Phillip Hughes, Cricketer

I had thought by sticking to cooking shows and sporting events, I could avoid the overwhelming volumes of bad news flooding the media. Who would have thought a love key Sheffield Shield cricket match has now resulted in death that has saddened the whole country. Phillip Hughes was struck on the head by a bouncer in a South Australia v NSW match on Tuesday afternoon. He was unconscious, operated on, comatose and yesterday afternoon, passed away. He was 25 years old. He was better known as Phil Hughes but since the accident, his mum had asked that he be called by his full name, which has been honoured.

A healthy, strong and good man building up towards his prime, can be fatally felled by a 160g leather ball. That sounds so disproportionately devastating. But it happened. Life, one is constantly reminded, is fleeting.

That is cause for despair.

So I am very grateful that last night at the home group at the Maurys’ home, Matthew Maury chose to lead a discussion on hope. Hope in the Lord, who He is and what He does. Hope that acknowledges Him. I hope the Phillip Hughes’ passing would cause people to ask the perennial question about the meaning of life, and be pointed towards the creator of life.


Avoiding Bad News (and other things bad)

In the past couple of days there has been a fair bit of news coverage about a baby who had been left in a drain and abandoned. I’ve tried staying away from this. It has been too depressing lately. I was saying to Tress I’d rather watch cooking, sports and nature programs than news on television these days. I said to her the stories on that baby – while there are positive elements – are just the sort to confirm I’m on the right path. I know it can be clichéd to say media has too much bad news but looking at the abandoned babies, problems in Ferguson, bombings etc in middle east, election fiascos in Victoria (responsible and performing government on track to lose), and a whole range of other negative news, tells me it is more than mere cliche. It is a lot of bad news out there which get reported and it’s bad for consumers of such news.

In the gym each morning, I no longer plug my headphones into the news channels. If there are no sporting events or good cooking shows on, it’d be the music on my phone – Les Miserable has been getting a good run.

So the wedding dinner on Sat was something nice to attend as it is a sort of an antidote which was refreshing. JM and V are old friends from our hometown and their daughter got married. We only went to the dinner (at the Manningham Centre in Doncaster) however. I wasn’t keen on a wedding that was held in a chapel in Scotch College, for no apparent reason other than perhaps the aesthetics or optics of such a location. Also, going to that wedding would have meant having half the day on Saturday ruled out for anything.

So to make better use of the day, Tress and I took a drive up King Lake country. We stopped at a small town called St Andrews, and walked amongst the teeming crowds through a street market. It was a hippie town and smells of funny cigarettes wafted through. No surprise therefore to find the town pub open at 11am – which I promptly responded by having a very nice ale. We then continued driving towards King Lake which was largely national park country. We stopped by a reserve, chatted a little bit with a ham radio enthusiast who had all sorts of cables hoisted up around a big tree before driving home again. Back in Blackburn we did our grocery shopping and then went home to walk the little fellow.

At the dinner, we were at a table with Ronald, Cat and their two boys, who have both grown into very decent adults. Also with us were Li Lin and Kok Eng, Alex and someone else whom we didn’t know. Alex was by himself presumably because Li Har had to be with their boys.

We caught up with many old Klang friends, almost all of whom used to be at the Klang church. The only ones I totally ignored and refused to have any interaction with were David Chiang and his wife. Tress later tried to chastise me over it but I said nothing has changed as far as what David had done was concerned. Any attempt to exercise social niceties would have been in the face of those events which so badly affected many, and for which I still hold David and his colleagues responsible.

We got home late, I woke early the next morning to watch the United v Arsenal game (which we won 1-2) before heading to church later that morning. The rest of Sunday was pretty normal – lunch at Madam K, back home to do gardening (mowing, cleaning etc) and cooking (more soups) before settling down for a busy week at work. I had a long meeting scheduled with KPMG on Monday morning, which ostensibly was going to be unpleasant and which I had been charged with protecting our people. So I went to bed relatively early…getting ready to face a world full of negativity.

I’m sort of kicking myself for not reversing some of that but my hands are quick to go up in acceptance of my weakness and folly.

I continue to give in to my thoughts about how some behaviour should be responded by wilful ignoring. Like I would avoid bad news in the media, I’d avoid any interaction with bad behaviour which persisted.

Canterbury Road

Tress went out with her colleagues last Friday night. There was cricket on tv so on the way home, I dropped into the local Coles and picked up a salad and a handful of cooked prawns. A glass of chilled white washed it all down very nicely as I watched the game at home with LBJ but could not replenish the glass as I was meant to drive to the station to pick Tress up later and I didn’t know what time that would be.

So I decided to watch a movie – and chose the Battle of the Bulge starring Henry Fonda and Robert Shaw as the German Colonel charged with commanding a battalion of Panzer tanks as a final resistance to the Allies’ march to defeat Hitler’s Germany.

I had cherished the Band of Brothers’ interpretation of the Battle of the Bulge instead, which had such intimate details of the soldiers’ travails as they battle the cold in the episode known as Bastogne. It had none of the tanks which blazed through in Ken Annakin’s direction. The Panzer Tiger was featured in all its agility, strength and power, defeated only by a fortuitous bombing of a fuel depot which deprived Robert Shaw of much needed fuel.

The cous cous salad was great for my battle with my bulge and as soon as I picked Tress up from the station and got home, I got rid of a bad under fueled problem and promptly topped up my glass with a full glass of red, which on a Friday night in front of a satisfying classic, tasted magnificent.

