Cliffs at Redhead Beach

Rocky towers
Rise from the sand,
Silent guardians
Of this ancient land

I took this at Redhead Beach a couple of weeks ago. The light was beautiful and I loved the contrast between the shadows and the orange rocks and the blue sky. The whole scene reminded me a little of the temples and tombs at Petra.

Photos and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2019

Belmont Jetty at Dusk

A purple and yellow sky
Dotted with clouds
Marks the end
Of a long day

This is from a couple of weeks ago, by the new Belmont Baths. I’m really enjoying exploring the baths and jetty, there are a lot of fantastic opportunities for photos, particularly now there are less people around.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2019

The Obelisk

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The Obelisk

For one hundred and seventy years
I have stood high atop this hill
A lone sentry watching over
The ever-changing skyline below
This place changes constantly
The boundaries always shifting
As the water meets the city
And the city meets the bush
Yet through all the changes
Still I remain
Standing tall
Surveying the world below

I was built as a guide for the mariners
A beacon on the hill
Where the old windmill used to stand
In my heyday I was magnificent
A gleaming monument
Visible for miles along the coast
During storms and calm seas alike
I would point you towards
The port of Newcastle
With its promise of safe harbour,
A hot meal, a warm bed,
And work in its growing industries

But now I am older
And the world I knew has changed
I have lived through great wars
And seen times of depression and despair
I have seen the birth of Federation
And watched the rise and fall of kings
I have been burnt by lightning
Broken by earthquakes
Desecrated by vandals
Surrounded by weeds
Oh the stories I could tell
But no one wants to listen

And so after almost two centuries
Still I stand here
Atop this hill
Watching the world go by
And I find myself wondering,
Will I still be here in another century
Or will I have been replaced
By something new?
Something more like the buildings below
That have replaced the green trees
That were once my friends
But now are only memories from long ago

Poem and photo © CJ Levinson 2018

Nobody Knows

Self Portrait in Black and White

Nobody knows the world is ending
Nobody knows we’re all alone
Nobody knows how we got here
Nobody knows the way back home

Nobody knows the pain you live with
Nobody knows the masks you wear
Nobody knows the promises you’ve broken
Nobody knows the scars you bear

Did you think love would save you?
Did you think everything would just work out?
Don’t you know life’s not like that?
Don’t you know what it was all about?

Nobody knows if Jesus is coming
Nobody knows if God is dead
Nobody knows the clock is ticking
Nobody knows the end is up ahead

Nobody knows what it has cost you
Nobody knows the lies you tell
Nobody knows how hard it is to keep going
Nobody knows how far you fell

Did you think you would find forgiveness?
Did you think you would explain it all away?
Don’t you know some things can’t be forgiven?
Don’t you know there’s nothing you can say?

Nobody knows the war is coming
Nobody knows it’s already too late
Nobody knows the game is over
Nobody knows how to change their fate

Nobody knows the prayers you whisper
Nobody knows the secrets you keep
Nobody knows everything you’ve lost
Nobody knows why you weep

Did you think it was going to be easy?
Did you think you would just start again?
Don’t you know your sins have to be paid for?
Don’t you know there was a price, even then?

Nobody knows how the inmates took over
Nobody knows who’s running the show
Nobody knows who’s going to save us
Nobody knows how the future will go

Nobody knows why I still love you
Nobody knows why I hate you too
Nobody knows why it’s so hard to forgive you
Nobody knows what I’ve been through

Nobody knows, no nobody knows

Photo: Self-Portrait in Black and White © CJ Levinson 2016
Poem licenced under Creative Commons

Which Door Would you Choose?

 

So I came across an interesting post on Facebook earlier today. It asked a question that in turn got me thinking about something else. So I thought I’d borrow the idea and explore it in a bit more detail on the blog.

First, here’s the post itself:

which door would you choose

I guess I found it interesting as when I was young I used to daydream a little about this kind of thing. Quite often I used to imagine I was in Sherwood Forrest or Camelot and I loved using my imagination to make me feel like I was really there and not in my bedroom or back yard. This doesn’t seem all that different from those childhood fantasies.

