Sir’s on Strike

©2013 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 30 April: 6 years 7 months on …

Game ED

IMG-20130427-00330

As we left Port Elizabeth in the dark at 6am last Thursday morning, headed for Cape Town, the news reader on the radio was reading about strikes – bus drivers and teachers.

Well, neither in this bus was on strike!

I was travelling in the school bus with Grey’s 1st rugby team to their annual encounter with Wynberg Boys’ High. A teacher was at the wheel, the coaches were there, the team was there and I was accompanying them to watch Phillip play his last school rugby game in the Cape. Because of work commitments, Pera and Sean were unable to go, and I was only too thankful to get a lift on the bus.

Listening to the news and seeing firsthand the contribution that these teachers make to our children’s education, I was grateful for the dedication of so many teachers that we are privileged to experience.

Not many would be up at that time of the morning, accompanying, chauffeuring, coaching and driving. The irony being that it was exactly those teachers who would not do these things that were now on strike! Wanting more for doing less!

In front of us and behind us over the next four days, many other buses (with non-striking drivers?) transporting hundreds of boys and teachers, and many cars with parents and children, would all be heading for Cape Town – and back.

It wasn’t a pleasant trip. Warning lights, strange noises, flat wheel and no air-conditioning on a 30 degree day added to the stress. But I was home in Strand at 16h00.

IMG-20130425-00324

My nephew-in-law Sebastian picked me up at the N2 national road and by 18h00 I was having a walk along Milk Bay Beach. I had grown up on this beach and the weather was picture perfect!

Later, my sister Lyn and brother-in-law Anton came to visit for a quick catch-up!

On Friday morning we headed for Stellenbosch and a visit to Helshoogte to discuss the upcoming 40th reunion to which I will return in two weeks’ time. It was great catching up with current prim Jason Katz and seeing all the new developments in the House and on the University campus. More residences and buildings are rising on areas that used to be our parking places!

IMG-20130426-00327

Stopping in for coffee at La Romantica was also an exercise in struggling to find parking (Stellenbosch has become a driver’s nightmare).  Not only the parking was full, but also the pub at eleven in the morning – everyone was watching Super 15 rugby! So this was how economic South Africa spends its Friday mornings … all whilst the bus drivers strike and cause mayhem country wide for higher wages!

The usual Friday Ridgway braai followed, together with a large group of participants catching up on the business of The Strand, and then, after a short nap, we headed for Wynberg.

The Grey Old Boys were playing golf against Wynberg Old Boys and we joined them at the nineteenth hole – the Billy Bowden pub at Wynberg High.

It was great catching up with many Old Boys that I had taught over the years – it started on Friday evening and continued throughout the day on Saturday: Hill, De Vries, Hofmeyer, Etellin, Landsberg, Morris, etc. (I always referred to my pupils by their surnames, so twenty five years later and my memory problems, I often forget the first names!)

There were some of Sean’s classmates who came to say hello – all students in the Western Cape now: Graham and David Clark, Robbie Van Eck, JJ Swart, Neil Wessels …

Even old Rector Dieter Pakendorf and his wife Maureen were there – and it’s always a pleasure visiting with my sharp ex-boss – despite the toll taken by age and health!

And Hansie Harker was there!

Many Old Greys will remember Hansie. In my time, he was the messenger, duplicator (on the Roneo machine!), deliverer and fetcher – the admin guy extraordinaire!  (Even been the painter at my home!)

In his forty years at the school, I don’t think he’s been on strike for 1 day! And he’s approaching retirement days and, like so many of us, also experiencing health issues.

He’d never been further than George and had never flown in an aeroplane. But …

All that changed this past weekend when the school flew him to Cape Town, and took him on the touristy things and even a trip up Table Mountain!

 Phillip’s 3rd team (“Tommo’s Reds” in which Sean also played in his day!) did us proud. They came back from a large deficit at the half to eventually win the game: another lesson in “never give up”!   It was an exciting game to watch and made up for the losses of the second and first team.

Too soon it was all over – and we left Cape Town at 19h00 on Saturday evening on a through-the night trip back to Port Elizabeth (my first!) arriving at home at three thirty in the morning.

Thank God that He made Sundays a rest-day!

My thanks, too, must go to the non-striking teacher and bus driver Daryl Wicht for getting me safely there and back, Rory and Tim for their company, Sebastian and Nico de Vries for their hospitality and to all the others who made this last school trip to the Western Cape possible for me.

