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Miscellany: church photography, snoopers, writing, privatisation

29 October 2009

This morning I had to take my son to the Pretoria Showgrounds on the other side of town to write an exam. To fill in the couple of hours while he was writing, I decided to visit an old friend in West Park. I couldn ‘t quite remember where he lived, so I drove around looking for the place. I wasn’t in a hurry, because my friend wasn’t expecting me, so I just drove around slowly, looking at a part of town I don’t know very well, and enjoying the spring greenery and the jacaranda blossoms.

I passed a Dutch Reformed Church, built in the 1940s style of golden face bricks. Back in the 1940s these churches were ubiquitous, and there must have been one architect who produced the plan in three varieties, small, medium, and large, or as they say nowadays, large, extra large, and super large. Now the design has been superseded; in the late fifties it was replaced by a design with a roof that dipped in the middle, and nowadays each congregation seems to employ its own architect. But I thought I’d take a photo of the 1940s design, as it was the symbol of a period.

So I pulled up a side street and stopped next to the church, and took a photo on my cell phone. I hadn’t even finished when a man in a minibus pulled over onto the wrong side of the road behind my car and asked if he could help me. I said no, I don’t need help to take photos with my cell phone. Then he demanded to know why I was taking photos of the church. I thought he was rather rude. If he wanted to know, he could introduce himself and say why he wanted to know. South Africa is no longer a police state, and hasn’t been for more than 15 years. And even when it was, as far as I know there was no law against taking photos of churches, but mainly such things as police stations and military installations.You meet some funny people.



Dutch Reformed Church in West Park, Pretoria

Anyway, the church is a sort of octagonal design. I once read an article that explained the rationale behind the design — its purpose was to ensure the closest rapport between the preacher and the audience by getting as many people as close to the preacher as possible.

I went on to see my friend, who was convalescing after a stay in hospital. It was good to meet him again after several years, and I told him about a book I had been planning to write, on the charismatic renewal movement of the 1960s and 1970s, as a result of my discovery that most church histories of the period did not touch on it at all. I began to do some research on it, with the idea of writing a book, and discovered that there really was a conspiracy of silence about it. Someone told me that John de Gruchy, a Congregational minister and lecturer at the University of Cape Town had written a book, but it had not been published, apparently for political reasons.

Finally I managed to get hold of John de Gruchy himself, and he very kindly sent me a copy of his manuscript, written 25 years ago.

I read it, and thought I’d better abandon my project right away. John de Gruchy had already written the book I had hoped to write. I was absorbed; it was like a page turner novel. I couldn’t put it down. OK, not everyone might find it so exciting, but it was the story of my life and times. And I couldn’t write a book, because most of it would consist of citations of an unpublished manuscript by J. de Gruchy.

Then John suggested that I should edit his manuscript, add to it, bring it up to date, and that we should then try to find a publisher and publish it under both our names. That sounds good to me, as my last project of a joint work is now with the publishers, with just the proof reading to go on my part, so as one project ends, another begins. I told my friend about it, and will visit him again tomorrow to get some material for the book from him — my son has another exam tomorrow.

Then driving home, I noticed that not only had our rubbish not been collected for the last two weeks, but all the other dustbins were standing outside, overflowing. Is it a strike? No, a neighbour tells me. The city council of Tshwane has failed to pay the contractors.

Oh, how much better things were before the Reagan/Thatcher years and the mania for privatisation! One of the jobs of the local municipality is rubbish removal and processing. They really should not be contracting it out. It’s part of their core business, whether they like it or not.

To paraphrase Blake…

Bring me my row of big round stones
Bring my barricade of burning tyre.

Let the service delivery protests begin.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 30 October 2009 11:00 am

    If SA is following the route of western nations then you would be well on the way to becoming a police surveillance state, if not a police state. Photographers are fair game for the law enforcement agencies in their drive against ‘terrorism’, real or perceived.

    For your rubbish collection, as a friend once remarked ‘Private firms can’t run public services’. Doesn’t stop them trying though.

  2. 2 November 2009 11:08 pm

    The other day I came across a set of photo’s which my great grandfather took back in the 20’s. He owned a merry-go-round, and travelled with it all over the Southern and Eastern Cape, as well as the Southern Free State. He had a habit of taking photo’s of the local Church (mostly Dutch Reformed), the townhall and the main street. Thus I have a collection of photo’s documenting these towns, with their similar-looking churches (built mainly in the 1870’s – 1900’s) – towns like Queenstown and Tarkastad and Aliwal-North and Beaufort-East and Smithfield and Colesberg…. Plus photo’s of the merry-go-round, both packed in operational. It was called Botes Variety Shows.

    Quite a collection!


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