Back in 1985

I remember some dates. 25 February 1985 is one. That was when I arrived in Australia for the very first time. Uni was starting a week from that day. Innocently, and perhaps thinking economically/financially it made sense, I stupidly thought one week was enough for me to settle down before classes started.

The next few years were very formative for me. Sydney is harder to like than Melbourne. Maybe it was the eastern suburbs surrounding the UNSW. Kingsford, where I first bunked with a friend, was an old and tatty suburb. So was Kensington, where I eventually found a shared house with 5 other Malaysian students. I shared a room with an Engineering student who studied non-stop, as I started absorbing my surrounds. I made a beeline to the library newspaper sections everyday, as soon as I had a free period. The Sydney Morning Herald was followed by the London Times to catch up on what’s happened in the English first division football. The SMH became a staple and I soaked up what life in Australia outside Kingsford and Kensington (and later, Randwick) was like. I can still smell the musty old carpet of that lounge where I slept that first week I arrived, even as I type this out.

On Saturday, Tress and I drove across town to a part of Australia that is vastly different to the Australia that I arrived to, 34 years ago. We drove up to Woodend, to catch up with Ruth and Jonathan, and their little boy Micah. Ruth is a first cousin on my dad’s side. They have a small farm (it is still over 5 acres), which they bought a couple of years ago. It’s quite a track to get over yonder, so we don’t visit as often as I would have liked. The 100 or so km is a bit tiring to get through, especially those bits where we had to get through and pass, the CBD. It was especially hard on the return trip, when my energy level has dissipated.

We left home around 11am, and didn’t get back till about 5.30pm. There was supposed to be a sports quiz thing at St Alf’s that night but we (I, mainly) were pooped. Tress had been unwell the night before, and woke up in the middle of the night with tummy pain and got sick. It could have been the Japanese we had on Friday night, but I was unharmed, so it could be something else. The Japanese restaurant we went to was very nice. It was just round the corner from our home, and on Friday night, we were seated on a table that was next to an elderly Japanese man with two elderly ladies. It turned out he was the owner and we received very generous treatment. So I hate to think the food made Tress sick but the end result was we were both tired when we got home from Woodend, so we simply stayed home and gave the quiz night a miss.

On Sunday, when we were at St Alf, a young couple made a presentation. They had been in Thailand the past 4 years and recently returned to Melbourne. They did work helping girls who succumbed to the evil human trafficking trade. We had made some financial contributions through their 4 years so it was very heart warming to hear of the really good work they had done. When they returned to their seats, I noticed they were sitting next to the Collie’s. Michael Collie head up Sparklit. We also make small regular financial contributions to Sparklit, so as Mike McNamara spoke of doing our part and responding in obedience, I thought that in as much as I always felt I ought to do more, I am in some ways, already doing my bit as we chug along in what feels like uneventful lives. The quiet, sideline-contribution role is perhaps what we (I) have been called to do.

Later in the arvo, as Tress went out for her ethereal pursuits, I went out for a haircut, cooked something for lunch at work, and went out to do some work in the garden. I gave every single plant a dose of seasol, rendering the house a lingering fishy smell… The lawns also got some feed and weed stuff and when it was all done, and Tress had walked the little guy, we settled down to watch some tele. There was really nothing to watch so I found some YouTube stuff to watch. Someone in a forum had mentioned Savage Geese as a car reviewer and I soon marveled at what a terrific reviewer he was. I watched his review of the MX5, and was thrilled to find out he loved the car as much as I do. Tress heard all the good stuff and when it was over, she said why don’t we take the car for a ride. She wanted to take the wheel… thank you Savage Geese… What I didn’t tell her was, while waiting for the sun to abate a bit (it was a hot day) before I went out to the gardens, I had also watched Savage Geese do a review of the Lexus RC350. He had even better things to say about that car – a car I have been eyeing in recent months. However, now that Tress is starting to warm up to the MX5, I wonder what the equation looks like now. The reason I had eyed the RC350 was her aversion to the MX5 – she always had me back the car out when she wanted to go out, so she could take the 6 Wagon.

This morning, going through my mail, I saw something from Don, the Chair at Steer. He asked what we thought about the business case of the MST proposal (if there was one). Thinking about that, I wondered about how that proposal mixes commercial issues with spiritual ones. That dichotomy would never leave us. The idea started as an investigation for an office space and it has now turned out to be a proposal that involves land development and investment of a very involved kind. It made me recall what grandfather did during his time with the MBS (Malaysian Bible Seminary), back when they were only shophouse occupiers in Taman Rasnah in Klang. Today, they have their own sprawling campus somewhere in Selangor. I don’t think grandfather survived to see that transition.

