Family, friends, food and footy

Tress and I went to the little local Italian on Friday, for the third consecutive Friday night. This time however, we had A Hooi/U Marloney and Jason/Mel with us. It was a welcome home type of dinner for Jason and Mel who have just returned from a bohemian holiday in Europe but it was an excuse to catch up over a lovely meal. Everyone enjoyed the meal and the time together.

On Saturday after a lazy morning Tress and I went to a property auction in Vermont. It was a lovely three bedroom unit (one of only two units on that address) and we really liked the simplicity of the build, functional layout and quality finishes. When I asked the guy at the front door handling out brochures what the expected price was, his response gave us some incentives to hang around. I whispered to Tress that if it stayed under 800 I’d like to have a stab. The bidding started at 700 and for a few minutes I was hopeful. The very tiny backyard meant little maintenance and I had been saying to Tress that maybe 5+ years from now I wouldn’t be able to enjoy gardening and housework as much as I do now and so our home would likely receive less TLC then. This unit we’re standing in front of, with an enthusiastic auctioneer plying his trade, represented a very agreeable alternative – 5 years hence (say).

Within about 20 minutes however, the price had gone past 850 and we hung around only to see what it finished at.

We then drove around the area for a bit, then dropped into Madam K before going back to walk the little fellow and doing some shopping for dinner that night with the Hippos at their home, and Jason and Mel. Our minds had been on the little fellow, who has started to show signs that his sight is deteriorating. He has always had a dodgy eye but his now regular stumbling around tore at my heartstrings.

We had a steamboat (hotpot) dinner, talked and shared laughs and learned about the Hippo’s new tacks in life. Jess is quitting her NFP role to work in a similar capacity in her local church, their 2 little girls are blossoming as ever, with the elder latching on to phonetics and reading well as a result. The younger one is, according to Dad, more artistically inclined and he appears to be on the money. Jason and Mel and Tress and I are on a different phase of our lives and we talked about our children’s jobs and careers.

Later that night as Gerry led their Golden Retriever in near the dining table, I went up to him and gave him a cuddle, scratched him and gave him loads of TLC. He too had lost an eye some time back and his an octogenarian in dog years now. I wasn’t sure how many more opportunities I’d have to show him TLC. I sat next to him for a bit before returning to join the others at the table. When we got home that night, I had our little guy sat near us and I gave him all the scratches he wanted.

Early on Sunday morning I woke to check United’s results in an away game to the tigers (Hull City) – a team I sometimes have an affection for simply because it had been managed for a long time by Steve Bruce, a onetime United skipper and involved in ushering good times back to Old Trafford back in 1992, when we had been starved of the league title for the longest time. An injury time goal by Rashford kept the 100% record intact and so I jumped on the Optus Sport app and looked out for the highlights. It was great to see exciting football by the boys in red again.

After church we caught up with Ruth and Jonathan and little Micah at the Shangri-La inn. Micah looked cheekier and happier every time we see him. He’s stumbling around now, having just learned to walk not too long ago.

After lunch Tress and I went home, walked the little fellow and then headed for the G for the last home and away game. We were playing the Pies and it was vital that we had a win to get back to a top four spot to ensure we had a double crack to progress in the finals.

It was a pulsating match, with Hawks chasing for two quarters before taking a three goal lead in the third. We then lost the lead again in the final quarter and with less than a couple of minutes to go, we were one goal down. A fringe guy – Fitzpatrick – then kicked a bomb from well outside the fifty to level things up to ensure we had the points for third spot. Poppy’s last minute behind was a little icing but the one point win was far too close for comfort, especially with the Cats as our contender in the qualifying final. It was a ripper of a game all the same, and Tress and I had had a very enjoyable home and away season, watching and enjoying a number of games at the G.

Back home, we watched The Block, exchanged messages with Kiddo (who has started liking this show) and I started prepping for the coming week. Work has been busy but I guess that only meant weekends, especially with Tress, family, church and friends, meant even more.


Winding down the week

Last night just before I left the office I said to my colleagues that every second week when Friday approaches I could feel my energy level dissipating rapidly.

It’s Friday morning and I am kind of weirdly looking forward to the two main meetings I have on my diary today – back to back meetings from 10am to 12pm, one hour each. The first is a fortnightly with my boss and the rest of the team. The second is with a major software consultant and vendor for a major project the company is undertaking.

I am looking forward to those meetings not because of some sadomasochistic yearning for the bone-to-bone sort of grind but because of what comes after that.

