France Triumphs, Tress back in Klang again


Le Bleus are champions of the world. What an entertaining final for a change, after recent world cup finals with a single goal scored to decide the outcome.

I had crawled into bed around 7.30pm, having planned to be up at 1am to watch the expected good game. The day had started early again, with Tress and I up around 5am to leave home around 5.45am for the drive to Tulla. She checked in quickly this time, with boarding pass in hand even before I parked and went to see her. We had a quick Macca’s brekky and after she walked into the immigration area again, I left for home. The traffic had remained very good so I got home just after 8am. With plenty of time before St Alf started at 10am, I did some ironing and watched the replay of the Belgium v England game. St Alf’s ended early as it was the “Going Bananas” encore service. I left quickly, went home and had lunch before taking the little guy out for a walk. We dropped the house keys at Fay’s who was going to help the next couple of weeks while Tress is away.

I then dropped off the library book, prepped my smoothie and sandwich for work, and cut up some celery and capsicum for the next few days. All that done before 6pm, I settled down to get ready for an early bed as planned.

Tress and I had a busy day the day before. I had cleaning duties – to sweep the forecourt of St Alf’s as well as the back barbeque area. It was relatively clean so I didn’t do much. We then went out to lunch, did some grocery shopping and then we had another duty at the New Hope Baptist, for “Dinner Tonight”. DT happens on Saturdays, where New Hope puts its kitchen and hall to good use and cook a warm meal to serve up to 160 people, all seated and eaten with proper cutleries. To many, seating down to a proper warm meal is a luxury and New Hope does this as a community service. St Alf’s has several teams to do the support work on a rotation basis.

Tress and I showed up just a bit after 4pm, and helped with setting the place up – pulling out the tables and chairs from storage, and setting them up to lay out the table cloths, cutleries rolls and the proceeding to dish out the cooked food and serving them. After dinner we helped to clean up and put everything back into storage again. The whole thing finished around 7.30pm, and we got home to get ready for Tress’ trip home again the next day.

Tress is going to be in Klang again for the next couple of weeks, as her mum starts her chemotherapy tomorrow. It’d be another phase in this journey her mum would take, and it’s really good Tress can be there for her. The rest of the family has been rallying with her too and I hope this makes all the difference when she deals with the effects of the treatment.

As I got in with my head spinning a little bit for having my sleep pattern completely turned upside down (I had tried to go to bed again after the game, at around 3am, and struggled to wake up at my usual time) I wondered, not for the first time, at the contrasts between those two events. Le Bleus celebrate while Tress and her mum contemplate.

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Addendum is the theme


A little dream of mine, attributable in part to a mid-life crisis of sorts I guess, is a tree-change. Or as near as we can get. So for over a year now, since Kiddo’s wedding was over, I’d been on the lookout for something in or around the fringes of the Dandenongs.

So late on Saturday morning, Tress and I drove out to something we thought we may find suitable. It was a little 3 bedroom sitting on a 2,000+ sqm block in Kalorama. Alas, this too is perched on a steep slope. The house itself sits on a flattish plane but the front slopes down to a very narrow road (we had to stop close to the edge on the way in, to let an oncoming car pass by very slowly). Across that narrow road, a sheer drop of at least 100m follows. The view is magnificent but the thought of managing that slope of a driveway each day was too daunting so our search continues.

We had had dinner with Jason and Mel again the night before, and as always, catching up with friends on a Friday night after a full week of work is always good. They talked about their plans to demolish and rebuild their home, and Tress shared what had gone on back in Malaysia during her visit. I listened for the most part, nursing a cold and running nose.

The weather was not great on Sat – it was cold and very wet – so we lounged around the home before we left to see the property at Kalorama. That was good as I had stayed up late the night before, and caught both the France v Uruguay and Brazil v Belgium quarter final games. I had rooted for France (Pogba was magnificent bossing the midfield) more because I couldn’t stand the Uruguayan forward Suarez. So I was happy the French prevailed. It was double celebration later as Belgium (who had the wonderfully and surprisingly sleek moving Lukaku) played really well to overcome the Brazillians. So the United representations (Fellaini completes the trio) are assured in one semi-final.

