To the Andrean Community
It was only for a moment as I turned into Bathurst that I caught sight of his face, but the memory of it will last me forever, for it so deeply symbolizes that which a relative newcomer to the Eastern Cape so appreciates about this place. The lone old man, (seemingly a Pig & Whistle regular, or not), sat alone at an outside table. His face, weathered by decades of sun and wrinkled with an experiential expressiveness that told a thousand tales, peered into the distance as if thinking very deeply, or, indeed, not at all.
As he sat there, and as I paused at the intersection wondering if I was more likely to encounter a car or a passing herd, he paused from his deep (or not) reflection to draw a deep swig of his beer, and to pull slowly on his cigarette. In this world, smoking is not an act of rebellion against health regulations and societal norms, it is more an uninterested clarity of self definition. Boet.
And as I slowly made my way onwards, I reflected that Bathurst is quite like no other place that I know of in the world. So quintessentially Eastern Cape, and yet like no place in the Eastern Cape, for that is the Eastern Cape. Graaff Reinet, Bedford, Kenton (“on Sea”, nog), and of course, our glorious Grahamstown – at once deeply historic, beautifully imperfect (perhaps a little more than it should be at the moment), but alive with a diversity of peoples, climates (especially climates), terrain, and above all character.
I love Grahamstown. It is a great place to ‘do’ school. At once a country bumpkin, a sophisticated intellectual, a cathedral city – fast paced, and no-pace-at-all. A place where we all stop for lunch and where we greet each-other by name in what we (but only we could) call a mall. Best of all, as much as we strive for excellence and work very hard to create a school that ranks amongst the very best in the world (and, actually, does), like the disinterested old man in the Bathurst pub, there is a deeply refreshing lack of pretentiousness here. For one thing the Eastern Cape does very well, is to keep you humble.
And in a world that tries to teach us to derive our meaning from things, achievement, and the opinions of others, humility is one of the best gifts that we can give our boys. There is nothing (absolutely nothing) worse than an entitled “private” school boy strutting his arrogant stuff. For the beauty about truly understanding excellence is to understand that it is an ever distant horizon, and no matter how far you travel to reach it, and no matter who you meet on the way, the real joy is in the journey, unique for each traveler on the way. To believe that you have found it is simply a sign that you have lost your way.
There. A complete newsletter without once mentioning sport!
Nec Aspera Terrent
Before moving back to Grahamstown in Oct 2017, Graeme was a bank executive based in the big smoke and craziness of Joburg. He has 20 years’ experience in the Payments Industry. He is a Chartered Accountant, has a Masters in Management by Research (MMR) from Wits Business School, and attended an Advanced Management Programme (AMP) offered by INSEAD (The Business School for the World!) in France.
Graeme is the founder of The Grahamstown Project. It’s simple. He says, “Grahamstown is a microcosm of South Africa. If we can’t get this place to function properly then the whole country is stuffed. Many of the troubles we experience as a country today have their roots here in Grahamstown. it is here where black and white people first engaged in conflict on the African continent. It is here where 9 wars of dispossession over 100 years took place and virtually destroyed the amaXhosa nation. But we are where we are. I don’t have a British passport and the boat-trip back to where my ancestors came from is exorbitantly expensive. Furthermore, this is my home. I am a son of Africa. We must work together to redress the injustices of the past and move as one into a brighter future.”
Graeme is an avid historian, writer, vlogger and public speaker. Like and follow the Facebook page. Join him on a tour. Contact him. He would love that.