Two months ago, Tony and Rose Reeler came up from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth to celebrate Pera’s 50th birthday with us. Rose (backed by Tommo – Neil Thomson) sang Bette Midler’s “The Rose” (by now, the two are synonymous!) [see my profile]
Yesterday, we heard that Tony has been appointed headmaster of Pretoria Boys’ High School – arguably, one of the most prestigious schools in the country and, certainly, the top school in South Africa’s capital city.
Talking to Tony on the phone (he was in the ice cream shop!), I think I was more excited than he was. Our friendship goes back to our days of teaching mathematics together at Grey High in the 1980’s. Then, already, his talent and ability did not go by unnoticed and it was obvious that he was destined for great things in education. “Watch this spot”, I used to say!
We both lived in the Grey Hostel (“Mr Lunnon, how’s your mother?!”) and then bought our first houses, I in Ryan Street, Westview and Tony in Adam Street, Charlo and then later, Perridgevale. I remember Tony using the sledge hammer to knock up the disgusting slasto pathway that ran from the gate to my front door at no 9.
Those were the days enter Pera and Rose (who was a pupil at Collegiate Girls’ High when I started teaching at Grey) and before Sean, Phillip, Michael-John and Lexi. But even as the ladies and the children arrived on the scene, the friendship continued.
Tony (and Mike Thomson) sang at our wedding (red Vellies and all!) and I was master of ceremonies at Tony and Rose’s wedding in Humansdorp (will the jokes ever be forgotten!)
Will we forget the afternoon swims at Beachview and the many braais and suppers (especially the one where everyone had to cook their own supper!) and the Old SA party in April of 1994?
Especially, in those days, we experienced the wonderful weekends at Rose’s family holiday house at Mostert’s Hoek on the wild side of Cape St Francis – Sean and Phillip bathing in the metal bath tub on the beach, using the wrong braai grid, the fish one, to braai the lamb chops, playing board games and drinking red wine late into the night with the gas lamps hissing away in the background and the sea crashing down onto the rocks almost at the front doorstep. Then there was the cleaning up when the candle in the bathroom set the holder and the beam alight, and we could have had disastrous consequences. (In more recent years, we have had the pleasure of having the Reelers visit us at our house in St Francis Bay.)
Then, inevitably, Tony was appointed Deputy Headmaster at Rondebosch Boys’ High and the family moved to Cape Town. However, my visits to head office in Claremont almost always included a visit to the Reeler maisonette on the Rondebosch campus. Our family visits to Cape Town and Grey/Wynberg Derby Days usually included a stayover in Rondebosch and later, in Pinelands, when Tony became Headmaster at Pinelands High. There, from the spare room which was always available, we experienced the movie set and the Phantom of the Opera and the rugby at Newlands, and I experienced Tygerberg Hospital when my specialist’s trips started in 1997.
Yes, the Cape Town visits won’t quite be the same anymore. But now there’s Pretoria! We last visited Gauteng (and the Kruger National Park) in July 2008. It was, according to the doctor, supposed to be my last visit there. I was riding on the reserve tank! But, thank God, He continues to fill my tank, and we look forward to the visits in Pretoria and the spare room of the Headmaster’s house on the grounds of Pretoria Boys’ High (Lunnon Road is not far from there!)
Last Saturday, I spoke at Jill Bromiley’s retirement tea, after her having spent 40 years at Grey Junior. I spoke about “Life on the Trains”. Life is like a train ride. There are people who board our train and who eventually become very important to us. Some of these people are our friends whom we learn to love and cherish. They leave an everlasting impression on us.
Thank you, Tony and Rose, Michael-John and Lexi, for sharing our compartment with us for the last 21 years, for the memories and for enriching our lives. Thank you for being our friends. Thank you for the music …
“Just remember, in the winter,
Far beneath the bitter snow,
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love,
In the spring, becomes the Rose.”