Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Identity vs activity

"The struggle in our society is that we don't have an answer for [the] question ['Who am I?'] so we send [our kids] off to college to learn how to do something, thinking that if they learn enough it will satisfy their longing for identity. Identity doesn't come from education but from impartation. We can't educate ourselves into our identities. Proper identity comes from the impartation of our heavenly Father speaking to us through the people He has assigned to give oversight to us.

"You have to be a human being before you are a human doing. When we try to 'do' something without first 'being' someone, we usually find ourselves making a living at a job we hate. Another ramification of this failure to discover true identity is that many people learn to derive their self-esteem from what they do. This may seem fine for a while if they can perform well. When they can't perform anymore, for whatever reason, their self-esteem goes into the pit."

Kris Vallotton, The Supernatural Ways of Royalty

Someone close to me has just begun an exciting "career break" that will hopefully result in a better incorporation of her talent, interests and livelihood.

Several others have been venting to me the strikingly similar frustrations found in their various jobs.

One thing I find we all have in common: we still fall for this one really easily. "What do you do?" is acceptable small talk with someone you've just met.

If I get asked that one more time by another nosey and ill-concerned stranger, "I respire," might just be the answer forthcoming. Sometimes, we're just asking for a Blinding Statement of the Obvious.

When will we learn to value the who over the what and how?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

This post is Not About My Breakfast


From today's cache of digital images, we offer you this shot of our lovely model with an order of eggs Benedict at Robert Timms in Wheelock Place, Singapore. Served with a modest side of salad, grilled tomato and baked beans... and butter and jam, the most bizarre accompaniment I have ever seen to a savoury breakfast.

But that's not what this post is about.

Breakfast with an old friend this morning turned out to be unexpectedly profound.

Some of the lessons we learnt through today's events are more hers than mine to share, but there were more than enough to go around. Even with two highly reflective introverts present.

Here's one that I got.

Shortly after we'd been seated, I handed her a gift.

Saw her smile as she looked at the colourful die-cut shape of the notebook.

Watched her enthusiastically open it to see the printed pages.

Heard her exclaim at the cuteness of the whole.

Felt my heart sink, not a little, when she said, "But I won't use it, lor."

You, Ms Recipient, yes you, I know you read my blog and maybe that's why I'm posting this anyway. But don't feel you alone are being targeted; I know I'm guilty of the same thing. I think most of us are, and it seems the perfect season to put an end to this practice of incomplete receiving.

The gifts we're given aren't really ours, are they, until we put them to use?

Until their packaging is wrecked, they can still be returned.

Until their pages are marked, they can be handed on to someone else, and none the wiser.

Until the gift is put to its intended use, the giver gets no gratification for his thoughtful, personal choice.

It makes me a little queasy to know that my paltry gift may remain wrapped in cellophane, untouched by the priceless record of my friend's days.

I wonder how much worse it must feel to have given a far more valuable gift, only to see it forgotten and neglected whilst we fumble our way around for lack of it.

It's only too easy in this season to get caught up in the gifts we exchange, forgetting those that have already been laid before us.

Are we breaking someone's heart by neglecting to open and experience all that he has unstintingly given?

Today, tomorrow and always, I would like us to feast on the gift; let's drink to the dregs.

A peaceful Christmas to you.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I do not know why

my circadian rhythm is once more completely topsy-turvy, and I can't sleep at night.

And such videos as this exist:



Imponderable, yet not altogether disagreeable.

Good night.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

View


Let it be enough for me that I can sit in silence, wait and see where I am being taken.

Control is overrated.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mangrove Mountain weekend

For months, I've needed to get away from the perpetual loud and busy of normal life. For months, it's seemed impossible.


Last week was different. Circumstances converged, producing a situation where my car could once again travel to faraway places



and I was put in touch with kind people who offered me a fully domesticated train carriage in which to spend the weekend


on the 10 hectares they call home.


I found there were horses big and small to befriend,


songs to be sung outdoors,


and jewels to admire

and exult in

while exploring private bushland.


I came away hoping


that the peace


would ride along with me back to the city


where loud and busy resume.

It did.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Better than starlight

It's the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, commonly known as the "Mid-Autumn Festival". Traditionally, this is an annual celebration for the Chinese (and many other cultures): a time for family reunions, sipping tea outdoors, taking a lantern-lit stroll around the neighbourhood. A time to admire the splendour of a glimmering, perfectly round moon and reflect on the metaphor of wholeness in family and community.

Far as I am from my family, I'm glad it doesn't take a celebration like this to have me looking upwards. I love staring at the sky at night, any night. Growing up in an increasingly smoggy city near the Equator, I didn't get to see the moon and stars as clearly as I do now. It's made me appreciate every twinkle, twinkle I see from these not-so-little celestial bodies.



"It occured to me then, and I said it to Paul, that there is something God made that is better than starlight. What is it? he asked me. It's you, man, I said. Me? he asked. You, I said, you know, friends, people, it's beautiful, really, that we don't have to be alone." -- Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts

I couldn't think of a better quote to go with this occasion. I have so much "better than starlight" in my life, I could take on a power grid.

Thank you, my family (blood, ketchup or otherwise) and friends, for shining.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Finding faith

There are times when I hesitate to say the words, "I'm a Christian," or to respond in the affirmative when people ask, "Are you Christian?"

It isn't because I'm not a Christian. The thing is, I don't know if I am. At least, not by your definition, or that of the person asking the question. Of course, definitions can be inaccurate and outright wrong, but most of the time even the most off-base of impressions is born in reality.

Christians are hypocrites. They say one thing and do another.

Christians are judgemental, always telling you that you're a sinner and you need to repent. Who are they to judge?

Christians are no fun. They keep quoting that book of theirs with all the weird numbers and rules.

Christians are people who've left their brains at the door before walking into church... and never claimed them back. That's why they have to ask their pastors everything; they can't do any of their own thinking.


You begin to see, don't you, why I prefer to ask, "What do you think 'Christian' means?" before answering the first question?

