Garfieldhug's Blog

This & That Including What Ails

Majestic Nature – Magnificent Trees


I look in awe at the majestic trees that grow in the Aussie bushland. The gum or eucalyptus trees smell fabulous too. I was told a lemony smelling tree was actually useful to ward off insects.

The flora and fauna of Australia is gorgeous. Besides seeing koalas in the wild or waking up to see kangaroos, I can also appreciate kangaroo paws – a wild flower or bush plant.

The trunks of trees and the way it grew are awesome. Huge and almost reminding me of some fairy tale movie where you would expect a witch to jump out.

You have to see it to believe the towering trees and how minute I was standing at the foot of the tree!

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Wake Up Call On Health Is Wealth

It has been an eventful week of health matters for A, B & me!

A was rushing about hunting me down but just could not grab me by the neck! What to do….since I have loads of work meetings and besides I was feeling poorly too!

By the time A got hold of me, he had jumped into his car to the general practitioner. He had a sudden bout of tearing that could not stop! A’s personal assistant made no sense as she told me A needed an ENT! I told her “no” just tell your boss to go and see Dr Billy Tan.

I know Dr Billy Tan to be a really good doctor, not a fuddy duddy one but a fantastic opthalmic surgeon!

Dr Billy Tan is somewhat cool and keeps a mean collection of antique cars!

A saw Dr Tan and it was an interesting description on how Dr Tan appeared to him – like a construction worker! I laughed. Still A was very happy and pleased with how deftly Dr Billy Tan arrested the “leaking eye”. A said he was suffering so much as apparently an eye lid hair lodged self into the duct and needed an immediate extraction. I was happy nothing untoward happened to A.

As for B, the story is not as nice but instead sad. B Whats App a text to ask if I would be in the office first thing in the morning. I said I would be and B showed up in the boondocks of my office at 6.30am. I had meetings starting at 8am.

B told me of a minor surgical procedure which led to the discovery of a rare form of cancer in the appendix. Biopsy showed it was sadly cancer, stage 3.

I can see the visibly shattered B and asking me who can be her doctor. I had asked for B to remove a cyst but along the way, cancer was discovered. I was stunned. B is a young person, not beyond 35 years old. I was glad B took my surgeon friend as he was an expert and spotted the tumor whilst he was moving to the operation site.

I dashed about getting B second opinions from two sets of doctors; medical oncologist and a general surgeon who does a fair bit of surgical procedures to remove cancerous tumors.

I feel for B and hope all goes well in the decision making process for onco surgeon and onco doctor.

As for myself, my nose bleeds have gotten worst and it is quite a scary sight for my colleagues to see me bleeding from the nose when it is not even Halloween yet!

I will continue to lend support and help B as much as I can. I can only help B make sense of chemotherapy post surgery and guide B on questions to ask.

I wonder why I am always in the position for many to hunt me down for doctor recommendations?

Whilst writing this blog, C called asking for a good cardiologist!

I suppose I found my purpose in life….

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Orphaned Kangaroos


At Whistler’s cellar door, Martin informed us that he had kept kangaroos who may have been victims of road kill. He described one kangaroo who was a wallaby in its mum’s pouch when its poor mum was ran over whilst hopping about.

Fenced in an enclosure and fed well, these kangaroos grew up well taken care of with loads of nutritious fruits & grains. They were like pets and I could go very near them without any reaction on their part. Whilst there, I caught sight of a wild kangaroo trying to get into the enclosure…ha ha one would think captivity frightens any wild beast. OR maybe, this kangaroo was lonely and wanted to know why his friends were in there and he was not.

I pet the roos (Australians use the slang word “roos” for Kangaroos) and they felt soft, quite unlike a dog’s fur, but much like a koala. They did not smell very good and there were flies or insects buzzing around them. Hmm, if I had a roo for a pet, I guess I would be showering them like a dog, making them smell fragrantly floral!

