It’s a Dog’s Life?

Tuesday 13 September 2011: 5 years on … Advantage ED

My Dad was born in Muizenberg, Cape Town in 1915 – ninety six years ago today. He died in Paarl in May 1976 just short of 61 years old. In 1969, when I was in Standard 5 (Grade 7) he had a stroke that left him paralysed on the right side and unable to talk (other than two or three words).

For seven years we cared for him at home: my eldest sister, Lynn, was in High School when Dad became ill, Ingrid and I were in Primary School and June was not yet in school. Those were difficult days for us as a family, and I always said that I would not like to sit like that for so long.

Now paralysis (and whatever else comes with CBD) also stares me in the face. As I write this, my left hand and leg are possibly the worst that they have been since I became ill. I have to bend my left arm open with my right hand when I wake up because the elbow stiffens up at night. My left leg tries to do the same at the knee – my foot just wants to curl upwards and my calf muscle is always tight.

So Tuesday mornings is my date with Julian Fletcher. He is a sports therapist and gives me a real deep massage. It feels so good and I am sure that it is keeping the muscles moving.

In order to get there this morning, I had to leave our new 9 week old Jack Russell puppy with Barbara, our domestic assistant.

Life has been hectic since Charlie arrived in our household last Monday. He is extremely busy, to say the least. His arrival has been quite an adaptation and very ironic.

When Pera and I got married in 1990, I had said “No kids and no dogs!”

However, the kids arrived in quick succession – Sean in 1992, Phillip (1) who was still-born in 1994, and Phillip (2) three months prematurely in 1995.

Till last Monday, we still had no dogs!

When I went to Graaff-Reinet two weekends ago to “hunt”, Helen Harris asked whether I would like a pup (from their new litter of seven). The family have really always wanted a pet, so I thought that in my retirement I would relent. I texted the boys to ask them if they wanted a pup and I got a reply from Pera: “Has the disease spread to your head?” (Well, in fact, the disease is IN my head!)

So Graeme’s folks brought him down to Port Elizabeth last Monday.

It’s like having another baby in the house. Life has surely not been the same since then. Feeding bowls, toys, basket, cuddles, barks, bites, howls, fences, gnawed furniture, eaten-through cords, walks, leashes, pellets and wees and poos have become the order of the day (and night). As with our boys, I am not good on the night shifts, and barely much better with the day shifts! I guess babies, puppies and I just don’t go together!

So all the activities of the last week have taken place (or not taken place!) with Charlie’s welfare in mind.  He dictates the pace, and sometimes I rue the day when I relented. However, he takes my mind off the CBD which I believe will be a good thing in the long run. Talking about runs, I’m not sure whether I took him for a run on the golf course this morning or whether he took me!

Last Thursday was a busy day – first my weekly visit from Sister Gill le Roux (and sometimes Sister Janice Malkinson) from the St Francis Hospice. They, together with social worker Jenny Nickell and Isaac Rubin, do an extraordinary job in keeping an eye on me, and we shall always be grateful to them and to the Hospice for their assistance.

Then, I spoke to the monthly meeting of the Parkinson’s Support Group in Walmer. It is a humbling experience to see so many people who live life with Parkinson’s disease. We have many symptoms in common and hence many stories to share. It helps so much to realise that you are not the only one out there, and that help and assistance are just around the corner.

When I first became ill, the neurologist thought that I may have PD – and hence my relationship with the support group since then. It is also where I first met Briar Wright, mother of the Wright clan that I have written about previously.

After the meeting, I headed off for my weekly hour and a half session with Julian, which also now includes doing a set of exercises on his newly designed exercise “cube”.

Then I had a meeting with Pierre-Louis Lemercier about (anti-)fracking at The Deli, one of the sidewalk cafés on the newly transformed Stanley Street in Richmond Hill – the now trendy place to be!

And then, after a quick supper, off to the Grey Junior Grey Way Concert at the Feathermarket Hall. It seems like just the other day that Sean was playing the trombone and Phillip the sax in the Orchestra and Jazz Band. Now they have moved on, and we just attend because it’s really good.

Friday morning was the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Then lunch at Old Grey, the Wrights arriving for the weekend, dinner and a very late night (maybe I should say, a very early morning!) In fact, in time to watch the two early rugby games broadcast from Aetearoa (the land of the long white cloud). Breakfast was squeezed in before the England/Argentine game, then a snooze and then off to the Bartons for our personal official launch of the Rugby World Cup 2011.

Each couple came dressed in the clothing of their country of choice (we chose Ireland) and brought the appropriate food and drinks from that country. Another good party was had by all there!

By the time Sunday morning came round, I was feeling rather tired when the Bokke took on Wales. Possibly, I was just as tired as the players when they came off the field with that oh-so-close 17-16 win for us! So tired I was, that I did not make the Outdoors Expo (and the artificial snow ski ramp!) that was pencilled in on my calendar – that will have to remain for next year!

The last commitment of the weekend was a visit to the Walmer Methodist Church to discuss the logistics of Phillip’s baptism next Sunday.

Who said it’s a dog’s life?

Charles Dickens said in The Tale of Two Cities:It was the best of times. It was the worst of times!”

Memories are Made of This

Tuesday 10 May 2011: 4 years 8 months on … ADVANTAGE CBD

I have made much about my and our family travels over the years. Before I got married, I was fortunate to travel extensively overseas. Thereafter, it happened less frequently because of logistics and cost. However, as the boys grew up, besides holidays, we also spent a lot of time following them around the country as they became involved in various school activities.

We have been to all four of the old South African provinces to watch school sport and listen to the orchestra – Pretoria, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Bloemfontein and Cape Town. In the Eastern Cape, over the years, we have frequently visited Queenstown, King Williams Town, East London, Graaff-Reinet, George, Knysna, Grahamstown, Uitenhage and Despatch!

Our travels with the boys have been some of the best memories that I have – besides the sport and the performances, our discussions in the car, the scenery, the history and geography – even the mathematics sometimes – have made all those trips very worthwhile.

We have visited old friends and made new friends around the country, gone sight-seeing, attended shows – Phantom of the Opera in Cape Town (together with the Thomsons, Stapletons and Scholtz’s) comes to mind, gone shopping and seen the country.

I have written a number of blogs about these trips, notably “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and “I was so Glad that I had come”!

“Heaven is a place on Earth” describes our trip to Stellenbosch round about this time last year (2010) for the annual derby day against Paul Roos Gymnasium (incidentally where I did my practical teaching as a student at Stellenbosch University).

