Lovely cool (albeit very wet) weekend

We had what was probably the wettest weekend this summer. It was raining and stormy on Friday arvo and to risk manage the MX5 which was parked near trees in the station, I left just around 4.30pm and headed home.

Car undamaged and home a touch earlier, Tress and I then headed out to a Korean restaurant for dinner. We had neither been to this part of town nor had Korean for a while so that was sort of an unusual Friday night for us. After dinner we went home and looked for something on Netflix. We settled on that awful “Daddy’s Home”. That was probably one of the worst way to waste 2 hours of one’s life.

Saturday we slept in, lazed around and then drove out to Ringwood. I had an appointment with the Blood Centre – it was the first time I gave plasma. The last time I gave whole blood (back in Nov last year) I was asked to consider giving plasma as there was a severe shortage. Incidentally, that morning we read in the Oz that Australia spent a truckload of dough last year importing blood products that could not be made locally as there was a shortage of plasma donors.

Tress had a wedding to attend in the city in the arvo so after Ringwood I dropped her off at the station and headed home. Later that arvo I trekked into the city and the both of us then had dinner in the city. We had wanted to visit a famed Michelin Star hawker place but it was bucketing down so we decided to stay in the Melbourne Central area and went for a famed Taiwanese place instead (“Din Tai Fung”). The food was really good and we sort of lazed the evening away in the shopping precinct before going home. We looked for something on Netflix again and thankfully, the Robert Redford/Nick Nolte double act in an Appalachian trail adventure was better, albeit equally lightweight.

Sunday we were on communion duty at St Alf’s and I felt uncomfortable being assigned next to Peter out on the front area, so I sighed a big relief when it was all over. We headed to our usual Sunday lunch spot on Doncaster Road, caught up with our grocery shopping and spent the arvo doing my usual cooking.

Sunday arvo remained cool but the rain had abated and it was gloriously sunny so we took the little fellow for a lovely walk as well as stopped to watch the cricket on the oval. The dog walkers who use the oval as a lead-free park often bemoan the cricket games but on occasion – when we got to somehow get on the periphery of the game (we watched and played with the kids of the players/support staff) – the sense of sharing the park so that a bigger group of people can enjoy this wonderful spot right in front of our home, was quite heart warming.

We ended the day by watching the doco on Diana. As I kissed Tress goodbye, as I usually do, this morning when I left home, I thought about how lucky/blessed I am. I am blissfully happy to be married to Tress – 26 years this year – while someone like Diana endured such an unhappy time when she was married to a prince. What irony and sadness. I wondered if she had really happy moments in her marriage.


Summer break 2017/18

Kiddo and Mic came down from Canberra on the 21st. They flew in, took the Skytrain from Tulla to Spencer and I met them there to take the train out to Blackburn. We had a few days of catching up, went to the Christmas Eve carols at St Alf’s which ended a minute before midnight, and on Christmas Day we trekked up to Woodend to spend the day with Ruth and family. Caleb, Cariss and Cooper came down a few days prior and Jonathan’s brother and his son were there too so it was a good day with lunch as an extended family of sorts. I had roasted a whole turkey that same morning and Tress baked a cake and we also did a salad, a noodle dish and a (bought) ham and Ruth had prepared loads of food as well so it was all a very good feed.

On Boxing Day we trekked the opposite direction and went out to Phillip Island to catch up with Mic’s family. Tress had again baked a cake and I cooked a similar noodle dish and we brought some other foodstuffs as well. We caught up with them in a home they had rented for the week, having trekked down from Canberra on an 11-seater bus – similar to the one I drive for the Manningham Salvos. We left after a couple of hours with them, and went to an early dinner. We were all very hungry then and Mic must have enjoyed the bottle of Pinot Gris I picked up at DM close to the restaurant, as he continued imbibing when we were home later, playing cards to wind up the night.

The next day as Tress and I busied ourselves to get ready for the drive up to Canberra, Kiddo said Mic had been unwell the night before. We waited as long as we could and when we finally left late in the morning, Mic was better but he was still visibly less then optimum. We got to Kiddo and Mic’s home in the evening and Mic stayed home while the rest of us had a quick dinner near the Hyperdome and then retired early for the onward drive to Sydney the next day.

Mic was much better when we drove to Sydney and we got in just after 2pm and quickly settled into the property at Bondi, where we were to camp out for a week.
Other than a day’s visit to the city, we pretty much camped out at Bondi the entire time. As usual, while in the city we did some window shopping but mainly took in the harbour views and enjoyed a quick drink in a café on the quay.

