Family Overload? Bring it on…


The office has recently started an end of month drinks. Every last Friday of the month (loosely) the HR (“People and Performance” these days) team get some drinks and nibbles and everyone knock off an hour earlier to imbibe.

After several glasses of Proseco, I snoozed on the train on the way home, and when I got home, I had to book a ride sharing service for my dinner appointment with Jason and Mel. It was good catching up with them as usual, and they gave me a lift home after that.

On Saturday morning, I had an early start at gardening – hedges, edging, mowing etc but I had to stop with just the side and back lawns done. I cleaned up and left home just before 11am, and headed out to Woodend to catch up with Ruth and Jonathan. Another cousin was visiting from Singapore and they were staying in the farm property out there. I got there just after noon, and realised they had messaged me earlier to say they were headed out to Hanging Rock. I made the trip across town but it was chockers there and with such bad phone reception, I decided to just go back to Woodend to wait for them. I waited at a local cafe and had a glass of chardy and a coffee, before they got back just before 3pm.

After spending a couple of hours with them, I left just before 6pm, and got home with just enough light left to take the little guy out for a quick walk.

Catching up with those cousins from Singapore was a good reminder that no matter what we’ve done with our careers, we all have the same issues to deal with. Elderly parents who are ailing, kids’ future and church struggles are all common battlefronts for folks of our vintage.

Earlier in the week another cousin, from Hong Kong, had also visited Melbourne and I had taken them out to lunch when they dropped by near my office. It was also very good.

Also, Kiddo rang out of the blue some time in the middle of the week and we chatted for no particular reason. That was a really pleasant surprise so all in, it was a great week of having contact with the family.

Sunday morning after a quick brekky at home I headed out to Tullmarine, heading northwest for the second day in succession. Tress’ plane arrived on time but the taxing on the tarmac took forever. Apparently they couldn’t find a park – maybe just Air Asia being shafted as Melbourne Airport knew how to treat outgoing tenants. So she got delayed going out and I only picked her up about an hour later.

We went straight to lunch, did some grocery shopping and had coffee, before we went home and I picked up the gardening work from where I left off the previous day. Tress got busy with the unpacking and laundry and then took the little guy for a walk. It was a gloriously sunny arvo and I looked for stuff to do to stay outside so I took my time with the green works, including getting rid of weeds with my bare hands. When everything was done and we were both resting on the couch, our tired limbs made us glad we were just easing off for the night, preparing for a week at work.

All through, we received news of Tress’ dad on this uneasy first steps post operation, hopefully on his way back to wonderful health. It feels slow and riddled with nagging issues but I guess with his chest having been opened up completely, the recovery was never going to be all sweet and dandy. It would be a slow and potentially bumpy ride and I kind of look forward to seeing him when Tress and I go back there again next week. Family pains is always worth it I guess.

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Weekend without Tress – and praying for her dad…


Last Friday night, I went home and wondered how I was going to fill the weekend, with Tress still away. It turned out to be busy one, as I pottered around from one thing to another.

I had a plasma letting session in Ringwood on Sat morning and before that, a guy came over to the house to provide a quote for our evaporative cooling system. Ours is a very old unit and you could hear it blocks away. More importantly, it uses up way more water and electricity than more modern units. The guy was late so I didn’t bother asking him to remove his shoes when he arrived. After all Fay, the lady who has been walking Scruff, has been coming into the house probably with her shoes on anyway, and I had felt the house was grimy to start with anyway, so I had planned to vacuum later in the day in any event. So when the cooling guy finished, I rushed out of the house to head to Ringwood.

When the full 900ml of plasma is in the bag and I had scoffed a couple of party pies courtesy of the Australian Red Cross, I dropped into Bunnings to look at a line trimmer. My Bosch unit has been a headache with the cord replacement, and I had done some research but nothing beats actual touch and feel. A guy was very helpful in taking me through the current models on offer but I couldn’t decide so I left without buying it.

