It felt very cold this morning – a phone app said -1.7deg with an ambient temp of -3.7deg.

I don’t remember a colder Melbourne morning.

It got down to -7.0deg when I was in Canberra, some 3 years ago now, but this is a new low for me in Melbourne.

The papers confirmed it, saying it’s the coldest morning in decades.

Global warming much?


Sai Lang at the SCG

There was an office drinks starting at 4pm last Friday. It was perfect for the start of our weekend away, as it allowed me to get away a touch earlier. I took off and headed home a bit after 4pm, and a bit after 5.30pm, Tress and I hopped into our car and drove to Tullamarine.

Friday traffic through the city was murder and a multi vehicle pile-up on the Tullamarine freeway didn’t help but we had given ourselves plenty of time and we were expecting the crawl so that managed expectations and helped. We eventually got into the airport a bit after 7pm and by the time we left the long-term carpark shuttle bus to head into the lounge, we were a bit peckish. I got stuck straight away into a pasta salad and the pinot noir on offer wasn’t too shabby either. That set us up for the flight up to Sydney to start our footy weekend away.

We got into hotel very late, so we pretty much crashed out straight away. The next morning, we walked through Hyde Park, took in St Mary’s Cathedral and generally walked around the area. We looked up an app for a coffee/brekky place and found a hole in the wall in Alberta Street, just off Goulburn Street. “Cre-Asion” was a funky Asian café specialising on all things matcha. I had a sanger and Tress had her usual avo on toast and eggs and the food was a ripper. So we had a great feed before heading back to the hotel to freshen up.

When we got into the lobby of the hotel I saw Isaac Smith in the bar/café, talking into this mobile. It then hit me that we were staying in the same hotel with the team. So I hung around the lobby while Tress headed up into our room to freshen up. Seeing players walk through the lobby was quite fun – other than Izzy, Roughie, Shields, O’Meara, Impey and coach Ratten walked past me on the lobby.

Later that arvo we trekked into the heart of the city, had another feed in a Malaysian restaurant, and walked through the city. Tress was super productive in chalking up the kills and points on her phone game and while in the QV building, we saw dozens of folks – including middle aged and greying male adults – firing away on their phone playing the same game.

We got back to the hotel, changed and when it was time, headed to the Sydney Cricket Ground for the showdown. Hawks and Swans were gunning for 4th spot on the ladder, which would secure the victor 2 chances at progressing in the finals. So it was an important game.

The SCG was smaller than the MCG, so while the crowd was “only” around 40,000, it felt a lot more crowded and the cosy, more intimate feel of the place was quite nice. We found our seats, and felt intimidated by the sea of red and white all around us. The brown and gold was very much in the minority and when more Hawks fan turned up on our row, we felt a lot better.

For much of the game, the partisan crowd helped the Swans keep their lead – for as many as 26 points. It was only in the last quarter the Hawks stemmed and turned the tide, eventually edging ahead and winning by 9 points. Singing and hearing the Happy Hawks song after the final siren felt wonderfully different.

After the game, the crowd leaving the small ground created a bigger sense of congestion than the MCG. Tress and I decided to walk back to the hotel. It was only about 2km anyway and the streets were crowded. We had to walk past Oxford Street and the Saturday night buzz was alight. We had noticed the strong LGBT presence while walking past the same strip earlier that morning but walking through it again at night was something else. Long queues of patrons outside many clubs, screened by big, mean looking security teams while loud thumping music and strobing lights throbbed and thrusted outwards, made me glad our night is over, instead of having just begun. I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel to read up on match reports.

We got back, showered and changed into our jammies and hit the sack around midnight.

The next morning we checked out, headed to the airport and in the lounge, again saw the player streaming in. I found myself standing next to Roughead at the salad bar, and said “well done Roughie” which he acknowledged and thanked me. Ditto when I walked back to our seats, and came up to Poppy who looked up and caught sight of me so I mumbled “well done Poppy” and he said thanks very much, sounding like he really meant it. They must have had a lot of practice…

In the plane, we were surrounded by players and it was an amazing experience. Back in Tullmarine, journos were waiting at the arrival hall and it was fun to be where it all was happening. Seeing Shields later in the evening news sports section felt different, having been there ourselves with the mob earlier that day. Tress and I felt and at times, behaved, more like excited 5 year old’s.

