Category Archives: Commentary

Daffodil Day: A Spring Awakening

Cancer sucks. No point beating around the bush. It’s a reality. Each one of us has been touched by this terrible disease directly or indirectly. If you, like me, have been lucky enough not to have lost someone in your immediate family to cancer, then chances are you probably know someone close to you who have: a neighbour, a friend, a teacher, a colleague or a distant relative.

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In the past decade, I have lost a school friend and family friends, and watched close friends grieve while they lost their parents, and I thank God that my own family is healthy.

Today is Daffodil Day – the Cancer Council’s annual national fund-raising day.  The daffodil signifies the arrival of spring, new life, vitality and growth which makes it the perfect symbol of hope for all those who have been affected by cancer.

2016 marks the 30th anniversary of Daffodil Day and my first time volunteering to help sell their merchandise in my local mall. I had been looking forward to this day for weeks and it proved as fruitful as I had hoped.

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Post-Olympic Blues

Every four years, I find myself glued to the television watching sports that I know nothing about but somehow find myself an expert in. Some of these sports seem like activities I did in the schoolyard or friends’ backyards: trampoline, badminton, table tennis, handball. How many people knew which sports are included in the Modern Pentathlon? (Which leads to the question a friend of mine asked: what was the Ancient Pentathlon?)

Here’s a sample of my armchair commentary:

Platform diving – “Oh, that landing was terrible!”

Swimming – “She didn’t have a strong enough push off the starting blocks!”

Hockey – “What kind of refereeing do you call that?”

Long jump – “Watch that takeoff board!”

The reality is that I am as unfamiliar with the rules of pretty much all of the 28 sports that featured at the 2016 Olympics in Rio as the millions of people who watched around the world. Still, this two-week event dominates the news around the world and captures the imagination of even the least sporting of audiences. Why?

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One Day

IMG_0556On August 3rd, 2015 (exactly twelve months ago as I write now), I set off on a much-anticipated holiday to London. It was a trip that I had put into motion twelve months before that, when a few friends and I agreed to meet there to see British thespian Benedict Cumberbatch return to the stage to star in Hamlet. It was unusual for any stage production to start selling tickets a year in advance but Cumberbatch’s popularity was on the rise (and continues to do so) and the anticipation for his return to the stage was beyond belief.

I love travelling and seeing the world. It is one of life’s privileges that I do not take for granted. These days, travelling seem to require a little more care and thought. I remember my first solo trip some twenty years before, when my biggest concern was being mugged or losing my traveller’s cheques. Getting lost was not such a big deal as you know you can always rely on some friendly locals to help you out. The world has changed a lot since, some for the better and some for the worse.

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We Are Australian – Happy Australia Day

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch atop Sydney Harbour Bridge in April 2014 - Photo credit: Bridgeclimb

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch atop Sydney Harbour Bridge in April 2014 – Photo credit: Bridgeclimb

I often joke that, had Les Misérables been set in England and not in Revolutionary Paris, Jean Valjean would have been sent to serve out his prison sentence in sunny Sydney instead of the galleys in Digne. It is a well-known fact that the first European settlement of this British colony (then known as New Holland) consisted of English convicts. These days, British tourists (and other countries near and far) arrive in droves on a daily basis.

Australia Day is celebrated on January 26th to mark the landing of the First Fleet and the raising of the British flag in 1788. Despite past controversies over the treatment of the local Aboriginal people by the white settlers, this day is usually celebrated by the sights and sounds that Australia is famous for. As it is summertime, a “barbie” or a visit to the beach are common on this day.

For my family this year, however, we decided to do something a little different, not the least due to inclement weather that has lasted all day (nobody like soggy sausages). We decided to celebrate Australia’s cultural diversity, of which we are contributors of, being migrants ourselves, and went to my local Shanghai dumplings restaurant. We stuffed ourselves silly, just as we would have had I been doing the barbie, but with no clean-up afterwards. I tried to tell my 12 year-old nephew that dumplings are just like sausages – you never really know what’s inside. Then we came home and watched the Australian Open Tennis.

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Reading, Writing and Speaking: Do We Still Know How?

I am fascinated by words and their daily use. From the time I was a kid, my mother was always correcting my use of English, which meant that the use of slang never sat well with her. When we first came to Australia, it was only natural that I would start to absorb how Aussies speak and not just the accents. For example, it was not uncommon to hear people say: “Can I have a lend of that?” to which my (horrified) mother would respond with “The correct way to ask that is ‘Can I borrow that?'”. Another favourite was: “Have a look at them things!” Tsk tsk.

One of my several majors in high school was English. It really was no surprise given my love of storytelling and having words drilled into me from a young age. I never quite “got” poetry, despite my love for Dead Poets Society. I also found it difficult to appreciate many of the prize-winning literature we studied, though I suspect that had as much to do with the fact that I lacked the understanding of the historical background upon which those plays and novels were based: think British playwrights and authors such as Terence Rattigan, John le Carre and George Moore’s Esther Waters, American classics like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter or Australian classics like Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.

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