AUTUMN IN MY VALLEY – THE AMBER VALLEY, DERBYSHIRE.
“Notice that autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.”
AUTUMN IN MY VALLEY – THE AMBER VALLEY, DERBYSHIRE.
“Notice that autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.”
More than 350 years after this tragic event, there are still rumours of restless souls roaming the village. Unexplained footsteps apparently resound around the Miner’s Arms pub, but in a town where many houses have signs with the names of the victims on them, it is impossible to know whose footsteps they are. Or it’s probably just pure imagination …
Shortly after Jan van Riebeeck first arrived at the southern tip of Africa to establish a refreshment station for ships on their way to the far east, England was plagued by one of the biggest humanitarian disasters ever recorded. It was 1665 and London, in particular, was hard hit by the Great Plague – the bubonic plague. The plague was spread by fleas, which lived on rats, and the overpopulation, especially in poorer parts contributed to the deadly pandemic that rapidly spread among humans. The plague reached large parts of the country, especially urban areas such as York, while the countryside was left relatively unaffected.
For the inhabitants of Eyam, however, the plague would have tragic consequences and would set the stage for a human drama in which the suffering and selfless actions of the inhabitants of this small rural town would steer history in a different direction.
Around the time when planning for the construction of the castle in the Cape of Good Hope began in earnest, a bale of cloth was delivered from London to Eyam. It was late August of 1665. The picturesque Eyam, an Anglo-Saxon village in Derbyshire’s Peak District (just half an hour’s drive from where we live) had a population of about 800 souls at the time and was pest-free up to that point.
The consignment of cloth was delivered to the local tailor. The tailor’s assistant, George Viccars, saw that the material was damp and unbundled the bale of cloth to dry in front of the fire. However, the bale was full of plague-carrying fleas. George was the first resident to die a few days later.
The plague raged through the small community and by December, 42 people were dead. By the end of winter, in March 1666, many residents began packing their belongings, ready to leave town.
Summer dawned and as this terror began to spread like wildfire in the summer sun, the villagers took an incredible, courageous stance to save others from the same fate.
On June 24, 1666 the rector, William Mompesson, with the help of another pastor, Thomas Stanley, urged the residents to quarantine themselves so that the disease could not spread to neighbouring settlements.
Despite being aware of a possible painful and horrific death that awaited them, the whole town promised to sacrifice their lives to prevent the plague from claiming more lives outside the village.
By August, a year after the bale was delivered, the scorching heat of an unusually hot summer had driven the villagers to despair.
Mothers buried their own children and husbands buried their wives while outsiders watched from a nearby hill – too scared to get closer to the inhabitants of the plague village.
Mompesson said his wife, Catherine, noticed a sickly, sweet smell in the air the day before she also died. He also told how letters from outsiders described the stench of “sadness and death” rising from the village.
In November 1666, the plague claimed its last victim in Eyam without spreading to neighbouring communities. Eyam’s sacrifice saved countless lives.
The small town lost 260 of its inhabitants to the Great Plague. It is estimated that 200,000 people died across England.
A well-known children’s song (with different variations) has its origins in this terrible period. When you hear the song again, think of the inhabitants of Eyam.
Ring-a-ring o ‘roses,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall dead.
Remember those days when we all had autograph books? (OK Youngster, excluding you – you will not remember.) Your friends, nearest and dearest would write a message, some words of wisdom or a joke in your autograph book. On the last page of every single autograph book in the world, someone hurried to write: “By hook or by crook, I’m the last in your book” – with their name and date. There was also the endless stream of “Roses are red, violets are blue …” variants. I still giggle like I did when I first read this version as school boy:
“Violets are red, Roses are blue.
I’m not a poet …
Well, that was obviously not in my book.
It was very special to have a message and signature of a famous person in your book. As a passionate rugby supporter I spent a whole Saturday morning in the hotel foyer where the 1970 All Black team had stayed in my hometown. I still treasure their signatures – Brian Lochore, Colin Meads, Ian Kirkpatrick … the whole team. My prized signatures, though, were those of the Springbok captain, Dawie de Villiers and the legendary Frik du Preez.
In these uncertain and, for many, troublesome times, I want to give to you these wise words that my dear mom wrote in my autograph book when I was 10 years old (free translation):
“The best advice to steady those trembling knees during daunting and uncertain times, is – kneel on them. Love, Mom.”
Stay safe and spread love … nothing else.
Am I really that ignorant? What am I missing? Will my obliviousness come back and haunt me at some future point in time?
Or are people really that gullible?
According to Public Health England “…the average number of deaths in England caused by seasonal flu for the last five seasons, 2014/15 to 2018/19, was 17,000 deaths annually (ANNUALLY!). This ranged from 1,692 deaths last season, 2018/19, to 28,330 deaths in 2014/15. Since October, more than 4,000 people with confirmed flu have been admitted to hospitals in England with at least 70 deaths.
