Pulling One’s Head In


The Chinese year of the dog started last Friday. I have never been a big CNY person. I enjoy the “tuan nian” dinner when everyone would back in the home of the eldest living person of the extended family, on the eve and a big dinner happens, with a spread big enough to break a large dining table. Other than that, there is little else I enjoy about the festivities.

So, I went along with a couple of cursory elements such as dressing up in shades of red when Tress asked me to and going to a dinner at U Jin’s notwithstanding that was way yonder in Point Cook.

That dinner was on Sat night and Tress and I had spent the morning cleaning up the garden. Tress did loads of clearing up around the herbs area, where weeds had started to take over. I did my usual trimming, mowing and sweeping, along with a bit of mulching. Tress had made a cake earlier and so all we had to do was to make a salad. U Seng messaged us to get a ride so we stopped by his place en route to PC.

There were a bunch of people at the dinner, mostly extended family on Tress’ side. There were a few people from Marina’s (U Jin’s daughter) café. There was a lot of eating and laughing so that was really nice. David (Tress’ cousin) and Jessica his partner, sort of became a centre of attention somewhat, as most of us realised for the first time, they were expecting a baby. We were soon talking about the baby, including whether David, who is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, was going to be the doctor in charged. Of course he was never going to be that, with the whole thing pregnant with conflict galore. Tress and I also talked to and got to know Jessica, who is German, a little bit better.

We left U Jin’s just after 11pm and just when we were a few minutes from arriving home, we got a call from Auntie Pin, who told us Tress had left her phone behind. So we had to organise to get it back the next day and thankfully Marina offered to take it back with her to her apartment in Docklands.

So the next day after St Alf’s we trekked into the city on the metro, met with Marina in an apartment in Docklands which she was checking out to buy, and picked up the phone. We then wanted to head to Hawker Chan, a Singapore Michelin Star winner for hawker food, on Lonsdale Street. We had to snake our way through thick crowds on Little Lonsdale and Russell Street, which was closed to vehicle traffic (only food traffic allowed) to host Chinese New Year stalls. Hawker Chan had a long queue outside, so we headed to another joint before doing some window shopping in the city.

We headed home just before 4, did some grocery shopping and then went home and walked the little fellow. Later as Tress started preparing the morning brekky for today, the cricket on the oval finished but the players had a celebration of sorts in the clubhouse. There was Bollywood music blaring from the clubhouse and as the clubhouse was only about 200-300m from our home, it was loud enough to be a distraction in our home.

As I closed the windows to reduce the noise, I asked myself what has happened to the Australia we came to, all those years ago. When I first came to Sydney back when Bob Hawke was PM, it took a few months but then I fell in love with Australia. I have always loved living here since that time. Australians, as far as I understand, work hard, hate making a fuss of anything, preferred to laugh away most things thus earning that laidback persona now well known in most circles all over the world. We’d be as quick to tell someone to pull his head in – ie don’t make too much of a fuss of anything – as we’d be to check ourselves so as to stay quiet. It is a lesson I find myself needing to learn over and over again, as I seek to overcome my impatient fault-finding self. We also love our wide-open spaces where we’d wander along to find our own nooks and corners to enjoy peace and quiet. We hate a scene and we hate behaving like seagulls or galahs, making unnecessary ruckus of anything. Other than at sporting events or rock concerts, we hate crowds and loud noises.

So when I think of the arvo I had – one where Chinese New Year brought noise, crowd and mayhem on the streets in the city and where cricket teams made up mostly of people of Indian descent blare loud music in an oval clubhouse located in a quiet residential area – I wondered what people who treasured peace and quiet like I do, must have thought about what has become of this country.

The laidback Aussies would probably not say much about such new phenomena in our backyard. We’d pull our heads in and find another quieter spot. This country is still big enough. I wonder if that partly explains why in the past year, I’ve looked at making a “tree-change”, seeking to move away and into quieter pockets here in Melbourne.

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