The previous year (2009) we had visited Wynberg in Cape Town in May. I had not started writing blogs yet so I have no record of that trip. However, despite my short-term memory leaving me in the lurch, my long-term memory remains almost intact.

I had attempted to organize a bus trip for parents to Cape Town for that long weekend. We were due to stop over in Rawsonville at a University friend, Stanley Louw’s wine farm, stay at the Newlands Sun Hotel, take in a  show, ABBA, at the Artscape Theatre on the Friday night and a Super 14 Rugby match at Newlands on the Saturday (and, of course, watch our sons play against Wynberg.) However, it was just at the time of the economic crunch taking its toll on our South African pockets, and I had to cancel the plans at the last moment because of insufficient numbers.

So we drove instead. We stayed over, as usual with the Kapps in Knysna, and then stayed with the Reelers in Pinelands. After the rugby Saturday, we watched the Stormers play at Newlands, and then discovered a delightful pizza place in Rondebosch. On Sunday, on the way home, we stopped over for lunch at the Rod and Reel in Plettenberg Bay!

Two years before that, May 2007, I had just been diagnosed with CBD in the January and had to make a return visit to Tygerberg Hospital at the time of the Wynberg encounter. I flew down to Cape Town, saw the doctor and very little of the rugby, as I recall spending the Saturday afternoon assisting Dylan Collins (Head Boy 2006) who had eaten a suspect hamburger and was not feeling too well!

Despite the bus trip to Wynberg being cancelled and my illness taking its toll, I had organised two very successful train trips for parents to Grey Bloemfontein in August 2007 and again in August 2009. I called it the Grey-V Train, One and Two!

In 2007 we were almost 250 parents who filled the train. We left Port Elizabeth station 4 hours late (due to a train accident at Addo) – after having emptied the picnic baskets at a party on platform 5! – and encountered the coldest night of the year and snow in the Karoo and the Free State. We arrived late in Bloemfontein and some parents (including us) did not even get to see our sons play!

However, the memories and the stories of that trip will remain legendary. So much so, that when 2009 came round, the demand for another train was there. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, notably the SA Railways not being able to guarantee a train, it was a last-minute rush and we did not have as many passengers as the previous trip. This time we only arrived an hour late and managed to keep warm on the train (but the Heavens opened in Bloem and it poured with rain!)

And so, all these trips have very special memories and I could highlight many over the past 27 years since I became associated with Grey, first as a teacher and then as a parent.

Last weekend, it was time for the Wynberg trip again. With Sean out of school and Phillip not playing rugby temporarily this term, there was really no reason to go to Cape Town, except to make an excuse to go! And I don’t really have to look too far to find such an excuse to go home to the Western Cape!

Besides Grey rugby, the Stormers were also playing the Crusaders at Newlands, so we looked at all our options! But, much as we tried, nothing worked – I doubted my ability to sit in the car for eight hours, Sean was writing a test, there were no flights available, the Newlands seats were sold out, the price of petrol has just increased YET again, I didn’t want to drive in the dark, etc … so, in the end, we made the difficult, but sensible, decision to stay at home.

So we were at home on Sunday afternoon when we got the news of the tragic death of grade 8 pupil, Stefan Ehlers, and his mother, Theresa, in an accident on the way back from Cape Town when their car hit a kudu near Willowmore. The father, Rian, was admitted to hospital but escaped serious injury and was discharged Monday. Our sincerest condolences go to their family at this sad time.

My condolences also go to the family of Robin Small, an ex-colleague of mine at Grey who also passed away this week after having battled cancer for some time. His memorial service took place at Grey yesterday.

We cannot predict the future

We cannot change the past

We have just the present moment

We must treat it as our last 

This week, hundreds of Old Greys will converge on Port Elizabeth for their annual reunion.  Since last year’s gathering, we have lost a number of our family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. We remember all of them for having enriched our lives along the way.

So my message to you is, if you are having doubts about attending this weekend (or, for that matter, doing whatever you have been putting off or have been uncertain about), make the decision now to join in the reminiscing and the fun. Live for the moment.

We have just the present moment – We must treat it as our last.

 

And So, this is Christmas …

Thursday 23 December 2010: 4 years 3 months on …

Season's Greetings!

I have never been a “Festive Season” person. I could quite easily escape the madness of this period and go from early December into late January!

This will be the 55th Festive Season that I will celebrate and the 5th one since I became ill in 2006. As I look back over the years, I have celebrated  Christmas and New Year’s with family, friends, strangers and stragglers. We have eaten our main meal as supper on Christmas Eve and as Christmas Day Lunch and as Christmas Day Supper.

There have been celebrations in the Northern Hemisphere traditions and in the more practical Southern Hemisphere protocol. We have done it the European style and the African style. We have eaten ‘hot’ food and ‘cold’ food – turkey and braai.

We have done it on the beach, in hotels, restaurants and at our home and at your home. We have done it with Grannies and parents, with laws and in-laws, with mine and yours, sometimes on an alternate basis and sometimes, we get it all messed up, and do it on a sequential basis.

We have done it in the heat of the summer and I have done it in the cold of the winter, in the southern hemisphere and in the northern hemisphere, under the blazing sun and in the ice cold snow.

I have done it in North America (in Oklahoma and New York) and in South Africa (in the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and, ironically, in Natal).

We have done it –sometimes – peacefully, and – often – with much argument, stress and unhappiness. I don’t think that we are unique in this regard!

Some do it out of habit, some out of conviction, and some don’t know why they do it!

Some, I remember with much affection, such as the only white Christmas in 1976 in Sulphur, Oklahoma, with the Seips and the Whitleys (my American “parents”); others I would rather forget, such as New Year’s Eve on Times Square in New York City in 1987/88; and some I just have forgotten!

But, in the final analysis, it’s the time of the year when we celebrate New Beginnings: a New Year and a new Dispensation for Mankind when Jesus, the Son of God, was born in Bethlehem, in order that we may have New Life.

How we deal with this time of the year is the same way as we deal with Life and its events at any time of the year. It is our own doing and our choice – it lies in our hands, our hearts and in our minds. 

I am reminded that one event, such as the massive snowfalls in Europe at this time, can have two very different consequences: on the one hand, there are the beautiful, peaceful snow scenes, the fun of snowmen and snowballs, children all wrapped up playing in the snow, people tobogganing and sledging and skiing and ice skating; and on the other hand, the chaotic scenes of the massive disruption of road, air and rail services, accidents, death and destruction.