In the USA, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that “seasonal influenza has resulted in between 9 million and 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 810,000 hospitalizations, and between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths ANNUALLY since 2010.
These figures make the statistics for Covid-19 pale into insignificance.
But you’d better be quick if you want to verify these statistics, because governments, realising that citizens like me are smelling a rat, are removing this information from the internet faster than you could say CORONA! SEE, there I’m starting a rumour now. It is not true. Or is it?
Someone, somewhere is capitalising on the vulnerability of people. Chinese manufacturers of toilet paper, masks and hand sanitizer? (There goes another rumour.)
Will we ever know?
Sedert ek jare gelede die rolprent, “Somewhere in Time” met die pragtige Jane Seymour en Christopher Reeve gesien het, het ek ‘n fassinasie met reise oor tydsgrense heen. Ouens wat baie slimmer as ek is, gebruik terme soos “geslote tydagtige kurwes”, “kosmiese stringe” en “kwantum swaartekrag” in ‘n poging om hul teorieë te staaf – volgens hulle kan daar (in teorie) wel oor tydsgrense heen gereis word. My oupa sou gesê het, “Jong, e-e-ek, weet darem nie”. Ten spyte daarvan dat daar oor die jare heen al baie e-e-ek-weet- darem-nie’s verkeerd bewys is toe ons wel met selfone vakansiefoto’s begin rondstuur en banksake gedoen het, vliegtuie vinniger as klank kon vlieg en enkele tieners self hulle kamers aan die kant begin maak het (ja, dis waar!), is ek nogal geneig om met my oupa saam te stem.
Ek het al baie gewens ek kon die tyd terugdraai om iets anders te doen as hoe ek dit gedoen het. Of gou gaan kyk wat wag in die toekoms voordat ek ‘n belangrike besluit neem. Ek kan egter nie sien hoe tyd, soos ‘n CD of DVD, ge-rewind of ge-forward kan word nie – om baie redes.
Wat ek wel die laaste tyd oor wonder, is die konsep van tyd in die ewigheidskonteks. En hier kom ‘n baie groot SÊ-NOU-MAAR in die prentjie in. Want hoe sal ons nou ooit met sekerheid weet?
Sê nou maar tyd het nie ‘n begin of einde nie? (En daar verloor ek nou die helfte van my lesers! ‘n Waarskuwing aan die oorblywende een – dit word selfs meer kompleks.)
Tyd, soos die gemiddelde mens dit ken, word gemeet met horlosies en kalenders en is gekoppel aan seisoene asook son- en maanbewegings. Maar dit is relatief, want tydsones kom ook nog in die prentjie in. Wanneer die mense in Australië die sonsopkoms van ‘n nuwe dag bewonder, maak mense op ander plekke gereed vir ‘n nagrus. Ek onthou toe my pa in Suid-Afrika dood is, was dit na middernag daar, maar nog voor middernag hier in Engeland. Ek en my sus het dus verskillende datums vir my pa se sterftyd.
Ek wonder egter oor ‘n ander konsep van tyd.
Dit het alles met ‘n droom begin. Ek droom ek loop ingedagte op ‘n pad. Skielik bevind ek my op ‘n totaal onherkenbare plek – ‘n vreemde dimensie. Niks lyk soos ek dit op aarde ken nie. Ek raak byna paniekerig en wonder hoe ek daar gekom het. Ek besef dat ek verdwaal is en draai om. Ek begin terughardloop en kom by ‘n vreemde ingang – een van daai wat soos water in sci-fi-films lyk (die Engelse noem dit ‘n “portal”). Met mening spring ek terug deur hierdie “portal” … en skrik wakker. Ek wonder toe of ek dalk vir ‘n oomblik dood was en weer bygekom het. Was ek vir ‘n oomblik in ‘n ander dimensie? (Iemand wat ek ken het ‘n hartaanval gekry toe hy die huis instap en soos ‘n boom neergeval. Talle tekens het agterna daarop gedui dat hy vir ‘n oomblik dood was en met die slag van die val weer teruggebring is.)
Dis toe dat ek begin wonder oor die mens se bestaan – die geboorte en dood, die begin en die einde. En daarna …
Hierdie ge-wonder is natuurlik niks nuuts nie en is so oud soos die mensdom self. Baie mense se gedagtes oor die onderwerp word as die alfa en omega (verskoon die woordspeling) verkoop en talle godsdienste en sektes is al daar rondom gebou. Van my kleintyd af weet ek van die hemel en die hel. Soos talle godsdienste vertel, is die hel ‘n plek van ewige straf vir dinge wat jy tydens jou leeftyd verkeerd gedoen het en die hemel is ‘n plek van ewige beloning omdat jy soet was en glo. Ander godsdienste vertel weer van reinkarnasie of die onderwêreld.
