10 Years Ago

Ten years ago today, in the course of the day, my late father walked the face of earth one last time. Sometime between 29 and 30 November 2006, he passed on. For the past few days, I had been a little moody, a little unsettled. On numerous occasions, I wondered if he knew it was coming.
Ten years hence, he has a new grandson. Yu Jie is the new addition, born in 2008 (I think). Everyone else probably had their own recollection of that day. Mine was – and remains – one of immense regret. 

Regret that I had not spoken to him for a long time, when he passed on. We had moved to Australia a little over 2 years then. I hadn’t spoken to him since we left Malaysia.
I wish we talked more – I had wanted to let him know why we moved, how I felt about leaving the town, the country, of my birth. How I felt about leaving him and mum and everyone else, to come to a city where I knew so few people. Why I left a good and very well paid job. Why I left a wonderful network of friends, relatives and business and professional connections.
I wish I could tell him now, that as painful as it was to have left him and mum, I am very happy that we did leave to come and live in Melbourne. I wish I could now invite him to visit, especially when Kiddo gets married next year, and moves into the next phase of her life with Mic. 

I wish he could see now, how safe, engaged and settled we are in our new “town”, new country, new home.

I wish he could see that just as grandfather left China all those years ago and became settled with his family in Klang, I left Klang all those years ago and have become settled here in Melbourne. 

Tress and I have been able to provide Kiddo with a new platform to make her own path in life, without the baggage of what plagues Malaysia today.
I wish he could see that I am happy. I wish he could see that I am happy because I believe Kiddo is and will be happy. I wish he too would be happy.



On both mornings this past weekend, Tress and I slept in somewhat. I’ve been feeling the weight of the year’s ploughing wear on me and recently I have been saying to Tress I’ve been feeling tired.
We had a really good finish to the week nevertheless, as on Friday night Tress and I enjoyed the company of Jason and Mel again. We went to the café just off Blackburn Station, grandiosely named “Food Republic”. The food was very good but the fact that we stayed on and chatted till almost 10pm (we were there from 6.30) probably said more about the company. Jason referred to him and Mel as empty nesters a number of times and I was thinking to myself that he still has both his kids living at home so how did he come to refer to himself as that? Maybe he felt that way…
We just ploughed on with our usual weekend chores but right through I was tired.
Sunday was the first day of advent and the annual pulpit exchange saw Allan Remond from New Hope at St Alf’s pulpit. He had just returned from a 3-month long service leave and he talked about how he (and his wife) had “leaned into” others’ challenges in that time, even when he was travelling on holidays. His theme though, of not missing the big picture of what God is doing through attention to routines and norms, was a refreshing one.
The 6.02 this morning came at 6.00 and so I missed it. When I checked the timetable I realized it has been changed. It has to be 6.00 from now on. At Spenser, Tram 12 was diverted. I had to get to a different tram stop to get my ride into the office. I had to plough to plough on. 

Plumbing, Handing Over

Several colleagues from the Sales team have been chasing a new business in Sri Lanka. So when Tress, Kiddo and I were at the Sri Lankan restaurant on Mahoney Road on Friday night I was thinking we’ve been engaged in Sri Lankan stuff of late. 
The dinner with Kiddo and Tress was very good but my mind was on an appointment we had the next morning. 

There has been a problem with the plumbing at home for a while now and the effect has started to become more audible – gurgling noises appear constantly and it had got to a stage where we needed to get the plumber in. 

We’ve heard the “drain man” ad on the radio for a while now so we teed them up for Saturday morning. The drain man showed up, did his thing and gave us the bad news. The plumbing needs urgent – and expensive – work. That plumbed my mood somewhat but I decided to park the issue on a to-do list and instead of worrying about it, make a plan to stomach the pain and mentally, financially (amongst others) prepare for it.

With the drain man’s quote sitting ominously on the kitchen bench, we went to an auction behind our house (which saw a humble home fetching well over a million), and lunch thereafter. 

After lunch we got home and I spent the rest of the arvo mowing, tidying the outside of the house as well as gave the cars a wash. Tress gave the house a very good vacuuming and at the end of all that as I sat having a couple of beers Uncle Seng rang to ask about Kiddo’s wedding dates and then asked if we’d like to join them and Uncle Jin/A Hooi for dinner.

We spent the evening with them, first in a restaurant in Box Hill and then in Uncle Seng’s home. It has been a while since we spent time with them this way so it was very nice. We did however, have to be witnesses to some ageing tension – Auntie Anne and Uncle Seng both looked tense and they confided later, that there were menopausal issues to deal with. I think that made the family get together even more meaningful somehow and I was again very grateful for such family presence here in Melbourne.

