Crises come crises go


Back in the day while at work in KL, as the Legal person in a banking and securities group, I was in the thick of various interesting episodes. The automation of stock price feed and stock trading introduced by my employer in 1995, which challenged the KL stock exchange establishment, saw legal proceedings between the stock exchange and my employer. At stake was its financial services license and its very survival. We survived.

Not long after, the political assassination of the then rising star of Malaysian politics (Anwar Ibrahim) led to a corporate witch hunt which was all undertaken against the backdrop of the Asian financial crisis. Documentation for scores of corporate deals were demanded to be brought into various compromised regulators – used unashamedly by their political masters. Interrogations and barely disguised threats emanated from those possessed regulators to poison and torment. All of that entailed crises management. It made for interesting workdays but it was all very stressful. In between these two epic bouts there were battles galore including corporate hijacking of listed vehicles under the guise of financial rescues and plugging of state run cooperative banks. They were all politically infested fights and vicious too. Political and financial heavyweights of Malaysiana such as Daim, Dr M, Vincent Tan etc left their footprints across what could easily be crime scenes without nary a care – they had the means to take care of business in more sense than one. Somehow, I survived.

Then we – Tress, Kiddo and I – moved to Australia. Things were quiet and peaceful and I enjoyed, for a little while, the serenity of suburbia and its corner-shop legal practice.

I was soon back in the city however and while heavily involved in an underwriting automation project of a large life insurer, the sub-prime mortgage crisis broke and AIG took a body blow which left a picture of Cristiano Ronaldo, then a superstar of Manchester United, sprawled and lying prostrate on the turf to grace the financial front page, depicting the fallen sponsor of the all-conquering red devils under Sir Alex Ferguson. AIG was broken up, the failed takeover of Prudential by Thiam saw AIA parcelled up for listing in HK. All that meant loads of crisis styled work for the legal teams across the AIA markets in Asia. We were in constant conference calls with the mothership and our HK legal colleagues lorded us through the storm as we reviewed, extracted, provided opinion after opinion and compiled report after report. I sort of survived.

Fast forward to 2017 – in a corner of peripheral Melbourne just 5-10 minutes’ tram ride out of the CBD and where the streets often ooze some raw, hip and unpretentious vivre I now sit at a desk on the first floor of a semi-industrial building, reviewing, drafting and discussing commercial legal documents and performing risk and compliance tasks. Across a little side street on the west side a well-known café adjoins a well-known brothel. We produce intelligent traffic systems. Our customers are mainly state governments. Notorious in recent years for our bouts with city halls and the department of justice in the US for corrupt practices, our wounds have barely had time to form ugly scars when a humble USB stick gets shoved into a speed camera somewhere on the Hume and starts its infectious journey across dozens of cameras. A radio shock jock stumbles over and jumbles facts and broadcasts missives against this humble fringe tech firm and I find myself again in the midst of a corporation battling a crisis of sorts. A sense of dejavu rises – this time I have the presence of mind to almost rise above the fracas to find a spot in an imaginary balcony and witness the frenetic dance below.

The music plays on as I write, my boss pecking away on his keyboard across from me. He turns around every few minutes to consult with the CEO. I pretend to draft a document as I typed this. I wanted to type this – it is a moment I wanted to capture, even as I reminisce. The sense of having been here before, the familiar sense of crises – it can be intoxicating. It invites one to stop and burnish a mental image. Who knows what the future holds – ravage the now.

Virus, Williamstown and Virus


We’ve been copping the chills in recent days, especially Tress. She was down with a nasty virus last week so we stayed home on Friday night. She was coughing badly, went to bed early and I stayed up a bit and watched the footy. After Hawks’ victory against the Crows the previous night, I was up for more and I got every ounce of the juicy serving. The Dons were beaten by the Swans at the death as Rowan took a mark in the goal square seconds before the final siren. He promptly kicked a goal to give the Swans a one point margin. That game was to herald a whirlwind weekend of topsy turvy footy as the Doggies, Dees and Cats all secures exciting and/or last-minute wins.

On Saturday Tress went to her hairdresser after brekky and I stayed in to do some work, including to complete an annual mandatory anti bribery and anti-corruption training. We then headed to Doncaster East and had a wonderful lunch of mee hun kueh. Alex and Li Har had put pics of that dish, served up by one of their favourite joints, on FB and given the cold wintery weekend, Tress and I had decided on Friday night that we’d go on Saturday. It was the closest thing we’ve had to the hearty dish we used to have in Klang and it was thoroughly satisfying.

