start anew

The Cancer was really all consuming.  It took over everything in our lives.  There was almost no space left for anything else. It sometimes really felt if it was suffocating me, us.

And now with our daughter being given the all clear it is as if more space arrives.  Suddenly I can think beyond hospitals, beyond tests, scans, waiting.  Check-ups are the only reminder.

Also she has just finished her final school exams and will soon head out into the world beyond schools, beyond relative safety. Being extremely thankful is a very mild way of putting how I felt when we heard that the cancer was gone.   I know that God is still and ultimately in control.  I hold on to that.

Sometimes it actually feels weird doing ‘normal’ stuff again.  Things I did more than a year ago.  It feels if I haven’t done certain things for a very very long time.  Not only a year ago.  I need to gather new confidence to start anew, to believe in myself again.  And that is where I am at.

New beginnings.


the Beautiful city of Derry

The problem with blogging is that as soon as you haven’t touched it for weeks, everyone thinks you’ve done a runner.

Also when I haven’t done some serious writing for a few weeks I struggle to string a few words together to form a sentence…..


let’s try…

End of 2004 we went for a holiday to the north of Ireland.  Amongst other interesting places we also visited Londonderry or Derry where we walked the old city walls (built between 1613 and 1618).  Derry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and the fourth largest in the whole of Ireland.

End of 2012 we took another trip to Derry.  And again, we went for a walk on the old city walls – a fabulous way to see many sights including some of the beautiful churches, the four original gates and also some of the murals.

Back then (in 2004) there was still a British Army presence on the walls, it was tense although the peace process had by then be signed and everyone promised to be good….  Still there were some stations on the walls cordoned off by high wire gates and all sort of ugly looking contraptions.  This time around there were no soldiers, no army presence.  Here and there still left-over splodges of paint that couldn’t be washed off anymore.  But otherwise only a beautiful city relaxing in its knowledge that the old city walls will tell its tale and spin its magic on people.

There are a few places on the walls telling the history of the City of Derry including some memories about the Siege of Derry and the recent Troubles.

Reading these lyrics by Phil Coulter, written when he grew up in the town, really struck me:

The town I loved so well 

But when I returned, how my eyes have burned

To see how a town could be brought to it’s knees

By the armoured cars and the bombed-out bars

And the gas that hangs on to every breeze

Now the army’s installed by that old gas yard wall

And the damned barbed wire gets higher and higher

With the tanks and their guns,

Oh my God, what have they done

To the town I loved so well

It breaks your heart to read this and although this is hopefully something of the past, it is good to remember the hardships.  The murals also tells the story.

These murals – almost 2000 have been documented in Northern Ireland since the 1970’s – have become symbols of Northern Ireland depicting the region’s past and present political and religious divisions.

From the walls you can actually see some of the murals. One famous mural called ‘Bernadette – Battle of the Bogside’ depicts some scenes from this named battle that took place in August 1969.  This riot which sparked widespread violence elsewhere in Northern Ireland, is commonly seen as one of the first major confrontations in the conflict – the Troubles.  Bernadette is addressing the crowds on the streets of the Bogside.  She later received a prison sentence for taking part in, and inciting, a riot.


The painting uses a number of triangular themes echoing the ‘Free Derry Corner’ gable wall which is a focal point of the painting. The bin lid in the foreground was used by women and children in Catholic areas throughout Northern Ireland to alert people of an impending raid by the British Army. The mural was painted in 1996.

Although most of the murals reflect events of the past, one mural looks to the future with the idealist image of a Dove.

A year or so ago the Peace Bridge was also built across the river Foyle and just in that action people can now easily reach both parts of Derry where in the past the river acted as a dividing line. Now both Catholics and Protestants live on both sides of the river.  This according to one of the locals also had to do with house prices, it being more affordable on the one side was a good enough reason for people to go and live on the other side, despite differences.

Maybe it is also time that heals and people have moved on.

The recent clashes between loyalists and police in the capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast, is definitely not a good beginning for 2013, but lets hope Northern Ireland can hang on to the peace it has enjoyed over the past 15 years.


Down memory lane…..Madiba rally

I was a journalist in South Africa during the time when Nelson Mandela was freed.   As can be expected it was a very exciting time in the country.  After he was freed there were rallies held around the country where he addressed the crowds, imploring everyone to work together peacefully to build a better South Africa.  There was a lot going on at that time, apartheid had just been abolished, on the one hand there was a feeling of optimism, of new beginnings, but on the other hand a feeling of uncertainness, people were  scared and thought the end was in sight.

I think at that time the world was definitely holding its breath to see if violence would erupt and the country would just be washed down the drain…

And in many ways South Africa  surprised the world.  By peacefully becoming a democracy.

So I was looking through my press cuttings and writings I did for SAPA (South African Press Association) and came across one of the rallies I covered.  It was held in Durban, KwaZulu Natal  – then the boiling pot of violence  between members of the Inkatha Freedom Party (Zulu clan) and the UDF (United Democratic Front)/Cosatu members who were both aligned to the ANC (Xhosa clan).  The big fear at that time was that violence would break out during this rally because of this existing rivalry between the Zulu’s and Xhosa’s.   Mandela, himself from the Xhosa clan, was also expected to make a call for peace in this province.

I remember it was an extremely hot day and according to my report about      150 000 people were gathered.  It was tense and  a few times the crowd had to be addressed to remain calm and settle down.  The eyes of the world were on us!

We at SAPA didn’t have mobile phones yet, which made our situation more stressful, because we had to get the story out first being with SAPA – the country’s own press association!  So after the rally we had to run to the office to file the story  and really struggled to get out amongst the masses, we were pushed from all sides!! Our colleagues from Reuters (UK) did have mobile phones so their story was out before the official SAPA one  – the editor was not happy, but what could we do!!!?

During that rally Nelson Mandela also called on the women of KwaZulu Natal to work towards peace in the province and I quote from my report:

“’You in your wisdom must begin the work of bringing peace to Natal.  Tell your sons, brothers and husbands you want peace and prosperity.’ 

He said that the women had shown in the past during crucial moments greater wisdom than their men folk.

‘Open the cooking pots and ask them why there is so little food inside.  When the rains come into your homes, place the hands of your men in the pools on the floor and ask them, why?

‘When your child ails, and you have no money to take it to a doctor, ask them, why?

‘There is only one answer, and that answer is our common deprivation.  Go out and meet the women of the other side.  The answer is the same.  Then take your men with you.”

Now, how much the women were involved in trying to bring peace in the communities I don’t think anyone will really know, although I can imagine that many took his words to heart.  I remember being really touched by his focus on the women to keep the peace.  I know that the violence between Inkatha and ANC supporters kept going during the nineties and maybe more sporadic during the 2000’s.  And the picture is far more complex than just fighting between these two groups, it involved other issues like social and economic as well as faction fighting, school unrest and loads more.  So is this beautiful province in South Africa finally at peace?


Morally right?

So the world is jubilant because Osama Bin Lada, the number one terrorist responsible for the deaths of thousands, is dead.  And I suppose he had it coming.  He asked for it.  You cannot do things like that and get away with it forever……But.

Yes I have a ‘But’.   Is it morally right to rejoice about somebody’s death?    I mean with his death I also hope that it will end war, conflict, unrest and the deaths of innocent people in Iran/Pakistan/Iraq.  Indeed in the Arab world.  And that it will help  to establish peace in the region.

But can you return violence for violence, or death for death?  Doesn’t this actually make it worse.  Don’t the people who hate, hate more by now?

Well I am only asking?