Annus Horribilis – Pilgrim on

In so many ways this has been a difficult year. Not personally but in terms of events around us, both near and far.

When surrounded by difficult circumstances, it is easier to harbour doubt and despair. So the word of CS Lewis (as cited by Alistair McGrath) again comes to mind:

Be not deceived, Wormwood, our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

Maybe reading John Bunyan’s classic would be a good way to start the year. Perhaps it is time to revisit the idea of us all being pilgrims.


Christmas, year’s balance sheet

Christmas Eve

I knocked off work early. Really early. Like 11.00am early. I guess that’s reflective of the mood of the workplace – as in no idea what would happen in 2015 – especially for the legal team.

I got home and after lunch with kiddo, went home and made a seafood salad (smoked trout and prawns) for the dinner at Hipo’s that night. Jason and family (together with Brendon, Sammi’s BF), Tim and Kenji and a few of the Hipo’s church friends were there. We left around 10pm and headed to church for the Christmas Eve service.

The church was jam packed and though we arrived a couple of minutes before the start time of 10.30pm, we could only find seats at the foyer. The focus on readings from the scriptures and proper carols was terrific. It ended just after modnoght

Christmas Day

We were at church again for the morning service and Peter was surprised to see us again. He had administered the communion at the foyer for the Eve service and so saw us there.

After church we came home and prepared for dinner. We had a quick lunch too…

For dinner we had Jason and family over, as well Steven and family. The number (14) was just right for a little house like ours and it was a good night of just catching up with those folks. We finished up just before midnight.

Boxing Day

We trotted off to MCG, leaving for Blackburn Station on 9.15am. The trains were packed, and early reports of a big crowd for the test are proving accurate. We got to the G just after 10, and settled down to a great day of cricket, in a wonderful atmosphere. Kiddo and Tress were with me for the first time and I recalled the first Boxing Day test I attended way back in 2005 when South Africa visited and I was at the G by myself, with Tress and Kiddo in Malaysia.

At the lunch break Kiddo led us to a cafe just on Wellington Road.

To my surprise, my ladies decided to stay for the entire day and we only left just before 6pm. For dinner we had leftovers from the Christmas Day dinner.


I made another seafood salad and we went to the Tim Neville arboretum to catch up with old uni friends. Ing Tung and Chin Moi had worked hard organising the whole thing and it was wonderful catching up with them and William and Jackie (visiting from Malaysia) with their 2 daughters. The Ruhls, Chews and Chui Boon and Patsie were also there (hubby too for a short while). The conversations were good, the food just as good and it was a great afternoon.


After church and lunch at a different joint (Madam K was closed) we tried shopping at Doncaster Westfield but couldn’t get a car park so we headed to Forest Hill Chase instead. Kiddo picked up some clothes, I bagged a pair of shoes for work, and got some other stuff.

As I typed this, my mind is working hard to focus on our getaway this weekend to Port Albert and thereafter to Portland. I’m trying not to think about what 2015 would bring work wise. Bigger events have taken place. Another plane had gone missing (Air Asia flight from Surabaya to Singapore) which really made me think we did the right thing to just travel locally this summer. 2014 has been so traumatic for so many. I have sort of withdrawn and tried not to think too much about anything else other than warm positive experiences I can avail myself to. Maybe that’s a coping mechanism. Maybe it it weary to keep reading and viewing bad stuff happening all around, almost on a daily basis. MH 370 and 17, Lindt Cafe siege, Phillip Hughes, Syria, killings in Afghanistan, Taliban killings of children in Peshawar, Russians muscling, North Korean cyber attacking the US, Americans wilting under Obama, the Coalition government fumbling through a mixed up upper house and screwing the budget in the process, relationships remaining unmended (Jason/Tham Fuan), my employer being taken over, uncle fought cancer, father in law health becoming fragile, the list goes on…

There’re lots of positives too. Kiddo’s Singapore adventure is complete, Tress and I have settled into St Alf’s, Ruth and Jon are expecting again and moving to Melbourne, making new friends … many more but I need to go eat lunch now. 🙂

I’m just grateful I can still come to work every day, read the Scriptures every day and attend church every week, and stay healthy and enjoy Tress’ wonderful company constantly. The positives have enveloped me well and I can go eat my lunch feeling safe and warm inside…


Encore (?) Farewell…

Encore and farewell. That was Saturday arvo when we went to the theatre for the Les Miserables musical for a second time for Tress and I, but the first for Kiddo. We visited her in Singapore in July this year and worked out that she would not be back in time so the both of us decided to go ourselves. We did this back in September. A few weeks ago however, we worked out she could come back in time for the final day’s performance – last Sat. So we went and gorged ourselves to the sumptuous delivery.

