THE MANCHESTER EXPERIENCE

THE MANCHESTER EXPERIENCE

Over the years I’ve had the good fortune to visit many of the larger cities in the United Kingdom. From  Inverness, Stirling and Edinburgh in Scotland, to Sheffield, Nottingham and Birmingham in Middle-England. I’ve been to  Bath, York, Norwich, Cambridge, Chelmsford and Colchester (although not a city, it was for a time the capital of Roman Britain). I have travelled further south to London, Canterbury, Dover, Portsmouth, Brighton and  Southampton, and then north and east to Oxford, Cardiff (in Wales) as well as Limerick and Dublin in Ireland. To name a few.

This past week I have added another city to the list – Manchester, the third-most populous city in the United Kingdom (after London and Birmingham). A city of many cultures, adventures and surprises. From very old Roman (and older) landmarks to hyper-modern skyscrapers and shops.

Many famous people have links with this vibrant city. Big names such as, Albert Finney, one of Britain’s best-loved stage and screen actors and Sir Ben Kingsley, who won international acclaim and an Oscar for his role as the Indian statesman, Mohandas Gandhi in the 1982 film of the same name.

Emmeline Pankhurst, who, in 1903 helped to form Suffragettes, a militant-like group of activists hell-bent on giving women the recognition they deserved.  In 1999, Time Magazine named Pankhurst one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. 

Maurice, Robin, and Barry Gibb, The Bee Gees, spent their childhood practising their harmonies in a modest terraced house on Keppel Road.

Alan Turing, the Manchester University scientist, is recognised as one of the world’s most influential computer pioneers. He is often credited with founding computing and artificial intelligence as we know it. Originally breaking codes for the Brits during World War II, Turing then went on to become the director of a computer lab at Manchester University.

Oh, and then there are also two of the most famous football teams in the world, but since football is not really my thing, I will not mention it.

One day was definitely not enough to spend in this interesting city.

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My son and I started the day with coffee and “The Elvis” – this psychedelic bagel with peanut butter, jam and bacon.

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STATUE OF ALAN TURING

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MANCHESTER CATHEDRAL

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SYMI – THE SECRET GEM

SYMI – THE SECRET GEM

Last, but surely not least (of our Greek experiences) – Symi.

This little gem of an island has no reputation as (or desire, for that matter, to become) a cosmopolitan island and does not compete with islands such as Mykonos and Santorini, known for their nightlife and expensive hotels.

It is said that Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones once stepped off their luxurious yacht on Symi island to stretch their sea-legs and  went to one of the many restaurants on the island – and were quite surprised to be able to walk freely there without masses of people and paparazzi tagging along.

Although the island offers several exclusive boutiques, also found  on the more popular, exciting, cosmopolitan islands, Symi comes without the decadence of many of the other ports. Summer is very hot and humid and well-dressed Europeans and other fashion conscious guests temporarily occupy Symi, but there is no jet setting. Visitors are chic but friendly and respectful towards the local environment. Lisandro from Muses once told a journalist, “Princess Caroline of Monaco was here and people thought to themselves: You might be a princess, but you’re not from Symi.”

The harbour welcomes you like a mother welcomes her long lost children – whether you are famous or not. Many famous actors, politicians, ship owners and models have visited the island – Symi is chosen by all who do not want to attract the attention of others and prefer an authentic Greek holiday experience. This is evidenced in the summer by the numerous yachts docking at the port of Symi.

The island oozes Mediterranean charm, as if a stylist has designed it that way and the harbour extends towards crystal clear water where blue chairs and tables are covered with white linen.

It may not be Mykonos or Santorini but it has been a top island for some time – fortunately too small to be noticed by too many people.

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IN RHODES HARBOUR WAITING TO DEPART TO SYMI.

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SYMI, HERE WE COME!

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ARRIVING IN SYMI HARBOUR.

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ARE WE BEING OBSERVED?

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SHUCKS! GROCERY SHOPPING MUST BE A NIGHTMARE (IF YOU ARE NOT FIT)!

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OLIVES

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DATES AND PRICKLY PEARS

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TRYING THE LOCAL CUISINE – SYMI-SHRIMPS (EATEN WITH SHELL AND ALL)

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RHODES – A COLOSSAL EXPERIENCE

RHODES – A COLOSSAL EXPERIENCE

Did you know that there are more than 3000 islands in the Greek archipelago? Three thousand! (Some people say 6000.)

