Flying with the Wright Brothers – Good Fella’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And who should be there?

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

Bernard’s wife, Sharleen, was the hostess.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Moving!

Tuesday 28 June 2011: 4 years 9 months on …

Corticalbasal Degeneration is a disease that eventually prevents one from moving. Full stop!

Right now, almost 5 years into this trip, movement becomes increasingly difficult for me.

I need to thank those people who assist me every day to keep going – literally! :

(in no particular order)

Jonathan Raath at Greenacres VA – biokineticist (for putting up with all my swearing)

Soena O’Kennedy – masseur (for making my hands and feet feel “lekker”)

Julian Fletcher – sports therapist (for finding all those deep down aches and pains)

Dr Rod Butters – GP ( for just being there, and the home visits!)

St Francis Hospice, and especially Sr Gill le Roux, Sr Janice Malkinson and Jenny Nickall (for the weekly visits and your untiring support and concern)

Janine (from Andre’s Hair Design, Newton Park) – Hair and Shaving (for making me feel and “look so” good)

Good Fellas (Jonathan Bishop and Byron Breetzke) – for moving me around town (even if I haven’t been drinking!)

Nadine van Westenbrugge – for helping with the admin

Spec-savers (Bryan Dowley and Tim Seaman) – for helping me to see where I go!

I remain deeply indebted to all of you.

Thank you!