The ebbs and flows of 2013

As I stood in the shower in the gym this morning, I realised I wanted badly to just stand there and let the water run down my neck. It would only be a few hours at work this morning before we all go home as the office would be shut at noon.

There was no pressing work needing to be done and as long as I make it in by 9am I should be fine. I didn’t need to be in at my usual 8am and I had taken longer on the cross trainer and moved on to the stationary bike and my gear had been soaked. I was just going to stand under this hot shower and imagine being washed and rinsed of all my cares which have piled up over the year.

I had started this year looking for a home, church wise. I got to a point I didn’t bother if I was going to church on a Sunday. I could only see the negatives in churches and the people in them. The brouhaha in my previous church had escalated, affecting people I cared about. I did things in response which though I would do again in a heartbeat, I wished I didn’t have to do.

I have had Kiddo leave home a second time, to a land close to my childhood home. Singapore feels foreign now. The new felt old. Or is it the old felt new. It is a city state which is modern and yet traditional and conservative at the same time. It is singularly far from home where Tress and I are. Other than a little dog, all we had was our work and our home.

Work was increasingly busy. I was asked to be in arenas I didn’t want to be in. Locking horns and battling in cauldrons and with people I did not think or wish to be in or with. An environment which is chalky at best permeated. Unhappy shareholders who no longer trust the board or management, translating into a cascading tide of finger pointing and – dare I say it – bullying. All I want is work. I want to go in, do my work and go home and drink my wine. Watch my footy. Walk my dog. Be with my lovely wife. But the mistrust, the second guessing, the finger pointing, all add up to make each day a laboured one, from which I continue to seek to escape. But the scriptures have taught that work is good and all that is part of work, so I remain grateful. Head down…

It has been a year with various changes and challenges. As tiring as it has been, I almost don’t want it any other way. I am learning to take each tide as it comes and ebbs. It all adds to this tapestry I did not know was being weaved. And in the midst of all that, I have had the constant love of Tress and Kiddo and the soothing, blessing presence and company of Tress my lovely and loving wife. I am ever grateful for her.

2013, in as much as I want to be washed and rinsed away as though I am standing under a shower, I also simply want to experience the sensation of being pushed and sucked by the ebbs and flows of the tides. Thank you my Lord for 2013…


A 2013 Low Point – Losing an “Old Friend”

I wrote the below piece back in April this year, when I still considered David Chiang “an old friend”. I guess he was an “old friend” only in the sense that I had vaguely known him from our days in Klang. I remember seeing him take Ben his son, then a dark little chubby boy, to and from Sunday School. I rarely talked to him. When he was coming to Melbourne however, we connected and Ben and his mum came first and initially stayed with us in our home, before the rest of the family joined them later. They went to ICC Church in Glen Waverley, partly because we went there then. It was only from that point on that we came to know each other better.

He might have commenced planning moves against Jason around that time (April this year), if not earlier. I had left ICC months before and other than an anniversary party at his home, we barely spoke to each other since I left ICC. So the call came really out of the blue and the events against Jason some 4 weeks later put it into context I guess. Jason and I talked about this soon afer the Lifegate AGM fiasco and guessed this to be the case.

Needless to say, I have since been very angry with David for what he did to Jason and his (and his then fellow board members’) continuing refusal to face up to what he and they did. I was harsh against him and told him what I thought of what he did. He reacted badly and became feral with me. He hurled personal abuses while continuing to defend what he did. While I focused on his deeds, he called me names and made personal accusations. He did not pinpoint what I did despite my repeatedly telling him it was his act to remove Jason – specifically– which caused me to be angry against him. I have refused to have anything to do with him, not until he acknowledges that what he did to Jason was wrong from any perspective. Not just a procedural error, but a grave wrong against a brother.

I guess he would continue to deny what he did was wrong. Maybe he wouldn’t. I hope he wouldn’t. But there has been nothing to suggest he now thinks what he did was wrong.

