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.

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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.

Catching up in Merimbula


Tress and I planned to get away over the Australia Day long weekend, and catch up with Kiddo and Mic, whom we hadn’t met since June last year. We took Friday off and left early that morning, taking the little fellow along with us.

We headed out towards Gippsland, stopped at Traralgon for a brekky and coffee, and pushed on from there till we arrived at our destination at Merimbula. A very hot day had been forecasted, with a high of up to 45deg in Melbourne. It was just as hot as we drove through Gippsland, with the thermometer in the car constantly hovering at the 42/43 deg marks. It was a little bit cooler at Merimbula, which is at the south coast of NSW. We had stopped there a couple of times overnight, as part of a Sydney/Melbourne coastal drive summer road trip, and this was the first time we were going to stay there a few days.

We arrived just after noon, and settled down and then took a walk through the beautiful town, picking up somr groceries for the next few days. Kiddo and Mic arrived later that night and we spent the next few days catching up in that beautiful town. They were going to pick up their new puppy when they returned to Canberra so everyone was a bit excited about that too.

Kiddo and Mic appeared to have settled well into their new lives as a couple. They have both kept busy with work, social circles and most recently, a long trip to Japan. They have their usual niggles as a couple, and will no doubt have work on their hands as they continue to build on their relationship to construct the best possible foundation for a lifelong partnership. Unless event take a dramatic turn, that partnership will likely continue to play out in Canberra, where they seem to be happy.

Tress and I remain happy ourselves here in Melbourne, although the commute to work (for me) has become a growing challenge. I still wonder about what I’d do in St Alf’s this year, and how I can contribute better in Steer, and what I can do around the house to make things easier for the both of us. In short, we are all busy living. Maybe that’s why I have contemplated less in recent years – we’ve been busy living. I’m very grateful for that, every single day

Yarra, Ethereals and “the usual”


It was a very warm week, and when I saw that Saturday was going to be milder day, I asked if Tress wanted a day out. I thought of St Andrew’s market but I then remembered Warrandyte was very nice too. I thought we could walk along the Yarra and then find a spot for lunch at Warrandyte.

So that was exactly what we did. The Yarra at Warrandyte was really nice. When we got there mid morning (around 10am) there were already many people there, many with their dogs frolicking on the river bank. Balls and frisbees were tossed into the river, with excited and energetic pooches charging in to retrieve them, wet and happy.

We trailed along the river for about an hour and a half, and then headed to the restaurant we had booked for lunch. It was a bit earlier than our reservation time so we headed to the library nearby, where we bumped into an old acquaintance. We hadn’t seen Simon Soh and his wife Margaret for a while now so it was nice bumping into them again. The lunch was very good – the restaurant (Altair) had earned really good reviews in the local papers towards the end of last year and our experience suggested those reviewes were fair dinkum.

After lunch we did our usual grocery shopping and then we walked the little guy, ending a really relaxing day. Later that night, I cooked a curry for when we head up the coast next weekend. I hadn’t cooked for a while and as usual, the exercise was therapeutic for me.

The cooler day had followed a breezy Friday. We had dinner at our usual Italian place and after that we stopped by a roadside on the way home, as Tress wanted to connect with some folks who like her, were busy chasing some ether creatures on their phones. The little group quickly expanded and in a matter of minutes, some 5-6 people had randomly pulled up at the same spot, where apparently these ethereal creatures were to be found. As I stood there inebriated and cool from the breeze, it was surreal but a little amazing.

On Sunday it felt like things are well and truly back on track routine wise. We got to St Alf’s, sat at our usual spot and met and chatted with the usual folks. We heard from someone who was going to work with the AFES at Swinburne, and decided to come alongside her. Later, we headed to lunch at our usual spot and met our usual friends there, with whom we again caught up for coffee at a mall near our home.