What would I do now, given the choice as an adult? Where would I love to visit and what would I love to see? Maybe the beauty of Rivendell or the grandeur of Camelot? The fun of magical London or the breadth of the Wall?

I find that idea really fun to think about but, funnily enough, treating it seriously for a moment, I don’t think I’d actually want to go to any of those worlds.

When you stop and think about it and place them into context, all these worlds are wonderfully imagined, magical places but they’re also all torn apart by war and strife. That’s the nature of fiction, that it needs conflict to drive the narrative, and that’s often what interests us about these worlds as backdrops – but that becomes very different when you think about these places as potentially being ‘real’. While a child might dream of playing and adventuring in those worlds, for an adult they probably wouldn’t be as attractive and likely would be very dangerous.

I guess if you were to imagine a real world equivalent, it would be a bit like visiting Syria at the moment; it would be a wonderful place to see and learn about but probably not that safe and not somewhere most people would choose to go.

Given that, I find it quite hard to answer the question. All of the places would have incredible beauty and interesting landmarks, so it would be hard for me to decide simply based on that also.

So I guess this is how I would answer and why:

For me Narnia would be first out as, no matter how interesting that world is, it’s basically set against a never-ending religious civil war and there is enough of that in our world. And Neverland is a pretty weird and dangerous place when you think about it, so that’s out for me as well. Wonderland is too trippy for me and Westeros is a pretty hard land where everyone wants to kill you, including George RR Martin, so that’s out too.

That leaves Hogwarts, Camelot and Middle-Earth. Hogwarts is nice but there’s a really dark undercurrent to those stories too and as much as I love Camelot, there’s an awful lot of betrayal and loss.

Which leaves Middle-Earth. While there’s fighting, there are also long periods of peace and a quiet life in the Shire sounds like a pretty good option overall. Plus there’s a lot of beauty in that world.

So I guess I’d choose the Middle-Earth door and try to have a quiet life.

That’s more or less how I answered on Facebook as well, except with a little more humour.

I spent a while reading through the comments afterwards as well and something occurred to me while reading them. The choices were split pretty evenly on the whole, except for Hogwarts and Middle-Earth which both had a slight advantage, but the most interesting thing was how the answers often seemed to reflect bits and pieces of people’s lives and personalities.

For instance, people who chose Narnia often said they did so because they related to the themes in the world, while others who liked Neverland said they liked the innocence of the story, and Hogwarts because they would have loved to have escaped like Harry did when they were young. And so on.

I find that fascinating, how a simple question can reveal so much about us. It reminds me of some of the tests psychologists use and I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere something like this is actually being used that way.

I thought about it for a while and came up with this to describe the traits based on the choices people made and the reasons they gave. I’m obviously not a psychologist so this is obviously highly unscientific(!) but these traits definitely seemed to come up again and again in the answers which I thought was interesting.

Narnia: someone who is quite religious or enjoys religious themes. Neverland: someone who is a child at heart and has a sense of wonder about the world. Wonderland: someone who is attracted to more offbeat, eccentric subjects and thinks outside the box. Hogwarts: someone attracted to escapism and wishes they could be/could have been someone else during their life. Camelot: someone who is a bit of a romantic and a traditionalist and often wishes for simpler times. Middle-Earth: someone who seeks beauty and/or adventure and is a bit of a dreamer at heart. Westeros: someone who enjoys testing themselves and/or has experienced pain and loss.

I doubt those would be accurate for everyone but they corresponded with a lot of the answers and I’d say they’re accurate for me as well. I would definitely describe myself as a bit of a dreamer, and I’d say I’d also relate to some of those reasons for enjoying Harry Potter and the Arthurian stories too at different times in my life.

Overall I found the question and the answers really interesting and it’s funny how something like a simple Facebook post or a blog quiz can reveal so much about us.

