Tag Archives: joburg

Jacaranda Time

The blossoms fall
The purple against blue sky
Makes me think of you
You who aren’t and who were
You in London and Berlin and New York
You who have never been
Forgotten memories undiscovered
Daydreams that never happened

Another year goes by
Another season of jacaranda blossoms

You who aren’t and who were
You who have never been

Another year goes by
Another season of jacaranda blossoms

Discovering DIY

I’ve never been the DIY type. Well, perhaps occassionally decor bits – I can remember sewing a pair of curtains for a digs in Grahamstown years and years ago. I loved that digs – a delightful little cottage set in a garden and my first house. I’ve lived in many, many places since then. For the most part, my homes have been marked by impermenance. There was a little flat in Mobray, Cape Town where we decorated the lounge in bright colours and I bought new linen and curtains, but for the most part I’ve lived as though I might move on at any time. That song, old now I guess, “Life for Rent” has always struck a chord.

For some reason, the move to Joburg has been different. I suppose it is partly because I know I need to be here for at least two years to do the qualifications I’m hoping to do. Perhaps it’s that I’m getting older and feel the need to have a place that is both comfortable and beautiful. Whatever the cause, this move has seen me rent an unfurnished apartment, with which comes the excitement (or trauma, depending on when you ask) of buying furniture).

First off, furniture is expensive. Mutter, mutter, grumble, grumble. Second, furniture turns out to be quite a lot harder to find than I had anticipated. Okay, to be fair, this may be partly a consequence of living in a part of Johannesburg where most people probably have the time, money and/or interior designers to go in search of furniture outside of the areas where they live. The result is a remarkably limited number of furniture/home stores in the Rosebank/Sandton area (and an even more limited number with anything vaguely affordable).

Constrained by lack of choice, I braved the heretofore unknown world of flat-pack, DIY furniture. The first things I bought were a desk, a chair and a TV stand. It took me a week to make the choice and to get up the courage to place the order. I ordered them to be delivered (I live on the third floor, so paid manpower makes sense). They arrived, eventually (have I mentioned that I have a strong and growing dislike of delivery people), with the minor inconvenience that the first delivery included only two of the items, so that I had to leave work early for a second day running to receive the final piece.

For two days (well, evenings), I sat in my flat and looked at these boxes. It couldn’t be that difficult could it? Other people did it all the time. Gulp. Some of the things needed screw-drivers. I delayed another day so that I could buy a set of screw-drivers on the way home from work – what? I’m not a handy-man type.  I began with the chair. It’s an office chair with wheels and a seat-height-adjusting-thingy. I was expecting instructions. I took out each piece. There didn’t seem to be any instructions. With a deep breathe, I started putting things together. As I placed the final piece, I came across the instructions. I’m not sure they would have helped. I moved on to the desk and then the TV stand (this time with instructions). Apart from the fact that I ended with one more screw than I needed (which I gather from books and TV shows is normal?), I seemed to have succeeded. I had, with my own hands, put together a desk, a TV stand and a chair. I couldn’t believe it.

TV stand  Desk and chair - now with bookcase

It felt pretty good. I was pleased. But I wasn’t at all convinced this would be a repeat exercise. Oh, in between I’d also ordered a fridge, which came all put together already (although I somehow ended up with an extra screw for that too). So when it came to the great couch decision, I wanted to go for a ready-made, all-put-together couch.

Apparently this ideal was not meant to be. Couch ordered and paid for (multiple trips to Sandton later), arrived at my flat several hours after it was expected (delivery people – !). The two guys lugged it up the stairs, with difficultly, and along the passage to my front door. They took off the cushions and brought them inside. And then they tried to bring in the couch. And tried again. And again. It didn’t fit. The couch I had so carefully picked out – the comfortable, pretty couch I was so looking forward to collapsing down onto after a long day – did not fit through my door. I phoned the shop and spoke to the man who sold me the couch. “Don’t you have another door?” he said. My flat is small. Really small. And on the third floor. There are no other doors.

