Tag Archives: Johannesburg

Moving to Joburg

I dreamt about horses last night. According to the dream books this is indicative of a “highly stressful time of change”. Huh, it should have been a hundred wild stallions then. This moving to Joburg business is rather taxing and I’ve run out of single malt whisky. Fuck.

Bitching and whining aside, I’m pretty excited. A whole new city! New people! New restaurants! New bars! And, since it’s not Cape Town, nobody asking me where I went to school!

We’ve also found an incredibly beautiful, massive flat (three times the size of our Cape Town one) in an historic block we love, plus we have our friends as neighbours. Friends with a vastly manifold book collection and lots of single malt whisky. Sorted.

As for surfing, I’ve been assured of surf trips to Durban and Mozambique. For periods in between, I’m taking up tennis again. I have a mean forehand that’s served me well in advertising when client service needed a klap.

Ah yes, advertising. Eight years in the industry has been incredibly good to me, but it’s time for a change. Time to freelance, write more, read more, study more. To be the master of my own destiny and all that. Time to start something new… Or in the immortal words of retail copywriters – “Watch this space!”

See you in a few weeks Jozi. xx

Our new home in Joburg. Rather pretty, yes?

I think I love soccer

We’re exactly halfway through the World Cup 2010 and although the vuvuzelas aren’t blowing 24/7 anymore, I still Philip (and feel it).

I took my parents to the first match at Cape Town Stadium, which I found a little soulless, but the pre-match festivities along Somerset Road were fantastic. Dad, being an old school English footie supporter (Tottenham Hotspurs – yes, I know), had his ear plugs ready of course. Mom, being an avid acquirer of Chinese knick-knacks sold by Zimbabwean vendors, was kitted out in the SA Flag x 100. Earrings too.

We watched the SA-Mexico match at Cafe Sofia before heading to the stadium, as I didn’t want the old people to be too overwhelmed by bright lights and loud noises (hi Mom). It was a great day.

In the past two weeks I’ve met Norwegians, Americans, English, Australians and even an Icelander on the fan walk, in the city and at the CTICC fan fest. I’ve seen Fatboy Slim live again. People I don’t know have hugged me because we were wearing the same SA hat. I’ve had conversations with total strangers when stuck in traffic and food queues.

Everyone has said it a hundred times, but damn I’m proud of us. There will be a hangover, there have been issues, some fucktard from NZ called Joburg a dump (he’s probably from Auckland – aka Armpit). But in the end we have done what we set out to do and hosted a mind-blowing event. And we managed to pull it off while the rest of the world walllowed in a recessionary misery.

The last word: Never underestimate South Africa. We love proving you wrong. Failing that, we’ll blow a vuvuzela outside your window at 5am.

Jozi has soul (and golden hearses)

I’m a Capetonian. I’ve never lived anywhere else, except for those three years in Grahamstown that turned me into a socialist (Dad still wishes I’d just gone to UCT and done a BCom). I love the sea, the mountains, the people. I adore Long Street and the Promenade.

Despite this, Johannesburg has always held a strange allure for me. Other Capetonians think I’m ill or blame it on the fact I was born in Benoni.

Bungee-jumping in Orlando (not Florida)

I think it’s because the sprawling megalopolis has a layer of grit under its gloss. Unlike Cape Town’s comely winsomeness, Joburg’s beauty is all angles – sharp and unforgiving. It’s also heavy with history, a large part of that residing in Soweto.

So when our recently emigrated Capetonian friends organised a a tour of it all, I was as excited as the hadeda outside my window at 5am.

Hearse to Soweto

So-where-to now?

Ah, Soweto. A name that was invented via a public competition, the prize money being 10 pounds. Idiosyncratic and surprising, it’s a community of heartbreak, hope… and guys mowing the lawn on a Saturday morning.

Parking off

I was astounded by how much housing there is, even in the poorer areas, and the manicured green parks that accompany it. During apartheid Soweto residents weren’t allowed trees or bushes (terrorists could hide behind them), but they’re definitely making up for it now.

