Freezing Weekend – with a bit of Disney

It was an appalling weekend, weather wise. Winter was well and truly in full force and so for the briefest hour or so on Saturday morning, I hurriedly did some tidying up on the gardens and lawns. Tress stayed inside and cleaned the house and later that morning we went to the house on Edinburgh Road to sort out the locks and keys.

Madam Kwong’s was closed and we were a bit lost as to where to get lunch but then settled on some less exciting fare at PPR, before proceeding with our more regular activities of laundry/dry cleaners’ and grocery shopping. We bumped into Gerry and Jesslyn, sat down and had coffee with them, before heading home. Before that however we did a small detour to head up a level at the shopping centre to check out the movies on offer.

We then went home and walked the little fellow. It was cold, windy and unpleasant but at least it was still dry (somehow) so we thought we’d better make the most of that, although I had given him a good run-around earlier, when I was working on the lawns. I had played tug-of-war with him with a rope and at one stage managed (as I often did) to toss the rope up to the roof. The poor fellow was whining away, wondering how come gravity didn’t do its usual trick to bring the rope back down. I had to lug the ladder out from the shed, get onto the roof and get the rope – all the while with him whining away. Anyway, Tress and I were well rugged up when we gave him that second treat and walked him.

We then went and watched Angelina Jolie’s Disney flick of “Maleficent”, a re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. Good turned bad did good turned good (Maleficent). Good did bad did bad turned bad (King Stefan) were the over-riding themes, overshadowing the character of Aurora the little princess. It was a kiddie flick but done just enough for some adults to also enjoy. At $10 a pop – being the movie club’s movie of the week – it was a good way to spend a couple of hours (all in) in a warm place and told a good yarn.

At home later that night, we teed up a yum-cha lunch with the Hii’s and Chew’s after church. It was good catching up again over lunch, followed again by coffee thereafter. Jason looked better, Mel was excited about starting a new role today with a restaurant chain (but still doing account stuff) but he said to me he was still affected by seeing images of Tham Fuan regularly, which riled him. I feel sorry for him. A couple of months ago when we were in Bright for a holiday, he said to us he had been physically sick that morning we were travelling, having just had a bad dream over the whole saga. So it looked like the end-flushing process is still being played out. Hopefully it would ebb soon.


Pause, Say No and Talents Galore

I believe the noise around the action of the leadership of a local church over the past year and a half (approximately) has finally and completely abated. I think this is a good and necessary thing, especially for Jason and Mel. Perhaps one day there may be meaningful re-engagement of sorts which would allow some closure. At this point in time however, it is probably best for them to both walk away. This sounds unsatisfactory but given ongoing unwillingness to mutually each other’s’ needs (or requests/demands) this looks like it would not be resolved anytime soon and it’s best for parties involved to not wait before looking at how they could best serve others and themselves in the days ahead. So it’s good (such as it is) to not have anything written or said anymore, which have been written or said countless times before.

Tress and I were walking the little fellow last night when I said to her I thought I’d not do anything for Uncle Jin anymore. He still wants to draw up a simple document to acknowledge his interest in some bank accounts held in his children’s names. This looked too much like a means of circumventing welfare entitlement rules and I feel uncomfortable in what is too close to an aiding and abetting role. The trouble is I don’t know how to say this to him/them. Uncle Jin would have started another round of chemotherapy treatment yesterday and he’d be in poor state of health for the next week or so, most probably. I guess this can wait, so I’d convey my thoughts when he is in a better state, maybe several or a couple of weeks from now.

Tress and I have been attending a small group of our church, since February this year. So we’re into the fifth month of engaging this group. It is such a talented bunch of people. I keep telling Tress we are probably in a place where we can only soak up everything thrown in. Anything we put into the pot would be helpful only in the sense of providing some assurances that we are participating in some ways, without necessarily making a difference to the end product.

