Grand Final build up (in more ways than one)

Some weekends are mundane affairs. Most are. Sometimes however a weekend feels so full-on that on Monday morning, the alarm clock goes off with a jolt to the system, the weekend’s activities having produced a deep sleep. This morning was such a Monday morning.

Friday night had started pretty quiet. I have had another busy week at work so I didn’t mind a quiet Friday night at home. Tress was away for a dinner in the CBD with some ex-colleagues and she had bought a curry puff and some delicate desserts (“onde-onde”)from MK. So I had those for dinner as I watched the Swans trounce the Cats. Seven unanswered goals in the first quarter put paid to the Cats’ aspirations for a Dangerfield inspired Grand Final appearance. I had the little jedi with me and I pampered him excessively while we waited for Tress to come home. When she got home, she said Kiddo asked if we could talk some time over the weekend so we thought we could do that on Saturday night.

The next morning we went to Simon our hairdresser for an early appointment. Hair done, we got home and got stuck into the garden. Three months of wet winter left the garden with minimal attention and the James Sterling hedges, lawn and other parts of the front, side and back gardens have been crying out for some attention.

Half way through trimming the hedges Ruth and Jon came around with little Micah. We chatted on the side lawn. We didn’t invite them into the house and felt a little awkward but we had said to them we would be busy with the gardening work and they only wanted to drop something off on the way to Doncaster Westfield so it was fine. It was good to have a quick catch up and after about half an hour to forty minutes they left and we resumed our work. The little jedi was just hovering around and it was one of those sunny cool balmy days so it was great to just have all three of us outside the whole time. Tress had done a whole bunch of laundry earlier in the morning and they were all on the Hills Hoist soaking in the sun and breeze.

Around mid-day we decided to stop for a lunch break and headed to the Honey Thief on Canterbury Road. We continued working after that and by the time Tress went out to pick up the dry cleaning (and got some beer!) late in the arvo I had started the sweeping and cleaning. I noted some green algae building up on one side of the car port – it has been a very wet winter – I and said to Tress afterwards we might think about getting a pressure jet water cleaner.

I hit the showers in time to clean up and get ready to watch the Doggies’ game against the Giants up in Western Sydney. The cold beers Tress got were perfect as I rested my tired body on the couch, watching a very well contested match. The Doggies were dogged and thwarted the very talented young guns of the Giants team. We had to leave home at half time and went to a quiet little Cantonese place in Burwood for dinner with A Hooi/U Marloney and Jason/Mel.

As always it was very good catching up with the two couples and we talked about our grown families, with the children’s respective partners as well as holiday plans etc. The champers Ruth and Jon brought me was expertly opened by the restaurant staff. That restaurant has a quiet, unassuming but dignified presence about itself. It is an example of how a joint can be classy without being ostentatious. A Hooi has heard about the place but hasn’t herself eaten there and I’m glad she introduced it to us. I’d very likely return. All through the night we checked on the Doggies’ score and we were thrilled when they got up. Having an all Sydney Grand Final was unacceptable (Swans’ South Melbourne affiliation notwithstanding) and the conundrum was, as all Hawks fans will attest, it was always better to have someone other than the Cats at the Grand Final, if we weren’t in it ourselves. So the Doggies’ triumph is to be celebrated.

We got home and before starting on the United – Fox game, we talked with Kiddo.

It has been an eventful week. On Tuesday Tress accepted a role with a major NFP. Two days later Kiddo was accepted in a school in South ACT, under the Federal Government’s TFA program. She would be in Warnambool and Geelong for a couple of training stints from Nov – Jan and would start teaching in that school in the Woden Valley area soon after. With that “in the bag”, Kiddo wanted to progress her plans with Mic.

We landed on a tentative mid-April date and we talked about how we would communicate with the family. We agreed on some broad milestones and my tired and aching body was soon matched by a daunting emotional and psychological challenge. United’s scintillating first half performance distracted and soothed at the same time. They were expertly orchestrated by maestros Pogba the Frenchman and Mata the Spaniard, and romped home with four exciting goals and numerous delightful moves. The only question that performance raised, against the reigning champions, was what now for Rooney, who was left on the bench at the start and only came on late in the game. It finished 4-1 and Tress and I went to bed with loads on our minds.

At church on Sunday morning, we heard Sam Oldland a trainee minister give the final segment of the series on Romans. We talked briefly with a couple of members after the service and bumped into Ronald and Cat at MK again. Then it was off to grocery shopping and we went home for a bit more work in the garden – it had been a weekend of wonderful weather – before we went in and I did some cooking for the week’s lunches. We also spoke with families in Malaysia. I spoke with my mum and Tress spoke with hers. We conveyed the news and followed up with some social media type communications.

By the time we could put our feet up and unwind by watching The Block, we were tired and ready for bed. It was barely 9pm when we agreed we had to hit the sack.

It’s Grand Final week and I could already feel the build-up. In so many ways.