I remember once when staying at Bushy Lake in Perth, I woke up early to harvest some Easter lilies and boy! I saw a roo about my height, hippity hopping away, jumping over a high wire fence without any issues. They could certainly leap high!
Steve Cuddihy of Woody Pears Vineyard in Perth used to share with us how he would shoot these roos as they were pests, culling grapes off the vines, devastating his crops. He used electric fences to keep these pests out.

To me, a kangaroo is an animal I would see in a zoo…but here, it was up close and personal and I learnt how pesky a kangaroo could be to farmers and yes, I was treated to kangaroo steak by Steve but I certainly did not even want to try it! Imagine, eating Skippy the bush kangaroo. It would be as bad as eating Mary’s Little Lamb!

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Tranquil Fishing Spot – Roger’s Private Jetty

Jetty At KI

Imagine waking up and dashing off to your private jetty for a dangle on your fishing hand line to see what you land! I had this privilege at Roger’s holiday home in Kangaroo Island.

The property had a 9 hole golf course, its own private koalas (there was a pair in the Gum trees – common genre for Eucalyptus Trees), kangaroos (we call “roos”) and my favourite – its own private jetty with loads of breams or herrings, depending on the seasons you fish in.

I was told when the tide is up, it can rise above jetty levels. This did not happen when we were there as it was mostly at good water level when the tide was in. Inset photo is when the tide is out.

Sometimes it is not about the fishing but the tranquil environment that leaves me to think whilst I am actively supposedly fishing!

Roger’s parents, Marlene and Ken, played the perfect hosts as Marlene baked fresh breads every morning whilst Ken kept us occupied with different activities the property could offer.

It was a nice quiet holiday – as long as I had a jetty to go in the mornings and evenings, I was happy 🙂

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Adelaide Beach & Why It Suits My Mood Today!

Adelaide Market2

I love the  “call of the sea” as it is oft said in novels of mariners! I ain’t an “old salt” and neither am I a sea farer. But I am intrigued with the wonders of the sea, its marine life, bird life and what can be found on the beach.

I can walk on the beach, enjoying the warm sand and crashing of waves in the back ground. The smell of the sea is also a treat as its saltiness in the sea sprays reminds me of the mighty ocean.

Sea gulls would caw above and in this scene depicted, these naughty fellas were waiting like scavengers to steal fish and chips from the nearby Flying Fish Café. They did a great job of stealing off a an elderly couple’s piece of fish! Happily, they took it and shared with the flock!

Pests or scavengers to locals there, but to me, the occasional tourist I did not mind as it added to the sea scape.

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Sharing A Life

Friendships and relationships are a rarity these days.

Why? Do people whom you think you know for decades understand you to the point of what makes you tick, laugh, sad or down to your favorite foods, fruits or beverages?

It would be truly great if you have a soulmate or friend who does that! To be able to know your innermost thoughts, happiness, sadness and your fears.

To be supportive of your endeavours, of course not to the point of setting yourself before a fall!

I often feel people clam up and create a world they want you to see them in. Not exactly honest, but perhaps the keeping up with “Joneses” syndrome is lurking.

This is not helpful as it does not help in relationship building. If the person does not accept you based on your financial background or educational stature then, you are not with a friend.

The handful of people I knew and whom many I have chucked, were more interested in what is in it for them by knowing me. Generosity was big if if I gave big leads or big business deals.

Sometimes people would come to me for personal solutions or a shoulder to cry on. But once their issues have resolved, I hardly saw them till the next problem erupted for them.

Why is sharing a life difficult? It is difficult and a challenge when you thought you knew a person over time. But the sad truth is, the person whom you thought you knew led a second life.

Some can be who you want them to be so as to win your trust and gain a foot hold in your life. But do these last?

If one takes away the financial stature and go back to school days, were there disparities too?

You betcha! I studied in an elite school with elite background classmates that were ferried to school in limos with drivers. I did well in school there but did not go beyond primary 3 there as my parents transfered me to another mission school nearer our home which had normal students, not who’s who is the parent.

It was a good move as I found the environment better and I could relate better.

Sharing a life requires dedicated honesty and trust. It is not founded on arty farty glitzy lives of being dressed in finest but without a heart for anyone else.

