©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!