FiVe Years Later: From Vuvusela to Vitriol

(c) 2015 Edward C Lunnon / 8 years 9 months ill … / Physical: Deuce – Mental: Adv Ed 

Five years ago to the day, we watched the opening game of the 2010 World Cup between Bafana Bafana and Mexico. We were at the Brazenhead in Stellenbosch where we watched the game played in Johannesburg on TV with hundreds of other Matie students. The “gees” was at an all-time high in the Land.

Later that evening we drove through to the Peaches in Paarl where we spent the night.

It was the start of a few weeks of a New South Africa.

Now, five years later, we have a New FIFA! Vitriol, scandal, bribery, corruption, arrests, resignations, extraditions, prisons, …

Was our hosting the World Cup rigged? What was the $10 million really for? Was it a bibe?

And the legacy? Wonderful memories and costly stadia that are unused and falling apart.

We are still paying for the party.

The construction firms who built the stadia have been fined for collusion and price-fixing – they are paying for the party.

Blatter and Valcke and the other top dog FIFA executives are the only ones who have been smiling all the way to the bank.

Will they still pay for the party?

Money and the Boks

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 19 June 2012: 5 years 9 months on … Deuce

Last Sunday, we celebrated Father’s Day by having lunch at Old Grey Club together with two hundred other people doing the same! The food was great, the atmosphere jovial , the music good and the weather played along, too.

There was no TV to watch rugby, which is what we seem to have been doing for the last few weeks.

Two Saturdays ago the Boks beat England in Durban. Last Saturday, we joined the Stapes’s and the Scholtz’s and watched the Boks on the box beat England in Johannesburg. By doing so, the Boks also won the series of three matches against England.

But now, it’s the third game in Port Elizabeth this coming Saturday. England is hoping to save face by winning this last test. We are hoping for a series white-wash!

The Springboks are in town.

Yesterday, five thousand people (including our whole family) watched the team practice at Grey High School. Today and tomorrow they practised again – this time behind strict security cordons keeping the public at bay.

England is coming to town. This time not to colonize Africa, but to play rugby against the Springboks.

The whole country appears to be in town or coming to town – to watch England and South Africa do battle against each other.

The rugby gees is in town.

It’s a scene reminiscent of the Football World Cup of 2010!

And as everyone comes to town, we are planning to leave town. We will not be at the Stadium on Saturday, as we will be flying out to Johannesburg on Saturday morning (in a near empty aeroplane, I guess!).

And, in order to get ready for our trip of a lifetime to Thailand, I have spent the last few days getting everything in order. The checklists and the checklist for the checklists get longer and longer.

Overseas travel is not for the feint-hearted and when you have a degenerative brain disease, it becomes even more difficult. Thank goodness, the international arrangements have been taken care of – but there’s still the rest …

Passports – check. E-tickets – check. Itinerary – check. Map – check. Vodacom – check. Blackberry – check. IPad – check. Charger – check. Plug – check…

Wheelchair – check. Assistance – check. Seats with legroom – check. Walking stick – check…

Winter clothes – check.  Summer clothes – check.  Swimming gear – check. Snorkel – check…

House sitter – check. Dog – check. Newspapers – check. Gardener – check. Security – check…

Insurance – check.

Bank card – check.

Baht – check.

Now that the money’s in my hands, it’s all starting to look real.

Krung Thep – City of Angels – here we come! And who cares if the rugby players get heated under the collars on Saturday. At 31 degrees and 80% humidity, we will surely be getting hot as well!

And my money (Baht that is!) is on the Boks.


Thursday is international MND/ALS day – check.

Thursday:  speak at Grey High: write speech – check!


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


(from the Latin meaning Undefeated or Unconquered)

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

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

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

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

English poet:  William Ernest Henley (1849–1903)

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

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

The poem has Influenced the arts ever since.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is our fighter – our very own Invictus.

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

I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

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

[ (1) From Wikipedia]

Joostlike! One Too Many

Tuesday 31 May 2011: 4 years 8 months on … DEUCE

Some three weeks ago the name Joost van der Westhuizen was splashed across the media yet again.

This time is was not because of his rugby deftness or because he had been the Springbok rugby captain, nor his being South Africa’s version (together with his ex-wife Amore Vittone) of Posh and Becks, nor his SuperSport appearances, nor his new range of clothing, nor his trysts and bedroom indiscretions.

Unfortunately, Joost has been diagnosed with, what the media reports as, motor neurone disease (MND). Whilst it is sad that anyone is diagnosed with such an illness, I am pleased that the diagnosis in such a high profile person has suddenly raised so much awareness of these neurological problems.

I have had numerous queries regarding this disease and how it relates to the corticalbasal degeneration (CBD) with which I have been diagnosed.

Whilst I have no medical training, I will try my best to explain with the help of the reading that I have done since I became ill.

Motor neuron(e) diseases are a group of neurological diseases that selectively affect motor neurones, the cells that control voluntary muscle activity including walking, speaking, breathing, swallowing and general movement of the body. 

