How’s your Mother?



(c) 2015 Edward C Lunnon 

8 years 6 months ill …

Physical: Advantage CBD / Mental: Deuce

It was January of 1984. 

I had completed my matric, a year of studies in Oklahoma, USA, my university education at Stellenbosch and two years in the defence force at Oudtshoorn.

Now it was work time, and together with some 15 other new teachers I arrived at Grey High School in Port Elizabeth at the beginning of the new academic year. The chairs were meticulously arranged in a circle in the office and just one remained unoccupied. The incumbant must have got cold feet because the man in charge, we learnt later, did not make such mundane errors!

That person in charge, the Headmaster, introduced himself to us as Mr Dieter Pakendorf, the Rector, and would henceforth be addressed either as such or for less formal occassions we could use the word “Sir”!

The meticulous arrangement of the chairs was indicative of the man’s style – military, precise, exact, strict, unambiguous, unerring, authentic, conscientious, rigid and true.

He shared many pearls of wisdom with us that morning. One, I recall, was that no new teacher was to smile at his class before Easter. You ensured that you started with the discipline in your upper hand and then gradually relinquished it. The other way round would not work  – never start off being friendly and then trying to become a disciplinarian! Once lost, he said, it was always lost!

He was small in stature. But his presence filled the room, any room, that office, the De Waal Hall. the hostel and indeed the whole school building  and gounds of the Mill Park campus, now in its 100th year.

And just as his diminutive presence filled the space that he entered, just so did his presence fill those that he encountered with fear and trepidation – whether you were a pupil or a teacher.

There were many issues that one, as a staff member, had to bring to his attention, or discuss with him. I was not the only person who would spend agonising days and nights pondering the correct approach and practicing the appropiate vocabulary. 

Then came the moment.

You would muster up the courage, proceed down the stairwell from the staff room to the Rector’ Study, only to turn around at his door and return the way you had come!

Your courage had failed you.

Time and again you would attempt the landing approach into his office. Eventually, it would happen – and I don’t recall him ever asking you to sit down to discuss the issue. His mind was too quick for that!

Whatever problem you had pondered about – often for days and weeks – would be listened to, summarised, analysed and categorised. A few possible and probable scenarios were sketched, each with its own outcome and positives and negatives. Within minutes, he would spurt forth the correct decission “according to Dieter” aand, come hell or high water, he would stick to that decision, even if it meant that he would have to apologise in the long run!

He stood by his word, he stood by his decision and he stood by his man and his staff member! Even in show downs with parents, he would  back his staff member to the hilt in front of the parent, only to call you back on the departure of the parent and to reprimand you for having made the wrong educational decision and to remind you that should it happen again you would not be able to depend on his protection!

He never fraternised with his parents nor his staff. What was said was said using the least number of words required. In fact, he never encouraged idle chatter and seldom, if ever, initiated trivial or petty conversation.

He left staff functions first in order to allow the staff to let down their hair, and made it quite clear at functions after sport events when staff members should leave and end the party. For some or other reason he would approach me and advise “Mr Lunnon, it’s time for your friends to leave!” He certainly did not mince his words!

In the hostel, he and the hostel staff ate breakfast together with the boarders every morning.

We were quite a jovial bunch of young teachers in our early twenties. But whatever we would be discussing when he joined the table would be killed off in a matter of seconds by him. So we each had to bring three topics of conversation to breakfast table, so that when he killed one subject, we would have another to contnue with – until such time as we had run out of suitable subjects!

And the morning when he poured the orange juice out of the silver milk jug and over his jungle oats, in full view of all at the table, not a single soul would have dared a smile let alone a hearty laugh!

Personal matters were never discussed, so it came as quite a surprise one morning when The Rector looked up at me and enquired how my (ill) mother was. She had actually passed away six months earlier, so my sort of garbled response was “She’s fine Sir, she passed away in November!”

To this day, the standard form of greeting between Tony Reeler (now Headmaster of Pretoria Boys High School) and I is “Mr Lunnon / Mr Reeler, how’s your mother?!”

Desspite his serious attitude, he always looked at  his happiest when dressed in his grey suit, he would drive the school’s blue tractor around the Philip field or on the ash athletics track! To me, he always seemed more at home on the tractor than in his black robes. But his school, The Grey, came first and he punted it at every occassion, whether it was to the Boys, the parents, the Provincial Rugby Club that he chaired or the UPE Council that he headed.

After i had left teaching, I received a call from Lorraine (Coetzee) Schumann his secretary. She enquired whether I was wearing a jacket and tie because the rector had invited me for drinks at St Georges CluB that afternoon.

