Somewhere a hill.

Somewhere a hill. Blossoms in green and gold and there are dreams. More than the heart can hold. It is a Monday and I go to the doctors rooms to have my blood pressure done. There is nothing wrong with me and I feel as fit as a fiddle. There is a new receptionist who starts giving me uphill as I haven’t got an appointment. However I box very clever and get away with it and wait my turn. Eventually I go in and have it taken. Tuesday and I feel fine and then on Wednesday I wake up as sick as a dog. How could this be? I have been nowhere which just goes to show eh? I stay like this at home for a few days, then decide I had better go and see a doctor. The system is like a rotation and my normal doctor has now retired so get a woman doctor instead. She has a good old look at me and decides I need to get into hospital immediately.

Luckily, my wife works at Cork University Hospital, so we drive there, or she does. She stops outside the emergency entrance so that I have a very short walk.Emergency entrance Then she goes to look for some parking. As she drives off I slip and fall on the tarmac. She stops and another man lifts me up and we carry on.Out of the emergency entrance a nurse comes out pushing a wheelchair for me to sit in. I am left wondering,’how the hell do they know?’ Anyway I refuse to use it and we walk into emergency where the nurse quickly takes me to a room to be examined and this happens. Then I go back outside to the waiting room and wait for my wife.Recption waitingI sit here in the reception waiting for my wife who eventually comes in from the parking lot. We are making small talk and she tells me the Hospital is closed and no visitors are allowed in. However a special case is made for her as she works here. Also there are no beds so patients are just put on the side and without a ward. Because of her pull we do not wait very long in reception before going through the doors on the right to be examined by another doctor. Also by some stroke of good luck but I think because of her pull here we find a bed in a special ward with it’s own shower and ablutions and I am the only one in it. I now officially have Swine flu, whatever the hell that is, and am the only one in the hospital to have it so am guarded well. Well, well, well, it appears that one cannot very well treat it as it is viral or something? So in the interim, they discover I have COPD and all hell breaks loose. I am immediately put on heavy doses of Oxygen and at one stage nearly died. You see I have been transferred out of my room and into the ward but one of the nurses does not like the look of me so transfers my bed to the right of the nurses podium which saves my life.

The long and short of all this is being me I have a belly full of all this and want to go home. They allow it ostensibly because of my wife. This is where this blog post becomes a rant as I try to come to terms with all this. You see all my life I have been a tobacco farmer and smoker until coming to Ireland. So find this all a bit hard to take. I keep on saying to my wife,’I thought I had Swine flu, so where does all this come in then?’ But they have an answer for everything, being, I more than likely had COPD before going into the hospital etc. etc. Good point. Anyway I am still taking Oxygen on a daily basis at home and realise that I am on deaths door, which of course the wife disagrees with but I am battling with all this and am still, basically, as sick as a dog. I also keep on telling her, ‘isn’t being deaf enough?

I am also on the site Facebook where I occasionally post about my troubles, but very few answer? Just lately however I have got a bit better. Am now not using Oxygen and going for a walk almost daily. Not far by normal standards, but for me, it is like doing a marathon. One also must remember that on the first day I tried this I couldn’t even make it to the first pub which is just around the corner. So my attitude has changed a bit and will give you how I think by some songs which I have always done.


And then the second one which also appealed to me and Julie Christie has to be one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen?





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2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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My friend Margaret.

My friend Margaret. Well she was and what a friend to have. Sadly she died yesterday after a very short illness. Personally, I think she had been sick for a very long time but, as always through her courage she just kept quiet about this. Then she could no longer bear it and was diagnosed with a most aggressive type of cancer. Two weeks from this diagnosis she was no longer with us so I will let you draw your own conclusion?

I first came into contact with this very special person on the bum marketing site Squidoo. I was new and she was already a legend there. Quite what she saw in me remains a mystery but we became very good friends and believe it or not she thought I had a talent in writing. More on that later.I always thought it rich coming from her who was a very special talent.I also often wish I had penned this while she was still alive and could see it. However beggars cannot be choosers and it is too late now.

When I first knew her she was basically down and out. How, with her immense talent and courage of course remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma. She was living somewhere in the boondocks in good old US of A, very cold weather and all alone. But somehow she weathered all this as was true to her character. Here is what she looked like when I first met her.


Aye, she sure had the good looks and all if I say so myself.

