Wet and Cold, Busy and Fun… Tampered

At the start of this winter, some weather experts predicted a balmy and dry winter. Like many statement of experts these days, that proved dodgy, to say the least.

It rained all weekend, and it was cold.

We had trekked to Doncaster for a Friday night dinner with Jason and Mel and they said pretty much the same thing – that it has been a wet winter, and the four of us sought solace at a Friday night catch up over some nice familiar food and a bottle of pretty decent red.

The week had been busy as usual, but it was broken up in the middle of the week, when I took a day off to help out with the school holidays program at St Alf’s. I (together with a few blokes) ended up cooking a few hundred sausages for about 150 kids and their parents/carers. That event started at 9 and finished close to 2pm. I had started the day with a work call at about 8.30am.

There was also a Steer Board meeting late that arvo, which finished around 8.30pm. So, while my regular work week was broken up with a day’s break, the “day off” was a busy and long day. That meant the Friday catch up was welcomed as an end of week sigh of relief, the wet conditions notwithstanding.

We stayed in on Saturday and after a bit of a sleep-in, we busied ourselves with some housework. We changed the sheets and after Tress had them washed, we took them to a laundromat to have them dried. Braving the cold and rainy conditions in our trackies and beanies, we had the sheets dried, and we then went home and did some vacuuming, general cleaning and we also gave the little furry jedi a bath.

We then ducked out for a warm lunch, then did some grocery shopping before getting ready for the “Dinner Tonight” duty at New Hope, at 4pm. It continued to be cold and wet outside so being indoor serving a warm dinner to sections of the community, was a winning winter warmer. When we got home close to 7pm, we were tired but contented. Particularly when Hawks got up over Fremantle Dockers in Tassie. We wound down the night by streaming an obscure and rather ordinary movie titled “Edie”, which was a story of a widow who decided, after a long, servile and sterile marriage, to relive a childhood dream to climb Mount Suilven in Scotland. The movie was as dour as the Scottish skies and I fell asleep for a bit, but strange as it was, an unexciting movie was a refreshing change to the usual razzmatazz expected of a good screening.

After the movie, I was surprised to catch United playing the Perth Glory team on a free to air channel and so I watched the whole of the second half. Pogba and company prevailed and it was good to see Pogba play like all the crap news surrounding his desire to move on to a more glamourous team like Real Madrid weren’t his making. One is inclined to think his agents simply wanted to milk more from this client.

At St Alf’s the next day, the “All Age Going Bananas” service provided a warmth that a very good antidote to the continuing wet and cold conditions. The people who were tasked with planning and implementing the weeklong program were evidently gifted, talented, hardworking, dedicated and very abled people. For the umpteenth time, I told myself St Alf’s is such a fount of talent and resource. I wonder if the “return” fits the endowment. It does in so many ways I guess but I also sense some contentment amongst many, not least yours truly. I was asked, the week before, to take on an additional task and I guess it is another way to break out of this contented mode but I’m still not sure at this time, if I’m prepared to perform that task (leading in prayer at service).

After lunch and a bit more grocery shopping for the week’s lunches, we came home and Tress did the ironing while I prepped the veg we bought to roast them up and pack them away. Tress then went for her ethereal pursuits while I cleaned up and watched the Bulldogs beat the Dees. It was another close match, as has been many of the week’s games.

It continued to rain and was very windy and cold, when Tress came back and settled down to wind up the weekend by watching that heart warming cooking competition.

The distractions we surrounded ourselves with – volunteer activities, cleaning and cooking, ethereal pursuits, footy, church, etc. – to deal with miserable weather this past weekend, didn’t distract me from events back in Malaysia. Sim’s medical conditions took a turn and she now faces a long-ish chemo laced months ahead. I relished in the photos of David my brother and Jean visiting them in Penang, spending time with Sim and her  whole family over meals and other activities. It made me want to visit them. I don’t know what is possible now, but for now, prayers are what I can do, and have done. I sincerely hope Sim will come out of this strongly and get well soon.


Henry in town

A cousin of my late father had had a rough year or so. Henry’s wife had died unexpectedly late last year, after a cancer surgery, and not long after that, his son went through a divorce. His other child, a daughter, is single and all 3 now live together. He’s a wonderful family man and always finds time for extended family.

Several months ago when we were back in Malaysia, we met up with him and he said he was going to be in Perth in June, and then in Melbourne on the first weekend of July. We said we should spend some time together when he’s here. I wanted to spend time with him when he’s here, as I wanted him to know that even a “black sheep” sort of member like me, is there for him as part of the extended family that he clearly treasures. It appeared as though the rough patch he’s had in the past 12 months or so, had only flamed his passion as he reached out to extended family in Perth and here in Melbourne.

