People’s republic of distraction | Institute of Public Affairs Australia


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Weekend at home and David & Jean


David and Jean – two persons who were on my mind a lot in recent days. But on Saturday morning it was Auntie Hooi we visited. She had gone into hospital on the same day David my brother went back into hospital in Malaysia. She had her surgery on the same day and my brother David had his the next day, on Friday.

Auntie Hooi has had an upper vertebrae issue for a number of years. It has caused numbness and the risk of worse consequences hangs over her and finally after strong medical opinions, she had the surgery she had put off for years. David was suddenly diagnosed with a malignant growth in his kidney, around new year’s. He had that kidney removed on Friday.

Against these, I had decided to have as normal a weekend as I possibly can. I wanted to live life, and hopefully serve God, while I still can.

We had had a normal Saturday morning earlier on before visiting Auntie Hooi. I had planted a hydrangeas plant we picked up the previous weekend from a nursery in Warrandyte. It was good to be home on a weekend again, without the spectre of a long drive on the Hume on Sunday after an early lunch.

We drove into town to get to the Richmond Epsworth hospital. Auntie Hooi looked well although she wasn’t mobile, which would take a while to remedy. Later, Natasha her daughter turned up and then later a couple of her old school friends also rocked up. We talked, which was terrific. Just as we were leaving, Auntie Pin came in with lunch for Auntie Hooi, with Uncle Jin behind. We only spoke briefly as the parking meter was nearly up.

We drove back to Box Hill and got to know Rose, the new owner of Madam Kwong’s Kitchen. The food was still very good so we decided we’d keep coming on weekends.

After lunch it was grocery shopping (a lot, for some reasons) before we ended the day with a Disney movie – Kevin Costner in “MacFarland” – on Netflix. It was a lovely story of a battling football coach/school teacher ending up in a Mexican migrant fruit picking town in California. The football team was hopeless but he discovered the cross country running ability of the kids and coached them to be State champions. Typical Disney triumph against the odd story but it was a lovely way to finish the day, while waiting for an opportunity to speak with David on the phone, which Jean had told us would be better on Sunday.

On Sunday it was a great service at St Alf’s with the theme of God’s Grace as a raison d etre for our daily behaviours. After lunch at Madam K’s again, we came back and started clearing out some old clothes for op-shop, to clear the guest room for Kiddo and Mic to come visit over the Australia Day weekend. I then cooked some soup for the week’s dinner and did some ironing while Tress did more laundry. It was another very hot day and when we finally walked LBJ, the heat was still palpable. We came back and after exchanging messages with Jean, decided to give David another day or so of rest, before attempting to speak with him. From the exchanges with Jean, he sounds tired and up against it. So he (and Jean) remain in our prayers for now, as the only thing we can do, for now.

God’s grace requires a response. That was Mike’s message from the book of Titus on Sunday. I wonder how mine would look like. I wonder what God has in place for me as a response to His grace.

Working in Melbourne again


I had just finished a piece of work on this my third day of my new role when I was given a form to sign.

It’s a form of acknowledgement, stating I’ve read through the various policies and procedures of the organisation. I had actually read through half of them prior to being given this form. Having to sign this form has given me a very good reason to read the remainder.

There’re 30 policies and procedures documents. Most are relevant to me. I have to read all of them. The first (which I had skipped) I opened up about half an hour ago, was the Diversity Policy. It was benign and very uncontroversial, which is a good start. The nature of such documents however is such that I’d only move onto my third document when an overwhelming urge to seek a distraction becomes difficult to ignore, hence this entry.

I rang in to speak to a very efficient executive assistant last Friday, who said to me I will be provided with a car park space at the basement of the office building. Tress and I had discussed driving in to work anyway, especially seeing the connecting trams are currently being replaced by bus services while some tram platforms are being upgraded. With a car park facility, we decided we’ll drive in and we’ve been experimenting with different routes, especially on the way home. We’d been mostly stumbling from one wrong turn to the other but today has been much smoother and I now have a better grip of my bearings in this area.

I’ve been taking my lunch time walks these past couple of days. South Melbourne is a semi hippie area of sorts, perhaps a bit more down to earth/grounded version of Prahran. Certainly it’s got a very different flavour to the east end of the CBD, where I’d last been in Melbourne. Turner/Dickson wetlands is even more an entirely different world but that’s for another day. Parklands and a serene lake is not merely a contrast with chic streets, laneways and shops lined along them. They’re comparable to polar opposites. They require a different mindset if I ever make an entry about it, not merely one that seeks to escape reading another dozen or so policy documents.

Tress office in Port Melbourne is some 3km west of mine South Melbourne and it takes a mere 7-9 minutes to drive from one to the other. So driving in makes sense for the both of us. I said to her this morning it feels like back in the early 1990’s all over again when newly married, we’d both drive to/from Klang to KL every day for work, in the same car. She said we’d come a big circle.

I’d left the roundabouts which in many ways characterised my sojourn to Canberra and now here in the southern fringe of Melbourne CBD, a sense of deja vu creeps in to evoke sentiments still in search of the appropriate words to describe how I feel. I’m grateful for the opportunity and certainly for the work, to which I must now return.

2016 and My Brother


Tress and I came back from our Adelaide holidays on 2/1. It was a very lovely holiday. We stayed at Glenelg, and took in New Year’s Eve countdown at the Glenelg Beach, just off the jetty where the fireworks were on display. Unfortunately on the next day as we were about to go for a New Year’s Day dinner at one of the restaurants on the pier, we witnessed a frenzied scene. Dozens of paramedics and lifeguards were running around and we soon discovered two boys drowned. That brought a sombre end to our holidays but as we were making our way back, our minds were on another sombre matter.

My brother David had gone into hospital in Subang, not far from his home in Shah Alam, on New Year’s Eve on suspected kidney stones. Tests later showed there were no stones and his pains were thought to be attributed to a possible growth in his kidney. He then stayed in the hospital for a few days while awaiting tests and other investigations.

At the time of writing, he has left the hospital and is resting at home. He goes back in next week, for further tests. We’re all hoping the growth is benign.

Jean his wife, has been managing the situation with some stress. As always, well meaning friends and relatives swamped them with visits and questions and I’m guessing physical tiredness has a lot to do with it but she has expressed displeasure at the invasions of privacy.

I suppose they live in this cocktail of eastern communal settings and western individualism and expectations of privacy that come with that. When someone is unwell, everyone wants to be seen to be doing the right thing by asking about what is wrong and paying visits at the hospital. This clashes with desires for personal matters of health to be private. Until recently, these desires give way readily – without questions – to communal expectations. I hope Jean finds strength to deal with this difficult confluence. In the meantime, we all continue to pray for my dear brother.

Since coming back from Adelaide, we have been taking it easy. I only go back to work – my new job – next week so I have the whole week off to do stuff. I spent yesterday cleaning. I vacuumed, cleaned toilets, scrubbed down nook and crannies, wiped down surfaces and cleaned anything that looked like it needed cleaning, including the weber Q. Later I picked up some stuff to oil the deck later this week.

We’ve also fixed the TV reception problem. Since unsubscribing Foxtel a few months ago, the TV reception has been poor with some channels often unavailable. We tried a set top box but in the end we solved in simply by plugging the antennae lead direct into the TV, instead of through a DVD recorder and it worked perfectly and I returned the set top box. It was weird to use a set top box for a newish smart TV anyway.

Earlier today I cleaned up the garden and washed the car. I was so grimy at the end of that and after a shower, I felt too clean to wash LBJ – can leave that for tomorrow or later. I also planned to re-register the car to Vic plates tomorrow (reverting to ET 3777).

I was just thinking of Kiddo and Canberra. She has another step in the process of Defence employment next week and I hope she sail through to the next step. It’s been quite a few steps now so that’s been very encouraging. She’s moved into my old room at the Watson Street apartment and the pics she sent looked good.

2016 has had such a mixed start as a result of my brother’s health. I hope he gets better soon.