Nelson Mandela – a farewell

Floral tributes for Nelson Mandela at Parliament Square London

The recent passing of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Madiba, will leave a large void not just in South Africa but the world.  This immense figure who epitomises struggle and forgiveness will be sorely missed.

As the world mourns his passing and celebrates his influential life, I took the opportunity to take a trip into the centre of London and three particular locations where the great man is commemorated.

Nelson Mandela bust Southbank London - The struggle is my life

The struggle is my life

My first location is a large head and shoulder bust of Mandela, mounted on a high plinth outside the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, by the sculptor Ian Walters and erected in 1985.  This was during the time when Mandela was incarcerated in the notorious Robben Island prison and was classed as a ‘banned’ person in South Africa.  In the UK the Thatcher government was reluctant to support the call for Mandela and many other political prisoner’s release, and certainly didn’t support the idea of sanctions to try and bring about justice and change.  And because of the right-wing apathy for the situation, many left-wing councils named roads and buildings after Mandela, to keep his name alive and in the public consciousness.

My next stop was the Nelson Mandela statue in Parliament Square, again designed by Ian Walters and finally erected in 2007 following a number of disagreements about where it should be located.  The unveiling ceremony was attended by the great man himself.

RIP Madiba

RIP Madiba

Mandela, son of South Africa

Son of South Africa

Lighting a candle in memory of Nelson Mandela

Lighting a candle for Mandela

I was surprised how few people were at the statue, but it was a subdued and respectful gathering as a steady number of people gathered to lay flowers and candles and leave personal messages.  There were plenty of photographers on hand to capture the growing tributes.

My final stop was the Embassy, South Africa House, at Trafalgar Square.  Similar to Parliament Square, there was a small but growing collection of tributes at the door to the embassy, but instead of a quiet gathering, the place was full of joy, singing and dancing, with a group of South African men, women and children leading the singing of freedom songs.  I found myself singing along to the few words I remembered of Nkosi Sikelele Afrika – s0 moving!

This brought back many memories for me.  During the apartheid days, when Mandela and many others were imprisoned,  I had taken an interest in the anti apartheid movement, sometimes accompanying my good friend Jenny to join protests at the Non Stop Picket (NSP), which was organised by the City of London Anti Apartheid Group (City Group).

South African Vuvuzela for Mandela

Making a noise

Flag at half mast at South Africa House London

Half mast at South Africa House

Singing for Mandela at South Africa House London

In full voice

It was a random re-tweet I’d seen that led me to discover a blog, called Non-Stop Against Apartheid, that a former member of the NSP has set up as part of his research project into ‘solidarity activism’.  I can’t pretend to know what that means, but the blog is a fascinating insight into the reasons behind the formation of the group, its relationship with the mainstream anti-apartheid movement, and more interestingly, its relationship with the government of the day and the police.  Certainly, articles I’ve read have jogged my memory and made some sense of the stranger things that were happening during this time, although my recollection is a bit vague – it was over 25 years ago!

But while the great man and his imposing presence will be deeply missed the world over, his legacy and his capacity for forgiveness in what, for most people, would be an unforgivable situation, can only be an inspiration to us all.  From what I read, things still seem far from perfect in South Africa, but I hope this event will help refocus on what Nelson Mandela stood for.  And what he stood for could be equally applied in many other countries!

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But, my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” ~ Nelson Mandela, Rivonia Trial, 1964

Candles laid for Mandela We are human being not skin

We are human being not skin!

RIP Nelson Mandela 1918-2013



Maturing with Age

Vintage Port

The run up to Christmas is always a busy time of year for many people, but in our house especially so, with three out of the four of us having birthdays from mid November onwards.  Of particular significance this year is my middle daughter who recently turned 18.

Happy birthday Lizzie!

We had a fabulous celebration – family and friends met in the local pub so Lizzie could buy them her first (legal!) drink then went back to ours for a bite to eat and to continue the celebrations.  Her big sister baked an amazing chocolate birthday cake in the shape of a guitar, in recognition of one of Lizzie’s many talents. (In fact, my eldest daughter has her own talents, apart from cake making, which can be seen at her Dead to Me boutique!)

Hand made chocolate birthday cake

Tasted as delicious as it looked!

The occasion also meant sharing a bit of a treat we have been waiting almost 18 years to indulge in.

When Elizabeth Maura was baptised, she was given a gift of three bottles of vintage ruby port by a couple of her Dad’s friends, ones that we hoped would stand the test of time and mature with age.

So, under the stairs for the past (almost) 18 years have been laid two bottles of Croft and one bottle of Feuerheerd, both a 1985 vintage, the year Lizzie was born.  For the  occasion, we bought a special wine decanting funnel, with a sieve and some muslin, with the added intention of documenting the momentous event in pictures.

Vintage Port

Vintage port gathering dust for 18 years

But like so many things in life, it didn’t quite go to plan!

A call earlier in the day from my youngest’s school following a crack to the head while rushing out of the last lesson, meant that I spent the early part of the evening escorting my blood covered son first to our GP surgery and then to the local Accident and Emergency department at St George’s Hospital in Tooting.  To be honest, I wouldn’t normally opt for A&E, which is why I went to see the GP nurse first, but all she was able to do was wind a bandage round his head and suggest I take him to the hospital, to be on the safe side!  And while I was expecting a long wait and the possibility of missing the evening’s celebrations, I was pleasantly impressed by the service we received, and the fact he is a youngster meant we were triaged in the children’s A&E straight away.  The treatment he received was first class and thorough too, having lots of tests for any signs of brain damage before having his head wound glued.  The NHS at it’s best in my opinion. The only downside for him was not being able to play sport for a week while the glue dried, not to mention being banned from washing his hair!

So while I was away on ambulance duty, my husband set about decanting the port – we chose one of the two Croft bottles, and by all accounts it went pretty well, apart from the cork disintegrating and the bottle having its fair share of sludge! It was eventually left in a decanter to settle.  Sadly, no photographs to record the event.

Croft 1985 Vintage Port, opened after 18 years

(Spot the mid-November Mo!)

Finally arriving late to the pub to join the others, we headed home, ordered far too much pizza, before embarking on the port tasting ritual.  And actually, it was rather good!

Quite delicious and perfectly accompanied by a variety of cheese and biscuits, the port was soft, smooth, rich and fruity, in a subtle and mature way.

I’d like to think those attributes apply similarly to Lizzie, either now or in the future and we will see how that pans out in three years time when we sample the next bottle as Lizzie turns 21.

A father and daughter moment

A hug from Dad

But for now the celebrations are over and it’s time for Lizzie to knuckle down to some serious study and, with our support, help her achieve the much needed A level grades to obtain her University place of choice.  And therein lies another tale…..