I’ve Been There!

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Sunday 16 December 2012 (Reconciliation Day): 6 years 3 months on …

Physical: Advantage CBD / Mental: Deuce

It’s a joke in our home. Often when something happens somewhere, or a place is shown on TV, then I will say “I’ve been there!”

Yes, I am fortunate to have been to many places around the world.

So when the news started filtering through on Friday evening about the horrific shooting of twenty odd elementary school children and six of their teachers in Connecticut, USA, I could say “I’ve been there!”

Not in Newtown itself, but just some 80km down the road on the coast in Greenwich, Connecticut.

It was the winter of January 1976. I was eighteen and was staying on the east coast of the United States for a while just before I was to return to South Africa after my exchange student year in Oklahoma. I was the guest of members of the Rotary Club of New York City.

I had taken the train from New York’s Grand Central Station to Greenwich, which is an affluent town on the east coast. I spent the weekend and then left from there by limousine for John F Kennedy airport, en route to London, Nairobi, Johannesburg and home to Cape Town.

Greenwich is a town similar to our St Francis Bay – large homes, waterways, canals, boats and the Ocean – not the Indian but the Atlantic Ocean.

Not that there was much water activity then. Being winter in the northern hemisphere, it was cold and snow covered the countryside.

Just up the road was Newtown – a small quiet inland community where wealthier people escape to live outside the rigour of New York City and commute to the metropolis every day. Safe and tranquil – no signs of walls or fences, no discord or safety concerns. Heaven on Earth!

It’s a part of the beautiful New England states of America.

Hardly a place where one would have expected the horrific tragedy of last Friday!

I’ve been there (on the East Coast), but I’ve not been there (on the edge of despair).

One cannot imagine what was going on in that killer’s mind. One can not imagine what is going on in the minds of the people of that community right now.

It’s difficult to put yourself into the place of another if you have not been there yourself. One can sympathise but not empathise.

There is so much unhappiness, despair, death, ill-health, financial woes and hunger in our world.

Just this last week, AlgoaFM ran a promotion whereby listeners were invited to nominate people who they felt qualified to receive R2000 worth of SPAR vouchers because of their needy circumstances.

I nominated a particularly deserving family – but they did not feature in the final awards!

When I heard the circumstances of other families and individuals who received the vouchers, I was astounded by the problems that people who live amongst us have to deal with on a daily basis. My nominated family’s problems paled into insignificance!

Through my weekly radio slot I have also communicated with and met numerous people from all walks of life and with all kinds of issues. It has humbled me and kept me going in my particular circumstances when I have seen that others carry far more baggage than I have to carry.

Sometimes, I can only sympathise; but sometimes I can empathise, because I have been there, too!

People have to deal with job losses. I can empathise – I have been there when I was forced to resign my job in 2002.

People have to deal with storms, floods and fires. I can empathise – just recently I also lost property and my car in the fires and floods that we experienced in the Eastern Cape.

People have to deal with financial woes. They don’t know from where their next meal is coming. I can only sympathise.

People have to deal with inter-personal relationships and sadness. I can empathise.

People have to deal with illness and terminal disease. I can empathise.

People have to deal with the death of parents. I can empathise – I have been there, when I had to deal with the death of my parents at an all too early age.

And people, like those parents in Newtown and Sandy Hook, have to deal with the death of their children. I can only sympathise because I cannot put myself in their place and understand their situation.

The Gospel message – the Good News to the world – that Christians, celebrate at this Christmas time is that God became man and put Himself into our place in the Person of Jesus.

God can say that He was there!

Yes, He was here. He became my substitute. Instead of me dying for my sins, Jesus, sent by God, died in my place, paid the penalty for my sin in full and thus I can be reconciled to God, sins forgiven and have the hope of eternal heaven. That’s the Christian Good News.

So as we celebrate the Good News at this Christmas time, let’s think about the so many people who surround us and who carry unbelievable burdens. Let’s not just think about them – let’s do something for them. Let’s also be able to say to them:

“For you, I was there … at Christmas 2012.”

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Light in the Night

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 30 October 2012: 6 years 1 month on …

Physical Advantage CBD / Mental Advantage CBD

As I write this, I am watching on TV the devastation that superstorm Sandy is leaving in its wake in the eastern states of the USA. It is one of the biggest – if not the biggest storm – ever to have hit the United States.

