So Far Away

It is snowing at the farm, at least it was this morning. It has since stopped but not before it caused all the shade cloth covering the allotment to collapse. I tried to melt the snow by spraying it with the hosepipe from underneath, but when one of the wire supports snapped, I decided it would not be fun if it all collapsed on top of me. So there’s a job to tackle when Kho comes back from his annual leave. I hope my broad beans survive, they were looking so good and I was just about to pick our first harvest.

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snow

I’ve been busy since I last blogged. We started planning a trip to the States at the end of the year and so we’ve been looking at how best to get there. In the end we decided on the shortest route; SAA flies direct from Jo’burg to Washington DC, which is where we want to go, with a refueling stop in Dakar, which did not please Alex because he claims that there will be potholes in the runway (he’s a nervous flyer).  The alternatives are all hellishly long trips. Anyway, choosing the flights and pawning the family silver to pay for them was nothing compared to the ordeal of applying for our American visas. The process of filling in the forms online stressed me out no end. I have a pathological aversion to filling in forms. From whence it comes I do not know but I am absolutely paranoid about putting in the wrong answers and inevitably I make a cock-up. After hours of checking and rechecking, application forms were submitted, the application fees paid and an appointment made for an interview at the embassy in Durban. Alex has had to make his own arrangements to go for an interview in Cape Town later this month.

The whole visa application thing freaked me out a lot and, at first, I couldn’t understand why. Yes, I don’t like filling in forms, but I became disproportionately emotional about it. And then it struck me. I hadn’t really grasped until now just how very far away my daughter is and the realisation that someone had the power to prevent me from visiting her was all too much. It made me feel terribly vulnerable.

But you’re so far away; doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?
It would be so fine to see your face at my door;
And it doesn’t help to know you’re so far away

Anyway, in the end Peter and I got our visas without any problems and now we just have to wait for Alex to get his before I can start getting really excited.

And now for something completely different. For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed the opening ceremony of the Olympics in London. Only the British could’ve pulled that off and I loved the James Bond and Mr Bean scenes; god knows what other countries would have made of it, but well done to the British. It was so nice to see the arts and children being celebrated and it was all done, not in a high- falutin way but almost in a lefty, liberal way.

In the early 80s, Peter and I lived in Canterbury for 6 months while Peter did a stint of lecturing at the University of Kent. It was not easy being a white South African abroad in those days and Peter really had to work hard to live up to his credentials, but we had a good time there and made some really good friends, including Thea and Laurie who, knowing how fond we were of English pubs, kept promising to take us on a pub crawl through the Kent countryside. One evening Laurie called to ask if we were available to go beagling with him on the weekend. “Oh yes” we enthused, thinking that this was a euphemism for a pub crawl, although when he suggested picking us up quite early in the morning we did have a few misgivings. We just put it down to English eccentricity. When he arrived in a battered old land rover wearing a moth-eaten, green master of the hunt jacket and britches, we began to have serious reservations. But South Africans are made of stern stuff, and in we jumped. En route we stopped at a farm to pick up the pack of beagles and it was only then, I swear, that the penny dropped. We spent a bitterly cold day traipsing after beagles chasing rabbits across bleak and windswept cabbage fields. After about 3 hours of fruitless pursuit, my initial horror at the thought of poor little rabbits being caught by the dogs turned to hope that they would, and then we could all pack it in and go down the pub. They never did catch anything, thank god, and we never did get to do our pub crawl.

But I digress. One morning I was in our Canterbury apartment, which was above a second-hand clothing shop owned by our landlady, when I heard the most beautiful singing. I looked out of the kitchen window, which overlooked some back gardens, and saw a child on a swing singing Jerusalem at the top of her voice. Hearing it sung so simply by the young boy and the children’s choir at the Olympics brought a tear to my eye and I was moved with such a longing for the England that I remember.

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Laurie and the beagles

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oh dear god, please give me a pint

Outside our apartment in Canterbury, 1981/2

Outside our apartment in Canterbury, 1981/2

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One Response to So Far Away

  1. John Brewer says:

    Welcome to post-9/11! The USA have really cracked down on entry. Make sure your you don’t renew or change your passport (the visa is tied to the specific passport number) and don’t massively change your appearance. Lovely photos of snow in South Africa. Strangely enough, I’ve been external examiner in sociology at Kent over the last four years and recognise the street. Regards to Peter.

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