Back home early arvo, I started on some gardening work. The gorgeous day – sunny and warm – suggested I stayed out all arvo, which I did and completed a fair bit of work tidying up the garden. I had buggered up the lawn by being too aggressive with my mowing when we first came back from Thailand/Malaysia and the lawn had grown exponentially. It’s healing time now so I was gentler and ensured the sprinklers were on for a bit after all the work was done. Tress did the laundry and walked the little fellow and we ended the day watching some Australian Open tennis on tele. You know, the usual summer things we do…

Routine – not always a bad thing


Back in 2009, Victoria was ground zero in a swine flu pandemic. Kiddo and Tress travelled to Malaysia for a holiday and ended up being quarantined by the Malaysian authorities the whole time. Back in Melbourne alone, I was struck down with one of the worst flu episodes I had ever experienced. The Tamiflu capsules I was prescribed didn’t appear to help too much.

I was given Tamiflu again last week. I had finished my first day back at work, after our holidays to the tropics, feeling under the weather and sometime during that night, the fevers and body aches told me it wasn’t just a cold I was nursing. I was a bit ordinary and went to the doctor by Wednesday and was told I had the flu bug. I was told to stay away from work so I ended up taking the whole week off. By Friday however, I was feeling quite well so I enjoyed that day just working from home and having a good lunch with Tress, who looked like she was travelling less well.

On Saturday, we both decided to go away so after a sleep in and late brekky, we decided to trek across town to head towards Portarlington for the mussels festival. Portarlington was a couple of hours away and we were on track for a lunch time arrival but half of Melbourne must have had the same idea, as some 10km out, the traffic was crawling and it felt like Portarlington was going to be hard yakka to manoeuvre through. So, we decided to turn back and headed instead to Geelong, where we picked out a lunch spot (an Indonesian joint…) and then walked on the foreshore area for a bit. It was a lovely day out and we both enjoyed it. The warm, breezy and laid back atmosphere was such a welcomed contrast to the hustle and bustle and heat and congestion of where we were a couple of weeks back.

On Sunday we were both on communion duty but Tress’ cold meant it wasn’t a good idea for her to proceed so she got someone to replace her. It was very good to be back at St Alf’s where the laidback atmosphere and clear and concise preaching made it easier to be wholly engaged.

We were well and truly back to our usual routine when we bumped into Jason and Mel at our usual lunch spot. Later that arvo, Tress went out for one of her online game soirees and I pottered around the house, mucking around with some tap fittings to better water the gardens. As we both prepared food for the new working week, the sense of returning to familiar routines was very strong.

Reading one of Michael Bird’s books on the train this morning felt like hard work – probably because I’m not his intended audience. It takes a certain mindset (i.e., a theology student) to read that properly and I wonder if I’d survive to finish this volume. The sheer pleasure of reading on a quiet train ride in to work however, was a blessing. Some may view a life of what feels like a groundhog day, mundane and unexciting, but I’d have this, every day of a week.

2018 behind, 2019 ahead


I’m back at work today, as is Tress. We’re both down with colds and that makes returning to work even less pleasant. Otherwise, we had a decent break – mentally if not physically.

It’s hard to have a decent rest for the body, when one travels to cities like Bangkok for holiday. Tress and I wound up work on 21 Dec and headed to KL the next day (Sat). We dropped the little guy with his sitter/carer, and our hearts ached a little when he whimpered and cried a little when we were getting ready to drop him off. Anyway, we got into the airport, met some friends who were also travelling to the tropics for the Christmas/New Year break, and finally got into KL late on Sat.

We stayed in my brother’s home for that night we arrived. He and Jean picked us up from the airport, and the next day, after a really nice breakfast at a local coffee shop, we headed to the airport and met up with my mum, and my sisters and their families (bar their hubbies…). It was a really good thing we could all go away as a family in this way. It would have been perfect if my sisters’ hubbies, together with Kiddo and Mic, could also come along. One of my sisters’ hubby works in China and does not have the break we had, and the other had to care for his elderly and ill father. Kiddo and Mic had planned a holiday to Japan, by the time this family getaway was cobbled together.

