I’m really worried about my wife’s brother and family in Melbourne, where 170 have died in a most hideous conflagration. He’s a helicopter pilot for Exxon and, I imagine, might well have been called in to assist.
I have visions of Patrick landing amid fireballs to pick up the threatened, the wounded and the dead – just as he did 30 years ago, as an 18-year-old in the Rhodesian Air Force.
We don’t have their phone number because they recently moved. All we have is an e-mail address and we await a reply as to whether they are okay. I suppose no news is good news and it is fanciful to worry about one family in several million who live in the fire-threatened city.
My query might have been similar to those in the UK who phoned friends in SA to see whether they were okay during the post-election riots in Kenya.
Still, it got me thinking about fear and angst.
My daughter, Soul, and her three little kids, are coming down for the wedding of kid sister Nicky on the 28th. Having grown up here with hardly a thought for her safety, she says she feels a bit fearful about her visit. Poor kid, all she reads about SA in the Dutch media is crime and violence.
And we live in Murdersdrift, where the neighbouring family were bludgeoned to death four years ago by an irate gardener!
I wrote back to her pointing out that she lives in a four-storey wooden house, which could burn like a candle – and there’s no fire escape from upstairs. Much of the Netherlands is below sea level. If, for any reason, the dykes are breached, as in 1951, she and her family would have to swim – unless she attaches a rubber duck to the roof. Right across Europe angry extremists are eager to plant bombs.
These are unseen risks that become evident only when disaster strikes from the blue, as in Melbourne now.
My Dutch darling is so obsessed about safety that she won’t drive 8km down a country road without all the kids strapped into their car seats. She won’t use mom’s car at all because it lacks air bags.
I reminded her that just a few years ago she jumped off the Bloukrans Bridge with just a bungee rope to halt her dizzy fall. She has parachuted and once obliged her terrified father to paraglide off a 2 000-metre mountain in Turkey. Soon her kids will push aside the cotton wool and also expose themselves to instant death.
A great friend and colleague at the Financial Mail way back in 1976, left SA for Australia because she didn’t want her boys to be forced to join the SADF. They have grown up to become supreme risk takers. One has just become the youngest Oz to climb Everest and now wants to climb all the other peaks over 8 000 metres. The other has been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan off and on for three years.
It was quite ironical to receive as a guest an old colleague from my days at Business Times. He’s a fund manager in Germany.
Dirk tells me that country is undergoing not just economic but psychological Depression. The car plants and their suppliers are working short time, tens of thousands are being laid off – and there isn’t any infrastructure left to build in make-work schemes!
But the biggest cause of worry is the invasion of aliens – people from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland and even Russia to the east – and people from Africa to the south. The German equivalent of Home Affairs is under deep suspicion of unproven corruption. Where do all these strangers come from?
The illegal immigrants are accused of being behind rising crime. Their methods of stealing from an automatic teller machine are more subtle than ours. We use dynamite. They run a steel cable around the ATM and yank it out with a bakkie.
How do they know the culprits are alien? Because they stole the machine that gives balances and bank statements, not the one that dispenses cash. The thieves couldn’t understand the notices on the ATM in German.
This week I had a final reminder that in life we are, as the Scriptures remind us, in the midst of death.
Curt von Keyserlingk, who took over from me as editor of Business Times and was, I believe, the fittest journalist of his age in SA, was killed in a fall from a mountain bike this week. I extend condolences to all who are bereaved.
The sudden demise of Curt is just the latest in a long string of untimely deaths that have visited friends and colleagues throughout my six decades and four.
The moral of the story is to live carefully, not fearfully, oh, of course, and to insure!
Write to David Carte: firstname.lastname@example.org