Kinders van die Wind

7 years 6 months on …

Physical: Advantage CBD / Mental: Deuce

This morning I woke up to the sounds of Laurika Rauch’s song Kinders van die Wind (“Children of the Wind”). Lance du Plessis, my radio interviewer, was broadcasting from the KKNK Fees (Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees) in Oudtshoorn.

Matieland

It brought back many memories.

In 1981, my last year in Stellenbosch, and my Prim year at Helshoogte, Laurika had supper with us one Sunday evening in the res eetsaal. Against the university rules “No alchohol allowed in University residences” we went and bought red wine directly from the farm Oude Libertas for the evening meal!

libertas

After all, I was the Prim and having Laurika to supper was something special for the house. Maybe singing on Sunday nights was also against the rules – I can’t remember! Playing tennis on Sundays was definitely a No-No!

Those were 6 years of good memories from Stellenbosch.

The following year, 1982, I was the nothing, just a troepie doing my two year’s National Service at the Infantry School in Oudtshoorn.

infantry

Those were 2 years of bad memories from Oudtshoorn (and later Youngs Field Wynberg and 1 SAKK Bataljon, Eersterivier).

Tonight, Sunday night, Laurika is singing at the KKNK 20th Anniversary Celebrations in Oudtshoorn. 

Ek ken ‘n ou, ou liedjie, van lewenswel en wee

Van lank-vergane skepe in die kelders van die see.

Swerwers sonder rigting Soekers wat nooit vind

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The Cape of Stormers

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 27 March 2012: 5 years 6 months on … Deuce

BA Flight 6324 on Wednesday 14 March 2012 was scheduled to leave Port Elizabeth airport at 09h50 – destination Cape Town International Airport.

Before I could board, I had to do my radio interview telephonically with Lance from the terminal building an hour earlier than usual – attempts to obtain permission to broadcast ED is in wED from the air at 10h30 had failed.

I sat chatting to Gareth Hunt until the broadcast was about to begin. Gareth’s brother Steven plays for the Springbok 7’s. Then the broadcast, then boarded, seated in 15F (at the right hand side window to see the coast!) and then take-off in an easterly direction over Algoa Bay towards East London.

But a sharp bank to the right put us in the correct westerly direction headed for Cape Town.  It was a beautiful clear morning – the light blue sky juxtaposed by the dark blue mountains, the Indian Ocean below, the white beaches, the green coastal plain and in the distance the brownness of the Little and Great Karoo’s framed by the various mountain ranges in between  us and them.  

We followed the south African coastline and passed over the Garden Route:  Jefferys Bay, St Francis Bay, the Tstsikamma, Nature’s Valley, Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, the Lake District and then George airport, 3 kilometres below us and more or less the halfway point between departure point and destination.

From there, and as we started descending into Cape Town, we followed the more inland route to the south of the Outeniqua and Langeberg Mountains. Places like Riversdale and Swellendam passed by on the coastal plain, and in the Little Karoo, Oudtshoorn, Barrydale and Montaqu.

Then my heart missed its usual beat as the dark blue mountains of the Western Cape moved into sight. First the Hottentots-Holland Mountains, then over the Drakenstein Mountains, and then a sharp bank to the right – and as the right wing pointed sharply downwards towards the earth, Stellenbosch – my birthplace – and Helshoogte, my university residence, came rushing up towards us. I thought the pilot had done that manoeuvre especially for me!

Three more manoeuvres to the left brought us from our westward flight facing back to the east and ready for landing at Cape Town International . During that process, the Atlantic Ocean and Robben Island  came into view and then the mother of all views, on our right, as we landed at 11am: Table Mountain flanked by Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head. 

What was initially called the Cape of Storms and later the Cape of Good Hope was directly below me.

I was Home yet again!

This time for a school reunion at my alma mater, Hottentots-Holland High School  – aptly named after the mountains that surround the Valley, and Somerset West, Strand and Gordon’s Bay.

Whilst we waited for our luggage, I joked with Gareth about partying in Stellenbosch and being tempted to stay too long in the Winelands. We joked and parted, and when I turned on my cell phone, the first message to come through was to advise me of Gareth’s father’s death!

Gareth’s trip had nothing to do with partying in the Winelands – it had been all about his dad and yet he had kept a smiling face and not said a word to me! I felt so bad!

I phoned both Gareth and Steven to express my condolences, and by then Sebastian, my nephew-in-law was there to fetch me.

As usual, he had a surprise for me, and we headed straight to a newly found German pub in the foothills of the Hottentots-Holland Mountains, overlooking Strand, Gordon’s Bay and False Bay. Two litres of beer later, lunch and obtaining some business for my sister Lyn’s printing company, we headed for her home in the Strand – what had been our family home for some thirty years – and my base for the next four days.   

I was determined to keep this trip as easy and slow as possible – pace myself just to make things a little easier!

Thursday morning we took a trip to Stellenbosch, and planned to have coffee with my niece Jess at the café in the Botanical Gardens. She overslept, so we had a bite, then visited Helshoogte, and headed of home.

I went for a 5km walk along the Strand Beach and had a swim at Melkbaai (Milk Bay) – something I haven’t done in many a year! The weather was wonderful and the water was warm! It was so lekker being home!

 A short nap preceded a visit to the driving range restaurant where I was joined by ex-school and Varsity mates, Herman van Heerden and Jaco Olivier.

Later Herman dropped me off for supper at Estelle Jordaan’s home in Heldervue, Somerset West.

