AFL (Damp Squib) Grand Final and Household Chores

It was the AFL Grand Final weekend and thanks to Daniel Andrews’ Labor Government we had last Friday off. The night before, we tried a new restaurant – a little place not far from our home called “Flavours of Mekong”. Jason and Mel were with us and we liked the place.

I had planned to work the gardens the next day, so after a quick stop at the local Bunnings to pick up my edger/whipper snipper lines, I started out edging the side, back and front lawns, as well as cleared weeds on flower beds.

When I was ready to mow however, I had a brain freeze when topping up the mower’s engine oil. I tipped in way too much and before long, puffs of blue smoke coughed up out of the engine and very quickly, oil spluttered out and the engine looked like it was in a whole lot of grief. I killed it, and decided it had cacked it. Being a Daniel Andrews declared public holiday however, the mower servicing shop I had previously used was closed. So the lawn remained un-mowed and that lingering feeling of unfinished job stayed on. I pushed on to do the rest of the gardening tasks however, including the cleaning up – for the umpteenth time – of the remnants of the black cockatoos’ feeding off the gum tree on the nature strip in front of our home.

Later that evening, we messaged Jason and Mel to borrow their mower. Their newly built property no longer needed that machine. We took the machine home and I tried to restore things as much as possible with the car, having removed the back partitioning bits and lowered the seats to house the large-ish mower the Chews had.

The next day, I rang the mower shop to check that they were opened. I then took the oiled up machine in, arranged for it to be fixed up, and went home to work on Jason’s old mower to finish the tasks. We then headed out for lunch before the big dance at 2.30pm.

After the first quarter of relatively good contests, Greater Western Sydney – “Giants” – caved in and Richmond mauled them to win the flag in one of the most one-sided grand finals in recent years. Unless you barrack for the winning side, games like that are no fun to watch so midway through the third quarter, I said to Tress – fallen asleep now, that was how bad the game was – to take the little fellow out for a walk. We left for the walk, and along the way, we heard some homes – Tigers fans obviously – celebrating. The margin turned out to be 89 points, would you believe.

Later that night, we received a message from Jonathan. We thought about it and started to think about what we could do in response, and decided on a couple of options, so had to get busy again the next day. Tress also teed up some Malaysian delicacies to be picked up on next Sat morning.

After St Alf’s and lunch, we did more grocery shopping for the dish for Jon’s plans, and after catching up with Jason and Mel again to witness some docs they wanted to sign, went home for the week’s cook. It has been a busy weekend of domestic chores. I guess that happens when your team isn’t in the mix in footy finals and you get a chance to focus on more down to earth stuff around the house.


Ticking over…

Last Friday, the clock ticked over another year since I was born and I’m a year closer to meeting my maker. Tress took me to a Japanese restaurant that is a favourite of ours, and we had a quiet but lovely dinner. She also got me a nice bottle of red. I also had the team celebrate the occasion for me with a lovely cake earlier that arvo, and kiddo rang and we talked a little bit. So, I felt loved…

Back home after dinner, we watched Richmond overhaul Geelong to earn a spot in this Sat’s Grand Final. Lynch, who signed from Gold Coast last year, looked unstoppable, as was “human meatball” Dion Prestia. The next day we caught the Giants holding on to play their first Grand Final. They had lead the Pies for the whole game on a dirty day. It was so low scoring that the 27 points the Pies needed at the start of the last quarter, was more than the 22 they had kicked in the first three. It looked impossible but the Pies clawed back and bombed into the Giants’ 50 unrelentingly but the Giants held fast and won by 4 points. The Pies players looked spent and dejected, but Tress and I felt upbeat of sorts.

We had spent the day cleaning, and just pottering around to put away, as much as possible, the winter’s mounting dust, weeds, cobwebs etc. We were going to someone’s home for lunch on Sunday so we went and got some drinks to bring along, as well as to shop for the week’s cook – we did all that later in the arvo, getting home just in time for the aforesaid Giants’ battle with the Pies.

