Tag Archive | yeoville apartment living

NO PICTURES, BUT A NEW VISTA COMING SOON

I’ve read many, many novels and seen countless films wherein the living space of a character, occurring in the dingiest neighbourhood, is portrayed very romantically. Loft conversions reached from street level via roll-up on-street steel doors, industrial spaces converted to sumptuous apartments are revealed after an arduous trek up a steep staircase, handsome men brush their teeth at kitchen sinks …  These scenes are, admittedly, usually set in London or New York where, apparently, the dictum of “worst property in the best location” does not apply as importantly as it does here in Johannesburg; a dictum which I ignored when I bought my flat.

In defence of my bad judgement, I was numb at the time: my circumstances were so inconceivable to me that I didn’t even bother to shop around; I bought the second flat I viewed. It didn’t matter to me that my friends would be too afraid to visit me; my daughter had cut me out of her life, what did I want friends for?

When, three days after moving in, the building’s hot water supply was cut off by the city council due to misappropriation of funds by the body corporate management company, I accepted the inconvenience with dumb stoicism and an unhealthy dose of self-pitying martyrdom: surely I deserved as much hardship as was thrown my way?

And then the delightfully unexpected happened and my daughter slowly came back into my life. She was careful not to let her distaste show when she visited me but, once she came to live with me, it soon became apparent that she was deeply embarrassed by our address. Weekend after weekend she chose to stay with friends after a night out, rather than be dropped outside our building by her friends’ parents, lest they be hijacked or harassed by the junkies camping out in the park across the road.

I’d more or less made up my mind that we would have to move, when South Africa awoke one morning to a wave of xenophobia. The news reports were nauseating beyond belief. My neighbours in the building were made up mainly of North Africans; they stayed off work, too frightened to venture out into the threatened violence against them. I myself felt fearful as I drove home every day.

As is often the case, a final sign came to me in the form of a routine bi-annual courtesy call from the estate agent who had sold the flat to me! Yes, I decided, it was time to get out of there.

The flat went on the market on Saturday, hopefully it will sell quickly. It has been a holding space for me during my darkest hour, but that hour has passed and it’s time to go out into the sunlight again. Louise Hay says to release your space to the new owner with love and that love will, in turn, await you in your new space.

And, as my wise friend Charlie always says, so it goes …

ive learned

WRESTLING, ABUNDANCE AND A FAREWELL TO 2013

I’ve been the target of an unwelcome suitor. A knock came at my door some weeks ago and I, thinking he was here to discuss some water problems we’ve been having in the building, allowed a very drunk Italian man who lives on the first floor into my flat. The caretaker of our building has since told me that he’s a general nuisance and a hopeless alcoholic. Anyway, once inside, the man lurched at me and told me that he’d known at first sight that we were meant for one another and that he was going to make me very happy. Grappling at my left breast and slathering my neck with smelly wet kisses, he proclaimed himself to be so generous that he’d just last week given his ex-fiance R10 000. To get new teeth. I was too busy fighting his hands away from my chest area to ask about the fate of the ex-fiance’s old teeth. I darted behind my dining room table and eyed my sabrage sword hanging from the wall. Before I could get to it, your man – very unsteady on his feet – charged at me and got me in a bear hug, clutching each of my buttocks firmly in his hands and proceeded to tell me that he’d been a parabat during his military service and that he’d make sure nobody would ever harm me: his ‘queen’.
By this time I’d managed to dance him back toward the door and – before he knew it – I had him out onto the landing and shut the security door between us. In a wheedling tone he begged to be let in again and then took to bellowing that I was a ‘stuck up cow’ and did I realize that he was not only rich, he had friends in rough places I’d never even heard of. One door down, the door opened and my neighbour, Brice, from Nigeria, an ebony mountain of a man, came out onto the landing and stood, arms folded, an implacable expression on his face and steadily gazed at the Italian who, by now, was spouting and spitting vile gibberish.
Finally registering Brice’s presence, the inebriated wretched slunk away down the stairs. He’s been back a few times, but I simply don’t answer the door. And I now have Brice’s cell phone number saved on quick-dial on my own cell phone.
I’ve had happier attentions from my close friends and family over the last hard times, like my darling sister jumping in to replenish my internet airtime when I ran out.. While I’ve been job hunting a friend has taken over Our Alice’s char wages and my best friend through high school – whom I’ve known for going on 44 years – surprised me with a delivery of a truck full of luxury groceries. From fancy cheeses, pates, chocolates … toilet paper, shampoo and soap … fruit, bread, cat food and cat litter … I don’t need to cross the doorstep of a supermarket for at least two months. I was speechless and at a total loss for words at her generosity.

