An Open Letter

Port Elizabeth
Nelson Mandela Bay
Province of the Eastern Cape
Republic of South Africa
23 March 2010

 

AN OPEN LETTER

 

Dear Friends

In October 2009, I had been ill for almost three years. Because of the number of queries, letters and emails that I had received regarding my health, I thought I would be clever: rather than replying individually, it was just easier to write a general note to everyone.

What started as a memo to keep friends updated on the progress of my health became my first note posting on Facebook, entitled “Three Years On . . .”

However, this timesaving measure has now almost become a fulltime occupation! I am constantly being asked for more, and my notes have now grown from Facebook to my own blog site on WordPress.

So much for trying to work smart!

It is so very humbling for me to receive your e-mails, comments and feedback, not only from friends anymore, but even complete strangers. It also makes me very scared about being so much in the public eye. I am only too fallible and very aware of my many shortcomings. It was far easier being a computer and mathematics teacher than it is being seen as a life skills mentor! Often, I am the first person who needs the mentoring!

Since becoming ill, I have occasionally asked myself the question “Why me?” And, I guess, if it’s because I can make that difference in other people’s lives, then that is the answer.

Three years ago, I knew of no-one who was even familiar with the term corticalbasal degeneration. Today, it is known to hundreds of people who have been reading my notes. My illness may be rare, but I am not a unique individual. There are so many people out there who battle many different illnesses and disabilities. If, by reading my notes, you have been moved to assist someone out there, then my battle is not in vain.

I am also very pleased to advise you that our regional radio station, Algoa FM, will be running a series of programmes highlighting CBD. These will feature in the Lance Du Plessis morning slot and will commence next Wednesday 31 March 2010 at 11h20.

Thank you so very much for your comments, letters, e-mails, notes and prayers. It is becoming more difficult for me to respond to each one individually, not only because of the volumes, but also because of the paralysis and dyslexia brought on by the CBD. Rest assured that I read them all, and that I am most grateful for each and every word that you write.

Yours sincerely

Ed

Read my Blogs at www.edlunnon.wordpress.com and Notes on Facebook
Raising awareness about CORTICALBASAL DEGENERATION (
CBD)
__________________

Be an ACE …
Live       A bundantly
Laugh   C ontinuously
Love     E ndlessly
__________________

Thursday with Morris

22 March 2010 : 3 years 6 months on . . .

 My neighbour, Morris, now has a pig’s valve in his heart. He underwent surgery to have his own valve replaced about six weeks ago. When I visited him next door some time after that, he was feeling a bit “down”. He had the post surgery blues. General anaesthetic, I think, not only knocks one out – it also knocks you down. But this is compounded by the emotions of not being at work, of being at home, of being cooped up, of not being able to drive, not being physically well, of being dependent on others.

 I can empathise with him – after all, I have been ill for 3 years and almost eight months now. The difference is that Morris’s condition should improve to the extent that he will feel healthy again and return to work. My illness, on the other hand, is degenerative – meaning that it gets worse with time – and it takes me away, bit-by-bit. Gradually, my ability to write, type, read, walk, and talk is being eroded. Nancy Reagan said the following about living with Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s disease: “It’s difficult dealing with the very long good-bye that is part of a neurodegenerative disease.”

 I’m trying hard not just to say, “I’m thinking of you”, but to do something concrete for people in need. I find that by helping others, I am able to keep my mind off my predicament. So I asked Morris whether he would like to go along to St Francis Bay the next time I went down there. He was extremely enthusiastic to get out of the house and go along, so the following week when I headed in that direction, I stopped in at his home to take him along. Alas, Morris had been re-admitted to hospital with infection in his wound.

 Our visit to St Francis Bay would have to wait for another two weeks. So last Thursday, with Morris back home and feeling better, we headed off for the day. I had to check on some things at our house there, and Morris sat outside on the lawn, looking out over End Canal, the canal that passes in front of our place.