When we left the Kalorama property, we decided, since we were in the area, to visit the Dandenong Ranges and took a drive to Olinda. It was only a short drive from where we were. It remained cold, grey and wet all day so we thought we might slip into a warm café for lunch. Miss Marple was chockers so we walked up the street across to a café that had taken over an old church building. It had a very warm ambience with ok food and we stayed a bit, enjoying a very big lunch. Later we strolled through the streets before leaving to return to our usual grocery shopping. The weather made us think of congee for the coming week’s lunches and Tress suggested we visited the refurbished Glen Shopping Centre, which we hadn’t been to for years. It was busy as usual but it appeared less chaotic than I remembered and we got the stuff we needed for the week, got home and walked the little guy before coming home to prep the pork ribs we bought, to make the congee. Tress had returned from Malaysia with some dried scallops and oysters so the congee was promising.

Later that night we settled down to watch the Doggies v Hawks game and the Hawks looked like they would get up by half time. They did comfortably but I had gone to bed early. I caught the other two quarter final games and saw England comfortably dealing with the Swedes to take another step towards their dream of bringing football “home”. The later game, the last of the wonderful quarter final round, proved so much more dramatic as Croatia and Russia fought out a 1:1 draw in regulation time and 2:2 in extra time. The Croats held their nerves better in the shootout and the hosts left the competition with heads held high. With England in the semi’s and Rashford, Lingard and Young in the team, we’re looking at a Man United representation of at least 6 main players in the semi finals. That’s pretty cool.

On Sunday morning, it was good to have Tress with me at St Alf’s again, after a 3-week absent. We were on communion duty and had originally been slated for billeting from Friday night for participants of the Ignite conference in Syndal Baptists. It later transpired the assigned delegates were all housed under a single roof so we were spared. After the service we spoke with a new young family who were seated behind us; hopefully we managed to present a warm friendly face of St Alf’s and they decide to return.

After St Alf’s, we returned to lunch at Penang Flavours after a few weeks’ hiatus and it was wonderful to enjoy Malaysian hawker fares again after a couple of weeks of sandwiches and toasties. Later that arvo we returned to our usual routine of walking the little fellow and preparing the week’s lunches before gearing up for another week of work, while we wait for news from Tress’ sibblings. Tress is on standby to make plans to return again, once her mum’s chemo sessions have been teed up. I could be by myself again come this weekend.


Addendum

I know recent journal entries have been uneventful and the narratives were more perfunctorily monotonous than I would have liked.

Perhaps that is a reflection of my current phase.

I have come to look at the last 3 or so years as a knuckling down time of some sort. The daily grind of getting through repeated routine – and therefore seemingly monotonous – is I believe and hope, a phase to set me up for some further challenges ahead. I am hoping the somewhat and surprisingly refreshing exercise of grinding things out will arm me with an experience and appreciation that would make me better equipped for further responsibilities.

There is something to be said about having been in the trenches again. I apply those lessons each workday morning too, as I do my 20-minute push-up exercises to “open up my lungs”. The huffing and puffing of push-ups works for drafting grindingly detailed contracts, reviewing detailed tender requirements and negotiating commercial terms too, albeit without the sweat pores opening up. They are all building me up all the same, and I hope, in preparation of something ahead.

Tress back but will return


Tress came home last night and it was a good day to come home too as Melbourne put on a show of sunny blue skies, although she only arrived around 9pm. I took full advantage of the warmer and drier conditions and did laundry as soon as the game between France and Argentina finished. That was a classic game too, with the new French wonder kid arrival taking centre stage, and ushered the great Messi out from the biggest football stage in the world.

The late football games and laundry meant a rushed drive to St Alf’s before coming home to deal with a home cooked lunch, vacuuming, walking the little guy, grocery shopping, cooking and ironing. It all finished just after 7pm and so I had about an hour before I headed out to Tulla to pick Tress up.