On Sunday, after St Alf’s, we came home, packed some stuff and drove the 5 minutes or so to Peter and Tanya’s home. When we first got to St Alf’s more than 6 years ago, Peter had just lost his wife. We knew Tanya from almost day one in St Alf’s. They’re both really nice people but when they got together and married, around the same time Kiddo and Mic did, we were as surprised as anyone in St Alf’s. They invited us to their home for lunch a few weeks ago but Tress had a birthday party on so we finally made it yesterday. Other than us, they had also invited Daniel and Susan, a couple originally from America. We spent the arvo chatting and it was really nice getting to know these 2 older couples better.

Back home after 4pm, I hurriedly started the week’s cook and Tress got the little fellow out to the oval. Later that evening, we settled down to watch some tv. I continued with my streaming of the Bosch series and then we watched the building/construction reality show. Bosch has been a fascinating and often gripping series – not a good thing to finish up a weekend  that has hitherto been domestic relaxation sort. Harry Bosch the dramatis personae however, has grey hair and is probably of the same vintage as yours truly. He gives me hope that the clock may have ticked but one can still be effective, and cool…

Spring and hopes of a friend

For just a day, the newly ushered-in season put on a glorious show. It was sunny and the skies were blue on Saturday. It was only the second weekend of spring and I had sweeping duties at St Alf’s and Tress had a dental appointment so we were both out the door early on.

After about an hour at St Alf’s, I got home and started clearing the patch on our front lawn where the lavender plants had died or were dying. The recent rain made the ground soft and easier to work on. Soon, the green bin was filled with deadwood and twigs of the ex-lavender plants. I got rid of the weeds too, along with the roots of the lavenders, and then turned and mixed the soil to get it ready for new plants. Tress then got home and joined me in the work, and moved and replanted some succulents from along the back fence.

With the patch done and prepped I moved on to other tasks, soaking up the wonderful weather.

I got some seasol onto all of the plants on the front, got some feed and weed on the lawn, and got Tress’ car washed. I would have done more work, on the side/back lawns etc, had it not been a special day for Alex and Li Har.

Our dear friends had planned a “thanksgiving service dinner” and we were making a dish to bring along. A “sambal egg” dish is something I know and liked but I had never cooked it before. I had googled the recipe and I’ve an idea, but I wasn’t sure I could make it work. So we reluctantly stopped working just after 1pm, and went shopping for the stuff we needed for the dish. We got to the Chase and actually bumped into Alex and Li Har – they were buying another dish which they were going to serve for the dinner. We were told there would be 30+ people… as usual, their parties are nothing if not big…

We got home, made the dish, and got ready to go for the party.

When we got to their home, rows of chairs greeted us, along with Alex decked out in a formal shirt and khakis – not his usual jeans and t-shirt. It was going to be a “service” of sorts… he got everyone seated and shared his journey with the small crowd. TT Quah, an old friend we hadn’t met for a while, was also there along with Maudrene his wife. Eddie, Vivienne, Li Lin and Kok Eng and several other old friends were also there. It was good to catch up with all of them, as we sat down to enjoy his boys leading in prayer and reading several psalms. The dish went down well too and I had barely a half a glass of red – from the nice bottle I brought along – so the night was thoroughly sober and proper. It was memorable too. I later quipped, recalling a text Julian their third boy read, that they both had very fine arrows (a la Psalm 127)

Jason and Mel were also there and we had caught up with them for dinner the night before too, as we often did. At the little Thai restaurant not far from our home, the proprietor had delicately asked if we could finish early as she had double booked our table. Initially taken aback, I was ok with it a little later and we took the opportunity to visit Jason and Mel’s new home after an early finish to dinner. They had only moved into their new pad a week earlier, having moved out to demolish and subdivide their lot more than a year prior. We sat down at their new dining room (open space) as I observed their coming to terms with a more compact, less expansive abode. They looked happy and took pride in their new home, which was great to see.

