Thursday, May 30, 2013

Real. And colourblind; thank God

Last week I clearly remembered the shiny yellow enamel-painted walls of the living room; the years fell away like irrelevant scales.
Also,  clear as yesterday, was Eric's haphazard garden, more overgrown though. And the quaint bathroom shower, as I walked past it to get to the garden.
The visit had begun on a formal, serious note - Ruth nowhere to be seen, despite having taken my a call not ten minutes before getting there - and Eric sitting on a chair quite far away from me, quite stiffly on the chair; bizarrely it felt like the first uncomfortable ten minutes of a date.
We quickly relaxed into laughter, God talk, Ruth, tea and dampish coarse and yellow homemade rusks. Also stories of Struis Bay, this 70-year old house, Eric's bursary - in 1985 - to America, where the entire family lived in Connecticut while he completed two Masters' degrees; Ruth also baby sat so that they could survive financially.
Also the story of his broken leg in Denmark; when he cycled from the university library and slipped on treacherous ice, ending up seriously damaged in hospital.
There he was - again - saved by the kindness of strangers, in particular colour-blind Danish strangers. He is an enormously gregarious and lovable man.

We met on the eve of the new millenium in Stellenbosch. Beneath,  rather ironically, a statue of Danie Craven. The statue to Craven, with a rugby ball in hands, and his dog named "Bliksem" (Afrikaans for "rascal"), is at Coetzenburg.

I had happened on the statue by accident, after an entire day excitedly exploring the university town, and especially the botanic garden on foot. Eric was out on one of his many long and fact-filled walks that I was yet to experience.
The friendship was instant; what all have I learnded, how blessed am I by a transcending bond. Thirteen years on and we are still friends; in August last year he turned 70.

Back to the statue. More simply known as Doc Craven, he was arguably South Africa's best and best-known rugby administrators. Doc died in 1993 after serving for an unbroken 37 years at the head of the sport.
Hailing from Lindley in Free State province,  he studied at Stellenbosch University. There he recieved his doctorate, and eventually also lectured, and played for the Western Province rugby union team.
Most interestingly for me, Craven boldy met with leaders of the then banned ANC in Zimbabwe in 1988. With them he entered an unprecedented deal to form a single rugby associaton fielding a racially integrated team (rather novel for apartheid SA) for foreign tournaments.
Many right-wing whites considered this treason, and then-president PW Botha denounced the move.

At the end of that long and hot late-December day in 1999 my new-found friend returned to his home, with its yellow enamel painted walls. I was yet to visit him there many times.
He was heading home to the township that had been designated for folk of his particular skin colour. It was just outside of Stellenbosch; '94 was not that distant.
As for me, well I - again unsataited -returned to feast at Cape Town's pots of flesh. (Happy new year!)

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