What is going on with the world while I’m gone?

I am looking at the BBC’s web page this morning. I am taking a few weeks sick leave and what happens?

  •  Russia goes ahead and break a nuclear treaty, testing a nuclear missile! Cold War II on the horizon…
  •  Bear Grylls survives in the evening in motels… I am shocked!
  • Isaac And Ishmael are still at it… 4000 years later! That is now quite enough boys…  For brothers you sure hate each other way too much!
  •  A vet gets struck off the role for molesting his patients sexually- a VET!!! Bad news for the Horse & Hound Magazine’s front page…
  •  Airplanes gets shot down and missing all over the place… what happened to flying is safer than driving?

Now look here, people of planet Earth, I will be back in action in two 1/2 weeks, and then we will sort it all out. So please behave… Isaac and Ishmael, share the room and put away your toys. Vladimir, stop it immediately! And book a room for the Vet with a wide awake African Lioness…  Bear, Bear, Bear… I really thought SAS men were tougher than that….

Now all of you get in your lanes, and behave! I’ll be back…




History Channel- WTFF!!!

I love history. So, I really was excited when History Channel was added to our satellite (Cable for you US folks) television.

But the last year History Channel has little actual history programs. I mean- how would Storage Wars really be history? Garbage Archaeology is interesting, but is it history?

There is a LOT of restoration programs as well. I love Restoration projects. but would usually expect to find it at  Discovery.

History Channel- I would love to see Spitfires versus Messerschmitts. Atilla the Hun. Stonehedge- how did they do it? Or the aliens that built the pyramids in Egypt and South America- how their space ships worked…

But I can live with Storage Wars and American Restoration.

What really, really is driving me over the edge: History Channel advertises itself over and over and over and over at every ad break in South Africa.

But the worse is: they use the same ad over and over and over and over again. This must be the stuff used by the CIA at Guantanamo Bay to torture people.  (oops- there I said it, now I will never get a visum to visit the USA, and I must look out for the silent black helicopters or drones firing Hellfire missiles up my *ss…)

I am not joking- they are using the Mutoscope episode of American Restoration since November last year. Or the year before that A thousand times a day. And it is cracking me up- which in South Africa do not mean making me laugh… It is driving me around the bend, taking me to cloud cuckooland. Making me mentally unfit to stand trail- oh no, that was the Oscar Pistorius trail… been watching too much telly when I should have been working on the Beetle…

This episode: Even WordPress will not show the link anymore: it is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeSdRgZak-k

My wife has to wipe the spittle of my mouth at night, when I start mumbling in a nasal twang: “Well, it looks just like new, Rick…”

The customer must be a very kind gentleman. It is not his fault. But really, really- to show him saying that sentence 1000 times a DAY is really getting me down.

If anybody at History Channel ever see this: PLEASE, PLEASE GET A NEW AD!!! You are being cruel!




Today- 20 Years Ago

Spoiler alert: CHURCH story- move along to another blog if you do not like church stories… 

Today 20 years ago was a very historic day in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was inaugurated on this day as the president of the new South Africa.

That would be what everybody was thinking about, reading the heading.

But: on the same day me, my wife and a 10 month old baby daughter moved to a town we had to locate on a map, to begin our fulltime ministry in the church.

This is the church that called me to their ministry:

NGK Waterberg

My photo of the Dutch Reformed Church of Waterberg in Nylstroom.

Our calling to this church was at a desperate time in our lives.  In our church, we have to do 6 years of university training, including ancient Hebrew and Greek. Six years at university is a long, long, long time… and very expensive. After I finished university, being a pale male, I had to do compulsory military service, in the second last group of men that had no choice (except 4 years jail and a criminal record). I was a chaplain in the South African Army, Engineering Corps. After I have finished the army, I was unemployed. It was bad. Nobody wanted to give me a job, because I am “overqualified…”

Our church had 200 too many pastors, ministry posts was very scarce. I had a part time pastors post with a very small salary after 3 months, a very temporary arrangement until I got a “Calling” to a church as full time pastor. In these times in 1993 the political situation in South Africa was really bad. The interest rates were sky high, and I had a huge student loan. The bank was really breathing down my neck, and I was sinking to nearly the point of no return debtwise…

During 1993 and 1994 I applied for 67 available posts in the church nationwide. I went to 7 interviews, on one occasion on the other side of the country, and that time they did not even give me a cent for travelling costs. We also had our first child in these desperate times. It was really, really bad. After 6 years at university I was only trained for 1 “company”.

