Shifting pillars

We had another very enjoyable Friday night dinner at a local Blackburn joint. This time, it was with Jason and Mel and we were at the Food Republic, just a stone’s throw from the station. We’ve done this numerous time now and it’s always a wonderful way to finish the working week.

On Saturday I got up earlier than usual and headed for the men’s breakfast talk at St Alf’s after which the little black jedi had a morning tea (a pooch party) down at the oval across the road. That oval had started up a facebook page some months ago and the pooch owners had gotten to know each other better over the years so they decided on an organised activity.

As our home is probably one of the closest to the oval (our neighbour wasn’t attending the event), we volunteered to do stuff like bringing a trestle table for the food etc. We brought only a store bought fruit cake but some members baked stuff so it was a pretty full on thing. I guess our local community is very much a dog loving one. All of the dogs are know to everyone and they’re very well loved.

After the party, Tress and I got cleaned up, had a quick lunch and went shopping. I’d wanted to do a simple dish to bring to Alex and Li Har’s for dinner that Saturday night. We went there a few minutes before 7 and we were pleasantly surprised to learn only 3 other couples would be there (including Jason and Mel). Everyone could sit at the same table and have proper conversations which was more enjoyable than the usual proceedings where many others showed up and it was several conversations all firing at the same time. I usually ended up switching off, taking no interests.

It hit me during the dinner and as we were enjoying the conversations, that we were the only ones with a married kid. The others’ children were all still at school and Jason and Mel’s are working now but no mention of weddings have been made by them so I guess they’re a bit off that track for now. I had to reframe my subconsciously held assumption that somehow people whom I considered my contemporaries should experience the same life events I did around the same time. That seemed to accord with being contemporaries.

I guess our world – especially here Down Under at this moment – is being reframed in so many fundamental and far reaching manners. Questions of life and death, well-being and pain are being raised and discussed in the context of the voluntary assisted dying laws.

Then there is the same-sex marriage and attendant religious freedom issues which are swarming around us. I’ve just read a short survey type of book by a William Loader on the attitudes towards sex in Jewish and Christian literature and have just started to look at Ryan T Anderson et al.’s work on religious freedom and discrimination. These issues – which will likely result in fundamental shifts in what we believe and how that belief plays out – have been causing me to despair somewhat. I am dismayed at what the future holds for kiddo and Mic and their plans for raising a family.

I had thought someone who has started to take strides towards the second half of life can safely assume he’d know what to expect in the days ahead. Against these shifting pillars however, I guess I can only be thankful that being in a different place from my contemporaries has in some ways, disarmed me from the comfort of that assumption. Having stepped onto a moving platform, the continuously changing scenes sort of becomes easier to deal with.

The non-constant theme felt like it had some momentum when St Alf on Sunday morning dialled up its un-Anglican side and became much less regimented. The service ran a full half hour over time – the first time it has done so since we became part of this congregation back in early 2013. Somehow, instead of feeling fidgety, I found myself embracing this new experience and took it all in stride. I suppose nothing can be taken for granted anymore and that isn’t entirely a bad thing.

Life did take on more normalcy yesterday arvo as Tress did some ironing and I did the week’s lunches for the freezer. And, United resumed it winning ways which made by Sunday morning 5am start a little easier to deal with. I guess changes are often easier to deal with when there are constants you can hang on to.


Summer beckons

It was warm on Friday night when we got home. Even though it was a short working week, Tress and I both felt ready for the weekend, but first we had to bring the little furry ball to the vet for his annual jab and an allergy to be looked at.

We were both a little stressed when the accommodation we booked for the Christmas break fell through and we were trying to think of alternatives.

When we left the vet after 7pm, we got a bite and picked up my prescription sunnies. It was my first multifocal prescription sunnies and I can now drive and see normally without the glare of the Aussie sun.

Saturday was going to be sunny and Tress had signed up for a ladies’ brunch talk at St Alf’s so I had planned to do some greens tidying. We had our usual weekend brekky at home, watched a little bit of the Honduras v Australia World Cup qualifying match then Tress did a quick vacuum before leaving for the brunch talk. She and I took the hardtop off the MX5 before she left and then I went about trimming, mowing and sweeping.

