Circle… Cycle


It rained almost all day on Saturday. So Tress and I slept in and had a lazy breakfast before moseying around at home. I turned on the laptop for the first time in weeks, ostensibly to attempt preparing for the church small group discussion which I was tasked to lead this coming week. I read a little bit but was distracted by some emails, and ended up applying for a job.

My employer has for the past year or so, been facing very uncertain times. Losses and inability to deliver on a major IT project have led to shareholders reviewing their options. Recent reports suggest they are ready to sell and the usual vicissitudes of this scenario means uncertainty rules the day. Relationships with shareholders have been fraught in any event and this often has a cascading effect on the environment at work. But I try to keep my head down and plug away but it would be foolish to not try and seek alternatives/options elsewhere, where they present themselves. Anyway the applications are in and “que sera sera” I guess. Meanwhile, Tress did some filing in anticipation of submitting our tax returns soon.

A bit after mid-day we went out for our usual errands. We dropped into a tax accountant’s office to check out their fees. They were a few doors away from my dry cleaners so that was convenient as I dropped and collected my work shirts. We then did the usual grocery shopping and I went back to make the pumpkin soups that were to make 2 dinners for us.

We had tickets to the big game later that night but it was still raining close to 6pm so we decided to just stay home. Those tickets were free anyway. It turned out to be a ripper of a game. Hawks fought hard and brilliantly to overcome the very good side that is Sydney.

We went to bed soon after the game, which for a Saturday night was an early night. It had been that sort of day…

Sunday was far better, weather wise especially. Jean (from Madam Kwong’s) had suggested we visited a new café a friend of hers started, which had taken over the well-known Straits Café on Doncaster Road. So we went there after church. There was a chemist warehouse a few doors away so I picked up my allopurinol top-up. We then picked up some quick grocery to make more soups for the week and headed home.

It was sunny when we got home so we quickly changed into gardening gear, and I gave the hedge a good clip. We had picked up a new hedge trimmer on Friday night – a very good Ryobi which made the clip faster and neater. It was also heavier than the old one so it gave me a good workout too! The old one was a smaller unit and earlier this year – in March I think – I accidentally ran it through a lopper and the blades got out of alignment. A dodgy repair shop on Blackburn Road had it for months but couldn’t fix it so I decided to write it off. I had milked it for over 5 years anyway so the Ryobi was a good step-up replacement.

Tress did some weeding and when we finished with the mowing we took the little fellow for a walk. When we finished Tress decided to take him to the oval to let him run and I went home to cook the other soup – a leek and cauliflower soup with sweet potato and bacon. It was very good and we have 4 days’ stock of soup for the week so we were happy.

So it was another weekend of a break from weekday routines. This mini-cycle in the larger cycles of our current life provides little other than a circuit breaker to the weekday routine which tires both of us and zap us out each Friday night. Sitting on the couch on Friday night, Tress would often drift away to slumber land due to outright tiredness. There have been numerous Friday nights when our preferred activity is to be at home watching tele and eating something straight from Coles or Woollies. In some ways this was what I sought – a serenity of sorts. And yet the droning effect of regular cycles of work and rest can dull one’s senses to the point of near total oblivion to others’ needs. Occasionally events like the MH17 tragedy and conflicts in Palestine and Iraq wake me from my slumber and prick my senses. The juggernaut of work and rest cycles however, roll on and quite often, blot those out over time – slowly but ever so surely.

Maybe that’s why in some ways I seek change often. Maybe that’s what drives me to lift my head often – to check out the horizon and see if there’s something else out there for me to spend the rest of my days. For while I am enjoying most present days, I keep longing for more meaningful to spend my future days. I think perhaps many share these thoughts.

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Running on/and ideas


I did another 10k on the treadmill yesterday morning and it was just a touch over an hour. It’s still slower than the minimum benchmark I’d love to set but I’m glad the process of resuming training has well and truly commenced.

In many ways I feel a sense of Deja vu – the running and the thought of being regimented (in some ways) again. Maybe this time I’m less caught up with the idea of doing something and more with actually the doing of that something.

Sometimes the idea of doing something is so attractive and that is why we do it. It may be attractive because our contemporaries do the same thing or because it is de rigueur under the circumstances and at that time in question.

The first time around, it wasn’t purely running per se which drove me on. It’s also the idea of being a runner, one who cares about his body and how it performs. Being a runner gave me the idea of being someone with a different label if you like. There weren’t many runners I knew when I started. It’s just the idea of being one which made me one.

