Giving (blood) again (and how may I give)

It is always really good to finish the week with friends over a meal so Tress and I did our usual thing and teed up a dinner on Friday night with Jason and Mel and the Hipos. We trekked out east to a new joint with what was supposed to be really good Hong Kong styled bbq meats.

We headed straight home after dinner, and I caught Oliver Stone’s Platoon on TV. This time I caught his cameo appearance in the bunker scene but what were nuances of good versus evil became much more obvious themes, given what is probably the 3rd or 4th viewing. It was still very good and I wondered at the contrasts between the career trajectories of Charlie Sheen, Johnny Depp and Forest Whittaker.

On Saturday after brekky at home Tress and I went grocery shopping. Tress wanted to bake a new recipe of a flourless cake and I wanted to put the order in for a turkey I wanted to cook for Christmas Day lunch way yonder in Woodend. We had to finish shopping quick however as I had an appointment later that morning, at the Red Cross Blood Centre.

My last two visits to the Blood Centre had been unsuccessful. The first was because I had been to Malaysia 2-3 months prior so I was disqualified. The second saw someone being cautious about some rashes I had on my arms. I had said to that person those rashes were a combination of gardening and exposure to the summer heat but caution was the word and they declined my blood. So, close to a year since my second aborted attempt, I was glad to be finally giving again. I even said I’d be back to answer the urgent call of plasma shortage.

After the bleeding session, we had lunch at the Eastland before heading back to clean up the garden. I edged, mowed, swept and tidied up the outside and Tress did more weeding, laundry and also took the little guy out for an extended walk.
That night we started on the second season of “The Crown” but it was a battle for me as I kept dozing off.

We had David Ratten the next day at St Alf’s. He was to retire this year (after 23 years in the same church – One Community in Blackburn) and so the annual pulpit exchange amongst him, Peter and Allan Demond will either be re-shaped or come to an end. For his final pulpit exchange message, David preached the gospel. That was in itself, quite a statement to me.

After more grocery shopping after lunch, we went back home, Tress did some ironing and gift wrapping while I made some chilly sauces and like condiments. Later we took the little guy for a walk and it was such a beautiful day so when we came back, I walked back across the park to the oval and watched a few overs of the local cricket match.

It’s that time of the year when I’m really looking forward to a break. Christmas is less than 2 weeks away, Kiddo and Mic will be in Melbourne in a little over a week and I’m looking forward to Christmas lunches, drives to different parts of Victoria and NSW, and generally lift up my head, take in the views and enjoy God’s creation in this beautiful antipodean land a whole lot more. Against all these serene and beautiful moments, I asked myself again if I will do more than just take. It feels like it’s time to give, a whole lot more.


Big wet (and other battles?)

The “big wet” dominated the column inches a couple of days before its scheduled emptying. Friday was supped to see the start of a 3-day downpour that was meant to unleash the whole summer’s rain in a little over a weekend.

A couple of weeks earlier, Metro had put out notices saying repair and maintenance works would see bus replacements between Richmond and Camberwell on my line, which would add up to 70 minutes to my commute time. Each way.

The two-pronged assault to disrupt our otherwise relatively uneventful start to the summer lead the entire legal team to work from home last Friday. It was the first time it happened. I had hardly worked from home anyway – just the once to attend to some repair work after an attempted break in and that was it.

So on Friday last week I slept in, worked from home and watched the rain. For lunch, I picked Tress up from her work to get something nearby. We ended up having yum cha – something we hadn’t done for a while. The rest of the day was pretty quiet, some emails from work attended to without too much grief.

The rain continued (escalated) on Saturday as we slept in, went in to Box Hill to pick up stuff to cook for the next weeks’ lunches and catch a bite to eat. We hadn’t been to Box Hill for a while and it took some getting used to, especially the grotty car park and the general hustle and bustle. We got home before noon and Tress cleaned the bathrooms while I vacuumed. A couple of hours later we cleaned up, and headed to Madam K’s for lunch before just whiling away some time at another shopping place. I wanted to catch Australia’s second match against the English but it was one of those new fangled day/night tests so it would start till after 2pm and would go on till 10pm anyway so I had plenty of time to catch up and watch quite a few overs even with all the loitering around.

