Tress away


Tress left for Malaysia early yesterday morning. The weather was diabolical – the winds, heavy rain and the very cold conditions made an early start even less appealing than it already was, and it felt like this awful weather was providing me with some kind of solidarity. Tress was heading home to be with her mum for a more substantive form of “solidarity” – her mum will be checking into the hospital this morning, and would undergo surgery tomorrow.

When we arrived at Tulla, the queue was interminably long and a couple of group check-in’s made the wait even longer than it usually is. I waited with Tress and when we finally (after over an hour) got her boarding pass, we grabbed a quick brekky before we walked towards the departure gate and I saw her walk into the belly of the processing cauldron that is the immigration and customs black hole. I had told Tress this is exactly why I have had very little inclination for overseas travel.

As I headed back to the car, I was wondering how I’d survive the next couple of weeks. At the back of my mind, I was thinking the notoriously expensive parking at Melbourne Airport is going to provide a bit of a rude shock. The $24 I was charged felt like a blow but I was expecting worse so that always works to soften the blow. The traffic was still very light, with most Melburnians wisely staying at home, away from the awful weather.

I got home, gave the little guy a hug and let him out, warmed up the coffee I brought back from brekky with Tress, and got ready for St Alf’s. Tanya, Graeme and Maree asked about Tress but as I arrived late and left early, I wasn’t sure if anyone else noticed I was sitting at our usual spot all alone.

After St Alf’s I went home to fix myself a toastie. Then I headed to the library and picked up a book (Richard Flanagan’s book – Gould’s Book of Fish). It continued to rain so I took my time with the grocery shopping and only got home in time to follow the footy on radio. As I prepared brekky for this morning and made a sandwich for lunch, I was very grateful for the very good dinner I had with Tress on Friday night. We were at a joint called the Abacus All Day and as usual, dinner on Friday night just talking and eating, was really good.

Saturday was filled with Tress packing and getting ready and not much else – we were (or mainly I was) thinking about two games happening at around the same time that night. Hawks were playing the Crows at the G and I had wanted to go and watch them but it was very cold and the other game was too big to miss – Australia was taking France on in Kazan in Russia. Australia lost (as expected) but put up an admirable performance and the French were poor.

Last night as I settled down for the night, I got a call from Fay, who was going to help with taking the little guy for walks while Tress is in Malaysia. So I went over and made arrangements with her. This morning I had to make sure I got the little guy prepped up so I was late and in an attempt to make up time I drove faster than I normally did and such was my luck a mobile unit was on the prowl and I got pinged. One demerit point and a couple of hundred bucks down the gurgler and I ended up even later but I still came in earlier than almost everyone else, so writing this made it all feel less painful – both about Tress being away as well as that blooming 10km/hr over… (boo hoo). The thought however, of Tress’ mum’s experience over the next few days and weeks kind of puts things in perspectives…

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Weekend Capers, Events in Malaysia


There’s a long gap between the Queen’s Birthday public holiday and the next public holiday, which would be in November (Melbourne Cup). To make the most of it, Tress and I decided to go away for the long weekend. We booked in this trip many weeks ago and about a couple of weeks ago, Kiddo said they’d like to join us. The house we booked has three rooms so that wasn’t a problem.

We trekked Phillip Island way on Friday morning, and pushed on towards Inverloch. Our weekend abode was to be at Cape Paterson, a tiny town just before Inverloch, south of Wonthaggi. We got there a bit after noon, unpacked and took a walk to the beach just across the road, and a few hours later, Kiddo and Mic showed up. It was an 8-hour drive for them. Canberra is so far away…

We made the short drive up to Wonthaggi for dinner that night and then went back to the villa in Cape Paterson and talked and played cards.

The next day, it was very cold (-0.2 deg)and I took the little fellow out for a walk. LBJ at CP. After a leisurely brekky we drove to Inverloch and spent the day there, doing a lot of walking and watching locals and tourists take to the waters, even though it was winter.

On the way back we stopped at the State Coal Mine in Wonthaggi. Later that night we headed back to Wonthaggi again for dinner before going back to the villa.

Kiddo and Mic left the next day, and Tress and I (and the little guy) left a couple of hours after that. We got home, unpacked, went out to lunch. Tress then did the laundry and I did some grocery shopping and got a haircut, before settling down for the new week ahead.

It was a wonderful time of being away and catching up Kiddo and Mic. Yet throughout, we – especially Tress – mulled over a piece of news we had received before the long weekend began. Tress’ mum has been diagnosed with a pretty bad illness and will need surgical treatment soon. Tress would probably need to travel to Malaysia again.

We were talking last night about how the year has been peppered with family stuff back in Malaysia. Tress’ Dad was unwell in January and then just before we went back again for my mum’s surprise birthday party, we received news of Sim’s illness. She has barely gotten past her treatment and now this. It looks like the big events happening back in Malaysia aren’t just to do with politics. Like I have come to accept, a “mundane” and “ordinary” life is to be celebrated.

Blood Centre, Ian Harper


Friday nights are always a little bit more special when friends get together to catch up over a meal. Tress and I caught up with the Chews and Hipos, over a meal in a restaurant that is closest to us (because we organised it…). We got there a bit after 6.30pm and the Hipos were already there. The Chews showed up a little later and we ate, chatted and only left after 9pm, when there were hints the restaurant was starting to close for the night.

The next day, I got up early and headed for the men’s breakfast at St Alf’s. Paul O, the speaker, was visiting from Kenya and he was a beneficiary of Compassion’s child-sponsorship program. He now works in Kibera, a very big slum in Nairobi. He was very eloquent and engaging and I had to restrain my self from responding impulsively to sponsor yet another child. I probably will do it however, so compelling was the talk. After helping with a quick packing up, I went home and a little later, drove out to Ringwood with Tress for my Red Cross Blood Centre appointment. It was a plasma donation so it took a little longer and we then had lunch in that area, before heading back to walk the little guy.

St Alf’s on Sunday was a little special. We had Ian Harper, a Reserve Bank Australia Board Member, come and speak to us, in a sort of Q&A style, with Peter asking questions and providing the platform for Ian to provide his thoughts, mainly on workplace experience. He’s got such clear thoughts and was very articulate so we learned a lot, and it affirmed for us we probably chose well to stay back for the extended session of Q&A after the service. I’m quite sure we weren’t the only one glued to Ian’s every word as we tried to soak up his experience as a Christian in a leadership position in an increasingly hostile (anti-Christian) workplace environment. His role as Dean of Melbourne Business School and a Board Member meant he is often asked to provide his views, in spite (or because) of his having publicly professed his faith on numerous occasions. His profiles openly state his roles in Ridley and the Anglican Diocese in Melbourne.

So we left for lunch later than usual, but we got home in good time to walk the little guy anyway, before I went back home a little earlier to start cooking for the week. Tress came back a little later and did the ironing, as we finished up the weekend and started to prepare for the coming week. It would be, hopefully, a little more restful but no less compelling, next weekend…

A Grace


Tress and I were both pretty zonked out last Friday, after a normal busy work week. She had spent Friday at Jeff’s Shed, where WVA had organised a youth conference and she and some other colleagues had volunteered to help out. For dinner, we went to our favourite local Thai – a tiny hole-in-wall joint on the way to the Maury’s where we had our favourite whole fried barra. It was good to just enjoy the meal and talk.

The next day the little fellow had his quarterly grooming session; Amber came by as usual bright and early and took him for over an hour of washing and clipping. It was a cold morning and later, Tress vacuumed the house while I trimmed the James Sterling and generally kept the outside trimmed and cleaned. We finished our work well past 1.30pm and after lunch and some grocery shopping, we went home and got ready for dinner at Alex and Li Har’s.

We hadn’t seen them for a while so when Alex texted me on Friday night while we were at the Thai place, we said yes pretty quickly. When he texted back again to say there would only be 5 couples all in we felt it could be a good thing; a change from his usual party with multiple families.

So on Sat night we drove over to Donvale. They are building their new home in Balwyn and they’ve been renting their temporary home in Donvale. The other guests were lovely people and we had a really good time of just eating, drinking and getting to know each other. One of the couples – a fairly new migrant – had brought delicious dosas (thosai) to cook as well as a fish (a huge pomfret from Malaysia) to steam so the food was pretty special too, as were the very good wines.

We got home past 11pm, went to bed at midnight and I was up again at ten to 5am, to catch the Scousers’ game against Real Madrid. It was a good game – far better than the one United lost to Chelsea the week before. Bale scored a screamer and the Scousers’ keeper had a couple of bloopers so Real triumphed yet again.

After St Alf’s later in the morning (where we were on communion duty), we headed to Shopping Town for duty (again) for the Salvo’s Red Shield appeal. When we got home and walked the little fellow, the early morning rise and busy day took its toll and I felt bushed. I still had the week’s lunches to cook so when it was all finally done just after 6pm, I could all but stretch my feet out in front of the telly to catch Gordon Ramsay swear away in this season’s MasterChef.

