Karoo Kindness

©2013 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 8 October 2013: 7 years 1 month on …

Physical: Advantage CBD / Mental: Advantage ED

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After having spoken to Caltex Eastern Cape at Mpkweni last month, I was approached by Caltex dealer Pierre le Grange to do another talk.

It didn’t take much persuasion because it would be in Graaff-Reinet to the Grade 12 pupils of Union High School.

So all was organised for last Friday 4 October at 9h30. Because of the early start, a lift was organised for Thursday afternoon and I was not able to attend Gordon Wright’s book launch at the Southender or Pera’s birthday supper!

Tiaan van Schoor picked me up at 13h30 and either he or I spoke too much or we drove too fast, but it didn’t take long before we were driving past that derelict drive-in screen and projection room that stand as a monument to things long past at the Port Elizabeth entrance to Graaff-Reinet.

Tiaan was to be my driver and handlanger for the next two days. Not only did we have lots to talk about (we both lived and worked in the Bible Belt of the United States!) but we also share a birthday! It was great having a tetchier to handle all the electronics, wires, computers, projectors etc.

Thursday evening was spent around the most delicious potjie with the Le Grange’s and the Van Schoors (Tiaan’s parents). In the process, the talk to Union had been extended to include jut another talk to Volksskool and then also the Junior Volkskool … and how about the Hospice Walk on Saturday morning, too?

I am humbled to share my story with so many people and to raise awareness about neurological and other life-limiting illnesses. I hope my ad lib Afrikaans translations and on the trot lowering of the level of the talk for the grade 7’s were understood by all!

My message is simple – life is great but it’s hard work. Take what it throws at you – turn the bad into good, focus on the good and never give up!

My thanks to the heads of the three schools for allowing me the time to speak, and to Mr William Pringle of Union High for the Union tie – I shall wear it with pride in remembrance of my happy days in Graaff-Reinet and the Karoo kindness that I am so privileged to experience. My illness provides me with so many good things that there is almost no time to consider the bad.

Even the tiredness (yes, ED is in tired) after three talks can be overcome with another braai on Friday evening (just a quiet braai with the Wrights neighbours that turned into Russian Roulette!) And when Justin Kingwell took me home at midnight I couldn’t find the Le Grange’s home and we drove up and down the streets of Graafies pushing my remote button to see where a gate opened!

Some twenty ladies were walking (in stages) 60 km from Graaff-Reinet to Nieu Bethesda over the weekend. The event was a fundraiser for GR Hospice.

When Pierre asked me to start the Hospice fundraiser walk on Saturday morning with a message, I eagerly agreed until I was told that the start was at 5h00! I declined the offer, but Pierre in his quietly persuasive manner then suggested that I talk at the start of the second stage!

So at 9h00 we were out in the Karoo countryside at the foothills of Kompasberg having breakfast and some nursing already sore feet! What an awesome privilege to be surrounded by the plains and mountains of the Karoo and to share the words of a man we know only as David:

Oh Lord My Lord

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,  The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

Then back to town; transfer to the Andries Stockenström Guesthouse of the Wrights and lunch with the Harris’s, cricket at the Union (Bethesda Road vs Middleburg) towed down at the fines meeting with a rather unique dishcloth invention!, rugby test (SA vs NZ All Blacks) on the TV, and all completed with a steak and fish grill at the Union.

Phew … night three and not the end of it yet!

On Sunday morning I left GR with Justin and Liesl Kingwell and little Joshua for Blaauwater Farm at the base of the Lootsberg north of the town.

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Upon arrival, Justin did a quick midwifery trick on a pregnant ewe in labour and in trouble and, voila, then there were four! It was amazing to witness the birth of those triplets, within minutes they were up and walking and cleaned and fed by their mom. Nature at its best – the work of Your fingers.

Then roast for lunch, bed for snooze and transport for travel to top of mountain. A spectacular trip and a spectacular view – the work of Your fingers. What a privilege for me to share it with the Kingwell family and Grandma Garry and Grandpa Charles Kingwell who joined us for a picnic in the Peaks.

The day was ended with a fireside chat, a hearty Hansa, delicious billies, tired bodies and drooping eyelids!

I woke up on Monday morning to deadly silence interspersed with bleating sheep.

Then breakfast and back to town to the guesthouse and Gordon Wright. I took a mid-morning snooze and later a mid-afternoon snooze! A walk to town resulted in me bumping into Annemarie van Jaarsveld from Pink Trees for Pauline fame, Margie Parkes from the Cancer Association (I addressed them last year this time!) and my ex- Port Elizabeth neighbour Andy Cherrington who now owns the GR Spur.

