It must be the spirit of Christmas that drives me to write this last blog for the year.

I have just read the December 2019 report produced by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace entitled: Nuclear Enrichment: Russia’s Ill-fated Influence Campaign in South Africa. It is the story of the association that nearly cost our country its autonomy. Totalling R1,088,320,000,000, it would have bankrupted us, leaving us on an economic rubbish heap from which we could only have ceded the assets of the nation to repay our debt to Russia. But then, there is the orchid leaf….

I was asked this morning to wipe the leaves of our orchids. They have become dusty from strong winds with little rain blowing over the construction of a new gym in a nearby sports complex. The leaf is strong, almost like an aloe in surface texture but, of course, much thinner. It is easily broken; I accidentally cracked one vein and will wait to see if it repairs itself. It is deep green and obviously soaks up the sun. The plants stand in a breeze and even in the flimsiest of soil, they gather whatever moisture they can from the atmosphere. For those of you interested, they are fed a diet of two ice blocks a week with the odd pouring of water in and from an emptied milk carton [like their owner, they like long life full cream milk [because it tastes like Ideal Milk ☺]].

A colourful picture is at the top of this blog fyi.

That leaf spoke lessons to me. 2019, not perhaps the brightest of years for many and again one loaded with all the bathos and paradox of our tortured, beautiful country. For some, it has delivered unexpected records whilst for others, it has delivered sorrow and hardship. Remember, Life is a railway track: Blessing is one of those tracks and the other, Opposition. They operate together and co-exist, only joining at the distant horizon. There are many lessons from the metaphor and I briefly summarise some for your consideration.

Humour in Adversity:

We manage to laugh at ourselves. Last night our complex had a party in the park to celebrate the arrival of our swallows [people from overseas who come for their summer holidays] and just wish each other well for the Season. At one point my neighbour laughed at the fact that we start off well and then start talking about South African woes. We paused to reflect on our troubles, stared at our chilled wine, and then remembered that as a civil engineer, his job included building sewerage works. A number of the best sewerage works in the country, nogal!

Needless to say, the shitty jokes started and the back-slapping ended the woe-is-me and ushered in the more intellectual and sensitive conversation that wine in the great outdoors produces. You see adversity, even the worst of it, is offset by humour. When last did you laugh from your belly? For that moment, like hitting a little white ball on a golf course, your troubles leave and your joy abounds. Try laughter and fun. Nothing negative can co-exist with their pleasure.

Hope in Chaos:

We have been hit by 100-year drought and the suffering has been insufferable. We have endured tornados in mid-KZN. By the way, talking to my sharp, old neighbour this morning, in the mid-40’s Brakpan was devastated by a tornado; we reminisced that we were pleased our place of birth is still standing! But we have also had floods and once again, Centurion and KZN took their frequent hit.

Life has storms and times of drought; sometimes we wish it stable and constant but it delivers opposites. Hope, our old friend to which we have often spoken, lift our heads in these times. If you’re out of it, lift your head. If you’re in it, lift another’s.

Perspective of what can be:

Another friend is Perspective. I have recently watched the World War 2 episodes on Netflix. I love war movies but I’m never quite clear why. Blood and guts and troops running into almost certain death voluntarily so that we could remember them on Poppy Day and be grateful for the Liberty and Life they fought for. But one thing that never ceases to amaze me on the face of troops and POW’s, is the odd smile. I watched as Bomber Battalion prepared to fly sortie after sortie into Nazi Europe with a 50% chance of returning; as they mustered and gave slight smiles, they must have had some awesome sense of perspective. They “knew” that they would come home and that eventually, the world would be a better place for their sacrificial service. Faced with far less serious issues, I put to you that your perspective, your sense of “what can be”, can lift you and keep you up there no matter what.

Live the moment:

I’m going to finish here. It’s a platitude that is oft used and seldom implemented. However, in this Season of goodwill and family, why not give it a try? The past is but a memory – thank God for the many good ones. The future is what it is, uncertain but probably not as bad as our most negative thoughts have imagined. To the point of Carnegie’s report, we came so close to catastrophe…. but we didn’t. Brave journalists had a confidential report leaked to them, Chapter 9 institutions stood up and fought way above their weight in court, and honest politicians took the yoke of “not-in-my-name” upon them. We dodged the bullet or experienced another miracle whatever your conviction, but we saved our national autonomy from the fire.

There is a Season before us. Families will come together and put away their differences. Gifts will be handed out to gesture our love for each other. Peace will be felt in most places and food will adorn many of our tables. Fairy lights will dispel darkness and even though that sounds like an Eskom joke, we’ll smile as they flicker on the tree.

Many will not have Christmas as they endure poverty for another year; in South Africa the opportunity always exists in no mean measure, to share an act of kindness and generosity. Just Do It! But most of all, soak it all in and for the next few days, let bygones be bygones and the future look after itself.

Homeloan Junction is grateful for you. For your care and support in this year and, in advance, for the year to come. 2020 has a good ring to it, doesn’t it? See you soon in it.

And in all the glitter of the occasion, touch an orchid leaf. You will be glad you did.

Yours in Property. 

Jack Trevena
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