Love All!

Tuesday 1 March 2011: 4 years  6 months on …ADVANTAGE ED

I have been blessed with many talents. But when it comes to sporting talents, I must have been at the back of the queue when those were dished out.

I have only ever played one game of rugby (when I was a student) –  nogal on the main field at UCT (University of Cape Town) when I played on the wing for Maties versus Ikeys. Not in the Varsity Cup competition, but when our Stellenbosch University Intervarsity Committee played our UCT counterparts in a “curtain raiser” to the main game at Newlands (which Stellenbosch won, of course!)

I was told sometime in the mid-eighties that I play the worst golf ever seen played in the preceding twenty eight years!

I can manage a bat on the cricket pitch with a little bit more expertise, but bowling leaves me spinning at a pace! And, as for fielding, my mind wanders too much to stand there all day waiting for a ball that may possibly come my way – when (and if) it does, I will simply not see it, let alone catch it!

When I studied in Oklahoma I played Basketball for the Sulphur Bulldogs and managed to get my “Basketball Letter”. That’s an embroidered red ‘B’ on a white background that is handed to all ball team players. I think mine was an honorary award!

As for American Football – well, I was simply a non-starter (and I still don’t know if I understand all that happens there!)

In 1999, I started road-running and managed reasonably well with the least amount of training. A large number of medals hang in my study – for 5km races where I started, then 10km, 15 km and eventually the Knysna Half Marathon (21km) which I ran for the first time in 2000 with Lindsay Brown. I completed three of those before I became ill. In 2009, I planned to walk the route but gout set in just a few days before the race and I had to withdraw. Maybe, sometime I will still be able to walk that again! It’s a very special race through the forests of Knysna, and those who have completed it will understand what I am talking about. It has a vibe that is very hard to beat.

I enjoy the vibe and the social activity that accompanies most sporting events. I often think that is the reason why so many people support and attend sporting activities around the world. And I guess I could be shot for this, but sometimes I simply cannot understand why human beings can get so worked up about boys and girls at school and grown men and women who chase varying sized and shaped balls around varying sized and coloured fields of varying textures. I think the problem sets in at school level where schools now even advertise how many Springboks they produce but never a mention of how many doctors or engineers or successful entrepreneurs.

That passion for sport seems to disappear into the apathy towards most other civic duties required of John Citizen!

When I sat at St George’s Park on Friday night watching the Warriors beat the Dolphins in an exciting finish, I wondered how many of the people were there to actually see the cricket, and how many people were there simply to be seen (or to feel the vibe or simply to get paralytic drunk at one of the many bars that service that ground, and all sporting grounds, for that matter!)

The same thought crossed my mind when I watched Sean play his first game of rugby for Old Grey against Police on Wednesday evening. The Klippies and Kastles flowed, and the fists flew, and the “friendly” game was called short some ten minutes into the second half – luckily with Old Grey in the lead at that time!

Don’t get me wrong! I do enjoy watching sport and I can admire the athletic ability of those who were fortunate to be in the front of the queue when those talents were handed out. I can see the life lessons that we can learn on the sports fields. If only we could translate that into life!

I also marvel, as when I watched the opening ceremony of the ICC World Cup in Bangladesh earlier last week (and for that matter when we hosted the Football World Cup last year) at the ability of sport to bring the people of the world together. Despite our differences that lead to so many clashes in the world, there is so much in these sporting gatherings and opening / closing ceremonies that unite the nations of our earth. Whether it’s the alcohol, or the song and dance and flags and laser lights and fireworks, for a few hours, the right chemicals flow in our bodies and we seem to forget our problems and be a happy world! Of course, the cynics would say that the money spent on these shows could be put to better use elsewhere.

(The same goes for music concerts. The hype that surrounds these mega-shows is unbelievable – like U2 in Cape Town on the previous Friday night. I must have been one of the few not there, but I did manage to sit in my study, open a beer and listen to the streamed show on the internet. I only later discovered that you could listen to the show on DSTV as well!)

It would appear that sportsmen and showmen have the ability to “heal the world”. If only we could translate those experiences into the so many areas of need in our ordinary everyday lives.

I played tennisette (tennis with a hard wooden bat on a small tennis court) – I’m not sure if they even do that today! – in Primary School and tennis in High School. At university we often whiled away spare time (did we have that?) on the tennis courts between my residence Helshoogte and the ladies’ res Sonop. (Not on Sundays, though, because in those days it was considered sinful in Stellenbosch and elsewhere in South Africa to play sport on Sundays, which were made by God strictly for rest!)

One of my erstwhile tennis partners/opponents, Gretel du Toit (now Wust), still laughs to this day at my tennis prowess on the Matie courts!  

Tennis was, for a long while, just about the only international sport we saw on TV after it was introduced in this country in 1976. The highlight of the year was the Wimbledon Tournament in July. Many a year would see us sit down in the lounge with our strawberries and cream, and spend a good Sunday afternoon watching the men’s final (seemingly then it was no longer sinful to watch/play sport on a Sunday!)

Pera and I were fortunate to be at Wimbledon in 1999 and we ate our strawberries and cream on the terrace as we watched the 113th men’s final on the big screen on the side of Centre Court. It was the 4th of July, American Independence Day and Sampras beat Aggassi  6-3, 6-4,7-5 in an all-American final.

It wasn’t the longest game of professional tennis. That was reserved for Wimbledon 2010 when the longest professional tennis match, in terms of both time and total games, was the first-round match between Nicolas Mahut and John Isner on 22, 23, and 24 June 2010. It was the

  • Longest match by time and games: It took 11 hours and 5 minutes of playing time, and required 183 games.
  • Longest set by time and games: The 5th set took 8 hours and 11 minutes of playing timeand required 138 games
  • Longest play in a single day: The first 118 games of the fifth set, played on 23 June 2010, lasted 7 hours and 6 minutes.
  • Most games in a single day: 118, on the 23 June.