Sometimes I wonder what historians in five hundred or a thousand years will make of a lot of the data we’ve put online and what it will tell them about our lives. Because that’s what we’re actually doing by keeping a blog or updating social media, we’re creating a collective tapestry of life that will far outlive us. Which is a bit scary when you think about it. But pretty amazing too.

I imagine a lot of it will seem very pedantic and self-absorbed (because honestly, a lot of it is) but at the same time things like blogs and social media will be a real boon to them, showing what our interests were like, our speech and writing patterns, clothing, politics, etc. Even a simple question like this might provide a huge amount of insight.

Something to think about the next time we write a post or share something on Facebook or Twitter.

So which door would you choose and what do you think it says about you? I’d love to find out. 🙂

Q&A #2 – Writing, Zombies, Creationism and Batman

I had planned an interesting post for today but it’s been stinking hot in Newcastle – it passed 39’C where I am – and my brain has kind of shut down. I tried waking it up but it just went “nope stupid human, not gonna happen, come back tomorrow” and went back to being lazy. So I don’t think that post is going to get written today.

Instead I thought I’d do another Q&A as I enjoyed doing the last one and I had a few questions left over. I hope you enjoy them and if you want to suggest any for the future, feel free to in the comments.

  • What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to write?

I think the best advice I ever received is to never stop enjoying writing and that’s the main thing I’d pass on. There will be days where everything flows and writing feels amazing and there will be days where nothing works and you want to smash your keyboard or throw your pen at the wall. And sometimes there’ll be days where it all just feels kind of, well, meh. The best thing you can do is to try to always enjoy writing no matter what because as soon as it starts to feel like a chore, or you feel like you’re writing just because you have to fulfil some deadline, then it becomes much harder and you’re less likely to finish it or to produce something of quality. If you write because you love to write then it doesn’t matter if no one reads it, or if everyone you know hates it, or if it’s never published; as long as you’ve enjoyed writing it, that’s what matters. And to me that’s what being a writer is all about.

The other thing I’d say is that if you want to write, you have to read. A lot of people seem to think that the two are separate but I’ve never believed that. Reading, and reading regularly, keeps your mind sharp but more importantly it teaches you the tools of the trade. Reading improves your vocabulary, expands your knowledge, and teaches you different styles and approaches to writing that you might not otherwise be aware of. And most importantly, reading reminds us of why we wanted to write in the first place, to tell our own stories that will hopefully touch people in the same way. In my opinion the best thing a writer can do is read. And read a lot.

I’d also suggest that it’s a good idea to keep your expectations in check. Anyone can be a writer; all you need is a pen and paper. Being a published author is different and there are a lot of factors which go into it that you cannot control – you may be an excellent writer but never be published and that’s just the way it is. Having unrealistic expectations will not help you and may actually stop you from listening to people and taking advice. Don’t misunderstand me: by expectations I don’t mean desire. There is nothing at all wrong with wanting to be published and wanting to be successful, and aiming and working towards that goal. Just don’t expect it to come to you on a silver platter because you think your novel is the Greatest Thing Ever I guess is what I mean. Like anything it takes hard work and I’m still trying to get there myself after 15 years and a number of small publications. But again, I write because I love it, and to me that’s the most important thing.

My last piece of advice: be careful with adverbs. I hate them and think they are a sign of lazy writing. If you ever find yourself writing “he said angrily”, stop and think if there’s a way you can show us that anger instead. Trust me, your writing will be much stronger for it.

  • Do you think Tony Abbott will ever be Prime Minister again?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: I know some of Abbott’s supporters are convinced he’ll have a chance to be Prime Minister again at some stage but I can’t see it. I think a lot of this comes from the idea that Turnbull is some kind of bandaid fix for the problems that afflicted the Coalition under Abbott’s time as PM; that Turnbull’s popularity will get them through the next election but eventually dissipate and then Abbott could regain the Prime Ministership. I’m sure that Kevin Rudd’s return probably gave them heart too.