After our usual grocery shopping and walking the little fellow, we stayed home and caught a streamed movie. The Good Bones by Peter Jackson looked familiar and we enjoyed the eerily positive (somehow) story before again retiring early.

Sunday after church we headed to Williamstown. I had never been there except for a pass-by cruise. We had a wonderful lunch next to the jetties. It was a drab and cold day and the drive there to this historical part of Melbourne allowed us to soak in such typical Melbourne conditions. I’m glad I read Blainey’s writing on Victorian history – it gave me a chance to appreciate what we saw and experienced as we walked through the area after lunch.

Back home we walked the little guy again – he had appeared unwell earlier in the day so when I saw him bouncing around in the oval, I was really happy.

Back at work this morning, as the company battled a virus of a different kind which generated negative media that accumulated over the weekend, I had a sense of déjà vu. Companies fighting regulators and government isn’t a new territory for me – I am reminded of Phileo fighting KLSE, Bank Negara etc – but it still feels stressful. It will be a busy work week for me as a result but work has always been busy anyway. I was hoping with the cold virus also knocking on the doors to my ENT, I’d have a less than stressful week but I guess such is the cycle of work and rest. I have to grin and bear it through the week, again.

Again in a hearbeat


I try to take a walk every day, during lunch hour. A few days ago, while walking, I came to a florist. I had been thinking about what I could get Tress for a special day this week so I decided to go into the florist shop to have a browse.

There were 2-3 arrangements each sitting in a earthen pot or vase of some sort and they looked timelessly elegant and even beautiful. They look better than the various bouquets. I made some enquiries and decided to send Tress an arrangement comprising principally roses, red and pink mainly.

The next day, I got a note from Tress, half chiding me for getting such a big bunch of floral arrangements. She took a picture and sent it to me although the picture didn’t quite convey the largeness of it all. That only came across when I got home and saw the monumental flora on kitchen island, towering and spreading to overwhelm everything else.

I smiled to myself. I know it’s big. I wanted it to be. 25 years is something you want to commemorate with something big.

We had hoped to take the Ghan from Adelaide to Uluru to celebrate the occasion but we left it too late and there weren’t suitable dates available. We couldn’t (I couldn’t) start the planning any earlier as I needed time – after all the planning and up-in-the-air restlessness of the weeks running up to the wedding in Canberra.

Uluru out-ruled, or more accurately, ruled out, even a very big floral arrangement felt not quite in the same league for such an occasion. Hence I had neither reservations nor buyer’s remorse, neither guilt nor any other negative sentiments for having decided to go with the hanging garden of Babylon now adorning an island in our home.

Frankly, it was all I/we could do. But do something I felt I needed to and I’m glad I did. 25 years and I loved every single day of it. I am ever so grateful.

Round the corner


I had never been a big fan of Korean food. The prejudice was probably down to eating only stuff like bibimbap and bulgogi, which came across as crude fill-me-up feeds. We’ve heard good things about this little place near our home however and anyplace close to home is a promising one for me so on Friday night Tress and I had dinner there. It was a good thing too that I made reservations earlier in the day as the little establishment turned away easily half a dozen customers, as they were fully booked. Michu has converted me – I’m a fan now. The food was very good and the staff were so friendly, courteous and professional that we felt thoroughly at home and well served.

After dinner we executed our plan. Earlier in the day I had suggested to Tress (seeing it was a bye week for the Hawks) that we spend the weekend binging on House of Cards. The suggestion was enthusiastically received so once we settled down in our trackies we invited the Underwoods and their Machiavellian shenanigans into our living room. We only went to bed after midnight.

We slept in on Sat morning, and after brekky Tress did the vacuuming while I pottered on the outside – raking the leaves from the Japanese maple, applying some weedkillers, and then walking the little fella at the oval and beyond. Later we stuck a sticky beak into a nearby auction, and witnessed the continuing spiral of house prices. A pretty ordinary 3 bedroom joint with hardly any updates fetched close to 1.2m – I later remarked to Tress maybe it was time we sold our little unit in a neighbouring suburb. The tenants may want to buy it for themselves, who knows.

After a late lunch and grocery shopping we came home to walk the little fella again, before continuing our binge to bathe in the ugliness of politics in Washington DC. We again slept late…

As we pulled into the shopping area car park opposite St Alf’s on Sunday morning, Boyd and Cathy and their older boy were in front of us and as we walked towards St Alf’s I had a quick chat with Boyd and learned they too are only less than 10 minutes away. I’m liking this close-to-home theme and when we had lunch later another 10 minutes or so away I thought we could pretty much live our lives without having to drive more than 20 minutes from home.
After another walk with the little guy I did my usual cooking before ending the day with the home cooks doing their thing by the Murray up in Echuca. I liked it when we visited many years ago and I thought another local holiday this summer would be good. I had spoken to Gavin from St Alf’s earlier in the day and listening to him talk about Nooka and Katherine up in troppo land stirred my increasing interest to explore our “backyard” in that region.