Ek weet dat ek, lewende wese, uit twee primêre dinge bestaan: weefsel en energie. Alle lewende organismes bestaan daaruit. Weefsel, in die mens, bestaan uit water, proteïne, vette, koolhidrate en minerale. Wanneer jy jou laaste asem uitblaas, of jy nou deur ‘n leeu opgevreet en uitgeskei word en of jy nou begrawe word, jou liggaam word basies kompos. Dit word afgebreek in verskillende prosesse tot ‘n veelvoud van stowwe. Jou brein ook – jou geheue word uitgewis. Daar bly niks van die weefselgedeelte van jou liggaam oor soos mense dit onthou nie. (Alhoewel, ek wonder ook baie oor die oorplasing van DNA, menslike chimeras en sulke goed, maar dit is ‘n gesprek vir anderdag). Jou energie, egter, gaan nie tot niet nie. Einstein het ons al vertel dat energie, veral in ‘n ope sisteem soos jou liggaam of die aarde (waar ons energie met ons omgewing uitruil), nie vernietig word nie, maar bloot aangaan, meestal in ‘n ander hoedanigheid. Energie word dus getransformeer.
En dit is op hierdie punt dat my ge-wonder groter word.
Veronderstel (daai sê-nou-maar!) ons almal lewe in ‘n spesifieke dimensie (tans die aarde) in ‘n spesifieke tyd op ‘n tydlyn. Die lyn strek terug die ewigheid in en so ook vorentoe die ewigheid in (onthou, die heelal is onmeetlik groot en, so word daar gedink, brei steeds uit). Een heuglike dag op aarde soen jou ouers mekaar, een ding lei tot die volgende en, siedaar!, jy word op aarde verwek – met die liggaam waarin jy hopelik die aarde gaan bewandel. Jy is steeds net ‘n bondel water, proteïne, vette, koolhidrate en minerale – totdat energie jou lewe gee. Jou “power pack start jou op”. Jou “power pack” gee nou lewe aan die vorm wat daai water en vet en goete aangeneem het – jou liggaam. Die “power pack” kon dalk net sowel in ‘n koei of ‘n boom ook beland het, maar dit was vir jou bestem. Of hoe? Nou skop ‘n menigte interne en eksterne faktore in om jou te vorm – jou persoonlikheid, jou geloof, jou kulturele waardes, intelligensie en so aan.
Waar kom daardie energie vandaan en waaraan het dit lewe gegee, wat was dit voordat dit getransformeer en in my liggaam kom vestig het?
Is dit ons siel?
Terug na my droom. Sê nou maar daardie energiebal beweeg op hierdie tydlyn langs, dalk selfs heen en weer – vir ewig. Hy beweeg deur “portals” van een dimensie na die ander en neem verskillende vorme aan van een dimensie na die volgende. Dalk bly hy selfs twee of meer kere op aarde in verskillende liggame of vorme. Binne-in hierdie dimensies mag daar dalk, soos op aarde, ‘n verloop wees, ‘n geskiedenis met tydsaanduidings wat deur die wesens van daardie dimensie geskep is. Hierdie dimensies is egter onafhanklik en totaal verskillend van mekaar. Wat in een dimensie gebeur, het geen relevansie in ‘n ander nie. Dis hoekom daar geen konsep van tyd vir die bewegende “power pack” is nie.
Is die hemel of hel een van hierdie dimensies? Soos in Monopolie. Go to jail – of dan nou hel/hemel.
Ja, ek wonder sommer. Maar hoe sal ons nou weet?
Haai wag, dis teetyd! Wel, ten minste hier waar ek nou is. Ek en my “power pack”. Op hierdie spesifieke tydstip… Ag, vergeet dit!
Ever since I watched the movie “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeve and the gorgeous Jane Seymour years ago, I’ve had a fascination with time traveling. People who are much smarter than me use terms such as “closed time-like curves”, “cosmic strings” and “quantum gravity” in an attempt to substantiate their theories – according to them, time traveling is possible (theoretically, that is). My grandfather, with raised eyebrows, would have said, “Mmm… that remains to be seen…”. Despite the fact that, over the years, many “remains-to-be-seens” have been proven wrong with us now being able to send our holiday pictures and do banking transactions with our cell phones, aircrafts flying faster than sound and some teenagers even began tidying up their rooms (yes it’s true, someone told me!), I tend to agree with my grandfather.
