25 Years A Slave

This time 25 years ago, I was admitted to the Bar in Malaysia. I was allowed, from that day on, to refer to myself as a lawyer.

In the week running up to the occasion, I felt broke. I had spent my last Ringgit on the garb for the ceremony – wing tipped collar white shirt, bib, gown and proper shoes. I was so broke I did a runner when Andrew my cousin got married the week before, and avoided the tea ceremony. I couldn’t spare any dough for the ang pow.

Of the 5 people who were there with me that day, only my mum and Tress are left now. My dad and both my paternal grandparents are no longer with us. I miss them.

I wonder how many more years there will be left, before I stop being a lawyer. And do something else for a living.


Early Summer

In recent months, a purported anti-bullying program adopted by many schools around the country has come under a microscope. The anti-bullying cloak dresses up an ideological push to replace conventional family structure with one that a “progressive” model based on notions such as gender being a social creation. Labelled “Safe Schools”, it promotes a genderless culture, where a boy or man is discouraged against differentiating himself from the feminine gender. And vice versa. Instead, one is encouraged to think that one can be a man or woman. You can even oscillate between the two, from time to time. So instead of thinking one is a man or woman, this program pushed the idea that you simply identify as an individual, shunning the gender differentiation. Thus a family need not be a father and mother and children. Genderlessness is thus a building block for the “modern family”. Genderlessness rids the traditional family.

So Safe Schools has wide and far reaching ramifications – which is why on Saturday morning, Tress and I found ourselves mail dropping pamphlets produced by the Australian Christian Lobby. We dropped pamphlets into letter boxes for 2-3 hours, after which we went to the Honey Thief café for much needed refreshments.

Back home after lunch, I spent the rest of the day tidying up the garden – trim the hedges, mowed the lawn, trimmed the “misty cloud” along the driveway and other bits and pieces. As usual once you start on a task it leads to numerous other tasks and the sunny gorgeous day just invites one to stay outdoor all day.

It was nearly 6pm when I finished and I was absolutely knackered then. As I sipped on a cold one, I walked across to the oval and watched a cricket game which had been going on all day as I worked the garden. It was a quiet, serene end to a busy day and as I stood in the sun there sipping my beer, a cool breeze blew across the parkland. The sound of leather hitting wood and fielders trying to catch the ball, all made for a wonderful backdrop to a beautiful cool early summer’s day. For the umpteenth time, I was grateful to be living in this country.

On Sunday after church we had to find some place new for lunch, as Rose had gone on her yearend holiday so her joint (Madam K) was closed and would not be opened until middle Jan. We ended up in Penang Flavours on Doncaster Road.

We went grocery shopping after that and Tress then did the cooking for a change, and whipped up our lunches/dinners for the rest of the week. I did some ironing and then we both walked the little fellow on the oval and its surrounds.

The sun was again brilliant and the walk was very refreshing. We had also spoken to Kiddo on the phone just before that and so the weekend was finishing as well as it started, when Tress and I had Jason and Mel at the Food Republic again on Friday night, for a wonderful meal and free flowing conversations. Early summer can be very pleasant that way.

Glovers’ love

Tress and I were at a dinner last night. It was a year-end break-up thing for the home group we’ve been attending for the past 3 years. Well 2+ years for me effectively, as I was in Ngambri for the larger part of last year.
The dinner was at the Glovers’ home. The Glovers are, to me at least, an unconventional family. They’ve spent some time in Nepal as missionaries but they’ve been in secular employment for a while. Mark is an engineer and Jenika is a nurse. They have 4 kids. Last night’s dinner was cooked mainly by a guy Josh, the only son of the Glovers, had invited to live with them. That guy is J, a Nepali asylum seeker who would otherwise be in detention. He now lives with the Glovers and has been cooking their evening meals several times a week, for more than 2 months now.
The curries were delicious (including a mushroom curry – a first for me) and J clearly enjoyed what he did, which he did very well.
As I thought about the home group this past year, I realised how some of my views have been tempered. Most of the people in this group have very “progressive” views of the world, with many discussions decrying the conservatives’ views about government funding, immigration and other traditionally hot topics dividing the left from the right. Well maybe not temper my views but certainly how I could or should communicate, defend or speak about them.
Perhaps more importantly however, is how we deal with others such as J. I believe in this regard many – perhaps most, in a church like St Alf’s – would do the same as the Glovers.
What I witnessed amongst the Glovers however, is that form of life themed around ushering heaven on earth in a manner taught us by Jesus himself through a model prayer. Mark and Jenika may have inherited it from their parents – Mark himself, if not also Jenika, is I understand, an “MK” (missionary kid) – but they certainly lived the mantra and perpetuated it.
I saw in Josh their son, that natural instinct to identify a need and attend to it, in an almost unquestioning manner, as a natural response. The compassion and love is clearly abundant and fully acted out in a manner that will surely leave an indelible mark on the beneficiary. If that is the legacy Mark and Jenika leave for their children, it would be such a rich inheritance for them.
Sometimes – often – I focus too much on the principle of personal responsibility. I let that crowd out any room for compassion and love for a person who on the surface appears to have no reason to reach deep to access resources I often believe are there to help one face most challenges in life. Otherwise I tend to think there ought to be persistent through hardship, before one seeks to impose on others what some might term personal rights. Interactions with the Glovers and witnessing their engagements with their “neighbours” have helped me refocus – perhaps less on personal responsibility and simply on the person. That’s love – that’s what the Glovers do in obedience to our Lord. I need more of that. It’s a work in progress.