Footy – it’s history

It was a weekend of wallowing in a winless wallop. Out contested in contested possessions saw the Hawks ousted and deposed of its mantle as the team to beat. Out of the competition in straight sets for the first time in years, face book reminded me of my attendance at the preliminary finals game against Port Adelaide in 2014. No preliminary finals for the first time in 5 years. Then overnight United crashed away to Watford. Wat bloody ford. It was 0-1 at half time when I retired to bed, not heartened by the performance I witnessed but certainly too tired to soldier on, with the spectre of another busy week staring at me.

In the train on the way home after the game on Friday night, Tress and I, along with every other person on that train out of Richmond into Hawks country, were quiet and looked for tunes to whistle past the graveyard of football ignominy. It was good to read in the papers this morning, that any suggestion of an end to the Hawks dynasty ignores a number of factors. There’s hope yet in this old bird and I am already thinking about 2017 membership for another year of fantastic flights of fancy in the fiefdom of footy fealty.

Sandwiched between the twin defeats was a very lovely day at the Yarra Valley. Tress’ schoolmates from last century visited from Klang. On Saturday, Melbourne turned on its clear-blue-sky side and set up a weatherwise wonderful day for us to entertain our visitors. We drove into the city on Saturday morning, picked them up from their temporary abode in Collingwood, and headed back east into Victoria’s wine country. Both bachelors, Tress’ ex-schoolmates were contrasting characters. Both were pleasant and fun, Malaysian idiosyncrasies notwithstanding. Alex rang while we were at the chocolatiers’ joint and invited us to his home for one last weekend dinner party of sorts. They would be moving out of their present home to rent for a year while they build their new home in Balwyn.

They said it has been 10 years since they moved into their Doncaster home. I remember the December weekend when it was steaming hot and he had gone and bought a barbeque set from Bunnings for his new home. His pool was magnificent and it needed a barbie to complete the picture. Being a hot day – we had been freely imbibing on some silly brown liquid and by the time we thought we should start to put the barbie together we were barely able to read the instructions. We somehow managed to put the thing together and had a barbie but it was something to remember (or forget?).

Ten years hence, I’m at that house again, standing on his deck as he cooked for one last weekend. It was an unusual dinner party because Tress and I were their only guests. Their parties are usually adorned with more and better looking guests (Tress exempted) but it was good to just talk. We continued to imbibe but this time it was an 18 year old offering from a beautiful looking bottle, not freshly brewed brown liquid from browner and squat VB bottles dunny men used to skip over.

Michael Bird’s preaching on Sunday morning managed to just about jolt me out of my overnight acquaintance with a very good scotch. This rising superstar of a theologian – the heir apparent to continue the work of the likes of NT Wright – delivered without disappointing. How fortunate we are, to have such a talent in our midst, a member of our very own congregation.

The presence of the likes of Mike Bird in St Alf’s means I have had no urge to continue what I left off at MST. Access to Ridley College would be so much more pervasive for me now, but with teachings like what we had on Sunday morning, I could spend my reading hours on other stuff. Scrutton, Blainey and now Clark fill my reading hours now, interspersed by stuff from Tim Keller and occasionally, a novel or two. Even then, my next novel – once I get past Clark and maybe Henry Reynolds – would be Scrutton’s.

For sound theological exegesis from Romans 8, I could simply tap into local top notch offerings. Re-reading the text with Mike Bird’s sermon notes ringing in my head gave me fresh understanding of God’s grace and my required response. And this understanding informed my reading, including the clear allusion to Manning Clark’s disposition on celestial matters, even as I started to leaf through his “History of Australia” in the train this morning. The book I picked up from Nunwading library when Tress and I dropped in yesterday arvo, has already promised much.

A Dhal (Certainly not Dull) weekend

I have always loved dhal curry. I had it for the first time when I was in primary school. A very friendly classmate (Gunasegaran) often brought some thosai which is topped with loads of that stuff. Until yesterday, I never tried cooking it.

On Saturday morning we went to look at a unit on Surrey Road in Blackburn North. We liked it a lot and now await the Section 32 statement to check out all relevant details. After that we went grocery shopping and I had a list of spices and other stuff from a couple of websites, saved as pics on my mobile. I checked them off, wondering if I’ll manage to cook one of my favourite dishes, the wonderful dhal curry.

After lunch at Madam K’s we walked the little fellow and then watched the first 30mins or so of “12 years a slave” – a DVD Tress borrowed from the local library. At around 3pm, we headed to the Manningham Salvos to help out with the “Festival of Community Voices” event later that night. The Camberwell Chorale, the Melbournaire Harmony Chorus, the Australian Girls’ Choir and the Biralee Primary School choir were participants in a community fund raising event. It was a part of our first steps into community volunteer work and it was loads of fun.

I particularly enjoyed the Camberwell Chorales’ rendition of Verdi’s Va Pensiero – a chorus from Nabucco which I had liked from a few years ago.