I thought she was joking and was setting me up. After all, the rector had never invited me for a social engagement at school never mind after having left the school.

I drove past St Georges that afternoon just to check, and lo and behold the grey Sierra was parked there. I went in to find the Rector and Ronnie Draper.

I was greeted with a “good afternoon, Mr Lunnon”, and I replied “Good afternoon, Sir!”

” Dieter” he said, call me “Dieter”! 

“Yes Sir,”  I replied! 

To this day, I don’t know of any of his staff members who would call him Dieter to his face!  

I was offered a beer and with no further word spoken, a plate of snacks was put in front of me. I took a meatball off the plate holding the toothpick at the top of the stick with the meatball below. I was quite nervous at this my fist personal social encounter with the Rector.

The meatball fell off the stick onto the floor.

With nothing being said, he moved the plate over to me yet again. This time he picked up the meatball, turned the toothpick around so that the balll rested on his fingers and handed the toothpick over to me, ensuring that if it slipped it would simply rest on my fingers! I imagined that he must have said to himself “what a fool!!” but he wasnt like that.

He guided you and led you and taught you in the way he did so well, quietly, few words, practically and by example.

Despite the outward appearance, he really cared about you as a person, whether  it was to offer you a job back at the school (which what that meeting was all about) or whether he was concerned about my future teaching and job decisions, my house I bought in Ryan Street (Maureen, he told me with pride was a Ryan!) or an invite to visit at their Nature’s Valley home.

He cared deeply about his school and would say that the parents’ role stopped at the front gate. From thereon inwards, was his role and that of his staff. I often wonder how his teaching style would have gone down in the new South African era! My computer laboratory, the first of its kind in Port Elizabeth, received all the assistance that he could muster.

He cared about his country and in the height of apartheid days the black hostel staff would be requested to sing at the BODA banquet, none other then the original African national anthem Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

And he cared about his Grey boys. He left them, in his unique way, a legacy that would be difficult to find elsewhere. it would be difficult to find a product of Dieter Pakendorf, staff member or pupil, who would be unable to say that he did not learn something from the man.

In 2010 I heard him make an unprepared speech at the 25th reunion function of that year. Despite his illness already taking over his faculties, the Rector did not disappoint. He moved from person to person in the room and recalled an appropriate story for each person.

A few years ago Grey was playing rugby against Paul Roos in Stellenbosch. I was not there but my youngest son Philip later told me that a man had called him over and asked him if he was related to Ed Lunnon. Phillip said he thought it was a previous Rector because he recognized the man from the painting in the De Waal Hall. Indeed it was the ex-Rector and once again he showed his concern and astute intellectual ability by recognizing me in my son and by passing on his good wishes to me.

He showed just why he will remain a revered Rector of The Grey.

I was sad that I could not attend his funeral in Cape Town, but I will be there at the reunion ceremony when his ashes will be interred into the wall of the De Waal Hall. It is somewhat ironical that in our later years we have both had to battle similar neurological illnesses. We certainly weren’t given the easy ones!

It was a privilege and a pleasure to teach under you, Sir. I will count those as some of the special days of my life and I shall remain indebted to you for employing me, not once, but twice!

Maybe now, you can let me know just how my mother is!

 

Grey High School Port Elizabeth Nelson Mandela Bay South Africa

My out-of-town Facebook friends, my American friends and family, my New Zealand family, my worldwide friends and family, my Facebook friends and followers:

take just a few minutes and look at this video of my city and school, Grey High and Grey Junior School for boys.

This is what brought me to Port Elizabeth, this is where I worked and where Pera works, this is where our two sons, Sean and Phillip were schooled and where they lived in the Grey Boarding House, this is why we and the Grey Family are so blessED to have a fine educational institution in a country where so many have so little … Count your blessings count them one by one !

I think Sir George Grey and Mr John Paterson MP would be suitably impressed if they would be able to return for next year’s 100th birthday celebrations of The Grey’s Mill Park Campus.

Many happy returns of The Grey!

Click here to view the school and the city:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OCl-6KXLsS4

ED is in wED 7 Aug 2013: AlgoaFM Podcast

Listen here to the broadcast: wED 7 August 2013 with Martin Groenewald, the Grey PE 1st team player injured in Bloemfontein.

Click below:

Thanks for listening!

martin

Living Positively

19 October 2010: 4 years 1 month on …

This past week has been the most difficult for me, physically, since I became ill.

My left arm and my left leg have become decidedly weaker. My leg wants to give way under me and it takes a very concerted and concentrated effort to raise my arm.

