Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2008. Post Apartheid: Fraser Esslemont's 2000 Sunnyside Farm Dispatches

2000. Fraser Esslemont, Gardener, Sunnyside Farm, Bulwer, KwaZulu-Natal. "Now see that noble and most sovereign reason, like sweet bells jangled, out of time and harsh."

12.03.2000 Fraser's Sunnyside Farm dispatch: "Mark, I suggest use live bait, like limpets, when Jake and Luke go fishing at Wainui [near Akaroa]. Use metal spinners when fishing in fast flowing rivers, not lakes.

Mark, say well done to Jake for becoming a youth councillor. You are busy watching Luke play rugby at Hagley Park. [Leah and I'd endured cultural and sports boycotts during apartheid, and while travelling overseas we'd endured insinuations from strangers that we were racists. Our sons wouldn't have to endure that in NZ].

Mark, when you and Leah went to Israel to work on Grofit kibbutz (communal farm) did you keep any information on kibbutz life? Let me know please, any scrap of information, or what you remember. Bulwer Farm is battling with peoples motivation, so what you remember of kibbutz life will be helpful.

I'll come to NZ in 2010 0r 2012."

08.05.00 Fraser's Sunnyside Farm dispatch: "Its the first time I received a family photo album. In years to come, ill still be viewing photos of you and your family, with great pleasure. Im very grateful for the thoughtful gift. Please send some more photos next year.

Here in SA, our autumn is very rainy, almost nightly. By 2020 I think we will be used to hothouse effects. Please let me know how you recycle your compost and kitchen rubbish. The Kiwis as Islanders seem to produce a great deal more food per hectare than the spoilt South Africans.

Jakes form 4 can't be equivalent to our (SA) standard 8. [Roughly the same, depending on what's in the curriculum]. The same applies to Luke in standard 2. I've been working out their ages and standards. They will be ready for college and varsity at a younger age. [Not so, as NZ does year 13, equivalent to SA matric. NZ schools stretch curricula over 13 years, whereas SA schools complete schooling over 12 years ].

Ask Leah what SPELD means? [Specific Learning Disabilities]. She must be very good with children. I have respect and admiration for her. It's not easy work.

How often do the boys go fishing? Let me have photos of the boys catches. Im interested in what size and type. [Mainly red cod, spotty, parrot fish, dog fish and elephant fish in the Pacific, and trout in Alpine rivers and lakes].

Is Leah's mom at Pennington on Natal S. Coast? [Yes]. Its a lovely part of the coastline if you want to retire. I'm retiring to Somerset East. On TV news we saw a 120 year old woman at Somerset East close to PE in the E. Cape. We visited Somerset East when mom was alive.

Sunnyside Farm does take it out of me - energy sapping. I'm in bed by 8.00 pm and will retire when I'm 55 years old. Can you believe, ill get a state pension, because I work for Maritzburg Mental Health. [False, unless Fraser is broke].

Im looking forward to yearly photos. Mark, I won't buy a camera just yet. So I can reciprocate with photos of myself in the farming area. What camera should I buy? Instamamtics are not available here in Underberg. They were very good cameras then. Next time in Underberg, ill get a photo taken, so you can see what im like, as a farmer. Im more lined & grey haired. Its not easy - aging.

Remember ill be coming to see you in 2010.

15.05.00 P.S. I think ill first go to Comores Islands. The ship is a pleasure liner of the Indian Ocean. Then change ships at Perth Australia to get to NZ. Perhaps we could get cellular phones before then & ring each other, about a black bull, that eats your last remaining spinach, as one did here this morning."