So on Friday arvo, he trekked into the city and he and I caught up over lunch and chatted for a bit. Later that night, we had dinner, together with his hosts. John ad Siew are his cousins (on his late mum’s side) and they live not far from us. I had known them for a while and they recently started coming to St Alf’s so we’ve gotten to know them better since. We had created a WhatsApp group (named “Henry in town) to keep information and updates flowing. Dinner was in a nice Chinese restaurant near our home and as we chatted, the reach and extent of our respective extended families hit me in a punchy reminder of how closely knitted the communities in Klang was (or is).  We were the last to leave the restaurant, having chatted freely for a little while.

The next morning, we dropped by John and Siew’s home and picked up Henry and John. We were heading to Woodend to catch up with my cousin Ruth and her hubby Jon and their son Micah. Siew had a St Alf’s training but as we drove on the eastern highway, she rang John just in time for us to get off that highway and picked her up from St Alf’s. Her training had finished, and she had read Tress’ message to Henry and John when we were parked outside their home to pick them up. So, all 5 of us reconvened and made our way up north east.

We stopped at Mount Macedon to see the memorial cross, had some coffee, and then headed to Ruth and Jon’s. Siew hit it off with Micah and John hit it off with Jon – they both shared a love for old cars and Jon showed us all his pride, a Mazda 1500SS or something like that. It was a beautifully restored old car – it gleamed and its engine purred with pure beauty.

Ruth and Jon had prepared lunch from their farm’s produce and it was very sumptuous. We only left their property late arvo, for Henry to get back to the eastern suburbs for his final catch up with extended family here in Melbourne.

He left Melbourne early Sunday morning and as we caught up with John and Siew at St Alf’s and they introduced us to their son, daughter in law and grandson, I felt Henry’s cause of ensuring extended families stayed in touch, had already rubbed off on us.

As we spent the rest of the day doing our usual thing – lunch, grocery shopping, cooking the week’s lunches, giving the little guy his longer walk etc., I said to Tress I didn’t feel the weekend had given me much rest. I was only partly right. A part of me found rest. Rest in the peace that comes with knowing the efforts of reaching out to extended families can have outcomes that aren’t too shabby. Like most of my elders, Henry showed me I always have much to learn.

Ugly genesis of Australia

I first read Robert Hughes’ Fatal Shore a few years ago. I read it on Kindle. I saw an old copy of this in an op-shop a couple of months ago, so I picked it up and started reading a few weeks ago.

It’s a hard read. Page after page of how badly the convicts were treated in NSW and Tassie, show how evil man can be.

Read and dig a bit more into Australian history and you’d find racism accounts for only a part of the horrific past of Australia.

The bigger factor is the innate evil of human – the treatment of convicts speaks with bellows of wincing cries on every page of Hughes’ book that show how evil man can be.

2 names to remember for the ending of convict transportation and all the evil that entailed:

1. Alex Maconochie; and
2. William Molesworth (of the Molesworth Committee)



Wet weekend

I remember reading a meteorologist saying it was going to be a mild and dry winter. It hasn’t felt this way so far. Certainly not over the past weekend.

On Saturday arvo, as Tress and I attended the last family friendly scheduled MCG home game for the Hawks, it rained right through. Tress left before the final quarter, to meet up with her ethereal activities’ community. I stayed on for the nail biting but ultimately disappointing finish. I paid the price for that by being caught up in a torrential downpour as the fans leave the G and head towards Richmond Station. I had a waterproof jacket as well as a brolly and a waterproof pair of shoes, but I was still soaked in places. The whole day had been grey and drab and the proper rain was almost like a fitting finale.

It had rained the night before as well, when Tress and I wound down the week at our local Italian. The joint was booked out and while we were contemplating dessert, we noticed they were turning guests away, so we skipped that and headed out. We have been regulars here for the past 3-4 years now and Luigi looked like a decent guy running a business by providing really nice Italian food so it was easy to support his enterprise.

On Sunday we were on communion duty and the order was mixed around a bit so communion was early. We helped out Anita – the service leader – by coordinating the communion duty folks and I noticed Mike M, looked like he had heaps on his mind. I said a special prayer for him this morning; I hope he’s ok.

After a nice walk with the little guy yesterday arvo, I came home to cook the week’s lunches – delectable roasted veges – and pottered around the house. It had been a relatively uneventful weekend, except for the rain.

It may be different next weekend. An uncle will be visiting and just as importantly, the weather promises to be better behaved.

