Monday 6 December 2010: 4 years 3 months on …
On Tuesday evening 24 August 2010 I was in The Strand. At 22h22, I received a text message.
The number was preceded by +35 so I knew it was from the Republic of Ireland and hence the time in the message was 21h22 (they are one hour behind us in their summer time).
The only person I knew in Ireland is Mike Carswell, an ex-pupil of mine, who lives in Dublin with his wife Grace, son Jake and daughter Chloe.
The message read:
Yo go on skype or facebook?
I can’t remember my response and I no longer have a copy of those response messages, but I’m sure they must have contained some expletives.
There then followed a few more text messages (with my responses unknown!):
*Talk to you thats all. U coming over for old Grey dinner in nov?
*U wanna go?
*Ok I will pay for your flight then u can come to Ireland for a visit
*Il organise that for u too now would u like to come.
*OK will get down to organise it we will need to talk. Ok.
It set in motion a string of activities that saw me leaving for London just less than three months later on Saturday 20 November 2010. I am most thankful to Mike for this most wonderful surprise and opportunity to return to Europe. When I left England two years ago, I had spent time on the banks of the Thames saying my goodbyes – I had not thought that I would be privileged to see the splendour of Londres yet again!
The eventual decision to go did not come easy. In the last few months there has been a marked deterioration in my physical abilities and my mind has also not always been the best. Frankly, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it – that I just would not cope.
So, as it got closer to the time, I contacted Mike to enquire whether it was all systems go and I was sort of hoping that he would retract the invitation. Instead, he gave me dates, flight numbers and times.
So, with a mere few weeks to go, I made the call to travel once again. I was not going to let the CBD get the better of me yet!
With just days and hours to spare, I obtained a new passport, visa, insurance, currency, made accommodation arrangements and packed to go. All of this was against the backdrop of more and more physical deterioration.
My hand became more difficult to control and my limp more pronounced. Was this the beginning of the end or was it just all the stress of preparing for the trip?
I still wasn’t sure I had made the correct decision.
But then Saturday 20 November 2010 arrived. Pera, Sean, Phillip and Neal Els, a friend of Sean’s, took me to the airport at two. Seeing Warrick Burger and Andrew Jonker, who was so instrumental in assisting me with starting up my own business in 2005, on the same flight calmed my fears just a little.
However, as I limped out across the concourse to Flight SA420, departure time 15h15 and bound for Johannesburg, my heart was pounding, my limp was the worst it had been, I was struggling to hold on to my “things” and my mind was confused. I can’t remember what the weather was like, and was not too aware of what was happening around me. A tear (or two) rolled down my cheek.
I thought “Should I really be doing this?”
Two weeks later, on Sunday 5 December, Boeing 737 Flight SAA 417 from Johannesburg touched down at that same airfield, right on time at 14h45. The wind was howling at 60kph and the temperature was 24 degrees.
Somehow or another I had been upgraded to First Class and was sitting in the front row 2C. So, I was first off the plane.
I bounded across the concourse, no tears, no limp, mind clear and holding my heavy duty Levi jacket in my right hand and my travel bag in my weaker left hand!
Pera and Phillip had come to fetch me. As I waited for my suitcase to come off the carousel, I pondered about the two weeks and the wonderful privilege that I had just experienced.
God had guided me in making the right decision.
I thought “Yes, I should have been doing that!”
And, as with so many other things that come with CBD, there are many questions that need to be answered.
What made the difference? What had changed?
- The change in scenery
- Being away from home
- Less stress
- Not having to attend to the daily home administration
- Not having to juggle the ‘window envelopes’
- Not having to be husband and father
- Being a bachelor traveller
- The dark days
- The cold weather
- The long sleeps
- The long walks
- Not sitting down for long periods at home
- Not working on the computer
- The ongoing activities, friends and appointments
- The organised ‘First World’
- The efficient public transport system
- The Irish Stew
- The Guiness
I have much to write about these last two weeks.
For starters, there is, for me, Lesson #1:
NEVER SAY “I CAN’T DO IT”
Sat Nov 20: Flight SA 420 Dep PE 15h15 Arr JHB 16h55
Sat Nov 20: Flight SA 234 Dep JHB 20h50 Arr LHR 06h25 (Sun)
Sun Nov 28: Flight Aer Lingus 159 Dep JHR 12h35 Arr Dublin 13h55
Sat Dec 4: Flight Aer Lingus 174 Dep Dub 16h30 Arr LHR 17h50
Sat Dec 4: Flight SAA 237 Dep LHR 21h05 Arr JHB 10h20 (Sun)
Sun Dec 5: Flight SAA 417 Dep JHB 13h05 Arr PE 14h45