Tress got home a bit after 1pm, and just after 2pm, I got cleaned up and we both then headed to our usual Madam K thingo, before doing our usual grocery shopping and then headed home. I spent the rest of the arvo cleaning up the drain holes of the MX5 soft top before ending the day by watching Ben Affleck’s very weird “The Accountant” on Netflix.

Sunday was an all-age service at St Alf’s and Ross Curnow’s tailored message worked a treat for me. After lunch and a bit more grocery shopping we went home and I did the usual cooking for the week. It remained warm as we caught a Paul Kelly documentary on ABC. I had listened to him again in recent months and watching that doco affirmed my views that he really is Australia’s answer to Paul Simon in many ways. “From St Kilda to King’s Cross” became an ear worm even as I typed this early on Monday morning. It’s a treat.

I hope we find something suitable in Sydney for the Christmas break. Otherwise it’d be two weeks of just lazying around in Melbourne. That’s not a bad thing actually, provided however that we plan things well, especially to spend time with Kiddo, Mic as well as Tress and the Little Black Jedi.

Deakin Country on Cup Weekend

I came down with a lurgy sort of a cold several weeks ago. It built up to a coughing episode and about a week after it started Tress picked it up and we’ve been sort of passing the baton between the both of us. I got to a point I was quite tired out and was looking forward to the cup weekend we had planned some weeks before.

On Saturday morning, we packed and took off with the little guy. We headed north west up Ballarat way, and got there just on around noon. We got to a mall sort of joint, picked out an shop with outdoor seating so we could have the little fellow with us while we had a bite. After lunch we headed to our lodgings, which was a small one-bedroom unit with a façade that says it was previously a butcher shop. The owners preserved the façade, so it was charming.

For the next 3 days we chilled out and had some much-needed rest. We were both still coughing though so I quipped we were at Coughs Harbour…

Ballarat was the seat of Victoria’s wealth more than 150 years ago. The gold rush which reeled in untold riches in various parts of NSW and Victoria, had this beautiful town as its epicentre. The beautiful buildings are a legacy of this wealth and after spending a day at Sovereign Hill, we walked through the town the next day, taking in these opulent buildings and its surrounds.

At the back of my mind, I am constantly reminded the town was also the launching pad of Alfred Deakin’s career. I was at the end of the book that is his biography by Judith Brett so I brought the book along to finish it while we were in this town (city). I worked my way through the last 50 or so pages and on the morning we were leaving to head back to Melbourne, I took my time through the final few pages, savouring the occasion of reading this founding father’s last days in the city he grew up in and represented in Australia’s inaugural parliamentary sessions.

We got back early arvo, unpacked, headed up out to lunch, and came back to complete the unpacking before settling down to watch the race that stops the nation and gave us a 4-day weekend (albeit with a day’s annual leave on Monday). We saw “Rekindling” win, watched the trophy presentation and then took the little guy out for yet another walk. He had looked happy throughout the trip, with twice daily walks through open fields in cool to cold conditions. He was bouncing about in each of those walks, and running freely in a soccer field just down the road from the “butcher’s shop”. Tress and I were very pleased to see him happy.

This morning as a colleague and I eased our way back to work after a 4-day weekend, that colleague remarked that it would be 6 weeks and a bit left of work before Christmas. So I hope I get to plough through these 6 weeks without any more ailment – and enjoy another break, this time even longer and with Kiddo and Mic towing along. Noish.

Salvos Fete, Social Media and New Shades

People often talked about Melbourne being a 4-seasons-in-a-day city. The weather here can change very quickly. Yesterday it was a very warm 28deg, and the clear blue skies and gusty conditions made it feel like we were in the middle of summer. This morning when I left home it was just under 8deg and it had been raining overnight. It felt closer to winter, though nowhere near as cold. The contrast told me for the umpteenth time, that Melbourne indeed is a city which can produce very different weather conditions within a very short period of time.

Last year around this time, it was bucketing down on a Saturday when the Manningham Salvation Army was having its annual fete. This year however, the fete enjoyed sunny conditions for the most part. Tress had been coughing badly last week and when the coughs persisted through Friday night, she told me, early on Saturday morning, that she’d stay home and away from the fete.

