Two Women Talking about Nelson Mandela

Yesterday there was a wild west wind and the leaves streamed out of the trees like spectators out of a big game. Now the trees are nearly bare.

Last night we were told Nelson Mandela was dead.

I overheard Maureen talking  with Heather Atterbury about him earlier today.

“There was a female quality about Mandela”, Heather said, “the way he set out to understand and win over his captors, learning Afrikaans, learning about rugby,  about their families and their children,  soft but insistent, no vanity, no need for them to recognise who he was or enter his world…

“And he loved clothes, he really knew how to dress…Those shirts!”, said Maureen, with a chuckle. “ And he loved gardening, too. Winnie was the angry one. She wanted revenge…”

Maureen was showing her work to Heather.  Maureen is thinking about giving up clerking at the court which she now only does as emergency cover. She has this idea of selling work to clip art sites like Shutterstock. She does line drawings of insects and separate drawings of specialised body parts. She really is expert in this. After scanning them she can add software that lets you click the labelling on and off.

The other day she was explaining to me the difference in the female reproductive systems of the most primitive insects, like mayflies, and the more advanced ones, like bees or wasps, whose ovaries have nurse cells.

Today she is drawing the Puriri moth. Its larvae live in a strain of beech trees that grow only in the southern hemisphere.

Heather has created an image of a protea with Mandela’s face inside it and the dates of his birth and death in a ring around it and posted it on Facebook.

I remember sitting with Mikey and watching Mandela leaving prison in 1990 and looking at the faces of the guards and wondering what they were thinking.

Henry McCulloch said: “He was a great man, but I am not sure it’s a viable country.”

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