Then, shortly after the first democratic elections on 27 April 1994, I sat on my bed one evening. My wife and I hit rock bottom. We were losing the temporary post at the church we were at. We had to move out of our dilapidated railway house we were staying in. We had a child to raise, a lot of debt, and it felt as if the church did not care…

That Sunday evening my phone rang, and the good people of Nylstroom were on the line. The voice on the other side asked if I knew who was talking, and I said I did not. He said he is my fellow- pastor (medeleraar in Afrikaans). I replied I do not have one. He then said that they had a meeting earlier that evening, and I came up as the next pastor in their church. I had to look Nylstroom up on a map, I did not even know where it was.

It was so good to become a full time pastor at last. I was 27 years old when I earned my first full salary check!

The sad was: I was only in this church for 11 months. In that year the good bigger church of the region decided that this congregation was too big, and the neighbouring congregation was too small. So, with a lot of church politics involved,  I with 1/3rd of the church was passed over to the neighbouring church in the same town.


And here I still am, 20 years later in the same town.

We came to town with the Beetle, some borrowed furniture, a very young pastor and his lovely wife and fiery redhead baby daughter.

20 Years later- in this 2o years we got 3 sons added to our family, and a lot of jokes of not knowing where babies come from. We had some extremely sad times, sometimes I even felt suicidal… But we also had amazing times, with great joy, great friendships. great experiences.

I have about 18 years left before I have to retire at age 65 from full time ministry. Looking back, I am really thankful. But I also would really want to know what difference, if any, I made in peoples lives in the past 20 years. I know I have helped many people over the years. But I also know I have not been able to help everybody. Like everybody else I have also made enemies along the way. There are people who will sing that song “What a friend we have in Jesus!” when I one day get called to another town.

Meanwhile- I am here to stay. I have nowhere else to go. I am happy most days (not every day…)  I really love this church, this town, this region of our country.  I am willing to go another 18 if that is the script for my life. But some evenings I lay awake and worry about the lots and lots of empty pews on a Sunday morning…

Today is a rather huge mile post in my journey of life. Thanks if you have longsufferingly read up till here… 🙂



VW Beetle rules!


My son took this photo while we were working on the Beetle yesterday. I played with it a little bit on my phone’s editor. I just love how this hubcap turned out!

This week will be another hard one full of appointments and tasks needing my attention. But every now and then I will try to grab a piece of sanding paper and head to the shed…  My son’s birthday is just over 3 weeks away…

Will post if something worthwhile happens to Jeremiah… (the Beetle- so called because it was Lamentations driving it long distance at university…)

The original photo my son took:


Day Lily- Flower Friday

Just before our Word Rider trip, I went with a friend to a wedding ceremony at the beautiful town of Riebeek Kasteel. While he was conducting the marriage of Miss Fitness SA of 2009 and 2010 inside, I walked around outside. So much beauty inside!

Like most old town churches there is a old cemetery on the church grounds.  Telling tales of old sorrow long time ago- like this father buried alongside two of his children between 1883-1886.  The father lived to the age of 38, his child alongside lived only 6 months. The child on the right has a different surname but is buried in the same family plot. Maybe the widow married again very soon, and this child died before reaching 3 months old… It must have been hard times for the Hugo and Malan families in the old Cape Colony…



But next to this old story of sadness and suffering there stands a row of Day Lilies, reminding us to live TODAY!

IMG_2110 IMG_2111So: Carpé Diem! Because one day the second date on your headstone will arrive…  Make the hyphen count!


Nelson Mandela…

The news came through during the night that Nelson Mandela has died.

I had a huge amount of respect for him. He came out of prison, and became our president. He pleaded for forgiveness and reconciliation in our divided country.  He really did a lot for nation building, served just one term as president and gave over the power without stealing the country empty.  he was truly an exceptional, world class leader. The last one in South Africa.

I still don’t get it how his shoes could be filled by our beloved President Jacob Zuma, who was broke when he became President, and now built a huge residential complex over R 200 million ($20 million) out of his own pocket. He also has the gift of healing. His friends get terminally ill in jail, gets a presidential pardon to die with dignity at home, and they all get miraculously healed within a week when at home…

Now in South Africa there is a long told urban legend, and tonight is the night to see if it is true. “The night of the long knives…” According to this legend the black people has been buying up machetes (called pangas in S.A) and the night Mandela dies, they are going to kill all the whiteys.

