Allopurinol, Dunkirk and Masterchef

I was crook towards the end of last week. It has been a while since the ogre of gout paid me a visit. I have been on allopurinol for a few years and sometimes, when I get a new prescription, I chuck the remaining few tablets from the old bottle into the new batch. Maybe the older tablets lose their potency and I wonder if some older tablets had been taken together with a large serve of mussels on Wednesday night because on Thursday morning I woke with that plight that is a classic gout symptom.

The attack was timely as I had been low on my tablets and it forced me to see a doctor to get a new prescription. Tress had suggested a friendly bulk bill doctor very near our home so I went on Friday morning and got my tables refilled. It also meant I had much needed rest especially on Friday. We decided to go watch “Dunkirk” that night and before that, we caught up with the Hipos and Chews in the Glen area. Jess had decided to return to CBM for a little while and so took the occasion as an opportunity to “celebrate” over a meal. We fought the mad traffic in the Glen area and I was just griping with Tress the whole time about why anyone would visit that spot especially on a Friday night. We hadn’t been there for a while and I honestly don’t miss it very much at all. It was very good none the less, to have caught up with our dear friends. After dinner we drove back to Blackburn and caught Christopher Nolan’s fantastic “Dunkirk” at FHC – with new recliner seats to boot.

On Saturday Tress did the laundry and I did the vacuuming after which we drove to the Yarra Valley again, and had a very good arvo of lunch and just driving through the area. Back home I walked the little jedi and then settled down to an old Cate Blanchett movie on Netflix. Following the Hawks online – a win over Freo – was a bonus.

On Sunday we heard Chris Mulherin speak on Science and Religion. He was very good and it made me want to read guys like John Lenox and Alistair McGrath again. After lunch we did our usual grocery shopping and cooking for the week, before settling down to watch yet another Malaysian making her way to the grand finale of the “Masterchef” series. That grand finale episode comes on tonight and it makes a good “something to look forward to” on a back to work Monday…

Ploughing On…(where’s the Kit Kat)

I feel as though Tress and I need to get away for a break. Yesterday arvo as I went for my usual lunchtime walk, I felt tired. Tired like I needed a holiday tired.

A few weeks ago a colleague made a remark that it was good I could take some time off over the Easter weekend and the week thereafter. In reality that was one of those energy sapping periods. I may have been away from work for about a week and a half but that time off work saw plenty of stress and angst from the goings and comings in and out of Canberra and Melbourne. Certainly, the weeks leading up to the Easter weekend primed us well to a near complete depletion of energy. By the time the last of the guests left Melbourne about a couple of weeks later, I had pretty much looked forward to weekends just so Tress and I could have time for ourselves and not have anything or anyone to look after or worry about.

Yet weekends are often busy and there is no rejuvenating rest. Weekends gave us a breather of sorts but we promptly pick up the pace and pressure again with little or no let up. We have even turned down Sunday night or mid-week catch ups with our friends as I just could not fathom expending energy on those activities when a full week or day’s work beckons the next day. I guess the attempted break-in of our home, and the resulting work arising from the damaged door/installation of security door, also added to the load and pressure.

As we keep our heads down and chug along, the constantly tired state meant it is easy to “lose it”. This morning, after my usual short exercises, I went to the fridge to pick up the containers with my brekky and lunch. I usually leave them on the benchtop as I showered and changed, and on the way out, pick them up and drop them in my backpack. For some reason, I must have left the lid of the brekky smoothie bottle undone the night before. As I picked up the bottle, the bottom fell away from the lid and the content – about 500ml of thick delicious smoothie – spilled across the kitchen/dining floors.

The cleanup meant not only would I miss my smoothie brekky but I was also late for my usual 5.45 train. I was very crossed with myself and as I cleaned up, I was very frustrated and constantly reminded myself to choose not to respond negatively.

The cascading effects of the little accident drained me even more and when I got into the office, my sense of tiredness amplified.

As I typed this over lunchtime, I wondered what I could do to deal with this sense of tiredness. It would be nice to get away for a few days but that would not be an option for at least the next 6 weeks or so. Maybe Tress and I can have a longer breather – like maybe just take a Friday or Monday off and go away. Just she and I. And maybe the little black jedi.