Isner eventually defeated Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7((7), 7-6(3), 70 -68!

And so, where does all this bring me? Sometimes, I think that having a terminal illness is like playing that long game of tennis. Sometimes you’re beating the illness, sometimes you’re just on even terms, and sometimes, the illness has the better of you.

How long will it last? No-one knows. Who will win the match? In the final analysis, the disease wins. Up until then, it’s one game at a time.

In my titanic encounter (now 4 years 6 months), ED v CBD, for a long while up until Christmas last year, it’s been ADVANTAGE ED.

Then, we went back to DEUCE. And, for most of January and February, it was ADVANTAGE CBD.

Then, we got the pills right, and we went back to DEUCE.

For the last week, and at the moment, we are back to ADVANTAGE ED!

Health-Meter

Cognitive Excellent===================Average============================Poor
Memory (Short) *********************************************
Executive function *******************************************
Spelling *****************************
Figures ****************************************
Physical  
Left hand/arm *******************************************************
Left leg/foot *******************************************
Right hand/arm **********************************
Right leg/foot *
Lungs *******
Swallowing *
Spasms –left side *************************************
Spasms –right side *

Red stars = Deterioration / Green stars = Improvement from previous week

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.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Land of Our Fathers

 

Sunday 11 July 2010: 3 years 10 months on . . .

Tonight, at Soccer City in Johannesburg, the Netherlands plays against Spain in the final of the 2010 South Africa FIFA World Cup ®. The winner of the match tonight will take over from Italy – sent home in the early rounds – as the undisputed World Football Champions. They will wear the crown until the next World Cup takes place in Brazil in 2014.

Millions of people worldwide will focus their attention on South Africa tonight. They will join the thousands of international tourists that have streamed into our country over the last five weeks. It is difficult now to picture the world we came from in the Old South Africa.

Exactly twenty-five years ago, in July 1985, we arrived in Amsterdam by bus from Calais in France. We being the 21 people making up the first overseas 1985 Grey High School Cricket Touring Party to UK and Holland – 15 boys and 6 teachers.

It was the height of apartheid South Africa, and the townships were burning. South Africans were not welcome in most parts of the world and crossing boarders was a cumbersome task. South African tourists found it difficult to travel and international sports tours were out of the question!

But, somehow, we managed to pull it off. Not welcomed abroad as teams are nowadays, but all very clandestinely – even the cricket equipment had to be hidden away amongst the ordinary luggage. After all, this was publicly no more than a sightseeing tour to Europe! Forget about the fact that wherever we went in the UK discreet plain-clothes officers of the Intelligence Agency accompanied us, just in case something went wrong and protestors upset our tour along the way. It sounds all very James Bond style now!

And, up until our arrival in Amsterdam, everything had gone absolutely smoothly.

We had acquired a VW Golf, which had been the prize in our fundraising competition and for which we had sold tickets for months prior to the tour. VW also gave us a fleet of multi-coloured Smartie Golfs that we had to drive to Johannesburg from Uitenhage at the start of our tour. And, after spending one night in Johannesburg, we had left from Jan Smuts International Airport (now Oliver Tambo International) aboard our Luxavia flight headed for Luxembourg via Nairobi and Cairo.

In those days, Luxavia was a front airline company for SAA that was allowed to use African airspace and overfly the African soil that we now so publicly boast about to the world. SAA had to fly over the Atlantic, around the continent, in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge!

But, as South Africans, we were kept in the “holding pub” when we landed in Nairobi, and, in Cairo, we were not allowed to leave the plane. From Luxembourg, we had flown onto London Heathrow where we joined our coach and coach driver.

We travelled and played mainly in the south and southeastern corner of England – as far north as Northamptonshire and down to Hove and Brighton. And we won some and lost some.

In between the matches, we did the tourist thing! London, Lords, the castles and palaces, the pubs and even, to the disgust of some, the Theatre – Evita  and Don’t Cry for me Argentina – all in Spanish! And, on the Sunday of the Wimbledon Tournament, we watched Boris Becker beat our very own South African Kevin Curren in the Men’s Final. (For some or other reason, Wimbledon seemed to escape the harsh South African boycotts of those days.)

But, on the day we left Dover via ferry to Calais and by coach through France and Belgium to Amsterdam, a storm broke around our heads. Klaas de Jonge, a Dutch activist wanted by the South African Police, had gone into hiding in the Dutch Embassy in Pretoria. The police are not allowed to enter diplomatic premises and this set up a standoff between the SAP and the Dutch Embassy staff, and an international furore.

The effect on our touring party was the cancellation of the matches by the schools we were scheduled to play against in Amsterdam. And so we had a few days there with nothing to do – each has a story to tell of how they managed to occupy their time educationally during those days!

I don’t remember much Orange but I do recall us painting the town and the lights Red!

And, of course, what goes on tour stays on tour!

We coached back to Luxembourg from Amsterdam. I remember it was 14 July, Bastille Day, when we headed back for Johannesburg. It was also Dickie’s birthday and because of that he was allowed to sit in the cockpit when we landed in Cairo. (But definitely not touch Egyptian soil!) Now you can touch the soil but definitely not sit in the cockpit!

As a youngster, those lands were just the subjects of stories. I remember, from my childhood, the story of the little Dutch boy who prevented catastrophe by keeping his thumb in the hole in the dyke, and then there was the rhyme about the King of Spain’s daughter came to visit me.

 

What a different world it is that our children are growing up in. Now they are not just stories – in the last month not only the King’s daughter has come to visit us, but the Kings too, and the Queens, and the Presidents, and the people, and Paris and Leonardo and my neighbours and not even my neighbours . . .