My afternoon looks clear (for now) and I can contemplate doing some winding down work, including to plan for the next week, before hopefully heading out the door for what would hopefully be a weekend of rest.

Tress has skillfully teed up a dinner tonight with A Hooi/U Marloney and Jason and Mel so hopefully the weekend rest will start with some wonderful company over a lovely meal (we’re heading back to the little local Italian on Canterbury Road, again).

It looks like a long morning but I hope the arvo would precipitate a great weekend.

The Air that we breathe

About a week after I started at this job, I was moved into an individual office. Each of the 3 lawyers had our own office so the fact that I had one was nothing exceptional. What was exceptional was the size. Mine was probably the biggest amongst us 3 lawyers. It was on a side of the floor which was away from the CEO, CFO, and the other execs (including my boss the General Counsel) so it was not the power end of the floor. But I was ok with that. I had a lot of freedom.

With freedom comes responsibility I suppose, but it also came with great liberty. Including to fart. I did it at will and with no reservation, especially if I knew no one was going to pop into my room anytime soon.

Last week we all moved out of our rooms. The whole of the northern side of the office, which is where most of us had been seated, was going to be ripped out and new fitouts would be put in place. We had known this would happen, for a while now and we all knew the individual offices we had were going to be temporary arrangements and we would, when the renovations and fitouts were completed, be seated in an open plan office.

The renovations and fitouts will take place for the next 5 to 6 weeks, which means by the time the footy grand finals come around, we’d be ready to move into our new open spaces. We’d be in our current open plan temporary desks throughout the footy finals series.

The problem, as I had pointed out, was that of smells. Other than farting liberally, I didn’t care what sort of food I brought for my lunch. I’d cook stuff with dried oysters (a favourite of Klang Chinese folks) or fish sauce or loads of garlic and other socially confronting ingredients and bring them into my office during lunch and eat the smelly stuff in front of my screen as I catch up on the news and social media.

Now, sharing a nook with 8-9 other colleagues makes my choice of home cooked lunch as well as my physiological habits something that require rethinking.

What I put into my body is easier to manage than what comes out of it. What goes in can be managed in terms of the smell it emits, simply by controlling what goes into the pot. Less garlic and fish sauce and no dried oysters for starters. Only neutral stuff like carrots and tomatoes and chicken. What comes out however presents a much more challenging proposition. 

How do I control my farting habits so as to avoid what Clive James might have described as a classroom of pupils all holding their noses and leaning away to form a series of concentric circles with increasing radii with the farter as its epicentre?

Thus far whenever the urge comes on I simply walk away and head to the loo. I’m just afraid I might be, say, in the middle of a telephone discussion when the emission can no longer be held off. What would happen then? 

That, and less savoury home cooked food, are the only seemingly insurmountable challenges of my current open plan and cosy work setup.

Bundoora detour

Kiddo came back early Sunday morning. She has an accreditation type assessment at La Trobe uni later this week. She got in early on Sunday morning and we picked her up on Spencer Street.

I had won a $200 Westfield shopping voucher from the radio station 3AW (Drive program) so after lunch at Madam K yesterday, we went and did some shopping. Tress has been looking for a jacket for her dad’s travels so we went with that in mind.

The arvo shopping with the two ladies of my life made for a better weekend, after the Hawks’ crash in Perth – losing to West Coast to also lose the top spot on the ladder.

This morning Kiddo emailed some of her documents and asked if I could get them printed at work. As I picked up those documents from the printer and walked to my desk, I’m reminded of how successful she has been in her university years. I sincerely hope that would soon translate into success in her career.

Johnson Eu

Earlier this week (Tuesday) Jean, my brother David’s wife, sent us a text message saying Johnson, a cousin of ours, had passed on. While we knew he has been unwell I hadn’t appreciated just how ill he has been.

We called him “Boy” for the longest time. He was the cutest kid. He had a roundish face and when he was little he had a haircut that made him look like that little kid Nicholas on the television sitcom “Eight is Enough”. His round face had a perpetual smile and he was almost always laughing. He saw the funny side of so many things and he infectiously and engagingly shared those insights. He was a lot of fun to be around.

His parents are two of the warmest and most generous persons I know. His mum is my mum’s younger sister – the fourth of at least five girls. I think my mum had at least one sister given away, as was the norm in those days. Parents often gave away one or more children when raising them becomes too much of a (mostly financial) strain.