Forms of MND include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), progressive muscular atrophy (PMA) and Bulbar – but do not include spinobulbar muscular atrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (and many others).

What makes it confusing is that theses diseases are often referred to by different names in different parts of the world and by different medical personnel and agencies. They also follow different courses in different patients.

In the USA, MND is more commonly called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the baseball player.

Readers may be familiar with Morris Schwartz (of the book, movie and play “Tuesdays with Morrie” fame), diagnosed with ALS, and Professor Stephen Hawking, sometimes referred to as having ALS and sometimes MND. My disease, CBD, is also sometimes referred to (correctly or incorrectly) as being a motor neurone disease.

Schwartz was diagnosed in his late sixties and told he had three to five years left to live – he lived for two more. Hawking was diagnosed in his early twenties – also given some few years, but is now 69 years old!

What has become a talking point is “WHAT” causes these diseases and why they appear to be on the increase! Everyone seems to have expert opinion in this regard.

To add fuel to the fire and to the skinder (gossip), this weekend’s press has reported on the use of steroids in South African high schools and rugby in particular. The dramatic headline reads “Steroid scourge rages in school rugby”.

And a further comment on this story by a reader on a newspaper website read as follows:

 “Here is why you must test for steroids:  Ruben Kruger, Andre Venter, Joost van der Westhuizen, Wium Basson, All Springboks in the same team, all seriously ill or dead from nerve related illness. SARU! If it is caused by steroids you must act. If it is caused by the game it must be banned (however much it is part of my soul)

The inference here is that nerve related illness may be caused by rugby and/or the use of steroids. This comment quickly did the rounds on Facebook and was added to by many of the social network’s   “expert” doctors. I also threw in my money’s worth – I have the “nerve thing” but was never a rugby player or a steroids user. If the inference is correct then I have lost out yet again: I could have had the “nerve thing” and big muscles! (Ironically, just on Monday it was suggested to me to request my doctor to prescribe testosterone/steroid injections in order to build up my atrophying muscles brought on by the CBD!)

My curiosity led me to read up on the above-mentioned players, or in modern-day parlance, I “googled” these names, and found the following amongst the players of the 1995 SA Rugby World Cup champions:

Ruben Kruger had a brain tumour, Andre Venter transverse myelitis (a disease of the spinal cord possibly brought on by disorders of the spinal blood vessels), Joost van der Westhuizen MND, Wium Basson liver cancer and Otto Krynauw brain haemorrhage.

Googling steroids, I found that the use of steroids may lead to many health issues, inter alia, cardiovascular and liver problems. So there may be a link … or is there?

 According to my further reading on neurological illnesses, about 90% of cases of MND are “sporadic”, meaning that the patient has no family history of ALS and the case appears to have occurred with no known cause. Genetic factors are suspected to be important in determining an individual’s susceptibility to disease, and there is some weak evidence to suggest that onset may be “triggered” by as yet unknown environmental factors.

The bottom line is that cause of illness is as yet unknown and there is currently no cure. Most cases of MND progress quite quickly and MND is typically fatal within two to five years (although we have seen that Hawking has lived for more than 40 years with the disease).

And this seems to be the pattern with all neurological illnesses – as yet, no known cause and no known cure.

So maybe a call for more research/investigation into the use of steroids is warranted. At the same time, maybe an investigation into school sport is warranted. One of the topics discussed at our recent reunion was the comparison between the size of players 25 years ago and their size today.

I am of the opinion – controversially so – that, whilst there may be no direct correlation between the “nerve thing” and sport, we have definitely lost our minds when it comes to the position that sport and especially rugby takes in our educational system today.

Steroids are used because too many hopes are placed on playing in first teams and on the need for them to win. There are too many teachers who coach and don’t teach, too many hours of school time used to organise, prepare and play, too many kilometres  travelled on tours, too many “social” gatherings, too many nights in hotels, too many meals in restaurants, too many unaccounted for and hard-earned rands spent by sponsors and expected to be paid by parents, too many rands in “retainers”  paid to school boys by franchises and unions – all in the name of rugby, of winning and of the supposed educational spin-offs that all these activities bring.

There is, in my opinion, too much money and time spent on what has become our international professional sporting enterprise. That’s why we have to pay R600 for a ticket to watch a game of rugby! And the process starts in our school system – in a country that can least afford such luxury and has one of the weakest educational systems in the world.

Where does it all lead to? As I write this, the popular unhappiness of dictatorships in Tunisa, Egypt and Libya (and elsewhere) has spread to that fiefdom of FIFA and its absolute monarch, Sepp Blatter. (And to think, it was just a year ago that we all in SA were shouting “Hail Caeser!” – it makes one wonder!)

In many (all?) cases, it’s the economic underpinning of the system that creates the root unhappiness.

Yes, please, investigate steroids, and all the rest. It would also be interesting to investigate just how much money is spent on the research of neurological illnesses vis-a-vis that which is spent on rugby!  