Times change and move so fast. Although well aware that management always wanted to sell Squidoo we were all caught flat footed by this. Even to this day it remains a sore point with me how they kept all our pictures for themselves? In my case, mostly my own taken with my own camera. Undaunted Margaret remain ever practical and of high spirits. We were both members of Facebook at this time and spent many long hours chatting there. She then came up with the idea of starting Moving Pieces. I entered into the spirit of things with gusto and became far and away the biggest contributor. Well I was but it was just akin to Squidoo and I never made a blind cent there either. Now here is where is starts getting hairy. I was friends with another person now since deceased as well and was also an Admin on Moving Pieces. Said friend could not believe I wasn’t making any money on here and persuaded me to let her have a look at Admin. Foolishly I allowed this and also told Margaret when we were chatting on facebook. My, my, she was furious promptly un-friended both of us and gave me a week to remove all my stuff from Moving Pieces. I never heard from her for a long, long, time afterward but, eventually she saw the stupidity of all this and asked if we could be friends again on Facebook. I accepted with alacrity and my friend who started all this was long since deceased.

So we are now friends again but don’t seem to chat as much as we did in the past or perchance you were just sick. So Margaret, I always admired your courage, your great brain and standing up for what you believed in at all times. A further testimony of your character is sending me this song which I had never heard before and knowing of my hearing circumstances taking the effort and the time with the sub-titles. Thank you so much, God bless and rest in peace babe.


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Mozambique. Paradise lost.

Mozambique. Paradise lost. Is just my short recollection of the many splendid holidays I had there at the holiday resort Beira, which like most things in Africa, now no longer exists as we knew it anyway. How dreadfully sad. Of course I am going back a long way in time to the early sixties and seventies before all this was lost to us forever. Consequently it is a trite difficult to find images of then and there.

The Estoril Hotel

The Estoril Hotel

Now that is the Estoril Hotel where we as a family stayed year in and year out and I have to admit I loved it there. To get there we travelled from our farm in Norton to the third largest city in Rhodesia known as Umtali which was on the border of Mozambique. I trust this little old map gives you some idea of where we are. Umtali on the Eastern boundary of Rhodesia and from there into Mozambique in those days under Portuguese control. Ah the grand old days of colonialism eh? It was actually a very short drive from Umtali to Beira at the coast of Mozambique. Once through the border post and in Mozambique and the thin tarmac road which was only the length of one car and the first stop was in Villa de Manica as we were kids then and needed a toilet break. As a matter of fact I still being a small boy became an ace at recognising the better toilets in Mozambique. Nice toilets being the number one comment. The other thing to remember is that when an approaching car came one was supposed to drive with one wheel on the tar and one on the dirt. However the Portuguese just stayed on the tar full time, but, more on that later. Little Kevi is bored so starts an argument with his elder brother PJ of which he never won one. Outsmarted again I am sitting with a bad case of the mutters when a troop of Baboons troop across the road. I now have a brainwave and with a broad smile say, ‘look there goes your brother’, to which my brother replies, ‘yes, that is right’. And everybody bursts out laughing. Tsuh, I’m not a boy.

Next stop Villa Perry and then onto Beira and our holiday begins. Now one crosses the road from the Estoril and walks towards the Pavillion, chalets for people camping onBeira lighthouse the left of this road, and then on the beach. Now we as a family always and I mean always sat near to the lighthouse. Picture on the right. There was also an old shipwreck on the left in our time there along long time before this photo was taken. In the times I was there the wreck although rusted was in a lot better condition than in this snap and was used as a sand break. Anyway idyllic times were had there and gradually I became older and older and more reminiscences to come. Our family friends the Wrench’s also always spent some time here and there daughter Shelly a year younger than me couldn’t tan and always ended up with a severe case of sun burn. Shame hey?

So growing up and am now getting sozzled at the Pavillion every night, great Ceverja There and mine was Laurentina and occasionally getting off with the odd chick. Now this year Laurentinathere was a guy there from God alone knows where with long blonde hair. He is playing war games with all the kids there and a vast entourage is following him. They finish up and go to the Pavillion. A short while later he leads his troops back onto the beach and they are all carrying a mini bottle of beer. I have never seen so many mothers come off there towels so fast before. But the kids will not part with their beer and eventually Dad intervenes with a leave them. It is night time at the Pavillion and this guy is trying to get off with some Rhodesian chicks but they want nothing to do with him and are giving him that typical chick hard done by stare. I get there as he says to them trying to make conversation, ‘parlez vous Francais’? When that doesn’t work, ‘speuken sie Deutsch’? And I just had to laugh.

