Karoo Kindness

©2013 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 8 October 2013: 7 years 1 month on …

Physical: Advantage CBD / Mental: Advantage ED


After having spoken to Caltex Eastern Cape at Mpkweni last month, I was approached by Caltex dealer Pierre le Grange to do another talk.

It didn’t take much persuasion because it would be in Graaff-Reinet to the Grade 12 pupils of Union High School.

So all was organised for last Friday 4 October at 9h30. Because of the early start, a lift was organised for Thursday afternoon and I was not able to attend Gordon Wright’s book launch at the Southender or Pera’s birthday supper!

Tiaan van Schoor picked me up at 13h30 and either he or I spoke too much or we drove too fast, but it didn’t take long before we were driving past that derelict drive-in screen and projection room that stand as a monument to things long past at the Port Elizabeth entrance to Graaff-Reinet.

Tiaan was to be my driver and handlanger for the next two days. Not only did we have lots to talk about (we both lived and worked in the Bible Belt of the United States!) but we also share a birthday! It was great having a tetchier to handle all the electronics, wires, computers, projectors etc.

Thursday evening was spent around the most delicious potjie with the Le Grange’s and the Van Schoors (Tiaan’s parents). In the process, the talk to Union had been extended to include jut another talk to Volksskool and then also the Junior Volkskool … and how about the Hospice Walk on Saturday morning, too?

I am humbled to share my story with so many people and to raise awareness about neurological and other life-limiting illnesses. I hope my ad lib Afrikaans translations and on the trot lowering of the level of the talk for the grade 7’s were understood by all!

My message is simple – life is great but it’s hard work. Take what it throws at you – turn the bad into good, focus on the good and never give up!

My thanks to the heads of the three schools for allowing me the time to speak, and to Mr William Pringle of Union High for the Union tie – I shall wear it with pride in remembrance of my happy days in Graaff-Reinet and the Karoo kindness that I am so privileged to experience. My illness provides me with so many good things that there is almost no time to consider the bad.

Even the tiredness (yes, ED is in tired) after three talks can be overcome with another braai on Friday evening (just a quiet braai with the Wrights neighbours that turned into Russian Roulette!) And when Justin Kingwell took me home at midnight I couldn’t find the Le Grange’s home and we drove up and down the streets of Graafies pushing my remote button to see where a gate opened!

Some twenty ladies were walking (in stages) 60 km from Graaff-Reinet to Nieu Bethesda over the weekend. The event was a fundraiser for GR Hospice.

When Pierre asked me to start the Hospice fundraiser walk on Saturday morning with a message, I eagerly agreed until I was told that the start was at 5h00! I declined the offer, but Pierre in his quietly persuasive manner then suggested that I talk at the start of the second stage!

So at 9h00 we were out in the Karoo countryside at the foothills of Kompasberg having breakfast and some nursing already sore feet! What an awesome privilege to be surrounded by the plains and mountains of the Karoo and to share the words of a man we know only as David:

Oh Lord My Lord

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,  The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

Then back to town; transfer to the Andries Stockenström Guesthouse of the Wrights and lunch with the Harris’s, cricket at the Union (Bethesda Road vs Middleburg) towed down at the fines meeting with a rather unique dishcloth invention!, rugby test (SA vs NZ All Blacks) on the TV, and all completed with a steak and fish grill at the Union.

Phew … night three and not the end of it yet!

On Sunday morning I left GR with Justin and Liesl Kingwell and little Joshua for Blaauwater Farm at the base of the Lootsberg north of the town.

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Upon arrival, Justin did a quick midwifery trick on a pregnant ewe in labour and in trouble and, voila, then there were four! It was amazing to witness the birth of those triplets, within minutes they were up and walking and cleaned and fed by their mom. Nature at its best – the work of Your fingers.

Then roast for lunch, bed for snooze and transport for travel to top of mountain. A spectacular trip and a spectacular view – the work of Your fingers. What a privilege for me to share it with the Kingwell family and Grandma Garry and Grandpa Charles Kingwell who joined us for a picnic in the Peaks.