In the meantime, each additional case of neurological illness, is too many – one too many!

Diamond Iron Gold Silver Bronze Black Diamond Green Emerald

Monday 11 April 4 years 7 months on … ADVANTAGE CBD

A month ago today, Friday 11 March 2011, Japan was hit by its strongest earthquake ever, followed by a devastating tsunami and then a nuclear disaster. Thousands of people were killed and many more missing – also presumed to have died.

 Today, it was struck by yet another large earthquake and a tsunami. In the interim there have been numerous other after-shocks.

And all this time, I have not written anything.

 The reason for this is quite simple: My hands are becoming more difficult to hold up, my fingers becoming more rigid, sitting for periods of time becoming very uncomfortable (my left bum is numb most of the time!) and my mind becoming cloudier and overcast. It’s not exactly the best recipe for writing!

Added to this, are the ongoing normal daily domestic, home and family issues that have to be attended to, and are sometimes more taxing than dealing with the CBD.

The fact that Japan has had one major disaster does not preclude it from being subjected to many more. The fact that I have CBD does not preclude me from having to face many other of life’s challenges as well.

And so, the last few weeks have been particularly taxing and draining. I grow tireder and wearier – some I guess from the life issues and some from the disease itself.

Yesterday, Sean and I went down to the beachfront to watch the Iron Man contest. I recall being one of a small group of people watching from Hobie Pier the swim commence in the very first Nelson Mandela Spec-Savers Iron Man contest seven years ago. The contest has subsequently grown tremendously and improved significantly.  

Thousands of people now line the route and get involved in the festivities of the day. As in life, there are those who make use of the opportunities that come their way, those who do not get involved at all and those who find fault in every prospect. Despite the economic benefits for our City and the plain and simple entertainment value of the occasion, there are those who will complain about the road closures and the traffic jams!

For the 1745 athletes themselves, there is the challenge of their personal triumph over time, distance and their own bodies as they take on a 3,8km swim, a 180km cycle and then a full marathon of 42,2 km!  

We watched as local athletes Tissink took the gold (8 hours 5 minutes) and Cunnama the bronze, with German Bocherer taking the silver – all three breaking the previous record time of 8 hours and 17 minutes!

The athletes looked tired and weary as they crossed the winning line one after the other – from 15h00 onwards until the cut-off time at midnight, 17 hours after the start at 07h00!

For a moment, I thought of my own race that I run – my body becoming wearier with each additional step that I take. How many more laps do I have to run? How much more time do I have? When will that finishing line appear in front of me and what will be the numerals on that overhead digital clock that constantly counts the time.  Some days, I look so forward to seeing that finishing line.

But then there are the times when you feel like you can and want to do yet another marathon and a few more laps!  Times like Friday night’s Neil Diamond show at the Nelson Mandela Stadium.

Way back in October last year, it was announced that 70 year old Mr Diamond would be singing in Port Elizabeth. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to hear the person that I used to listen to on Springbok Radio singing live in “PE” (as he announced his welcome to the 22 000 strong audience!)

It brought back memories of Friday night’s Springbok Radio Top 20 and my little brown leather-cased transistor radio with earphone that I used to listen to in bed in darkened bedroom between 10h30 and midnight. There were all those other radio programmes too – Squad Cars, Pick a Box, Mark Saxon – No Place to Hide, Consider Your Verdict, Creaking Door. The list is endless.

Those were the pre-TV days and besides my brown Hitachi transistor radio there was the “wireless” in the lounge – the radiogramme with a few orange-lit valves in the back and a green eye in the front that had to light up before it was warm enough to make any sounds!

Besides the radio and Springbok’s Top 20, there was the record player that played those heavy black His Master’s Voice records at 70rpm, the 7-singles at 45rpm and the LP’s at 33 and a third RPM – that included my LP of Neil Diamond Hot August Night!

You put the record on the silver centre spindle (spindle through hole in centre of record), moved the swing arm to steady the record on top of it, and then pressed the start button. The LP dropped onto the turntable, the arm with the stylus moved over the edge of the record, then descended onto the outer grooves and – voila! – Mr Diamond would start singing in mono sound out of the speaker at the bottom of the ‘gram! 

When it was announced that Neil Diamond would be singing here in PE, I invited AlgoaFM listeners to apply for two tickets that I sponsored. Their stories are blogged previously.

I awarded the tickets to sixteen year old George Marriott of Queenstown, a pupil at Queens’ College. He has an illness called spino cerebellar degeneration and is largely confined to a wheelchair. His parents and sister joined him for the concert, and it was an absolute pleasure meeting them at the concert and getting to know them better at breakfast.

One of the slogans of the Iron Man contest is “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE”. This is so true when one sees the hardships that so many people have to face on a daily basis. It gives me strength to face yet another lap!

And for the two hours that Neil Diamond entertained us, there was not a care in the world. The audience was soaked up into the pleasure of his music and the memories of all his old favourites.