The storm has moved in from the Atlantic Ocean and has swept in from the East Coast visiting, amongst others, the states of New York, New Jersey, Virginia,  Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Baltimore …

A thirteen foot high tidal surge, rain and wind has left New York New York, Atlantic City and other  towns and cities reeling under floods, fire and snow!

New York is powerless!

Indeed, one week before the American Presidential election, the State of these States has been declared a “major disaster” by President Obama. However, there will be many stories of personal heroism and human endeavour.

It affects me!

It affects me because these are areas of the US that I have been privileged to live in and visit and because I have friends and family who live there.

I am as familiar with Battery Park, Manhattan, Ground Zero, Central Park, Wall Street and Fifth Avenue in New York as I am with St Georges Park, Third Avenue Dip, Brickmakers, Target Kloof and Port Alfred.

The latter places, of course, all being here in the Eastern Cape where we also faced the fury of Mother Nature last weekend when some 200 – 300 mm of rain was dumped on us.

Despite the devastation, there have been tales of personal heroism and human endeavour.

That has affected me too!

Not only because we witnessed the rain and the devastation first hand, not only because it angered me so much that a lot of the damage could have been prevented by better maintenance, preparation and supervision, but also because we got caught up in the floods.

We went out on Saturday evening for supper to celebrate Phillip’s prefectship. On our way home, down Wychwood Avenue, we got caught up in the water that had flooded the road. The car stalled and we had to be towed out.

On Monday it was towed to Maritime and on Tuesday I was informed that all was well – the engine was turning and would require a bit of TLC to get it back into shape.

However, on Wednesday, I was informed that it had been the wrong car (!) and that mine would not start. Yesterday, I was told that my car would have to be written off! We especially bought the station wagon because of my illness – it is automatic and has space for a wheelchair and whatever else.

I am devastated.

I have lost my health, my job, my holiday house and now my car.

I am devastated.

But, as I have said so many times before, it is in the darkness of the storms that life throws at you that you have to look for the little flicker of light that will keep you going.

I have to pick myself up from yet another blow.

I will find that flicker and the light will shine bright! 

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.)

 

 

And So, this is Christmas …

Thursday 23 December 2010: 4 years 3 months on …

Season's Greetings!

I have never been a “Festive Season” person. I could quite easily escape the madness of this period and go from early December into late January!

This will be the 55th Festive Season that I will celebrate and the 5th one since I became ill in 2006. As I look back over the years, I have celebrated  Christmas and New Year’s with family, friends, strangers and stragglers. We have eaten our main meal as supper on Christmas Eve and as Christmas Day Lunch and as Christmas Day Supper.

There have been celebrations in the Northern Hemisphere traditions and in the more practical Southern Hemisphere protocol. We have done it the European style and the African style. We have eaten ‘hot’ food and ‘cold’ food – turkey and braai.

We have done it on the beach, in hotels, restaurants and at our home and at your home. We have done it with Grannies and parents, with laws and in-laws, with mine and yours, sometimes on an alternate basis and sometimes, we get it all messed up, and do it on a sequential basis.

We have done it in the heat of the summer and I have done it in the cold of the winter, in the southern hemisphere and in the northern hemisphere, under the blazing sun and in the ice cold snow.

I have done it in North America (in Oklahoma and New York) and in South Africa (in the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and, ironically, in Natal).

We have done it –sometimes – peacefully, and – often – with much argument, stress and unhappiness. I don’t think that we are unique in this regard!

Some do it out of habit, some out of conviction, and some don’t know why they do it!

Some, I remember with much affection, such as the only white Christmas in 1976 in Sulphur, Oklahoma, with the Seips and the Whitleys (my American “parents”); others I would rather forget, such as New Year’s Eve on Times Square in New York City in 1987/88; and some I just have forgotten!

But, in the final analysis, it’s the time of the year when we celebrate New Beginnings: a New Year and a new Dispensation for Mankind when Jesus, the Son of God, was born in Bethlehem, in order that we may have New Life.

How we deal with this time of the year is the same way as we deal with Life and its events at any time of the year. It is our own doing and our choice – it lies in our hands, our hearts and in our minds. 

I am reminded that one event, such as the massive snowfalls in Europe at this time, can have two very different consequences: on the one hand, there are the beautiful, peaceful snow scenes, the fun of snowmen and snowballs, children all wrapped up playing in the snow, people tobogganing and sledging and skiing and ice skating; and on the other hand, the chaotic scenes of the massive disruption of road, air and rail services, accidents, death and destruction.