Likewise, how we deal with this event of the “Festive Season”, can lead to one of two very different consequences:  one of unhappiness, depression, argument, loneliness; or one of peace, happiness, joy, serenity and fulfilment.

It is of our making.

My hope and prayers, this festive Season, is that I, and you, will have the ability to look and learn from the excitement and joy and glee of the children around us at this time. That we will find ourselves at the Manger of the Baby in Bethlehem, that we will learn from Him to live our lives in peace, humility, serenity, humbleness, giving and service to our fellow human beings.

That I may say, Father, take this cup from me, but not my will, but Yours, be done.

I wish all my readers, friends and family, wherever they may be on this Good Earth, a very special, happy and contented Christmas in 2010, and a New Year in 2011 that may be richly filled with God’s many blessings.

Heading South – Going Home

A Change is as Good as a Holiday (Part 5)

Sunday 19 December 2010: 4 years 3 months on …

(As I write this, the snow once again pours down onto Europe and disrupts traffic all over again!)

Saturday 4 December – Sunday 5 December 2010

Saying goodbye has never been my strong point. I usually choke up – and then don’t say the things that I intended to say or should have said. And, over the last four years, this has been even more so. I sometimes think that people must think that I am extremely rude because I don’t say goodbye properly!

The truth is that despite talking to myself beforehand and getting myself ‘strong’ for the occasion, I am still not able to control the waterworks! And then, I just rush off, and let the water flow out of sight …

 This time was no different.

When the taxi arrived to fetch me at 11h00, just minutes after being booked, I said my brief goodbyes to Grace, Jake and Mike, almost as if I was just going down the road to do the morning shopping. But the tears started rolling, and did so almost all the way to the airport. The taxi driver chatted away, talking about everything from the FIFA World Cup to the 90 billion Euro bailout that Ireland had just received from the European Union and the IMF. All he got in return were curt one-word responses and the occasional muted sniff! Strange African fella, he must have thought!

At the airport, I asked to leave on an earlier flight – not because I wanted to get out of the place, but because missing my flight to Johannesburg at Heathrow would have complicated matters for me. Their was a brief window of opportunity for flights to leave Dublin – the snow had stopped, but it was forecast that the fog would roll in from the northwest and more snow was inevitable!

I spent my last Euro coins on a packet of chips, and then watched them spraying the ice off the wings and fuselage of the plane that would carry me back over the Irish Sea to London Heathrow – Flight EI 168 scheduled to take off at 14h10.

I saw the fog rolling in from the west. I was right in the front, seat 2A, at the window and by the time we started moving, the airport was shrouded in a blanket of fog. There had been so many stories of people getting on and off planes because of cancelled flights, that I became anxious that the plane should become airborne.

 Luckily, the flight was only slightly delayed because, once again, we had been requested to delay our arrival at LHR in order to fit into their time slots. But, up we went, through the grey pea-soup fog, and then, as we banked and turned eastward, almost like Someone opening the curtains, there below me lay the Emerald Isle. As far as the eye could see, it looked like a giant quilt blanket – white squares of snow surrounded by dark leafless trees. It was the most awesome sight, and will remain with me as my parting gift after a most special week.

 Slightly late, at half three, we landed at Heathrow. My bag had been checked through to Johannesburg, and Flight SA237 was only due for boarding at 20h05 and to leave at 21h05. So I used the time to explore the aged Terminal 1 (the original Heathrow, due for demolition and rebuilding over the next 10 years). SAA and Aer Lingus use terminal 1 and I was specifically booked like that in order to cut down on my moving around unnecessarily at Heathrow.

I found a free internet kiosk and proceeded to catch up on emails and Facebook. Then, a trip to the toilet almost ended in disaster. Travelling alone always means that such a trip entails having to carry all your belongings with you.

I put everything down on the floor, and picked it all up when I left. Or so I thought! After about fifteen minutes of browsing through WH Smith, I suddenly realised that my cell phone was missing. I rushed back to the toilet and there lay my Blackberry on the floor, just where I had left it! This was definitely not Africa! (As it was, all I lost in the two weeks was one of my gloves at Twickenham, so, despite my concerns, my mind had worked well for me over the fortnight.)

Seat 39G was on the aisle, and I had open seats next to me, which looked promising for a good night’s rest heading back over Africa. But during supper – chicken or beef yet again! – I got chatting to a young guy, Jared Golden, across the aisle.  He is from Cape Town (went to school at Herzlia) and works as an analyst in the financial economic applications (FEA) team at Barrie and Hibbert  in Edinburgh. He was headed home for the holidays.

“My broader FEA activities include quarterly real-world model calibrations, contributing to research and development regarding modelling and calibration and improving calibration tools. I provide support for various Barrie & Hibbert products (software and scenario sets, etc.) and services (reporting, consultancy, etc.), which includes providing financial modelling assistance to clients, advising on calibrations and providing assistance on economic interpretation of model output.”

Well, we chatted to such an extent that the woman in front of us complained that we were making too much noise, and so he came to sit next to me. We chatted almost until breakfast time at 05h00 (GMT – now 07h00 SAST), and so little sleep was had.

Landing at Oliver Tambo was ten minutes early, but because of that, they had not organised the gateway in time. (Welcome home!)

Once the door opened, I got through customs quickly – no stopping of anyone! – and headed off to terminal B to meet Graeme and Belinda for breakfast. A short catch-up and chat and then it was off to Port Elizabeth, flight SA417 due for departure at 13h05. Before then, welcome home yet again: at the last moment, we were moved from the advertised boarding gate to another, and then, when I checked in, I was asked to stand to one side before boarding. No reason was given, and I muttered whilst everyone else boarded.

Right at the end, I was told that I had been upgraded to First Class (from 15D to 2C!) and so, I arrived home in style (even had lunch served in china plates with proper cutlery – but still chicken or beef!), and was the first passenger off the plane in Port Elizabeth.

[Lesson #5 , for me, is ‘DON’T MUTTER WHEN THINGS APPEAR TO GO WRONG – YOU MAY JUST END UP IN A BETTER SITUATION THAN YOU ORGINALLY ANTICIPATED! THE CLASSIC LESSON: EVERY DARK CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING!]

So, two weeks after leaving Port Elizabeth Airport, on Sunday 5 December, Boeing 737 Flight SAA 417 from Johannesburg touched down at that same airfield, right on time at 14h45. The wind was howling at 60kph and the temperature was 24 degrees.

I bounded across the concourse, no tears, no limp, mind clear and holding my heavy duty Levi jacket in my right hand and my travel bag in my weaker left hand!

