The big picture

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nm China Pollution~1

IT’S A relief to learn that the expenditure at Nkandla has been okayed, everything is hunky-dory. It would be a travesty if development of this national growth node and national key point were to be held up by niggling about a few hundred million here and there.

As this column has stressed before, we need to THINK BIG!

Already in the pipeline for Nkandla are:

l Giant new rugby and football stadiums (across the road from each other).

l A cricket oval modelled on the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

l An international airport.

l Several five-star-plus hotels.

l A stock exchange to dwarf the JSE.

l A submarine base in the Tugela River (to provide key point security).

l A high-speed rail link to Pofadder.

l A Disneyland (auditions for characters start next month).

But that’s not all. It seems certain that the Pan-African Parliament and the African Union HQ will in time relocate to Nkandla (The UN is also a possibility). And Nasa is already showing interest in proposals that the space observation facilities at Sutherland – a long way from anything in the remote Karoo – should relocate to Kranskop, that magnificent headland that not only looks out into space but gazes across the Tugela Valley on to the presidential residence as well.

You can’t get all that without putting out a few bucks. This is no time for curmudgeonly carping. We need to see the Big Picture.

Eng lit

SOME people retire to take up other pursuits, some to just twiddle their thumbs. Some again set about producing a magnus opus of what they have already concerned themselves with their whole career.

Peter Strauss, of Cowies Hill, is one of those. An English lecturer for many years at the Durban campus of the University of Natal (now UKZN), he has just produced a whopper of a book titled From Beowulf to Prufrock: one thousand years of English writing (Solo).

That’s some range. Beowulf is the hero of the first known Anglo-Saxon writings, actually much closer to the Scandinavian languages than to the English of today. Prufrock is a character in the poetry of TS Eliot in the early 20th century. Not surprisingly, the book is 958 pages long.

This might sound intimidating, but actually it’s a darned good read.

Strauss puts English literature into its historical and social context, which is something conventional study of the texts does not do. And he has a light touch. For example, on the eccentric William Blake: “A friend once came upon him and his wife reading Milton’s Paradise Lost in the garden – in the nude. Blake is said to have reassured him and told him not to worry, it was just Adam and Eve.”

He’s very illuminating on Dickens, which is pleasing. So many self-styled purists look down their nose at Dickens, yet nobody captured the grime and splendour – and the moral issues – of the Victorian age the way he did.

This is a book that would assist students of English literature on any campus in the world. And it was written right here in KZN. It’s quite a feather in the cap.

Déjà vu

IT WAS somewhat alarming TV footage – the CEO of FNB arriving at office in Joburg, surrounded by private security guards. He was in a big spat with the government. Things were tense.

Yes, it was back in the eighties. CEO Chris Ball had been accused by the PW Botha government of being in cahoots with the banned ANC.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Tailpiece

THIS fellow in England spends an hour digging his car out of the snow. Then another hour clearing the road of snow. Then the car won’t start, so he walks 8km to work, pausing to take shelter from blizzards at the bus shelters.

He gets to work and his boss says: “I’m amazed you made it in this weather. You know, I wouldn’t have minded if you just stayed away. There’s nothing to do here anyway.”

“My wife made me come in.”

“Really?”

“Yes, she said: ‘Don’t bother going to work, we can spend all day in bed.’”

Last word

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead


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