It was strange to see Smith standing so close to Anderson, the veteran bowler who was standing virtually at the outside line of the crease on the non-striker’s end. It was a flashpoint to the usual Ashes contest and though Smith got out at a relatively meagre 40, the Aussie still managed to go past 400 by late yesterday arvo so I guess the contest remain tilted in favour of the Aussies for now.

Early on Sunday morning I peeked at United’s 3-1 lead against the Gunners, at the latter’s home. It was a cracked of a game and I caught up with the rest of the game yesterday arvo, after returning from St Alf’s and lunch. I spent the rest of the arvo cooking big pots of glass noodles dressed with a salty pork mince-mushroom sauce. The pots were huge and we packed away some 12 serves so I guess we’re set for maybe even 2 weeks.

My left wrist had been ginger the whole weekend and during the cook yesterday arvo, the grief got to a debilitating state. I could barely lift anything with any weight and so Tress did the washing up and I did most stuff with the other hand. For the rest of the evening and night, I dressed the writs in a band of sort and I can only be grateful I drove in to work again this morning, which meant I was spared the lugging of my backpack across platforms etc.

I still had the wrist band on this morning and the boss caught sight of it and muttered something along the lines of “another battle on the weekend?”. Other than public transport/weather and the Ashes, I don’t have too many battles for now. That’s pretty good but that also probably mean I am not being sharpened much. In some ways, the wait continues.

Some 11 years ago (remembering Dad)

I wish we talked more
Maybe about politics
And count every MCA flaw
I wish we talked more

I wish I rang more
To talk of grandpa’s antics
Or about grandma’s guffaws
I wish I rang more

I wish I visited more
Especially when you were sick
Or when you were sore
I wish I visited more

I could wish no more
Talk, ring, visit or anything at all
I only wanted to talk more

St Alf etc

Melbourne has seen very humid conditions for about a week now and it appears to be tiring people out. For the whole of the last week, we’ve crawled out of the office into high twenties temperatures and the tram rides into Spencer have been like trains in the sub-continent. Thankfully the tram rides are quick and I often hurriedly move on to the platform, waiting for the merciful cooling of the trains.

On Friday night as the sweltering rides home ended and we caught up with the Chews and Hippos in a local eating place, it was still warm and I felt the drained week.

Saturday morning the little man had his grooming appointment with Amber the mobile groomer, who often shows up on time. Tress and I took him for a quick walk before she arrived and within a couple of minutes after getting back home, just after 8am, I was picking him up to hand him over for his quarterly clip. Tress and I then ducked out to a local bakery, picked up some delicious pastries and a bread roll, and came home for breakfast before starting the day’s chores.

I washed both cars, inside and out, mowed the lawns, swept, edged and did whatever I could to tidy things up. Tress had, while I was washing the cars, done a truckload of weeding and the flowerbeds and footpaths looked terrific, which drove me to do more.

Tress left home close to 2pm to get to the UN orange giving day thing. It had to do with awareness of violence against women and girls and St Alf’s GFS folks organised the orange giving in a local shopping centre. After I got cleaned up I ducked into that shopping centre just to see how things were, but stayed only a short while before going back home to watch Steven Smith’s magnificent captain’s knock of 141 not out to cement Australia’s impending win to edge 1-0 ahead for this year’s Ashes series.

Tress came home closer to 4pm and a little while later we went out to get some dinner before settling down at home to watch something on Netflix (a forgettable “Security” with Antonio Banderas in the starring role).

We stayed behind after the service, for the AGM of St Alfs. It was encouraging at the local level but at the Melbourne wide or even Australia wide level, the outlook feels bleak. Hudson Taylor’s simple mantra comes to mind (God’s work done in God’s way will never lack) but one cannot help but wonder how a church in a postmodern society such as Australia will survive, especially against the onslaught by the secular, which is decidedly anti-church or anti-Christian.

We did some grocery shopping later that arvo, and I also picked up a pair of trainers to replace my old runners. I haven’t been running for a while now so I haven’t been fussed about replacing those runners but it must be getting close to 5 years now since I bought my present pair and I use it now mainly to do work in the garden or walk the little man.

