DAY 69: Thurs 21 May

For once it is not all about me.

Thank goodness. My daughter says she is feeling much better today and thinks she may have had a bout of hay fever, but the worry is not over until she gets her test result back. 

It is a very old friend’s 80th birthday today. Zolile is also my youngest son’s godfather. A gentle, lovely man who was brought up in a remote area of South Africa where he combined his primary schooldays with herding his uncle’s animals. Nonetheless he left primary school with three languages – Xhosa, Zulu and English, and later learned Afrikaans. As a teenager he contracted typhoid while a manual labourer digging tunnels, but he kept up a correspondence course for 5 years making him eligible for university.

Zoli won a World Council of Churches (WCC) scholarship to Oxford and was ordained an Anglican priest back in S. Africa. working at first as a curate serving a sugar cane plantation. Tipped off by a Black policeman that the security forces were after him he was able to escape arrest by crossing into Botswana. There he married a friend of mine he had met while in Oxford and eventually they would return to England with their three beautiful daughters. He completed an MA and worked in numerous parishes while researching for a PhD, and became a Canon of Leicester Cathedral. I remember reviewing his challenging book The Churches and Racism.

Zoli is a great story-teller and even adults listened when he sat with children and entranced them with tales told in his soft, dark brown voice. The family went back to Durban when the ban on mixed marriages was lifted, and only came back to Britain recently to make a home for the umpteenth time. 

Before joining Zoli’s birthday Zoom I took a quick peek at Bristol City Council’s online Annual General Meeting. Could be a good model for all future council meetings since the camera never lies, and everyone has to look attentive.

Meanwhile two elderly friends have just got back from Barbados, after being stuck there for the last six weeks (my heart bleeds) unable to get a  flight home. Luckily they had family around them. On arrival here there was no testing and no quarantine advIce. Their family in East London put them straight under lockdown, but what kind of health security system is in operation in the UK?

In between it all I managed to get stuck into correcting the English in my friends essay, without quite finishing it, and found time at last to see the rest of La Grande Illusion. Such a pity I have had to watch it in small bites. It is a fine film. An anti-war movie from 1937 without a single battle scene, only one death, and with much to say about the class system, courage, humanity, imprisonment, internationalism, love, and stoicism, not to mention casual anti-semitism. Had me in tears (again – but I am soppy like that with films.)

My grandsons are excited and excitable today as we read the penultimate chapter of Culann. The session ended in tears as one accidentally knocked the other’s head. Later in the afternoon there are squeals of a different sort when my daughter films the removal of a bee swarm from their garden.  All very dramatic.

A friend turns up to social distantly discuss another dissertation, this time about environment and human rights. She calmly mention there is a mouse under my chair. I leap up, much to her astonishment. I am convinced it will be a rat-child – all we need when we thought we had them under control. She assures me it is either a field or a house mouse – but it is hiding in the herb garden, as did a rat, so I  remain to be convinced.

She stays for the NHS clapping, but when I get back inside the house there is a message from a disgruntled self-isolating friend who is refusing to take part in what he believes has become a hollow ritual designed to make folk feel they are achieving something. I point out that it has certainly brought people together in streets around the country. He concedes that but will go no further. 

The one good piece of news today is that Johnson has agreed to remove the charges and strictures imposed on NHS workers from abroad under Patels’ Immigration Bill, and instructed her and Hancock to work out how to put things right. A veritable and welcome U-turn.

Iftar tonight is a soup chicken. peas and my artichokes, and a hunk of tasty brown bread I made thus morning. I may allow myself a chocolate later on.  

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

1 Comment

  1. Lovely story about Father Zoli. Happy times with Zoli and Charlotte in Durban. It’s been a great loss to us and our church to have lost them to Kent.

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