Light in the Night

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 30 October 2012: 6 years 1 month on …

Physical Advantage CBD / Mental Advantage CBD

As I write this, I am watching on TV the devastation that superstorm Sandy is leaving in its wake in the eastern states of the USA. It is one of the biggest – if not the biggest storm – ever to have hit the United States.

The storm has moved in from the Atlantic Ocean and has swept in from the East Coast visiting, amongst others, the states of New York, New Jersey, Virginia,  Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Baltimore …

A thirteen foot high tidal surge, rain and wind has left New York New York, Atlantic City and other  towns and cities reeling under floods, fire and snow!

New York is powerless!

Indeed, one week before the American Presidential election, the State of these States has been declared a “major disaster” by President Obama. However, there will be many stories of personal heroism and human endeavour.

It affects me!

It affects me because these are areas of the US that I have been privileged to live in and visit and because I have friends and family who live there.

I am as familiar with Battery Park, Manhattan, Ground Zero, Central Park, Wall Street and Fifth Avenue in New York as I am with St Georges Park, Third Avenue Dip, Brickmakers, Target Kloof and Port Alfred.

The latter places, of course, all being here in the Eastern Cape where we also faced the fury of Mother Nature last weekend when some 200 – 300 mm of rain was dumped on us.

Despite the devastation, there have been tales of personal heroism and human endeavour.

That has affected me too!

Not only because we witnessed the rain and the devastation first hand, not only because it angered me so much that a lot of the damage could have been prevented by better maintenance, preparation and supervision, but also because we got caught up in the floods.

We went out on Saturday evening for supper to celebrate Phillip’s prefectship. On our way home, down Wychwood Avenue, we got caught up in the water that had flooded the road. The car stalled and we had to be towed out.

On Monday it was towed to Maritime and on Tuesday I was informed that all was well – the engine was turning and would require a bit of TLC to get it back into shape.

However, on Wednesday, I was informed that it had been the wrong car (!) and that mine would not start. Yesterday, I was told that my car would have to be written off! We especially bought the station wagon because of my illness – it is automatic and has space for a wheelchair and whatever else.

I am devastated.

I have lost my health, my job, my holiday house and now my car.

I am devastated.

But, as I have said so many times before, it is in the darkness of the storms that life throws at you that you have to look for the little flicker of light that will keep you going.

I have to pick myself up from yet another blow.

I will find that flicker and the light will shine bright! 

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Ich bin ein Berliner

Tuesday 3 May 2011:  4 years 8 months on … ADVANTAGE CBD

Today would have been my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary. My father, Herbert Louis Lunnon, was of English and Dutch descent and my mother, Doris Stanbridge, was of English and Irish descent.

They were married in The Strand on 3 May 1951. Sadly, both have passed on – my Dad at age 60 in 1976 and my Mom at age 55 in 1986.

I am the second of four children and the only son, born in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

I am a South African.

John F Kennedy, President of the United States, an American citizen, Irish by descent, made a speech in Berlin in 1963.

He said “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner).

He was underlining the support of the United States for West Germany 22 months after the Soviet-supported East Germany erected the Berlin Wall as a barrier to prevent movement between East and West.

The speech is considered one of Kennedy’s best, and a notable moment of the Cold War. It was a great morale boost for West Berliners, who lived in an exclave deep inside East Germany and feared a possible East German occupation. Speaking from a platform erected on the steps of Rathaus Schöneberg, Kennedy said,

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis Romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’

In this week of the killing of Osama Bin Laden north of Islamabad, Pakistan, I can say I take pride in the words “I am an African American. I am an Okie!  I am an Honorary Citizen of the Great State of Oklahoma!”

Not because I want to be controversial, but because those titles were conferred on me in 1975.

I have written before that I was selected as a Rotary Exchange Student in 1974 and headed off to the USA in January 1975. I stood on the roof of the World Trade Centre in New York City and the world was at my feet.

I headed off via Chicago to Sulphur, Oklahoma and attended Grade 12 at Sulphur High School. Having been there just three weeks, I wrote the following in the Sulphur Bulldog 1975 – the school yearbook Vol 23 (1975):

The purpose of Rotary Student Exchange is to exchange understanding, and to build up fellowship and goodwill between people of different races and cultures by staying among them and becoming a part of them. I have come to you from The Strand, near Cape Town, Republic of South Africa, to do just this, but whether I will succeed or not, remains to be written in the book which I have set aside on my private shelf, that book for the memories which will be written within my life this year – the memories forming an Adventure in the “Volumes of Life.”

After three weeks … I know … that this book which is being written, is going to be a number one best-seller! I have been made more than welcome in Sulphur, I have been accepted into the community, and I have been made a part of it …

I can say now, with confidence, that like reading a book, I am going to be reluctant to finish the last page of 1975.

And so, I can say too that in October 1975 I had the great honour of having United States Senator Dewey F. Bartlett confer on me the official right and privilege to designate myself as the bearer of the proud and historic title of OKIE.

And on 1 December 1975, in Oklahoma City, Governor David L. Boren designated and appointed me as an Honorary Citizen of the Great State of Oklahoma.

During 1975 I was privileged to travel through North America, from Galveston in the south to Winnipeg in the north and from Los Angeles in the west to New York City in the east.

It was the beginning of a relationship that continues to this day. In 1989, I spent three months in the USA, travelling from Mexico to Seattle, from San Francisco to Washington DC, from Las Vegas to New Orleans, from San Diego to Orlando, from Salt Lake City to Houston and from the Grand Canyon to Key West. On a Delta travel pass, Grant Lloyd and I followed the good weather around the United States, and experienced all it has to offer – from sea to shining sea!  

