2018: That was the year that was

In the past people used to keep in touch with family and friends far away (and even, sometimes, close at hand) by sending and receiving Christmas cards. That seems to have died out; this year we have sent none and received none. For a while that custom was replaced by more informative duplicated newsletters, and more recently by the PDF attachment equivalent. Well here’s ours, from Steve & Val Hayes, as a blog post. The advantage of a blog post is that one can keep it fairly short, yet add hyperlinks for those who would like to know more.

Steve: Has been engaging in quite a bit of nostalgia this year, recalling events of 50 years ago, as 1968 was quite a significant year in my life. For more on that, see my blog post on 1968 in Retrospect, and if you want more detail, for two months that year I was at St Paul’s College in Grahamstown, and I’ve written a series of posts on that, starting here. They cover things like theological education of 50 years ago, and contemporary theological currents.

That handles the distant past, but what about the immediate past, of 2018?

Val and I are both retired, and we continue to live in Kilner Park, Pretoria, in the Great City of Tshwane, where we have lived for the last 35 years, with our sons Simon and Jethro, and one dog, and several birds, like the hadedas that crap on our cars, and the toppies that come into the kitchen.

Our daughter Julia Bridget Hayes, is an ikonographer in Athens, and you can read about her work here.

Val Hayes, 70th birthday, November 2018

Our life as pensioners has settled into a routine over the last couple of years, with little variation. We can’t afford to travel, and so mostly stay at home.

Val: In November we celebrated Val’s 70th birthday, a milestone worth marking perhaps. We celebrated with our usual Sunday service in Atteridgeville, and a family dinner at one of our favourite restaurants.

Once a fortnight, more or less,  we go to the Alkantrant library to change our library books, which has a rather limited selection of books, many of them apparently donated by library patrons.

The core of the Atteridgeville congregation — Christos Nkosi, Demetrius Mahwayi and Artemius Mangena. Charles was baptised at Christmas 2017.

We go on alternate Sundays to services in small mission congregations in Mamelodi (18 km to the east) and Atteridgeville (35 km to the west). In Mamelodi we meet in the house of parishioners. We used to meet in a school classroom, but they raised the rental , and in any case Theophania Malahlela has a bad leg, and finds it difficult to walk to church so it’s easier for the church to some to her.

In Atteridgeville we borrow the African Orthodox Church, and you can see what that looks like here. Neither congregation is big, and in Atteridgeville it is mostly the two of us and three regular faithful guys. Perhaps we’re all too old to attract any young people.

Once a month the Russian parish of St Sergius in  Midrand has the Divine Liturgy in  English on a Saturday, and we go to that, and sometimes take our baptised members from Mamelodi and Atteridgeville so they can receive communion.

Fr Wolde Selassie (Diliza Valisa) of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, OT. Данила Луговой (Fr Danil Lugovoy), Rector of St Sergius, Midrand; Leonard Skweyiya; Deacon Stephen Hayes

Midrand is midway between the centres of Johannesburg and Tshwane, and so the English services there are also useful for inviting non-Orthodox who want to experience Orthodox worship, and chat about it at breakfast afterwards, and there are sometimes visitors from other parishes as well.

St Sergius Church, Midrand, 20th anniversary celebrations

St Sergius Parish also celebrated its 20th anniversary which we attended with members of the Atteridgeville congregation. There was a visiting bishop from Russia and of course our own Archbishop Damaskinos. There was also a visiting monastery choir from Russia, so the singing was magnificent.

In Lent and Holy Week especially we try to take part in some of the services in our old home parish of St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg though the travel is expensive and tiring as every year the traffic gets heavier.

Another fairly regular event in our lives is a weekly ecumenical gathering called TGIF. It’s held at 6:30 am on Fridays in a local coffee shop, and someone gives a talk, usually on some aspect of the Christian faith, followed by questions, and it’s over by 7:30, in time for busy people to get to work, and retired old fogeys like us to have another cup of coffee, and chat to anyone who is still around. The general purpose is Christian apologetics, but there is no proselytising and no pressure on anyone to convert. Anyone is welcome.

