Countdown (of a different kind)

A little while back, I watched a movie titled “Calvary”. I remembered really enjoying that movie.

The calmness of the tone on the surface, with obvious tension beneath, really was my thing in a number of ways.

The script was wonderful and the lead, Brendan Gleeson, was magnificent in playing out that cocktail of sad family history and later personal salvation and devotion to the clergy’s calling, all juxtaposed with a personality that is volatile yet kind. Having given up drinking for many years, one senses he is only a drink away from having his faith and integrity crumble around him. He has become a really good man but one senses it could all come crashing down quite easily.

Against all that, the movie started out with a scene in a confession booth, where the confessor tells Gleeson’s character that he was going to kill him. One week from that day.

Following that opening scene, the movie plays to a countdown. The good priest continues to go about righting the wrongs of lives of people in his parish but he told his superiors about that confession. Each character that was a member of his parish which he was dealing with, was a suspect. When I watched it again last weekend, it was my second viewing so I knew (spoiler alert…) that it was the butcher.

When the “appointed” (last) day came and the good priest showed up – courageously, but I wondered if, foolishly – on the beach and the butcher showed up a little while later, one would have still wondered if the priest would be killed or there would be some other form of ending.

The butcher – badly butchered by clergy sexual abuse in his younger days – did not spare the good priest, that priest’s blamelessness notwithstanding. Two shots finished that good man’s life.

That one week showed much of that priest’s life and people around him. He must have known, that those few days were to be his last.

I had not planned to watch that movie last weekend. It simply showed up on the screen as I was flicking away on the pages of the streaming service on the iPad.

Watching it again however, meant all week this week, it played on my mind.

12 years ago this past week, my dad lived his final days. He was to pass away tomorrow, 12 years ago. I wondered what went through his mind those few days.

Unlike the good priest in “Calvary”, my dearest father didn’t know.


“Sunny” Days?

It has been a really wet past few days. I’ve had to put on a cover of sorts on the MX5, when I leave it at the car park in the station, and also when I come home to leave it on the driveway overnight.

The very wet conditions continued through most of the weekend. Tress and I had spent Friday night in the same “Chinese tapas” place we were in the Friday before. We ate, drank and talked and just spent time unwinding. I had come home earlier in the arvo, to bring the little black jedi in to see the vet. We decided to try this vet out as the regular specialist LBJ’s been seeing has had her consultation hours changed and we could no longer bring him in after hours.

The new vet was able to see us close to 5pm on a Friday so we grabbed the chance with both hands. It took a bit of wind out of us to walk with the little guy through that consult (annual vaccine, blood test and long term skin condition, other than his blindness and dry eyes) and when it was over, we were just so down and coupled with a very long and arduous working week, we decided to go and unwind in that “Chinese tapas” place.

Saturday it was gloomy – dark clouds, rain, and we both had backaches and strains – we decided to just find an indoor place to walk. Window shopping felt like an obvious option. The Glen had recently been completed and we hadn’t been there for a while so we decided to check it out. It’s all been tarted up and many of the shops were still there, new looks aside. We had lunch there (a really good beef noodles) and then went home and generally just “did nothing” for that day. I guess that was good.

On Sunday St Alf’s had a thanksgiving day and I had prepared a short note to share but the streams of people walking up to the lectern/microphones made it feel like there was no need for me to say what I had prepared. It was always going to take more effort to speak up in St Alf’s anyway. I guess it is partly the cultural ridge to get over but more importantly, that place is so filled with smart, articulate folks all well trained for really good public speaking.

After the service there was the AGM and we stayed on. Peter shared about his peek into a possible bishop’s role in North Queensland. That didn’t work out so the congregation was very happy to continue to have him as the senior man around. The meeting spoke about plans for 2019 and as always, I asked what could I do.

I had finished Revelations 22 last Friday so I had to think about whether it was back to Genesis 1 again this morning and in the same vein, I had also asked what 2019 would hold for me. The circle of life really just cycle through.

After lunch at the usual place, we went home and it was a touch drier than the day before so I started working on the gardens. The plentiful rain meant the growth was abundant and work was much needed to keep things under control. The cooler conditions also meant work was more pleasant so we kept going till it was way past 5pm. Tress had started cooking and prepping the week’s food and by the time we got cleaned up and put our feet up, I was so ready to snooze, but the back was starting to complain.

The last week of dealing with the rains on the MX5, and the back strain I had in the last few days, made me escalate my thinking about how long I can keep enjoying this little nimble machine. I still love it but the impractical aspects of the car took centre role recently and made me wonder.

As I was waiting for my train and tram this morning, I noted the dark clouds still lingering. I wonder if they are symptomatic of what I think confronts Victoria. Labor and Daniel Andrews won the State election again and their unfriendliness (hatred?) to the church and Christianity is going to mean Christians and the Victorian Church will continue to be on an uphill trajectory. Maybe that is how God plans to bless the church in the coming days.