So this morning I did a quick Google map check – we could make it to Alice on road on very ordinary vehicles (no 4WD required) in 3 days via Adelaide and Coober Pedy. I did a quick date marker and sent it off to Kiddo, Mic and Tress. Not quite a 10-20minute drive that’s for sure but for one reason or another, the idea of doing a summer holiday trekking up the sunburnt country in the outback was an appealing one. Long as the drives may be, it is still closer to home.

Last Long Weekend for a while… (but a very good one)


Yesterday was the last public holiday here in Victoria, for a little while. The next one will be on Cup Day, which is traditionally the first Tuesday of November. That is nearly 5 months away. So unless one takes planned leave for a break, one keeps one’s head down and charges through this period.

Kiddo and Mic arrived late on Friday night. They had left a bit after 4pm. I still have memories of those Friday night drives so I understood how they felt when they walked through the door. We didn’t waste much time as Mic, almost immediately after settling down, gave us a USB stick with their wedding photos on it. We switched to accessing it on his website instead, which was more workable. We all went to bed a bit after midnight but Tress and I were on bed scanning those pic, before eventually going to sleep way past 1am.

Earlier that night Tress and I had had dinner with Jason and Mel, together with Jacky, an old friend who has been spending most of her time in Malaysia. She looked well and we spoke and caught up. I always enjoy a Friday night over dinner and wine with good friends and Friday night was exceptional in that respect as the five of us caught up and we only got up to leave when we realised some of the waiting staff were leaving. We had been there well over 3 hours when that happened and I said to Tress, yet again, that was why I didn’t like restaurants with “sessions”. Meals aren’t just about the food. If we have to watch the clock to leave by a certain time because the restaurant has a next session of diners to empty their wallets into the restaurant’s tills, I can well do without such places no matter how good the food is.

On Saturday we cooked a big breakfast at home. Before dinner the previous night we had gone and picked up eggs, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and avocado and the home cooked big breakfast was a great platform for us to catch up with Kiddo and Mic. It was also for me to give Tress a pressie for her birthday – something we needed Mic’s help for. He has the same phone – the iPhone 7 Plus. Tress’ phone has had a cracked screen and near zero battery capacity for many months now so it was time for a new one. I had been thinking of a pressie for her for a while and the phone is something she uses the most so that should have been an obvious tell-tale for me.

Later that arvo Tress and I subjected ourselves to the travails of the Hawks at the G again, while Mic and Kiddo stayed home to do some work. Somehow, the Hawks’ fruitless toils no longer hit us so hard. All I wanted was to see them having a white hot go and we saw some of that, particularly in the first 10-15 minutes of the last quarter. Going down to a team like the Gold Coast Suns, at the G, was very hard to take.

That night we went to a lovely Cantonese restaurant in Box Hill South. It was meant to be a special birthday treat for Tress. We again had wonderful conversations and as we left to go home, I felt myself being ever so grateful for what has been a great weekend so far.

On Sunday morning, we dropped Kiddo and Mic at the station on our way to St Alf’s. They were heading for the Van Gogh exhibition at the NGV. At church, Jordan Hitchcock gave his usual erudite delivery – this time on Ephesians 4 and our values versus God’s. He started with contrasting our shock with what happened at the Arianna Grande concert in Manchester with our numbed senses to what Arianna Grande’s work means to young minds. He accepts the shocking terrorist event after the concert is of a different scale but he was just noting that we have come to accept certain values. He then challenged values the evangelical sub-culture accepts which aren’t really godly – he suggested that is what the new life in the subject passage was all about. All pretty self inspecting stuff.

Tress and I trekked into the city after church, to catch up with the Van Gogh fans. We met at the packed NGV – the carnival like atmosphere suggests Van Gogh is somehow in pop culture space and Kiddo’s annoyance at photographer’s antics confirms good art has probably been reduced to pop culture treatment.

We had lunch at the CBD, did some shopping (including for Baby Olivier’s – Adrian and Rachael’s one year old – forthcoming birthday do), before heading home. That night we talked a bit more.

They left yesterday morning, after another home cooked breakfast and discussions about summer plans. We thought about Tassie for the four of us, as opposed to a trip back to Malaysia. In as much as we love to catch up with relos we haven’t met for a while, logistics and expensive peak period air travel make that a too hard category. Tress had to remind Kiddo we no longer have anywhere to stay when we’re there and we have no mode of transport too.