The problem is that Tony Abbott is not Kevin Rudd and thinking that Turnbull is a temporary necessity also ignores the problems with Abbott’s leadership. Kevin Rudd still had public sympathy on his side from being dumped as PM in such a harsh way and it made a return to the top feasible; Abbott though was consistently polling disastrously and while there is some public sympathy for him, most people don’t want him back and would not be happy if the Coalition positioned him as a potential leader again.

The main problem with Tony Abbott is that he (and by extension his government) was perceived as out of touch with mainstream Australia and not listening to what people wanted; like his strong opposition to gay marriage, the knights and dames situation, climate change, his way of often politicising issues and giving them a religious context (again like gay marriage but also things like the state of science in schools and how that plays in to creationism and intelligent design), etc. He lost trust and popularity and so when Turnbull prevailed, the reaction was more relief from people than anger or surprise. And so I just can’t imagine the Coalition being able to justify returning him to power.

I can see Turnbull losing popularity at some stage, particularly if people become frustrated with him not being able to deliver the changes they assumed they’d get under a Turnbull leadership, but if Turnbull was to make a substantial misstep I imagine Scott Morrison is the one who’d be positioned to take over. And even then Julie Bishop would be a formidable contender too. I very much doubt it’s likely to happen any time soon though, if at all.

The best thing for people to do is to accept the truth: Abbott’s leadership is over and he won’t be returning. After the election, perhaps he could return to the cabinet as his experience would be useful, but that’s a long way off yet. Really people should just move on and let normal politics resume.

  • Speaking of that – do you think creationism should be taught in schools?

I think there is a place for talking about creationism in schools but no, I don’t think creationism and other ideas should be taught and particularly not alongside evolution in a science class.

Evolution is a theory, yes, but a theory in scientific terms isn’t the same as a theory generally: we might think of a theory as like an educated guess but in science a theory is an actual explanation or statement for why something exists that has been repeatedly tested and confirmed through observation and experimentation. For instance, if I looked and said “ my hand has five fingers”, I am making a statement based on what I can observe and verify.

The same is true for the theory of evolution; it has been tested and reconfirmed many times and is the best explanation we have for how human beings came to be, based on our current understanding. It has stood up to scrutiny for a very long time but that does not mean it cannot be proven wrong, or refined, just that it is what is scientifically verifiable and correct right now. Something like creationism however is not and has in fact been disproven by scientific methods, like radiometric dating showing the age of the earth.

I understand creationism is important to people but I don’t believe that belief is reason to teach something in science classes that is thoroughly unscientific. If we did then it would be potentially misleading and confusing to students as presenting creationism alongside evolution would seem to give the idea a scientific weight it does not have.

This does not mean that creationism should not be in schools at all. Personally I believe it should be mentioned in detail as part of a theology course. But science classes are for science and creationism is not science.

  • How long do you think you’d survive in the zombie apocalypse?

I’d like to say quite a while but honestly I doubt I’d make it more than a few days, if that. I’m not the fastest runner and I think my fitness would hold me back. So yeah, zombies would be feasting on my yummy brains in no time.

My best bet would be to join a group and try to contribute through information and knowledge rather than strength. With a good group maybe I’d last a little while, who knows? Hopefully I’ll never have to find out!

  • Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?

So with Batman v Superman coming out soon I’ve discussed this with a couple of friends recently, who all thought Batman. I just don’t get that. Superman is basically a God amongst humans; he has super strength, speed, can fly, is practically invulnerable, has heat vision, etc. I just don’t get how Batman is supposed to go up against Superman and win.

If Batman had time to prepare for a fight, sure, he could get a special kryptonite suit or something to even the odds, but even then all Superman has to do is fly away and use his heat vision. The only way I can see Batman winning is if Superman is completely unprepared and taken by surprise. Which isn’t really a fight then, is it?

So for me it’s Superman. I’ll be interested to see how they do it in the movie. Hopefully it makes sense.

  • What’s your favourite album?

My favourite album is probably also the first album I ever bought. Tina Arena’s Don’t Ask.

There are other albums I love too but listening to it always gives me the feeling of coming home. And there are some great songs on there, like Chains, Heaven Help My HeartSorrento Moon and Wasn’t It Good?.

