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.)



In and Out: Life in our Hands (Part 1)

©2011 Edward C. Lunnon

Monday 7 November 2011: 5 years 2 months on … Deuce

Michael Jackson died at the age of 50.

His personal physician, Conrad Murray, was accused of “involuntary manslaughter”.

Conrad Murray / Michael jackson

(As I write this, it has just been announced that a verdict will be delivered by the jury in that plainly furnished courtroom on the ninth floor of the LA Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles in about an hour’s time i.e. 11pm SA time / 1pm Pacific Time.)

Over the last five weeks I have closely followed the court case on Sky News most evenings from 18h00 our time until sometimes as late as 02h00 in the morning (LA Pacific Time from 09h00 till 17h00 – USA DST).

LA Law live! The ultimate in reality shows playing itself off right in front of my eyes.

 At times the courtroom could have passed for a medical lecture theatre: experts with saline drip stands and complicated graphs demonstrating the half-life of benzodiazepines and explaining sedation thresholds and titration techniques.

Besides benzodiazepines, this class in pharmacology has familiarised me with Demorol, Lorazepam, Midazolam and Propofol.  Michael, clearly a keen student of pharmaceuticals, was found by the coroner to have died from an overdose of Propofol together with a cocktail of these sedatives given to help him sleep.

David Walgren

David Walgren, the prosecuting attorney “for the People”, accused Conrad Murray of infusing a dose of Propofol and leaving his patient to die.

Calmly and collectedly, Walgren painstakingly explained “the lah” and presented his case, calling amongst others, Propofol expert Dr Steven Shafer and Michael’s security and domestic personnel.

Dr White / Dr Shafer

Grenada-born cardiologist “Dr Mirray” denies the charge.

The iPad-wielding defence attorneys Ed Chernoff and melancholy Michael Flanagan and their star witness Dr Paul White (dubbed as the Father of Propofol) tried to debunk the prosecution claim.

The Defence Team: Flanagan and Chernoff

They argued that Michael was a person suffering from a litany of medical problems such as incontinence, insomnia, and mental instability. He was a desperate addict who self-medicated the drugs and would have killed himself accidentally, anyway. He caused his own untimely death on 25 June 2009 on the eve of an ill-fated series of 50 comeback shows in London.

(As I write, Conrad Murray has been found guilty of “involuntary manslaughter” by the jury – “So say you one so say you all” – and as a convicted felon, has been handcuffed and led away to jail, pending sentencing later this month.)

Michael Jackson, the spectre hanging over court proceedings, was dubbed various things during his life. In the courtroom he was referred to by defence attorney Flanagan as “the elephant in the room” and, inadvertently, on one occasion, as Mr Lorazepam!

Most famously, he was known as The King of Pop.

As the King of Pop, he created his own reality.

No longer is he the living King of Pop.

As did Conrad Murray create his own reality.

No longer is he the doctor.


(to be continued …)


The King of Pop