There were many occasions where I would have wished to be able to turn back time in order to change something or do something differently from the way I have done it. Or to see what the future holds before I make an important decision. However, for many reasons I cannot see how time can be rewound or forwarded like a CD or DVD,
What I’ve been wondering about lately, though, is the concept of time in the eternal context. At this point a very big WHAT IF comes into play, because how will we ever know for sure?
What if time has no beginning or end? And (bang!) there goes half my readers. Advance warning to the remaining one – it gets even more peculiar.
Time, as the average person knows it, is measured by clocks and calendars and is linked to seasons as well as solar and lunar movements. But this way of measuring time is relative, because time zones determine time on earth. When people in Australia admire the sunrise of a new day, people in other places are getting ready for a night’s rest. (I remember when my dad passed away in South Africa, it was past midnight there, but over here, in England, it was still before midnight. My sister and I, therefore, have different dates for my dad’s passing.)
I also wonder about another concept of time.
It all started with a dream. Lost in thought, I was walking on a pathway. Suddenly I found myself in a completely bizarre place, unrecognizable – an unknown dimension. Nothing resembled anything on earth. I almost panicked and wondered how I got there, realising that I was lost. I turned around, started to run back from where I came from and arrived at an extraordinary portal – like the ones you see in sci-fi movies, those that look like water. With an almighty jump I went back through this portal… and woke up. I wondered if I’d died for a second or two and came back again. Was I in another dimension for a moment? (I know someone who suffered a heart attack when he walked into the house, and fell down like a tree. There were signs, afterwards, indicating that he was dead for a moment and was brought back to life by the impact of the fall.)
It was then that I began to wonder about our earthly existence – birth and death, the beginning and the end. And after that …
Of course, this pondering of mine is nothing new and is as old as humanity itself. Many people’s thoughts on the subject are sold as the alpha and omega (excuse the pun) and many religions and sects have been built around it. Since my childhood I’ve known about heaven and hell. As many religions would tell you, hell is a place of eternal punishment for things you have done wrong during your lifetime and heaven is a place of eternal reward for believing and being good. Other religions believe in reincarnation or the underworld.
I know that I, as a living being, consist of two primary things: tissue and energy. All living organisms are made up of this. Tissue, in humans, consists of water, protein, fats, carbohydrates and minerals. When you let go of your last breath, whether you were eaten and excreted by a lion or whether you are buried, your body is basically composted. It is broken down through different processes into a multiplicity of substances. Your brain too – your memory is wiped out. There is nothing left of the tissue-part of your body as people would have remembered it. (Although, I also wonder a lot about the transfer and destruction – or not – of DNA, human chimeras and things like that, but this is a conversation for another day). Your energy, however, does not go to waste. Einstein has already told us that energy, especially in an open system such as your body or the earth (where we exchange energy with our surroundings) could not be destroyed, but merely continues, usually in a different capacity. Energy is thus transformed.
And it is at this point that my pondering rapidly expands.
Suppose (remember that what-if?) we all live in a specific dimension (currently earth) at a specific time on a timeline. The line extends back into eternity and also into future eternity (remember, the universe is incalculably large and, it is thought, continues to expand). One glorious day your parents kissed, one thing lead to another and (voila!) you are being conceived – with the body that you will, hopefully, walk the earth. You are still just a bundle of water, protein, fats, carbohydrates and minerals – until energy gives you life. Your power pack starts you up. Your power pack now gives life to the shape that all those water and fat and goodies has taken – your body. The “power pack” might just as well have ended up in a cow or a tree, but it was destined for you. Or what? Now a multitude of internal and external factors kick in to shape you – your personality, cultural values, intelligence, religion, and so on.
Where did that energy come from? What or who was given life by it previously, what was it before it was transformed and settled into my body?
Is this our soul?
Back to my dream. Let’s just imagine that the energy ball moves along this timeline, maybe even back and forth – forever. It moves through “portals” from one dimension to another and takes different forms from one dimension to the next. Maybe it even stays on earth two or more times in different bodies or forms. Within these dimensions, there may or may not be a sequence, like on earth. A history with time-based indicators created by the beings of that dimension. These dimensions, though, are independent and totally different from each other. What happens in one dimension has no relevance in another. That is why there is no concept of time for the moving power pack.
Is heaven or hell one of these dimensions? As in Monopoly. Go to jail – or hell / heaven.
Yes, I wonder. But how will we ever know?
Gosh, look at the time. It’s teatime! Well, at least where I am now. Me and my power pack. At this present time … Oh, forget it!
IN THE DEPTH OF WINTER, I FINALLY LEARNED THAT THERE WAS IN ME AN INVINCIBLE SUMMER – Albert Camus.
EARLY MONDAY MORNING AFTER A DRENCHED WEEKEND.DAY MONDAY MORNING AFTER A DRENCHED WEEKEND