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!)
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ED’s Diary: Sun Eleven and Mon Twelve March Twenty Twelve

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Sunday 11 March 2012: 5 years 6 months on … Advantage ED

I received an SMS early Sunday from Colleen Ogilvie to tell me that Dick was playing cricket in the Old Grey Six-a-Side tournament – the 50th time the event was being staged and making it the oldest such tournament in the world! Dickie bowled for EP in his day but that day was some thirty years ago now!

This was something not to be missed, so she fetched me at ten and off we went to Kemsley Park and we were later joined by their daughter, Megan.

It became a long day … we were joined by Pera for lunch (she was hurriedly completing reports at school) and eventually left after the final – Old Grey bowling Grey High out for 19 runs and comfortably beating that target in the second over!

At home, I had a little snooze and then our planned lunchtime braai became an evening braai, competently organised by Sean when he returned from NSRI duty. We were joined by Colleen, Dick, Megan, and Ken and Dorel MacKenzie (and later their son Duncan). Phillip left at nine for the hostel and it was way past midnight when we eventually got to bed!  

It reminded me of our early Port Elizabeth days in the eighties. Dick, Ken and I taught together – in fact, we were a very happy staff during those years. We not only taught together, we socialised together and we spent many days and nights at the Old Grey Club – cricket, hockey, squash, beers, and raconteuring with each other and many of our pupils’ OLD parents.

Now we are the old people, our ex-pupils (like on Sunday, the Gioconni’s, the Elficks, the Loons, the Strydoms, etc) are the “youngsters” who frequent the Club and their kids are the ones who are playing around outside and patiently waiting for their Dads to finish that last one for the road!

Old Grey Club, Lennox Street, Glendinningvale was considered the address of many of us teachers (now called educators) who were unmarried, footloose and fancy-free at the time.

And if we weren’t there, you could find us at El Cid Steakhouse (especially on Sunday nights where colleague Neil Tommo sang in the bar – Neil also sang at our wedding and Dickie was bestman). Monday mornings would see us have hamburgers delivered from the Hamburger Hut in Russel Road to the staffroom at breaktime!

And if you didn’t find us there, we were possibly at Lily’s at the Holiday Inn or The Pig and Whistle at the Marine, Faces under the old Elizabeth Hotel, Bar Bonanza, St James, the Pizza Palace, or late night at Evergreen, It’s Country or Cagneys at the Kine Centre in Rink Street!

Even the Railway Bar at the Port Elizabeth Station or the Farmer’s Home next to Mike’s Kitchen were occasionally visited and once, I recall the Hubcap in North End and the Campanile off Main Road – and in those days the Grey boys (and others) also occasionally, we thought, visited all those places! The rule, mostly kept, was that if a staff member entered such a place, the pupil would leave as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. In such a case, no one really saw anyone else, did they, and no canes were required on the following day!

So, yes, Sunday was a day of good memories, and Monday I felt a bit worse for wear.

Despite that, I managed to have Holy Communion with Bill Lindoor, from the Newton Park Methodist Church.

Next a meeting with Old Grey Dean Vernon, author of a new book PORT ELIZABETH in your hands – a must-have guide to Nelson Mandela Bay, it’s history and things to do (with most of the above watering holes now gone!)

In between, preparations for a trip to Cape Town …

Then Isaac Reuben arrived for our regular catch-up chat, then a quick power nap, took the boys to have their gum guards fitted for the new rugby season (thanks to MAX and Nico de Vries), early supper alone (Pera at governing body elections, Phil back at hostel and Sean at Old Grey rugby practice – the next generation of Old Grey Club patrons!)

By eight I was bushed and in bed, after reading (more looking at the historical pictures) a good deal of Port Elizabeth in your hands.  

 

Flying with the Wright Brothers – Good Fella’s

Tuesday 23 August 2011: 4 years 11 months on … Advantage ED

When I arrived in Port Elizabeth in January 1984, there were some 14 of us who began our teaching careers together at Grey. We were all male, mostly single and had come either from University or our two-year military service. (Sadly, most of the 14 have subsequently left the teaching profession!)

As members of staff at The Grey, we automatically became members of the Old Greys’ Union and hence members of the Old Grey Club in Lennox Street, Glendinningvale.

I boarded with Steve Fourie’s parents in Walmer until I could move into the Grey’s Meriway Hostel.

But, for most of us, one could say that our address was c/o The Old Grey Club, Lennox Street, Glendinningvale, Port Elizabeth!

We spent most of our non-teaching time at the OGE, as we called it then. There we played / watched hockey, cricket, squash; socialised with Old Greys, Grey parents, our  current teaching (and previous) colleagues and became friends of employees such as Club Manager Viv and bar”lady” “Lucky Lips”!