Rhodes Island – affectionately known as the Island of Endless Sunshine –  is one of the larger ones. Rhodes (town), the principle city of the island, is divided into the old town and new town.

Historically, Rhodes was famous worldwide for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Two statues of deer on top of two columns mark the supposed location of this gigantic statue at the entrance to the Mandraki harbour that is guarded by the charming fort of Saint Nicholas that doubled as a lighthouse.

I absolutely lost myself meandering with my camera through the medieval stone-paved alleyways of the old town. Today, Rhodes old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This time capsule exists within the imposing walls built in the 14th century by the Knights of St. John who used the island as their home.

The modern Rhodes, with stretches of white beaches, cobalt-blue sea and exquisite cuisine, was exactly how I had always imagined a Greek island to be.

Next year, if we still walk the earth, we will go back to Rhodes. This time for my daughter’s wedding!

Antio Rodos! Until next year …

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THE TWO COLUMNS MARK THE SPOT WHERE THE FEET OF THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES SUPPOSEDLY ONCE STOOD

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NEXT YEAR THIS TIME!

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WONDERFUL FRIENDS!

 

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I HAVE NEVER SEEN SO MANY CATS IN ONE PLACE!

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OUZO AND GREEK CUISINE

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THIS LITTLE GIRL JUST MADE MY DAY WITH HER HAPPY SALUTATION AND BRIGHT SMILE

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NOTE TO SELF: Never! NEVER! Never ever climb on top of a heap of building rubble, gravel and soil to take a picture of the magnificent view on the other side wearing FLIP-FLOPS! No scene is worth it, no matter how beautiful.

ACROPOLIS, THE PARTHENON … AND THE CINEMA

ACROPOLIS, THE PARTHENON … AND THE CINEMA

I remember how ready I was for an argument, all those years back, when a friend told us about his visit to to the Pantheon in Rome. I wanted to correct him – the Pantheon is in Athens, Greece.  Luckily I did not exhibit my ignorance then and kept quite. I’ve seen the Pantheon in Rome since, and now I have been to the Acropolis, the citadel in Athens where the majestic Parthenon stands proud (despite all but being demolished).

The Parthenon was completed in 432BC and, oh boy, what a sight it must have been – towering above everything else. Unfortunately, a series of hostile events led to the destruction of this magnificent showpiece of architecture and in 1687, the final blow came when a Venetian mortar round blew up the gunpowder magazine inside the Parthenon, and the building was partly destroyed. And then the looting started.

It felt almost sacred, walking where Plato, Hippocrates, Socrates, Archimedes and such people, who left an indelible mark on earth, may have walked.

And that night we ended a perfect day in an open-air cinema lower down the slopes of Acropolis, watching Woody Allen’s (not really my cup of tea) latest film with an illuminated Parthenon casting it’s presence over the area. With a mastika ice-cream, topped with a delicious sour cherry sauce, in hand, I was contented.

Magnificent!

(The majority of these pictures were shot at midday in the hottest and brightest of sun. Sorry for the poor quality.)

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SEWE DAE IN DIE WOESTYN

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Verlede maand val ‘n gelukkie my mos te beurt. Melissa is lugwaardin in Dubai en sy sê sy verlang na haar pa en ma. Ons moet kom kuier. Nou moet ek uit die staanspoor sê dat ek baie ander plekke op aarde eerder sou wou besoek as ‘n land in die Midde-Ooste. Pa-se-enigste-dogter is egter die groot trekpleister en dan wou ek nog altyd daai hoë gebou waarvan ek die naam nooit kon onthou nie, gesien het.

Met die daalslag sien ek net wit sand by die vliegtuig se klein venstertjie uit – so ver as wat die oog kan sien. Die lug is ‘n dynserige beige.

Vir so ‘n yslike vliegtuig land die grote Airbus nogal heel grasieus in Abu Dhabi. In die aankomsaal is ek effens ongemaklik, dalk gespanne, want ek het nou al baie dinge gehoor en gelees van goed wat jy in hiérdie lande moet of maar liewers nie moet doen nie. Ek kyk die manne met hulle lang wit rokke agterdogtig aan. Christine haak by my in, maar ek woel my vinnig los – nie seker of dit een van die goed is wat taboe is nie. By doeanebeheer vra die jong Arabier  sy vrae en sit sy tjap in ons paspoort.

Hoe dit werk, sal ek nooit weet nie, maar die bagasie wat éérste op die carroussel verbykom, se eienaars daag altyd laaste op. So ‘n rooi tas met ‘n blou strik is al heel  dronk gedraai toe óns  tasse verbykom.

