The Valley of Sinners

Grahamstown-wide

So here I am in Grahamstown – in reality a rural community that probably owes it significance to the Rhodes university – named of course after Cecil J Rhodes and better known in New Zealand in connection with the Rhodes Scholarships. The attempted panorama photo above is taken from a hilltop above Grahamstown. from this distance it is not possible to see all the church steeples. but I get ahead of myself……

This morning and afternoon I went walking around the old township of Grahamstown. Thoroughly walkable, it is a picturesque town with lots of beautiful buildings and particularly churches – apparently over 50 of them. Set in a valley on a plateau, there was thick fog when we arrived the other night. In fact if you had not known you could easily have driven past it without noticing its existence. We motored in at a brisk 20 – 30 kilometre speed.

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So this morning I wandered along the main street – a true main street in the old sense of the word, with trees dividing the road and a Cathedral standing at the end of the road. I wandered through the cathedral, looking at the memorial plaques for soldiers killed in one of the many wars fought in South Africa – a vast country with rich mineral resources. I noticed that several plaques had layers of marble placed over certain words – no doubt in the effort to placate certain sectors of the community. The stained glass window is a memorial to a wife who “went to sleep” early in the 19th century

RIMG0020Directly across the road I noticed another Church and then yes another Church! There are church steeples all over Grahamstown! These people must be real sinners – and really need saving!

Here is a photo of these three churches so close. Just 100 metres or so downhill from them on the left is a Jewish Synagogue (that apparently used to be a Masonic Lodge) a Baptist Church and opposite that, a Catholic Church – not standing on top of a hill as per usual – they must have lost some of the ironclad control that they used to exert over ‘personkind’ in centuries past. Note also the fence and gate in front. No way in for the great unwashed

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After a short break over lunchtime, it was up to the Rhodes University, where I enjoyed walking around the spacious and beautiful grounds of this illustrious place of learning. I even managed to find the Music Department, but could not get in through the security gate.

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Here is the front entrance – used to be the Parade Ground. Below, the side of the Main Building, an interesting artwork (not to be climbed upon!), a pathway, gorgeous dining hall and Halls of Residence.

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RIMG0052I wandered also through the Botanic Gardens, which appeared to be more of a park than gardens. I managed to find my way up to the top of the hill to see this fort, after being turned back by several fences. I took a photo of the path looking downwards – and yes, I did wonder if it were wise to walk up here alone :). There are fences EVERYWHERE. Even around the Gardens is a vicious-looking fence to keep people out of a public park?

 

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I also saw a really huge Mushroom (diameter about as large as my foot!) and a ‘Dracaena Draco’ (No, not a Harry Potter character – a Dragon tree, or a Drakeboom in Afrikaans!

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RIMG0067On the way back to my current abode, I took a few photos of the fences – really friendly stuff! Note the barbed wire, which graces the top of many of these fences – difficult to see in these photos. The manufacturer of this must have made a killing in South Africa (excuse the pun). as was said to me, there is a real fortress mentality here. the more wealthy one is, the more need to erect a large fence to let people know that there is something inside to steal – and of course the corollary…the less chance of seeing if there are intruders inside the fence perimeter! fences in Grahamstown are less fierce than those in larger towns. I don’t feel so comfortable taking shots of fences, so I have refrained so far. I may try to find a collection of them at some stage

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RIMG0002 So back at my lodgings here. Lantern Hill is a gracious old Bed and Breakfast place, which will become lodgings for graduate Students next year. The owners do not live on site, so when I was told I could use the kitchen etc, I took every advantage of that. I have managed to have some cooked feasts for the last two nights – rather large, but great to have and also managed to wash and dry every scrap of clothing that I have here in a large commercial washer and dryer. After six weeks of hand-washing in hotel basins and drying as much as possible in hotel rooms, I think they probably will enjoy being really clean and dry.

Even in here there are fences. the front door is a security barred doors – made of REAL metal. You cant see them but behind every window are bars. I wonder if the fences are to keep people out or people in here in the valley of Sinners…….

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About David Adlam

I am a conductor, composer, clarinettist and examiner for Trinity Guildhall working in Auckland, New Zealand and overseas
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