Home is Where the Heart is

Sunday 29 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …

I was born on 18 September 1956 in the Provincial Hospital at the top of Merriman Street in Stellenbosch.

Just twenty years later, in 1976, I returned to Stellenbosch – this time to the house Helshoogte, the Stellenbosch University Men’s Residence also at the top of Merriman Street and directly across the road from the Hospital! I had sort of come home.

Prior to that I had matriculated at Hottentots-Holland High School in 1974 where I was the Deputy Head Boy and the Dux pupil of that year. In 1975, I completed Grade 12 at Sulphur High School in Sulphur, Oklahoma, USA where I became the secretary of the Students’ Representative Council and an honorary citizen of the Great State of Oklahoma.

Helshoogte was but three years old when I arrived there. It was a narrow building that had been built on a small piece of land between two existing university residences, Eendrag and Simonsberg. What it lacked in floor area it made up in height. At ten stories high (plus a basement and a water tank on the roof), it was the tallest building in Stellenbosch.  

Literally translated from Afrikaans, Helshoogte means “Hell’s Heights”. It is also the name of one of the many mountain peaks that surround Stellenbosch and give the town its unique beauty. Simonsberg is another of the peaks and Eendrag means “Unity”.

Building on the residence Helshoogte commenced in 1971. It was “christened” by the students of Eendrag in May 1972 when they painted the name “Ellehoogte” on the walls of the building in progress. (This was later changed to Helshoogte!)

The first 317 men students moved in at the beginning of 1973 and Helshoogte was officially opened at a tea party attended by 600 guests on 11 May 1973.

When I was there, we called ourselves “Hellies” or “Helshoogters”. Today Helshoogters are known far and wide as “Hoenders” (Chickens), thanks to a few previous residents of the House who during an initiation ceremony had allowed a chicken to parachute from the top floor to the ground! The House also carries the name Hoenderhok (Chicken run) on occasion!

It is also just called Die Huis (The House) and often that term refers not to the physical building, but to the people who reside within it, and to the spirit and gees of those residents.

Today, a symbolic bright blue chicken is attached to the side of the water tank, a blue chicken is used as a symbol of the house and residents carry the name Hoenders with great pride!


The emblem of the house displays three pillars, depicting the education that one receives at university:  the academic life (the main reason and the tallest pillar), the social life (where relationships play a large role) and the sporting life (where physical development plays a role in maintaining a spiritual balance). It is also about Tria Juncta in Uno, which I wrote about previously in the article with that name.

When I arrived in 1976, we were the fourth batch of students to have the privilege of staying in the brand new house. I was the first child in our family to attend university and it was a sense of occasion. My father was paralysed as a result of a stroke in 1969 (he died in the May of my first year) and my Mom insisted on wearing a hat when she took me to Stellenbosch in her blue Renault 16TS on that first day to attend the first year students’ parents dinner. I was most embarrassed!

Despite the embarrassment, I considered myself extremely privileged (and still do!) to have been able to go to University, to be able to go to Stellenbosch University and to be able to live in that House Helshoogte! Today, many South African youngsters consider tertiary education a right owed to them, and paid for, by the state and for which they have to do as close to nothing as possible!

I arrived privileged, embarrassed and with a bursary from AECI Ltd to the value of R1000 per year payable for three years. That paid my full year’s accommodation fee of R600 (including food, laundry and everything associated with living!), my study fees for a B.Com degree of R250, my book fees of R100 and about R50 for pocket money!

I arrived with the sole intention of studying and not getting involved in any other activities. I deliberately avoided any positions of involvement in any activities. I thought I had had my fair share up to that point.

But I loved Stellenbosh and eventually tried anything to stay just another year! That led to a sojourn at the University and in Die Huis (The House) of six years. And so much for no involvement – I served on many committees including the Rag Committee, the Intervarsity Committee, the Publications committee (Die Stellenbosse Student), the deputy chairman of the Commerce Students Committee and AIESEC, the House Committee and, in somewhat controversial circumstances, became the head of Die Huis, known in Stellenbosch as Die Primarius.

At the end of 1981, I left Stellenbosch, with degrees, diplomas, knowledge, organisational skills, life experience and acquaintances and mates and friends that I have accompanied me on my journey ever since.

Last Saturday, 21 August 2010, I excitedly returned to Stellenbosch and Die Huis to attend a new tradition that was started last year – it is called Pa en Seun Naweek (Father and Son weekend). Current students invite their Fathers to spend the weekend in residence and to attend various functions with them. It is all about relationships and the social pillar of Die Huis.

When sixty Helshoogters toured the Eastern Cape in July, they had invited me to attend, despite me not having a son there. I was allocated a voog seun (guardian son), Schalk Burger from Windhoek in Namibia (who also happens to be the newly elected Primarius for 2011).

Unfortunately, I missed out on the Friday’s activities because I attended Sean’s last rugby match – BODA’s vs DAYPOTS – and the BODA braai back in Port Elizabeth.

The fathers and sons in Stellenbosch had attended Koshuis rugby at Coetzenberg, had supper and speeches in the dining hall, and spent the rest of the evening (and night and early morning!) in the Helshoogte Klub on the 4th floor and at Die Bokkie – a student watering hole in town!

It had taken an hour to fly from PE to Cape Town. I had been given the wrong instructions as to where the group was at that time and so it took me two hours to find them! Eventually I found them and joined the somewhat bleary-eyed group for brunch and champagne tasting at the JC le Roux Winery (home of South African premier champagnes) just next door to the Devon Valley Hotel – what memories there!