After the performance we headed to a really nice restaurant at the Movida Aqui. Kiddo had bought a gift for my birthday and we had a wonderful meal there, leaving only after more than 2 hours there.

Yesterday after church and Madam K’s we did some grocery shopping, went to a phone shop to get a SIM card changed for Tress’ new iPhone 6 (her Christmas present) and then we went home. It was a very hot day, so we just chilled at home and I fixed her phone updates etc, and waited till it cooled off close to 4pm, before I did a quick mowing of the lawn, then cooked dinner on the barbie.

I took my time this morning at the gym, came in a little later but there was still no one from the team. People have begun taking things easy. When the boss got in, we sat around and just chatted away for a while.

Last Friday the deal was inked and ownership of my employer changed hands. The new owners – Link Group – is a private equity concern. It became apparent from the chat with the boss this morning, that there’s a high chance the legal function would be folded. So we’re likely to be given a redundancy and I’d have to look for work again. I have already started anyway but the climate/market is not getting any better and nearing 50, I’m not exactly the sort of candidate employers would be looking for. I was telling Tress, that I’d be comfortable doing any sort of job. Like driving a bus even.

So the very nice weekend we had may be the last time we blew a small fortune for a very nice show. Job wise – encore hopefully but farewell quite likely.


At the receiving end of a sense of entitlement

I walked up the ramp towards the platform this morning, only to be greeted with a notice that the 5.30 has been cancelled. The 5.45am stops at every station so it would be easily 6.30 before I would get started in the gym.

Never mind – I shrugged, sat down to read on my iPad mini and waited for the dreaded 5.45.

A few moments ago I saw this:

Fare changes for 1 January 2015

Added: 17 December 2014

From 1 January 2015, public transport fares across Victoria will rise by an average of 2.5% plus Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 2.3%.

Tram travel within the Free Tram Zone in the CBD and Docklands will be free, and customers who travel across Zones 1 and 2 will be charged a Zone 1 fare.

There will be no change to Early Bird fares on 1 January 2015.

For more detailed information on the fare changes, download a document below or see, More affordable public transport from 1 January 2015

Public Transport Victoria 2015 Fare changes (PDF) 401 KB

Public Transport Victoria 2015 Fare changes – accessible version (XLS) 37KB

A hike of nearly 5%, when service has deteriorated. How can that be? How is it we now live in times when hikes are looked upon as automatic regardless of track records? Does performance matter no more? Is the entitlement age so entrenched?

Kiddo’s back, Employer’s cracked and Sydney’s jacked.

Kiddo came back on Sunday morning. We had a busy day. Had I flown back from Asia overnight, I would have been too tired to be traipsing around during the day, the way we did for most of Sunday. We went for coffee and breakfast in Hawthorn, then home to unpack and refresh before heading out to a shopping centre to get her phone teed up and do some shopping on the side. Our coffee machine (the capsule on) had broken down after about a couple of years and we got a replacement. Once home, she set up all her stuff on the new phone and I made the soups for the week, and barbied some fish for dinner, made some our lunches and breakfast smoothies.

We went to the Whitehorse Carols in time for the combined churches choir performance, at 8pm. Tress correctly predicted many families may have chosen to leave by then (the event started around 4.30pm) so we got a park and ground spot (to lay out the ground sheet) fairly easily. We stayed for about an hour before coming back once it got dark and a bit cool. At home, we settled down for the night. We had been adjusting to an empty nest but it feels far easier to adjust to the ex-fledgling coming home, albeit for just a few weeks. It was a great way to end the weekend.