We caught lunch in our usual Sunday haunt in Doncaster, did some quick grocery shopping and then headed home to unpack and fetched the little black jedi from the sitter.

Before the last weekend, I was at the SCG about 30 years ago, when I was at a cricket match. Incredibly, Australia beat the mighty West Indies with Allan Border bowling (yes it happened) us to a famous victory. 30 years on, the SCG has been prettied up a little, looking a little more modern now but the traditional feel remained. Being there to watch a really good game of footy, with Tress there next to me, provided a truly magical and memorable weekend away.

We met LBJ’s sitter at the oval and finishing the weekend amongst the many pooches running around in the oval was magical in a different way. As cold as it was this morning (only about 1.5deg) it felt like spring’s just around the corner, in more ways than one. Being interested in footy finals again will be a great start.

Cold but warm

The apps suggest the temperatures over the weekend were low, and it was certainly cold, but I thought I felt the cold a lot more, and harsher. I wondered if it was the deteriorated fitness level, or general ageing.

Our backyard, and generally the outside of our home, has been needing some attention for a while now. We have been busy with various things but last weekend was one when we didn’t have much on so I had wanted to do basic stuff like pruning, cutting and mowing, along with sweeping and maybe weeding/edging – you know, the usual summer/warmer days-is/are-coming sort of activities. The very cold and wet conditions however, thrashed my plans so we turned indoor instead.

We had grilled some fish a couple of weeks ago and the smell had not abated no matter what we did. So the cleaning started with Tress removing the filters of the range hood several days ago, and she soaked and cleaned them. On Sat morning, I wiped the insides of the hood before inserting the filters back in. That lead to further cleaning along the sides/top of the hood and it continued with the turbo oven unit, where I gave the lid several rounds of scrubbing. The large bowl had a good clean too. Then it was the usual vacuuming and wiping down of surfaces etc. Cleaning is good for the soul, it has been said. It felt good as when we finished, staying home through the wet and cold weekend felt much better.

Yesterday, Mark Sneddon delivered the sermon on Ecclesiastes 4. He provided context and perspectives which drew various matters into focus. His citing of the numerous events showing up man’s failures, which in turn illustrated the “vanity” of struggles, was ironically refreshing as it only reinforced the pointlessness of the angst shown over various unpleasant things around us. Businessmen and politicians’ bad behaviour should not have produced the sort of despair and anger we’ve seen. That is not to say we tolerate or accept such behaviour but in accepting man’s fundamental “fallen-ness”, we will be better equipped to continue to rely on God, his work and his purpose as the raison d’etre for our being.

That is a lesson I am increasingly learning and putting into practice, even as I bury my head in everyday toil and living and letting events just run past me.

I’ve been feeling colder than I remember but inside, there’s an amber of warm glow. The amber which illuminates my constant need for change, to become more like our maker.

What’s in a name? A rose…sweet

Mei, my youngest sibling, celebrated her birthday recently. We were sent a couple of pics. They were the usual family pics, taken in a restaurant for the occasion. A nephew (YJ) was in that pic, showing a rare smile. We visited that boy when he was a little toddler living in Shenzhen, some 8-9 years ago.
This morning as I looked at my phone and saw that message thread again, I tried to work out how old Mei is now. As I often do, the next arithmetic I did was to figure out how old my dad was, when Mei was born.

Mei is sort of a nickname my mum gave my youngest sister. Her formal name is Cheng Sim. I wondered if that name reflected my dad’s thoughts at that time or was it my mum’s. I wondered if it was more an aspirational name, than one which reflected the state of my parent’s lives.

He was 34 years old when Mei was born. By today’s measure, that is an age when one is firing on all cylinders, building a career and probably a family. Back in the early 70’s I cannot imagine it was materially different. Dad would have been working hard to build on both his business and his family. My brother, the eldest, was only 8 years old. When you’re 34 and a father of 4 kids with the oldest being 8 years old, your whole life is ahead of you, with loads of hard work to get through. So I wondered if that name – Cheng Sim – was more aspirational, perhaps for Mei.

I don’t know if Mei’s life now is in a state of “equilibristical” equanimity. Goh’s in China for the most part, YY her eldest, is doing his O-levels equivalent this year and she lives with mum, who I gather from my sister in law, sometimes withdraw from daily activities Mei’s involved in where her boys are concerned. I think there’s the simple everyday differences of thoughts and actions in chores like cooking and cleaning and if I remember my mum’s demeanour, the withdrawal is probably to minimise hotspots. You know – conflict resolution by minimising points of contact. More so than a lack of interest in Mei’s life. Whatever the reason, if it doesn’t add to Mei’s state of mind in a way that detracts from her formal name, that in itself is a feat in my books.