It is also not about seeking to put your name in neon lights if you do societal good or chase a PBM for grassroots work.

The want to give must be right before the rites of passage to share begins.

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Dr James Tan Siah Heng – Part 1

Dr James is not an ordinary doctor. He is a neurosurgeon, a devout catholic, a good family man and most importantly ( to him) a Manchester United fan!

I met Dr Tan through Dr Tan Jee Lim, a sports medicine surgeon. They are common friends of Dr Lui Hock Foong.

I remember how I ended up with 3 doctor Tans at one go and had a good laugh whenever I called out to Dr Tan and all 3 would look up 🙂

Dr James is compassionate and has great EQ skills. EQ skills are sometimes lacking in good surgeons as they can be fantastic at operating on the table but not as personable in person.

I dread the gruff grunts of surgeons and prefer personable approaches as there are no God like personaes.

Dr James is careful and takes great lengths of time to explain medical conditions. He peppers it with a lot of heart, explaining operating strategies or options. He listens and discusses treating the patient as a person, not as an illiterati of medicine.

I remember Dr James always telling me he prays for me without fail in church on Sundays. He is most kind to remember this medically challenging patient.

He makes me laugh by saying if he performs another major surgical feat on me, he will lose another 3 years of his life. Humor at its best but it drives home a point.

He also drives on a point by taking ownership of a situation and be the deliverer of bad news masked by humor.

I admit I am hopeless at days and dates. So when he told me of an appointed date and time which I forgot, he humourously said he thought he was suffering from early dementia.

I find Dr James positive in his doctoring approach, putting patient’s needs first before all else.

He is unafraid of being honest. I also heard his views on the possibility of me ending up with screws and plates in my entire spinal column.

He likens self to be an engineer and how he enjoyed playing with lego bricks as a child.

I am grateful for his friendship and being there for me as my surgeon.

His constant prayers and medical skills distinct him as a kind surgeon who listens as he fixes.

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Communicate & Not Hide

Most situations or issues are created on miscommunications.

Biggest challenge is when all communications break down as each walks away with their own perception of what is communicated regardless of if the right theme of message is distributed or received.

Some believe that given time, the matter may resolve itself immaculately! This assumption is false.

Communications come in a myriad of ways. Actions, body language, speech, written mediums all form a part of communications. The difference is, in its deliverance.

My take on communications is to be brutally frank to the point of being candid if the situation allows.

For close friends, a swot on the head like how Laurel and Hardy the comedians do it, can also sometimes work as it releases tension and add comic relief.

But it takes two to want to communicate. If one party decides to negate all communications and “hide” then leave that person be. Maybe this person needs “space” to recover a bruised ego or to borrow the words of Beng, “flee to fight another day”.

Whilst this analogy may work, sometimes time may not be on your side. Leaving things silent has its inflection point as the cold and negative attitude gets further entrenched.

It is good to do a stock check of where we are in terms of deeds done. I am purporting at a societal level of “Living Graciously & Leaving Triumphantly” for seniors.

Often, there are too many things left unsaid before we pack our bags to exit life’s glory.

Lien Foundation has led the pack on this and I am grateful. Whilst many visited me in hospital during my last major hospitalisation, many did not dare touch on death, except Alvin.

I appreciated Alvin candour and we laughed joked about living and death. Rebecca who visited with him also shared the same mindset.

Yes, communication is important as it dictates how we lived, what we want on dying and what is to be done for those to be left behind.

Beng is different. By now you will know that Beng played an important role in my life. Beng avoids reality and quietly hopes for divine intervention. But truly, this does not work. All the positives such as “time heals all wounds” seldom works and is seen as a tacit give up syndrome.

Alvin will do well in what he does. He wears his heart in the right sleeve and seek ways to champion his NGO’s cause to meet the needs on the ground.

Sometimes hearing what we do not wish to hear is unplatable. But the truth of the matter is, the bitter pill must be swallowed before resolutions set in.