Likewise, how we deal with this event of the “Festive Season”, can lead to one of two very different consequences:  one of unhappiness, depression, argument, loneliness; or one of peace, happiness, joy, serenity and fulfilment.

It is of our making.

My hope and prayers, this festive Season, is that I, and you, will have the ability to look and learn from the excitement and joy and glee of the children around us at this time. That we will find ourselves at the Manger of the Baby in Bethlehem, that we will learn from Him to live our lives in peace, humility, serenity, humbleness, giving and service to our fellow human beings.

That I may say, Father, take this cup from me, but not my will, but Yours, be done.

I wish all my readers, friends and family, wherever they may be on this Good Earth, a very special, happy and contented Christmas in 2010, and a New Year in 2011 that may be richly filled with God’s many blessings.

Nine Eleven

North Tower (with TV antenna) and South Tower

 

 Saturday 11 September 2010 (9/11): 9 years and 4 years on …        

          

Where were you on 9/11 in the year 2001?         

      

I was in my office at Walmer Park. Someone called me to watch the TV in the boardroom. A plane, they said, had flown into the World Trade Centre.                

                 

I imagined it to be a small Cessna or something similar, and because I was busy, I did not think too much of it at the time. A little later, I went to the Boardroom, and as I entered the room, that second Boeing was banking and heading straight for the tower! The rest of the afternoon was spent in front of the TV and even when I went home that evening, I spent the rest of that night in front of the TV.                

                 

The rest is now cold recorded history:                

                 

On the morning (USA Eastern Time) of September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda-affiliated hijackers flew two 767 jets into the complex, one into each tower, in a coordinated suicide attack. After burning for 56 minutes, the South Tower (2) collapsed, followed a half-hour later by the North Tower (1). 7 World Trade Centre collapsed later in the day and the other buildings, although they did not collapse, had to be demolished because they were damaged beyond repair. The process of cleanup and recovery at the World Trade Centre site took eight months.                

                 

The attacks on the World Trade Centre resulted in 2,752 deaths.                

                 

I wiped a few tears away. She was but 30 years old when she collapsed and died that day. She, too, was gone too soon!                

                 

The WTC had special significance for me.                

                 

As a youngster growing up in the sixties and seventies, I followed the building of THAT building with great interest. Remember there was no TV in South Africa at that time, but I read as many books and magazines about the WTC as I could.                

                 

The World Trade Centre was a complex of seven buildings in Lower Manhattan in New York City. The original World Trade Centre was designed by Minoru Yamasaki in the early 1960s using a tube-frame structural design for the twin 110-story towers.                

                 

Groundbreaking for the WTC took place on 5 August 1966. The North Tower (1) was completed in December 1970 (I was then in Standard 6 – grade 8 ) and the South Tower (2) was finished in July 1971.                

                 

The complex was located in the heart of New York City’s downtown financial district. The Windows on the World restaurant was located on the 106th and 107th floors of 1 World Trade Centre (the North Tower) while the Top of the World observation deck was located on the 107th floor of 2 World Trade Centre (the South Tower).                

                 

Between 1972 and 1973, the Twin Towers were the tallest buildings in the world (having overtaken the Empire State Building, and then being surpassed by the Sears Building in Chicago.)                

                 

Other World Trade Centre buildings included the Marriott World Trade Centre; 4 World Trade Centre; 5 World Trade Centre; 6 World Trade Centre, which housed the United States Customs. All of these buildings were built between 1975 and 1981. The final building constructed was 7 World Trade Centre, which was built in 1985.                

                 

In 1974, when I was in Standard 10 (Grade twelve) and selected to be a Rotary exchange Student (read Oklahoma is OK and so much more!), I was given the option to go to Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the USA.                

                 

That was no choice for me –obviously, I only wanted to go to the USA and simply because I wanted to see the WTC!                

                 

And, so it was, in January 1975, en route from Cape Town, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro and flying into New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport at the age of 18, I saw her for the very first time. From the helicopter that flew me from JFK to La Guardia Airport (for my onward flight to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and final destination Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers Airport), I could see that she dominated the Manhattan skyline. I could hardly contain my excitement – I was living my dream!                

                 

In January 1976, on my way home to South Africa via London, I got to spend a week in New York City and to go to the top of the South Tower – to the observation deck on the 107th floor.                