In my book, "Christian" used to mean any or all of these:
  1. [n] person who behaves one way in front of church friends, and another when alone at home with family;
  2. [n] person who is constantly nagging you to believe in what he believes, threatening you with hell if you don't;
  3. [adj] behaviour and social pattern involving strange, outdated language and severely limited music;
  4. [adj] chronic tone-deafness and lack of basic rhythmical ability, usually and unfortunately accompanied by the presence of one or more tambourines;
  5. [adj] hypocrisy demonstrated in the practice of saying one thing and doing the opposite.
I'm sure you could add to that list. Please do, if you want. My blog is bloodbath-free. Or email/message me if you don't want to say it in public.

As for my list... what changed my definition and impression of the "Christian"?

There were a few equally significant factors: loving friends who accepted me unconditionally, didn't give hell threats and listened to much better music; reading dozens of books that combined to give me a more balanced and truthful perspective; gradually separating myself from the culture and people who'd given me my first, poisoned tastes of the beautiful faith that is finally mine.

But I would have to say the main thing that has changed the meaning of the word "Christian" in my mind is Christ.

See, most of the people I talk to hear "Christian" and they see church, a building in an industrial estate with inadequate parking facilities.

Or think of a cross hanging around someone's neck. (Someone who may have been very nasty to you while at the same time insisting that you needed to go to church.) A stale brown book in peeling bonded leather. Memories of a service someone may have dragged you to once, where you couldn't pick out a single word of plain English amidst all the "thees" and "thou shalts", chapter and verse numbers. Little plastic buckets being handed around while people dropped money in.

And I just want to say, those things aren't Christianity. Before anyone gets indignant and starts picking up stones (yes, reactivity and short fuses are also common defining factors I've heard), I'm not saying they're unrelated to Christianity. I'm saying they aren't Christianity, in the same way the clothes that you're wearing right now aren't you. They're external and changeable. Things you can put on and take off without losing your thoughts, personality, habits and preferences. Although the taking off might cause you to lose some friends... or make new ones, depending on certain factors.

I'm sorry if church and all things "Christian" have left you with a bad taste in your mouth and you never want to hear about it again.

I am sincerely sorry. I mean that both in the "I'm apologising" way, and in the way people express their sympathy, as in "I'm sorry you missed your flight", "I'm sorry you lost the match" or "I'm sorry you didn't get to taste that batch of brownies before I finished it"... oh wait, that last one is an apology.

I'm sorry because I've been in the same boat. In some areas, I still am in that boat -- the one where my view of what the faith really is, what its central figure truly looks like, is being obscured by external frivolities.

I can't really say that I have found faith, as much as that it's found me. Like the sharp, deep breaths you take when first let outdoors from a stuffy old bus with broken air-conditioning, I am delighted to find that the clothes (so to speak) can come off and the person stays the same. That everything I have ever loved and cringed to see limited by "Christianity" is made even more alive in the presence of unbiased truth. That I no longer have to keep my "happy face" on just so that people can feel comfortable in their approximations of "church". That I can be the same person on Tuesday afternoon as I am on Sunday morning. That I can hold on to my brain, thank you very much, and even pray at the same time.

By the way, I mean it. Please email me your thoughts. All things kept confidential. It's the counselling training done it; I'm good with secrets.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buy our chocolate! Save the world!

Image by Salina Hainzl. For illustrative purposes only; I have no idea what brand these blocks are.
But they're making me long for one of Willy Wonka's reach-through-the-screen-and-grab-it contrivances.

Have you seen the posters accompanying the display shelves for a certain Big Brand of chocolate lately?

A grinning, headscarfed woman with a basket, surrounded by a field of green plants. Below that, a sparkling blurb on how Big Brand's signature chocolate product is now Fair Trade certified.

"By buying [Big Brand's Big Chocolate Product] you can help guarantee a better deal for Third World Producers," gushes the copy. Evidently, they want to get across that the money you spend on this one chocolate product that has the Fair Trade mark on it will go towards helping Nature Girl and her family, and we all love the thought of helping others, don't we?

Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of the poster before it got covered with the Next Big Thing in pillar advertising so I can't quote it verbatim. But I remember that it mentioned better schooling, housing and living conditions.

Of course, the Fair Trade certification applies only to this one product, which is essentially plain milk chocolate bars. Do you see the double-speak in action here? If they manage to convince me that purchasing their plain milk chocolate has an altruistic benefit, then they've also succeeded in convincing me that all of their other products do not offer a better deal to Third World producers, because not a single one of those other products -- which, by the way, probably sell much better than plain old boring milk chocolate -- has the Fair Trade seal.

Dear Big Brand, you cannot draw my attention to the poor working and living conditions of cocoa plantation workers one moment and then, in the next, expect me to become magically unaware of them when looking at your other chocolate products.

The Fair Trade movement has been accused of selling out to big money and making it too easy for major manufacturers to exploit loopholes in the production line, so that in the end they're still turning a huge profit buying large amounts of non-Fair Trade raw material -- but get to enjoy the public kudos of electing a Fair Trade "poster product" to proudly bear the movement's stamp.

With advertising campaigns like this one out there, it isn't hard to see why such accusations exist.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

That nameless warp

I've tried to write this post, or one like it, for weeks. The words run into themselves, the paragraphs turn into miniature treatises on the importance of treasuring life, and I end up giving up in disgust for what feels like pretentious, worthless words.

The last Monday of June, I had a routine workload discussion with my boss and referred offhand to our office manager -- something about asking her for help the next time she was in the office. She was, in addition to managing the office, the database software guru and general go-to person. The sort who was always On Top Of Everything, the type you'd resent if it weren't for the fact that she was nice.

His face, which I realise I have come to file next to my definition of "British deadpan", instantly fell. "You didn't know?" he said, and in that moment I felt something in existence change. You know what I'm referring to? That nameless warp or blip that occurs neither in the temperature, nor the ambient noise, nor the light, when you are being given some unfortunate news. A change that you can't describe or quantify, and yet for just that briefest of times it's as obvious (and odoriferous) as the elephant in the room.

What I "didn't know" due to my not working at this office full-time, and which my boss proceeded to tell me, was that she'd been behaving strangely at work the preceding week, and they'd finally persuaded her to go to the doctor. NOW, not when this onslaught of conferences had ended. No, not this weekend. NOW.

And it turned out, there was a reason for her increasing forgetfulness of the past few weeks. For the usually sharp-minded database manager to have needed hourly prompting to complete the simplest of tasks. For the woman who knew the entire company's operations by heart to have to be told what day it was.