I headed off to do some grocery shopping and then headed home. I then remembered I had to pay Fay and arrange for this week’s walks so I texted her, went back to the shopping centre to get some money, and then went and met her at the oval and walked Scruff at the same time.

Later, Tress got her mum and dad to do a video call with me and it was good to be able to talk to them both, before her dad goes for his surgery later today. It would be a big procedure – he’d get a long overdue valve replacement and do a couple of by-pass. It would be a long recovery after that so I’ve been keeping him in prayers even more, in recent days.

After the call, I got to the vacuuming and by the time everything was done, it was nearly 7.30pm and I finally found time to again think about …. how I was going to fill the weekend…

Sunday we had a guy from ISCAST (Chris Mulherin)talk about “How Green is our God”. I was sceptical throughout his talk, as he appeared to make assumptions about climate change and the science of it all, but towards the end, his talk resonated with me in that we need to talk about it more, so that we can genuinely work towards loving our neighbour as ourselves. Certainly, we need to think about our own consumption behaviour. Funny however, as mission organisations are increasingly adept at flying all over the world for conferences and talkfests. All those air miles polluting the environment is something christians, along with other activists, appear happy to ignore.

After St Alf, I headed back to Bunnings and picked up the line trimmer. Another guy there was equally helpful and got me over the line to settle on a simple unit that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. I went home, assembled the unit, then swapped the cars so that I could leave the wagon at home and use the little jedi to get to the station again. The little guy and I then took a long walk.

Back home, with today’s brekky and lunch all done, I put my feet up and streamed a documentary on Paul Kelly. Dubbed “Stories of Me”, it chronicled his development from his younger days in a big family in Adelaide, to his time in Melbourne and then in Sydney. He is truly the definitive Aussie musician for me.

As I left home this morning, I caught up with the streams of WhatsApp messages that had accumulated overnight. They were mainly on Tress’ dad, together with a couple on what’s happening in the next couple of weeks, when 2 cousins would make separate trips to visit Melbourne. One from HK and the other from Singapore, they would be here on 2 different weeks and it’d take some effort to catch up with them. It’s so different and it feels more laborious to do more than the routine work, without Tress around.

Tress Travelling, Salvos (perhaps a little more?)


Tress left last night. This is her 6th trip this year. It has been that kind of year, perhaps expectedly as our parents are at that age where ailments and illnesses creep towards centre stage.

Her dad was taken ill last Thursday, and they got him into the ICU. His cardio-respiratory illnesses have not improved, and this year has been quite poor for him.

For the whole of Saturday, she and I had both been at the Salvos fete in Manningham. We’ve volunteered there for a number of years now, so it has become easier and yet at the end of the day, we were both tired. Tired but happy, probably.

We had left home around 6.30am, picked up the mini-bus from Doncaster, and headed to Camberwell Station to pick up a bunch of volunteers from Melbourne University. We would have picked them up from Blackburn Station but it so happened there bus replacements on so we thought the students could start earlier with the set up if we picked them up from Camberwell instead.

Tress helped with the kitchen and I just did whatever needed doing. Towards 10am, I headed out and picked up some residents of an aged care facility. Some of them recognised me as the driver who’s been picking them up in recent years and so I felt I have a bit more of their confidence this time around. A few of them had wheelchairs/mobility units so other than helping very immobile and elderly bodies up into a mini-bus, I also had to fold and stow those wheelies at the back of the bus. I have acquired a new set of skills in folding, locking and unlocking and unfolding these increasingly complicated wheelies.

It was a gloriously sunny day and so the event was very good. Fete may feel like an outdated fundraising avenue but it helped tell the community the Salvos are still around, and it is still doing great work in and for the community.

Back home later that night, Tress kept the communication channels with her family busy and ended up getting tickets to travel the next day. I had preferred she travelled in the morning but leaving at night meant I got another day with her which was really good.