                 

During my second visit to NYC in December/January 1987/88, Grant Lloyd and I visited her again and spent New Year’s Eve on Times Square.                

                 

Ironically, the day she tumbled in 2001 was just three weeks before our family, Pera, Sean (who was but 8 then), Phillip (was 5 and still at Linkside Pre-primary) and I, were booked to go back to the States on a three-week holiday! The world was in turmoil and we didn’t know until the last moment, when planes started moving again, that we would indeed go.                

                 

We headed off from Port Elizabeth into a very uncertain world, via London to Atlanta, Georgia. A handful of us were on that Boeing 767 (no one else wanted to fly!) and we flew, so comfortably with rows of seats to ourselves, right over New York City. My video shows plumes of smoke emanating from Ground Zero, and stretching upwards into the stratosphere.                 

                 

On my third visit to NYC, the World Trade Centre was no more.                

                 

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), established in November 2001 to oversee the rebuilding process, organized competitions to select a site plan and memorial design.                

                 

Memory Foundations, designed by Daniel Libeskind, was selected as the master plan, which included the 1,776-foot (541 m) One World Trade Centre, three office towers along Church Street and a memorial designed by Michael Arad.                

                 

The site is currently being rebuilt with six new skyscrapers and a memorial to the casualties of the attacks. The first new building at the site was 7 World Trade Centre which opened in May 2006.                

Computer Image of the new tower

 

 We will always remember! – those who died, that awful day that changed our world, and where we were on 9/11.

Icing on Chelsea Buns

 

Tuesday 22 June 2010:  3 years 9 months on . . .

I have always enjoyed travelling. Not that we travelled much as children.

In this week of Father’s Day, I have thought quite a bit about my own Dad. I have written previously about him having suffered a debilitating stroke when I was twelve years old. It left him speechless and paralysed his right arm and leg for eight years before he passed away in 1976. It left Mom, in her early forties, caring for a severely handicapped husband and four children – three at school and one who was only four when Dad was struck down.

Times were tight, but looking back on it now; Mom did an admirable job with very limited resources. Those resources did not enable us to holiday or travel.

But I was so privileged when I was selected to become an exchange student in 1975. (Read “Oklahoma is OK and so much more”)  In a space of that one year at the age of eighteen, I got to fly for the first time and to visit many exotic places including Buenos Aires (Good Air), Rio de Janeiro, New York City, Los Angeles (City of Angels) and still my personal favourite, Londres! I saw my first TV at our hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I watched the cartoon Road Runner, all in Spanish! It was truly “good air”!

Hence, my excitement now at having the World in our country. I remember landing at John F Kennedy Airport in New York City and seeing our (now old) SA flag flying there together with the flags of every nation on earth. It gave me goose bumps and I had to pinch myself that it was all true.

Now, it gives me goose bumps to see those self-same flags flying here in South Africa and to hear those national anthems being played here in our Cities. For us, and for me, the World has truly come home! (And, who knows, maybe the first real international flag that I ever saw in my life – that of Argentina – will be seen flying at the 2010 FIFA World Cup final next Sunday at Soccer City in Johannesburg! Or will it be the second flag that I saw – that of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro?)

When I boarded that Aereolinas Argentinas flight in Cape Town in January 1975 headed for Buenos Aires, my travelling days started. And so, it’s pretty safe to say that my itchy travelling feet started in Cape Town – still today, as Sir Francis Drake said so many years ago, the fairest Cape in all the world!

With my illness, travelling is not so easy any more. But, we were fortunate to have been in the Western Cape once more. And, so it was, that last Thursday saw us leaving Cape Town yet again. This time, on our return trip to Port Elizabeth after having spent some ten days in the Mother City.  (I always wonder when I leave whether I will be granted yet one more visit.)

Sean was at the wheel as we headed north along the N1 and Table Mountain recedes in your rear-view mirror. I was the front passenger, and Pera and Phil take up the back seats.

Ahead of us, lay the majestic dark blue mountains of the Klein Drakenstein and the Hugeneot Tunnel linking Paarl to Worcester. (In our family, still jokingly pronounced “War-Kes-Ter” from the days when the boys were not able to pronounce it properly as “Woes-ter”!)

But, today, the mountains looked distinctly different – as far as the eyes could see, the dark blue mountains silhouetted against the light blue sky were covered from top to bottom in snow-white snow! As Pera said, “It looks like the icing on Chelsea Buns!”