Those who frequented the pub in those days will remember (as the law required) the Men’s Pub, the separate Ladies’ Lounge, the Pool Room and the “tiekie box” (public telephone) to which many patrons would be called when time got late and partners/wives became anxious about their where-abouts. (Ironically, it was to that very tiekie box that I was called in November 1986 to be told the news that my mother had passed away in The Strand.) Of course, in the cell phone era, the tiekie box no longer exists!

On my first visit to the OGE, I was introduced to retired teacher “Sand Shark” Harry Davies. Subsequently, the group disappeared and left me with Sand Shark and the buying of the drinks! I discovered quickly that Harry had the unique gift of accepting drinks and then disappearing when it became his turn for the next round. I had been set up on my first visit!

On Sundays, we would watch cricket/hockey (depending on the season), celebrate the victory/defeat (depending on the outcome of the match) and then as regular as clockwork and non-dependent on anything, head off for El Cid Steakhouse in Parliament Street. Tommo was the resident singer and Pam worked the till at the door.

Sunday evenings could become messy and Monday mornings first break often called for greasy take-away hamburgers delivered to the staff room from the Hamburger Hut at the top of Russell Road.

Well, those hamburgers are a far cry from the fare now offered at The Club. For a while now, the Club has been managed by local restaurateurs Cassies. The menu is short and good value for money. There is a daily special and a new innovation is Dinner Theatre. Sunday carvery is a special.

Sean, Phillip and I have made it almost a weekly Friday Club lunch date of the steak, egg and chips. Most weeks we are joined by various other friends and Old Greys.

And so, last Thursday evening, via Facebook, I advised that we would be having pre-rugby test match dinner at The Club on Friday afternoon.

And we were joined on Friday by a number of people who were all in town for the Test – Tim White, Bert and Wendy Henderson and their friends, Graaff-Reinett farmer Graeme Harris (brother- in- law of Aberdeen farmer  Dickie Ogilvie – himself an ex-colleague, erstwhile OGE hockey player, cricketer and patron, and my bestman when we married), Roche van As, a number of other out-of town rugby visitors, some of Sean’s friends and THEE.. Gordon Wright (Restaurateur and Guesthouse owner from Graaff-Reinett).

I had met Gordon before (at The Club) when they still lived in PE. Earlier this year, we made contact again when he asked me to assist with the anti-fracking campaign that currently dominates Karoo thinking. (Fracking is a process that energy companies use to free up underground gas and which has proved to be detrimental to the environment (especially groundwater)).

Well, the lunch date became a long one, and eventually we left in time for supper, which was going to be a true-to-tradition braai at Gordon’s brother, Bernard’s home.

And who should be there?

Besides Graeme, Gordon, Bernard, Roche and I, there were:

Bernard’s wife, Sharleen, was the hostess.

Chris Wright who is technical manager at AlgoaFM was there.  I see him every Wednesday when I do my weekly programme. I had not known they were brothers!

And Damien Wright was there. He is Chris’s son and assists with the technical issues in studio when presenters are out of town.  He presses the knobs when I sit alone in studio and Lance broadcasts from out-of town. I did not know they were family!

And a few others, whose names and faces now fade into oblivion.

Later in the evening, I “discovered” that Briar Wright was the matriarch of the seven-sibling-strong Wright family. Briar is a driving force behind the Parkinson’s Support Group in PE. I met her  when I first became ill, and attended their group meetings after I was initially diagnosed with possible Parkinson’s Disease. We have subsequently met several times over the last five years of my later diagnosed CBD illness.

The moral of the story: never say anything to any person about anyone you would not say directly to their face – inevitably, it turns out they are friends, family or neighbours!

What started as the pre-test lunch became a lengthy affair, lasting till midnight on Friday. But we were facing the All Blacks the next day, and we had to be well-prepared. There was much to plan and discuss, and many toasts to propose!

By eleven thirty, we had filed our flight plans with the Wright Brothers, and it was time to go.

We phoned the Good Fella’s chauffeur service call-centre.

Operator ‘Stevo’ made the necessary arrangements and an sms was received at 23h41. “Evening, your driver is Andre Ungerer.  If you would like to verify the driver’s ID please call GF’s. My name is ‘Stevo’.”

At 23h42, an sms was received: “Good evening, your driver is on route and will arrive in roughly 25 min. Regards gfellas.”

And, thanks to kind sponsorship by Good Fella’s, at midnight, our pumpkin turned into a Good Fella’s carriage, and we arrived home safely – in time for the Test that lay ahead.

(And apologies to Sharleen Wright, who I almost did not recognise when I saw her at the rugby on Saturday afternoon.  We’ll have to organise a make-up braai!)

Along Life’s Meri Way

Saturday 9 July 2011: 4 years 10 months on … Advantage ED

Last week came the news that Port Elizabeth’s stately King Edward Hotel on the Donkin Reserve (next door to the original Grey Institute Building), dating back to 1903, had closed its doors after 108 years.