Brain tumour, my boss said. Surgery, away from work, not sure how long, wish her the best, will update you. I nodded and went back to work. Every now and then there would be a staff briefing about her progress -- or, more accurately, the progress of the tumour that was rampaging its way through her consciousness, her wit and, eventually, her life.

It was at the end of June that she was last at work, keying in photocopier access codes and hiding her big stapler from the stationery imps that seem to plague offices around the world. The end of June.

It's now the end of August. And they'll be burying her Friday, four days after she slipped away quietly in the hospice bed where her family had resignedly installed her. How much can change, even when we think we're on top of everything.

I am thankful that I made, and have for the most part fulfilled, a commitment years ago to live a life of purpose and integrity. Not necessarily a life of no mistakes, but certainly one of little regret. Because we never know, do we, when and how we'll next experience the warp?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Loathed to loaf (the story of a papaya made good)

I'd felt a bit silly spending so much on the papaya. But the cashier had already weighed it, rung it up and bagged it, and it had been such a very long time since I'd last tasted papaya.

I felt a little sillier, and quite a bit more annoyed, when over a week later I gave up on the fruit ever ripening beyond its evenly yellow-skinned state and cut into it. Although the flesh was pleasantly tender, yielding easily to the knife I'd finally got around to sharpening, it was an unappetising yellow and mostly tasteless, except for a hint -- say, about 12 per cent -- of the papaya flavour I'd grown up to expect.

What to do? I don't go around throwing food in the bin just because I don't like it, even if it's cheap. And in this land that still considers papaya an "exotic" fruit, it was not cheap. So to the bin it definitely would not go.

But neither do I force myself to swallow unpalatable food just to prove a point.

So, in summary, I had two problems to solve:

1) How not to throw a perfectly good (but perfectly unenjoyable) papaya out

2) How to make myself enjoy the papaya experience more

The papaya redeemed itself for so disappointing me in its raw form. Mashed and mixed with butter, eggs, flour and sugar, baked to a crisp brown on top, it was delicious.

Especially when sliced thick, pan-fried, and crowned with a dollop of ricotta.

Some mistakes are expensive. Few are irredeemable.

With the right interventions, some are very tasty.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kangaroo Three Ways: Three


Meatballs meatballs meatballs!

More accurately, since these are more flat than spherical...

Patties patties patties! No, that just sounds wrong. I'll stick with meatballs. I've lovingly nicknamed them my "Off-key Meatballs" -- because they're a little flat.

I don't understand why making meatballs has such a calming effect on me. From chopping the vegetables to mixing the meat by hand and forming it into non-uniform shapes, the whole process seems to lower my heart rate and take my blood pressure from mildly hypotensive to "Get thee to a salt lick!". Perhaps instead of searching for individual clients, I should start a relaxation class based on food preparation.

If I were the same person but with a lot more time and kitchen space, I would have baked tiny, yeasty sesame rolls so that I could have mini roo burgers instead of serving them "naked" with slaw. The sad, winter-stunted tomatoes I've been seeing around are even the right size for small burgers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kangaroo Three Ways: Two

Stir-fried with chilli and basil, substiting roo for the chicken in this recipe.

The reason for the three ways being that at the moment, kangaroo mince is only available in 1kg packs, and I don't like the texture of meat that's been frozen raw so I have to cook it before freezing. And I find the notion of preparing a kilo of the same meat in the same way, to be consumed by one person, rather frightening. In my mind I could see my freezer rack stacked high with boxes of bolognaise, and in another frame, could see myself eating it day after day after day, far into the horizon: on rice, on pasta, on toast with chunks of mozarella broken over it -- an illegitimate pizza, wrapped in shortcrust pastry and finished with a crimped semicircular edge, like the confused offspring resulting from a liaison between pastizzi and curry puff. Day in and day out I'd be eating the same thing in only marginally different ways, and it would only be a matter of time before I began to see monotony as a good thing. Horrors.

I was a little disappointed when I tasted it: based on the way the chilli fumes were making my eyes water as I stirred, I had been gleefully expecting a furious, full-bodied kick of spice. Instead, I tasted sweetness first; basil second; and only then did the chilli weakly saunter in, like some clueless partygoer who'd been the first to RSVP but forgot to turn up on the day. I'll just double the chilli the next time, and hopefully then my head will detach itself at first bite. How else is spicy food satisfying than when it makes you feel you might never be able to form a full sentence again?

And why am I even cooking kangaroo?

I guess I'll eventually talk about that. Right now, it's enough that I'm managing both the cooking and the eating.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kangaroo Three Ways: One


"Bolognese" sauce (the inverted commas are the product of a paranoid mind that imagines some hefty Italian food purist asking me through gritted teeth, "What do you mean bolognese? That's no bolognese..." Said Italian food purist might even be thwacking filled cannoli menacingly in his open, ham-sized palm as the teeth remain gritted) on brown rice, um, "risotto" (see earlier paranthesis about purpose of inverted commas): a hearty, warm lunch in the sometimes not-so-hearty, not-so-warm office.

Is it a bad sign for my writing, that the paranthesis in this blog post is longer than the actual text?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I want!


Image from Amazon

Meet the Kimochi Cat. It's an emotional literacy tool, just the sort of thing to get non-verbal clients "talking" about how they're feeling. It comes with three "feelings", but there are others in the range.

And of course that's why I want this little kitty (and the add-on packs containing six additional feeling figures each), because it's useful to my professional practice. Not because it's fluffy, cute and cat-shaped, with hearts on its paws.

Of course.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's getting cold

Some days start with howling winds and the lazy drizzle of rains that know there's no hurry to get all Perfect Storm on us; they have all winter to play.

Others cheer me awake by laying a warm-hearted sunbeam on my face, a red herring to the stinging cold outside. The skies are so bright that I forget what season it is right up to the point when I open the door to head out, and then it jumps in and embraces me head to foot: hello, I am the cold and I'll be your outdoor guide for the next couple of months.


But no matter how miserable it is outside, home's a different story.

You know what they say: home is where the hearts are. Or maybe that's just what I say.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The song that's sung


I've played the piano for most of my life. (Usually without a cupcake-shaped lip gloss straddling middle C and the B before it.)