Smith’s Misses, Mid Winter, Warm Scotch

What’s the odd of the same player having the last kick of the game, the outcome of which is the decider, against the same opponent, two seasons running? Tress and I were at the qualifying final against Geelong last year, when Isaac Smith missed a set shot at the siren. A goal would have won it but as it turned out we went out in straight sets, with the Doggies beating us next up and went on to win the flag. On Saturday arvo, Smith was at it again. He took a mark and instead of lining up for an easier set shot, ran and kicked – and missed again, and the Cats won by 3. It would have been an unbelievable win for Hodgey’s 300 which was why we went for the game although it wasn’t a home game and I had to blow a tidy sum for the tickets.

Earlier that morning I had painted the inside of the front door, the security door having been installed the day before. That completed the works following the damage about a week and a half earlier so Tress and I both felt much better – safer – with all that done. I had taken Friday arvo off – worked from home – for the security door people to do the work, and later that night Tress and I went to the Food Republic again for a very good and unwinding dinner.

After getting back from the G on Sat, I walked the little fellow as Tress prepared some fruits to bring to Alex and Li Har’s. We also stopped by to get some barbequed meats and as usual, there were a group of people we didn’t know or didn’t know well. It was good just to catch up with Alex and Li Har and their boys. Alex was serving very good scotch and his guests – Sino files – urged me to have a go at having it with hot water. I had a shot that way but switched immediately to cold water (no ice was on offer). I just didn’t get scotch with hot water and for the rest of the night, I regretted that first shot as it did something to my palate or roof of my mouth that still lingers even as I type this. But his friends were great people and both Tress and I had fun, even if the crowd takes some getting used to.

Sunday we had a short service in St Alf’s – the annual post holiday program (“Going Bananas”) Sunday, after which we did our usual rounds of lunch, grocery shopping and Sunday ironing/cooking. Lunch were hot noodle soups – a big bowl of fish head noodle for Tress and a big bowl of “Loh Mee” for yours truly. Both were fantastic winter warmers and were great for a cold, windy and gloomy day. We’re apparently at midpoint of winter and for the first time since we moved here all those years ago, I have felt the cold this winter. I have often found myself with two woollen jumpers on top of a fleecy top of some sort while at home and have taken to wearing a hat in the morning when I stand at tram stops. At St Alf’s yesterday we chatted with a member who has a property in Upwey, at the Dandenong ranges. As I found out weeks/months ago, my dream of having a home in that part of the world isn’t so left field and that chat confirmed for me yet again, that my dream – arrived at without having spoken to anyone prior – is one many have chased.

Mark Chua

Around noon yesterday I saw a message appear on my mobile. It was from Ben, Tress’ brother. It said Mark Chua, a minister in the Malaysian Methodist fraternity, has died. He is very young. I don’t think he is anywhere near 60 years of age.

Mark heads up the ministry in a local parish in KL city. He spent many years in my home town as the local English speaking congregation minister. More importantly, I grew up with Mark as my mentor. I owe a lot to Mark for my early spiritual formative years. He taught me the basic stuff. He laid the foundation for my growth. I remember being in very small groups of 3-4 persons in discussions on different books of the scriptures, all lead by Mark Chua.

I have found it difficult to refer to him as Rev Dr Mark Chua, which he is. Or was, for many years now. He was always Mark Chua to me because he was like my older brother who showed me the ropes. He remains someone I seek here in Melbourne – one who can still be that older brother to whom I can turn to occasionally when I needed advice in my walk with the Lord.

Last night I said to Tress I wish I was returning to Malaysia for the final farewell to Mark. I’m sure I am not the only one as social media and instant messaging channels conveyed news of his very sudden and totally unexpected death.

Goodbye Mark. Reverend Dr Mark Chua – onya…

Working from home

I’m sitting at my dining table trying to do some work, as a carpenter chips and drills away. Working from home isn’t ideal in getting work done but our home was broken into a few days ago. Or more accurately, someone tried to break in. In the process, the front door – an old solid and heavy wooden monstrosity – was damaged. It couldn’t be repaired so we ordered a new one in, which is being fitted as I type this.

Next will be the security grill door. I’m afraid Melbourne has ceased being s safe place to live in. Time was when we could sometimes forget to lock the front door as we slept. That has ceased to be something we could take for granted.