 

What a spectacle! All the way along the eight hundred kilometre road from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, the clouds had pulled back – revealing blue skies and the mountains on either side of us covered in the icing. Some said it was the heaviest snowfall in fifty years. Well, the outside temperature varied between 5 and 10 degrees Celcius all the way back to the Eastern Cape!

We took a different route this time. From Worcester along what is known as Route 62, through Robertson, Montagu, Barrydale, Ladismith, Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn, the Langkloof (Avontuur, Joubertina, Misgund, Kareedouw), Humansdorp and finally, ten hours later, Port Elizabeth.

The route brought back more memories – those of my days (15 months to be exact!) at the Infantry School in Oudtshoorn where I completed my military service in 1982/1983 after my studies at Stellenbosch University. It had been quite a change from the freedom and carefreeness of student life to the rigours of military discipline! So on those few weekend passes off, I used to escape Oudtshoorn and drive in the other direction back to Cape Town.

I relayed some of those memories to the family as we travelled along towards Oudtshoorn. Pera said she thought that the army had left “deep-rooted psychological scars”! – suffice to say that those two years for me were not always icing on the Chelsea buns.

In those years, there was a small labourers’ cottage next to the roadside halfway between Barrydale and Ladismith. Now, an enterprising person has transformed it into a roadside breakfast/coffee shop called Ronnies Sex Shop! It has become the toast of the world (pun intended!)

 

And when we stopped there in the middle of nowhere for coffee (no sex on the menu!), it seemed as if the world was there – Germans headed for the German/Serbia game in Port Elizabeth, and English headed for the England/Algeria game in Cape Town. Names and comments are written on every wall, in every nook and cranny, and business cards are pasted like wallpaper wherever possible.

 

Just after Ladismith is the Huisrivier Pass. Unlike most other passes that take you upward and over mountains, this one curves downwards into the river valley and then takes you up steeply again. Sean is in his element (and I get nervous!) when he can drive curves like this!

Then comes Calitzdorp, which is known as the Port Capital of South Africa. This appears to be quite an enigma as this town in the Little Karoo is nowhere near the sea. But this is not Port as in Port Elizabeth but Port as in the lovely sweet wine that is made from the grapes grown in this part of the world. Boplaas is the farm that has won numerous medals for its port and it belongs to Carel and Boets Nel who studied (and lived in Helshoogte Residence) with me at Stellenbosch. We discussed that soon, in accordance with European Union regulations, they will have to give up the name Port, as it is claimed to belong to the sweet wines of the Oporto region of Portugal and is contravening copyright and trademark regulations.

As one leaves Calitzdorp, you get that very distinctive smell that signifies that Oudtshoorn is close. In my military days, it was the first warning sign that your freedom was about to be lost. The next sign was the light on the concrete reservoir on top of Rooibult in the Infantry School. That meant there were 10 kilometres left to the statue of the infantryman pointing with his rifle towards the guardhouse at the entrance gate to the School.

I used to get to that point at about 23h30 on Sunday night (the pass expired at midnight). And that’s when I used to stop next to the roadside to change from my civilian clothes back into my military “step-outs” that I kept in my “wardrobe” – the boot of my red Toyota Corolla. One of my very important tasks in those days was to compile and read the early morning news at 5h30, 6h30 and 7h00 on the Infantry School’s closed circuit TV channel. It’s quite a shock to view those recordings now!

Today, I was excited when we got to that point. It was lunchtime and we were all hungry by now. But first, I took us on a drive past the Infantry School, the erstwhile Oudtshoorn Teachers’ Training College (now part of the Infantry School), the Parade ground, Uncle Samies Tuckshop and the Camp Take Aways Cafe. Then we headed for the restaurant that I could not remember its name but remembered for serving a good ostrich steak (Oudtshoorn, of course, also being well known for its ostriches and Cango Caves.) Well, we had a good laugh there – the dark coloured building that I recalled is now painted in bright yellow and red and serves as the Oudtshoorn branch of Adult World! Birds of a different breed, I guess!

Well, after driving through the town and past places such as the old Holiday Inn and Riempies Restaurant, we found a suitable place to eat, and then headed off down the Langkloof towards Port Elizabeth.

There was still excitement and icing on the buns here too, and even more so, because it was evident that there had been quite a bit of rain in our catchment area. (We were, of course, heading back towards our drought disaster area, water restrictions of 500l a day and, oh no, limited showers!)