 It was one of those beautiful days that we experience at the coast at this autumn time of the year – no wind and a comfortable temperature of 24C degrees.  A few people were sun tanning at the pool and a lonesome couple were lying out on a solitary rubber duck in the middle of the canal. For the rest, you could hear only a few birds tweeting and the sea crashing on the beach a few hundred metres away.

 Later, when I had finished the chores, I joined Morris outside on the lawn. It was quite hot and we removed our shirts – Morris displaying the large white plaster down the front of his chest – the only evidence of his recent surgery. We soaked up the last of the summer rays before the sun heads back on its annual return trip to the northern hemisphere. He drank a cold Windhoek Lite and I had a chilled glass (no, two!) of Groot Vertroue Red Harvest from Robertson, in the Western Cape.

 Someone mentioned to me some while ago about how lucky I was. I was getting to see life from a perspective that most people do not experience. My initial reaction was one of a flash of anger that I normally only reserve for my wife and sons – the anger that most people have not seen in me. I retorted that I would swap my situation with anyone who thought that I was lucky!

 Paul Williams, an Old Grey (Class of 1984) who has been doing missionary work in Siberia, commented on my Facebook site in response to one of my earlier notes:

” Thanks for this perspective into your world Ed. It is humbling and yet so filled with the warmth of “noticing life”, which often becomes invisible as we fill our lives with work and ‘stuff’. Travel well and enjoy the fullness of life you are experiencing which others don’t really get a chance to notice… you are blessed.”

 Yes, if I think about it, how true this is. I am lucky and I am blessed. Here, again, was one of those Perfect Moments that seem to elude us so often during our “normal” life. One of those moments that would never have happened had I not been ill and been working – caught up in the stresses and strains and “stuff” that most other people experience every day in their working environment. One of those moments that, as healthy people, we often choose to forgo because our work is so much more important. One of those moments that we choose to defer to another time – next week, next month, next holiday, next year, or for when we retire, and in many cases, then never get to experience at all!

 The first little fishing boat that the boys got at St Francis is a 3-metre, six-seater river boat powered by a 15HP Johnson engine. Phillip still uses it on the river – mainly for fishing and visiting friends up and down the waterways. Its name is RUSK and it comes from a family saying of ours (sort of based on the if life hands you a lemon, turn it into lemonade idea): If life gives you a hard rusk, then dunk it into your coffee and make it soft.

 Today was the flip side of the hand that life has dealt me. We spoke about Perfect Moments there on the lawn and when we went for a “fresh fish of the day” lunch at Christy’s Catch. We spoke about the little things that make up the perfect moments. We discussed the things of importance that we so often overlook in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We continued the conversation in the car, when we returned home to Port Elizabeth later that afternoon.

 In order to experience Life, we have to be living each and every moment. And, in order to be living each moment, we have to live in each moment. But that is easier said than done!

 Yet, as children we do it (just watch the youngsters at play in the playground at school during their break times). But, as adults, it seems to become so elusive and difficult. We are so busy bringing up and blaming the past moments, and planning for and worrying about the future moments that we miss out on enjoying the present moments.

 It is something that I have to work at all the time – living the moment. I tried it on Thursday evening when we went to view the Grey Afrikaans Rock show at the Boardwalk’s Amphitheatre and on Friday evening when we listened to Sean and the Grey Orchestra (of which he is the leader) playing their Proms ‘Neath the Tower in the school’s memorial quadrangle.  I tried to close my eyes, put everything else out of my mind and just concentrate on the music. It is not easy!

 Roland Munro, another Old Grey and ex-scholar of mine (Class of 1984) said the following in a note he made on Facebook:

 “It reminds me of an awesome book, “Tuesday’s with Morrie” by Mitch Albom. This book changed my life and my view of life. I strongly recommend you guys read it! Morrie was Mitch’s varsity Professor and Mitch learns of his terminal illness and decides to spend every Tuesday with Morrie, where Morrie shares a life lesson with Mitch every Tuesday.”

 Today, I learnt another life lesson to Live the Moment. It was my Thursday with Morris.