At one TGIF meeting David Levey, of the English Department of the University of South Africa, spoke on Reading Irreligiously, and we suggested to him that we should have a more focused gathering on the general topic of Christianity and literature, a bit like the Inklings group of C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien et al. As a result we have been meeting to “inkle” once a month for nearly three years now, I’ve tried to keep a record of some of the books we have discussed in my blogs — see here, and here and here for accounts of some of our 2018 gatherings. The last of these deals also with the current situation in South Africa, and compares it with the “Matter of Britain” — the legends of King Arthur, with the idea that behind Britain there was the realm of Logres — the land of true good and piety, nobleness and right living — which is often overwhelmed by the evil that breaks through. And between 1994 and 2004 we had a glimpse of a South African equivalent of Logres, before the evil empire renewed its attacks.

Apart from those regular things we don’t go out much, and spent most of our days at home, pursuing our hobby of family history and general historical research, and occasionally trying to share ideas through blogs. In February Steve found himself part of an oral history project when Jess Richards and Renate Meyer came to interview him for the Banned People’s Project. Jess and Renate were both young, late 20s, perhaps, and so banning would have been before their time. They said that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had dealt only with gross human rights abuses and thought that lesser human rights abuses like banning also ought to be documented. If you, reading this, are also too young to remember banning, you can find out more here: The Banned Wagon.

In September we had the first and probably the last reunion of Steve’s matric class at St Stithians College. It was the class of 1958, and we were perhaps never close enough to have a reunion, and were unable to contact any class members but two of us. The Class of 1968, which also gathered, had a better turn-out. More on that here.

We were also saddened by the death of an old friend, Stephen Gawe, whose 80th birthday we had celebrated at the end of 2017. A consolation was that we had got to meet his daughters Nomtha and Vuyo, who were both born while he was in exile in the UK.

In November Steve finally got round to publishing a novel he had been working on for a long time. It’s called The Year of the Dragon. It arose out of a challenge to write a book in the same genre as those of Charles Williams, which have been described as “supernatural thrillers”. You can find out more about it and how it came to be written here. The cover was designed by our son Simon, who spends most of his days (and sometimes nights too) working on computer animation.

Debbie & Jethro

In December Jethro and his girlfriend Debbie went on a trip to Botswana to visit Debbie’s parents who live in Gaborone.

Towards the end of the year we had disturbing news that Bishop Athanasius Akunda of Kisimu and Western Kenya was seriously ill in a hospital in the USA. He had come to South Africa as a young deacon to help with the mission work of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and we worked together for 13 years. He was ordained priest, and was made deputy dean of the rather under-resourced diocesan Catechetical School, where he made a deep impression on the students who passed through it. Steve was promoter for his doctorate in theology at the University of South Africa with a thesis on Orthodox diologue with Bunyore culture. He became the parish priest of our “home” parish of St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg where Steve served with him as deacon, and was a mentor, student, colleague and friend.

In 2015 he returned to Kenya and was consecrated bishop of the new diocese of Kisimu, where he has done excellent work, and so his illness affects not only him but many others.

In other news…

Samwise, a dog obsessed with balls

On 11 November our dog Samwise died. He was 12 years old. We got him as a small puppy in September 2006, which was a three-dog year, and Samwise was the third puppy we got that year. In January 2006 our strange excitable bonsai Alsatian, Alexa, suddenly took ill and died. In February Jethro came home with a puppy, Ralf, and within a few weeks he had died. We later discovered that both had probably suffered from a particularly vicious form of biliary.

We got another puppy called Mardigan, and covered him with anti-tick stuff. We got these puppies to keep our other dog, Ariel, company. Then when thieves broke in to steal our Toyota Venture, they poisoned the dogs. After an enormous vet’s bill, Mardigan died, but Ariel survived. We got Samwise to keep her company, but kept wondering if something bad would happen to him too.

Pimen running to welcome people home.

Samwise was a very big dog, and of all the dogs we have had he was the one most obsessed with balls. If someone came to the fence, he would bark madly at them, often quite frighteningly, but actually he was just asking them to throw his ball,. So we buried his balls with him.

Now our younger dog Pimen lacks canine company. When we came home in the car Pimen would bark to let Samwise know we were home, and Samwise would bark to summon Simon to open the gate. But now we have silent homecomings, because there is no Samwise for Pimen to summon.

 

 

 

 

2 Responses

  1. Dear Steve, Many thanks for your news, and with all Christmas blessing for the future. I started reading The Year of the Dragon, but I somehow lost it, and my attempts to recover it have so far been in vain. But I shall try to find help. John.

  2. Blessings and peaceful joy be yours for the year to come and may God spare you for many more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: