EYAM’S SUFFERING AND SACRIFICE

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.

EYAM’S CHURCH

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.

GRAVES OF THE HANCOCK FAMILY

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.

GRAVE OF CATHERINE MOMPESSON, THE RECTOR’S WIFE

In November 1666, the plague claimed its last victim in Eyam without spreading to neighbouring communities. Eyam’s sacrifice saved countless lives.

THE BOUNDRY STONE

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,

A-tishoo! A-tishoo!

We all fall dead.

THE EMPEROR IS NAKED!

I want to say something and I am going to say something!
 
The last time I aired my opinion on this topic, people questioned my sanity. So, I kept quiet to see how things develop. I’ve realised, however, that more and more people are thinking along the same lines.
 
I have to emphasise, though, that, like any sane human being, I value life as much as the next person. And, with friends having had contracted the virus, I am also aware of the dangers this little blighter poses. I acknowledge all the benefits of the lockdown – minimization of the spreading of the virus, a time-out from the rat race, fresher air, a breather for Mother Earth and many more. I am not against the lockdown – let’s be clear about that. What I am questioning is the implementation and managing thereof. Because, if this lockdown is not managed in a responsible way and with the necessary forethought, the impact and knock-on effect of it will dwarf the havoc the coronavirus is wreaking on our health.
 
From day one I, like many other people, was suspicious of the origin of Covid-19 and it is not always easy to distinguish between fake and real news. More and more countries, like the USA and Australia want a proper investigation with China opposing this notion with all their might. Why?
 
The objective of the World Health Organisation is:
 
“To coordinate and oversee the procurement of health services. To immerse in disease inspection and analysis. To involve itself in promoting health and also to impart health education. endorse health promotional programs.”
 
Shouldn’t they’ve been prepared for an outbreak like this? I mean, this is not the first pandemic to hit the world and they must have studied and learned something from the previous ones. It is one of their main functions – the procurement of health services. It makes one wonder how effective all these different bodies are in capitalising on all the funds and expertise at their disposal. And then I’m not even talking about the Health Departments of respective governments.
 
In Britain, scores of health and care workers have to bravely continue their work without enough protective equipment. Many have lost their lives and many are still exposed to the dangers of this virus because of these shortages. I cannot face another politician trying to lull (fool!) us with empty promises and contradicting, mind-numbing rules. People in care homes are sitting ducks because care workers spread (and die themselves of!) the disease due failed government intervention. In South Africa, people are not allowed to buy alcohol and tobacco-products and there are even restrictions on purchase of what they deem to be ‘non-essential clothing’. In contrast, there are thousands of low income households that have been completely cut off from any source of food or income. One now requires to have a permit to be able to donate food and other essentials, in an effort to prevent contact and possible contamination. This would make sense if the government made such permits readily accessible, or provided an adequate aid to these vulnerable communities. But they have fallen short. It makes even the most upstanding law abiding citizen question the government’s priorities when they have failed to provide. Apparently the coronavirus takes a nap between 06:00 and 09:00, because that’s the only time people are allowed to step outside for recreational purposes. This is happening because we all are so full of fear the “emperor” had instilled in us, that no one would tell him (or demand) the truth. We need to stand up like that little boy and reveal that the emperor is naked. Or are we really willing to silently follow a “naked emperor” with daily statistics of doom and gloom and promises while everything around us is collapsing. No revelation of a plan to tackle the bigger issue.
 
In many countries, with the corona-scare looming over a fragile economy, scores of hungry, jobless, moneyless people are taking to the streets in an effort to find something to eat.
 
All over the world businesses are closing their doors permanently with enormous job losses. The economical, social and personal impact of this lockdown will be catastrophic, not only on business level, but on all levels. Shattered dreams, poverty, stress and many more consequences of this lockdown is a ticking time bomb and will inevitably lead to an increase in crime, depression, despair, suicides and family murders. Already we see an increase in reports of domestic abuse and pressure on food banks.
 
At the moment I, like so many people, feel like canon fodder while the powers that be keep us under lockdown – playing the fiddle while everything around us is burning. But hey, who cares? When we finally emerge from our shelters after the lockdown, we will count the costs, we will worry about what is left of the economy, heal the emotional and psychological scars, count how many families have survived the hunger and poverty, how many are still alive, how many will have the will and means to carry on.
 
Until then, wear your mask, stay safe… and healthy. And pray that you will not became a casualty of this crazy war. Collateral damage.
 
It’s off my chest now. You can send over the guys with the straitjacket. Just make sure they are wearing protective clothing – oh, I forgot, there isn’t enough protective equipment.

WISE WORDS

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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 …

Nice tits!”

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.kniel

CORONA MADNESS

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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?L200304ce-small-1100x721downloadCoronavirus-Panic-by-Bob-Englehart-PoliticalCartoons.com-88347040_10213561491906772_4107176203239030784_o5e3b3e78c9a17.image

IS THERE REALLY A BEGINNING AND AN END?

time portal

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.)PORTAL

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.ENERGIEBAL

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!

HIGH PEAK JUNCTION

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.

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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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