, the sheep amongst us follow enthusiastically, convinced by fast-talking popularists, and those good at heart soon find themselves outnumbered.

Photo by Marc Pell

When the so-called leader of the free world sees dictators and despots as wonderful people and shuns partners who strive for inclusion, compassion and friendship, it’s time to start worrying.

I for one would rather be a citizen of the world than holed up in my castle.


My father once gave me a dictionary for my birthday; I couldn’t find the words to thank him. Boom, boom! Sorry, that really is a lame dad joke, but I couldn’t resist the temptation.

Photo by Ben White

It was on my dad’s lap that I first fell in love with books. One of my earliest memories is sitting with him by a blazing winter fire, as he read to me the adventures of Toad at Toad Hall. There were always pictures to accompany the magical tales, and I would be transported to fantastic worlds beyond reality, before being carried to bed to dream. Books have the ability to do that, to make us dream, and to carry us away to far off places. I remember receiving the first volume of a children’s encyclopaedia, A to B, and being mesmerised by the chapter on Australia, never imagining at the time that I would one day live in that strange and wonderful land. It was another book I credit with stirring in me the hunger to travel. On my first day at school, not yet five years old, our new teacher read from a book while we sat cross-legged on the classroom floor. She told of a boy and an elephant, and an exotic place where they lived, called India. The pictures painted by the teacher’s words were inspirational, and from that day onwards, I was determined to see the world and all its wonders for myself.

Books have the ability to make us dream

Photo by Fahrul Azmi


Somewhere along the way since early childhood, rock music, parties, booze and friends took precedence, and there seemed little time to spend reading books; after all, the exuberance of youth needed my complete attention. Work and family responsibilities took over where parties left off, and once again, reading was pushed to the backburner. It wasn’t until I began travelling for business that I rediscovered books and their incredible power. Long flights and too many airport lounges were made bearable by packing a paperback, and from there, there was no turning back; my appetite for the printed page became insatiable.

Photo by John Michael Thomson

Someone once said that the invention of tablets and kindle type devices would mean the end of printed literature. Didn’t someone say that about computers once, that we were going to live in a paperless society? In the meantime, paper use has gone up 120% since 1997. Instead of 92million tons per year, consumption is now 208 million tons annually. Take into account that we don’t write letters and put them in the mail anymore, and we get most of our news from the internet instead of newspapers these days, and the results are even more surprising. The fact is, we all own a computer; there’s one at every desk, but we still print everything out just so we can read it properly. There’s an inherent need for hardcopy, even when everything is saved to hard drive. There are many who have embraced digital reading technology, but according to industry book sales data, digital has plateaued at between 25% and 30%. Those reading for pleasure, still prefer paperbacks and hardbacks to digital. I’m one of those diehards, though I’ve tried digital and do read the occasional novel on my Kindle, but there’s something mystical about hardcopy books that you just don’t get from the digital format.

I can’t help turning the pages

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

I find it hard not to read books in one long sitting; I can’t help turning the pages. I can’t sleep without a few chapters at bedtime, meaning books are consumed very quickly. I finish one and can’t wait for the next, which can get expensive, so I buy lots of second-hand books as well as new. I can’t bring myself to throw books away. Books are tactile and timeless things to cherish. I love to look at them and hold them. A great cover gets me every time and I’ve a small collection of antique books that I began collecting while on my travels. I think about the people who’ve read them and wonder what they thought of the words. I picked up one such set of treasures from a little antiquariat in Minden Germany.  The first English translation of Arabian Nights Entertainments. There are four volumes in all, and they are dated 1704. In each volume, there is a handwritten inscription that reads: Lady Anna Maria Stanhope’s Book, Feb 19th1760. Later research brought to life the owner’s identity as the Duchess of Newcastle, great-great-granddaughter to Charles II of England. Her second husband, Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Gregan Craufurd, was an officer in the 1st Dragoon Guards. He studied and served in Germany and Austria during the war with the French. I’m guessing that he took his wife’s books to Germany for his off-duty entertainment, and left the books behind there. I read those books occasionally, and imagine the Duchess reading them to her friends over tea at court, or her husband taking time out from the front line in Europe, and reading those very same stories to take his mind off the battles.