I sent the first couch back to the shop. What do you do when you’re now convinced that ordinary sized couches are likely to stick in your doorway and you do not want to have to go through the rigmarole of looking and ordering and waiting and being disappointed again? You buy a flat-pack sleeper couch instead.

The second set of orders (couch, barstool, bookcase) had similar delivery issues (delays in delivery annoy me so very much). Again, I spent a day looking at these boxes before I started the assembly process. I was a little more confident this time, although the couch was pretty intimidating until it was done.


It’s an odd feeling to think that the furniture you’re sitting on and using was put together by yourself. I’m still a little nervous that the couch might collapse when I sit down, but so far, so good. And on the positive side, I have a new set of skills I never anticipated having. Never again will I be stymied by the lack of suitable furniture selling shops; I’ll just do it myself.

Driving to Joburg

It occurs to me, the day before we leave, that I’ve never done this before. I’ve never travelled by car from Durban to Johannesburg. All the times I’ve travelled between the two cities – and there have been many visits since I first came this way in 2003 – have been by plane. It’s an odd thought. I love flying and I have a soft-spot for this particular route, especially in the late afternoon when you get to dodge and soar between giant thunderstorm clouds. The most dramatic experience I’ve ever had of flying through a thunderstorm was on this route. But flying has disadvantages. I remember a discussion, perhaps from a TV show or a movie, maybe a book, about seeing the earth from outer space and that it is all beautiful and uniform but there is no detail. From a plane you get to see the gentle rise and fall of the landscape. You get to enjoy the splendour of mountain ranges and the curve of escarpments, but you don’t see the newly build gateposts on a farm named Grootgeluk – grateful in spite of the hardships, perhaps a long-held dream come true. You miss the human detail, the texture of the landscape seen close-up.

Traveling by car (and I find trains the same) gives you a chance to soak up that texture. It’s a way to get a glimpse of what may really be true. Of course, you don’t get all the detail – it’s a painting, not a movie – but it is so rich with possible interpretations and ideas. Also, you get to sit still and watch for a few hours. That’s not something that happens very often. Sitting in a bus or a car or a train for hours and hours with no distractions, just letting your mind wander as you take in a world beyond the window. Some people hate the sitting still. I find it one of the most restorative parts of travel.

That’s how I felt yesterday on the drive up to Johannesburg. Not far into the journey, we began to leave behind the oppressive greenness of the KZN mist belt and to travel through farmland and acacia-dotted veld. The roads are good, the sky was clear and the weather was warm. Further along, clouds began to build up. The beginnings of what should have become a thunderstorm – those same giant, charged clouds that the planes overhead travel between. On the ground, there was little sign of those storms. The Free State is dry. Cattle graze in fields of dried-out, post-harvest stalks. Maize? Some winter crop? Newly ploughed fields lie waiting for the moment the new growing season can begin. Perhaps there is another reason they haven’t been planted yet. Perhaps they’re waiting for the rain. Dust devils lift layers of precious soil and sweep them across the road. The air is hazy with dust. Town after town, hazy with dust. Clouds are now gathering overhead and stray rays of sunshine turn dust devils golden.

Eventually, beyond the dry fields, we cross the Vaal River. Things seem calmer here but the haziness remains. We drive on, through the beginnings of the city, following the white lines. The road opens up and the Joburg skyline is before me. It feels like coming home. The whole trip has felt a little like that. The flat landscape of ploughed fields and open grass stretching to hills in the distance felt like relaxing. The small towns felt warm and familiar. This skyline feels alive. It’s late afternoon and Joburg is dusty and hazy. The clouds have gathered here, too, and they float across the city as stray sunbeams light up buildings and billboards. Through Sandton, along Katherine Street, past the place I used to live, along Rivonia Road towards Rosebank and my home for the night. Still my favourite part of the city. An evening with friends, a good night’s sleep. The drive, the trip, the hours in transit make a difference. I begin to exhale.