Tulla has become a busy, almost chaotic airport. It took me forever to leave the waiting zone, where I had waited for her to ring or text me once she got out of customs, to the pickup zones just outside the Park Royal hotel. When I eventually managed to crawl into the pickup point, I had probably offended 2-3 motorists by being too slow or needing to move into a turning lane. We got home around 10.30pm and it was good to hear her mum’s doing ok, the upcoming chemo sessions notwithstanding.

I had been to the Red Cross place in Ringwood the day before, and pictures of stories about patients (especially kids) helped by the plasma that was being collected into a bag, had brought my mind to my mother in law. She’s a wonderfully kind and generous person and I had never pictured her as a recipient of any kind. So to think Tress being there is some form of giving by Tress (albeit intangibles like time, care and attention) which my mother in law was taking, was strange. Yet giving and taking often creates a life sharing experience that is fulfilling on all accounts. On a dreary day that was raining incessantly all day, that thought warmed my heart and strangely also armed me for the several months ahead where Tress would have to make multiple trips to be with her mum.

For now though, having Tress back is great and I will cherish it/her for now.

1 down, another to go


I’ve survived a whole week alone, with only the wonderful company of our little harry boy. He’s been such a sweetie I’ve wondered how I’d cope without him, while Tress spends time with her family back in Klang.

On Friday night, I caught up with Jason and Mel for dinner and while it’s different to our normal Friday night dinners in that it was just 3 of us, it was still very good just talking and eating at the end of a busy week at work for all of us. We caught up in a little local Italian restaurant near our home and spent well over 3 hours talking – about Tress’ mum, their nieces’ weddings, their plans to build their new home and their search for temporary abode, we just talked and caught up.

Seeing it was a weekend with little planned, I indulged myself by watching the world cup games in bed, and slept in till about 8.30am. After a slow brekky I did some house cleaning – vacuuming and wiping down surfaces etc. It was a gloomy day with splatters of light rain and after a leisurely morning of cleaning, I got cleaned up myself and headed out for some grocery shopping. I then dropped into the local library to look for a replacement book, as I found it hard to get into stride with Richard Flanagan’s book about fish. I didn’t find any so I came back and just spent the late arvo and early evening reading and watching tele. More world cup games followed but I couldn’t keep up with the night games. I did however, catch the magnificent Germany v Sweden game and Kroos’ goal at the death which saved the Germans, was a spectacular finish to a thoroughly entertaining game. I’m far more engaged with this world cup – most probably because I’m alone and looking for the familiar to be engaged.

Wei Han spoke at St Alf’s – the only Asian ordained minister amongst our community – and as usual, delivered something that I found hard to simply say “good teaching”. His material usually leaves one either quickly moving on or thinking so what do I do now. I went back after St Alf, fixed myself another toastie, then took the little guy for a walk. It remained very grey but it was dry so I took the opportunity to walk him. I then went back to the library again and this time picked out the Aussie classic, “Eucalyptus”. I guess the series of Winton books I got into has whetted my appetite for Australian work but somehow Richard Flanagan didn’t do it for me –not the way Winton, Keneally, Hughes, Clive James, Blainey and others did.

I got in this morning, early as usual but “beaten in” by a colleague who got in for the start of an annual ISO audit that would go on all week. My boss also returned to work after about 3 weeks away and was this morning telling us about some of his experience. He had been to Europe and Morocco and it sounded like a very good holiday, although (and I am pleased to say as I feel vindicated) he also told us of the usual predicaments – long immigration queues, being ripped off by shady characters in airports, train stations and hotels, lost luggage, currency mix-up’s etc.

I’ve another week to survive without Tress. It should be a busy week at work and there are many more exciting world cup games coming up so I hope I’d come through ok again.

Tress away


Tress left for Malaysia early yesterday morning. The weather was diabolical – the winds, heavy rain and the very cold conditions made an early start even less appealing than it already was, and it felt like this awful weather was providing me with some kind of solidarity. Tress was heading home to be with her mum for a more substantive form of “solidarity” – her mum will be checking into the hospital this morning, and would undergo surgery tomorrow.