The leader and her husband are Americans. Susan works part time for a non-profit organisation (Good Shepherd) and is a community development researcher. She has mentioned doing work on parent engagement and her work has been relied upon by State government. Her husband Matthew is the country director of TEAR Australia. Another Susan (Sue) is the head of church relations for World Vision and her work in bringing Miroslav Volf to an Arrows Leadership conference in Sydney recently led me to reading Vold again. She is very articulate and very caring – she’s the first to invite us to her home when we first came to this church. Her colleague Bill is a policy researcher and his son is a medical doctor and missionary for CMS in Rwanda. Mike is also a doctor and her daughter is married to the youth pastor. David and Pam used to be missionaries in Tanzania and while David has returned to secular work in a steel fabrication and installation company Pam remains in ministry as the General Secretary (or something like that) in Missions Interlink, an Evangelical Alliance missions arm. She is also on the board of CMS. Maree is a retired Chaplain of a girls’ school in Brighton and her husband is a respected figure in the mission circle in the bible belt that is the eastern suburbs. Mark is a church board member and used to be in the mission field in Nepal and I think he’s a missionary kid too. Elena is a researcher or sorts in CBM. Finally there’s Tress and I… you get the picture… like I said, we only soak it all up.

This is also generally true in relation to the church as a whole. Talent abounds everywhere. I don’t fear wrong teaching prevailing because the orthodoxy is solid without being stodgy as there is strong and constant recognition that the engagement is beyond the intellectual or cerebral. The regular liturgy provides constant reinforcement of the basics of our faith, which is rich and comprehensive. The prayers and conversations demonstrate a rich engagement with both domestic and international current and pertinent issues. Yet at the same time the self-effacing, funny and lack of self-importance disarm and relaxes, which make it all so much easier to “soak it all up”.

The flip side of course, is I guess St Alf’s would have a lot to answer for. So many talents… what has it done with them?

Plenty on

We’ve been either very cheap or lazy. It could be both. This practice of walking into Coles or Safeway to pick up a cooked chook and some salad, has become an easy and cheap option for Tress and I, especially on Friday nights when we’re emitting low battery warning signals and don’t want to go out. The couch, the tv and the coffee table look perfectly acceptable, indeed quite inviting.

So last Friday we again picked up a cooked chook, except this time it was from a chook shop (as was last Friday). But we picked up the salad and some cheese from the supermarket and then headed home. It was good to just be home, put up our feet and look forward to the long weekend – the last one for a few months. There would be no more public holidays until Cup Day.

The next morning I woke early and went to a men’s breakfast meeting in church. Someone from Destiny Rescue spoke. DR rescues sex slaves from brothels and bars in Chiang Rai, Thailand and they do great work. I came home thinking if I should re-direct some giving to them instead. Later that morning the little fellow got his haircut, then we did some errands, including dropping into a local branch of our bank, and then we went into the city. We had wanted to get to the South Melbourne Market for lunch but while in the city we decided instead to go to this place known as the Little Ramen Bar. Gerry had raved about this place for a while now and he was right. That place had delicious ramen and we were very happy we went there. After lunch we headed to the market and spent a few hours there, picking up cheeses, coffee beans, a bottle of port, some deli stuff and ate some oyster au naturale. We got home late in the arvo, took the little fellow out for a walk, and then vegged out on the couch again, with a copy of “The Company You Keep” from AppleTV.

Earlier on that Sat afternoon I took a call from Gus, an ex-colleague and friend I had not heard from or met for a while. It was good of him to call and keep in touch and after chatting briefly we agreed to meet up again. He sent a text the next day and we tentatively teed up a catch up a couple of weeks from now.

We visited Uncle Jin at his home again on Sunday, and had dinner with him. He and Auntie Pin had asked me for help with their Wills and those Wills got signed on Sunday night, with Tress and David her cousin who’s a doctor in Geelong, as witnesses. Auntie Hooi and Uncle Marloney also had their Wills witnessed so four Wills got signed that night, before we started on a very nice steamboat dinner. Uncle Jin also wanted help with some bank account dealings he and Auntie Pin had. I feel uneasy with these as they are clearly designed to circumvent welfare entitlement rules. I didn’t mind helping them with their Wills but this other matter is a different kettle of fish. That Uncle Jin is now sick should not have any bearing on this. I had nevertheless prepared draft documents which needed some tidying up but at this moment, I am inclined to leave those documents without any further work. I wonder though, how Uncle Jin would feel about this.

