With the success of our first raised vegetable garden, we started a second one yesterday. The first one took a long time to build, using bricks we had salvaged from our ruin. This time we had it up in half an hour, using cinder block bought for the purpose, with no cement.
There has been good rain over the last month, so our veggie garden has been growing quite well since we last posted photos here a month ago.
It was also time to give the Wendy house a second coat of wood preservative.
Today we got a Wendy house.
Thirteen years ago a crook builder by the name of Lukas Neethling undertook to build an extension to our house, and started it, but then scarpered with the money.
So for 13 years we we had a ruin in the back garden. We built a raised garden with some of the salvaged bricks, and decided to put a Wendy house on the concrete slab. It wouldn’t be as big or versatile as what we had envisaged, but might serve as a guest room.
By 4:00 pm it was all done, and we just need to paint it inside, and set it up with some furniture.
We are very pleased with the work of A & H Wendyhouses, and recommend them to anyone who is looking for something similar. They didn’t mind our pestering with questions, and the workmen did a quick and very professional job.
On Saturday 8 November we celebrated our Slava and Ruby Wedding at St Nicholas of Japan Orthodox Church in Brixton, Johannesburg. In addition to friends from the church, we were glad to celebrate with family and friends, some of whom we had not seen for a long time.
After the regular Saturday evening Vespers, we had our Slava. Slava is a Serbian custom, which is a family celebration, remembering the day when the first members of that family were baptised, and you can find an explanation of the service here, on a blog post we posted on a previous occasion, so we won’t repeat all that here.
As we explained in our blog post about our wedding 40 years ago, we were actually married on 29 September 1974, which in the Western Church was the feast of St Michael and All Angels. We were received into the Orthodox Church 27 years ago on the 8th November 1987, which was the Orthodox equivalent of the same feast, and so became our Slava. We had the opportunity to choose new saints. names, and our son Jethro (then aged 7) chose Raphael, one of the archangels celebrated on that day. And so, because of the coincidence of the saints, we celebrate our wedding anniversary on the same day.
This time we had the parish priest, Fr Athanasius, and Fr Elias Palmos, with whom we are working on several mission projects. Also the celebration overlapped with that of St Nektarios of Pentapolis, who died on 8 November 1920, but is commemorated on the 9th because the 8th was the Synaxis of St Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven. So it was also the name-day of another member of the parish, Nektaria (Nicky) Reynders, and so we celebrated that too.
In addition to members of the parish, we were also joined by friends and family, who represented different periods of our life.
The family was representred by Graham Downs and his wife Elmarie (whom we had not met before). As the family tree calculator tells us, Graham Craig DOWNS and Valerie Muriel Katharine GREENE are 3rd cousins 1 time removed. Their common ancestors are Henry CRIGHTON and Petronella Francina Dorothea FLAMME. An interesting point there is that Graham is actually just a year older than our son Jethro, but is a generation further back. Val is descended from the eldest son of Henry and Petronella Crighton, William John Crighton, while Graham is descended from a younger son, Frederick Crighton, and Frederick’s descendants seem to have had children when they were quite old, so there are fewer generations in between.
There were also some old friends. One was Lionel Murcott, an artist, whom I had known before we were married, and in fact we had not seen each other for more than 40 years, but since he was living in Gauteng, he thought it would be quite easy to come and join us, and we were very glad to see him.
Another old friend was Phillip Pare, whom we knew from St Stephen’s Anglican Church in Centurion in the early 1980s. At about the same time that we joined the Orthodox Church, Phillip joined the Roman Catholic Church, but he and his wife and children live in Silverton, which is not far from us, so we’ve kept in touch.
There were also several friends that we knew from St Thomas’s Church in Sunninghill, including Mira Mihaljevic. It was good to see them again too.
Many people gave us gifts, which were somewhat unexpected, and much appreciated. and thanks for all for their kindness and friendship. We can’t mention all of them here, but only one or two.
And these helped to make it a memorable occasion. Father Athanasius read some special anniversary prayers for us as well.