And excited, too, because we were heading back to even more icing to follow the next day – we were fortunate to have tickets for Friday’s Germany versus Serbia football game at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay.

Oh What a Circus Oh What a Show

 

Friday 4 June 2010: 3 years 10 months on …

Oh What a Circus! Oh What a Show!

Argentina has come to town   *

And so has Greece, Germany, Italy, USA, England, Mexico, Uruguay, France, Nigeria, Korea Republic, Algeria, Slovenia, Australia, Serbia, Ghana, Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia, Brazil, Korea DPR, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Honduras and Chile. The FIFA 2010 World Cup  is here in South Africa – in Africa for the very first time – and so we are here, too!

It has been six years in the making and it all starts next Friday, 11 June 2010, when South Africa’s Bafana Bafana (“The Boys”) takes on Mexico in the opening game at Johannesburg’s Soccer City.

No matter what one’s personal feelings are about us hosting the World’s greatest sporting spectacle – some are for and very positive; others are against and extremely negative – one can feel and see the excitement and the enthusiasm all around.

Since becoming ill in 2006, I had often wondered whether I would still be here to see this happen. I’m so glad that I am! Never, in my fifty odd years, have I ever experienced such a general public outpouring of patriotism in this country.

In the Old South Africa, it was definitely not fashionable to display the old orange, white and blue SA flag – that would have displayed your allegiance to the National Party of the day. Black people would most definitely not even be seen with one of those flags! The most one would have seen that flag was those flying over government buildings.

In the New South Africa, it took some while for white South Africans to become accustomed and endeared to the new multicoloured striped and chevronned black, green, red, yellow, blue and white flag. (I actually had to check on that … shame!)

Many of us still struggle with the words of our national anthem Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa).

Things changed slightly in 1995, when we hosted and won, the Rugby World Cup. Then came the Cricket World Cup. But these were overwhelmingly ‘white’ sports and ‘white’ occasions.

Now it’s soccer (or football as the rest of the world appears to call it) and it’s a predominantly ‘black’ sport in this country. Yet, everyone appears to be getting into the swing of things.

Our flags, and those of almost every country on earth, are flying all over – public buildings, stores, shopping centres, homes, lamp poles, motor cars, trucks and bulldozers. Our home has a SA flag, a Bafana Bafana flag, a Union Jack and The Stars and Stripes of the USA draped off the balcony. (Incidentally, the USA flag flew on the flagpole of the White House in Washington DC on 1 December 1975, the day I was made an honorary citizen of Oklahoma, USA.) Years ago, displaying these flags on your house stood you the risk of having your home razed to the ground!

Cars have flags on their windows and aerials and covering their rear view mirrors. Fridays have become Football Friday. Work attire and school uniforms have been swapped for football gear. People are wearing the distinctive green and yellow colours of “our” team – soccer shirts, t-shirts, dresses, trousers, socks, shoes, spectacles, hats, scarves, gloves and, daresay, underwear are being worn by men, women and children, by white and black and coloured, by the Souties and the Rooinekke, the Dutchmen and the Rocks, the Umlungus and the Firs and the Lids.

Only once before, have I experienced such an outpouring of patriotism. And that was in the USA in September 2001 in the aftermath of the terror attacks in New York City and Washington DC. Wherever you went in the United States at that time, wherever you looked, you saw flags flying on buildings, houses and cars, and you experienced the unity of a nation. We were fortunate to be there at the time.

Pera, Sean, Phillip and I had left for the USA on holiday some three weeks after September 11. In the last leg of our journey from Port Elizabeth via London to Atlanta, we flew over Manhattan Island and I have video footage of the smoke pouring up into the atmosphere from Ground Zero, what had been the World Trade Centre in New York City. Like our 2010 Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland, that event and the smoke and ash pouring out from that site had brought the world’s airlines (and, indeed, the world in 2001) to a standstill. We must have been one of the first families that had got back into the skies, and our boys still think that 50 people travelling in a Boeing 767 is the norm. So much room – even for those of us who travel in the economy class!

The World Trade Centre had always been a special place for me. In the early seventies as a young high school boy, I had followed the building of those two towers with great enthusiasm. Those were the pre-TV days for us, but I had read every book, newspaper and magazine that I could find; such was the attraction of that building for me. I dreamt that I would see it one day.