She has left many a tale, many stories, many recollections, many memories, and long will they continue.

This weekend we have learned of the “End of the World”, the closure of the British tabloid newspaper, the News of the World, after 168 years.

It will leave many a tale, many stories, many recollections, many memories, and long will they continue.

One hundred years ago, at 12:13pm on 31 May 1911, the hull of the Titanic was launched in Belfast, Ireland. She “lived” for less than a year and, as we all know, sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 15 April 1912.

She has left many a tale, many stories, many recollections, many memories, and long will they continue.

One hundred years ago, in 1911, a new Rector of Port Elizabeth’s The Grey Institute High School was installed. He was William Archer Way (b 1869) and would preside over the progress and development of the school during the next seventeen years of his reign, until he passed away in 1928.

He has left many a tale, many stories, many recollections, many memories, and long will they continue.

In fact, “his name has become legend, and history confirms the popular claim that his noble conception of education, imposed with such intellectual charm, did much to raise the school to its lofty stature it maintains so admirably to this day.” (1)

Upon his commencement as Rector, he identified two basic inadequacies in the school structure. The first was that of the 210 boys in the High School (then from Std 3 to matriculation), less than twelve were in the highest (matriculation) class.

The second cardinal weakness, in Mr Way’s opinion, was the absence of boarders.

He immediately acted and obtained temporary accommodation in the vicinity of the School on the Donkin Reserve for boys wishing to become boarders. The first house was Gowan Hill in Bird Street (directly opposite what was then the Collegiate Girls’ School). The second house, Rose Cottage, was added the following year, right next door to the Grey in Havelock Street (and opposite the King Edward Hotel) and a third house, Norwood, adjoining Gowan Hill, was added a few months later.

Eleven youths, who had been with Mr Way at Graaff-Reinet High School (he had previously been at Dale in King William’s Town and then Graaff-Reinet) soon joined him in Port Elizabeth and became the nucleus of the boarding establishment of The Grey.

Those eleven lads from Graaff-Reinet (with recognisable surnames still today) were Bernard, Eric and Guy Hobson, Everitt and Petrus Enslin, George and Cecil Davenport, Wilfred Lee, Edward Wille, Gert Bekker, and one surnamed Dodds.

So, today 100 years later, we wish Grey’s Boarding House, the nucleus of the School (and now known as Meriway – after Rectors Meredith and Way) a very Happy 100th Birthday!

It has left many a tale, many stories, many recollections, many memories, and long will they continue with the many boarders who have resided there (including me as Boarding House Master (1984 – 1986) and Sean as boarder and prefect (2009 – 2010)).

Interestingly, as Grey’s First Cricket Team returns from touring England tomorrow, it is also 100 years ago in 1911 that Rector Way (who also played in the First XI) invited the first English cricket professional, H. Myers (from the Yorkshire Country Eleven) to spend the summer in Port Elizabeth coaching the boys.

During the first four years of his tenure (1911 – 1915) and as the First World War Clouds gathered, Rector Way would also oversee the planning, building and moving of the Grey (High School) from the Donkin Reserve to its present site and magnificent buildings on the Mill Park campus.

For the next four years, therefore, there will be a number of 100-year milestones in the life of the school to commemorate and celebrate.

Congratulations!

(1) ‘Neath The Tower (Part 2) – A.M. Pollock

INVICTUS

Friday 24 June 2011: 4 years 9 months on … Game ED!

INVICTUS

(from the Latin meaning Undefeated or Unconquered)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

English poet:  William Ernest Henley (1849–1903)

At the age of 12, Henley fell victim to tuberculosis of the bone. A few years later, the disease progressed to his foot, and physicians announced that the only way to save his life was to amputate directly below the knee. It was amputated when he was 17. Stoicism inspired him to write this poem. Despite his disability, he survived with one foot intact and led an active life until his death at the age of 53.

The poem was written in 1875 in a book called Book of Verses, where it was number four in several poems called Life and Death (Echoes). At the beginning it bore no title. Early printings contained only the dedication To R. T. H. B.—a reference to Robert Thomas Hamilton Bruce (1846–1899), a successful Scottish flour merchant and baker who was also a literary patron. The title “Invictus” (Latin for “unconquered”) was put in the Oxford Book of Verse by Arthur Quiller-Couch. 

The poem has Influenced the arts ever since.

In the 1942 film Casablanca, Captain Renault, a corrupt official played by Claude Rains recites the last two lines of the poem when talking to Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart, referring to his power in Casablanca. The irony in the reference is that the theme of the poem refers to self-mastery, when in fact all of Renault’s power in Casablanca is merely granted.

In the 1945 film Kings Row, Parris Mitchell, a psychiatrist played by Robert Cummings, recites part of “Invictus” to his friend Drake McHugh, played by Ronald Reagan, before revealing to Drake that his legs were unnecessarily amputated by a cruel doctor.