Estelle and I last saw each other in 1969 when we were in Standard Five at Hendrik Louw Primary School in The Strand. We had spent our primary school years vying for academic positions 1 and 2 in the class. She went on to Rhenish in Stellenbosch and Rhodes University in Grahamstown and I went on to Hottentots-Holland in Somerset West and Stellenbosch University. (She calls herself a nurse and is, in fact, the Nursing Executive on the Executive of the private hospital Medi-Clinic group.)

We spent the evening eating, drinking and reminiscing about the 43 years that had passed by!

On Friday morning, I paid an all too brief visit to my Primary School, Hendrik Louw. Unfortunately, it has been completely rebuilt, so other than a few photographs to jolt the memory, there is very little to reminisce about.

Then on to see Sonja van Rhijn, who was as school a year or so ahead of me, and now has MSA (Multiple systems atrophy). We spent a great two hours together, although anyone listening to us would not have thought so. We discussed and compared our diseases, our symptoms, our ups and downs, and our joys and concerns. It makes it so much easier to know that other people out there can understand what we are experiencing and going through! We can laugh and cry with each other, and yes, we can understand each other. It makes our burden so much easier.

I was late for the usual Friday lunch braai at the Ridgeways Furniture Store, but enjoyed the hotdogs anyway (and was delighted to see Sebastian’s Railway Stand season tickets)! So another power snap nap before we headed off for Newlands to watch the Stormers take on and beat the Blues in a Super 15 rugby game. There is always a great atmosphere to experience at the home of the Western Cape’s rugby, and which may not be the home for much longer, what with talks aplenty about moving to the newly built World Cup Soccer stadium in Green Point, Cape Town!

Then the big day arrived – our reunion at the De beer’s Football Club. I deliberately spent a quiet day so as not to overdo things.

Lyn and Anton dropped me off at the venue and by the time Anthony West took me home at 1am, there had been a spitbraai by Lappies Labuschagne, dancing, 70’s music, talking and laughing about the preceding 40 years and the seventies that we had spent at school together.

It was a tremendous boost to meet up and reminisce with friends of yesteryear. What had started off as a page by Karen Holthauzen on Facebook, “Somerset West Nostalgia”, a few years ago, had ended up as a real-life get-together of so many of us who have been privileged to grow up and be schooled in the Hottentots-Holland Basin.  

On Sunday morning I transferred from Strand to the Wüsts in Durbanville – almost my home from home! After a lunchtime braai with Willem’s mother and their daughter, Anagret, also joining us, we headed off for Greenpoint and a long 4 km walk along the Atlantic seaboard towards Sea Point and back. A latte at a local coffee shop, in the shadow of Cape Town’s Soccer Stadium, finished off a wonderful weekend in the Cape!

After a quiet Monday morning of taking stock of myself, Gretel and I went for lunch at the Tyger Valley centre.

Then, a visit to my Std Five teacher, Mr Peter Preuss and his wife, who now live in Monte Vista in Cape Town’s northern suburbs.  Although only two handfuls of fingers separate our ages, at the time in 1969, he had seemed so large and intimidating!

It was two of the most wonderful hours that I have spent in a long time, talking about family, friends and fellowship – of growing up in The Strand. It was emotional, too, and I wiped a tear or two away as I headed back to Durbanville …

… and on to Cape Town International at ten on Tuesday morning 20 March. We left on time at 11h30, flying off in a westerly direction over False Bay and The Strand and this time in an A seat on the left-hand side of the plane (pre-booked by my niece Nicky who works for BA at Cape Town airport).

This was in order to get that last view of our family home in Gordon’s Bay Road, Strand, the Helderberg and the Hottentots-Holland Mountains, before heading straight back over the Overberg, George, the Garden Route and the direct  short landing from west to east into Port Elizabeth at 12h45.

Sean was there to fetch me. We went home and then directly to Gary Hunt’s funeral, back home, and then back to the airport to say goodbye to Pera who was heading off to Italy that very evening.

Sean and I then decided to have a 2-for-the-price-of-1 sushi at the Cape Town Fish Market.  There he was also able to put his First Aid skills to the test when a patron, allergic to sea-food, dropped over stone cold within seconds after eating the stuff … 

It had been just another “quiet” weekend in the Cape of the Stormers!

 

 

ED is in EDen (Part 2)

©2011 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 13 December 2011: 5 years 3 months on … Deuce

The City of George lies at the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains. When I was involved in staff training there, each morning I would always take the employees outside of the training room and get them to look up at the mountains and savour the beauty. They thought I was mad, but such is the beauty of George and its surrounds.

It is possibly the first town in South Africa (outside of my home towns) that I have really got to know well. I first started visiting there when I was a student at Stellenbosch. The home of Dr Hendrik du Toit and his wife Anna at 21 Caledon Street was a favourite visiting place. One December night we even ended up pitching a tent on their front lawn after we had hurriedly left the “rage” at Plettenberg Bay. (We could no longer afford the in-season tariff at the Plett caravan park!)

Their daughter Gretel was in my education classes, their son Ludwig lived in Helshoogte with me and in later years, Gretel married Willem Wüst who was my predecessor as Primarius of Helshoogte.

I continued visiting there during 1982 and 1983 when I was at Infantry School in Oudtshoorn, just over the Outeniqua Pass. Official weekend passes and some AWOL passes would see my red Toyota Corolla head over that pass and to George and the delightful Vic(toria) Bay, a paradise for those who surf, fish, swim or tan!

In later years, during my working career, I spent many a night away from home, and my hotel homes away from home in the Southern Cape varied between the King George Hotel, Far Hills, Wilderness Karos and the Wilderness Holiday Inn.