Sunday we did our usual thing except Kiddo was hanging around the home too – prepping for her Deakin TFA training which starts later this week. She’s been discussing with us her thoughts about driving there so that she has access to a car for the 5-6 weeks she’ll be there. She’s still a relatively novice driver so Tress and I have decided we’ll go with her, with one of us driving another car in tow. Tress and I will then make the drive back to Melbourne once she’s settled in Warnambool. 

It feels like our roles as doting parents are ending soon, as we begin to hand over the reins of looking after her. I had talked to Mic the day before too, to check out his views of Kiddo driving to Warnambool. That’s part of the handing over process I guess. 


There has been a whole lot of noise around the world these past couple of days. I guess those noises have been loudest in America, the epicentre of a “revolt” against entrenched politics and the practitioners of its dark art. An outsider, derided by and riled many, rode against the mirage that is modern day media into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

Alas the don of the trumped up populist era… now awaits January 20 to take his oath before CJ Roberts, the big kahuna of SCOTUS and drop “elect” to become President Donald Trump. 

Stock markets around the world initially took a nosedive when news began to emerge that Trump may win. When it was confirmed that he won however, the markets reversed their losses the next day and life resumed normalcy. 

When all has been said and done, ordinary folks continue to go about their tasks and routines no matter what happens in distant America. Even or Americans, life goes on.

 I remember when Howard lost the election and Rudd became PM, there was a sense of foreboding amongst conservatives used to over a decade of the familiar. Politics have changed much since, with the current PM being the fifth since Howard left, not 10 years ago.

 Yet in many ways, ordinary folks continued with their tasks and routines no matter what happened in Canberra. 

I guess for most Americans, their tasks and routines remain unchanged. Or maybe if Obamacare does get repealed there will be changes to how people pay for their healthcare. 

Or if the great wall of the Rio Grande does get built life may change for many families. Maybe nannies, cooks, gardeners, fruit pickers, harvesters and other types of work Mexicans cross the border illegally to do will face short supply. Maybe other subversive activities will cease.

 I guess most Aussies will know too little to appreciate how and if life will change in that part of the world. We simply cringed at the things he said before he ascended to the throne and wondered how Americans were able to choose such a man to such a lofty position. 

But chose him they did and that is something everyone – especially Americans – must now accept. Aussies of all stripes accepted it when after a decade, a character like Rudd stepped in to replace Howard, even though many did not vote for Rudd’s mob.

Parallel Phases

Last week it got a bit busy towards the end. On Wednesday, we had to take the little fellow to the vet for his annual jab. We booked him in for 7pm and when we got back it was almost 8pm. I was tired by then but there were two more nights of activities to go. On Thursday night, it was the home group and I was a little tempted to skip the meeting but we’d not met a few weeks as there were corresponding meetings in church itself so Tress and I dragged ourselves along. It was a long night too somehow, and it didn’t finish till it was almost 10pm. Finally, on Friday night, Kiddo arrived from Canberra and we had to pick her up at around 11pm. We got home well past midnight and only went to bed close to 1am.

Saturday didn’t see the busy-ness ease. Tress and Kiddo had a few appointments lined up with a number of wedding gown outlets and I also had a couple of other appointments – one to catch up with old uni friends for lunch and another with the Red Cross Blood Service, for my scheduled blood donation. The old uni friends lunch was to spend time with HC, who has been diagnosed with the big C and has been going through a tough time. She lives in Perth and was in town for something so CM teed up the lunch. It was good to catch up with everyone, especially HC.

After lunch I rejoined Tress and Kiddo at the last gown shop for the day but only for a short while. I went to my blood donation appointment shortly after but my recent work trip to Malaysia barred me from donating whole blood, as Malaysia is on the list as a high-risk country, principally malaria. I could have given plasma but plasma donation takes longer due to the separation process and they only do that for early slots. My 3.15pm slot was too late for plasma so that trip was wasted for the most part.

Everyone was tired when we eventually got home and I did a quick barbeque for dinner. That night Kiddo and Tress continued working on the gown review and selection, as well as on some wedding website and guest list. There was a lot going on.

Sunday after church we met up with Jason and Mel and Sammi and Brendon for lunch, after which we went shoe shopping for Kiddo. She had to select the shoes to finish up the gown process –for the hemming bit to be completed.

Later in the arvo we had Kiddo drive the Camry around for her to familiarise herself with that car as we were giving her that car. I then did the usual Sunday cooking while Tress and Kiddo ploughed on with the wedding stuff.