While incarcerated on Robben Island prison, Nelson Mandela recited the poem to other prisoners and was empowered by its message of self mastery.

The poem was used in a voice-over by Lucas Scott in the television series, One Tree Hill.

Canadian poet and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen recited the poem as an introduction to his own song “The Darkness”, during a couple of shows on his 2010 world tour, most notably at his State Kremlin Palace show.

In Napoleon Hill’s book, Think And Grow Rich, this poem is quoted and discussed. Hill added that, we are master and captain, “ . . . because we have the power to control our thoughts”. We are warned that this “power”, alluded to in Henley’s poem, “ . . . makes no attempt to discriminate between destructive thoughts and constructive thoughts”. Napoleon Hill explains that the conscious choice is laid upon the individual and suggests that the poet left others to, “. . . interpret the philosophical meaning of his lines”.

The poem was important to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who recited it on the day of his execution.

Novelist Jeffrey Archer quoted the poem in the first volume of his A Prison Diary series ‘Hell’ which recounted his time inside HMP Belmarsh.

“Invictus” is also a 2009 biographical sports drama film directed by Clint Eastwood starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

The story is based on the John Carlin book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted here following the dismantling of apartheid. Freeman and Damon play, respectively, South African President Nelson Mandela  and Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby team, the Springboks. (1)

The 1995 Rugby World Cup Final was played between the Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg exactly 16 years ago today on Saturday 24 June 1995.

For three weeks, prior to this big day, we had lived through World Cup euphoria (something similar, although not quite as big, as last year’s Football World Cup).

Together with friends and family, we had planned a day of festivities around the Final and which would culminate in that South African tradition of all traditions, the all-important braai!

Well, we never got to participate in the events planned for the day.

Pera was six months pregnant and due at the end of September 1995. (We previously lost a second son who had been still-born in November 1994.) Early on the morning of the Final, I woke up to hear her screaming in the kitchen. The baby (at 26 weeks) was threatening to come out and I rushed her to St George’sHospital, where we spent the rest of that day. The doctors managed to prevent the birth, Pera remained in hospital and late that evening I drove up Cape Road on my way home.

Everywhere, the fires were burning, people were partying in the street and ecstasy, excitement and exhilaration pervaded the country. We had beaten the All Blacks 15 points to 12 and the World Cup was ours – the rugby kings of the World! (To this day, I have never watched THAT game in its entirety, but, of course, I have many times seen the photograph of THAT drop goal that sealed the game in our favour and which hangs in just about every boardroom and pub in this country!)

It was a tremendous boost for our fragile new democracy born in 1994 and barely one year old!

But talking about births … for the next two weeks, the baby threatened to be born. On the night of 6 July, with Pera’s gynaecologist, Dr Caras Ferreira, out of town, Dr Ivan Berkowitz was hurriedly called from a formal dinner to St George’s Hospital when, once again, it was touch and go. He arrived at midnight in his tuxedo and bow-tie.

(I knew Ivan and Harriet well, and we have remained friends to this day.

Ten years prior to this, in June/July 1985, the Grey First Eleven went on the first Grey overseas cricket tour to England and Holland. Darryl Berkowitz was Headboy of Grey in that year and a member of the touring team that I accompanied, together with Rod McCleland, Keith Crankshaw, Dickie Ogilvie, Neil Thomson and Charles Pautz. We sold tickets for that dreaded VW Golf and raised funds together with the Berks (and all the other parents) and also had our return party at their home in Conyngham Street.

It was so good to meet up with many of the members of that touring team at last year’s and this year’s 25th Reunions at the school. And, as I write this, the Grey cricket team is once again touring England. We wish them good luck and happy travelling!)

Anyway, Ivan explained that Pera would have to remain in hospital for the rest of her pregnancy, and that if he did not deliver the baby soon, we would lose either Pera or the baby.

And, so it was, on the next morning, Friday 7 July 1995, sixteen years ago, that our second son (and we had previously been told by the gynaecologist to expect a girl) was born by caesarean section at twenty seven weeks and weighing 1,3 kg. Our previous son was due to be called Phillip, so this baby was named Phillip John. He spent the next two months in the incubator at the hospital, and cost the medical aid about double the price of our very first house that I had bought!

Phillip John Lunnon (our Dr Phil!) celebrates his sixteenth birthday in two week’s time. Now, at six feet and three inches, he is the tallest in the family, beating me at six feet and Sean at six feet and two inches!

He is our fighter – our very own Invictus.

There have been times that I did not think that I would make it to his sixteenth birthday but I, too, am a fighter.

I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

[ (1) From Wikipedia]

Love All!

Tuesday 1 March 2011: 4 years  6 months on …ADVANTAGE ED

I have been blessed with many talents. But when it comes to sporting talents, I must have been at the back of the queue when those were dished out.

