St Alf, MHK and LBJ

It was one of those healing services at St Alf’s yesterday and after that over lunch at Madam K’s I was saying to Tress after all these years, I still haven’t warmed to such services. Ginny, Peter’s wife, had taken the pulpit and went through a series of word incidents about such and such a person going through such and such an experience and I had also said to Tress, over lunch, that I wondered how many in the congregation thought what Ginny said was relevant to them. I thought a majority of people would feel those things meant little to them. So I’m thankful there is only one (or maybe two) of such services each year. By and large, St Alf’s is a pretty even keeled joint with none of the unusual stuff we experienced in our previous “home” church.

Later that arvo Tress and I took the little jedi to the oval across our street and there were many pooches there. It was sunny and balmy – so different to the very blowy conditions the day before – and everyone there just soaked in the very pleasant conditions. Our little fellow was beaming and last night as he sat on the couch with us, I said to Tress I wondered if he ever wondered why he couldn’t see us anymore even when seated right next to us. It felt so sad and yet he looked so very happy and contented. He is a lovely little furry friend.

On Friday night Tress and I went and watched some furry friends on the silver screen. Caesar and company made their appearance in the third segment of the trilogy that has proven very entertaining. War for the Planet of the Apes was very good and Caesar was so prominent and eminent. I later said to Tress he almost came across as a Moses like figure, relieving his fellow apes from oppression and leading them into a promised land free from their oppressors. He died in the end (sorry for the spoiler) and this theme of sacrificial death emanated not just from the protagonist but also from the antagonist, the Colonel. Woody Harrelson’s character was also prominent though lest eminent. He killed off his virus stricken men on the ground that one must die so that others may live. I enjoyed this movie very much, probably even more than I did Dunkirk the week before.

Friday night was even sweeter when we got home – we had watched the early, 6.30pm screening – and caught the third and fourth quarters of the Hawks v Swans game. It was the final home game at the G and I just couldn’t stomach the late Friday night game (it started at 7.50pm) and made the sacrifice of that last home G game. Hawks beat the Swans and kept September alive.

On Saturday we slept in and I had stayed in bed googling the work of Gurrumul (G Yunupingu) after reading stories about him in The Australian. He was the best known aboriginal musician and he died earlier in the week. I wondered why I didn’t listen to his work earlier as his work was beautiful. His songs are very soothing and even though he sings in his original language, one senses, through his songs and singing, the love he had for his land and its inhabitants. We later bought an album of his and continued playing it over the Apple TV, as we went about our stuff for the day – I bathed the little fellow and Tress cleaned the bathroom. Later that arvo we went to Doncaster East for lunch. We had seen that a café which makes a “Mee Hun Kueh” was going to do it that day. We had found out our dear friend Li Har was actually the cook. When we were there she came out and had a chat with us. She is such a talented home cook we’re glad her work is making such a big impact amongst Malaysians who love this dish. After lunch we got some groceries before and then took the little fellow for a walk. That night, we settled down to watch an old Martin Scorsese movie. “Mean Streets” is so raw and so reminiscent of the Good Fellows. The bar scenes and the constant “what’s the matter with you” echoed GF aplenty and I saw how Good Fellows probably evolved from Mean Streets. It is hard to imagine the Japan based “Silence” came from the same man but what an artist he is.

This morning I came across an opinion piece on the recent banning by a Queensland primary school against discussing Jesus or Christianity which suggested that banning was part of an overarching war against Christianity waged by atheists and secularists. I have wondered why the leadership of St Alf doesn’t articulate this situation more. When I read people like Murray Campbell who went along with the tone of the recent pieces citing how the evangelical church is fanning domestic violence, I wondered about the reticence in countering such allegations and seeing these as war against the church more than battling current community issues like domestic violence. Of course the church must never protect anyone guilty of domestic violence but it is easy for one to see those pieces were less about domestic violence and more about besmirching the church even more.