It was one of the reasons that I had elected to go to the USA as an exchange student when that opportunity arose in 1975. At age 18, when I landed at New York’s Kennedy Airport from Buenos Aires, I had time to kill before my onward flight from La Guardia Airport to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. I took a helicopter to La Guardia via downtown Manhattan to see the WTC. I was living my dream!

I celebrated New Year’s eve of 1987/1988 with friends on Times Square in New York City. Earlier that evening I was fortunate, once again, to be on the roof of the South Tower. It was snowing and I was smoking. Because my fingers were getting so cold, I decided that smoking was a stupid past time, and there and then I threw that cigarette butt down into the snow on the roof of that Tower and killed it.

And that was the end of that cigarette and the end of my smoking. That butt must have gone down with the building. And that was the end of MY building – its demise had brought a tear to my eye on that fateful day of September 11 when, in the boardroom, I had watched on TV that second plane circle and fly into that tower and bring about its end.

The end of the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be on Sunday 11 July. The final whistle will blow at Soccer City and the winning nation will be crowned and the visitors will leave and go home.

Hopefully, South Africa will emerge as the winning nation. The nation-building must continue in our hearts and minds and attitudes, and in our physical amenities. The frantic activity and building that we have seen over the last few years – stadia, airports, roads and bridges – must continue with houses, hospitals, schools, roads, businesses and job opportunities. The unity we display now must persist. The flags must continue blowing in the wind.

In his inauguration speech as President of the Republic of South Africa in 1994, Nelson Mandela spoke of his dream:

“We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world… The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!”

One swallow does not make a summer. One Nelson Mandela and one World Cup do not build a Nation.

Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

* From Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Evita, sung by David Essex

Oklahoma is OK and SO much more!

 
Sunday, 01 November 2009 at 09:43 
(3 years 2 months on…11 days to “cast off”)
 

After publishing “Three years on . . .” on Facebook recently, I received numerous comments from friends around the world – Australia, Hong Kong, Europe, South Africa and the United States. I was extremely humbled by all the unexpected comments that were made, and I responded as follows:

I am humbled by the support and prayers that I receive from around the world. I stand in awe when I realize just how many eyes are upon me and the task that has been set for me – despite my so many shortcomings.

In the early hours of this morning – when I struggle to sleep with this cast! – I heard a song on the radio “Everybody hurts sometimes”. I realize again that I am not unique.

My prayer is that my disease will remind us all that we are surrounded by people who carry their varied burdens in a far less public way than I do. They are constantly in need of our assistance, support and prayers.

Please support such people today and every day – then the fight is not in vain, and together we can make the world a better place.

“For it is in giving that we receive …”

I also received a comment from Jonathan Barber (Old Grey and ex pupil of mine now residing in the US) “Ed, how on earth did you end up in school in Oklahoma?”

Well, Jonathan’s question – and Sean’s recent induction as a prefect – got me thinking about my own matric year. Here’s how I “ended up in Oklahoma”:

In 1974, my last year at school (matric, standard 10, grade 12), I was deputy head prefect at Hottentots-Holland High School in Somerset West. I participated in the public speaking contest and won – talking about whether South Africa could afford building statues and monuments when it had so many other priorities to fund. Afterwards, a Rotarian present asked me to apply for a Rotary Exchange Scholarship, which I did.

Later that year, I became one of twenty pupils in the Western Cape to be selected as an exchange student. We could state our preference – Australia, New Zealand, Canada or USA. Most of us selected USA but only 5 were chosen to go there, and I was the leader of that group! I dreamt of New York City, but remember being very apprehensive when I was told that I was headed for Sulphur, Oklahoma – it wasn’t even on the map!

There was one big problem, though. I needed R1000 to pay for my return ticket to Oklahoma City.

We had grown up in a financially challenged environment (read that as equalling a rather poor home!) Dad was in his sixth year of being totally paralysed on the right side and unable to talk (as a result of a stroke that he had when I was in standard five). Mom had struggled to raise four young children and look after a handicapped husband. When I had discussed applying for the exchange programme with her, she had warned me about the financial implications. There was just no one thousand rand!

With days to go before the deadline of accepting / rejecting the exchange scholarship, I recall going to the usual Monday morning school assembly – this one with a difference. Mom was sitting on the stage. I was called up and presented with a cheque of R1200. Unbeknown to our family, the money had been raised by my classmates – the matric class of 1974. Under the watchful eye of our Afrikaans teacher, Mr Danie Schoeman, they had organised sponsorships for Deon Dorrington to play the organ in a local music shop for 24 hours during the previous weekend.