After they left, Tress and I then cleaned up, tidied the rooms did some pottering around the home, before heading out for some lunch and grocery shopping. We then went home, walked the little fellow, and got ready for the start of the working week – the first of this long stretch before another long weekend re-appears on the horizon.

IKEA, Dangerwood, Real Madrid, Borough Market… Wither His Kingdom…


Friday

On Friday last week a couple of colleagues from an overseas office kept a few of us here a bit busy. There was supposed to be a tender in a Scandinavian market early this week and a combination of flying a bit blind and reading Norwegian translations of documents worked up a bit of stress and when I finally let the office, I wasn’t thinking about what to do that night which was a bit annoying as Friday night is special. No, it’s sacred. So, I tend to think about what to do to honour its place in my weekly schedule, a couple of days before it arrives.

When I got home, I packed away the wines that got delivered by The Australian Wine mob, and asked Tress what she’d like to do. We ended up in that very lovely Thai joint which is on the way to our small group meeting place, the Maury’s home. It’s not much more than a hole in a wall establishment but the food there’s really good and the people there are really friendly.

Back home after dinner, we thought about watching something on Netflix. After the Hawks’ diabolical mauling by Port Adelaide on Thursday night I wasn’t in the mood to watch more footy but the Cats were hosting the Crows and these are real flag contenders so I caved in. Watching Cats’ Selwood/Dangerfield combo is painful only in the sense they’re the Cats’ engine room instead of the Hawks’. The uncompromising ball hunting, the clear decision making, the skills, the explosive but smooth and silky delivery of power that Dangerfield habitually turns on – they’re all just sensational to watch. The Cats certainly put paid to the Crows’ flag ambitions.

The perennially watchable Shawshank Redemption was on another channel and I toggled between the two. It wasn’t a bad way to spend a Friday night after dealing with Scandinavian boxes.

Saturday

It was supposed to be cold on Saturday morning so Tress and I had planned to be at home, cleaning and vacuuming. We did this for over a couple of hours and then decided to take a drive to a market we haven’t been to for many years. We drove out east to the Dandenong Market, had our lunch there, and bought our groceries for the week’s meal. Stuff is a lot cheaper there but the demographics have changed noticeably. The large scale middle eastern food and wares on offer is a testament to the sort of local demand now prevailing in this part of town. We spent over a couple of hours there and then went back to walk Scruff. He was happy as Larry as always, and strutted around in the oval, where he has earned a wonderful reputation as a very friendly and easy-going pooch. I guess the fact that he’s blind also earns him tonnes of affection.

We did turn to Netflix later that night, and watched a movie (“The Good Lie“)about a group of Sudanese youth escaping the civil war, made a long trek on foot to a refugee camp in Kenya, before eventually ending up in Kansas City in the US. It was a funny, touching and eye-opening movie. It made very good points without shouting in your face and so the left plenty of room to absorb the message more meaningfully.

Sunday

It was Pentecost Sunday and the service at St Alf’s started with “prayeroplanes” flying across the auditorium. These were prayers each wrote on papers that were then made into aeroplanes and these paper planes were launched so that someone else catches them and prays for the stuff you wrote. It was a fun way of getting the church to pray for each others’ concerns as well as a good way to end the “Thy Kingdom Come” prayer initiative started by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the Church of England head honcho. I never knew a title such as “Chief Prayer Officer” existed but when I signed up and got emails from a Michelle Eyre with that title, I was impressed, as the daily 5-minute prayers were thoughtful, insightful and very balanced and nuanced as only the British can do ever so well.

I had woken up early that morning to watch Real Madrid beat the grand old lady to retain the Champions League. Soon after, news of the London Borough Market terrorist attacks started streaming in. So right through the service my mind was on the yet another episode of terror on the streets.

After lunch in our usual place, we tried to look for a blender to replace our usual, daily smoothie maker which is probably into its final laps. We didn’t pick anything up but got a fairly good shortlist, which we’d try to find online.
Back home, Scruff got another long walk treat and then I did the week’s lunches/meals as well as a load of chilly-sauce and pickled green chillies. We had picked up a couple of bags of chillies on the cheap from the market on Saturday and after Tress did our smoothies on our dying blender and we got cleaned up, our fridge looked well stocked – ready for the week.

Ginny MacPherson had said something at the end of the service at St Alf’s which I agreed with wholeheartedly. She read from Romans 10 and made an impassioned plea. I need to get ready to respond so I hope this week I’d be shown tender mercies to be a channel of some much needed salve on the wounds that are constantly opening up everywhere. As the Lord said, may His Kingdom come…