As I thought about St Alf – about how it would deal with these attacks – I wondered if healing services of the kind we had on Sunday were in tune with what’s going on or maybe like so many churches in the bible belt of Melbourne, it is more about looking after its own tribe. The people and the church as a whole is still a fantastic community gathering to do good for the Lord and I can only look with wonder, at the talents, gifts, knowledge, experience and overall work of many in this church. I had also wondered out loud to Tress while seated somewhere near the back of the hall yesterday morning, whether a pool of such talents should have delivered more.


Allopurinol, Dunkirk and Masterchef

I was crook towards the end of last week. It has been a while since the ogre of gout paid me a visit. I have been on allopurinol for a few years and sometimes, when I get a new prescription, I chuck the remaining few tablets from the old bottle into the new batch. Maybe the older tablets lose their potency and I wonder if some older tablets had been taken together with a large serve of mussels on Wednesday night because on Thursday morning I woke with that plight that is a classic gout symptom.

The attack was timely as I had been low on my tablets and it forced me to see a doctor to get a new prescription. Tress had suggested a friendly bulk bill doctor very near our home so I went on Friday morning and got my tables refilled. It also meant I had much needed rest especially on Friday. We decided to go watch “Dunkirk” that night and before that, we caught up with the Hipos and Chews in the Glen area. Jess had decided to return to CBM for a little while and so took the occasion as an opportunity to “celebrate” over a meal. We fought the mad traffic in the Glen area and I was just griping with Tress the whole time about why anyone would visit that spot especially on a Friday night. We hadn’t been there for a while and I honestly don’t miss it very much at all. It was very good none the less, to have caught up with our dear friends. After dinner we drove back to Blackburn and caught Christopher Nolan’s fantastic “Dunkirk” at FHC – with new recliner seats to boot.

On Saturday Tress did the laundry and I did the vacuuming after which we drove to the Yarra Valley again, and had a very good arvo of lunch and just driving through the area. Back home I walked the little jedi and then settled down to an old Cate Blanchett movie on Netflix. Following the Hawks online – a win over Freo – was a bonus.

On Sunday we heard Chris Mulherin speak on Science and Religion. He was very good and it made me want to read guys like John Lenox and Alistair McGrath again. After lunch we did our usual grocery shopping and cooking for the week, before settling down to watch yet another Malaysian making her way to the grand finale of the “Masterchef” series. That grand finale episode comes on tonight and it makes a good “something to look forward to” on a back to work Monday…

Ploughing On…(where’s the Kit Kat)

I feel as though Tress and I need to get away for a break. Yesterday arvo as I went for my usual lunchtime walk, I felt tired. Tired like I needed a holiday tired.

A few weeks ago a colleague made a remark that it was good I could take some time off over the Easter weekend and the week thereafter. In reality that was one of those energy sapping periods. I may have been away from work for about a week and a half but that time off work saw plenty of stress and angst from the goings and comings in and out of Canberra and Melbourne. Certainly, the weeks leading up to the Easter weekend primed us well to a near complete depletion of energy. By the time the last of the guests left Melbourne about a couple of weeks later, I had pretty much looked forward to weekends just so Tress and I could have time for ourselves and not have anything or anyone to look after or worry about.

Yet weekends are often busy and there is no rejuvenating rest. Weekends gave us a breather of sorts but we promptly pick up the pace and pressure again with little or no let up. We have even turned down Sunday night or mid-week catch ups with our friends as I just could not fathom expending energy on those activities when a full week or day’s work beckons the next day. I guess the attempted break-in of our home, and the resulting work arising from the damaged door/installation of security door, also added to the load and pressure.

As we keep our heads down and chug along, the constantly tired state meant it is easy to “lose it”. This morning, after my usual short exercises, I went to the fridge to pick up the containers with my brekky and lunch. I usually leave them on the benchtop as I showered and changed, and on the way out, pick them up and drop them in my backpack. For some reason, I must have left the lid of the brekky smoothie bottle undone the night before. As I picked up the bottle, the bottom fell away from the lid and the content – about 500ml of thick delicious smoothie – spilled across the kitchen/dining floors.

