Mixed Sentiments

It was one of those totally forgettable weekends. Maybe that is why this entry will attempt to recall more details. 

At the office, I moved into a general open plan pod on Friday arvo and after settling all my stuff at my new desk just after 5, I took a couple of pictures for Tress, then went home. I had very mixed feelings. I was losing heaps of privacy. I guess being in my own office in the last 6 months has heightened the sense of solitude – the defining experience of my life in Canberra. Solitude is a funny thing. While on the whole I’m not one for seeking out company and am generally happy with a book, a movie, a walk, a music album or any solitary activity, it is only enjoyable if it is a choice. When solitude is not a choice, it can be oppressive. You want to break out of it and whatever helps towards that end, you tend to reach out and have a go. The 1-2 months I invested into trying to get into a small group at Crossroads was an example of that attempt to reach out and break out of an increasingly oppressive solitude. Being moved into the open plan space is like a complete opposite of that experience. I feel as though I have been made to seek out company, solitude snatched out of my clutches. I guess on balance if asked to make a choice, I would under my present circumstance, choose to be seated in an open plan desk just to cease being alone. It’s odd – being made to do something is less favourable even if by choice, one would have done that thing voluntarily.

 Back in the apartment I was surprised the little fellow wasn’t home. Kiddo had taken him out so I simply had my usual quick and dirty dinner of instant noodles (“mi goreng”) on a bed of spinach topped with an egg, Kiddo and I then spent a quiet evening at home – Mic was apparently out for dinner with his friends – before we both went to bed early. I had so many mixed thoughts and feelings in me I was neither much fun company nor good conversation companion. In any case Kiddo said she was tired – she had come back from Sydney pretty late the previous night and was up early that morning.

Saturday morning after taking the little fellow for his walk I went to see a property in Scullin. It was pretty ordinary. Then it was to Belconnen for some grocery shopping. I asked Kiddo if she wanted dinner so I planned to cook dinner at home. Back home, after another quick and dirty lunch of the same stuff ( I have perfected the combination of the unholy trinity of mi goreng, spinach and poached egg) and after marinating some chicken for dinner with Kiddo and Mic, I attacked the tasks of vacuuming, wiping, laundry and generally just cleaning and tidying. I put away heaters, did another round of laundry of bathroom mats and such other items. Then it was a long walk with the little fellow before returning to the apartment to cook dinner.

 Kiddo Mic and I sat down to a dinner of roasted chicken breast marinated with lemon pepper spice and fish sauce, on a bed of tang hoon (mung beans glass noodles) tossed in a sauce from deglazed chicken roast pan, and a cacophony of sauce dashes and a salad of baby spinach and bellino tomatoes. I spent the rest of the evening in front of the telly while the kids were on their computers.

 Sunday I went back to the Good Shepherd Anglican church in Curtin. It was my third time there and the pastor’s wife came up to say hello – she must have noticed especially since Tress Kiddo and I were there just last Sunday as well. After church I went home, warmed up some leftover from dinner the previous night and after lunch did some ironing. When that was all done and the laundry all folded away I swept the balcony and then took the little fellow the Lake Ginnindera dog park. There’re separate fenced off areas for large and small dogs as well as the large circuit so we spent an hour there before going back to the apartment.

 After blitzing up the smoothie for brekkie the next day (this morning), I sat down in front of the telly and did a video phone call with Tress. We’re used to this now. It’s all such mixed emotions. There’s a part of me that is happy I wasn’t back in Melbourne this past weekend. That is the part of me that aches terribly on Sunday arvo’s as I pull out of the driveway of our Melbourne home to hit the 6-7 hour trek back to Canberra. The thought of there being another 10-11 days before I could be with Tress again, and seeing her all by herself in that house is always a bit of a pain and being here these past 2 weekends meant I didn’t have to go through that. Obviously on the other hand the 36 hours or so I’d get to spend with her each fortnight is the period I always look forward to every single day.

Solitude and company. Private office and open plan. Joy of togetherness and pain of separation. Mixed, contrasts – complementary? – appears to be the theme.


Review of “Issues List”?

6 months to the day, today. 6 long months ago I walked into the office here at the National Blood Authority and started work on a 12 month contract. They offered me a 9 month contract but I negotiated a 12 month term. I often thought – or more accurately, wondered if – I should have negotiated down to a 6 month contract instead.