I have water-skied on the Lake of the Arbuckles and the Lakes of Minnesota and I have snow-skied in the Rockies. I have walked the trails of Aspen, Colorado and the greens of Pebble Beach, California. I have weeded the roads of Murray County, Oklahoma and have smoked the weed in Times Square, New York! I have wondered at and touched the stars of God’s creation in the deserts of Nevada to the 13000 feet above sea-level trails at the Maroon Bells behind Snowmass Lake in the Rocky Mountains.

 In 1999, I attended the University of Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida and experienced Disneyworld for the second time (after also having been to Disneyland in Anaheim, California on a previous occassion.)

On 20 September 2001, just days after Bin Laden orchestrated the attacks on the Twin Towers, our whole family flew from London, right over New York, on our way to Atlanta, Georgia and Table Rock, Missouri. Sean was 8 and Phillip was 5 but we remember the smoke billowing up from Ground Zero into the clear blue September autumn skies of the Big Apple. For a month, we experienced the unity, the togetherness and patriotism of a country that had war declared on it.

The Land of the Free was no longer so free. (You even had to go through beady eye machines – something that we had grown up with in apartheid South Africa!)

I am happy, that almost ten years later the Home of the Brave has won that so-important battle in the War against terror. 

And I am so happy that in two weeks’ time, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Port Elizabeth will be producing the musical OKLAHOMA! in the Savoy Theatre. It is especially significant and humbling that the profits of the premiere of that show will be donated to the Lunnon Family Trust Fund – a fund established to assist with our sons’ education costs and my future medical expenses.

“If I were to die today, my life would be more than Okay”

I thank God for an extra-ordinary and very privileged life.  

 

The Great State of Oklahoma

To all who shall see these presents, Greeting:

This is to certify that

EDWARD LUNNON

THE STRAND, SOUTH AFRICA

Is hereby designated and appointed

HONORARY CITIZEN OF OKLAHOMA

With all rights and privileges pertaining thereto, with the obligation to fully enjoy the innate hospitality, natural beauty and vast resources of this great state and to carry the word that Oklahoma is striving to create a model of excellence for the nation.

Given under my hand in the City of Oklahoma City

This 1st day of December 1975.

David L Boren, Governor

State of Oklahoma

—————————————————————————————— 

State of Oklahoma

Dewey F. Bartlett

United States Senator

Whereas,

The citizens of Oklahoma have pride and affection towards the name of OKIE, and whereas, today’s OKIE has the opportunity to look around him, at his state’s growth and enthusiasm, to see the better world he lives in, knowing that “We belong to the land and the land we belong to is grand”; and WHEREAS, today’s OKIE enjoys his state’s lakes and rich lands, its vibrant economy and vital growth.

NOW, THERFORE, I, DEWEY F BARTLETT, SENATOR OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA, do hereby take great pleasure in conferring upon

EDWARD LUNNON

The official right and privilege to designate himself as the bearer of the proud and historic title of

OKIE

This title is conferred with the strong belief that an OKIE is a fortunate, gifted and versatile person and the further belief that it is great to be an OKIE, knowing further that this entitles the bearer to be an honoured citizen from

 Oklahoma, Key to Intelligence andEnterprise.

Done on this, the 13th day of October 1975.

Dewey F Bartlett

United States Senator

Bridge on the River Kromme

Tuesday 22 March 2011: 4 years 6 months on … ADVANTAGE ED

Of late, I need more and more sleep.

I used to go to bed late and wake up early. It was a habit I learnt as a student at Stellenbosch University.  Now I go to bed early and wake up late. And no sooner have I got up in the morning than I need to go and have an afternoon nap.

All this means that I have less time to do what needs to be done. And there is still so much to do!

Some days, like Monday, when I woke up I felt as if I haven’t had any sleep at all. The rest of the day becomes a write-off! Some days, like Friday, was also a complete write-off. But that was self-inflicted!

Thursday was St Patrick’s Day. JD Visser, who was primarius of Helshoogte Residence at Stellenbosch many years after me, has just moved to Port Elizabeth. So we celebrated St Paddy’s together at the Keg and Swan. The mood was festive, the black Guiness flowed thanks to the specials, and we both ended up on Friday morning with a Guiness Top Hat and a Guiness hangover! Thank goodness, unlike JD, I didn’t have work to go to and could sleep in late and blame it on the CBD! (After having experienced Dublin in December, I could only imagine what Temple Bar in Dublin must be like on St Paddy’s Day!)

Because Monday was a public holiday – Human Rights Day – we also had a long weekend to recover. Sean and I drove down to St Francis Bay on Friday afternoon early, and later we were joined by Pera, her Mom, Phillip and Oscar Biggs, a school mate of Phil’s.

The autumn weather is always magnificent. This weekend has been exceptional. Lovely warm, windless days and cool evenings have been dished up for us – ideal weather for long walks along the beach, swimming, boating and braaing. And for Phil and Oscar, after the runs and paddles (preparing for rugby season) there are hours of “Ad Maths” – both do advanced mathematics and they have to prepare for a test this week.  I have decided to call them Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton! They have left a paper trail across the dining room table – thank goodness the weather is so good that meals are taken out on the deck, and we don’t have to disturb the maths lessons!

The family returned to Port Elizabeth on Monday afternoon in time for Sean to attend his Old Grey Rugby practice. I stayed until Tuesday, finishing off a few chores and hoping to write. But, the weariness gets the better of me and I spend more time sleeping.