Saturday morning we decided to go to Maling Road in Canterbury, for a proper breakfast. The plan was to then skip lunch and then go to the dedication service for the Hipo Girls, in Cross Roads at 4pm, to be followed by dinner and then adjourn to the Hipos’ home for coffee. As we walked up to Maling Room, I saw my boss sitting outside, decked out in his Lycra. A bit awkward but after introductions (Tress to him and his mate and his mate to us) and handshakes we went insider for our breakfast while he stayed outside. He was a gentleman (as always).

After breakfast we went to the Acorn Nursery on Canterbury Road, and then to the Strawberry Point grocer – also on Canterbury Road. I said to Tress it was a day everything we did was on Canterbury Road.

Later that night as it poured (there was about 40mm of rain between Sat night and Sunday morning) and as we had coffee at home on Sunday morning, I said to Tress it was 10 years ago around the same time when it rained just as much on Canterbury Road and Uncle Seng’s house (where I was temporarily staying) flooded and I was awaken in the middle of the night as the family attempted to dry the place out. After church and lunch we went home and as we were resting in the arvo Kiddo messaged us to say Ban and family were going to catch up with her for lunch. They had gone down to Johore Bahru for a wedding and decided to make a detour to Singapore to catch up with Kiddo – really nice of them.

We finished the day with Tress helping me with the ironing while I did some cooking, and rested up before going to bed. It was a quiet weekend – spent mostly along Canterbury Road.

November pairings

As I walked up the steps of Parliament station this morning, I felt strangely well. Normally I’m just a zombie-like character that time of the morning, in that spot in the city. The second escalator from Platform 4 of Parliament station is one of the longest and steepest in Melbourne and almost always, at the halfway mark, I’d stop climbing and just let the machine carry me up. The next 3-4 flights of steps after that normally wake me up abruptly at the end of it and often everything is a blur till I get into the gym, which is maybe 200-300 meters away.

Maybe it is the early light – it’s now 3 weeks to summer and it’s starting to light up around 6am and won’t get dark till past 8pm. Or maybe it’s the thought that it’s a home run stretch to the year – just over 6 weeks before Christmas and a bit of a break and just under 6 weeks before Kiddo finishes up in Singapore and head back to Melbourne.

As I walked towards the gym, I vaguely recalled this was little Ezra’s anniversary. He was barely one month old when he passed on, one year ago to the day. One day before his grandparents’ wedding anniversary. It was also my dad’s final 3 weeks in this world, 8 years ago now. I wondered how he felt at that time.

Good times need neither precede nor follow bad times. Often they are there at the same time. I don’t know how or why we can feel well in spite of the bad things happening. Nor why we feel lousy despite the good ones. Good and bad often occur side by side. We often respond only to either. I wonder if that is a matter of choice. Or maybe we respond to the one with greater intensity or magnitude. Or the good may be more fundamental and the bad either of remote impact or is of less significance.

November was a bad month at the end of our first year here in Melbourne. Yet in many ways that month precipitated some good outcomes. 12 months later, I left a job due to a troubled fit and my father died not long after. So it too was a bad month. I’m yet to see the good that might have travelled in parallel. But every November since I have wondered what was around the corner. So when I felt well this morning, I wondered about the pairing of good and bad. And wondered. Maybe it is the Woody Allen trait sometimes rearing its head. Maybe like I said many times to many, good people do bad things. Bad people do good things. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. When one feels strangely well, maybe it bodes well to simply seize the moment and revel in it. QSS.

Klang Break

We got back from Klang early Thursday morning. It had been really good spending time with family there, sharing meals and conversations and just participating in their activities – lives – over the few days we were there.

Ban Long has assumed main or important responsibilities in the local church as well as the family business, Chin Kheen has stepped up to look after the ageing folks, Victor has bought a new home in a beautiful green location in Shah Alam and life is generally chugging along rather well for everyone at home.

My mum too, appears to be well and happy generally and my brother behaved in the most sprightly fashion. We had a couple of nights sipping tea in a mamak stall and he was chirpy and positive and did a lot more talking than I remember him to have done in the past. In fact on the second of those nights when a few other family members (uncles, cousins) came along, I was perhaps the most subdued one (other than a cousin’s fiancée). But that was good to see. In spite of everything everyone looked, sounded and behaved as though life is really good.

I guess for me, the best part of the trip was that this was the first time in many years, when all 3 of us – Tress, Kiddo and I – were there together with everyone else. Kiddo missed a flight but made it later on Sat arvo and left a day earlier than us but still had 3 days with us, which was great.

On our last couple of days there, we started to form the idea of a return visit before too long, possibly in early Jan. I guess the satisfaction and pleasure of spending time with family, as much as wanting to make the most of what remaining time there is with elderly folks, made the idea compelling. Yet like many things these days, the vicissitudes of life requires caveats. Early Jan is a peak period for air travel so costs and availability of tickets may require closer consideration. We’ll see.

Land travel on the other hand may cost less money, but it is often a hair-raising experience. I drove a fair bit and after a couple of initial trips, I adopted the when-in-Rome mentality and fared better. It was ok for a short term burst only however and if we lived there I’d freak out every time. Drivers would drive as they please and my mantra that there are only 2 rules continues to hold. The 2-rule principle is simple: don’t hit and don’t get hit. Stick to this principle and you can run a red-light, weave in and out without prior indication/warning, drive into/past intersections without waiting/looking, turn right/left in a left/right turn only lane, drift along the dividing line of two lanes, and pretty much anything you feel like doing. There by the grace of God go I and we survived the adventure.

The family time has been great, the feeds have been good and the break has been fab.