I’ve written a lot about walking in Melville. So much so that I was recently asked to ‘plot my route’ for other walkers. I immediately said yes, I would love to, and got out my pen and paper. Until I realised I do not know the street names, I don’t know which way is north or south and I don’t really have a route.
Each morning, and each walk, is different.
My walks are as much about what I see, as about who I meet.
I’m going to share this morning’s route:-
I leave my little home and turn left on to 1st Avenue, heading away from 7th. I have the Jo’burg skyline ahead of me.
On my right is the dusty pink house, the one that used to be a church, then a synagogue, then a squat. Now it’s an artist studio. I wonder what type of art they’re creating in lockdown. I think I should contact them and find out.
I think I should be creating something too.
I pick a flower from Lucky Bean’s verge. It’s a divine guesthouse with divine owners and the most intriguing door in all of Melville. I know they don’t mind me picking their flowers. They wouldn’t mind you picking a few either.
Then I zig zag my way along 2nd, 3rd and 4th, the quieter roads in lower Melville, stopping to talk to the security guard stationed on 2nd. His name is Proverb, he is from Zimbabwe and has only been here for 18 months. Last week Proverb queued for food, something he thought he would never have to do in South Africa. I learn that he studied for years, has a degree that he cannot use and is also good at handy work.
I think I will ask Proverb to do some handy work for me as soon as lockdown is over.
I also think how fucking lucky I am.
I make my way over 9th, a road that used to be impossible to cross. It’s quiet these days. You can turn right to buy masks from Superella, if you choose, or go straight.
I have a lot of masks already.
I go straight.
I puff my way up the 4th Avenue hill, stopping to photograph the fever tree and the purple flowered tree that I don’t know the name of. I take a right at the graffiti on 8th and walk down the steps. There’s a small house at the bottom of the road that has fascinated me for years. The one that always has a red light on in the living room.
I am in LUCK. Because this morning there are two people outside the house.
‘Hey,’ I say, “Do you live here?”
‘Yes,’ they reply, a little reluctantly. I ask if I can take their photograph. And tell them I have made up so many stories in my head about their romantic red lampshade.
They laugh but say no to the photograph. They tell me they never switch the light off but they don’t tell me why. It’s okay. I can continue with my fantasy stories of love and romance.
I wind my way to 7th Ave, near Kloof, which is where I would normally go onto the Koppies. The gate is locked but I don’t mind. I’m into urban walking these days.
I bump into Jonathan, with his sausage dog Ruby, in his arms.
“Isn’t she heavy? ” I ask. We know each other from the temporarily closed but most favourite TILT Coffee Shop.
“She’s 15,” he tells me. “If she needs to be carried, I will carry her.”
I look at Fred and tell him I am never going to carry him anywhere and that I expect him to stay healthy and live till 102.
And then I continue.
A left, a right, it doesn’t really matter, the streets are beautiful, the trees are magnificent, the aloes are in full bloom, everything feels fresh and it’s hard to believe anything is wrong.
Although it is Thursday which means there are a lot of people walking and carrying blue plastic bags. Thursday is Food Parcel Day in Melville.
A somber reminder; these days are not normal.
I end my walk going along 7th Street, the one that has always been my home from home. It’s filled with restaurants and bars. Many have closed but to my utter delight, many are starting to open again, albeit in a very cautious manner.
I pick up a coffee from De La Creme, my dog gets a treat from Ziggy’s Pet Emporium and I pop my head into the Vintage store. Kev and Don are both so cool, their clothing is fabulous and dear sweet goddesses we need this store to stay open.
We need all the stores to stay open.
I am walking slowly now. Because there are people to say hello to. And photographs to take. I especially love the poster outside Six Cocktail Bar, the pic of Che Guevara and the sign that says ‘Better to Die Standing than to Live on Your Knees.’
That is what Proverb is doing.
That is what we all have to do.
Fred slows down. Maybe it’s the smell of the nachos emanating from Six. Or maybe he knows we are getting close to home.
Maybe, like me, he is not quite ready to go back to isolation.