On the way back to PE, I stopped over in Jeffery’s Bay to meet Robin Morris. Robin has listened to our radio programme and sent me a copy of his book “I See Therefore I Am I Think”. Its cover says “Why are we here…Who are we…Where are we going…And what happens when we get there…?”

I look forward to reading this book, and I think it will take me a while. But for the present, I have just finished “Miracle on the River Kwai” by Ernest Gordon. It kept me busy during the weekend and gave me a whole new insight into World War 2 fought against the Japanese in the jungles of the East.

It also gave me a whole new insight into the human spirit, adversity, overcoming adversity and living life – making the most of the hand that we have been dealt! I tried to get a copy of the movie Bridge on the River Kwai – just to get some more perspective. The lady at the video shop thought I was insane asking for such an old movie! Anyway, I’m sure I’ll find it somewhere at some or other cheap second rate video rental shop!

Well, so much for long weekend, reading, resting and relaxing … for the first time in a long while I just didn’t get to the computer to write.

Tonight, I will be attending a meeting of the HIgh School’s new Club 300. More next week …

Fasten Your Seatbelts!

3 October 2010: 4 years 1 month on …

Fuddruckers is a chain of hamburger restaurants in the United States.

We went there for lunch on the way to Atlanta’s O’Hare International Airport when we were returning to South Africa after our month-long holiday in Georgia and Missouri in the USA in October 2001. It was the day that the United States declared war on Afghanistan, after the Twin Towers had been destroyed on September 11.

Sean was nine and Phillip was six.

They loved Fuddruckers. From a lengthy menu, you get to order your specific favourite roll and your specific hamburger patty. Then you go around the various food stations in the restaurant and add on whatever your heart desires – different relishes, garnishes, cheeses, tomatoes, onions, etc etc etc … and you end up with a burger as tall as the Twin Towers used to be! And you could eat as much as your heart desires!

So, we decided that the theme for last night’s party should be a Fuddruckers Build-a-Burger evening. Bring your own patties which we braaied and you add the rest!

The reason for the party was simple!

When we were in East London in August to play Selborne College, Rob and Anneline Parker had sat next to us at the Grey Orchestra concert.  Rob was quite emotional about that being the last weekend of our matric sons’ rugby and music at the school. After all, as parents, we had spent the last twelve years next to the sports fields together and attending various concerts and functions.

We had discussed this in the car on the way home to Port Elizabeth, and I suggested that we have a party to celebrate this milestone in our lives. We decided to party in order to celebrate Sean’s leaving school, my birthday on 18 September and my 4th birthday with CBD, Pera’s birthday today, Sean’s birthday on 20 May and Phillip’s birthday on 7 July – we decided to celebrate Life!

The Fuddruckers theme came easily – the date came with great difficulty. Every date we chose already had something else planned. Eventually, we settled on Saturday 2 October and we invited Sean’s class mates and their parents – people who have been a part of our lives over the past twelve years.

We need the rain, Lord, but please not on this Saturday night!

Despite Windguru and the SA Meteorological Agency saying otherwise, the weather looked like it was going to be miserable, so we put up Pera’s large family tent in the garden and a gazebo on the back patio.

But God gave us a rain-free and a wind-free evening … And so, last night, we had some sixty people celebrating at our home – transformed into a Fuddruckers for the evening.

I had thought of saying a few words, but decided not to interrupt the festivities, mostly because I think I would have been too emotional.

This is what I would have said to our eighteen year old sons (and to all those children in South Africa) who are about ready to leave high school in three weeks’ time (and what I did get to say on Tuesday before they left school):

Rector, Men of the Grey: 2010

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you.

Some of you call me Mr Lunnon

Others say Uncle Ed

For some it’s just Ed

For just one (I hope!), it’s Dad

And a few say Sir!

But the first time I stood on the stage in this hall

Everyone in front of me called me Sir

despite the fact that

I was but a few years older than you are now.

That was because I had just started my first job here

As a teacher at The Grey.

None of you were even born yet

After all, that was 26 years ago.

Not much has changed in this hall since then.

The faces have changed,

And the unlicensed pub, called Kim, that was run by the BODAS

Under this very floor, during those years,

No longer operates!

  

Unlike past generations, most of you, from the present generation, have flown

Wherever you fly in the world, the procedure is basically the same

And most of you will be familiar with that procedure

 

The whole flying procedure reminds me of our life journey too

Much of it is in the preparation

And that is what you have been busy with up until now

 

You have been packing your bags for the last 18 years

You have been planning your flights

You have booked your tickets

You have passed the initial checking-in requirements

The bags are now loaded onto the flight

You have taken up your seats

 

Right now you are taxi-ing to that final point on the runway before you stop for a while

You fasten your seat belts

Make sure your seats are in the upright position

And the tray tables are stowed away in front of you

 

The pilot does the last final tests and checks

And if everything is OK you will be cleared for take-off

And then the real journey gets underway

 

For the next two months you will be busy with those final tests and examinations

If you pass and all is ok, early in January 2011 your name will appear in the newspaper

You will receive your school-leaving certificate

You will be cleared for take-off

 

But no-one just flies off arbitrarily

The destinations and the goals are set

Each of you will be on a different flight

 Each headed in a different direction

 

Some of you will fly first class – some economy class

Some are “lucky” and may get upgraded along the way

Some will be squeezed in – some will travel comfortably

The ride sometimes is smooth

Sometimes bumpy

Sometimes the cabin crew is something good for the eye

Sometimes not

Sometimes the meals and drinks are free

Sometimes not

Sometimes you are diverted

Sometimes on time and sometimes not

Sometimes the journey goes according to plan

And sometimes the journey ends catastrophically.