There was time for a quick John Lee before I had a call from Nibs Price to say he was going to Port Elizabeth at 18h00 ( I was due to return on Tuesday morning early with a lift.)

My bed beckoned!

A quick pack and I was ready for the trip home – arriving at some eight thirty, just in time to go to bed for a well earned night’s sleep!

My grateful thanks to all the people mentioned above (and many others not mentioned!) for making this such a wonderful weekend. Your Karoo kindness is so much appreciated.

I am truly blessed to know you all and to experience your wonderful hospitality.

What is man that You are mindful of him?

PS. Please excuse the errors. My bum is eina and I can’t sit to type this now. I will correct later!

 

 

Fork the Veld

  ©2013 Edward C. Lunnon Sunday 15 September 2013: 7 years on … Physical: Advantage CBD / Mental: Advantage ED It’s been quite a week – the week that was! On Wednesday evening I attended the St Francis Hospice AGM. If ever there was a group of caring people, there they are. If ever there was a group of deserving people, there they are. If ever there was an association that you, one day, may also need to assist you, there they are. They assist families and patients who have to deal with life limiting illnesses – cancer, HIV/AIDS, TB, motor neuron disease …If ever there was a group that needed your financial assistance, there they are. They have had to retrench staff members this year because of a lack of funds! For just R100 a year you can become a member of St Francis Hospice. This entitles you to voting rights, a newsletter, news on forthcoming fundraisers and a chance to win R2000! An email to kerry@stfrancishospice.za.org with your personal details and an EFT deposit of R100 into St Francis Hospice, Standard Bank Rink St, account no 080 260 349, branch no 050 417 00 will make you a member of the Hospice. It’s so easy – just do it now – and HELP HOSPICE HELP me and so many other people who have terminal illnesses. Thanks so much for doing that now! On Thursday evening Pera and I attended the Grey Junior “Music the Grey Way” concert. The concert was great but the seats we had were terrible. Initially we couldn’t see much, so we changed seats at half-time. Then I was boxed in and my leg started cramping. It was the most uncomfortable three hours that I have spent and I think I aggravated my left side. Since then, I have been really eina! I need to remember to ensure when we go somewhere that I have to be very specific about the seats we sit in or the rooms we book. That’s a new learning curve for me! And Friday morning I was off to Graaff-Reinet to the launch of Gordon Wright’s first recipe book – Veld to Fork.  (See all my previous blogs regarding Gordon Wright. You can just enter Wright into the search box – the one with the magnifying glass – in the right hand column of this blog.) Two and a half more hours of uncomfortable sitting! But I had a lift with Roche van As – Gordon refers to Roche in the foreword to his book as a “brother from another mother”! We had lots to talk about and the trip was over before it started. We arrived at about two and sat at the poolside of the Andries Stockenström Guesthouse sipping cold white wine and Windhoek Lites. Then at four we headed off to the Graaff-Reinet Men’s Club (now ladies too!). The Club was filled with all those wonderful Karoo people – some there for the weekly draw, most there for the book launch and all there to share in the friendship and hospitality that Graaff-Reinet provides. We downed the sun and were treated to snacks made from recipes in the book – each plate being numbered with the page number of the recipe in the book. Gordon Right (as the Weekend Post spelt it in their article – maybe they know more than we do!) sat as pompous as ever behind the table signing copy after copy. It must be a great feeling to see such a wonderful book finally in the printed form. Gordon wrote in my personally autographed copy – YOUR TURN NEXT!! I can’t wait for that feeling so I guess it’s time to get moving. My book doesn’t even have a name yet! Later in the evening we headed off to Gordon’s Restaurant for supper, snorts, skinder and song – ala Karoo style! So after EFTing your money to the hospice as per above, maybe you want to go to Exclusive Books and buy your copy of Veld to Fork. If you talk nicely to me, I may even get you an autographed copy. After all, I know the author personally! I was planning to come back on Sunday (with a lift organised by Gerrie van Rooyen), but when I woke up on Saturday morning, Roche was still there (he had planned to come back very early on Saturday!) My left side was very eina by now, and so I decided to come back to Port Elizabeth with him. So after breakfast at the Andries Stockenström Guesthouse – where we had slept over – we headed for home – again, so much talking, that Ravelskloof, Jansenville,Wolwefontein, Cockscomb, Holwil, Kirkwood, Uitenhage and Despatch sped by. We were back in Port Elizabeth just in time for lunch!  Unfortunately, we weren’t staying in Graaff-Reinet for the big meeting later in the week where farmers and landowners will be discussing the fracking that seems now to be inevitability in the Karoo. And if you have more money left over, after HOSPICE and COOKBOOK above, then maybe you want to donate something to the STOP FRACKING IN THE KAROO fund. If you don’t help, they are going to FORK the VELD and destroy the hospitable Plains of the Camdeboo. No more people, Club, food, hospitality, visits, chats, drinks … to write about! “If anything, we don’t own the planet and the planet doesn’t own us. The planet belongs to our children and we are merely stewards keeping watch until they have their turn to do the same.” In the meantime, I feel like I have been forked too. My left side and left hip especially remain eina, despite more anti-inflammatory tablets and pain-killers. Roll on Monday morning for my weekly massage … (And in the early hours of Sunday morning I received a BBM from Rose Wright to tell me that Gordon’s mom, Briar, fell and broke her hip and dislocated her shoulder in the middle of the night. She is currently in the operating theatre at Greenacres Hospital. We wish her a speedy and successful recovery.)            

