Monday, July 28, 2008

Getting Old

I have just visited a nearby home for senior citizens.
It is always a privilege to go there, because I receive more than I get. These are people who often have words of encouragement for me; who know how to make light of their problems; and who have a wicked sense of humour.

These are also lonely people who have children living in other countries and whose world has shrunk to the size of “what are we eating for lunch?” and “who is the nurse on duty?” Today was especially lonely for one of the ‘saints’ of the group, because her son in Australia died suddenly over the weekend. She had been eagerly anticipating his visit in October, when he was coming to celebrate her birthday. And now she tells me that she does “not feel like having another birthday”.

So I led a service, where we: sang a hymn (mostly me and one tone deaf lady), prayed for their families, and shared Holy Communion. While I distributed the sacrament two geese wandered in from the garden and carried on a loud conversation at the glass door. I was enjoying the reminder of the beauty of the world I live in, but one of the ladies did not approve – so she grabbed her crutches and shooed them away. They huffed off hissing disapproval while she held her hands out for the bread and wine as if nothing had happened. I wished there was a better connection between the exterior beauty of life, and the interior need for the sacraments.

I leave through the dining room, usually at about 11h30. Lunch is at 12h00 midday, and it is sad to see people sitting at the table in anticipation of the highlight of their day. I grieve a world where people are forgotten because of their frailty and age. But I also salute the courage of those who rise above their circumstances to tell me naughty jokes and ask me how my family are doing. I long for a world where all ages can live together in mutual encouragement

Thursday, July 24, 2008


She walked into my office already on the defensive.
Expecting to have to justify herself she launched into an explanation…that she and her husband were married in my church but had not come back because her husband was not able to sit still for long and so could not have managed to sit through a church service / and that her daughter was married in this church but that they were very busy people and Sunday was the only time that the family was together / and that….

I stopped her and asked what had happened.
She explained that her husband had died very suddenly two days ago. And she did not know where to turn for funeral arrangements. So I helped her with advice on undertakers, and agreed to take the service – which I have just completed, with reverence for the gift of life and compassion for people who have lost someone they loved.

Isn’t it sad that people think that they need a good attendance record before the church will show some kindness. This is probably because we church officials so often act like a religious club: demanding fees and attendance and participation as a condition of receiving benefits.

I am grateful that she came back to us for help: grateful for predecessors who agreed to conduct her wedding, and the wedding of her daughter. And that we could help her family and friends grieve with dignity and love. We do this without asking for anything – no commitments, no money, no bums on seats. This is God’s Grace in action.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Beautiful Game

I went to a football game this afternoon: Manchester United vs Kaizer Chiefs.
The hallowed turf of Newlands Rugby Stadium was transformed into a football pitch.
And the game was fantastic.... for many reasons.

So often our sporting spectatorship is divided along racial lines – white and coloured guys watch rugby and black guys watch soccer. But not today: The spectators came from every section of our country’s population. They wore the red of Man United or the yellow of Amakhosi....joined together by their love for this beautiful game.

The South African national anthem was enthusiastically sung by every person in the stadium. I often go to rugby matches where the Xhosa and Sotho section of the anthem is ignored and then the spectators sing the Afrikaans and English bits. But today the stadium knew all the words and sang every word with joy and passion.

The Chiefs supporters blew their Vuvuzelas (plastic trumpets) when the Man United team ran onto the field. We were all excited to see these international superstars “live”, instead of on a television screen. The Man United supporters (many, many thousands of them live in Cape Town) cheered themselves hoarse when the Chiefs played good football because we were all proud together of our local players.

For just a moment I was able to forget the divisions of my country’s history and feel like I belonged to a South African crowd. It was great. The score? A win for both football and South Africa.

PS: Chiefs held Man United to a one-all draw.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Tuesday, July 15, 2008


The ANC has decided to “fire” Ebrahim Rasool, the Premier of my province. He has not been accused of corruption / incompetence / deception, or any of the other things that politicians do. But he has not been publically supportive of Jacob Zuma. So he is to be removed.

And ordinarily I would shrug and say to myself – so it goes with politics. But I fought for a country where freedom of speech and freedom of association is built into the constitution. I welcome a variety of opinions and political views, and shudder to think that political allegiance to a “great leader” becomes the mark of acceptability. I hold no brief for Ebrahim Rasool. But I do object to his dismissal because he happened not to brown nose the right political leader.

But then I live within a religious structure that feels like it is going in the same direction. I have seen people promoted into positions of influence and visibility because they are properly connected – and seen people left out because they do not conform to the party line….. Kevin Light, Mbuyiselo Stemela, Deon Forster, Brian Wilkinson are a few who come to mind.