Last Sunday Mike McNamara spoke on Ecclesiastes 3. He belted out a line of The Seekers’ famous song at one point. I wonder if the time when Mei’s state of mind is at one with her formal name, will come soon, or she’s already “living the dream”.

I remember saying to Kiddo, we sometimes live in an era of the “7 fat cows” and at other times, the “7 lean cows” reign. The phenomenon which sees our wellbeing and prosperity ebb and flow should have been obvious and givens, yet that is often an over optimistic expectation. Many feel the shock and pain of hard times. It is very difficult, during lean times, to lift up one’s head to look beyond the present drought.

I know that we were never rich, not by any stretch of any imagination. I distinctly remember the house we lived in when Mei was born. It was a rented house. The landlord was a teacher’s association and the house was very small, sparse and austere. That meant low rent. My mum stretched the dollar and my dad partitioned the front living room into two bedrooms. The actual bedrooms became store rooms for the wares my dad was hawking as a self-employed small businessman. He and mum often worked late into the night. One room had toys in large cardboard cartons. They were goods my dad traded in. Another room had re-packaged food stuffs. My dad dealt mainly with “Ve-Tsin” (a front runner of Aji Nomoto, an MSG), and baby formula. He bought large drums of both and repackaged them into smaller packs to be sold by small retailers in “kedai runcit” (sundry/provision shops) of villages across the country. The distributor was Harper Trading and deliveries of large drums of both would arrive intermittently. My dad would cart large drums with Ve-Tsin and/or powdered milk into one of the two rooms, remove the lids, and start divvying up the contents for re-packaging. Sometimes we helped with the latter task.

Tress often poked fun at my tendencies to buy new socks and undies. I believe these tendencies found their roots in that house when we were poor. My undergarments were often old, loose and tattered and I hardly ever had new ones. My “new items” were hand me downs, from either my brother or my uncles (dad and mum’s younger brothers). Loose socks and undies or those with holes, still make me totally uncomfortable, physically and psychologically.

Poor as we were, we were not unhappy as children. We sometimes had road trips, often just day trips but occasionally, we ventured all the way up north to Penang or down south to Singapore. A “Ching Clan Association” provided holiday “villas” at cheap rents and those trips were very memorable. Sleep-overs in grandparents places also burnished wonderful memories. The rickety upstairs rooms of the coffee shop just off the roundabout near the Klang Istana (my maternal grandparents’ home) and the estate manager’s bungalow in the middle of a rubber plantation (my paternal grandparents’) in Kampong Jawa were great cradles to create caches of consciousness. As I grow older, they are the memories which often come to the fore.

My wonderful childhood aside, it doesn’t take away the fact that we were poor. Dad, at 34 years old and with years of toil ahead of him to raise a young family, had the courage to name his youngest child Cheng Sim. Maybe it was aspirational for both him and mum, as well as for Mei. I hope (and believe) his last days were peaceful. Likewise, the days ahead for both mum and Mei.

Battles of sorts

It was Round 21 of the home and away season of the AFL competition. Hawks were playing their last home game of the season and we hadn’t been to too many games this season, so I said to Tress last week that we should go for this game. The weather didn’t seem promising but a game against the Cats, especially where the odds of the Cats winning were a lot shorter, would make it an engaging contest for the Hawks. So, we braved the grey, wet and cold conditions and went for the game. An early start (1.45pm) provided a small consolation.

The game was a ripper. We struggled at the start, kicking none in the first quarter but over the second and third, we built a 3-4 goal lead. The final quarter was pulsating as the Cats finally picked up their game and threatened to overhaul the deficit. Ceglar’s long clearance kick from just outside our own 50m arc, saw Poppy pumping those piston-like legs to chase it down the corridor and after some ground battles involving Izzie and Poppy, Henderson received a hand ball from Izzie and hand passed it to O’Meara to kick us back into a 2-goal lead. It wrapped things up for us and I cannot recall the last time the team song was belted out with such gusto around the G. It was sensational.

