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?
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!
EARLY MONDAY MORNING AFTER A DRENCHED WEEKEND.DAY MONDAY MORNING AFTER A DRENCHED WEEKEND
HIGH PEAK JUNCTION
The early bird catches … a stunning sunrise on a crisp early-autumn morning.
“The High Peak Junction, near Cromford, Derbyshire, England, is the name now used to describe the site where the former Cromford and High Peak Railway (C&HPR), whose workshops were located here, meets the Cromford Canal. It lies within Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.” (Wikipedia).
The sunset is not too shabby too.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
(The majority of these pictures were shot at midday in the hottest and brightest of sun. Sorry for the poor quality.)