Pera and Phillip had come to fetch me. As I waited for my suitcase to come off the carousel, I pondered about the two weeks and the wonderful privilege that I had just experienced.

My sincerest thanks and appreciation go to all those people who I have mentioned in these blogs “A CHANGE IS AS GOOD AS A HOLIDAY” for having made this memorable trip possible.

To Grace Carswell, I shall remember our all too brief conversations in your beautiful new kitchen and home, with great fondness. Your Irish food was magnificent, and your hospitality was superb. I wish you and Mike Godspeed as you continue on your life’s trip with your wonderful young family of Jake and Chloe.

To Mike, a mere ‘thank you’ seems so insufficient. Who would have thought, when we first met in 1984 at Grey High School, me the teacher and hostel master, you the pupil, the Head of House, the Senior Student Officer and the 1st Team rugby player that, twenty six years later, we would meet up in Dublin, Ireland, thanks to your friendship and generosity?

You have given this (not so old) man two very special weeks in his life and the most wonderful memories.

I hope that, one day, you will put up a picture of me with all those famous people that grace your practice walls! At least then, a part of me will remain in Ireland.

Another lesson I have learnt this fortnight from the Greatest Teacher of all, is that “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” ST Francis of Assisi said “For it is in giving that we receive”.  As Christmas 2010 approaches rapidly this week, may we all learn this great lesson of Life.

Upon arrival in Dublin, the customs officer had asked me what my purpose was in Ireland. I responded “holiday”. We all have a purpose upon our arrival on this planet Earth but I don’t think it’s a holiday! At this Christmas time, I pray that we each may find our purpose, and achieve that purpose, in the time that we are given to spend here and to explore our planet and temporary home.

 

“And if there’s going to be a Life hereafter, and, somehow, I know, there’s bound to be

I will ask my God to let me have my Heaven in that Isle of Green across the Irish Sea… “

As the daylight fades, the twilight approaches and the shadows grow longer. But the shadows have not yet overtaken me.  My body grows wearier, my mind begins to falter and my ability to do the little, normal everyday tasks becomes increasingly affected. I am becoming increasingly frustrated.

Gloaming is defined in the dictionary as that time after sunset and before dark. It is that time when the shadows get longer and longer and then disappear completely. It’s not completely dark yet, but there are no more shadows. Gloaming separates day from night and from the new Dawn.

Please forgive me for the times when I ask that my gloaming period should be short. 

Forgive me when I ask my God to allow me to leave this earth on an earlier flight, not because I want to leave this beautiful place that offers so much, but because I look forward to that day in Paradise when I will, once again, be able to do those everyday tasks and be free of the weariness and discomfort.

 It is often at the end of a busy day, in the twilight and gloaming period, that one experiences the most peaceful and beautiful and memorable times, and sees the most majestic, almost-painted, sunsets and seas and skies. (Just go and sit at Sunset Rocks at Cape St Francis at sunset.)

My trip to England and Ireland has been just that!

I extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who made this Twilight Trip possible.    

 

Ta Athru chomh maith le Saoire (Cuid 4)

ED is in IrElanD

Ed Is in Eirinn

Ta athru chomh maith le saoire (Cuid 4)

A Change is as Good as a Holiday (Part 4)

Friday 17 December 2010: 4 years 3 months on …

Sunday, 28 November 2010 – Saturday, 4 December 2010

Sunday morning was packing up and heading off for Heathrow Airport at 10h30 to meet up with Mike and Grace Carswell, and our very short flight of 55 minutes over the Irish Sea to Dublin. But flights into Dublin were delayed (we would see why later!) and we only left LHR shortly after 15h00.

Mark and Janet Stanborough dropped me off at Heathrow and when I checked in, there was no record of my booking. Mike had flown over to London for the Old Grey dinner and when I called him, he and Grace were on their way to the airport. He gave me a new reference number and so I tried to book in a second time. This time, the flight had not opened for checking in yet as a result of the delays. We decided to have breakfast instead.

Third time lucky got me checked in. The Stanboroughs left and I headed off through customs. This time, it was far more thorough than the previous time in Johannesburg. Shoes off, belt off, wallet out, cell phone out, but still the machine kept beeping.

Eventually, it proved to be a paper clip in my shirt pocket. I had put my Euros (for Ireland) in my top pocket and a paper clip was holding them together! Paper clip dumped and Euros into wallet got me through the check point and into the holding and shopping area for flights to the Republic of Ireland.

Grace and Mike arrived, and we waited with hundreds others for flights to Ireland – some had been there since early morning.  Mike knew a number of people heading back and he introduced me to some, including “Louis”, Alan Lewis who had refereed the rugby game between the All Blacks and Wales in Cardiff the previous evening.

When Aer Lingus Flight EI 163 to Dublin eventually took off, we headed west and north. I was at the window and was able to see the white snow covered hills and mountains of Wales. Then the Irish Sea and then the east coast of Ireland and the city of Dublin. Mike gave me a running commentary of the coastline and pointed out his home suburb of Blackrock and other landmarks.

Failte go dti Baile Atha Cliath (Welcome to Dublin) – the name Dublin is derived from the Irish name Dubh Linn, meaning “black pool”.

As far as the eye could see, the Emerald Isle was not green, but snow white!

It had evidently started snowing in Dublin on the previous Friday evening. Mike commented that in his twenty years in Ireland, he had never seen so much snow in Dublin in November. Little did we know what still lay ahead of us weather-wise!

As a SA passport holder (and no visa required for the Republic of Ireland, I moved through a different queue to Mike at customs. No stopping to search me this time, but the officer asked for the purpose of my visit and when I would be leaving.

“Holiday”, I said, and he graciously offered me, and wrote into my passport, more time in Ireland than was needed. It almost became necessary to have that extra time, as we would find out later.  

Mike specialises in treating sports injuries and counts many famous Irish sports people amongst his clients. The numerous photographs that decorate his practice’s walls are ample testament to this, and a google of his name on the internet provides further evidence of the high esteem that he is held in Dublin.

Louis – Alan Lewis – was Mike’s first patient on Monday morning. He had asked me to come and chat to him. So after crashing into bed on Sunday evening, I dragged myself into the treatment room at 7h30 on Monday morning. Whilst he lay on the table, being pushed and prodded by Mike, and in between the ooo’s and the aaaa’s and some other choice words, Louis and I had a conversation of sorts! (Later in the week, I also had the privilege of meeting Irish rugby players Johnny Sextant and Leo Cullen.)

This week was different to the last in that I was staying in one place and was going to be a tourist on my first visit to Dublin.