So I guess I need to say that if I were to write him a similar email today, I would no longer say nothing has changed when I talk about our “old friendship”. I cannot continue to call someone so apparently obstinate, a friend. Things change of course and the day when he sees and aknowledges what he did against Jason was wrong, will be the day I would consider what I wrote below in April this year, to continue to hold true. Until then, I’m afraid one of the low points of this year is to completely disengage – on a deliberate and willed basis – from someone I once considered “an old friend”.

An Old Friend Called


From: Teh, Ian

Sent: Thursday, 4 April 2013 8:09 AM

To: [ ] ([ ]

Subject: Thanks – appreciate the contact

Hi [ ]

Thank you for your call last night, I appreciate that. Please be assured what has happened in recent months had nothing to do with you. You (and [ ]) are someone I knew from Malaysia so I guess that makes us old friends. Nothing has changed on that front.

Returniing to lifegate is out of the question for me. I cant be in a church where I am restrained from serving. As long as I don’t understand Tham Fuan’s statement that I only acknowledge the church leadership when it suited me, I can never serve freely. That statement means I am not to be trusted, that I am a fake. How can I remain in a church where the pastor accused me of that?

Tham Fuan has “apologised”  – it may sound ironic but that is taking the easy way out. What I needed wasn’t an apology, but understanding. One needs to spend time talking through things like that. Not a quickly blurted apology. I have said that to him before. But that is ok now because I no longer expect anything from him. He has shown nothing to suggest he is capable of, or wishes to, talk through that. I also no longer want to listen to him. No one should be expected to wait indefinitely – if the months following the event didn’t see any interest on his part, I should “cut my losses” and leave an organisation headed by someone like him. He has been that way from day one – uncommunicative and unresponsive. When it comes to personal relationships, being uncommunicative and unresponsive is a guarantee for failure.

Theresa and I continue to look for a church to call home. That has been very difficult for the reasons I said to you last night. But at least there is rationale for hope. Staying in lifegate does not provide that, as long as Tham Fuan carries on in the same way. There is nothing to suggest he won’t.

Thanks again [ ].




Yummy leatherjackets… Maybe it’s the company

I used to strip the skin off a fish called “leatherjackets”, when I was doing part time work in a fish market in Sydney during uni days. I’d stand next to a stack of 4-5 boxes all filled with that fish, packed in ice, and methodically strip each fish off its leathery skin.

In spite of it being one of the cheaper fish, I’d seldom bought that fish. Recently however, Tress, Kiddo and I have begun enjoying it on the barbie. Marinated with lemon pepper, turmeric, paprika, chilli and some cooking oil, it was delicious.

We had leatherjackets barbequed last Friday night. They were delicious. We had 2 each, which was a lot. And so when we decided to have it again last night, we only had one each. We had gone to papa rich in Nunawading for lunch after church so we weren’t hungry to start with but the leatherjackets, with some chicken wing and a fresh spinach, mango and tomato salad made a very good dinner.

On Sat we went to Blairgowrie at the Mornington Peninsula and had lunch at Sorrento – we indulged in the very good vanilla slice at the “Just Fine Foods” café. Tress and I had been there on Cup Day and had discovered their very good Moroccan salad so we had that again. Kiddo dug into it as well and really enjoyed it.

On our way home from Mornington we stopped by Ing Tung and Chin Moi’s to drop their Christmas present off for them – we had forgotten to give it to them on Christmas day when they came over for dinner. After that, we got home, had some fruits for dinner and then went out and watched “American Hustle”, which saw great performances from the leads, especially Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence, whom I’ve come to like a lot.

Channel 9 screened yet another re-run of LOTR on Friday night. It was probably the zillionth time Fellowship of the Ring was shown on TV but we watched it anyway and about midway, when we realised we’d be too tired to sit through the scheduled 4 hour screening, we switched to our own DVD version… we had wanted to do it from the beginning but thought the commercial breaks on free TV were useful. Anyway, we continued after that, with The Two Towers and last night, we put on the third DVD and watched half of the Return of the King. It was crazy, but loads of fun.

