A Tale of Two Worlds

Tuesday 9 November 2010:  4 years 2 months on . . .

On my father’s side, my grandfather, Walter Charles Lunnon, was British. He spoke English. My grandmother, Susan van Blerck, was of Dutch descent. She spoke Afrikaans. We speak English at home (our ‘home language’) in a country that now boasts eleven official languages!

The numerous language and racial groupings in South Africa call each other by different names – some nice and some not so nice! Under new legislation designed to prevent racial incitement, some of these names may not be used and run one the risk of being criminally charged in a court of law.

For years, Afrikaans-speaking South Africans have called English-speaking South Africans soutpiele (salt penises). The name originates from the analogy that those of us from English descent are still firmly rooted in England. So much so, that we stand with one leg in Africa and one leg in Europe and our two legs are so far apart that our manhood dangles in the Atlantic seawater! Hence, the term ‘salt penis’.

So many terms!

Next week, this soutpiel is scheduled to travel to the land of his one leg:  England and Ireland – a visit to the ‘motherland’, so to speak. I am not sure which of my legs is planted in Europe, bearing in mind that my left leg is now far weaker than my right leg.

I enjoy the efficiencies of the First World. But I live in the inefficiencies of the Third World.

I will always consider myself an African. I am an African. I was born here in Africa.

Does one find ‘African Europeans’?

I have often joked that I was born to be a ‘Westerner’ and not an ‘African’. I suppose that’s because, despite born and bred and living in Africa, we were brought up in the European culture. So much of what we do and say and think is so European – even to the extent that we celebrate Christmas in the heat of summer with artificial pine trees, artificial snow, turkey and plum pudding, and still forever dream of a white Christmas!

Does one find ‘African Americans’?

Perhaps, having studied in the United States of America and being an honorary citizen of Oklahoma, I could also call myself an ‘African American’! (Now that’s one that could cause problems in the USA – aren’t all their African Americans black?)

And so much of our lives is influenced by Hollywood, the movies, the TV, and thus the USA.

Does one find ‘White Africans’?

Some Black Africans don’t consider White Africans worthy of the African title! They have no place for us. But, in a certain way, I suppose that you can’t blame them. There was a time when white people in this country called themselves European and claimed everything for themselves – Europeans Only – from park benches to living areas to beaches.

However, it is so sad to see so many of our family and friends leaving the country of their birth and now living overseas as expatriates: African Australians, African New Zealanders and African what-evers.

Talking about travelling and weak legs, I am hoping that my health will not let me down. For the record, the last few weeks have not been easy, and it would appear that there has been more degeneration in the last month than there has been in the previous four years. So, it’s not going to be that easy to travel this time – in fact, I will need to make the call this week if I will be able to go at all! It’s all quite stressful for me.

My passport had also expired, so I had to apply for a renewal. Because Home Affairs is in such a chaotic situation, I used a private company that has used the chaos to be original. There is always opportunity for entrepreneurs here.

That’s the upside of being African.

 So, they do the hard work for you, including all the forms and the queuing and that’s why they call themselves Q-4-U! But, it all comes at a cost.

That’s the downside of being African.

Despite SA being a member of the British Commonwealth, travelling to the UK now means having to obtain a visa. Even in the old South Africa, that was unnecessary. But, because so many foreigners are using our chaotic and corrupt and bribe-controlled Home Affairs Department to obtain illegal SA passports and then automatic access into the UK, the UK authorities have had to introduce visas for all South African citizens.

That’s the downside of being African.

But UK visa application is a dream. It’s all done online, even as far as making the appointment to personally go to their offices to hand in your documents.

Despite not feeling well, this happened last Friday morning, and is all so punctual and so efficient – and so European!

That’s the upside of being European.

While I was there, Pera phoned to ask whether I wanted to go on a Township Tavern Tour on Friday evening. I really didn’t feel like going out, but I am still determined to do as much as possible. So, we went.

Xolani Matheke, else known as X, is one of only 2 black teachers at Grey Junior. He organised for his colleagues to go on this tour of two typical Black taverns in Kwazakhele and New Brighton (ironically, even this Black African township has a European name!)

So we bussed in a European double-decker London bus – but not red – to the African ‘Northern Areas’ – those parts of Port Elizabeth north of the N2 highway that were designed in apartheid days to accommodate all people other than white! At a guess, I would estimate that 75% – 80% of our total city population of 1,5 million people live in those areas.

And, I would further guess that some 90% (if not more) of the white population that live south of the N2 highway, have never been into the northern areas, let alone eaten and drunk in a township tavern!  So, it’s quite an experience for a European African to enter and participate in and see how the African Africans socialize in their own world.

