A friend, some time ago, wrote about an advertisement for a property developer that made her nervous about losing her view her farm dam. Her post was titled ‘They paved paradise and put up a parking lot’ from the Joni Mitchell song ‘Big Yellow Taxi’.
It made me think of two people who visited us on separate occasions in Cape Town.
The first was when I bought my little house in Glencairn Heights. At the time, there were only two tiers of houses at the foot of Elsie’s Peak. A little shopping centre serviced our needs and at night the village was beautifully dark, only the reflected lights of Simonstown shimmered on the ocean.
Friends visited from Johannesburg and stayed at a nearby Bed and Breakfast establishment. Because they were first-time visitors to Cape Town they went ‘out on the town’ quite a lot. One morning, over breakfast, they complained: “this place is really backward, Capetonians are so lazy, can’t believe nobody sees how much bucks could be made if they put a McDonalds or Steers here. Everything is closed by eight o’ clock!”
There is no secret about the fact that I am mad about Smitswinkelbaai. I want to spend my last days there and I want my ashes scattered there. Some years back we took a man for a walk down there. He’d become a friend of Old Spouse though work and was in Cape Town on a weekend break. This bloke stood on the little beach and looked up at the mountain. “Amazing!” he said. “With enough bucks this could be a kick-ass resort. Put a helipad down here, a couple of shops and maybe a beauty spa. Man! It could be the playground of the rich and famous!”
We don’t see those people anymore. I expect they went on to make lots of bucks.
They paved paradise And put up a parking lot With a pink hotel, a boutique And a swinging hot SPOT Don’t it always seem to go That you don't know what you’ve got ‘Til it's gone They paved paradise And put up a parking lot
– Joni Mitchell
Trivia for my old pals, Czardas and Niels:
Bob Dylan slightly rewrote the lyrics on the album Dylan, released in 1973. In this version the taxi becomes a bulldozer that “took away the house and land.”