Dublin is a city of some 1,5 million people and is on the east coast of Ireland at the mouth of the Liffey River which flows from west to east through the city. Similar to London and the Thames, the city lies north and south of the Liffey.

I was in Blackrock (An Charraig Dhubh), a suburb on the south coast. A train service, the DART – (Dublin Area Rapid Transit), runs along the coast from the northern suburbs, through the centre city and then down the coast through the southern suburbs. (For those who are familiar with Cape Town, it’s a similar set up to the rail service that serves Cape Town and goes down the Cape Peninsula coastline through Muizenberg, Fish Hoek, Kalk Bay and Simon’s Town.)

A walk of about a kilometre through the downtown area of Blackrock got me to the station, right next to the sea. There is a massive tidal difference between high and low tides – the water would either be lapping up to the wall right next to the railway line, or else a vast expanse of sand (covered in snow in areas) would meet the eye.

From Blackrock station, it was a mere ride of some twenty minutes north through six stations (including Lansdowne Road (Bothar Lansdun) station which is under and serves the new Aviva rugby stadium) to the seventh station Tara Street in the city centre.

From there it’s a short walk westwards along the south bank of the Liffey to O’Connell Street, the widest and the “main road” of Dublin that runs north-south through the city. I started my sightseeing there – but as more and more snow came down, I opted for a green bus tour that took me on a circular trip through the city. It gave me a good overall perspective and of, course, there are always the interesting titbits given by the tour guide in the most beautiful of Irish accents.

 As the week progressed, the snow continued falling – it moved from the most snow in November to the most snow ever! First it came from the northeast on the weather system blasting its coldness from the Arctic, then it came from the northwest blasting even more coldness from Iceland and Greenland. The temperature moved between a low of -11C and a high of 0C.

As the beautiful fresh white crunchy snow lands on the frozen ground, the bottom layers of snow become ice. The conditions become treacherous underfoot, cars and buses stop moving, the train system slows down and stops on occasion and walking – sliding! – becomes an art. Some of the main routes are kept open by throwing salt on the snow. Soon, the salt reserves dwindle and they have to mix grit with the salt to make the supplies last longer. The roads start looking like a giant black slush puppy.

The city is grid locked with vehicular traffic. The airport shuts down. The joke of maybe not getting out on Saturday starts looking like a reality! But that’s Saturday – don’t worry about things that may never happen!

In the meantime, I am determined to see as much as possible. So with snow flakes pounding my face and taking careful steps to avoid slipping on the ice, I manage to see (all) and visit (some)of the sights, amongst many others:

The Millenium spire, the GPO, Trinity College, Molly Malone’s statue, Oscar Wilde’s house and memorial, the Georgian homes, St  Stephen’s Green, the National Gallery and Museum, the City Hall, Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, St Patrick’s Cathedral, St Catherine’s Church, the Guiness Storehouse, Wellington Monument, Phoenix Park, Kilmainham Gaol, Grafton Street, Dvblinia (Viking/Medieval Exhibition), Aras An Uachtarain (the official residence of the President of Ireland), Teach Laighean(Leinster House) – the building housing the Oireachtas, the national parliament of Ireland.

Each of these places has a unique story and place in Irish history and society. It interested me how many parallels there are between our own country and Ireland. And so many wars fought (all against England, except one – a civil war between the Irish themselves!).

Something like 45% of the Irish population is under 25 years old – so many Irish have emigrated over the years that they consider their people as one of their biggest export commodities! Then, of course, there’s the other export commodity, Guiness, Ireland’s No 1 Tourist attraction. The Storehouse is the highest point of any visit to Dublin, both figuratively and literally, as Gravity, the Guiness Storehouse Bar in the sky is the highest point in Dublin City and has the most amazing view of the city.

 This commodity also proved useful when the walking got too much and respite from the elements was required in one of the oh so many pubs that grace the Irish landscape. And no better place than Temple Bar which is the home to Dublin’s cultural quarter and touristy pubs.

With the friendliest of people, duo’s singing Irish music, Irish stew, hot fires and cold Guiness – this surely was close to being in heaven! One afternoon, I got stuck with Emile Phelan, a plumber from Jersey who was visiting his Mom in Dublin. We had many “just another” – just the one for the road home! It became a long and winding and slippery road!

 No wonder in the folksong Galway Bay, the singer croons

And if there’s going to be a life hereafter

And somehow I know there’s bound to be

I will ask my Lord to let me make my Heaven

In that Isle of Green across the Irish Sea!

I can just imagine the festivities of Dublin and Temple Bar when the weather is more favourable!

One day, after spending some time acquainting myself with the Blackrock village, I took the DART train south to its furthest point at the coastal village of Greystones, and also stopped off at Dun Laoghaire(pronounced Dun Lary). There are some magnificent coastal scenes along this route, and I can imagine that these must be extremely busy areas come the summer months.

And talking of pronounciation – you will have noticed above that Ireland is a bilingual country and most everything is tagged in both Irish (first) and English. I tried time and again to understand the announcements made on the train, but I’m afraid it was often not easy on my newcomer’s ear!

Besides the weather, I also had to deal with a cellphone that did not work and the lack of internet connectivity. I felt quite isolated from the rest of the world. The technicians could not get to the house to deliver a new modem, and as for the cellphone – well, despite spending time with Vodacom in Port Elizabeth before I left to ensure international roaming, my phone would not work in Ireland. (I had deliberately gone to see them as I had similar problems when I went to the USA in March 2007).

I spent some hours at various Dublin Vodafone outlets, but to no avail. The last one I went to put a call through to Vodacom enquiries in SA, but after listening to ‘Scatterlings of Africa’ for almost 45 minutes and no reply, I gave them up as a bad job! (No wonder, I thought, we have become scatterlings of Africa when a multibillion conglomerate can’t even answer its phones!)

(On returning to SA, I called their head office (a few times!) to complain. Well, still not much more luck other than being thanked for bringing the problem to their attention and advising me that, despite their previous advice to both Pera and me, they did not have a roaming agreement in Ireland that would allow my contract package to work there!)

Despite the communications problems, I was still able to do our weekly AlgoaFM radio show (via landline) with Lance du PLessis from my bed in Dublin on the Wednesday morning – it was billed as ‘ED is in bED’!

Too soon, the week was coming to an end. On Friday evening, Mike, his brother-in-law Barry and I went to the local pub in Blackrock to say our last goodbyes to each other and to that Irish institution of pubs and Guiness. (A pack of Guiness that I bought at the supermarket for home use was left on the outside porch because it was colder there than in the fridge!)