If there was one album I’d want with me on a desert island and would never get sick of, it’s this one. Don’t think you can really ask for more than that.

The Truth About Love

Footprints in the Sand

It’s half three
In the morning
And I find myself
Thinking of you

Laying here
I cannot help but wonder
If you still
Think of me too

Did you know that
I would have
Followed you anywhere
You asked me to?

I would have gone
Through Hell’s gates
If it would have
Brought me closer to you

But now
So much has changed
And this is one place
I cannot follow too

How I wish
I could hear your voice
Because I am lonely
And miss you

But what would I say
When it still hurts
And there is nothing
I can do?

I wasn’t looking
For love,
Never thought I would find
Someone like you

But that is love
And when it comes along
There is nothing
You can do

You made me
Feel special
Like I could do anything
I wanted to

I felt safe
And warm in your arms
And I knew
That you wanted me too

Now I feel
Lonely and cold;
It is over
And I could not reach you

We hurt each other
And you pulled away
And just like that,
We were through

And I know
That I must be strong
And find a way
To live without you

And I know
Life will go on
But in my heart
I will always love you

For you
Are my heart and soul
And whatever comes
That will always be true

So if
You ever think of me
Please think kindly
As I will of you

And if
You ever speak of me
Please remember
What I meant to you

And please
Have no regrets;
One day everything ends,
Even love too

What matters
Is everything we shared
And the joy
We held on to

And I do not know
If one day
I will ever find
Another you

I loved you
With all of my heart
And I am sorry
It all fell through

But the truth about love
Is it may not last;
Trust
Is all we can do

And so
If this is goodbye
Then I wish you well
And happiness too

May you have
A wonderful life
And find someone
To share it with you

And please
Do not worry for me
I will be fine
And find my way through

One day
I will love again;
I am just sorry
It will not be you


I wrote this poem over a few night this week. It was good being able to let it out and I wanted the poem to be reflective rather than sad, which I think comes across.

Originally it wasn’t meant to be a series of haiqua but eventually it took that shape structurally as it seemed to give the poem the simple, lyrical flow I wanted it to have.

I took the photo during the trip to New Zealand last year. It was one of my favourites from the trip.


Photo: Footprints in the Sand © CJ Levinson 2015
Poem licenced under Creative Commons

The Old Man and the Boy

Man By the Lake

On a beautiful clear day
Two people sat on a park bench
An old man and a young boy
Watching the world pass by

What is it like to be a child?
The man asked the boy
It’s been so long I cannot remember
What it felt like to be so young

Being young is not so bad,
The boy replied to the man
It can be hard and frustrating
But I know I have much to learn

And what is it like growing old?
The boy asked the man
Does it scare you to know
You are running out of time?

Growing old can be difficult,
The man answered the boy
But not so hard as living with regret
And knowing you have wasted your life

And how do you feel about adulthood?
The man asked the boy
Do you know what you want to be
When you grow up?

I never want to grow up,
The boy replied to the man
Just because I will get older doesn’t mean
I can’t stay young at heart

And how do you feel about love?
The boy asked the man
Have you ever fallen in love
And did it last?

Love can break your heart,
The man said to the boy
I loved once and swore I never would again
And now I am alone

Whatever you do, don’t be like me,
The man told the boy
There are few things worse in life
Than living with unfulfilled dreams

I promise, I won’t be like you,
The boy said to the man
I will make something of my life
And even if I fail, at least I shall have tried

The old man nodded and they sat in silence
As people walked by around them
Oblivious to their conversation
Lost in their own lives


I wrote this poem over a couple of nights this week. For a fairly short poem it was quite challenging to write, more than I thought it would be.

I felt the overall structure of the poem was important and I spent a long time refining each stanza. I specifically wanted to try to tell the story in a minimal way so as not to distract from the conversation and finding that flow was probably the most difficult part of the poem. I like how it came out in the end.

Something I often think about is if I could somehow give advice to my younger self, what would I say? That’s what initially inspired the poem and the boy and the old man are meant to the same person, years apart.