When we arrived at Tulla, the queue was interminably long and a couple of group check-in’s made the wait even longer than it usually is. I waited with Tress and when we finally (after over an hour) got her boarding pass, we grabbed a quick brekky before we walked towards the departure gate and I saw her walk into the belly of the processing cauldron that is the immigration and customs black hole. I had told Tress this is exactly why I have had very little inclination for overseas travel.

As I headed back to the car, I was wondering how I’d survive the next couple of weeks. At the back of my mind, I was thinking the notoriously expensive parking at Melbourne Airport is going to provide a bit of a rude shock. The $24 I was charged felt like a blow but I was expecting worse so that always works to soften the blow. The traffic was still very light, with most Melburnians wisely staying at home, away from the awful weather.

I got home, gave the little guy a hug and let him out, warmed up the coffee I brought back from brekky with Tress, and got ready for St Alf’s. Tanya, Graeme and Maree asked about Tress but as I arrived late and left early, I wasn’t sure if anyone else noticed I was sitting at our usual spot all alone.

After St Alf’s I went home to fix myself a toastie. Then I headed to the library and picked up a book (Richard Flanagan’s book – Gould’s Book of Fish). It continued to rain so I took my time with the grocery shopping and only got home in time to follow the footy on radio. As I prepared brekky for this morning and made a sandwich for lunch, I was very grateful for the very good dinner I had with Tress on Friday night. We were at a joint called the Abacus All Day and as usual, dinner on Friday night just talking and eating, was really good.

Saturday was filled with Tress packing and getting ready and not much else – we were (or mainly I was) thinking about two games happening at around the same time that night. Hawks were playing the Crows at the G and I had wanted to go and watch them but it was very cold and the other game was too big to miss – Australia was taking France on in Kazan in Russia. Australia lost (as expected) but put up an admirable performance and the French were poor.

Last night as I settled down for the night, I got a call from Fay, who was going to help with taking the little guy for walks while Tress is in Malaysia. So I went over and made arrangements with her. This morning I had to make sure I got the little guy prepped up so I was late and in an attempt to make up time I drove faster than I normally did and such was my luck a mobile unit was on the prowl and I got pinged. One demerit point and a couple of hundred bucks down the gurgler and I ended up even later but I still came in earlier than almost everyone else, so writing this made it all feel less painful – both about Tress being away as well as that blooming 10km/hr over… (boo hoo). The thought however, of Tress’ mum’s experience over the next few days and weeks kind of puts things in perspectives…

Weekend Capers, Events in Malaysia


There’s a long gap between the Queen’s Birthday public holiday and the next public holiday, which would be in November (Melbourne Cup). To make the most of it, Tress and I decided to go away for the long weekend. We booked in this trip many weeks ago and about a couple of weeks ago, Kiddo said they’d like to join us. The house we booked has three rooms so that wasn’t a problem.

We trekked Phillip Island way on Friday morning, and pushed on towards Inverloch. Our weekend abode was to be at Cape Paterson, a tiny town just before Inverloch, south of Wonthaggi. We got there a bit after noon, unpacked and took a walk to the beach just across the road, and a few hours later, Kiddo and Mic showed up. It was an 8-hour drive for them. Canberra is so far away…

We made the short drive up to Wonthaggi for dinner that night and then went back to the villa in Cape Paterson and talked and played cards.

The next day, it was very cold (-0.2 deg)and I took the little fellow out for a walk. LBJ at CP. After a leisurely brekky we drove to Inverloch and spent the day there, doing a lot of walking and watching locals and tourists take to the waters, even though it was winter.

On the way back we stopped at the State Coal Mine in Wonthaggi. Later that night we headed back to Wonthaggi again for dinner before going back to the villa.

Kiddo and Mic left the next day, and Tress and I (and the little guy) left a couple of hours after that. We got home, unpacked, went out to lunch. Tress then did the laundry and I did some grocery shopping and got a haircut, before settling down for the new week ahead.

It was a wonderful time of being away and catching up Kiddo and Mic. Yet throughout, we – especially Tress – mulled over a piece of news we had received before the long weekend began. Tress’ mum has been diagnosed with a pretty bad illness and will need surgical treatment soon. Tress would probably need to travel to Malaysia again.