Sadly Fraser lacked judgement regarding travel costs, especially cruising, which would bankrupt his estate in one cruise. It took me a while to ascertain how Fraser was cared for at Sunnyside Farm, which was run by Pietermaritzburg Mental Health. Fraser's Durban curator paid Sunnyside Farm monthly accommodation fees and pocket money for Fraser, out of Fraser's estate. Town Hill madhouse keepers visited Sunyside Farm monthly, and prescribed Fraser's medication. I'd received no correspondence from Town Hill since superintendent Dr. Ross's letter 5.5. years before. Dr. Ross stayed spitefully silent, despite my letters to him. He was an apartheid throwback, incapable of adapting to fairness and transparency expected by the post apartheid regime.

After my July 2000 enquiries, Sunnyside Farm manager assured me Fraser was OK. She described the attractiveness of Sunnyside Farm, and mentioned carbamazapine prescribed for Fraser, twice daily, preventing seizures. Fraser had had no seizures at Sunnyside Farm for two years.

After my inquiries, a Maritzburg Mental Health social worker sent me Town Hill Dr. Uilspieel's note, more than a year after it was scrawled on scruffy foolscap paper. Dr. Uilspieel misspelt my surname, and told me nothing new. He said Fraser had "organic brain syndrome," a meaningless label for any brain damage. Dr. Uilspieel paragraphed and gapped his note in a slapdash way. As Dr. Uilspieel couldn't spell Fraser's and my surname correctly, how did he care for Fraser? Regarding Fraser's carbamazapine prescription, Sunnyside Farm's reported 400 mg carbamazapine dose and Dr. Uilspieel' s reported 200 mg dose didn't gel. Someone was messing up Fraser's prescription. Or stealing drugs?

The social worker's flash-letterhead covering-letter made a better impression than Dr. Uilspieel's note. She said Fraser was doing well at Sunnyside Farm, enjoying gardening and Berg walks, sometimes getting lost in snowy mountains, with "clients" (patients) and staff having to search for him.

The social worker enclosed two snaps: Backdropped by Berg foothills, native bush, vegetable patch and wooden farm shed with corrugated iron roof, Fraser looked slim, fit and smiling. His right wrist and fingers were still clawed, but straighter. His neatly trimmed hair was still sandy, but grizzled on the sides. His right eyelid and brow drooped. He no longer wore glasses, and looked alert.

A remarkable transformation from when I'd last seen Fraser six years before at Town Hill. Then he was fat, bearded, unwashed, with skin infection. He was cowed by long detentions in the the forensic security block, closed wards and semen-smelly seclusion rooms, with plastic potty for company, left to stare at bare walls.

Fraser's dispatches became less frequent at Sunnyside Farm, and I had to chivvy staff by letter or email to get Fraser to write.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

1 comment:

Mark JS Esslemont said...

My emails regarding Kiwi John Minto's rejection of nomination for the OR Tambo award:

My email to a SA expat: "I bought The Press on Monday just to read the Minto - OR Tambo award article. At least one Kiwi has seen the light. Simple arithmetic will see SA govt salaries can't possibly produce such personal wealth in the new elite in 14 years of new govt."

SA expat's reply: "Having worked in the Republic of Ciskei (from '86 through to '96) taught me that anything is possible ... up until then ... A few years of working in Bisho and being exposed to bribes in my own capacity (was once offered three year's worth of salary to swing a deal) made me realize that "Dallas" was probably based on things that had or did occur in the US of A too.

I seem to recall [another expat] being faced with something similar on a number of occasions to compromise on something when he was with Ciskei Farmers Co-op and eventually choosing to move across to Ciskei Agricultural Bank, rather than having to compromise on his values on a daily basis ... It was definitely an environment in which the locals used to look after their pals and people in senior positions within their tribal hierarchy. We only need to look further north to Zim and Kenya to see that the same is eventually going to happen on the southern tip of Africa ... Just a question of time and good on Minto for pointing out some of these things ...

HART was never one of my favourite
things when young, especially as I was one of those rugby playing men and loved international sport. I should say though that my loyalty was always to Natal, rather than the Boks, who I think gave the likes of Bedford and Watson a raw deal. And everybody loved Naas too much (and all he could do was kick)."