It’s quite interesting, looking back, to see how many things have changed, since we were first married. I’m typing this on a laptop computer, but back in 1974 personal computers were known only to serious technonerds, and were very limited in what they could do. Television broadcasting was just beginning to make an appearance in South Africa, and soociologists from other parts of the world were making a study of South African children because they were the last generation in a relatively developed country who had grown up without TV. The Sunday Tribune had a weekly Charity Jackpot, a crossword puzzle competition, where the prize was a car worth about R5000. Most people could not afford a television set (they cost about R1200) and so they changed the prize to a TV set, and the name of the competition to a “Tellypot”. I wonder if they’ve changed it back. The price of petrol had just increased to 8c a litre, which everyone thought was iniquitously high.
Cellphones were unknown too. We were just starting our family history, and we corresponded with relatives overseas by snail mail, writing out family group sheets by hand, and occasionaly making photocopies — plain paper copiers were cutting-edge technology as most of them still used special coated paper. Occasionally we would type out family trees on wax stencils and run off copies of a Gestetner or Roneo duplicator. When did you last use an actual typewriter?
Finally, for closing, one of the most interesting presents we received was from Graham and Elmarie Downs: since it was our Ruby Wedding, they gave us “His” and “Hers” ruby grapefruit.
Priest in shock wedding. So read the headline in the Natal Daily News the day after our wedding 40 years ago on 29 September 1974.
We were married in St Martin-in-the-Fields Anglican Church in Durban North, where I was the assistant priest at the time. The “shock” was a bit of an exaggeration; “surprise” might have been more accurate. We were married at the regular church service on Sunday morning, and of the congregation of about 400 only about 10 knew beforehand that we were getting married. Not even the guest preacher that Sunday, Fr Michael Lapsley, SSM, knew, and so he too was taken by surprise at the announcement that followed his sermon.
The reason for the secrecy was that I was banned at the time, and was not allowed to attend any social gatherings, that is, gatherings at which the persons present also had social intercourse with one other. There was one exception to this: with the special permission of the chief magistrate of Durban, I was allowed to attend tea parties after regular church services at St Martin’s, provided that those at the tea party had also attended the service beforehand. That meant that our wedding had to be at one of the regular Sunday services that was followed by tea, which at St Martin’s was on the fourth Sunday of each month.
Issuing a public invitation to attend would be likely to attract the unwelcome attention of the Security Police, and we did not want them snooping around and recording the number plates of all the cars outside the church and things like that. In these days of freedom that may sound quite paranoid, but things were different back then. At that very time my cousin’s husband, who was also banned, was facing charges of having broken his ban by attending a friend’s wedding in Pietermaritzburg — he had chatted to a couple of people after the service, and the Security Police interpreted that as a “social gathering”, and subpoenaed a lot of people who were at the service to give evidence, including the Anglican suffragan bishop of Natal, Ken Hallowes.
It so happened that on Sunday 29th September the choir of the Northlands Girls High School was singing a special musical setting of the service, called “The Mass of St Francis” (by aniticipation, St Francis was actually commemorated on 4 October). This provided a suitable excuse: we invited our friends and acquaintances to come to church that Sunday to hear this special choir, so we weren’t actually inviting them to attend a wedding or a gathering afterwards that could possibly be interpreted as a “social gathering” as defined in the Suppression of Communism Act (as amended). So we told our parents, and swore them to secrecy. And the parish priest, Arnold Hirst, knew, of course, and the head server, Richard Girdwood, and Ian Bastable, who had arranged the visit of the choir, and that was about it.
So after the sermon by Father Michael Lapsley, which went on for about 45 minutes, we were married. And, despite the Mass of St Francis, the day was actually the Western feast of St Michael and All Angels.
Thirteen years later, on the Orthodox feast of St Michael and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven, on 8 November 1987, we were received into the Orthodox Church, and since then we have observed the 8th November as our Slava and wedding anniversary. Slava is a Serbian Orthodox custom. All Orthodox Christians celebrate their name day, the day of the Saint whose name they were given in baptism. A Slava is a kind of family name day, celebrating the day of the Saint on which the first members of that family were baptised. In the case of most Serbs, that would have been several centuries ago, but in our case it is in living memory. It also seemed to be a good custom to adopt in Africa, where ancestors have played a significant role in culture.