So Sunday, after St Alf’s we had lunch and did our usual rounds of grocery shopping and coffee, where we bumped into and had coffee with Jason and Mel. It remained a sunny and warm day so when we got home before 3pm, I sent straight into mowing the lawns and snipped a bit more of the back hedges and then swept up, cleaned and tidied and generally soaked up the warmth of the day. I finished with hosing the plants while Tress walked the little fellow. Later, we went over to Fay’s to drop our keys off with her. Fay was going to walk the little fellow so I don’t have to worry about him too much.

We pushed off a bit after 8.30pm, to Tullamarine and this time, I only dropped her off and headed straight back. It was just after 10pm when I got home, to start another week with only the Little Black Jedi for company.

This morning as I got into the office, I saw on my private email, a GC role with an NFP. It turned out to be the Salvos. I couldn’t let this opportunity pass so I think I will tip my hat into the ring. Just a little punt, or perhaps (hopefully) a response to a nudge from He Who Must Be Obeyed.

Weather wise…(as Buble or Old Blue Eyes would say)


There are glorious days in Melbourne when the sun decides to come out and stay a little while. When such days happen, Tress and I are inclined to just do stuff around the house, preferably outside. On Saturday, Tress drew the short straw and did the vacuuming. I felt like I won the lottery as I prepped to continue reducing the height of the James Sterling. The preparatory work for those years when climbing a ladder beyond the first couple of steps would be a no-go zone, is best done on these gloriously sunny Saturdays. So I parked myself along the back fence and cut and trimmed away. Another couple of weekends and those hedges would be completely reduced from the imposing two-plus meters they had been, until this past weekend, standing. I’m a bit more than half way there now.

Tress came out to join me a bit later and we both continued clearing the north-west corner of the overgrown herbs, and Tress continued to savage weeds which had been popping up in different patches over the winter months. I then washed the little miata and around 1.30pm, after nearly 4 hours basking in the sun, we went in, cleaned up and headed out to lunch.

Back home later that arvo, we removed the hard top of the miata. Then we walked the little fellow and ended the day watching some Netflix docos on cooking.

It continued being sunny on Sunday and walking on cleaner carpets that morning, it felt good – Tress had made a happier soul of me. Later after St Alf’s we headed for lunch, then after a quick grocery shopping, Tress and I went back to do our separate things later in the arvo. We bumped into Jason and Mel while shopping and they said for lunch, they went back to the Malaysian restaurant we had dinner in on Friday night, but apparently they didn’t enjoy the lunch. Anyway, we picked up several bags of mulch which were on sale in Woolies and back home, Tress prepped to go shopping for a baby shower happening later this week.

After applying the mulch, I headed out in the miata and took a drive. I thought I’d head to Bunnings to pick up something to plant but with the soft top down and it being so sunny and warm, I decided to keep driving and before long I was up towards the Warburton Highway, heading Coldstream way. It was just a magnificent arvo driving lazily in the little jedi, Creedence Clearwater playing away at the crackling speakers, When I realized my phone (battery) had gone dead, I turned into a slip road and decided to head back home. Nearly an hour had passed, and I would have happily ploughed on – I probably should have…

Back home, I did a quick smoothie for Tress, and I poured myself a glass of a very crisp Pinot Grigio that had been chilling in the fridge. I then sat down to watch a little bit of the Bathurst 1000 while Tress did the ironing and our brekky smoothie and later, we both took the little fellow for a walk. We then came back home and I packed my sangers for the next day, before settling down to watch some tele to end the weekend.

All weekend there had been a flow of emails from a colleague and my boss, about a huge tender coming up. I was loathed to do any work on such a gloriously warm and sunny weekend and my boss had indicated it would be fine for me to just look at it on Monday morning. So here I am, all caught up. The darker (albeit same early start time) morning – daylight savings happened over Sunday night – made starting work this morning was a little bit more challenging but after such a refreshing weekend, I was up to it.

Blood Centre, Grand Final and Alex’s New Home


Some time on Thursday last week, the Red Cross Blood Centre rang me to ask if I could come in the next day (Friday) instead of the scheduled Saturday week, and if I was happy to provide a platelet donation instead of the scheduled plasma. I checked in with Tress and thought why not, since Friday was the Grand Final Parade public holiday here in Victoria.