His dad owns a transport business with a large fleet of trucks. He works very hard and has been financially successful. Johnson had been helping with the business before falling ill. He (the father) is a big hearted and generous man, and loved the extended family. He made sure anyone who was back in Klang visiting was amply looked after and often bought generous meals for those visitors. I have been a beneficiary of his generosity countless times. His generosity meant the family often came together and talked and laughed over very good meals. He loved his son. He spared nothing for him and I can only imagine the state of devastation he must be feeling.

As I write this on the way in to work, I wished I wasn’t here. I wished I was in Klang instead, with the rest of the family. I wanted to be there for my auntie and uncle and Jin, their other child who now lives and works in Queensland. I wondered with Tress last night, if she (Jin) would now leave Queensland to return to be with her parents. Or maybe they could go and visit and perhaps take their minds toward other matters for a little while.

This is a price I pay for choosing to leave Malaysia. The extended family support is something I can neither contribute to nor rely upon. I guess that is why many seek alternative forms of support when we’re here.

Thankfully, there are modern channels such as WhatsApp. My brother sent a few pictures of the funeral and while it was so very sad to see those pictures, it warmed my heart that so many of the extended family were there to be with them at this time. I saw a cousin from Singapore together with his wife too.

I guess Johnson made such an impact on so many (if not all) in the family that we are all just so sad that he had to leave us while so young.


Tress and I went to this little local Italian place on Friday night. Italian Restaurant in GodfatherIf the front of house wasn’t so plain and lightly glassed, it could have easily passed as one of those “meeting” places of certain Italian family business interests.

As in the previous week, we sat down to a very nice Friday night dinner over a few glasses of red. Via MattaThe Italian setting was a bonus, especially the very delectable home made light, airy, fresh and unpretentious pizza and pasta. As usual, the Italian accented wait staff was a real kick too.

We took away some leftover pizzas, which were taken home in a very nice pizza cardboard takeaway box, offered in a most courteous fashion. This place (Via Matta on Canterbury Road near the Mitcham Road junction) is a real keeper.

We had to leave home early the next day, to keep an appointment with the Manningham “Corp” – the local Salvos at Doncaster East – to do some volunteer work in the form of driving a few ladies to a few Op-Shops in Doncaster and Ringwood. We met with Anne Hill, one of the two Captains of Manningham Corp and after some forms and introductions I got busy familiarising myself with the 12-seater Toyota HiAce.

We finished up just before 1 and after a quick lunch at Madam K’s, we headed home to walk the little fellow. I was a little bit upset with discovering the little guy’s deteriorating eyesight so when we got home after the walk I gave his eyes a good wash and ensured he had his ointment. We then headed back out to Ringwood to keep another appointment – this time with the Blood Centre of the Red Cross. I hadn’t donated for a while and the call centre rang me a couple of weeks earlier and I told myself I needed to do this.

Day’s Trek

13 Aug

We got home late in the evening and after settling back home, I poured myself a glass of red and said to Tress that after a long day it was time to spoil myself. We sat down and watched TV for a bit before going to bed, but were looking at the lines we had to say the next day and very conscious that we had another earlier than usual start on Sunday morning.

We were to be communion assistant and had “practised” the lines to say when we served communion. CupWe were early in church, and met briefly with Mike McNamara to receive some last minute instructions.
It all went smoothly in the end and after another longish walk with the little fellow  – eyes noticeably cleaner and he looked like he could see much better – Tress spent the wonderfully balmy arvo in the garden with the little fellow while I pottered around, and cooked the week’s work lunches.

Life’s whirring away now. I said to Tress we needed to start doing more volunteering work so that when paid work fades away, we could start giving back and step on the volunteer work with more focus. So I was grateful to have been able to do that this past weekend. Clara, one of the Salvos ladies, had also pencilled me for another gig early next month so hopefully a momentum of sorts build up and maybe in a year or two, this portfolio could build and I could do a more wide ranging and engaging volunteer work. I had also forward booked the next blood donor appointment for November, so maybe on that front too some form of momentum can build. And with the church front slowly gaining traction, there’s only one other front I hope for more to happen…


Rio, Korean and little Olivier

When I left work on Friday I was very tired. I have had to attend to an array of work issues the whole week and I was still working on pushing out docs on my outbox a bit after 5 when I decided to quickly finish and leave. On the way home I texted Tress about going out to dinner and we ended up in a nondescript suburban Thai joint in Vermont.