My old school-friend Runt Bradshaw invites me to go on holiday with them to Beira. I immediately  accepted. His folks are a bit short of a few bob, so we are camping,Beira camp site the first time I have ever camped there. Without a shadow of a doubt it was one of the nicest holidays I have ever been on. So much fun and so many laughs. Runt and I however keep on asking to go to the Pavillion and this puzzles the old man who cannot understand what for? Runt was a late bloomer and very small for his age then but eventually the old man relents and spruced up and looking in our prime we head there. Just as we have ordered our Cerverja we look up straight into old man Bradshaw’s face who has followed us. He just says, ‘now I know why you wanted to come here’, and storms back to the caravan. He must have pricked our conscience as we downed our snorts and went back home.

Now before I forget, Rhodesia was a country at war as was Mozambique, but somehow this never affected our travels. The blacks supported by left wing politicians were trying to get into power and not having the wherewithal to arm themselves were being armed by these countries. As best my memory serves me correctly the Portuguese had a system known as ‘assimilada’ which basically meant they rewarded blacks with this privilege which entitled them to all the privileges the whites had. I silly you not.

My last time in Beira I actually got off with a chick who was a walking, talking, living doll. What she saw in me to this day remains a mystery? You see the thing is about PrawnsMozambique. Paradise lost. It really was that and completely and utterly unspoiled. I loved it there and always will. The wonderful restaurants and superb food. Had something like this at Johnny’s place a superb restaurant in Beira. Back to the chick, every night we have a drink at the Estoril downstairs and there is a Portuguese guy playing the organ and fabulous songs but with no singing. It is her last night there before going back home and the table we are sitting at is a bit wobbly so she says to me, ‘what do you have to say about this’? So reply, ‘I dunno’. to which she says, ‘sea air affects the state of equilibrium’. For some reason I was furious or just trying to be cool, so stormed out and left her sitting there all alone. Never and I mean never have I been so ashamed of myself. Now there are only two girls I ever owed an apology to, one of whom I have since made peace with. But not Julie who I think was from Que Que and whom I never saw again and now can’t find. My apologies kid, I promise I never would have done that today.

Herewith the song in question.




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My friend Bar De Ness.

My friend Bar De Ness is just a short epistle on how I met him and on from there. Essentially I first got to know him on the bum marketing site Squidoo. I was new there and trying my hand at writing so spent many hours on the forum there. There was an avatar there which appealed to me and it was non other than the Bard alias Bar De Ness. Now the whole essence of the place was ‘ be nice to everyone’ and this was akin to waving a red flag at a bull for this bloke who prided himself on the exact opposite. Funnily enough he was very erudite and extremely funny with it as well ( in my opinion) and nothing gave him greater pleasure than riling up all the fuddy duddies.

And so from there it grew and I hasten to add he was always in trouble with the authorities and it became so bad they wanted to kick him out of the forum. However I guess he had some friends and eventually Squids gone wild was formed for him. A part of the forum which was slightly different to everything else and albeit one must still be nice to everyone one could more or less be oneself.

Would you believe it that from very small beginnings I actually became a Squidoo Angel which was a very special privilege, basically giving one the power to bless a lens and thus temporarily increase it’s ranking. Believe it or not I was a four time Squid Angel. Now a funny thing happened in that one of the Angels detested Bard and he got all the other Angels to gang up on him. All except of course for me who was the only one to support him. The long and short of all this is that he was banned. Quite what for frankly eludes me? Whatever happened to speaking your mind and being yourself? I genuinely missed him and found the forum to become more and more boring. The long and short of all this is I resigned from being an Angel, but now I found Facebook and lo and behold found my old friend Bard there under Bar De Ness. Nothing much had changed and here is a grand example of his work. What a gas man.

You see he is clever and erudite and nothing has given me greater pleasure than being his friend over the past few years. I could of course wax on lyrical for many hours but, he is a very private man, so it is not up to me to confide in many other things I know. Suffice to say he is a friend which I am so glad to have.

Listening to some music music tonight and found this and thought how apt.


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Growing up in Norton;Neil.

Growing up in Norton;Neil. Is just something I have been meaning to write about for a long, long, time now but haven’t for reasons which you will realise later in the post. Now Neil Wrench was two years older than me but only one year younger than my elder brother and growing up in the farming community of Norton, the two became close childhood friends. Our two farms were not that far apart so the two boys spent many hours together. The weather in our country was splendid and Wilf and Velma, Neil’s parents were both very talented sports people. Naturally then, Neil and my brother Peter spent many hours together playing tennis. This culminated in them playing boys doubles together at the Norton and also Hartley tennis championships and they were an unbeatable combination winning year in and year out.

Akin to this.