Cold Weekend, Going Bananas and Gladys Liu

Tress and I aren’t young anymore. That fact is made painfully clear as we ploughed through a cold weekend. On Friday night however, we had really warm company, as we caught up with A Hooi/U Marloney and Jason/Mel for dinner, and as has been the case in recent times, these Friday night wind down catch up’s stretched into the night and we ended up spending 3 hours in a restaurant that was busy and buzzing.

On Saturday morning, Tress did some housework – vacuuming and cleaning – as I took the easier path of going to St Alf’s for a training session. The annual school holidays program will start in over 2 weeks and I had put my hand up for a day’s work in the kitchen. Saturday’s training was on child safety and it was compulsory for all, regardless of the role one was playing. The trainer was very knowledgeable and it was a new world to me. Kiddo had left home for about 7 years now, and she hadn’t been a “child” in the sense of that holiday program target demography anyway. I learned heaps and being amongst an intergenerational group with loads of kids was a pick up I didn’t realise I needed.

After the training, I went home and later Tress and I went back to the car dealership to drop of an extra key to the MX5. We then dropped into a joint nearby for a really good lunch and then did some grocery shopping. The day had been cold and wet all day, but a little window of clearer weather opened up briefly and we took the little guy for his walk – he hadn’t been able to have his walks in recent days as it had been wet.

Later that night, we settled down to stream Chris Hemsworth’s “In The Heart of the Sea”. It was a movie about the travails of a whaling team brought about by a huge whale – white of course, as it was a tale that inspired the novel Moby Dick.
On Sunday it remained very cold and it was also very foggy. As we had our coffee and toasts, Tress excitedly said read out a message she received. Sarah, a cousin in Sydney, was going to get married. We made a mental note of being in Sydney in February next year.

After St Alf’s we headed off to lunch and then we went home and I quickly did the week’s cooking, as we had an interesting event later that arvo. We were to attend a meeting with Gladys Liu, the federal member of parliament for our constituency, at the home of a member of St Alf’s Some 25 people sat in the lounge room of Paul and Anna Cummings and asked questions or made comments about a number of issues.

About half a dozen of those who were there were young folks – about 20/21 years old – and other than environmental/climate change issues, they were also concerned about civility of public office bearers and transparency of processes and other issues. The economy, religious freedom, foreign aid, international relations and small business were also brought up and it was a really good meeting. Tress and I were the only Asians there, which was ironic as Chisolm has 20% Asian (predominantly Chinese) voters. Gladys said she decided to enter the fray because the Labor Party had nominated Jennifer Yang on the (purported) reason of her ethnicity. It was thought Ms Yang would attract the all-important Chinese vote, which was crucial as the electorate only had a 1.2% margin. Gladys said she thought focusing on race/ethnicity was wrong and by entering the fray (she was from Hong Kong) it would neutralise that point. I found myself nodding totally with that, and I’m glad we had someone who thought that way, representing me in the federal parliament.

That meeting ended a bit before 6pm, and when we got home, we hurried about our chores in getting ready for the new working week, before settling down to watch our favourite TV show.

The catch up on Friday night, the training on Sat and that meeting with the MP, had all made a really good weekend, the cold notwithstanding.

Transient Toy and Turf

We caught up with Jason and Mel again on Friday night, and chatted and ate to wind down the week. As always, it was nice. Especially with a 2 for 1 meal the establishment offered.

Saturday was meant to be a lazy and easy-going day off. We slept in and had a late brekky. At some point in the morning, Tress said maybe we can drop into a car dealership to have a look; I agreed enthusiastically. The rest is a tiny bit of history. The little toy I’ve had for a couple of years has been loads of fun but it has also been an impractical impost on our lives. It was time to say goodbye. A more practical hatch is on its way to our driveway soon.

On Sunday, we had our usual St Alf’s time. Mike Bird was his usual enlightening and entertaining self. His statement that the Sermon on the Mount was not an aspirational piece but an edict like imperative for “Kingdom people”, made a little impact on me. I said to myself I needed to do better.

After lunch we went to do our usual grocery shopping. I had a haircut then, which turned out to be a mini disaster. The hairdresser used a “No. 4” which made it look like I’ve had a “No. 1” instead. I was a bit upset but Mike’s talk earlier then made a little whisper and about a couple of hours later, I went back to the shop and apologized to the hairdresser. Tress was taken aback, and I hope the Lord will be merciful and continue this work in me.

