A glimpse into the old South Africa

During my recent visit to South Africa I had supper with an old school friend, Hugh Lewin. He was the son of an Anglican priest and, although he was in my brother’s class two years ahead of me, I knew him fairly well as he was in my house, we sang in the choir together and he holidayed in my home town, Amanzimtoti, which is just south of Durban on the KwaZulu/Natal coast. Hugh became a much respected prefect in our boarding house and was universally popular. Our Johannesburg school was founded and heavily influenced by the Community of the Resurrection and, as Hugh wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an Anglican priest, he was invited by Father Trevor Huddleston to be a frequent visitor to the Community’s base in Sophiatown which, in 1956, was still an African “township”. Soon afterwards the government designated Sophiatown a white area and the black Africans were forcibly moved further from central Johannesburg to places like Alexandria and Soweto which were black areas. While visiting Sophiatown, Hugh confronted the poverty, suffering and frustration of the black people who had to live and stagnate under apartheid.

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Greenfingers - April 2016

There are two flower beds in the garden that I’d like to improve this year, in particular for their planting structure, flowering continuity, and growing for cutting. The beds are arranged in an informal, cottage style, planted mainly with perennials and bulbs, which look fine from March onwards. But from November to March, they lack form and texture. There are a few spring bulbs, (snowdrops, narcissi and iris), Hellebore and Pulmonaria, to brighten it during February and March, and provide pollen for early insects. But it’s interesting to look at other gardens during the winter months to see how they manage. And it’s often down to a low hedge and a few neatly clipped conifers, grasses, dogwood (cornus alba) and willow (salix) for colourful stems, wintergreen (Gaultheria mucronata 'Crimsonia') for the superb berries, daphne, witch hazel (Hamamelis) and viburnum tinus that hold the bed together when the perennials are reduced to dried stems and seed heads.

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South Africa Re-Visited

I was brought up in South Africa, went to school there and read a 4 year History Honours degree at Natal University. I also did military service after I was conscripted to the army and so my foundation knowledge of the country runs deep. I left South Africa in 1964, at the height of apartheid, but apart from regular visits to see family, friends and cricket, have never been tempted by a permanent move back. There have been various reasons for this: I married an English girl, I did not want my children to be brought up under the shadow of apartheid and by 1994, when South Africa became a true democracy, my career in the UK was well established. I suppose that I could have retired back there but by then I felt well and truly British. But my affection for South Africa remains unbounded and so it was with excitement and anticipation that we planned to spend January there. The fact that it was high summer, it is a comparatively easy flight, the England cricket team were touring and the South African currency, the Rand, had nosedived to 24 to the pound were all added bonuses. Our itinerary took us to the major cities of Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Durban. In addition we visited the remoter high veld (so called because it is over 5000 feet above sea level) drove through part of the Eastern Cape and up through KwaZulu/Natal and the eastern Orange Free State from Durban to Johannesburg. All that, plus 2 Test Matches, gave us quite an insight into the country - we talked and stayed with many South Africans although they were predominantly family and friends.

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Greenfingers - March 2016

I have not often ventured outside the kitchen door recently, but on the odd occasion when I have, the scent from the Sarcococca confusa, also known as Sweet Box, has been a delight, if not a little overpowering. This is an easy evergreen plant, growing to 1.5 -2m tall with a 1m spread after 5-10years, and is happy in the shade, producing small creamy flowers in early spring which turn into black berries later in the year. It can be pruned after flowering to limit the size or shape, allowing the new growth to cover the cut stems.

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Greenfingers - February 2016

On 1st February, we shall have 9hr 11min of sunshine, clouds permitting, and by the 29th, we’ll be able to enjoy 10hr 54min as the sun climbs in the sky and draws the greenery into springtime.

It’s been a very mild winter so far, though the forecast is for lower temperatures as I write this. It’s also been wet, and these conditions combined to make it necessary to trim the grass. And during a 2hr dry window on the morning of 20th December, I succeeded, even cleaning the mower of damp and sticky grass cuttings on completion, just before another downpour. So when asked ‘when was the last time I did something for the first time’, cutting the grass in mid-December was novel, (but not quite skydiving). 