And, tonight, will it be Spain that will say to her South American Spanish offspring Don’t Cry for me Argentina or will it be the Netherlands saying it to her South African Dutch offspring?

As Long as there’s Tea, there’s Hope!

 

Saturday 10 July 2010:  3 years 10 months on . . .

I have previously only visited the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town in the darkness of night.

As a Matie, a Stellenbosh University student, I attended a number of formal dinner dances in the Ballroom there, notably the annual Debutantes’ Ball. Thirty years ago, in 1980, as a house committee member of Helshoogte Residence, I also organised a formal residence birthday ball there – complete with the then well-known Hylton Ross Orchestra. Besides academic studies, Maties also become students of dance – the Sakkie Sakkie – disparagingly referred to by English-speaking South Africans by many different terms including that of “windsurfing”!

However, my first visit to the Mount Nelson, as a Standard Nine pupil (as we called it then) of Hottentots-Holland High School in Somerset West, was danceless. That was way back in 1973, and in that year, our teachers had decided that dancing was a sin that God, Himself, frowned upon! (I was invited to say goodbye to the then matrics on behalf of our our Std 9 class.)

The 1973 annual matric dance in the school hall was cancelled. Instead the class was bussed to the Mount Nelson for a farewell dinner. As eighteen year old boys and girls we were about to face the world and, as eighteen year old MEN, we were about to go to war against the SWAPO terrorists in Angola – but definitely no couples and no dancing allowed at our farewell function! We had been well-prepared for Life! (The following year, in 1974, our class was bussed to dine at the Houw Hoek Hotel otherside Grabouw!)

The word “pupil”, used to describe a child who attends a school, was subsequently substituted – by government decree – with the word “learner”.  The term “standard ten” – a pupil’s twelfth year at school – has since been replaced with the term “grade 12”. Even a “teacher” has become known as an “Educator”. In fact, despite being repeatedly warned about the folly of their ways, the new government replaced the whole education system that we knew with a new system called Outcomes Based Education (OBE).

Last year, they decreed that, once again, we had “teachers”, and, just this last week, have thrown out OBE! And, I guess, couples and dancing are no longer sinful because I see a lot of that – and much more – happening all around me now!

But, in an ever-changing world, the Mount Nelson Hotel – known affectionately as The Nellie – still remains. Situated at the base of Table Mountain at the top of Orange Street in Oranjezicht, Cape Town, she is a monument to an era long gone by.

And, when you approach her from Orange Street through those imposing tall white pillars and colonnade and see her in the daytime, as we did when we were in Cape Town recently, she is pink from top to toe!

 

We had been invited to High Tea by my niece, Michelle (who helps balance the books there!), and her husband Sebastian. An institution as old as Nellie herself, High Tea is served every afternoon at two thirty in the Terrace Room.

It had snowed on Table Mountain during the previous evening, and it was very cold in Cape Town. A fire was burning in the fireplace and the pianist at the end of the room was tickling away at the ivories – all those haunting melodies from down the ages.

Seated in the comfortable padded high back sofas and couches, our waitress gave us the run-down on the various teas of various tastes and fragrances, all infused in the glass teapots in front of us and poured into the fancy china cups and saucers.

And, in between every course of tea (and sometimes during the course of tea and many times more than once in between each course, and before each course, and after each course) we each headed off to the treats table! It was laden with sweets and savouries of every kind and never appeared to empty – from the cucumber and salmon sandwiches through the lemon curd pies to the cheese and strawberry cake and the carrot cake.

Thank goodness the treats table was at the other end of the room to where we were seated – at least we were getting some exercise to assist with the digestion of the layer upon layer of decadent delicacies.

And, until 5pm, the pianist played and the fire burned, tea was quaffed, eats were eaten, stories were told, some played bridge, some chatted, and people came and went. In 2010, we were reliving that tradition that was one of the reasons for having built Nellie in the first instance – simply a place to enjoy afternoon tea and a treat with family and friends!

After tea, Michelle (or should I rather say, Sebastian!) arranged for us to tour the hotel – a home of the rich and famous. We went from the ordinary R7000 a night single hotel rooms through the average R10 000 a night double rooms to the R15000 a night luxury suites, like the one used by actress Charleze Theron (together with the one next door for her Mom) when they are in Cape Town. When you switch it on, the TV rises in a cabinet from the floor at the foot of the bed!

Some of the suites, we were told, are booked by regular patrons two at a time for a stay of two or more months.

We could only afford an afternoon, so then visited – just to look at – the newly R24 million renovated spa – a row of houses recently acquired that even necessitated the closing of a street by the City of Cape Town.

To end off a truly magnificent and memorable afternoon, we had a parting drink in the hotel’s Planet Champagne Bar. We each ordered a cocktail – some specially concocted for the 2010 World Cup. I ordered a Dutch Flower– possibly a good omen as we wait for the final on Sunday between the Dutch and the Spanish? The rest had a Frozen Daiquiri, a Virgin Daiquiri, 1 Golden Goal and 1 Mojito!

But, for the adventurous, the menu provides anything from a R17 Castle to a R7999 bottle of Dom Perignon.

Thanks, Michelle and Sebastian, for a wonderful treat.

As Queen Victoria said, “As long as there’s tea, there’s hope!”

End of the World (Cup)?

Tuesday 6 July 2010: 3 years 10 months on . . .

Nothing is as it once was . . . Four weeks of the World Cup have come and gone, and there are just five days to go to the closing ceremony and the Final at Soccer City on Sunday evening.

The end is near. We have just four more opportunities to Wave Our Flag! That does not mean that we now go into depression because it’s all finishing. No, we will enjoy the Show and enjoy every minute that’s left until that final whistle blows. In fact, we should now be enjoying every moment even more, knowing full well that soon it will be no more.

