Stormy, axe-wielding weekend

Tress woke me up some time last night to say LBJ was hiding under our bed. Well she didn’t really wake me up, because I had been awake, looking out through our window at the spectacular display of light and sound in the skies. Electrical storms are rare, especially in Melbourne. I don’t recall another one in the 10 years we’ve been here. We got LBJ to come up onto the bed and he snuggled so close to me I had to stroke him and scratch him to calm him down.

The storms were electrifying. They went on for a while and with great intensity. This morning my usual train stopped just after Richmond and after a few minutes idling on the tracks, it headed towards Flinders Street instead of Parliament. Switching trains at Flinders, I managed to get into Parliament some 30 minutes past my usual time. The lady at the front desk commented I was late and we talked about the storms before I went about my shortened workout, trying to avoid aggravating the little blood blister on my left palm.

I’d like to think I’m reasonably healthy but on morning like today I get the sense that years of desk bound work has really deteriorated our physical strength. I had worked a bow saw and an axe to continue the long standing project of ridding the old lemon tree at the western corner of our backyard. The bow saw took off three of the core trunks which now stand about a couple of feet off the ground. The axe then broke those trunks down to 1-2 foot lengths. When the trunks had been so cut, I was drenched and my right hand was shaking. Mowing, edging and sweeping allowed the sweat to dry out and the shaking to abate. Tress helped with some edge trimming. Applying some weedkillers to “round up” the work left me quite spent and I headed in for a break before doing some cooking on the Webber – not for dinner but for our lunches today and tomorrow.


History – Can I Redact?

It has been another long week at work. The team has spent the better part of the week reviewing documents in the course of supporting a due diligence exercise to facilitate its own sale to a new owner. On completion of that sale an option eminently open and likely to be adopted by the new owner is to skinny down the workforce, getting rid of people like the legal team. So why on earth have we spent the better part of the week on some form of self-harm – stiff neck and red eyes at the end of each working day – remains one of the stupidity of modern day corporate Australia.

Professional and getting the job done yes, but neither smart nor wise. Increasingly, white collar work entails getting the job done but being really foolish at the end of the process.

Redacting is a term I got used to in my early days of practice, as part of legal teams locked up in data rooms poring over wads of legal documents in due diligence exercises.

This week, I got through a box of black permanent markers, reliving those bad old days of living in data rooms.

As I typed this now on a Friday arvo about 10 minutes before the week is out, there is talk of more redaction with a chance of a wrecked weekend. Knowing my boss, he would palm that off skilfully but who knows. Stupid forces are at work…

Girl’s tears, Gardening & Gone Girl

I have for some time now, appreciated why the more “mature” generation turn to gardening. It can be very therapeutic. On Saturday Tress and I went to a café in Hawthorn, just before 8am, for breakfast. It was one of those deals she picked up and it was a wonderful deal because the food, coffee and staff were all very good. After brekky we went to the local Bunnings store, picked up a couple of small items and a compost bin, and went home for some gardening. We were at it from around 9.00am and didn’t stop till just after 2pm. The big breakfast provided plenty of fuel and we just kept going. Tress did a lot of work vacuuming and tidying up inside the house. We finally wound up the work, washed up and left home close around 2.30pm, went to Doncaster to get fulfil some Malaysian orders. We picked up a Bose ipod dock and some other items, then shopped for groceries and came back, walked the little fellow and did a barbie of leather jackets for dinner. Later that evening we watched Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson in The Bucket List which was a surprising tear jerker. For Tress…

On tears, I caused some on Friday night. Little Sheryl is a bucket of fun these days. Tress and I caught up with her parents, Jason and Mel at Sheryl’s home. Jason, Mel and us had planned to have dinner in a pizzeria up Mitcham Road but I thought we could do takeaway pizzas and catch up with Sheryl and her family instead. I don’t think Gerry and Jess are the pizza types. I’m pretty sure Jessie, Jess’s mum (yes that’s right) isn’t one. But they were gracious enough to go along, and supplemented the meal with chicken wings and salad. We were in the sitting lounge after dinner and Sheryl and I were playing. A little 1 year old is hard work for me so I was very proud of myself when I made her laugh and she was having a ball tipping over little towers of building blocks I set up on the floor. A little 1 year old also walks with a funny gait and as she tumbled forward towards me, she knocked her head on my knee… Other than that it was a great time catching up with these families.

