Work Tide & Weather

There has now been a clear movement to the other end of the spectrum, from when I was at Steer. Work wise, that is. There is now a constant work stream that presses in from all angles and there is plenty to do all the time. Here the activities, task lists and individuals or departments that I have deliverables to are so numerous that the pressure is constantly palpable. There is hardly any let up and I make myself read friendly non-work related emails and respond to them, just to create that release valve to alleviate pressure.

The work now includes handling relationships in a climate of turf wars involving new senior executives and current warlords. Add this to an environment where commercial considerations often play second fiddle to what clients want and you have a bit of a recipe for chaos for those caught in the middle. Clients in the case of my employer are also shareholders. It is not always clear in any given interaction, which hat currently sits on those lofty heads representing shareholders or clients. And so acting commercially is often pinned back by shareholder relations.

While all this make my days interesting, they also make them stressful. Sighing is a common response amongst my peers. This morning as I walked into the office, I greeted a colleague from another department who sits across the room in another pod. The legal team work closely with his team and so there are daily and extensive interactions.  When I delivered the usual greetings and asked how he was doing, he let out a loud sigh, almost a groan. We both then laughed.

As long as the vicissitudes of work in a corporate environment doesn’t throw up any surprises, I guess I’d just keep my head down, burrow on and look forward to those friendly emails or better still, weekends and holidays…

I am back to asking questions again, about my role, about making a difference and making direct impacts. It is almost as though I feel like I am merely putting in time in what I do, rather than working on something that means a lot to me. My mate Jason often remarked that work should just be a means to an end. In many ways he is right I guess. But when that work takes up to 10 hours a day (with commute and ancillaries adding maybe another 2 – 3 hours) and remnants of work linger on after hours and on weekends, that mantra suggests the means leave very little room for the ends to be realised. I am tempted to just say such is life.


On a literally brighter note, the weather has changed for the better. There is now a sunrise starting to happen when I climbed up the stairs to emerge from the belly of the Melbourne rail system and walk towards the building where the gym awaits. Just a week ago, that time of the morning (6.30am) is still pitched dark and can be very cold. Someone was saying in the office earlier, that this weekend would see a 23degree max. That’s weather for shorts – certainly not what I’d expect for end August but I’m not complaining. This would likely mean a stinking hot summer. That’d suit Tress I guess but it’d be something I’d have problems with. Ah well…


Settling down again

Finally Tress and I managed to get stuck into cleaning up the garden over the weekend. I’ve not done any work on any part of the house outside its external walls, since we returned from Singapore. The lawns and backyard were overgrown and weeds were all over the flower bed and everywhere else. As soon as we got home from church and lunch, we I changed into my “work clothes”, and Tress took the little fellow for a walk while I started.

We had been to church as official members for the first time that morning, having been formally registered. It has been some 9 months since we left LifeGate. We’ve been to St Alf’s since May and the last 3-4 months have seen us settle down. After church we went to look for a pair of work shoes for me. My two pairs are both problematic – one has a worn out sole which admits water on very wet days, and the other squeaks uncontrollably. We bumped into Jason and Mel at Doncaster Westfield and so had lunch with them.

When Tress got home with Scruff, she too started on the gardening work. We pushed on for a few hours before she went back inside to start cooking some soup for the week. We’ve been enjoying her very delicious vegetable soup for a few weeks now, usually on Monday and Tuesday nights.

The day before, we’d slept in a little bit, and after a leisurely breakfast at home we went to the Ikea store at Victoria Gardens in Richmond. Since we reconfigured the lounge and dining room, we’ve been thinking of replacing our furniture but the constant trips to Canberra and prep to Singapore meant an unsettled period and it is only now we have been able to think about doing this. So we walked the floors of Ikea to get some ideas of what’s possible/available. We came away with some thoughts but had to first plot to get rid of the old stuff…

Later that night (Sat) we went to the home of a family in Scoresby and had dinner with them. It was a few suburbs away and felt far but it was actually only less than 20km away and on a good run, took less than 20minutes. I knew because Tress forgot her purse and we had to go back, which allowed me to time and gauge.

Sunday morning it was Peter and after the service, we went up to see him to collect our certificate and I said to him (in response to his question) that the sermons have been good in that they made me think what I should do in response. I had already responded to some sermons in taking action in some ways but I hope to continue doing this.

We need to settle down, quite badly.

Rest and Merry Go Round

After a long and exhausting week, it was wonderful to have been able to spend Friday night having a meal with friends. We were at Gerry and Jesslyn’s for a steamboat dinner and earlier that arvo, a few emails were exchanged all confirming it had been a long and exhausting week for everyone. So the night started with some very good red wine and the food, company and wine for the whole evening was a great way to end the week.