Those of us who live with terminal illnesses have to learn to do the same. I know it’s easy to say and not so easy to do. But when the end is near we, too, have to learn to enjoy every minute that’s left of the Show of Life right up to the point that the final whistle blows. We should also be enjoying every moment even more, knowing full well that soon our Lives will be no more. Make use of every opportunity to Wave Our Flag!

In fact, all people should learn to do the same. After all, everyone lives with a terminal illness (albeit just old age!), and the end is always imminent. We all need to learn to enjoy every moment of every day! Wave Your Flag persistently!

I saw the following in a newspaper advert:

There is no bigger victory than uniting a nation.

 

In life, I guess there is no bigger victory than making a difference in other people’s lives. In Michael Jackson’s words, we need to “Heal the World”.

But what is it that has made this World Cup so successful? What can we learn from it that we can transpose into our lives, or work, our projects, our relationships?

I have taken note of many articles and discussions regarding the success of this World Cup, and in no particular order I would like to list the following – (It would be interesting to see what could still be added)

Some lessons that I have learnt:

Success does not come from:

  • Short cuts
  • Magic wands
  • Money thrown at a problem
  • Passion alone
  • Evoking politically correct responses such as being African, effects of apartheid and colonialism
  • Racial quotas
  • Leaving tasks up to the politicians
  • Making excuses
  • Expecting the middle class to pay for what the State should be providing
  • Self-serving politicians
  • Corruption
  • Feuding parties
  • Resentment
  • Jealousy
  • Sentiment

Success comes from:

  • Top-class technical skills
  • Exposure to the best the world offers over sustained periods of time
  • Being the best
  • Good corporate governance
  • Co-operation
  • Inspiration
  • Ordinary people being colour-blind
  • There is no substitute for hard work
  • Everyone becoming involved and supporting – broad participation
  • Involving everyone
  • Each person making an individual contribution
  • Having remarkable infrastructure
  • Organisational successes
  • Delivering the goods
  • Tackling the real problems
  • Setting goals and having clear targets
  • Being focussed
  • Having timelines with clear deliverables
  • Monitoring progress
  • External accountability
  • Goodwill
  • Respect
  • Being happy, having music, vuvuzelas and dancing
  • Breaking down perceived barriers and stereotypes
  • Recognizing that we are ALL just people
  • Learning from our mistakes
  • Having courage
  • Smiling at ourselves even when the World is not watching
  • Continuing the good work outside of World attention
  • Clear and unambiguous rules
  • Applying the rule of law
  • Visible and effective policing
  • Reclaiming our streets
  • Freedom of speech
  • Having principles
  • Single-minded leadership
  • Deliver or else lose out: A constant threat of withdrawal
  • Prestige was at stake – we wanted to do well
  • Political will to work together and do well
  • The media forgetting the negative and concentrating on the positive
  • Success breeds Success

And when Bafana Bafana was unsuccessful in progressing,

We were out but not down

It was the end of the Rainbow, but not the end of the World

This Show has been a reminder that despite our differences we are all people with similar hopes and ideals in life.

Jeremy McCabe wrote: “The World Cup has reminded us the Rainbow Nation does indeed exist, despite the efforts of the politicians. Let’s not lose the feeling again!”

 

Let’s wake up next Monday morning and continue wearing the shirts, blowing the vuvuzelas and waving the flags. “To Life!”

And, Happy Birthday Phillip on the 7th July – you are truly our miracle Rugby World Cup son. We will wave our flag to your life. You have grown not only in size but also in stature. Learn from the World Cup and you cannot be a loser. I remember just the other day when I was reading “Where is Wally?” to you.

Which reminds me:  Where is Julius? Just where has Julius been for the last month? Can he stay there?

 

I Have a Dream

Friday 2 July 2010: 3 years 10 months on . . .

Dear God

We had all been waiting for this day! Tuesday 22 June 2010.

Bafana Bafana were taking on the might of France in a do-or-die encounter in the FIFA 2010 World Cup ™. From the hype that preceded the day, it appeared that the entire future of our nation depended squarely on the outcome of this game. It was touted as the Battle of Bloemfontein!

So, at 15h00, together with 10 000 other fans, Sean, Phillip and I headed off to the St George’s Fan Park™. I was not feeling well but was definitely not going to miss out on this encounter.

We needed to beat France and to beat them comprehensively by 4 or 5 goals in order to stay in the competition. It was a tall order. But, the crowd erupted time and time again as The Boys kept the goals and the near-goals coming.

As darkness fell, the almost full moon came up over the largest TV screen in the country. For a moment there, God, I thought I was looking at You directly in the Face.

And I asked you “God, please let us win this one. You know how much our country needs this win!” But, as so often in life, You appeared not to hear or to have some other ideas about this.

In the end, we won the skirmish, lost the battle and won the war. Yes, we beat France by 2 –1, but did not do enough to remain in the competition’s next round of the 16 top teams. However, in the grand scheme of World Cups, and as I have written before (see Oh What a Circus Oh What a Show), despite not winning the tournament, our country has emerged as the winner simply by hosting this Show in such a successful manner. It has transformed our nation.

This Show has reminded me so much about Life.

Sean and Phillip had long since left me to join up with their mates. And so, despite being surrounded by 10 000 excited people, I was there alone and not feeling well. And, like so many people in this world, when the hype was at its highest, I was actually feeling down and lonely and scared as I pondered life. In the hype of life, let us never forget those amongst us who are alone and who feel lonely.

This Show has reminded me so much about Life.

I spoke to You, the Man in the Moon, as You smiled down at us. I think You also created World Cups for Your people and You saw that it was good.

This Show and Life have so much in common.

There is the euphoria when we announce the arrival to the world. There is the preparation and the infrastructure required. The hard work and the sleepless nights follow.

Along the way, there are the highlights and the lowlights; the ups and the downs; the victories and the losses. There is happiness and sadness and tears and laughs. We win some and we lose some.