We were talking last night about how the year has been peppered with family stuff back in Malaysia. Tress’ Dad was unwell in January and then just before we went back again for my mum’s surprise birthday party, we received news of Sim’s illness. She has barely gotten past her treatment and now this. It looks like the big events happening back in Malaysia aren’t just to do with politics. Like I have come to accept, a “mundane” and “ordinary” life is to be celebrated.

Blood Centre, Ian Harper


Friday nights are always a little bit more special when friends get together to catch up over a meal. Tress and I caught up with the Chews and Hipos, over a meal in a restaurant that is closest to us (because we organised it…). We got there a bit after 6.30pm and the Hipos were already there. The Chews showed up a little later and we ate, chatted and only left after 9pm, when there were hints the restaurant was starting to close for the night.

The next day, I got up early and headed for the men’s breakfast at St Alf’s. Paul O, the speaker, was visiting from Kenya and he was a beneficiary of Compassion’s child-sponsorship program. He now works in Kibera, a very big slum in Nairobi. He was very eloquent and engaging and I had to restrain my self from responding impulsively to sponsor yet another child. I probably will do it however, so compelling was the talk. After helping with a quick packing up, I went home and a little later, drove out to Ringwood with Tress for my Red Cross Blood Centre appointment. It was a plasma donation so it took a little longer and we then had lunch in that area, before heading back to walk the little guy.

St Alf’s on Sunday was a little special. We had Ian Harper, a Reserve Bank Australia Board Member, come and speak to us, in a sort of Q&A style, with Peter asking questions and providing the platform for Ian to provide his thoughts, mainly on workplace experience. He’s got such clear thoughts and was very articulate so we learned a lot, and it affirmed for us we probably chose well to stay back for the extended session of Q&A after the service. I’m quite sure we weren’t the only one glued to Ian’s every word as we tried to soak up his experience as a Christian in a leadership position in an increasingly hostile (anti-Christian) workplace environment. His role as Dean of Melbourne Business School and a Board Member meant he is often asked to provide his views, in spite (or because) of his having publicly professed his faith on numerous occasions. His profiles openly state his roles in Ridley and the Anglican Diocese in Melbourne.

So we left for lunch later than usual, but we got home in good time to walk the little guy anyway, before I went back home a little earlier to start cooking for the week. Tress came back a little later and did the ironing, as we finished up the weekend and started to prepare for the coming week. It would be, hopefully, a little more restful but no less compelling, next weekend…

A Grace


Tress and I were both pretty zonked out last Friday, after a normal busy work week. She had spent Friday at Jeff’s Shed, where WVA had organised a youth conference and she and some other colleagues had volunteered to help out. For dinner, we went to our favourite local Thai – a tiny hole-in-wall joint on the way to the Maury’s where we had our favourite whole fried barra. It was good to just enjoy the meal and talk.

The next day the little fellow had his quarterly grooming session; Amber came by as usual bright and early and took him for over an hour of washing and clipping. It was a cold morning and later, Tress vacuumed the house while I trimmed the James Sterling and generally kept the outside trimmed and cleaned. We finished our work well past 1.30pm and after lunch and some grocery shopping, we went home and got ready for dinner at Alex and Li Har’s.

We hadn’t seen them for a while so when Alex texted me on Friday night while we were at the Thai place, we said yes pretty quickly. When he texted back again to say there would only be 5 couples all in we felt it could be a good thing; a change from his usual party with multiple families.

So on Sat night we drove over to Donvale. They are building their new home in Balwyn and they’ve been renting their temporary home in Donvale. The other guests were lovely people and we had a really good time of just eating, drinking and getting to know each other. One of the couples – a fairly new migrant – had brought delicious dosas (thosai) to cook as well as a fish (a huge pomfret from Malaysia) to steam so the food was pretty special too, as were the very good wines.

We got home past 11pm, went to bed at midnight and I was up again at ten to 5am, to catch the Scousers’ game against Real Madrid. It was a good game – far better than the one United lost to Chelsea the week before. Bale scored a screamer and the Scousers’ keeper had a couple of bloopers so Real triumphed yet again.