Sunday was near total free and easy – once our half-sofa donee picked up the piece and left our lounge room less cluttered. We watched Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike play it out in front of tabloid media in “Gone Girl” later that arvo before getting ready for the week again…

Operatic Bookends (well sort of) (Bible reading journey)

I read Revelations 19, 20, 21 and 22 this morning. Revelations 21 was particularly riveting. It felt like an operatic theater not unlike the scene in Genesis 1. I guess that is a benefit of reading through the bible in a sweeping fashion, in as short a time as possible. The recurring themes and imagery come through much more clearly. These verses in particular, capture the end product of God’s work in a way which soothes and provides hope:

22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of Godgives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Notwithstanding the grand theme however, chapter 22 – the last chapter of the Bible – God again reached out to us in very personal terms, which call for personal response.

It has been a good 10+ months of reading through the Bible end to end. Kindle and early train rides helped the cause immensely. I have to think about what I do now – maybe from Monday onwards.

Pick Me Up Needed

Standing under the showers in the gym this morning, I was thinking about ways and reasons (excuses) I could avoid getting into the office. The day is unusually cold in any event and staying home would have been unpleasant in some ways. It would have been very nice in many other ways, not least the thought of settling into our new sofa set and watching some old movies.

I had been feeling tired and a bit under the weather, 10 minutes into my run on the treadmill. Such that at the slightest hint of the knee pulling up again, I slowed down to a walking pace. I followed this up by re-programming the session so that it becomes one of a walk on a steep ascent. So the hour yielded only a bit over 6km but I was sweating anyway so I felt I did my (albeit minimal) share of physical workout today.

I manned up and came into the office and after doing some “easier” pieces, gave up the idea of taking the day off sick. Maybe the breakfast fixed that. Perhaps there is something to be said after all, about a breakfast that comprised a health nut’s concoction. Truth be told I did enjoy the cold and refreshing shake. The sweetness from the banana, carrot and tinge of honey with the freshness of the celery hid the wheat germ well. The Greek yoghurt made it all smooth and the milk provided the liquid to carry the whole mix – and made George Foreman’s work easier – and delivered a boost to rid that initial sense of wanting to curl up under a blanket for the day.

Nearly an hour later my boss walked in. We exchanged the usual greetings and 5 minutes later he said he had to go home again as he had forgotten his reading glasses. Some 10 minutes later as 9am drew nearer the team started to trickle in. By the time I started this piece I was ready for our usual coffee run but the team was distracted this morning so I decided to write this instead. The zing from the cocktail had dissipated and I felt like going home again. Strange that, because it was supposed to be a low glycaemic index concoction and it was meant to burn slower. Maybe there was simply too little of it and I needed more. Or maybe it really was time for coffee.

I guess it is going to be one of those days…

Running, Sunshine and Afterthoughts

As we left the M1 and snaked up towards the G at glacial pace, we decided that our passenger and I should walk the rest of the way (only a couple of km). Tress and I swapped places, she got into the driver’s seat and our passenger and I started walking. Or rather, I walked and he started to jog lightly. It was about 6.30 – about half an hour before the marathon starting time.

Our passenger is the father of an acquaintance. We did the usual Asian thing and simply called him “uncle” and we’re yet to learn his name as of now. Uncle is 77 years old and was about to run his 53rd marathon. He had flown into Melbourne from KL a few days earlier. We walked towards the starting point at Batman Avenue and just before I turned towards the G and pointed him to the starting line, I took a picture with him. It’s a picture which I can imagine a caption along the lines of “when I grow up I want to be like him”.