It isn’t always about the food, I said to Tress and to myself, as we sat at a table next to a window, talking and sipping a glass from a bottle Tress had fished out from the wine rack. I didn’t even pull into the driveway – I had stopped at the kerbside, Tress jumped in and we went straight to dinner. As we talked I felt more relaxed (the wine – a Grenache – almost certainly had something to do with it) and as I looked around and saw other couples wondering in with a bottle of wine, I said to Tress it’s good to see others doing the same thing on a Friday night, just sitting down to dinner and start the circuit breaking process a weekend is meant to inject into an otherwise potentially relentless escalation of weariness.

On Saturday morning we watched the Olympics opening ceremony for a bit before I headed out to Simon’s for a hairy. We’ve known Simon since we moved into our rented home in Mount Waverley back in 2005 and he was operating his home business on Bizley Street. I remember he had a $10 hair cut flyer distributed in the area. I stopped going to him for a little while but Tress persisted and in recent years I went back to him and we’ve struck up a friendship of sorts. He’s a bit far for us now – he’s moved further couth to Kemp Street on Mount Waverley and we’ve moved further north to Blackburn – but he’s still a very good hairdresser and still charges way cheaper than   most others so we’re happy in this space. Untitled

After the haircut Tress and I worked a bit on scoping the damage a mini sink hole has created in the north-western corner of our backyard. I poked around the edges of the hole, fenced it and decided to see if it gets bigger in the next couple of weeks or so, before thinking about what to do about it.

We then had lunch at Madam K’s, and decided to catch the Demons v Hawks game at the G. The trains stopped at Camberwell however so we had to take the replacement bus, which took forever. I was reminded how bad Melbourne’s weekend traffic has become in recent years. Hawks played poorly, sustained key injuries and succumbed to the very good Demons. In the last 5 minutes or so Hawks fans started streaming out of the stadium and a bloke in front of us said he hadn’t seen this for a while now – that Hawks fans were leaving a game early because it was losing in a bad way… sigh…

On the way home we were again in a cramped bus to get to Camberwell. A couple of boys who were with their father were standing up and the little one looked tired so I offered to squeeze some space for him to sit on the edge of my seat. He and his brother were both very courteous and soon started to show Tress the finer aspects of mastering the Pokemon hunt. It made the ride less trying.

Back at home we walked the little fellow and then rested at home by watching an old favourite – Tom Hanks’ “You’ve Got Mail”.

Sunday was special. Peter had arranged for the Korean speaking members to help put together an English/Korean bilingual service. It was very good and the last hymn – “How Great Thou Art” was sung in alternately in Korean and English and it reminded me of our days in Klang, when we would sing hymns in English, Chinese and Hokkien simultaneously – each singing in the language he or she is most comfortable with. We had lost the richness of a multilingual congregation – St Alf’s is such a monochromatic setting in this regard. When we had a quick chat with Peter after the service I said the same thing to him and we told him we were very grateful he arranged for such an experiment. We had also gone up to our Korean friends to tell them how appreciative and grateful we were for their roles in making this happen.

After church and we made our to another church – St Christopher’s in Syndal/Mount Waverley – to take part in little Olivier’s christening. Adrian is Uncle Seng and Auntie Anne’s eldest and he and Racheal looked very happy (sleep deprivation notwithstanding) for the family to celebrate Olivier’s milestone. They hosted a lunch at the very nice Elephant Corridor in Glen Waverley after the service and the free flowing wine made for a drowsy arvo and by the time we left for home I was suitably inebriated such that the walk with the little fellow was a perfect antidote as we finished the day.

Olivier and Co

At the lunch we sat with Vijay and his family. We first got to know this family when they first came to Melbourne 10 years ago now. They had just bought a home Uncle Seng had built in Mount Waverley. His boys are grown now and when I mentioned to the older one that Elizabeth Debicki had been a famous alumni of the school he was attending, he immediately googled her and was very impressed by what he learned. This family had come a long way. Vijay is now a chief enginner with a very large property group and they looked well settled.

As I came into work reflecting on the weekend, it made me want to visit Klang again. Tress and I had talked about visiting during Chinese New Year and last night we looked again at various fares. We have also been receiving pics of the French’s (Graeme and Susan – Jonathan’s parents) visit in Klang and Jonathan and Ruth had gone there too with little Micah, for a short holiday. It would be very nice to spend Chinese New Year with the family there.

