Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

Good friends, a braai, laughter, and a lovely evening. Happy New Year.
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Sunday, December 26, 2010


Nothing beats good company, a good latte, and a lovely summer's day. At Mugg & Bean Constantia with Jen and Jess.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas in South Africa

For those in other parts of South Africa (where it is raining) and for those in the Northern Hemisphere (where it is snowing): Christmas-time in Cape Town includes me standing in a sunny back yard with sausage on a braai (barbecue).

You are welcome to visit me.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Nation is on Holiday.

Today - December 16 - has been a South African public holiday for all of my life.

I knew it as "Dingaan's Day": a celebration of a Boer victory over a Zulu army. At school I was taught how a handful of boers defended their wagons against the "advancing hoards of warriors". It was many years later that I discovered that they were also greatly assisted by a canon, that decimated the spear-and-shield armed warriors.

Then it became the Day of the Vow, and was used as a day to rally national pride for the white Afrikaner people. The unifying theme for the day was how God had honoured a vow of loyalty to God made by the Boers. This vow somehow bound God to the political cause of Afrikaans nationalists. This then provided spiritual energy to a racist ideology. The rest of the nation used this day for a breather in the headlong rush to the end of the year.

Now it is the Day of Reconciliation. The idea is for us as a nation to bridge the divisions of our past and build a new future together. Politicians still use this day for political rallies. But the vast majority of the nation will find our unity in the great shrines of mammon as we shop our frenetic way towards Christmas.

Pray that we can somewhere pause and be reminded that we cannot spend our way to peace and joy. These qualities are better available when Jewish shepherds, Zoroastrian wise men, and a polygot melange of the world's people gather at a manger to share their common humanity.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I love the wisdom of Dr. Seuss: here is an extract from a book he wrote the year I was born. (With thanks to Art Preston for posting this @

"All Alone!"

Whether you like it or not,

Alone will be something

You'll be quite a lot.

And when you're alone, there's a very good chance

You'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.

There are some, down the road between hither and yon,

That can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go

Though the weather be foul

On you will go

Though your enemies prowl.

On you will go

Though the Hakken-Kraks howl,

Onward up many a frightening creek,

Though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike

And I know you'll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up of course, as you already know,

You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act.

Just never forget to be dextrous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will indeed!

(98 and ¾ per cent guaranteed.)



Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,

You're off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So … get on your way!

(excerpt from "Oh The Places You'll Go", Dr Seuss, Collins, 1990; orig. 1957)
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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

John Linford

He turned 80 a year ago. And we went for a ride on my GS 1150 BMW motorcycle this morning.

John began life on two wheels racing bicycles. After school in Pietermaritzburg, he moved to Durban where he worked to save enough money to buy a ship's ticket to London. Here he spent three years competing in bicycle races both in the UK and the continent. He found work as a labourer in between races to keep his finances going. He remembers his highlight was the Paris Grand Prix cycle races in the mid 1950's: "but those blokes were too good for us".

His next venture on two wheels was funded by working in the merchant navy. When he had saved enough, John and a friend bought scooters and travelled through Europe. His was a Vespa bought in Italy - "kick-start, smoke and gears".

Then he returned to Durban where he found his next adventure on two wheels as a traffic cop for the Natal Provincial Authority. He began on maroon Triumph 350's, graduating to the Gold 600's, before getting his beloved BMW 750. He wore a white open face helmet and official gloves, and went as fast as he dared.

After this he had employment as a salesman for Barlows, and a caretaker for various buildings - including a ten year stint for Rustenberg Girls junior school where the only wheels he drove were on a lawnmower.

And so it was with great joy that I loaded him onto the back of my bike and headed over a Cape Mountain pass to have coffee in Noordhoek. He sat very well on the bike and was a pleasure as a passenger. It was a bit of a scramble getting on and off the bike - but then again: John is nearly 81 years old.

A great "guys-only" morning.
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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

It is all in a Name

For the past year I have employed a very skilled gardener. He has faithfully arrived at my door every Thursday and cheerfully kept the garden in shape. And every week I have known him as "Patrick." Until now.