We left Point Cook just after 9.30, and went to bed late after watching MasterChef on the AppleTV. Monday morning we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast, and then went out to look at some blender/soup makers at Myer in Eastland. There was nothing – Myer’s “pop-up” sale appeared half hearted, so we would probably wait till their stock take sale (proper sale) later. We then went for a late lunch at Studfield (Golden Chilli Nasi Kandar) before heading home for another quiet night before the working week starts again. This restaurant was next to the one we had intended to visit, but was closed on a Monday. It was a good outcome as the food was delicious and very satisfying. We had a brief chat with the owner too, which was nice. He had been running a little Indian restaurant in the city but decided to move his business out to the suburbs when his little baby boy arrived a couple of years earlier. Good for us too…

It’s now a little over 3 weeks before we visit Kiddo in Singapore. I’m just starting to get used to the crisp cool mornings of early winter in Melbourne so the thought of a 35deg day – highly humid one – scares me, but everything else about the visit made me look forward very keenly. Especially catching up with Kiddo again.

Time Pipeline

When Ruth and Jonathan were with us last weekend, they mentioned their parents, my Uncle Stephen and Auntie Paddy were in China and Hong Kong. They were in China to visit the old ancestral home in Hui Ann village in Fujian and in Hong Kong to visit Pai Li, a cousin who moved there with the family several months ago. Pai Li’s husband Shao Lead works for Intel and they’ve been expat-ting – previously in Costa Rica and now in Hong Kong.

A short while ago Uncle Stephen sent an email to a number of us, attaching some photos of the ancestral home. It was the home my late grandfather was born and grew up in. While in Malaysia, he asked the local church to use the building. That church has since moved to its own bigger and newer premises. 6 Chek took a photo of that building too, which is only about 100m along the same road. 6 Chek has accurately described the new place a pretty building.

I wonder if at different stages of our lives we are affected by different expectations and aspirations and therefore react to memories differently. Years ago I reflected more and looked back in the rear view mirror of life with more affection. I appreciated history more. I had a more acute sense of wanting to connect with the past. In as much as those photographs carried a lot of meaningful history, I couldn’t connect with the sentiments those photographs deserve. I could evoke little.

As a boy growing up in Klang we visited our late grandparents regularly – often at least once a week. I had made entries in this blog about the family altar practice my grandfather started and maintained and how that allowed so many of us to be well rooted in what I consider good things. Often in these family settings, I’d hear about this grand old house in Hui Ann, Fujian. Everyone who paid attention to what grandfather said and what grandmother griped about (he was always sending money for maintenance and up-keeping of that house) would not have missed the connections he, grandmother and some of the uncles and aunties had with that house. So those photographs should have evoked warmer and better affections. But they didn’t.

Maybe it is simply the elapsing of time. My grandfather died in 2002. That was 3 World Cups ago. I still remember a lot of the things he said. Things he said to me, things he said to the family, things he said to my late father and things he said to the public – in church, in community meetings, in weddings and in funerals. I remember his mini sermons he gave over the family altar. His prayers. His admonishments. His praises and encouragements. I still love him and I wish I can now have long conversations with him. In other words, my memory and affection for him remain vivid and strong. So I cannot account for the lack of connection I feel with those photographs.

The only reason I can fathom therefore, is I’m in or at a phase where the memory of past resonates less than expectation for the future. That is strange because it feels counter intuitive and inversed to how I (and perhaps others) generally expect our connection with the past to grow. I would have expected my sense of history – the desire to connect with my past – would grow as I become older. The opposite has proven to be truer. Maybe I’m hitching my outlook on something external to me…

Ruth and Jon visited, wet but good weekend

As is often the case in recent months, Tress and I found ourselves depleted of all useful energy on Friday night. So we did a lazy dinner at home – picked up some cooked chicken from Safeway – and just stayed in front of the TV.