Mine was only the 10km – so I headed to the G, left my stuff in the bag stalls and milled with crowd till for about half an hour or so before my event started. I pushed hard and felt great till maybe the 7km mark, when my knee played up and the pain was bad enough to make me walk for a few minutes before lightly jogging and alternating between that and running at normal pace but letting the good knee do most of not all of the work. I also said a little prayer and after about a km or so was able to run better but definitely slower than I would have liked.

Running the rest of the course cautiously, I was glad to finish but was disappointed not just at the finishing time but also location – we didn’t run into the G this time, due to returfing work.
I had to get my stuff (with my phone) from the bag stalls before I could get in touch with Tress and when I did, we milled around and took in the atmosphere. It was a warm day and we wanted to meet the rep from the Victorian Autism organisation (Amaze). We found her on the other side of the G, where the half-marathoners finished.

Just after 10.30, we walked towards Richmond station and headed home. We went straight from the station to Madam Kwong’s where the wonton mee tasted even better than usual.

After cleaning up we did some work/pottered around the house and then decided to get some coffee from Nuts About Coffee –our newly discovered coffee joint near Blackburn station. Sitting outside the shop with Scruff on a warm and slightly windy day, it felt like being at the beach on a summer’s day.
When we got back, I had a buyer come in to buy the bike I picked up from Hawthorn FC the day before. The proceeds have been earmarked for more footy games next year…

With all chores done the day before, there was nothing left to do which had to be done and that was the best circumstances to finally and totally relax. With a glass of very chilled white, I sat down to watch some tv and then watched a DVD (JE Hoover played by Leonardo). We took the little fellow for his walk, take in – bask in – yet more of the day’s sun. Tress and I then prepared a salad for dinner and spent the rest of the evening just chilling out. As we did, we suddenly remembered we talked about going to the 6pm service at St Alfred’s, having missed our regular 10am service.

On the train this morning as I read John’s and Jude’s letters and reaching the beginning of Revelation, I realised how easy it is in a place like Melbourne, for people to think God and religion is baggage they could do without. Tress and I had a magical weekend. We could conceivably plan and organise weekends of similar activities or interests for as long as we are healthy and working. In as much as we are basking in the sunshine of the present, it shouldn’t take much for one to ask if sunshine, wellness, carpe diem and all such pursuits and mantras are really over rated and can become lies used to lure us away from our creator. Beauty and good things should draw me to Him, not away…

Gardens – Home and Away

We’ve been driving on Mitcham Road a fair bit this year. The Maurys’ home is a few minutes away off Mitcham Station and on many Thursday nights Tress and I would drive along Canterbury Road, turn into Mitcham Road and head to their home for the church small group meetings. Last Friday however, we did this drive (part of) to get to a little Italian restaurant (L’Anima) on Mitcham Road. It’s an unassuming little place with a large pizza oven taking pride of place in front. The food was nice, the waitress’ Italian accent was beautiful and Tress and I managed to get a very relaxed night out to start off the weekend.

Saturday saw our usual homemade brekky after which I did little stuff around the house while waiting for someone to come look at our sofa which I had advertised for sale on gumtree. Tress too the little fellow out for a walk and after the guy came and saw the sofa he made a deal and I got it sold. Our new one wouldn’t arrive for at least another couple of weeks so the lounge would look sparse once it has been carted away the next day.

We then attacked the jobs waiting for us – tidying up our wind ravaged gardens. We also did some cleaning – the windows and fly screens look much better now – as well as gave the little fellow a bath. We started just after 9am and worked till around 2.30pm, then cleaned up and headed to Madam K’s before going to look for a coffee table and then grocery shopping. When we got home I did some cooking for the week’s dinner and then finally settled down to put our feet up and watch some telly to wind down. It had been a warm and productive day.