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Women’s World Day of Prayer – Friday 4th March 2016
“Receive Children. Receive me”

The service is always held every year on the first Friday in March and this year it is the 4th March and is to be held n St. Mary’s Church at Woodchester at 10.30 a.m. Women of all ages, and men, of course, are invited to come to the Service and indeed support the “Women’s World day of Prayer” which is hosted by a different country around the world every year.

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Fate Steps In - A Love Story

Lily Wesley was a bright and beautiful young woman, petite and slim, with long curly black hair and vivid green eyes. Her passion was singing – she sang every Sunday in the Chapel Choir and dominated all the female solos. Her father, Pape Wesley, owned the family bakery in Wolverhampton. Lily was his eldest daughter and helped with deliveries.

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A Global Perspective from Minchinhampton

Internationally, 2015 was effectively dominated by the terrible events in Syria and the resultant refugee crisis with political leaders in Europe wholly unable to formulate any coherent policy to address the problem. The refugee statistics have been added to by events in Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Libya and further afield in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

This depressing scenario entailing misery for so many people has meant that the media have had neither time nor space to cover any good news, particularly when the good news is simply statistics. Yet 15 years ago the UN assembly agreed 8 Millennium goals designed to bring to an end “the abject and dehumanising conditions of extreme poverty”. These 8 goals are being updated and partially replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals. In the circumstances it is relevant to look at what progress has been made on achieving these original goals.

Extreme poverty in the developing world has been reduced from some 50% of the population to 14%, the number of children of primary school age not attending school has declined from 100 million to 57 million, gender equality in education has basically been achieved, the global under-five mortality rate has declined by half as has the maternal mortality rate, and deaths from diseases such as malaria have been drastically reduced. Obviously we cannot be complacent but for a great many people the world has become a better place to live and we should take satisfaction from this.

One of the organisations which contributed to the debate on setting these goals was Rotary International, which has just been categorised by Charity Navigation as one of the top 10 charities changing the world in 2015. Internationally, Rotary is best known for its tremendous efforts to rid the world of polio (50 years ago polio was endemic in 125 countries whereas now it is only in Afghanistan and Pakistan) but it also has a great many projects focussed on the Un goals; virtually all these projects involve a hands-on approach working directly with communities.

For Nailsworth Rotary Club, as for the majority of Rotary Clubs, whilst the charitable aspect of the Club’s activities will focus primarily on support for local charities, there will always be an international dimension. For example, there is recognition of the humanitarian importance of ShelterBox when natural disasters occur and which is facilitated by having a Club member as a ShelterBox volunteer, working on site in many countries. This year the Club, with the support of Rotary International, will be helping with the provision of some items of equipment for a newly built maternity unit for a clinic in a remote rural area in Kenya. Last year the Club supported a week’s camp in Slovenia, run by a local Rotary Club for disabled and special needs young people.

Does an article of this sort have a place in the Parish magazine? Well, the Editor thought so. I hope you, the reader, will as well.

Gerry Robbins (Nailsworth Rotary Club)

Greenfingers - January 2016

Saturday 5th December was dry, mostly, offering the chance to trim the blackened dahlia stems, raise the tubers and store them for the winter. I use the spent, dried and sieved compost from the tomato pots to bury and cover the tubers, and store the containers in the garage. The tubers can be started off in the compost next Spring, and when they are transferred to the garden, the compost is used as a mulch.

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Greenfingers - December 2015

Over the last month or so, we’ve enjoyed some superb autumn colour, though as I write this, the wind and rain are bringing this year’s spectacle to an end. It is interesting to note that some leaves have remained fairly green whilst others have turned and fallen, and I wonder whether some plants are more sensitive to day length rather than temperature, since the temperature has been very mild recently. The displays of cyclamen in the churchyard were also special.

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