What a Prick!

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Friday 9 March 2012: 5 years 6 months on … Advantage ED

Ever since becoming ill, I have always been thankful that I have not experienced any pain. A lot of discomfort, yes; but, thank God, no pain!

But all that has changed, and the last three weeks have possibly been the most difficult that I have experienced since becoming ill.

It all started, with no prior warning, in the early hours of Sunday morning 19 February.

On the Friday evening we had attended Shelley and Eddie Terblanche’s ‘surprise’ joint 50th birthday. It started with a bus trip with all the guests on board dressed in ”smart casual black with a mask” to fetch the birthday couple at their home in Summerstrand and then on to Leo’s Bistro in Walmer for a delicious supper.

Then, early Saturday morning (at three am!), I had to get up to get my lift to George with Kobus, an AlgoaFM listener who had kindly offered to take me to the Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge.

 The challenge, celebrating its tenth birthday this year, attracted over 1000 physically challenged people participating in four events – the 42 km marathon, the 21km half marathon, the 10km event and the 5km fun run.

It is a most humbling experience to see so many physically challenged people participating in “vehicles” ranging from the most sophisticated to the most ordinary of wheelchairs. The fun run alone attracted over 900 participants in wheelchairs pushed by local professional, business and ordinary everyday people and many hangers-on, all with the emphasis on the fun part of it. The main streets of George – York Road and Courteney Street / Knysna Road – are closed for the occasion and the day belongs to those in our community who live life without what so many of us take so for granted.

The trip to George from Port Elizabeth is about a three and a half hour one, and so we were back in Port Elizabeth at about three thirty in the afternoon – some twelve hours after we had left.

I had planned to attend the Concert in the Park at five pm and had an appointment to see Marcus Wyatt, the guest trumpeter at the concert. Marcus is an ex-pupil of mine and he and Andrew Townsin, another ex-pupil, had trumpeted Pera down the aisle when we got married in 1990.

But, I was a bit tired and decided to postpone the evening concert and attend the Sunday morning one instead. A lie-down seemed more in order …

Lesson #1: don’t procrastinate!

I woke up at three on Sunday morning, my whole body in a spasm, my muscles tensed up and with the most excruciating pain. By seven we called the GP, and during a home visit nogal, I received Voltaren injections, pain killers and an anti-inflammatory – coxflam: one tablet twice a day; synaleve: two capsules three times a day for pain (warning: may cause drowsiness). I can quite easily see how people like the Jacksons and the Houstons become addicted to prescription drugs .. and take just a few more every now and then when the pain doesn’t subside! 

I wafted through the next two days, missed the Concert in the Park (and the Redhouse River Mile scheduled for Sunday afternoon), but by Tuesday evening was feeling much better – so much so that I was able to attend Elvis Blue’s concert at the Grey’s Afrikaans Week celebrations in the school hall.

Although I was left with a low level numb sort of pain, the excruciating stabbing pain eased off and the week became better – until Saturday evening (25 February), whilst watching rugby on TV, when it all started up again. Luckily I had “left-over” medication in hand and was able to doctor myself and lie down – but even that was a painful affair! And so some more drugs … Pax: one at night and Stilpaine: 2 tablets four times a day!

The next and third attack happened last Sunday evening (4 March). It is wearing me down and it is becoming more and more difficult to lift my hands and arms. Mentally, it takes its toll, too.

So, first thing on Monday morning, I spoke to the doctor and my biokineticist. It was decided that I needed to see a physiotherapist / chiropractor, and luckily I was able to get an appointment with Dr Pieterse at two that afternoon.

All the muscles in my back go into a sort of spasm and tense up. “Had I tried needles?” I was asked.

I had not.

So, one for one, I had needles pricked into the muscles in my back.

And, on Tuesday morning, I felt like a new person. All the pain was gone! And remained so until Friday morning, when I could feel just a tinge of that low-level ache returning. Luckily, another session had been scheduled for Friday, so round number two of the “needle attack” took place!

Lesson #2:  Don’t under-estimate the contribution that anyone can make in life – even the smallest prick can make a huge difference!   

 So three weeks have passed by with far too little been done. I have been down but not yet out. How long will the pricking last and how long will it bring relief? Who knows?

But, in the meantime, don’t be a prick … enjoy what you can!

 

Ubuntu

 

Friday 23 September 2011: 5 years on … Advantage CBD

On Tuesday of this week I was planning to write another blog.