And, sometimes, things appear not to be fair. Sometimes, they are just NOT fair. Sometimes, winning at all costs is so important that the rules are flouted. Sometimes, the cheaters win. But all the time, everything is under control.

And, when things get tough and tight, like the penalty shoot outs tonight, then, God, we raise our hands to Heaven and to You, and ask for Your help!

Some get to stay to the very end. Some get extra time. Some get injured and some get through relatively unscathed.

Some are sent off early. Some of us get red-carded along the way and we can take no more part in the show. We get sidelined. And we don’t always understand . . . and we ask why. There are answers sometimes and sometimes there are not. We have to accept the Referee’s decision.

And it’s OK to cry when we hurt ! Even big well-built men who seemingly have the world at their feet cry, and on international television nogal! The players cry, the coaches cry, we cry! Who said that cowboys don’t cry?

And, as we are told in the press today that the Port Elizabeth’s Boet Erasmus Stadium will close down permanently tomorrow, we are reminded that nothing in this life continues indefinitely – not the Boet, not the World Cup Show, not Life itself.

Only You remain the same – yesterday, today and forever. And You remain the Winner!

And, when it comes to an end, will it be remembered? Did it truly make a difference? What is left behind? What legacy is left? Is it a better place?

Martin Luther King said:

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

                Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

[See the full text of Martin Luther King’s speech below]

Ironically, today, exactly 46 years ago, on 2 July 1964, US President Lyndon Johnson signed the US Civil Rights Bill, which prohibited racial discrimination in the United States of America.

In his inauguration speech as President of the Republic of South Africa in 1994, Nelson Mandela spoke of his dream:

“We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world… The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!”

Susan Boyle sings “I dreamed a dream” from Les Miserables:

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

I dream too.

I dream that I will wake up in a country that works. I dream that this country and its people will learn from the World Cup Show, and will continue with this flame that it has kindled. That it will set the World alight, much as it has done for the last few weeks. We can’t afford to let the flame die. We need a New New South Africa. Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

I dream that I will wake up in a body that works. I dream of the Life to come.

Revelation

Chapter 21

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is at thirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

[See the text of Revelation 21 below]

 

 

A WORLD CUP BLESSING

 May all your penalties and offences be overlooked.

May you never go offside.

May evil never tackle you.

May your life go into extra time.

May you never get a red card out of Heaven,

And may you win the trophy of Heaven in the final.

(Anon)

——————————————————————————————————————-

The full text of Martin Luther King’s speech:

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

THE TEXT OF REVELATION CHAPTER 21

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;

22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.

23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.

25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.

 

I’ve Got the FehVah!

Tuesday 29 June 2010: 3 years 9 months on . . .   

Fan Fest - Berlin

 

    

Football! Football! Football!   

We have also become the WAGS of soccer – not the wives and girlfriends but the watchers and goers!   

    

That’s all we have seen and done over the last few weeks. We watched the World Cup opening concert in Orlando Stadium, Johannesburg whilst we were with my sister Lynne in The Strand. We watched the Opening game in Soccer City at the Brazen Head in Stellenbosch. We’ve watched many of the games on TV in Cape Town – and even at the famous Cape Town Waterfront.   

    

We have gone to see the German / Serbia game at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. With thousands others, we have gone to the FIFA Fan Park at George’s Park in PE to watch: Bafana Bafana beat France 2 – 1 and then bow out of the tournament, on Wednesday England beat Slovenia  1 – 0 and on Friday, Portugal draw with Brazil 0 – 0! I even watched and listened to Just Ginja at Friday’s Fan Park concert. And, in between all of this, I have watched more football on TV in the past two weeks than I have ever watched in my entire lifetime before!     

    

Neighbours at the Fan Park

Like so many others worldwide, I have truly got the FehVah! The Football FehVah!   

    

But, since returning from Cape Town last weekend, I have also got some other Fehvah! And for the last week, I have felt the worst since I became ill three years and ten months ago. Despite feeling unwell, I have been pushing myself to attend and watch as much football as possible, because it won’t happen again in my lifetime and I don’t want to miss out!   

    

And, as I have said to many people, we are going to be paying for this party for many years to come, so we’d better enjoy it while it lasts! And not being cynical, do yourself a favour and get to a Fan Park – you have to experience all the facets of this unbelievable show. When I feel better, I will write about my World Cup lessons in more detail.   

    

I have been to see the doctors – again. I am taking more tablets – again. I am feeling miserable – again. I have a bladder infection, and whilst this may seem like a pretty ordinary occurrence for most people, in my case, it’s also one of the symptoms of the CBD that I have. As the brain loses control of the body, the bladder also becomes affected, and infections occur. So I have to be careful and can only hope that this will clear up soon.    

My Current Daily Smorgasbord

Right now, I am feeling better, but this last week has been a challenge for me. And it’s when you don’t feel well, and don’t sleep well, and feel down and tired, that’s when you have to guard most against becoming depressed. It’s so easy to slip into that whirlpool of self-pity, and to get sucked into that eddy of despair. That’s when I’m ugly and I lose my temper with those around me.  And that’s when I am not the first choice person to be around!   

    

So? That’s when I have to focus my mind, strengthen my resolve and, once again, look at what I’ve still got, and pull myself back. Thank God for that strength, and for giving me the football at this time to keep focussed on, and to get me out of this.   

    

As Banafa Bafana showed us these last two weeks – with focus, determination, effort and resolve, we can all be winners!   

    

P.S.  I have just heard that my Aunty Irmela passed away this morning. She was the wife of my Uncle George Lunnon, my late father’s eldest brother. (Read The Circle of Life to see our family tree!).  My condolences are extended to my cousins Louise, Susan and Hildegarde on the passing of their mother.     