The weekend had started early. The legal team left just before 1pm, and headed to the Stokehouse City joint for the team Christmas lunch. The boss shouted a bottle of champers to start proceedings and after lunch we meandered along Bourke to look for a place to have a sit down over a few beers. We settled down at the Mess Hall and later the boss’ wife who works around the corner up the street, came and joined us. The conversations were interesting, as they mark what is probably, the end of the road, for some or all of us as lawyers for this company. The sale of the company, scheduled to be signed by the end of this week, hasn’t been cause for optimism for the boss and the team.

Maybe it is just a case of whistling past the cemetery but the way the team joked and laughed about the “end days” of our tenure had a ring of resignation around it. Or maybe it genuinely is a case of not being able to do anything about it. I have been looking for another job but as usual, this is a long process fraught with ebbs and flows of opportunities and emotions. I’m just trying to let past experiences of not successfully turning to God and leaving things in His hands, be lessons learned. It is hard in some ways. I spoke to the HR department of a potential lead earlier last week, who said he would revert by the end of the week. Not surprisingly, that did not happen and though I harbour deep hopes that would change soon, a part of me still calls for me to really just wait and see what God has in store. I guess in some ways I have learned a little bit, as the level of anxiety is probably a notch below what was in the past. I just hope I find something soon, or this place offers continuing employment. Knowing God provides – would a father give his son a snake when he asked for a fish – is one thing but asking God to make it possible for me to have something better than a fish, is quite another I suppose.

We left Mess Hall and I got home maybe 6.30pm, and Tress picked me up and we went to get some sauces to marinade some ribs she had bought, for the dinner at Alex’s the next day. The ribs done and kept in the fridge, we settled down to watch a movie on iTunes. “The Intouchables” is a French movie with a story about an unemployed Senegalese finding work as a carer for rich aristocrat who was a quadriplegic – it was very a cute, funny and heart-warming film and it only cost us $0.99. Kiddo watched it last night too…

Sat was very warm. We went to church for a wedding of a home group couple’s son. We helped out with bits and pieces, sat through the wedding, and quickly went home late morning to change into shorts and t-shirts for the rest of the day. After lunch at Madam K’s we went home and I worked on the garden while Tress vacuumed and cleaned the inside of the house, and got Kiddo’s room ready. We finished just after 4, I roasted the ribs for the dinner party and then went to Alex’s to catch up with them. They’re going to Malaysia tomorrow for their annual visit/holidays. It was good to catch up with them – haven’t done this for a while now.

As I write this over lunch, Sydney CBD (Martin Place) is witnessing a dramatic event. A gunman is holding some people hostage in a café, and some of those hostages have been asked to hold up an Islamic looking flag against the shop window. Police are everywhere and everyone’s emailing and texting and face booking everyone else about it.

Kiddo’s back, Employer’s cracked and Sydney’s jacked.

The more things change…

Last Friday night was the office Christmas party. I had never been to the office party but given the possibility of the company changing dramatically after this year, the legal team decided to all go this year. So on Friday arvo the team left early (4pm) to The Imperial down Spring Street. I joined them a little later and my boss made it a full legal team and later remarked this was the first year the legal team has a 100% turn up for the office Christmas party.

I’m still not totally au fait with this pre party drinks thing. The party was meant to start at 6pm but from 4pm, many groups of employees have started to have a few beers and by the time we rocked up to the venue (Immigration Museum) we’ve all had a few beers.

I was soon reminded why I don’t like such events. Standing around chatting under a tent with several hundred people, many of whom have been generously plied with alcohol it was hard to hear everything your conversation partner was saying. It was near impossible when the music amped up and the alcohol consumption followed in tandem.

So after a couple of hours I started to get ready to leave. I was glad when I got to Flinders St station and sat on a seat in my train home just after 9pm, as I started texting Tress.

When we got home she showed me the many pieces of men’s clothing she had bought me – all great looking and highly functional. We then sat down to watch an old Angelina Jolie movie (Taking Lives) before going to bed. Or we could have watched the movie on Sat night – I forget now L

On Sat we left home early and visited a Korean grocery store. I had wanted to experiment with a Korean dish so we picked up some stuff to help me have fun. We then went to a butcher and picked up some ribs, then went home to attend to LBJ’s groomer who was scheduled to visit later that morning. When she (Amber) came and the little fellow was safely in the grooming shuttle, Tress and I went out to Madam K’s. We then got home and I did some quick gardening, before firing up the barbie to roast my Korean styled pork ribs, served with kimchi on the side.