From then on, I became Die Oom (The Uncle – as Afrikaans youngsters are taught to address their elders as a mark of respect and endearment) en ons het net Afrikaans gepraat! (We just spoke Afrikaans – even though mine has become a bit rusted over the years, it just comes back from nowhere!) When you think you are still twenty years old and fit in just like any one else there, it comes as a bit of a shock to be called Oom – it just rubs it in that many years have passed by in the interim!

Then back to Helshoogte, where an interfloor potjiekos competition was taking place, watched the Springboks lose to New Zeeland, had a spit braai, were entertained by Rooies ( a portly red headed and red bearded Afrikaans singer – die manne het dit gelike – the guys liked this!) and kept the Club ’95 on the 4th floor going until the early hours of Sunday morning.

Some of the fathers were my contemporaries, and so it was great meeting up with the likes of Noel, Norris, Johan . . .

In our day, that area was our Ontspanningsaal, our games room and TV room. Television had just come to South Africa and that was the only TV set in the house! There, we watched all the programmes on the one channel from six pm, including the Scripture reading, Heidie, Wielie Walie, Dallas, Long Street, The World at War and the singing of the national Anthem when the transmission closed down at 11pm.

We drank there – copious mugs of coffee, then, because alcohol was banned in the house. Now, where our table tennis table stood, there was a fully licensed pub and copious amounts of beer, wine, spirits, shots and shooters are consumed until the wee hours of the night! 

I slept on the 4th floor, too, in A415 – thanks to Willem – which was just across the passage from where I finished in 1981 in the then Prim’s room and lounge at A401 and A402. (Previously, I had lived on the second floor (2A and 2B – “2B or not 2B” was on our t-shirts!) and the seventh (7B) floor. I never got to wear the t-shirt that read “Sexy 3C”!)

I miraculously woke up at 9h30 (not really miraculously, because Willem had considerately set his alarm radio!), just in time for Huiskerk (House Church) and a brunch in the dining hall.

This room brought back so many memories – from meals to house meetings, from Wednesday evening sokkies (where I learned to langarm dans) to formal house dances, from hingsdinees to sing-alongs, from listening to the records (ABBA and Smokie!) on the turntable and tape deck in the music cupboard to tuning in to Radio Matie, from sitting on a brick as a gwap to occupying the prim’s chair at the main table!

In between listening to the sermon about fathers and sons, I must admit that I dozed off a few times and then read the many name boards that now decorate the pillars in the large double-volume room, and which acknowledge the achievements of house members over the last 37 years. Amazingly, although it all feels like yesterday, not one student in the present house was even born when we lived, played and worked there!

On the front wall is a board that displays the names of all the prims and deputy prims of the house. My name is the first English name on the board.

It is the ninth name in the ninth year on the deputy side of the board.

It is also the tenth name in the ninth year on the prim side. 1981 is the only year that displays two names in one year. Numerous theories abound and present students in the house often query that. But it’s really quite simple:

After having been elected as the ninth prim in the elections at the end of 1980, Piet Bosch, in unusual circumstances, did not return to residence in 1981. Thus it was, that Eddie Lunnon (as I was and am known in Stellies) became the tenth prim in the ninth year! Being the first English speaking prim was a cause of some concern in certain quarters of the house.

(Incidentally, my sister, Ingrid, became primaria of her residence, Serruria, in the following year, and so, for a few months, we overlapped our duties, and became the first English-speaking brother and sister duo in Matieland!) 

As then, it appeared to be now, dit gaan goed met die gees in die Huis; altans dit gaan goed met die Huis! (All goes well with the spirit in the House; indeed, it goes well in the House!)

After brunch, I left the House – non-emotional, as on previous occasions, because I had planned to stay in the area for a while, and I was scheduled to come back later in the week.

There was still unfinished business to attend to …

(Thanks to Buys, Schalk, JD, Willem, Miles, Charl, …  and all the others for adding to the memories)

Tria Juncto in Uno

Tuesday 24 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …

As the CBD slowly wears me down, my movements become slower and more difficult. Every movement I make saps energy from my body and I become wearier and wearier. This has been especially noticeable to me over the last few weeks. My “up-time” becomes shorter and shorter and the “down-time” longer and longer. I am no longer able to do everything that I would like to do.


But, what is also becoming more evident and especially noticeable to me is the distinction between the various parts of “me” – there is my body, there is my mind and there is my spirit.


As Ed, the body, regresses, Ed, the spirit needs to stay the same – the same humour, the same fun-filled person, the same organiser, the same friend, the same thinker, the same father, and the same husband. In order for Ed, the spirit, to stay the same, Ed the mind needs to become stronger and stronger so as to keep control.


And it is the power of the mind that makes the difference. I have said from the very beginning of this CBD experience, almost four years ago now, that I have two options – either to sit in the corner and mope, or else to continue living a life as full as possible and given the constraints within which I have to work and live.


Last Friday, we were privileged to interview Lewis Pugh, the “human polar bear” in the AlgoaFM studio. He, too, spoke about the mind power required to do the things that he is so good at – swimming in sub-zero temperatures.


For all of us who have our lakes to swim, our Everests to climb, our Atlantics to row, our illnesses and our disabilities to contend with, whatever our challenge is, it becomes an issue of mind over matter – how we draw the strength and the power from our mind and transfer that strength and power to our body in order to keep our body and our spirit going. That is our challenge!