Later I showed someone the MX5 – my soon to be gone toy – who liked it a lot but thought the car had a bit of damp smell. I had cleaned it up soon after showing it to him, and that dampness is mainly gone but I guess that is part of the impractical impost that comes with owning this car – the soft/hard top swaps, the drain hole clogs, the constant worry about no spare tyre, the driveway acrobats. While I didn’t mind these things for the most part, it wasn’t sustainable and the longer we kept this up, the harder it would be for me to find a buyer without losing too much. With car dealers being hard up for deals (plummeting sales figures and end of year stock clearance) I managed to squeeze the dealer for a really good deal. It’s time to let my toy go…

So as I drove into the station this morning, the reality of transience hit me – my crewcut turf and my toy are both with me only for a little while…

(A Really Good) Queen’s Birthday Weekend

The Queen’s birthday is the last long weekend Melburnians have, before a long stretch of work period without any public holidays. The next one after that is the Melbourne Cup, which is in November.

We had visitors from the capital city with us this time. It meant we didn’t have a “break” but it was a terrific time none the less.

Kiddo and Mic came down and stayed with us for the long weekend. Accompanying them was Milo, the little fearless terror that darts and zips through the house from end to end. He first met our little black jedi last Easter, when Tress and I went up and stayed in their house.

They arrived on Sat night. Earlier, we had spent the day with Mic’s parents who had come down to visit us and their other relos here in Melbourne. They are very polite people, which was terrific as well as problematic. We had trekked into town with that cretinous metro train service plaguing our journey. Bus replacements with nary a notice meant our trek in took longer and was a more frustrating ride. When we got in and had lunch with them, we then took them to the Carlton gardens nearby, to soak in what was a beautiful sunny day. We got to know each other a little better but right through lunch and at the gardens, they alluded to wanting to drop into our home. They didn’t say it and frankly I just didn’t get why they’d want to, but Tress was on to it like a flash. I thought the whole idea of wanting to come to our house was curious – we had met, spent a few hours together; what was to be gained with coming to our home? Had we known their whole intention/purpose of coming to Melbourne was to visit our home, we wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of trekking into the city, especially with that bus replacement crap.

So they came later that night, and we did up a soup and bought some pizza for them, a dinner which we all ate together – Tress and I, Kiddo and Mic, and Mic’s parents together with Mic’s youngest sibling. And the fur babies of course. It was nice, my sense of “that’s all so weird” notwithstanding. They had taken Uber for the ride in and back from our home, and I thought I sensed a hint of expectation for us to provide that ride too, which I steered well away from. Funny how after years of leaving Asia, our Asian sense of unspoken expectation still hovers, windows tightly shut.

On Sunday, we did our usual St Alf’s and lunch thing but again, it was really good to go through all that routine together with Kiddo and Mic. Taking Milo and LBJ for a walk at the oval later, was especially nice. Later that night, we indulged in our favourite past time as a family – playing gin and keeping scores. Yours truly did a “slam” on them a couple of times, which meant Kiddo was going to buy lunch the next day… 🙂

On Monday, we trekked into the city again, this time to look at the terracotta warriors that had been lent (by the Chinese government) and shipped to the National Gallery of Victoria. Only less than a dozen of those bronze relics were on display (together with works by a Chinese artist, Cai Guo-Qiang) but it was a wonderful experience. We had driven in and parked at my work place, then trammed to the NGV. We then had a really nice lunch – courtesy of Kiddo – and wandered around the city, again soaking up a nice day. We again ended the day with walks at the oval, letting the fur babies run around and drinking in the fresh air.

This morning I had to abandon my usual routine – of exercises, reading, putting away dishes, etc., as Milo was asleep in the lounge. I took the opportunity to sleep in on a workday, waking only 20 minutes before I left the house. The capital city visitors would leave some time this morning. I found myself looking forward to our next get together, this time Tress and I and LBJ trekking up north, hopefully some time next month.

Bolt-on values

When Alistair Clarkson, head coach of Hawthorn, got sick in 2014, a bloke called Brendon Bolton took over. He was instantly likeable. He took charge for 5 games before Clarko came back.

Bolton went on to become head coach of Carlton in 2016. Less than 4 years later, 12 games into the current season, he has been sacked by his club. 1 win in 12 games was too much for this once successful club to stomach.

Last night, Tress and I watched his press conference on prime time news. Bolton held back tears, but he was a tremendously brave man to even front up at that press conference. That’s the Bolton the public has come to know – dignified and always doing the right thing. This morning in the papers, Patrick Cripps, a captain and really good footballer, paid tribute to Bolton. Cripps called out Bolton’s work ethics. His dignity and respect and work ethics are all part of the package that we see in Bolton.

I hope he comes back to Hawthorn. Someone like him – brave, dignified, respected and respectful, works hard at everything – should be able to find a place in any football club but it would be wonderful to have him back at Hawthorn.