I have only ever played one game of rugby (when I was a student) –  nogal on the main field at UCT (University of Cape Town) when I played on the wing for Maties versus Ikeys. Not in the Varsity Cup competition, but when our Stellenbosch University Intervarsity Committee played our UCT counterparts in a “curtain raiser” to the main game at Newlands (which Stellenbosch won, of course!)

I was told sometime in the mid-eighties that I play the worst golf ever seen played in the preceding twenty eight years!

I can manage a bat on the cricket pitch with a little bit more expertise, but bowling leaves me spinning at a pace! And, as for fielding, my mind wanders too much to stand there all day waiting for a ball that may possibly come my way – when (and if) it does, I will simply not see it, let alone catch it!

When I studied in Oklahoma I played Basketball for the Sulphur Bulldogs and managed to get my “Basketball Letter”. That’s an embroidered red ‘B’ on a white background that is handed to all ball team players. I think mine was an honorary award!

As for American Football – well, I was simply a non-starter (and I still don’t know if I understand all that happens there!)

In 1999, I started road-running and managed reasonably well with the least amount of training. A large number of medals hang in my study – for 5km races where I started, then 10km, 15 km and eventually the Knysna Half Marathon (21km) which I ran for the first time in 2000 with Lindsay Brown. I completed three of those before I became ill. In 2009, I planned to walk the route but gout set in just a few days before the race and I had to withdraw. Maybe, sometime I will still be able to walk that again! It’s a very special race through the forests of Knysna, and those who have completed it will understand what I am talking about. It has a vibe that is very hard to beat.

I enjoy the vibe and the social activity that accompanies most sporting events. I often think that is the reason why so many people support and attend sporting activities around the world. And I guess I could be shot for this, but sometimes I simply cannot understand why human beings can get so worked up about boys and girls at school and grown men and women who chase varying sized and shaped balls around varying sized and coloured fields of varying textures. I think the problem sets in at school level where schools now even advertise how many Springboks they produce but never a mention of how many doctors or engineers or successful entrepreneurs.

That passion for sport seems to disappear into the apathy towards most other civic duties required of John Citizen!

When I sat at St George’s Park on Friday night watching the Warriors beat the Dolphins in an exciting finish, I wondered how many of the people were there to actually see the cricket, and how many people were there simply to be seen (or to feel the vibe or simply to get paralytic drunk at one of the many bars that service that ground, and all sporting grounds, for that matter!)

The same thought crossed my mind when I watched Sean play his first game of rugby for Old Grey against Police on Wednesday evening. The Klippies and Kastles flowed, and the fists flew, and the “friendly” game was called short some ten minutes into the second half – luckily with Old Grey in the lead at that time!

Don’t get me wrong! I do enjoy watching sport and I can admire the athletic ability of those who were fortunate to be in the front of the queue when those talents were handed out. I can see the life lessons that we can learn on the sports fields. If only we could translate that into life!

I also marvel, as when I watched the opening ceremony of the ICC World Cup in Bangladesh earlier last week (and for that matter when we hosted the Football World Cup last year) at the ability of sport to bring the people of the world together. Despite our differences that lead to so many clashes in the world, there is so much in these sporting gatherings and opening / closing ceremonies that unite the nations of our earth. Whether it’s the alcohol, or the song and dance and flags and laser lights and fireworks, for a few hours, the right chemicals flow in our bodies and we seem to forget our problems and be a happy world! Of course, the cynics would say that the money spent on these shows could be put to better use elsewhere.

(The same goes for music concerts. The hype that surrounds these mega-shows is unbelievable – like U2 in Cape Town on the previous Friday night. I must have been one of the few not there, but I did manage to sit in my study, open a beer and listen to the streamed show on the internet. I only later discovered that you could listen to the show on DSTV as well!)

It would appear that sportsmen and showmen have the ability to “heal the world”. If only we could translate those experiences into the so many areas of need in our ordinary everyday lives.

I played tennisette (tennis with a hard wooden bat on a small tennis court) – I’m not sure if they even do that today! – in Primary School and tennis in High School. At university we often whiled away spare time (did we have that?) on the tennis courts between my residence Helshoogte and the ladies’ res Sonop. (Not on Sundays, though, because in those days it was considered sinful in Stellenbosch and elsewhere in South Africa to play sport on Sundays, which were made by God strictly for rest!)

One of my erstwhile tennis partners/opponents, Gretel du Toit (now Wust), still laughs to this day at my tennis prowess on the Matie courts!  

Tennis was, for a long while, just about the only international sport we saw on TV after it was introduced in this country in 1976. The highlight of the year was the Wimbledon Tournament in July. Many a year would see us sit down in the lounge with our strawberries and cream, and spend a good Sunday afternoon watching the men’s final (seemingly then it was no longer sinful to watch/play sport on a Sunday!)