The snow continued till Friday, the airport re-opened, and I was taxied there early Saturday morning in order to get back to Heathrow on an earlier flight before the weather turned foul again.

 It was time to say Beannacht and Sian a fhagail – goodbye and farewell – and to begin the journey southwards home.

Lesson #4, for me, was “Despite obstacles in Life, you can still have a darn good time!”

Ed is in EnglanD

A Change is as Good as a Holiday (Part 3)

Tuesday 14 December 2010: 4 years 3 months on …

Sunday 21 November 2010 – Sunday 28 November 2010

Arrival at London Heathrow’s Terminal 1 was just a few minutes behind schedule.  The usual rush along the seemingly endless passageways, the picking up of the luggage and the going through customs (and, as always, I get stopped and interrogated!), marked the beginning of the first week of my stay in England.

I spent time with friends, ex-colleagues, ex-pupils and old school friends of mine: Mark Stanborough and his wife Janet (who fetched me from and delivered me back to LHR and with whom I spent Thursday and Saturday nights), John and Sue Galloway (Sunday and Monday nights), Barry Vincent (Tuesday and Wednesday nights),Clive Case (Thursday), Hester Havenga (Friday night and Saturday) and Mark Sylvester (Monday evening).

For every friend I see in England, there must be at least another ten that I don’t manage to see this time round. It would be so great to be able to hire Buckingham Palace and have one huge reunion party!  

I become excited like a little boy when I take the map of the London Underground and Overground train systems and plan my trips on the various coloured lines. Thanks to my Britrail Pass I can get on and off and travel as near and as far in England as I wish.

The first and last things I did in London were the obligatory walk down the Thames Embankment from The Palace of Westminster and Big Ben across Westminster Bridge past the London Eye and up to Waterloo.

From London, I also travelled north to Northampton, Stratford-Upon-Avon (William Shakespeare’s hometown) and Harpendon, and south to the country just other side Gatwick airport.

We caught up and chatted and filled in the gaps. We flew radio-controlled helicopters and “flew” ourselves on a few evenings thanks to copious amounts of the good ales and lagers. We drank Christmas Fudge Lattes and ate fine British cuisine at home and in a number of restaurants.

The weather was fine in England – well, temperatures somewhere between 0 and 10 degrees Celsius, but no rain, no snow and no wind. I don’t feel the cold (thanks to my body’s non-functioning thermoregulatory system – this is common to CBD and other neurodegenerative disorders where the body’s autonomic system doesn’t work well) and I thrive in those conditions. No heat for me, thank you!

The UK is so well geared up for tourists and disabled people. I was managing so well, and the only delay was when the tube trains slowed down on Thursday when someone committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. It was my first experience of waiting on a platform and no train arriving!

It happened to me at Oxford Circus. I had come into town arriving at St Pancras International Station on the overland train. Then I took the blue Victoria Line to Oxford Circus in order to catch the red Central Line to Marble Arch.

Well. No red line trains arrived, and the crowd on the platform got bigger and bigger, as more and more trains arrived depositing their passengers, but with no redline trains collecting them. It becomes quite crowded and scary and claustrophobic.

I was in the front, right at the edge of the platform. No moving forward and no going backward!

Then, a train arrived. A surge came from behind. “Mind the gap!”

But, no room on that one! Or the next or the next!

Eventually, I managed to squeeze onto a train that took me to Marble Arch and to the venue of the Old Greys’ Union (Europe Branch) reunion dinner. Here, I meet up with a number of my ex-pupils and Grey school friends, Lindsay Brown, Anton Pakendorf, Clint Saacks, Chris van der Wath, Rory Stear, Mike Carswell, Mark Powell, …

Almost eighty Old Greys, from twenty to seventy years of age, gathered to reminisce about their school days in Port Elizabeth. They were joined by Neil Crawford, Rector of the High School and Lindsay Pearson, Headmaster of the Junior School.

Grace is said and toasts are proposed to their new homeland and the Queen of Great Britain, to the President and their land of birth, the Republic of South Africa. The School Song is sung:  We sing of a Home of Old Renown with its Front to the Southern Seas – 10 000 km away across the sea in Port Elizabeth!

It is a happy sense of occasion, but also, for me, a sad sense of occasion.  These eighty people are but a small minority of all the Old Greys and other South Africans living here in Britain and elsewhere.

 What a great pity that so many of South Africa’s brightest and best have to work and live abroad!

 Too soon, the evening came to an end, and, because the silver Jubilee Line wasn’t working yet, we hailed a black London taxi to get us to Waterloo Station and the trip home to Egham, in West London.

Each day of the week was a highlight, but if the Reunion dinner was icing over the cake, then the cherry on the top of the cake must surely be the visit to Twickenham on Saturday.

 I woke up on Saturday morning to the sounds of Afrikaans Bokke music blaring through the house. I was with Hester Havenga, an old Hottentots-Holland school friend of mine. Together with her husband, Hein, and their friends (all dentists who studied at Stellenbosch University and who have lived in England for some twenty years already), we drove by car to Twickenham, and parked in a reserved area in one of a number of car parks that surround the rugby ground.

We were all dressed in our Springbok Green and Gold outfits and South African coloured scarves, and were surrounded by English supporters dressed in their garb and with flags flying. The cars are parked and the boots opened to reveal the best of British food and wine. A festival of note starts as the first cars arrive, finishes just before the game starts at 14h30, and continues after the game ends at 16h00, until the last car is able to leave the car park!

Of course, it gets dark just after three pm and the temperature was hovering around freezing point. Snow was forecast for the second half of the game. But what was lacking in light and heat was more than made up for in terms of the gees and the atmosphere. Swing Low Sweet Chariot was interspersed with Bokke Bokke Bokke and Ole! Ole!

If the eighty South Africans at the dinner was a lot, then the thousands of them here at Twickenham was such an awesome sight. And the Bokke winning the game 21 -11 made it even more memorable – it looked like half of Twickenham was filled with their supporters as they all moved forward to applaud the Bokke after the game when they walked their lap of honour!

We continued the party in the car park after the game, and then I headed off to the Harlequins ground nearby which acts as a fan park for the many that can’t get tickets for the game and watch on the big screen. Thousands more of fans all resplendent in their green and gold!

It was like going home – and I walked in, straight into Dave and Brendan Horan, ex-pupils of mine who had flown in for the game from Bermuda and Johannesburg! Then, when Harlequins closed down at the height of the party (at 19h00 nogal!), we moved on to the Cabbage Patch, a pub near Twickenham station that was filled to capacity with people dressed in – you guessed it – more green and gold!