I've outgrown my childhood aversion to playing, probably due in large part to the fact that it was always referred to as "practising" back then, and it was always about reaching perfection to score that elusive distinction in my next exam. The keyboard is my friend now. It helps me to express things that words are too clumsy to describe. On internally stormy days, it helps me play softly glowing peace into an otherwise dark and thorny soul.

At least, it would if I had access to a keyboard all the time. At present, I don't, but I do have a guitar. Still, as much as I try, my stumbling efforts at the guitar don't come close to the effect the piano has. The simple conclusion is that everything I'm able to do with a piano is the result of my having spent hours upon hours playing pieces, chords, drills and exercises, and I don't have the same history with the guitar. Musically speaking, piano is my first language and even if I get the chance to learn other instruments to the same level of proficiency, piano will probably remain the language that I "speak" the most comfortably.

This was the line of thought that came to me while I picked my hesitant way through a simple old song.

Quite typically for me, that thought then skipped about 90 degrees southwest with a brief stop at the time I spent co-facilitating an anger management group, and I thought, no wonder some people are so aggressive.

I know. "Huh?" How did I get from guitar to aggression? I wonder how I got there myself, but I've since filled in the expanse between those two points, so here you go.

See, I "speak" piano. I may not know what the name of a chord is (sorry Ms Piano Teacher... it isn't your fault, I'm just not down with the theory side of things), but if I hear it played, I can either play it back to you or name/sing the notes that form it. If you sang me a melody, I could accompany you key for key. I speak piano fluently, and much of that is because I had a dedicated teacher who helped me to hear the music behind the music, and parents who wouldn't let me forget that they were paying her good money so I'd better cough up the results.

But put a guitar in my hands and you'll hear me stutter, if you hear me at all. My fingers, which I've tamed countless times into playing the most outrageous piano sonatas, will take on all the dexterity of a bundle of lup cheong hanging from a hook in a Chinese provision shop. The confidence with which they race over the black and white keys? It shrivels to a pea-sized lump that usually then buzzes from one left fingertip to another, the only parts of me that have any conviction at all when playing the guitar.

Why? Because the thought of having to speak an unfamiliar language often leaves us speechless and scared. The language that we've used for most of our lives is the one we'll use to express ourselves, to make ourselves understood, to understand ourselves in the first place.

So, I thought, no wonder some people only seem to "speak" violence and aggression. Or insults, or racial slurs, or fear, or intimidation. We speak what we've been taught and directed to speak for most of our lives. We speak what we've practised. We speak what has earned us results in the past. The more and the harder we've practised, the stronger our message. For some people, the "song" they've been groomed to sing is one of attack and anger. And, like me with the instruments, they've learnt that one language so well, their attempts to speak in others are so halting, that it seems almost pointless to try any other way.

It made me think about the language I'm speaking with my life. I'm not looking for an easy excuse for bad behaviour, in the sense that I'm only repeating the "songs" that my family has played for generations. I am so thankful that I have the chance to choose my own song, to do the gruelling work of learning a new language if for any reason the old one proves unavailable or unhelpful.

Does any of this make sense to you? I get this way sometimes. I'll think something really profound and then I imagine myself trying to explain it to someone else and ending with, "Right?"

And then, in my imagination, the answer comes with glazed eyes. "Uh... I guess. [Pause] Hey, do you still have any of that pumpkin casserole?"

So, if you have any thoughts, please let me know. And no, I've finished the casserole. But I can always make another.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Back in the kitchen again

For a while, life was feeling wholly bland and tasteless, as though I lived in an apartment with all-beige walls and dank black carpet, and spent my days taking long commutes to a dull job in a stark white office.

Say now...

Anyway, I'm still not sure if this was cause or effect, but around the same time I lost all inclination to cook. Frighteningly, I can't remember what I've been eating for the past two months. The fact that I always seem to be buying only bread, salad leaves and tomatoes implies that the answer might be "sandwiches". Which isn't exactly suicide by poor diet, but still, I felt I was missing out.

So this is my attempt to bring the flavour back. In addition to the quick meals that are a necessity during the week, at least once a week I'll try a new recipe, preferably one that uses fresh basic ingredients rather than prepared mixes. The extra incentive was finding that I'm not alone; my good friend Maggie will be jumping in and joining me on this little project.

Well, remotely, at any rate. It's a bit hard to share a kitchen when one of you is in Sydney and the other in Singapore. But it's good to see the life coming back into my eyes and tastebuds. It's good to be mixing marinades again, and doing the intricate choreography of the Baste With One Hand, Hold Up Oven Rack With The Other And For Goodness' Sakes Don't Burn Yourself Again! dance.

Here's last Sunday's subject: slow-roasted pork in a lemon rosemary marinade. As always, so many lessons to be picked up.

First, that I can cook pork that isn't better used as a baseball mitt than human feed, after all. Wonders will never cease.

Second, that parsnips and potatoes take an impossibly long time to cook in the oven. I was so tempted to yank them out and boil the lot, but they were hot and there are only so many times you want to do the dance in a given day.

Third, that you can mess with a good thing and not regret it. Raw pears, yummy. Pears soaked in lemon rosemary marinade and roasted with the pork, potatoes and parsnips, even yummier. The pears, being very sweet to start with, were the only things to come out from the lemon assault relatively unharmed.

Fourth, that I should be much more sparing with the lemon in the lemon rosemary marinade next time. It's just, I had so much fun hand-juicing them that I completely forgot to think of the repercussions taste-wise. Note to self: Save the lemons and get a stress ball.


So the taste wasn't great because of the overpowering sourness, but it was nothing that could not be helped with a generous pile of chopped mint and bread in a homemade red wine vinaigrette.