Rest …

When we got back to Melbourne Sunday before last, Tress and I both felt the cumulative weight of weariness and we white knuckled through the week. So when I suggested we took the weekend to really rest, Tress jumped on it. We had wanted to try and get away but the present Melbourne traffic made it a daunting attempt. Indeed, it turned out that for most of Friday, parts of the Westgate, Princess Highway and Tullamarine highway were dirtied and clogged up traffic everywhere. Melbourne had fast become an Asian city in terms of traffic. I had said as much on Friday arvo, as a few colleagues and I were in a ride sharing car headed to a meeting in the city and we were stuck on Exhibition Street for a while.

So after finding a last minute dinner place on Friday night, Tress and I started unwinding from the balled nerves and tired persons we had become. J&W is slowly building itself into a pleasant little Chinese styled tapas joint and the small crowd there on Friday night made it a good place to just sit back and welcome the weekend.

On Saturday, we slept in, had a leisurely brekky and then headed to the Dandenongs. We visited the rhododendron gardens, walked for a bit and soaked up the sun filled cool morning, and then sat down at the veranda of the cafe in the gardens for a coffee (for Tress) and wine (for moi). We then drove right across town and headed to Hampton beach. The 30 plus km from the hills to the beach was traffic filled but it was worth the while. When we got to Hampton beach, we walked through shopping strip, had a bite, and then headed for the beach for a really nice walk. The local life saving club had a kids sports day of sorts there and the beach teemed with people and activities. AS we walked further along, wind surfers were making the most of the windy conditions. We got back close to 6pm, walked the little guy for a bit, and then went home, feeling rested somewhat.

Sunday after St Alf’s we did our usual lunch and grocery shopping. We also went to Bunnings to top up my gardening supplies and then headed home. Tress took the little guy for a walk as I applied various products for the lawn and plants. Tress had also cooked our lunches and when she headed our for a while to catch some cyber creatures, I took the MX5 out for a spin. As we put our feet up last night, I started to look forward to when we head back to Asia for more holidays with the family. As I sipped a very good bottle of chardonnay, Tress spoke to Kiddo about her phone plan, which was still in Tress’ name. I felt the months that had passed since we were last with Kiddo and Mic so I suggested if catching up would resolve the phone plan transitioning process, I’d be more than happy to either drive up or for them to come down to visit. It sounded like too many kilometers for resolving a phone plan hiccup but being with your kin – and the thoughts or prospect of it – often make it worthwhile. That often provides rest of a certain kind too.

Tress’ Dad

I started reading Christos Tsiolkas’ “The Slap” about a week ago. An incident that can in some ways, be viewed as trivial, can be the epicenter of rippling effects that touch many lives. The breathlessness of Tress’ dad in recent years/months, was seemingly a minor setback to an ageing man who still enjoyed travelling to all corners of the world across the seas in mega vessels. The cause of that breathlessness, a defective valve, came home to roost a few weeks ago, and the gentle man finally had the dreaded open heart surgery. He had not just a valve replacement, but also a couple of by-passes.

So I followed Tress this time around, as she made her umpteenth trip back this year. We took advantage of the Melbourne Cup holiday and took the week off. We took a red-eye on Saturday night, arrived on Sunday morning and not long after arrival, headed to the hospital to see him. We were to stay there in the same hospital room with him for a few days, until he was able to return home on Thursday.

At the hospital, we’d slept in a sofa bed. “Slept” as in having a shut eye for intermittent periods, because the light in the corridor, the light emanating from the toilet (the old man dared neither sleep alone nor in a totally dark room), the constant in’s and out’s or ward staff and nurses, meant sleep was like guerrilla attacks. You hit a shut-eye when there’s a window. I’d make a beeline to one of several coffee vending machines at the start of each morning, every time I’d get a chance – after ensuring Tress’ dad’s immediate needs had been attended to. Then it was a series of helping him get up for walks, ensuring he has something to eat or drink, wheeling him to places across the hospital grounds. talking to and cajoling him to put in more work to become better. Sometimes it felt like the rest of Tress’ siblings had dropped the mission on our laps while we were there, but those feelings were passing moments. I thought it a blessing to be near the man, helping him in what little ways I could, to get back on his feet again.

When we finally left the hospital, we had only a couple of days left in the country. I caught up with mum, David and Jean, as well as May and her kids. We left Tress’ family home on Saturday evening, and on the way the airport, Tress’ brother buzzed her to say I had left my iPad behind. He put it on a “Grab” (the local Uber equivalent) and had it sent to the airport to meet us, as we were about to check in.

We got home on Sunday morning, caught a meal and had LBJ (the Little Black Jedi) back, early arvo. It was a gloriously sunny day and I had wanted to soak up the sun (partly to deal with the jet lag) so I did the garden – trimmed some hedges, edged and mowed the lawns, and swept up. By the time we had the next day’s breakfasts and lunches sorted, I found myself snoozing through my chilled glass of chardy as I finally put my feet up.

Back at work yesterday morning, I got stuck into it from the time I got in the office, just a little after 6.30am. By the time I caught up with most of my stuff, it had been past 4pm. The boss had left soon after but my plans for an earlier finish didn’t work out – the tram had disappeared for some unknown reason and I ended up walking to Spencer. It was warm but it felt nice.

As I continued reading Tsiolkas’ book this morning, I thought about how a seemingly trivial incident can evolve and become a defining moment, become an inflexion point of sorts. I wonder how best to deal with such moments when they appear.