We had had what appears now to have become a usual Friday night dinner with Jason and Mel. This time, Tress had suggested we went to a Malaysian place we hadn’t been to for a while. We had familiar food, the usual warm company and as a bonus of sorts, we also bumped into Uncle Seng who was with his drinking buddies. They all looked inebriated and he even brought a couple of beers across to our t able. We wondered how they managed to get home as they all looked like they have imbibed, with no designated driver(s) in sight.

Sunday Mike continued talking about meaning as explored in Ecclesiastes. Andrew Jones spoke a little bit about plans to start an agri-business in Tanzania and he was leaving last night for a fact-finding trip of sorts. That’ll be interesting. There was also to be a talk by John Buchanan and Mark Sneddon on euthanasia laws but it was preparatory for a launch of a group called Australian Care Alliance, which would be later this month. As that event was to be on a weekday night in Balwyn North we decided we wouldn’t be able to take part.

So much is going on in this strange State we live in, with so much intent to do what would have been obviously wrong just a few years ago. Somehow, a Marxist like atheistic bent has taken hold and I now constantly feel helpless against this dark tide that crashes against the bedrock of all that many thought was, and still think is, good. Maybe like the perennial contest between the Hawks and the Cats, this battle will persist for as long as we can see.

Work while it’s day

At St Alf’s yesterday, I was having a chat with Boyd after the service, when we were waiting for the CMS talk to be given by Wei Han. He asked how long we’ve been in Melbourne. I told him and said we were not quite locals yet, and I discovered he was originally from NSW. That’s the by and by. The main show was the CMS talk, during which we were reminded why an established agency such as the CMS does things differently (with much more rigour) and so goes through a more thorough process, including a long-term renewal plan for its facilities at St Andrew’s Hall in Parkville. The work is ready to go except the funding needs to be sorted out so the shovel is at bay for the time being.

We went to our usual lunch spot after the talk, went and got some grocery, and then went home to walk the little fellow. I resumed my Sunday arvo cook, which I had stopped doing when Tress was away. One-pot meals all divvied up and packed in freezer is making our work week a bit normal again.

We had spent Friday evening a couple of days earlier, at our local Italian with Jason and Mel, who were putting their finishing touches to their temporary re-housing plans. They were going to move into their temporary home (for a year) on Sat, and demolish and redevelop their home.

On Sat, I attended the council meeting and AGM of Steer, for the first time. I had been asked to become a council and board member, as there had been some retirements and they needed new people to come alongside. The meetings only ended after 3, and Tress and I then went to a TAB at the local shopping centre to catch the finish of the Hawthorn-Essendon game. It’s always really good to see us beat the bombers, doubly so as the loss also means they would very likely be out of finals footy. That night, we watched the Swans v Pies game and it was a third game in a row where the margin was under a goal. The Tigers had defeated the Cats, and Hawks beat the Bombers with margins of 3 and 4 points respectively. What a round of footy, as the Sunday games turned out in the opposite trend, with all three winning teams chalking up over 140 points, beating their opponents with 60-100 point margins. It’s shaping up to be an exciting finish to the home and away season, and it’s good to contemplate finals footy again after missing out last year.

At St Alf’s yesterday, Mike had in passing,talked about the other certainty (than taxes) in life. We had started on Ecclesiastes and that point about death was made very poignantly, especially when Tress and Cathy had a chat after that, with the latter also retelling her experiences which were like what Tress’ mum is undergoing. All this reaffirmed my hope and endeavour to do more along the lines of Salvo volunteering, Red Cross blood letting, St Alf duties and Steer board/council participations. I’m just very grateful for these avenues while I am still able bodied. The exhortation about labouring while it is day, hold true as always.


Last night Tress and I attended the first of three sessions in St Alf’s, on church history. It was presented by Rhys Bezzant, a Ridley lecturer.

The series is titled “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”.

It was only a short presentation, a little over half an hour, followed by about 15-20 minutes of Q&A.

The first talk dealt with Athanasius, whom I first came across back in 2011/12 when I did some online courses with the BCV. I have since looked at Nicene Creed differently and when the Apostles’ Creed are read/recited, I have looked at it differently as well.

I had not however, read the Athanasian Creed before so I looked it up and read it for the first time. It’s worth reproducing it:

Athanasian Creed

Whosoever will be saved , before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.

The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.

And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal. As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.

So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three
Lords, but one Lord.

For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be both God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.

The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another; But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of his Mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood;

Who, although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ; One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.

He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.