#119. Watch soccer, even if the home team wasn’t sure what to do with the ball once they got it. Last night’s opening ceremony and game at Ellis Park has been endlessly dissected in hundreds of column inches so for my part – I was in the stands nicely placed behind the goalposts that sadly didn’t get much action from Bafana Bafana or Iraq, the sound of thousands of vuvuzelas like a swarm of very angry wasps buzzing in my ears.
#91. Escape to the Magaliesburg. We headed west out of Joburg on a Sunday morning in the direction of the mountains. It used to be that you could tell where the city ended and the scrubby countryside began. That was then. Midway between here and there, somewhere near Little Falls, a large sign mounted on a plot of land declared “This is Christian Country”. Past the sign, row upon row of little Tuscan boxes on the hillside spread out as far as I could see. The men at the robots handed out flyers promising a piece of Toscana Afrikana at just R1.47-million a pop, and begged for some spare change. The huge glass car showrooms along the highway displayed signs shouting “deposit-free cars”. Indeed a saviour would be worth having in that part of town. Continue reading
#69. Mix up a cocktail in Saxon-boutique-hotel-style, one of this city’s most luxurious and discreet hideouts. Once the home of Douw Steyn – and still owned by him – the Sandhurst residence was Nelson Mandela’s first home after he was released from prison in 1990 (It now has 4 presidential suites). It’s where he took time out to edit his master work “Long Walk to Freedom” and where, rumour has it, Oprah keeps an office when she visits South Africa to check in on her Leadership Academy for Girls. Continue reading
#65. Get The Joburg Book – a guide to this city of “thieves and dreamers”. The Joburg Book, edited by Nechama Brodie of The Hunter Gatherer fame is more than a history book and more than a guide. Just released it’s a collection of writings about how this city came about ( a giant meteorite figures in the story), the nature of its contemporary life, its people and its food (it even contains a Biryani recipe for feeding 800 people) and its constant need for its own reinvention. And through it all runs a seam of gold that has shaped this place into what it is today — a magnet for fortune-seekers and adventurers, at times a refuge and at others a city under seige.
It’s still the same city that Herman Charles Bosman wrote about, saying: “They are trying to make Johannesburg respectable. They are trying to make snobs out of us, making us forget who our ancestors were. They are trying to make us lose our sense of pride in the fact that our forebears were a lot of roughnecks who knew nothing about culture and who came here to look for gold”.
#61. Head to Troyeville to celebrate an Obama victory. Troyeville, east of Joburg’s city centre has had a few bohemian flirtations. The most memorable for me was Bob’s Bar, circa the early 1990’s, a haunt for the city’s writers, filmmakers and poets, misfits and activists, the lost and the found. You would leave whose ever car you had arrived in on a dark side street, and open a door into a world of coloured lights, vinyl decor and charged conversations that got more drunken as the night wore on. Alliances would be forged, feuds declared. There was so much alcohol it was easy to drink Troyeville pretty. Continue reading
#37. Have a drink at The Rosebank hotel’s Circle Bar. With conversation across the land being dominated by whether SA President Thabo Mbeki should be forced to “fall on his sword” — after a high court ruling that was meant to decide the fate of his greatest political foe, Jacob Zuma, instead put the failure of the Mbeki presidency back in the uncomfortable glare of the spotlight — it may be time to start drinking.
#28. Take advantage of the great weather by going to a park. And this weekend I went to two – the re-made one in Melrose opposite one of Joburg’s cutest boutique hotels, the Peech, and the Hugh Wyndham Park in Dunkeld that has been taken over by the suburb’s residents who now maintain this great public space.
It’s in Joburg’s green spaces that people lose their usual inhibitions about social interactions. Continue reading
#13: Join a book club, even if it’s only for one night. I spent Wednesday night at The Hyatt Hotel in Rosebank eating “Indian-ish” food at radio talk show host Jenny Cryws-Williams’ book club surrounded by lots of wine-quaffing and martini-drinking (mostly) women. (Note to the Hyatt: I am not sure you should be serving “Indian-ish” food.) The guest speaker was Vikas Swarup, an Indian diplomat based in Pretoria who wrote the novel Q&A, Continue reading