  

Many of you are aware that, four years ago,

I was diagnosed with a very rare terminal illness

And that I was given but a few years to live.

I had never thought then that I would make today.

Please don’t wait for such a life-changing event

To shock you into living!

 

As we sit here today – no one knows what the future ride will be like

 

But whatever happens –

Ensure that you enjoy the ride – every single moment of it

As from now!

Make the most of each opportunity that comes your way

And, moreover, when they don’t come your way, make opportunities

Plan and set yourself goals

Participate in everything

Enjoy the view

Take many walks and smell the roses

Speak to your traveling companions

Rest

Enjoy the refreshments

Drink as much as possible – water that is!

Stop every now and then to listen to the music

Read your in-flight material – as much as possible

I have found my Bible full of travel tips

You may wish to read yours, too.

And put your travels in the Hands of the Great Captain.

 

Marvel at the wonder of your trip.

 

As your parents and teachers, we have confused you at times

We have taught you morals and rules,

But at the same time we told you that

Snow White sleeps with 7 men

Tarzan is half naked

Cinderella comes home way after midnight

Pinocchio tells lies

Aladdin is the king of thieves

Batman drives at 200 kph!

It’s no wonder you mess up sometimes!

 

But, as your parents we have brought you successfully to this point of departure

For the first time our paths will now go separate ways

We will watch you as you fly off and disappear into the distance

But we will always be there for you to return

Our cell phones will always be on for you

It will be up to you to turn yours on to call us

Hopefully not only when you need us

But also when you just want to chat and share with us

And tell us where you are in your journey

 

But whilst we see you off at this time

Remember that we are also on our flights of life

Just in front of you

All that you will experience we have experienced before you

And we can often give advice – available to you at any time

Heed that advice

And, God willing, as we see you off on your life journeys today

There will be that one day that we will be waiting for you

When you eventually arrive at that Destination that we believe we are all headed to

 

 

We wish you good luck for your examinations

We wish you good luck for your journey

We wish you pleasant weather conditions

We wish you lots of leg-room

We wish you pretty air hostesses

We wish you great traveling companions

Above all, we wish you safe traveling

And happy landings

 

Over the next few days you will receive many words of wisdom

There is an Old Mutual advert flighted on TV at the moment

It says:

We get wisdom in many different ways

It’s what we do with it that counts.

 

Your life is now in your hands!

 

(And Happy Birthday wishes to my wife, Pera, today – may there be many happy returns of the day!)

PS. Fuddruckers is not a bad word used to describe naughty schoolboys, as many Grey boys think, after our friend John Clarke heard us use the word and decided to call them Fuddruckers!

Nine Eleven

North Tower (with TV antenna) and South Tower

 

 Saturday 11 September 2010 (9/11): 9 years and 4 years on …        

          

Where were you on 9/11 in the year 2001?         

      

I was in my office at Walmer Park. Someone called me to watch the TV in the boardroom. A plane, they said, had flown into the World Trade Centre.                

                 

I imagined it to be a small Cessna or something similar, and because I was busy, I did not think too much of it at the time. A little later, I went to the Boardroom, and as I entered the room, that second Boeing was banking and heading straight for the tower! The rest of the afternoon was spent in front of the TV and even when I went home that evening, I spent the rest of that night in front of the TV.                

                 

The rest is now cold recorded history:                

                 

On the morning (USA Eastern Time) of September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda-affiliated hijackers flew two 767 jets into the complex, one into each tower, in a coordinated suicide attack. After burning for 56 minutes, the South Tower (2) collapsed, followed a half-hour later by the North Tower (1). 7 World Trade Centre collapsed later in the day and the other buildings, although they did not collapse, had to be demolished because they were damaged beyond repair. The process of cleanup and recovery at the World Trade Centre site took eight months.                

                 

The attacks on the World Trade Centre resulted in 2,752 deaths.                

                 

I wiped a few tears away. She was but 30 years old when she collapsed and died that day. She, too, was gone too soon!                

                 

The WTC had special significance for me.                

                 

As a youngster growing up in the sixties and seventies, I followed the building of THAT building with great interest. Remember there was no TV in South Africa at that time, but I read as many books and magazines about the WTC as I could.                

                 

The World Trade Centre was a complex of seven buildings in Lower Manhattan in New York City. The original World Trade Centre was designed by Minoru Yamasaki in the early 1960s using a tube-frame structural design for the twin 110-story towers.                

                 

Groundbreaking for the WTC took place on 5 August 1966. The North Tower (1) was completed in December 1970 (I was then in Standard 6 – grade 8 ) and the South Tower (2) was finished in July 1971.                

                 

The complex was located in the heart of New York City’s downtown financial district. The Windows on the World restaurant was located on the 106th and 107th floors of 1 World Trade Centre (the North Tower) while the Top of the World observation deck was located on the 107th floor of 2 World Trade Centre (the South Tower).                

                 

Between 1972 and 1973, the Twin Towers were the tallest buildings in the world (having overtaken the Empire State Building, and then being surpassed by the Sears Building in Chicago.)                

                 

Other World Trade Centre buildings included the Marriott World Trade Centre; 4 World Trade Centre; 5 World Trade Centre; 6 World Trade Centre, which housed the United States Customs. All of these buildings were built between 1975 and 1981. The final building constructed was 7 World Trade Centre, which was built in 1985.                