Last Friday evening, I joined Tim and Karen White at the celebration of his birthday. I taught Tim in the eighties, and it was a pleasure at Cubato joining them and a few other ex-pupils, Squirrel (Barrel) Taylor, Lindsay Lovemore, Brett Weddell, Rob Elfick and their wives and partners as we celebrated Tim’s birthday and his challenge of the brain tumour that he faces.


Prior to that, on Friday, we participated in Grey’s BODA- DAYPOT activities. It is the occasion where the Grey boys who reside in the school hostel (some 130 of them) take on the rest of the dayboys (some 800 of them!) in hockey and rugby.


Grey’s hostel is a small one and Sean has lived there for the last two years – and loves it! We often use the words hostel or the boarding house when we are actually referring to the boys who live there. But here, again, we have the three entities that comprise the “hostel” and we see the importance of the spirit in that relationship.


There are the physical buildings, there are the boys who live there and there is the spirit that is engendered there. And sometimes, when the buildings may start to look old and tired, it is also the spirit that carries the hostel through. And often, too, it is that spirit that carries the entire school!   


And so, on paper, and in terms of numbers, this is the biggest mismatch of the season. With one or two exceptions, the hostel rugby team basically faces the school’s 1st XV rugby team.


But, once again, we experienced the power of the mind, and what spirit and “gees” can do! With extra-ordinary mind-power, the BODA’s throw their bodies on the line and beat the dayboys with a good few points to spare. And, Sean contributed his fair share of the points to make that win possible. I was very proud, and I’m sure he’ll remember this very last school rugby game for many years to come (rather than last week’s defeat against Selborne!)


Saturday morning I have to head off to Stellenbosch and to Helshoogte, the university residence that I lived in for six years as a student.


I have become like a cell-phone. As my body battery wears out, I need to recharge every now and then. I’m not sure when the battery dies completely.


And Stellenbosch, my birthplace and my home of tertiary education, is the place that helps me to recharge and keep the spirit up. (Read Heaven is a Place on Earth)


Helshoogte’s emblem also depicts Tria Juncta in Uno – Three joined in One. But more of that next time . . .










My Comment on your Comments

Thursday 19 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …

I have been awake for most of the night. The rain has been pouring down, and I hope that lots of it is falling in our catchment area. That’s only because I am tired of the list of buckets – not bucket lists that I wrote about last week!  There are  buckets in the shower, buckets in the sink, buckets in the bath – all in the name of saving water and adhering to the 500l of water a day that we are allowed to use. Long may the rain fall . .

But, as I have been lying in bed, tossing and turning, I have also been thinking about  the comments that I have been receiving – via this blog site, via email, via AlgoaFM and personally.

I have been truly humbled and moved by your comments and sentiments. They also disturb me somewhat. I hear words such as “admiration” and “inspiration”.

I am a very,very ordinary person just like you with many, many failings.

Without being critical, and very humbly, I would like to suggest that you should admire and be inspired by yourself and by the strength of the human spirit within you – given to you by God, whoever you may perceive Him to be.

What I am able to achieve, you can achieve too! It lies within your hands (or rather within your mind) to overcome adversity and the supposed “problems” that life throws at you – whether they be health, relationship, financial or other life problems.

They are merely challenges that you can meet “head-on” (pun intended) and overcome, simply by loving yourself and believing in yourself, and by taking control of your own thoughts (only YOU can do that!). Know that, within your own mind, YOU have the power to use in any way that YOU choose!

I believe that what you give out in Life, is what you get back.

I admire people like you who take the time to read and to listen and to write to me and to talk to me – your comments inspire me to continue giving of myself. In so doing, I am able to overcome my “dis-ease”.

Rather than being “dis-abled” by this movement disorder, I have become “en-abled” in a way that I would never have thought possible.

You, too, are alive with possibility!

I thank you so very much for your comments, your love, your support and your prayers.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”  (Mahatma Gandhi)

Ed is in Wed 18 August 2010: AlgoaFM

Listen to today’s interview with Lance du Plessis on AlgoaFM: Caregiving 


Finding meaning with Charles: Caregiving with Love Through a Degenerative Disease  by Janet Edmunson

Go to her website for more information regarding caregiving:


Some possible interesting South African statistics based on extrapolation from USA figures:

  • 600 000 people have some kind of degenerative neurological condition
  • 150 000 people have Parkinson’s Disease (PD)
  • 450 000 people have Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
  • 40 000 people have Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • 3 000 people have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) – also known as Lou Gehric Disease 
  • 2 000 people have Progressive Supranucleur Palsy (PSP)
  • 1 person has Corticalbasal Degeneration (CBD)

Support in Port Elizabeth:

  • Parkinson’s Support group – phone Deline 041 373 7904 or Briar 041 583 6180
  • St Francis Hospice 041 360 7070
  • Alzheimer’s East Cape – phone Prof Juanita Strumpher 082 378 9062 or Matron Linda Swartz 082 785 5574
  • Support Group of Diabetes SA – phone Martin Prinsloo 082 579 9059
  • NursingWise cc is a nursing agency that provides care workers, enrolled nurses, sisters, etc. – phone 041 373 3100

Some advice for Family Caregivers:

  • Accept offers of help – don’t wait too long to get help
  • Give yourself a break
  • Watch your own health
  • Review your family’s health care coverage (medical aid/disability cover)
  • Seek expert advice
  • Stress makes you stupid
  • Surround yourself with positive people and messages
  • Strength comes in helping others
  • It is difficult dealing with the very long good-bye that is part of a neurodegenerative disease
  • Be more upfront and proactive with issues such as wheelchairs, driving, retirement 
  • Life isn’t fair – but tragic opportunities allow one to live more deeply and more passionately
  • Be an A C E : Live Abundantly – Laugh Continuously – Love Endlessly

To succeed in Life, you need a Wishbone, a Backbone and a Funnybone

The End of an Era

Monday 16 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …

Pussy Cat Pussy Cat

Where have you been?