That Saturday evening finished off all too soon with dinner at Banks, a restaurant in Egham, a forgotten quiche in the oven that looked like a black brickett in the morning and filled the house with smoke and could have burnt it down (at least it advised us of a non-functioning smoke detector system!), and a very weary body that laid itself down to rest on my last night in England.

Sunday morning was packing up and heading off for Heathrow Airport at 10h30 to meet up with Mike and Grace Carswell, and our very short flight of 55 minutes over the Irish Sea to Dublin. But flights into Dublin were delayed (we would see why later!) and we only left LHR shortly after 15h00.

Another week lay ahead!

Lesson #3, for me, LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST, BUT DON’T FORGET THE QUICHE IN THE OVEN!

  

Heading North

© 2010 E.C. Lunnon

A Change is as Good as a Holiday (Part 2)

Friday 10 December 2010: 4 years 3 months on …

Saturday afternoon – 20 November 2010.

I (and my luggage) had been booked through to LHR – London Heathrow.

The flight headed north from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg. In the cockpit was Captain “Bomber” Anthony Bailes, another ex-pupil of mine. At school, he always wanted to be a pilot!

When I was in business, I had spent many days and hours at the erstwhile Jan Smuts International Airport, then the Johannesburg International Airport and now the O R Tambo International. I had not been there since it became the new enlarged O R Tambo built with the 2010 Football World Cup in mind.  It certainly is now an immense world-class airport, although, I thought, poorly signed for the new-comer as far as what Terminal A and Terminal B were. I remembered it as the International Section and the Domestic Section. (Maybe, it was just my stressed-out mind that wasn’t coping again!)

We arrived in Johannesburg just before five pm, and Andrew Jonker and Warwick Burger went through customs control into Terminal A (the International Section). They were headed for Germany. I did not join them as friends were due to meet me for a drink before I left for London and would not be able to get into Terminal A.

I found a seat in front of a TV at the Mugg and Bean, and watched the Bokke play Scotland at Murrayfield in Edinburgh.  I had been there with Barry van der Vyver exactly two years ago when the 1984 Grey matric class had hosted me in the UK. We had also seen Mike Carswell (who organised this trip) there.

That time, it was relatively warm in Edinburgh and the Bokke barely beat the Scots. This time it was cold and raining there. I was hoping that they would beat the Scots and be on a Grand Slam winning streak for the game that I would see at Twickenham on the following Saturday – they had already beaten Ireland and Wales. But, alas, they lost to the Scots and, with that, lost the Grand Slam dream.

But what a small world! Next to me, watching the rugby, sat a young couple from Ireland who were travelling the world. We chatted and discovered that she had worked at a coffee shop in Black Rock, Dublin which was just a few blocks away from where I was headed! (Later in the week, I had a cup of coffee there and passed on their good wishes to the owners.)  

Graeme Gathmann, an ex-business colleague of mine and a friend since 1995, and his girlfriend, Belinda, joined me before I left. Pera and I had spent time with Graeme in London in 1999 when he had taken a sabbatical to work for the British bookselling firm WH Smith. Together, we did “The Streets of London” on that trip (into the early hours of the misty morning when the trains and buses stopped and the London foxes joined us as we settled down to sleep on the narrow stoep because we had no key to get in!)  One of my all-time favourite songs to this day is Ralph McTell’s “Streets of London”.

It was also there that Graeme got me running and to complete my first of a few Knysna half- marathons starting in 2000. Since then, he has gone on to run in most cities’ marathons, including one on The Great Wall of China! (I tried to do a reunion Knysna with friend Uwe Tinhoff and Graeme last year, but went down with gout just a few days before the race and just barely got to Knysna – never mind run the race! Maybe next year . . . ?)

Graeme and Belinda guided me to the new International departures section and got me going through customs. (This was it – there was no time to turn around now!)

It all went without a hitch, although quite slowly when I was required to use my fingers to remove boarding pass and passport. They did not even query the pots of pills that I travel with and for which I had an explanatory letter from Dr Butters.

We were boarded and ready to fly on time at 21h00, but were advised by the pilot that due to flight embargoes at Heathrow in the early hours of the morning, we could only land there at 6h30. So we just waited until 21h30 when the engines were started, and we headed upwards and northwards.

A new innovation is a camera mounted in the top of the plane’s tail wing. It gives you a bird eye’s view on your screen of the runway as you taxi off and take off. Thereafter, in the dark you can only see the red flashing light mounted on the front fuselage of the plane (until, of course, we came in to land at Heathrow and got the same view of the landing as the pilot gets from the cockpit!)

As I watched this (and the map as we headed north over Africa, the Mediterranean and Europe,) I thought about the geography I had learnt at school and for which I had received some or other award for being the top student in the then Cape Province when I matriculated). We had learned that the earth revolves around the sun every 365 and a quarter days, the earth rotates around its own axis ever 24 hours and the moon revolves around the earth every 27 and a bit days. I wondered just how many people at any one time are sitting in these man-made satellite metal tubes flying around the earth in all different directions in flights of many hours at a time!

For me, in this SAA Airbus tube, in between take off and landing, at an altitude of 10 km above the earth’s surface was 11 hours of flying and 10 000km to be covered at a speed of 800km/hour. There was the chicken or beef for supper, the drinks, the movies (I watched Twilight which made no sense to me!), the non-sleep, the walking around the dark cabin, the more juice, the stuffing of pillows under my numb left bum, and eventually, the breakfast (Continental or English!) before the landing at LHR at 06h45 Greenwich Mean Time.

Because my body ceases up during sleeping and waking up (and the hours immediately thereafter) are the worst for me, I had worried about my arrival in London and how I would cope upon arrival. As it turned out, just fine – not having slept at all meant that my body had not ceased up and I just continued normally into day 1 in Londres, England. If only I never had to sleep, I could avoid the ceasing up …!

Lesson #2, for me, was “DON’T WORRY ABOUT THINGS IN ADVANCE – THEY OFTEN NEVER HAPPEN”

A Tale of Two Worlds

Tuesday 9 November 2010:  4 years 2 months on . . .

On my father’s side, my grandfather, Walter Charles Lunnon, was British. He spoke English. My grandmother, Susan van Blerck, was of Dutch descent. She spoke Afrikaans. We speak English at home (our ‘home language’) in a country that now boasts eleven official languages!

