Thursday, July 18, 2013
Nelson Mandela is 95 today. This video shows the Soweto String Quartet playing at the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens in Cape Town and a vision of all its audience - young, old, black, white and much in between - loving the music and the dancing and the beauty of the landscape together.
Perhaps the last happy day I spent with my father was in this exquisite spot, back in 1996. He was already suffering from terminal cancer, but we had two weeks of quality time in South Africa, with the most beautiful outing of all at Kirstenbosch. He'd refused to go back to his native country while apartheid was in place, but after Mandela became president he started spending his winters there. I realised, seeing him then, that he'd missed it all his life.
I haven't been back. But heading home from central London latish in the evening, in the underpass from the Imax to Waterloo Station I frequently see a Rastafarian busker. He has a guitar, dreadlocks, a ready smile and a warm and generous voice. He often sings this song. I cannot tell you the number of times he's cheered me up with it, nor how many times - after an uninspiring performance somewhere that should have been better - I've thought it the most heart-warming music I've heard all evening.