Every movement is more difficult and taking more energy. It feels like standing under water and trying to walk and lift my arms. There is an ever-increasing resistance to moving my limbs. However, my right leg still remains unaffected.

This all tires me and I have very little energy. It is taking longer in the mornings to get going and most mornings I feel like I have a massive hangover! Even that is taking longer to clear.

One would think that lying down would assist in rejuvenating one’s vigour, but, strangely enough, lying down is the most uncomfortable position to be in, especially if I lie on my back or left side. The best way to lie down is to lie on my right side.

Mentally, I am not doing all that well either and it is so important now for me to take heed of all the things that I have been talking about. I have to take control of my mind and get the better of this creeping alien that is taking hold of my body.

Last Monday, I was asked to speak at Collegiate Junior School for Girls about Living Positively.

I had never spoken to young girls between ten and thirteen years’ old before, so I was a bit unsure of how to handle the subject with all 500 of them.

I thought that they would know more about sport than Life, and so I asked them to imagine that I was an alien from Mars and had never been exposed to sport before. I asked them to explain to me what attributes were required to be successful at sport.

They played right into my hands and mentioned a whole long list, including fun, enjoyment, fitness, rules, goals, plans, fairness, integrity, drive, honesty, modesty, humbleness, giving your best, being the best, giving your all, teamwork , etc.

I told them that Living Life was somewhat like playing sport, and in order to be successful at Life, it was important to live Life positively and to display the attributes that they had mentioned.

What did it mean to live a positive Life? They answered a positive Life was one that was constructive, helpful and beneficial.

So we unpacked some of the things we needed to live POSITIVELY. I tied them in with each letter of the word POSITIVELY.

P:         Plan and prepare. Know where you are going and what has to be done. Don’t be a cork that is blown around on the ocean by the winds. Rather be a sailing ship that sets its direction and uses the wind to go where it wants to go.

O:        Occupy yourself. Take Ownership of your life. Be in charge of your life and stay busy. Don’t just hang around doing nothing, and waiting for life to take charge of you.

S:         Surround yourself with Supportive people. Stay away from negative and destructive people. Mix with people who will Support you and build you up – constructive people. I asked what happens in quicksand, and a little girl gave us a graphic display of how the quicksand sucks one in! That’s what negative people do to you – they just suck you into the depths.

I:          Involve yourself in your Interests and your community. Get Involved in Clubs, groups, sport, church, help others. Do something that Interests you.

T:         Take Time out for yourself; spoil yourself, rest, listen to the music, smell the roses, be mindful of the little things in Life and make Time for yourself. Be a Team Player.

I:          Inspire yourself and others. Look at new Ideas, read books and the Bible, use the Internet, talk to others, look around you for good luck stories, think of new Ideas

V:         Verbal reinforcement – Voice positive things. Talk positive talk. Encourage yourself and others. Watch what you say. Word and Deed is so important.

E:         Be Enthusiastic and Enjoy all you do in Every moment. Don’t wait for disaster (eg illness, death, disability etc) to strike before you do that. Enjoy Every moment from the present one!

L:         My personal mantra: Be an ACE –        Live and Leave             A bundantly

                                                                        Laugh                           C ontinuously

                                                                        Love                            E ndlessly        

Y:         Why? What is the purpose of Life?

This is the most difficult question of all. But it is the most important. It’s the cement that keeps everything else together.

If you are on the sports field and don’t know what you are playing, it becomes difficult to play.

If you don’t know Y you are here, then it becomes difficult to do what you need to do.

Some believe they are here to prepare for heaven, some believe they come back again, some say it’s just a one-way trip to death, others don’t even think about Y!

Often teachers don’t know the answers to a question and then give their pupils the question to sort out for homework. So I suggested that the young ladies should take this question home for homework: they needed to think about Y they were here in the first place!

If they put all of the above together, I suggested that they could Live Positively!

————-

On Wednesday evening, we were eating out in a restaurant when a young girl came over to our table. She asked me if I was Mr Lunnon, and then thanked me for talking to them about Life. I was truly humbled. I forgot to ask her name, but she looks the splitting image of her Mom, whom I know, and so I was able to trace her later.

Thank you so much, Miss Scheepers, for teaching me yet another thing about positive living – the inestimable value of that small thing of saying Thank You!

————–

I need to practice what I preach from this moment. I, too, need to Live Positively!

(Today, I spoke to the matriculants at Grey High on their second last day at school. I spoke to them about “Fasten your Seat Belts!” – which you may read in an earlier blog).