Category Archives: South Africa

Dear Nedbank

I remember the early days of our relationship. It was a happy time. But over the years you slowly started to neglect me. You didn’t understand or listen to me. You would offer me credit cards and insurance, but never a better account or advice. I became sad and resentful. When FNB offered me a platinum account and to take care of everything if I moved to them, I jumped at the chance.

Then you called to tell me I was receiving a new garage card because mine had expired. I politely declined and explained I was leaving you. Your response was that I’d still be charged for the garage card unless I went into a branch to cancel it. I pleaded and you finally agreed that you wouldn’t send me the card. I then decided to end things properly, clearing all my funds, and asking you to close my account. Here is what happened up until this morning:



Despite all of this, 20 minutes ago I received a phonecall from you. Like a crazy ex-lover you were offering me things I’ve told you many time I do not want. You were calling me even though I told you two days ago to leave me alone. I think you need professional help Nedbank. I really hope you get it. But to me, now you’re just some bank that I used to know.



Chaos in a place of sanctuary

I wrote this a few years ago and republish it every year. Lest we forget.

Today, 25 July, is 18 years since the St. James Massacre.

1993 was a dark and difficult time for South Africa. Bombs, attacks, APLA and the third force all trying their best to derail negotiations. Our transition was a miracle and relatively peaceful, but many innocent people still died violently.

Boipatong, Shell House, Heidelberg, the abortive AWB coup attempt in Bophuthatswana and the Jan Smuts airport bomb, all fomented fear.

St. James Church sticks in the consciousness.

It wasn’t a factional attack or one hoping to draw attention to grievances (the PAC denied it APLA was responsible for a long time).  The church had a multicultural congregation, made up of many races and different nationalities. The attack’s intention was not to make a statement, but just to cause sheer, destabilising terror.

11 people were killed and 58 were injured. Two brothers died trying to save others. A Russian sailor lost both his legs. A man who had been forced out of District 6 watched his wife bleed to death in front of him.

I remember it each year and still can’t comprehend it.

Sure, the APLA cadres apologised, rationalised and were granted amnesty by the TRC. One of the survivors, Charl Van Wyk, and Letlapa Mphahlele, the APLA Commander who ordered the attack, have even spoken at reconciliation events together.

But still, valid or not, all the reasons and explanations feel inadequate. They don’t really matter, they’re just vapour on a stain. A stain that fades but won’t go away.

One year in Joburg

This Sunday marks one year since Alistair, Boo and I packed up our Cape Town lives for the bright lights and big city of Jozi. Well, bright lights isn’t completely accurate due to regular power cuts, although the spectacular sunsets more than make up for it.

The first six months were a bit rough on my Capetonian sensibilities, but I grow to love Joburg more every day. This city has tested and stretched me in so many ways. It’s made me tougher, more honest with myself and, oddly, less spoilt. If you’d told me in Cape Town that I’d have to drive 40 minutes to work every day, I would have said “Never!”

I’ve had a few unlucky experiences, almost like the city was testing me:

  • 1 x smash-and-grab
  • 1 x bribe request from JMPD
  • 1 x truck landing on my car with me in it
  • Really crappy summer weather

However, the good stuff has been really, really good:

  • Lots of amazing new friends
  • 3 x very close girlfriends who I adore
  • 4 x fantastic trips to Zim, Moz and Clarens
  • 2 x great jobs with super-talented people
  • Book launches, dinners, music and wine

I haven’t been to Cape Town since February and I think that’s helped. Living between cities may sound glamorous, but a little commitment goes a long way. In fact, after saying for the past year that “I won’t buy property in Joburg”, Al and I have now bought a beautiful 177m2 flat in Killarney.

Many Capetonians have blinkers on when it comes to Joburg. They want to stay where they’ve always been, whereas living in Joburg makes you want to go everywhere – and the rewards have been worth it. I feel like I’ve become a grown-up. I’m more confident, less melodramatic and stronger as a person.

We will return to Cape Town one day. If I have kids, I want them surrounded by family like I was. But until then, I’m really looking forward to three or four more years in Jozi.

The magic of Franschhoek

South Africa is my country, but I’ve felt a kinship with certain places that is not based on language, culture or nationality. One of them is the island of Ithaca in Greece, where some of my ancestors are from. The other is Franschhoek, another ancestral home, but unfortunately one with no ancestral land.

Alistair and I would go to the Cheese Festival every year and make a weekend of it in Franschhoek, staying in a private cottage with our own pool. It was an escape from “hectic” Cape Town.

A few weeks ago we went back for the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever been to (except my own of course) and stayed in the same cottage. We took long walks, read our books, and of course ate out – a lot. Franschhoek has a ridiculously high concentration of exceptional restaurants.

I have to thank JamieWho who recommended Pierneef a La Motte, where I could eat every day for the rest of my life (try the Springbok, Red Wine & Truffle Risotto). We also went to Mange Tout at La Rochelle for spectacular views and traditional fine dining. Completely delectable and completely relaxing.

The wedding at Vrede en Lust was breathtakingly elegant and beautiful. Beyond words really. Charne and Andrew are uniquely kind and special people, never cynical or disingenuous. Time with them is always refreshing. So of course everyone cried, even me, and then we danced until late under the super-full moon.

When Al and I got back to the cottage, we couldn’t resist a 1am skinny-dip under the stars. Everything felt just right for the first time in a long time. That’s the magic of Franschhoek for me.