It's nice to be cooking again.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Manly by moonlight


End a drab day at the office by taking a bus to Manly. Talk to a friendly pharmacist with a thick Irish accent about the best remedy for the persistent pain in your right eye. Walk along the Corso with a woman looking for the hospital. Stand on the beach for a good 20 minutes stunned by the beauty of the clear night sky. Attempt to photograph the moonscape without benefit of tripod or steady hands. Notice someone else trying to do exactly the same thing. Walk to the ferry wharf. Stop for conversation with a huge tricolour cat that unexpectedly steps onto your lap and makes itself quite at home, looking annoyed when you stand up to continue on your course. Get on the ferry, snagging the prime seat for moon-watching. Ride to the city entertained by the sight of gulls swooping in alongside the ferry, fighting mid-air for prime spots, while behind you conversations take place in Hindi, Mandarin and Dutch. Take the bus home. Walk the 50 metres uphill to your building. Glance up. The moon is still there. The stars are still there. Remember that on a cloudy night when things seem overwhelmingly, frustratingly monotonous yet again.

Friday, April 30, 2010

April comes to a close


And, for some reason, most of my recent pictures seem to be of food in one form or another.

Green eggs and ham, shared with friends from KL before we all sprinted through the Balmain markets.

Yoghurt soft-serve, unexpectedly smooth and tasty. And so dangerously easy for me to get to.

The duck noodles my cousin had, which so beguiled me that I had to return to the restaurant the next night to have my own.

Work lunch at Pino's ended so nicely with the dessert of the day: frozen chocolate mousse triangle with a minted ricotta centre, served with rhubarb sauce and pistachio shards. So, so, so nicely. So... mmmm... *mind wanders up the road to Pino's... wonder what they're serving today? It's ok to splurge on dessert if you've been bringing an ultra healthy (and ultra cheap) lunch every day right? mmmmmm...*

And finally, the scrumptious stickers Alex sent me last year but I could not bring myself to use until now.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Pops!

When I stop to think about it, I realise that I know nobody else with such a capacity for joy even at the worst of times. That's definitely something worth inheriting.

Nope, certainly not the perfect father, just like I'm REALLY not the perfect daughter.

But when all's said and done, I'm glad you got me and I got you.

Thanks for teaching me to get the most out of every part of the journey.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Melt factor: 100%


Out of all the things to be found on the pedestrian stretch of Dixon that becomes the Chinatown Night Markets on Fridays, this pup is the only one I wished I could take home.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What happens in Newtown

Not that I mean this to be a guide for what would happen if you went to Newtown. That, you'd have to tell me.

What happens in Newtown, when you're me, is this.

You walk up King St for an hour, and then change directions and walk for another hour. Along the way, you stop in many of the shops selling indie fashion and handmade accessories.

Somewhere around the second of those shops, the introjects you have been carrying around of your mother and grandmother pop up.

Just as you're picking up a pair of very cute bobby pins made out of yo-yos (the fabric ones, not the ones that keep coming back to you -- but oh, how I wished these would come back with me!), fastened with tiny buttons, Mummy's voice pipes up.

"Aren't those just circles of cloth with buttons on them? I could make those!"

And then you wander over to a wallet with an applique owl on it, and out comes Mama. "Aiyo. Look at that. It's just a simple machine applique. I can do that!"

And so, on you go, the two generations chattering along on either side of you while the yo-yos stay on the shelf, their siren calls to you unanswered. For now.

(I'm fully aware that my mother and grandmother are not really in my head. Just so you know. But, you know, a good Chinese mother always makes sure that her voice stays with her descendants long and loud. There are some parts of Chinese motherhood to which I don't necessarily aspire.)

For the rest of your time in Newtown, you may be enticed to enter a second-hand bookshop on the sole grounds of there being a Lat book in the window. The Good Introjects of Newtown will not keep you from buying everything you pick up there, because they cannot write, illustrate, lay out, print and bind a copy of Leunig's When I Talk To You for $5. And so, you will leave with books.

And you will start for home, but all the way on the bus and on the other bus you will think, "But books aren't everything." They're something, that's for sure, but you can't pin them on your hair and look cute, or use them to dress up a plain cotton tote.

By the time you reach home, you will wish more than anything that your needlework supplies consisted of more than four colours of embroidery thread and two metres of plain cheesecloth. Your fingers, even the sore one with the mysterious bruise that has kept you out of 2.5 days' work, will itch to do, to snip and stitch and join and make something.

And then you will remember that last week, you discovered two of your dresses had buttons that were falling off, and decided that it was easier to get rid of all the buttons than to secure the loose ones. And while you kept the cute, oversized buttons in a safe place, you thought, "Someday I'll find something to do with them."

You'll even remember that you have a dastardly habit of saving every bit of fabric that comes your way, even the canvas size tags that come with some brands of jeans.

And, by the end of the evening, the introjects will be patting you on the head with great pride, saying, "See? You would have paid far too much if you'd bought something like that just now."


And you will think, maybe that's true and maybe it does give you a sense of satisfaction, knowing this is the fruit of your creativity... but that doesn't mean I'm not going back to Newtown soon.

And I will leave the voices where they belong: with the owner (grandma) and in the past (mother), respectively. And oh, what fun the yo-yos and I will have.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Beauty in the mundane

The tedious act of filing long-neglected client notes, brightened by the sudden recognition of an old motif friend hiding in full view.

Hello, stripes. Lookin' good, as always. I feel like lengthening you and printing you across a shirt.


Friday, April 02, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

The valley

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me,
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."

(Psalm 23:4)

So straightforward. So blunt. No hiding from the reality of grief. David had an honesty that I think many of us are afraid to use. In the low seasons of our life we pretend that we're only looking out on the valley, even when we're in its deepest, darkest bends. Or we behave as though the valley doesn't exist, it's just a play of light and shade.

It does exist. The feelings are real. The pain is there.

But so is the one who will never leave your side.

I am so thankful that even though death is a given in this derailed world, there is the promise of companionship and comfort.

This is for the ones halfway around the world whom I'm holding in my heart. I pray you'll have the courage to call the valley what it is.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What do you think?


Somewhere between Berrima and Bowral, NSW

I wonder if I would really be happier away from the traffic, the pollution, the crowds.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

And it just kept getting better

I've been told I have a freakish ability to remember conversations from a long time ago. Maybe that's true. Maybe it's just that I have very memorable conversations, like this one from yesterday.

So I turn up at the auto workshop.

The mechanic walks into the office while the receptionist is handing me the invoice for my little dented friend's routine service.

I can see he's slightly uncomfortable. Maybe he's not used to fixing these old cans, I think. After all, there isn't another compact car within sight, nor another non-luxury marque, let alone another 14-year-old hatchback with oxidised sports rims and charming body scars from past hailstorms.