Yesterday arvo Tress and I trekked into the city after St Alf’s. Tress’ cousin Adrian’s one year old celebrated his birthday at a joint in the city, just a block from the Spenser Station, so we took the train in. The free flow of alcohol, along with a planned work from home today, meant I tossed aside any caution and “went with the flow”. When we got home, I crashed into the couch and slept, waking up only to change into more appropriate sleep clothes.

On Sat we were at the Hipos’ and they served up a very delicious (and so rich) Japanese meal. We brought along a sake and some fruits and it was lovely catching up. The best bit however, is just the continuing development of the friendship we share and the growing trust and closeness including with their two lovely girls. The little one (a 2 year old) even invited me to “kill the crocodiles” as she handed me a plastic samurai sword. I’ve always frowned on little kids being given toy weapons so I tried to change the game into one of “shooing” the crocs instead of killing them but the fun was a bit diminished so we promptly switched back to the more bloody mode.

On Friday night Tress and I went to Via Matta again, after I was held up at Spenser as yet another track intruder held up thousands of commuters during peak rush hour. Everyone just wanted to go home after a long week. Luigi and VM was his usual gracious and generous self as we enjoyed his fares.

The door looks ok – but there’s a heap of mess to clean up. I guess that’s why I’m home today…g

Cold, Tree Change and Hawks’ Reprieve

It was zero or sub-zero temperature on Saturday morning as Tress and I curled up in bed way past our normal waking time. I had woken up earlier to let the little fellow out and I saw the oval covered with frost. I braved the cold, went out and snapped a couple of pics, and returned to bed after cleaning the little jedi up. Tress and I were curled up in bed till it was safer to crawl out and slowly begin our thawing process.

The previous night we had another great catching up dinner with our dear friends Jason and Mel. We met at Enrik’s a joint just across from the station and as we sat at our table, a stream of familiar faces from St Alf’s came in and were also catching up for dinner. It really felt like a local for us. It was nearly 10pm when we left.

After thawing out with a quick coffee and toasts at home on Sat morning, we drove up to Belgrave to check out a potential tree change destination. We drove deep into the Dandenongs and while I was enchanted by the mountain ash giants and excited by the prospects of living amongst them, Tress was very apprehensive. Anyway, that particular prospective property looked perched on a block that is way too steep for even my liking so we binned the thoughts and drove into Belgrave town for a lunch instead. I remarked to Tress as we sat near the window that Belgrave didn’t feel like the sort of town I felt I could live in anyway.

We walked the little guy later that arvo, and that night I roasted a bunch of veg for my week’s meals.

Sunday after St Alf’s and lunch we trekked into the G for Hawks’ game against the Pies. It stayed very cold and a number of families around us had blankets with them, as we enjoyed a mini redemption of sorts as we beat the Pies, quite comfortably in the end.

It was a balmy 6deg this morning and yet as I typed this in the office just before 7am, when no one else is around, it was still cold. I hope I become better equipped to deal with the cold as we progress through the winter.

Crises come crises go

Back in the day while at work in KL, as the Legal person in a banking and securities group, I was in the thick of various interesting episodes. The automation of stock price feed and stock trading introduced by my employer in 1995, which challenged the KL stock exchange establishment, saw legal proceedings between the stock exchange and my employer. At stake was its financial services license and its very survival. We survived.

Not long after, the political assassination of the then rising star of Malaysian politics (Anwar Ibrahim) led to a corporate witch hunt which was all undertaken against the backdrop of the Asian financial crisis. Documentation for scores of corporate deals were demanded to be brought into various compromised regulators – used unashamedly by their political masters. Interrogations and barely disguised threats emanated from those possessed regulators to poison and torment. All of that entailed crises management. It made for interesting workdays but it was all very stressful. In between these two epic bouts there were battles galore including corporate hijacking of listed vehicles under the guise of financial rescues and plugging of state run cooperative banks. They were all politically infested fights and vicious too. Political and financial heavyweights of Malaysiana such as Daim, Dr M, Vincent Tan etc left their footprints across what could easily be crime scenes without nary a care – they had the means to take care of business in more sense than one. Somehow, I survived.

Then we – Tress, Kiddo and I – moved to Australia. Things were quiet and peaceful and I enjoyed, for a little while, the serenity of suburbia and its corner-shop legal practice.

