Teach Your Children Well

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Monday 2 April 2012: 5 years 7 months on … Deuce

As a first year teacher in 1984, I was responsible for introducing that new phenomenon “Computer Studies” into the High Schools of Port Elizabeth. Pupils were selected from all the (white!) schools of Port Elizabeth on the basis of obtaining an A in maths and science. My computer “laboratory” in G5 at Grey High consisted of 3 terminals connected to the Cape Provincial Administration Mainframe in Cape Town and an Apple 11 “Personal Computer” – our PC, we called it. (nowadays, my Blackberry cellphone in my pocket has far more processing and memory capacity than that entire lab!).

Be that as it may, G5 could be the subject of an entire book on its own!

Having “soft” music playing in the background was always an essential part of my teaching, and a song by Crosby Stills Nash and Young was a favourite of mine and many a class – Teach Your Children Well!

 Over the last few weeks, I have found myself thinking about that line several times – and the Circle of Life.

Life, generally, consists of three main phases:

Give or take a few years, approximately the first twenty years of one’s life is spent in the learning and preparation phase: learning to walk, learning to talk, going to school, going to university, learning about life …

 One’s parents and teachers play an all-important role in this part of one’s life.

They prepare one for the next forty years or so. During that phase, whilst the learning should not stop but only move into a background position, it’s the execution phase of the preparation phase that takes place.

It’s during this second phase that some rise to the highest levels and some sink to the lowest. All experience that which life throws at them – the good, the bad and the ugly – and it’s how one deals with each experience that determines one’s “success” or not of living life.

And it’s during this phase that one starts the preparation phase for the next generation – preparing one’s off-spring for taking over the circle of life; for taking over that baton in the relay of life that they, too, will run when the time comes for one to hand it over to them.

At approximately sixty years of age, the third phase of life is embarked upon – those twenty or so years in which one gets to “retire” from main-stream life. Some would call them the “Golden Years” and whilst for a few this may be so, many would experience silver, bronze or just plain tin and struggle years.  The success of these years is determined to a large extent by the health and wealth that is enjoyed during this time.

Some people never experience the seven score years and ten. Some never get to the Golden Age – they leave this world in the first preparation phase or during the second execution phase.  For whatever reason their life is cut short and they never get to experience the Circle of Life as it was intended. 

Yes – for a few, it’s a very large Circle; for most, a much smaller Circle that is experienced.

In some ways the Circle of Life is similar to having a meal: there’s all the preparation involved in obtaining and preparing the various required ingredients, and all the things that can and do and don’t go wrong; followed by the experience of sitting down and eating  and enjoying or not enjoying the meal; and then followed by the after-meal who for some entails the liqueurs and lighting  up the after-dinner cigars, whilst for others it’s the gathering and cleaning of the pots and pans and dishes!

During the last few weeks, I have experienced parts of the Circle of LIfe again.

A few weeks ago, (see the blog Cape of Stormers) I went back to the place of my Life’s preparation in the Hottentots-Holland Valley of the Western Cape. I stayed at my family home; visited my primary school, Hendrik Louw; my high school, Hottentots-Holland High; saw some of my family, old school and university mates and teachers; and even visited my Std Five teacher, Mr Peter Preuss in Cape Town.

Each of these has had an influence on whom and what I am today.

As a parent, and during Pera’s two-week trip to Italy, I have experienced just how our own two sons have been prepared for Life. We are truly blessed; and Pera needs to take the accolades for her role in preparing the boys in the kitchen and looking after themselves (and me!)

From buying the groceries, running the budget, preparing the meals and organising the house (and Charlie!) to looking after me, they have come out tops.  I am a grateful and proud father and I know that, whenever my Circle ends, they are well-prepared to handle the Storms of Life that they, too, will encounter.   

As a school teacher, I experienced this past weekend (and as I regularly do on an on-going basis) just how a teacher has an influence on other people’s off-spring in preparing them for life.

On Friday (and Saturday!) evening I attended a show of David Aldo (Abbate) at the Boardwalk’s Amphitheatre.

I taught David Aldo Abbate maths in the eighties and thought he would become an Einstein. Instead he has become an American-based alternative acoustic pop singer of note.