Yesterday in church the pastor had called kiddo “Esther” and since it was a passing greet, we thought perhaps there was no need to correct him. Especially – kiddo reminded me of this – seeing it was only one more Sunday in St Alf’s for her. It would be months before she’d be here again by which time we’d take the opportunity to refresh pastor’s data… but it did strike home that it would only be a short while left before she heads of to Singapore again. Sure, 10 or so days is a lot of time but it is also a very short time…       I’d stand and skin leatherjackets all day anyday, if she’s around to enjoy the delicious fish with Tress and I…

Great finish to the week

I left the office early today- just on 4.30. Tress and kiddo picked me up from the station and we went home and I started preps to get dinner going. The girls had gone shopping and picked up some fish (leather jackets) and chook wings for the barbie and I went about with the marinade as soon as I got home. Dinner was great and we were all stuffed silly.

Dinner done, all three of us pottered around in the gardens. Kiddo and I watered the plants while Tress did some weeding. We started at the back and side gardens and finished up on the front. The neighbours’ kids were in full flight on their bicycles and scooters and as the little black Jedi mossied around with the kids while we did the gardening stuff, I felt very grateful and contented.

We went back indoors just after 8 and Jackson/Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings came on and we sat through it, switching to our own DVD versions mid way and continuing with the Two Towers. It was a satisfying and peaceful evening for which I was (am) so very grateful.

Christmas and Abundant Dwelling

I slept in and woke up just after 7am this morning. I made coffee and toasts, sat down with Tress, packed lunch from Christmas leftovers, and showered, changed and hopped into the car just after 8am. Tress drove me to the station and I got in just after 8.30. All this was partly made possible because the gym is still closed for the holidays and I had decided not to take any time off work, which feels like a mistake now… sigh…

We were at Uncle Seng’s last night and as always, Auntie Anne had whipped up a fabulous array of delicious food spread across the entire kitchen bench-top of their home in Mount Waverley. Tress’ cousins and other relatives were there.

Earlier that day, we had just stayed home, watched the cricket and pottered about the home. I cleaned out the weber after cooking on it on Christmas Day, and generally just did small stuff, alternating with watching the cricket. England looked like they were determined not to lose – more than a desire to win – so the run rate was a boring 2+ and it was easy to just do other stuff while leaving the cricket on or alternating with other channels. Tress did the same thing, with all sorts of tasks like laundry, taking out bags of trash, letting the little fellow in and out while I got in and out in the course of cleaning the barbie… it was that kind of day.

Christmas Day we had slept in, after a late night on Christmas Eve. Sleeping in these days often means we wake up at 7 instead of 5, so we could have made it to church for the service but we had planned not to, so we just spent the day getting ready for the guests who were coming.

Ing Tung and Chin Moi are some of our oldest friends in Melbourne. While chatting later night with our other guests, it dawned on us it was nearly 30 years ago when we first met. They were very helpful when we first came to Melbourne and continue to be our very dear friends. The Tongs on the other hand, are our newest friends in Melbourne. We only met them maybe 6 months ago, when I was shopping for a new suit in the Doncaster Westfield Myer store. Jason and Mel joined us later that night for drinks and we reminisced even more, as Jason, Ing Tung and I were all with OCF Sydney back in the day – in the mid to late 80’s…

By the time everyone left it was nearly midnight and after we cleaned up it was just past 1am, but it was wonderful to have reconnected with old friends as well as strengthened new bonds.

On Christmas Eve I had left work at noon – the office closed at 12pm – and I dragged Tress and Kiddo to Indian Delight for lunch as I had become really hungry by the time I got home. The midday train was running the city loop – ie Parliament was the first stop, making its way through the loop and left for Blackburn only via Flinders. Stopping every station, it was a long trek home but thankfully the driver put a smile on everyone’s face. He playfully said he wanted to let everyone know the next day was a public holiday and went on to explain the reason for it. He explained the Christian faith in a 1 minute summary – essentially saying Jesus came into the world to save sinners – and wished everyone a wonderful Christmas. I was very happy the driver did what he did and the longer than usual journey home became very pleasant. It didn’t make me less hungry though so to Indian Delight we went and it wasn’t until 8pm that night I did another barbeque. Tress had bought a large piece of barramundi earlier that day.