I was soon back in the city however and while heavily involved in an underwriting automation project of a large life insurer, the sub-prime mortgage crisis broke and AIG took a body blow which left a picture of Cristiano Ronaldo, then a superstar of Manchester United, sprawled and lying prostrate on the turf to grace the financial front page, depicting the fallen sponsor of the all-conquering red devils under Sir Alex Ferguson. AIG was broken up, the failed takeover of Prudential by Thiam saw AIA parcelled up for listing in HK. All that meant loads of crisis styled work for the legal teams across the AIA markets in Asia. We were in constant conference calls with the mothership and our HK legal colleagues lorded us through the storm as we reviewed, extracted, provided opinion after opinion and compiled report after report. I sort of survived.

Fast forward to 2017 – in a corner of peripheral Melbourne just 5-10 minutes’ tram ride out of the CBD and where the streets often ooze some raw, hip and unpretentious vivre I now sit at a desk on the first floor of a semi-industrial building, reviewing, drafting and discussing commercial legal documents and performing risk and compliance tasks. Across a little side street on the west side a well-known café adjoins a well-known brothel. We produce intelligent traffic systems. Our customers are mainly state governments. Notorious in recent years for our bouts with city halls and the department of justice in the US for corrupt practices, our wounds have barely had time to form ugly scars when a humble USB stick gets shoved into a speed camera somewhere on the Hume and starts its infectious journey across dozens of cameras. A radio shock jock stumbles over and jumbles facts and broadcasts missives against this humble fringe tech firm and I find myself again in the midst of a corporation battling a crisis of sorts. A sense of dejavu rises – this time I have the presence of mind to almost rise above the fracas to find a spot in an imaginary balcony and witness the frenetic dance below.

The music plays on as I write, my boss pecking away on his keyboard across from me. He turns around every few minutes to consult with the CEO. I pretend to draft a document as I typed this. I wanted to type this – it is a moment I wanted to capture, even as I reminisce. The sense of having been here before, the familiar sense of crises – it can be intoxicating. It invites one to stop and burnish a mental image. Who knows what the future holds – ravage the now.

Virus, Williamstown and Virus

We’ve been copping the chills in recent days, especially Tress. She was down with a nasty virus last week so we stayed home on Friday night. She was coughing badly, went to bed early and I stayed up a bit and watched the footy. After Hawks’ victory against the Crows the previous night, I was up for more and I got every ounce of the juicy serving. The Dons were beaten by the Swans at the death as Rowan took a mark in the goal square seconds before the final siren. He promptly kicked a goal to give the Swans a one point margin. That game was to herald a whirlwind weekend of topsy turvy footy as the Doggies, Dees and Cats all secures exciting and/or last-minute wins.

On Saturday Tress went to her hairdresser after brekky and I stayed in to do some work, including to complete an annual mandatory anti bribery and anti-corruption training. We then headed to Doncaster East and had a wonderful lunch of mee hun kueh. Alex and Li Har had put pics of that dish, served up by one of their favourite joints, on FB and given the cold wintery weekend, Tress and I had decided on Friday night that we’d go on Saturday. It was the closest thing we’ve had to the hearty dish we used to have in Klang and it was thoroughly satisfying.

After our usual grocery shopping and walking the little fellow, we stayed home and caught a streamed movie. The Good Bones by Peter Jackson looked familiar and we enjoyed the eerily positive (somehow) story before again retiring early.

Sunday after church we headed to Williamstown. I had never been there except for a pass-by cruise. We had a wonderful lunch next to the jetties. It was a drab and cold day and the drive there to this historical part of Melbourne allowed us to soak in such typical Melbourne conditions. I’m glad I read Blainey’s writing on Victorian history – it gave me a chance to appreciate what we saw and experienced as we walked through the area after lunch.

Back home we walked the little guy again – he had appeared unwell earlier in the day so when I saw him bouncing around in the oval, I was really happy.

Back at work this morning, as the company battled a virus of a different kind which generated negative media that accumulated over the weekend, I had a sense of déjà vu. Companies fighting regulators and government isn’t a new territory for me – I am reminded of Phileo fighting KLSE, Bank Negara etc – but it still feels stressful. It will be a busy work week for me as a result but work has always been busy anyway. I was hoping with the cold virus also knocking on the doors to my ENT, I’d have a less than stressful week but I guess such is the cycle of work and rest. I have to grin and bear it through the week, again.