For me, it was a real feel-good weekend … I’m still not sure I know or understand any educational benefits of these short-term, long-range, high cost sporting trips that we do. Maybe, someone, someday, will explain that to me …

 IMG-20130427-00334

For the Last Time

ED is in the week EnDing wED 24 April 2013

  • Wed 17: Happy Lands Addo Women’s Institute meeting and AlgoaFM broadcast / Maggie Thatcher’s funeral / Fathers’ Rugby meeting at Grey
  • Thu 18: Visit Isaac / Lunch Gavin / Haircut / Blast in West, Texas
  • Fri 19: Visit Ben, Jenny / Lunch Andrew / Host boys from Paul Roos / Watched CNN – Boston
  • Sat 20: Rugby vs Paul Roos at Grey / Kings vs Bulls at NMB Stadium / Power Boat Club
  • Sun 21: Relax and Sleep and London Marathon!
  • Mon 22: Sean’s car at TAVCOR / Phil’s SU application forms / Arrange trip to Wynberg and HH Reunion
  • Tue 23: Willie Bosch/Brian Bezuidenhout: APDStellenbosch

FOR THE LAST TIME

©2013 Edward C. Lunnon

Tuesday 23 April 2013: 6 years 7 months on …

GAME ED

Sean left school at the end of 2010. I had set it as one of my goals to see him get into matric and to leave school.

That was because I had been told in February 2007 that I would be “severely incapacitated” by 2010 (three years!) and dead by 2012 (five years!).

Well, now it’s 2013 and Phillip is in matric and I’m not dead and neither am I severely incapacitated! I am grateful for this extra time.

I haven’t even set myself a goal of seeing Phil getting to the end of his school career! I have just assumed that I will still be here. I just don’t know anymore!

But, what I do know is that everything we do with Phil at school this year is “for the last time”. The chicks are slowly leaving the nest, and by next year, we will no longer have children at school. That chapter will be closed.

It was the last encounter with Paul Roos Gymnasium from Stellenbosch this past Saturday. (I did my practice teaching at Paul Roos way back in 1979.)

This Saturday is our last encounter against Wynberg in Cape Town, and I hope to go down to the Western Cape for that. Then there’s Bloemfontein later this year and NO I’m not organising any trains for parents to Bloemfontein! I did one in 2007 and one in 2009 and they were the best, coldest, latest, drunken trips to Bloem that I have ever done. Luckily, I don’t think the SA Railways even has spare coaches any more, and I’m not even going to try to find out if they know where their rolling stock is!

But as one door closes, the next one opens. So today I had to fill in some forms for Phillip’s application to Stellenbosch University next year. He wants to do mechanical engineering at my Alma Mater.

It was a scene of déja vu. I could see myself filling in my own university application forms 40 years ago! The difference is that we physically filled in paper forms and made bank deposits – now it’s all “online” and EFT transfers!

We’ll keep our fingers crossed that his application will be successful. And he wants to stay in Helshoogte Residence – she was my very happy home for 6 years. And I was her primarius in 1981.

And while I’m filling in Phil’s application forms on the one side, I am also busy filling in my forms to attend Helshoogte’s fortieth birthday party next month.

Even though it clashes with the reunion in May of my last matric class that I taught at Grey, I certainly won’t miss “Heaven is a place on Earth” – Stellenbosch, my birthplace and place of my education. Born and bred in Matieland!

So I’m trying to juggle times and planes and lifts and accommodation to maximise my attendance at both reunion functions on that second weekend in May. Of all the 52 weeks of the year, why, oh, why are these two reunions on the same weekend? Life can not just be simple, can it? Not even with good old customer service.

Not for the last time, I hope, I headed off to Tavcor Motors this afternoon. Last year, I had some bad service from them with Sean’s car and often businesses mess up even more when they go into recovery mode. Not them!

They have made it up to me in leaps and bounds. I can only thank and congratulate Garrick and his two PA’s, Elaine and Yolande, for the most unbelievable excellent service – way beyond the call of duty – that they have given to me with the repairing of Sean’s Polo that was damaged in the hailstorm outside Graaff-Reinet two months ago. If this is the type of service that they offer then I can only recommend them in future.

And not for the last time have we witnessed the things that we have seen this past week: bombings at Boston; explosions at West, Texas; earthquakes in China; floods in the Eastern Cape …

I will write more later.

Memories are Made of This

Tuesday 10 May 2011: 4 years 8 months on … ADVANTAGE CBD

I have made much about my and our family travels over the years. Before I got married, I was fortunate to travel extensively overseas. Thereafter, it happened less frequently because of logistics and cost. However, as the boys grew up, besides holidays, we also spent a lot of time following them around the country as they became involved in various school activities.

We have been to all four of the old South African provinces to watch school sport and listen to the orchestra – Pretoria, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Bloemfontein and Cape Town. In the Eastern Cape, over the years, we have frequently visited Queenstown, King Williams Town, East London, Graaff-Reinet, George, Knysna, Grahamstown, Uitenhage and Despatch!