On Sunday, after St Alf’s, Tress had a birthday party to go to and I headed out to the local Bunnings to get the plants (a different variety of lavender) I wanted to put into the patch on the front I had cleared up and prepped the day before. I also got some other stuff and then headed back to the Chase to get some veg to roast for the week’s lunches. The weather has returned to being wet again and it rained for most of the day. Somehow however, a small dry window opened up and I quickly got those new lavender shrubs planted, watered and tidied up the patch before I started on the cook. Those baby lavender looked pretty as I looked on later last night, as the showers persisted and the light faded away. The weekend was ending on a grey note but those pretty flowers are showing promise of lighting up a colourful spring. A promise not unlike Alex’s and Li Har’s arrows.

Grills, and Ashes

It was another full week at work last week, and we couldn’t have our usual Friday night dinner, as there was something at St Alf’s. John Dickson’s Centre for Public Christianity had produced a documentary on how the church has been both good and bad on and for the world around it, through the ages. Titled “For the Love of God – How the Church is better and worse than you ever imagined” ran for only 90 minutes and it had good material. I was however, struggling to stay focused, after the first 40minutes or so. When it finally finished, there was to be a discussion panel. Some refreshments were served before that happened but as people headed out to the foyer for the refreshments, I asked Tress if we should leave. She did not hesitate to, as she too, had been struggling to stay awake. So off we went – we got home and caught the Geelong v Collingwood game. The pies got up and people are now talking about a Pies v Tigers GF. We toggled between that game and the cricket. The Ashes this time around has turned out to be one of the most fascinating series in recent years. With the returning prodigal prodigy of a batsman in Steve Smith and the accidental unearthing of Marcus Labuschagne wielding the willow, and the very consistent pacemen like Cummins and Hazelwood swinging the “Duke” cherries, the contest with the poms has been riveting. As tired as I was, the toggling of the two events, with a glass of a very agreeable red in my hand, it was a wonderful way to start unwinding the week.

The next day, we had a few things on. The little guy has an appointment with his groomer for his quarterly clip. Tress was to have a dental appointment later and we had planned to shop for the stuff we want to cook with, for a dinner later in the week. That dinner was for 25 persons – about a little over half from our (Susan Maury’s) group. I was also hoping to get some feed and weed stuff on our lawns as well as remove some dead shrubs from the front lawn, particularly the old and dried out lavender. It had however, been raining right through the night and it continued to rain all day on Saturday, so I took the opportunity to set up my “home office”. My workplace recently implemented policies and procedures for working from home. Euphemistically titled “Flexible Working Arrangements’, the policy required a WHS (Work, Health and Safety) sign-off for the alternative workplace set up, before anyone could work from home. I hardly work from home but occasionally, something pops up (plumber, electrician, mechanic visit etc) and one of us would need to be at home. My boss had asked that the whole tea get the checklist stuff done up to be signed off by the WHS guy, so I had to make sure my “home office” was set up properly, with appropriate pictures taken.  Tress went for her dental appointment and I went to get the stuff for the cook. We later met up at the shopping venue for a bite to eat, before we went home and I got ready for the evening’s St Alf’s Men’s Event.

Andrew Grills had a really successful career in the army but he then switched direction when he trained to be a minister. He was a student minister at St Alf’s 12-13 years back, and now pastors a joint in Geelong. He was an engaging guy to listen to. I went to St Alf’s a bit after 5pm, and a large crowd had already started with some soup and grilled wings. The talk then started before burgers and chips were served. Desert round up the evening. I skipped that but had the burger. It was nice, but the best item on the night’s menu was to listen to Andrew share his journey. Urging his listeners to build foundations on rock (reading and applying the scriptures) and not on sand (personal ambitions), he had a go to debunk the often invoked formula of “honour God and He will honour you”. Often, walking in His ways see raging seas and angry winds ahead of us. Honouring God doesn’t guarantee the sorts of rewards many often think we’d have. I was again reminded of one of my favourite CS Lewis sayings:

“Be not deceived, Wormwood, our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

A person no longer desires to obey God because he sees no reward in that – God didn’t appear to be “honouring” us – but still obeys. That is building foundation on a rock, not sand. Andrew Grills sounded convinced when he said that, and for good reasons.

I was back home after that event, to again catch footy and cricket on tele. The Lions had a good first quarter but the Tigers – big favourites for the flag now – quickly overpowered the new finalists to book a place in the preliminary final.