The property we stayed at was an enjoyable 15 minute walk to the beach and Tress and I took regular walks there and back. We also did the Bondi to Bronte walk, which Tress suggested – it was a magnificent 2km stretch of unbelievably beautiful views. We also did walks the other way to Bondi Junction, for food and (window) shopping. For New Year’s Eve, Kiddo and Mic shouted us to a fantastic tasting experience in a restaurant on Hall Street, just a stone’s throw from the beach. We walked the hilly path back after dinner and that again felt great.

We left Bondi on the 3rd, went back to Tuggers for a couple of nights and then pushed back to Melbourne on Friday the 5th.

It was a really good break and I felt we got to know the couple better. Kiddo has morphed into a wonderful wife and young professional who is passionate about her work. Mic is a wonderfully caring person and I have liked his sense of humour. My dad’s joke landed well several times and we had great laughs – mainly while playing cards. Mic, like Kiddo, also appears to be passionate about his work so that’s really good.

When we got back to Melbourne, it felt quiet again. I cleaned the cars and Tress did some laundry when we got back on Friday. Sat was a stinker – it hit 43deg at one stage so all I did was send my suits to the dry cleaner and gave our little guy a much needed bath. We spent the rest of the day just loitering in a shopping centre.

Sunday was much cooler and I did some mowing and cleaning up – mainly sweeping and tidying – as well as cooking again for the week’s lunches. That was the start of the feeling that we’re back to our normal routine again. The break’s been great – especially time spent with Kiddo and Mic. I found myself suggesting to Tress that we spent Chinese New Year with them…

While Tress and I love where we are in Melbourne now, there were moments when we were walking in the Lake Tuggeranong area, that I felt we could make a life nearer to Kiddo and Mic. That might all play out in Melbourne too I guess – they could move down here – but in as much as I’m contented with just Tress and I in our home across the oval where pooches have a ball, being together with a bigger family is something I can easily get used to again.

I’ve also been asking the Lord what I can do in 2018, to serve Him better. I have restarted reading from Genesis again and re-reading now of Jacob’s strategy to deal with his estranged brother on returning from Laban’s schemes, I wondered if like Jacob, I could have an encounter – a wrestle – to be sure I have God’s presence leading me some place in the days ahead.

Final gallop

The company had its Christmas party last Friday. It started only at 5pm however so it meant we went the whole hog work wise, before we could avail ourselves to some refreshments. It was on a rooftop of a pub just down the street and it turned out to be a far better party than the previous year. I left well after 10 and didn’t get home to nearly midnight. Tress had dropped me off at the station earlier that morning and she was there again to pick me up…whatever would I do without her…

The next morning Tress had a hairdresser’s appointment and when she left, I went to a favourite local bakery, picked up a couple of items and came back in time for Tress and I to have some much needed coffee to wash down the wonderful pastries.

Tress then did loads of washings as I cleaned the Weber to get it ready for the turkey, washed the windows and other exterior glass finishings around the house and generally lumbered through the morning. Late that arvo we went to Madam K, did some grocery shopping after that, and then went home to walk the little fellow.

We had picked up a couple of tickets for The Last Jedi, when we did the shopping so just after 6pm we were seated down to watch the much anticipated screening of George Lucas’ legacy, now owned by the behemoth that is Disney (they had just bought Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox).

I later said to Tress the script of TLJ no longer referred to the “Dark Side”, but instead, simply to the “Empire”. The struggle is no longer against the dark side. It was instead, against tyranny and supreme leadership (although against someone like Snoke, it is easier to be on the side of the rebellion). When one speaks of a “dark” side, the implication remains that there is right from wrong. Few want to live with that distinction these days, choosing instead to go with what’s popularly acceptable. Tyranny and dictatorship are easy targets, far easier than morality and truth. It is almost as if even Pontius Pilate’s “what is truth” mockery rates no mention these days.

Later that night we finished the last episode of the second season of “The Crown”, which hinted at Phillip the Duke of Edinburgh’s infidelity. We probably need another series to occupy our evenings after that.

On Sunday, after St Alf’s we trekked into the city in the mx-5, to meet up with an ex-colleague of Tress’. GBS worked with Tress in the early years of her career, and travelled to Europe together on a month-long training stint. Their fathers were friends too so although socially there weren’t too much interactions, the common history went some way back. We caught up at the South Melbourne market, had lunch and walked around through the shops a little bit. Back home, we lounged around, and I watched the cricket before taking the little fellow for a walk. It was around 6pm and it was too late (for me) to head to the Whitehorse Carols, so we just lounged around the home some more. I’m just glad we have the four working days to grind through before a couple of weeks of rest, away from work. Already this morning there has been a flurry of meetings teed up for when we return. I hope we can finish this week without too many other such scheduling.

