For the first time ever a month has passed without my posting anything. Is my blog dying? I fear it might be. As more and more my mind moves into the ‘life after Sequoia Gardens’ mode, the daily developments here seem less important, the big picture of the past 30 years, and the next 30, stand out clearer.

THtJB reflected s

Nearly four years ago I moved out of The House that Jack Built. In the first month of my blog I wrote about it here and little over a year later I wrote about moving into the big house here. I now know that moving out of my cottage was the start of where I am now; had I not left that inner sanctuary, I don’t think I would have managed to be on the brink of departure today, actually longing to put this time of limbo behind me.


I searched Google images before choosing this picture. In the early days of teaching on the mountain I remember saying to a class: “When Mandela dies the world will weep together like it has never wept for one man.” And it did, but not quite as I had imagined.  For too long all had known that death would be a blessed relief for him. The grief was tinged with relief, for this man deserved the right to die peacefully like few ever before him. In July my cousins gathered as usual on the farm on the Limpopo I have often written about, and where I took this photo.


City Press carried this headline this last week:

Africa mourns its towering baobab.

The eldest of the grandsons is the political editor of an important Johannesburg daily paper. The last thing he did from Polokwane before leaving ‘civilization’ in early July was to contact his team of people standing ready to cover Mandela’s death at the hospital in Pretoria where he lay critically ill, at his homes in Johannesburg and Qunu, at parliament and in various other places. Then he dropped down into the Limpopo valley where reception is at best erratic; twice a day he made a trip to higher ground to check on developments. Had Mandela died, he would have left within the hour. By the nature of things Mandela was central to our July discussions; it became clear to me that this young man was not just a great intellect and a people-person, but also a formidable manager. I mention this to illustrate the logistics underlying the death of a man of Mandela’s stature. But he didn’t die in July, and gradually the international press went home, and the time of waiting started.

Mateczka 9_taubie_at_the_new_stairs__yew_behind_her_650

There were other losses, and near losses, during this past month, less important perhaps, but more personal and thus more poignant. For some weeks I had had an ampoule of a calming fluid to give to my dear old dog, Taubie, when the time came to take her sore old body 35km down a twisting mountain pass to be put down. But I gave it instead to my youngest dog, Mateczka, my ridgeback, 4 years and 4 days old. She had developed over several weeks a progressive neurological degeneration which affected her movement and spacial perception and was constantly anxious, not understanding what on earth was happening to her. When she took a tumble whilst trying to squat, I knew that her life was no longer a joy to her. And so it happened that I came back up the mountain with a second ampoule, and took Taubie down 10 days later. Mateczka Mothertjie Muddypaws aged 3 months left, and Taubie in her prime seven years ago. And then there was Louis, who was it not for the miracle of modern sonar scans and medication would certainly have died during this past month.


I have been meaning for weeks to share my roses. Here is my favourite, The Hybrid Musk rose Penelope. And below is another favourite, known only as Aunty Corrie, from whom I got her. She blooms only once a year, but is magnificent. With a bit of luck I will have roses to pick next week – the first have bloomed after the destruction of October’s hail. And thus life continues. Even if I have yet to write a proper post on roses. Winking smile 

Aunty Corrie Rose s


5 thoughts on “A MONTH FOR MORTALITY

  1. Like you Jack, I have been deeply moved by Nelson Mandela’s passing, but to have to say goodbye to two of your own close (furry) friends in the last month as well must be very hard to bear, especially when one was so unexpected. I can understand why you used the title above. I do hope events take an upturn for you in the near future and that you continue your blog, although I realise you are now keen to leave your beautiful garden. Best wishes from a wet & windy south coast of England. Hopefully, at least the sun is shining for you? Cheers for now, Clive Parker.

  2. It’s been a year when a few bloggers have moved. Red House. Alistair no longer in Aberdeen. Perhaps you, and I.

    You’ve had a rough year. Some things are easier to write about to share to deal with. Your mother, then your father, my mother. Others need time and space.
    May next year become a better happier one for you Jack.

  3. Jack. I am so, so very sorry. Taubie would be bad enough, but the shock of losing dear, young Mateczka . . . . She was so bright and vital, how can this be? A progressive neurological disorder, was it inherited or had she been hit somehow? And then Louis to suddenly be so ill! Ye Gods!! Thank heaven he was saved.

    The roses are exquisite, I hope they can be something of a solace.


  4. Jack, I am sorry to hear about all your losses. Mandela was, as you say, a loss to all of us; but I kept thinking about my blogging friends in South Africa for whom I knew this would be an exponentially greater loss. To lose the dogs at the same time must have been especially hard. I am so thankful that Louis was not counted among your losses.
    I, too, have been struggling with the blog in recent months. In part, it has been a lack of time — but also, I think, a reflection of the sense of being unsettled that comes with even welcome change. I hope you will continue to write; i don’t want to lose touch.

  5. I do want to hasten to say that the loss of Mandela is cataclysmic. His achievements are monumental and he will continue to make this world of man attempt to be a better place through his leadership. Indeed a man beyond measure.

    Thank God for Louis being better!

    The roses are exquisite, and I hope for you they bring the solace and comfort your Mother would want you to have.


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