In Cape Town we have the dreary N2 Gateway Project buffered by 40 kilometres of shack, shacks, shacks. Yes, the DA runs the city well – if you live in the suburbs.

Sigh, tourists

First we visited the Freedom Charter Monument at Walter Sisulu Square, Kliptown, where Alistair and Chris were nearly kidnapped by Amway representatives and ended up buying Obama T-shirts. We then went on to the Regina Mundi Church, where students took shelter during the 1976 uprisings. You can still see the bullet holes in the ceiling.

Madonna and Child of Soweto, by Laurence Scully

Next was Nelson Mandela’s house in Vilakazi Street and the Hector Petersen Museum, designed by the same firm that created the exceptional Apartheid Museum.

8115 Vilakazi Street

It was a very full and emotional morning. I could describe how overwhelming it was, how I shed a tear in the church, how proud I was of everything we’ve achieved and how saddened I was by the distance we still have to go. But I think it’s an experience that can’t be shared, only felt for yourself.

Outside the Hector Petersen Museum

The big bad city

After Soweto, we went for pap ‘n wors in Newtown. Hey, if you’re going to be a tourist you may as well embrace it.

Can I see your wors?

After lunch our wonderful tour guide, Dorothy, took us to the Standard Bank offices. I was confused. Is Joburg so money-oriented that this qualifies as an attraction? But inside the building there’s an old mining tunnel – Ferreira’s mine – that was discovered during construction.

Wheelbarrow rides at Standard Bank

One of my favourite non-fiction books is Diamonds, Gold & War by Martin Meredith, which details the discovery of gold and the ensuing madness that preambled apartheid. So it was quite something to step into an elevator in the middle of the city and go down into a shallow stope.

We then went to the top of Carlton Centre. It gave us a mild case of vertigo and a true idea of how massive Joburg is. I loved it.

The high altitude made Amanda grin deliriously

Our tour ended at Constitution Hill. It’s wonderfully fitting that we could just stroll into the place that guards our democracy. There were plenty of interesting décor choices inside the actual court and mesmerising pieces of art just outside it. The toilets were clean enough for a constitutional too.

The watercooler gazed longingly at the musician

As we stepped out into the Highveld sunshine to make our way home, there was a flock of small birds nibbling at tourist leftovers and I thought, “Wow. Even the animals like Joburg.”

Constitution + Hill

- See more photos on my flickr account.

*If you want to do a Jozi tour (and you really should if you’ve read this far), get Dorothy of D’s Tours & Transfers to take you – email dtours@polka.co.za or call 082 444 3604. She’s fantastic.

It’s (kinda) cool by the Zoo

I despise zoos. Not the Cavendish-before-Xmas zoo or traffic-on-the-M5 zoo, but animal zoos.

The whole concept freaks me out. I can’t stand seeing creatures in cages. Even my pet snake and hamster both spent a lot of time outside, miraculously the former never eating the latter.


Then I went to Johannesburg Zoo last week with other zoo haters. It was a gorgeous day and we were in the area, so we tentatively approached what I’ve always regarded as the original den of inequity.

By the end of the day my perception, at least of Johannesburg Zoo, had altered somewhat. About 90% of the animals are endangered and the zoo is involved in breeding programmes that help repopulate species in the wild. Many of the enclosures are quite large and cleverly camouflaged so that you never feel like you’re looking at animals through bars.


It also gives kids and families who can’t afford a holiday to Kruger the chance to see and learn about animals. Of course it’s a skewed lesson – nothing compares to seeing a pride of lions in the wild – but it’s better than never seeing any, except on TV.

I got to see a polar bear, a spectacled bear, a cougar, lemurs, tigers, rhino, gorilla and an armadillo, which has got to be the weirdest fluke of evolution on the planet. The elephants made me sad though. No enclosure will ever be big enough for an ellie.


Still, it was a lovely way to spend a sunny Sunday. Strolling from one amazing creature to another, relaxing on the lawn with hotdogs and ice-cream while an array of birdlife flew around us and monkeys heckled in the distance.

If I lived in Joburg, I’d probably choose the zoo over Sandton. At least the animals are wearing their own fur.