The International Date Line

For many years now, people have been led to believe that the International Date Line is a geographical construct designed to differentiate between two calendar days. It sits, by international agreement, at 180° longitude but deviates around various nations to accommodate their desired time zone.

Therefore, depending on your direction of travel, it is possible to leave on one day, travel thousands of miles and arrive before you left, thus effectively having two of the same day. Or, in reverse, you can skip an entire day altogether. This can be very useful if you’re prone to forget your wife’s birthday or want to avoid a family celebration.

“Sorry, darling, I didn’t forget. I crossed the International Date Line on my way home and missed your birthday!”

“The family reunion was yesterday? How did that happen?”

Useful, confusing or annoying, depending on your point of view, the International Date Line is a fallacy, an international conspiracy of epic proportions. The reality is that the International Date Line is exactly that – a date line. The following is a transcript of a recent call. (Not mine, of course.)

“Good morning. You’ve reached the International Date Line. You’re speaking with Sven. How may I help?

“Good morning Sven. I’m travelling to Uzbekistan on holiday soon and I wanted to arrange a date.”

“Of course. That’s no problem. I’ll just take a few details and run through the various plans on offer. Then we’ll check availability. Will this be a one-off trip or part of a global excursion?”

“Hmm. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought that far ahead.”

“The Global package is our best value. We can arrange dates for you in 74 countries. Though not on the same day of course. Ha ha ha.”

I thought my jokes were bad.

“Can you describe yourself briefly?”

“Male. Average height. Average weight. Average intelligence. Financially and emotionally insecure. Is that brief enough?”

“Perfect. Now, what sort of date are you looking for?”

“I was thinking of something like the 20th of April. I’ve always liked that date.”

Move over Tinder, eHarmony, etc.

Stephen Tomkins
12 June 2017




“People make you happy” said the Wise Man once to me.
“Things create more problems, always was and thus shall be.”
Profound, prophetic words spoke he – at least that’s what I thought,
But as my life progressed, I found that wisdom came to nought.

Things are neither good nor bad, it’s what we use them for:
They can be used to kill or to relieve a tiresome chore.
People, on the other hand, are often good and bad
And very often people are the ones who make you sad.

Things will either work or not and sometimes seem capricious
And, though sometimes they’ll drive us mad, they never are malicious.
People kill and people steal and people lie and cheat,
And peoples sometimes treat you like you’re just a slab of meat.

Yet people are the ones who can give life its greatest meaning;
So confused am I that I’m not sure which way I’m leaning.
But if you have been blessed and found good people in your life,
Then look for nothing more, my friend, you’ll only find more strife.

Stephen Tomkins
6 March 2017

Photo credit: happy face AdobeStock_65597478 2017

At a Loss

The fragile petals now will fall.
The leaves, of course, fell first of all.
And through it all she sits there still,
Living yet, against her will.

Her husband bravely does his best,
Including now a feeble jest.
She cried and cried, her tears now dried,
Since the day her baby died.

If only this, if I’d done that,
The self-destructive mental chat
Continues on inside her head
And fills her husband with such dread.

He prays she simply needs more time
To learn to deal with such a crime.
For now, he mourns not one but two:
The baby’s one, his wife now too.

Stephen Tomkins
14 January 2017

Red Balloon


I float through the world like a big red balloon –

Drifting and dreaming and bumping along,

Borne on the currents of breeze and monsoon,

Collecting experiences, none right nor wrong.

Behind and below me, there trails my long string,

If you want my attention, then give it a tug,

But don’t get excited, I don’t plan a thing

‘Cause I live for the moment, a kiss or a hug.

If I’m floating off, you can drag me your way

And I’ll happily follow along for a while

Till a zephyr distracts me and I’m borne away.

But don’t be upset, I’ll depart with a smile.

The winds are so fickle, I may soon return

From brand new adventures with tall tales to tell.

At some point, perhaps, for a home I may yearn:

Only love will entice me off this carousel.


Stephen Tomkins
19 October 2016

Photo credit:

The Sweetest Thing


The sun has packed up and gone home for the night,
Leaving behind a soft silvery light.
The sea has now dressed in a purplish blue,
And clouds are all lilac to fit in there too.
A heavenly breeze whispers subtle deceit,
Caressing away the day’s tropical heat.
But while my surroundings idyllic may be,
I remember that nothing in life comes for free –
Except the free-given love of that someone,
Unearned, undeserved, moulding two into one.