Good toil

As the first week of the last month of the year draws to a close, I’m starting to notice I’m not the only one at work who is feeling the cumulative effect of a year’s toil. I actually told my boss a couple of days ago, that I’ve started a countdown to the Christmas break.
That was in response to a big yaw from him, followed by a “I need a holiday Ian” uttered in a laboured tone. Last week the CEO who sits just behind my boss, appeared to have bags under his eyes. I’d like to think they both too, are thinking of the 2 (full) weeks of break that’s coming up in a little over 2 weeks.
A few days ago I recalled the events of a year ago. I had taken an evening flight out of Canberra, where I had been working, to come to Melbourne. I had a second interview the next day, for the job I’m now doing. The morning of the interview, Kiddo received the results she needed to obtain her PhB from ANU.
When the interview was done, I went into the city and caught up with Tress at Spenser Station. I had a Sky Bus out from there back to Tullamarine, where I was to catch a flight back to Canberra and to work the next day. While at Spenser, I took a call from the recruiter, with the news that the interview was successful and I was offered the role.
A year into the role, I’m still plugging away. It has been a chequered year at work. While I have generally enjoyed coming in to work, the environment hasn’t been all that positive. Several colleagues I established relationships with have left – all of them being let go. The company is facing challenges principally from the US market where there has been regulatory issues. I continue to mingle with colleagues who feel insecure over their tenure, and feel they can be shown the door any day. Every other week someone is being shown the door. So in some ways the environment is toxic. At the same time however, there is hope and light shines through the other end of the tunnel. The office makeover has generated some energy and engagement by staff is up, and several senior sales and production/operations appointments have been made so hopefully things settle down to an even and constant beat.
Meanwhile I just put my head down and each day make my way through the PTV maze to get to the office, do my work and move on to the next day. I’m living. I put in my yards. I work on my tasks. I don’t look for meaning or fulfilment beyond the daily creation and attempted perfection of my tasks.
Kiddo in the meantime, is a bit over the half way mark of an intensive training session in Deakin Uni in Warnambool .That training finishes on the 21st and we’ll likely go up there to drive back with her.
It has been a year of toil for her too, I’m sure. All the teeing up of lessons with her students, the applications for a full time job, the application for the TFA program she’s now part of, and of course the planning of the wedding. It has been quiet a year.
Tress too has had a roller coaster ride. Having left Myer after more than 10 years there, the landing on Interactive was a brief one. In July she left, and after a couple of months or so of break she was back at it, in World Vision. The strongly Christian based NFP and the proximity to home are such great incentives and I’m ever so grateful for the opportunity she’s been given.
In a little over 3 weeks, we’d be ushering in the new year. I hope we continue to be able to toil away.

Counting down to a break

Tress and I wound up the week on Friday night at our go-to place – the Via Matta on Canterbury Road. As always, it was wonderful to just sit down to a simple and delicious meal, talking and catching up over a few glasses of a very nice red. Even the kid throwing up a few tables from us didn’t spoil things too much.
On Saturday we spent the day cleaning. Tress did the vacuuming and I wiped down surfaces all over the house. We also organised for some old shoes to be taken to the salvos and freed up some space on the shoe cupboards. Rose from Madam Kwong’s was going on holidays for a few weeks so we made sure we had lunch there, before it was shut down for about 5 weeks. We then went to Westfield in Doncaster – just to walk around. Later in the afternoon we washed the driveway, which had been caking up with dirt, grime and mud from the work by the plumbers and the water authority people. I had washed the cars before that as it was going to be a wet and messy driveway anyway.
That night we watched Interstellar on DVD. It is a fascinating film, with weird science but interesting philosophical questions thrown up. I liked it a lot.
On Sunday after our usual service in St Alf’s we went to Crossway. Jessie, Jesslyn’s mum, was to be baptised so we dropped in. That church is huge and bustling, with constant streams of people shuffling to and fro and people just hanging out in the large café. After spending some time with our friends there Tress and I went back to Madam K again, before going for some groceries for the week’s lunch cook.
Right through the arvo we had the cricket on and it was great to see a scintillating performance from Smith the skipper – he knocked 164, the highest ODI at the SCG, and having helped the Aussies pile a 320+ run on the board, took an unbelievable catch in the gully off a flying cut shot which was shooting through like a bullet around shoulder height. The skipper dived to his left and caught the speeding bullet one handed.
After the very disappointing start to the season against the Proteas, that winning performance was very refreshing, although it wasn’t enough to kick start a slow Monday morning, as I start my countdown to the Christmas break. 

Ode to Dad

I wish we talked more

Maybe about grandpa’s antics

Or about grandma’s guffaws

I wish we talked more


I wish I rang more

To maybe talk about politics

And count MCA’s flaw galore

I wish I rang more


I wish I visited more

Especially when you were sick

Or when you were sore

I wish I visited more


I could wish no more

To talk, visit, ring or anything at all


But I can and will remember

Because you are – forever – my father

Ten years now, since you departed

But now and always you’ll be revered


You were a special dad…