Music transports me into another world – it’s almost as if one leaves your own body and enters a realm where the pain and discomfort of the body is felt no more. Those two hours of bliss were no different.

It was a hot April night! PE laid on its best autumn evening with no wind, the stars shone overhead, the music played and the crowd sang, clapped and danced the night away. What a privilege to have such a stadium, what a privilege to have Mr Diamond in the Friendly City, what a pleasure to hear his music first hand – not through the small 2 inch speaker of the transistor radio or the 10 inch radiogramme speaker, but through the most sophisticated of modern-day electronic equipment.

(If I may be realistic for one moment and put my feet back on the ground, then I must voice my concern about the lack of upkeep in the area around the NMB stadium. Less than a year after the euphoria of the FIFA World Cup 2010, the pavements are already broken, the weeds are taking over, the potholes have appeared and many of the lights have gone out. The North End area is looking more tired than many of the Iron Man contestants! What, one wonders, is the future of this magnificent structure in a City fraught with fraud, corruption and non-delivery?)

Neil Lesley Diamond finished off his main programme with a song with which I was not familiar, but, thanks to Briony Sparg and an AlgoaFM listener, I was able to source it the following day. The words of Hell Yeah! Form the album 12 Songs, says it all:

If you’re thinkin’ that my life
Is a hoot and a holler
From the start of the day
To the dark of the night
THAT it’s ringing like a bell
That you only wanna follow
And trust me when I say
I’m just trying to get it right

Still I think about myself
As a lucky old dreamer
If you’re asking me to tell
Is it worth what I paid?
You’re gonna hear me say
Hell yeah it is

And I say it loud
I loved it all
And I’m not too proud
I freed my soul
Just let it fly
Hell yeah this crazy life around me
It confuses and confounds me
But its all the life I’ve got
Until I die
Hell yeah it is

If you’re asking for my time
Isn’t much left to give you
Been around a good long while
So I gotta say it fast
Time is all we’ll ever need
But its gotta have a meaning
Be careful how it’s spent
Because it isn’t gonna last
I hear you wonderin’ out loud
Are you ever gonna make it
Will you ever work it out?
Will you ever take a chance?
Just believe you can
Hell yeah you will

Gonna be okay
You might get lost
But then you’ll find a way
Don’t go alone
Can’t be afraid
Hell yeah this life is here
And it’s made for livin’
And loves a gift that’s made for GIVING
Give it all away and have it still
And hell yeah you will

I’ve been livin’ in a bowl
With a lot of people starin’
With my feet on shaky ground
And my head up in the sky
But it’s where I wanna be
It’s a life that’s made for carin’
Got a song to pass the day
And a girl to share the night

So if they ask you when I’m gone
Was it everything he wanted?
When he had to travel on
Did he know he’d be missed?
You can tell them this
Hell yeah he did

He saw it all
He walked the line
Never had to crawl
He cried a bit
But not for long
Hell yeah he found the life that he was after
Filled it up with love and laughter
Finally got it right and made it fit
Hell yeah he did
Hell yeah he did
Hell yeah he did

To finish off a wonderful weekend, our very own modest 26-year old South African Black Diamond, Charl Schwartzel, put it all together to perfection on Sunday evening. He moved up among the leaders after a long chip-in for birdie at the first and a wedge shot from the fairway that dropped in for an eagle on the third hole. He then clinched his triumph with birdies on the last four holes for the thrill of slipping on the green emerald jacket, after winning the 2011 Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, USA.

“It’s a dream for me,” said Schwartzel. Indeed, it was a dream weekend for many!  Hell Yeah it was!


  Excellent             Ave                 Poor
Memory-Short term * * * * * * * * * * * * * *                      
Executive function * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *                    
Spelling * * * * * * * * * * * * *                        
Figures * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *                    
Left hand/  arm * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *    
Left leg/ foot * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *                
Right hand / arm * * * * * * * * * * * *                          
Right leg / foot * *                                              
Lungs *                                                
Swallow *                                                
Spasms –left * * * * * * * * * * * * * *                      
Spasms –right *                                                

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

Love All!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

As Long as there’s Tea, there’s Hope!


Saturday 10 July 2010:  3 years 10 months on . . .

I have previously only visited the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town in the darkness of night.

As a Matie, a Stellenbosh University student, I attended a number of formal dinner dances in the Ballroom there, notably the annual Debutantes’ Ball. Thirty years ago, in 1980, as a house committee member of Helshoogte Residence, I also organised a formal residence birthday ball there – complete with the then well-known Hylton Ross Orchestra. Besides academic studies, Maties also become students of dance – the Sakkie Sakkie – disparagingly referred to by English-speaking South Africans by many different terms including that of “windsurfing”!

However, my first visit to the Mount Nelson, as a Standard Nine pupil (as we called it then) of Hottentots-Holland High School in Somerset West, was danceless. That was way back in 1973, and in that year, our teachers had decided that dancing was a sin that God, Himself, frowned upon! (I was invited to say goodbye to the then matrics on behalf of our our Std 9 class.)

The 1973 annual matric dance in the school hall was cancelled. Instead the class was bussed to the Mount Nelson for a farewell dinner. As eighteen year old boys and girls we were about to face the world and, as eighteen year old MEN, we were about to go to war against the SWAPO terrorists in Angola – but definitely no couples and no dancing allowed at our farewell function! We had been well-prepared for Life! (The following year, in 1974, our class was bussed to dine at the Houw Hoek Hotel otherside Grabouw!)

The word “pupil”, used to describe a child who attends a school, was subsequently substituted – by government decree – with the word “learner”.  The term “standard ten” – a pupil’s twelfth year at school – has since been replaced with the term “grade 12”. Even a “teacher” has become known as an “Educator”. In fact, despite being repeatedly warned about the folly of their ways, the new government replaced the whole education system that we knew with a new system called Outcomes Based Education (OBE).

Last year, they decreed that, once again, we had “teachers”, and, just this last week, have thrown out OBE! And, I guess, couples and dancing are no longer sinful because I see a lot of that – and much more – happening all around me now!

But, in an ever-changing world, the Mount Nelson Hotel – known affectionately as The Nellie – still remains. Situated at the base of Table Mountain at the top of Orange Street in Oranjezicht, Cape Town, she is a monument to an era long gone by.

And, when you approach her from Orange Street through those imposing tall white pillars and colonnade and see her in the daytime, as we did when we were in Cape Town recently, she is pink from top to toe!


We had been invited to High Tea by my niece, Michelle (who helps balance the books there!), and her husband Sebastian. An institution as old as Nellie herself, High Tea is served every afternoon at two thirty in the Terrace Room.

It had snowed on Table Mountain during the previous evening, and it was very cold in Cape Town. A fire was burning in the fireplace and the pianist at the end of the room was tickling away at the ivories – all those haunting melodies from down the ages.

Seated in the comfortable padded high back sofas and couches, our waitress gave us the run-down on the various teas of various tastes and fragrances, all infused in the glass teapots in front of us and poured into the fancy china cups and saucers.

And, in between every course of tea (and sometimes during the course of tea and many times more than once in between each course, and before each course, and after each course) we each headed off to the treats table! It was laden with sweets and savouries of every kind and never appeared to empty – from the cucumber and salmon sandwiches through the lemon curd pies to the cheese and strawberry cake and the carrot cake.

Thank goodness the treats table was at the other end of the room to where we were seated – at least we were getting some exercise to assist with the digestion of the layer upon layer of decadent delicacies.

And, until 5pm, the pianist played and the fire burned, tea was quaffed, eats were eaten, stories were told, some played bridge, some chatted, and people came and went. In 2010, we were reliving that tradition that was one of the reasons for having built Nellie in the first instance – simply a place to enjoy afternoon tea and a treat with family and friends!

After tea, Michelle (or should I rather say, Sebastian!) arranged for us to tour the hotel – a home of the rich and famous. We went from the ordinary R7000 a night single hotel rooms through the average R10 000 a night double rooms to the R15000 a night luxury suites, like the one used by actress Charleze Theron (together with the one next door for her Mom) when they are in Cape Town. When you switch it on, the TV rises in a cabinet from the floor at the foot of the bed!

Some of the suites, we were told, are booked by regular patrons two at a time for a stay of two or more months.

We could only afford an afternoon, so then visited – just to look at – the newly R24 million renovated spa – a row of houses recently acquired that even necessitated the closing of a street by the City of Cape Town.

To end off a truly magnificent and memorable afternoon, we had a parting drink in the hotel’s Planet Champagne Bar. We each ordered a cocktail – some specially concocted for the 2010 World Cup. I ordered a Dutch Flower– possibly a good omen as we wait for the final on Sunday between the Dutch and the Spanish? The rest had a Frozen Daiquiri, a Virgin Daiquiri, 1 Golden Goal and 1 Mojito!

But, for the adventurous, the menu provides anything from a R17 Castle to a R7999 bottle of Dom Perignon.

Thanks, Michelle and Sebastian, for a wonderful treat.

As Queen Victoria said, “As long as there’s tea, there’s hope!”

I Have a Dream

Friday 2 July 2010: 3 years 10 months on . . .

Dear God

We had all been waiting for this day! Tuesday 22 June 2010.

Bafana Bafana were taking on the might of France in a do-or-die encounter in the FIFA 2010 World Cup ™. From the hype that preceded the day, it appeared that the entire future of our nation depended squarely on the outcome of this game. It was touted as the Battle of Bloemfontein!

So, at 15h00, together with 10 000 other fans, Sean, Phillip and I headed off to the St George’s Fan Park™. I was not feeling well but was definitely not going to miss out on this encounter.

We needed to beat France and to beat them comprehensively by 4 or 5 goals in order to stay in the competition. It was a tall order. But, the crowd erupted time and time again as The Boys kept the goals and the near-goals coming.

As darkness fell, the almost full moon came up over the largest TV screen in the country. For a moment there, God, I thought I was looking at You directly in the Face.

And I asked you “God, please let us win this one. You know how much our country needs this win!” But, as so often in life, You appeared not to hear or to have some other ideas about this.

In the end, we won the skirmish, lost the battle and won the war. Yes, we beat France by 2 –1, but did not do enough to remain in the competition’s next round of the 16 top teams. However, in the grand scheme of World Cups, and as I have written before (see Oh What a Circus Oh What a Show), despite not winning the tournament, our country has emerged as the winner simply by hosting this Show in such a successful manner. It has transformed our nation.

This Show has reminded me so much about Life.

Sean and Phillip had long since left me to join up with their mates. And so, despite being surrounded by 10 000 excited people, I was there alone and not feeling well. And, like so many people in this world, when the hype was at its highest, I was actually feeling down and lonely and scared as I pondered life. In the hype of life, let us never forget those amongst us who are alone and who feel lonely.

This Show has reminded me so much about Life.

I spoke to You, the Man in the Moon, as You smiled down at us. I think You also created World Cups for Your people and You saw that it was good.

This Show and Life have so much in common.

There is the euphoria when we announce the arrival to the world. There is the preparation and the infrastructure required. The hard work and the sleepless nights follow.

Along the way, there are the highlights and the lowlights; the ups and the downs; the victories and the losses. There is happiness and sadness and tears and laughs. We win some and we lose some.

And, sometimes, things appear not to be fair. Sometimes, they are just NOT fair. Sometimes, winning at all costs is so important that the rules are flouted. Sometimes, the cheaters win. But all the time, everything is under control.

And, when things get tough and tight, like the penalty shoot outs tonight, then, God, we raise our hands to Heaven and to You, and ask for Your help!

Some get to stay to the very end. Some get extra time. Some get injured and some get through relatively unscathed.

Some are sent off early. Some of us get red-carded along the way and we can take no more part in the show. We get sidelined. And we don’t always understand . . . and we ask why. There are answers sometimes and sometimes there are not. We have to accept the Referee’s decision.

And it’s OK to cry when we hurt ! Even big well-built men who seemingly have the world at their feet cry, and on international television nogal! The players cry, the coaches cry, we cry! Who said that cowboys don’t cry?

And, as we are told in the press today that the Port Elizabeth’s Boet Erasmus Stadium will close down permanently tomorrow, we are reminded that nothing in this life continues indefinitely – not the Boet, not the World Cup Show, not Life itself.

Only You remain the same – yesterday, today and forever. And You remain the Winner!

And, when it comes to an end, will it be remembered? Did it truly make a difference? What is left behind? What legacy is left? Is it a better place?

Martin Luther King said:

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

                Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

[See the full text of Martin Luther King’s speech below]

Ironically, today, exactly 46 years ago, on 2 July 1964, US President Lyndon Johnson signed the US Civil Rights Bill, which prohibited racial discrimination in the United States of America.

In his inauguration speech as President of the Republic of South Africa in 1994, Nelson Mandela spoke of his dream:

“We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world… The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!”

Susan Boyle sings “I dreamed a dream” from Les Miserables:

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

I dream too.

I dream that I will wake up in a country that works. I dream that this country and its people will learn from the World Cup Show, and will continue with this flame that it has kindled. That it will set the World alight, much as it has done for the last few weeks. We can’t afford to let the flame die. We need a New New South Africa. Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

I dream that I will wake up in a body that works. I dream of the Life to come.


Chapter 21

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is at thirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

[See the text of Revelation 21 below]




 May all your penalties and offences be overlooked.

May you never go offside.

May evil never tackle you.

May your life go into extra time.

May you never get a red card out of Heaven,

And may you win the trophy of Heaven in the final.



The full text of Martin Luther King’s speech:

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!


1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;

22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.

23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.

25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.


I’ve Got the FehVah!

Tuesday 29 June 2010: 3 years 9 months on . . .   

Fan Fest - Berlin



Football! Football! Football!   

We have also become the WAGS of soccer – not the wives and girlfriends but the watchers and goers!   


That’s all we have seen and done over the last few weeks. We watched the World Cup opening concert in Orlando Stadium, Johannesburg whilst we were with my sister Lynne in The Strand. We watched the Opening game in Soccer City at the Brazen Head in Stellenbosch. We’ve watched many of the games on TV in Cape Town – and even at the famous Cape Town Waterfront.   


We have gone to see the German / Serbia game at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. With thousands others, we have gone to the FIFA Fan Park at George’s Park in PE to watch: Bafana Bafana beat France 2 – 1 and then bow out of the tournament, on Wednesday England beat Slovenia  1 – 0 and on Friday, Portugal draw with Brazil 0 – 0! I even watched and listened to Just Ginja at Friday’s Fan Park concert. And, in between all of this, I have watched more football on TV in the past two weeks than I have ever watched in my entire lifetime before!     


Neighbours at the Fan Park

Like so many others worldwide, I have truly got the FehVah! The Football FehVah!   


But, since returning from Cape Town last weekend, I have also got some other Fehvah! And for the last week, I have felt the worst since I became ill three years and ten months ago. Despite feeling unwell, I have been pushing myself to attend and watch as much football as possible, because it won’t happen again in my lifetime and I don’t want to miss out!   


And, as I have said to many people, we are going to be paying for this party for many years to come, so we’d better enjoy it while it lasts! And not being cynical, do yourself a favour and get to a Fan Park – you have to experience all the facets of this unbelievable show. When I feel better, I will write about my World Cup lessons in more detail.   


I have been to see the doctors – again. I am taking more tablets – again. I am feeling miserable – again. I have a bladder infection, and whilst this may seem like a pretty ordinary occurrence for most people, in my case, it’s also one of the symptoms of the CBD that I have. As the brain loses control of the body, the bladder also becomes affected, and infections occur. So I have to be careful and can only hope that this will clear up soon.    

My Current Daily Smorgasbord

Right now, I am feeling better, but this last week has been a challenge for me. And it’s when you don’t feel well, and don’t sleep well, and feel down and tired, that’s when you have to guard most against becoming depressed. It’s so easy to slip into that whirlpool of self-pity, and to get sucked into that eddy of despair. That’s when I’m ugly and I lose my temper with those around me.  And that’s when I am not the first choice person to be around!   


So? That’s when I have to focus my mind, strengthen my resolve and, once again, look at what I’ve still got, and pull myself back. Thank God for that strength, and for giving me the football at this time to keep focussed on, and to get me out of this.   


As Banafa Bafana showed us these last two weeks – with focus, determination, effort and resolve, we can all be winners!   


P.S.  I have just heard that my Aunty Irmela passed away this morning. She was the wife of my Uncle George Lunnon, my late father’s eldest brother. (Read The Circle of Life to see our family tree!).  My condolences are extended to my cousins Louise, Susan and Hildegarde on the passing of their mother.     


Be Thankful


for the wife   

who says it’s hot dogs tonight, because she is home with me, and not out with someone else;   

for the husband   

who is on the sofa, being a couch potato, because he is home with me, and not out at the bars;   

for the teenager   

who is complaining about doing dishes, because she is at home, and not on the streets;   

for the taxes i pay   

because it means I am employed;   

for the mess to clean after a party   

because it means I have been surrounded by friends;   

for the clothes that fit a little too snug   

because it means I have enough to eat;   

for the shadow that watches me work   

because it means I am out in the sunshine;   

for the lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing   

because it means I have a home;   

for all the complaining i hear about the government   

because it means we have freedom of speech;   

for the lady behind me in church   

who sings off key, because it means I can hear;   

for the pile of clothing and ironing   

because it means I have clothe to wear;   

for weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day   

because it means I have been capable of working hard;   

for the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours   

because it means   

that I am alive.   

Author Unknown




2020 Vision – Do I see the Olympic Games?

Saturday 26 June 2010: 3 years 9 months on . . .

Saturday 15 May 2004: In Berlin, Sepp Blatter announced to the World that the host country for the 2010 FIFA World Cup® would be South Africa. I was sitting in the casualty department at St George’s Hospital with Sean after he had broken his hand playing rugby. We heard the announcement on the radio.

Friday 11 June 2010: In Johannesburg, at Soccer City, South African President Jacob Zuma declared to the World that the 2010 FIFA World Cup® was officially opened. Pera, Sean, Phillip and I were sitting at the Brazen Head in Stellenbosch watching, on TV, the opening ceremony and the first game between South Africa and Mexico (draw 1 – 1)

Friday 18 June 2010: In Port Elizabeth, at Nelson Mandela Stadium, the Lunnon family, and 38 000 others, were at the 21st match of the 48 group matches between the qualifying 32 nations participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup®

It seems difficult now to believe that prior to 1994 we were the pariahs of the world. We were banned from all international events and, I’m not sure how they managed it, but in the early nineties the only international sport we still saw on TV was the Wimbledon Open. The sporting highlight of the year was surely that annual Sunday afternoon when we could get together with our friends and watch the Men’s Final – complete with strawberries and cream!

One of the first and immediate changes in the New South Africa was our re-admission to World sport. I remember the poor quality of the TV transmission when watching the first test after re-admission of our cricket tour to India. But, it certainly didn’t matter, because we were back in the World!

Now, we have a feast of World sport – so much so, that two weekends ago we had the historic situation of France playing rugby and football on either end of Cape Town. And, as I write this, TV – now in HD – offers the following choice: the Proteas are playing cricket in the West Indies, South Korea is playing Uruguay for a football quarter final place here at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth and the Bokke are playing rugby against Italy in East London (whilst their counterparts, the Italian Football team – the current FIFA World Champions – are back in Italy after the shock of tumbling out of the opening group matches!)

Looking backwards now, we successfully hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2003 and in 1995, barely a year after South Africa became a fully democratic Republic under President Nelson Mandela, we hosted (and won!) the IRB Rugby World Cup.

I recall the opening of that event in June 1995 at Newlands in Cape Town, when the Springboks faced and beat Australia. I was working in East London on that Wednesday. At lunchtime, we headed back to the Pick ‘n Pay regional office to watch the game. We experienced the normal after work rush-hour traffic at 14h00 as everyone headed off home or elsewhere to find a TV set to watch that opening victory!

No beers were to be drunk watching the game – after all, it was still working hours! But, as the excitement built over our impending win over Australia, the beers were opened and the partying carried on well into the night.

And the partying continued throughout those three weeks – as the Springboks progressed through the tournament via the lights-out, darkened stadium and the Battle of the Boet versus Canada in Port Elizabeth, to the almost rained-out, deluged and helicopter dried semi-final against the French in Durban and into the final against New Zealand’s All Blacks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on 24 June 1995, 15 years ago almost to the day.

We won that game 15 – 12 in extra time and became the World Champions.

I have seen THAT photograph of Stransky’s drop goal in every boardroom in South Africa. I have seen the video footage of that spine-chilling Jumbo Jet Boeing 747 flying just above the roof of Ellis Park with “Good luck BOKKE” written on its fuselage. Most people have now read the book Playing the Enemy and seen the movie Invictus (based on the book), which tells the story of that game, the build-up to it and the legacy it left our country.

But I have never seen that game! Only because Phillip (at 24 weeks in Pera’s tummy and only due in September) decided on that Saturday morning that he, too, wanted to watch that historic game.

So, we spent the day at St George’s Hospital, with the doctors battling to keep him in! They won! And at 10pm that evening, when I drove home up Cape Road, and I saw all the partying going on in the streets, I knew that the Bokke and South Africa had won. And Pera, Sean and I won again, two weeks later on 7 July, when Phillip made his determined appearance at 26 weeks. Now, as we prepare to celebrate his 15th birthday in two week’s time, his 1,86m body makes it difficult to believe that he entered this world weighing just 1,3kg! (His birth made up for our sad loss of Phillip no 1 who had been stillborn at almost full term in 1994.)   

But all of this is history now. After I was diagnosed in February 2007, I had often wondered whether I would still be here in 2010 to see any of this World Soccer Championship. And yes, here we were, Friday 18 June 2010 and we were headed to watch our first live game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup ®.

Much has already been written about this spectacle (see my own humble contribution in my previous blogs Oh What A Circus, Ka Nako ,Gees Recipe) and much more will still be written. At this point, suffice to say, that if we thought that the 1995 Rugby World Cup made a positive difference to our fragile democracy, then the legacy that this Tournament is carving into our society, pales that difference into insignificance!

The family and Barbara (our domestic help) left home at 10h45 – destination:  Port Elizabeth’s magnificent first completed Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. We were dressed in our Bafana Bafana shirts and colours of yellow and green. Armed with our rainbow nation coloured blankets, scarves and vuvuselas, we were off to watch Germany beat Serbia (or so we thought!) in game 21 of the tournament.

The logistical arrangements were faultless. After parking the car at Andrew Rabie School, we took the appropriately marked Kwela Kwela taxi to North End. Then followed a short walk to the stadium. Extremely courteous staff scrutinised our “cheap” category 3 R560 tickets and searched our bodies. We were of the first spectators to be seated in our 6th tier seats with an amazing view and still two hours to kick-off at 13h30.

Even the fact that FIFA was doubling the prices and fleecing the captive spectators at R30 for a Bud, R20 for a pie and R15 for a Coke did not dampen our spirits. As the advertising campaign had urged us for months now – “We had booked our seats in history”.

The turf was watered, the stadium filled with 38 000 spectators, and the two opposing parties inspected the turf and warmed up. Then, with military precision, the teams entered the arena at 13h20, national anthems were sung and the game began!

After 90 minutes and a few extra, the excitement of the game was over. Serbia surprised and beat gallant Germany 1 – 0!  We left our seats at 15h20 and reversed the procedure we had followed just 5 hours earlier.

Together with all the jubilant others, we walked to the bus, travelled to the school, got into our flag-bearing car and drove home. And, saluting the organisers, at 16h00, barely 30 minutes later, I was seated in my lounge in front of the TV ready to watch the next match 22, USA versus Slovenia at Ellis Park in Johannesburg (the same stadium as the 1995 Rugby World Cup final!)

They drew 2 all! There was no winner here. But, as had been said so many times before in these last two weeks, the winner must surely be the citizens of the enigmatic Republic of South African who have made this miracle possible. They have made Africa proud. They have turned the ordinary into the extra-ordinary!

Because I have been granted extra time, I can also say, “I was THERE!”

And, as South Africa now sets its vision on hosting the only big games left that it has not yet hosted, those of the Olympic Games of 2020, dare I hope for so much more extra time . . . .?