However, I have not been feeling well, I have experienced some severe headaches, my short-term memory has been failing me, the spasms on my left side have increased and my hands and left leg have been quite limp. I am unable to sit for longer than a few minutes at a time.

I have been quite stressed and I think it’s the stress that takes that life that I still have out of me. It’s a vicious circle – the more stress, the less movement, the more stress … and so it goes on and on. I become exhausted.

I have to learn how to handle the stress and to keep working on my mind … it’s not easy, but it can be done.

All I managed to write on Tuesday was the jotting down of a few points about my activities of the previous week. (Read the previous blog Skeleton in the Cupboard.)That’s how my blogs usually start – a few ideas in my head or some points in my diary. (It’s something that I never used to keep for my personal things but, with failing memory, it’s become an essential part of my day – my electronic Blackberry and my old-fashioned handwritten book diary. The challenge is to keep everything synchronised!)

My intention was to build on those points, write the blog and then destroy the points.  But the more I looked at the points, the more I realised that the framework of my blog was only the skeleton of my life of the past week.

Just a few bullet points, just a quarter of a page, a few meaningless words like hospice, haircut, Club 300, rugby, Graaff-Reinet, breakfast, baptism, birthday …

So many of us live our lives like just the few necessary bullet points; just the quarter of the page.

We don’t bother to fill in the meat around the skeleton and our life becomes meaningless. We just do the bare necessities! We just exist.

When Moses asked of God who He was, He replied “I am what I am”.

In African culture, we speak of UBUNTU: I am because of the people around me.

Ubuntu: “I am what I am because of who we all are.” (From a translation offered by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee.)

Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered a definition:

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.
 

Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008:

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
 

Nelson Mandela explained Ubuntu as follows:

A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects.  
 

And it is the people around me who support me, who give meaning to my life, who make it worthwhile, who read my blogs, who listen to the radio programme, who write me notes of encouragement and who in turn allow me to give to them.

I shall always be grateful to all those friends and acquaintances who have been the tapestry of my life.

They are the people with whom I journey and share my existence and who are the meat of my life’s skeleton.

 So let me rewrite Skeleton in the Cupboard as UBUNTU:

On Wednesday evening the family attended Gino Fabbri’s dinner theatre show Toasted Nuts at the Old Grey Club. Gino is a local Port Elizabeth comedian and works with Gary Hemmings of Centrestage, the entertainment specialists in PE. Gary is an ex-pupil of mine and through him and AlgoaFM I have become acquainted with Gino. The show is a laugh-a-minute and the run has now been extended twice in PE. It’s wonderful what a good laugh can do for one’s well-being! I also enjoy being able to go out with the whole family – as the boys get older, it’s something that is becoming rarer theses days!

On Thursday mornings I have my weekly visit from the sisters of the St Francis Hospice. Their support is invaluable and something to which I look forward. I owe a great debt of thanks to Gill le Roux and Janice Malkinson, and to Isaac Reuben, father of my pharmacist David and brother of Solly, an ex-mayor of the City, who pay me weekly visits.

Nadine van Westenbrugge (who was a secretary at The Grey when I worked there, and the mother of Adrian who I taught at one stage) also pops in to help with admin on Thursdays. There are so many things that still need to be attended to, and she is a pillar of strength in this department.

Julian Fletcher is next in the diary. He provides me with a weekly deep massage of these muscles that disappear and atrophy because of the lack of use! It’s one of those eina lekker feelings (“sore nice” feelings) – I’m still not sure if it does me any bad or any good, but it appears to keep the muscles in reasonable trim. Who knows what they would have looked like by now had it not been for the exercises and massages.

Then its time for a haircut – Janine at Andre’s Hair design has kindly been attending to my hair and beard. She was elated today, because her son who is going to university next year has been given a personal bursary for his engineering studies by one of her clients! It all fall in line with my belief in what you give is what you receive.

Val and Craig Beetham, friends from The Grey, arrange to pick me up (in a Porsche, nogal!) to attend the wine-tasting evening of the Club 300 at Elizabeth Place – a local function venue. It’s always great to see other parents from the school and to socialise and hear what’s going on in the real world. My world could become quite boring if I allowed it to do so.

Ben Roth assisted with Sean’s rugby coaching last year at Grey and he manages Elizabeth Place. He also usually comes round to visit me on Thursday mornings: I provide the coffee and he brings the eats! (No wonder the” huggy bars” are starting to show more and more!) Anyway, he didn’t make the morning visit this week, but we got to have a good chat at the evening function.        