I salute the mysteries of life and as each bite makes me tear, gives me indigestion or an occasional euphoria, I maintain the need to have open communications to resolve conflicts or issues AND choose friends carefully. Not all are friends. Some are false friends. Others befriend you for self gain whilst giving you an impression of genuine trust and friendship.

This makes life unique and interesting and remember whilst positivity is an illusion, quiet hopefulness may suffice.  Remain diligent and self reliant always. Save for a rainy day as there are no handouts in life….Economics 101 “no free lunch”!

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All About Stray Dogs

Stray dogs tend to have a distinct element of surviving. Today I saw another stray dog near my work place. I have started naming them and this one, I called Frankie. Not a large dog, Frankie has a clipped tail and short coat. Again, Frankie crossed at the crossing, waiting for the lights to turn to his favour to cross.

I remembered my parents bringing home a stray puppy they got from the owners of a fishing pond in Yishun (in those days, called “Nee Soon”) . The owners of the 3 magnificent fishing ponds in rustic kampong style had strays coming in and they fed them. Whenever the strays had litters of pups, the owners (I cannot remember their names but I remember their son, Bertie, who used to run about with us like wild kids as we went about fishing) whom I shall name Bertie’s mum, came up and offered my dad a pick of the litter.

My dad brought home (he felt was the smartest of the litter) a light brown puppy with the cutest eyes. We promptly named him Husky.

Husky grew up strong and extremely ferocious to strangers. He was a loyal pet and always looked after our property with immense pride and protection.

Husky was not one to play with. He did not like his playthings moved or food touched when he is being fed. We as kids, learnt to respect his boundaries.

Soon after, Husky had a companion. My sister’s tutor had a beagle who delivered a litter of mixed pariah and beagle bred pups. We selected a puppy (he was left over and no one wanted to adopt him and he was to be sent to SPCA) and named it, King.

King was different from Husky. He had patches like a Beagle but his size was larger than a Beagle. He was playful and loved to chew things. he liked being rubbed down whereas Husky was the tough “man” of the household and felt these things were soppy! Further, King loved eating anything whereas Husky was fussier.

But King was terrified of thunder and storms. As a puppy he must have been frightened and so whenever it rained or thundered, King would sit with us as he cowered and trembled. If only there was a pet psychiatrist in those days!

King and Husky left for the heavens in the 1980s. Husky died of a brain haemorrhage – we call it a stroke or that was what the vet said. As for King he developed digestive issues and we suspect it could have been something he ate. Still they passed after having lived closed to 10 years of doggie life each!

Strays have a distinct survival instinct and this was what I saw in my two “strays”. They are fiercely loyal and have no hesitation to attack if they feel that an intruder has come into their space. But underneath all the “toughness”, like any pet, they need love and care – in turn, we had their love, protection, loyalty and care.

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3 Cheers For Medishield To Include ALL!

I am happy that great tweaks are on the way for our nation’s Medishield insurance scheme.

I strongly supported this and gave honest and open feedback to Mr Lim Swee Say and to PM Lee when we met on 22 March 2013 for tea.

I remember in an email I wrote the next day (I promised Mr Lim I would write to explain the plight as he too, could not grasp what his ward was saying at MPS sessions) to Mr Lim and he promptly referred me to Mr Gan Kim Yong. They both listened, so did PM Lee.

I see the plight of elders who were excluded from this scheme as an elder given age and time, will have pre-existing illnesses such that it excludes them from participation in this Medishield scheme. Further, some have aged beyond the expiry dates of Medishield when they have to be dropped out on reaching 80yrs of age. I understood the burden of health care cost and I can assure you, it is not cheap if consumed incorrectly.

By having no capping to age and inclusion for life time coverage, it gives this group of elders a safety net.

Kudos to the government for listening in on our feedback and valuing the contributions of this pioneer group of Singaporeans.

I am but a single digit in Singapore’s population and I am happy my small voice was heard alongside others and made a difference.

One day I will grow old too and I sincerely hope to be continuously covered under Medishield as it re-invents itself to stay relevant to our populations needs for healthcare services.

My sincere thanks to PM Lee, Ministers Lim and Gan for their listening ears!

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