Last night as I sat on the couch and thumbed my way through “The Melbourne Anglican” we picked up earlier in the day, I wondered if I would ever get involved again, to be more than just a regular attendant on Sundays. St Alf is part of an organisation which is so structured and often feels like a big, ageing institution. I’d rather be part of such an organisation than a smaller, independent one as such smaller set ups tend to be a free-for-all when it comes to good teaching. Those ICC days of weird teachings (which appear to be based on anything but the Scriptures) are days I intend to well and truly put behind us. Having said that, I’m in the third quarter – a period of time in one’s life where one has been around the traps enough to acknowledge that God surprises and He is beyond any mould I tend to cast, consciously or otherwise.


Shifting pillars

We had another very enjoyable Friday night dinner at a local Blackburn joint. This time, it was with Jason and Mel and we were at the Food Republic, just a stone’s throw from the station. We’ve done this numerous time now and it’s always a wonderful way to finish the working week.

On Saturday I got up earlier than usual and headed for the men’s breakfast talk at St Alf’s after which the little black jedi had a morning tea (a pooch party) down at the oval across the road. That oval had started up a facebook page some months ago and the pooch owners had gotten to know each other better over the years so they decided on an organised activity.

As our home is probably one of the closest to the oval (our neighbour wasn’t attending the event), we volunteered to do stuff like bringing a trestle table for the food etc. We brought only a store bought fruit cake but some members baked stuff so it was a pretty full on thing. I guess our local community is very much a dog loving one. All of the dogs are know to everyone and they’re very well loved.

After the party, Tress and I got cleaned up, had a quick lunch and went shopping. I’d wanted to do a simple dish to bring to Alex and Li Har’s for dinner that Saturday night. We went there a few minutes before 7 and we were pleasantly surprised to learn only 3 other couples would be there (including Jason and Mel). Everyone could sit at the same table and have proper conversations which was more enjoyable than the usual proceedings where many others showed up and it was several conversations all firing at the same time. I usually ended up switching off, taking no interests.

It hit me during the dinner and as we were enjoying the conversations, that we were the only ones with a married kid. The others’ children were all still at school and Jason and Mel’s are working now but no mention of weddings have been made by them so I guess they’re a bit off that track for now. I had to reframe my subconsciously held assumption that somehow people whom I considered my contemporaries should experience the same life events I did around the same time. That seemed to accord with being contemporaries.

I guess our world – especially here Down Under at this moment – is being reframed in so many fundamental and far reaching manners. Questions of life and death, well-being and pain are being raised and discussed in the context of the voluntary assisted dying laws.

Then there is the same-sex marriage and attendant religious freedom issues which are swarming around us. I’ve just read a short survey type of book by a William Loader on the attitudes towards sex in Jewish and Christian literature and have just started to look at Ryan T Anderson et al.’s work on religious freedom and discrimination. These issues – which will likely result in fundamental shifts in what we believe and how that belief plays out – have been causing me to despair somewhat. I am dismayed at what the future holds for kiddo and Mic and their plans for raising a family.

I had thought someone who has started to take strides towards the second half of life can safely assume he’d know what to expect in the days ahead. Against these shifting pillars however, I guess I can only be thankful that being in a different place from my contemporaries has in some ways, disarmed me from the comfort of that assumption. Having stepped onto a moving platform, the continuously changing scenes sort of becomes easier to deal with.

The non-constant theme felt like it had some momentum when St Alf on Sunday morning dialled up its un-Anglican side and became much less regimented. The service ran a full half hour over time – the first time it has done so since we became part of this congregation back in early 2013. Somehow, instead of feeling fidgety, I found myself embracing this new experience and took it all in stride. I suppose nothing can be taken for granted anymore and that isn’t entirely a bad thing.

Life did take on more normalcy yesterday arvo as Tress did some ironing and I did the week’s lunches for the freezer. And, United resumed it winning ways which made by Sunday morning 5am start a little easier to deal with. I guess changes are often easier to deal with when there are constants you can hang on to.

Summer beckons

It was warm on Friday night when we got home. Even though it was a short working week, Tress and I both felt ready for the weekend, but first we had to bring the little furry ball to the vet for his annual jab and an allergy to be looked at.