As our actual wedding had to be “secret”, in the sense that we couldn’t invite anyone to it, we would like to celebrate our 40th anniversary by issuing an open invitation to friends and family to attend our Slava and anniversary celebrations. With the blessing of the Archbishop of Johannesburg and Pretoria, Metropolitan Damaskinos, and the parish priest, Father Athanasius Akunda, it will take place at Vespers at the Church of St Nicholas of Japan, 156 Fulham Road, Brixton, Johannesburg, at 6:30 pm on Saturday 8 November 2014. As they say in the funeral announcements: friends kindly accept this intimation.
Unlike the original wedding, therefore, we are inviting people to join us. But, like the original event, and in memory of it, the refreshments will be of the “tea after church service” variety”.
It might have been better to plan such a thing for our 50th anniversary, in 2024, but who knows if we’ll survive that long in this world, so perhaps we’ll save that one for the next.
 Actually if the Security Police had been alerted, they would probably have classified the whole thing as a “political gathering” (another type of gathering banned people were not allowed to attend), since Fr Michael pulled no punches when he said what St Francis would probably have thought of the contemporary political situation in South Africa (a “political gathering” was one at which any principle or policy of a state or of the government of a state was discussed). One woman walked out in the middle of the sermon, though whether because of political objections or because she thought it had gone on too long, we never discovered. She missed the fun afterwards, though she might also have disapproved of that too.
About 12 years ago we thought it would be nice to add a couple of rooms on to our house, but unfortunately the builder we employed (fellow by the name of Lukas Neethling, ID 590713 5146 08 3) was a crook, and scarpered with the money without finishing the job, leaving us with a ruin in the back garden.
Inspired by my second cousin-in-law, Toni Badcock-Walters, Val decided that now she has retired it might be nice to turn the ruin, or at least part of it, into a raised kitchen garden, so today we made a start on it.
Toni explains many of the advantages of a raised garden in her blog, but one of the main ones we envisage is that the dogs are less likely to charge through it on the way to bark at the neighbours’ dogs, or to decide that it would be nice to dig up.
Not being professional bricklayers, it won’t be a model for bricklaying, but it’s for a garden, not a house. It’ll probably take a while before the first bed is finished, and then we’ll see what we can grow in it.
Val retired on 28th February, but the first couple of weeks of her retirement have not gone too well. We have gradually regressed to the 18th century, or to the Dark Ages, On Sunday 2nd March, which was Cheesefare Sunday it rained solidly for most of the day, and it has rained every day since then.
At first the rain was welcome, The garden needed it, and the country needed it — fill the dams to last through the winter. But it never stopped. Every day was overcast. Solar power is fine but in these conditions there was enough hot water to wash the dishes, but not enough for everyone to have a bath.
The drains were blocked, and I kept putting off going to clean them until the rain stopped, but it never did. I was reminded of Noah’s advice to the Lord: Make it rain for 40 days and 40 nights, and wait for the sewers to back up.
On Tuesday 4th March the phone died, and with it our Internet connection. For the previous three weeks it had been giving problems, and we had reported it to Telkom. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. But now it was completely dead.
As the song goes, you don’t miss your water till your well runs dry. You don’t realise how dependent you become on the Internet. Information you want to look up, which 25 years ago would have entailed a trip to the library, and a search for the books in which one could possibly search for the information has been instantly available on the Internet, through Wikipedia and other resources. Want to check the spelling of a name, or the date of an event, or when is the best time to plant clivias in Gauteng? It’s there at your fingertips. But suddenly it wasn’t.
So we regressed to the 20th century, pre-Internet.
Through cell phones we still had partial access to services like Twitter and Facebook. It was possible to warn friends not to expect prompt replies to e-mail messages, except that some friends apparently did not see, or did not heed the messages, and began sending messages asking why we did not reply promptly. But typing anything on a minuscule phone keyboard was a pain. People gave links to interesting articles that it wasn’t possible to read, and graphics with trite sentiments urging you to “Like this if you love your sister” became even more annoying. One needs three hands – one to hold the phone, one to type with, and one to hold the magnifying glass so one can read the screen.
