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! 

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.

Places, People and Pipe Dreams

(c) 2011 E.C. Lunnon

Saturday 12 November 2011: 5 years 3 months on … Deuce

I have written before that Home is where the Heart is  –  about a number of places where I am privileged to have lived or visited.

But now I have a broken heart. It is split and  parts remain in those wonderful places. 

Stellenbosch is where I was born and educated.

There is the greater Cape Town Metropole including the City of  Cape Town itself and the Hottentots-Holland basin: The Strand, Somerset West and Gordons Bay where I was raised and spent my formative years.  

Then there is the United States of America, in general, and Oklahoma and Sulphur in particular. I lived and went to school there too.

There is the Eastern Cape where I have lived for the past twenty-seven years.

 

I have visited Londres no less than seven times. 

It is the city of my surname, my forefathers and my dreams: the New Jerusalem to which I look forward. But, if that destination is anything better than London, it can only be called Heaven!

And from the noise and bustle and coloured tracks of the tube trains of London, there is the quietness and simplicity and dust tracks of The Karoo.

 

With each of these places comes the so many people who are my friends and acquaintances.  

 The simpler one’s life, the less one has to give up and the less one has to say goodbye to.

The more privilege, the more pleasure, the more places, the more people, the more presents, the more pets, the more paper, the more photos, the more possessions, …

Yes, the more parts of your heart …
 
And the more parts lead to the more partings and the more pain.

 

It is hard to start saying goodbye to a hundred places, a thousand people and a million pipe-dreams. 

It’s a Small Small World

© E.C. Lunnon 2011

Friday 4 November 2011: 5 years 2 months on … Advantage CBD

Dear Kay, Lee, Jerry and Kathy

Thirty six years ago, in 1975, I completed grade 12 at Sulphur High School, in Sulphur, Oklahoma.

During that year, I lived with four families:  first, with Bill and Nadine Whitley (and their five sons) out at the Lake of the Arbuckles and then in town with Judge Dixie and Ruby Colbert (and Shelley and Mark), yourselves, the Rev Lee and Mrs Kay Griffin (and Jerry and Kathy) and finally with the Seips (and Robert and Becky). I had an additional four mothers and fathers and many more brothers and sisters! (I recall the most difficult thing for me was to actually call my host parents “Mom” and “Dad”!)

Despite the years, I remember many things of my stay with you: celebrating my 19th birthday with a special cake in your kitchen, the Methodist Church (I believe it’s changed its venue now), Kathy’s mice,  Jerry’s bedroom (!) and, of course, our ten-day hiking trip up and around the Maroon Bells and Snowmass Lake in Aspen, Colorado. To this day, a watercolour that Lee painted for me of the Bells and the Lake hangs in our entrance hall in Port Elizabeth (to where I moved from Cape Town in 1984).

 

(Note the signature and date in the left hand corner – I was hoping, Lee, that you had made it famous as a painter by now and that my original is now worth a few million dollars!)

Upon returning to South Africa, I commenced my studies at the University of Stellenbosch. In those years, we relied solely on “snail mail” in order to communicate.  It took some three weeks for a letter to reach Oklahoma from South Africa and the same amount of time for a response to get back here – almost two months for a “round trip”!

Needless to say, despite all our good intentions, the letters dried up rapidly, later became just an annual Christmas card, then SILENCE and then DISAPPEARANCE.

Thanks largely to Kevin Whitley and his insistence in not allowing me “to get away” I remained in contact (to a greater or lesser degree) with the Whitley clan.

I was, therefore, privileged to return to the US on a further four occasions. As a South African (and an honorary citizen of the Great State of Oklahoma) I have most probably seen more of the USA than most Americans, having had the pleasure of visiting most of the 48 contiguous States, as well as Canada and Mexico. 

In 1988, a friend and I toured the country from “sea to shining sea” (and I also returned to Sulphur for a while); in 1999, I visited Orlando and Atlanta on a business trip (and saw the Whitleys in Atlanta); in September/October 2001, my family and I vacationed in Atlanta and with the Whitleys in Missouri; and in March 2007, just after I became ill, I returned for Bill’s (surprise) 80th birthday party. Unfortunately, he became ill at that time and passed away shortly thereafter.

All this time, I have asked about the whereabouts of my other families. I understand that the Seips have moved back to Pennsylvania. However, I have had no contact with them since 1988. I also saw Ruby Colbert at that time (my understanding is that both Judge Dixie and Ruby have now passed away.) I occasionally get some news via Facebook of the doings of the Colbert’s.