 We seldom, as white Africans, enter the world of our compatriot black Africans, despite the fact that they leave their black African world daily to cross the divide, figuratively and literally –in our case, the N2 highway – to enter, work, experience and participate in the Westernised world that is ours and, so fast, becoming theirs.

Pera and I had been on a tour before, so we were able to do some comparisons. The first place we went to was not really authentic or typical. It’s more of a tourist place and was obviously built with the 2010 World Cup in mind. We ate supper there – typical African cuisine of meat and pap in a bastardised African / European / American environment.

Then we went on to the second place. The roads are so narrow and the little houses are right on the edge of the street. So much so, that the bus even took out a cable that was suspended across the street.  The African way of illegally cabling the European TV from one dish to multiple homes was brought down for the night. But it won’t take long for them to do the DIY repairs and, maybe, link up a few other homes along the way!

The second place was more like it, but also not quite! An African watering hole with the most exclusive European car brands parked outside, playing the latest of American hip-hop and selling the best of imported European and American alcohol! Even a special on Heineken beer there!

I wonder sometimes how authentic Africa would have remained had it not been for colonial expansion and German BMW’s, European Carducci, American Rap, Scottish Whiskey, Dutch Heineken, French Cuisine and English golf (and nowadays Chinese anything and everything)!

Despite the outside influence, the spirit of the African African Ubuntu is so evident, and as European Africans, we have so much to learn from our countrymen.

The upside of being African is that we have such rich cultures to experience and to draw on.

The downside of being African is that we seldom make use of the opportunity.

As European Africans, we would rather use the opportunity to travel back to the lands of our fathers.

We really are soutpiele!


(And, after our tour, we went back to our world – to the comfort of a typical white suburban celebration of Anthony Beswick’s 50th birthday. I’m sorry we missed his speech, but he spoke about friendship, and I liked the following quotes:

The best mirror is an old friend – George Herbert

A friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies – Aristotle

The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend – Abe Lincoln

One who looks for a friend without faults will have none

Your friend is the man who knows all about you and still likes you – Elbert Hubbard

Count your age with friends but not with years


On Saturday, under a warm spring African sky, I watched Sean play his last school fixture for Grey on the Pollock Field against Woodridge College in that game of cricket that is so English and so typical of our other world.  I was pleased to see the large number of Black Africans that have joined the White Africans in playing this so-European game.)







The Circle of Life

Wednesday 2 June 2010: 3 years 9 months on …


My Great Grandfather

Two weeks ago (on 20 May) we celebrated the eighteenth birthday of our eldest son, Sean Charles Lunnon. He, his brother and our other son, Phillip John Lunnon (turning 15 in July) and my cousin Michael’s son, Alistair (24) – now living in New Zealand – are the only three male Lunnons of their generation who will carry our Lunnon line forward.

This morning, at 2am, Helena ‘Peggy’ Walls (nee Lunnon) passed away at the age of 92. She was my aunt (my father’s sister) and the last time I saw her was two years ago when we celebrated her 90th birthday in The Strand. I had hoped to see her when we go to Cape Town later this month. Alas, that is not to be.

In our family tree, Peggy was two levels above Sean, Phillip and Alistair. On that level, only four people out of my twelve aunts and uncles on my father’s side remain – Aunty Irmela, Aunty Elsie and Aunty Doreen (with only Aunty Doreen being a blood “Lunnon”) and Uncle Peter. (Aunty Doreen is now the only one of her siblings that we are still fortunate to have with us.)

Let me try and put it all into some order, starting at the bottom of the Lunnon tree:

Sean Lunnon’s and Phillip Lunnon’s father is me – Edward Charles Lunnon and their mother is Pera Claire Lunnon (nee Southwood).

I have three sisters, Lynette, Ingrid and June. Our father was Herbert Louis Lunnon and our mother was Doris Lunnon (nee Stanbridge).

Herbert had two brothers, George Henry (married Aunty Irmela) and John ‘Guy’ Lunnon (married Aunty Elsie) and three sisters, Helena Harriet ‘Peggy’ (married Uncle Willie Walls), Edith Grace (married Uncle Phillip Hope) and Doreen Elizabeth (married Uncle Peter Volsteedt). Their father (my grandfather) was Walter Charles Lunnon and their mother (my grandmother) was Margaret Susan Shepard Lunnon (nee Van Blerk).


My Lunnon Grandparents

Walter Charles Lunnon (my grandfather) who emigrated to South Africa in 1896 aged 23, was one of nine children of William (2) Lunnon (my great grandfather) and Amelia (nee Crease – 6 children) and second wife Harriet Stevens (nee Webb – 3 children) of Wookey Hole, Somerset, England. His siblings were William, Albert, Eliza, Catherine, Mary, John, Robert and Edith.