"So, there's bad news and there's good news," he says.

I think, "Well, you've already told me the bad news, over the phone. Yes, so the alternator's gone. But I don't have the money to pay for you to change it right now, so don't give me the same bad news again. I don't really enjoy encores of negative things."

"Part of the bad news you already know..."

"Oh, that's... good?"

"Yeah, so the alternator's shot, as I told you over the phone. But you said not to fix that so I've left it for now, just bring it in when you're ready. It isn't too much of a problem because your car doesn't run on a lot of electronics. The other part of the bad news is..."

I steel myself for the worst, and certain parts of my life flash before my eyes.

I have had a car stall on me with a completely flat battery, right on the curve of the Jalan Gasing roundabout in PJ, at 5pm on a Friday. If you have ever lived and driven in the Klang Valley, you know the implications of that innocuous sentence. I can still see the fists waving, hear the angry shouts in a collage of languages.

I have also had a car (incidentally, the same one) lose a tire while I was driving at 80. The tire didn't fall off, neither did it dissolve. It exploded. At 80 kilometres per hour. And my best friend (all categories) and I lived to tell the tale.

I am on a car-abuse story roll here. I have also seen a car (why yes, the same one. How could you tell?) overheat after a short journey, and spew boiling water and steam all over my poor dad who'd lifted the hood to investigate. By some miracle my dad still has his dashing good looks, but by now you should know that I have quite a dossier of car mishaps.

So, I think while absently gazing at a speck on the 1970s Formica counter, how bad can the bad news be?

"So we washed your car..."

(That's bad?)

"You washed my car? You... but you didn't have to. That's so nice of you. [The car really needed it because, you know, I park on the street and there are these trees and where there are trees there are birds, and I don't have access to a water source out there...] Thank you!"

"Yes, but..."

The receptionist chips in with, "Don't worry, it gets worse."

Yes, I was worried that he was just pretending, but you've done very well to reassure me now that something bad has indeed happened. Thank you!

"... so we didn't realise that the door wasn't closed all the way, and the seat got soaked."

Another file from that dossier gets pulled up. In it, I am 21, driving to uni for a final paper in my final semester. My best friend (uni category) is in the passenger seat. It's pouring. And the right leg of my jeans is completely soaked, and I feel as though I'm driving one of those inner-tube things from a water theme park to school. My dutiful passenger is handing me tissues, one at a time, that I am stuffing into the door frame in the hopes that they'll channel the rainwater, which is flowing uninhibited through where the rubber seal used to be, straight down to the floor instead of having it drip onto me. I'm cold. I'm soaked. And it's all because of the car, I think, none too charitably.

Present-day me, the one who has lived through that time and far worse ones, knows that on the grander scale of things, soaked car seats are not worth fluffing one's feathers over. Especially when one has no feathers. Especially after a week like I've had.

"But that's OK. It's not a big deal."

"I mean really drenched."

"I really don't mind. It's fine. It'll dry out after a few..."

"So we thought we'd get a hair dryer to dry it off."

"Oh, come on, it's really not that big a deal. You don't have to do that."

"But that's what we did."

"Oh, right. You've done it. Well, thanks! You didn't have to. I mean, you didn't even have to wash my car in the first place, and then you didn't have to dry the seat. So it's all dry now?"

(Where is the bad news he kept referring to earlier? So far I have heard that my car was hand-washed when I wasn't expecting it; my formerly soaked seats have been dried... this isn't exactly Pompeii, folks.)

"I haven't finished. So we got out the hair dryer and dried the seat, and the thing melted a big hole right in the middle of the seat."

So that's what all the song and dance was about.

"Oh, is that it? Well, never mind. It's just a car seat. I can live with it having a hole."

"Oh no you can't." "But I-"

"So we went out and got you some seat covers to put over them."

"You what?"

"You can't drive around with a big hole in your seat. We had to do something."

We walk out to my car and I can see, in the dim fluorescent lighting of the workshop's expansive interior, that my seats are now covered in blue nylon tweed.

"If you don't like the colour we can always get it changed. Just let me know."

By this time, I'm laughing out of control, because it has been such an insane week and if I were roti dough being stretched, I would be at the point where elongated holes are forming.

I stand there, looking at my sparkling car with its dressed-up seats that completely clash with the rest of the interior, and that doesn't even matter because after what's happened in the past few weeks, it's going to take so much more than clashing car seats to floor me.

It's all crashing through a funnel now, the news about our family home and the news about my ketchup sister's cancer and dozens of other, smaller barbs that have sunk in over the past 20 days, and like so many rocks in some insane mental avalanche they tumble right on top of this ridiculous situation in which I drove into an auto workshop this morning with a dirty, beat-up car running on old oil and I'm leaving with a clean, beat-up car with fresh oil and new car seats.

I laugh and cry all the way home.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

A sense of belonging

"[The North Korean defectors'] life in the South is immeasurably richer and freer, but they crave a sense of belonging. 'Most South Koreans are indifferent to their plight,' [Andrei] Lankov said. 'And to not have your suffering recognized is an almost unbearable form of violence.'" -- Tom O'Neill, 'Escaping North Korea' in National Geographic. Full article

Is there anyone in my life whose suffering I'm choosing to stay blind to?

If I had to have violence in my life, let it be the slapstick comedy kind -- even the concussion-without-impact or the cake-batter-whiplash kind I experienced recently -- rather than the inadvertent cruelty of not hearing another human being's cry.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The human family

Picture by Jenny Rollo
“In a happy family you don't receive in proportion to your input. You receive in relation to your needs.

“If we could but recognize our common humanity, that we do belong together, that our destinies are bound up in one another's, that we can be free only together, that we can survive only together, that we can be human only together, then a glorious world would come into being where all of us lived harmoniously together as members of one family, the human family.” -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Friday, February 19, 2010

Today's repeated-listening song

Selah performing 'Unredeemed' live on K-Love. Originally seen on Angie Smith's blog.



I don't think there's a sound on earth that I love more than male-female vocals in harmony, with piano accompaniment.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A pig at breakfastime

"'Can I have a pig too, Pop?' asked Avery.