Masterchef… and its reassurance…

It has been wet in our neck of the woods. On Friday night when I got back home, it was wet again – so much so that I even said to Tress that a café some 3-4 km away from home was “too far” for a bite that night. We opted instead to go to the shopping centre just at the back of our home, which is less than a km away. We went to one of those chains with a big menu, so we can pick stuff more suited to a “winding down” type of food.

After dinner we went home, watched a bit of footy (Kangaroos surprisingly defeated the Tigers) but we then switched to a streaming movie. It was a suspense genre, with Milo Ventimiglia in the starring role. We didn’t know he was going to be in it but we recognised him from a TV series (“This is Us”) we enjoyed.

It continued to be wet on Saturday so we slept in a bit, and after brekky, pottered around. Tress did some weeding, I loosened up the green bin which had been clogged up by trimmings of a ground cover (I think it’s called the “Free Fall Casuarina”) from about 2-3 weeks back, picked some lemons, stirred the compost bin, picked up the little guy’s deposits, etc.

Tress then went out for her ethereal pursuits and when she got back we headed out to lunch and then to Shoppo to return a pair of shoes. We had picked up a pair of Skechers for Tress’ dad and they didn’t fit. Both her parents have newish pairs of trainers (Skechers also…) anyway. So, I got back my $140 (yay)… we then picked up some groceries, including stuff to cook for the week’s lunches. We then headed home and took the little guy for a walk – the poor fellow hadn’t had a walk for 3 days, as it had been wet.

Later that night, I roasted some veges, and then streamed another movie. Tress was in the mood for another suspense movie, so we picked out “Marrowbone”. It’s a forgetable middle of the road fare… and it provided a much needed distraction from the fact that we weren’t able to watch the footy happening up north in Queensland. Hawks had been poor after the first quarter and we lost to the Lions, so that movie provided scant comfort.

On Sunday, after the usual service at St Alf’s, we stayed back to listen to a presentation on plans to upgrade the facilities at St Luke’s in Vermont. St Luke’s has been a partner parish for 2-3 years now and they needed some work done on their property, on the corner of Mitcham and Canterbury.

After lunch, we headed to our usual shopping haunt for a little more groceries and bumped into Jason and Mel, had coffee with them, and then went back to take the little guy for another walk.

Back home, it was cooking time, for the week’s lunches. Tress had wanted congee and I had marinated some pork ribs overnight. The congee looked good. Masterchef had started a couple of weeks ago and we settled down to enjoy that wonderful series.

Masterchef in winter has become a staple prime time viewing for a few years now. It’s become a winter warmer for us. To have it back in our lounge room is a bit of a familiar and welcomed viewing. It’s a bit of reassurance that life is normal again.



Travel? No, unless…

Tress and I got back to Melbourne last night, a little before 9pm. We’d been to Malaysia for her dad’s 80th, which went really well.

We had started the trek back to Melbourne at 5.30am (in Malaysia) earlier yesterday. The cab was at the driveway of Tress’ parents’ home a little before 5.30am. We had woken up at 4.45am. So door-to-door, it took 15½ hours. Return trip was therefore 31 hours.

I have been ruing about overseas travels for a while now. I am starting to detest it, and I think unless I have to, my choice would be to avoid it as much as possible. Last night as I stood at the carousel at Melbourne Airport, and watch those metal plates circulating to catch and hold pieces of luggage, I wondered again, why so many love to travel overseas “for pleasure” now.

The whole process of immigration, customs, boarding checks, removing everything on you that could trigger that alarm on the sentry that causes you to spread your arms for a pat-down body search by bored border/airline personnel, all only to be allowed into a capsule with 200-300 others, confined, restrained and subject to awful announcements by the crew, and fed awful food. You are allowed to escape all that only by looking at a small screen with  bad audio, watching cut-down versions of what the airline thinks its fee paying passengers should watch. And that is when babies stop crying or their parents stop bellowing at toddlers to sit down. I can do without any of these, over a span of 31 hours, which don’t come near a comprehensive list of reasons to avoid overseas travels.

I guess the travel this past week was a “have to” type of travel, in the sense that it is the sort of travel I would be willing to make, and grin and bear the “nail scratching on blackboard” pain in the arse process hitherto described. I’d bear it because the time with family was absolutely worth it. Do it however, to view a mountain or a river, a bridge, a wall, an excavation site full of earthen figurines, or worse, visit a theme park or shopping mall, would be to me, a madness I would not voluntarily subject myself to – and don’t get me started on travelling to taste any sort of dish. I’d sooner avoid driving more than I need to for a decent feed.

Travel to “tour” (anything)? Nah… Travel to see the joy on the face of a newly minted octogenarian? Absolutely.