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Seemingly as a sign of a new chapter opening, one of my miniature rose bushes – which I’d all but given up hope of ever flowering – has just produced a bud …

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And to end the year, one of those quizzy-things that’s doing the rounds today:

  1. What did you do in 2013 that you’ve never done before? I bought my own washing machine. And I learned to accept help from people who care about me.
  2. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes, a dear friend gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
  3. Did you attend any funerals? No.
  4. What date/s in 2013 will you remember and why?  14 July – my daughter said she loves me and we began our reconciliation after a long period of not speaking to me.
  5. Were there any illnesses or injuries in your family? Not in my immediate family, no.
  6. What was the best thing you bought? My apartment.
  7. Where did most of your money go? On buying and renovating my apartment.
  8. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: “I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed…”
  9. This question is missing.
  10. What was your favourite TV programme? I don’t have a TV.
  11. What was the best book you read this year? White Truffles In Winter by N.M. Kelby.
  12. What was your favourite movie this year? The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
  13. What did you do on your birthday? I moped. I’ll celebrate my 50th birthday next Wednesday, hopefully in a better mindspace.
  14. Did you travel anywhere this year? No.
  15. What did you do for Christmas? I had a sumptuous lunch with a friend and her extended family at the Johannesburg Country Club.

Goodbye 2013, thanks to all my blog friends for your unstinting love and support. May 2014 bring you all rich blessings. xxx

“I believe in justice. And in love. And in NOT getting over it, because that’s too much to ask of a human being. Getting over it is the wrong thing to want, anyway. You should never expect to get over it, the best you can hope is to live past it. And you go on. Your past becomes a part of you, you just fold it into the gnocchi dough and keep rolling.” Lisa Scottoline

BREAKING THE BLOCKAGE AND GETTING BACK IN THE SADDLE

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View from my balcony: Saturday afternoon cricket match – King Edward School.

“Mr Edgerton was suffering from writer’s block. It was, he quickly grew to realise, a most distressing complaint. A touch of influenza might lay up a man for a day or two, yet still his mind could continue its ruminations. Gout may leave him racked with suffering, yet still his fingers could grasp a pen a turn pain to pennies. But this blockage, this barrier to all progress, had left Mr Edgerton a virtual cripple.” The Inkpot Monkey – John Connolly.

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View from my balcony towards the East / Linksfield Ridge with Jacaranda Trees.

I can extend my deepest sympathy to poor Mr Edgerton; I too have been beset with writer’s block for the longest time. My torpor extends even to reading my friends’ blogs. So too my kitchen passion has waned and it is all I can do to force myself to eat a slice of toast and a glass of milk. I’ve been mired in self-pity and fear as I get to grips with the reality of my new life and wrestle with the task of finding gainful employment at a very bad time of the year. As Johannesburg begins to ready itself to empty as its residents flock to the coast for two months, I begin to dread spending the festive season on my own.

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View from my balcony of a storm brewing over King Edward School.

I sooth my dread with the thought that the lovely views from my balcony will be mine alone for a time and that I will be able to enjoy the afternoon summer storms without the customary noise of excessive traffic. I make sure that I make a daily gratitude list, and on that list the first five items are always the same:

My relationship with my daughter continues to prosper and we talk daily

I own my apartment outright and don’t have to worry about paying a mortgage

My divorce will soon be final and it has been amicable

Despite my currently poor diet, my health is very good

I have an extremely loyal and supportive group of friends

I constantly remind myself that the acronym for FEAR is FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL.

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View from my balcony over King Edward School.

A wise friend suggested that I make a list of 10 random things that make me smile – not obvious things close to my heart, like my daughter or my cat; just arbitrary things that never fail to lift my spirits. I will admit that making the list did render a smile:

Jacaranda trees

Vanilla milkshakes

Ducklings

Harley Davidsons

Santana’s “Oye como va”

Braai (barbeque) fires

Watermelon

Toddlers

Roses

Fountain pens

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Roses blooming in my little potted balcony garden.

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Princess Ally; my ever-loyal companion.

And so I remain steadfast in my quest to keep the faith and to believe that – soon – all will be well again …

STEPMOTHERS AND SILVER CURTAINS

Friday night and I was missing her, so I sent my daughter a BBM to tell her so. I asked what she was doing and she replied “Watching a movie with Dad and xxx.” A viper slithered across my heart. She has a knickname for this new woman already? While my kettle boiled for a soothing cup of tea I reflected and came to the conclusion that having a pet name for she-who-will-become-the-stepmother can only mean that my child is fond of her and this must mean that the woman can’t be a demon. I must be grateful for that. I guess.
“Step Mom, you entered our family at my father’s side with wisdom and patience. Though of your flesh I was not conceived, you cared and filled an empty need.” – Author unknown.

Empty need … oh bugger off; you can never  take my place as her mother!