  

Be Thankful

  

for the wife   

who says it’s hot dogs tonight, because she is home with me, and not out with someone else;   

for the husband   

who is on the sofa, being a couch potato, because he is home with me, and not out at the bars;   

for the teenager   

who is complaining about doing dishes, because she is at home, and not on the streets;   

for the taxes i pay   

because it means I am employed;   

for the mess to clean after a party   

because it means I have been surrounded by friends;   

for the clothes that fit a little too snug   

because it means I have enough to eat;   

for the shadow that watches me work   

because it means I am out in the sunshine;   

for the lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing   

because it means I have a home;   

for all the complaining i hear about the government   

because it means we have freedom of speech;   

for the lady behind me in church   

who sings off key, because it means I can hear;   

for the pile of clothing and ironing   

because it means I have clothe to wear;   

for weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day   

because it means I have been capable of working hard;   

for the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours   

because it means   

that I am alive.   

Author Unknown

    

    

    

2020 Vision – Do I see the Olympic Games?

Saturday 26 June 2010: 3 years 9 months on . . .

Saturday 15 May 2004: In Berlin, Sepp Blatter announced to the World that the host country for the 2010 FIFA World Cup® would be South Africa. I was sitting in the casualty department at St George’s Hospital with Sean after he had broken his hand playing rugby. We heard the announcement on the radio.

Friday 11 June 2010: In Johannesburg, at Soccer City, South African President Jacob Zuma declared to the World that the 2010 FIFA World Cup® was officially opened. Pera, Sean, Phillip and I were sitting at the Brazen Head in Stellenbosch watching, on TV, the opening ceremony and the first game between South Africa and Mexico (draw 1 – 1)

Friday 18 June 2010: In Port Elizabeth, at Nelson Mandela Stadium, the Lunnon family, and 38 000 others, were at the 21st match of the 48 group matches between the qualifying 32 nations participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup®

It seems difficult now to believe that prior to 1994 we were the pariahs of the world. We were banned from all international events and, I’m not sure how they managed it, but in the early nineties the only international sport we still saw on TV was the Wimbledon Open. The sporting highlight of the year was surely that annual Sunday afternoon when we could get together with our friends and watch the Men’s Final – complete with strawberries and cream!

One of the first and immediate changes in the New South Africa was our re-admission to World sport. I remember the poor quality of the TV transmission when watching the first test after re-admission of our cricket tour to India. But, it certainly didn’t matter, because we were back in the World!

Now, we have a feast of World sport – so much so, that two weekends ago we had the historic situation of France playing rugby and football on either end of Cape Town. And, as I write this, TV – now in HD – offers the following choice: the Proteas are playing cricket in the West Indies, South Korea is playing Uruguay for a football quarter final place here at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth and the Bokke are playing rugby against Italy in East London (whilst their counterparts, the Italian Football team – the current FIFA World Champions – are back in Italy after the shock of tumbling out of the opening group matches!)

Looking backwards now, we successfully hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2003 and in 1995, barely a year after South Africa became a fully democratic Republic under President Nelson Mandela, we hosted (and won!) the IRB Rugby World Cup.

I recall the opening of that event in June 1995 at Newlands in Cape Town, when the Springboks faced and beat Australia. I was working in East London on that Wednesday. At lunchtime, we headed back to the Pick ‘n Pay regional office to watch the game. We experienced the normal after work rush-hour traffic at 14h00 as everyone headed off home or elsewhere to find a TV set to watch that opening victory!

No beers were to be drunk watching the game – after all, it was still working hours! But, as the excitement built over our impending win over Australia, the beers were opened and the partying carried on well into the night.

And the partying continued throughout those three weeks – as the Springboks progressed through the tournament via the lights-out, darkened stadium and the Battle of the Boet versus Canada in Port Elizabeth, to the almost rained-out, deluged and helicopter dried semi-final against the French in Durban and into the final against New Zealand’s All Blacks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on 24 June 1995, 15 years ago almost to the day.

We won that game 15 – 12 in extra time and became the World Champions.

I have seen THAT photograph of Stransky’s drop goal in every boardroom in South Africa. I have seen the video footage of that spine-chilling Jumbo Jet Boeing 747 flying just above the roof of Ellis Park with “Good luck BOKKE” written on its fuselage. Most people have now read the book Playing the Enemy and seen the movie Invictus (based on the book), which tells the story of that game, the build-up to it and the legacy it left our country.

But I have never seen that game! Only because Phillip (at 24 weeks in Pera’s tummy and only due in September) decided on that Saturday morning that he, too, wanted to watch that historic game.

So, we spent the day at St George’s Hospital, with the doctors battling to keep him in! They won! And at 10pm that evening, when I drove home up Cape Road, and I saw all the partying going on in the streets, I knew that the Bokke and South Africa had won. And Pera, Sean and I won again, two weeks later on 7 July, when Phillip made his determined appearance at 26 weeks. Now, as we prepare to celebrate his 15th birthday in two week’s time, his 1,86m body makes it difficult to believe that he entered this world weighing just 1,3kg! (His birth made up for our sad loss of Phillip no 1 who had been stillborn at almost full term in 1994.)   

But all of this is history now. After I was diagnosed in February 2007, I had often wondered whether I would still be here in 2010 to see any of this World Soccer Championship. And yes, here we were, Friday 18 June 2010 and we were headed to watch our first live game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup ®.

Much has already been written about this spectacle (see my own humble contribution in my previous blogs Oh What A Circus, Ka Nako ,Gees Recipe) and much more will still be written. At this point, suffice to say, that if we thought that the 1995 Rugby World Cup made a positive difference to our fragile democracy, then the legacy that this Tournament is carving into our society, pales that difference into insignificance!