The day was ended with a fireside chat, a hearty Hansa, delicious billies, tired bodies and drooping eyelids!

I woke up on Monday morning to deadly silence interspersed with bleating sheep.

Then breakfast and back to town to the guesthouse and Gordon Wright. I took a mid-morning snooze and later a mid-afternoon snooze! A walk to town resulted in me bumping into Annemarie van Jaarsveld from Pink Trees for Pauline fame, Margie Parkes from the Cancer Association (I addressed them last year this time!) and my ex- Port Elizabeth neighbour Andy Cherrington who now owns the GR Spur.

There was time for a quick John Lee before I had a call from Nibs Price to say he was going to Port Elizabeth at 18h00 ( I was due to return on Tuesday morning early with a lift.)

My bed beckoned!

A quick pack and I was ready for the trip home – arriving at some eight thirty, just in time to go to bed for a well earned night’s sleep!

My grateful thanks to all the people mentioned above (and many others not mentioned!) for making this such a wonderful weekend. Your Karoo kindness is so much appreciated.

I am truly blessed to know you all and to experience your wonderful hospitality.

What is man that You are mindful of him?

PS. Please excuse the errors. My bum is eina and I can’t sit to type this now. I will correct later!



From Polo to Golf

Tuesday 12 February 2013: 6 years 5 months on …

Physical: Deuce / Mental: Deuce

This is an abbreviated blog of the last week:

Wed 6 Feb: AlgoaFM with Briony; Meeting with accountant; Sabet (Dr Brown) Dentist; Sean (drink at Old Grey Club)

Thu 7 Feb: Admin with Nadine / Graeme Harris visit from Graaff-Reinet / Hydrotherapy / Visit from Isaac / Jester Trip into Algoa Bay with Ashley and Bev

Fri 8 Feb (my 6th anniversary of diagnosis): Rodriguez Lookalike concert at Old Grey

Sat 9 Feb: Trip to Graaff-Reinet – hail storm 50km out of GR!!! Car turned from Polo to Golf ball with dents … ten minutes of hell …

Sun 10 Feb: Flash floods at home in PE: 40mm in 30 minutes ?

Sat till Wed 13: With Gordon and Rose Wright in Graaff-Reinet



Flying with the Wright Brothers – Good Fella’s

Tuesday 23 August 2011: 4 years 11 months on … Advantage ED

When I arrived in Port Elizabeth in January 1984, there were some 14 of us who began our teaching careers together at Grey. We were all male, mostly single and had come either from University or our two-year military service. (Sadly, most of the 14 have subsequently left the teaching profession!)

As members of staff at The Grey, we automatically became members of the Old Greys’ Union and hence members of the Old Grey Club in Lennox Street, Glendinningvale.

I boarded with Steve Fourie’s parents in Walmer until I could move into the Grey’s Meriway Hostel.

But, for most of us, one could say that our address was c/o The Old Grey Club, Lennox Street, Glendinningvale, Port Elizabeth!

We spent most of our non-teaching time at the OGE, as we called it then. There we played / watched hockey, cricket, squash; socialised with Old Greys, Grey parents, our  current teaching (and previous) colleagues and became friends of employees such as Club Manager Viv and bar”lady” “Lucky Lips”!

Those who frequented the pub in those days will remember (as the law required) the Men’s Pub, the separate Ladies’ Lounge, the Pool Room and the “tiekie box” (public telephone) to which many patrons would be called when time got late and partners/wives became anxious about their where-abouts. (Ironically, it was to that very tiekie box that I was called in November 1986 to be told the news that my mother had passed away in The Strand.) Of course, in the cell phone era, the tiekie box no longer exists!

On my first visit to the OGE, I was introduced to retired teacher “Sand Shark” Harry Davies. Subsequently, the group disappeared and left me with Sand Shark and the buying of the drinks! I discovered quickly that Harry had the unique gift of accepting drinks and then disappearing when it became his turn for the next round. I had been set up on my first visit!