The cleanup meant not only would I miss my smoothie brekky but I was also late for my usual 5.45 train. I was very crossed with myself and as I cleaned up, I was very frustrated and constantly reminded myself to choose not to respond negatively.

The cascading effects of the little accident drained me even more and when I got into the office, my sense of tiredness amplified.

As I typed this over lunchtime, I wondered what I could do to deal with this sense of tiredness. It would be nice to get away for a few days but that would not be an option for at least the next 6 weeks or so. Maybe Tress and I can have a longer breather – like maybe just take a Friday or Monday off and go away. Just she and I. And maybe the little black jedi.

Smith’s Misses, Mid Winter, Warm Scotch

What’s the odd of the same player having the last kick of the game, the outcome of which is the decider, against the same opponent, two seasons running? Tress and I were at the qualifying final against Geelong last year, when Isaac Smith missed a set shot at the siren. A goal would have won it but as it turned out we went out in straight sets, with the Doggies beating us next up and went on to win the flag. On Saturday arvo, Smith was at it again. He took a mark and instead of lining up for an easier set shot, ran and kicked – and missed again, and the Cats won by 3. It would have been an unbelievable win for Hodgey’s 300 which was why we went for the game although it wasn’t a home game and I had to blow a tidy sum for the tickets.

Earlier that morning I had painted the inside of the front door, the security door having been installed the day before. That completed the works following the damage about a week and a half earlier so Tress and I both felt much better – safer – with all that done. I had taken Friday arvo off – worked from home – for the security door people to do the work, and later that night Tress and I went to the Food Republic again for a very good and unwinding dinner.

After getting back from the G on Sat, I walked the little fellow as Tress prepared some fruits to bring to Alex and Li Har’s. We also stopped by to get some barbequed meats and as usual, there were a group of people we didn’t know or didn’t know well. It was good just to catch up with Alex and Li Har and their boys. Alex was serving very good scotch and his guests – Sino files – urged me to have a go at having it with hot water. I had a shot that way but switched immediately to cold water (no ice was on offer). I just didn’t get scotch with hot water and for the rest of the night, I regretted that first shot as it did something to my palate or roof of my mouth that still lingers even as I type this. But his friends were great people and both Tress and I had fun, even if the crowd takes some getting used to.

Sunday we had a short service in St Alf’s – the annual post holiday program (“Going Bananas”) Sunday, after which we did our usual rounds of lunch, grocery shopping and Sunday ironing/cooking. Lunch were hot noodle soups – a big bowl of fish head noodle for Tress and a big bowl of “Loh Mee” for yours truly. Both were fantastic winter warmers and were great for a cold, windy and gloomy day. We’re apparently at midpoint of winter and for the first time since we moved here all those years ago, I have felt the cold this winter. I have often found myself with two woollen jumpers on top of a fleecy top of some sort while at home and have taken to wearing a hat in the morning when I stand at tram stops. At St Alf’s yesterday we chatted with a member who has a property in Upwey, at the Dandenong ranges. As I found out weeks/months ago, my dream of having a home in that part of the world isn’t so left field and that chat confirmed for me yet again, that my dream – arrived at without having spoken to anyone prior – is one many have chased.

Mark Chua

Around noon yesterday I saw a message appear on my mobile. It was from Ben, Tress’ brother. It said Mark Chua, a minister in the Malaysian Methodist fraternity, has died. He is very young. I don’t think he is anywhere near 60 years of age.

Mark heads up the ministry in a local parish in KL city. He spent many years in my home town as the local English speaking congregation minister. More importantly, I grew up with Mark as my mentor. I owe a lot to Mark for my early spiritual formative years. He taught me the basic stuff. He laid the foundation for my growth. I remember being in very small groups of 3-4 persons in discussions on different books of the scriptures, all lead by Mark Chua.