Sometimes the Wheels Come Off!

 
Thursday 4 October 2012: 6 years 1 month on … Advantage CBD
 
Last Wednesday was the first time that I felt like calling Lance to cancel my talk show. But I did not want to disappoint so many listeners, so (feeling quite miserable)  I went ahead with it any way. Yvonne Anderson took me there and then dropped me off at Grey High.
 
It was the Cadet Retreat Parade and the announcement of Student Officers for 2013. Phillip was appointed as the Student Officer of the E squadron, so congratulations and well done to him on his “military”  promotion.
 
Thereafter, I went for a haircut and started packing for my next trip to Graaff-Reinet on Thursday.
 
Early rise on Thursday and then Pera dropped me off at school at 7h15. Warwick Dickie was going to Graaff-Reinet to deliver generators for the Karoolusfees and he was giving me a lift.
 
With one ton behind us we travelled at 100km / hour and were just approaching Graafies when all hell let loose. The double cab shuddered and shook and I thought a tyre had blown until I saw a wheel speeding past us and down the national road. It veered to the left, jumped the fence and ended up in the Karoo Veld.
 
The bearings had ceased, the axle of the generator trailer had snapped and the wheel came off. 
 
We were lucky! So many things could have happened, but they didn’t. Indeed, we were lucky!
 
And the hospitality and kindness of the REAL people of the Karoo stepped up to the plate. Within an hour, help came from all corners, the generator had been put onto a flat-bed trailer and was on its way to the festival grounds, and I was dropped off at Arno Bouwer’s house where I was staying for two nights.
 
Then more Karoo kindness. A fire had raged through seven farms north of the town on Wednesday afternoon and night. Especially the farm Grassdale was ravaged as the fire destroyed hectares of veld, the sheep sustenance, telephone lines, electricity lines, kilometers of fencing and plastic pipelines.
 
But the community stepped in and within an hour we were heading for Jean De la Harpe’s farm with bails of hay piled on the back of the bakkie. it was but one of many truckloads that would arrive from concerned friends and neighbors and strangers. Assistance of all kinds would stream in over the next few days and weeks. More Karoo kindness …
 
Thursday evening we spent at the Club and had supper at Coldstream.
 
On Friday, I went with Gordon and Rose Wright back to Grassdale. (Gordon is coordinating the relief effort from town.) Food for the humans and food for the sheep…
 
As we drove back into town, dark black clouds built up overhead. The heat of the day changed to cold and some snow fell, and the first drops of rain. Food for the scorched land …
 
Friday evening was back to the Club for the R4000 draw (not won) and then supper with the Wrights.
 
Saturday was a lazy day round the pool. Pera and the boys arrived from PE at about four, we watched the Boks beat Australia (for a change) and then went to the Cape Schools Cricket Week steak braai at Union High School.
 
The sounds of the Karoolusfees permeated the quiet night of the Karoo. Pera was not feeling well so Sean took her back to the Andries Stockenstrom Guest House where we were spending that night.
 
The boys and I decided not to go to the Fees. Instead we drank cuppachino at the Spur and then also headed to bed and to sleep … to the sound of Kurt Darren singing Meisie Mesie to anyone in the Karoo who wanted to listen! Loslappie …. !
 
After breakfast on Sunday morning, Pera went shopping for provisions and we watched a bit of Grey playing Rondebosch in the cricket festival. Then it was a short 30 minute drive to Tandjiesview, the farm of Helen and Graham Harris.
 
Together with the Wrights, Graham’s parents and the Harris’s, we were celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary which had taken place on the Ogilvie’s farm Doorndraai. I had played the organ, Pera had done the hair and Tommo’s music equipment was blown by the generator!
 