Matthew 6:25-34 NIV

Do Not Worry

    25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

    28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

Home Affairs

16 March 2010: 3 years 6 months on  . . .

It is often said that living in Africa is not for sissies. Living in many parts of the world, I guess, is also not for sissies. In fact, living is not for sissies.

Philosophers would say that human life is one of tension and in constant ebb and flow. In our country right now, we live in the excitement and anticipation of the Football World Cup in June. But juxtaposed with that, after several years of unprecedented growth and prosperity, there are now financial concerns on a national level. After the euphoria of a transition to the democratic New South Africa, there are now political concerns about where to from here – Quo Vadis?

We see government institutions in decline – health and education services. We see infrastructure falling apart – railways, roads, potholes, water and electricity supplies. We witness the decay of society around us – the decline in moral values; fraud and corruption; crime, murder and mayhem in our cities and on our streets.

Since October last year, I have tried to get a birth certificate for my sister (who is in New Zealand) from the Department of Home Affairs. After six frustrating months, many phone calls – mostly unanswered, many messages – mostly not responded to, seven visits to the local office, long queues and lengthy delays, a letter to the newspaper, three issued certificates (all wrong), I have now sent her an incorrect certificate to enable her to register for her studies. The assistant at the Department suggested that the incorrect details could be attributed to the possibility that my sister had been adopted! Hopefully, the New Zealanders will know no better!

On personal levels, between life’s joys of birthdays and weddings and family and friends, people have financial concerns. They battle retrenchments and unemployment; murder, rape, crime, robbery; they have to deal with inefficient public bureaucracy and even now private corporations. Interpersonal conflict, infidelity, divorce, incompetence and disinterest surround us all daily. Then there are health problems – so many cancer cases, brain tumours, HIV/AIDS, strokes, and all other kinds of weird and strange illnesses that most of us have never heard of – that strike around us and, sometimes, even strike us!

Yes, the business of living is not easy!

But, if the business of living is not easy, then the business of dying is hard.

There are physical things and emotional things. Just last week, during and after visiting the occupational therapist, I experienced both again. Several strange bony knobs have started appearing on my fingers and hands. Not sure what they are, I pointed them out to the therapist. She immediately responded that they were indeed only the heads of the bones in my hands that were beginning to appear because of the muscles that would usually cover them having atrophied. My hands are literally withering away and being reduced to skin and bone.

It’s hard for me to see my body fading away. It’s emotional. And the tears flowed freely.

I cried again when she told me that she did not think it would do me any good to see her again. She can’t do any more for me to improve matters – it’s like the little boy holding his finger in the hole in the dyke – eventually, the breach becomes too severe and the water breaks through. It came as a reality check and a shock.

Afterwards, I realised that she is only trying to help me to conserve the funds for the necessities that will be required sometime in the future when the CBD breaks through with all its might – after all, that’s why it’s called degeneration. And that’s what will happen, save for a miracle. Just last night, I read that doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, are talking about exciting developments in their research. Who knows? God may still give them the miracle cure that will block the hole.

But dying is not just emotional stuff. There are many practical things that have to be done. So whilst it is very necessary to clean out the tear ducts now and then, you can’t waste much of your limited time on it. There is paperwork to be done, things to finalise, things to wrap up, wills to be put in order, legal things, Discovery forms to be completed, insurance policies and funeral benefits to be checked on, things to be filed, files to be handed over, Pera brought up to date on how to handle all these activities of normal life.

Yes, the business of dying is hard.

And then put the business of living together with the business of dying.

Handling the normal things of normal life that still have to be done – the husband things, the father things, the schooling, the academics, the sport, the bills to be paid, the home maintenance, … How is one normal in what has become a very abnormal life? This, for me, is the most difficult to do.

How best do I handle the family things of living against my personal things of dying? I have never rated myself as the ideal husband or the model father – not even when I was healthy. It causes me more anguish now to master this art of family matters than to handle my illness. I hope I can improve. I so much want these times to be special for them. Times they will remember with happy memories.

Harold B. Lee said, “The most important work you and I ever do will be within the walls of our own homes”.  