Giving (blood) again (and how may I give)

It is always really good to finish the week with friends over a meal so Tress and I did our usual thing and teed up a dinner on Friday night with Jason and Mel and the Hipos. We trekked out east to a new joint with what was supposed to be really good Hong Kong styled bbq meats.

We headed straight home after dinner, and I caught Oliver Stone’s Platoon on TV. This time I caught his cameo appearance in the bunker scene but what were nuances of good versus evil became much more obvious themes, given what is probably the 3rd or 4th viewing. It was still very good and I wondered at the contrasts between the career trajectories of Charlie Sheen, Johnny Depp and Forest Whittaker.

On Saturday after brekky at home Tress and I went grocery shopping. Tress wanted to bake a new recipe of a flourless cake and I wanted to put the order in for a turkey I wanted to cook for Christmas Day lunch way yonder in Woodend. We had to finish shopping quick however as I had an appointment later that morning, at the Red Cross Blood Centre.

My last two visits to the Blood Centre had been unsuccessful. The first was because I had been to Malaysia 2-3 months prior so I was disqualified. The second saw someone being cautious about some rashes I had on my arms. I had said to that person those rashes were a combination of gardening and exposure to the summer heat but caution was the word and they declined my blood. So, close to a year since my second aborted attempt, I was glad to be finally giving again. I even said I’d be back to answer the urgent call of plasma shortage.

After the bleeding session, we had lunch at the Eastland before heading back to clean up the garden. I edged, mowed, swept and tidied up the outside and Tress did more weeding, laundry and also took the little guy out for an extended walk.
That night we started on the second season of “The Crown” but it was a battle for me as I kept dozing off.

We had David Ratten the next day at St Alf’s. He was to retire this year (after 23 years in the same church – One Community in Blackburn) and so the annual pulpit exchange amongst him, Peter and Allan Demond will either be re-shaped or come to an end. For his final pulpit exchange message, David preached the gospel. That was in itself, quite a statement to me.

After more grocery shopping after lunch, we went back home, Tress did some ironing and gift wrapping while I made some chilly sauces and like condiments. Later we took the little guy for a walk and it was such a beautiful day so when we came back, I walked back across the park to the oval and watched a few overs of the local cricket match.

It’s that time of the year when I’m really looking forward to a break. Christmas is less than 2 weeks away, Kiddo and Mic will be in Melbourne in a little over a week and I’m looking forward to Christmas lunches, drives to different parts of Victoria and NSW, and generally lift up my head, take in the views and enjoy God’s creation in this beautiful antipodean land a whole lot more. Against all these serene and beautiful moments, I asked myself again if I will do more than just take. It feels like it’s time to give, a whole lot more.

Big wet (and other battles?)

The “big wet” dominated the column inches a couple of days before its scheduled emptying. Friday was supped to see the start of a 3-day downpour that was meant to unleash the whole summer’s rain in a little over a weekend.

A couple of weeks earlier, Metro had put out notices saying repair and maintenance works would see bus replacements between Richmond and Camberwell on my line, which would add up to 70 minutes to my commute time. Each way.

The two-pronged assault to disrupt our otherwise relatively uneventful start to the summer lead the entire legal team to work from home last Friday. It was the first time it happened. I had hardly worked from home anyway – just the once to attend to some repair work after an attempted break in and that was it.

So on Friday last week I slept in, worked from home and watched the rain. For lunch, I picked Tress up from her work to get something nearby. We ended up having yum cha – something we hadn’t done for a while. The rest of the day was pretty quiet, some emails from work attended to without too much grief.

The rain continued (escalated) on Saturday as we slept in, went in to Box Hill to pick up stuff to cook for the next weeks’ lunches and catch a bite to eat. We hadn’t been to Box Hill for a while and it took some getting used to, especially the grotty car park and the general hustle and bustle. We got home before noon and Tress cleaned the bathrooms while I vacuumed. A couple of hours later we cleaned up, and headed to Madam K’s for lunch before just whiling away some time at another shopping place. I wanted to catch Australia’s second match against the English but it was one of those new fangled day/night tests so it would start till after 2pm and would go on till 10pm anyway so I had plenty of time to catch up and watch quite a few overs even with all the loitering around.

It was strange to see Smith standing so close to Anderson, the veteran bowler who was standing virtually at the outside line of the crease on the non-striker’s end. It was a flashpoint to the usual Ashes contest and though Smith got out at a relatively meagre 40, the Aussie still managed to go past 400 by late yesterday arvo so I guess the contest remain tilted in favour of the Aussies for now.

