Marching to Pretoria (Thailand Day 17 – 21: Mon – Fri: 9 – 13 July 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Monday 27 August 2012: 5 years 11 months on … Advantage CB

And, at 07h00 Monday morning, 9 July 2012, we landed, on time, at JHB – the Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. We are Africans and we were home!

It was noon in Bangkok and Phuket – five hours ahead of us, but, paradoxically, all that was behind us now.

As in Life, all that remains are our pictures, our stories and our memories … the Legacy of Life – the Good in Good-Bye!

Yes, it was early Monday morning and we were back in mid-winter and back in Africa.

We stepped off the plane in our Thai summer clothing and the cold hit us. We could feel the cold Highveld and we knew we were home.

We could see the groups of Airport staff standing around with surly faces, hands in their pockets and no inclination to assist – not even to hold the door open (or to open it properly to remain open) as we stepped into the airport building! We knew we were home. 

We were moved from one carousel to the next to collect our baggage. We knew we were home.

Only five of the twenty passport control booths were manned and the queues of people from three international flights that had just landed started to build up. We knew we were home.

And then the computer system went down … we were most definitely home!

We went through customs quickly – “Nothing to declare”- and took leave of the Bryants, who were leaving later in the day for George Airport and Plettenberg Bay. Our very much smaller tour group – the four Lunnons – were going on to our administrative capital city, Pretoria (or Tshwane, as some would prefer to call it).

We would be taking the Gautrain, our newly built and opened South African showpiece right into Hatfield in the heart of Pretoria. Were we really home, or could this be a tube train in London? Although everything was so similar to a London tube train, the one thing we did not hear was “Mind the Gap!” However, we did hear that we were not to eat chewing gum (which we were all still chewing from our landing into OT Airport!)

Yes, we were really home and, yes, we can be truly proud of this achievement. We left the airport at 09h00 and were at the Hatfield station at 09h45, where we were picked up by our friend Tony Reeler, headmaster of Pretoria Boys High School.

I have written about Tony and Rose, and Michael John and Alexander before – see the blog “Thank you for the Music”.

The next three days we spent on the campus of the school in their lovely home that overlooks the Union Buildings and the Blue Bulls Loftus Versfeld rugby stadium (I’m not sure at which one of the two the seat of South African authority is vested!)

We acclimatised, got rid of the jet lag (which hit me particulalary badly after this trip), visited, chatted, skindered, snoozed, ate, snacked, Amstelled, yes – braaied!, red-wined, toured the school campus, visited Freedom Hill, caught up and generally just did what good friends do … (and the boys went back to Johannesburg on the Gautrain for two days to play golf with Phill’s friend Brad Mackenzie).

On Thursday morning, Tony took us over to Faerie Glen, where we were staying with my good university friends, Marzette and Thomas Moolman. We repeated the previous paragraph (except this time we took the boys ice-skating in Pretoria North)! We also managed to sneak in an afternoon visit to Pera’s friends Guy and Bev Keeling.

It was a week of cooling down, literally and figuratively! And it was great to catch up with good friends.

After brunch on Saturday, Thomas took us back to the OT Airport. Although I had heard on the news that bad weather was expected in the Eastern Cape, a call to the airline confirmed that all was well (or was it?!).

Our British Airways flight departed Johannesburg a few minutes late – headed for the Nelson Mandela Bay and Port Elizabeth.

Our Thai trip was fast coming to its end …  



Thank You for the Music . . .

 Wednesday, 02 December 2009:  Three years three months on …

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.”

Rose Melville Reeler
Thank you for these beautiful words, Ed. You , Pera and the boys have always been and will always be a very important part of our lives. There are always enough beds in our house for you, and there’ll be plenty of food, wine and fabulous coversation. Lots of love xxx