Photo by Rick Lee

Like the books themselves, libraries and bookshops are places of pleasure. Browsing can take hours. It’s just not the same, trolling through book listings online. Some of these venues have places to sit and read, coffee shops and surroundings that encourage one to sit and take the time to enjoy. Pleasure from books comes from kicking back and relaxing on a beach, in a lush green park or by a cosy fire while the snow whips up around the windows. Try it with a Kindle and you don’t get that same satisfaction somehow.

Photo by Ben White

There’s so much to say about books, I could write a book about it.

That’s what friends are for

Technology, it’s changed our lives completely, and it doesn’t look like slowing down anytime soon. It’s all designed to make life easier, right? Well, that’s the idea. Everything is digital, and there’s an app for everything, from counting your heartbeats to counting your money–not mine; that’s kept under my analogue mattress.

Photo by Rawpixel

Embracing the digital age means making digital friends. Even if we never see them in person, we can communicate with friends and send our love and selfies to the far reaches of the world, the galaxy even–don’t laugh, there’s a little green alien been texting me lately, something to do with cleaning my carpets at half price; today only, conditions apply. When we’re not getting sold something special, we need our technological devices to keep in touch with our growing list of acquaintances, and just because we don’t have friends of our own, doesn’t mean we can’t join in the fun; there’s an app that allows us to invent them. Seriously! It’s available from the Apple store, and it’s called, I am important. Download the app, and you can create fake friends and have them send you messages and love to impress those non-friends who might be watching. It even has a phoney diary to arrange your busy schedule, lunch dates, parties and such, with all your fake friends. Wow! How good would that make you feel; important, right? Check it out if you need someone special in your life.

I Am Important App

Social media apps don’t make our lives easier, but they do sometimes take over our existence. They’re like babies; they demand all our time. They change the way we think, communicate and interact with other human beings, especially real ones. Whatever the application, we’re drawn continuously to our smartphones, tablets and computer screens. We panic if they are not within reach. Go to the shops and realise you left your phone lying on the kitchen table, and it’s as if the sky has fallen in on you. You rush to phone home and check it’s still there on the table, then scream, because you don’t have your phone. It’s a nightmare. I can hear the modern day Lindy Chamberlain cry out, ‘Help, the dingo’s got my smartphone!’

Dingoes photo courtesy of Perth Zoo

Help! The Dingo’s got my i-phone!

Without the means for instant communication, there’s a real sense of anxiety; we feel naked, cut adrift from the real world–it is the real world isn’t it, that cyber world of information and social media? We’ve developed a need to know who’s online and if they are talking about us, or to us. We need to know if they’ve seen our latest silly photo, and we need to know there’s someone out there in cyberspace waiting to hear from us. Go ahead and laugh, but to many, that is the real world. So are we escaping; are we bypassing reality and living a life of make-believe, or is this the new reality?

When you forget your smartphone               Photo by Aaron Blanco-Tejedor

I myself am not addicted. I can go for minutes without looking at my phone. I once mistakenly allowed the battery to die completely and didn’t panic. I calmly put it on charge and fired up my i-pad; no harm done. Back-ups are so important for your hardware and software; it’s like having a friend you can count on when all your real friends are busy.

I wonder how many of us could go cold turkey and dump the smartphone and tablets altogether? Imagine using the phone only when you had to call someone to talk; now that would be different. But dropping out of the real world–the one where apps control the laws of nature–wouldn’t be so easy. If we did put the phone in the drawer and throw away the key, how would we know about all those cool things to purchase, things we never imagined we needed? Isn’t it funny how your phone knows when you need something? It’s as though they’re listening in through that tiny microphone. I broke wind the other day and an ad for air freshener popped up on my phone. And if we didn’t have smartphones, how would I let everyone know that I’ve put up my latest blog post? Enough said; I’m in it for the long-haul and my digital devices will tell me how long that will be–there’s an app called Heaven I might try.


Photo by Pawel Czerwinski

Call me!