Fridays have become “lunch at Old Grey Club days.” Steak, egg and chips, all for R40 – sorry, that’s now R45 – have become the Friday special, and Sean and I, together with anyone else who wishes to join us, have been doing this lunch date for weeks now.

Between the two of us, we manage to round up a number of friends each week, and I like to think that we are supporting the Club in a very small way, too. This week, Sean has a number of his friends there, and I joined Annette Jones and Richard and Liz Finlay. Richard also has a birthday on the 18th September, and so we celebrate together.

After lunch, Pera and I leave for Graaff-Reinet. I offered to drive for a while and ended up driving all the way there (and back)! I haven’t done that for a long while, so it was quite exciting for me (although uncomfortable to sit for so long). I find it easier driving the automatic car on the open road rather than in town, but would not try doing it by myself anymore.

Sean had NSRI duty and Phil had school work so they remained at home.

Well, once in Graaff-Reinet, we didn’t touch sides. First, off to the Graaff-Reinet Club with Gordon and Rose. The hospitality in the Karoo is astonishing. Everyone introduces themselves to us, the visitors, and makes us feel so at home. This happens throughout our weekend visit!

 The other thing that astonishes me (and which I find very humbling) is just how many people listen to and comment on our weekly radio slot on AlgoaFM. I am so pleased that so many are now becoming aware of all these weird and wonderful neurological illnesses with which so many of us have to contend. That was my goal when Lance and I started talking now almost 18 months ago (we had our 75th chat this last Wednesday!)

Pera and I were asked to do the weekly draw and we ended up drawing our own number for the bottle of whiskey – not rigged, but rather embarrassing!

After the Club visit, we headed off to Gordon’s Restaurant for dinner. What a meal! What a host! What Company! What an evening … that finished off in the wee hours of the morning sitting around the kitchen table with a single malt!

Saturday morning was the big rugby game, SA vs Fiji and Ireland vs Australia. Well, if we were pleasantly surprised by the Bokke’s great performance, then I was elated by Ireland’s win over the Aussies! And when we are winning, then everything seems so much better.

So, at midday, in our green and gold shirts, we headed off down the road to the Botanics and the Karoolus Fees!

And we returned after midnight! The weather was great, the stalls were the stalls, the beers tasted good (no Guiness though!), the all-day music was entertaining (from Snotkop and Robbie Wessels, through Arno Jordaan and Glaskas to Elvis Blue and Prime Circle), the re-acquainting with old friends and the meeting of new friends – all for R50!

What a day and what an introduction to my 55th birthday (and my 5th with CBD) on Sunday which started with a traditional Wright birthday breakfast for me. Then it was time to leave the gem of the Karoo and the people who make up that gem.

We headed back to PE, all the richer for having experienced Ubuntu Karoo-style. And even richer we were when we attended Phil’s baptism that evening at Walmer Methodist.  It may have been Walmer, but I’m sure that wasn’t the case for the water in the outside pool where Phil was baptised!

And still this week’s dose Ubuntu wasn’t finished yet – Tuesday was Nadine’s birthday and Grant (Jet) Jennings, our neighbour, and ex-pupil.

 Why is it that so many people celebrate a birthday in September? Is it the result of Christmas Ubuntu? 

 

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!

Take My Blues Away

 Tuesday 9 August 2011: 4 years 11 months on … Advantage ED

Women’s Day!

Last year, round about this time, I wrote Piece of Paradise and Ed and Elvis.

In both blogs I wrote about trips to the Southern Cape, including the Garden Route, and about visits with friend Jan Hoogendyk who had entered the SA Idols contest.

Well, history tells us that Jan went on to win SA Idols 2010 as Elvis Blue, and Sean and I were pleased to break into his heavy schedule and to meet up with him for a quick cuppachino at Dulce’s a while ago. I’m still hoping to get him to Port Elizabeth for a show.

And this past long weekend, we went on to visit the Southern Cape once again. Exactly a year after visiting Plettenberg Bay in 2010, we were back in 2011.

Friday night was a busy (and long one for me!) By invitation of Mr Squash, Alan Stapleton, we attended the re-opening of Crusaders Squash Club with its new glass-backed courts! But Saturday morning at 11, we left on time for Plett, just two hours westwards along the N2 from Port Elizabeth. Sean is now a year into his driver’s licence and once again, is behind the wheel. (Phillip has just got his licence – in Uitenhage – to drive a scooter, but he remained in PE to do advanced maths and an IT project for school.)