Pera and I were fortunate to be at Wimbledon in 1999 and we ate our strawberries and cream on the terrace as we watched the 113th men’s final on the big screen on the side of Centre Court. It was the 4th of July, American Independence Day and Sampras beat Aggassi  6-3, 6-4,7-5 in an all-American final.

It wasn’t the longest game of professional tennis. That was reserved for Wimbledon 2010 when the longest professional tennis match, in terms of both time and total games, was the first-round match between Nicolas Mahut and John Isner on 22, 23, and 24 June 2010. It was the

  • Longest match by time and games: It took 11 hours and 5 minutes of playing time, and required 183 games.
  • Longest set by time and games: The 5th set took 8 hours and 11 minutes of playing timeand required 138 games
  • Longest play in a single day: The first 118 games of the fifth set, played on 23 June 2010, lasted 7 hours and 6 minutes.
  • Most games in a single day: 118, on the 23 June.

Isner eventually defeated Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7((7), 7-6(3), 70 -68!

And so, where does all this bring me? Sometimes, I think that having a terminal illness is like playing that long game of tennis. Sometimes you’re beating the illness, sometimes you’re just on even terms, and sometimes, the illness has the better of you.

How long will it last? No-one knows. Who will win the match? In the final analysis, the disease wins. Up until then, it’s one game at a time.

In my titanic encounter (now 4 years 6 months), ED v CBD, for a long while up until Christmas last year, it’s been ADVANTAGE ED.

Then, we went back to DEUCE. And, for most of January and February, it was ADVANTAGE CBD.

Then, we got the pills right, and we went back to DEUCE.

For the last week, and at the moment, we are back to ADVANTAGE ED!

Health-Meter

Cognitive Excellent===================Average============================Poor
Memory (Short) *********************************************
Executive function *******************************************
Spelling *****************************
Figures ****************************************
Physical  
Left hand/arm *******************************************************
Left leg/foot *******************************************
Right hand/arm **********************************
Right leg/foot *
Lungs *******
Swallowing *
Spasms –left side *************************************
Spasms –right side *

Red stars = Deterioration / Green stars = Improvement from previous week

Land of Our Fathers

 

Sunday 11 July 2010: 3 years 10 months on . . .

Tonight, at Soccer City in Johannesburg, the Netherlands plays against Spain in the final of the 2010 South Africa FIFA World Cup ®. The winner of the match tonight will take over from Italy – sent home in the early rounds – as the undisputed World Football Champions. They will wear the crown until the next World Cup takes place in Brazil in 2014.

Millions of people worldwide will focus their attention on South Africa tonight. They will join the thousands of international tourists that have streamed into our country over the last five weeks. It is difficult now to picture the world we came from in the Old South Africa.

Exactly twenty-five years ago, in July 1985, we arrived in Amsterdam by bus from Calais in France. We being the 21 people making up the first overseas 1985 Grey High School Cricket Touring Party to UK and Holland – 15 boys and 6 teachers.

It was the height of apartheid South Africa, and the townships were burning. South Africans were not welcome in most parts of the world and crossing boarders was a cumbersome task. South African tourists found it difficult to travel and international sports tours were out of the question!

But, somehow, we managed to pull it off. Not welcomed abroad as teams are nowadays, but all very clandestinely – even the cricket equipment had to be hidden away amongst the ordinary luggage. After all, this was publicly no more than a sightseeing tour to Europe! Forget about the fact that wherever we went in the UK discreet plain-clothes officers of the Intelligence Agency accompanied us, just in case something went wrong and protestors upset our tour along the way. It sounds all very James Bond style now!

And, up until our arrival in Amsterdam, everything had gone absolutely smoothly.

We had acquired a VW Golf, which had been the prize in our fundraising competition and for which we had sold tickets for months prior to the tour. VW also gave us a fleet of multi-coloured Smartie Golfs that we had to drive to Johannesburg from Uitenhage at the start of our tour. And, after spending one night in Johannesburg, we had left from Jan Smuts International Airport (now Oliver Tambo International) aboard our Luxavia flight headed for Luxembourg via Nairobi and Cairo.

In those days, Luxavia was a front airline company for SAA that was allowed to use African airspace and overfly the African soil that we now so publicly boast about to the world. SAA had to fly over the Atlantic, around the continent, in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge!

But, as South Africans, we were kept in the “holding pub” when we landed in Nairobi, and, in Cairo, we were not allowed to leave the plane. From Luxembourg, we had flown onto London Heathrow where we joined our coach and coach driver.

We travelled and played mainly in the south and southeastern corner of England – as far north as Northamptonshire and down to Hove and Brighton. And we won some and lost some.

In between the matches, we did the tourist thing! London, Lords, the castles and palaces, the pubs and even, to the disgust of some, the Theatre – Evita  and Don’t Cry for me Argentina – all in Spanish! And, on the Sunday of the Wimbledon Tournament, we watched Boris Becker beat our very own South African Kevin Curren in the Men’s Final. (For some or other reason, Wimbledon seemed to escape the harsh South African boycotts of those days.)