Coming in this morning, I decided to pace myself in Tim Winton’s “Dirt Music” – I only have less than 70 pages to go and I don’t have anything else to read this week. It was difficult to do as Tim Winton’s wonderful novel is building up to a crescendo of an ending. I wanted to savour it however, so I listened to Gurumul and Paul Kelly’s “Amazing Grace”, as I felt that with Sim’s great news earlier in the week, with a full week’s work done and a wonderful weekend of activities and “rest” all covered, I felt God’s grace has really been amazing this week.

Marysville, FA Cup Final and Harry Weds Meghan


Marysville

Tress and I took a drive out to Marysville on Sat. It was a cloudy, overcast day but that only added to the experience. Marysville is beautiful and the drive from Healesville to Marysville especially (picture) was particularly scenic in its own way.

We left just before 10am, stopped at Healesville for coffee, and got into Marysville around noon. We walked around town, walked up to Steaveanson’s Fall and had lunch at the Terracota cafe, a golf club across the road from El-Kanah, which we visited also.

We got home late in the arvo, and Tress watched the wedding (Harry and Meghan Markel) later in the evening, as I went to bed early, planning to watch the FA Cup final. United loss in a drab game and to bottom out a miserable weekend sports wise, Hawks succumbed to the Lions up in the Gabba, so falling out of the top 8.

Other than Marysville however, it was nevertheless a good weekend as we spent Friday night having dinner with Jason and Mel and A Hooi and U Marloney in Box Hill. We caught up just before 7pm, and stayed out in the restaurant in Box Hill (Penang Inn which just changed hands) till about 10pm. It was good to just talk in a relaxed atmosphere over a meal, instead of just eating and leaving.

Sunday was Pentecost Sunday and at St Alf’s I wondered, as I have for a while now, what’s in store in the service space. Serving in Steer in a Board capacity came up a few weeks ago and I met with its CEO over a week ago so I wondered if that is where it lies. And yet, it felt like an underwhelming and subdued channel when I was last there. One can only wait and see if He plans to do anything there.

Workwise, my boss and the other senior executives are in the US this week, for a Board meeting. Work powers on anyway, and I continue to keep my head down and just keep ploughing away.

Butterfly effect?


It is on occasions such as the one this past weekend, which I wondered more intensely than I normally do, about the unintended consequences of a turn of event just over 6 years ago. Not only did my departure from my profession, to turn to a path down the way of a faith based not for profit route, become a detour, the reason for that departure (which turned out to be a detour) took a turn which doesn’t seem like it would have any inflexion point in its trajectory.

I have often turned into pathways which take me away from home, away from what would have allowed me to create legacies. Those turns are often brought about by an impatience with the state of being, by a refusal to accept the imperfections which were. In a fallen world where imperfection abounds, that journey was never going to stop. I would often move on, constantly moving away. Often to stay would have been in itself, to create.

I wonder if my bequest is that tendency to move away. I see now the impact of that tendency on myself. On an occasion such as mother’s day, I see the impact of my tendency to move away, and that is to be away from my mother and live the effect of the barrier of distance that arises. I also see the rippling effect. Tress too is away from her mum and that has consequences on numerous persons. That tendency to move away, may have begat a similar tendency and that in turn, has created its effect, the impact of which is most felt by me.

It feels almost like I’m living the butterfly effect. I wonder if I caused that flutter of those lightest of limbs that were the wings of a butterfly, with rippling, or domino, effects – potentially seismic. Chaotic it may not have appeared but the effect on lives, roll on. I wonder if that effect can be elliptical, turning or rebounding towards myself. Am I both the creator of that flutter and the repository of its effect. I certainly had such thoughts and feeling this past weekend.

“Regime Change” in Malaysia – Mahathir returns, Najib discarded


Today, Malaysia live again. It has gotten back its former PM, and the designated successor, surely a shoo-in for a royal pardon to pave the way for his eventual comeback, has already regained his moniker as PM-in-waiting. It was first bestowed on him by Lim Kit Siang, as a jibe of some sort, back in the 1990’s when Mahathir was PM and Anwar was his deputy and a PM-in-waiting. So more than 20 years hence, the circle is complete. The more things changed they more it remained the same.

On another level nevertheless, Mahathir now has a window of opportunity. He has been given a chance to make Malaysia truly great. He must do it by making every single Malaysian optimistic about the future. He must think about a roadmap where some time in the not too distant future, every single Malaysian will feel he or she has equal opportunity to succeed if he or she works hard.

He must not waste the immense political capital bestowed upon him, by playing sectarian, racial and feudal interests one against another. As a start, he should seriously consider making someone like Guan Eng, a Deputy Prime Minister. Certainly, Guan Eng should be in his cabinet in a senior role. If Malaysians baulk at the idea of Guan Eng as a Deputy Prime Minister it is likely it came out of the notion that the captain of this boat must be an ethnic Malay. There has to be a roadmap to take Malaysia to a place where such notions are permanently discarded. It should have no place in Malaysia’s history and Mahathir has a wonderful opportunity to design a roadmap to get to such a place.