At one pm sharp we took the drive around the corner at The Crags, just before Keurbooms Strand and the River. The view before you of the Plettenberg Bay and the Robberg Peninsula takes some beating.

We were spending the weekend with John and Wendy Clarke. (John had told me, almost five years ago when I became ill, that many would go before me! Now he is convalescing from Guillain-Barre disease, which, just a few weeks ago, had paralysed him within a few hours!)

After lunch, we went for a long walk along the beach, from Keurbooms River, along the lagoon spit and all the way to the river mouth at (what used to be until it was flooded away) Lookout Beach. John tried his hand at fishing, something that just a few weeks ago he was unable to do! The views of the blue ocean and the blue mountains – some still capped with white snow from the recent falls – that surround this impressive Bay are spectacular. We even had the pleasure of viewing a display by a lonesome whale just beyond the surf.

Plettenberg Bay is to South Africa something like Monaco is to the French Riviera. The views of the Robberg Peninsula and the Tsitsikamma Mountains are spectacular. The homes on Millionaire’s Row are stunning and possibly extravagant.

Juxtaposed to this display of the country’s wealth, just on the other side of the N2, is the squalor of the tin shacks, the RDP houses and rows of outside toilets (ironically, at one stage, this township was  named Flushing Meadows!).

It is a common-place sight in our country: the haves and the have-nots right next to each other. One sees it in Johannesburg’s Sandton and Alexandria; in Cape Town’s Constantia and Hout Bay and Khayalitsha; and, in fact, in every South African city, town, village and township.

It is a display that could quite easily begin a discussion on the Fairness of Life (who said that Life’s fair?) and fuel a debate on socialism. Many years ago, I recall our then domestic assistant, Lorna, looking at this display of empty holiday homes and not understanding why so many of these large homes were only occupied for just a few weeks in each year!

As I write this, the youth of London and indeed Britain, have gone on the rampage. SKY News is showing pictures of wanton destruction, looting, arson and plain downright criminality and theft. If this can happen in a so-called First World Country, it reminds me how much of a tinder box we sit on here in South Africa!

When I was in doing my military service at the Infantry School in Oudtshoorn in 1982/83, we often came to Keurbooms for weekends. I had to AWOL, as I was just a troopie in my first year whilst my brother-in-law Anton and his mates were officers in their second year!

Indeed, my first visits to this magnificent part of the world were whilst I was studying at Stellenbosch University. We came to Plett at the end of every year once we had finished our final examinations. It was the beginning of what is now the much more formalised “Plett Rage” that takes place annually in December and now draws not only thousands of University students but also thousands of finishing off high school matric pupils from all over the country.

I remember one trip, arriving in the Peugeot (nicknamed the Pugget!) and being kicked out of the then Piesangs River Caravan Park, because the five of us – one woman and four men – did not represent a family unit of any kind, and that park supposedly only catered for families! We ended up camping at the Plett Park instead.

Within a few days we collected enough to fly the lady back to Cape Town and we continued enjoying what was then the pub at the Beacon Island Hotel, the Grape Vine (?) underneath the Hotel, the Formosa Inn and the Arches.

On our evening trip back to Cape Town, the Pugget overheated near Knysna, and we filled the radiator with salt water out of the Knysna Lagoon! We later pitched our tent on the front lawn of the Du Toits in George – and they found a squatter camp in their garden the next morning!

Those were the carefree student days of bright sunshine, braaivleis, beer and bankcruptcy!

In later years, our family often visited this area too and we have explored most of the Plett, Keurbooms, Knysna, George area – the Garden Route of South Africa. We also bought a plot of land at Sanderlings on the Keurbooms River, and had plans drawn up for a holiday house there, before we decided to buy in St Francis Bay instead.

Saturday evening we braaied with the Bryants, Sunday we slept in and then walked the beach, as we did on Monday. We talked, we walked, we ate, we slept and John fished – something I still do not do voluntarily!

It was a weekend of re-charging the batteries, depressing the blues, enjoying friendships and living Life!

 

ED and ELVIS

Tuesday 10 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piece/Peace of Paradise

1 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …

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

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

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

When you’re down and out – feeling small

When tears are in your eyes … 

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

It will dry them all…

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, what is dying?

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

And someone at my side says

“She is gone.”

 

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

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

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

 

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

there are others who are watching her coming over their horizon

and other voices take up a glad shout –

“There she comes!”

 

That is what dying is.

An horizon and just the limit of our sight.

 

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

(Bishop Brent)

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

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

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