I agree. It’s the most important work, and for me, it is the most difficult work.

Hero

There’s a hero If you look inside your heart You don’t have to be afraid Of what you are There’s an answer If you reach into your soul And the sorrow that you know Will melt away

And then a hero comes along With the strength to carry on And you cast your fears aside And you know you can survive So when you feel like hope is gone Look inside you and be strong And you’ll finally see the truth That a hero lies in you

It’s a long road When you face the world alone No one reaches out a hand For you to hold You can find love If you search within yourself And the emptiness you felt Will disappear

And then a hero comes along With the strength to carry on And you cast your fears aside And you know you can survive So when you feel like hope is gone Look inside you and be strong And you’ll finally see the truth That a hero lies in you

Lord knows Dreams are hard to follow But don’t let anyone Tear them away Hold on There will be tomorrow In time You’ll find the way

Keeping Up with the Jones’s

March 2010:  . . . 3 years 6 months on

I taught mathematics to Ian Jones at some stage and Quinton was there a few years later. Their Mom, Annette, was a teaching colleague around those years, too. That’s how we got to know the Jones’s and enjoyed many dinner parties with them. Tennis on Sundays at their home in Mill Park Road, followed by a braai, was a popular past time for a number of the Grey staff members of that era. (I recall the Reelers, the Scholtz’s, the Stapletons, the Cunninghams, the Kews . . .)  

Annette, together with Lissa Dyer and Jane Woodin, other moms of the time, were responsible for the flower arrangements at our wedding. I remember picking roses at the Maske’s farm in Addo, with a sickly hangover after my bachelor’s party and in 40 degree heat, very similar to the heat conditions that we are currently experiencing in Port Elizabeth. I was “not well” at that time, too!

In later years, Annette and I crossed paths again, this time when we collaborated in the field of training and development.

Every so often, I get the phone call from Annette to invite me to coffee, which often turns into breakfast. Along the way she picks up Liz Findlay, whom I have known from SETA days. Liz and her husband Richard are involved with that monster of South African skills development, the Sectoral Education and Training Authorities, and we have spent many frustrating and humorous times together. The Sun City conference of 300 delegates comes to mind – we were 400 mouths at meal times and 200 hands voting at plenary sessions! Liz is also the mother of GarethTjasink, whom we met when he had just completed the first series of the TV reality show South African Survivor.

Annette, Liz and I have become the coffee shop fundi’s. It’s amazing to see how many Port Elizabethans (and I’m sure many people in most urban settlements worldwide) are at coffee shops on any one morning. A thriving industry has built up around the very ordinary cup of coffee! Vovo Telo, in Central, is my personal favourite, but the rate at which coffee shops open in PE, a whole lifetime will be required to visit them all!

Because of the heat wave this week (30C degrees at noon today), the outside stoep at Vovo Telo is out of the question. Air-conditioning is an essential, and so we settle for the Greenacres Shopping Mall and the Mugg and Bean.

The coffee is good and the On the Go breakfast is tasty. However, the conversation is downright depressing today. It’s all about my visit to the occupational health practitioner yesterday, the state of education and the stress of dealing with government in its various departments, be it the SETA or Home Affairs. This seems to be the general trend in most South African conversations of the moment. The subject of emigration raises its head yet again.

The Last Resort, a book by Douglas Rogers, provides for one of the few laughs. It’s about a white-owned smallholding that operated as a Backpackers’ Inn in then Rhodesia and that has turned into a brothel and dagga plantation for government ministers in now Zimbabwe! It’s ironically one of the few pieces of agricultural land still white-owned in Zimbabwe. Another laugh comes from the recent visit of President Zuma to Britain that has provided the email of the morning, depicting a pregnant Queen Elizabeth II with a title “Zuma – a job well done!”

Life in South Africa (and I guess in many places around the world) is hectic and stressful. There’s the economic climate to worry about, the drought, the problematic and erratic electricity supply, the corruption, the failing roads and health and education services, the security situation, rampant crime, the HIV/AIDS pandemic … the list continues!