 The Griffins remained the “lost tribe”.

But, all that changed last week, thanks to the wonders of that modern-day invention of the Internet and all the various social networking sites, especially Facebook.

Last Monday, in the early hours of the morning, I heard my Blackberry beep. It was a FB message from Esti Stewart, the editor of the St Francis Bay newsletter The Village News.

In my dozy state and without my specs, I read that my mother wanted me to contact her. Well, bearing in mind that my mom passed away in 1986, it came as a bit of a shock!

On getting my specs and re-reading the message, I read the following:

“Hi ED, Kay Griffen requested via my website for you to contact her, she says she is the mom of the family you stayed with.

I was extremely excited about the contact and immediately responded with a brief note to you, Kay, realizing that it was in the middle of the night in Oklahoma City.

I thanked Esti for passing on the message and she informed me that Kay had found me by reading one of my blogs on OKLAHOMA that I had written and that she had republished in her newsletter.

By noon here, I had received another note directly from Kay:

“Hi, ED. I am Kay Griffin, the mother of the Griffin family with whom you stayed in Sulphur, Oklahoma when you were an exchange student. I would love to visit with you!”

Could I have forgotten the Griffins? No!

But I had forgotten (initially) that ‘visit’ in America simply means to have a chat and not that it was a face-to-face encounter as a visit is here in Africa.  For the moment, I was excited that the Griffins were right here in South Africa!

 However, the World Wide Web would have to do. And, in the next few hours, the beeps continued on the Blackberry, the laptop, the desktop and the I-Pad. The Internet was abuzz with requests from the Griffins to “be my friend” and to “poke me”!

The Lunnons and the Griffins had found each other! 

In 1975, it was impossible to phone directly from Sulphur, Oklahoma to Cape Town, South Africa. Now, we can sms, text, WhatsApp, BBM, Skype, Facebook, call, see and hear each other.

So much has changed in thirty six years. And especially so in our family and personal lives. I guess we have all experienced the ups and downs of life, and have met with the challenge of turning the downs into ups.

I will not bore you with all my details, but I invite you to read my blogsite www.edlunnon.wordpress.com or to visit my website www.edlunnon.co.za. You will find most of my life story stuck away in the blogs that I have written over the last two years.

It has been a truly amazing experience that, after so much time, we have been able to connect once again. I will always be grateful to Rotary and to you and all the other OKIES for the year that was afforded me in Sulphur, Oklahoma, USA. It was a life-changing experience for me and something that has defined my life journey ever since.

Despite modern technology, I hope you will understand that, as a result of my illness, it has become difficult for me to keep up individual correspondence with so many good friends around the world. Hence, the writing of my blogs to keep everyone updated.

I do hope that we can continue to keep in touch through my website and Facebook. You will also be pleased to know that hopefully soon, my blogs will be published in book form.

Thanks so much for writing, for your words of encouragement and for putting me up (and I guess, for putting up with me!) in 1975.

I sincerely hope that, if you ever come to Africa and pass this way, I will be able to reciprocate your kindness. 

Remember, “Yea’re Welcome” and “Y’all come back now!

Lots of love and good wishes

 ED

 

 

 

 

Live AlgoaFM Broadcast: Wednesday 28 September 2011

Broadcast No 76:
 
Quantcast

If you missed this broadcast, you can listen to it now.

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!

 

Flying High!

Monday 1 August 2011: 4 years 11 months on … Advantage ED (Lyrica?)

Last Wednesday, on our AlgoaFM radio programme “ED is in wED”, Lance and I had the privilege of interviewing Hannes van der Merwe.

He was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of seventeen.

But it wasn’t his illness we spoke about – it was his grit and determination.

One night, a few weeks ago, he was attacked in his home by four intruders. They ransacked his house, took his belongings, tied him up, put everything in his car, took him, his belongings and his car, went to a number of ATM’s forced him at gunpoint to withdraw his money, then took him to a remote spot between Despatch and Uitenhage and, in the middle of the night in the icy cold weather we have been experiencing, threw him out into a deep ditch next to the secluded road.

Left to die!

But his courage and determination (and luck / chance / God – delete whichever you think is not applicable) saved Hannes.

Some chance pedestrians found him there, and Hannes was saved to tell the tale on our programme. (You may listen to an interview with him on the AlgoaFM website www.algoafm.co.za.)