Again in a hearbeat

I try to take a walk every day, during lunch hour. A few days ago, while walking, I came to a florist. I had been thinking about what I could get Tress for a special day this week so I decided to go into the florist shop to have a browse.

There were 2-3 arrangements each sitting in a earthen pot or vase of some sort and they looked timelessly elegant and even beautiful. They look better than the various bouquets. I made some enquiries and decided to send Tress an arrangement comprising principally roses, red and pink mainly.

The next day, I got a note from Tress, half chiding me for getting such a big bunch of floral arrangements. She took a picture and sent it to me although the picture didn’t quite convey the largeness of it all. That only came across when I got home and saw the monumental flora on kitchen island, towering and spreading to overwhelm everything else.

I smiled to myself. I know it’s big. I wanted it to be. 25 years is something you want to commemorate with something big.

We had hoped to take the Ghan from Adelaide to Uluru to celebrate the occasion but we left it too late and there weren’t suitable dates available. We couldn’t (I couldn’t) start the planning any earlier as I needed time – after all the planning and up-in-the-air restlessness of the weeks running up to the wedding in Canberra.

Uluru out-ruled, or more accurately, ruled out, even a very big floral arrangement felt not quite in the same league for such an occasion. Hence I had neither reservations nor buyer’s remorse, neither guilt nor any other negative sentiments for having decided to go with the hanging garden of Babylon now adorning an island in our home.

Frankly, it was all I/we could do. But do something I felt I needed to and I’m glad I did. 25 years and I loved every single day of it. I am ever so grateful.

Round the corner

I had never been a big fan of Korean food. The prejudice was probably down to eating only stuff like bibimbap and bulgogi, which came across as crude fill-me-up feeds. We’ve heard good things about this little place near our home however and anyplace close to home is a promising one for me so on Friday night Tress and I had dinner there. It was a good thing too that I made reservations earlier in the day as the little establishment turned away easily half a dozen customers, as they were fully booked. Michu has converted me – I’m a fan now. The food was very good and the staff were so friendly, courteous and professional that we felt thoroughly at home and well served.

After dinner we executed our plan. Earlier in the day I had suggested to Tress (seeing it was a bye week for the Hawks) that we spend the weekend binging on House of Cards. The suggestion was enthusiastically received so once we settled down in our trackies we invited the Underwoods and their Machiavellian shenanigans into our living room. We only went to bed after midnight.

We slept in on Sat morning, and after brekky Tress did the vacuuming while I pottered on the outside – raking the leaves from the Japanese maple, applying some weedkillers, and then walking the little fella at the oval and beyond. Later we stuck a sticky beak into a nearby auction, and witnessed the continuing spiral of house prices. A pretty ordinary 3 bedroom joint with hardly any updates fetched close to 1.2m – I later remarked to Tress maybe it was time we sold our little unit in a neighbouring suburb. The tenants may want to buy it for themselves, who knows.

After a late lunch and grocery shopping we came home to walk the little fella again, before continuing our binge to bathe in the ugliness of politics in Washington DC. We again slept late…

As we pulled into the shopping area car park opposite St Alf’s on Sunday morning, Boyd and Cathy and their older boy were in front of us and as we walked towards St Alf’s I had a quick chat with Boyd and learned they too are only less than 10 minutes away. I’m liking this close-to-home theme and when we had lunch later another 10 minutes or so away I thought we could pretty much live our lives without having to drive more than 20 minutes from home.
After another walk with the little guy I did my usual cooking before ending the day with the home cooks doing their thing by the Murray up in Echuca. I liked it when we visited many years ago and I thought another local holiday this summer would be good. I had spoken to Gavin from St Alf’s earlier in the day and listening to him talk about Nooka and Katherine up in troppo land stirred my increasing interest to explore our “backyard” in that region.

So this morning I did a quick Google map check – we could make it to Alice on road on very ordinary vehicles (no 4WD required) in 3 days via Adelaide and Coober Pedy. I did a quick date marker and sent it off to Kiddo, Mic and Tress. Not quite a 10-20minute drive that’s for sure but for one reason or another, the idea of doing a summer holiday trekking up the sunburnt country in the outback was an appealing one. Long as the drives may be, it is still closer to home.