I woke early on Sat morning – just on 6.30am – and got ready as I was meant to get to the Salvo’s ground on Taunton Street, pick up the 12-seater, and head towards Blackburn Station to pick up a bunch of student volunteers who were meant to work on the fete. Just as I was about to head out however, I took a call from the coordinator of the students. None of them were coming. Apparently, the exams starting this week were getting to them. I asked the coordinator to ring Doug the gentlemen managing human resources for the fete.

When Tress heard the students weren’t coming, she resolutely got changed, and then headed out with me to Manningham. We got there just on 8am, and got busy straight away.

The weather held out – there were even long sunny spells – and it was a much better fete than last year. Around 10am I picked up a bunch of folks from a home on Elgar Road. Most of them I remember from last year, and a couple of them said to me they remembered me too, which was nice. Elgar Home provides residential care for people with mental health issues and it was good to take them out to enjoy the fete for the day. Last night Tress suggested we visited them periodically, maybe on Sunday arvos. That sounds like a great idea to me so hopefully something works out.

The fete finished up just after 3, and after helping with the cleaning and clearing up, Tress and I ducked into a Coffee Club place for a much needed cuppa. We got home just after 4pm and I said to Tress since I was a bit messy already, I might as well do the lawns, which had look like they had been on steroids. The “feed-n-weed” tonic I administered at the start of spring seems to have done its job.

The catcher filled up frequently and the cut lawn looked much neater after that and I cleaned up, we got to a nearby local shopping square, picked up some wine and takeaway, and went back home to finally put our feet up, just after 6pm. Channel 7 has been screening the Star Wars franchise in the lead up to “The Last Jedi” in December and “Revenge of the Sith” made its turn as we wound up Saturday.

We had spent Friday night with J & M our friends again, and during the day when we were exchanging emails, we said we’d pamper ourselves. We did that on Friday, as we rocked up to nice local restaurant, ate really nice food (the pork belly entrée was superb), drank good wine and had wonderful conversations. We were there from about 6.45pm and didn’t leave till almost 10pm. Yesterday (Sunday) as Tress was catching up on social media entries, she saw J&M tagged on pics taken in a home cookout. The host was a near stranger to us, and we had talked about how we made connections via a facebook group we were all part of. It was very strange to visit the home of someone we never met and only knew the existence of, via some social media groupings. But there you have it – J&M were at their home, enjoying the company of several other people and the hospitality of that host.

Yesterday after St Alf’s Tress and I went to pick up Tress’ new glasses. Kiddo had messaged us the day before, with her new glasses and sunnies so it was kind of strange – we’re all doing the same thing. It’s partly the season I guess – with longer sunnier days ahead. I too have been looking around for ways to keep my eyes protected against the harsh Aussie sun, as my multifocal prescription glasses meant my options are limited. At the optometrist where Tress picked up her glasses I told the optometrist and his assistant my problem. After looking at some options, I decided to get prescription multifocal sunnies. It’s all paid for now, and I pick them up in 1-2 weeks. I’m not sure if Mic got new sunnies too – if he did we’ll all be in new eyewear when we make that road trip over the Christmas break. Cool…

Last night I had to wake up a couple of times – the first time was just after 1am and then again, about an hour later. For some reason, my ankle – the one I rolled in Phillip Island a few weeks ago – got very sore again. I took a cox (Arcoxia) but felt the soreness through the night. I missed my exercises this morning and played with the idea of staying home but I’ve been taking the odd day off for the last couple of weeks – albeit all for fair dinkum medical reasons – so I thought I’d give it a go. It feels as though I’m hobbling across the line to finish the year. If I do, I’d at least be grateful I managed to even get across the line as it has been such an(other) unpredictable year, work wise, for me.

OPM (“Other People’s Money”)

Margaret Thatcher famously said the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.

With the last of the HR person asked  to leave at the end of August, we – the legal team – have been picking up various HR tasks. We’ve just managed to settle a “general protections” claim which had some ugly allegations so that was good. More on the peripherals were – are – a couple of work cover claims.

A lawyer appointed by an insurance company covering work cover claims has been liaising with me to defend a claim brought by an employee who hasn’t been to work for nearly a year. We had overpaid her for several months and yesterday, the lawyer asked if we wanted to seek offsets against any award which may be made against us.

I thought the question curious. In my mind, that is a no brainer. Of course we wanted to offset the over-payments against any award. The lawyer’s tone however, suggested that wasn’t always the case. I said to her we surely must seek offsets because it wasn’t my money – or any other persons’ safe the company’s – to waive away. I said to her (the lawyer) that it was “company money” and we have to seek recovery or offsets.

Even as I said that, I was reminded of an old colleague – back during Phileo days – who uttered those words frequently. “It is company money” was the mantra which justified his frugality and insistence that those with expense accounts acted responsibly and with restraint.

I’m reading a book kiddo gave me for my birthday. Judith Brett.s biography on Alfred Deakin took a while (50 pages?) to warm up to but I’m enjoying it now. A near 500 page mini tome, I’m about half way and this morning I read he and a few other pioneers of Federation went to London to seek imprimatur for the draft Constitution (“the Bill”). They were in London for 3 months and each were given £1,000 for expenses. Deakin returned to Australia with over £450 unused (and returned to the public purse) whereas Barton and Kingston each had cabled back for more money and ended spending £1,500 each. Brett went on to write about how Barton and Kingston both were justified in their expenses – albeit they did dine and wine freely – but Deakin stood out as someone you could trust with other people’s money. Much like Ng Seng Hin, the Finance Director in Phileo back in the 1990’s and my erstwhile colleague.

David Leyonhjelm’s 4 types of spending comes to mind (1 – spending MY money for MY purpose; 2 – spending MY money for OTHERS’ purpose, 3 – spending OTHERS” money for MY purpose, and 4 – spending OTHERS’ money for OTHERS’ purpose).  No prizes for working out which is the worst sort of spending and how our country has come to stew in the juices of public debt.

If only the likes of Deakin and Ng Seng Hin were running the finance of more people…

Break and Justice

We were at my favourite local Italian joint on Friday night, together with the Hipos and Chews. After dinner we went to the Hipo’s which is just around the corner, and had drinks. Gezza served up some really good scotch and it was a great way to end the week.

The next morning, I prepped the stuff Tress had bought the previous day. We were going to bring a potato salad to Ruth and Jonathan’s, for the latter’s birthday. Woodend is a good 1.5 hours away so we started prepping and cooking earlier and left home just after 10.30am. We spent the day at their little farm, got to know some of their other friends, and generally enjoyed a day out in the country. I had picked up a polo for Jon a week and a half earlier and it seemed to fit him. We left just after 4, and got home in time to walk the little fellow for a bit.

On Sunday we heard a guy called CB Samuel, who is in Melbourne for the Justice Conference organised by TEAR. We’ve come to know Matthew Maury over the past 3-4 years. Matthew is the National Director of TEAR Australia and he has known CB for some time. CB spoke about national and systemic justice, and said God cared about those things – it is the character of God to care about justice and so we should too. I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. I guess the question may be what constitutes injustice. Many are very clear-cut black and white issues and clearly there is injustice. Many others however, are what social activists may label injustice but which can also be characterised, perhaps, as outcomes which aren’t favourable to certain groups of people. He alluded to Adani’s proposed coal mine in Queensland and suggested that wasn’t right. I believe that is in the latter basket, where I think the jury is still out.

What was clearer to me however, was our – my – consumption practice. He suggested we don’t think enough about our consumption. That may be an Australian problem at this time. Perhaps, given the trajectory of Australian spending on areas like welfare, that problem would not hound future generations who may be forced to simpler lifestyles simply because Australia will cease to be a wealthy country.

We had lunch in Doncaster, bumped into Jason and Mel, and later when doing grocery shopping, we teed up coffee with them. We had a wonderful catching up, just sitting down and chatting. Back home I did the usual cooking, Tress did some much needed vacuuming, and we ended the day in front of the idiot box, with Tress nursing a worsening cold. I’m counting the days to the next long weekend, when Tress and I are planning to go away to some place not too far away. We both need that little break.