I hope I get to see a transition where Steer develops into a much more mainstream mission enabler. That would be a wonderful next phase of a journey that started, in many ways, 34 years ago today.


Just airing

I am often the first (or one of the first) to come into the office most days. I’d get in earlier than most and so I’d pick up the newspaper from the front door, and take it up to my office.

This morning, the papers were bunched together. Other tenants in this building have their papers delivered by the same news agency, I guess. So I picked up the bunch, picked out ours, and left the others on top of the mailbox pigeon holes.

As I did that, a surge of nostalgia swept over me. I suddenly recalled those days when I’d be up very early in the morning, pick up loads of newspapers, and go on a delivery run through the neighbourhood, through the streets of Kingsford and Kensington in Sydney. I’d do this several mornings each week, before I started the day as a uni student in UNSW.

That was one of the jobs I did when I was a student. I did other jobs. Print shop in the Law Faculty (working for a wonderful lady – Aileen Argue), arranging uni halls for exams, etc., moving furniture for faculty staff, a porter and cleaner in the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, and most of all, in the Sydney Fish Markets in Pyrmont. I needed to. So sometimes, I felt like I was either neglected or being taken for granted.

I sometimes felt folks from home thought I’d cope ok (including financially), so they never asked or offered to send money. I wasn’t unhappy doing those jobs, but I sometimes felt like I was being taken for granted.

I felt that way last night – being taken for granted – which may have precipitated my nostalgia while picking up the papers this morning.

Last night I got a couple of messages on my phone from a mate. We had made a tiny side investment some months ago. The message said he had sold the investment. The investment was in money now (having been out of it for a long time), and while I didn’t mind not holding on some more, I was annoyed he simply did what he did, without a word prior.

I felt like he had taken me for granted. Like I didn’t matter. Small as the investment was, it was a good sum of money (13 g’s in cost) and I would have gone along with whatever he had wanted to do. It also would not have mattered that the investment was still appreciating and the return would have been better had we waited. I would have gone along with whatever he wanted to do. But I didn’t appreciate being taken for granted – I had no idea he was going to do what he did. I felt like if I was a different business associate of his (among his many), he would have dealt with me differently.

There has been many occasions now, where I felt like I am merely a shadow in most situations. People look right past me. I don’t matter. I kept saying to myself I matter to God – He created me in His image and so that is how much I matter. That settles me.

Sometimes however, the less important (or significant) valuation gives me the tish. My mind allows, sometimes, the emotions to rule and I allow myself to feel the tish.

Looking inside – for more balance

Tress and I caught up with her auntie and uncle on Friday night, together with Jason and Mel. We had dinner in a Chinese restaurant near our home and it was a really good night of talking and eating. We were there from about 6.30pm, and didn’t leave till it was after 10pm. Making the effort to catch up this way was really good and being in a restaurant that allows for conversations and has no seating/dining sessions made so much more sense. The food, good as it was, was almost secondary.

Saturday saw us both working on the garden (me) and vacuuming (Tress). I had to get petrol for the mower and when we got back Tress started by doing a load of weeding and that was when the little furry man sort of got too relaxed and lied down wherever Tress was – even on the pebbled paths, other than the usual mulched flower beds. So I decided to bathe him and it had been a while since I did that so it was good to be able to thoroughly scrub him down and let the medicated shampoo work its way into him.

We finished late arvo and Tress did a quick home cooked lunch, before we headed out for some grocery shopping.

That night, I did a simple fish dish and marinated the chicken curry I wanted to cook for the next week, and the day ended with me feeling really relaxed.

We were on communion assistance duty at St Alf’s the next day so we got in a touch earlier than usual. We also stayed back a little longer, as we both decided we’d put in more effort this year, to mingle a bit more.

After lunch we got home, and I did the cook but not before I headed off to Bunnings to get some nettings to hold a shrub that is really healthy – it is slowly growing into the path of the driveway – so it gives the cars a less obtrusive path. After the cook and washup, we did the nettings, and Tress walked the little guy before we both cleaned up after the netting was done.

We had done a fair bit of housekeeping work over the weekend, but housekeeping of a different kind was what lingered at the back of my mind.