New Year, Time for Resolve

Photo by Holger Link

It’s the end of another year, time once again to look back, evaluate, then turn our attention to the next twelve months. I must say I’m happy with the year just ending, but it’s flown by in the blink of an eye. I sometimes feel like I’m on a runaway train, heading for the end of the line and I’ve got so much I want to accomplish during what’s left of the journey. Time then for plans and resolutions.

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski

I’ve always felt a strong sense of new beginnings come January first. Time to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. It’s a long tradition to use the opportunity to set goals and resolve to do the difficult things. I think the best New Year’s resolution I ever made– and kept– was to give up smoking. It wasn’t the first time I tried, but that one was successful. That was forty years ago now, and I’ll be forever thankful for the decision to give the cough-sticks the flick. I gave up alcohol around the same time and was also successful– until the next night. I do moderate my intake these days, but a nice glass of red is my reward for getting things done. There have been plenty of fails, when it comes to good intentions, but also lots of successes.

Photo by Roman Fox

2018 saw me reach several important goals. Along with my partner, Chris, I’ve been riding my bike and exercising at least twice per week to get fit. It takes a fair bit of doing when you want to get other things accomplished, the days are too hot, or too cold; there are plenty of other excuses too, but we are both better for the effort and are now enjoying our time outdoors as a priority.

New book in the works

During the year I managed to get Alexander Bottom & the Dreamweaver’s Daughter published, and I’ve experienced some reasonable success with it across several countries. Thanks to everyone who bought it; I really do appreciate your support. I learned a lot from the experience. I’m pleased to say that I’ve now written, and am just applying the final touches to my new adult fiction novel, Black Bones, Red Earth. Set predominately in the Australian outback, the story follows the life of Katherine, a world war two orphan, sent to Australia as a child migrant during the early fifties. I’ll be letting you know more very soon, and my goal is to be published by mid-year at the latest.

BlackBones banner
New Novel, by Lee Richie

Many thanks to everyone for reading my blog each month. I look forward to sharing my thoughts throughout 2019 and take this opportunity to wish everyone a Healthy, Wealthy and Happy New Year.


Photo by Nordwood Themes


Lord of the Ring – My Precious!


This is an amazing story about luck; it’s entirely true.

Photo by Dylan Nolte

I watched one of those Facebook videos where they show near misses, the ones where people escape car crashes by milliseconds and millimetres, and it got me to thinking about luck. Some say we make our own luck, but this is only true to a point. We all need a bit of dumb luck in our lives. You see it all the time in sports. Take football for instance. You can have the best team in the world, multi-million dollar players who for the most part create their own luck by practising hard all their lives to be the best. Do they still need luck? Of course they do. We see it week in week out, the odd bounce of the ball, a deflection, a referee’s poor decision or an unfortunate injury, these are the sort of things they have no control over, no matter how hard they train. And life is like that for all of us; we all get the unlucky bounce from time to time.

Luck plays a part in our health, even down to which genes we inherit, the bugs we breathe and the unfortunate accidents in life. Then there are the sliding door moments, where luck plays a part in timing. A few seconds here or there and we either find or miss a partner for life. Most of us need a bit of luck. We buy lotto tickets and scratchies in the hope of the big win, against impossible odds, yet still we buy them in the hope we’ll be lucky. But where does luck end and divine intervention begin?

Where does luck end and divine intervention begin?

Sometimes in life, the odds against us seem impossible. We look at the mountain facing us and fold at the wayside before we even begin. If the mountain is Everest, we need a special kind of belief if we’re going to reach the summit. It takes a lot to have faith in the impossible because we see the odds stacked so heavily against us, we often don’t even try. One such moment occurred in my life.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop

First, you have to imagine the scene. I’m with my better-half, Chris, two hours out to sea, anchored off a remote reef on the Great Barrier Reef. There’s nothing above water level– no islands, just ocean– and there’s a heavy chop on the surface with ocean currents. We are with a group of about twenty, snorkelling over an area the size of a football field. The reef below us is thick with colourful corals and exotic fish and varies in depth from ten to fifty feet, and in some places, we stare even further into the depths of the abyss.