And all of us, in dealing with these issues and whilst getting on with our daily activities and managing our hectic lives, cross paths with people in need – for whatever reason, but often because of illness, death, disability or some other related similar circumstances. Many of us, and I include me, often use the phrase “I’m thinking of you!” when we meet such people. Often, it’s left at just that. By the time the person disappears out of sight, so does the thinking!

Annette has been the exception. She has translated the thinking into doing, and her visits and coffee trips provide a highlight in what becomes a very lonely and boring world for an ill person. It’s a common thread that I have detected in the lives of other ill people that I have met over the last three years – how best to find meaning in a frenzied world that rushes past you without often even noticing you.

We are all surrounded by people who are grappling with challenges that life has thrown at them. Often, the smile on their face belies the hurt below the surface.  Annette’s practical concern challenges all of us – when last did we do something for such a person. Or do we also just take the easy way out and “think of them”?

 Let’s keep up with the Jones’s TODAY!

LIVE FOR TODAY, FOR TOMORROW IS PROMISED TO NO-ONE
(Thanks to my cousin-in-law Maryse Peach)

A husband opened his wife’s underwear drawer and picked up a silk paper wrapped package:
‘This’, – he said – ‘isn’t any ordinary package.’

He unwrapped the box and stared at both the silk paper and the box.
‘She got this the first time we went to New York, 8 or 9 years ago. She has never put it on , was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is it.’ He got near the bed and placed the gift box next to the other clothing he was taking to the funeral house – his wife had just died.
And then he said to me:
‘Never save something for a special occasion. Every day in your life is a special occasion’.

I still think those words changed my life…

Now I read more and clean less.
I sit on the porch without worrying about anything.
I spend more time with my family, and less at work.
I understood that life should be a source of experience to be lived up to, not survived through.
I no longer keep anything.
I use crystal glasses every day…
I’ll wear new clothes to go to the supermarket, if I feel like it.
I don’t save my special perfume for special occasions, I use it whenever I want to.
The words ‘Someday….’ and ‘ One Day…’ are fading away from my dictionary.
If it’s worth seeing, listening or doing, I want to see, listen or do it now…
I don’t know what my friend’s wife would have done if she knew she wouldn’t be there the next morning, this nobody can tell. I think she might have called her relatives and closest friends.
She might call old friends to make peace over past quarrels.
I’d like to think she would go out for Chinese, her favourite food.
It’s these small things that I would regret not doing, if I knew my time had come..
Each day, each hour, each minute, is special.
Live for today, for tomorrow is promised to no-one.

Gentlemen, it was a pleasure playing with you tonight!

March 2010: 3 years 6 months on . . .
 
 

Someone asked me why I write these notes. Let me best explain it as follows:

The other evening, I watched the movie TITANIC yet again on TV. It reminded me how similar cruise liners and life are. Just as passengers embark and disembark at various times and various ports around the world, so do people enter and leave this world at different times and places.

Some cruise for longer than others, some in more luxurious surroundings than others, some just relax and keep to themselves. Others don’t sit still for a moment. They explore and find and make use of every facility that is offered to them. There are those who keep to their cabins by choice and others stay there because of the circumstances of the ride. Others socialise and make friends, and impact on the lives of those travelling with them. Some are remembered for the contribution they have made and others are simply forgotten.

The one thing is certain for all passengers – at some stage the cruise ends for them and they have to disembark. Some move on to the wealth of the Bahamas or Monaco, others to the more mundane and poorer cities and towns.

The cruise of life also comes to an end. We all know that. But different people have different views as to where they go once this cruise comes to its end. Some believe they go nowhere, others believe the move is to heaven or hell; others believe they simply come back and cruise yet again and again. Some just … don’t know!

In the case of the TITANIC, the cruise came to an abrupt end. At full steam ahead and with the partying at its zenith, the ship hit an iceberg!

The partying continued.

But, once the experts on board did an assessment, it was a certainty known to some that she would sink.