As a singer-songwriter David Aldo moved to Los Angeles 13 years ago, but he came home this past weekend only for the second time, performing with his daughter Sherri and pianist Brian Schimmel, to give his local fans a taste of his latest offering titled, Halfway to Memphis.

David’s compositions are aired on radio stations around the world and he has opened tours for music royalty such as Lionel Richie and, ironically, Crosby Stills and Nash in New York. He performed at the 2005 home wedding of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.  Other A-listers he has performed for include Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Robbie Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Rob Stewart, Russel Crowe, Tom Selleck and Jennifer Aniston.

He has had four number one songs and was once voted best male vocalist in South Africa. He penned a song titled Madiba for Nelson Mandela’s 80th birthday celebrations.

 My thanks to David for inviting me to his show but also for reminding me, yet again, in our discussions that despite our station in Life and despite the supposed glamour that some attain, the Circle of Life remains the same for all and the weather never remains constant.

At the end of Saturday evening’s show MC Alfie Jay announced that David’s maths teacher was in the audience and that maybe, in some small way, I had contributed to his wonderful sense of timing!

That set in motion many people who introduced themselves to me and thanked me for the weekly show that I do with Lance du Plessis on AlgoaFM.  I am amazed at and grateful for the growing number of people who listen to that programme.

Ironically, as my Circle of Life grows smaller, it actually becomes bigger.  I am so very humbled.

Yes, it’s my time for the after-dinner cigars. Bring on the liqueurs!

(For the record, March 2012 has shown the most regression in terms of my physical abilities. The paralysis has moved from my left hand up into my left upper-arm and shoulder, making it difficult to lift my left arm much above waist-height.  For the first time, I have started experiencing pain in my left shoulder. My left hamstring is painful and subject to many more spasms.  My left leg becomes weaker and I am more dependent now on the walking-stick and leg brace. My mind becomes cloudier and my short-term memory and concentration an ever-increasing problem. I experience on-going weariness.)

 

 

2B or not 2B – that is the question!

Wednesday 20 July 2011: 4 years 10 months on … Advantage CBD

Today, 42 years ago in 1969, I was twelve years old and in Std 5 (now Grade 7) at Hendrik Louw Primary School in The Strand. It was the day that Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the moon.

“One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind!” were his first and THE first human words uttered from the moon.

In 1975, on 15 July, I was fortunate to be at the Johnson Mission Control Centre in Houston,Texas– from where all American space missions are controlled and monitored – when the joint Apollo/Soyuz mission took place. It was the last Apollo mission until the shuttle programme started in 1981.

On 30 November 2000, I visited the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral in Florida from where Apollo 11 and all other American space missions are launched. There, I witnessed the awesome launching of space shuttle, Endeavour, from Launch Pad 39B.

Since the tests flights of Enterprise aboard a jumbo jet in 1977, from the launch of Columbia in 1982 to the final flight of Atlantis, there have been 355 astronauts on 135 space shuttle missions.

Challenger and Columbia were lost (the former on blast-off and the latter on re-entry), while the other three shuttles that went into space – Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis – will be preserved in museums.

Last Friday afternoon, friend Eddie Terblanche and I watched the last launch of a shuttle, Atlantis, on CNN whilst enjoying a cold one at the new Zest Urban Cafe in Walmer.

And, as I write, Atlantis is on its way back to earth for the very last time and scheduled to land at Cape Canaveral tomorrow morning at 05h57 (EST) – 11h57 (SAST).

I have been an avid space follower since my early days at Primary school and I shall be glued to the television set yet again tomorrow morning. Now, watching on TV makes it almost like being there.

However, then, in 1969, whilst the rest of the world watched that moon-trip of Apollo 11 intently on TV, we had to be content to listen to the broadcast on radio – on what was known as the “A” (English) programme. We did not have TV in South Africa yet.

That only came seven years later, in 1976, when after returning from the United States, I lived in Helshoogte Residence as a first year student at Stellenbosch University.