Thursday night Tress had to work late and I left work early (with imprimatur from the boss) so I went and did some grocery shopping for the long weekend. It was mainly for brekky at home for the next 3 days. Eggs, avocados, tomatoes, smoked salmon (a bit of treat for the long weekend) and some milk. Friday morning after a really good brekky at home, we whiled away some time by packing up some old clothes for the Salvos. We then trekked east to the Blood Centre.

Platelets are needed mostly by cancer patients. Treatments like chemotherapy destroys the patient’s platelets, which are needed to form blood clots which in turn stop bleeding. I’ve done plasma donation numerous times but donating platelets was a new experience for me. I was told it was largely the same process, except it will take longer. Fewer donors have the necessary blood cell component count, apparently, to qualify as platelet donors and platelet shelf life is shorter (only 5-7days) so when there is a need/demand for it, they need donors who can, to respond quickly.

So there I sat strapped down for about 75 minutes and with the prep time it all took well over 1½ hours. It was the first time, over the years I have been a donor, that I felt tired, fatigued even, after the donation. I felt drained. Maybe literally…

We dropped into the Eastland (the Blood Centre was just a street away) after that, and shopped around for a Nespresso machine for Alex and Li Har, who had just moved into their new home in Balwyn North. We then went to lunch a couple of suburbs away.

At lunch, I was still a tired and therefore grumpy person so Tress had to put up with me. We then went home, took the little fellow for a walk, and went home to watch a movie on Netflix. Maggie Smith was superb as the Lady in the Van and it was a heart-warming tale of human frailty and kindness. When that was over I saw that Michael Mann’s “Last of the Mohicans” was on TV and I stayed up a bit more for that.

On Saturday we pottered around the house, had lunch in our now favourite Malaysian place in Box Hill. Penang Inn is just next to Madam Kwong’s and we’ve not been in Madam Kwong’s for a long time. Penang Inn used to be owned by a lady and while the food’s ok, this new owner has turned it into a place which whips up stuff we used to love back in the Klang Valley. We finished lunch in time to go watch the big game. Just before the game, I said to Tress what a difference, 24 hours brought. I was fatigued just a day before and I was back to my normal self, 24 hours later.

West Coast Eagles came from 5 goals down in the first term to methodically and skillfully go toe to toe with Collingwood, before pulling just ahead in the final 2-3 minutes. The flag winning mark and goal from the right pocket, by the same player who won the ball from the Pies’ ruck tap earlier, was a memorable one. The West Australian won this one really well, after crumbling under our (Hawthorn’s wings) in 2015.

Yesterday at St Alf’s Peter made a self-deprecating joke about football (he’s a Collingwood fan). The well timed final talk on Ecclesiastes provided him with the “it’s all meaningless” eulogy to the Pies’ demise. Tress and I were on communion duty again, and although we’ve been on this task for a while now, it felt really smooth and I had no nerves whatsoever. It has probably been this way the last few times, but it was the first time I was conscious of this. I guess after several years in St Alf’s now, we’ve sort of settled in and while “still not quite a local”, we’re not all nerves there anymore. After church, we headed to Westfield Shoppo and after a chat with a very helpful lady in the Nespresso shop, we picked out a “Creatista Uno” machine for Alex and Li Har.

We headed to their new home and was pleasantly greeted by a beautiful house which blended in beautifully to the surroundings. It was a beautiful newly built home, but it was spared from those garish ostentatious “look at me” monstrosities popping up everywhere these days, mainland Chinese owning most of them. It’s like dressing up as a Brownlow WAG to show up in a neighbourhood barbie. The attention is not the sort one wants.

We then got home and did some quick gardening. The north eastern corner of the backyard, where I had hoped to grow some herbs, had been peppered with weeds growing bigger each week. We cleared that up and I did a quick mow before applying seasol all through the back and front. Hopefully the odour would ebb away quickly, when we start the last quarter of the year. I hope I wouldn’t be too fatigued to mount a West Coast styled finish to the year.