Stephen Tomkins
29 September 2016

Photo credit:

Happy Anniversary!

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
– John Lennon et al.

We had made it! We’d reached twenty-five years of marriage! My wife, co-conspirator, leading lady, best friend, confidante, advisor, instructor, superior officer, lover, patient and long-suffering companion, and bride and I were still together despite everything life had thrown at us! And that we’d thrown at each other!

In this day and age, that’s quite an achievement.

To celebrate this momentous event, I had organised a few days, away without the kids, in Adelaide – a place Monica, my wife, had never visited. We managed to escape from home without any major disasters. The flight to Adelaide was pleasant and uneventful. We were picked up promptly at the airport by the limousine I had arranged and taken to our hotel where we were upgraded to a luxury room for no additional cost.

Things were proceeding better than I had hoped.

The gift I had ordered online arrived intact and was as lovely as advertised – and arrived on time! She was suitably surprised.

We spent a lovely afternoon exploring Glenelg, by the beach.

On our return to the hotel, we were both a little weary so we decided to have a light meal from room service. We had booked a car for the next day to go wandering through the Adelaide hills. What could possibly go wrong after such a wonderful start?

Food poisoning, that’s what. Monica spent the night back and forth to the bathroom and the next day, our twenty-fifth anniversary, clutching a bowl, a towel and hovering near the bathroom. I spent the day tending to my poor bride’s needs. There was little I could do really.

It struck me that this is exactly what marriage is like. Beyond the glitz and dreamy-eyed romance of the early days together and the hype of the wedding day, marriage is just life, but in larger font. You make your plans, dream about what you will do together and then reality steps in.

It’s how you deal with derailments, disappointments, pleasant surprises and other unexpected eventualities that will determine the success or otherwise of a marriage. Or, indeed, a life.

Stephen Tomkins
27 April 2017


Two eyes, a nose, a mouth and chin
Set in endless shades of skin.
So different and yet still the same,
Each mix a chance genetic game.

And though I look a bit like you,
We may not share a common view
But still we both laugh, smile and cry,
Feel tired and hurt, with teary eye.

Yet so important are our looks,
The subject fills a million books.
The shape of my nose, the shade of my skin –
Really? Must judgement here begin?

Stephen Tomkins
5 July 2016

Who Needs Feelings Anyway?


So, how do I feel?
Well, where do I start?
For many long years
I’ve kept chains on my heart.
Those feelings kept captive
Would flow just like blood,
If freed, I’m afraid
I’d just drown in the flood.

The chains and their locks
Are maintained with great care.
It’s really much safer
If feelings stay there.
And though I may yearn
Now to share them with you,
I’ve been burned before
Though they said they’d be true.

Words may be knives –
They’re heard once and are gone,
But feelings remain
And the wounds linger long.
So am I a coward
Or merely pragmatic?
I’m fragile right now –
Could you be diplomatic?

Stephen Tomkins
1 May 2016
Hong Kong

Photo credit:


Spoils of War

I’ve spent some time inside myself,
Preparing my defences:
Laying coils of barbed wire down
And shoring up my trenches.
Just when I thought I’m safely done,
O’er No Man’s Land you soar
And, on my helpless heart again,
Your mighty bombs you pour.

My trenches are all worthless now,
My barbed wire all gone.
Into my heart, you’re free to storm,
Your victory is won.
Is your triumph worth its price?
And does it still taste sweet?
How can love ever again entice,
No matter who I meet?

Stephen Tomkins
20 January 2016

The Hermit


Scuttling sideways, it’s progress I guess,
Bright, shiny shell on, it’s my mode of dress.
My pincers, I click then to let them all see
There can be no doubt: all is OK with me.
But once in my burrow, then off comes my shell,
Revealing my true self, though they’d never tell.
You see, I’m a person and not what I seem,
I’m really quite fragile – no it’s not a dream.
I long to find one who I can be myself with
But all I can see are a billion more shellfish.

Stephen Tomkins
6 May 2016

Photo credit: