Grand Final build up (in more ways than one)


Some weekends are mundane affairs. Most are. Sometimes however a weekend feels so full-on that on Monday morning, the alarm clock goes off with a jolt to the system, the weekend’s activities having produced a deep sleep. This morning was such a Monday morning.

Friday night had started pretty quiet. I have had another busy week at work so I didn’t mind a quiet Friday night at home. Tress was away for a dinner in the CBD with some ex-colleagues and she had bought a curry puff and some delicate desserts (“onde-onde”)from MK. So I had those for dinner as I watched the Swans trounce the Cats. Seven unanswered goals in the first quarter put paid to the Cats’ aspirations for a Dangerfield inspired Grand Final appearance. I had the little jedi with me and I pampered him excessively while we waited for Tress to come home. When she got home, she said Kiddo asked if we could talk some time over the weekend so we thought we could do that on Saturday night.

The next morning we went to Simon our hairdresser for an early appointment. Hair done, we got home and got stuck into the garden. Three months of wet winter left the garden with minimal attention and the James Sterling hedges, lawn and other parts of the front, side and back gardens have been crying out for some attention.

Half way through trimming the hedges Ruth and Jon came around with little Micah. We chatted on the side lawn. We didn’t invite them into the house and felt a little awkward but we had said to them we would be busy with the gardening work and they only wanted to drop something off on the way to Doncaster Westfield so it was fine. It was good to have a quick catch up and after about half an hour to forty minutes they left and we resumed our work. The little jedi was just hovering around and it was one of those sunny cool balmy days so it was great to just have all three of us outside the whole time. Tress had done a whole bunch of laundry earlier in the morning and they were all on the Hills Hoist soaking in the sun and breeze.

Around mid-day we decided to stop for a lunch break and headed to the Honey Thief on Canterbury Road. We continued working after that and by the time Tress went out to pick up the dry cleaning (and got some beer!) late in the arvo I had started the sweeping and cleaning. I noted some green algae building up on one side of the car port – it has been a very wet winter – I and said to Tress afterwards we might think about getting a pressure jet water cleaner.

I hit the showers in time to clean up and get ready to watch the Doggies’ game against the Giants up in Western Sydney. The cold beers Tress got were perfect as I rested my tired body on the couch, watching a very well contested match. The Doggies were dogged and thwarted the very talented young guns of the Giants team. We had to leave home at half time and went to a quiet little Cantonese place in Burwood for dinner with A Hooi/U Marloney and Jason/Mel.

As always it was very good catching up with the two couples and we talked about our grown families, with the children’s respective partners as well as holiday plans etc. The champers Ruth and Jon brought me was expertly opened by the restaurant staff. That restaurant has a quiet, unassuming but dignified presence about itself. It is an example of how a joint can be classy without being ostentatious. A Hooi has heard about the place but hasn’t herself eaten there and I’m glad she introduced it to us. I’d very likely return. All through the night we checked on the Doggies’ score and we were thrilled when they got up. Having an all Sydney Grand Final was unacceptable (Swans’ South Melbourne affiliation notwithstanding) and the conundrum was, as all Hawks fans will attest, it was always better to have someone other than the Cats at the Grand Final, if we weren’t in it ourselves. So the Doggies’ triumph is to be celebrated.

We got home and before starting on the United – Fox game, we talked with Kiddo.

It has been an eventful week. On Tuesday Tress accepted a role with a major NFP. Two days later Kiddo was accepted in a school in South ACT, under the Federal Government’s TFA program. She would be in Warnambool and Geelong for a couple of training stints from Nov – Jan and would start teaching in that school in the Woden Valley area soon after. With that “in the bag”, Kiddo wanted to progress her plans with Mic.

We landed on a tentative mid-April date and we talked about how we would communicate with the family. We agreed on some broad milestones and my tired and aching body was soon matched by a daunting emotional and psychological challenge. United’s scintillating first half performance distracted and soothed at the same time. They were expertly orchestrated by maestros Pogba the Frenchman and Mata the Spaniard, and romped home with four exciting goals and numerous delightful moves. The only question that performance raised, against the reigning champions, was what now for Rooney, who was left on the bench at the start and only came on late in the game. It finished 4-1 and Tress and I went to bed with loads on our minds.

At church on Sunday morning, we heard Sam Oldland a trainee minister give the final segment of the series on Romans. We talked briefly with a couple of members after the service and bumped into Ronald and Cat at MK again. Then it was off to grocery shopping and we went home for a bit more work in the garden – it had been a weekend of wonderful weather – before we went in and I did some cooking for the week’s lunches. We also spoke with families in Malaysia. I spoke with my mum and Tress spoke with hers. We conveyed the news and followed up with some social media type communications.

By the time we could put our feet up and unwind by watching The Block, we were tired and ready for bed. It was barely 9pm when we agreed we had to hit the sack.

It’s Grand Final week and I could already feel the build-up. In so many ways.

Footy – it’s history


It was a weekend of wallowing in a winless wallop. Out contested in contested possessions saw the Hawks ousted and deposed of its mantle as the team to beat. Out of the competition in straight sets for the first time in years, face book reminded me of my attendance at the preliminary finals game against Port Adelaide in 2014. No preliminary finals for the first time in 5 years. Then overnight United crashed away to Watford. Wat bloody ford. It was 0-1 at half time when I retired to bed, not heartened by the performance I witnessed but certainly too tired to soldier on, with the spectre of another busy week staring at me.

In the train on the way home after the game on Friday night, Tress and I, along with every other person on that train out of Richmond into Hawks country, were quiet and looked for tunes to whistle past the graveyard of football ignominy. It was good to read in the papers this morning, that any suggestion of an end to the Hawks dynasty ignores a number of factors. There’s hope yet in this old bird and I am already thinking about 2017 membership for another year of fantastic flights of fancy in the fiefdom of footy fealty.

Sandwiched between the twin defeats was a very lovely day at the Yarra Valley. Tress’ schoolmates from last century visited from Klang. On Saturday, Melbourne turned on its clear-blue-sky side and set up a weatherwise wonderful day for us to entertain our visitors. We drove into the city on Saturday morning, picked them up from their temporary abode in Collingwood, and headed back east into Victoria’s wine country. Both bachelors, Tress’ ex-schoolmates were contrasting characters. Both were pleasant and fun, Malaysian idiosyncrasies notwithstanding. Alex rang while we were at the chocolatiers’ joint and invited us to his home for one last weekend dinner party of sorts. They would be moving out of their present home to rent for a year while they build their new home in Balwyn.

They said it has been 10 years since they moved into their Doncaster home. I remember the December weekend when it was steaming hot and he had gone and bought a barbeque set from Bunnings for his new home. His pool was magnificent and it needed a barbie to complete the picture. Being a hot day – we had been freely imbibing on some silly brown liquid and by the time we thought we should start to put the barbie together we were barely able to read the instructions. We somehow managed to put the thing together and had a barbie but it was something to remember (or forget?).

Ten years hence, I’m at that house again, standing on his deck as he cooked for one last weekend. It was an unusual dinner party because Tress and I were their only guests. Their parties are usually adorned with more and better looking guests (Tress exempted) but it was good to just talk. We continued to imbibe but this time it was an 18 year old offering from a beautiful looking bottle, not freshly brewed brown liquid from browner and squat VB bottles dunny men used to skip over.

Michael Bird’s preaching on Sunday morning managed to just about jolt me out of my overnight acquaintance with a very good scotch. This rising superstar of a theologian – the heir apparent to continue the work of the likes of NT Wright – delivered without disappointing. How fortunate we are, to have such a talent in our midst, a member of our very own congregation.

The presence of the likes of Mike Bird in St Alf’s means I have had no urge to continue what I left off at MST. Access to Ridley College would be so much more pervasive for me now, but with teachings like what we had on Sunday morning, I could spend my reading hours on other stuff. Scrutton, Blainey and now Clark fill my reading hours now, interspersed by stuff from Tim Keller and occasionally, a novel or two. Even then, my next novel – once I get past Clark and maybe Henry Reynolds – would be Scrutton’s.

For sound theological exegesis from Romans 8, I could simply tap into local top notch offerings. Re-reading the text with Mike Bird’s sermon notes ringing in my head gave me fresh understanding of God’s grace and my required response. And this understanding informed my reading, including the clear allusion to Manning Clark’s disposition on celestial matters, even as I started to leaf through his “History of Australia” in the train this morning. The book I picked up from Nunwading library when Tress and I dropped in yesterday arvo, has already promised much.

A Dhal (Certainly not Dull) weekend


I have always loved dhal curry. I had it for the first time when I was in primary school. A very friendly classmate (Gunasegaran) often brought some thosai which is topped with loads of that stuff. Until yesterday, I never tried cooking it.

On Saturday morning we went to look at a unit on Surrey Road in Blackburn North. We liked it a lot and now await the Section 32 statement to check out all relevant details. After that we went grocery shopping and I had a list of spices and other stuff from a couple of websites, saved as pics on my mobile. I checked them off, wondering if I’ll manage to cook one of my favourite dishes, the wonderful dhal curry.

After lunch at Madam K’s we walked the little fellow and then watched the first 30mins or so of “12 years a slave” – a DVD Tress borrowed from the local library. At around 3pm, we headed to the Manningham Salvos to help out with the “Festival of Community Voices” event later that night. The Camberwell Chorale, the Melbournaire Harmony Chorus, the Australian Girls’ Choir and the Biralee Primary School choir were participants in a community fund raising event. It was a part of our first steps into community volunteer work and it was loads of fun.

I particularly enjoyed the Camberwell Chorales’ rendition of Verdi’s Va Pensiero – a chorus from Nabucco which I had liked from a few years ago.

Tress helped set up the pre-event barbeque, sold drinks and generally made herself available for anything needing doing. I drove a couple of batches of students to and from the train station and helped out at the barbie. The students were from Melbourne Uni and they were volunteers too – doing stuff like ushering, stage help hands and selling tickets.

The event finished just after 8 and we finished our tasks around 9.30. We headed home and I caught United’s game against City. United played poorly in the first half and was a bit lucky to trail only one goal at 1-2. City held out to win. It was the second disappointing sporting outcome.

On Friday night Tress and I had been at the G to watch a sensational Geelong v Hawthorn classic. The game was a brutal see-saw and Isaac Smith ran close to 100m to hold a mark about 40m out, just before the siren. He kicked a behind and Hawks lost by 2 points. The exciting but disappointing loss means we play again this Fri– against the Doggies – and we get to watch another Final game at the G, which is a bit of a consolation to missing out on a preliminary final spot with a week’s break.

This morning, sitting at my desk trying to crank up the work day after a very contrasting weekend – community choirs and footy at the G, spiced up (literally) by a dhal experiment, was indeed a rich tapestry of a weekend – I enjoyed the fruits of my labour. For a first time stab, the dhal curry is, if I say so myself, a delectable success.

Contemplative


This past weekend was very quiet. The AFL home and away season had been completed the week before and for the first time, a bye was inserted between the home and away and finals seasons. Coupled with a European football internationals weekend which meant no EPL games, life resumed some non-sporting normalcy.

Tress had a lunch date in the city with some of her ex-colleagues on Saturday so I spent the arvo in soon to be closed Masters, hardware shopping in anticipation of the coming warmer days. I also gave the wagon a wash, as Tress would be using it to help the Hipos ferry their little ones when Gerry goes away on a business trip for a few days this week.

Yesterday arvo as we were pottering around the house while waiting to join the Hipos and Jason and Mel for dinner, Tress and I decided to watch a couple of videos. We had watched a mindless Alex Cross offering earlier the previous night and the movies we watched were a bit different.

The first was a French film titled “Of God and Men”. It was about a little monastery in Algeria at the throes of fundamentalist Islamic insurgency of sorts. The monks were Frenchmen who have worked in a remote Algerian town for many years before the fundamentalist arrived with their guns. Their struggles ended when they were killed, having decided against leaving when they could. It made me think again of what we are living our lives for.

We all die some time. I have often wondered what we could do before the inevitable happens, in order to look back and not think we have merely trudged along and drifted with the tide of what everyone else is busying themselves with. Those monks chose to help a community and paid the ultimate price. It made me think of the invitation from the Northern Territory Christian Schools (Woolaning College) last week, to apply to become house parents in a boarding school for indigenous children. Tress and I have parked that at the remotest periphery of our thoughts but it has bobbed up every few hours in the last few days. I wondered if this was an opportunity to re-examine what we’d like to do with our lives, for our remaining days or years.

The second movie was about two young women entangled with broken families and lives. “Every Secret Thing” told a dark story showing yet again, the depraved human condition. It was a story of two little girls who were excluded from their peers at a birthday party. On the way home, they abducted a baby.

Alice, the smarter one, manipulated Ronnie, the other quieter girl favoured by Alice’s mum, into killing the baby. They both ended up in a juvenile detention centre. Alice became pregnant while in the centre and her mum gave the baby away. Alice became obsessed with finding that baby and when released from the centre, stole another baby. The movie revolved around the search for the second baby, spearheaded by a policewoman who had found the body of the first baby years earlier.

It had been a cloudy, grey afternoon and watching those two movies – good as they both were – did little to brighten things up. The dinner with our friends would not happen till 7.30pm (only us Asians would celebrate a 3-year old’s birthday by going to a Chinese restaurant at 7.30pm on a Sunday night) so there were a few hours to fill. Tress decided to do some weeding and I went out to play with our little fellow. He has been showing signs of losing his sight and we both tried to make things better for him and I was showing him loads of TLC. So I sat at the deck, played with him and just whiled away the afternoon, deliberately resting.

I thought about Kiddo when she was 3 years old and remembered an article I wrote for The Star paper back in Malaysia. That paper had a regular “Fathers Figure” column back then and as a relatively freshly minted dad at that time, I often thought about how to bring up a little child. I had read some of those columns – contributed by readers – and thought I could write something too.

I wrote a lengthy piece and the article that was published looked significantly different from what I wrote. I would have thought they would send me a copy of their edited version for my consent for publication but I guess in those days of less instant communication such a process would have made life a lot harder so they simply published the edited version without my knowing. I only found out they did this when I actually bought and read that paper on that day in October 1997.

That was 19 years ago now. Since it was Father’s Day yesterday, and I had seen numerous wishes on WhatsApp and face book posts, I thought I’d put that article up on face book.

At that dinner Jesslyn said she saw that article and I looked at Sheryl the birthday girl, and said Kiddo was that age then – 3 years old.

A weekend without footy made for a contemplative mood. Invariably one looked back as much as wondered what lies ahead.Both those movies affected my thoughts, as did the dinner with our friends.

Family, friends, food and footy


Tress and I went to the little local Italian on Friday, for the third consecutive Friday night. This time however, we had A Hooi/U Marloney and Jason/Mel with us. It was a welcome home type of dinner for Jason and Mel who have just returned from a bohemian holiday in Europe but it was an excuse to catch up over a lovely meal. Everyone enjoyed the meal and the time together.

On Saturday after a lazy morning Tress and I went to a property auction in Vermont. It was a lovely three bedroom unit (one of only two units on that address) and we really liked the simplicity of the build, functional layout and quality finishes. When I asked the guy at the front door handling out brochures what the expected price was, his response gave us some incentives to hang around. I whispered to Tress that if it stayed under 800 I’d like to have a stab. The bidding started at 700 and for a few minutes I was hopeful. The very tiny backyard meant little maintenance and I had been saying to Tress that maybe 5+ years from now I wouldn’t be able to enjoy gardening and housework as much as I do now and so our home would likely receive less TLC then. This unit we’re standing in front of, with an enthusiastic auctioneer plying his trade, represented a very agreeable alternative – 5 years hence (say).

Within about 20 minutes however, the price had gone past 850 and we hung around only to see what it finished at.

We then drove around the area for a bit, then dropped into Madam K before going back to walk the little fellow and doing some shopping for dinner that night with the Hippos at their home, and Jason and Mel. Our minds had been on the little fellow, who has started to show signs that his sight is deteriorating. He has always had a dodgy eye but his now regular stumbling around tore at my heartstrings.

We had a steamboat (hotpot) dinner, talked and shared laughs and learned about the Hippo’s new tacks in life. Jess is quitting her NFP role to work in a similar capacity in her local church, their 2 little girls are blossoming as ever, with the elder latching on to phonetics and reading well as a result. The younger one is, according to Dad, more artistically inclined and he appears to be on the money. Jason and Mel and Tress and I are on a different phase of our lives and we talked about our children’s jobs and careers.

Later that night as Gerry led their Golden Retriever in near the dining table, I went up to him and gave him a cuddle, scratched him and gave him loads of TLC. He too had lost an eye some time back and his an octogenarian in dog years now. I wasn’t sure how many more opportunities I’d have to show him TLC. I sat next to him for a bit before returning to join the others at the table. When we got home that night, I had our little guy sat near us and I gave him all the scratches he wanted.

Early on Sunday morning I woke to check United’s results in an away game to the tigers (Hull City) – a team I sometimes have an affection for simply because it had been managed for a long time by Steve Bruce, a onetime United skipper and involved in ushering good times back to Old Trafford back in 1992, when we had been starved of the league title for the longest time. An injury time goal by Rashford kept the 100% record intact and so I jumped on the Optus Sport app and looked out for the highlights. It was great to see exciting football by the boys in red again.

After church we caught up with Ruth and Jonathan and little Micah at the Shangri-La inn. Micah looked cheekier and happier every time we see him. He’s stumbling around now, having just learned to walk not too long ago.

After lunch Tress and I went home, walked the little fellow and then headed for the G for the last home and away game. We were playing the Pies and it was vital that we had a win to get back to a top four spot to ensure we had a double crack to progress in the finals.

It was a pulsating match, with Hawks chasing for two quarters before taking a three goal lead in the third. We then lost the lead again in the final quarter and with less than a couple of minutes to go, we were one goal down. A fringe guy – Fitzpatrick – then kicked a bomb from well outside the fifty to level things up to ensure we had the points for third spot. Poppy’s last minute behind was a little icing but the one point win was far too close for comfort, especially with the Cats as our contender in the qualifying final. It was a ripper of a game all the same, and Tress and I had had a very enjoyable home and away season, watching and enjoying a number of games at the G.

Back home, we watched The Block, exchanged messages with Kiddo (who has started liking this show) and I started prepping for the coming week. Work has been busy but I guess that only meant weekends, especially with Tress, family, church and friends, meant even more.

Winding down the week


Last night just before I left the office I said to my colleagues that every second week when Friday approaches I could feel my energy level dissipating rapidly.

It’s Friday morning and I am kind of weirdly looking forward to the two main meetings I have on my diary today – back to back meetings from 10am to 12pm, one hour each. The first is a fortnightly with my boss and the rest of the team. The second is with a major software consultant and vendor for a major project the company is undertaking.

I am looking forward to those meetings not because of some sadomasochistic yearning for the bone-to-bone sort of grind but because of what comes after that.

My afternoon looks clear (for now) and I can contemplate doing some winding down work, including to plan for the next week, before hopefully heading out the door for what would hopefully be a weekend of rest.

Tress has skillfully teed up a dinner tonight with A Hooi/U Marloney and Jason and Mel so hopefully the weekend rest will start with some wonderful company over a lovely meal (we’re heading back to the little local Italian on Canterbury Road, again).

It looks like a long morning but I hope the arvo would precipitate a great weekend.

The Air that we breathe


About a week after I started at this job, I was moved into an individual office. Each of the 3 lawyers had our own office so the fact that I had one was nothing exceptional. What was exceptional was the size. Mine was probably the biggest amongst us 3 lawyers. It was on a side of the floor which was away from the CEO, CFO, and the other execs (including my boss the General Counsel) so it was not the power end of the floor. But I was ok with that. I had a lot of freedom.

With freedom comes responsibility I suppose, but it also came with great liberty. Including to fart. I did it at will and with no reservation, especially if I knew no one was going to pop into my room anytime soon.

Last week we all moved out of our rooms. The whole of the northern side of the office, which is where most of us had been seated, was going to be ripped out and new fitouts would be put in place. We had known this would happen, for a while now and we all knew the individual offices we had were going to be temporary arrangements and we would, when the renovations and fitouts were completed, be seated in an open plan office.

The renovations and fitouts will take place for the next 5 to 6 weeks, which means by the time the footy grand finals come around, we’d be ready to move into our new open spaces. We’d be in our current open plan temporary desks throughout the footy finals series.

The problem, as I had pointed out, was that of smells. Other than farting liberally, I didn’t care what sort of food I brought for my lunch. I’d cook stuff with dried oysters (a favourite of Klang Chinese folks) or fish sauce or loads of garlic and other socially confronting ingredients and bring them into my office during lunch and eat the smelly stuff in front of my screen as I catch up on the news and social media.

Now, sharing a nook with 8-9 other colleagues makes my choice of home cooked lunch as well as my physiological habits something that require rethinking.

What I put into my body is easier to manage than what comes out of it. What goes in can be managed in terms of the smell it emits, simply by controlling what goes into the pot. Less garlic and fish sauce and no dried oysters for starters. Only neutral stuff like carrots and tomatoes and chicken. What comes out however presents a much more challenging proposition. 

How do I control my farting habits so as to avoid what Clive James might have described as a classroom of pupils all holding their noses and leaning away to form a series of concentric circles with increasing radii with the farter as its epicentre?

Thus far whenever the urge comes on I simply walk away and head to the loo. I’m just afraid I might be, say, in the middle of a telephone discussion when the emission can no longer be held off. What would happen then? 

That, and less savoury home cooked food, are the only seemingly insurmountable challenges of my current open plan and cosy work setup.

Bundoora detour


Kiddo came back early Sunday morning. She has an accreditation type assessment at La Trobe uni later this week. She got in early on Sunday morning and we picked her up on Spencer Street.

I had won a $200 Westfield shopping voucher from the radio station 3AW (Drive program) so after lunch at Madam K yesterday, we went and did some shopping. Tress has been looking for a jacket for her dad’s travels so we went with that in mind.

The arvo shopping with the two ladies of my life made for a better weekend, after the Hawks’ crash in Perth – losing to West Coast to also lose the top spot on the ladder.

This morning Kiddo emailed some of her documents and asked if I could get them printed at work. As I picked up those documents from the printer and walked to my desk, I’m reminded of how successful she has been in her university years. I sincerely hope that would soon translate into success in her career.