Cultural Challenge, Suited up and United’s trophy


The usual Friday arvo energy depleted state kicked in early and by about 3.30pm I was flat as a prairie. I had had a wonderful lunch in a newish Indonesian hole-in-the-wall joint and I thought I was well fueled to finish the week on a high but I guess the week’s busy-ness took its toll. We stayed home and I had an early night.

Saturday morning had Tress and I letter boxing. We still had a couple of areas to do for the marriage alliance info brochures to do and it was a beautiful cool and sunny morning so we made the most of it. We had it all done by late morning and while grocery shopping towards noon, we decided to skip Madam K and do a salad at home instead. Tress had bought a couple of meals for a joint in Hawthorn, which we were doing dinner for that night.

Just after 2pm we drove to Heathmont for a talk. The ACL was sending its National Director to talk about current cultural issues and as we pulled up into the driveway towards the car park of the venue, we saw a police car with 2 officers inside the car. The meeting then explained police and private security was present that day as the ACL website had its event registration page ambushed by more than 50,000 spammers, many of them accompanied by vile messages. There was a risk people like Simon Hunt from UNSW was going to instigate a protest against the meeting.

No protest happened and as Tress and I sat amongst maybe about 100 people listening to Lyle Shelton and Dan Flynn, I was glad I turned up for that meeting and I later thought about how to deal with a culture that is stridently anti-Christian.

The meeting ended just before 5 and we drove to Hawthorn for a lovely dinner. I got a warm, fuzzy feeling – not just because it was a lovely dinner of comfort food but it was Hawks country too. Pubs had the brown and gold colours on, even though the season is yet to get underway.

Later that night Tress got busy doing online shopping for Kiddo related stuff and I toggled between the Coen brothers’ “True Grit” and Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown” – both on SBS. Both were very good movies and it was amazing both were on SBS at the same time.

It was David Williams on Sunday morning – I always enjoy his messages. Matthew 15:1-20, through his reading, became more (a lot more) than just a declaration that all food is clean.

We’ve been running into some old friends at Madam K’s on Sundays and yesterday was no different. Andrew Hang and Bee Lye were there again and we shared a table and talked – mainly about Malaysia. As we were leaving, it made sense that the gleaming white Maserati parked across the side street from our humble bone shaker, was theirs. Later that arvo we went shopping as I have been looking out for the suit for Kiddo’s wedding. A young man at the suit shop tried hard to get me to opt for a light blue one, which he claimed (and I’m sure he’s right) is the current trending colour and style. It was just a touch too flamboyant for me. Other than possibly drawing attention to myself (and away from the special couple) it just wasn’t me. I opted for a darker shade of blue…

We also looked for other decorative stuff for the event and decided we’d get some of those paraphernalia when we return to pick up my altered suit next weekend.

Back home it was the usual Sunday arvo cook fest for the week’s lunches. That has become a safe activity for me on Sunday arvos. With those containers tucked away in the fridge and freezer, I felt safe (I kid you not) that I have homecooked, nutritious, delicious and cheaply made lunches for the week.

United beat Southampton to win what used to be known as the League Cup. It’s now known as the EFL and while trophies are always nice, I can’t help but wonder if we’d ever relive Fergie’s days when such a trophy was so far down his priorities he used to play second or third stringers. Mourinho rolled out his biggest gun last night and reports suggest we were the inferior team but somehow managed to beat the Saints. I was interested enough to check the scores when I got up this morning but I still found myself looking forward to when the AFL season proper starts again…

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Chap Goh Meh, Countdown


Family is mostly a wonderful element of life. It provides, for many, a raison d’etre for being. It is a driver – a potent one – for me and often, dominates to an extent where it does become the be all and end all. At least on a psychological and/or emotional level. It certainly occupies much of my thoughts and feelings.

And so on occasions such as on Saturday night when Tress and I were sitting on the deck of Uncle Jin and Auntie Pin’s busy home it is easy to drift along and continue believing. Bathing in the warmth and comfort of home cooked dishes and uncles, aunties and cousins and their partners, it sits up there as a preferred activity for a weekend, distance to their home notwithstanding (a 100km roundtrip).

Ray, Auntie Hooi and Uncle Marloney’s eldest, sat next to me the whole night. He joined the ATO after earning a commerce/law double, and has recently bought his own home which he talked about excitedly. Next to him is Chris, Natasha’s boyfriend. Nat is Ray’s baby sister. Chris is causasian, a tutor and looks like a nice fellow. Next to Nat was Kathleen, Auntie Anne’s and Uncle Seng’s youngest. She was the sole representative of her family that night. She works for a PR firm (Dentsu Aegis) a stone’s throw away from my office. Next to her was Sherry, UJ and AP’s youngest. She’s an engineer of sorts and her husband. YW, also an engineer, wandered in and out of the house, mingling amongst the 2-3 groups who coalesce into one sometimes, then breaks off again. Next to Sherry was Boris, Marina’s boyfriend. Marina is Sherry’s older sister. Tress had Marina on one side and me on the other. She and I are the oldest of the group and it was great being amongst the younger group, although the average age of that group is probably closer to 30.

Family on the other hand, can also be a source of angst. As we sat down late yesterday (Sunday) arvo, having completed our household chores – Tress did loads of ironing and I cooked the week’s lunches – Tress received a video clip from her dad. She decided to ring for a chat. Her dad soon passed the call to her mum and before long, her mum was carrying on about the pain and expense of having to travel to Kiddo’s wedding. She came on strong about us picking up the tabs for guests’ airfares and hotel bills. I made a face at Tress, stuck my middle finger up rhetorically. Her mum has been doing a song and dance about trekking to Canberra and has repeatedly moaned and groaned about the whole thing so I was tempted to think this airfare and hotel bills shit had more to do with her spitting the dummy than us being generous. Money wasn’t the issue – it was her mum being her mum. Well her mum carried on for a bit, so I had enough and headed into the study to do some work – work I had assiduously put off as those emails kept coming in on Friday night and Saturday.