Uiteindelik kry ek en vroulief ons sit tussen ‘n magdom nasionaliteite in ‘n lugversorgde bus na Dubai. Ons bagasie is vooruit in ‘n kleiner bus en met tipiese Suid-Afrikaanse bekommernis wonder ek of ons ooit weer ons bagasie gaan sien. Buite is dit 43 grade met geen boom in sig nie. Die bus beur tussen stofwolke voort en halfpad Dubai toe kry elke passasier ‘n bottel koue water. Ek sit aan die skadukant van die bus en waag dit om die gordyntjie oop te skuif. Die hittegolwe kom soos branders aangerol. Buite skuif platdakhuise in netjiese rye en imposante moskees verby ons.

Moskee op pad Dubai toe

Moskee op pad Dubai toe

Die pad is in ‘n uitstekende toestand.

‘n Uur of so later is ons in Dubai se buitewyke.

ONS RY DUBAI BINNE

ONS RY DUBAI BINNE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nou, om die een of ander rede het ek Dubai voorgestel as ‘n groterige oase, ‘n plek so groot soos, sê nou maar, Brandfort met so ‘n klompie hoë geboue en die mensgemaakte Palm-eilande waarop jy half versigtig ‘n ent die see in kan loop.

EN TOE WAS DAAR STOF...

EN TOE WAS DAAR STOF…

En dan dáárdie gebou wat soos ‘n kers op ‘n verjaarsdagkoek bo alles uittroon.

DAAI GEBOU!

DAAI GEBOU!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O ja, en ook daardie nou al ikoniese skipgebou waar Roger Federer en André Agassi meer as 200 meter hoog op die helipad ‘n potjie tennis gespeel het. Verder net woestyn.

Mense, was ek verkeerd!

JY IS MY HELE HART

Enkele jare gelede, vyftien om presies te wees, moes ons ‘n baie moeilike besluit neem. Christine het ‘n werksaanbod uit Duitsland van die Daimler-Benz Aerospace-maatskappy gekry. Ek was heel gelukkig in my werk ingegrawe en omdat die kontrak in Duitsland net vir ses maande was, was dit buite die kwessie dat ek my werk bedank en ons as gesin Duitsland toe gaan. Dit was egter so ‘n gulde geleentheid en finansieel gunstig, dat dit werklik dwaas sou wees om dit nie aan te gryp nie. Familie en vriende het grootoog gewaarsku teen die moontlike gevare wat dit vir ons huwelik en gesinslewe kon inhou, maar ons het biddend die besluit geneem dat sy moes gaan. Op ’n koelerige herfsaand is sy toe alleen Duitsland toe met drie jong kindertjies – die jongste twee jaar oud –  in hul pa se sorg.

Duitsland is ver van Pretoria af en ons sien mekaar net so een keer per maand. Ek kry, as bonus, egter ook die geleentheid om ‘n keer of wat in Duitsland te kom. Die kinders gaan met een kuier saam, maar bly by Oupa en Ouma tydens my ander besoeke.

Een heerlike soel somersaand drentel ons, ewige verliefdes, by mekaar ingehaak deur die steenstraatjies van ‘n eeue-oue dorpie, Lindau, toe Franz Lehár se musiek na ons toe aangesweef kom. Op een van die hotelle se groot buitelugstoepe is ‘n groep musikante en sangers besig om ‘n waarderende gehoor na Glimlagland weg te voer. Ons kry nogal sitplek en met haar sagtheid teen my aangenestel, is ons weer die wittebroodspaar van ouds, met geluk in die harte en sterre in die oë. Die groep sluit heel gepas af met een van my groot gunstelinge – Dein ist mein ganzes Hertz (Jy is my hele hart) uit Land des Lächelns.

Die laaste dag van my besoek breek aan en ek loop die plek plat agter ‘n kaartjie aan vir haar. Ek soek ‘n kaartjie met baie spesifieke woorde  –  woorde wat ek, so glo ek toe, net dáár sal kry. Uiteindelik kry ek dit. Met ‘n bos blomme. Ek steek dit weg in haar huis met die asemrowende uitsig oor die Bodensee en die Switserse Alpe in die verte.

Met haar linkerstuur-motor ry ons in stilte lughawe toe. Afskeid is nooit lekker nie.

Laataand, alleen terug in haar kamer, ontdek sy die blomme en kaartjie.