I do not believe this is true. I still have the belief that most South Africans (excluded politicians and thugs- mostly the same thing…) are good people.  Remember- in a long forgotten referendum in 1992  72% of the white population voted to end Apartheid.

Nelson Mandela’s legacy was a message of peace and reconciliation. He dreamed of a Rainbow Nation where all are equal and everybody matters.  That is a dream worth living for. It is so sad that he was the last ANC president who lived that dream.

I salute the passing of a great man! May his party soon follow…

Former president Nelson Mandela. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Photo: Sunday Times



Today, in 1918, the guns fell silent on the Western Front. We shall Remember them…

This morning I opened the blog entry of Ouch my back hurts– about his visit to the war cemetery at Delville Woods, where a lot of South African soldiers lies buried.  We also had the goosebumps on Saturday when a soldier played the Last Tattoo on the trumpet before the rugby game between South Africa and Wales… (damn, that Alain Rolland is an irritating referee!)

Since a very young age I have been interested in history, and war stories. It always sounded so glamorous. But then, our country’s young men also had to do compulsory military service. We were soldiers. And we also experienced the horror of basic training, of being shout at by a pimply two striper with an IQ barely above that of a pea plant.  There was the camaraderie of soldiers- people suffering through the same adversity.   But there was also the bad experiences of body bags, and military funerals.  As an Army Chaplain I had to take the messages of deaths to families and loved ones.

Military cemeteries and monuments are good things. They remind us of the senselessness of war. I love the point of view that Chris de Burgh sings about in Borderline- take the politicians, stick them in a room together, and make them fight it out…  Why should young men keep dying in old men’s wars?   Agreed, sometimes we have to fight injustice. Some dictators in history really needed a bullet in the head to improve their thinking.  But the price young men and these days also women pay, is horrific.

Our country fought as an Allied partner in both World Wars. Our Boer Commandos of the Anglo Boer War inspired the Special Forces- which is still referred to as Commando Forces in some countries.  Our General Jan Smuts was a founding member of the United Nations.  We can do war. But it is a bad idea! This is why:

IMG_0417 IMG_0418

My ancestors were responsible for these names on the memorial to the Black Watch regiment in Edinburgh. But they started it! Anyway, they are remembered as brave soldiers, who marched to the tune of the bagpipes into a killing field, and a lot of them died at Magersfontein near Kimberley.

Twelve years later the old enemies fought together as Allies in Europe. And died together on Flanders’ fields…


The names of the Allied MIA on the Menin Gate at Ieper, it seems like millions…

F1010013 - Copy

Just a small part of Tyne Cott cemetery near Passchendaele in Belgium, a very unhealthy place to be in the first World War- lead poisoning…


One of ours… Known unto God…

And Uncle Spike shared this monument on Saturday– the Special Forces (Commandos)  memorial in the shadow of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain in Scotland…  my photo of it:


Politicians- war is a BAD idea. Stop your nonsense…

In conclusion- one of the best songs of war- the end title song of the movie Passchendaele- Sarah Slean singing: After the War-

PS- Now I have to start preparing for a funeral of a young father who died by gunshot wound on Thursday… Tomorrow we must remember him too… when will it stop?

Airborne Bookworms…

Daily Prompt: Bookworms

by michelle w. on September 14, 2013

Grab the nearest book. Open it and go to the tenth word. Do a Google Image Search of the word. Write about what the image brings to mind.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us BOOKS.


The nearest book turned out to be Band of Brothers, by Stephen E. Ambrose. The 10th word is “Airborne” on page 15.  Google Image search: searching, searching…

First Image:

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/82nd_Airborne_Division

Well the book Band of Brothers is the story of Easy Company, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, US Army, during World War 2. The Book of Stephen Ambrose was made into a wonderful HBO series by Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielburg.  I believe the 82nd Airborne Division is also one of those units that you don’t want to meet in the dark…

Now the story…  Julius Malema in South Africa has it all wrong sometimes.  He says that all white people only had good times in the old South Africa.