                 

In 1974, when I was in Standard 10 (Grade twelve) and selected to be a Rotary exchange Student (read Oklahoma is OK and so much more!), I was given the option to go to Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the USA.                

                 

That was no choice for me –obviously, I only wanted to go to the USA and simply because I wanted to see the WTC!                

                 

And, so it was, in January 1975, en route from Cape Town, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro and flying into New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport at the age of 18, I saw her for the very first time. From the helicopter that flew me from JFK to La Guardia Airport (for my onward flight to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and final destination Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers Airport), I could see that she dominated the Manhattan skyline. I could hardly contain my excitement – I was living my dream!                

                 

In January 1976, on my way home to South Africa via London, I got to spend a week in New York City and to go to the top of the South Tower – to the observation deck on the 107th floor.                

                 

During my second visit to NYC in December/January 1987/88, Grant Lloyd and I visited her again and spent New Year’s Eve on Times Square.                

                 

Ironically, the day she tumbled in 2001 was just three weeks before our family, Pera, Sean (who was but 8 then), Phillip (was 5 and still at Linkside Pre-primary) and I, were booked to go back to the States on a three-week holiday! The world was in turmoil and we didn’t know until the last moment, when planes started moving again, that we would indeed go.                

                 

We headed off from Port Elizabeth into a very uncertain world, via London to Atlanta, Georgia. A handful of us were on that Boeing 767 (no one else wanted to fly!) and we flew, so comfortably with rows of seats to ourselves, right over New York City. My video shows plumes of smoke emanating from Ground Zero, and stretching upwards into the stratosphere.                 

                 

On my third visit to NYC, the World Trade Centre was no more.                

                 

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), established in November 2001 to oversee the rebuilding process, organized competitions to select a site plan and memorial design.                

                 

Memory Foundations, designed by Daniel Libeskind, was selected as the master plan, which included the 1,776-foot (541 m) One World Trade Centre, three office towers along Church Street and a memorial designed by Michael Arad.                

                 

The site is currently being rebuilt with six new skyscrapers and a memorial to the casualties of the attacks. The first new building at the site was 7 World Trade Centre which opened in May 2006.                

Computer Image of the new tower

 

 We will always remember! – those who died, that awful day that changed our world, and where we were on 9/11.

Piece/Peace of Paradise

1 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …

From Port Elizabeth, the N2 heads westwards towards Cape Town, squeezed in between the coastline and the mountain ranges running parallel to the coast. The section from about Humansdorp to George and Mossel Bay is known as the Garden Route, and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country.

It’s easy to see why. Some of the most spectacular scenery is to be seen here: the Tsitikamma Mountains and Nature Reserve with its Big Tree; Storms River Gorge and Bridge, Blaauwkrantz River Bridge, Nature’s Valley and Otter Trail; Plettenberg Bay with its sweeping beaches, Keurbooms and Bitou River and Robberg Peninsula: Knysna with its forests, elephants, lagoon and The Heads where the lagoon empties into the Indian Ocean; Sedgefield and the Lakes; Wilderness, Leentjies Klip and the Kaaimans River mouth; George with its Outeniqua Mountains, Vic Bay and Herold’s Bay; and then finally, the sweeping expanse of  Hartenbos, Klein and Groot Brak, Tergniet, Eselsrus and Mossel Bay.

Almost 400 kilometres of absolute heaven is just here on our doorstep – a piece of Paradise. No wonder the municipality in this area is called the Eden Municipality. Adam and Eve must have swapped their Eden for a darn good apple! 

When you’re down and out – feeling small

When tears are in your eyes … 

–        This is the part of the world you should head to –

It will dry them all…

 

And so, on Friday afternoon, I headed off for Knysna. My destination was Oudtshoorn to attend Ina Scholtz’s memorial service on Saturday morning. The boys were playing rugby against Framesby (the annual not-so-nice recreation of the Anglo-Boer War!) on Saturday morning and Pera was staying to support them.

 

I can’t remember when last I have driven that far by myself, and so I was a bit apprehensive when I left, and decided to break the journey by sleeping over in Knysna. It’s just two and a half hours to get there. Physically, I can still drive and when I became ill, to make things easier for me, we bought an automatic car (a station wagon for space for that promised wheelchair!) The biggest challenge is concentration and tiredness.

But I got to Knysna with no problems – just admiring the scenery along the way – and making the obligatory stop at the Storms River Bridge for a cooldrink.

I stayed over with Sally and Hermann Kapp, an ex-colleague of mine from the business days. Hermann was the Regional Produce Buyer and I was the Regional Human Resources Manager.

I remember the day very clearly as if it were yesterday – but in fact almost ten years ago now – in October 2001 when Hermann came into my office to resign. It was the day that I had just returned to work after our family had returned from the USA.

Pera, the boys and I had left for the USA on a three-week holiday just two weeks after September 11 – the day the Twin Towers were attacked in New York City.

Planes had only just started flying again, and we had undertaken a marathon trip of over forty hours of flying, delays and searching from PE via Johannesburg, London and New York to Atlanta, Georgia. There we stayed with my exchange student days “brother” Kevin and Carol Whitley before flying on to Tulsa, Oklahoma and Mom and Dad Whitley at Table Rock Lake in Missouri.

Flying at the time was also like Paradise. Every one was too scared to fly, so in economy class, we were only some twenty people on the Boeing 777 flight from Londres Gatwick to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. Not only rows of seats to ourselves, but whole blocks of seats, as we flew down the eastern seaboard of the US and over New York City’s Ground Zero, where I videoed the kilometres high plume of smoke that was still billowing up into the sky.