That dish went down a treat at Jason’s. Also there were the Hipos. Gerry’s mum was visiting them from Kuching and was also there at the dinner. Joyce an old acquaintance later dropped by but Jason had left her to talk to Tress, Gerry and I. He had told me earlier he had been fending off requests to assist with some government grants for her ventures. I guess he didn’t want to compromise himself and left us as his shield of propriety… when Gerry had to leave just before 10 (his young kids’ bed time) we followed suit and Jason said we’ve had no chance to chat. I thought we did before Joyce came along but maybe he had things he wanted to talk about more in depth.

Sunday after church we had lunch with a new couple who were migrating to Melbourne next year. Mr Chooi had introduced them to us and we caught up to be supportive for this new and big move. They’re highly skilled and talented very friendly and extremely well connected people so for them to leave KL and the networks they have there, must be a big uprooting exercise. As we were driving home later, I said to Tress it’s amazing how after more than 10 years since we moved here, Malaysians – highly skilled, talented and equipped Malaysians – continue to leave Malaysia. It just continues to be sad.

We finally got to go about with our usual chores – did some grocery shopping for the week, went home and cooked our soups, made salad and smoothies before settling down to skype kiddo. It has been raining for nearly 2 days now so we had the excuse not to walk the little fellow and chatted instead with Kiddo, whose Singapore adventure is nearing its end. She would be back in Melbourne soon but only a little while before she heads off to Canberra late Jan next year. Like many say these days, the more things change the more they remain the same.

Summerz ere

The very warm weekend was almost like a big intro to the summer. Officially that starts today. On Sat though, it was in the high twenties for much of the day. That gave Tress and I the perfect excuse to take it easy, which we did. For the first time in perhaps many months, we took a nap in the afternoon.

We had woken up early that day, had a quick toast with coffee, and went to vote in the State election. The ALP won and Victoria according to many experts would be on its way to financial quagmire again. We were at the voting station just on 8am but there was already a queue of about 10 or so persons. LBJ was with us and we had to tie him to a fence as dogs aren’t allowed inside the compound of the station. He was safe and well looked after though as voters and candidates’ workers were all taken by him.

The election staff was slow and fiddly and I said to Tress I am surprised everything is still done manually. The electoral roll is a thick printed register and the staff couldn’t even work out alphabetical orders so the identification process took a long time. I would have expected an electronic register, even if just for checking and verifying the roll.

It took about 30 minutes for us to work our way up the que we got back and after Tress put the laundry out we went to Simon the hairdresser. It’s a nice feeling to now just take my seat without him asking or me telling him what I’d like done. I’m a regular now. I said to him my coffee place at work does the same thing. I simply walk up the counter and pay. They know my coffee. With Tress it’s a bit more tricky – she had to tell him what she liked done…

After Simon’s we did some grocery shopping and then to Madam K’s for lunch. We the got home and walked LBJ some more. Then we meant to do some gardening but the warm weather gave me a perfect excuse simply to laze around. We both took a nap on the sofas – which was very nice.

That night there was a celebration in church – to celebrate clearing the building debt. Dinner was followed by a bush dance and then Peter took us through the history of the church building. A 3.5m development was funded by a 500k grant from the Federal Govt and a 900K loan from the Anglican Dev Fund. So the 600+ members funded a 3m project inside 10 years. The members we have come to know don’t appear rich so the giving must have been really generous and sacrificial.

Sunday continued to be very warm. Alland Remond from NewHope Baptist preached in a 3-way pulpit exchange. It’s the 10th year the 3 senior ministers have done this. Last year David Ratten from One Community in Blackburn preached.

After church and lunch we went to a shopping centre to cool off the 33 degree arvo, before going home. I picked up a new pair of sandals for the summer. I had looked at these new sandals for a while now, and when in Malaysia last month, checked them out only to find they cost the same or even more there. I then did the usual weekend cooking, before taking LBJ for a walk later in the evening.

Right through the weekend I was decked out in shorts and sandals. Other than the long hours of daylight, that’s the best thing about summer…