Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Cars and boys

I have a 7 year old nephew who ever since he was born, has had a fascination with cars - and Subaru in particular. (This may be no coincidence as I once heard that Subaru eschewed most forms of traditional advertising to focus on marketing through games, toys, etc. and their brand recognition amongst young kids, as a consequence, is way ahead of the larger traditional motor manufacturers. It will be interesting to see how this translates into sales in the next 10-15 years when these young ones begin to buy cars.) Anyway, just to give you an indication of how deep his affection for things vehicular runs, when he sleeps over at his granny’s house (my mom) she reads him to sleep by reading to him from a book that lists the specifications of a range of supercars. The other day, he tagged along with me and his grandpa when my dad had to collect his car after a service. VW, where my dad was to collect his vehicle, is right next to the Subaru dealership. Well, when he saw this, he could not contain his excitement and asked if he could go and have a look. I vaguely said: ‘Maybe we’ll see.’ but thought to myself that there was no way I was walking into any dealership unless I was seriously considering purchasing a vehicle. I am not a browser and the prospect of been hounded by a salesman really did not appeal. After my dad had collected his car, I drove off in mine and glancing back I saw him reverse, turn back the other way and park right outside the Subaru dealership and a little figure hop out and half run, half trip ahead of his grandfather in his excitement to get to the door. The two of them then disappeared inside. I felt bad – not only for my own self-centredness, but also with regret, realised that in being selfish, I had missed out on what would have been a wonderful moment to witness: the innocent wonder and thrill of a child. There are exceptions to every rule, but as I watched that scene, it yet again confirmed what so many of my contemporaries who have recently become parents, have told me: Becoming a parent places into stark relief the selfishness and self-absorption that tends to precede parenthood while simultaneously and mercifully (and mostly) curing you of it. I do kind of look forward to learning that lesson for myself, God willing.

Monday, 27 July 2009


TH is a relative of mine in Aus and is Aussie by birth but lived for quite a number of years here in SA, married a South African and carries an affection for Africa. She sent me this poem My Country by Dorothea MacKellar (1904) about Australia, written I gather from the text, by a UK expat to Australia many years ago and I thought it was so evocative and rousing, I asked her if I could post it on my blog, so here goes:

The love of field and coppice, of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance, brown streams and soft, dim skies-
I know but cannot share it, my love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror- the wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests, all tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains, the hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops, and ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country! Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us we see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather, and we can bless again
The drumming of an army, the steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country! Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine she pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks, watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness that thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country, a wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her, you will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours, wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country my homing thoughts will fly.

Goosebump stuff!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

The first time I saw Sydney

I just thought I would post some pics of Sydney that I took when I was there for my interview about 9 weeks ago. The first pic I never took - I found it a while ago on google images and for me it is simply the most beautiful picture of the opera house I have ever seen. The second one I took of birds at a relative's house up in Avalon Beach North of Sydney - apparently theses richly coloured birds - I forget the name - are as common as pigeons in Sydney! Pretty though hey? The third of the Sydney Harbour Bridge I took from the opera house and the last one was taken on the ferry from Manly on the way to Circular Quay heading into the City and approaching the bridge and opera house. As we travelled on the ferry, dolphins playfully frolicked alongside the whole way.

Friday, 24 July 2009

A last glance back

It has been the strangest thing. I can't decide if it is ironic or fitting or whatever, that on my last flight out to my new home of Australia, and although I booked on Qantas, because of a coach sharing arrangement between the 2 airlines, I will be flying out on SAA. It is almost as though Africa knows of my indifference and like a reluctantly ditched lover is trying to delay the inevitable final severance by a protracted last goodbye. There is no way of my knowing what my feeling will be when the wheels of SAA 344 lift off and I leave this soil for the last time with, in all honesty, no intention of ever returning. And yet. I would be lying if when I read or listen to those who love this land, the open exhuberant warmth of the vast majority of her people and the quietness of the bush that something, however small, resonates faintly within me and I glimpse what it must be like to experience a sense of belonging. I grew up here and places will always harbour memories that will echo throughout my life. This country and those within it deserve, if not my affection, at least a nod of gratitude. I have often said that I have never experienced what it is to be patriotic and that hasn't changed, but if you will excuse me huge poetic licence to mutilate 'Intimations of Immortality’ by William Wordsworth just this once, to say thank you.

This is but a sleep and a forgetting;
And the wild sun of Africa that, as I grew, daily rose with me,
Will now, for me, elsewhere have its setting.
Off a gentler island in the East
Where I hope one day to pass;

In the peace in which it lately allowed me to live.

In coming from afar, I arrive;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But thankful and trailing clouds of the continent of my birth
Africa, my first home.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Prepping for Aus

Yesterday morning, we recieved confirmation of our visa and will fly to Aus Monday 3rd August to begin our new life there. While we had been waiting for the visa, I had begun to really loathe this country and the myriad of hoops one has to jump through to get out of here. Now that we have our visa, my feeling towards this country and continent is just one of indifference, but the very personal loss with regards to the people that we will leave behind began to dawn on me. Some we will not see again in this life. I don't know who said it but it was to the effect that in this life, neither pure joy or pure sadness is possible and again I have experienced this to be true. Perhaps some would say it sounds like I always manage to find a cloud in any silver lining, but I am not an eeyore in normal life. It just takes me longer to 'get' these things than most. Often the 2 sides of the coin are inseperable: I am so excited to begin our new life, but am so dreading the personal cost which is unavoidable. The idea is somewhat absurd, I know, as we embark on this journey so many before us have made, and so many others throughout the world make every day, but I can't help but feel like an adventurer on a voyage of discovery, ready to face the vast unknown, the salt thick in my hair:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." (Mark Twain)

And yet, at the same time, I pray the Breton fisherman's prayer:
O God, be good to us. The sea is so great and our boat is so small."

Saturday, 4 July 2009


It is 12 months since the indescribable horror of that Saturday afternoon when Kirstin was ripped from us. As much as she was reborn into eternity, so were we. Stripped of all silly earthly distractions, we stood hurt and angry in our raw grief before the God who had claimed her back. None of us that day could imagine or concieve that we would ever laugh again, or return to any semblance of normality. Or if we even wanted to. Looking back now, in a way we did and we didn't.

Over the past year, we worked, relaxed, shared family gatherings, enjoyed holidays, celebrated birthdays, Christmas and Easter and lived some crazy moments. The context, though, had been changed by that moment, on the 5th July 2008, irrevocably. All that we have lived has been tinged with the loss of a part of us that has gone. Kirstin has been missed in the quiet hours and in the loud and joyful ones. Her absence hurts - still. But in that strange and paradoxical way of love, it has immeasurably deepened our capacity for intimacy with each other. We still laugh and joke and fight amongst ourselves, but she taught us, in a way we would not otherwise have learned, that we could lose each other in the space of a heartbeat, a single breath. Everything is still outwardly much the same, Kirstin: the sun still rises and sets here without you, we still get angry and irritated in the traffic. But we are not unchanged. You diminshed us by your leaving and yet you enrich us by your continued absence. You teach us that Love transcends death - not only for you but for each other. You taught us how much we love you. You teach us everyday anew now, that we are loved and equally importantly, you teach us to love. Rest in peace with Him, Kirst. We have lost you, but only for a little while.