While saying farewell to him yesterday I discovered his full name: it is Abednigo Moeketso Ntsere. When I asked him why he did not introduce himself using his birth names he said that a "white women" had once told him that they were too difficult and so she decided to call him Patrick. Since then he believed that white people cannot say his name and so he just uses another name.

This is (sadly) a typical story of our land. Ever since white settlers arrived in the Cape Colony they have stripped black people of their names.

The first Khoisan man to visit Europe was taken in 1629 by ship to Batavia, where he was given the name Harry. When Jan van Riebeeck arrived to lead the small Dutch settlement in 1652 he records using "Harry the Hottentot" as his interpreter.

In the same way the Rev. William Shaw would baptise the son of Chief Kama and change his name from Xhanti to William.

Throughout the dreadful years of the hated "pass system" black people were given white names for their official documentation - and Rolihlahla Mandela would become "Nelson" when he went to school.

And so I meet a humble son of a Xhosa father and a Sotho mother and have spend a year calling him a name that is unknown to his parents.

God bless you Abednigo Moeketso Ntsere.
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Friday, December 03, 2010

Moving Out

Packing boxes: scrounged from the container at the back of Pick and Pay Supermarket. Some marked Ceres fruit juice. Small, useful for little things inside bigger boxes. Big boxes of Simba Chips and Rice Crispies. Books in small boxes. Pillows and blankets in big boxes.

Tape. Rolls and rolls of it. Green.

Bubble wrap and paper. Rolls that unwind around paintings (my daughter Lisa is a painter). And wrapping for crockery, glasses, bits 'n pieces.

Dust. Behind the bookcases, and the piano, and the fridge ... And spreading just about everywhere else. If "dust to dust" is true then there are lots of dead people lurking in the corners of this house.

Strong men. The people who are carrying boxes with such ease: boxes that have pulled my back muscles out of shape! But then I have paid a small fortune for this move so let them sweat.

Sleep. None. Packed until 2:30. And up again at 6. Pouring with rain. And a headache.

We have too many possessions. A sleeping bag and spoon & cup would be sufficient.

But the sun has come out. And my head has cleared. And a new adventure beckons.
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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Moving On

I move house on Friday.

I have lived in this house for 9 years. It is 100 years old, with high ceilings and thick walls. This house began life in the centre of a small-holding, surrounded by vegetable gardens and a few cows. The garage and store room at the end of the garden used to be a cow-shed.

It has been the property of the Plumstead Methodist Church from 1928, and I have had a succession of colleagues come to visit me and reminisce about their life under this roof. It has been my place of shelter – both from the winter storms that accompany life in Cape Town; and from the emotional and spiritual storms of life as a husband, father, pastor, and human being.
• This house was the safe place to which I returned when life threatened to crush my spirit; it was the place of a garden that soothed my troubled spirit; it was the back yard of many sociable braais with friends; it has been the place of the fireplace in winter that warmed many conversations; it has been the refuge of high, cool ceilings when the summer heat was beating down on the city.
• This house contained a family of six: me, Jenny, our daughters Lisa, Jessie and Amy, and Granny. But it has also been home to many who have stayed awhile: I think of Greg, who makes Jessie happy, and has chosen to see this as another home; Jen has blessed our family by joining us from South Dakota; John is an Englishman who brought his passion for running and English rugby. I celebrate the many, many overnight guests who chose to sleep under this roof. We have been blessed by their stopping by.
• This house has had bunnies at the end of the garden; and dogs who roamed the garden and the drive way; and a cat who prowled the property in a vain attempt to see off the neighbourhood cats; and a tortoise from Carnarvon; and lots of squirrels.....(oh the joy of Nugget our Great Dane/Labrador when, after years of vainly dashing after them he finally caught one).
• This house has seen my children through high school and university. Two of them left for a year to live far away in other countries – and this house was the home to which they returned.

And now I leave for the next chapter of my life: another step in my pilgrimage of faithful response to God’s call on my life; to another city – and another house. In so doing, I find this quote from Henri Nouwen very helpful:

"[Praying] demands that you take to the road again and again, leaving your house and looking forward to a new land for yourself and your [fellow human]. This is why praying demands poverty, that is, the readiness to live a life in which you have nothing to lose so that you always begin afresh." - Henri J.M. Nouwen, With Open Hands