Photo by Alexandra Rose

So here we are, miles from land, our initial fear of open ocean has dissipated, and we are enjoying the magnificent view below the surface. The water is cold however, and while we spot some large turtles swimming, I know one little turtle that has disappeared almost entirely into its shell in the frigid water. My fingers also shrink, and I watch in horror as my wedding ring floats off my finger and dances to the depths of the reef like a puppet on a string, except there’s no string. I try to dive after it, but I’m not the strongest of swimmers, and the salt water keeps me quite buoyant. I can’t get down the twenty feet needed to recover the ring, even if I could see where it landed. A drop in the ocean, needle in a haystack comes to mind. Chris seems to think I’m showing off and starts to take photographs of my deep water aquatics with her waterproof camera, as I dive for the bottom.

The ring
My Precious!

I finally surface and tell of my misfortune. When I put my face back in the water, we’ve already drifted from the spot, the corals are too thick, and the ring has disappeared forever. Chris swims back to the boat and asks one of the professional divers to see if he can help. It’s ridiculous I tell him when he arrives ten minutes later. Did I mention we are in the middle of the ocean? Let’s try, says Flipper (not his real name). I laugh at his enthusiasm and eventually give in and agree to swim back and forth across our football field size reef, in a grid pattern no less. This is how the cops do it when looking for clues, though I’ve never seen them do it in the ocean. Did I mention we’re in the middle of the ocean?

Photo by Jan Traid

Twenty minutes later, feeling cold and stupid for even trying, I see a tiny glint of gold on the seabed. Flipper, (not his real name) does his best impression of Golem, and dives for the bottom. He returns minutes later with my wedding ring, my precious!  I guess, just like in Lord of the Rings, a power higher than I, decided my wedding ring and I should be reunited against all the odds.

I see a tiny glint of gold

There’s probably a moral here, though I’m not sure what it is. Don’t give up, maybe. Someone once said, ‘difficult always takes a while, impossible takes a little longer.’ Perhaps it’s a lesson in belief; anything is possible with a bit of dumb luck.

My Life as an MP3

Life consists of moments; the rest is just fill. I look back on my own life and everything is distilled into the essential oils of my existence, fleeting glimpses of my time on earth. My memory is like an MP3 of favourite albums, all the essential stuff is there but the filler, the clutter, has been removed to produce compressed files. The tracks to my own albums are varied, sometimes extreme. Pivotal moments mark turning points, opportunities, some missed, moments of despair and moments of joy. It’s often said we have selective memory and this is true, our favourite tracks seem to outnumber the rest, life in reflection can have an unrealistic gloss as we push aside the stuff we don’t care to remember. But while I’d sometimes rather forget the low points, looking back on them gives me a sense of perspective, forming a baseline for the good times. Times of sadness, times of grief and hopelessness, they all come together and combine with the joyous moments to make us who we are, to make us whole.

How we make the time count depends on how we grasp the moments.

Photo by Ravi Pinisetti

Our time on earth is brief, in itself, only a moment in the grand scheme of things. How we make the time count depends on how we grasp the moments, cherishing them all, good and bad and growing from the experience. It’s not just the momentous occasions we remember, special memories can be as brief and delicate as the smell of a newborn baby, the sight of a carpet of clouds seen from the top of a mountain, rainy days by the fire with your mum when you were sick and she made you hot chocolate, a brother’s arms around your shoulder when you fell and bruised your knee. How about the moment you witnessed a good deed and it made you feel great for the whole day? Moments when your best furry friends curl up by your feet or look at you with the unreserved love and affection that only a pet can give.

Take time to smell the coffee.

Photo by Etienne Boulanger

It’s all too easy to go through life thinking it’s all about getting somewhere, looking for an end product or a destination, striving for that promotion, that big house you dream of, the elusive pot of gold or retirement in the south of France. The cliché says it’s all about the journey, not the destination; how true that is and how important it is to remember each day. Lookout for the moments; watch for the sun, the sea, the breeze and the trees, smell the coffee, take time for family and friends and add these moments to your collection; don’t wait for those final moments to get here, only to realise your MP3 drive is empty.