So we headed off to Bangkok/Khao Yai and for the next week and a half, we had a terrific time together. Two of my nephews had done very well for their “UEC” exams and are awaiting university placements in the far east. Isaac has already earned a place in Beijing Uni to do Chemistry but is waiting for a spot in HK uni. Stan the man is waiting for a spot in Taiwan. They’re both terrific young men. Nic has just finished her first year in Med school and YJ, the baby of the group, is still in primary school. I got to know them all better and it was a memorable time. To also spend that time with my mum, sisters, brother and his wife, together with Tress, was really an experience to be treasured.

We got back to Klang just before New Year’s Day, and spent the next few days there. We bunked at Tress’ parents’ place, which as a result of all that has been happening in that household in recent months, felt very shaken up and disjointed. The living room, carved and partitioned to allow Tress’ dad to sleep downstairs, was symptomatic of what has been happening. Her dad had gotten better, and could walk up the steps to get into his usual bedroom. So Tress and I slept in his makeshift bedroom downstairs. Our mornings were always interrupted with the maid cleaning from about 5am, followed soon after by Tress’ parents starting their day early. We’d feel as though we were sleeping in without cause when/if we didn’t wake up soon after. Sleeping in makeshift arrangements with all that harried mornings was never going to provide rest that a break often brings, but I guess the break is a mental one of sorts, where the hustle and bustle of work is absent. To that end, the trip to the tropics has been wonderful.

We left Malaysia on Thursday night and got back into Melbourne on Friday (4 Jan) morning. We left a very warm Malaysia (circa 34 deg) to return to a stinking hot Melbourne (circa 42 deg). The colds we picked up meant we struggled to get back into the rhythm of things. Tress spent the rest of Friday working, while I went about grocery shopping and pottering around the house. On Saturday, we started to work on our very overgrown gardens, before rain stopped us. So we went out and got some shopping (we needed to replace our blender) and lunch and when the rain stopped we resumed work on the gardens, finishing late into the evening.

On Sunday, we decided to skip St Alf’s as we didn’t think our sniffles and coughs would be very welcomed. So we continued pottering around the house – then Tress did the laundry and I washed the very soiled cars. As the day went on, I got a bit more tired as the cold worsened. It felt like an anti-climactic turn, after a really good break in some ways.

Being away for Christmas and New Year, being harried in the busy environments of Bangkok and Klang, meant I did little (or no) reflection. What 2018 was and meant, and what 2019 may look like, were matters I did not think about at all. I have now, so the process is really only starting. Perhaps another entry would flesh these out.

Mourinho Gone, Australian Cricket’s Dawn?


I got in to work this morning, checked some news sites, and almost choked on my cereal, when I read what happened in Old Trafford overnight.

Mourinho has been sacked. Gone.

I’ve labored through United’s games of late. They have been hard to watch. The attacking bend has gone and it looked like a constipating raid every time we’re on the opposition half. As a result, I have found myself enjoying other teams’ games more. I blamed Jose for that.

With him gone, I hope United regain some of the attraction it used to have. Back when United was the main event and I’d watch them repeatedly without double guessing.

This hopefully is an inflexion point of sorts, as I hope it is for the Australian Cricket team. It beat India in Perth, in the second Test, yesterday. It was an absorbing match.

I was home sick on Monday from a very bad back, which I picked up on Sunday and missed St Alf’s. I stayed home on Monday, mostly lying flat on the couch and watching the wicket on Perth Stadium (a.k.a. Optus Stadium, particularly when the West Coast Eagles were playing in their flag winning season) do all sorts of tricks on batsmen. Bowlers who otherwise were ordinary (albeit good) seamers, were catching batsmen with awkward bounces, twists and turns. At the end of that absorbing day, Australia were 5 wickets away from victory, with India still over 170 runs in deficit. The victory came swiftly yesterday, and Alfie (J Langer) has lead Australia in this turning of the corner match (hopefully).

Man Utd and Australian Cricket on the mend. Better things to come, hopefully. Just as I am also looking for an even better 2019, which is a mere 12 days away now.