Prime Circle: Easter 2011

This posting could be entitled ‘Pregnancy, Prime Circle, and Team Building’ as these are the three dominant themes of the past couple of weeks. Most of the Easter weekend has been spent working. I have finally emerged from a mass of administration and planning to resume writing my Swaziland book. ‘A Political Economy of Swaziland’ is what I have optimistically titled it. I am over half way through now and do need to get it to the publishers since it is at least 18 months late. But I have really enjoyed working on it. Swaziland is such an interesting and usual little country, and at the moment, there is a degree of political change which is exciting.

I went to Swaziland for a few days at the beginning of April. Apart from doing some additional book research this was to attend the first Waterford Governing Council (GC) meeting of the year. I have been on the GC since 1994 so have some institutional memory! In 2008, for the first time, since I joined, the GC was faced with having to make a decision around pregnancy. One of the female students, from a poor area, had fallen pregnant. We decided, probably wrongly, that the main concern was the baby. I say wrongly because as Governors our prime concern should always be the well-being of the school. We took a decision that the girl should be sent down for a year, but could return at the end of this. She did and is now a scholarship student at an internationally known university. Having set policy, the Headmaster then took the same decision in 2010 when he was faced with a second pregnancy. The same outcome was reported, the student is back at school and doing well.

At this GC we had a variation on the theme. A pregnant female student, but the father acknowledging his paternity, is also at the school. A policy decision had to be taken. What was most interesting for me is that while we can make a broad policy, we cannot cover every eventuality. What if the girl says she was made pregnant by a male student, but he refuses to acknowledge this? Given that he would face sanction this probably makes sense for him. Do we carry out a paternity test? What do we do if the girl says she was raped? It is clear that while there are in many instances there have to be rules, flexibility is necessary. Of course in other cases there should be no leniency, for example the school has a zero tolerance rule when it comes to drugs.

Back in Durban I have been very busy with work but found time to go to two gallery openings, one at theKwaZulu Natal Art Society Gallery. The main exhibitor was a botanical artist which I do not find terribly exciting. The second at Durban ArtSpace is a very unusual gallery in an industrial area of town next to the railway line.This was entitled and was way over my head. Most interesting though, I did not know a single person there although I did recognize one, he had been at the KZNA opening. Perhaps this is a little sad!

Cultural activities continued when I went to listen to ‘Prime Circle’ a South African band who described themselves as South Africa’s leading rock band This was at the Gateway shopping Center about 35 km from my flat. I find I drive slowly along the motorway, trying to treat the car with love and respect. It is after all nearly 20 years old now, bought new and registered in 1992. However as it has only done 130,000 km I think it is good for a few more years yet.

We have been looking at ways of building the HEARD staff into a more cohesive unit. Much as I hate the term, ‘team building’ is a good idea. So last Thursday we headed off for a team building experience. The decision was taken to go to cooking school for a half day. Fusion is not very far from our campus in Westville see and they have a great restaurant in Durban We were divided into three teams, and set to the task of cooking Thai style chicken breasts stuffed with various herbs and spices. For the vegetarians stuffed mushrooms were the option.

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Each cooking station was allocated a student, described as a ‘cooking fairy’ to assist us. It was quite an experience. The key learning for me was that you need equipment and enthusiasm. The desert was banana pancakes skewers lightly brushed with a reduction of sugar and flavorings, including vanilla, and rolled in grated chocolate. A good time was had by all, and certainly I feel less intimidated by the thought of cooking now. To be fair the bulk of the work was done by one or two people on the team.

I am amused to look at my browser and see that I have two websites open one for Fusion and one a classic article by Sidney Kark on the ‘Social Pathology of Syphilis’ published in 1949. It identifies migration as one of the major drivers of sexually transmitted diseases in southern Africa.

This week I have twice been reminded of how nice it is to be fit and young, although it is possible to be young and not fit. I played squash with Jeremy Grest and his son Adam, who is in his early 20’s. Adam gets round the court without stopping, it was only guile that allowed me to win points and he beat me! On Sunday evening I went for a long run (in time rather than distance). Two of the children from the flats were playing by the gate.

“Are you going for a run”, asked one.
“Yes”, I replied.
“My brother has just gone”, he said. This brother being a lean lad of about 14.
“I’ll try to catch up with him”, I responded as I started my standard slow plod.
“He was running much faster than that”, said the boy disdainfully.

I ran up past St Augustine’s hospital to Ridge Road, and then down the bottom of the Pigeon Valley nature reserve. The monkey troop that live there were raiding across the street and looked at me with disbelief. From there to the Howard college campus, then back along what was Manning, and is now Lena Ahren’s, Road. It was the magical hour when the sun has a particular evening tint, and Durban was stunning. Interesting up the hill, security gets tighter, and the dogs bigger, more numerous and louder.


Men who stare at Goats, we bought a DVD of this film a while ago. It was seriously damaged and so unwatchable, but this only became apparent about 40 minutes into it. I hired the DVD the other night and so have finally seen it. I really enjoyed it. It is just about credible that people could behave in this bizarre way in the interests of … what? It is the story of reporter in Iraq who meets Lyn Cassaday who claims he was part of the New Earth Army who employ paranormal powers. George Clooney stars and there is no love interest!