What a holiday that was! But on my first day back in the office, Hermann came to resign. He was going to open his own Fruit and Veg City store in Knysna. (The next day, I was mugged in Main Street and robbed of my leftover dollars that I was taking back to the bank!)   

And so, almost ten years later, Hermann now owns and runs not only Knysna F&V, but also Jeffrey’s Bay F&V and the Oudtshoorn and George Butcheries. They have worked really hard and done exceptionally well, and are such hospitable people. Their home, in Eastford Estate, Knysna, is so spectacular and inviting, and always open to guests.

When I arrived, Sally had not got home yet and I went and sat on the front deck of the house, which is in a country estate on the hills north of the town. From there, through the trees, one looks towards The Heads, over the cascading slip pool where the water appears to be running right into the Knysna Lagoon visible in the distance. The only sound was that of the soft wind whooshing in the trees and the melodic call of the Knysna Loeries. Truly, a piece of Paradise! 

I left early Saturday morning and headed via George and the Outeniqua Pass for Oudtshoorn.  I haven’t travelled that road for years, but used to do it so regularly in my red Toyota CG 18942 when I was at Infantry School in Oudtshoorn.

I recalled arriving there on the troop train, which had come over this very pass from The Castle in Cape Town in January of 1982. But I escaped Oudtshoorn as often as possible during those fifteen months that I was based there (until I was transferred to Youngsfield in Wynberg and later 1 SACC Battalion in Eerste Rivier.)

The escape route was either to the Scholtz’s at Keurbooms or to Dr Hendrik and Mrs Anna du Toit in George (the parents of Gretel (Du Toit) Wust, university friends of mine and whose home we had stayed in when we went down to Cape Town in June).

Now, I was headed away from the sea over the mountain and past the hop farms to Oudtshoorn to be with the Scholtz’s again. We were there just a month ago when returning from Cape Town to PE via the “back road”, Route 61, and I had not thought that I would be back there so soon, if at all! 

The minister of the Methodist Church spoke about the paradox of our Faith – sadness at losing a loved one, but the joy of knowing that they have moved on to a Better Place that knows neither sadness nor sickness – the Peace of Paradise.

Death seems to heal all wounds, feuds and fights. And people who avoid each other in life even seem to make time for each other in death. Even feuding politicians find time to attend the funerals of archenemies and then find some good words to say.   

The paradox of funerals, too, is that despite the sadness, they also provide great joy when meeting up with people that you haven’t seen for years. In a way, funerals are a sort of forced reunion of families and friends. Between all the tears, out come the memories, the laughs, the happy times, and – if you are dated like us – the photographs, the slides and the home movies!

And so for me, after so many years, it was so good to see again the whole Scholtz clan together: Uncle Piet and Anton and Ingrid (my sister), Leonie (Scholtz) and Jos Smith, Rael and Ruth, Gerhard and Martie, Pieter and Hanneke, and fifteen of the sixteen grandchildren who were there.

And taking the extended family of uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws etc, it became quite fun to work out who looked like who and who went with who!

Yet, it was quite surreal not to have Aunty Ina there – she had been central to this show for as long as I could remember – whether it was next to the pool at the house in Cradock, body-boarding in the surf at Keurbooms, drinking coffee below the Melkhout tree on the patio of their Spanish style beach house or savouring the exquisite view of the Plettenberg Bay and braaing on the balcony of the Tupperware House of Jos and Leonie up on the hill.

But, what is dying?

A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon

And someone at my side says

“She is gone.”

 

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all.

She is just as large now as when I last saw her.

Her diminished size and total loss from sight is in me, not in her.

 

And just at that moment, when someone at my side says she is gone,

there are others who are watching her coming over their horizon

and other voices take up a glad shout –

“There she comes!”

 

That is what dying is.

An horizon and just the limit of our sight.

 

Lift us up O Lord, that we may see further.

(Bishop Brent)

All to soon, it came to an end, and I had to head back to Port Elizabeth because we were having dinner with the Stapletons on Saturday evening. But first, I had coffee at the Mugg and Bean in George with Jan Hoogendyk, a preacher, singer and guitarist who works and teaches amongst the under-privileged children in that area.

Two weeks ago, Jan appeared in the Cape Town auditions of MNet’s Idols (South Africa) as Elvis Blue (an ex-pupil of his who died at the age of twelve from HIV/AIDS complications). Elvis brought Mara Louw, one of the judges, to tears with his singing of Bob Dylan’s To Make you Feel My Love and received his Golden Ticket to take him through to the next round at Sun City (and the next round ? … and the next round?) . . .

Those of us who knew her, all felt Ina Scholtz’s love. In Life, as some doors close, others open … thanks for all you do and good luck with your journey and your big dreams, Elvis!

 

Ke Nako!

15 June 2010: 3 years 9 months on …

Where were you when the Twin Towers were attacked? And when the Springboks won the 1995 World Cup? What were you doing when you heard the news that Lady Di had been killed in Paris?

Most people remember the answers to these questions! In future, Friday 11 June 2010 will be one of those days. Where were you when Bafana Bafana played Mexico in the opening game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg?

 I remember sitting in casualty at St George’s Hospital in 2004 with Sean who had broken his arm playing rugby. Sepp Blatter opened the envelope with the words SOUTH AFRICA on it.

 Since then, the clocks have been ticking down for six years. And finally, the big day arrived.

