Looking for Mr Right…


Eve here, attracted to something … pink. Incidentally, on the wall of the house her mum used to live in when we were a ‘courtin’.

We cruise around sometimes, the two of us.We find some funny scrawls around the place. Eve has an eye for this kind of thing.

We liked this one. We like Maanie. He scribbles away, here and there. The whole street is his exercise book.

He’s obviously got too much time on his hands.


Poor Maanie. He’s brimming with passion but has no-one to share it with… Maanie vir wie?

If you want to meet him, I can go and write your name here, next to the question mark. Maybe he’s the one?

Reaching for Heaven


I love this spire at St Michaels church around the corner, its wooden-tiled exposure to the elements, the wet and heat and rot, eventual disintegration. I love the spiky nervousness of its heaven-quest, the splintery tiles, beginning to flake and peel away, threatened by gravity, the risk of falling towards an earthly hell.

The patina of despair like an invisible force around the urgent upward thrust. A wooden rocket of faith, ready to take off now for a hundred years, trapped in its moorings.


South Africa is a scrap economy. Raw materials are close to our hearts and fingers. Anything that can be scraped, yanked, ripped, unfastened, thrashed or dragged away is fair game.

In Observatory, the workings of the scrap economy are very apparent. After my neighbours so very kindly cobbled the pavement, a scrap-lover prised out the antique steel pipe embedded there to divert run-off water. The cobbles held fast by the pipe are loose and in disarray.     P1010904

Daily, the stones drift away, kicked by the ferrets from nearby Teletech into the street, or simply… who knows. The pavement is crumbling, and the goodwill of the people who invested in it has a hairline crack, perhaps.

Nearby is an elegant series of Victorian-era duplex homes. One morning, a month or two ago, the occupants arrived to discover that the entire pressed-steel facade had been ripped away in the night. Which is what had happened to their neighbours a few weeks before. So I guess they expected it.


The local scrap dealers gaily accept the plunder of the gifted trolley-driving recyclists. The steel apparently goes to China. Much of it came from Scotland – Glasgow and Firth are names I often see pressed into a manhole cover or streetlamp. Everything is temporary. Maybe it will end up back in Africa, at the root of some Chinese development?


Every time there is a shop vacated in Obz, something renovated, a new premises built… we hope (against reason) for something subtle, communal, maybe even lovely. Something that captures even a small whiff of the spirit of this diverse and historic neighborhood, and reflects it back with a smile, or a wink.

Every time, we’re disappointed. Take the Old Lion Match Factory in Lower Main Road. Here’s a golden chance to reinvigorate the heart of Observatory with a world-class mixed purpose development – some shops, maybe a bar or restaurant, another small supermarket would be nice… There’s even space for flats and a few offices, loads of parking. At least four old historic buildings, kind of industrial red-brick. This, at least, is what they propose. It makes sense, because this is what we need to turn our suburb around.


But then they go and let the entire block to a single tenant. A call centre. And now we have their scores of ferret-like employees, skiving and skulking on stoeps and driveways, scratching at their phones.

I’m getting tired of missed potential. I’m getting tired of sloppy cement, left to harden in the streets.Look at this place, above the old Spar in Station Road. The owners, Telamon Properties, don’t give a damn.


To them, it’s finished. The facade,  a pathetic, unconsidered amalgamation of the former collonade and the new addition, is like a cement shit: a great big gash of lumpy hard greyness. It’s just been left like that by the builders. So what. Move on.

We’ve just lost our pharmacy. Three new retail spaces that have been formed in its absence. What will fill them? The recent additions next door in Station Road – a sterile Mr Video, a little poop-shack of an internet cafe, the plastic death of a Chinese shop and a cheap airtime privy don’t inspire much.

Then there’s the infamous development on top of the new Spar. Where a wall fell from above and flattened a car a few months ago. Develpment was suspended, but the cement spires remain, like some brutal urban Atlantis. Note the untenanted space below… months old now. Lovely.


Cement is the blood of progress, the ooze of development. It’s a caustic, unforgiving sludge, but we love it, we cherish it. It is the substance that we hurl at the future, that slips down the glass face of our dreams, and fastens around our feet.