Tress helped set up the pre-event barbeque, sold drinks and generally made herself available for anything needing doing. I drove a couple of batches of students to and from the train station and helped out at the barbie. The students were from Melbourne Uni and they were volunteers too – doing stuff like ushering, stage help hands and selling tickets.

The event finished just after 8 and we finished our tasks around 9.30. We headed home and I caught United’s game against City. United played poorly in the first half and was a bit lucky to trail only one goal at 1-2. City held out to win. It was the second disappointing sporting outcome.

On Friday night Tress and I had been at the G to watch a sensational Geelong v Hawthorn classic. The game was a brutal see-saw and Isaac Smith ran close to 100m to hold a mark about 40m out, just before the siren. He kicked a behind and Hawks lost by 2 points. The exciting but disappointing loss means we play again this Fri– against the Doggies – and we get to watch another Final game at the G, which is a bit of a consolation to missing out on a preliminary final spot with a week’s break.

This morning, sitting at my desk trying to crank up the work day after a very contrasting weekend – community choirs and footy at the G, spiced up (literally) by a dhal experiment, was indeed a rich tapestry of a weekend – I enjoyed the fruits of my labour. For a first time stab, the dhal curry is, if I say so myself, a delectable success.


This past weekend was very quiet. The AFL home and away season had been completed the week before and for the first time, a bye was inserted between the home and away and finals seasons. Coupled with a European football internationals weekend which meant no EPL games, life resumed some non-sporting normalcy.

Tress had a lunch date in the city with some of her ex-colleagues on Saturday so I spent the arvo in soon to be closed Masters, hardware shopping in anticipation of the coming warmer days. I also gave the wagon a wash, as Tress would be using it to help the Hipos ferry their little ones when Gerry goes away on a business trip for a few days this week.

Yesterday arvo as we were pottering around the house while waiting to join the Hipos and Jason and Mel for dinner, Tress and I decided to watch a couple of videos. We had watched a mindless Alex Cross offering earlier the previous night and the movies we watched were a bit different.

The first was a French film titled “Of God and Men”. It was about a little monastery in Algeria at the throes of fundamentalist Islamic insurgency of sorts. The monks were Frenchmen who have worked in a remote Algerian town for many years before the fundamentalist arrived with their guns. Their struggles ended when they were killed, having decided against leaving when they could. It made me think again of what we are living our lives for.

We all die some time. I have often wondered what we could do before the inevitable happens, in order to look back and not think we have merely trudged along and drifted with the tide of what everyone else is busying themselves with. Those monks chose to help a community and paid the ultimate price. It made me think of the invitation from the Northern Territory Christian Schools (Woolaning College) last week, to apply to become house parents in a boarding school for indigenous children. Tress and I have parked that at the remotest periphery of our thoughts but it has bobbed up every few hours in the last few days. I wondered if this was an opportunity to re-examine what we’d like to do with our lives, for our remaining days or years.

The second movie was about two young women entangled with broken families and lives. “Every Secret Thing” told a dark story showing yet again, the depraved human condition. It was a story of two little girls who were excluded from their peers at a birthday party. On the way home, they abducted a baby.

Alice, the smarter one, manipulated Ronnie, the other quieter girl favoured by Alice’s mum, into killing the baby. They both ended up in a juvenile detention centre. Alice became pregnant while in the centre and her mum gave the baby away. Alice became obsessed with finding that baby and when released from the centre, stole another baby. The movie revolved around the search for the second baby, spearheaded by a policewoman who had found the body of the first baby years earlier.

It had been a cloudy, grey afternoon and watching those two movies – good as they both were – did little to brighten things up. The dinner with our friends would not happen till 7.30pm (only us Asians would celebrate a 3-year old’s birthday by going to a Chinese restaurant at 7.30pm on a Sunday night) so there were a few hours to fill. Tress decided to do some weeding and I went out to play with our little fellow. He has been showing signs of losing his sight and we both tried to make things better for him and I was showing him loads of TLC. So I sat at the deck, played with him and just whiled away the afternoon, deliberately resting.

I thought about Kiddo when she was 3 years old and remembered an article I wrote for The Star paper back in Malaysia. That paper had a regular “Fathers Figure” column back then and as a relatively freshly minted dad at that time, I often thought about how to bring up a little child. I had read some of those columns – contributed by readers – and thought I could write something too.

I wrote a lengthy piece and the article that was published looked significantly different from what I wrote. I would have thought they would send me a copy of their edited version for my consent for publication but I guess in those days of less instant communication such a process would have made life a lot harder so they simply published the edited version without my knowing. I only found out they did this when I actually bought and read that paper on that day in October 1997.

That was 19 years ago now. Since it was Father’s Day yesterday, and I had seen numerous wishes on WhatsApp and face book posts, I thought I’d put that article up on face book.

At that dinner Jesslyn said she saw that article and I looked at Sheryl the birthday girl, and said Kiddo was that age then – 3 years old.

A weekend without footy made for a contemplative mood. Invariably one looked back as much as wondered what lies ahead.Both those movies affected my thoughts, as did the dinner with our friends.