About an hour later I emerged from the study, things looked calm so I let it be, and watched TV together with her. The ever popular “Perfect Match”, Sino styled, warmed our hearts and made us smile, before the latest iteration of “24” came on at Channel 10. Even though I snoozed for a bit mid way, I kind of enjoyed the familiar themes, look and feel of the latest Baueristic responses. The CTU is almost family, for better or worse.

A few days ago I said to Tress it was less than 9 weeks to go. Having said all I have on the angst bit, I have to say I look forward to having the family around again when the time comes – in a bit over 8 weeks.

Metro, Nasi Lemak and Caroline Chisolm


Several months ago while on a work trip to Malaysia, I decided to visit Tress’ parents and my mum et al while I was there. I decided to catch a commuter train to Klang as the hotel I was staying in was only a few minutes’ walk to the KL central station. I expected the worst in terms of timeliness etc. but as I stand there waiting on the platform, almost 30 minutes later than the scheduled time, I messaged Tress to say I’d wait another 10mins at the most after which I’d jump onto a taxi. The train did eventually come but it was something like 40 minutes waiting without knowing if or when the train would come. That was my Malaysian commuting experience, less than 6 months ago.

This morning as I walked towards the ticket machine at Box Hill station, I started feeling uneasy as I saw commuters walking back, away from the station, as though they are changing their travel plans. I had heard on 3AW, as I was driving into the station, that the Belgrave Lilydale line has been disrupted and callers were sounding very frustrated. I thought and hoped however, that the disruption only affected stations between Lilydale/Belgrave and Blackburn. Blackburn had been closed for over a month while level crossing removal works were carried out and this morning was supposed to see it reopened to the public again. I had been using Box Hill the whole time Blackburn had been closed but I suspected it wouldn’t be all smooth sailing this morning so I had decided to keep using Box Hill this week.

As I waited at the platform and strained to hear the announcements, I became agitated. The announcements were more propaganda than disseminating information. The lady announcer carried on about the importance of safety and the merits of the level crossing removal projects, and further carried on about how everyone has had a tough 6 weeks adjusting to the Blackburn (and Heatherdale) station closures. Precious little about whether there would be any trains servicing Box Hill and the city.

After about half a dozen of these waffling insanities I had enough and went to the ticketing office to ask if there would be a train taking commuters into the city. I got the same waffle so I exploded. I looked at that dingbat of a lady and said, “Will there be a train taking commuters into the city soon?” She said she didn’t know and went on about inclement weather affecting track work. I said the rain wasn’t all that catastrophic in that we’ve had rain like that in Melbourne before and repeated my question. She again said she didn’t know so I asked did she have any idea how long it’d be before she could give commuters like me any idea of what to expect in terms of whether there would be a train to take commuters into the city anytime soon. Before she could answer I said I wanted a clear simple answer as all that waffle earlier hadn’t taken the commuters anywhere nearer the city nor had it advanced Melbourne Metro from the commuter trains in Malaysia. She looked at me with a pale face and I said to her not to worry and I walked away…

The train came eventually. Monday morning was a little different as a result but the tendency to waffle or to inject spin as a primary component of a piece of simple communication (train disrupted, apologies, next train due when, apologies if can’t tell when train will resume…) is a sure bet to stir anger and frustration.

It was a disruptive Monday morning but the weekend was good.

I had ended last week with what felt like an oncoming flu of sorts. Tress and I went to a lovely Malaysian restaurant in Bayswater on Friday night and because I was a bit under the weather, I felt queasy on the way home and had an early night of sorts.

On Saturday morning, after our usual leisurely coffee and breakfast at home, we went letter-boxing again. The ACL pamphlets carried an important message and we dutifully dropped them in homes nearby, in the Blackburn South area. We then went and got some groceries, mainly to cook for a dinner party at Jason and Mel’s later that night.

On the way home, Kiddo rang and spoke briefly about her first week at Caroline Chisolm college. It sounded challenging and I hope she finds a serene groove in this rough and tumble challenge of the socio-economic backwaters of ACT southern nether.

We then got home, cooked, vacuumed, and did other bits and pieces at home. When they were all done, I slumped into a bean bag and surfed Netflix before settling down to a trusty Marlon Brando/Al Pacino adorned mobster classic. I lost count after watching it for the 10th time some 10-15 years ago and it’s now a question of noticing nuanced twitch of Marlon’s face or Sonny’s shoulders or the annoyed look of Clemenza as he gave instructions of preferring a dessert over a weapon.

At Jason’s we feasted over a wonderful meal of nasi lemak – a la gourmet. We brought a chilli prawn dish and some pickled vegetables as well as some sliced cucumbers and enjoyed them with over a half dozen other dishes. The Hipos were also there, as well as a friend of Jason’s a lady who was there with her 14-year old boy who looked and sounded a music prodigy of sorts.

After church and Madam K on Sunday, we got home and I did a quick mowing and clean-up of the lawn, front yard, deck and driveway before doing the cook for the week’s lunches. Alex rang as I started to cook and asked if we’d like to join him for a drink with his new neighbours. I had to ring back later to say we couldn’t make it – just as well, as I was sitting down on the couch early in the evening (around 7pm), I quickly snoozed and drifted in and out of dreamland before heading to bed around 9pm. If only I knew what Melbourne Metro’s was about to dish out the next morning, I might have taken up Alex’s offer and called in sick this morning…