The numerous language and racial groupings in South Africa call each other by different names – some nice and some not so nice! Under new legislation designed to prevent racial incitement, some of these names may not be used and run one the risk of being criminally charged in a court of law.

For years, Afrikaans-speaking South Africans have called English-speaking South Africans soutpiele (salt penises). The name originates from the analogy that those of us from English descent are still firmly rooted in England. So much so, that we stand with one leg in Africa and one leg in Europe and our two legs are so far apart that our manhood dangles in the Atlantic seawater! Hence, the term ‘salt penis’.

So many terms!

Next week, this soutpiel is scheduled to travel to the land of his one leg:  England and Ireland – a visit to the ‘motherland’, so to speak. I am not sure which of my legs is planted in Europe, bearing in mind that my left leg is now far weaker than my right leg.

I enjoy the efficiencies of the First World. But I live in the inefficiencies of the Third World.

I will always consider myself an African. I am an African. I was born here in Africa.

Does one find ‘African Europeans’?

I have often joked that I was born to be a ‘Westerner’ and not an ‘African’. I suppose that’s because, despite born and bred and living in Africa, we were brought up in the European culture. So much of what we do and say and think is so European – even to the extent that we celebrate Christmas in the heat of summer with artificial pine trees, artificial snow, turkey and plum pudding, and still forever dream of a white Christmas!

Does one find ‘African Americans’?

Perhaps, having studied in the United States of America and being an honorary citizen of Oklahoma, I could also call myself an ‘African American’! (Now that’s one that could cause problems in the USA – aren’t all their African Americans black?)

And so much of our lives is influenced by Hollywood, the movies, the TV, and thus the USA.

Does one find ‘White Africans’?

Some Black Africans don’t consider White Africans worthy of the African title! They have no place for us. But, in a certain way, I suppose that you can’t blame them. There was a time when white people in this country called themselves European and claimed everything for themselves – Europeans Only – from park benches to living areas to beaches.

However, it is so sad to see so many of our family and friends leaving the country of their birth and now living overseas as expatriates: African Australians, African New Zealanders and African what-evers.

Talking about travelling and weak legs, I am hoping that my health will not let me down. For the record, the last few weeks have not been easy, and it would appear that there has been more degeneration in the last month than there has been in the previous four years. So, it’s not going to be that easy to travel this time – in fact, I will need to make the call this week if I will be able to go at all! It’s all quite stressful for me.

My passport had also expired, so I had to apply for a renewal. Because Home Affairs is in such a chaotic situation, I used a private company that has used the chaos to be original. There is always opportunity for entrepreneurs here.

That’s the upside of being African.

 So, they do the hard work for you, including all the forms and the queuing and that’s why they call themselves Q-4-U! But, it all comes at a cost.

That’s the downside of being African.

Despite SA being a member of the British Commonwealth, travelling to the UK now means having to obtain a visa. Even in the old South Africa, that was unnecessary. But, because so many foreigners are using our chaotic and corrupt and bribe-controlled Home Affairs Department to obtain illegal SA passports and then automatic access into the UK, the UK authorities have had to introduce visas for all South African citizens.

That’s the downside of being African.

But UK visa application is a dream. It’s all done online, even as far as making the appointment to personally go to their offices to hand in your documents.

Despite not feeling well, this happened last Friday morning, and is all so punctual and so efficient – and so European!

That’s the upside of being European.

While I was there, Pera phoned to ask whether I wanted to go on a Township Tavern Tour on Friday evening. I really didn’t feel like going out, but I am still determined to do as much as possible. So, we went.

Xolani Matheke, else known as X, is one of only 2 black teachers at Grey Junior. He organised for his colleagues to go on this tour of two typical Black taverns in Kwazakhele and New Brighton (ironically, even this Black African township has a European name!)

So we bussed in a European double-decker London bus – but not red – to the African ‘Northern Areas’ – those parts of Port Elizabeth north of the N2 highway that were designed in apartheid days to accommodate all people other than white! At a guess, I would estimate that 75% – 80% of our total city population of 1,5 million people live in those areas.

And, I would further guess that some 90% (if not more) of the white population that live south of the N2 highway, have never been into the northern areas, let alone eaten and drunk in a township tavern!  So, it’s quite an experience for a European African to enter and participate in and see how the African Africans socialize in their own world.

 We seldom, as white Africans, enter the world of our compatriot black Africans, despite the fact that they leave their black African world daily to cross the divide, figuratively and literally –in our case, the N2 highway – to enter, work, experience and participate in the Westernised world that is ours and, so fast, becoming theirs.

Pera and I had been on a tour before, so we were able to do some comparisons. The first place we went to was not really authentic or typical. It’s more of a tourist place and was obviously built with the 2010 World Cup in mind. We ate supper there – typical African cuisine of meat and pap in a bastardised African / European / American environment.

Then we went on to the second place. The roads are so narrow and the little houses are right on the edge of the street. So much so, that the bus even took out a cable that was suspended across the street.  The African way of illegally cabling the European TV from one dish to multiple homes was brought down for the night. But it won’t take long for them to do the DIY repairs and, maybe, link up a few other homes along the way!

The second place was more like it, but also not quite! An African watering hole with the most exclusive European car brands parked outside, playing the latest of American hip-hop and selling the best of imported European and American alcohol! Even a special on Heineken beer there!

I wonder sometimes how authentic Africa would have remained had it not been for colonial expansion and German BMW’s, European Carducci, American Rap, Scottish Whiskey, Dutch Heineken, French Cuisine and English golf (and nowadays Chinese anything and everything)!

Despite the outside influence, the spirit of the African African Ubuntu is so evident, and as European Africans, we have so much to learn from our countrymen.

The upside of being African is that we have such rich cultures to experience and to draw on.

The downside of being African is that we seldom make use of the opportunity.

As European Africans, we would rather use the opportunity to travel back to the lands of our fathers.

We really are soutpiele!

 

(And, after our tour, we went back to our world – to the comfort of a typical white suburban celebration of Anthony Beswick’s 50th birthday. I’m sorry we missed his speech, but he spoke about friendship, and I liked the following quotes:

The best mirror is an old friend – George Herbert

A friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies – Aristotle

The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend – Abe Lincoln

One who looks for a friend without faults will have none

Your friend is the man who knows all about you and still likes you – Elbert Hubbard

Count your age with friends but not with years

 

On Saturday, under a warm spring African sky, I watched Sean play his last school fixture for Grey on the Pollock Field against Woodridge College in that game of cricket that is so English and so typical of our other world.  I was pleased to see the large number of Black Africans that have joined the White Africans in playing this so-European game.)