I am still wanting to work out what I need to focus on this year. The small group we are both part of remains ideologically challenged for us (it is so far left it might fall off a cliff somewhere). I remain entrenched in a job that takes me up to 2½ to 3 hours commuting time (return trip). The work remains interesting and reasonably well paid and I have built good relationships with my colleagues, but the commuting translates into early starts, and I often feel tired as a result. I have wondered, in recent weeks, if there are alternatives out there. By and large however, we’re both in a good place and I guess if we can find avenues to give more, the balance would be much better.

Rain and durian

Saturday reminded us we live in Melbourne, a city known for its quick changes in weather. Reputed as having four seasons in a day, we sometimes forget we need to embrace this oddity, simply by being prepared and adaptable.

I had hoped to apply some products on the garden – feed and weed for the lawns, weed killers for the unwanted growth behind the shed, and seasol for the plants.

When we got up however, a very grey sky greeted us and before long, the skies opened up and the rain put paid to all my plans.

Tress had however, plans to go into the city to catch up with some friends over lunch and so we decided I should drop her off at the station, instead of her parking there.

After dropping Tress, I headed to the library, hoping to follow up Scott Turow’s forgettable book with something like from Tim Winton. I had earlier ploughed through Mike Bird’s super heavy going “Gospel of the Lord” and one airport novel isn’t enough to help digest the heavy meal. I couldn’t find anything however, so after about half an hour, I took off and headed to get some groceries.

I went back home with the groceries, prepared and marinated the meat for the cook the next day, had some lunch at home, and then headed to an Asian shop to pick up some goodies.

I had ordered some funky durian the day before, on the FB page of that grocery store. On a whim and suddenly feeling indulgent, the “Raub Musang King” variety sounded too luxurious to pass up. It cost a little bundle and there were only less than a dozen pieces from the single fruit but I headed home with the treasure, tightly sealed away in the fridge.

The rain had started to ease up but it was still very wet, and I lounged around the home, waiting for Tress to let me know she’d be back.

She had a great lunch, so I nibbled a “preliminary” bite of the delicious durian that night.

On Sunday, the rain had stopped but it was still on the cool side. After St Alf’s we did our usual stuff – lunch and a bit more grocery shopping – before we went home. Tress then went out for her ethereal hunt and I did the week’s cook.

I washed the very dirty cars after the cook – it’s always therapeutic, liberating even, when I get things cleaned, particularly the cars. Especially the MX5.

Later that evening, with the sun shining brightly, we took the little guy for his walk and then partook of the remainder of the durian. It was very good. It was a delicious end to an otherwise wet and gloomy weekend.

Humdrum? No worries…

After several weeks of what felt like hotchpotch weekends, the last couple of days felt like we’re back on familiar and more restful paths.

We caught up with Jason and Mel on Friday night, at a little Thai place not far from our home. As usual, we had a good time of eating and just chatting away and the night flew by pretty quickly.

I had planned to really clean up the outside of our home on Saturday and the forecast had a high in the high 30’s so I started early. We had a good brekky and I started prepping a bit after 8.30am. A few hours later, just before 1pm, the hedges looked neat, the lawn edged and mowed and the footpaths along our nature strip and the driveway looked clean and tidy. When I got in to clean up, I realised Tress had done a heap of work inside as well. The floors felt clean, the toilets and showers looked sparkling and after we showered and cleaned up, we headed out for a late lunch and some grocery shopping.

The rest of the day felt wonderfully restful as our tired bodies enjoyed the clean home. Tress spoke with her mum and I hope the days ahead would be better than the recent past.

Sunday at St Alf’s we caught up with a couple who are old friends and distant relatives. David Williams as usual gave a really good sermon on Mark 2/3 and even though the service went on longer than usual, it felt good. Again, it felt like the dispersed character of the summer holiday is behind us and we’re back to business as usual.

After lunch at our usual spot, we finished up grocery shopping and coffee at our usual places and we then went back for me to cook the week’s lunches.

Later as the heat abated (it had climbed to 39deg) we took the little guy out to the park and the cool breeze brought out the dog walking community. The park teemed with pooches and their owners, all eager to get a run out. The little guy looked happy and it was a wonderful way to end the weekend.

We had also been looking at pictures of Kiddo and Mic with their new dog, and they looked wonderful. The little guy zipping all over their backyard, and sprawling on the floor or snuggling up on some corner, all felt wonderfully homely. Pictures of Kiddo and Mic doing a big cleaning job of their wardrobes etc, were also heart warming.

This morning, I said to the Lord I am very grateful for this return to normalcy. While I look for some personal little changes this year, the return of old routines was reassuring.