I’m trying to create a refuge her for my girl, in case things get hairy over there. We went together to choose her wall colour and curtains. Unfortunately, she drew the short end of the stick – the view from her room was obscured by curtains when I viewed that flat prior to purchasing it and I didn’t see this appalling vista:

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It was a great challenge to transform the ugliest room in the place into a tranquil space. My clever girl chose silver brocade for the windows – she’s a chip off the old block, it seems: if you’re given an ugly lily just gild it!

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This is just  a corner of the room; it’s three times the size. Her dad still needs to bring over her armchair and desk for another corner and she needs to bring over her posters and personal knicknacks to make it truly her own.

chelseas room corner

Many ugly lilies have come to the front as I go about redecorating the apartment. The previous owner has shown himself to be a cad and bounder of the first order. New flaws reveal themselves daily and money drains out as I get people in to fix things; a litany of dodgy plumbing leaks not being the least alarming. I am told that I have legal recourse for things like this:

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Your scoundrel also did such charming things like removing every lightbulb from every ceiling fitting in the flat and replacing the gas bottle for my stove hob with an empty one.

I’m striving to be stoic and roll with the punches and to match calamity with serenity. I’ve come close to conceding defeat a couple of times, but at such times I’ve found chocolate to have the necessary palliative properties…

UPDATE: THIS ELECTRON HAS COME TO REST IN A HAPPY NEST

Now if this electron is displaced from its equilibrium position, a force that is directly proportional to the displacement restores it like a pendulum to its position of rest.
Pieter Zeeman

The pendulum of my displacement has stopped swinging – at least for long enough for me to share some pictures of the progress I (together with my fantastic crew of helpers) have made on the flat. I’m glad to report that the glue came off the floors easily enough and Our Alice and her sisters applied lots of elbow grease to get the shine coming up nicely. My painter has started working his way around the rooms, the bathrooms will be tackled by a different contractor.
My best friend from my school days, Tania, gave me a wonderfully thoughtful housewarming gift; she sent around her handyman for a full day to help me hang pictures and shelves, and to attend to various plumbing gremlins.
There’s still a long way to go yet, but I am very happy in my new nest.

floors looking better

first morning coffee

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pot on stove

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heidelberger poster hung

time for afternoon coffee

And my flatmate? Princess Ally is ignorant as to what all the fuss is about.  She acts as if the two of us have lived here forever …

ally afternoon nap

 

ABOUT FACE AND RIGHT INTO THE LION’S DEN

Volte-face (pron.: /vɒltˈfɑːs/ or /voʊltˈfɑːs/) is a total change of position, as in policy or opinion; an about-face.
The expression comes through French, from Italian voltafaccia and Portuguese volte face, composed of volta (turn) and faccia (face). (Wikipedia.)
“There are two ways to be happy: improve your reality, or lower your expectations”
(Jodi Picoult)
And so it happened – far sooner than expected – the house was sold and it was really not practical for me to pay exorbitant rent to the owners as a tenant. I was pressed, with a very low budget, to buy an apartment in a hurry, on a very low budget.
Unfashionable (to read it simply, dodgy) areas are perfectly in order abroad. They may, in fact, be viewed as thrillingly eccentric. In South Africa, however, moving to one of these areas may be seen as a form of deliberately assisted suicide. I forged ahead nonetheless and have purchased an apartment, with the blind faith that I will create a cosy home for myself and live under the ‘benign hand of God’: a fatuous construct in some eyes, perhaps, but the deed is done.

I have entered the lion’s den. Mine is the top floor, right hand end apartment. It overlooks one of the top schools in Johannesburg and I will be able to enjoy watching the lads play cricket while enjoying a cup of tea on my balcony.

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Once the almost exclusive enclave of Jewish immigrants seeking out the safety of an apartment community; what they were used to in Europe, the area became, in the 80s, the stomping ground of well-heeled hippies. I remember it being the very epitome of bohemian nightlife. Sadly, it has since degenerated into a ghetto populated by Nigerian drug lords and the like. I recently read that there is an initiative underfoot to reclaim the area and trust that my leap of faith will prove to be a fortuitous one. If nothing else, it will give me an exciting project for interior decorating and will provide some blog fodder.
The apartment itself is a warren of large, sun-filled rooms, currently populated as a commune.

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I will begin by beefing up the security and making a lot of cosmetic changes to the interior. It is filthy, but nothing that ripping up the horrid carpets to expose the beautiful parquet floors and a lick of paint can’t improve. I shall need the services of a handyman, for quite a while, with a little luck I will find a beefy shirtless hunk with a big toolbelt. Our combined experiences will – no doubt – offer up much blog fodder. I promise photos of the progress.

One thing I am particularly looking forward to is having a proper oven again and being able to bake. With the miniature stove I’ve had in the cottage, freshly baked cakes have been a thing I have sorely missed.

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I am excited. Watch this space!