Early on Sunday morning I peeked at United’s 3-1 lead against the Gunners, at the latter’s home. It was a cracked of a game and I caught up with the rest of the game yesterday arvo, after returning from St Alf’s and lunch. I spent the rest of the arvo cooking big pots of glass noodles dressed with a salty pork mince-mushroom sauce. The pots were huge and we packed away some 12 serves so I guess we’re set for maybe even 2 weeks.

My left wrist had been ginger the whole weekend and during the cook yesterday arvo, the grief got to a debilitating state. I could barely lift anything with any weight and so Tress did the washing up and I did most stuff with the other hand. For the rest of the evening and night, I dressed the writs in a band of sort and I can only be grateful I drove in to work again this morning, which meant I was spared the lugging of my backpack across platforms etc.

I still had the wrist band on this morning and the boss caught sight of it and muttered something along the lines of “another battle on the weekend?”. Other than public transport/weather and the Ashes, I don’t have too many battles for now. That’s pretty good but that also probably mean I am not being sharpened much. In some ways, the wait continues.

Some 11 years ago (remembering Dad)

I wish we talked more
Maybe about politics
And count every MCA flaw
I wish we talked more

I wish I rang more
To talk of grandpa’s antics
Or about grandma’s guffaws
I wish I rang more

I wish I visited more
Especially when you were sick
Or when you were sore
I wish I visited more

I could wish no more
Talk, ring, visit or anything at all
I only wanted to talk more

St Alf etc

Melbourne has seen very humid conditions for about a week now and it appears to be tiring people out. For the whole of the last week, we’ve crawled out of the office into high twenties temperatures and the tram rides into Spencer have been like trains in the sub-continent. Thankfully the tram rides are quick and I often hurriedly move on to the platform, waiting for the merciful cooling of the trains.

On Friday night as the sweltering rides home ended and we caught up with the Chews and Hippos in a local eating place, it was still warm and I felt the drained week.

Saturday morning the little man had his grooming appointment with Amber the mobile groomer, who often shows up on time. Tress and I took him for a quick walk before she arrived and within a couple of minutes after getting back home, just after 8am, I was picking him up to hand him over for his quarterly clip. Tress and I then ducked out to a local bakery, picked up some delicious pastries and a bread roll, and came home for breakfast before starting the day’s chores.

I washed both cars, inside and out, mowed the lawns, swept, edged and did whatever I could to tidy things up. Tress had, while I was washing the cars, done a truckload of weeding and the flowerbeds and footpaths looked terrific, which drove me to do more.

Tress left home close to 2pm to get to the UN orange giving day thing. It had to do with awareness of violence against women and girls and St Alf’s GFS folks organised the orange giving in a local shopping centre. After I got cleaned up I ducked into that shopping centre just to see how things were, but stayed only a short while before going back home to watch Steven Smith’s magnificent captain’s knock of 141 not out to cement Australia’s impending win to edge 1-0 ahead for this year’s Ashes series.

Tress came home closer to 4pm and a little while later we went out to get some dinner before settling down at home to watch something on Netflix (a forgettable “Security” with Antonio Banderas in the starring role).

We stayed behind after the service, for the AGM of St Alfs. It was encouraging at the local level but at the Melbourne wide or even Australia wide level, the outlook feels bleak. Hudson Taylor’s simple mantra comes to mind (God’s work done in God’s way will never lack) but one cannot help but wonder how a church in a postmodern society such as Australia will survive, especially against the onslaught by the secular, which is decidedly anti-church or anti-Christian.

We did some grocery shopping later that arvo, and I also picked up a pair of trainers to replace my old runners. I haven’t been running for a while now so I haven’t been fussed about replacing those runners but it must be getting close to 5 years now since I bought my present pair and I use it now mainly to do work in the garden or walk the little man.

Last night as I sat on the couch and thumbed my way through “The Melbourne Anglican” we picked up earlier in the day, I wondered if I would ever get involved again, to be more than just a regular attendant on Sundays. St Alf is part of an organisation which is so structured and often feels like a big, ageing institution. I’d rather be part of such an organisation than a smaller, independent one as such smaller set ups tend to be a free-for-all when it comes to good teaching. Those ICC days of weird teachings (which appear to be based on anything but the Scriptures) are days I intend to well and truly put behind us. Having said that, I’m in the third quarter – a period of time in one’s life where one has been around the traps enough to acknowledge that God surprises and He is beyond any mould I tend to cast, consciously or otherwise.


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.