March 2010: Three years six months on …
The southern coastline of South Africa is made up of a number of bays. Almost at the centre is Algoa Bay and Port Elizabeth (now referred to as Nelson Mandela Bay). Just to the west of Algoa Bay is St Francis Bay which stretches from Red Rock, Kini Bay and Laurie Bay in the east all the way westwards to Seal Point at Cape St Francis.
A number of small, mainly holiday towns have developed on this western side of St Francis Bay (mainly thanks to the foresight of Leighton and Anne Hulett). Today they have grown into one contiguous mass of holiday and some permanent homes – a confusing number of names to the uninitiated. At Seal Point is the village of Cape St Francis with the lighthouse as its outstanding feature. Northwards, from there, is Port St Francis with its recreational and working chokka boat harbour, then Santareme with its pink Spanish style architecture, then St Francis Bay (the “Village”) – previously called Sea Vista – with its characteristic white- walled houses with black thatched roofs, St Francis Bay (marina) (previously called Marina Glades) where the black and white theme is continued in the houses along the man-made Hulett canals leading from the Kromme River. And then the houses along the river itself which forms the northern border of this development and which is commonly referred to as being The Kromme.
We are very fortunate to own a home – the smallest – on the Marina. Only an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth, this is where we head to get away from the rush and stresses of city life. As one drives across the bridge that crosses the Kromme and the river stretches away to the mouth and the Indian Ocean in the east and the many riparian homes that box in the river to the west, one’s shoulders drop, the neck softens and the back relaxes.
So this is where we found ourselves last weekend together with John and Wendy Clarke and their twin sons, Graham and David (Sean’s contemporaries) and Dayne Bonnage, a friend of Phil’s. The boys have what is called a “boarder leave-out” and the normal hectic school sports routine is placed in abeyance for a short while. We have known the Clarkes for many years since our teaching days in the mid eighties. They have become a pillar of strength for our family in the circumstances that we now find ourselves.
Normally, when the Clarkes join us at St Francis, we have rain and we often laugh now about me braaing outside in the rain whilst John and everyone else sat cosily inside watching me through the sliding doors onto the deck. Needless to say, in my true fashion, the bottom lip dropped and the humour of the situation was lost on me! However, we are now in the midst of a drought on the south and east coasts and have not seen rain for months. Our dams are down to 30 percent capacity and we are told if the rains don’t come we have enough water to get us through to June, and the World Cup!
In Port Elizabeth, we are restricted to 500l of water per household per day. So, we have become accustomed to not flushing toilets after a wee, and collecting grey water in buckets from sinks and showers and throwing that down toilets and onto gardens. Showers are a short wash and rinse cycle (almost like the economy setting on the washing machine!) and consist of water and soap/shampoo, switch off water, lather, switch on water and rinse. And all this whilst dancing over and around the large dish in the bottom of the shower which is collecting the grey water destined to be thrown into the toilet or onto the garden!
However, the restrictions in St Francis are not so severe (mainly because the municipality has not yet got their act into gear), and this despite us getting our water from the same supplies! So this weekend, we also have a bonus in that we can revert to flushing toilets normally and having a normal decent shower, albeit feeling a bit guilty about wasting this precious and ever-dwindling resource. Paradise is gained!
However, I guess in all human experiences, just when life can’t get better and appears to be running along smoothly, paradise IS lost! On Saturday morning, I woke up to a sore left foot. By lunchtime, I could not walk on it and my big toe looked like an enlarged over-ripe tomato. Gout! The most unbelievable pain that not even the Kennedy Brothers prescribed Myprodol, the Colchachines and the Dicloflams could suppress for the first few days. The rest of the weekend was spent on the couch and the bed, gliding around on my backside on the floor and up and down the stairs! Luckily, the weather was not good and the wind howled (no rain!) so not much time could be spent on the canals and river. As usual, however, this did not put John, David, Phil and Daine off the obligatory fishing trips to the Point (although the fish are as scarce as the rain! – is this also as a result of global warming?)
On Sunday, after a relaxing weekend, everyone left for PE and I stayed behind, mainly because of a meeting that I needed to attend on Tuesday (but also because it’s so lekker in St Francis!) However, not being able to walk meant being restricted to the house, and I started feeling very down and sorry for myself. How much more am I expected to endure over and above the CBD, the broken elbow and now the gout? Looking for a Job? That’s how I feel right now and, at the moment, I don’t believe that you need look much further than me! (Job, the book in the Bible, tells the story of Job, the man of God. It is a gripping drama of riches-to-rags-to riches, a theological treatise about suffering and Divine Sovereignty and a picture of faith that endures. NLT)
BUT, this is when I have to analyse my life and check my foundation yet again. I have to keep my wits about me and keep my mind clear and positive. It’s so easy to get caught up in that downward whirlpool spiral of despair that just tends to suck you in even deeper and deeper. Writing helps, reading helps, music helps, setting daily tasks and goals help, staying busy helps.
But what helps the most, is when I return to Port Elizabeth later in the week and have to visit the physiotherapist and occupational therapist at Aurora (Rehabilitation) Hospital. Their motto is If there’s a way, we’ll find it.
Looking around me, I see so many people, old and young, with all kinds of disabilities, amputations, wheelchairs, crutches, bandages, lack of limbs … the list is endless. So much pain and suffering surrounds us and yet we become oblivious to it.
But, taking a good look at life around me, is far better medicine than any of the Myprodols or Dicloflams. I have so much for which to be thankful. The Job is not yet completed and there is still much to be done.
Prayer of St Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
St. Francis was born at Assisi in 1182. After a care free youth, he turned his back on inherited wealth and committed himself to God. Like many early saints, he lived a very simple life of poverty, and in so doing, gained a reputation of being the friend of animals. He established the rule of St Francis, which exists today as the Order of St. Francis, or the Franciscans. He died in 1226, aged 44