I’ve been to London

To see the Queen

Londres is my favourite city in all the world.

Ironically, my surname LUNNON was originally a habitation name for someone who came from London or a nickname for one who had made a trip to London or had some other connection with the City.


In my case, I first got the name and was then so fortunate to have visited there no less than seven times – the first time in January 1976 when, aged 19, I was returning from my year in the USA.


Then I went back in June 1981 on my student tour of Europe, in June 1985 on the Grey Cricket Tour of UK and Holland, in December 1987 en route to the USA, in June 1999 on holiday in the UK with Pera, in October 2001 with Pera, Sean and Phillip on returning from the USA and in November 2008 when I was in the UK thanks to my matric class of 1984.   


It was only on the last visit that I got to see the Queen – up close and personal – on her way in her horse-drawn carriage to officially open Parliament at Westminster.


But then I have also seen the diminutive Queen Elizabeth – up close and personal – in Port Elizabeth when she visited here in 1995. (And, despite the utterances of some politicians of the present day, there is no connection between the Elizabeth as in the Queen and the Elizabeth as in the Port – the latter being Elizabeth Donkin, the wife of Sir Rufane Donkin, who named this seaport in 1820 after his then late wife who had passed away in 1818 at the age of 27).


Like it or not, we just don’t seem to be able to get away from our Colonial English roots.


And so, this past weekend saw us leaving Port Elizabeth for London again – only this time it was East London, just 300 km east up the N2 in the area that is known as The Border. In the 18th and 19th centuries, this area was the war-torn border between the arriving white European settlers from the west and the migrating black Xhosa tribes from the east.


The tourist signs along the N2 refer to Frontier Land, and, on Friday morning, with Sean at the wheel, we passed a number of these signs as we headed east this time and passed through Grahamstown, Peddie and King William’s Town en route to East London – now also referred to as Buffalo City.


East London had a particular attraction for my late father, Herbert Louis Lunnon. When I was ten, our family went on a rare holiday – a unique caravan tour through South Africa. I remember our caravan parked in the East London caravan park on a site high up on the terraces facing the Indian Ocean somewhere behind where the Holiday Inn (Garden Court) is today.


Mom and Dad loved the place and Dad always wanted to retire there. Sadly, Dad never retired because just two years later, in 1969, at the age of 52, he suffered a debilitating stroke that left him totally paralysed and speechless until he passed away in 1976.


In 1977, I recall my Mom, Doris, bringing Ingrid, June and I on a return visit to East London. We stayed in the Bliss Holiday Flats on the beachfront – they are still there today!


I recall being quite scared in King William’s Town, where we were caught up in masses, if not millions, of Black people who were attending the funeral of Black Consciousness leader, Steve Biko who had died (committed suicide, read as murdered!) in police custody some days earlier.  


Sadly, Mom, too, never retired. She died at the early age of 55 in 1986 – my third year of teaching at Grey.


I also got to enjoy East London during my business career. Almost weekly visits led me to have an almost permanent apartment, C3, at the Blue Lagoon. The Highlander brings back fond memories. I know Slummies (or Slumtown as some prefer to call it) like the back of my hand. It was said that there are four women for every one man in Slummies!


But, on to the next generation and last weekend: This time, Sean, Phillip and I passed through King uneventfully. The only excitement there was when we stopped at the Buffalo Wimpy in order to have a wee.


As I walked into the cloakroom, I heard Lance Du Plessis behind me. (Lance is my interviewer on AlgoaFM: Ed is in Wed and after 5 months of interviews, I’d recognise that voice anywhere! As I spun around to say hello, I became aware that he was not there – only his voice on the radio that was broadcasting on the loudspeakers in the cloakroom!


I suddenly realised the power of radio, all the strange places that it was to be heard and the impact that our radio programme was having. (Wherever we went in East London over the weekend, I was known or introduced as the “Ed from the Radio”!) Once again, I have been humbled by the opportunity to raise awareness of CBD that is being afforded me by AlgoaFM and Lance!


Phillip and Sean were playing rugby against Selborne College on Saturday morning. But Sean had to be at the school at 11h30 to set up for a music evening. The Grey Symphonic Winds, The Grey Voices, The Grey Strings and The Grey Orchestra were scheduled to entertain us, together with the Selborne Military Band, on Friday evening.


This was it!


It would be Sean’s last appearance as a schoolboy trombonist in the Grey Orchestra. It would also be his last appearance on Saturday morning playing rugby for his school in the Reds – Grey’s Third rugby team.


Well, the weekend started on a high note (!) with superb performances by the musicians, but the enthusiasm became flatter and flatter, as one Grey sport team after the other turned in a loss!


Sean managed to put his team into the lead by creating a break for a fine try. But, in the presence of a poor kicking performance by their regular kicker, Sean was given the conversion kick. He missed, and it left Grey just one point ahead of Selborne.


And then, Selborne were awarded a penalty – it was over, they moved two points ahead, and the final whistle was blown. Selborne won by two points!