But, on the day we left Dover via ferry to Calais and by coach through France and Belgium to Amsterdam, a storm broke around our heads. Klaas de Jonge, a Dutch activist wanted by the South African Police, had gone into hiding in the Dutch Embassy in Pretoria. The police are not allowed to enter diplomatic premises and this set up a standoff between the SAP and the Dutch Embassy staff, and an international furore.

The effect on our touring party was the cancellation of the matches by the schools we were scheduled to play against in Amsterdam. And so we had a few days there with nothing to do – each has a story to tell of how they managed to occupy their time educationally during those days!

I don’t remember much Orange but I do recall us painting the town and the lights Red!

And, of course, what goes on tour stays on tour!

We coached back to Luxembourg from Amsterdam. I remember it was 14 July, Bastille Day, when we headed back for Johannesburg. It was also Dickie’s birthday and because of that he was allowed to sit in the cockpit when we landed in Cairo. (But definitely not touch Egyptian soil!) Now you can touch the soil but definitely not sit in the cockpit!

As a youngster, those lands were just the subjects of stories. I remember, from my childhood, the story of the little Dutch boy who prevented catastrophe by keeping his thumb in the hole in the dyke, and then there was the rhyme about the King of Spain’s daughter came to visit me.

 

What a different world it is that our children are growing up in. Now they are not just stories – in the last month not only the King’s daughter has come to visit us, but the Kings too, and the Queens, and the Presidents, and the people, and Paris and Leonardo and my neighbours and not even my neighbours . . .

And, tonight, will it be Spain that will say to her South American Spanish offspring Don’t Cry for me Argentina or will it be the Netherlands saying it to her South African Dutch offspring?

I Was So Glad That I had Come!

 
 Tuesday, 19 January 2010: Three years four months on …
 

After having spent three weeks at the coast in St Francis Bay, three days in Graaff-Reinet in the second week of January somehow just didn’t do it for me! The thoughts of temperatures in the mid 30 degrees and watching cricket in the Karoo semi-desert just seemed incompatible. But I went anyway.

Maybe it was the muggy 35C in Port Elizabeth or the howling berg wind that had suddenly come up that made up my mind for me. So off I went to watch Sean captain Grey’s second team, the Unicorns, against the 1st teams of a number of other schools from the Western and Eastern Cape, in the Gem of the Karoo school cricket tournament.

I enjoy travelling and used to drive hours by myself at the drop of a hat, but I haven’t driven that distance by myself since I became ill. Maybe I was taking a chance, and so I was a bit nervous as I headed north on the R75 – 250 km to Graaff-Reinet. At 5pm I stopped in Jansenville for a cooldrink – it was 35C when I stepped out of the comfort of the 20 degree air-conditioned car.

The next stop was 100km south of Graaff-Reinet at the top of the Soutpansnek Pass. This time, it was not to quench my thirst, but to soak up the beauty of the Karoo sprawled out as far as the eye could see. The brown veld stretched out below me and was framed by the blue Camdeboo Mountains in the distance. Here I was, three years into my illness, travelling by myself, and against the odds, looking down at the wonder of Creation. There is something so uniquely beautiful about the vista and the silence that is the Karoo. I could not remember when last I had been there by myself, and there I was, being treated to God’s canvass yet one more time! “Did all of this evolve by chance or was it designed by a Supreme God?” I thought, as I caught myself wiping a small tear from the corner of my eye.

I was so glad that I had come – even if it was just to see this again!

On Thursday afternoon, I took off some time from watching cricket and drove the 60 km through to Aberdeen to see John and Jean Watermeyer. Now in their eighties, I had first met them in 1985 when I started teaching at Grey. Colleen’s parents and Dickie Ogilvie’s in-laws, they were the “Old Folks” who farmed at Doorndraai, but I guess they were not much older then than I am now . . . although I don’t count myself as part of the “Old Folks” now! I think we carry our age better now than they did then!

I had phoned to say I was coming to visit. Over the last 25 years they have been so much a part of my life, part of the tapestry of friends that have created so many memories. We have shared the ups and downs – the weddings (“Uncle” John was our wedding MC) and the funerals; the bowls on New Year’s Day, the New Year’s Eve dances at the Club and the flat wheels; the Christmases and the cancers. . .

All of us are a bit greyer now, but, like old times, we laughed and joked and spoke and remembered. I certainly enjoyed the four hours it had taken out of my day – no, the four hours which had filled my day! – and I hope they did!

I was so glad that I had come!

On Friday, Grey was scheduled to play against Westerford at Nieu Bethesda, a small village (permanent population some 60) 80km to the north of Graaff-Reinett. My car’s low profile tyres don’t enjoy gravel roads so, at first, I thought I would not go there. But, I bummed a lift, and got to enjoy the rare spectacle of watching cricket on the village green surrounded by the brown bushes and the hills and mountains of the Karoo.