It must not allow Malaysia’s wealth to again be squandered. Many blame Najib for woes such as GST but had Mahathir not blown billions (including Petronas coffers meant to fund future generations’ development) and had he not perpetuated policies that favoured racial and sectarian interests over economic development, Malaysia might have been more competitive today and revenue and growth might be in a better place to alleviate cost of living pressures for ordinary Malaysians.

Today Malaysia is given a second chance. Mahathir has been given a second chance. I hope they make the most of it.

Ball up


It’s starting to get cooler now and the beautiful cycle of seasons continue to reveal itself in its wonderful splendour. The warmer days are ebbing away and the days are noticeably shorter now.

So yesterday arvo, after an elusive start, the sun came out and warmed up the parks very nicely as Tress and I took the little guy for his walk. It was wonderful to see him bouncing around, trotting and sniffing as he followed us in our walks through first the oval and then to the surrounding areas.

I was reflecting on how we’re in a good place now, if we were focusing on achieving some form of nirvana, in the blissful sense. Our busy-ness is centred on basic life stuff and what please us. We’d work, rest, find some recreational activities that suit our preferences for peace and quiet (generally) and avoid hard work unless it’s necessary. My hard work now comprise putting in a full day’s work each week day in the hip and raw neighbourhood of South Melbourne. I’d read on my commute, plug in headphones for my arvo walk and otherwise spend the rest of each day in my office in the fringe of the CBD. The hard work now is mainly in the sense of ploughing through the largely unsexy labour of managing the legal risks of a struggling and disliked enterprise. Tress has probably a lesser challenge in that regard but from our chats each day, the “heads down bums up” approach applies equally for her as for me.

I guess the reflection is a result of Peter speaking about “God at work” in St Alf’s yesterday. He talked about that 3 years ago, when I was asking impatient questions about my work, when I was in Canberra. This time around, I am much less restless and I wonder if my wrestle between wanting to do more for God and seeking a more settled, predictable and comfortable lifestyle is more a sign of my tendencies to keep looking up from the steps in front of me, or from some other impulse, long rationalised away, to step out into a more direct mode of serving.

When we came back from our walk and I was cooking the week’s lunches, being busy with an activity I enjoyed dialled down the reflection and dialled up the living. Later in the evening as Tress and I sat down to rest up to finish the weekend, I tried, unsuccessfully, to shoehorn the line in Lennon’s song, “Beautiful Boy” to make it describe what’s happening in my head. “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” doesn’t quite cut it when I’m not actually making any plans at all, other than a daily plan of ensuring I turn up for work.

Life happens anyway. For the winter/cooler months, that means footy and more coffee. The Hawks were in Tassie and chalked up a messy win over the Saints. We watched the game on tele at home on Sat night, after spending the morning on my MX5, which had to go into the workshop for some tyre works. Later that arvo Tress and I worked the garden and then I cooked a warming pork rib congee for both of us. Yesterday while I cooked the week’s lunches, we had on tele, the competitive game between the reigning premiers and the Pies. Tigers romped home in the last quarter (as did the Hawks against the Saints) after a feisty tussle.
Maybe all I need worry about is contesting the next ball or the next kick. Footy simplifies life that way. One game at a time may be a tired cliché but it can be a useful guide to let one do the carpe diem thing. Maybe I’d just try and master that.

A Surprise Birthday Party


I got into Tullmarine last night. We’ve had a wonderful week in Klang, surprising my mum and celebrating her birthday together with her siblings and their families. Enoch and his wife flew in from Singapore. Enoch has a really busy practice (as a urologist) so having him do this was special. David and Jean were the chief plotter. They planned everything, down to keeping mum at home and only leaving home in time to get to the restaurant where everyone had been waiting.

Kiddo and Mic flew in from Canberra on Thursday night and we met them at the airport. They managed to get to the check-in queue when we were there so we checked in together. We got into Klang on Friday morning and caught a cab to Tress’ parents’ home. From there we went for a very hearty bah kut teh brekky before checking into our Air BnB condo unit as the crow flies from Tress’ parents’ home.

The surprise dinner party was on Saturday night so we had to wait to see mum. So after unpacking and freshening up at the condo, we waited to see my brother David and Jean his wife later that arvo at a local “drive-in” and had more stuff to eat. Then later that night it was back to Tress’ parents’ home for some home made popiah dinner.

