I Was So Glad That I had Come!

 Tuesday, 19 January 2010: Three years four months on …

After having spent three weeks at the coast in St Francis Bay, three days in Graaff-Reinet in the second week of January somehow just didn’t do it for me! The thoughts of temperatures in the mid 30 degrees and watching cricket in the Karoo semi-desert just seemed incompatible. But I went anyway.

Maybe it was the muggy 35C in Port Elizabeth or the howling berg wind that had suddenly come up that made up my mind for me. So off I went to watch Sean captain Grey’s second team, the Unicorns, against the 1st teams of a number of other schools from the Western and Eastern Cape, in the Gem of the Karoo school cricket tournament.

I enjoy travelling and used to drive hours by myself at the drop of a hat, but I haven’t driven that distance by myself since I became ill. Maybe I was taking a chance, and so I was a bit nervous as I headed north on the R75 – 250 km to Graaff-Reinet. At 5pm I stopped in Jansenville for a cooldrink – it was 35C when I stepped out of the comfort of the 20 degree air-conditioned car.

The next stop was 100km south of Graaff-Reinet at the top of the Soutpansnek Pass. This time, it was not to quench my thirst, but to soak up the beauty of the Karoo sprawled out as far as the eye could see. The brown veld stretched out below me and was framed by the blue Camdeboo Mountains in the distance. Here I was, three years into my illness, travelling by myself, and against the odds, looking down at the wonder of Creation. There is something so uniquely beautiful about the vista and the silence that is the Karoo. I could not remember when last I had been there by myself, and there I was, being treated to God’s canvass yet one more time! “Did all of this evolve by chance or was it designed by a Supreme God?” I thought, as I caught myself wiping a small tear from the corner of my eye.

I was so glad that I had come – even if it was just to see this again!

On Thursday afternoon, I took off some time from watching cricket and drove the 60 km through to Aberdeen to see John and Jean Watermeyer. Now in their eighties, I had first met them in 1985 when I started teaching at Grey. Colleen’s parents and Dickie Ogilvie’s in-laws, they were the “Old Folks” who farmed at Doorndraai, but I guess they were not much older then than I am now . . . although I don’t count myself as part of the “Old Folks” now! I think we carry our age better now than they did then!

I had phoned to say I was coming to visit. Over the last 25 years they have been so much a part of my life, part of the tapestry of friends that have created so many memories. We have shared the ups and downs – the weddings (“Uncle” John was our wedding MC) and the funerals; the bowls on New Year’s Day, the New Year’s Eve dances at the Club and the flat wheels; the Christmases and the cancers. . .

All of us are a bit greyer now, but, like old times, we laughed and joked and spoke and remembered. I certainly enjoyed the four hours it had taken out of my day – no, the four hours which had filled my day! – and I hope they did!

I was so glad that I had come!

On Friday, Grey was scheduled to play against Westerford at Nieu Bethesda, a small village (permanent population some 60) 80km to the north of Graaff-Reinett. My car’s low profile tyres don’t enjoy gravel roads so, at first, I thought I would not go there. But, I bummed a lift, and got to enjoy the rare spectacle of watching cricket on the village green surrounded by the brown bushes and the hills and mountains of the Karoo.

At lunchtime, I met up with some locals in the pub. They were, I think, high on the fragrances of the rural vegetation. We enjoyed good conversation, a tasty Karoo lamb burger and downed a bitterly cold frosty. Then I walked back through the village to the Bethesda Cricket Oval, savouring the art and pottery shops, the Owl House and the numerous B & B’s along the way. I chatted to a TV producer from Johannesburg and his advertising executive girlfriend who were cycling along the gravel roads of South Africa from one small town to another. They had taken the road past the graveyard and stumbled on a game of cricket on the only green patch in the middle of a brown and arid nowhere in the Great Karoo!

I was so glad that I had come!