So it was, that on 15 January 1975, at the age of 18, I flew (for the first time!) out of Cape Town via Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, New York City and Chicago to Oklahoma City and on to Sulphur, Oklahoma.

That’s how I ended up in Oklahoma, Jonathan! That’s how I got to graduate from Sulphur High School. That’s how I got to become an honorary citizen of Oklahoma, conferred on me in Oklahoma City by governor David Boren on 1 December 1975.

That’s how the water painting “Oklahoma Sunset” by Mr Paul Walsh, art teacher at Sulphur (who just this week has become a “friend” on Facebook) and the watercolour “Aspen’s Maroon Bells and Snowmass Lake” by Rev Lee Griffen come to decorate our dining room today.

That’s how I got to live with the Whitleys, the Colberts, the Griffens and the Seips. To this day, the Whitleys are a part of our family’s lives. In 1988, I took long leave from Grey and got to go back to Sulphur High School. In 1999, I visited with the Whitleys in Atlanta; in September 2001 (just after September 11), Pera, Sean, Phillip and I spent a month with them in Atlanta and Missourri; and in March 2007 (a month after I had been diagnosed with CBD), I returned to Missourri for “Dad” Bill Whitley’s 80th birthday, sadly, just months before his passing.

Thanks, Kevin, for keeping us together all these 35 years, and for, not so subtlely, trying to plant the seeds to get us back to Colorado. (I know the hiking around Aspen is good in the summer, and the skiing at Purgatory is superb in the winter! Been there, done it, worn the t-shirt!)

Thanks “Mom” Nadine, Blake, Colin, Brett and Pat, and your wives, children, and grand children, for accepting me as the 6th brother in the family. I’m not only an honorary OKIE, I am also an honorary Whitley (somehow, Whitley-Lunnon sounds quite aristocratic!)

Thanks to my Sulpur High schoolmates, the classes of ‘75/’76 – many with whom I still correspond today (thanks to the internet). (In 1975, it was almost impossible to even phone home from America. The quickest roundtrip communication – by letter – between me and home took four weeks!)

And, I can’t remember if I ever did this formally – but thanks to Rotary for the opportunity of student exchange (Noelene, please do that for me), and very special special thanks to Mr Danie Schoeman and the HHH class of 1974, who made it all possible in the first place.

Your cheque of R1200 not only paid the airfare, but has provided me and my family with an unbelievable life experience and with one hang of a ride!

To paraphrase Neil Diamond’s I am I said:

OK’s fine, the sun shines most of the time
And the feeling’s laid back . . .
Well I’m Cape Town City born and raised
But nowadays I’m lost between two shores . . .
OK’s fine but it ain’t home
Cape Town’s home but it ain’t mine no more….

May I call myself an African-American, or does that create a new set of problems?

(In loving memory of Herbie Lunnon, Doris Lunnon, Bill Whitley and Sherri Danley (SHS)) 

Sebastian Ridgway
01 November 2009 at 13:34 ·
Jackie Anderson Whitley
I remember in ’88 when you flew to Florida to buy that stuffed animal. Then you hauled that thing to the airport in Dallas.
01 November 2009 at 19:51 ·
Ed Lunnon
That stuffed animal was Mickey Mouse…and he’s still alive and well and living in Africa!
02 November 2009 at 06:58 ·
Ed Lunnon
Just realized…..it’s “that stuffed animal’s” 21st birthday!
02 November 2009 at 07:01 ·
Jackie Anderson Whitley
yes, Grahm was 2 then.
02 November 2009 at 21:43 ·
Kevin Whitley
Ed, I don’t know why I’m only now seeing this! There are a few corrections…nothing “honorary” about your Okie citizenship…you’re a citizen, and it’s our honor! Same goes for the brother status…good or bad, you’re in the family! I’m proud of you, Ed, and I know that Dad was proud of you as a son! The honor is truly ours.
03 November 2009 at 02:11 ·
Debby Ann-Monjay Sadler
Ed, I hope that this letter finds you feeling better, today!!!
03 November 2009 at 17:25 ·
Jackie Anderson Whitley
I’d forgotten about the Griffens. The Methodists sold the parsonage & the 3 story building & built west of the Seips.
04 November 2009 at 16:07 ·