Steaks were prepared by master chef Gordon Wright … And after a restful afternoon spent on the stoep looking out over Tandjiesberg (hence the farm called Tandjiesview), we headed for our next port of call.
 
Springbuck Lodge on the farm Klipfontein, the home of Ed and Margie Parkes, was our next stop. It is south of Graaff-Reinet and the view is of Tandjiesberg from the side, looking northwards.
 
Ed gave Sean and Phillip a motorbike each and a rifle, and they headed off to the veld. Pera and I had a lovely day of just doing nothing – a restful day of sloth rounded off with a magnificent braai as the Karoo sun set in the west.
 
On Tuesday we left Springbuck Lodge and headed north towards the mountains that we could see from the lodge – the Sneeuberg. Some thirty kilometers of gravel into the valley brought us to Asante Sana Private Game Reserve, complete with its magnificent lush green cricket oval in the midst of the Karoo vegetation! (Grey had played there  and lost last Saturday to Westville.)
 
It is the home of Richard and Kitty Viljoen and their sons who are at school with Phillip. It would be our home for the next two days too.
 
In the afternoon the boys skied on the dam and we went for a game drive … Buck, bat-eared foxes, giraffe, rhino and even footprints of long extinct dinosaurs.
 
Our cottage overlooks the cricket oval and when we returned there after supper, two rhinos on it front lawn glimmered silver in the light of the bright full moon!
 
That was nothing – when I woke in the morning and peered through the bathroom window there were two rhinos eating right outside the window… And four more grazing on the cricket pitch!
 
The sun was just starting to rise over the eastern mountains … The start of yet another exciting day in Africa. It was also a special day … It was Pera’s birthday.
 
I did my radio programme from the house and then we went up to the lodge halfway up the mountain. Later in the afternoon another game drive followed – elephant, rhino, buck of all kinds …
 
And this morning, after breakfast, it was time to head home for Port Elizabeth.
 
As the notes on the bedside tables at Margie’s Springbuck Lodge say:
 
“May the memories you make in this special part of Africa be happy ones.”
 
Our grateful thanks to everyone in the Karoo who made this wonderful trip so special! You are all truly very special people in your community and in our lives!
 
Asante Sana … thank you very much (in Swahili)
 
(Pics to follow!)

KKNK*

Monday 29 August 2011: 4 years 11 months on … Advantage ED

(* Karoo-style Kindness, Neighbourliness and Kinship!)

A year and a half ago, in January 2010, I wrote I Was So Glad that I had Come!

It was about a trip that I had made to the striking Karoo, and last year’s SA Town of the Year, Graaff-Reinet, in order to watch Sean play cricket. I hadn’t been back since.

However, that changed on Thursday afternoon last week.

I had asked Gordon Wright if he was coming to PE in order for us to have a reunion of the previous weekend’s rugby celebrations! Instead, he invited us to Graaff-Reinet in order join in on the last hunt of the year (before the end of August signalled the end of the 2011 hunting season).

But Pera had a teachers’ conference on Saturday, Sean had a rugby braai and Phil had school commitments, so they could not go.

Gords suggested “come by yourself then”!

But I couldn’t drive by myself – Gords had a lift for me!

But I’ve never been a hunter (not  before and not since the one and only springbok I shot and wounded at Doorndraai at dusk, and then found and killed the following morning, led to my having to eat warm raw liver and having my face blooded!) –  Gords suggested “just join in for the walk and the atmosphere”!

But I’m ill – just park that in the garage for the weekend!

So within minutes my schedule for the weekend was arranged.

And after having coffee and croissants at Vovo Telo with Annette Jones and Liz Findlay on Friday morning, it was the packing procedure, which for me has become quite stressful:

Bag – check

Undies, warm socks, shoes – check

Pyjamas – check

Warm shirts, jeans – check

Warm jacket – check

Scarf, gloves, beanie – check

Toiletries – check

Wallet, wine, cell phone, charger – check

Pills, pills, pills, pills – check

More check and more check …

And then we were on our way – headed north on the R75: destination Graaff-Reinet. We being me and the newly acquainted Neville (at the wheel) and Lee-Anne Jones and their two sons. Before long, I discovered that Neville was the uncle of Craig Jones who was at Grey and played rugby with Sean – small Eastern Cape world yet again!

We arrived at the Wrights at about five pm– the ‘we’ now being some more couples staying the night and some delivering children to be baby-sat and collected, and just what appeared to me as a railway station of people arriving and leaving!

I was going to be sleeping at the Wright’s Andries Stockenström Guesthouse just down the road from their own home, so we off-loaded my bags there and then returned for drinks, dinner, drinks, discussion, drinks, discourse, drinks, dessert, drinks, drinks …

Plans were put in place for Saturday’s hunting excursion. Drinks.