The family and Barbara (our domestic help) left home at 10h45 – destination:  Port Elizabeth’s magnificent first completed Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. We were dressed in our Bafana Bafana shirts and colours of yellow and green. Armed with our rainbow nation coloured blankets, scarves and vuvuselas, we were off to watch Germany beat Serbia (or so we thought!) in game 21 of the tournament.

The logistical arrangements were faultless. After parking the car at Andrew Rabie School, we took the appropriately marked Kwela Kwela taxi to North End. Then followed a short walk to the stadium. Extremely courteous staff scrutinised our “cheap” category 3 R560 tickets and searched our bodies. We were of the first spectators to be seated in our 6th tier seats with an amazing view and still two hours to kick-off at 13h30.

Even the fact that FIFA was doubling the prices and fleecing the captive spectators at R30 for a Bud, R20 for a pie and R15 for a Coke did not dampen our spirits. As the advertising campaign had urged us for months now – “We had booked our seats in history”.

The turf was watered, the stadium filled with 38 000 spectators, and the two opposing parties inspected the turf and warmed up. Then, with military precision, the teams entered the arena at 13h20, national anthems were sung and the game began!

After 90 minutes and a few extra, the excitement of the game was over. Serbia surprised and beat gallant Germany 1 – 0!  We left our seats at 15h20 and reversed the procedure we had followed just 5 hours earlier.

Together with all the jubilant others, we walked to the bus, travelled to the school, got into our flag-bearing car and drove home. And, saluting the organisers, at 16h00, barely 30 minutes later, I was seated in my lounge in front of the TV ready to watch the next match 22, USA versus Slovenia at Ellis Park in Johannesburg (the same stadium as the 1995 Rugby World Cup final!)

They drew 2 all! There was no winner here. But, as had been said so many times before in these last two weeks, the winner must surely be the citizens of the enigmatic Republic of South African who have made this miracle possible. They have made Africa proud. They have turned the ordinary into the extra-ordinary!

Because I have been granted extra time, I can also say, “I was THERE!”

And, as South Africa now sets its vision on hosting the only big games left that it has not yet hosted, those of the Olympic Games of 2020, dare I hope for so much more extra time . . . .?

Icing on Chelsea Buns

 

Tuesday 22 June 2010:  3 years 9 months on . . .

I have always enjoyed travelling. Not that we travelled much as children.

In this week of Father’s Day, I have thought quite a bit about my own Dad. I have written previously about him having suffered a debilitating stroke when I was twelve years old. It left him speechless and paralysed his right arm and leg for eight years before he passed away in 1976. It left Mom, in her early forties, caring for a severely handicapped husband and four children – three at school and one who was only four when Dad was struck down.

Times were tight, but looking back on it now; Mom did an admirable job with very limited resources. Those resources did not enable us to holiday or travel.

But I was so privileged when I was selected to become an exchange student in 1975. (Read “Oklahoma is OK and so much more”)  In a space of that one year at the age of eighteen, I got to fly for the first time and to visit many exotic places including Buenos Aires (Good Air), Rio de Janeiro, New York City, Los Angeles (City of Angels) and still my personal favourite, Londres! I saw my first TV at our hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I watched the cartoon Road Runner, all in Spanish! It was truly “good air”!

Hence, my excitement now at having the World in our country. I remember landing at John F Kennedy Airport in New York City and seeing our (now old) SA flag flying there together with the flags of every nation on earth. It gave me goose bumps and I had to pinch myself that it was all true.

Now, it gives me goose bumps to see those self-same flags flying here in South Africa and to hear those national anthems being played here in our Cities. For us, and for me, the World has truly come home! (And, who knows, maybe the first real international flag that I ever saw in my life – that of Argentina – will be seen flying at the 2010 FIFA World Cup final next Sunday at Soccer City in Johannesburg! Or will it be the second flag that I saw – that of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro?)

When I boarded that Aereolinas Argentinas flight in Cape Town in January 1975 headed for Buenos Aires, my travelling days started. And so, it’s pretty safe to say that my itchy travelling feet started in Cape Town – still today, as Sir Francis Drake said so many years ago, the fairest Cape in all the world!

With my illness, travelling is not so easy any more. But, we were fortunate to have been in the Western Cape once more. And, so it was, that last Thursday saw us leaving Cape Town yet again. This time, on our return trip to Port Elizabeth after having spent some ten days in the Mother City.  (I always wonder when I leave whether I will be granted yet one more visit.)

Sean was at the wheel as we headed north along the N1 and Table Mountain recedes in your rear-view mirror. I was the front passenger, and Pera and Phil take up the back seats.

Ahead of us, lay the majestic dark blue mountains of the Klein Drakenstein and the Hugeneot Tunnel linking Paarl to Worcester. (In our family, still jokingly pronounced “War-Kes-Ter” from the days when the boys were not able to pronounce it properly as “Woes-ter”!)

But, today, the mountains looked distinctly different – as far as the eyes could see, the dark blue mountains silhouetted against the light blue sky were covered from top to bottom in snow-white snow! As Pera said, “It looks like the icing on Chelsea Buns!”

 

What a spectacle! All the way along the eight hundred kilometre road from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, the clouds had pulled back – revealing blue skies and the mountains on either side of us covered in the icing. Some said it was the heaviest snowfall in fifty years. Well, the outside temperature varied between 5 and 10 degrees Celcius all the way back to the Eastern Cape!

We took a different route this time. From Worcester along what is known as Route 62, through Robertson, Montagu, Barrydale, Ladismith, Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn, the Langkloof (Avontuur, Joubertina, Misgund, Kareedouw), Humansdorp and finally, ten hours later, Port Elizabeth.

The route brought back more memories – those of my days (15 months to be exact!) at the Infantry School in Oudtshoorn where I completed my military service in 1982/1983 after my studies at Stellenbosch University. It had been quite a change from the freedom and carefreeness of student life to the rigours of military discipline! So on those few weekend passes off, I used to escape Oudtshoorn and drive in the other direction back to Cape Town.