Some people knew what was happening but decided to continue partying. Some clamoured and rushed to find a lifeboat out of the situation. Some found an aid, a life jacket, which they put on but continued partying anyway. Others retreated to the comfort and solitude of their cabins just to wait for that final moment. Some disbelieved that she could sink – after all, the Titanic was unsinkable! There were those who were just blissfully unaware of what was happening around them.

And the band just continued playing . . . And the Titanic sank.

In life, sometimes too, just when the party is in full swing, the icebergs hit and the cruise comes to an abrupt end.

When one becomes ill, that is the impact. The experts are called in and for a while one does not expect to hear the worst – after all, that only happens to others and one is unsinkable! But then others become YOU and you receive the news from the experts that you have a terminal illness and that you WILL SINK in a stipulated period of time.

What does one do with the time between when the assessment is done and the inevitable takes place? The choice becomes a very personal one. And just as on the Titanic, different people make different choices.

Initially, I did not believe it could happen to me. I was unsinkable! And then I tried to find a lifeboat. But there is no lifeboat out of this one.

Do I retreat to the solitude of my cabin or do I put on my lifejacket and continue partying?

I have made my choice – I will continue with the cruise and all that it offers. I WILL party and I will continue to enjoy all that I possibly can for as long as I possibly can.

And, yes, as the ship tilts and the lights begin to go out one by one, it becomes increasingly difficult to continue with the party. But, I have on my Lifejacket to help me, and when the ship goes down, It will carry me safely to that Tropical Island in the sky.

My band will continue playing, and for me, it still is a pleasure playing with you tonight. I hope that, at the end, you will also have found it a pleasure to have had my company. And, I certainly hope that I contributed towards making your cruise a pleasure, too.

Theme From “Titanic”

Every night in my dreams
I see you. I feel you.
That is how I know you go on.

Far across the distance
And spaces between us
You have come to show you go on.

Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you’re here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on

Love can touch us one time
And last for a lifetime
And never go till we’re one

Love was when I loved you
One true time I hold to
In my life we’ll always go on

Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you’re here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on

There is some love that will not
go away

You’re here, there’s nothing I fear,
And I know that my heart will go on
We’ll stay forever this way
You are safe in my heart
And my heart will go on and on

Looking for a Job? (or else The Job Description)

March 2010: Three years six months on …

The southern coastline of South Africa is made up of a number of bays. Almost at the centre is Algoa Bay and Port Elizabeth (now referred to as Nelson Mandela Bay). Just to the west of Algoa Bay is St Francis Bay which stretches from Red Rock, Kini Bay and Laurie Bay in the east all the way westwards to Seal Point at Cape St Francis.

A number of small, mainly holiday towns have developed on this western side of St Francis Bay (mainly thanks to the foresight of Leighton and Anne Hulett). Today they have grown into one contiguous mass of holiday and some permanent homes – a confusing number of names to the uninitiated. At Seal Point is the village of Cape St Francis with the lighthouse as its outstanding feature. Northwards, from there, is Port St Francis with its recreational and working chokka boat harbour, then Santareme with its pink Spanish style architecture, then St Francis Bay (the “Village”) – previously called Sea Vista – with its characteristic white- walled houses with black thatched roofs, St Francis Bay (marina) (previously called Marina Glades) where the black and white theme is continued in the houses along the man-made Hulett canals leading from the Kromme River. And then the houses along the river itself which forms the northern border of this development and which is commonly referred to as being The Kromme.

We are very fortunate to own a home – the smallest – on the Marina. Only an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth, this is where we head to get away from the rush and stresses of city life. As one drives across the bridge that crosses the Kromme and the river stretches away to the mouth and the Indian Ocean in the east and the many riparian homes that box in the river to the west, one’s shoulders drop, the neck softens and the back relaxes.

So this is where we found ourselves last weekend together with John and Wendy Clarke and their twin sons, Graham and David (Sean’s contemporaries) and Dayne Bonnage, a friend of Phil’s. The boys have what is called a “boarder leave-out” and the normal hectic school sports routine is placed in abeyance for a short while. We have known the Clarkes for many years since our teaching days in the mid eighties. They have become a pillar of strength for our family in the circumstances that we now find ourselves.