Akin to this.

They were such happy times. Mashonaland province was the heartland of farming in the then Rhodesia and the Capital city Salisbury was situated there. They also had there children’s tennis championships and one year Peter and Neil decided to play in them. I think when they were in the under 16 category. No doubt goaded on by Neil’s mother Velma who was an ex Rhodesian tennis player. Blow me down but they ended up winning the boy’s doubles final in that age group and which just goes to show what an enormous talent they were. Everybody was bursting with pride.

The Mashonaland countryside.

The Mashonaland countryside.

Photo courtesy of Frankie Kay.

It is now time for the kids tennis champs in Norton again. My mother is the person in charge and Neil and Peter are playing in the under 18 boys doubles final. Neil serves and the opponents just manage to pop the ball high over the net. My brother goes for the overhead smash at the net. Now he has a funny style, both legs leave the ground at the same time and he lays into it with all his might. Unfortunately, he clean missed and the ball lands at his feet and the opponents get the point. Furious with himself Boetie picks up the errant ball and he whams it into the side net. He is so enraged that even this misses and the ball sails over the side net, the outside trees and lands with a thump on the bowling green where dear old Poppy Rice is about to take her shot which of course she flunks. My Mother is mortified and shaking her head and hand at her dearly beloved son who has just lost his temper. Good gosh, golly gumdrops, jeepers creepers.

Time like the wind goes on hurrying by and the hours just fly. My brother goes to University and then Neil goes to Gwebi Agricultural College a little while later. So although still firm friends they see very little of each other which is about where I come in. Now I am left profoundly deafened after a very short spell in the army doing National Service which was compulsory, so decide to go to Gwebi instead which I have already mentioned before. Neil has left college by this time but we see more and more of each other and become firm friends.10612905_10203729225664177_6877562486328148286_n

The long and short of all this, is, I begin playing more and more cricket and getting better and better at it. Neil was an ace cricketer and we are both chosen for Mashonaland Winter Crickets Association where we tour South Africa and a fabulous time we had too. In Nelspruit playing against Lowveld Country Districts, Neil makes a century in both innings, magic man. There came a time when Neil has become captain of Norton cricket club and my Dad is chairman of this. Apart from being a wonderful cricket player Neil is full of ideas and decides to build a Lapa at the cricket ground, instead of us all having to troop back to the clubhouse which was a long way away. Beautifully designed it was too no doubt with much input from his mother who already mentioned was a major talent. One just had to see what they had done to their farm and the fabulous house they built there too. Neil had everything, long blonde hair, athletic and tall and very good looking. We are at the Selous sports club at a dance and Neil says something to me which pisses me off. So I retaliate by saying, ‘Wrench why don’t you just get married boy’? He bursts out laughing and says, ‘before  you’? What’s the point’. It was one of the nicest things ever said about me and I make a special point here in that I never and I mean never went after my friends girlfriends. No Sir, noSireeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

We are both playing first league cricket in Salisbury, Neil for Alex (Alexandria) and me for Standard Bank. I arrive home late at night, stop my car to open the security gates and toss my SLR over my shoulder. Lights ablaze I try to open the gate and I realise after all this time that we are sitting ducks whilst doing this if any terrorists were present. The Cumming family has just been murdered in our area, up until this time we were terr free. Which is why we are so armed. I make it through and close and lock the gates and amble into the house, the living room. I am very surprised to find both my parents still up and waiting for me. Whereupon my Mother says to me, ‘Kevin, I have very bad news for you, your friend Neil Wrench was killed today playing cricket’. Oh no, oh no, I just cannot believe it. Now I cannot swear by this as my Mother is Irish but what she tells me is the Alex cricket club phoned her as they couldn’t get through to Wilf and Velma. She managed to however and passed on the news that Neil had been hit and was in the hospital. Velma said, ‘where has he been hit Mary’? To which my mum replied, ‘in the head Velma’.

Neil never made it, being such a terrific fielder he was fielding very close to the bat and whoever was bowling bowled a loose ball which the batsman laid into and which hit Neil in the head. At the funeral a couple of days later I have never seen so many big, strong men, crying. It was a very hard time. The newspaper the Rhodesia Herald was full of obituaries for Neil and the one I liked the best was from Duncan Fletcher’s (captain of Rhodesia cricket) parents which said. ‘ When the last great scorer came to write about his name. He asked not how he won or lost, but, how he played the game’. I can think of no finer tribute to him. Writing to his parents a few days later, I said, ‘I have been thinking hard today and I cannot remember ever hearing a bad word said about him’. I’ll stand by that.