Our travels with the boys have been some of the best memories that I have – besides the sport and the performances, our discussions in the car, the scenery, the history and geography – even the mathematics sometimes – have made all those trips very worthwhile.

We have visited old friends and made new friends around the country, gone sight-seeing, attended shows – Phantom of the Opera in Cape Town (together with the Thomsons, Stapletons and Scholtz’s) comes to mind, gone shopping and seen the country.

I have written a number of blogs about these trips, notably “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and “I was so Glad that I had come”!

“Heaven is a place on Earth” describes our trip to Stellenbosch round about this time last year (2010) for the annual derby day against Paul Roos Gymnasium (incidentally where I did my practical teaching as a student at Stellenbosch University).

The previous year (2009) we had visited Wynberg in Cape Town in May. I had not started writing blogs yet so I have no record of that trip. However, despite my short-term memory leaving me in the lurch, my long-term memory remains almost intact.

I had attempted to organize a bus trip for parents to Cape Town for that long weekend. We were due to stop over in Rawsonville at a University friend, Stanley Louw’s wine farm, stay at the Newlands Sun Hotel, take in a  show, ABBA, at the Artscape Theatre on the Friday night and a Super 14 Rugby match at Newlands on the Saturday (and, of course, watch our sons play against Wynberg.) However, it was just at the time of the economic crunch taking its toll on our South African pockets, and I had to cancel the plans at the last moment because of insufficient numbers.

So we drove instead. We stayed over, as usual with the Kapps in Knysna, and then stayed with the Reelers in Pinelands. After the rugby Saturday, we watched the Stormers play at Newlands, and then discovered a delightful pizza place in Rondebosch. On Sunday, on the way home, we stopped over for lunch at the Rod and Reel in Plettenberg Bay!

Two years before that, May 2007, I had just been diagnosed with CBD in the January and had to make a return visit to Tygerberg Hospital at the time of the Wynberg encounter. I flew down to Cape Town, saw the doctor and very little of the rugby, as I recall spending the Saturday afternoon assisting Dylan Collins (Head Boy 2006) who had eaten a suspect hamburger and was not feeling too well!

Despite the bus trip to Wynberg being cancelled and my illness taking its toll, I had organised two very successful train trips for parents to Grey Bloemfontein in August 2007 and again in August 2009. I called it the Grey-V Train, One and Two!

In 2007 we were almost 250 parents who filled the train. We left Port Elizabeth station 4 hours late (due to a train accident at Addo) – after having emptied the picnic baskets at a party on platform 5! – and encountered the coldest night of the year and snow in the Karoo and the Free State. We arrived late in Bloemfontein and some parents (including us) did not even get to see our sons play!

However, the memories and the stories of that trip will remain legendary. So much so, that when 2009 came round, the demand for another train was there. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, notably the SA Railways not being able to guarantee a train, it was a last-minute rush and we did not have as many passengers as the previous trip. This time we only arrived an hour late and managed to keep warm on the train (but the Heavens opened in Bloem and it poured with rain!)

And so, all these trips have very special memories and I could highlight many over the past 27 years since I became associated with Grey, first as a teacher and then as a parent.

Last weekend, it was time for the Wynberg trip again. With Sean out of school and Phillip not playing rugby temporarily this term, there was really no reason to go to Cape Town, except to make an excuse to go! And I don’t really have to look too far to find such an excuse to go home to the Western Cape!

Besides Grey rugby, the Stormers were also playing the Crusaders at Newlands, so we looked at all our options! But, much as we tried, nothing worked – I doubted my ability to sit in the car for eight hours, Sean was writing a test, there were no flights available, the Newlands seats were sold out, the price of petrol has just increased YET again, I didn’t want to drive in the dark, etc … so, in the end, we made the difficult, but sensible, decision to stay at home.

So we were at home on Sunday afternoon when we got the news of the tragic death of grade 8 pupil, Stefan Ehlers, and his mother, Theresa, in an accident on the way back from Cape Town when their car hit a kudu near Willowmore. The father, Rian, was admitted to hospital but escaped serious injury and was discharged Monday. Our sincerest condolences go to their family at this sad time.

My condolences also go to the family of Robin Small, an ex-colleague of mine at Grey who also passed away this week after having battled cancer for some time. His memorial service took place at Grey yesterday.

We cannot predict the future

We cannot change the past

We have just the present moment

We must treat it as our last 

This week, hundreds of Old Greys will converge on Port Elizabeth for their annual reunion.  Since last year’s gathering, we have lost a number of our family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. We remember all of them for having enriched our lives along the way.

So my message to you is, if you are having doubts about attending this weekend (or, for that matter, doing whatever you have been putting off or have been uncertain about), make the decision now to join in the reminiscing and the fun. Live for the moment.

We have just the present moment – We must treat it as our last.