They are not meant to be me, however, so much as a reflection of society in general and the way we are often forced to conform from a young age and the path that sets us on for the rest of our lives.

I’m not sure what I would say in that situation but I suspect it would be a variation on some of what the old man says. I would probably tell myself to not be afraid to take chances as you’ll never know where they might take you.

The photo is one I took a couple of years ago in Sydney’s Centennial Park. I think it suits the poem well. I like to think this is the man the boy eventually grows into, on his way to becoming the old man one day in the future.


Photo: Man By the Lake © CJ Levinson 2014
Poem licenced under Creative Commons

Look Who’s Coming to Dinner

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I got a new dinner set recently. I’ve never really had a best dinner set before and my mother started me on this one with two pieces for Christmas. I loved it and we managed to get the rest of it in the after-Christmas sales.

It’s strange but having it makes me feel more grown up somehow. A formal dinner set is something I’ve always wanted and I guess now I have it, it feels like my home is starting to come together a little more.

While unpacking it the other day it made me think about that old game, ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner?’, the one where you’d make a list of people from throughout history who you’d invite to dinner if you could. I used to love doing that when I was younger and so I thought it’d be fun to do it again now as a post, but with a bit of a twist – a list of fictional characters instead.

After giving it some thought, this is my list of ten characters. It took me a long while to put it together; there are so many interesting characters from books and film etc that it’s really hard to choose.

But in the end these are the ones I think would be a lot of fun. They’re not necessarily my favourite characters but I think they’d all be interesting and more importantly I think their conversations would be interesting too.

I chose ten because I think twelve people is a good number for a dinner party as it’s not too many people to cook for and they can talk in pairs or in groups. The other two people would be you, dear reader, and myself of course.

As far as the food goes I’d do an apple and pecan salad for the entree, spaghetti with prawns and rocket for the main, and an Eton mess for dessert. I think they’d complement each other well and I could manage most of them (the dessert would take some practice).

So who would you invite for dinner? 😉

Sherlock Holmes
I’ve loved Sherlock Holmes since reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes as a child. His stories and intellect would be fascinating around a dinner table.

Victor Frankenstein
Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of my favourite novels and one of the first books that made me want to write. Frankenstein is such a tragic character and it would be fascinating to pick his mind and justifications.

Gandalf the Grey
Gandalf is probably my favourite character of all time. He’d be a lot of fun to have at the table and he’d have some pretty interesting conversations with some of the other guests as well.

Hermione Granger
I think Hermione is the real hero of Harry Potter; her intelligence and skill save them over and over again and she’d be much better company at a dinner party than Harry or Ron. I’d love to see her pick Gandalf’s brain.

Scheherazade
The Arabian Nights (the original version) is another of the books that had a big influence on me growing up and I’ve always liked Scheherazade. Her insights into her time would be interesting and she could definitely tell a good story or two which would be great too.

Mister Spock
If Gandalf is my favourite fictional character Spock wouldn’t be far behind. He’d be fascinating (sorry) to talk to and one of the few people who could keep up with Holmes.

Long John Silver
Has there ever been a villain more fun than Long John Silver? Equally devious and charming, he’d be a lot of fun around the table, particularly if Spock and Holmes tried to see through his lies.

Mary Poppins
I loved Mary Poppins growing up and must have watched the film version a hundred times or more. Mary would be the perfect guest, entertaining and fun and capable of keeping some of the other guests in line if needed as well.

Willy Wonka
I have a soft spot for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; it’s just pure imagination and with his humour and charm, Wonka would be a great guest. It’d be great to pick his brain for recipe ideas too.

Morgan le Fay
I love the legend of King Arthur and I’ve always been particularly interested in Morgan. She often tends to be depicted quite badly, either as the evil sorceress or a conniving seductress (or both), but her story is really quite tragic. It would be be interesting hearing her perspective and she’d have a lot to talk about with Gandalf and Hermione too.

Photo © CJ Levinson 2016