Sunday 25 December 2011

WT - Ladysmith

 At King Shaka International Airport, Bonnie Ronnie was like a kid in the back seat on a long journey, “…has it landed yet?” Waiting for the plane carrying her brother Ed. We had arrived two hours early …just in case! “I don’t know if I’ll recognise him!” she said in a panic, craning her neck to see as passengers flowed through the gate into the arrivals lounge. “His plane hasn’t even taken off from Johannesburg yet!” I reminded her. I managed to drag her away from the gate for a few minutes in order to have some lunch but we were straight back to the gate the instant we were finished.

Ed’s flight was about 15 minutes early and I was ready with camera in hand when Ronnie started screeching “there he is…there he is!!” Her excitement was wonderful to see. 

In my last blog I said I would explain a little about Bonnie Ronnie’s family. It is quite a long and incredibly sad story but I shall try to keep it short and bright; Ronnie’s birth was registered by a sister at the ‘Lady Chancellor Maternity Home’ in Salisbury, Rhodesia (Now Harare, Zimbabwe Ruins) after being abandoned. Ronnie was transferred from orphanage to orphanage till of school age. She was then sent to ‘King George VI’ a school for the handicapped in Bulawayo. Little Ronnie would invariably be the only child in the school over the holidays until one holiday a Rotary member (Rose) was visiting when she saw Ronnie and arranged to take her out for an ice cream, (Rose’s friend) Sally would sometimes take Ronnie out for an ice cream if Rose was unavailable. (Sally’s friend) Ilona would join them for ice cream at Eskimo Hut. Ilona introduced Ronnie to her family who then became foster parents and siblings to Ronnie. There were to be other so called foster families (a story best left untold) but Mom and Pop as Ronnie called them, were the most loving, caring people Ronnie ever knew. They have sadly passed over but this is how their children Ilona and Ed became Ronnie’s immediate family. The borders, students and staff of KGVI became Ronnie’s extended family with whom she had lost touch until one of the ex KGVI staff members found Ronnie on facebook, now she has contact with quite a number of the old students (her extended family).

As can be seen, this once in a lifetime adventure of ours has been far more successful than we ever dreamed possible. We are truly blessed!

We still had the hire car from Budget as Guy’s little bakkie had broken down (he really is having a bad run at the moment) so we loaded up Ed’s baggage and headed off for the family farm ‘Bushwillow’ via Dad’s home in Pietermaritzburg.

The drive was uneventful apart from some roadworks and the sign ‘Please don’t kill us’ which is becoming more prevalent due to the high number of deaths on South Africa’s rather run down roads. Illegal Taxi’s that we used to call ‘Chova-chova’ (literal translation is ‘push-push’, a nickname given due to the poor state of these vehicles) rule the road and the government too it seems since they are recognised as a legitimate (albeit illegal) entities and exempt from all road taxes and tolls. The government even pays them a rebate on fuel which of course has no procedures in place to keep it honest and fair. Reminds me of the Aussie Insurance ad regarding a guy’s claim for a collision with a charter boat, where the wife teases the husband by placing washing over her head thus blinding herself and she starts wandering about the back yard erratically with arms outstretched (words substituted),  “…corruption?….what corruption!”. A few days earlier a ‘Taxi’ and truck had collided head on killing 32 people in the taxi which was carrying 38 (this was a minibus with a set maximum of 25 passengers).

We arrived at the farm at about 21:00hrs (9.0pm) to a house full of expectant people. Both Ronnie and Ed were pleased to see and greet their sister Ilona, her husband Rob, son Shane and his wife Meg, her sister Bron, Shane and Meg’s daughter Lexi, Rob and Ilona’s son Lee, his wife Chantel and their son Robert. All had remained awake to welcome us and Ronnie was beside herself with joy.

After a few hours of emotional reunion including a feed, everyone retired as all were working the next day. The Christmas break up was to be Thursday but some late urgent orders would see everyone hard at it till the following Monday (that is everyone except a couple of workers who had already been paid their bonus early and although they promised to turn up on time for work, never did.)

Ronnie and I went into town a few times over the following days whilst waiting for the break up and managed to find our way around with the help of Ed and others. This time gave me the opportunity to start resolving some business issues which I was going to say had crept up but that is not strictly true. We had recently sold a portion of our business to people that we already had good reason not to trust but we had decided to leave the past where it was and show good faith. Well! as was rather disappointingly expected our good faith had once again proven to be misplaced. Not to worry though as always a contingency plan had been devised for just such a scenario and will be implemented in due course.

A little queuing at the local Ladysmith branch of the Standard Bank managed to sort most of our cash flow issues brought about by the failure of our buyer to live up to either the deal or the time frame and things were back on track.

Ronnie’s family have been just wonderful, showing us around the farm and the local area. We had a great time looking for dried aloe stalks which we then tied together as a sort of African Bush Christmas Tree. Clint and wife Nicky arrived for Christmas on their way to a Namibian Holiday, which was just wonderful. The whole family is just so close, caring, sharing and loving that I feel absolutely so blessed to be included as a part of the family. 

Chantel, Meg, Nicky and Megs sister Bron along with Ronnie, Ilona and little 3 year old Robert decorated the bush Christmas tree. Clint, Rob and Lee put up the Christmas lights while Ed carried out some minor repairs to things electric around the farm. Shane took off to do some road repairs and general farm duties – What a team!!

The farm has separate dwellings for the family members thus ensuring that each family has their own space, gardens and grounds but close enough to render assistance if needed. The ladies take turns cooking the evening meals 4 nights a week, Rob cooks 1 night, biltong night is Friday night (Aussies and others would call this take away night) and Wednesday is each family looks after themselves night. A fantastic system where the weeks meals are planned together to cater to everyone’s tastes and nothing is too much trouble. Bonnie Ronnie says she could live here forever… and since this is her time to do as she pleases, she has decided (one of her most heart wrenching decisions) to stay until after New Year and leave when Ed leaves (less heartbreaking). This does mean that we may almost certainly not visit her best friend Lyn in Harare as time and budgets have been exceeded.

Last Wednesday we all went to ‘Tugela Game Reserve’ just outside Ladysmith Kwa-Zulu Natal, a local private game park for a 2 hour safari drive and breakfast. It was great with all of us in a covered Land-Rover, looking for game to shoot with our cameras.

Poaching survivor, the horn was removed with a chainsaw too close to the face.