After a dinner of very juicy fish and fresh salad, we sat down to watch the Sidney Myer music bowl Christmas Carol.

Just after 10.30, we drove to church for the Christmas Eve carol and communion service. The church was packed out and we had to park on the Uniting Church ground across the road on Koonung Road. The focus was pleasantly on Jesus and what He came to do, what our response should be and all that. For a while Tress and Kiddo were worried because as we were walking from the car park we thought we saw people very dressed up but as we settled down at our seats we realised that was only a handful of people. Peter and his staff though were dressed up more than usual and it was very nice to see the extent to which Peter and the church had gone, to make this occasion a pointed and important one. The service ended about 12.40am, and we got home just after 1.

Late nights, lots of food, lots of time with families and people you care for, all surrounding the central theme of Jesus’ coming. One of the numerous readings on Christmas Eve in church was John 1:14:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The abundance of providence and fellowship is, I’d like to think, very possibly a result of the Word having made a dwelling amongst us. Perhaps…

Kids and Christmas

Its Christmas Eve and the workplace is abuzz for a warm reason – kids are running all over our area. These parents must have agreed amongst themselves this would be the “bring your child to work” day. 4 kids have been brought to the legal pod and introduced to us, with the youngest probably 3 years old or thereabouts. The chatter and noises are all over this area. Paper planes have taken flight and requests for scissors and sticky tape have been made.

Kids and Christmas – they’re like… horse and carriage? I’ve nearly forgotten what it’s like to have kids running around this time of the year. Christmas is so different without them.

That was probably the first Christmas present for me – seeing these kids at the work place and looking, sounding happy.

Deo, Dad, Dongzhi and Dread


Lots of stuff happens at this time of the year. Today’s my late father’s birthday. He would have been 75. Yesterday was the winter solstice and we were at Gerry and Jesslyn’s for some “Dongzhi”. Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve. We’d had a few parties already. Events at work too, other than the usual year end rush to complete tasks.

In all of these events one’s attention is spread across different parts of one’s life. What matters most is being with people you care about. After all that’s what started it all in the first place – God wanting to dwell amongst men. Some events you don’t particularly care about but you attend anyway, because otherwise for the rest of the year it become awkward. Like work events. Some events you look forward to because it is with people you care about and you just want to be with them. Some events you brush off with no hesitation because they involve people you don’t particularly want to socialise with.

And so when we got a missed call and a text from someone I can’t particularly care for, I simply responded by asking him to stay away. Just as I have several times now.

Lots of stuff happens at this time of the year. Some are meaningful. Some are curious. As long as I can give the best of my time and effort and it is with people I care about, I work at being with people. It’s not at all a bad time of the year…

Date with Eusoff Chin – 22 Years Ago…

Somehow I managed to get 5 people to come along that day, in the Sultan Abdul Samad High Court complex in Kuala Lumpur. That was 22 years ago now.

I remember there were photos with my parents and grandparents and Tress. They must be in an album in the wooden trunk at home. Hopefully they’re not in the shed. Those photos were probably a tad dark, but I guess the Sultan Abdul Samad complex was probably dark generally – not a lot of light. Not especially since the presiding judge was Eusoff Chin, one of the more overtly corrupt judges Malaysia has known.

22 years later, my dad’s gone and so have my grandparents. My mum look well in a recent photo I saw in a facebook page. Tress has been wonderful and is my joy and comfort every day, far more than the event of 22 years ago has done for me.

I was called to the bar in Malaysia 22 years ago today. I have been a lawyer since, to earn a living. Except for a period of working for a Christian mission not for profit of course. I don’t know what my role as a lawyer through the years have done in terms of helping along for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven.

The journey continues. I still wonder if I ought to be doing something else.

Emmanuel – or Manuel (as in Fawlty Towers)

Last Sunday we had a pulpit exchange amongst three churches in Blackburn north and a minister from a church on Surrey Road spoke. His mention of this being the silly season rang in my ears this morning as I went in to the office to be greeted by a string of emails flying around.