Tress and I slept in on Sat morning – sort of – waking up around 8am. We lazed around, made proper coffee and breakfast, and for no particular reason, started to clean the kitchen and a few appliances. I started with the turbo “Ezy-Cook” oven, and Tress scrubbed out the main pot of that machine, and we sort of threw out some old boxes and jars, bottles and made some room in some cupboard space.

We then went out early in the afternoon. After the usual laundry and grocery shopping, we went to Madam Kwong’s again. After lunch we just drove aimlessly and headed to Doncaster Westfield. We picked up some coffee beans and pods, and then dropped by a video store and picked up a couple of DVD’s. The rest of the Saturday was just going to be vegging out with movies.

“The Hunter” starred William Defoe and was filmed in Tassie. The sceneries were stunning but the movie was slow going but was enjoyable none the less. It was nightfall by then. We pushed on with the second one – Denzel Washington in Bob Zemeckis’ “Flight” was very good. It was as much about alcoholism and confronting one’s demons in that cauldron, as it was about an aircraft accident. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

We finished off the evening with skyping kiddo and watching some EPL bits after that.

Sunday was uneventful – went home after church, did some work and then headed to Jason and Mel’s for dinner. They invited a family from the old church and naturally the conversation eventually found its way to the fiasco surrounding the leadership. We got home late – for a Sunday night – and after staying up to fix lunch, we went to bed. I wondered – not for the last time – how Jason was going to see this out. Or more accurately, how those leaders would see this out.

LBJ and the quiet home front

The little fellow now crouches on either a couch or on either one of our laps most evenings. He craves affirmation and we are way too happy to provide it. I think on some days, he likes this part of a weeknight more than his walk. The past couple of nights, he wasn’t as excited when I put the harness on him – a prelude to his walk. He’d be a bit lost, take his walk quickly, and when he returns, look as though he’s happier just slouched in front of the tv with us.

The day’s getting longer. Daylight appears earlier and sunset comes around later. Still, it remains near pitched dark when I take him out for his walk. Sometimes, I’d see a possum walk across a cable and stop to look. He’d tug at the leash to get ahead and I’d say to him to wait. He’d turn around and look at me repeatedly after that – as though he was saying “you’re not stopping again are you?”. He’s very cute.

Often however, I’d go home after the walk with him, and after an hour or so, I’d wish kiddo was home. He’d be happier and certainly I’d be too.

In as much as the little black jedi keeps us smiling at the end of a wretched day at work, we’d be far happier if the jedi’s master is present in person…

It’s Friday arvo, and other than a meeting with some compliance people from the clients offices, I still have a heap of stuff to do on a couple of big documents. Yet I feel a bit flat now. It has been a long week and it is times like this, that the home feels especially safe. If only however, little black jedi is not all alone when we’re not there.

The grind gets even less pretty

I guess it’s the nature of the role. Plus, the fact that I am a 48 year old practitioner who claims a 20+ years practice background. These factors mean I cannot expect to remain in a technical/mechanical role for an extended period of time, without being pulled into expectations involving issues such as turf and personality tussles. I am neither too young to be given basic tasks nor too old to be given an administration role. I am at that age and level of experience where I am expected to be in the thick of agenda setting, issues wrestling, improvements as a priority and people and strategy management as a core skill.

I can enjoy those tasks – but only at personal costs which I am reluctant to pay. Those tasks make me do things I am reluctant to do – such as staring people down, working phones and corridors to strategize framing issues and zoning people into corners they’d hate to be in, calling bluffs, and basically not switch off for 15 hours a day. Can I enjoy working these spaces? I think so. Will I be willing to park a few years aside to work these aspects? I don’t know.

What is the alternative? I have not been trained to do anything else and to do this requires a commitment to incur this cost of a deep dive. It may mean looking back one day and asking why I spent years doing this. But what else is there to do?


Work…supported by loving care

Work is starting to get to me. At any one time now, I have 4-5 major assignments and torn amongst respective champions of the relevant causes. Each wants the clauses drafted, opinions provided, emails responded to, letters issued, all around the same time. And I’m still extracting myself out of here as close to 6pm at the latest, as possible. Weekend work has become a norm, and my boss now makes no apologies for handing out tasks on Friday nights and expecting turnarounds by Monday. He even sends out emails on Mondays asking if those tasks could be delivered “ASAP”.

Coupled with the escalating workload and the pressure that comes with it, is the resignation of a team mate. One of 3 full time permanent lawyers (a full time contract lawyer and my boss make up a 5 person team) her resignation is a significant blow to us in that instantly, the collective workload shoots by 20%. This, against an already seam-stretching scenario.