The previous Wednesday, after my radio show, I met Gabi van Rooyen and her Mom Debbie at Bluewaters Café.  Gabi is a five year old with muscular dystrophy and who faces her challenges with the most beautiful smile on her face. She had been featured in The Herald that morning.

On Thursday evening, I shared a few beers and a few stories with friend and boat fundi Len van Kempen at Dagwoods. I first met Len in St Francis Bay when we bought our boat, Rolls. Since then, he has always been close at hand when we have had problems with the boat.

He told me about our pharmacist, Shaun Kennedy, at St Francis Bay who recently, with others, was dramatically rescued at sea one night from an overturned yacht near the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas. 

Their stories are just three of many that display true strength of grit, determination and survival – a salute to the triumph of the human spirit.

I am kept going, and kept determined, by these and similar stories of survival – and by more and more drugs.

I am becoming a substance abuser of note – and the latest drug to be added to the list on Thursday is Lyrica (with active substance Pregabalin). Previously, I had faxed my neurologist that the spasms I was experiencing were becoming intolerable. Despite trying every device, cushion and chair in the book, sitting down had become just impossible!

He suggested, like everything else I have used, that we “trial-and-error” a new medication. So when I collected the capsules from the pharmacy, I asked for the paper insert. I’m not sure if anyone ever reads the insert – if they did, they wouldn’t take the medication! – but  I have learnt from all the previous “trials” that I need to prepare myself for any of the possible side effects that these tablets bring about.

I don’t always understand what I’m reading in these inserts but I give it a go anyway.

Lyrica is classified as a central nervous system depressant – an anticonvulsant (including anti-epileptics). It is indicated for the treatment of adult patients with neuropathic pain due to Herpes zoster infections (shingles) and diabetes. It calms the nerve activity in the brain. I see it is also helpful to take it in conjunction with small doses of medicinal marijuana!

The rest of the information I don’t understand, and the list of possible side-effects (from common to rare) takes up a full column of the double-columned 60cm long white sheet of paper!!! Is there anything that may not possibly happen?

Anyway – after five years (almost) of being ill, I’m used to being a guinea pig.

So, at 2 x day – with or without food, let’s see what these do!

On Friday, I was flying high, and I haven’t landed yet! I can sit comfortably and the spasms are currently few and far between and, through all the haziness, I feel like I’m on a trip … to where?…

Well, I’ve been on the go ever since …

Thursday night was Dagwoods – just a few beers on top of the medication!

Friday was a trip to the Home Expo.

Friday night was out for supper at the Cape Town Fish Market.

Saturday morning was the rugby test – SA Springboks against the NZ All Blacks in Wellington, New Zealand.

Saturday afternoon was back to the Home Expo.

Saturday evening was dinner and the musical show The Good, the Band and The Ugly at the Old Grey Club.

Sunday morning was a lie-in until eleven! – I haven’t done that in ages, but obviously needed it!

And the rest of Sunday was spent braaing at the Stapletons.

That’s the way I like it – busy, busy, busy. And when you are feeling good, it makes it so much easier to be able to do things, and when you are able to do things, it makes you feel good, and so the upward spiral continues. How long will this high last? I don’t know, but long may it continue!

Yes, the pills have their side-effects. I am blurry eyed and everything is hazy. (I thought the Test rugby out of New Zealand looked blurry because we were beaten so badly!)  I am Swinging High (lol … also the name of a show that I starred in on Broadway – that’s Broadway Street, Sulphur, Oklahoma, on which our High School is situated and where I played Mr McDuff, the English School Principal). I’m not quite in control of myself (which is a bit worrying) but I’m flying high – which is great for the moment.

It also made it easier to accept that, for the first time in twelve years (I think?) we weren’t going to Bloemfontein to watch Grey play Grey. With Sean out of school and Phillip not playing rugby this season (for medical reasons), we didn’t have a son playing there this year. So a trip was unnecessary, although Sean managed to wangle a lift with the Westcotts to go and watch, and that left Phillip unhappy at home.   It seemed strange not to experience the Gariep Dam, the Bloem City Lodge, Springfontein’s Kuilfontein B & B and the Gathmann’s and their farm, the cold and frosty Bloem mornings, the expectations and exhilaration of beating Grey Bloem and the disappointment of losing, the train trips, the Kalahari Dot Fish restaurant and the Bloem Waterfront. What wonderful memories we have all those sporting trips that we have undertaken over the years. 

But the pills and the weekend activities made up for it. As did the music …

Saturday evening’s popular tribute to all things cowboy and country, The Good The Band and the Ugly, had me glued to my seat.