On Friday night, Sean was selected to play in a 20-20 game, East vs West. I criticised the poor planning, and the late start. Then the lights went out, there was no food for sale and I was very hungry. To crown it all, the temperature had cooled down from a daytime high of 32 to 17, and I was getting cold! Sean came in to bat at no. 7 sometime just after 11pm. His team needed 6 more runs to win and they managed to pull it off.

Later, when asked about the game, I complained about the problems and the poor attendance. Sean corrected me and, with absolute excitement, he spoke about the colourful outfits they had worn, the loud music that was driving them on to victory, the smoke and the smell of the braais and the lovely atmosphere! “It was like playing for the Warriors at a packed St George’s Park!” he said, with that glint in his eye.

My eldest had once again reminded me about that lesson of looking at life’s half full glass rather than the half empty glass.

I was so glad that I had come!

And then, on Saturday, after another day’s cricket against Paarl Gym, it all came to an end, and we headed for home.

This time, Sean drove (he has a learner’s licence) and I was the passenger. I felt far more comfortable than driving by myself. Although he has been driving the tractors and bakkies at Doorndraai since eight years old, it was his first time as the driver on the long open road. Unlike other times when we hit the open road with me at the wheel, this time he could not do the family thing of going to sleep!

So, for three hours, we chatted … about the holidays and his mates, the hostel where they had stayed, the food and the new friends he had made. We spoke about the farm, our friends in the Karoo: the Ogilvies, the Watermeyers, the Harris’s, the tractors and the bakkie Skadonk in which he had learned to drive.

And, then, he commented on the veld, the beautiful mountains, the windmills, the distinctive Karoo farm houses. I sat back and realized – maybe for the first time – that all our family travelling and many trips across the country had indeed reaped their benefits, and that Sean had picked up something from his “Pops” – he, too, had developed an appreciation for the beauty of nature and the importance of friends.

As his final year at school speeds to a close and his time at home with us becomes less and less, I thought about the last three days that I could have chosen to stay at home. Instead, I chose to spend them with my son. Three extra days with him, and I was so thankful for all he has given us and for the person he has become.

I was so glad that I had come!

And, oh yes, we spoke about the cricket, which is why we went in the first place! They won some and they lost some. There were the inevitable poor umpiring decisions, the ill-prepared pitches, the lights that went out, the good and the bad shots, the “if only’s” and all the life lessons that sport brings to us.

Yes, it’s not about whether we won or lost – it’s all about how we played the game.

I was so VERY glad that I had come!

Kompasberg Nieu Bethesda
Written about 2 months ago · Comment ·
Simon Whittaker
Thanks Ed, once again, for putting our “too busy” lives into perspectice!!!!
19 January at 15:02 ·
Simon Fairbrother
Thanks Ed.
19 January at 16:02 ·
Janet Brown
thanks, Ed – c u soon – Wayne down for Grey Bloem and then we going to CT for Bishops and Rondebosch
19 January at 16:53 ·
Jackie Anderson Whitley
is glad you went.
19 January at 18:09 ·
Kevin Whitley
Ed, thanks for sharing your experience and your life! It helped me realize how many times I’ve been glad that I came! I needed to read that today!
19 January at 20:35 ·
Ed Lunnon
Thanks guys…..we learn more and more each day!
19 January at 21:45 ·
Reinhold du Randt
Ed i am also so glad you came and we had a marvellous time and i love the beautiful way in which you described the area where i live ..Have a nice day
20 January at 06:43 ·
Sjani Schoonbee Human
Wow Ed, ek sit nou met ‘n knop in die keel, die lewe is soos jy hier uit spel, ‘n keuse en ons moet ons viesie verander. Ek is so bly jy het gegaan!! Wonderlik, daai wereld is stunning!!! I love it!!!
20 January at 07:12 ·
Alexa Bowker Beckley
thanks ed, love reading your stuff, dont make us wait too long for more.
20 January at 18:59 ·
Philip Henderson
why didnt you pop in when you passed my turn???
23 January at 08:12 ·