The N2 from George runs eastwards past the Far Hills Hotel and the turn-off to Vic Bay, into the pristine Kaaimans River Valley, over the unique bridges and overhanging roadways (incidentally designed by Willem’s father), past that famous arced railway bridge that traverses the Kaaimans mouth, past Leentjiesklip and into the Wilderness.

I was privileged to spend a New Year’s Eve on the beach at Leentjiesklip (’79 or ’80?). There is nothing more spectacular than watching the sun rise over the Indian Ocean at the Wilderness.

It was here that ex-MP, prime minister and State President PW (finger-wagging) Botha lived and died at his home Die Anker (“the anchor”). It overlooks the Lakes that stretch from Wilderness all the way to Sedgefield and beyond to Lake Pleasant and its hotel (now a health clinic specialising in skin ailments).

Then, just before one drives over the hill and into Knysna, is the turn-off to Buffelsbaai, a very special little holiday resort, where, when Sean was just a crawling baby, we twice rented a holiday home and spent some very special holidays.

On the coastline, the white beach sweeps away eastwards to Brenton-on-Sea. Inland, there is the magnificent Knysna lagoon with Brenton-on-Lake and Belvedere on its south side, Leisure Island and Thesen’s Island in the lagoon, and Knysna itself on the northern and eastern banks of the lagoon. No words can do any justice to the picture created by the panoramic view that culminates in the Knynsa Heads, that place where the lagoon empties into the Indian Ocean through those magnificent rock columns on the west and east sides of the mouth.

The Knysna Forests stretch from George in the west, around the lagoon and onto Storms River in the east. The forests are the home to the famous Knysna Elephants, many stories and books (just two weeks ago we saw the musical Fiela’s Child which is set in these forests) and to the annual Knysna Marathon and half-marathon. I ran my first half-marathon in the Knysna forests in 2000 – and another three after that. Next year, we plan to return to Knysna in July to walk that route of 21 km.

 As one leaves the Knysna lagoon area and proceeds eastwards to Plettenberg Bay, one passes the Knysna Elephant Park, numerous tourist accommodation establishments, the Big Tree (in the Garden of Eden) and, just off the main road, the Noetzie Castles, the somewhat eerie stone castles built on the beach at Noetzie and looking southwards out over the Indian Ocean. (Also here, is the start of the gravel road that runs northwards through the forest, over the Prince Alfred’s Pass and on into the Langkloof and Uniondale.)

Then there’s Plettenberg Bay, stretching from the imposing Robberg Peninsula in the west to the cliffs and mountains in the east, past Keurbooms River and Keurboomsstrand.

Plett has always been a special place for me. Just as our children today spend time after their school-leaving exams here at what has become known as “The PLett Rage”, we came here annually in November from Stellenbosch as soon as we had written our year-end university examinations. What goes on tour, I guess, stays on tour!

As a bachelor and later as a family, we have spent many delightful holidays in and around Plett, and visiting the Uptons, the Scholtz’s, the Bryants, the Walshes, the Browns and others. For a while, we were also property owners here when we bought a plot of land at Sanderlings Estate next to the Keurbooms River. We sold it, however, just after we had plans drawn up for a house there, but then decided to buy in St Francis Bay instead.

And so the road continues eastwards to Port Elizabeth, some two hours (200km) away. The Garden Route passes Natures Valley, over the Blaauwkrantz Pass and Bridge (now the site of the Bungee Jumping business), through the Tsitsikamma Forest and Coastal Nature Reserve and comes to an end at the Storms River Bridge – an obligatory stop and which I have written about previously.

From there, the N2 continues in a very different type of landscape past Humansdorp, St Francis Bay, Jefferys Bay and into Port Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela Bay.

ED is in EDen (part 1)

©2011 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 6 December 2011: 5 years 3 months on … Deuce

Exactly a week ago, last Tuesday evening, a switch was thrown at 23h00 by Dave Tiltmann, the MD of AlgoaFM which increased the broadcast area of our local radio station to include what is known as the Garden Route in the southern Cape of South Africa.

Reception on this, the southernmost coast of the African continent, is now obtainable “From The Garden Route to The Wild Coast” (and all broadcast from The Boardwalk Casino right here in Port Elizabeth.)

Previously, when going westwards along the N2 from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, AlgoaFM reception was lost somewhere between Plettenberg Bay and Knysna. Now, you can pick it up all the way to Riversdale and Still Bay on the coast, and inland as far as Oudtshoorn!

This part is arguably one of the most beautiful areas of our country and it is not known as the Garden Route for nothing. The municipal area is purposefully named the Eden Municipality.

No account of my life’s journey would be complete if I did not write about this area. Just as the Camdeboo and the Karoo have been a part of my life, so, too, have the Southern Cape, the Garden Route and the Garden of Eden.

I will describe the area from west to east along the southern coast.

Stilbaai (Still Bay) is at the mouth of the Kafferkuils River. It consists of two pieces, West and East. Just recently we spent time with the Wusts in Stilbaai West on our way to Cape Town (see The Cape of Good Hope).

But it was Stilbaai East that I first came to know as a High School youngster. Our neighbours in The Strand, Ds Bombaai van Rensburg and his wife (known to us as Aunty Dominee) and 5 sons – three of whom were born on the same date a year apart from each other! –  had a holiday house there. We were contemporaries and became good friends, and I spent many summer holidays with great memories with them there.

One summer holiday (circa my Std 9 year, I think) was rudely interrupted when I ended up in the Riversdale Hospital to have an emergency appendectomy. They kept me there for a week, as the doctor would not let me go back to the holiday village to recuperate! (Nowadays, I think it’s a one day in and out op!)