We woke up in The Strand, my hometown. I had flown down last Monday for Aunty Peggy’s funeral and Pera and the boys had arrived by car from Port Elizabeth on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we had a family get-together around the traditional braai.

My late father’s last surviving sister, Aunty Doreen, and her husband, Peter, were there. So was my late mother’s sister, Patricia, known to us as Aunty Patty. The rest of the group consisted of my cousin Jeannie (whose mom, my father’s sister, Aunty Peggy, had passed away last week) and her cousin, Audrey, from her father’s side (Willy Walls). Then there was my wife and I, our two sons, Sean and Phillip, my sister Lynn and her husband Anton, their two daughters Nicolette and Michelle, Nicky’s husband Morne and their daughter Nina, and Michelle’s husband Sebastian and their “Bun in the Oven”! 

So, all in all, four generations together – remembering this and that, laughing about those memories and looking and laughing at all the old photographs that seem to appear on such occasions.

In years to come, I hope that our children will look back on this evening and this time together and look at the digital photographs with just such fond memories, too.

 But, when we woke up on Friday morning, the family feeling was replaced with the football feeling.

Ke Nako – It’s Time! Finally, the day had arrived for Africa, for South Africa and for us.

 After breakfast, we walked from our home at 19 Gordon’s Bay Road, Strand, down to the beach. These were the narrow streets that I had walked for the first eighteen years of my life. They had seemed so much wider then. And the distance to the beach at Melkbaai (Milk Bay) so much further then!

But now, we got there so much quicker – past Tony’s Framers, Sony Kleu’s Bookshop, the Post Office (with its two entrances which in my day were for Europeans Only and Non-Europeans Only!), Miller’s Outfitters, Friedman and Cohen (where I worked as a cashier on Saturday mornings for R2,00). Yes, a few new shops but the old places still there after forty years! John Walls Pharmacy (which belonged to my Uncle Willy Walls – Aunty Peggy’s husband – and his father John before him) is now a take-away pizza place.

The fountain in the traffic circle at the junction of Main Road and Beach Road is still pumping its water upwards into the sky. The Strand Pavilion still has the same name but the old building has been replaced by a new block of timeshare apartments. The old wooden jetty, where, as a youngster, I fished with my grandfather, Charles Stanbridge, still juts out into False Bay. Now they have spent thousands of rands to erect metal fencing all around the pier to prevent anyone from walking on it – the wood is rotten and the structure is dangerous. I can’t understand why they don’t use the thousands spent on the fence to replace the rotten wood instead!

The tide was low and the sea blue and flat. It looked just like thirty five years ago when I had basically left home for good, headed for the USA. It was a beautiful Strand day with the small waves and white froth running up the expansive white sand (hence the name Milk Bay!)

 The tidal paddling pool was still there, surrounded by the same rocks. And across the bay to the southwest, the blue mountains of the Cape Peninsula stretching from Table Mountain in the north all the way down to Cape Point in the south. On the eastern side of False Bay, are the mountains of the Hottentots-Holland range above Gordon’s Bay stretching down to Kogelbaai and Cape Hangklip. The Steenbras Dam filtration plant that supplies water to the Greater Cape Town area still overlooks the large white anchor set out in rocks and the letters GB on either side of the anchor.

Along the beach front, Beach Road still has some of the old beach houses which are only occupied in December during the summer holidays. But now, in between them, they are dwarfed by ultra-modern towering blocks of flats and apartments. Different curves and lines and colours as far as the eye can see – to the east and the west, and stretching up to heaven.

 And all along the pavement, next to the beach, the bright colours of the Rainbow Nation displayed on hundreds of stalls selling flags, t-shirts, scarves, hats and anything your heart desires. It’s all for the World Cup, starting today at Soccer City in Johannesburg.

That’s where we are headed, together with hundreds of other people, all getting into the football feeling. AYOBA!

T-shirts of green and yellow for us, a vuvuzela for Phillip and a cellphone cover in the national flag colours for the car. We now call it the condom and it fits snugly over the Mercedes’s emblem on the bonnet (although, to fit, it has to be upside down) and compliments the mirror socks and the flag already there!

So, all four of us and the car are kitted out as we head off for Stellenbosch at midday. Jessica, my niece, a first-year student there suggested a few places at which to watch the game.

 We chose the Brazen Head and took the last table there in the outside tented courtyard. Everyone was kitted out – complete with vuvuzelas. The large flat screen plasma TV outside and those inside were broadcasting the opening ceremony and the game to us and the world. The world seemed to pack into the restaurant during the opening ceremony and by kick-off time at four, there was no room left in the inn – not ours, not at Soccer City, and I would imagine, not at many inns across South Africa and possibly the World!

Black, White, English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, young, old (Pera commented that we were the oldest there – luckily other older folks joined us later!), businessmen, students, male, female – all sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, applauded, shouted, screamed, blew their vuvuzelas and rose like one man when SA scored the first goal of the match.

And, when the game ended at six, despite Mexico having scored a leveling goal, all stood and applauded, and felt proud to be South African on this momentous day in our country’s history!

We headed off for Paarl to have supper and spend the evening with Pera’s cousin, Jonathan Peach, and his wife, Maryse, Aunty Joan (Pera’s mom’s sister-in-law and Jonathan’s mom), and their children, Lara and Justin.

As Sean drove us through the beautiful Cape Winelands, I could not get out of my mind that wonderful thought that today the score had been

 Mexico 1 South Africa Won!

Oh What a Circus Oh What a Show

 

Friday 4 June 2010: 3 years 10 months on …

Oh What a Circus! Oh What a Show!