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Growing up in Norton; Continued.

Growing up in Norton; Continued. Is just a short story of my early life in the small farming community of Norton in the then Rhodesia. So many names and such good fun. Riley’s and Wrench’s, Moor’s and Bryson’s, Dobson’s and Skea’s, Stewart’s and Lilford’s and many, many, more. These are a few of my favourite things. The Norton Country club played a crucial part of our upbringing as small kids and young teenagers and emerging adults. So I will start there and with tennis. So from an early age we started playing tennis which culminated in the Junior Club championships. I always played boy’s doubles with Tony Dobson who lived on a farm just down the road from me and in latter years would become known as Pops, courtesy of going bald at a young age. The moral of the story is that we always and I mean always won which was a terrific boost for our egos.

Then the club found that we were short of players, so kids from the neighbouring farming community of Selous were invited to play in our club champs. Into this scenario came

Akin to this.

Akin to this.

Dave Ferreira and Angus Hyland~Smith who were the same age as Tony and I. Dave and Angus were excellent players. Dave was akin to a brick wall and whatever you hit at him came back and Angus was full of flair and élan. Every year thereafter we met up in the boy’s doubles final depending on your age group and every year we lost to them. Such is life and the same thing happened at the Hartley tennis championships which was a much larger area and included Gatooma as well. Then there was the mixed doubles and here is what this story is Mixed doublesessentially about. Now some of the girls were older than us and a few of us better younger players were invited to go up a division and play with them. One such girl in question was Anne Lilford and she was an ace tennis player who always asked me to play with her. Quite why eludes me. perchance my sparkling turquoise eyes? The long and short of this is that we won the champs every year and the same thing happened at the Hartley championships. She was a fabulous girl and I got on really well with her.

Now there came a time when my mother was in charge of looking after all us kids and I digress a bit here although I think it is a story worth telling? So into our area came the dreaded Polio. Can any one remember those terrible times? Luckily we all missed getting it, except for Sandra Stewart and it withered her right arm. Suffice to say she was a game old chick and taught herself to play left handed. Now we were long standing family friends and we celebrated nearly every Xmas with them as a family. My Mum was in charge of the tennis at this time and no-one wanted to play with Sandra. My Mum could not believe this and went on and on repeating, ‘why does no-one want to play with Sandra Stewart in the championships’? Eventually I said, ‘I’ll play with her Mum’. So I told Anne Lilford that I was going to play with her that year and she seemed really pleased about this. I told you she was a lovely lass despite being brilliant at tennis as well. Sandra was not a strong tennis player and when she served she had to hold one ball in her left hand and serve with the same hand. I’m happy to say we never went out in the first round either, nor the second, but we lost in the third. The long and short of all this is that I never regretted playing with her and she was full of courage. Perchance I drew on some of her fortitude when I went deaf a few years afterwards?

And now back to Anne. We are older now, say, under 16, and have been chosen to

Follow were Norton and Hartley and Gatooma were. South of the capitol Salisbury.

Follow were Norton and Hartley and Gatooma were. South of the capitol Salisbury.

represent Hartley Districts in the countrywide tournament. Were not times so great then and some many adults arranging and looking after all this. I have said it once and I will say it again. I was so proud to be Rhodesian and I always will. I forget from which district the couple Anne and I were playing in this round, except to say we were far superior to them as tennis players. The other bloke was very young and very small and both he and his partner played pat a cake tennis. He barely got one of Anne’s serves back and I was waiting like a hawk at the net. I went back and gave it an overhead smash and it went hurtling back. Unfortunately it hit the little twerp, slap bang, right in the middle of his forehead with such force that his four eyes (spectacles) flew from his face and he went down backwards like a felled Ox. Before Anne could chime in with great shot Spook, his mother and a lot of other Mammies (so Irish readers can understand), rushed onto the court. His Mother looked at me with such hatred and intoned venomously, ‘why you little beast’. Good gosh, golly gumdrops, jeepers creepers.

However, the incident had unsettled Anne and I and before we knew it we had lost the first set and were 5-0 down in the second. Which means we were in big trouble and were one game away from losing the match. I had had enough so went up to Anne who was luckily about to serve and I said to her, sing Hey Jude, and we began harmonising. Hey Jude, don’t be afraid. Boom. Ace, 15-0. Take a sad song and make it better. Boom. Ace. 30-0. You were made to, go out and get her. Boom. Out, so Anne serves her second and Spook is waiting at net and puts it away. 40-0. Boom. Ace. Game, and we won the next seven games in a row to take the set. Then we won the next 6 games in a row for the third set and the match was ours. Oh ye beautiful thing. I always admired Anne but now my admiration for her knew no bounds. For a chick, she had the biggest pair of goens I have ever known.