I wonder about the choices we make simply because the idea per se was fun. Another instance is being in love I guess. I can’t recall which movie it was but there was one I watched – something about a girl wanting to be in a relationship – wanting a boyfriend – because the idea of being in one helped her relate better to her peers. All of her friends were in relationships and while she didn’t necessarily look for one, she found herself wanting one because the idea of being in one was attractive (because it helped her relate more to her peers). Was it a Renee Zellwegger movie? I forget…

This time however, the very act of running has been enjoyable. I could almost feel the effects of those happy hormones (endorphins?) streaming through at some point, as I soak in a sweat drenched t-shirt.

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It was also a few days of trying to come to terms with the horrendous event last Friday morning. Maybe it’s the media. With the inclusion of some permanent residents, 37 Australians were killed. Amongst those later inclusions were a couple whom we were told were regulars at Madam Kwong’s. Jean the owner chef had a chat with us when we ate there on Saturday. Although the majority of the 37 victims were Victorians, the event didn’t hit home so closely until that conversation with Jean.

We had gone for a movie the night before. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was as good as the reviews suggested. We had then slept in on Sat morning and after a lazy breakfast at home, we drove to Simon’s in Mount Waverley and I had a haircut. It was after that we went to Madam Kwong’s and the rest of the day felt really subdued. Other than giving the little fellow a bath and doing a quick cleaning around the house (Tress washed the sheets and took them to the dry cleaners’ for drying) we didn’t do much else, which made a very restful weekend.

We ended the weekend in the usual fashion – doing some cooking for the week’s meals and watching some tele. We did however, have Kiddo on skype so that was good.

Running from Victory to Tragedy


I was up at my usual time a little before 5 this morning and while having a few minutes of personal time during a private moment I came across this distressing news of yet another Malaysian Airlines plane crashing. This time however, it appeared to have been shot by a military missile while flying past the eastern part of Ukraine.

I whispered something to Tress just before I left home and she too sounded distressed at hearing the news.

When I got into the gym, the television screens were all trained on this piece of news. I followed the unfolding story as I worked my way through on the treadmill, and ended up chalking well over 11km – just under 9.5km in the first hour and another 15 minutes or so of walk.

It became apparent that an area journalists would focus on is the choice of flight path. Other airlines have avoided that area in recent months, as the conflict between Ukraine and Russia bubbled away. A couple of commercial cargo flights have been brought down in recent days. It would have been totally expected and reasonable for MAS to avoid this flight path. It would of course, have meant a costly detour. An Amsterdam/KL flight would have to make a detour south and east, if it were to do what other airlines have been doing and what would have been the more prudent and safer thing to do.

Years of corruption and mismanagement in Malaysian Airlines have lead to this high risk action of flying past eastern Ukraine when other airlines have avoided this path for months. Past and present MAS senior executives and the Malaysian Government may have a lot to answer for in precipitating this tragedy.

Yet in spite of everything that could have been done differently, there is an ever mounting body of evidence today which tells us and confirms for us (or maybe remind us) the simple fact that life is fragile and can be so fleeting.

So I continue to wonder why Jason’s “persecutors” could take all the time in the world to man up to do the right thing. From all available evidence they appear to have already walked away from any possible concrete action. It is like avoiding a path where one knows one has once killed something, for not knowing how to make amends or properly dealing with the carcass. Life can be fragile and fleeting. The opportunities to make amends may not always be there.

This week started and ended with unplanned long runs on the treadmill. Monday it was to witness Germany victorious in Brazil. This morning it was to follow reports of yet another tragic event befalling Malaysia. We “run” from the joys to the travails of life, don’t we?

Appreciating Winter


It’s now the middle of winter and on most mornings when I leave home, I feel it in my bones. Again as is often the case, age may have something to do with it. I remember last year I seldom used my winter coat as the office is just directly across the road from the station. This year, notwithstanding the same setting, I have used that coat a whole lot more.

Ditto when the team goes out for coffee. From the office, the team on most mornings take a 5-10 minute walk to a coffee place some 100-150m away. In recent days, that walk has been taken with the coat on. It has hovered around the 7-8 deg mark at around 10-10.15am and the stretch from Little Lonsdale Street to Exhibition Street can be a bit of a wind tunnel. It gets chilly…

I often say to people I love winters. Other than the short days of course. I will always find it hard to accept a 7.30 sunrise and a pre-5pm sunset. Other than that, I love winters. The stillness, the quietness, the inert state of things around you – they all allow the mind to think better and I often notice things more (I think) in such conditions.

We’d walk the little furry ball each night after we’ve had our (mostly soup) dinner. We’d be walking him in the dark and he’d behave differently from when we walk him in summer, or on weekends when there’s light. His senses are actually on a more active or heightened level when it is dark. We also love the smells of fire places burning. When I do the walks alone, I’d slow down to try and spot possums. I’d feel lucky when I see one or more. The most I’d spotted was 4. Lately however, there has been no sightings and I hope they’re still out there and as busy as ever, havoc notwithstanding…

There’s another 6 weeks of winter left to run – officially that is. We had a week’s respite when we visited Singapore but the next 6 weeks would see a straight run. Our legs would be raw potato white when we emerge from this season – potentially only in October. That’s all fine with me. Other than the short days, I like winter.