I guess Sean will always remember that last game as the one that they could have drawn IF he had kicked over that conversion!


But, at the end of this era, remember Sean, that wonderful break, that wonderful try, and ten years of wonderful rugby that you have experienced since your under 9 days.


Remember what you have learned – from that first game in Queenstown when, quietly on the back seat of the car you told us that your team was going to play rugby against Queens and no-one even knew how to play the game!


Remember the players that you have played with and against along the way. Remember all the friends that you have made.


Remember the coaches that have spent hours training you.


Remember the many families that have hosted you, and the boys that we have hosted.


Remember the many and happy trips we have made together to Bloemfontein, Queenstown, Cape Town, King William’s Town, Graaff-Reinet, Stellenbosch, Durban, Pietermaritzberg and East London.


Remember the sportsmanship and the wonderful example that you have set for Phillip.


Remember the many hours of pleasure that you have given your Mom and Dad as we have watched you from where we have stood and sat next to the many sport fields that you have played on.


Remember all the friends that, through your activities, we have made along the way.


 Remember the FUN!


Remember the wonderful music that you have played for us, and we pray that you will be able to keep on playing – on the fields and in the music halls – for many years to come.


On Friday night, your Orchestra played “Band of Brothers” by Michael Kamen. Remember the band of brothers that you have at Grey.


Above all, remember that, as on the sports fields, you do not win everything in Life.


Life’s not fair, and when the knocks come, as they always do, and when we perceive life to be unfair, as some parents perceived the referees on Saturday, it doesn’t help to rant and rave and to shout abuse, as some parents did on Saturday.


It’s how you take the knocks that count! And, you have already shown us, Sean, that you can take the knocks.


In the end, as Grantland Rice said,


For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He writes — not that you won or lost — but how you played the Game.


Remember, that you have made us very proud parents.


And, the rest of the weekend?


We had a great time. Friday evening, after the show, we had supper at the Black Bull with Robbie and Clair Blair, Frank and Jenny Collier, Ronel Charalambous and Stuart Keene. And the Band of Brothers!


We stayed on the beachfront at Cintsa in David Nosworthy’s (ex pupil and currently touring as coach with the emerging Proteas cricket side) beach house (thanks to Rory Lavender’s arrangements).


Saturday evening, we called back the past and braaied with Uwe and Carol Tinhoff, residents in Beacon Bay and friends of mine from the business days, and the days when we were still able to run the Knysna Forest Marathon!


And Sunday morning, we visited the new Hemmingways Mall and met up with Stella Heuer, an ex-business associate of mine. (Stella arranged a contract for me to do HIV/AIDS training in the rolling hills of Transkei in 2004 – but that’s another story for another time!)


Our visit was brief, because we had to get back to PE for Sean to get to … rugby practice at 15h00! It’s BODAs vs DAYPOTS on Friday. So much for the end of the era …




Wash and Blow Dry

Friday 13 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …

I first grew a moustache when I was a student at Stellenbosch. Why, I can’t remember – but I guess it must have had something to do with less time spent shaving in the morning!

I’ve always been a night person – stay up and party through the night. I learned that as a student. Many nights, I didn’t sleep at all! Even as recent as March last year, after the Graeme College Rugby festival, we partied with Hennie le Roux (ex Springbok of 1995 World Cup fame) at the Rat and Parrot and danced – I learned that as a student, too – at a nameless place across the road until the wee hours of the morning.

And then Scottie and I sat on the hilltop at the Settlers’ Monument until the sun rose over Grahamstown at six am. We healed all the world’s ills (except mine!) and got close to God as we discussed religion and faith and everlasting life! 

Yes, I’ve always been a night person. I’ve never been a morning person. So, I guess that I would have tried anything that would allow me to sleep in for a few minutes longer.

I even tried a beard when we were visiting the Greek Islands during our European tour of 1981. It was never really a very successful beard, but not having to shave did save another few minutes!

Ironically, it was when shaving, almost four years ago now, that I began to realize that there was something wrong with my left hand. Now – with my illness – I am even less of a morning person. The first few hours of the morning are when I am least able to move.

The moustache has stayed permanently, but changed from black to grey, since the mid seventies. I’ve only shaved it off once, a few years ago, when I lost a bet, and then regrew it immediately!

But the old grey beard comes and goes. Normally, it appears as the winter months arrive and comes off when summer approaches.

Hence, it came off last week again. I’ve got rid of the grey for a few months! And, it’s good exercise for my hands to grasp a razor once again!

But my hair had started looking really long and unkempt. And, Pera, my regular hairdresser, had offered to cut it earlier in the week, when she was cutting Sean and Phillip’s hair. I hadn’t been feeling well, so I declined the offer then.

However, last night, Wayne Kallis, local entertainer with Centre Stage, was looking for guys to volunteer to have their hair cut by “lady friends” of his. We passed a few comments to each other via cyber space regarding this request.

I wasn’t quite sure whether this was a catch or not. It’s strange how we have become reluctant to accept anything that is free or cheap – there are so many scams and fly-by-nights out there!

I jokingly enquired whether there were “extra’s” and Wayne replied that he wasn’t even sure if there were haircuts involved! 

I offered my services, anyway, and was told to report to the Hair Academy in Newton Park at three this afternoon.

So, in preparing for our trip to East London, and in between having my car serviced at Maritime and washed and blown dry at the car wash (remember we still have water restrictions and may not use hosepipes to wash cars), I also received a makeover – a wash, cut and blow dry!