Joining forces with Black Peppa Caterers and the Old Grey Club, Centrestage (owned by ex-pupil of mine Gary Hemmings) brought dinner theatre back to Port Elizabeth. The band paid tribute to The Highwaymen, CSNY, The Eagles and The Travelling Wilburys. We also heard the music of Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Joan Baez and Janice Joplin.

The band was made up of keyboardist Khanya Matomela, Old Grey Russel Sneyd on drums, Old Grey (and another ex-pupil of mine) Joe van der Linden (bass guitar), Claire Harmse (keyboard), Alan Kozak (lead guitar and covering Willy Nelson and George Harrison), Francios Hugo covering Kris Kristofferson, musical director Wayne Kallis appearing as Waylon Jennings  and Lionel Hunt covering Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. (Lionel is South Africa’s premier Elvis Presley tribute artist and lives in Port Alfred, where he offers his talented services “Anything relating to the King of Rock ‘n Roll” on 083 457 0720.)

We heard all-time favourites such as Ring of Fire, Walk the Line, Ghost Riders, Boy named Sue, Help me make it through the night, Me and Bobby McGee, Southern Cross, Desperado, Heartache Tonight, the Night they drove Old Dixie down, Piece of my Heart, You got It, Pretty Woman, Don’t bring me Down, Hold on Tight, Here comes the Sun, Got my mind set on You, Just like a Woman and Forever Young.

It was Shakespeare, in Twelfth Night, who wrote:

If music be the food of love, play on…

So, on Sunday morning, I found my old Roy Orbison music … and The Seekers … and Olivia Newton-John…and The Hollies, the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, Creedence Clearwater Revival …

The volume was turned up high, my foot was tapping and the pills complimented the music.

 And the CD’s went with us to the braai at the Stapletons, and we reminisced …

Music to the ears.

Life is Good!

 

PS! It’s Raining Potholes and Snow

Thursday 28 July 2011: 4 years 10 months on … AdvantageCBD

I started blogging in October 2009, three years after I first became aware that something was wrong with my left hand.

It was also at that time that Port Elizabeth and surrounds were placed on water restrictions. Our supply dams were emptying fast and we were not getting any rain. And as we have seen in the international, national, business and private economies over the similar period, using more than you have, leads to putting everything in a precarious position. Hence, the biggest world recession since the last Great Depression, and, as I write, we wait expectantly to see what will happen in the United States this weekend, as they battle to balance the budget.

But back to the rain – like money, when you have no inflow, you have to limit the outflow. Hence the restrictions that were imposed: no hoses, no watering of gardens, no filling of pools, a limit of 15KL of water per month per household, etc.

For the last two years, whilst I have been blogging, I have often written about the lack of rainfall in our area. It has been a pleasure travelling to other areas of the country where water has been plentiful and where one did not feel guilty having an extra-long shower or even a luxury of a bath!

All that is over now! For the last three months, we have had rain, rain and more rain!

And as the water has fallen, we have had flooding and all the consequential damage. St Francis Bay has twice been cut off from the rest of the country by its only access road being washed away at the Sand River bridge. Homes have been flooded, roads and bridges washed away, the potholes have become even more and even bigger (is that possible?), our roads look like patchwork quilts with all the potholes and our supply dams have all filled to overflowing.

But the authorities have been slow in reacting, and the restrictions have remained in place. Only last week, were they partially lifted. It has been a case of “water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink!”

And so much for global warming! We have experienced cold weather such as I can’t remember ever having had in Port Elizabeth. Even I, who does not feel the cold because of my illness having damaged my “thermometer”, have been getting cold hands and cold feet. I have resorted to thick socks, woolly sheepskin slippers and “hand jeans” – gloves with the tips cut off!

This week, the heavy snowfalls in Africa have brought South Africa to a standstill! Major national roads have been closed. Even radio transmission has been halted in the Queenstown area where the transmitter generator has run out of fuel, and it can’t be accessed because of the snow. The Abrahamsons on the Karoo farm, Kaalplaas, where we spent last weekend in Somerset East (see picture in 2B or not 2B), also woke up to a white winter wonderland!

Ironically, Chile is experiencing similar biting cold weather and snow, and the United States is having severe heat waves! Whoever’s in charge of the weather seems to be messing it up all over the world.

Just as the government is messing up!

