Friday, December 30, 2011

Farewell to a dear friend

We have few real friends through our lives - so it is a sad time to see a good friend pass away.
Mick Casson and I met in Bakers Hill, Western Australia where we both attended the same ballroom dancing classes. We both had two left feet and being of Yorkshire stock, could always see the funny side of things.
When I moved to Tasmania, Mick visited me on several occasions, not only for a holiday but to help me with jobs in the house.

Though not a sailor, Mick loved the sea and the seashore and was impressed with the 'painted' rocks on the east coast.
When we visited the north coast at Port Sorrell he was happy to sit and watch the placid waters of Bass Strait.

This year he came over in February, but when he retuned in July, his visit had to be cut short due to his illness.
I visited him in WA in November and found him to be a shadow of his former self.
Mick died of cancer on 28th December, 2011.
A brave battler and a true friend who will be sorely missed.

Graduated with Associate Degree

After two years of study at University of Tasmania, I graduated in December with an Associate Degree in Arts.
Because I had done a BA before, I was able to select a mix of subjects which I was interested in.
My choices included History - including Tasmanian Colonial studies, which I particularly enjoyed; Aboriginal Studies; Antarctic Studies and one unit in Tasmanian Environmental History, which I also found very interesting.

In the euphoria of the end of semester, I applied for another course in 2012, but despite being accepted, I withdrew my application.
I decided I needed a break from studies.
Besides, there are so many things - like writing another novel and even blogging which I have had on hold.
Now is time to catch up with those other things I want to do.
I can always go back to studying another year.

New Zealand cruise on Radiance of the Seas

Late November, 2011, I joined Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas for a 15-day cruise around New Zealand.
Though I had done a similar voyage a couple of years ago, I had just finished two years of study and wanted to relax.

Radiance is a big ship which accommodated over 2000 passengers. As usual, I booked the cheapest inside cabin as travelling alone means one has to pay for a twin room.
The last time I sailed to New Zealand, it had been cloudy on the day we visited and I had hoped for nice weather. Unfortunately that was not to be.
The fjords of Milford Sound and surrounds were shrouded in this rain and mist. It was so wet that the walls of the fjord appeared as sheets of running water. This had one advantage, that the waterfalls were quite awesome.

With continuing cold and wet weather for much of the cruise, the large outdoor upper deck areas and swimming pools were not used. Consequently all the passengers were crowded inside the ship all day. This meant it was difficult to find a comfortable seat or to find somewhere that was quiet.
I enjoyed the excursions on the days we were in port, in particular, Akaroa (the substitute port for Christchurch since the earthquake damage), where the sun shone and I took a boat ride and saw Hector Dolphins, and also a visit to Rotarua from Tauranga.

At Rotarua, I paddled in a Mauri was canoe, rode the cable car up the mountain and came down in a luge (toboggan) which even on the beginner slope was quite scary.
The weather in Auckland and at the Bay of Islands was dismal and very cold but I managed to take a boat trip on both occasions.

There were two bonuses to the trip:
With a medical emergency on the return trip to Sydney and an urgent evacuation of a sick passenger necessary, the ship had to detour north to Lord Howe Island. Though there was no harbour and the transfer of the patient took place on the water, we were able to see much of Lord Howe Island which looked quite spectacular despite the cloud.
Another surprise promontory was Ball's Pyramid - the largest volcanic stack in the world which rises up from the ocean floor. Would have loved to have seen it in sunlight.

Something else which was not in the small print: I left the ship with a rotten cold. This is not the first cruise I have been on when I have contracted some sort of virus. The fact all the passengers were limited to the interior of the ship for most of the voyage probably contributed to this.
In retrospect, I should have booked this cruise for January or February as November can be very cold especially in the South Island of New Zealand.
How would I rate this holiday out of Ten? I would only give it 5/10.

Surprise Wedding

November 6th was a special day.
Having flown back to Western Australia from their present home in England, my son Rob and fiance, Marion, were married in a ceremony which was a surprise to all but a few of the guests (me included as I had to fly to Perth from Tasmania).

Held in a relative's garden, it was a beautiful wedding celebrated by family and close friends.

A week after the event, Rob and Marion flew back to England to surpise even more of their friends in London.
Pic: Jake, (my grandson and Rob's nephew), Marion, Rob and me.

Love my Kindle

Though I write novels, I have never been a great reader - that was until I bought a KINDLE only a couple of months ago.
Now I read everyday, mostly at bedtime and have already consumed half a dozen books.

E-book prices are so attractive - averaging between $3 and $9 dollars per book (I don't feel inclined to pay more for an electronic edition).
Purchasing and downloading books takes a matter of seconds - the only problem here is not being tempted to buy too many.

But the biggest advantage is the money saved by not having to pay exorbitant postage costs from UK or USA (I live in Australia).

What I like about my KINDLE is how light it is (when holding it up in bed), page turning is done with a finger-tip touch, and the lines of print which are only about eight words long which means, when reading, my eyes don't slide across to the wrong line.

Apart from buying an assortment of books, I have been delighted to have my own novels published by Belgrave House in 10 e-formats. These are available for KINDLE readers from

SEA DUST now out in paperback and as e-book

SEA DUST was first published by Robert Hale in 2005 and sold out within six weeks of release. Unfortunately it was never reprinted apart from in Large Print format for Ulverscroft.

This historical novel is set mainly at sea on a voyage from England (Whitby) to Australia (Sydney) in 1853.
Travel with Emma on this dangerous and dramatic journey as she escapes from her cruel husband little knowing she will be pursued by an even more evil malefactor.

This week, SEA DUST has been released on as an e-book (only $3.99). It is available in other e-formats through Belgrave House for $5.00.

Along with my other Hale publications, SEA DUST is now available in paperback through and available at

The Black Thread now available as e-book

Recently another of Margaret Muir's Hale books has been converted to e-book format.

THE BLACK THREAD was first published by Hale in 2007 and reprinted as a Large Print for Ulverscroft the following year.

This is a dramatic historical novel set on the Leeds Liverpool canal at the end of the nineteenth century.
This is now available at for $3.99.