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Cape Town Diary. Part 3

Once a teacher, always a teacher
– you can’t compartmentalise it!
It’s a sunny morning and before I know it, a dollop of sun-cream splats over my head and a hand smears it left and right in two rapid motions like a windscreen wiper. As I struggle to comprehend what has happened, a squawk erupts from the next room and a dozy teenager violently complains; “What you doing? Gerroff! You got it in my hair!” A brief silence follows until yet another cry of brutal anger erupts from a small boy and then finally the teacher is satisfied.

Heather has taught in primary school for many, many years and as I try to avoid tasting the sun lotion carelessly slapped on my lips, the realisation hits me that we have suffered a relentless attack similar to what her many classes of startled midgets have endured over the years. Like a mini-tornado she blitzed the family with what needed to be done. Our opinions, our emotions were of no consequence.

I imagine her whipping round the class with a pencil and some tissue, ticking papers as she goes, wiping runny noses. Tick, tick, wipe, wipe, tick, tick, wipe, wipe! Perhaps an offensive odour reaches her nose and some poor kid is yanked out and ordered off to the toilet. Oh how the adrenalin must rush around her body as she manages the flock.
So with sun cream splattered over our heads, we drive for today’s extravaganza; a casual saunter to the top Table Mountain in the heat of the mid-day sun. Parking the car is quite unnerving, involving a precise manoeuvre on the edge of a cliff face. Observing my progress is a smiling black man in a fluorescent yellow bib.
Almost everywhere we’ve parked, a ‘yellow bib’ has appeared to guide us in. For Cape Town, this is a normal occupation. For a voluntary donation they look after ‘security’, thus guaranteeing a worry-free absence from the car.

This particular man is called Simba and I take a liking to him, especially when he points out a 50 RAND note is about to slip out of my pocket. I marvel at this gesture and realise that Simba is a man of dignity who takes pride in what he does. When we get back I resolve to give him much more than normal and thank God for the privilege of being able to give. Already Africa is humbling me.
Away from the car we go and further up, passing a horde of fellow tourists on the way. They’re queuing for the soft option of the cable car to take them to the summit. As for us we find a trail and a sign that essentially says, “Carry plenty of water and don’t do this on your own”. Tom has been King Whiner so far about the climb, but now we’re doing it, he’s like a lamb on heat.
I’m finding it pretty easy as well but Heather is struggling. This does irritate me somewhat, as Stods are quite seasoned walkers. I suppose the twin evils of the sleepless flight and a hard term at school are taking their toll.

The climb is completed within an acceptable time. We beat a young couple and younger family but not a group of lads and some women who I felt we should have beat. As I get older, I must confess to being irritated at being surpassed by those who would normally trail behind me. Age is annoying. All I ask for is the ability to compete on a level playing field, but age will not let me anymore. Boohoo to my shiny head and rising belly. Boohoo to bushy eyebrows and wrinkled foreheads. Boohoo to backs of hands that resemble chicken legs and also to grey hairy chests that sag into valleys of despair. Blechh to bellies that shiver like a shimmering jelly and cast shadows over the body parts below.

What is there to see on Table Mountain?
On one side the city stretches out below like a giant bowl. The scenery is essentially divided into three semi circular curves. The first is the mountain range, the second the city and the third is the bay. The Cape is surrounded by two mighty seas; the Indian and Atlantic oceans and the locals tell us the Indian is the warmest to swim in. The sharks have no preference.

From the view of the city we move round to view the granite ridges and other mountain peaks that rise out of the deep blue water. The scenery is truly stunning and no clouds interrupt the endless flow of the sky or the heat of the sun.
Fortunately a cool breeze lingers sufficiently to allow for a pleasing overall temperature. I can see Robben Island, where the prison of Nelson Mandela kept him for many years. I can see the scorch marks of last week’s fires that spread across the mountain sides and burnt so much of the shrubbery away.

Little towns are dotted across the grand view, yet so much land is uninhabited. The salt air, the panorama and the clarity all combine to give a sense of euphoria. In the space of a year we have been washed in the spray of Niagara Falls and we have climbed Table Mountain. None of this could have been done if Claire and Jenny were still with us. The compensation we received for the manner of their deaths has funded both these amazing trips. In their humanity they would have been most indignant at such outcomes but now they are filled with the knowledge of Christ. I know that if they are aware of our blessings then they are most happy for us. My mind ever seeks them out but I will not allow the loss of them to run rampant within me. Unchecked this can cause too much grief and the mental turmoil becomes physical nausea in an instant.

Only Jesus can save me from torment. The answer to temporary loss is permanent gain. All that is good is found in Jesus. There are times when just the contemplation of him is enough to make my emotions swell beyond their capacity. There is a verse in the Bible that says a woman touched him and power went out from him. It seems that focussed contemplation does the same thing. This is why he is also called the ‘Bread of Heaven’, he is a meal for my spirit and enough provision to live to fight another day.

Posted on 3rd May 2009

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