Pray for us – that we might nurture a society where independent thought is encouraged, and creative people are given space to explore new ideas.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thank you for the music

On Friday night Jenny and I went to listen to the best acoustic guitar band ever.
MAGNA CARTA was founded by Chris Simpson, a Yorkshire Dalesman, in London in 1969 and is numbered amongst the longest running bands in the world today. Over the years they have performed in over 60 countries and sold over 8,000,000 albums worldwide. My all-time favourite song is Lord of the Ages, and although Chris must have sung it a million times – he was as fresh and unbelievable innovative as ever. His mastery of the art of guitar frets and overtones is wonderful, and his passion for the guitar is phenomenal.

The band has seen a number of personnel changes, but the common factor has always been Chris Simpson. Song writer, poet, accoustic guitar player and vocalist, he has been largely responsible for the band's unique sound. The essence of Magna Carta for the last twenty years has been Chris Simpson and Linda Simpson. Sadly Chris and Linda’s marriage has dissolved, and so Chris has decided to close the band next year.... after 40 years of writing and performing.

Thank you Chris for many years of good music. Your albums are played often – and with great pleasure.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Wimbledon Tennis

Rodger Federer and Rafael Nadal:
Thank you for a fantastic game of tennis.
And for the example you set of how to play a game with such passion and such good sportsmanship.
Would that we could live our lives like this too.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Dear Mr President

Dear Mr President

You are reported to have said the following:
THE attacks on foreigners in the “dark days” of May were not xenophobia, but “naked criminal activity. What happened during those days was not inspired by possessed nationalism, or extreme chauvinism, resulting in our communities violently expressing the hitherto unknown sentiments of mass and mindless hatred of foreigners – xenophobia.”
“I heard it said insistently that my people have turned or become xenophobic … I wondered what the accusers knew about my people which I did not know. And this I must also say: None in our society has any right to encourage or incite xenophobia by trying to explain naked criminal activity by cloaking it in the garb of xenophobia.”

Mr President – you are wrong. I have housed 30 Zimbabwean people who fled from their attackers. And every one of them told the same story: that they were attacked for being foreigners. They experienced this as a “mass and mindless hatred” .

Mr President, you “wonder what the accusers knew about my people which I did not know”. But then, Mr President, had you taken the trouble to personally visit these people you might have reached a different conclusion. You might have learned that your people (my people) are capable of racism, chauvinism, sexism.... and xenophobia. It is extremely difficult to know what our people are thinking and doing when your only contact with your country is through the darkened windscreen of a luxury car in a speeding convoy.

Mr President: You used to live amongst the people. But your speech shows that you have left us for another world. I pray that you might return to us.

Pete Grassow

Thursday, July 03, 2008


I lifted this from Ms Betancourts website - and celebrate her freedom:

17 years ago Ingrid Betancourt put aside her quiet life as an expatriated mother to return to her country and fight. Her country, Colombia, is on the verge of collapse, drained by years of civil war. Stuck between the marxist guerillas, the paramilitaries, the drug cartels and corrupted politicians, few people dare to stand up and offer another vision to the Colombian people. Ingrid Betancourt does!
She condems corruption, violence, fights for remote economic areas and for the poor. She first worked for the Finance Minister trying to change things from the inside. Faced with the lack of results, she decided to run for office. She was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994 then to the Senate in 1998. She then created the "Oxygen" party and decided to run for President in the May 2002 elections.

But, then, on Feb 23 2002 en route to San Vincente, Ingrid and Clara Rojas, her campaign manager, were abducted by FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
Ingrid and her campaign against corruption are the nightmare of those who are ruining Colombia on the back of Colombians. She fights with desperation. Let's face it: her abduction serves the interests of many people who benefit from her being silenced.

On 2 July 2008, Ms Betancourt was finally freed from her jungle prison along with 14 other hostages in a daring rescue by Colombian forces.
After being reunited with her family at an air base in Bogota, she thanked President Uribe, against whom she was running when she was kidnapped.
She also showed her ordeal had done little to diminish her political ambition as she revealed: "I continue to aspire to serve Colombia as president."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bad Driving

The traffic light changed to green, and I accelerated my bike to the left into an open road - and was cut off by an approaching car that thought to go around the corner quicker than I did.

So I braked and let him cut me off.
He then accelerated towards the next traffic light and managed to cross it just after it turned red. I waited for the light, then followed him up the Ou Kaapse Weg pass, catching him just as he was passing a truck on a blind rise, forcing an approaching car to pull over onto the verge to avoid him. He then worked his way past a string of cars by driving down the barrier line. Approaching the traffic light on the other side of the Pass he pulled over to the lane that turned right, and then swung back into my lane at the last moment, ensuring that he was in the front of the queue. I filtered through the line of cars to the front. We then entered the Blue Route Highway, with me doing 120kph, and him flying past me as if I was standing still.

I feel two things:
• I am proud of myself for not “taking him on”. I wanted to. I wanted to kick his door. I wanted to slow my bike down in front of him. I wanted to ride on his rear with my lights on bright. But I did not. I stayed out of his way.
• For the first time while riding a motorcycle - I wished to see a traffic officer.

And writing this got the steam out of my system