On Sunday after church we got home, the sofa buyer picked up the purchase and Tress and I then took for the Dandenongs. We had wanted to visit the National Rhododendron Gardens for a few weeks now and finally managed to schedule this in. We got to a little café next to the Sky High lookout and had lunch (quiche), before getting to the star attraction. We spent a couple of hours walking through the beautiful gardens – and caught Jason and Mel there very briefly – before heading home to walk some more, this time giving the little fellow a chance to taste the day’s wonderful weather. We then had some barbecued fish and salad for dinner before watching some telly. We got a phone call from a couple friend however, who wanted to come over to get some documents certified. They came around, we chatted a bit and having past my shut eye window, couldn’t go to sleep again till past 11pm. I managed to catch the first half of United’s game against the Toffees however so that was a plus.

It was a physically active weekend, which while it left some sore bits after my usual run on the treadmill this morning, was very satisfying. The forthcoming warm weather would probably see more such weekends which would mostly be a good thing.

Homelessness, blessedness

Climbing the umpteenth set of steps to get off Parliament Station yesterday morning, the few commuters and I came upon a set of sleeping bags, luggage and other items more suited inside a home, all spread across the landing of the steps just before the last flight of steps towards Lonsdale Street. A man and a woman each in separate sleeping bags were sleeping. Near the man’s head was a hand written cardboard sign saying they were a homeless family, the wife was pregnant and they needed help. Next to that sign was a large cup with a few coins inside. The weather had turned cool again and I had a woollen jumper under my suit jacket and I had a woollen beanie on. My large backpack with the usual gym gear, lunch and brekky for contents, shielded my back and added protection from the cold. I imagined the family must have been very tired to sleep on that concrete floor that was a staircase landing, over a cold night. It was about 6am, daylight had broken through and I could see the man’s face clearly. I had walked past the cardboard sign but returned to look into the cup, and checked that the man was still asleep. I saw him stirring a bit. I reached into my pocket and emptied out the coins – not more than a couple of dollars – to put them into the cup. I thought of leaving my business card with him but didn’t think that would do any good. I wanted to start a conversation with him, ask how his wife was doing and how else I may help. I didn’t. He was asleep. I had my routines to complete.

This morning as I approached that flight of steps I wanted to see if I could take a picture of that cardboard sign. I reached into the inside pocket of my suit jacket and realised then I had forgotten my phone. It must have been left on the bench top this morning. That man and his family weren’t there anyway.

Into the last 10 minutes of the cross trainer routine, sweating buckets and feeling spent – having already felt a bit under the weather when I woke up this morning – someone walked into the cardio area of the gym and lit up the room. Tress walked in, looked brighter than everyone and anyone else, and smiled at me a she left my phone, wrapped in a petite Myer’s bag, on the drinks holder of the cross trainer. She mouthed she was going to work now and in that instant, I felt like the luckiest man alive but also thought about that man in the sleeping bag on the steps of Parliament Station. At least he had his wife by his side. I have mine to bless me constantly, on top of all the other abundance I have been blessed with.
These past couple of weeks have made me wonder about the uncertainty of my world now. My employer has just been taken over by a competitor and the already fractured relationship between the shareholders and my employer’s board and senior management would now be compounded by the uncertainty emanating from the sale. While the uncertainty can be a source of stress, the idea that I have a promise that my needs will be provided, is a constant comfort. Even better however is simply knowing I will almost always have my wife with me.

Later in the morning, when the team went out for coffee, we walked past another homeless person. I have seen this lady numerous times. She was sitting on her mat/sleeping bag. It was still a cool morning. At 65 Degrees on Exhibition Street, other than my normal coffee, I also ordered a hot chocolate. Kim, the lady who usually serves me, was surprised by this. I just smiled at her. That homeless lady looked pleased (and surprised) to be given a hot chocolate but little did she know, I was even more pleased. Indeed, I think it is more blessed to give than to receive.

It’s been a wonderful day, for me. I hope the days get better for that homeless family and the homeless lady.