Their family home, Chesham House, is on the right as you enter Wookey Hole from Wells. (Pera and I visited there in 1999 when we toured the UK. I revisited Wookey Hole in November 2007 with Jerry Cottignies (my cousin Margaret’s husband from Bristol) when, after I became ill, I spent a month in UK as a guest of some of my ex-pupils of 1984.)

William’s (2) father was also William (1) Lunnon (my great great grandfather) and his mother was Sophia Reeves. He had only one other brother, John Lunnon.

My great great grandfather William (1) had a brother James (Jim) and their father (my great great great grandfather) was Robert (2) Lunnon and their mother is unknown.

Robert (2) Lunnon (my great great great grandfather) had two half sisters Sarah and Anne, and their father (my great great great great grandfather) was also Robert (1) and their mother was Rebecca. 

Robert (1) Lunnon had two brothers, John and William Lunnon and their father (my great great great great great grandfather) was John London (Lunnon being a corruption of London) and their mother was Mary Owen (they married on 9 December 1728).

And that’s how far we can trace the tree!

It’s really all so simple: God created Adam, Adam begat Cain, Abel and Seth; and Seth begat Enosh and Enosh begat Kenan and Kenan begat … the Londons/Lunnons (circa 998 AD) who begat John London who begat Robert (1) Lunnon (1733-1807) who begat Robert (2) Lunnon who begat William (1) (d 1848) who begat William (2) (1828-1901) who begat Walter Charles (1873-1958) who begat Herbert Louis (1915-1976) who begat Edward Charles (b 1956) who begat Sean (b 1992) and Phillip (b 1995).

And yet, it’s not really all that simple – it’s not just a name: Each one of these names represents a person, a life, a story to tell.

John was a linen weaver from London. Robert (1) established a very successful business, W. LUNNON & CO. LTD – Wholesale Paper Merchants & Manufacturing Stationers. Robert (2) owned the Abbey Farm Property. William (1) worked as a vatman in the paper mills of Cheddar and Wookey Hole. William (2) started working in the paper mills as an ‘engine picker’ at the age of 11 for two shillings per week. Besides being a papermaker for 44 years, he became the District Secretary to the Original Paper Makers Society, was a Justice of the Peace for the County of Somerset, a Weslyan preacher and a firm upholder of working men’s rights. At the time of his death in 1901, it was written “He was a leader of his fellows, and amongst children and adults, in religion and trade questions, in politics and social and civil developments, he was placed well to the front by those who looked to him for guidance, and who appreciated his sterling worth. He beared an honoured name. It was a life spent in constant readiness and effort to help others.”

Walter Charles took up an appointment with the Cape Postal Service in South Africa in July 1896 at the age of 23. He worked in the telegraph signallers in Kimberley throughout its siege during the Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1902). He rubbed shoulders with Cecil Rhodes, Lord Milner and Rudyard Kipling. The desk I work at was given to him when he retired as Postmaster of Swellendam in 1929. Herbert Louis loved the outdoors and spent much of his time angling and climbing the mountains of the Western Cape, until he was struck down by a vicious debilitating stroke in 1969.

And as I make plans to go to Cape Town next week to attend Aunty Peggy’s funeral and to celebrate her life with the rest of the family, I am reminded of The Dash Poem by Linda Ellis:

I read of a man who stood to speak

At the funeral of a friend

He referred to the dates on her tombstone

From the beginning to the end

He noted that first came the date of her birth

And spoke the following date with tears,

But he said what mattered most of all

Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time

That she spent alive on earth.

And now only those who loved her

Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;

The cars, the house, the cash,

What matters is how we live and love

And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.

Are there things you’d like to change?

For you never know how much time is left,

That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough

To consider what’s true and real

And always try to understand

The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,

And show appreciation more

And love the people in our lives

Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,

And more often wear a smile

Remembering that this special dash

Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read

With your life’s actions to rehash

Would you be proud of the things they say

About how you spent your dash?

©1996 Linda Ellis

So, again, I have to ask myself

“Would I be proud of the things they say about how I spent my dash?”

To Sean and Phillip, as the “bearers of an honoured name”, we – you and I – have deep footprints in which to follow.  Will they be able to say of us that we lived “a life spent in constant readiness and effort to help others”?

And while I’m pondering about matters of life and death and family, here’s a quote from my cousin-in-law-in-law Maryse Peach (my mother-in-law is a Peach) – What a peach!:

Don’t you sometimes wish life was like a PVR? Then we could fast forward the s*#t, rewind the giggles and record the moments that mean the most!

In loving memory of all the LUNNONS who have gone before us

and especially my aunt,

Helena Harriet (Peggy) Walls (nee Lunnon)

1918 – 2010

Our deepest sympathy to our cousin Jeannie on the loss of her mother