After St Alf’s later in the morning (where we were on communion duty), we headed to Shopping Town for duty (again) for the Salvo’s Red Shield appeal. When we got home and walked the little fellow, the early morning rise and busy day took its toll and I felt bushed. I still had the week’s lunches to cook so when it was all finally done just after 6pm, I could all but stretch my feet out in front of the telly to catch Gordon Ramsay swear away in this season’s MasterChef.

Coming in this morning, I decided to pace myself in Tim Winton’s “Dirt Music” – I only have less than 70 pages to go and I don’t have anything else to read this week. It was difficult to do as Tim Winton’s wonderful novel is building up to a crescendo of an ending. I wanted to savour it however, so I listened to Gurumul and Paul Kelly’s “Amazing Grace”, as I felt that with Sim’s great news earlier in the week, with a full week’s work done and a wonderful weekend of activities and “rest” all covered, I felt God’s grace has really been amazing this week.

Marysville, FA Cup Final and Harry Weds Meghan


Marysville

Tress and I took a drive out to Marysville on Sat. It was a cloudy, overcast day but that only added to the experience. Marysville is beautiful and the drive from Healesville to Marysville especially (picture) was particularly scenic in its own way.

We left just before 10am, stopped at Healesville for coffee, and got into Marysville around noon. We walked around town, walked up to Steaveanson’s Fall and had lunch at the Terracota cafe, a golf club across the road from El-Kanah, which we visited also.

We got home late in the arvo, and Tress watched the wedding (Harry and Meghan Markel) later in the evening, as I went to bed early, planning to watch the FA Cup final. United loss in a drab game and to bottom out a miserable weekend sports wise, Hawks succumbed to the Lions up in the Gabba, so falling out of the top 8.

Other than Marysville however, it was nevertheless a good weekend as we spent Friday night having dinner with Jason and Mel and A Hooi and U Marloney in Box Hill. We caught up just before 7pm, and stayed out in the restaurant in Box Hill (Penang Inn which just changed hands) till about 10pm. It was good to just talk in a relaxed atmosphere over a meal, instead of just eating and leaving.

Sunday was Pentecost Sunday and at St Alf’s I wondered, as I have for a while now, what’s in store in the service space. Serving in Steer in a Board capacity came up a few weeks ago and I met with its CEO over a week ago so I wondered if that is where it lies. And yet, it felt like an underwhelming and subdued channel when I was last there. One can only wait and see if He plans to do anything there.

Workwise, my boss and the other senior executives are in the US this week, for a Board meeting. Work powers on anyway, and I continue to keep my head down and just keep ploughing away.

Butterfly effect?


It is on occasions such as the one this past weekend, which I wondered more intensely than I normally do, about the unintended consequences of a turn of event just over 6 years ago. Not only did my departure from my profession, to turn to a path down the way of a faith based not for profit route, become a detour, the reason for that departure (which turned out to be a detour) took a turn which doesn’t seem like it would have any inflexion point in its trajectory.

I have often turned into pathways which take me away from home, away from what would have allowed me to create legacies. Those turns are often brought about by an impatience with the state of being, by a refusal to accept the imperfections which were. In a fallen world where imperfection abounds, that journey was never going to stop. I would often move on, constantly moving away. Often to stay would have been in itself, to create.

I wonder if my bequest is that tendency to move away. I see now the impact of that tendency on myself. On an occasion such as mother’s day, I see the impact of my tendency to move away, and that is to be away from my mother and live the effect of the barrier of distance that arises. I also see the rippling effect. Tress too is away from her mum and that has consequences on numerous persons. That tendency to move away, may have begat a similar tendency and that in turn, has created its effect, the impact of which is most felt by me.

It feels almost like I’m living the butterfly effect. I wonder if I caused that flutter of those lightest of limbs that were the wings of a butterfly, with rippling, or domino, effects – potentially seismic. Chaotic it may not have appeared but the effect on lives, roll on. I wonder if that effect can be elliptical, turning or rebounding towards myself. Am I both the creator of that flutter and the repository of its effect. I certainly had such thoughts and feeling this past weekend.