Sunday, January 27, 2008

2008. Post Apartheid: Fraser Esslemont's 1999 Sunnyside Farm Dispatches

08.02.99 Fraser's Sunnyside Farm dispatch: "I hope you got that Hong Kong teaching post [No]. You must be tired of bakery work. [Left one year ago]. Are you still interested in plants? Hong Kong Island would have some interesting flora species. Flora is my interest also. Let me have any pamphlets or magazines on flora types please in the eastern countries. I dont know enough about NZ or Australia plants. Is Canterbury a district of Chch, NZ or town nearby? [District]. They sound close.

Let me have photos of you & your family please. I keep all your photos here on the farm. Over the years, you've sent me quite a few photos of you and your family. Im very sorry for the delay in writing. In summer Ive been immersed in cleaning the vegetable garden and ive been too tired in the evenings for writing. I find I lack concentration and memory.

I'm not sure where the Tasman Sea is. Please draw a map. The doctors have got me down to 4 carbamazapine daily, no clozapine thank goodness.

Have you tried wind surfing in NZ? You wrote Jake tried last year. Maybe you can do it at Hong Kong Island. Jake and Luke will have tried horse riding in the NZ Show week. Jake and Luke must be active for their ages. Luke with his tree climbing exploits. [Up our silk tree at 40 Nottingham Ave, Christchurch]. Don't tell him of us in the avocado tree making tree houses at 22 Chelsea Drive, Durban North. [Fraser's retrograde memory was good].

Jake with his eeling. Do Kiwis fry these eels in butter? I can't grasp how you can eat appetising eels. Boiling eels in a certain NZ way would work. Im very mystified. Ive tried out certain food cooking myself. [Fraser was a SADF trained and experienced troopie cook]. Ask Jake how he cooks eels please. NZ could educate South Africans who are protein starved.

Mark, I can only get to Chch in 2010, after I've paid off my medical expenses to hospitals. I should be in early retirement in 2010. Farming saps your energy. Other farmers have got out of farming, when the goings good. It, retirement must be planned for. Would my jet plane land in N. Island? [Christchurch is slightly closer to Sydney than Auckland, and a lot closer to Sydney than Perth]. The Auckland international airport must be in the N. Island. Then I could ferry across the Cook Strait to S. Island. Im looking forward to seeing you, Leah, Jake & Luke. You seem to have settled into the NZ way of life very well.

Everything of the best in the years ahead."

09.08.99 Fraser's Sunnyside Farm dispatch: "I hope this letter reaches you in time for your 48th birthday on 08.09.99. Congratulations on adapting to life in NZ and everything of the best in future 21st century years to you & your family. You are only two years away from your half century. Thank you for the birthday book on Canterbury province in NZ. [Fraser's birthday is 3 days before mine]. The mailing of the book costs money. This book is informative and highly interesting. Im appreciate [sic] getting the book. Let me know what you would like to receive to remind you of SA. Not just a card on your 50th.

My gardening efforts are very effective now. Mostly I clear the ground of grass and weeds & trees. Then water what vegetables & fruit thats been planted. This planting and picking I leave to a housemother in charge of residential block workers. She decides the right time to plant or pick. The housemother controls the planting of seeds. [Sunnyside Farm gardening seemed more purposeful than feckless fruit picking at Town Hill madhouse].

In this book on Canterbury, herbs & nuts are refered [sic]. What type of herbs and nuts? My mouth waters. Im doing farming myself, but not herbs and nuts & because by looking at photographs, NZ soil looks very good for farming. HANGI must be the same as our braaivleis. Are the plains on NZ South Island producing wheat or corn? Not just sunflower seeds surely? You must eat a carbohydrate or starch or what?

Could you please send photos of you and your family. Recently you sent me photos, but the years have passed & im out of date with the way everyone looks now. Will a passport sized photo of me be allright? [sic] I can go to Underberg & have 2 taken.

Let me know how your writing progresses. In fact let me have your first draft. (The one that wont be published). I think just be patient & dont rush your writing. Non fiction works take time. I remember at school you wanted to write. I wish you every success, it wont be easy.

We will meet again, im sure, after the children are out of school. Im getting out of farming in 2008 when im 55. Then ill travel to NZ in 2010."

The Draft Mental Care Health Bill 1999 was published in February 2000 for comment. The new Mental Health Care Bill 2001 would repeal the notorious Mental Health Act 1973 and other racist homeland Mental Health Acts.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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