The busy end to the week didn’t ease up so when I got in the train this morning at my usual 6am start I was expecting to be tired. Thankfully I wasn’t feeling that badly – I managed to do my intended reading (Blainey’s History of Victoria) before getting a quick shut eye as the train pulled away from Richmond to get into the city loop. The two stops before I got ready to disembark gave me the usual 40 winks before I make the rush to make sure I get on to my tram stop on the corner of Collins and Spencer, in time for Tram No. 12, where “normalcy” resumes…

Cup day and messages 

Tress and I had a pleasantly quiet Cup day. We toyed with ideas of getting some people over. She recently spoke about a colleague who is a relatively new migrant– from Singapore – and I had thought we could have them over for a barbie. It turned out that colleague and her family went away for the long weekend. We also thought about getting Ruth and Jonathan over but I guess at the back of our minds we wanted a quiet day to ourselves. 

There has been a fair bit going on so I guess subconsciously we have been yearning for a quiet day.

 The utterly adorable LBJ has an appointment with the vet tonight. Tomorrow night is our church home group night and on Friday night, we are to pick Kiddo when she arrives in Melbourne. On Saturday Tress and Kiddo go to a few bridal gown joints while I might have a catch up with some old uni friends before heading to the Red Cross blood service in Ringwood for my scheduled donation. 

So with these busy days ahead a quiet day at home in the middle of the week sounded attractive.

So we slept in, had a lazy breakfast of French toast with honey from the home grown honey we picked up on Sunday. We then pottered around the house and then went to the FHC to catch a movie. We decided on “Girl on the train”. 
While waiting to get into the cinema we took a call from Kiddo. She said she has received an offer from the DHS for a graduate program. It has been such a long time since she met with them, and in that time, she has accepted an offer from TFA and moved on with her plans with Mic. She is in a mental space now to be totally immersed with the TFA program, for which the intensive training session starts in about 2 weeks. 

Our phone conversation, via speaker mode so both Tress and I could be in on it at the same time, was at the lobby of the cinema on a busy Cup day morning so it wasn’t the easiest of conversations but it was good to talk through the issues. 

My thoughts were principally around options which I thought meant a better decision would be to go with the TFA route as she could always try and get into the APS from that program whereas getting into the APS now may be a one–way street, with no option to get into TFA later on. The TFA would appear to be a more engaged and involved role but I was also thinking that the DHS/APS role may mean she can get started on her PhD sooner. 

Compounding all these permutations, I also think doing the TFA would focus her on a path which doesn’t preclude a PhD down the track, perhaps along the lines of teaching Indonesian…

…so much for all these thoughts, I still behave like I did back in 2011, when she was doing her VCE and I was thinking about her uni options. I had to remind myself Kiddo is a grown woman on the brink of building her career and family.
Anyway we watched that dark movie and I made mental notes comparing what was playing out on the screen and the book, which I had read some months back. 

For a start, the movie is based in New York city whereas in the book the story was based in London. 

And then there was that bit about the protagonist meeting her ex-husband’s ex-employer’s wife where it was revealed that her ex-husband (spoiler alert) the villainous Mr Watson had convinced her of her misconduct, which was a made up thing. She had not behaved as badly as her nasty ex had convinced her. I don’t recall that bit in the book and the result is that it (the movie) made the protagonist a lot more cherubic – a victim of her abusive ex-husband – than she might have come across in the book.

 The book left that flawed character that the protagonist has been from the word go intact whereas the movie appeared to be cleansing her – almost elevating her victim status. To that end the “girl on the train” has had her character changed on the journey from paperback to screen. It was an entertaining movie all the same. 
I wondered if the movie maker was making some oblique statement about domestic violence and the impact on lives of women. 

Maybe I’m just being ultra-sensitive to artists’ agenda. Tress and I also watched a DVD at home, titled “Cloudbursts”, which underplayed, hence subtly normalising, gay marriage. A foul mouth self-confessed dyke played by the affable Olympia Dukakis had been in a long term gay relationship with her “partner”, played by the very lovable Brenda Fricker. The quiet and funny tone constantly asks: what is wrong with gay marriage? Why make same-sex attracted couples miserable, almost tragic, by disallowing marriage? I could almost see Michael Dukakis, that 1988 presidential nominee of the Democrats, nodding right through the movie. It was a funny and entertaining movie yet it rides on a level which ignores – and makes irrelevant – the fundamental questions of what is marriage, why is the government getting involved and what about kids. Clever, because it plays the familiar emotional tunes which avoid the fundamental and natural questions. 

After the movie we shopped at FHC and got some stuff for a barbie lunch at home. We went home, did the barbie and joined the rest of the country in watching the 3-minute horse raise or which a public holiday has been declared.