I have found it difficult to refer to him as Rev Dr Mark Chua, which he is. Or was, for many years now. He was always Mark Chua to me because he was like my older brother who showed me the ropes. He remains someone I seek here in Melbourne – one who can still be that older brother to whom I can turn to occasionally when I needed advice in my walk with the Lord.

Last night I said to Tress I wish I was returning to Malaysia for the final farewell to Mark. I’m sure I am not the only one as social media and instant messaging channels conveyed news of his very sudden and totally unexpected death.

Goodbye Mark. Reverend Dr Mark Chua – onya…

Working from home

I’m sitting at my dining table trying to do some work, as a carpenter chips and drills away. Working from home isn’t ideal in getting work done but our home was broken into a few days ago. Or more accurately, someone tried to break in. In the process, the front door – an old solid and heavy wooden monstrosity – was damaged. It couldn’t be repaired so we ordered a new one in, which is being fitted as I type this.

Next will be the security grill door. I’m afraid Melbourne has ceased being s safe place to live in. Time was when we could sometimes forget to lock the front door as we slept. That has ceased to be something we could take for granted.

Yesterday arvo Tress and I trekked into the city after St Alf’s. Tress’ cousin Adrian’s one year old celebrated his birthday at a joint in the city, just a block from the Spenser Station, so we took the train in. The free flow of alcohol, along with a planned work from home today, meant I tossed aside any caution and “went with the flow”. When we got home, I crashed into the couch and slept, waking up only to change into more appropriate sleep clothes.

On Sat we were at the Hipos’ and they served up a very delicious (and so rich) Japanese meal. We brought along a sake and some fruits and it was lovely catching up. The best bit however, is just the continuing development of the friendship we share and the growing trust and closeness including with their two lovely girls. The little one (a 2 year old) even invited me to “kill the crocodiles” as she handed me a plastic samurai sword. I’ve always frowned on little kids being given toy weapons so I tried to change the game into one of “shooing” the crocs instead of killing them but the fun was a bit diminished so we promptly switched back to the more bloody mode.

On Friday night Tress and I went to Via Matta again, after I was held up at Spenser as yet another track intruder held up thousands of commuters during peak rush hour. Everyone just wanted to go home after a long week. Luigi and VM was his usual gracious and generous self as we enjoyed his fares.

The door looks ok – but there’s a heap of mess to clean up. I guess that’s why I’m home today…g

Cold, Tree Change and Hawks’ Reprieve

It was zero or sub-zero temperature on Saturday morning as Tress and I curled up in bed way past our normal waking time. I had woken up earlier to let the little fellow out and I saw the oval covered with frost. I braved the cold, went out and snapped a couple of pics, and returned to bed after cleaning the little jedi up. Tress and I were curled up in bed till it was safer to crawl out and slowly begin our thawing process.

The previous night we had another great catching up dinner with our dear friends Jason and Mel. We met at Enrik’s a joint just across from the station and as we sat at our table, a stream of familiar faces from St Alf’s came in and were also catching up for dinner. It really felt like a local for us. It was nearly 10pm when we left.

After thawing out with a quick coffee and toasts at home on Sat morning, we drove up to Belgrave to check out a potential tree change destination. We drove deep into the Dandenongs and while I was enchanted by the mountain ash giants and excited by the prospects of living amongst them, Tress was very apprehensive. Anyway, that particular prospective property looked perched on a block that is way too steep for even my liking so we binned the thoughts and drove into Belgrave town for a lunch instead. I remarked to Tress as we sat near the window that Belgrave didn’t feel like the sort of town I felt I could live in anyway.

We walked the little guy later that arvo, and that night I roasted a bunch of veg for my week’s meals.

Sunday after St Alf’s and lunch we trekked into the G for Hawks’ game against the Pies. It stayed very cold and a number of families around us had blankets with them, as we enjoyed a mini redemption of sorts as we beat the Pies, quite comfortably in the end.

It was a balmy 6deg this morning and yet as I typed this in the office just before 7am, when no one else is around, it was still cold. I hope I become better equipped to deal with the cold as we progress through the winter.