Christine, Dein ist mein ganzes Herz – für immer!

MADIBA

NELSON MANDELA EN BETSIE VERWOERD

NELSON MANDELA EN BETSIE VERWOERD

Die Breaking News op Sky het my aandag getrek toe ek in my Engelandse bed besig was met e-posse en ander wat-nog-allesse op die rekenaar: Nelson Mandela dies.

Ek is ‘n trotse Suid-Afrikaner, meer spesifiek Afrikaner  – daardie groep mense wat so deur die internasionale media verguis en in dieselfde asem as Hitler en Amin en ander verskrikkers genoem word. Uitvaagsels.

Soms, as ek kyk hoe mede-(Suid-)Afrikaners optree en ek sien videogrepe van ‘n vergange Suid-Afrika, dan krimp my hart ineen. Wanneer ek die taalgebruik sien as mede-Suid-Afrikaners mekaar uitskel en beledig, dan wil ek huil. En dan kan ek verstaan hoekom die media ons voorstel soos hulle doen.

Maar dis dan wanneer ek wil uitroep: Ons is en was nie almal so nie!

Soos die Duitsers letsels het van ‘n Nazi-verlede waaraan hulle nie herinner wil word nie, dra ons Afrikaners swaar aan bagasie uit ons Apartheidsverlede. Uit ‘n tyd toe waardige mense onwaardig by agterdeure van besighede moes ingaan (of gladnie kon ingaan nie) en pasboeke moes hê om soos indringers in hulle eie land te kon woon en leef en werk. ‘n Tyd toe hulle Afrikaner-kerke kon skoonmaak, maar nie daar kon aanbid nie. Bloot omdat hulle velkleur anders was.

Ek dink ek is skaamkwaad wanneer die internasionale media ons Afrikaners uitbeeld as skurke. ‘n Deel van my is skaam omdat dit ‘n waarheidsnaar tokkel. ‘n Ander deel van my is kwaad, want dis nie hoe alle Afrikaners is nie, hoe ek as Afrikaner in my hart voel nie.

Nelson Mandela het die volle impak van die Afrikaner-beheerde Nasionale Party se wette gevoel. Hy wou iets doen om daardie deel van die Suid-Afrikaanse bevolking, sý mense, wat nie kon deel in alles wat ons pragtige land bied nie, ten minste ‘n regverdige happie van die koek te gee. En hiervoor het hy ‘n dure prys betaal. Hy is gelukkig dat hy darem met ‘n gedeelte van sy lewe daarvan afgekom het toe ‘n derde daarvan  van hom weggeneem is. Sewe-en-twintig jaar!

Ná die aankondiging dat hy vrygelaat gaan word, het baie mense geskarrel om voorbereid te wees  op die hel wat gaan losbars wanneer ons die skerpkant van sy wraak en woede gaan voel. Ek glo baie van hierdie mense het geredeneer dat dít is hoe húlle sou optree as hulle in sy posisie was. En toe gebeur daar niks. Alles verloop vreedsaam, behalwe vir ‘n groep Regse Afrikaners wat hulle naam krater gemaak het toe hulle die KODESA-samesprekings wou ontspoor het.  Mandela stel ‘n Afrikaanse blanke vrou as sy persoonlike assistent aan en verskyn voor die hele wêreld in die Groen-en-Goud, die einste gesogte kleure wat vir so baie jare net vir blankes gereserveer  was. Kort hierna besoek hy Orania om ‘n hand van versoening aan Mev. Betsie Verwoerd te bied. Betsie Verwoerd! Die eggenote van die man wat aan bewind was toe sy beste jare van hom weggeneem is. En hy woon ‘n Sinode-sitting van die NG-kerk by – die einste kerk wat sy mense nie wou toelaat om saam met Afrikaners te aanbid nie.

Vandag wonder ek hoe Suid-Afrika sou gelyk as hy vroeër die leisels kon gevat het. Sê nou maar net voor die Soweto-onluste. Sou daar nou ‘n geslag gewees het wat minder  onverdraagsaam teenoor ander bevolkingsgroepe in ons wonderlike land is?

Ons sal nooit weet nie. Daardie kans het ons Afrikaners deur ons vingers laat glip. Madiba het probeer, maar sy tyd was te min. Sy beste jare lê tussen die fyngekapte kalkklippe op Robbeneiland.

Mag sy gees voortlewe en saad van versoening oor ons wonderlike land strooi.