There (in Klang) and back (with me) again…

Tress and Kiddo came back on Saturday morning. I picked them up from Tullamarine a bit after 9.30am and we headed home. At home and unpacked a couple of hours later, we had lunch at FHC (a Chinese dumpling joint called Baowie) and caught Jason Bourne battling big data and big brother. Or at least I did, as Tress was so tired she slept for the most part. Kiddo said she slept during the car chase scene. Really.

Later that arvo, I walked the little fellow and then did some cooking. I cooked the week’s lunches for myself and a soup for everyone for that night. During both meals – lunch at FHC and dinner at home, we talked about their holiday home to Malaysia.

Everyone’s very grown up, they reported. A niece of mine finished secondary school and is now doing a matriculation type of course in a college nearer the capital. She did really well in secondary school and so won a full scholarship for that course. She has a boyfriend. Her younger brother is missing her heaps. He’s still in secondary school in Penang and it would be a couple of years before he finds himself in her shoes – asking what this big wide world has in store for him. I said to Tress yesterday, after dropping Kiddo off at Tulla for her return flight to Canberra, that my sister Sim and her husband Daniel would probably have it tough for the next few weeks. Tress said Isaac the little “baby” brother, would probably have it just as tough. They will all miss her and would find it will be a while before they get used to this emptying nest. Tress and I know all too well, and I still feel it every now and then.

YY is another nephew of mine now living with mum, together with May my sister and her mum, and his little brother, YJ. He’s the same age as Isaac and he’s apparently a health and fitness freak. He eats carefully and made sure he exercised. He’s only 16 – such a mature head on a young body. Stories of YY and YJ made me laugh, and I felt good that mum now has this family with her every single day. I’ve said to Tress numerous times, I sympathised with Goh, May’s husband who has remained in Suzhou to work. He too was back in Malaysia for a short visit when Tress and Kiddo were there so it was good they could all be together for a little while.

Kiddo relayed too, that David my brother and Jean his wife, are well. David was unwell earlier this year but he looked well in recent photos too. Kiddo spoke about how Jean often seeks out my little niece and herself, to just spend time and talk.

What made me laugh out loud were the accounts of the antics of my mother in law’s younger sister. Together with my mother in law, they (she more so than my mother in law) terrorised the stall keepers of the morning markets in Eng Ann. They sought out bargains and bullied stall keepers into feeling they’re practically robbed off their wares. They’d “speak” to each other across distances which ensured her (that younger sister’s) voice retain recognition by every trader plying their wares in that market. I recalled her visit to Melbourne several years back and can now laugh at the fact that I too was terrorised at that time by the endless and very loud chatter at any and everything. My mother in law has an elder sister and four younger sisters. That younger sister is the loudest but when paired with the youngest sister here in Melbourne, they form a formidable team who can probably out talk even world champion property auctioneers.

My mother in law sounds like she remains the caring, generous and loving lady I’ve always known her to be. She and my father in law are two of the kindest and gentlest people I know.

Brian is in college in the north of the peninsula now. He’s the younger child of Victor and Beng Lan. They live near my in law’s in Berkeley together with Eunice their firstborn. I’m sure Vic and BL felt the way we did too, when Brian first left home. Apparently he once “ran away” from home (only as far as my in-laws’ home) after an argument with his father. He sounds like a sensitive and intelligent young man. Eunice has a disability and lives at home with her parents. They bought her her favourite lego sets and I imagined as always, she beamed the widest smile when she was given those presents.

Megan has, apparently, acquired the teenage angst. The older of two children of Ben and his wife Jean – Tress’ other younger brother – she’s a lovely but strong willed person. She would probably develop into a matriarch years from now and that would be no surprise. Zack is the younger one and he’s also a very sensitive young man. A little less of a go-getter than her sister, he sounds like a well balanced and very focused young boy.

All these family accounts made me think of Ed Shaw’s book  on same sex attracted Christians. He argued for a wider sense of family in the church, as a means for same sex attracted persons to better live obedient lives of celibacy. It made a lot of sense to me.

As Tress dropped me off at the station this morning I found myself feeling normal again. Two weeks of being alone in dark/grey and cold and wet Melbourne made me feel like a zombie on a treadmill making the paces of life mechanically and literally, coldly. Knowing I will no longer be going home to an empty house made me feel whole again. I loved for her to be able to spend time with her parents, siblings and other family in Klang but selfishly perhaps, I loved for her even more to be here at home with me.