Adieu Brasilia 2014 and Singapore


Tress and I visited kiddo in Singapore for a week and returned to Melbourne last week. Days before the trip, I was in and out of thermal phobic behaviour – every time I see a photo (anywhere) of someone in the tropics, I wondered how hot it was and how I was going to cope or suffer.

In so many ways, we have become people of this land down under. Confronting the hot and humid tropics has become a challenge, especially in the middle of a cold spell in winter Melbourne. I have also recently taken to sweating profusely every time I eat spicy food. I wasn’t like this before and had only in recent months (maybe in the past year) become like that.

When in Singapore we caught up with Jacqueline, an old friend of Tress’s as well as Lisa (my cousin) and her husband (Sam) and their 2 kids. For the latter, I had arranged to meet them and they had offered to come and pick us up from where we were staying (at the Visitors’ Lodge at NUS). I had assumed we were going to their home. Instead they picked us up and we went and ate in a Japanese restaurant in a shopping centre. Later the next day, I said to Tress and kiddo taking someone out as a way to host them is an Asian thing (as in something done in Asia, and not meaning something done by Asians). In Australia, a host would have prepared something in his or her own home. That I had assumed we would go to their home was a reminder we have left that part of the world for a while now (nearly 10 years).

Both our hosts were very generous and gracious. Jacqueline and her husband (Heng Yee) took us to the Cantonese restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental. The siew yoke is something I would never forget. Light, melt-in-the-mouth fare with crispy but ever so light crackling that it stupidly evoked images of Milan Kundera’s work (Unbearable Lightness of Being). Almost sensuous siew yoke, yes. The drive through the city after dinner, the stop over at the Barrage and other little things all told us of the incredible courtesy and generosity shown to us.

 Ditto Sam and Lisa. After dinner in a very interesting Japanese place (they sell Japanese produce just outside the restaurant) we went to an ice cream place (delicious durian ice cream) and on the way home, I asked a favour which was granted without any hesitation. They stopped over at Kiddo’s place and allowed us to pick up her considerable bag/luggage to be taken back to where we stayed (which we then brought home to Melbourne with us). So it was full service on both occasions and difference of cultures notwithstanding, the hospitality was unreserved.

Other than catching up with these folks, we did some interesting things too. We visited the Jurong bird park, the night safari, a couple of museums (Asian Civilisation Museum and the NUS Museum) and walked through places like Boat Quay and Clarke Quay. Tress and I also spent a few hours strolling through Chinatown on our last day there and of course, fillers of the ubiquitous shopping and eating completed the experience.

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We got home last Thursday night, went back to work last Friday and after work, picked up the little furry ball. It was great to have him back. On Sat night we had a steamboat dinner at Gerry and Jess’s together with Jason and Mel and Tress and I had a go at making wontons to bring along. They were quite nice and we had a good time together with them – all with Singaporean ties. Jess is from Singapore, and Jason worked there for a couple of years.

Early on Sunday morning I woke up early to catch the Oranje match against the sorry Brazilians who tried but could not recover from the massive blow the Germans had given them. After church I suggested we went to Westfield for a “walkabout”. It was another cold day and walking through the shops sounded like a safe thing to do. I had half expected to look for a bathroom mat too but we ended up in Myer with me getting a new suit – the temptation of a good fitting suit and super cheap bargain was too much to resist and I succumbed to add to my modest wardrobe.

We got home after that and Tress and I took the little fellow out for a walk. It was still cold and had become grey and overcast so not long after we started Tress decided to return home. The little guy probably didn’t realise she had gone home till maybe 100 metres later and he then kept looking back, kept searching for his missing owner. My assurances that “mummy went home” only made him perk up more in ever more earnest search. He was so very endearing.

When we got home, we did some cooking – three days’ worth of soups. I had got the hang of making a good roasted pumpkin soup, and a leek and brocolli/potato soup recently. The former is our favourite and in winter it’s very satisfying for a very quick meal on weekdays. So I made that as well as a broth for some leftover wontons. I also fixed lunch and brekky for work. We went to bed early, and I got into the gym as usual this morning and caught the final on the little treadmill monitor. Goetze’s very good goal settled the game late on.

Two anticipated experiences have come and gone. Our trip to Singapore and the World Cup 2014, both great experiences, are now behind us. I now have to find something new to look forward to lest the withdrawal symptoms become too much to bear…