It all turned out to be a group of hairdressing students who required a certain number of guinea pigs to practice on and prepare themselves for their forthcoming examinations.

I haven’t been pampered so much in a long time. But now, the hair’s gone and the beard’s gone and the moustache is trimmed. And, I feel like a new penny, and I look so good … and I feel like I can party through the night again!

And I’m ready for East London (the Highlander at the Blue Lagoon, maybe?) but I’m going to have to get up a few minutes earlier in order to shave …


There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror,
and noticed she had only three hairs on her head.
‘Well,’ she said, ‘I think I’ll braid my hair today.’
So she did and she had a wonderful day. 

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror
and saw that she had only two hairs on her head.

‘H-M-M,’ she said, ‘I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today.’
So she did and she had a grand day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed
that she had only one hair on her head.

‘Well,’ she said, ‘today I’m going to wear my hair in a pony tail.’
So she did, and she had a fun, fun day.
The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and
noticed that there wasn’t a single hair on her head.
‘YAY!’ she exclaimed. ‘I don’t have to fix my hair today!’
Attitude is everything.
Be kinder than necessary,
for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
Live simply,
Love generously,
Care deeply,
Speak kindly,
and pray continually.
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…
It’s about learning to dance in the rain.



Tuesday 10 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …

Bucket lists have become synonymous with people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses. I think the term comes from the movie entitled Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman and I would guess it’s based on the English euphemism for dying:  to kick the bucket!

We all know what a bucket is – and so this phrase appears rather odd. Why should kicking one be associated with dying?

The link between buckets and death was made by at least 1785, when the phrase was defined in Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: “To kick the bucket, to die.”

One theory as to why, albeit with little evidence to support it, is that the phrase originates from the notion that people hanged themselves by standing on a bucket with a noose around their neck and then kicking the bucket away. There are no citations that relate the phrase to suicide and, in any case, why a bucket?

Whenever I’ve needed something to stand on I can’t recall ever opting for a bucket. This theory doesn’t stand up any better than the supposed buckets did.

The mist begins to clear with the fact that in 16th century England bucket had an additional meaning (and in some parts it still has), i.e. a beam or yoke used to hang or carry items.

The term may have been introduced into English from the French trébuchet – meaning a balance, or buque – meaning a yoke. That meaning of bucket was referred to in Peter Levins’ Manipulus vocabulorum. A dictionarie of English and Latine wordes, 1570:

“A Bucket, beame, tollo.” and was used by Shakespeare in Henry IV Part II, 1597:

“Swifter then he that gibbets on the Brewers Bucket.” [to gibbet meant to hang]

The wooden frame that was used to hang animals up by their feet for slaughter was called a bucket. Not unnaturally they were likely to struggle or to spasm after death and hence ‘kick the bucket’.

Any which way. Last week, on Ed is in Wed© on AlgoaFM, Lance and I discussed the travelling that I had done and had been referring to in my blogs. He said that it reminded him of Dalene Mathee’s Kring in die Bos.

I have been extremely fortunate to have travelled extensively in my lifetime, both in Southern Africa and overseas. The bug definitely bit me when I became a Rotary Exchange Student to the USA in 1975. 

Lance then asked whether further travel was on my bucket list? I think my response was somewhere along the lines of “I would love to, but it’s not that easy anymore – both from a cost perspective and from a health perspective”.

Yes, bucket lists are easy to draw up when you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. The difficult part is to action the list!

In watching the movie Bucket List and in reading various books by authors diagnosed with terminal illnesses, it is evident that it is essential to be quite wealthy in order to action bucket lists. In the case of ordinary everyday people such as me, and in many cases people who are even less fortunate than me, bucket lists are often unattainable. Hence the excellent work done by organisations such as REACH FOR A DREAM.

Bucket lists can also become very stressful items, especially in a family environment.

I have written before about trying to live normally in a world that has become very abnormal. Whilst I, at the top of each of my blogs, have a counter counting the extra time that I been blessed with since becoming ill, and cross off each day on the calendar as another bonus that I have filled with some or other activity, my family are simply going about their “normal” daily routines – work, school, play – and planning and living their normal lives (in addition to having to care for me!)

A friend said to me just the other day, “You are so lucky to be living the life that you now have!” I was originally quite p***** off, and replied that I would give anything to be healthy again.  But, in thinking about it, yes, I have been truly blessed with all the activities that I have been privileged to be involved in – things that would never have been possible had I still been healthy!

But, my thinking is not always that of my family’s!

In Industrial Relations, which I was involved in for fifteen years of my business life, one recognises the fact that conflict is inevitable in the capitalistic business environment.

Because the goal of the one party in the partnership is not the same as that of the other party in the partnership, there is constant feuding between capital and labour!

On the one hand, you have entrepreneurs and management trying to make as much profit as possible by utilising their labour for as long and hard as possible – and, on the other hand, you have labour wanting as much remuneration as possible for doing the least amount of work that is possible! Hence, all the strikes that we see as part of our daily South African business environment!

The same happens when you have a family where some are living and one is dying!

The goals are not always the same, and conflict becomes inevitable.

That happened again, this past weekend – the long weekend with Women’s Day being the public holiday last Monday. 

We had planned to go to St Francis Bay for the weekend. But, we had also been invited to go to Elvis Blue’s concert in George. My bucket list included the concert – the family thought I was insane to travel all that way to go to a concert – well, maybe I am!

And, as in industrial relation’s conflict, domestic conflict can also only be resolved through consultation, negotiation and compromise!