I relayed some of those memories to the family as we travelled along towards Oudtshoorn. Pera said she thought that the army had left “deep-rooted psychological scars”! – suffice to say that those two years for me were not always icing on the Chelsea buns.

In those years, there was a small labourers’ cottage next to the roadside halfway between Barrydale and Ladismith. Now, an enterprising person has transformed it into a roadside breakfast/coffee shop called Ronnies Sex Shop! It has become the toast of the world (pun intended!)

 

And when we stopped there in the middle of nowhere for coffee (no sex on the menu!), it seemed as if the world was there – Germans headed for the German/Serbia game in Port Elizabeth, and English headed for the England/Algeria game in Cape Town. Names and comments are written on every wall, in every nook and cranny, and business cards are pasted like wallpaper wherever possible.

 

Just after Ladismith is the Huisrivier Pass. Unlike most other passes that take you upward and over mountains, this one curves downwards into the river valley and then takes you up steeply again. Sean is in his element (and I get nervous!) when he can drive curves like this!

Then comes Calitzdorp, which is known as the Port Capital of South Africa. This appears to be quite an enigma as this town in the Little Karoo is nowhere near the sea. But this is not Port as in Port Elizabeth but Port as in the lovely sweet wine that is made from the grapes grown in this part of the world. Boplaas is the farm that has won numerous medals for its port and it belongs to Carel and Boets Nel who studied (and lived in Helshoogte Residence) with me at Stellenbosch. We discussed that soon, in accordance with European Union regulations, they will have to give up the name Port, as it is claimed to belong to the sweet wines of the Oporto region of Portugal and is contravening copyright and trademark regulations.

As one leaves Calitzdorp, you get that very distinctive smell that signifies that Oudtshoorn is close. In my military days, it was the first warning sign that your freedom was about to be lost. The next sign was the light on the concrete reservoir on top of Rooibult in the Infantry School. That meant there were 10 kilometres left to the statue of the infantryman pointing with his rifle towards the guardhouse at the entrance gate to the School.

I used to get to that point at about 23h30 on Sunday night (the pass expired at midnight). And that’s when I used to stop next to the roadside to change from my civilian clothes back into my military “step-outs” that I kept in my “wardrobe” – the boot of my red Toyota Corolla. One of my very important tasks in those days was to compile and read the early morning news at 5h30, 6h30 and 7h00 on the Infantry School’s closed circuit TV channel. It’s quite a shock to view those recordings now!

Today, I was excited when we got to that point. It was lunchtime and we were all hungry by now. But first, I took us on a drive past the Infantry School, the erstwhile Oudtshoorn Teachers’ Training College (now part of the Infantry School), the Parade ground, Uncle Samies Tuckshop and the Camp Take Aways Cafe. Then we headed for the restaurant that I could not remember its name but remembered for serving a good ostrich steak (Oudtshoorn, of course, also being well known for its ostriches and Cango Caves.) Well, we had a good laugh there – the dark coloured building that I recalled is now painted in bright yellow and red and serves as the Oudtshoorn branch of Adult World! Birds of a different breed, I guess!

Well, after driving through the town and past places such as the old Holiday Inn and Riempies Restaurant, we found a suitable place to eat, and then headed off down the Langkloof towards Port Elizabeth.

There was still excitement and icing on the buns here too, and even more so, because it was evident that there had been quite a bit of rain in our catchment area. (We were, of course, heading back towards our drought disaster area, water restrictions of 500l a day and, oh no, limited showers!)

And excited, too, because we were heading back to even more icing to follow the next day – we were fortunate to have tickets for Friday’s Germany versus Serbia football game at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay.

Gees – a recipe for a good South African favourite!

 

A not-so-easy recipe that takes time to prepare but can have amazing results if prepared properly

Ingredients:

  • 1 Large Container with green base to fit between 45 000 and 90 000 people (1 container is sufficient but 10 are even better)
  • Two large white box-like nets on either side of base
  • Between 30 000 and 90 000 people to watch (spectators)
  • Two groups of 11 people each  – each group of a different colour (players)
  • 3 referees in black
  • 1 Jabulani ball (and a few spare)
  • Thousands of Vuvuzelas (as many as possible)
  • Many hands to assist with preparations
  • Vehicles of all sorts to get everything together
  • Flags, scarves, shirts, hats, specs, face paint and anything else for decoration
  • Drinks to taste (Alcohol preferred but not essential)

Method:

  • Using a warm temperature is preferable
  • Put spectators in vehicles, mix thoroughly and then transfer into large container ensuring each is in appropriate place on sides of large container
  • Put two groups of players on green base facing each other
  • Add 3 referees on base
  • Carefully put ball in centre
  • Mix thoroughly referees, players and ball
  • Try to get ball in white nets on each side of base
  • Do so as often as possible, but remove each time you succeed and start again
  • Spectators scream, shout, blow, jump and keep a careful eye on mixture
  • Do so especially loudly and boisterously when ball enters nets
  • After 45 minutes remove players from base (add a few minutes if required)
  • Let cool for 15 minutes
  • Then replace players on base carefully ensuring that each group takes the place previously occupied by the previous group
  • Repeat the method of mixing as above for a further 45 minutes (or additional minutes if required)
  • Remove all players and spectators from large container and store indefinitely in individual smaller containers
  • Storage time depends on how thoroughly mixture has been prepared: the better the preparation, the longer the GEES lasts

Serves:

If method is followed 3 times daily for 30 days, then sufficient GEES should be made for:

  • At home: 40 million servings
  • Eating out: Can also be delivered in smaller portions via TV to others worldwide – in which case it’s possible to share with 6 billion people

(Saturday 19 June 2010: 3 years 9 months on . . . )