Bridge on the River Kromme

Tuesday 22 March 2011: 4 years 6 months on … ADVANTAGE ED

Of late, I need more and more sleep.

I used to go to bed late and wake up early. It was a habit I learnt as a student at Stellenbosch University.  Now I go to bed early and wake up late. And no sooner have I got up in the morning than I need to go and have an afternoon nap.

All this means that I have less time to do what needs to be done. And there is still so much to do!

Some days, like Monday, when I woke up I felt as if I haven’t had any sleep at all. The rest of the day becomes a write-off! Some days, like Friday, was also a complete write-off. But that was self-inflicted!

Thursday was St Patrick’s Day. JD Visser, who was primarius of Helshoogte Residence at Stellenbosch many years after me, has just moved to Port Elizabeth. So we celebrated St Paddy’s together at the Keg and Swan. The mood was festive, the black Guiness flowed thanks to the specials, and we both ended up on Friday morning with a Guiness Top Hat and a Guiness hangover! Thank goodness, unlike JD, I didn’t have work to go to and could sleep in late and blame it on the CBD! (After having experienced Dublin in December, I could only imagine what Temple Bar in Dublin must be like on St Paddy’s Day!)

Because Monday was a public holiday – Human Rights Day – we also had a long weekend to recover. Sean and I drove down to St Francis Bay on Friday afternoon early, and later we were joined by Pera, her Mom, Phillip and Oscar Biggs, a school mate of Phil’s.

The autumn weather is always magnificent. This weekend has been exceptional. Lovely warm, windless days and cool evenings have been dished up for us – ideal weather for long walks along the beach, swimming, boating and braaing. And for Phil and Oscar, after the runs and paddles (preparing for rugby season) there are hours of “Ad Maths” – both do advanced mathematics and they have to prepare for a test this week.  I have decided to call them Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton! They have left a paper trail across the dining room table – thank goodness the weather is so good that meals are taken out on the deck, and we don’t have to disturb the maths lessons!

The family returned to Port Elizabeth on Monday afternoon in time for Sean to attend his Old Grey Rugby practice. I stayed until Tuesday, finishing off a few chores and hoping to write. But, the weariness gets the better of me and I spend more time sleeping.

On the way back to PE, I stopped over in Jeffery’s Bay to meet Robin Morris. Robin has listened to our radio programme and sent me a copy of his book “I See Therefore I Am I Think”. Its cover says “Why are we here…Who are we…Where are we going…And what happens when we get there…?”

I look forward to reading this book, and I think it will take me a while. But for the present, I have just finished “Miracle on the River Kwai” by Ernest Gordon. It kept me busy during the weekend and gave me a whole new insight into World War 2 fought against the Japanese in the jungles of the East.

It also gave me a whole new insight into the human spirit, adversity, overcoming adversity and living life – making the most of the hand that we have been dealt! I tried to get a copy of the movie Bridge on the River Kwai – just to get some more perspective. The lady at the video shop thought I was insane asking for such an old movie! Anyway, I’m sure I’ll find it somewhere at some or other cheap second rate video rental shop!

Well, so much for long weekend, reading, resting and relaxing … for the first time in a long while I just didn’t get to the computer to write.

Tonight, I will be attending a meeting of the HIgh School’s new Club 300. More next week …

Life’s Ups and Downs

Saturday 12 March 4 years 6 months on … ADVANTAGE ED

Just last week I wrote that we Live in moving times. And we discussed this on air last Wednesday. Little did we know then that within the next 2 days, we would witness the earth move in one of the world’s strongest earthquakes ever (at 8,9 on the Richter Scale) in Japan. This would be followed by a moving wall of water in a tsunami that would strike Japan’s northeast coast (and elsewhere in the Pacific rim) and cause unprecedented devastation.  As I write this there is the further possibility of a nuclear disaster at one of the Japanese nuclear power plants.

Moving scenes of human tragedy continue to unfold by the minute, and it will be days, weeks and months before the full impact of this devastating tragedy is fully assessed.

I also wrote recently about my thoughts on sport (Love All) and how I found it astounding that it could do so much for the human race.

And, somehow, those two stories I had written over the last two weeks, were pulled together in my mind this afternoon, as I sat watching South Africa defeat India in the Cricket World Cup tournament presently taking place on the Indian subcontinent.

In Love All I asked the question “Why do we get so motivated watching grown people move a ball around on varying playing fields?”  In a certain way, I suppose it’s because we can admire the athleticism of other people doing things that we possibly cannot do.

More than that, though, I think it’s because we as people like to win. And even more than that, I think it’s because we like to win when winning seems impossible. Just winning easily is fine, but when it’s nail-biting stuff, when it’s winning against all odds and when you come from behind to win, that’s what makes it even better, even more exciting and even more motivating.

When you look like losing, have been written off and labelled as a choker, when the peaks look insurmountable and the challenges impossible, that’s when the individual finds it within himself to persevere, to take all he’s got, to hit fours and sixes, to run faster, to aim higher, not to give up and, eventually, to become a winner.

 That’s when you make the impossible possible! And that’s what spurs the human race onwards and upwards.

We saw it in the cricket this afternoon.

We saw it ten years ago after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.  We saw it seven years ago after the 26 December 2004 Tsunami in Phuket and along the Indian Ocean coastline. We saw it in Japan after World War 11, we have seen it in Japan (and elsewhere) after so many other (less devastating) earthquakes, and we will see it again in Japan after this 11 March 2011 ‘quake.

We see it after every human tragedy – how people pull together, support each other, persevere  in the face of adversity and, against the odds, become better human beings and in the long run, become winners.  

I have seen that grit and determination in so many people that I have met over the last few years since I have been ill. People who fight their own personal tsunami’s and ‘quakes on a daily basis. There are the Tim Whites, the Deidre Kohlers, the Belinda Waltons of this world (and so many others) that take on the challenges that life throws at them and become winners.

They show me that it can be done. And, so this week, as I tackle the challenges of meetings with doctors, the nurses from Hospice (who so kindly give of their time to visit and talk to me), the refitting of a suitable chair for me, my living will and all the other things that come with this illness, I give thanks for so much that I have, and for the many privileges that I enjoy.

I shall pray for so many Japanese people that tonight have nothing.

 Belinda Walton signs off her e-mails with a quote by Helen Keller. It reads:

“The marvellous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no valleys to traverse”.

Health-Meter

Cognitive Excellent===================Average============================Poor
Memory (Short) ***********************************
Executive function *************************************
Spelling *****************************
Figures ****************************************
  Physical functions
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