I realised as I prepared this posting that some of it is old news, given the speed with which things get passed round on Facebook. Never mind – here is the first report for 2015 and I want it on my webpage anyway. On 22 November, while I was in Canada, in Toronto to be exact, a letter arrived at 1 Brabazon Road in Norwich. Ailsa opened it and phoned me to share the contents. I am very glad she did. I took the call walking down Yonge Street, the station to get the train to Waterloo. This is not a salubrious part of town, but it is where the second hand bookshops are located.
I really like KLM and am a steadfast customer. Their loyalty cards were introduced about the time I began major travelling. As a result I rapidly reached the highest level (Platinum Elite, in case you were wondering). In the 1990s when you had held this for five years you were given lifetime status. I have been an ‘elite’ flyer since 1996. It does make a difference. The access to the lounges gives private space to work, relax, drink and shower; there is automatic seating in the premium economy cabin; priority on boarding and shorter queues.
This is the second posting to go up in a short time. The management of my website has moved to John Price. I want to say a big thank you to Shela McCullough and Linda Mtambo of HEARD for all that they did to keep my posts flowing! By early next year we will have looked at the design of the site and changed it. I hope to make it somewhat interactive.
I was in the UK and South Africa in late September and early October. The first part of the trip was covered in my last posting. This one is about Durban, Cape Town and Norwich. After 24 hours in Durban (a silly side trip because I was not paying attention to my travel plans), I flew to Cape Town for a Health Systems Symposium. These meetings are held every two years, this was the third, the first I had been to. As all my South African family lives in Cape Town and the environs I was able to see them. My visits to the South Africa will become less frequent in the years ahead, so this is important to me.
This posting has been in draft for nearly a year. I wanted to wait until all the actions were complete before posting. I could not come up with a catchy title. This is a story of unintended consequences, and unexpected and, as it turned out, unwanted inheritance and Chilanga cement company in Zambia.
My father, Walter Jack Whiteside, died in 1989 and left a complicated estate. In terms of the will two thirds was left to my mother and the balance divided between my father’s two daughters from previous marriages. My brother and I were the executors. It took a long time but we managed to wrap up most of the estate by about 1992. I used a local Durban attorney, Russell Sobey to help with this as most of the holdings were in South African shares.
My Skype picture is of a swallow. I think it is appropriate because I too flit between the northern and the southern hemispheres. Of course I put much less effort into this traveling than the birds do. Having said that, all my recent trips have been in economy class on KLM. Admittedly premium economy, but still economy! I won’t dwell on this other than to say the flights I took recently were packed, a combination of the holiday season and KLM doing really well.
I hope to put up a guest posting on my website as my daughter, Rowan has spent a month in Southern Africa, mostly Durban. We shared a road trip. I have invited her to contribute and we will have to see when this happens. No pressure Rowan. She is embarking on the MA in creative writing at UEA this academic year. It is one of the best MAs in the world, with an illustrious list of alumni.
The idea that one should take good care of one’s teeth is drummed into us and we try to pass the message on. Boy, do I believe it now. The water in Kenya, where I was born and spent my early years, and Swaziland, where I grew up, did not have fluoride added. As a result I have more than the average number of fillings and crowns. It is likely the lack of brushing and eating sweets that were significant contributors, but I would prefer to think that fluoride was the issue.
I wrote this post after travelling to Kenya and concluded it was a rather depressing trip in some ways. The reason for the travel was a board meeting for AIDSpan a small NGO whose mandate is to watch and support the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria. I went over from the UK on Wednesday and returned to Norwich on a late flight on Saturday evening arriving back on Sunday. The flight from Nairobi to Amsterdam is longer than the one from Toronto to Amsterdam. I don’t think I appreciated that Canada was so close, or maybe that Nairobi was so far.
The past month has been hectic but rather fun. I left Durban, as promised, on 19 December 2013. That was sad. The last days involved clearing out my office, deciding what needed to be shipped to Canada, stored in the flat, put in the suitcase, or given away. I know that to some extent, I keep my life in boxes. The University of KwaZulu-Natal box is now closed, and, hopefully, the important residual parts are in transit. There is a lot to reflect on, of course. How could there not be after 30 years?
I am extremely lucky to have had the opportunities I did, to connect with people, to build an organisation and support my team’s contribution to knowledge and science which, hopefully, makes a positive difference. I am proud of my own substantial publishing record.
This is the last posting to be written in my incarnation of Director of HEARD. It is a time of change, and the passing of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela has really shaken the country and me. It is taking time for this to sink in, but I will try to write about it.
At the end of October I was involved in a series of Board meetings. The first was my final one as Executive Director of HEARD. This was held in our offices on 18 October. It was a bit unusual for us to hold it in Durban as we usually met in Johannesburg. This involved the least travelling for the Board members.