Uncle Jin had rang earlier so I returned his call and spoke about his will and stuff for a bit.

We then trailer-surfed on Apple TV for a bit and found this Afghan flick titled “Kite Runner”. It was cheap too – $0.99! So we sat down and enjoyed this movie and what a wonderful film it was. It was a tale of loyalty, fear, making right a wrong committed a long time ago and the courage the act of self-redemption took (and the rescue of a child). When we purchased the movie we thought we would struggle to keep awake (due to our tiredness entirely) but the story was such a compelling one we were wide awake right to the very end of the 2-hour “reel”.

On Saturday Tress went to get her hair cut while I prepped to do some gardening. I didn’t want to start the hedge trimmer and mower till at least 9.30 in the morning, to avoid becoming a pesky inconsiderate neighbour but when it was finally 9.30, the hedge trimmer wouldn’t cut. I had bent the blade a couple of months earlier and had sent it into a repair shop. Obviously the repair wasn’t effective. So I waited for Tress to get home and then we both took the trimmer back to the repairman. It’s only a little Ozito unit and I had spent $40 on the repair bill so I told the guy if it was going to cost more money I wouldn’t want it done. These machines – while not cheap – are not expensive enough to warrant large repair bills. There’s a high chance now I probably need to get a new hedge trimmer soon.

Anyway, we got home and I did some work manually, having already taken out some tools as well as the ladder. I spent a couple of hours trimming, mowing, weeding and cleaning while Tress got the laundry done, vacuumed the rooms and got the guest room ready for Ruth and Jonathan who were going to visit and stay the night.

After lunch at Penang Inn (Madam K was packed) we went to the estate agent (Noel Jones Blackburn) to sign some docs for them to manage the Blackburn South unit for us. We then did some grocery shopping and went home where I vacuumed the lounge and did some general cleaning while Tress walked the little fellow.

Just after 4, we drove to St Kilda Road and picked up Ruth and Jonathan. We then headed straight to Old Kingdom at Surrey Hills. After dinner we headed straight home and talked with them for a bit before retiring for the day.

Sunday all 4 of us went to church which happened to be an “All Age” service. Ruth knew Karen Winsemius’s (the children’s pastor) brother from Canberra so caught up with her for a bit.

We then took them to Madam K – it was just as packed as on Saturday but we weren’t in a hurry this time, and we had a hearty brekky too so we didn’t mind waiting for a table.

After lunch we headed for the Tulla and dropped Ruth and Jonathan off. It was really good catching up with them again.

We then headed back towards home and on the way, stopped by the library at Nunawading. Jonathan had told us how they used the library resources at Adelaide and we realised how we’ve neglected this wonderful resource. We had used the Mount Waverly library quite a bit when we first arrived but had not used the Whitehorse services. So we signed up at the Nunawading library, Tress got a few DVD’s and I got a Zadie Smith book. I also tracked down an aboriginal history/community development book (Richard Trudgen’s “Why Warriors Lie Down and Die”) that Bill Walker from the church home group had recommended. The book was in the Doncaster library but the librarian had kindly rang and asked that it be sent to Nunawading and I should be able to pick it up tonight if I wished.

We then went home, I did some cooking (pumpkin soup) for later in the week while Tress did some ironing as well as putting away the linen and stuff from the guest room. It had rained all day so the little fellow didn’t get his walk but he was very good all the same. Later, a friend dropped in with some “Zongzi”- rice dumpling for the dragon boat race festival. Tress and I shared one and it was delicious.

We settled down that night somewhat happy and satisfied – we’ve caught up with very dear cousins, the house was cleaned, we had quite a bit of food in the fridge and things have settled into a peaceful and hopeful rhythm. I only hope my dear friends and brother/sister – Jason and Mel – could also move ahead and settle down to such serenity.