On Sundays, we would watch cricket/hockey (depending on the season), celebrate the victory/defeat (depending on the outcome of the match) and then as regular as clockwork and non-dependent on anything, head off for El Cid Steakhouse in Parliament Street. Tommo was the resident singer and Pam worked the till at the door.

Sunday evenings could become messy and Monday mornings first break often called for greasy take-away hamburgers delivered to the staff room from the Hamburger Hut at the top of Russell Road.

Well, those hamburgers are a far cry from the fare now offered at The Club. For a while now, the Club has been managed by local restaurateurs Cassies. The menu is short and good value for money. There is a daily special and a new innovation is Dinner Theatre. Sunday carvery is a special.

Sean, Phillip and I have made it almost a weekly Friday Club lunch date of the steak, egg and chips. Most weeks we are joined by various other friends and Old Greys.

And so, last Thursday evening, via Facebook, I advised that we would be having pre-rugby test match dinner at The Club on Friday afternoon.

And we were joined on Friday by a number of people who were all in town for the Test – Tim White, Bert and Wendy Henderson and their friends, Graaff-Reinett farmer Graeme Harris (brother- in- law of Aberdeen farmer  Dickie Ogilvie – himself an ex-colleague, erstwhile OGE hockey player, cricketer and patron, and my bestman when we married), Roche van As, a number of other out-of town rugby visitors, some of Sean’s friends and THEE.. Gordon Wright (Restaurateur and Guesthouse owner from Graaff-Reinett).

I had met Gordon before (at The Club) when they still lived in PE. Earlier this year, we made contact again when he asked me to assist with the anti-fracking campaign that currently dominates Karoo thinking. (Fracking is a process that energy companies use to free up underground gas and which has proved to be detrimental to the environment (especially groundwater)).

Well, the lunch date became a long one, and eventually we left in time for supper, which was going to be a true-to-tradition braai at Gordon’s brother, Bernard’s home.

And who should be there?

Besides Graeme, Gordon, Bernard, Roche and I, there were:

Bernard’s wife, Sharleen, was the hostess.

Chris Wright who is technical manager at AlgoaFM was there.  I see him every Wednesday when I do my weekly programme. I had not known they were brothers!

And Damien Wright was there. He is Chris’s son and assists with the technical issues in studio when presenters are out of town.  He presses the knobs when I sit alone in studio and Lance broadcasts from out-of town. I did not know they were family!

And a few others, whose names and faces now fade into oblivion.

Later in the evening, I “discovered” that Briar Wright was the matriarch of the seven-sibling-strong Wright family. Briar is a driving force behind the Parkinson’s Support Group in PE. I met her  when I first became ill, and attended their group meetings after I was initially diagnosed with possible Parkinson’s Disease. We have subsequently met several times over the last five years of my later diagnosed CBD illness.

The moral of the story: never say anything to any person about anyone you would not say directly to their face – inevitably, it turns out they are friends, family or neighbours!

What started as the pre-test lunch became a lengthy affair, lasting till midnight on Friday. But we were facing the All Blacks the next day, and we had to be well-prepared. There was much to plan and discuss, and many toasts to propose!

By eleven thirty, we had filed our flight plans with the Wright Brothers, and it was time to go.

We phoned the Good Fella’s chauffeur service call-centre.

Operator ‘Stevo’ made the necessary arrangements and an sms was received at 23h41. “Evening, your driver is Andre Ungerer.  If you would like to verify the driver’s ID please call GF’s. My name is ‘Stevo’.”

At 23h42, an sms was received: “Good evening, your driver is on route and will arrive in roughly 25 min. Regards gfellas.”

And, thanks to kind sponsorship by Good Fella’s, at midnight, our pumpkin turned into a Good Fella’s carriage, and we arrived home safely – in time for the Test that lay ahead.

(And apologies to Sharleen Wright, who I almost did not recognise when I saw her at the rugby on Saturday afternoon.  We’ll have to organise a make-up braai!)