Argentina has come to town   *

And so has Greece, Germany, Italy, USA, England, Mexico, Uruguay, France, Nigeria, Korea Republic, Algeria, Slovenia, Australia, Serbia, Ghana, Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia, Brazil, Korea DPR, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Honduras and Chile. The FIFA 2010 World Cup  is here in South Africa – in Africa for the very first time – and so we are here, too!

It has been six years in the making and it all starts next Friday, 11 June 2010, when South Africa’s Bafana Bafana (“The Boys”) takes on Mexico in the opening game at Johannesburg’s Soccer City.

No matter what one’s personal feelings are about us hosting the World’s greatest sporting spectacle – some are for and very positive; others are against and extremely negative – one can feel and see the excitement and the enthusiasm all around.

Since becoming ill in 2006, I had often wondered whether I would still be here to see this happen. I’m so glad that I am! Never, in my fifty odd years, have I ever experienced such a general public outpouring of patriotism in this country.

In the Old South Africa, it was definitely not fashionable to display the old orange, white and blue SA flag – that would have displayed your allegiance to the National Party of the day. Black people would most definitely not even be seen with one of those flags! The most one would have seen that flag was those flying over government buildings.

In the New South Africa, it took some while for white South Africans to become accustomed and endeared to the new multicoloured striped and chevronned black, green, red, yellow, blue and white flag. (I actually had to check on that … shame!)

Many of us still struggle with the words of our national anthem Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa).

Things changed slightly in 1995, when we hosted and won, the Rugby World Cup. Then came the Cricket World Cup. But these were overwhelmingly ‘white’ sports and ‘white’ occasions.

Now it’s soccer (or football as the rest of the world appears to call it) and it’s a predominantly ‘black’ sport in this country. Yet, everyone appears to be getting into the swing of things.

Our flags, and those of almost every country on earth, are flying all over – public buildings, stores, shopping centres, homes, lamp poles, motor cars, trucks and bulldozers. Our home has a SA flag, a Bafana Bafana flag, a Union Jack and The Stars and Stripes of the USA draped off the balcony. (Incidentally, the USA flag flew on the flagpole of the White House in Washington DC on 1 December 1975, the day I was made an honorary citizen of Oklahoma, USA.) Years ago, displaying these flags on your house stood you the risk of having your home razed to the ground!

Cars have flags on their windows and aerials and covering their rear view mirrors. Fridays have become Football Friday. Work attire and school uniforms have been swapped for football gear. People are wearing the distinctive green and yellow colours of “our” team – soccer shirts, t-shirts, dresses, trousers, socks, shoes, spectacles, hats, scarves, gloves and, daresay, underwear are being worn by men, women and children, by white and black and coloured, by the Souties and the Rooinekke, the Dutchmen and the Rocks, the Umlungus and the Firs and the Lids.

Only once before, have I experienced such an outpouring of patriotism. And that was in the USA in September 2001 in the aftermath of the terror attacks in New York City and Washington DC. Wherever you went in the United States at that time, wherever you looked, you saw flags flying on buildings, houses and cars, and you experienced the unity of a nation. We were fortunate to be there at the time.

Pera, Sean, Phillip and I had left for the USA on holiday some three weeks after September 11. In the last leg of our journey from Port Elizabeth via London to Atlanta, we flew over Manhattan Island and I have video footage of the smoke pouring up into the atmosphere from Ground Zero, what had been the World Trade Centre in New York City. Like our 2010 Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland, that event and the smoke and ash pouring out from that site had brought the world’s airlines (and, indeed, the world in 2001) to a standstill. We must have been one of the first families that had got back into the skies, and our boys still think that 50 people travelling in a Boeing 767 is the norm. So much room – even for those of us who travel in the economy class!

The World Trade Centre had always been a special place for me. In the early seventies as a young high school boy, I had followed the building of those two towers with great enthusiasm. Those were the pre-TV days for us, but I had read every book, newspaper and magazine that I could find; such was the attraction of that building for me. I dreamt that I would see it one day.

It was one of the reasons that I had elected to go to the USA as an exchange student when that opportunity arose in 1975. At age 18, when I landed at New York’s Kennedy Airport from Buenos Aires, I had time to kill before my onward flight from La Guardia Airport to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. I took a helicopter to La Guardia via downtown Manhattan to see the WTC. I was living my dream!

I celebrated New Year’s eve of 1987/1988 with friends on Times Square in New York City. Earlier that evening I was fortunate, once again, to be on the roof of the South Tower. It was snowing and I was smoking. Because my fingers were getting so cold, I decided that smoking was a stupid past time, and there and then I threw that cigarette butt down into the snow on the roof of that Tower and killed it.

And that was the end of that cigarette and the end of my smoking. That butt must have gone down with the building. And that was the end of MY building – its demise had brought a tear to my eye on that fateful day of September 11 when, in the boardroom, I had watched on TV that second plane circle and fly into that tower and bring about its end.

The end of the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be on Sunday 11 July. The final whistle will blow at Soccer City and the winning nation will be crowned and the visitors will leave and go home.

Hopefully, South Africa will emerge as the winning nation. The nation-building must continue in our hearts and minds and attitudes, and in our physical amenities. The frantic activity and building that we have seen over the last few years – stadia, airports, roads and bridges – must continue with houses, hospitals, schools, roads, businesses and job opportunities. The unity we display now must persist. The flags must continue blowing in the wind.

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!”

One swallow does not make a summer. One Nelson Mandela and one World Cup do not build a Nation.

Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

* From Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Evita, sung by David Essex