On Saturday, we drove to a shopping mall nearby (Setia Mall) to get a lego set for Eunice, Victor’s eldest daughter. Eunice is only a year younger than Kiddo but due to a neurological disorder when she was very young, her intellectual development had been stunted and she remains very young intellectually. She asked us for lego sets everytime she sees us so that is our go-to prezzie for her. We decided however to only get it in Malaysia as it costs the same if we got it here and getting it there saves us the trouble of carting it on board the flight with us.

At Setia Mall, we bumped into Timmy and his wife. The we-fie he took didn’t make it into social media as we asked him to keep the pic under wraps to avoid spoiling the surprise. We got the lego set, as well as some other stuff and then got back to the condo to rendezvous with my siblings before the surprise dinner that night. Sim and Daniel drove up from Penang and it was great to see her again. We had received news of her cancer diagnosis just as a week earlier. Thankfully the diagnosis was early and treatment could be scheduled pretty quickly. So this dinner party and our being there for it, were very fortuituous and we were very grateful to be able to see her before treatment began today.

At the dinner, we had a wonderful time of catching up with mum’s side of the family. The family hadn’t been together to this extent for a very long time. It was probably the most complete reunion we’ve had for years. Certainly for our immediate family, with Kiddo and Mic also there, it was the most complete reunion todate for us. We also had Ah Kim, my late Ah Ku’s estranged wife, at the dinner and as I talked to her and reminisced those days when she was working in my late grandfather’s coffee shop tending a “chee cheong fun” stall, those days of toiling in the old coffee shop brought only fond memories. Somehow, the hard times (they must have been the prevalent occurences) had been almost completely shaded. When I said to her my fondness for chee cheong fun was birthed there, I could see the joy in her face. It was good just to see her again, as her estrangement from my uncle had meant we hadn’t seen her for many years. To see the joy on her face, on her realisation she brought joy to another all those years ago, was a big fat bonus.

It was just as rewarding talking to each of my other aunties and uncle that night, as with my cousins and their children. All the pesky experiences of getting past immigration/customs at both Tulla and KLIA, the humid conditions, the battling through Klang traffic, the niggling bits and pieces about the condo – none of those elements mattered as I mingled, talked, at and drank and took pictures with everyone that night. Tress, Kiddo and Mic looked like they enjoyed the occasion as much as I did and so I guess the chat with David several weeks ago which lead to our plans to come together, had all been worth the while. All I hope (and pray for) now is that Sim’s surgery and the rest of her treatment will be effective and she will recover from this illness in no time.

Back at the condo after the dinner way past midnight, we turned on our mobiles and exchanged pics and only went to bed well after 1am. We still managed, somehow, to make our way to KCMC the next day. We caught up with more people there. KCMC was different each time I was back there. This time, the main hall, which had become the meeting hall of the English speaking congregation, had had a makeover. It now felt more like a theatre. Personally I liked it less, as there is now no natural light streaming in, like it used to before. Maybe the path to all air-conditioned settings had brought this about, but it felt far too insulated from everything else. It felt as though the church was cloistered, and disconnected from its surroudings.

After KCMC, we went to a local restaurant and met again with the family, joined this time by Tibby, the only one from my late dad’s side of my family we met this trip. We had also bumped into TL and his family, who had moved to NZ over a year ago. They too, were back in Klang for a break. Later that night we had dinner with Tress’ family and then went back for a family pic. That dinner was in a fancy restaurant with delicacies and gourmet soups but the family pic was again, something special.

On Monday Tress’ dad and the both of us went to a bank to sort out some accounts held by Tress’ dad but which he had – casually – designated us as beneficiaries. We/he had to sign wads of papers and in between all those meetings and signings, we had lunch in a local coffee shop. That night, David organised for us all to meet at a “mamak” stall near mum’s house and Kiddo and Mic treated us to a dinner of roti’s and teh tariks and all sorts of accoutrements that came with that cuisine…

On Tuesday we had a quieter day. We caught a movie (“A Quiet Place”) as we noticed movies cost about RM10 a person, whereas the local Hoyts usuall charged about AUD20 each. We also did some shopping at the same mall, and later that arvo we had lunch at mum’s where May prepared a really good home cooked meal. Goh had also been home for a couple of weeks as he was in between jobs so it was a good lunch together. Later that night we had dinner with Tress’ family again and then we said our goodbyes as we were leaving early the next day.

As I zipped through Tim Winton’s “The Riders” on the plane yesterday, I thought about how fortunate we’ve been these past few days. As they always do, these holidays made me think about what-if’s. Had I not made the move all those years ago, I wondered how the present would have turned out. I’m not sure there was any regrets necessarily, but I wondered none the less.