Fasten Your Seatbelts!

3 October 2010: 4 years 1 month on …

Fuddruckers is a chain of hamburger restaurants in the United States.

We went there for lunch on the way to Atlanta’s O’Hare International Airport when we were returning to South Africa after our month-long holiday in Georgia and Missouri in the USA in October 2001. It was the day that the United States declared war on Afghanistan, after the Twin Towers had been destroyed on September 11.

Sean was nine and Phillip was six.

They loved Fuddruckers. From a lengthy menu, you get to order your specific favourite roll and your specific hamburger patty. Then you go around the various food stations in the restaurant and add on whatever your heart desires – different relishes, garnishes, cheeses, tomatoes, onions, etc etc etc … and you end up with a burger as tall as the Twin Towers used to be! And you could eat as much as your heart desires!

So, we decided that the theme for last night’s party should be a Fuddruckers Build-a-Burger evening. Bring your own patties which we braaied and you add the rest!

The reason for the party was simple!

When we were in East London in August to play Selborne College, Rob and Anneline Parker had sat next to us at the Grey Orchestra concert.  Rob was quite emotional about that being the last weekend of our matric sons’ rugby and music at the school. After all, as parents, we had spent the last twelve years next to the sports fields together and attending various concerts and functions.

We had discussed this in the car on the way home to Port Elizabeth, and I suggested that we have a party to celebrate this milestone in our lives. We decided to party in order to celebrate Sean’s leaving school, my birthday on 18 September and my 4th birthday with CBD, Pera’s birthday today, Sean’s birthday on 20 May and Phillip’s birthday on 7 July – we decided to celebrate Life!

The Fuddruckers theme came easily – the date came with great difficulty. Every date we chose already had something else planned. Eventually, we settled on Saturday 2 October and we invited Sean’s class mates and their parents – people who have been a part of our lives over the past twelve years.

We need the rain, Lord, but please not on this Saturday night!

Despite Windguru and the SA Meteorological Agency saying otherwise, the weather looked like it was going to be miserable, so we put up Pera’s large family tent in the garden and a gazebo on the back patio.

But God gave us a rain-free and a wind-free evening … And so, last night, we had some sixty people celebrating at our home – transformed into a Fuddruckers for the evening.

I had thought of saying a few words, but decided not to interrupt the festivities, mostly because I think I would have been too emotional.

This is what I would have said to our eighteen year old sons (and to all those children in South Africa) who are about ready to leave high school in three weeks’ time (and what I did get to say on Tuesday before they left school):

Rector, Men of the Grey: 2010

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you.

Some of you call me Mr Lunnon

Others say Uncle Ed

For some it’s just Ed

For just one (I hope!), it’s Dad

And a few say Sir!

But the first time I stood on the stage in this hall

Everyone in front of me called me Sir

despite the fact that

I was but a few years older than you are now.

That was because I had just started my first job here

As a teacher at The Grey.

None of you were even born yet

After all, that was 26 years ago.

Not much has changed in this hall since then.

The faces have changed,

And the unlicensed pub, called Kim, that was run by the BODAS

Under this very floor, during those years,

No longer operates!


Unlike past generations, most of you, from the present generation, have flown

Wherever you fly in the world, the procedure is basically the same

And most of you will be familiar with that procedure


The whole flying procedure reminds me of our life journey too

Much of it is in the preparation

And that is what you have been busy with up until now


You have been packing your bags for the last 18 years

You have been planning your flights

You have booked your tickets

You have passed the initial checking-in requirements

The bags are now loaded onto the flight

You have taken up your seats


Right now you are taxi-ing to that final point on the runway before you stop for a while

You fasten your seat belts

Make sure your seats are in the upright position

And the tray tables are stowed away in front of you


The pilot does the last final tests and checks

And if everything is OK you will be cleared for take-off

And then the real journey gets underway


For the next two months you will be busy with those final tests and examinations

If you pass and all is ok, early in January 2011 your name will appear in the newspaper

You will receive your school-leaving certificate

You will be cleared for take-off


But no-one just flies off arbitrarily

The destinations and the goals are set

Each of you will be on a different flight

 Each headed in a different direction


Some of you will fly first class – some economy class

Some are “lucky” and may get upgraded along the way

Some will be squeezed in – some will travel comfortably

The ride sometimes is smooth

Sometimes bumpy

Sometimes the cabin crew is something good for the eye

Sometimes not

Sometimes the meals and drinks are free

Sometimes not

Sometimes you are diverted

Sometimes on time and sometimes not

Sometimes the journey goes according to plan

And sometimes the journey ends catastrophically.


Many of you are aware that, four years ago,

I was diagnosed with a very rare terminal illness

And that I was given but a few years to live.

I had never thought then that I would make today.

Please don’t wait for such a life-changing event

To shock you into living!


As we sit here today – no one knows what the future ride will be like


But whatever happens –

Ensure that you enjoy the ride – every single moment of it

As from now!

Make the most of each opportunity that comes your way

And, moreover, when they don’t come your way, make opportunities

Plan and set yourself goals

Participate in everything

Enjoy the view

Take many walks and smell the roses

Speak to your traveling companions


Enjoy the refreshments

Drink as much as possible – water that is!

Stop every now and then to listen to the music

Read your in-flight material – as much as possible

I have found my Bible full of travel tips

You may wish to read yours, too.

And put your travels in the Hands of the Great Captain.


Marvel at the wonder of your trip.


As your parents and teachers, we have confused you at times

We have taught you morals and rules,

But at the same time we told you that

Snow White sleeps with 7 men

Tarzan is half naked

Cinderella comes home way after midnight

Pinocchio tells lies

Aladdin is the king of thieves

Batman drives at 200 kph!

It’s no wonder you mess up sometimes!


But, as your parents we have brought you successfully to this point of departure

For the first time our paths will now go separate ways

We will watch you as you fly off and disappear into the distance

But we will always be there for you to return

Our cell phones will always be on for you

It will be up to you to turn yours on to call us

Hopefully not only when you need us

But also when you just want to chat and share with us

And tell us where you are in your journey


But whilst we see you off at this time

Remember that we are also on our flights of life

Just in front of you

All that you will experience we have experienced before you

And we can often give advice – available to you at any time

Heed that advice

And, God willing, as we see you off on your life journeys today

There will be that one day that we will be waiting for you

When you eventually arrive at that Destination that we believe we are all headed to



We wish you good luck for your examinations

We wish you good luck for your journey

We wish you pleasant weather conditions

We wish you lots of leg-room

We wish you pretty air hostesses

We wish you great traveling companions

Above all, we wish you safe traveling

And happy landings


Over the next few days you will receive many words of wisdom

There is an Old Mutual advert flighted on TV at the moment

It says:

We get wisdom in many different ways

It’s what we do with it that counts.


Your life is now in your hands!


(And Happy Birthday wishes to my wife, Pera, today – may there be many happy returns of the day!)

PS. Fuddruckers is not a bad word used to describe naughty schoolboys, as many Grey boys think, after our friend John Clarke heard us use the word and decided to call them Fuddruckers!

2 comments on “Fasten Your Seatbelts!

  1. Oh Ed! Keith and I had the best time on Saturday night! Thank you so much for having us! Congratulations on all the milestones reached this year. It is just as well that you didn’t say those words on Saturday, as we would have been gonners emotionally. Thanks for a wonderful message for our boys to carry with them. Much love to you all…

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