I originally shared Room A208 with Glynn Jones from Tulbagh. He was a medical student, later became Dr Jones, married Carol (it was to be the first of many weddings at which I officiated as the MC) and then immigrated to Canada. (I had a phone call from him a while ago from somewhere near the North Pole where he was doing medical visits to an Eskimo settlement!)

Before he emigrated, we socialised and travelled quite a bit (together with Dr Shelley Cohen and others whose names now evade me). We often visited their holiday home on the Breede River at Silver Strand near Robertson, and also did a trip to Windhoek, Etosha Pan and the Fish River Canyon in South West Africa (now Namibia).

In 1977, our second year at Stellenbosch, Glynn and my other medical student friends moved to Hippokrates and Huis Fransie Van Zyl in Tygerberg at the University’s medical school (where I would be diagnosed with CBD thirty years later in 2007).

I remained on the second floor in Helshoogte, but moved to B201 on Section 2B. A few years later, when I became a House Committee member, I moved to A701 on the seventh floor before I ended up in my final year in the Primarius’s “suite” A401/402 on section 4A.

On section 2B we wore t-shirts with a slogan “2B or not 2B” – a parody of Shakespeare‘s famous words!

This past weekend, 2B and Stellenbosch was on my mind as we headed off in pursuit of, what I call, the B’s of our South African Society – the pillars that support our way of life on the southernmost coast of the African continent:

Biltong, Braai, Beer, Brandy, Boeremusiek and Buddies!

On Friday morning, we were on our way to the Castle Lager Biltong Festival in Somerset East.

The slogan for the festival is “KOM HANG SAAM MET ONS”! Like biltong hanging out to dry, we were going to be “hanging out” with our Buddies this weekend.

First, we travelled east from Port Elizabeth along the N2 and then turned north at Nanaga along the N10, past Paterson and over the Olifantshoek Pass.

Just past Kommadagga, we passed the Schneider’s farm (Lynne was at Stellenbosh with me – in Minerva Residence) and at Middleton Manor, we stopped on the banks of the Fish River for lunch with friends Michelle and Colin van Niekerk (whose sons, Carl, Hugh and Angus have been with Sean and Phillip all these years at Grey). 

After a tasty Karoo roast (and a snooze), we moved onto Grant and Sarine Abrahamson on their farm west of Somerset East. I taught Grant in my first year of teaching at Grey and their son Anthony and daughter Abigail are now at Grey and Collegiate.

In those teaching years, I often visited Somerset East:  the Abrahamsons as well as Helena (Kitshoff) Glennie (who had also been at Stellenbosh with me, in Harmonie Residence) and Richard Glennie, who had been at Grey. (I had been MC at their wedding, too, when they got married in my home town of Somerset West!)

The Abrahamsons now run East Cape Safaris and, for supper, we joined them and their American hunter guests from Kansas USA.  With Kansas being the state just north of Oklahoma, I had lots to discuss!

 

On Saturday morning, we all headed for the show grounds in town.  There one could find more than enough of the B’s: biltong at most of the many stalls selling anything and everything from artwork to food (genuine African art – but when turned over displayed the words “Made in China!”), the Boeremusiek (blaring from the stage in the centre of the showground to the many who were seated on their camp chairs (and all the others who were walking around), the Buddies and friends who were also there, and then, of course, the beers and brandy and whatever other booze that was being served in the marquee that dominated the showgrounds. All in all, an affair displaying our truly African culture!

Late afternoon, we decided to head back to the farm for a brief lie-down and rest before we would return for the evening programme.

Well, return we did not – instead we all ended up sitting around the fire in the bouma (another South African “B”) and participating in that greatest of the South African B’s – the traditional Braaivleis!

So, it was with a sense of contentment that we headed back to Port Elizabeth on Sunday. I had left with some apprehension, as I had not travelled for some while and have been finding it more and more difficult to sit. Whilst it was uncomfortable and slightly sore, I proved that I can still do it, and hopefully will still be able to do many more trips.

I always enjoy visiting my Buddies, and together with all the other B’s, we had enjoyed yet another special weekend just “hanging out”. Thank you to all who made it possible!

“2B or not 2B?” – if that is the question, then surely there is only one answer: how truly awesome it is “2B”!