At lunchtime, I met up with some locals in the pub. They were, I think, high on the fragrances of the rural vegetation. We enjoyed good conversation, a tasty Karoo lamb burger and downed a bitterly cold frosty. Then I walked back through the village to the Bethesda Cricket Oval, savouring the art and pottery shops, the Owl House and the numerous B & B’s along the way. I chatted to a TV producer from Johannesburg and his advertising executive girlfriend who were cycling along the gravel roads of South Africa from one small town to another. They had taken the road past the graveyard and stumbled on a game of cricket on the only green patch in the middle of a brown and arid nowhere in the Great Karoo!

I was so glad that I had come!

On Friday night, Sean was selected to play in a 20-20 game, East vs West. I criticised the poor planning, and the late start. Then the lights went out, there was no food for sale and I was very hungry. To crown it all, the temperature had cooled down from a daytime high of 32 to 17, and I was getting cold! Sean came in to bat at no. 7 sometime just after 11pm. His team needed 6 more runs to win and they managed to pull it off.

Later, when asked about the game, I complained about the problems and the poor attendance. Sean corrected me and, with absolute excitement, he spoke about the colourful outfits they had worn, the loud music that was driving them on to victory, the smoke and the smell of the braais and the lovely atmosphere! “It was like playing for the Warriors at a packed St George’s Park!” he said, with that glint in his eye.

My eldest had once again reminded me about that lesson of looking at life’s half full glass rather than the half empty glass.

I was so glad that I had come!

And then, on Saturday, after another day’s cricket against Paarl Gym, it all came to an end, and we headed for home.

This time, Sean drove (he has a learner’s licence) and I was the passenger. I felt far more comfortable than driving by myself. Although he has been driving the tractors and bakkies at Doorndraai since eight years old, it was his first time as the driver on the long open road. Unlike other times when we hit the open road with me at the wheel, this time he could not do the family thing of going to sleep!

So, for three hours, we chatted … about the holidays and his mates, the hostel where they had stayed, the food and the new friends he had made. We spoke about the farm, our friends in the Karoo: the Ogilvies, the Watermeyers, the Harris’s, the tractors and the bakkie Skadonk in which he had learned to drive.

And, then, he commented on the veld, the beautiful mountains, the windmills, the distinctive Karoo farm houses. I sat back and realized – maybe for the first time – that all our family travelling and many trips across the country had indeed reaped their benefits, and that Sean had picked up something from his “Pops” – he, too, had developed an appreciation for the beauty of nature and the importance of friends.

As his final year at school speeds to a close and his time at home with us becomes less and less, I thought about the last three days that I could have chosen to stay at home. Instead, I chose to spend them with my son. Three extra days with him, and I was so thankful for all he has given us and for the person he has become.

I was so glad that I had come!

And, oh yes, we spoke about the cricket, which is why we went in the first place! They won some and they lost some. There were the inevitable poor umpiring decisions, the ill-prepared pitches, the lights that went out, the good and the bad shots, the “if only’s” and all the life lessons that sport brings to us.

Yes, it’s not about whether we won or lost – it’s all about how we played the game.

I was so VERY glad that I had come!

Kompasberg Nieu Bethesda
Written about 2 months ago · Comment ·
 
Simon Whittaker
Thanks Ed, once again, for putting our “too busy” lives into perspectice!!!!
19 January at 15:02 ·
Simon Fairbrother
Thanks Ed.
19 January at 16:02 ·
Janet Brown
thanks, Ed – c u soon – Wayne down for Grey Bloem and then we going to CT for Bishops and Rondebosch
19 January at 16:53 ·
Jackie Anderson Whitley
is glad you went.
19 January at 18:09 ·
Kevin Whitley
Ed, thanks for sharing your experience and your life! It helped me realize how many times I’ve been glad that I came! I needed to read that today!
19 January at 20:35 ·
Ed Lunnon
Thanks guys…..we learn more and more each day!
19 January at 21:45 ·
Reinhold du Randt
Ed i am also so glad you came and we had a marvellous time and i love the beautiful way in which you described the area where i live ..Have a nice day
20 January at 06:43 ·
Sjani Schoonbee Human
Wow Ed, ek sit nou met ‘n knop in die keel, die lewe is soos jy hier uit spel, ‘n keuse en ons moet ons viesie verander. Ek is so bly jy het gegaan!! Wonderlik, daai wereld is stunning!!! I love it!!!
20 January at 07:12 ·
Alexa Bowker Beckley
thanks ed, love reading your stuff, dont make us wait too long for more.
20 January at 18:59 ·
Philip Henderson
why didnt you pop in when you passed my turn???
23 January at 08:12 ·