So many people not mentioned yet, the Grobelaars, Charl and Jimmy. Lu Bryson and an almost endless list of Skea’s and Riley’s and Wrench’s, all of whom were either great characters or great tennis players. You see on a blog post there is only so much space and people like fast and furious or as little to read as possible. No worries, I will get around to you all one day soon.

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Growing up in Norton.

Growing up in Norton. Now it was a long time ago, but at the time it was an idyllic time in our country which was known as Rhodesia. Where do I begin to tell the story, the sweet love story that is older than the sea, where do I start? It was before the war had started and politics and hatred had not really begun, but unbeknown to us the indigenous people were quietly simmering and soon all hell was to break loose. So it is important to tell you about some of the people I knew who had very different views, so here goes.

I am at Norton Junior School as a boarder and I become very friendly with a guy called Jeff Dix. An amazing talent who could do just about anything from sports to art and so much more. He also had an older sister who was teaching at the school called Judy who to this day remains as one of the most beautiful woman I have ever known. Now the other boys had ganged up against Jeff and a great fight was had. I was the only boy in the school to support him, so the two of us were not exactly popular at the time. The long and short of this is that he asks me out when his parents come on a Sunday. Judy is also with us and we drive past a farm known as Merton Park. Even in those far oft times it was one of the show pieces of the country and Rhodesians en masse sure knew how to farm. It was owned by Sir Cyril Hatty, knighted by the crown for his services to the country as Minister of Finance. He had a son Graham, who was working for him and a great romance began between him and Judy, whom both are still married to each other.

Now here is where politics enter the equation. Rhodesia had a new Prime Minister called Ian Smith and he had just broken away from the crown and declared Rhodesia’s unilateral act of independence. You see Rhodesia had always been a British colony but independence was to be granted the same way this was given to Australia and New Zealand but in our case was denied. You see what I am really leading up to is that not everyone thought the same way about politics and how the country should be run. Sir Cyril Hatty for one had exactly the opposing views to how Smith thought. However the bulk of the white people agreed with Smith. Which is about where I come in because as a young boy I had learnt that everybody has opposing views and this did not mean that thinking differently made you any less well liked. It certainly didn’t work that way in Norton.

I have finished my secondary education and am at home on the farm before commencing to do my National Service. It is just before Xmas and a variety concert is being held in the hall at Norton Country club. I have been playing snooker with some of my mates so am late getting there and all the seats have been taken, so sit on a table at the back of the hall. Lady Doris Hatty who used to be a chorus girl is singing on stage, dressed up in a long dress and floppy hat which the girls wore way back then and she sure could sing. One of my mates says something to me at the back which causes me to burst out laughing. Lady Doris immediately stops singing and says. ‘Ah Spook, I’ll carry on when you have stopped laughing.’ The whole hall swings around and showers me with dirty looks. TSUH, and I wasn’t even laughing at her I promise Mum. It is not long afterwards that I am  left totally deaf from my very short time in the army. I go to Gwebi Agricultural College and in my last year there do Merton Park as my project. Sir Cyril and Lady Doris Hatty couldn’t have been nicer to me or more helpful as were Graham and Judy.

Times are now bad and the war goes on ever escalating. Politics are now the forefront of everything and everything we stood for looks like it is being lost. Robert Mugabe, onerous dictator has a purge of his cadres in Zambia and Josiah Tongarara is murdered. Sir Cyril Hatty makes the eulogy for him and a most fitting tribute it was.

Then there were Ralph and Marguerite Palmer who were also farmers in Norton and two nicer people one couldn’t hope to meet. I well remember when I was chosen for Standard Bank first cricket team and my Dad told Ralph who replied, ‘he’ll play for Rhodesia yet’. Now they were completely opposite to most whites in Rhodesia and passionately believed ‘that you can’t judge a man by the colour of his skin’. Somewhere in 1980, and Mugabe was in power, Jim Sinclair there son in law and onetime head of the Commercial Farmers Union, came over the radio one morning. In a most distressed voice he told us ‘that there had been a murder’. It was none other than his beloved Mother in law Marguerite who had been shot in the head through the window in their household. By an African soldier, of all people. He wasn’t one of Mugabe’s lot but a former soldier in the Rhodesian African Rifles, who I guess had finally lost it and gone off his head. It was a most distressing time for all who lived in our country.