Normally, when the Clarkes join us at St Francis, we have rain and we often laugh now about me braaing outside in the rain whilst John and everyone else sat cosily inside watching me through the sliding doors onto the deck. Needless to say, in my true fashion, the bottom lip dropped and the humour of the situation was lost on me! However, we are now in the midst of a drought on the south and east coasts and have not seen rain for months. Our dams are down to 30 percent capacity and we are told if the rains don’t come we have enough water to get us through to June, and the World Cup!

In Port Elizabeth, we are restricted to 500l of water per household per day. So, we have become accustomed to not flushing toilets after a wee, and collecting grey water in buckets from sinks and showers and throwing that down toilets and onto gardens. Showers are a short wash and rinse cycle (almost like the economy setting on the washing machine!) and consist of water and soap/shampoo, switch off water, lather, switch on water and rinse. And all this whilst dancing over and around the large dish in the bottom of the shower which is collecting the grey water destined to be thrown into the toilet or onto the garden!

However, the restrictions in St Francis are not so severe (mainly because the municipality has not yet got their act into gear), and this despite us getting our water from the same supplies! So this weekend, we also have a bonus in that we can revert to flushing toilets normally and having a normal decent shower, albeit feeling a bit guilty about wasting this precious and ever-dwindling resource. Paradise is gained!

However, I guess in all human experiences, just when life can’t get better and appears to be running along smoothly, paradise IS lost! On Saturday morning, I woke up to a sore left foot. By lunchtime, I could not walk on it and my big toe looked like an enlarged over-ripe tomato. Gout! The most unbelievable pain that not even the Kennedy Brothers prescribed Myprodol, the Colchachines and the Dicloflams could suppress for the first few days. The rest of the weekend was spent on the couch and the bed, gliding around on my backside on the floor and up and down the stairs! Luckily, the weather was not good and the wind howled (no rain!) so not much time could be spent on the canals and river. As usual, however, this did not put John, David, Phil and Daine off the obligatory fishing trips to the Point (although the fish are as scarce as the rain! – is this also as a result of global warming?)

On Sunday, after a relaxing weekend, everyone left for PE and I stayed behind, mainly because of a meeting that I needed to attend on Tuesday (but also because it’s so lekker in St Francis!) However, not being able to walk meant being restricted to the house, and I started feeling very down and sorry for myself. How much more am I expected to endure over and above the CBD, the broken elbow and now the gout? Looking for a Job? That’s how I feel right now and, at the moment, I don’t believe that you need look much further than me! (Job, the book in the Bible, tells the story of Job, the man of God. It is a gripping drama of riches-to-rags-to riches, a theological treatise about suffering and Divine Sovereignty and a picture of faith that endures. NLT)

BUT, this is when I have to analyse my life and check my foundation yet again. I have to keep my wits about me and keep my mind clear and positive. It’s so easy to get caught up in that downward whirlpool spiral of despair that just tends to suck you in even deeper and deeper. Writing helps, reading helps, music helps, setting daily tasks and goals help, staying busy helps.

But what helps the most, is when I return to Port Elizabeth later in the week and have to visit the physiotherapist and occupational therapist at Aurora (Rehabilitation) Hospital. Their motto is If there’s a way, we’ll find it.

Looking around me, I see so many people, old and young, with all kinds of disabilities, amputations, wheelchairs, crutches, bandages, lack of limbs … the list is endless. So much pain and suffering surrounds us and yet we become oblivious to it.

But, taking a good look at life around me, is far better medicine than any of the Myprodols or Dicloflams. I have so much for which to be thankful. The Job is not yet completed and there is still much to be done.

Prayer of St Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

St. Francis was born at Assisi in 1182. After a care free youth, he turned his back on inherited wealth and committed himself to God. Like many early saints, he lived a very simple life of poverty, and in so doing, gained a reputation of being the friend of animals. He established the rule of St Francis, which exists today as the Order of St. Francis, or the Franciscans. He died in 1226, aged 44