Over the last number of years, maintenance has not been a priority of our government. Everything has gone into a state of decay: education, healthcare, public broadcasting, airlines, roads, bridges, railways …

Four years ago, just after I had been diagnosed with CBD, I arranged a parents’ train to Bloemfontein when Grey PE played its traditional fixture against brother school Grey Bloem.  For years, the schools have been travelling by train on a home and away basis. Then, I had battled to get a train, but eventually managed to pull it off. Two hundred and thirty of us travelled to Bloemfontein, and we experienced a very cold night too when we had, what was then, the heaviest Karoo snowfall in living memory (and a train with no heating and delayed by 6 hours!) What fun!

Two years ago, after even more struggling, I managed to organise the Grey-V train 2 to Bloemfontein! That time we went prepared with sleeping bags, had no snow (but lots of rain in Bloemfontein), we were warmer and only arrived a half hour late. Even more fun!

This weekend, the PE school travels to Bloemfontein again. I have had so many people asking me to arrange another train. However, after giving it some thought, I regretfully came to the conclusion that my health has deteriorated to such an extent that I would not be able to do so.

Having said that, I think my health is still in a better condition than our ailing rail system. News is that SHOSHOLOZA (the SA mainline rail company) is unable to provide any trains at all this year. (Recently, all passenger trains in the entire country were cancelled for a month!)

Even the 600 school boys will be travelling by bus this year, and, so, yet another of our traditions is thrown out the window!  Future Grey boys will not experience the excitement of travelling to Bloem by train – in fact, many will now never ever experience train travel.

The chances of winning in Bloemfontein are limited (to say the least!), but travel safe, play hard, enjoy, and keep warm and dry because:

There’s more to come, they say – starting tonight: more rain, more cold, more snow!

Yes, we live in a topsy-turvy world.

Last weekend, we witnessed the awful killing by Anders Behring Breivik of seventy plus people (mainly children) in Oslo and on Utoeya Island – in the name of “saving Europe from Muslim takover”. We also saw the death of the notorious troubled and tragic singer (with the biggest hit REHAB), alcohol and drug abuser Amy Whitehouse, at the age of just twenty seven!

Last weekend, we also had the pleasure of visitors from The Strand: my niece Michelle, her husband Sebastian and their nine-month old daughter Hannah. Looking at Hannah at a place where she is just about to start crawling, I thought of this world a few times and wondered whether it was fair to bring children into and up in such a messed-up place. The answer came soon:

On Saturday, the rain let up and we headed off to the Addo National Elephant Park with its new entrance just 40 km from the City Centre at Colchester.

Away from the “messed-upness” of the world and in the quietness of nature, we experienced the beauty of our earthly home that hurtles through Space and from which we launch rockets to explore that Space (and maybe mess that up, too?) – read my previous blog.

Just a half hour from the hustle of the City, we experienced the joy and wellness of living – elephant, lion, kudu, zebra, buffalo, … all in the now lush green, over – watered African terrain of our planet Earth.

What a privilege and a pleasure to share in God’s creation!

Sky News reported yesterday that the British government had spent £2 million to research what made the British people happy. They found the following (and does this surprise you?):

The following, in order of importance, contributes to the happiness and well-being of the British people:

1.       Health

2.       Relationships with family and friends

3.       Relationships with spouse

4.       Economic well-being and job satisfaction

5.       The current and future state of our environment

I wonder where South Africans would place safety and security, and service delivery on this list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Who Painted the Moon Black?

Sunday 19 June 2011: 4 years 9 months on … Advantage ED

Father’s Day 2011!

This has arguably been the saddest weekend of my entire life.

Over the last two years, I have written a great deal about the wonderful days spent at St Francis Bay. Yesterday morning, we were headed there again for the weekend.

After the recent rains, the world was green and clean. Coming over the rise just before the descent into the Gamtoos River valley one gets to see Jefferys Bay in the distance, and because it is so clear today, beyond the Bay of J is the beauty of Paradise Beach, Aston Bay, St Francis Bay and, at the farthermost point, the peninsula of Cape St Francis. What a splendid sight on this magnificent warm winter’s day!

In the car there was silence. Behind us, you could hear the hum of the wheels of the Venter trailer that we were towing. It was empty because the purpose of the trip was to collect the last of our belongings from our house in St Francis.

Our holiday house has become the latest casualty of my illness.

Like a thief in the night, the CBD has slowly been taking away from me. First it was the use of my left hand. Then it took my job and my ability to work, to earn an income and to make a contribution to society.