On Sunday at St Alf’s, Andrew Grills preached again. It was a really good service, with wonderful outcomes. A number of people made meaningful responses and I was again, challenged to take my faith more seriously. What that looks like remains to be seen.

Later in the arvo, I did the cooking and readied ourselves for the meal with the home groups, later in the week. We also had some left overs for a few lunches for the week. So the long cook (with preps and washings, it took me nearly 3 hours) appeared to be worth the while.

Later in the evening, after Tress and I watched the usual reality home renovation show, I resumed the cricket. Needing the 8 wickets to see victory, Australia could only take 2 before I had to go to bed. I thought we should be able to take the remaining 6 but it was only when I woke this morning, that I noted how close it was. It was the last hour of play – well past 6pm in Manchester – when Hazelwood took the winning wicket to get up by over 180 runs. That meant Australia was 2-1 up and would not lose the series. With just one match remaining, the worst-case scenario is a 2-2 draw which would still see Australia retain the urn.

It was a terrific outcome. Australia had been down and out in the world of cricket, in the past 18 months. We were made to feel like pariahs after the “sandpaper gate” scandal with Bancroft, Warner and Smith in South Africa, and losses in numerous matches during their 12month ban and after, made it all a prolonged misery. To win this – especially on the back of magnificent batting performances by Smith – has been really sweet. Australia can hold its head high again. We can start to really put behind us, that ugly period of South Africa now.

Spring…the cycle turns

A wonderful thing about living far from the equator, is the cycle of seasons. It has been gradually “lighter” (as in more light) at an earlier hour, in recent weeks. As I walk up Market Street from Clarendon to head into the office each morning, the skies looked brighter as we emerge out of the dark, gloomy wintery days. It’s officially spring now, and it felt warmer already.

It was a sunny and balmy Saturday. Tress and I however, had teed up an appointment to see our tax agent that morning so after a quick brekky we saw to our returns, with the able help of the agent. We then quickly did some grocery shopping, I had a quick haircut, and we then headed home to unload the shopping before heading out for a quick lunch. I had wanted to make the most of the sunny conditions to start our spring-cleaning process.

Around 1pm and back home, Tress started some vacuuming while I started to clean up the lawns and hedges. The winter weeds had gone troppo and while Tress and I (mainly her) have been plugging away at weeding, it was a losing battle. So the advent of spring is a signal to start a more wholesale approach. I trimmed the hedges, cut back some shrubs, snipped and slashed at others, and mowed the lawns in preparation for some feed and weed stuff  for the following weeks.

After pulling out the blower to clean up the footpath, driveway and carport, I gave the deck a scrub. Pesky noisy miners have been crapping on it and the outdoor furniture, and the hosing and scrubbing cleaned up some of it but it still left stained patches, which would probably require more work like staining and oiling. The next few weeks should keep me busy.

The sunny conditions meant I was happy to be out all arvo and I only got back in after 5pm. It still gets dark by 6pm, so that gave me just enough time to clean up, settle down and put my feet up.

The night before, Tress and I caught up for dinner with Jason and Mel in an Indian restaurant near the station. We hadn’t had Indian for a long time so it was a delicious change. Early on Saturday morning, before waking up to attack the spring-cleaning day, we had received messages from Klang. YY, aka Stanley, was at the airport, heading to Taiwan for his university days. Earlier, a week or so before, Isaac had left for Hong Kong. They are both starting first year in uni and they sounded excited. I hope the next few years turn out to be exciting and memorable for them.

Kiddo too, has taken a turn in her journey and would see out this term in her current school. She has been offered a new position in another school nearby. A private Christian secondary school, it would be a relief for her – to get away from challenging socio economic environment that her present school had presented in the past 3 years. With Mic also only started a new role in a competitor “Big-4” firm, they both seem to be heading in the “right” directions.

Tress too, was recently seconded to a different department, to perform duties closer to what she had been doing for some years.

Spring is here; new paths have opened up for many around me. They sound exciting and it would be really interesting to see, in a few years’ time, how these new paths make a difference in the lives of those who mean most to me. The circle of life, like the cycle of seasons, continue to turn.