Now as time progressed and things became worse and worse in our beloved country. Sir Cyril Hatty paid a visit to parliament and there was no paper in the toilets. Can you believe it? As he said himself, he’s an old man now and the call of the toilet is never far away. The long and short of all this, is, even people who were all for the change now realised that it actually had all happened to fast. Their lovely farm Merton Park is now no more as with most farms in that poor blighted country.

Don’t you feel like crying?

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Ronda, Spain.

Ronda, Spain. Yesterday saw us in Gibraltar, today we are heading for Ronda. We get around, round, we get around. Once again Steve is driving, my apologies, chauffeuring. True to form I am clueless as to where we are heading and for why? Apparently, we are heading for them hills babe. It is some drive OK and all credit to Steve. Put simply, the road is following the contour and it sure is long and winding. Luckily, I have never suffered from car sickness and I pity those that do, because, they sure would have been awfully sick. I am quiet for a change and hanging on to the rest for dear life. It is actually a long way up, but, eventually we arrive. It is quite simply, spellbinding. A city, built on the top of a mountain. Quite why, remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma to me (Winston Churchill). I’ve always loved those words, a very bright man whom the free World owes an enormous debt of gratitude to.

Ronda, Spain

Now Ronda has a very long history almost going back to the beginning of time. It has been ruled or invaded by many very different people from Arabs to Romans. Actually the road we travelled on was first built by the Romans. And since then many great writers etc. including Ernest Hemingway have used it as a refuge or just as a place to reflect on. Believe it or not in his famous book, ‘For whom the Bell Tolls’ the execution of fascists in the Spanish civil war, according to him was based on factual events here in Ronda?

However we are just tourists taking in the amazing sights one experiences here which I will show you pictorially later on. So in essence we are just walking around the place and getting the feel of it. We come across a sort of like Pagoda and sitting there by herself is a Spanish woman playing an electronic harp and singing softly. Now I don’t have much hearing albeit I do have a Cochlear ear implant which enables one to hear sound. It was one of those rare moments in time when time appears to stand still. Frankly it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. Not that I can be much of a judge as already explained. So I call Steve over and say, ‘what do you think of that then’? And his reply is immediate and unequivocal, ‘beautiful’. Later I see his wife Shay go over and buy one of her CD’s and I trust it will give you enormous pleasure listening to. Now the real reason for the interest in Ronda is, it is built on the top of a mountain and the engineering feat of it is quite mind blowing going back so far in time too. I am going to show it to you pictorially now and I trust you enjoy it as much as we did?

Ronda as a photo-gallery.

Photos courtesy of Steve Geach and Max Knobel, a pot-pourri from both. Now Max is frightened of heights and her husband keeps on pretending to try and throw her off and she is reaching the end of her tether and asks me to keep him away from her. I’m frikened of heights also and can barely plug up the courage to stare over the wall. Shivers. I can imagine being a husband coming home, three sheets to the wind and saying to dearly beloved, ‘let me check if I closed the back door’, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, thump. And it is time for some lunch. My wife asks me what I am going to order, so I say, probably another hamburger. To which she explodes, ‘you can have a hamburger any time at home, whilst here try out some Spanish food. What about the Ham’? So I try out the Ham and bleeding terrible twas too, but I finished it. She then asks me what was it like so I tell her. Tsuh, dirty looks abound even though I am just being truthful and all.

The scene at lunch.

Lunch in Ronda

Lunch in Ronda

From empty chair and left. Shay, Penny, Siobhan, Himself (coughs in la di da voice), Lauren, Jack, Bruce, Max. Missing is Steve who is busy taking the photo. After lunch we wander around a bit more and then drive back home. Our break in Spain is approaching it’s end and we only have one more day left, sad to say. Siobhan is the delegated chef that night and she rustles up some Spanish supper. Quite what it was I have forgotten, but, I loved it, very tasty and all. Tomorrow Marbella, that’s the town and not some graze.

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Gibraltar. A visit there with the family on our trip to Spain. It’s a strange old world in the end because although I had an excellent education, and came from an Old Colonial country. I always thought that Gibraltar was an island in the Mediterranean. Well it is in the Mediterranean alright but whether it is an island or not I’m still a bit lost? You see we drove there from Marbella in Spain, battled to find parking, waited for Bruce, Max and their lot to arrive, then walked, came across a border post where we flashed our passports and then we where in. People were going in in droves both cars and pedestrians. I was still under the impression that we were going to catch a ferry to the rock. After all, I only went to a Plumtree school. Now I am a very slow walker, always have been, but am now at the advanced age of 60 and very unfit. The long and short of this is that I was miles behind everybody else. So they stopped with an exasperated, ‘where is Spook’? I call it luck, or the art of knowing how to box very clever like. You see they stopped at a taxi rank and by the time I arrived they were already being hassled by one of the drivers. Now hassled is the wrong word because he sure knew his onions and everyone was mesmerised by his pitch. The long and short of this is, that he had us. So we hired one of his Combi’s and the Knobel family hired one of his mates. Thus began an amazing trip in and around Gibraltar.