We agreed to go from Port Elizabeth to St Francis Bay – via George! For those who know, that’s like travelling from New York to San Francisco via London! And the party grew from two to four people – from Pera and I to the whole family!

So, on Friday afternoon, we left for George – with demeanour, body language and the lack of any other language in the car clearly demonstrating that there was some stress, and that all was not quite well in the state of Denmark!

Time was of the essence. We left at two thirty and the concert was due to start in George at seven. We arrived at Hermann and Sally in Knysna (where we would stay for the night) at five thirty, quickly changed (those that needed to) and left for George – another forty-five minutes down the road.

I knew the show was booked up, that seating was “first come-first served” and was stressing about having to sit on the floor. However, I did not know that we had reserved seats in the second row from the front, and so some of the stress was quite unnecessary  (isn’t that often the case?).

Well, Elvis’s singing was exceptional (and the supporting programme was good) and if he doesn’t win SA Idols this year, I am sure he’ll make it close to the very top. We all enjoyed the show and that helped to thaw the mood somewhat!

Then back to Knysna, where we spent the night. A full-on English breakfast was served, complete with handwritten menus, by Tayla (the youngest of the Kapp daughters) and her friend. When I came downstairs, I found them in the kitchen with their aprons covering their pyjamas. How different having daughters compared to having sons!

We sat outside on the deck, catching up, and savouring the beautiful surroundings of the Knysna environment. Alas, noon came to soon, and we headed off back to St Francis Bay (which is where, you will recall, we were headed in the first place!)

But Sean wanted to visit his school and hostel friend, David Bryant, in Plettenberg Bay. So, in the further interests of compromise, we agreed to make a quick stop there – just to say hello – and phoned ahead to say it would be quick – please, no lunch!

Well, Dave’s folks arrived home and almost convinced us to stay the night! But, after much chatting, numerous beers, glasses of champagne, chips and dips, and more and more visitors arriving, we eventually set off for St Fran at about five!  What a lovely day – often the unplanned, spontaneous things are just like that!

On the way back, we had a flat on the Tsitsikamma Toll Road. Thanks to Sean and Phillip (they could apply to work in Schumaker’s F1 pits) and the toll road patrol, we were able to get moving quickly again and eventually got to St Fran just after seven pm, missing the closing of the Spar by minutes.

Our neighbours, the Rishworths, were braaing on their deck, and so we joined them, as we did on Sunday afternoon for lunch, together with their other guests. And then Ken and Dorelle MacKenzie arrived for drinks . . .

Ndiniwe – I am exhausted – but the bucket list is not!

Monday morning saw Sean and I rush back to Port Elizabeth to meet up with Elvis and Lance in the AlgoaFM studio for a final interview before he heads off to Sun City. Good luck there, Jan!

What a show – what a weekend – what a victory for compromise!

We need another long weekend to rest – when’s that?

Piece/Peace of Paradise

1 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …

From Port Elizabeth, the N2 heads westwards towards Cape Town, squeezed in between the coastline and the mountain ranges running parallel to the coast. The section from about Humansdorp to George and Mossel Bay is known as the Garden Route, and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country.

It’s easy to see why. Some of the most spectacular scenery is to be seen here: the Tsitikamma Mountains and Nature Reserve with its Big Tree; Storms River Gorge and Bridge, Blaauwkrantz River Bridge, Nature’s Valley and Otter Trail; Plettenberg Bay with its sweeping beaches, Keurbooms and Bitou River and Robberg Peninsula: Knysna with its forests, elephants, lagoon and The Heads where the lagoon empties into the Indian Ocean; Sedgefield and the Lakes; Wilderness, Leentjies Klip and the Kaaimans River mouth; George with its Outeniqua Mountains, Vic Bay and Herold’s Bay; and then finally, the sweeping expanse of  Hartenbos, Klein and Groot Brak, Tergniet, Eselsrus and Mossel Bay.

Almost 400 kilometres of absolute heaven is just here on our doorstep – a piece of Paradise. No wonder the municipality in this area is called the Eden Municipality. Adam and Eve must have swapped their Eden for a darn good apple! 

When you’re down and out – feeling small

When tears are in your eyes … 

–        This is the part of the world you should head to –

It will dry them all…


And so, on Friday afternoon, I headed off for Knysna. My destination was Oudtshoorn to attend Ina Scholtz’s memorial service on Saturday morning. The boys were playing rugby against Framesby (the annual not-so-nice recreation of the Anglo-Boer War!) on Saturday morning and Pera was staying to support them.


I can’t remember when last I have driven that far by myself, and so I was a bit apprehensive when I left, and decided to break the journey by sleeping over in Knysna. It’s just two and a half hours to get there. Physically, I can still drive and when I became ill, to make things easier for me, we bought an automatic car (a station wagon for space for that promised wheelchair!) The biggest challenge is concentration and tiredness.

But I got to Knysna with no problems – just admiring the scenery along the way – and making the obligatory stop at the Storms River Bridge for a cooldrink.

I stayed over with Sally and Hermann Kapp, an ex-colleague of mine from the business days. Hermann was the Regional Produce Buyer and I was the Regional Human Resources Manager.

I remember the day very clearly as if it were yesterday – but in fact almost ten years ago now – in October 2001 when Hermann came into my office to resign. It was the day that I had just returned to work after our family had returned from the USA.

Pera, the boys and I had left for the USA on a three-week holiday just two weeks after September 11 – the day the Twin Towers were attacked in New York City.