The sweet start of leaving not long after 5pm with nary a weekend work, is now a distant memory. Colleagues have started to remark I look haggard and my shoulders are dropping now. I’m glad I still manage to sneak into the gym as before, and get some exercise in. My daily 8km or more is still regularly clocked for now, so at least life is still not too bad.

This morning, I was a bit tired and in trying to clown around with the dog, I promptly forgot my lunch and more importantly, I also forgot my belt. There was to be a 9 o’clock with a client so that was going to be embarrassing. It is probably my self-conscious tendencies, more so than client actually noticing an absence of an often obscure piece of accessory. Still I felt incomplete.

As I was finishing off my run on the treadmill with a steep walk I felt a jab to my side. I turned and was Tress – looking far fresher than my sweat soaked self. She had responded to my hour of need and brought both my lunch and my belt. It wasn’t my regular belt but I felt less incomplete none the less. Far less. I felt really loved and cared for at that point, and was utterly grateful for a loving and caring wife.

The busy work load sort of didn’t matter after that. I could take on anything…almost…

Work is starting to get to me but a dear loving wife makes it easier. Very grateful indeed…


There has been a bit of a biggish wave of work and pressure building up. Not quite the big kahuna but certainly substantial enough to make me think I should brace myself, hold my breath, and say “hit me!”…

And so I get in a bit earlier, stay back a bit later, and drink a little bit more coffee to keep up. Sometimes I feel my clients are happy, sometimes I feel they are insatiable bastards. Either way I try to switch off when I leave the building.

It is only a few hundred feet between my building and Platform No. 4 at the Parliament Station where I wait any one of four lines – Blackburn, Lilydale, Upper Ferntree Gully or Belgrave to deliver my homebound train.

If I leave at my normal time I usually wait no more than 5 minutes for a train to arrive. If I go after 6.30 it can be a 10 minute wait. As that would mean I would have worked a 10-11 hour day by then, it can feel like an interminable wait, although in a past life (in Malaysia), (1) a 12 hour day is a daily occurrence and (2) anything within a 20 minute wait for public transport is very acceptable.

I still get a couple of hours of just chilling out with a glass of wine, either reading or watching the telly with the wife, before I hit the sack and call it a day. So everything is still good. I see things creeping up though. Creeping up possibly to later hours, or bringing work home with me more than before.

I guess that is not all bad.


Last night Tress and I watched the Four Corners program on ABC. It was a story about a British photographer who was injured on assignment in Afghanistan. He lost 3 limbs – both his legs and his left arm. After a year and a half of rehab he returned to Afghanistan and photographed victims such as himself. Numerous people, including a number of children lost limbs to IED’s – improvised explosive devices.

It was a very touching story. The photographer demonstrated a lot of courage and humanity, in returning to the scene of the carnage and in engaging local victims of similar tragedies. On their faces, the captured emotions ranged from a sense of bewilderment and hopelessness, to a desire to return to their previous lives with families. Some bemoan the inability to continue being breadwinners to large families.

Pictures of open wounds at the end of severed limbs were distressing but they are the realities of all that is ugly about wars. Prosthetics are made in attempts to restore the lives of the victims as much as possible but their resoluteness notwithstanding, the victims face a lifetime of untold miseries. Many of them are children – some very young children – and some of them were blown up while making their ways to schools.  

I’m not sure what can be done about these IED’s that appear to litter war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. They are most likely made by rebels against foreign forces but the civilian collateral damage comes with such a terrible human cost. Lives are literally torn apart and the bloody trail is a terrible reminder war is to be avoided at perhaps all costs.

And yet the usual argument of applying necessary force to prevent worse outcomes is not far away. The reported atrocities of regimes such as the Taliban are far too common to be ignored. War and its bloody consequences, appear to be necessary.

I don’t know… as a mere lay person who reads and listens to such news, I hardly know how to view this intelligently. The bend is almost entirely emotional and by itself, it is such a persuasive argument against waging wars.

Small wonders, little joys

I worked a touch late on Friday, and left the office just before 6.30. We had a quick dinner at the Paparich place in Nunawading, got a DVD (Brad Pitt’s “Killing me softly”) and went home. I was just looking forward to a quiet night in and sleeping in the next day.

We got home and Kiddo skyped in so we just spent the night chatting with her instead of watching the DVD. We went to bed reasonably early and still sort of slept in the next day.

We’ve been having brekky at home on Saturdays for a while now. The coffees, toasts and eggs would have cost us $25-$30 eating out and maybe $5 at home. And we could take our time, walk around in our trekkies and have the radio on, with the little fellow at our feet.

We eventually left home close to 10am, Tress going for a haircut. Then it was our usual laundry drop/pick up and grocery shopping and then a late lunch at Madam Kwong’s.