My Uncle George Lunnon and Aunty Irmela lived in Riversdal (Uncle George, ironically, worked for the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the SABC, and was responsible for the erection of many of the tall red and white FM broadcasting towers that now dot the South African landscape.) I recall him taking me to see the one outside Riversdale during my convalescence period. It is situated in the foothills of the Langeberg and at the base of the mountain known to all in the area as The Sleeping Beauty. You can see why when you drive past Riversdale why they would have named it that!

 Despite having family there, my mom single-handedly drove the then four-hour trip from Cape Town to come and look after me!

Up the road from Riversdale (CCC vehicle registration) is Albertinia (named after one Rev Albertyn).  No drive through this town would be complete without having Sunday luncheon at the famous hotel or a purchase of some of the many medicinal products processed here from the sap of the Aloe Ferox plant.

Further westwards, about 15km from Albertinia, is the 65m high Gouritz River Bridge. It was here that the company Kiwi Extreme introduced the concept of bungi jumping in South Africa in 1990.

(The bridge swing and bungy have currently been suspended awaiting the outcome of an investigation to determine if the bridge structure will allow the continuation of such activities. A much higher jump is now available from the Blaauwkrantz River Bridge further eastwards along the N2  on the border between the Western Cape and the Easter Cape)

About 35 kilometers to the east along the N2 National Road is Mossel Bay. Before that you get to see the orange glow of the burning flame of the chimney of the SASOL Oil refinery (now called Petrochem, but originally called Mossgas when gas was discovered in the Indian Ocean south of Mossel Bay and was billed to transform the economy of this area from the depressed state that it was – what happened, I wonder? Big stories and promises like the fracking of the gas fields in the Karoo?

The gas pipeline runs from the ocean bed gas field south of Vleesbaai (where I have visited student friend Piet Immelman) to the refinery right next to the main highway, and a few kilometres from the Mossel Bay 1 Stop Service station and Engen garage and the obligatory stop for a meal at the Wimpy. (I remember as a student hitchhiking from here back to Stellenbosch – a trip that took two days!)

Mossel Bay itself is the start (going eastwards) of one continuous mass of wall-to-wall holiday and permanent homes built along the sweeping coastline where the white of the sea-sand merges with the darker blue of the sea-waters of the Bay, and the lighter azure blue of the sky and the horizon.

When I worked in business, this was the westward extremity of the area for which I was the Regional HR Manager. It was here, too, that I worked my last day in that industry and where it came to an abrupt end way back in March 2002.

What one sees as one urban sprawl is actually made up of numerous different towns/villages. Those that spring to mind are Hartenbos, home of the ATKV (Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuur Vereniging), Klein Brakrivier, Groot Brakrivier (it was here that as a High School student, I attended SCA camps), Tergniet (I often visited the Appels here when I did my military service in Oudtshoorn), Eselsrus (where retired teachers have made their holiday and retirement village), Glentana, Herold’s Bay (the home of golfer Ernie Els) and a guess a few more that I have forgotten.

From Mossel Bay to George the national road is a double four lane highway – only because the Member of Parliament for the constituency of George all the years was one PW Botha, later to become Prime Minister and State President of the Republic and the deliverer of the dreaded Rubicon Speech that projected our country on a downward spiral to chaos in the eighties).    

 

Next to the highway and between it and the magnificent Outeniqua Mountains, is the George National Airport, also a brainchild of the late PW Botha MP.

Then comes the City of George, the sixth oldest town in South Africa named after King George III, and the Capital of the Southern Cape. The town is very centrally situated: halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and centre of the Garden Route.

It is situated on a 10-kilometer plateau between the majestic Outeniqua Mountain to the north and the Indian ocean to the South. Pacaltsdorp is found right next to George.

(Part 2 next week)

 

Take My Blues Away

 Tuesday 9 August 2011: 4 years 11 months on … Advantage ED

Women’s Day!

Last year, round about this time, I wrote Piece of Paradise and Ed and Elvis.

In both blogs I wrote about trips to the Southern Cape, including the Garden Route, and about visits with friend Jan Hoogendyk who had entered the SA Idols contest.

Well, history tells us that Jan went on to win SA Idols 2010 as Elvis Blue, and Sean and I were pleased to break into his heavy schedule and to meet up with him for a quick cuppachino at Dulce’s a while ago. I’m still hoping to get him to Port Elizabeth for a show.

And this past long weekend, we went on to visit the Southern Cape once again. Exactly a year after visiting Plettenberg Bay in 2010, we were back in 2011.

Friday night was a busy (and long one for me!) By invitation of Mr Squash, Alan Stapleton, we attended the re-opening of Crusaders Squash Club with its new glass-backed courts! But Saturday morning at 11, we left on time for Plett, just two hours westwards along the N2 from Port Elizabeth. Sean is now a year into his driver’s licence and once again, is behind the wheel. (Phillip has just got his licence – in Uitenhage – to drive a scooter, but he remained in PE to do advanced maths and an IT project for school.)

At one pm sharp we took the drive around the corner at The Crags, just before Keurbooms Strand and the River. The view before you of the Plettenberg Bay and the Robberg Peninsula takes some beating.

We were spending the weekend with John and Wendy Clarke. (John had told me, almost five years ago when I became ill, that many would go before me! Now he is convalescing from Guillain-Barre disease, which, just a few weeks ago, had paralysed him within a few hours!)

After lunch, we went for a long walk along the beach, from Keurbooms River, along the lagoon spit and all the way to the river mouth at (what used to be until it was flooded away) Lookout Beach. John tried his hand at fishing, something that just a few weeks ago he was unable to do! The views of the blue ocean and the blue mountains – some still capped with white snow from the recent falls – that surround this impressive Bay are spectacular. We even had the pleasure of viewing a display by a lonesome whale just beyond the surf.