We would be going to the Harris’s farm Tandjies View to hunt. Graeme and Helen Harris (nee Watermeyer) have been friends since I first moved to Port Elizabeth in 1984. Helen is Colleen Ogilvie’s sister (Dickie and Colleen farm at Doorndraai in the Aberdeen district) and it was at Helen’s house in Port Elizabeth many years ago that I swallowed the 20c piece in a game of quarters that subsequently became stuck in my intestine! To this day I have the X-rays of that meddlesome 20c piece! Drinks.

The Estimated Departure Time would be eight am! That meant that I would have to get up at six thirty so as to ‘defrost’ my body and get the limbs moving. Gordon was put in charge of phoning me to wake me up. Drinks.

Peter and his wife were only staying the night before heading off to New Bethesda on Saturday. But when he heard the plans being made, he decided to stay and hunt instead. Then, later, he decided not to go.

Well an early start to the morning required an early ‘go to bed’ – so after just one more drink for the road, I headed off to the Guesthouse round about 1am!

At 6h45 I received my “wake-up” call. I missed the “Wakey wakey, sunshine!” SMS at 6h16 because I had put my cell phone on ‘Phone calls Only’ sound mode and therefore did not get a beep from the Blackberry at 6h16!

‘Quick’ shower, tea, and I was collected at eight and ready to go … off to Tandjies View in Gordon’s Jeep known as the Man Van. Peter was there – he had changed his mind and was to hunt after all.

The hunters gathered at Graeme’s hunting lodge, a yet unnamed newly-renovated Italian prisoner-of-war built stone house with a magnificent view over  Spandauskop, the Tandjiesberg and Camdeboo. In sharp contrast to the brown and aridness of last year’s ‘in the drought’ visit, the Karoo is the greenest I have ever seen it. In some places, it looks like a lush green carpet that has been thrown out over the land. And put that with the bright orange of the flowering aloes, then what you have is a postcard picture of the glorious Karoo that the oil companies now want to frack-up in their exploration for gas!

 

 

Whilst the hunters did the hunting thing, I was given the more genteel version of breakfast with Helen and Graeme and their four daughters, Carmen, Lee-Anne, Michaela and Christine, and two of their boyfriends from Port Alfred. Then followed a bakkie tour of the farm, offloading of sheep, checking of water troughs and dams, windmills, and snacks and drinks.

Then back to meet the hunters at the lodge and drinks. Then we got a phone call to inform us that Peter’s wife who was coming to fetch him to head off belatedly to New Bethesda had experienced a mishap – the sump of the car had been “holed” on the gravel road. (They then had to stay with the Harris’s, and arrange to be collected from Uitenhage on Sunday and for the car to be towed to Graaff-Reinet on Monday to be repaired.)

At dusk, we headed back to the Guesthouse for drinks and dinner, prepared by Gordon, who within minutes had changed from hunting guide to sous chef and from camouflaged hunting gear to a white chef’s outfit! Gordon calls it “from veld to fork!”

Beetroot soup, drinks, kudu steaks, mutton, drinks, dessert, drinks …

Then at midnight we headed for the Graaff-Reinet Men’s Club (now also allows ‘ladies’!) for post-dinner drinks.

There we met up with the stragglers from a Club soup evening that included Helen’s cousin, Julian Murray, and Johann Minnaar, optician in town and father of Henry Minnaar who was Sean’s room mate at Grey’s hostel last year and is now an engineering student at the University of Pretoria. Drinks.

And, slowly the party got smaller and we returned home. Drinks … and Gordon disappeared and it was only Neville, Lee-Anne and I left – discussing the world, and life and religion and the purpose of life and God and a drink to Life and just one more for the road.

 At four am I had my midnight pills and then got into my heated bed at the guesthouse … and slept till ten!

Then breakfast, then back to the Harris’s for drinks and roast lunch, and at three thirty, we headed south for Port Elizabeth.

The James Blunt and Elvis Blue concert was due to start at 20h00 at the indoor sports centre of the Nelson Mandela University. I disembarked from the car at 18h45 and re-embarked ten minutes later after a quick change and a hamburger.

The Marriots from Queenstown had invited us to attend the show. And what a show it was:

“And this is what we’ve got, and what we’ve got is gold …”

Life is surely gold … and for this weekend’s fun, games, laughter, friendship and kindness, kinship and neighbourliness, we owe such a big thank you to the Wrights, the Harris’s, the Jones’s and the Marriots.

“For food, friends and fellowship, we thank thee O Lord!”

Raise a glass to Priceless Moments!