"'No, I only distribute pigs to early risers,' said Mr Arable. 'Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A small one, to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly. Let's eat!'"-- EB White, Charlotte's Web

A guilt trip, sibling comparison and preamble to a meal, all in a single short paragraph. A true master, Mr Arable.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Two years!

While I was driving home from uni this afternoon -- perhaps the last time I will have driven to this home from that uni -- I realised that my good friend and partner in irreverent church humour, Sze See's birthday was yesterday.

And that makes it exactly two years to the day since I arrived in Sydney to get to work on that Master's.

Oh, the things that have transpired in these two years. They would fill a book. In fact, they've filled a dozen or so.

I've shifted house four (and a half) times.

Survived landladies of every stripe: passive-aggressive, needy-demanding, perky-generous-given-to-watching-Korean-drama-serials-until-dawn.

Worked hard, played harder, laughed, wept, grown, and got closer to understanding the answer to life, the universe and everything. Hint: It isn't 42.

Nearly swallowed a spider, and discovered later that some people have been sick for years after having been bitten by spiders of same species.

Had two concussions, one injury that required stitching, several months of depression, one major dispute with my university, and one nearly fatal run-in with a toy dog. (Nearly fatal for him, not me.)

Walked alongside almost 40 wonderful and courageous clients who had the guts not only to come to therapy in the first place, but to place their trust in someone as green as me.

Pole-danced, walked the beach at dawn, got locked in a cemetery.

Appeared in a short film, part of which involved slow-dancing in the moonlight in 16-degree weather and having to act as though it were a warm spring evening.

Yes, it's been huge. I can't wait to see what fills the next 12 books.

Finished, Part III


Which is to say, finished, full stop.

FINISHED. Done. Completed.

There are no words to express my thanks.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The three latest books I've completed

The Bravehearted Gospel, Eric Ludy
What it's about: What do I believe, and where did it come from? Is it all a bunch of misty, unsubstantiated ideas, or as real and tangible as the ground I walk on? I'm more accustomed to reading Eric Ludy's take on relationships than on faith, so this book surprised me a little, but only in a good way.
The bottom line: If there's a feminine side to everything and everyone, as contemporary culture tells us, it follows that there's also a masculine side. Unfortunately, in our eagerness to be PC and inclusive, we've neglected the masculine side of who we are, collectively and as individuals. Ludy asks some sharp questions, and explores the answers, about how we can regain that balance without becoming mustachioed guerilla women and sissyfied metrosexual men.
Read it if: You're sick and tired of hearing the label "Christian" without seeing the Christ behind the label. He lived and died, and lives again, for a gristly as well as a glorious cause. This book reminds us to hang on to both sides of that coin.

Tender Grace, Jackina Stark
What it's about: A widow reclaims her life after spending two years buried in grief. I am a fan of good road-trip stories, and this is a great road-trip story. What's not to love? It's written as a journal, and I love journals; it isn't afraid to face the uglier, no-make-up side of faith, and I'm not afraid to face the uglier, no-make-up side of faith; it's often funny and sad in the same sentence, and I often feel funny and... you see where I'm going here.
The bottom line: Audrey hits the road in search of something that will make life worth living again. She isn't disappointed. Neither am I, each time I take the journey with her.
Read it if: You need a feel-good read, tearful catharsis, or brief descriptions of scattered tourist destinations in the American Southwest. Actually, no, if you read it for that last reason alone you'll feel let down. But don't read it for that last reason alone; trust me, just read it.

A Wedding in December, Anita Shreve
What it's about: A pair of high school sweethearts weds, a considerably long time after high school. Their old gang gathers for the wedding, except for one: he drowned back in those high school days. The book explores life, death and everything that happens in between -- love, guilt, betrayal, hope, forgiveness, fear, illness, fidelity, infidelity and more.
The bottom line: I'm not sure if there is one. The book doesn't conclude with happily ever afters for everyone involved. You get the feeling that loose ends have not been tied up and the story goes on after these pages. That's quite a refreshing difference from novels whose author believes everything must be resolved before your right index finger hits the back cover. However, I find it very hard to feel comfortable in the characters' world where marital infidelity is the norm. Sure, they struggle with it and ask profound questions about whether it's right or wrong, but go on frolicking in it without ever answering those questions. Call me prudish if you want, but it's my blog and I'll state my values if I want to.
Read it if: I don't know how to complete this. I tend to find Shreve's writing dry and in need of tightening. The plot has potential but is largely forgettable. And yet it was engaging enough to finish, so... what shall I say? Read it if you have the time and, like me, you won't have to pay too much for it. (My copy? Only a dollar at the bookshop that gave my mobile phone to a thief. Now there's a story worth telling.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

At last, the day's over

Today hasn't been a great deal of fun.

Cramps. Nausea. Headache. Muscle soreness. Constant hunger. Difficulty eating. No appetite. What a wonderful combination it isn't.

I'll read this tomorrow.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Click. Clack. Crunch.

Repeat that a few hundred times and you have what I feel on a daily basis. Each time I open my jaw, whether to eat, yawn, breathe, speak or sing, I get a variation of the three sounds above combined. And if they sound atrocious, they feel worse.

Over the years I'd got used to what my doctor says could either be a congenital weakness in my jaw, or the effect of countless small physical traumas that have built on each other and resulted in what I now have. I think that was the problem, getting used to it.

Patience and tolerance are commonly seen as good values to cultivate. But in some cases, I think, I should have been less patient. Less tolerant. Less permissive of small annoyances causing me discomfort. Because if I had put my foot down and sought medical care for this as a teenager, I don't think I would now be a breath away from ripping through the walls from the discomfort and constant dull pain.

Nonetheless, I am giving thanks as I write for the healing that I know will come. I'm not sure how -- my doctor uttered some not-so-sunny possibilities that included the words "surgery" and "replacement" but also, we're leaving the door wide open for other methods -- but I know it will.

It's easy to come to the end of a rough patch and say "I knew all along that things would be OK." To me, that isn't faith, it's cliche, and if there's one thing that annoys me more than a bad jaw...