Planes had only just started flying again, and we had undertaken a marathon trip of over forty hours of flying, delays and searching from PE via Johannesburg, London and New York to Atlanta, Georgia. There we stayed with my exchange student days “brother” Kevin and Carol Whitley before flying on to Tulsa, Oklahoma and Mom and Dad Whitley at Table Rock Lake in Missouri.

Flying at the time was also like Paradise. Every one was too scared to fly, so in economy class, we were only some twenty people on the Boeing 777 flight from Londres Gatwick to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. Not only rows of seats to ourselves, but whole blocks of seats, as we flew down the eastern seaboard of the US and over New York City’s Ground Zero, where I videoed the kilometres high plume of smoke that was still billowing up into the sky.

What a holiday that was! But on my first day back in the office, Hermann came to resign. He was going to open his own Fruit and Veg City store in Knysna. (The next day, I was mugged in Main Street and robbed of my leftover dollars that I was taking back to the bank!)   

And so, almost ten years later, Hermann now owns and runs not only Knysna F&V, but also Jeffrey’s Bay F&V and the Oudtshoorn and George Butcheries. They have worked really hard and done exceptionally well, and are such hospitable people. Their home, in Eastford Estate, Knysna, is so spectacular and inviting, and always open to guests.

When I arrived, Sally had not got home yet and I went and sat on the front deck of the house, which is in a country estate on the hills north of the town. From there, through the trees, one looks towards The Heads, over the cascading slip pool where the water appears to be running right into the Knysna Lagoon visible in the distance. The only sound was that of the soft wind whooshing in the trees and the melodic call of the Knysna Loeries. Truly, a piece of Paradise! 

I left early Saturday morning and headed via George and the Outeniqua Pass for Oudtshoorn.  I haven’t travelled that road for years, but used to do it so regularly in my red Toyota CG 18942 when I was at Infantry School in Oudtshoorn.

I recalled arriving there on the troop train, which had come over this very pass from The Castle in Cape Town in January of 1982. But I escaped Oudtshoorn as often as possible during those fifteen months that I was based there (until I was transferred to Youngsfield in Wynberg and later 1 SACC Battalion in Eerste Rivier.)

The escape route was either to the Scholtz’s at Keurbooms or to Dr Hendrik and Mrs Anna du Toit in George (the parents of Gretel (Du Toit) Wust, university friends of mine and whose home we had stayed in when we went down to Cape Town in June).

Now, I was headed away from the sea over the mountain and past the hop farms to Oudtshoorn to be with the Scholtz’s again. We were there just a month ago when returning from Cape Town to PE via the “back road”, Route 61, and I had not thought that I would be back there so soon, if at all! 

The minister of the Methodist Church spoke about the paradox of our Faith – sadness at losing a loved one, but the joy of knowing that they have moved on to a Better Place that knows neither sadness nor sickness – the Peace of Paradise.

Death seems to heal all wounds, feuds and fights. And people who avoid each other in life even seem to make time for each other in death. Even feuding politicians find time to attend the funerals of archenemies and then find some good words to say.   

The paradox of funerals, too, is that despite the sadness, they also provide great joy when meeting up with people that you haven’t seen for years. In a way, funerals are a sort of forced reunion of families and friends. Between all the tears, out come the memories, the laughs, the happy times, and – if you are dated like us – the photographs, the slides and the home movies!

And so for me, after so many years, it was so good to see again the whole Scholtz clan together: Uncle Piet and Anton and Ingrid (my sister), Leonie (Scholtz) and Jos Smith, Rael and Ruth, Gerhard and Martie, Pieter and Hanneke, and fifteen of the sixteen grandchildren who were there.

And taking the extended family of uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws etc, it became quite fun to work out who looked like who and who went with who!

Yet, it was quite surreal not to have Aunty Ina there – she had been central to this show for as long as I could remember – whether it was next to the pool at the house in Cradock, body-boarding in the surf at Keurbooms, drinking coffee below the Melkhout tree on the patio of their Spanish style beach house or savouring the exquisite view of the Plettenberg Bay and braaing on the balcony of the Tupperware House of Jos and Leonie up on the hill.

But, what is dying?

A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon

And someone at my side says

“She is gone.”


Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all.

She is just as large now as when I last saw her.

Her diminished size and total loss from sight is in me, not in her.


And just at that moment, when someone at my side says she is gone,

there are others who are watching her coming over their horizon

and other voices take up a glad shout –

“There she comes!”


That is what dying is.

An horizon and just the limit of our sight.


Lift us up O Lord, that we may see further.

(Bishop Brent)

All to soon, it came to an end, and I had to head back to Port Elizabeth because we were having dinner with the Stapletons on Saturday evening. But first, I had coffee at the Mugg and Bean in George with Jan Hoogendyk, a preacher, singer and guitarist who works and teaches amongst the under-privileged children in that area.

Two weeks ago, Jan appeared in the Cape Town auditions of MNet’s Idols (South Africa) as Elvis Blue (an ex-pupil of his who died at the age of twelve from HIV/AIDS complications). Elvis brought Mara Louw, one of the judges, to tears with his singing of Bob Dylan’s To Make you Feel My Love and received his Golden Ticket to take him through to the next round at Sun City (and the next round ? … and the next round?) . . .

Those of us who knew her, all felt Ina Scholtz’s love. In Life, as some doors close, others open … thanks for all you do and good luck with your journey and your big dreams, Elvis!