While the phone service was intermittent, outgoing e-mail piled up. For urgent business it was easier to print out the e-mail, scrawl a reply on it with a pen, and send it by snail mail. Oh, how dependent we are on technology.
But we were soon to become more aware of how dependent we are on technology.
At about 5 am on Tuesday 11th March the electric power went off. At first we thought that it was Eskom’s load shedding. Because of the rain, the coal for the coal-powered power stations was delivered wet. The slurry blocked the conveyors to the furnaces, and generating capacity dropped. So there were rolling blackouts all around the country to try to reduce the load. These usually lasted a few hours, and the power came back on again. It caused some major problems, such as the Gautrain service being interrupted.
But this power outage lasted all day, and into the night.
Now we were regressing from the 20th century (pre-Internet) to the 18th (pre-electricity). No electricity means no coffee. Val went out to buy some from a takeaway joint. With the rain, the washing wouldn’t dry, so we had to resort to an electric clothes drier, but now that didn’t work either.
After a while, the food in the fridge and freezer begins to go off, so you have to eat it quickly. But there’s nowhere to cook it. Just the thing we need in the first month of Val’s retirement, when we have to learn to live on a fifth of our previous monthly income!
We do have a pile of wood in the garden, and we could perhaps have cooked stuff in some cast-iron pots we have, but it’s still raining and the wood is all wet. In the 18th century they could have handled it — they would have had wood-burning stoves, and a place indoors to keep the wood dry. But you can’t make a wood fire in an electric oven.
So we ate takeaway food, and listened to the radio by candlelight. One by one, the cell phones died as the batteries went flat.
Yesterday we decided that as we couldn’t do anything at home, perhaps we could go and do some research in the archives — provided their electricity wasn’t off too. It wasn’t, so we were also able to recharge our laptop computers and cellphones while we were there, and be in communication with the world for another day, at least enough to say that we couldn’t communicate.
When we left the archives at 2:00 pm the sun was shining for the first time in 10 days. When we got home I took advantage of the break to clean the drains, and a huge puddle vanished down the inspection hole. I hoped no municipal inspectors were watching. A few years ago one came to our house to ensure that our drains were constructed in such a way that no storm water could enter the sewer system. Cleaning drains is a dirty job, so afterwards I had a bath — my first hot bath for 10 days — the sun had warmed the water.
But then the water stopped.
No phones, no electricity, no water. Yesterday we couldn’t flush the loo because the drains were full of water; today we can’t flush the loo because there’s no water in the pipes. We were back to the Dark Ages. Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink. It is running down both sides of the street, but there’s no way of getting it into the pipes. The vacant land over the road, next to the railway line, turns into a marsh after heavy rain, and the water flows down the street for days afterwards. Perhaps if we caught it in buckets at least we could use it for washing, and it might be safe for making coffee, on the gas plate Val went out to buy. Telkom tell us our phone will be working again on 18th March, but they told us it would be fixed on 4 March (the day it died for good), then the following Sunday, then Thursday…
Though we have suffered a few minor inconveniences, others have suffered a lot more. Some have had their homes washed away. People have been drowned trying to cross swollen rivers.
But the rain has made us aware of how dependent we are on technology, and how ill-equipped we are to live in conditions that people in the 18th century considered normal, and for many people living in rural areas those conditions are still normal. One of the things we heard while listening to the radio by candlelight was a broadcast on different ways in which people see water — access to water is a human right in our constitution, yet increasingly government and business are seeing it as a commodity. After 1994 Kader Asmal did a great deal to see that rural communities had access to clean water, but that seems to have stalled now.
So we have has a small taste of life in the Dark Ages, before the 18th century. Or is it perhaps a taste of the future — climate change, fossil fuels running out, and the heat death of the universe? But for the moment we still have an edge over the Dark Ages — an Internet Cafe, where I’m posting this.