Plettenberg Bay is to South Africa something like Monaco is to the French Riviera. The views of the Robberg Peninsula and the Tsitsikamma Mountains are spectacular. The homes on Millionaire’s Row are stunning and possibly extravagant.

Juxtaposed to this display of the country’s wealth, just on the other side of the N2, is the squalor of the tin shacks, the RDP houses and rows of outside toilets (ironically, at one stage, this township was  named Flushing Meadows!).

It is a common-place sight in our country: the haves and the have-nots right next to each other. One sees it in Johannesburg’s Sandton and Alexandria; in Cape Town’s Constantia and Hout Bay and Khayalitsha; and, in fact, in every South African city, town, village and township.

It is a display that could quite easily begin a discussion on the Fairness of Life (who said that Life’s fair?) and fuel a debate on socialism. Many years ago, I recall our then domestic assistant, Lorna, looking at this display of empty holiday homes and not understanding why so many of these large homes were only occupied for just a few weeks in each year!

As I write this, the youth of London and indeed Britain, have gone on the rampage. SKY News is showing pictures of wanton destruction, looting, arson and plain downright criminality and theft. If this can happen in a so-called First World Country, it reminds me how much of a tinder box we sit on here in South Africa!

When I was in doing my military service at the Infantry School in Oudtshoorn in 1982/83, we often came to Keurbooms for weekends. I had to AWOL, as I was just a troopie in my first year whilst my brother-in-law Anton and his mates were officers in their second year!

Indeed, my first visits to this magnificent part of the world were whilst I was studying at Stellenbosch University. We came to Plett at the end of every year once we had finished our final examinations. It was the beginning of what is now the much more formalised “Plett Rage” that takes place annually in December and now draws not only thousands of University students but also thousands of finishing off high school matric pupils from all over the country.

I remember one trip, arriving in the Peugeot (nicknamed the Pugget!) and being kicked out of the then Piesangs River Caravan Park, because the five of us – one woman and four men – did not represent a family unit of any kind, and that park supposedly only catered for families! We ended up camping at the Plett Park instead.

Within a few days we collected enough to fly the lady back to Cape Town and we continued enjoying what was then the pub at the Beacon Island Hotel, the Grape Vine (?) underneath the Hotel, the Formosa Inn and the Arches.

On our evening trip back to Cape Town, the Pugget overheated near Knysna, and we filled the radiator with salt water out of the Knysna Lagoon! We later pitched our tent on the front lawn of the Du Toits in George – and they found a squatter camp in their garden the next morning!

Those were the carefree student days of bright sunshine, braaivleis, beer and bankcruptcy!

In later years, our family often visited this area too and we have explored most of the Plett, Keurbooms, Knysna, George area – the Garden Route of South Africa. We also bought a plot of land at Sanderlings on the Keurbooms River, and had plans drawn up for a holiday house there, before we decided to buy in St Francis Bay instead.

Saturday evening we braaied with the Bryants, Sunday we slept in and then walked the beach, as we did on Monday. We talked, we walked, we ate, we slept and John fished – something I still do not do voluntarily!

It was a weekend of re-charging the batteries, depressing the blues, enjoying friendships and living Life!

 

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Life and Death: 3 more Funerals!

6 September 2010: 4 years on …

Despite the heart sore of all the funerals of the last few months, we have also joked about the number of family and friends who have passed away. Is it co-incidence or is it because of the age category in which we now find ourselves?

 

Despite the sadness, I have also experienced the fun of funerals. They have become sort of enforced reunions – seeing family and friends that you have not seen for years. In some cases, the funerals have also brought people together who, because of stupid arguments, have deliberately for years avoided each other.

 

Despite the tears, there are the laughs of funerals – in some way, I suppose, that is our human way of coping with the loss of losing people who have been so close to us in life.

 

Some while ago, I wrote an article entitled Four Funerals and Not a Wedding.  Since then, and during the course of the last two weeks, we have experienced another four deaths – Aunty Elsie, friend Sergei van Niekerk (brother of Lorna Brown and uncle of Wayne, Lindsay and Duncan Brown), friend Jenny Collier’s dad, and then on Thursday, Nico Malan, from Stellenbosch, who was killed in a car accident in Wellington in the Western Cape.

 

Nico was Tilly Wust’s sister. I have written about the Wust family often – we became friends at Stellenbosch and we often stay with either Willem or Jacobus when we are in Cape Town. In fact, in February 2007, I stayed with Willem and Gretel in Durbanville on the night before I was diagnosed with CBD at Tygerberg Hospital. Little did I think or know when I left their house that morning en route to the Hospital how my life would change within that next hour of my consultation with Professor Carr.  

 

The Wusts were five brothers: in descending order of age – Willem, Jacobus, Chris, Francois and Marius. Willem was Primarius of Helshoogte in the year before I was (1980) and Jacobus was Onder Prim in the year after me (1982). At one stage, Willem, Kobus and Chris all played rugby for the Helshoogte First Team. As a student, I often used to go home with them to Durbanville or to their holiday house at Pringle Bay. I was almost like the 6th brother in the family!

 

Willem and I visited George and Plett in his red Toyota during varsity holidays, and I have fond memories of our stays with Dr Hendrik du Toit and his wife Anna at 21 Caledon Street, George. I also often stayed with them when I was on weekend pass from Infantry School in Oudtshoorn. Willem married Gretel du Toit during my second year at Oudtshoorn (1983).

 

We met up again with Chris and Susan in the Eastern Cape when Chris was a civil engineer involved with the building of the marina and canals at Martina Martinique at Jeffery’s Bay. We drove around in the man-made canals before they were flooded and I remember Chris telling us then that the project would never work.

