Weeping for a willow-like tree

What a week it has been. A week of damage, destruction, heartbreak and loss – loss of lives, homes, businesses and jobs. The burning of one upmarket Knysna guest house alone has left 28 people without work, and there are probably many more in this desperate position.

It therefore sounds a bit feeble to say we are mourning the loss of a lovely indigenous willow-like tree, which went belly up on our front lawn on Wednesday morning. Being shallow rooted and top heavy, its branches could not withstand the swirling gale and the tree keeled over on the driveway, blocking both garages.

Every single day I’ve lived in Tokai, I’ve have had to take cognizance of that tree while reversing out of my garage. After one expensive miscalculation, I struck a unilateral non-aggression pact with it – a reverse of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”. There were to be no scratches to my car in exchange for no scratches to the tree.

Now that it has been reduced to a pile of logs and leaves in a bakkie, I think of American poet Joyce Kilmer’s famous verse in which he (yes he) wrote in February 1913, “I think that I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree”. His 12-lines were often disparaged by critics and dismissed by scholars as being too simple and overly sentimental but he was trying to describe the inability of man-created art to replicate the beauty of nature.

He loved trees but he was not a sentimentalist. His home in Mahwah, New Jersey, stood in the middle of a forest and what lawn it possessed was obtained only after Kilmer had spent months of weekend toil chopping down trees, pulling up stumps, and splitting logs. His neighbours couldn’t believe that a man who could tackle such physical work could also be a poet.

His family said his verse did not apply to one particular tree, or trees of any region. Just any trees or all trees that might be rained or snowed upon and would be a suitable nesting place for robins. But the tree in his poem had to have upward-reaching branches which would, alas, rule out our once-lovely weeping willow.

Debut concert stirs bewilderment

Bernhard Gueller is not a happy conductor when his audience applaud even a second too soon. So there was some anxiety on Thursday at his first concert in the City Hall as principal guest conductor of the CPO, when he opened the evening not with Cesar Franck’s five symphonic poems as listed on the programme but an unannounced reading of No 9 of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. It’s better known as “Nimrod”, which he wrote for his friend, AJ Jaeger. Jaeger is German for hunter and Nimrod was a “mighty hunter” in the Old Testament.

You could almost sense the bewilderment of those who had not made the connection between the music – the most popular piece of classical music for funerals – and the slip of paper tucked into the programme recording the death on May 25 of Francois Luc Arzul, a former CPO violinist.

When “Nimrod” ended, Gueller’s downward stretched hands said more clearly than words, “Don’t, DON’T applaud… WAIT.” Fortunately, the audience obeyed. And, after a suitable pause, Gueller picked up his baton again and the official part of the concert began.
The high point was a stunning performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 3 by the young Czech pianist Lukas Vondráček. This was the enormously demanding concerto forever associated through the movie Shine with the Australian concert pianist David Helfgott who suffered a mental breakdown while playing it.

Happily after Vondráček’s performance, the only thing breaking was the audience into wild ap-

Snatched defeat

It’s Philip May, the husband of British Prime Minister Theresa May, that I feel sorry for. It’s tough enough for wives to pick up their husbands after a defeat and a blow to their pride and judgement, but what words of comfort could Philip possibly say at breakfast on June 9 to cheer up Theresa?

On the Friday before the election when I was driving to town to attend the opening of Cape Town City ballet’s production of Swan Lake, I tuned into FMR’s weekly wrap-up of events in the financial world.

The announcer said he had “this horrible feeling” that the result of the British election would be his third wrong prediction following the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s triumph in the presidential elec

“Why did Theresa May refuse to take part in any head-to-head television debates ahead of the general elections?” he said. “She has truly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.”

And what could a loyal husband say to his wife when he knew that’s just what she did?

Do your bit

Dennis Bennyworth, who for eight years was the chairman of the Cape Amateur Theatre Awards (CATA), has a new role in his life. He’s now part of a three-man team try-
ing to drum up membership of the BKM Neighbourhood Watch. While the residents of Bergvliet, Kreupelbosch and Meadow-
ridge are tucked up in their beds, BMK patrollers, like our own patrollers in the TNCM, are helping to combat crime and keep the area 

“Every subscription gives us more money towards important things like surveillance cameras,” said Dennis. “We also want to keep members up to date with successful arrests as we work closely with the police.”
Those interested in doing their bit for the community can contact Dennis by email on dvorak@gmail.com or check out BKM’s website.

Last joke

If it was not for the last min
ute, many things would never get done.