The Rock of Gibraltar.

Gib 2

Photo courtesy of Max Knobel.

Now that is the rock of Gibraltar which can be seen from miles away. Now I found the whole experience fascinating as had read so much about Gibraltar during the war years. Now that I was there I finally began to see the importance of it all. The hills of Africa can be seen in the distance and the ferry ride to Morocco takes about 20 minutes if my memory serves me correctly? I must add I never knew any of this before so it was wonderful to be there and have such a knowledgeable guide. I kept on thinking to myself that during the war years they must have been sitting ducks and I knew Gibraltar took a terrible pounding in the war. However they stood firm and all credit to them and a stiff upper English lip. Our guide is giving us a running commentary on the history of the island and has a couple of drop down small TV’s which show us pictures of it all. He has his back to me so I missed much of the commentary still needing to lip read. Fascinating stuff it was to. Steve fills me in a bit when we stop and I never knew how much the Spanish and British detested each other, largely over this which has a long and chequered history of control by both sides. I’m mainly fascinated by how narrow, long and twisting the road up here is and often am left wondering how the Combi can even make it. Our first stop is what I remember as being called Saint Michael’s Cave. The rock is made up of Jurassic limestone and herewith some photos taken by us of the cave.

St. Michael's cave.

St. Michael’s cave.

Now it’s a bit blurry but shows an auditorium within the cave and the stage is at the bottom of the photo.

Photo’s taken by my wife and they appear a bit blurred, maybe because of the special lighting effects or all the stalagmites and stalactites. Be that as it may it is all that I have got. Outside there is a great flurry of (says in heavy American accent), ‘stripe assed Bayboons’. It always amazes me how people love monkeys and watching them play. Even Winston Churchill was concerned about them during and after the war years. As far as I can remember they are no others in Europe and keeping them from extinction is an ongoing task. Even I had to laugh watching them during my smoke break especially the little ones. They are so human like after all. Barbary Macaques is the correct name for them but Americans cannot get their tongues around this (winks).

Barbary Macaques

Photo courtesy of Steve Geach.

We keep on going up the rock and get to a place of tunnels hacked into the Rock years ago as a system of fortification many, many years ago, with cannons hauled up there and small apertures cut for them to fire out of. I was fascinated once more but was going through a stage of I no longer care about my blog so wasn’t carrying my camera where I would have been snapping away at everything in sight. It was mind blowing how they got them up there, not least the tunnels themselves. Further down one could see cannons strategically placed during the second world war years. It appears none of the others was interested in taking pictures of it either, how sad. One day perchance I can download some from the Internet? So herewith another breathtaking photo of Gibraltar taken by Steve once again, and I trust this gives one another view of the importance of the cannons?

Gibraltar port as seen from on the Rock

Blimey, having said all that, have just found some courtesy of my brother in law Steve, so am going to add them after the fact. Sighs, poor old Dad eh?

The entrance to the tunnels all 33 miles of them.

The entrance to the tunnels all 33 miles of them.

2nd World War 2 cannon

2nd World War 2 cannon

Wonderful, wonderful, Gibraltar.

Wonderful, wonderful, Gibraltar.

Well our guided tour is finished and the driver takes us back into Gibraltar were we find a British pub come restaurant and settle down for some grub. I had a hamburger which made a welcome change. Slowly ever so slowly we make our way back to Spain, this time on foot. On getting to the runway we find the gates locked and an amazing scene is taking place. There is a British Airways jet waiting to take off and it goes down the runway to the bottom, then turns and it is all systems go. We have an iconic photo of it taking off right before our eyes. I silly you not.

BA jet taking off in Gibraltar.

BA jet taking off in Gibraltar.

I told you and that is our youngest Daughter Siobhan also trying to get a photo of it. Notice, front wheel is in the air. It zooms off, the gates are opened and one only has so many minutes to walk across the runway. Everyone zooms off leaving poor old dad miles behind, but, I made it in time. So ends our trip to Gibraltar, tomorrow Ronda and I trust you are all holding your breath in anticipation?

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