Where the Land meets the Sky

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 15 May 2012: 5 years 8 months on … Advantage CBD

There are a number of “Queenstowns” in various countries in the world.

Our Queenstown, nicknamed the Rose Capital of South Africa and almost in the middle of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, was founded in 1853 and is named after Britain’s Queen Victoria.

The layout of Queenstown reflects its original objective as a defensive stronghold for the frontier area on the Border and has a most unusual design. There is a central hexagonal area where canon or rifle fire could be directed down six thoroughfares radiating from the centre. The canon sites have now been replaced with gardens and a central fountain was the dominant feature. A striking abstract sculpture replaced the fountain as part of the town’s 150th anniversary. The Hexagon still exists, with the outer road surrounding and encircling it named Robinson Road.

I have visited Queenstown on many occasions. The first time was at the age of eight (?) when, as a family, we caravanned through the country, from Cape Town to Bloemfontein to East London and back to Cape Town.  We stopped over in the Queenstown caravan park – more or less where the Casino and shopping centre is now. Then, I visited my sister Ingrid and brother-in-law Anton when I was in the army in 1982 and they taught there. When I started teaching in Port Elizabeth in 1984, we visited Queenstown bi-annually and, in my business life, I did numerous business visits – almost fortnightly! As a parent from Junior School days (from 2002), we also visited bi-annually – every even year.

I haven’t been there in the last two years – not since our last school visit in 2010.

But, last Friday, we travelled to Queenstown again. The reason for our trip was to meet the big canons – not those on the Hexagon – but those at Queen’s College. Our Grey High School boys were to take on the might of the boys of the College in the annual encounter of sporting and cultural disciplines.

Queens’s College is the oldest school on the Border. A Mr C.E. Ham set up a private school for boys, the Prospect House Academy. In 1858 it was taken over by the state as the Queenstown District School. That year is taken as the foundation date for Queen’s College and Queens is, therefore, just two years younger than our own Grey Schools – founded in 1856.

The venue for this encounter alternates on an annual basis: one year in Port Elizabeth and the next in Queenstown. As Phillip is now in his second last year at school, this trip to Queenstown would be our last to watch the games there!

Queenstown lies some 400km north-east of Port Elizabeth and there are a number of routes one can take to get there. 

From the Sunshine Coast through the Great Karoo: we chose the N10 north to Cradock and then the R61 north-east to Queenstown. However, we broke the trip, after an hour and a half’s travelling, at Middleton and stayed over on Friday evening with Colin and Michelle van Niekerk on their dairy farm Monterrey. (Their son Hugh was with Sean at Grey and Angus is Phillip’s vintage.)

Saturday was an early-morning start just as the mist was beginning to lift. The sun was starting to rise over that spot where the land meets the sky in the east and the vapour was rising up into the cold air over the relatively warmer water of the numerous farm dams. The darker mountains were silhouetted against the lighter azure of the pre-dawn sky.

It’s in scenes like this in the Heart of the Karoo that you discover your soul and more.

 It took another two and a half hours through Cradock and Tarkastad (where Pera taught for five years) to get to Queenstown, arriving there just after 09h00 and in good time for Phillip’s rugby game.

Phillip’s team won, as did all the other high school teams in the morning (except the Fourth’s). After lunch came the third rugby team (won), seconds (drew), and then the big one of the day: the Grey High School for Boys First XV against the Queens College Boys’ High School First XV.

At the turn into the second half of that match, life could not have been better for the Grey supporters. The score was 19 – 3 in Grey’s favour and we were riding the crest of the wave.

Then, as in Life, just when you think that things can’t get any better, the rug gets pulled out from underneath you. The dominos fall one at a time!

From hero to zero …

A new referee, a yellow card, a send-off, a few strange decisions, and before you can say “Life’s not fair!” the score is 19 all!

And just when you think it can’t get any worse, there’s one final nail in the coffin: that try that would have put you on the winning track and changed the course of history, just isn’t a try.

Never count your chickens before they hatch, and never celebrate until the money’s in the bank.

In the dying moments, smoke rings in the sky, an up-raised finger to thank God and a beautiful swallow dive result in the ball being lost and the try not being a try!

 The score remains 19 – 19! Or does it?

Just to add insult to injury and to rub salt in the wounds, a final penalty to Queens in the closing seconds of the game adds three points to their score and the scoreboard tells the story of the Ecstasy and the Agony of the day:  Queens 22 Grey 19! 

It’s when you are down in Life, that the tests of your true self come. How do you handle adversity? How do you respond to challenging situations? How do you pick yourself up from the gutters? How do you start all over again?

Did we pass the test?

If playing sport is to teach us Life Lessons, then Queenstown, last Saturday, was the ideal Place of Higher Learning: 

adversity, appreciation, behaviour, consideration, conduct, commitment, challenge, discipline, effort, emotion, example, ethics, frustration, get-up-and-go, hard work, influence, integrity, joy, kindness, loyalty, morals, mania, norms, obsession, passion, perspective, perception, qualities, reproach, respect, support, standards, self-restraint, truth, uprightness, values, ways, xenophobia, yeomanliness, zeal …  

(Please add more!)

That Saturday evening at the Kudu (the School Pub), the Heritage Guesthouse, Dagwoods Diner and the direct four-hour trip back to Port Elizabeth on Sunday morning were not necessarily as loud and as excited at they would have been had we won.

But, maybe, we did win: in our loss, in this beautiful part of the world where the land meets the sky, we hopefully discovered our Soul and more!

 

 

 

 

 

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”!