 

Well, it didn’t quite work out as it was planned to do, and today the harbour there has silted up and disappeared – and there is no access from the marina to the sea! The water has to be artificially reticulated through the canal system.

 

Chris sadly suffered heart failure some five years ago and, despite a heart transplant, passed away some while thereafter. 

 

Jacobus married Tilly Malan. I spoke at their wedding reception in the Sanlamsaal in the Langenhoven Student centre at Stellenbosch University.

 

Those were the years of the weddings – not the funerals! And I seem to have become a professional speaker and cut my public speaking teeth at weddings in those early days – the first reception that I acted as MC was for my room mate Glynn Jones (from Tulbagh) when he married Carol Friend in Plattekloof in Cape Town. (They have since emigrated to Vancouver, Canada) Then there was Thomas and Marzeth Moolman who got married in Rawsonville, and Richard and Helena Glennie from Somerset East who married in Somerset West. There were weddings in Paarl and Riebeeck-Kasteel – I simply can’t remember them all!

 

I saw Jacobus (and Gretel and Willem) two weeks ago when I was down in Stellenbosch, and just last year this time, we celebrated Jacobus and Tilly’s 50th birthdays at a function in Welgemoed. And Nico was there. We also saw each other when we visited at the Wust’s holiday house in Kleinmond. His funeral took place in Stellenbosch today – all too soon!

 

Tilly’s parents (both since have passed on) worked at the University. Working at the Education Faculty, Mrs Malan often joked about inside information that she had about us as students! They also ran a B&B in Stellies and I stayed there when I went back to study for the Postgraduate Management Diploma in HIV/AIDS in 2004.

 

That’s the qualification I obtained Cum Laude. I had wanted to continue with my Master’s degree, but then I became ill!  I saw the M.Phil advertised again in last week’s Sunday Times and wondered whether I would have enough time left to pursue studying again? It irks me sometimes when I see jobs and things advertised, and I can no longer participate in the main stream of life!

 

That’s also the qualification that burst my bubble when I graduated. I stood in the queue with thousands of other students at Coetzenburg’s DF Malan Centre – all dressed in cap and gown, and feeling twenty years’ old like the rest of the crowd. Blending in just like the rest – or so I thought. Until a young lass approached me and said “Oom, sal jy asseblief ‘n foto van ons neem?”!  Uncle, will you please take a photo of us? The years had taken their toll!

 

Anyway, with the passing of Nico, another bubble in life is burst. If anything, all the funerals of the last few months have emphasized to me the frailty, the fragility and the finiteness of our human life. Sometimes, I get angry at the apparent unfairness and injustice of it all. Just yesterday I spoke to my friend, Sonja van Rhyn, in The Strand. She has also been struck down by a neurological illness. I cried from hopelessness – I just didn’t know what to say or how to make it any easier.  

 

No one is invincible. Not kings, queens or commoners. Just this week, we were reminded of the anniversary of the sudden death and funeral of Princess Diana thirteen years ago, and yesterday, the father of the Prime Minister of Great Britain passed away suddenly in France. No one is spared!

 

We are not here on this spaceship Earth forever! The journey ends.

 

The funerals, therefore, have highlighted to me how important it is for everyone – healthy or unhealthy, firm or infirm, enabled or disabled, old or young – to make the most of every single day, every single hour, every single moment, which is given to us.

 

Don’t delay, don’t procrastinate, and don’t waste. Before you know, it’s gone to soon. Your candle’s burned out …

 

Jason Eichacker says:

Time is the measure of all things.

Yosemite Valley is a stark reminder of what came before you and will outlast you. Trees stretch a hundred feet above your head, looking on silently as you buzz past its trunk.

Regardless of what you do, the whole system carries on.

There is a quiet peace: things grow, things die. The system is indifferent to what survives and what perishes as long as each job is filled. The surroundings respond only to your action.

What matters is what you do.

Humans pass lives without making much of them, skipping the important stuff in favour of what is within reach. Like redwoods pushing into the sky in search of sunshine, we have to shed what would hold us back so we can continue to grow.

Make a decision or limit your future.

  

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

(John Donne)

Piece/Peace of Paradise

1 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …

From Port Elizabeth, the N2 heads westwards towards Cape Town, squeezed in between the coastline and the mountain ranges running parallel to the coast. The section from about Humansdorp to George and Mossel Bay is known as the Garden Route, and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country.

It’s easy to see why. Some of the most spectacular scenery is to be seen here: the Tsitikamma Mountains and Nature Reserve with its Big Tree; Storms River Gorge and Bridge, Blaauwkrantz River Bridge, Nature’s Valley and Otter Trail; Plettenberg Bay with its sweeping beaches, Keurbooms and Bitou River and Robberg Peninsula: Knysna with its forests, elephants, lagoon and The Heads where the lagoon empties into the Indian Ocean; Sedgefield and the Lakes; Wilderness, Leentjies Klip and the Kaaimans River mouth; George with its Outeniqua Mountains, Vic Bay and Herold’s Bay; and then finally, the sweeping expanse of  Hartenbos, Klein and Groot Brak, Tergniet, Eselsrus and Mossel Bay.

Almost 400 kilometres of absolute heaven is just here on our doorstep – a piece of Paradise. No wonder the municipality in this area is called the Eden Municipality. Adam and Eve must have swapped their Eden for a darn good apple! 

When you’re down and out – feeling small

When tears are in your eyes … 

–        This is the part of the world you should head to –

It will dry them all…

 

And so, on Friday afternoon, I headed off for Knysna. My destination was Oudtshoorn to attend Ina Scholtz’s memorial service on Saturday morning. The boys were playing rugby against Framesby (the annual not-so-nice recreation of the Anglo-Boer War!) on Saturday morning and Pera was staying to support them.

 

I can’t remember when last I have driven that far by myself, and so I was a bit apprehensive when I left, and decided to break the journey by sleeping over in Knysna. It’s just two and a half hours to get there. Physically, I can still drive and when I became ill, to make things easier for me, we bought an automatic car (a station wagon for space for that promised wheelchair!) The biggest challenge is concentration and tiredness.

But I got to Knysna with no problems – just admiring the scenery along the way – and making the obligatory stop at the Storms River Bridge for a cooldrink.

I stayed over with Sally and Hermann Kapp, an ex-colleague of mine from the business days. Hermann was the Regional Produce Buyer and I was the Regional Human Resources Manager.

I remember the day very clearly as if it were yesterday – but in fact almost ten years ago now – in October 2001 when Hermann came into my office to resign. It was the day that I had just returned to work after our family had returned from the USA.

Pera, the boys and I had left for the USA on a three-week holiday just two weeks after September 11 – the day the Twin Towers were attacked in New York City.

Planes had only just started flying again, and we had undertaken a marathon trip of over forty hours of flying, delays and searching from PE via Johannesburg, London and New York to Atlanta, Georgia. There we stayed with my exchange student days “brother” Kevin and Carol Whitley before flying on to Tulsa, Oklahoma and Mom and Dad Whitley at Table Rock Lake in Missouri.

Flying at the time was also like Paradise. Every one was too scared to fly, so in economy class, we were only some twenty people on the Boeing 777 flight from Londres Gatwick to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. Not only rows of seats to ourselves, but whole blocks of seats, as we flew down the eastern seaboard of the US and over New York City’s Ground Zero, where I videoed the kilometres high plume of smoke that was still billowing up into the sky.

What a holiday that was! But on my first day back in the office, Hermann came to resign. He was going to open his own Fruit and Veg City store in Knysna. (The next day, I was mugged in Main Street and robbed of my leftover dollars that I was taking back to the bank!)   

And so, almost ten years later, Hermann now owns and runs not only Knysna F&V, but also Jeffrey’s Bay F&V and the Oudtshoorn and George Butcheries. They have worked really hard and done exceptionally well, and are such hospitable people. Their home, in Eastford Estate, Knysna, is so spectacular and inviting, and always open to guests.

When I arrived, Sally had not got home yet and I went and sat on the front deck of the house, which is in a country estate on the hills north of the town. From there, through the trees, one looks towards The Heads, over the cascading slip pool where the water appears to be running right into the Knysna Lagoon visible in the distance. The only sound was that of the soft wind whooshing in the trees and the melodic call of the Knysna Loeries. Truly, a piece of Paradise! 

I left early Saturday morning and headed via George and the Outeniqua Pass for Oudtshoorn.  I haven’t travelled that road for years, but used to do it so regularly in my red Toyota CG 18942 when I was at Infantry School in Oudtshoorn.

I recalled arriving there on the troop train, which had come over this very pass from The Castle in Cape Town in January of 1982. But I escaped Oudtshoorn as often as possible during those fifteen months that I was based there (until I was transferred to Youngsfield in Wynberg and later 1 SACC Battalion in Eerste Rivier.)

The escape route was either to the Scholtz’s at Keurbooms or to Dr Hendrik and Mrs Anna du Toit in George (the parents of Gretel (Du Toit) Wust, university friends of mine and whose home we had stayed in when we went down to Cape Town in June).

Now, I was headed away from the sea over the mountain and past the hop farms to Oudtshoorn to be with the Scholtz’s again. We were there just a month ago when returning from Cape Town to PE via the “back road”, Route 61, and I had not thought that I would be back there so soon, if at all! 

The minister of the Methodist Church spoke about the paradox of our Faith – sadness at losing a loved one, but the joy of knowing that they have moved on to a Better Place that knows neither sadness nor sickness – the Peace of Paradise.

Death seems to heal all wounds, feuds and fights. And people who avoid each other in life even seem to make time for each other in death. Even feuding politicians find time to attend the funerals of archenemies and then find some good words to say.   

The paradox of funerals, too, is that despite the sadness, they also provide great joy when meeting up with people that you haven’t seen for years. In a way, funerals are a sort of forced reunion of families and friends. Between all the tears, out come the memories, the laughs, the happy times, and – if you are dated like us – the photographs, the slides and the home movies!

And so for me, after so many years, it was so good to see again the whole Scholtz clan together: Uncle Piet and Anton and Ingrid (my sister), Leonie (Scholtz) and Jos Smith, Rael and Ruth, Gerhard and Martie, Pieter and Hanneke, and fifteen of the sixteen grandchildren who were there.

And taking the extended family of uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws etc, it became quite fun to work out who looked like who and who went with who!

Yet, it was quite surreal not to have Aunty Ina there – she had been central to this show for as long as I could remember – whether it was next to the pool at the house in Cradock, body-boarding in the surf at Keurbooms, drinking coffee below the Melkhout tree on the patio of their Spanish style beach house or savouring the exquisite view of the Plettenberg Bay and braaing on the balcony of the Tupperware House of Jos and Leonie up on the hill.

But, what is dying?

A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon

And someone at my side says

“She is gone.”

 

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all.

She is just as large now as when I last saw her.

Her diminished size and total loss from sight is in me, not in her.

 

And just at that moment, when someone at my side says she is gone,

there are others who are watching her coming over their horizon

and other voices take up a glad shout –

“There she comes!”

 

That is what dying is.

An horizon and just the limit of our sight.

 

Lift us up O Lord, that we may see further.

(Bishop Brent)

All to soon, it came to an end, and I had to head back to Port Elizabeth because we were having dinner with the Stapletons on Saturday evening. But first, I had coffee at the Mugg and Bean in George with Jan Hoogendyk, a preacher, singer and guitarist who works and teaches amongst the under-privileged children in that area.

Two weeks ago, Jan appeared in the Cape Town auditions of MNet’s Idols (South Africa) as Elvis Blue (an ex-pupil of his who died at the age of twelve from HIV/AIDS complications). Elvis brought Mara Louw, one of the judges, to tears with his singing of Bob Dylan’s To Make you Feel My Love and received his Golden Ticket to take him through to the next round at Sun City (and the next round ? … and the next round?) . . .

Those of us who knew her, all felt Ina Scholtz’s love. In Life, as some doors close, others open … thanks for all you do and good luck with your journey and your big dreams, Elvis!

 

Four Funerals and Not a Wedding

Tuesday 27 July 2010: 3 years 10 months on…

1976 – South Africa had just got TV for the first time! The SABC service consisted of one channel that commenced at 18h00 with a Scripture reading and closed at 23h00 with the National Anthem and the flying orange, white and blue flag.

But it was already old hat for me because I had lived and gone to school in the USA in 1975. I returned in January 1976 and became a MATIE in the February, the first person in our family to go to University. Mom was so proud – when she dropped me at Helshoogte and attended the first parent’s function, she insisted on wearing a hat!

Anton Scholtz was already there, studying a BSc in his second year. He came from Kingswood College in Grahamstown.

We became friends – I’m not sure why, but he did drink more beers than anyone I knew, he partied harder than anyone I knew, he played rugby better than anyone I knew and he outran anyone I knew on what was known as the Berg Pad – even if it was after a party that continued until five in the morning! He was not known as the Mine K***** for nothing.

He captained the Res team, played rugby for Maties, served on the House Committee and had a bright green Volkswagen Beetle. It was known as the Automatic Apple!

It took us all over the Cape Peninsula, and in the summer months to Bikini Beach in Gordon’s Bay. On the way back to Stellenbosch, we would stop in at our home in The Strand. My sister, Ingrid, was still at school at Hottentots-Holland High. It soon became clear that the visits at home were not for my company.

Ingrid became Head Girl at HHH, then became a Matie, too, and at the time that I was Primarius at Helshoogte, she became Primaria of Serruria – her ladies’ residence (and where Jessica, their daughter and our Godchild, is now in residence.) It was quite something at the time at Stellenbosch University to have a brother and sister – and Engels nogal! – in charge of two University Residences.

All three of us became teachers (and Pera joined our staff room later!)

Ingrid also became Anton’s wife in January 1983. Their wedding photographs show me with very short hair! That’s because I was in my second year at Infantry School in Oudtshoorn where Anton, still ahead of me, was a Lieutenant when I had arrived as a troop in 1982. He occasionally made me run when he found me not wearing my beret!

Anton’s family came from Cradock and they had a holiday house at Keurboom’s Strand near Plettenberg Bay. As students, we sometimes spent time there. As soldiers in Oudtshoorn, we often spent time there because Keurbooms was but two hours away from the military base, and a very welcome diversion.

As officers, they were able to go out most weekends. As a troopie, I had to AWOL.

We ate braaied steaks for breakfast, lunch and supper. They somehow always came armed with boxes of steaks for the weekend that, I believe, were destined for the Troops’ Mess but never got there!

We also visited the Scholtz’s in Cradock. Between Cradock and Keurbooms, we got to know Anton’s parents, Uncle Piet and Aunty Ina and his extended family of three brothers and a sister (and their families over the years!)

My Dad died in my first year at Stellenbosch – 1976. But the Scholtz’s homes were always open to us as a family – that’s the people and the way they were!

I remember a Christmas that Mom, Ingrid and I spent in Cradock – it came complete with a Karoo thorn tree that doubled up as the Christmas tree.

Uncle Piet was the doctor in Cradock. But Aunty Ina dished out the medicine! She issued the prescriptions, handed out the pills and gave the instructions! She was the matriarch of the family. You didn’t want to cross paths with her! She organised everyone with an iron fist. But what loveable people they were.

Although they were “in-laws”, they were always great parents for Ingrid. After my Mom died in 1986, whilst I was teaching at Grey, they became almost surrogate parents to me, too. They were always interested in my progress and what I was doing, and always there to assist and support.

Even after Pera and I got married, and Sean and Phillip arrived on the scene, they were there for us. So much so, that Pera, Sean and Phil (and many others) refer to them as Oumie and Gramps.

And so it was with great sadness when Oumie became ill a few years ago. But, in her unique style, she fought even that cancer with strength and determination.

We saw her just three weeks ago when they were staying with Ingrid and Anton here in Port Elizabeth. It was obvious that the illness was taking its toll and that she had wasted away to that shadow of her former self. When we said goodbye, we knew it was for the last time.

Last Saturday, just after I returned from John Clarke’s funeral in Alexandria and just before Grey Bloem and Grey PE’s 1st rugby teams started to do battle before thousands of spectators around the Pollock Field, Oumie passed away in Oudtshoorn.

We have lost our Oumie. But Uncle Piet has lost his wife, and Anton, Ingrid, Rael, Leonie, Gerhard and Pieter, and all their families, have lost their Mom and their grandmother.

Pera, Sean and Phillip join me in extending our deepest sympathy to you all. We take solace in the fact that she is in That Place where her pain is no more. And, whilst death takes away the person from us, it can never take away the relationship or the memories.

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.