The rush in the shopping centres at this time of the year which churches like ours have bemoaned is often accompanied by an annoying parallel in the workplace. In a corporation like the one I’m working for, somehow the rush to get stuff signed before Christmas/New Year never goes away. My cynical mind tells me the smoke and mirrors that prop up places like these, require reports to show things have been done. To-do lists and task list need be marked off to evince accomplishment within a specified timeframe – in this case the calendar year is obviously the parameter.

I was asked to work on a document last week and proposed some communications to people affected by that document. I sent that communication to the relevant senior executive late last week (Thursday) and this morning I was asked to provide an update. I said I had not heard back from that senior executive and was asked to remind that person as senior executives are presently distracted by a range of matters now.

Similarly, in a discussion with the boss yesterday, I was told the Board is presently “a bit twitchy” and so there is a need to manage communications more closely.

I can’t say it is the silly season per se which caused all this running around in a sense of near panic at so much to do and so little time to do it in, but I am quite certain it doesn’t alleviate it to say the least. I get the bit about people going away for a few weeks and wanting to ensure as much gets resolved as possible before that. To stress for weeks – often unnecessarily – to make that happen however, almost make the whole thing a bit of a self-created much ado about nothing.

Yesterday I spoke to an external adviser who, after nearly a week of sweating over some advice he provided, came one big circle to land on nearly the same spot. Much ado about nothing has a resonance about it on many occasions in corporate space but at a time like the silly season, when I get to ask “what does this all mean”, it resonated more resoundingly.

It’s one week to Christmas Eve. Emmanuel? We’re too silly in this season with all our busy-ness to make Him welcome, I’m afraid.

Sweaty weekend

There was a corporate team building event last Friday afternoon, as part of year end/Christmas thing for the corporate services team. Since a new executive general manager came in earlier this year (end March I think) a bit of reorganisation has come about and the legal department has moved from being part of commercial services (reporting to the CFO) to this new “CST” team, which also comprise internal audit, risk and compliance and some parts of project management.

The event was an “Amazing Race” type of chasing around the city. The company, Uplift Events, was the same joint which organised the same event while I was at AIA. To complete the trifecta, I had helped the company when it was setting up and I had helped with stuff like the shareholders’ agreement, web terms and disclaimers and participation forms and disclaimers and the like. To see the company grow and keep going has been a little pleasing.

So Friday I went home tired… but when I got home, the sight of a mound of mulch greeted me. 3+ cubic meters of stuff to be shovelled/raked/ barrowed was horrifying, especially after crisscrossing the city for a couple of hours earlier in the day.

Tress, Kiddo and I decided to just go out for dinner, and when we came back, we worked for about an hour, until it turned dark close to 9pm. I was glad we started as not only we did some work we managed to create a work system and momentum which we could then just pick up on the next day.

And so early on Sat Tress and I woke, had our coffee and toasts and then went to work by about 7am. Tim, who had provided us with the mulch, had also loaned us a large wheel barrow and a couple of shovels. One was a pitch fork which was certainly the right tool for the job. Before long, Kiddo joined us and after a few hours we managed to clear the mounds and spread the mulch through the areas which needed it. Around noon, after cleaning up, we went to Madam K and then off to the city to catch the King Kong musical at the Princess Theatre on Collin Street.

Unfortunately, I fell asleep momentarily a couple of times – the show was a spectacular one mechanical wise as the animation was surprisingly smooth and natural considering it was given effect primarily through cables and pulleys, worked by maybe half a dozen athletes. The music and acting was so so…but it was entertaining all the same.

On Sunday we went to church, went back to Madam K for lunch after that, and then off to some grocery shopping. Then after returning the tools to Tim we went to the Whitehorse Carols at the Whitehorse Civic Centre on Whitehorse Road. When we got home it was nearly 9pm and we had time to fix my lunch and I was so tired I could barely wake up this morning.

Christmas is only just over a week away and it was a busy weekend but best of all, it was loads of activities for the whole family right through the weekend.