So here I am at the half way mark.

Release into the masses

2 days ago my boss came into my room to say he has some bad news for me. I thought they were going to say there is no more funding for the second half of my contract, or something to that effect. Instead, the bad news was that I had to give up my office for a project team working on a new business case for more funding for some specific project.

That isn’t entirely bad news. I have been lonely on too many occasions and being out there amongst other colleagues in the open plan pod system would alleviate that to a large extent. That is probably worth the price of a loss of privacy.

So when I return after the weekend, I’d be back to the open plan system again – something I had been used to for so long already anyway, before I started this role, 6 months ago.

So I might spend some time on this the last day of total privacy in my own office reflecting on the last 6 months.

How has it been in Washington?

(Not quite the same scenario as Jimmy Stewart in “Mr Smith Goes to Washington” but coming to Canberra to work provides fertile ground for puns so what the heck…)

I took on this job for 2 reasons.

I thought – Tress thought too – that it would be good to reconnect with Kiddo. Having left home in 2012, we (I) had felt her life was on a trajectory that is taking her away from us. The connection had thinned out and I felt we were losing touch with what was going on in her life.

The second reason was the bird in hand reason. Accepting this work rather than hoping for another role in Melbourne felt like the conservative and therefore right decision. Especially given the former and most probably the dominant reason of reconnecting with Kiddo.

Second reason

Once I had accepted the role, I stopped looking for work. There were a couple of interviews I attended before eventually coming to Canberra but those were developments of leads that had initiated prior to my acceptance of the NBA role. The latter interviews were in fact from Canberra via teleconferencing which I felt didn’t go too well. My mind was in a different space from when I came to Canberra and the medium of Skype just didn’t do it for me. I’d like to believe that had I remained in Melbourne, those developments might have taken on a more positive direction but one can keep guessing I suppose.

The work in NBA has been interesting for the most part but my frame of mind remains that this is a temporary role. This remains the governing factual circumstance. Given that, I want to – have always wanted to – find a role in Melbourne, where home is and where I want to live and for as long as the Lord would let me. If the NBA gives me any indication that this might turn into a permanent role I might re frame my outlook but at this moment given the factual circumstance, my desire is to return to Melbourne.

Main (first) reason

Reconnecting with Kiddo has been by and large a positive experience. Seeing her interact with her study group, social circles, church and church related (FOCUS) circles, has provided glimpses into her mind, heart and maybe soul. I have been grateful for this privilege.

Seeing her vocation pulling into focus towards (hopefully) academia has also been helpful to give myself comfort as to what she would be doing with her life, work wise. The alternative of doing any available public service work would likely prove more mechanically drifting but would none the less provide me with comfort in the knowledge that life will happen for her. I would not have been able to see this development with the clarity or assurance I now have had I remained in Melbourne so I am grateful.

Then there’s the 600lb gorilla sitting in the corner. Or more commonly used these days: The elephant in the room.

Mic is a fine young man. After sitting down with him for dinner (1:1) several months ago however, I asked myself what sort of man I had envisaged my daughter ending up dating. I have to be honest and say Mic would not have been that man. That man would have likely been one not battling with being underweight. Neater hair, fleshier face. Doesn’t walk with a swaying hip and way less effeminate. Doesn’t have a propensity for brown pants and brown shoes. Doesn’t talk with an American accent. Doesn’t come from a large (huge) family. Doesn’t slurp his beverages and generally makes less noise while eating. That man would not have been impulsive and would have a cooler and more deliberate judgment of actions and decisions.

It’s sometimes good to quickly deal with the negatives first. Therapeutic even.

That man I envisaged would have been someone who loves the Lord – tick. Intelligent – tick. Serious with his work – tick (I think). He would have been contemplative and thoughtful: Half tick and tick. Courteous – tick. Respectful – tick, probably. Witty – tick. Larrikin and often politically incorrect – no tick there – at all. Loves spectator sport – again, no tick there.

While an elephant in the room, what I think of Mic and where he is in my balance sheet is of no/far less consequence. What Kiddo thinks of him and where he is in her balance sheet is what really counts so I guess if she can deal with all of those issues or they don’t matter/matter less to her, that is the real 600lb gorilla sitting in the corner. But I guess that is a matter she/they have already resolved. My only wish is she/they would let her/their vocations land on a more settled spot/trajectory before they plan their next phase in life.

So in many ways the re-connection agenda has been met. Yet it is as though I remain an observer. While grateful to have been permitted to so observe, I have not felt as though I have re-entered her life. I am more a flatmate than a father. I remain alone in that sense. I feel as though my family is in Melbourne. Even though my daughter is here in Canberra, living in an apartment I share with her, I seldom feel I have family in Canberra. In that sense the re-connection agenda remains an “open item”.

I long for a positive element in my Canberra experience, which I can write home about. Maybe that is why I remain without prospect job wise, in Melbourne. Perhaps I am meant to remain in Canberra for the next 6 months to see out my contract so that the re-connection agenda can be closed. I just need something to clutch on to I guess.


Paris, Morte and Waiting on the Lord.

Kiddo and I picked Tress up from the airport around 8pm on Friday night and it was great to have all 3 of us – 4 including LBJ – in the apartment that night. As always, it didn’t matter where we were. It was the same small apartment where I have often been alone and miserable. As long as we were together it felt great.

Saturday morning after breakfast while we were getting ready to go and attend a property inspection in Latham, Tress said she read a breaking news alert. There had been some shootings in Paris. As I turned on the television, the horror of what happened began to unfold.

Morte Morte

Earlier this year – maybe in Feb/Mar – I had turned my facebook to an idle mode of some sort and changed my id to Morte Morte. It was in the wake of all the senseless deaths and killings at that time. Shootings in the Charlie Hebdo publication office in Paris, suicide bombings killing dozens in Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia, shootings in mosques in Pakistan and elsewhere, the list goes on and on.

In the midst of my search for work and dealing with redundancy – being alone for the most part – these senseless killings depressed me. I guess when you’re busy running on the daily treadmill grinds, reading these horrific incidents become easier to deal with when you have people you can talk to, digest, process and land on some mutually held albeit disconsolate ground. When you read these things alone and life prospect isn’t all that flash having been made redundant with no new role in sight, I withdrew into a “why bother” mode.

We went to a Chinese place in Macquarie and had yum cha around noon on Saturday. Dumpling Inn was just next to a bookshop known as the Asia Bookroom, which we visited and Kiddo bought a book. The lady manning the shop is a British who married a Malaysian and lived in Singapore for many years. She – Lynette – said she had been reading Rehman Rashid’s Malaysian Journey as well as another book on the BMF scandal. I said to her I worked for a lawyer (Chooi) who was tasked with investigating that scandal. It was weird having a conversation with a stranger in Macquarie ACT, on matters so close to what was once home. The conversations over yum cha on the Paris attacks – as we checked on our phones for updates – and that conversation with Lynette helped me deal with the shootings in a far less negative way but like many, those events stayed and disturbed me through the weekend.

All three of us went to the Good Shepherd Anglican church in Curtin on Sunday, after which we went to Fyshwick for lunch. We then came home, talked to Kiddo about her plans, played cards, then went out to Canberra Centre for a bit of window shopping. Then it was back home again, for more cards. We had the TV on as the Kiwis fought back on a lifeless wicket at the WACA in Perth, to put up a fight against the Aussies. IT was good to see, after they were thoroughly beaten in the first Test in Brisbane.

Later that evening, we walked Kiddo to church in uni. LBJ came along and then continued walking to where Kiddo’s graduation ceremony would take place. We mentally prepped how to bring Mum and Sim around when they visit on the week of the ceremony.

We’re nearing another milestone. As I mulled over and over again about whether Kiddo would get her PhB and what next after that, and what I would do work wise in the months/years ahead, I kept coming back to the ongoing theme of waiting on God. I had climbed out of my Morte hold/hole clutching onto that theme and I guess it would remain an ongoing lesson in the days ahead. Not just for me but also Kiddo and Tress, who now at this very moment, continues to deal with the challenges of transitioning into a new role, having left Myer a month ago after more than 10 years there. I hope Tress and Kiddo comes along on my journey on waiting on the Lord, before ascertaining the next move. Only then can we confidently deal with life’s harshest challenges such as dealing with those senseless deaths in Paris over the weekend.

Misso’s and Mondayitis (of a different sort)

I started my drive yesterday an hour later than usual as we were at a discussion forum about faith and work, after church at St Alf’s.

Throughout my drive the step ladder was rattling in the boot. A couple of bulbs in the apartment had blown out – Kiddo’s room went out many weeks ago and 2-3 weeks ago the one in the kitchen went. We have been relying on the dining area lighting when we used the kitchen. I haven’t been able to fix them because there was nothing in the apartment for me to step on. I couldn’t believe between Kiddo and I we couldn’t get our hands on a loan ladder or even a steady chair for that task – I needed to cart that little ladder all the way from Melbourne, which is a bit stupid but what can I do. I know so few people in this town. Apparently no one Kiddo knows can lend us a ladder – or a chair for that matter.

Saturday was a normal sort – we had an early lunch at Madam Kwong’s and I spent the arvo doing gardening and washing the car.

Saturday night we were at Jason and Mel’s, together with Peter Misso and his wife Anne. We haven’t done these Saturday night things for a long time now. As before, it ended late – we only got home after midnight. It was good however, having conversations with these two couples as well as with Jonathan and Samantha (Jason and Mel’s children). It was particularly good listening to Peter and Anne talk about their early years of work in Australia, and how God provided for them when things were really difficult. I said to Peter it sounded a lot like George Muller’s stories so I asked him to consider writing a book. He and Anne were involved initially with a ministry called Teen Challenge, which didn’t end well. He has found other work however and continues to be positive and has consistently served well, giving his all.

Jason hasn’t recovered from the Lifegate episode. Mel was still tearing up so the hurt is still evident. I hope he continues to involve himself at Bridge church and respond to invitation to participate, in any form.

This morning I messaged Tress and said to her I was flummoxed. I wondered, was confused and a bit deflated. Maybe it’s just Mondayitis creeping in.

Passing the torch.

The Australian summer series for cricket begins today. We play the Kiwis at the Gabba.

The significance of this match is that the torch has been handed to a new generation. Captaincy of the Australian cricket team is often said to be the second most important job in Australia, after the Prime Minister. Over the years I’ve watched Aussie cricket, I’ve seen the torch handed down from one captain to another. Allan Border to Mark Taylor to Steve Waugh to Ricky Ponting to Michael Clarke and now to Steve Smith. The current team now playing the Kiwis also sees a number of changes. Several players have retired. Haddin, Watson and Rogers are gone.

Ageing, succession and refreshing renewals. They’re all part of the cycle of life. As I type this Australia is 1 for 194 and newcomers Burns and Khuwaja looking like they would do well. Warner is nearing his century.

3 and a half weeks from now summer would officially begin and I would have spent my first winter and spring in the nation’s capital city.

Miraculously unscathed

I walked in to work this morning. My left gluteous maximus is sore. I must have pulled something. It must have happened when I kicked that dog. It’s sore now and hurts when I bend over. My right knee has some abrasions too. Must have scraped it when I fell over, after repeatedly kicking at that dog and pulling the lead to get LBJ away from that dog.

Minutes earlier LBJ had been happily walking and sniffing around on Turner Parklands, near where the big storm water drain runs across under the bridge on Masson Street. He didnt have his lead on but I was not further than 5 meters from him. When I saw that dog slowly running towards him, I quickly put the lead on and tried to get him and myself away. Behind that brown and black striped dog an old man was running, calling out “No Totti, no”. A pit bull terrier, I thought. Too tall to be a Staffordshire terrier.

I dont remember much after that. Other than hearing LBJ cry out loud and me yelling at the dog while kicking him. That old man eventually caught up and tried to pull that dog away. Up close, those stripes are like a tiger’s. He had bits of white on the lower half of his body. When he was at last pulled away by that old man and lead safely in place, I ran my hand through Scruff to see if he has been hurt. Miraculously he appeared to be ok. The only thing on my mind was to ensure that dog is safely restrained – the old man owner appear to be working hard restraining him and I wasn’t completely confident it wouldn’t break free. So I kept a distance as I yelled out to the old man that that dog should be on lead at all times.

Other than some saliva and a broken harness, Scruff appears to be unscathed. As I walked away a young man came up and said he saw what happened and said the old man and I should exchange details. I was still apprehensive about the old man’s ability to retrain that dog so I just asked for his mobile number. He gave me that number and I rang straight away – his phone rang out so I said I will be in contact if necessary. That young man walked with me a little bit and said he was a lawyer with Ashurst and his name was Hayden. I was very grateful for his work.

Back at the apartment I checked Scruff over several times, brushed him, and belly rubbed him to check his underside. I couldn’t believe he appeared to be unscathed. I had spoken to Tress earlier who said she was just leaving the office. As I googled what else I could or should do after an attack like that, I came across an ACT local government page which said I should report the incident. I rang the 13 xxxx number and surprisingly, someone picked up. It was almost 8 by then. She took my call and asked a series of questions. A park ranger than rang again after about 5-10 minutes to say he would write up a report.

LBJ might have been surprised by the affection I showed him all night – held him close, scratched him constantly and babying him. He had his dinner, looked relaxed, and appeared to be in a much better state than I was.

This morning as I walked him, he moseyed up to a big black Labrador and said hello. He is a sweet thing, LBJ. Obviously the attack last night hadn’t changed that part of him. As I tried to go through my routine after that walk, it was obvious of the two of us, I had come out the worse. I’m glad I’m the one with the aches and pains – that little black jedi is such a hero.

That’ll do

I got my current car – the Mazda – from a dealer in Belconnen. Tony the salesperson is a Malaysian guy, also from Klang. He has been in Canberra for a couple of years now. He also happens to be an acquaintance of Theresa’s brother and had some business dealings while in Klang.

On Saturday I sent the car in for servicing and caught up with Tony. I can see he’s a young man seeking to make a life for himself here in this new country, and I can sense he’s perhaps wondering how his two kids would fare, years from now. He’s a nice fellow and if my stay in Canberra shapes up in any form I might get to know him better.

When the car was done, I did some grocery shopping in Belconnen and then headed home. Tress and Kiddo had been dropping hints about LBJ needing a bath and Tress had sent me screenshots of some DIY dog wash facilities so I decided to take the little fellow for a go. The weather was inclement and parking at the CBD is always tricky so I chose the one in Belconnen and headed back that way again.

LBJ washed, I was back at the apartment and made some lunch. Mic and Kiddo then had a chat to me and after putting the laundry to dry I was about to go help Jonathan with his house in Mawson, when I realised I could not find my house keys. I searched all over the apartment, the car park, the car etc but to no avail. So for the third time that morning/arvo I headed to Belconnen in an attempt to retrace my steps and find the keys. When I decided they were gone, I borrowed Kiddo’s and rode into the CBD to get one of them cut. The other needed a locksmith and when I got back to the apartment I searched on google and guess where a locksmith can be found? For the fourth time that day I went to Belconnen again. The website had said they were a 24/7 outfit but it turned out the shop front closed at noon on Saturdays.

By the time I got back to the apartment it was after 4pm and I was frazzled and tired. I decided to do some cleaning and then just talked to Tress on the phone/Skype. The night ended with Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, and I kept thinking where are those keys? And, of course, about the chat Mic and Kiddo had with me…

Sunday morning after walking the little fellow I got ready for church. I had googled the night before and decided to give a church in Curtin a go. Anglican of course. Good Shepherd Anglican in Curtin turned out to be another small Anglican church in Canberra and I wondered for the umpteenth time, how churches like these survive financially. Nevertheless it’s a good church – one that I’d probably go to in the foreseeable future, when I’m in town on Sundays. After church I headed home, put away the laundry, did some ironing and then headed to Jonathan’s to help him. I spent the afternoon helping him with some painting and left around 6.30pm, to give the little fellow some walk time before it got dark.

When his walk was done and my brekky smoothie, salad lunch and dinner were all done, I talked to Tress again on Skype. As I sat alone in the apartment with the little fellow at my feet, I talked to Tress, I was grateful the weekend was such an occupied one, as otherwise I would have probably spent much of the weekend wondering what I was doing on my own here in Canberra.

Tony’s effort in hauling his family half way across the world would likely pay off as I’m convinced his kids would have a better future than if he had remained in Malaysia. Canberra can bring him and his family as much happiness as Melbourne brought me. I had my family with me then. When I went to my room just after 10pm, Kiddo hadn’t come home and I was grateful at least I had that little fellow with me. As Farmer Hoggett would say, “That’ll do”