We were both a little stressed when the accommodation we booked for the Christmas break fell through and we were trying to think of alternatives.

When we left the vet after 7pm, we got a bite and picked up my prescription sunnies. It was my first multifocal prescription sunnies and I can now drive and see normally without the glare of the Aussie sun.

Saturday was going to be sunny and Tress had signed up for a ladies’ brunch talk at St Alf’s so I had planned to do some greens tidying. We had our usual weekend brekky at home, watched a little bit of the Honduras v Australia World Cup qualifying match then Tress did a quick vacuum before leaving for the brunch talk. She and I took the hardtop off the MX5 before she left and then I went about trimming, mowing and sweeping.

Tress got home a bit after 1pm, and just after 2pm, I got cleaned up and we both then headed to our usual Madam K thingo, before doing our usual grocery shopping and then headed home. I spent the rest of the arvo cleaning up the drain holes of the MX5 soft top before ending the day by watching Ben Affleck’s very weird “The Accountant” on Netflix.

Sunday was an all-age service at St Alf’s and Ross Curnow’s tailored message worked a treat for me. After lunch and a bit more grocery shopping we went home and I did the usual cooking for the week. It remained warm as we caught a Paul Kelly documentary on ABC. I had listened to him again in recent months and watching that doco affirmed my views that he really is Australia’s answer to Paul Simon in many ways. “From St Kilda to King’s Cross” became an ear worm even as I typed this early on Monday morning. It’s a treat.

I hope we find something suitable in Sydney for the Christmas break. Otherwise it’d be two weeks of just lazying around in Melbourne. That’s not a bad thing actually, provided however that we plan things well, especially to spend time with Kiddo, Mic as well as Tress and the Little Black Jedi.

Deakin Country on Cup Weekend

I came down with a lurgy sort of a cold several weeks ago. It built up to a coughing episode and about a week after it started Tress picked it up and we’ve been sort of passing the baton between the both of us. I got to a point I was quite tired out and was looking forward to the cup weekend we had planned some weeks before.

On Saturday morning, we packed and took off with the little guy. We headed north west up Ballarat way, and got there just on around noon. We got to a mall sort of joint, picked out an shop with outdoor seating so we could have the little fellow with us while we had a bite. After lunch we headed to our lodgings, which was a small one-bedroom unit with a façade that says it was previously a butcher shop. The owners preserved the façade, so it was charming.

For the next 3 days we chilled out and had some much-needed rest. We were both still coughing though so I quipped we were at Coughs Harbour…

Ballarat was the seat of Victoria’s wealth more than 150 years ago. The gold rush which reeled in untold riches in various parts of NSW and Victoria, had this beautiful town as its epicentre. The beautiful buildings are a legacy of this wealth and after spending a day at Sovereign Hill, we walked through the town the next day, taking in these opulent buildings and its surrounds.

At the back of my mind, I am constantly reminded the town was also the launching pad of Alfred Deakin’s career. I was at the end of the book that is his biography by Judith Brett so I brought the book along to finish it while we were in this town (city). I worked my way through the last 50 or so pages and on the morning we were leaving to head back to Melbourne, I took my time through the final few pages, savouring the occasion of reading this founding father’s last days in the city he grew up in and represented in Australia’s inaugural parliamentary sessions.

We got back early arvo, unpacked, headed up out to lunch, and came back to complete the unpacking before settling down to watch the race that stops the nation and gave us a 4-day weekend (albeit with a day’s annual leave on Monday). We saw “Rekindling” win, watched the trophy presentation and then took the little guy out for yet another walk. He had looked happy throughout the trip, with twice daily walks through open fields in cool to cold conditions. He was bouncing about in each of those walks, and running freely in a soccer field just down the road from the “butcher’s shop”. Tress and I were very pleased to see him happy.

This morning as a colleague and I eased our way back to work after a 4-day weekend, that colleague remarked that it would be 6 weeks and a bit left of work before Christmas. So I hope I get to plough through these 6 weeks without any more ailment – and enjoy another break, this time even longer and with Kiddo and Mic towing along. Noish.