The Shades of Grey


©2013 Edward C. Lunnon

Thursday 1 August 2013: 6 years 11 months on …

Physical: Advantage CBD / Mental: Deuce

It was about half past two last Friday afternoon. The odometer on my car read 88 888 km and we were just passing over the longest and largest South African river, the Orange River,  from the Northern Cape Province into the Province of the Free State.

Three provinces in a day!

In the past we have done this trip by train (see my previous blogs) but now the South African railways have become non (dys?)-functional and they are unable to supply rolling stock. It’s such a sorry sight to see so many worn-out carriages parked along the way of hundreds of kilometres of unused and deserted and disintegrating railway tracks!  (Phill reckons his life mission is to get the trains back on track.  Steve Jobs said “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do! So go, Phill!

So, we (Pera, Phill, Brad McKenzie and I) had departed by car from Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape Province, at nine, and left behind us Uitenhage, Jansenville, Graaff-Reinet (where we had lunch at the Polka Restaurant), Middleburg, Noupoort and Coleburg.

Still to come along the N1 – our country’s major arterial route – was Springfontein, Trompsburg, Edenburg and then our destination:  Bloemfontein, the Judicial Capital City of South Africa and home of our country’s Supreme Court of Appeal. It is the third capital city of South Africa, the product of compromise when SA was formed in 1910, with the other Capital cities, of course, being Cape Town, the Legislative Capital  with its Houses of Parliament and the Administrative Capital, Pretoria (or Tshwane, as it is being called by some nowadays) with its imposing Union Buildings.

Bloemfontein is also known as the Rose City. But we weren’t here to pick flowers and flowers we certainly didn’t collect!

The purpose of our trip was rugby: Grey High from PE versus Grey College from Bloem and Phillip’s last school away game for Tommo’s mighty Thirds. It would also be the end our school boy sporting trips – first Sean’s rugby and cricket career and then Phillip’s rugby, cricket and waterpolo career now also drawing to a close.

So this was a rather nostalgic trip for all of us. One which I had not really looked forward to, as I had been very busy, tired and experiencing a bit of pain in my left buttock and left leg. A long eight hour trip was not what the doctor ordered for me. But Phill on his learner’s licence had driven us most of the way. I took over for the last stretch into Bloem!

We arrived at our guest house, Blessings, in the suburb of Dan Pienaar (recommended by the Engelbrechts of Paarl), at about 17h00. We had got lost a few times – Bloemfontein also being a city of the modern day New South African compromise as well: renamed Nelson Mandela Drive lies next to Kenneth Kaunda Avenue lies next to Walter Sisulu Avenue lies next to Gen Dan Pienaar, Gen Hertzog, Kmdt Senekal, Unie Avenue, President Kruger – and the GPS doesn’t always know the changes!

Anyway, we were there safely! Supper was to be at the Villa Bella Casa. We would join our Pretoria friends Thomas and Marzette Moolman who were sleeping over in Bloem on their way home from a holiday in the Eastern Cape. They had visited us earlier in the week from Port Alfred and Marzette had left her diary next to the bed when they had left last Thursday. So we arranged to meet in Bloem to return the diary!

Well, a good supper later and some great company and red wine, and the diary has come back with us to Port Elizabeth!

Because the First Team game was being televised, Phill’s Third Team game was brought forward to seven o’clock on Saturday morning! So it was a very early start for us – and a very cold start! The temperature was about 4 degrees C and my picture of a scrum has the moon in the background and the frost at our feet! Every picture tells a story …

Phill’s  3rd team loss with a deficit of about 50 points was about the average tale of the day with scores coming in from about 120 high to only one Grey Port Elizabeth team (the u14B!) clocking up a narrow win!  He also played in the second half of the 2nd team as the injury count went higher and higher. The hardness of the ground and the hardness of the opposition do not seem to go well with our Port Elizabeth sons! Yet, we return second year after second year (of course, they visit us at the coast every other year) to be taught a severe lesson in rugby playing!

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In the First Team game we also witnessed that horrific accident to Martin Groenewald when he broke both the tibia and fibula in his leg. It sounded like a gunshot going off and put a damper on the rest of the play. Unfortunately, once again (and never ever) were we able to beat Grey Bloem 1st team in Bloemfontein.

Our thoughts, prayers and good wishes accompany Martin (who lives with Phillip in the Grey hostel) on his long road to full recovery. The operation which he underwent on Saturday evening was successful and as I write this, he has now arrived back at his home in Humansdorp. It takes the worst in Life to bring out the best in mankind, and once again, we have witnessed the outpouring of the kindness of friends and strangers who have offered their assistance to the family in so many different ways.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon socialising at the Bloemfontein Old Grey Clubhouse, had a quick zizz at Blessings, and then went for supper at the Block and Cellar. It looked like Port Elizabeth was empty because there were so many Algoa Bay locals having supper there on Saturday evening.  It’s always fun socialising with other parents in this way and maybe one of the reasons why we do these trips so willingly and eagerly. They surely will be missed by us and will become part of the memory box of our strange journey through this trip that we call Life!

Our return journey started at nine on Sunday – retracing our steps back the way we had come; except this time we stopped for lunch and petrol at the Steers in Colesburg (full tank used up – literally and figuratively – to Bloemfontein, and three quarters of a tank used down to Pe!). We arrived back in Port Elizabeth at about five, safe and sound, worn-out and weary, and nostalgic about never having to do this school trip again.

The shadows of Life get longer, and the Shades of Grey get darker. 

 

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