Then we went home and watched Brad Pitt’s movie in the arvo before going over to Alex’s to catch up with him and his family over some home cooked mee hoon kueh and equally delicious Japanese whiskey. Li Har has become such an accomplished cook and it was great to just sit down over a quiet home cooked meal and talk as old friends.

We went home just after 11, watched the Ashes for a bit and then went to bed.

On Sunday we went to St Alfred’s as we have for the past 3 months now. This time however, we were there as members – I think. The previous Sunday we handed in our membership papers to Peter (the Senior Minister) and I’m assuming and considering ourselves as members. It’s only a form however, albeit an important one.

I caught up with Pam, the Secretary of Missions Interlink. She asked how I was going, having re-entered my old world of in-house legal work. I told her I was enjoying work but it wasn’t what I had wanted to do. I had wanted to remain in a role that made me feel like I was contributing in a more direct manner, towards making a difference in God’s kingdom. I didn’t say this to her but I guess she knew what I was saying. She said she was meeting Richard Dickins on Tuesday and I asked if she could convey my best wishes to him.

I do feel that my detour into that world – a sticky beak into the world of ministry – was a bit of a failure. A lot of that had to do with my parallel experience with the church at that time I suspect. I don’t know if that world would re-surface for me. I feel as though a lot of what I experience at work now, is familiar territory – a lot of corporate merry go round which doesn’t seem to add value in things that matter the most. I know that’s not the only way to view things and putting on different lenses would allow me to see this work as another funnel for me to contribute. It is after all, interesting, challenging and satisfying work.

Most importantly I guess, are the twin factors of a (thoroughly) full day’s work – one that makes me feel, at the end of each working day, that I have put in a full working day and spent myself – and of work that paid well. Not grotesquely well by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly well enough to meet the extras arising from opportunities which have come kiddo’s way. At least it wouldn’t make a dent to an already meagre retirement pool, and even add to it a little bit.

Anyway, we also chatted with a handful of other people, including Tress’ interaction with the church treasurers to offer some book keeping services advertised in the church bulletin.

Jason and Mel were visiting – it had been a healing service which I mentioned to them about – so just a bit after 12pm, we left for a lunch date with some old ICC members at a new Indian restaurant in Mount Waverley/Syndal –  a place known as Corlam’s Kitchen on Blackburn Road.

After lunch we went to Auntie Hooi’s and Uncle Marloney’s for some fruits and only came home just after 5pm.

It was raining then, so we stayed in. Tress cooked some soup for the week, I played with the little fellow and surfed the net, before paying homage to the Masterchef franchise and then going to bed.

We tried to skype kiddo – having heard earlier that the general elections would be held on 7 Sept – but she was out so we went to bed, just after 9pm. Early but such is our life now. We aren’t unhappy that’s for sure. But it remains mundane…

Maybe that’s the secret to happiness – seeking out the small wonders and little joys of everyday life. This morning for example, I did a 10k run. Standing under the shower after that, I did not feel tired or washed out. So I thought, I should be happy with that. And I was. I had dropped a handful of kilos since about 3 months ago, and I’m running more comfortably now. The tits are sore from the hour long pounding but other than that I was fine.

I also enjoyed the packet soup we got over the weekend. It was just your regular Campbell processed stuff – stuff that is probably sodium laden but with croutons and the creamy texture, the hot savoury beverage was near perfect accompaniment for a chicken mayo and sliced tomato sandwich. That too was a small wonder – little joys – but one can find happiness and satisfaction there, quite easily.

And now as I look out the windows on my 19th floor office, into the north eastern horizon of outer Melbourne – some say we can see the Macedon rangers on a clear day – I realise what a privileged position I’m in to see the beautiful sunset every day from my desk. The glimpse of beauty – albeit transient – is a wonder to behold.


Happy Night Walkers

I’ve been back to walking the little fellow long after the sun sets. A busy work schedule has seen us back home late recently and this means I could only take him out after 7pm. Sun set is around 5.30pm so it’s just dark by then.

He didn’t seem to mind too much and remains as excited as ever, bouncing around and trotting from one side of the walkways to the other, stopping every ten seconds to sniff at God knows what.

Sometimes he’d hear voices coming from houses we walked past and he’d stop, look towards the source of the noise, and turn towards me to check if everything was ok. I’d laugh, say “good boy, Scruffy” and that would set him off happy and trotting again. This makes me happy and while tired after a long day at work and wanting to just sip a glass of red in front of the telly, walking him under such circumstances made me happy and contented. I suppose such is the mundane nature of our lives now that it is little things like that which made me happy.

But sip a glass of red I do, and quite often, the little fellow would jump up onto the couch, and sprawl himself over my laps and occasionally lick my face when I look stroke his chin. I think that made us all happy – him, Tress and I…