Slowly it has taken not only my physical and mental abilities, but also my independence, my self-worth and my self-esteem.

It reminds me of the total lunar eclipse that we had witnessed on Wednesday night. On a clear dark cloudless night, we had slowly seen the fullness of the bright moon disappear as the shadow of the earth moved across the face of the moon. After about an hour it became totally black!

(On a “lighter” note, someone said the moon was being switched off for three hours in response to the national load-shedding call by ESKOM to save power! Another comment was that VODACOM had paid millions to turn the moon red as a part of its recent advertising campaign to advise the public that it had changed its corporate colour from blue to red!)

Be that as it may, it was the longest total lunar eclipse seen in the last one hundred years. At the slowest of paces, the darkness crept across the moon until eventually there was a total blackout.

It is just like my CBD – at the slowest of paces, it is stealthily and silently taking more and more.

And now, it has started taking our possessions.

As the disease has progressed, it has become increasingly difficult for me to keep maintaining two homes – from a practical operational point of view but also from a financial perspective. And so, on the Easter weekend at the end of April we decided to put the house up for sale.

I don’t think any of us were prepared for what happened next. Bearing in mind the economic situation right now, and the fact that almost every second house in St Francis is “For Sale”, we did not know what to expect.

But early on Wednesday morning, Freedom Day, we had two prospective buyers view the house, and by lunch time the second viewer had made an offer to buy, which we accepted!

Tears rolled freely then. The paperwork was signed, but it would take a while for the transfer to go through, so the reality of the decision didn’t really hit home.

Not until this weekend. As the transfer is imminent, we needed to move. Suddenly, reality set in.

The weather was perfect. Those warm, windless picture-perfect days in St Francis when the reflection of the houses in the canals results in one not knowing which the top is and which the bottom is of the photos that you have taken! It made our decision to sell and the packing-up process so much more difficult to accept.

I have kept blaming myself. I have let down my family because I did not adequately prepare for an eventuality such as the CBD. I had always hoped that the boys would have continued with the traditions of No 6.

We have so many happy memories from our years of visiting here:  from the first red and black blow-up boat with the plastic oars, through Rusk with its 15HP Johnson engine to Rolls with the 125HP Mercury; from the paddling through the ski-ing and wake-boarding, from the canals through the river to the sea, from the skottels through the braais, from the fishing through the tanning and beach walks, from the empty house in winter through the “House (and garage) Full” at Christmas and New Year!

As a family, we have been so privileged by the experience and have been even more privileged to have been able to share it with so many of our family, friends and neighbours. They are too many to mention here (I will include my nephew-in-law Sebastian, only because he asked me to), but hopefully most have signed the Visitors’ Book that we have kept over the years.

In amongst the packing, it was a special treat on Saturday evening, and we really value the kindness, when our neighbours supplied a pork “skottel – braai” dinner to celebrate the “Last Supper” at No 6.  Mike and Jenny Rishworth (from No 4) and Brett and Jenny Parker from across the canal arranged the evening and joined us (and Pera’s brother Paul and his wife Debbie). Thanks so much for the evening, but even more, thanks for your friendship and the many happy memories. We know you will keep an eye on No 6 for us.

I did not sleep much on Saturday night. There were too many thoughts going through my diseased mind and too many tears sliding over my cheeks. Sunday, Father’s Day, was not much better. Seeing the boys walking around taking their last pictures and posting them as their profiles on Facebook , made it even more difficult for me.

I had never imagined that one could become so attached to a place and to a house, and that it would be so difficult to say goodbye to a memory and a thousand dreams.

I had also never imagined that we would have accumulated so much over the years. So much so, that we will need to go back again to collect the rest (maybe just an excuse for one really last visit to No 6 later in the week!)

To all our immediate neighbours, the Macs, the Fishers, the Kemps, the Fouches, the Nortjes, and to the numerous others who crossed our path, our grateful thanks are extended  for so many good times and for being part of the tapestry of our St Francis Bay experience. We eagerly anticipate being your “day visitors” in the future!   

To the new owners, Mike and his family, we sincerely hope that you will treasure it and enjoy it as much as we have, and that you, too, will continue to hoard happy memories at No 6 (and maybe not so much junk as we have!)

And to ourselves, we need to remember that the moon did not stay black forever. After the darkness, it turned to the most beautiful red and then slowly returned to its normal bright shining self (and maybe even looked just a tad brighter after the darkness than before!)

We, too, must now look forward to the next exciting era in our lives that begins today.