Well, since before I got born, there was an “Armed Struggle” going on in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was already in jail when I was born. The ANC’s Umkhonto We Sizwe was blowing up civilian targets like Wimpy restaurants. And the sound of bombs in our ears made that we could not hear the hurt of other people.  For which I am very sorry indeed.  But you know, when you are a schoolboy, and a car bomb explodes in the shopping mall’s parking lot where you just walked past- you tend to think someone is out to kill you…

All white males had to go to the South African Defense Force, for compulsory military service, some got 2 years. others 1 year. You had no choice- it was 2 years army, 4 years police or prison service, or jail time with a criminal record… that was our choices.

I went to university first. I studied in the city of Bloemfontein, in the centre of our country. When I was finishing my university studies, I was already married- we study 6 long years to be ministers in our church. Then I had to go to the Defense Force. My wife had a good job in Bloemfontein, so I tried to get into one of the military units there, when we had to fill in the Army recruitment forms. In Bloemfontein there was an Infantry unit, but who likes to walk to any battle? There was an Armored Division- I tried for that as my 1st choice. And then: the elite unit- the Parabats… 1 Parachute Battalion.  One of the best military units in the world at the time…  I put that on for my second choice. But: it was a matter of pride that a National Service Chaplain also earns his wings- by doing the full course, from selection, through the hell and back, up to Jump Training.  And I was not very fit then…

So, maybe I was protected by heavenly design… I got the draw to go to the Engineering Corps in Kroonstad.  We did have to go to Heidelberg first, where all the Army Chaplains were going through basic training, and then an Officer’s Course.  I had a good time with the Engineers- seeing how rivers get spanned by military bridges, how landmines are removed, how clean water is supplied to the army, and demolition work… explosives was such fun.  Diffusing IEDs– now that is scary stuff!

And no- I never shot at nobody.. I was in one of the last groups of men that were forced to do Military Service in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was already freed, the negotiations for the first democratic elections was underway, the fighting was finished, it was already time to start building a new South Africa where everybody would have equal rights.

I am not sorry for doing my time in the army.  I learned a lot of valuable lessons in life.

I am sorry for the hurt of our country’s past.  It was only during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the 1994 elections that it came to light what dark things happened in some military and police circles. For that I am ashamed.

But since very small, I grew up in a country where mothers cried… Hector Peterson‘s mother. And the mothers of so many white young men who came home from the Border in body bags, dying for the old men’s dreams in a war that makes no sense now.

As I grew older, I think I gained a lot more wisdom.  We were young once… and we were soldiers. Damn good ones….  against an enemy armed with AK 47’s, and RPG 7’s, laying landmines on farm roads, bombs in public places- it was a war.  We thought it a just war against terrorism and communism… and now we feel even more shunned and ashamed than the Vietnam War vets.

I am so glad the war is past, even if Julius Malema wants another one. It is a time for peace, a time for building, a time for growing and sowing, all the positive things that there might be a time for according to Ecclesiastes 3.

But deep down… I always wondered if I ever would have been able to earn those Parabat wings… if I would be good enough…


In 2006 my wife and I went over to the UK to visit our sisters, mine is now an English citizen, my sister in law is now Irish… We started with a car at Heathrow, and immediatly turned away from London to see the English countryside. Then we went up, through the Lake District, up into Scotland. After our stay in Scotland, we flew over from Edinburgh to Dublin…

Outside the Airport building in Edinburgh there was this Spitfire. I always admired Spitfires, not just for their role in WW 2, but also because it is one of the most beautiful things that man has ever made (in my eyes anyway). I have one of Barrie A.F. Clark ‘s Spitfire breaking through the clouds prints framed in my study, so much do I love these aircraft.

So I was thrilled to be so close to one. I took a lot of pictures right around it. I was too inexperienced to play with Depth of Field, otherwise it would be much better photos without all the background detail.

It was just so nice to stumble across these photos on an old CD laying around in my study…



ImageThought I would post this, as I am waiting for a call from my dentist, to say when she can help me with this broken tooth…  It is much nicer thinking of Spitfires than broken teeth…

I wonder if the aircraft is still there? On it’s pole in front of the Airport…

PS.- Yes, this might be the replica, and I am glad,  for it would be so sad to leave the real thing in the extreme weather that Scots must endure…

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And for a beautiful Spitfire story, read this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2270031/Businessman-spent-1m-restoring-Spitfire-scrapyard-10-years-ago-sees-fly-again.html