So I'm going to sit here, while my jaw is in its present very imperfect state, and declare that "I know that it's going to be fine." That one day soon I'm going to wake up in the morning, yawn and stretch without getting the sound effects of a pachinko machine loading up. I can believe that I will completely overcome my present trying circumstances and not feel like an utter loony, because I know whom it is I'm relying upon. Not a bunch of flaky New Age affirmations or a vague, misty idea out of a book, but my faithful God who's seen me through many storms in the past.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

What would you die for?

Please. Humour me and give it some thought.

What would you die for?

It's easy to toss off an answer just because it's the "right", socially responsible one. You know, things such as "someone I love" or "justice" or "world peace".

If I were you, I'd go for that last one very sparingly unless in the running for a beauty pageant while working as an undercover agent.

Even easier to do the classic deflect-with-humour manoeuvre and say "shoes". Although, actually, I think that may not be a joke to some.

Why the need to answer this question, you might wonder.

Because, as MercyMe puts it...

"My life has never been this clear
Now I know the reason why I'm here
You never know why you're alive
Until you know what you would die for." ('I Would Die For You')

It took years of living for the wrong answer, becoming completely depleted as a result.

But finally, I can say I know. And so I know. And I pray that every moment of my life would attest to that knowing.

What would you die for?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Literary liberty

For the next few weeks, at least, I finally have free time.

Oh, the joyous prospect of being able to read something without flagging every other page with a bright-coloured sticky note.

Even more joyous, the freedom to forget what I've just read if I want to. On the positive side, the freedom to remember whatever I want without worrying that it will steal space that was needed for remembering assessed topics.

And the freedom to read as quickly as I want, without the risk of intellectual indigestion (usual symptoms: headache and a sudden loss of character recognition) from trying to summarise as I read.

Or the freedom to read as slowly as I want, savouring every word without regard for impending deadlines.

The freedom to read anything I want, simply because I want to and not because if I don't, I won't have any theory to back up my practice and my clients will end up even worse off for having come to see me.

Perhaps the greatest of this little cluster of freedoms: the freedom to not have a strong opinion on everything I read, expressed in 1,500 words, double spaced in 12pt Times Roman.

It's good to be free.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained...

... and unrestrained people are no fun. All haphazard and impetuous and prone to eating more corn chips than is good for them. (I have no idea who I'm talking about. Honest.) So bring on the vision.

I'm still not the type to make new year's resolutions. But new year's plans are a different thing entirely. In case you needed help, here. I thought the questions were detailed enough to be useful, concise enough not to require a 300-page notebook for the answers. Have fun!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The last leg

I go back to work at my placement tomorrow.

Just 22 hours remaining, and I can hand in my log book and really, truly, finally be eligible for graduation.

Twenty-two hours.

Compared with the 178 I have already completed, it seems 22 should be a snap. But that isn't how I feel at all. I don't seem very enthusiastic about going back tomorrow. I don't feel wise, or compassionate, or empathic, or any of the other things appropriate to a counsellor.

To be honest, I'm having a bit of a Ferdinand moment. I'd rather be sniffing flowers alone in a meadow than appear where I'm "meant" to be, in the arena fighting. I think I have battle fatigue from my rather heavy client and content load.

But I know I'm going to get through this rocky, uphill last leg, because I know that whatever it is I'm meant to be doing in 2010, resitting my Supervision module isn't part of it. Just as long as I continue to see each of these hours as valuable and purposeful, rather than a tiresome chore, I'll make it.

See you on the other side.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Last week of the year

There were live animals at church on Christmas Eve.



Also present: Camels and donkey, but nobody wants a flash-induced camel stampede through a church, so no pictures of Humpy.

But in the spirit of camelhood, I have to add some humphs to the party.

Like humph, I can't upload any more pictures. Something to do with my very bad Internet service (ask me which ISP and I will gladly tell you so that you don't make the same mistake I did. I only won't post it here because they seem to have taken all that money they would have spent on upgrading their infrastructure to improve service, and poured it all into forming a very strong legal department. It isn't so much that I'm afraid of retribution -- me, afraid? -- as that I prefer spending my days off reading or at the beach to preparing for a lawsuit).

Maybe someday you'll get to see pictures of the other things, such as:

Braised lamb shanks in curry at dinner with my cousins the next night. Wonderfully delicious, and as they melted in my mouth I tried not to think about the woolly little waggly-tailed darlings at the Christmas Eve service.

Plum crumble, my solution to having a bucketful of fruit that's too sour to eat straight up.

A batch of strange little yoghurt-almond-meal-olive-oil-blueberry cupcake/muffin hybrids.

And an even stranger tiny pancake, my way around having one last tiny dollop of cake batter and nothing in which to bake it.

Dinner with my cousins from Perth, in honour of Christmas, New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year, his birthday, her birthday, my birthday (for two years), their marriage, their first anniversary, Moon Festival, Winter Solstice, Labour Day, I-don't-have-to-read-any-more-thick-books-with-big-words day and any other celebration we missed celebrating in the two years since we last saw each other.

There was a lot to celebrate. We celebrate by eating. Thus, the only logical resolution was: we ate a lot.

And there was ice-cream after.

On New Year's Eve, there was another batch of cupcakes, hazelnut this time.

And, since it was a special occasion, they got frosted.

I still maintain that only people who don't know what goes into frosting eat frosting.

There was a ten-hour picnic at Cremorne to get the best view for fireworks. My cupcakes are going places now! This time, they had a prime spot with the Harbour Bridge in the background.

The cupcakes stayed longer than I did, though. I wasn't built for ten-hour picnics, especially during the Great Headache Week of 2009.

Fortunately, I am blessed to live but a five-minute relaxed stroll from an opportune spot for viewing New Year's Eve fireworks.

Not the best place for a picnic involving garlic prawn pasta and more lamb shanks (all of which I missed because I left before dinnertime), but if fireworks is what you want, you won't be disappointed.

And, because this is not the sort of place people camp overnight to secure, it was un-crowded enough for me to score a spot on the brick wall for my camera. Who needs a tripod? I don't know if the brick wall folds up easily into a compact foot-long package for car boot storage, though.

So I got some decent shots of the fireworks going off.

Also of what my camera would have seen as it fell backwards while trying to capture the fireworks.

And five minutes after it was over, I was nice and snug in my cosy little home overlooking the street packed to bursting with double-parked cars, while hapless drivers began to inch their way back home for hours to come.

Happy new year.
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