The luxury of living in a leafy suburb

I used to feel my tail feathers rising indignantly whenever I heard a comment about somebody living in a “leafy suburb”.
It sounded so privileged. However, realising that in crowded shack settlements there is seldom place for trees, I’m now aware how spoilt I am to live in a leafy suburb… even though it’s not Constantia!

You can tell a lot about homes with trees on their verges. The road will usually be tarred.

The owners will be paying for electricity, water, rubbish collection and sewerage, and they will expect help if these services break down or the trees, planted by the City, need trimming. Trees flourishing inside the garden also tell a story. There is probably a once-a-week gardener to keep things tidy and mow the grass every fortnight. There might even be a borehole or a well-point to ensure that even during the current water crisis, everything looks reasonable.

Hot and cold water in the house would be on tap, not on an outside tap shared with several other shack dwellers. There would be hot water in a separate kitchen and in one or two bathrooms which would have flush toilets. Long drops are not part of life in “leafy suburbs”. Families living with trees around them also experience the joy of bird song and the sight of squirrels and guinea fowl running around in the garden.

There is usually enough outdoor space to keep a dog or two happy and maybe a cat, if it can survive with dogs.
Accommodation in the home, let alone beds, is only ever shared during holidays or on special occasions like a family funeral. It is not forced because cousins and uncles are homeless.

People living in leafy suburbs usually have their own transport stored in a garage large enough to accommodate five, six or more people who would be happy to call it home even without any of the facilities and comforts that those, with trees around them, shamefully take for granted. Myself included.

Friendly businesses

I am constantly amazed that there are so many small businesses around here where people go out of their way to be efficient, helpful and friendly.

At the top end of Retreat’s Honeywell Road you can get paint matched and glass windows replaced. Further down you can buy flowers, bed linen and make-up while right at the bottom of the road is genial Alan Ward who each day receives and repairs 10 broken microwave ovens along with numerous stoves and refrigerators. He is also tops at telling you where you can get something fixed which he cannot fix.

He suggested I take our damaged aluminium ladder to a place in Wetton. Instead I had other ideas. I headed back up Honeywell Road to find the fireplace company which some years ago did a wonderful job making a complicated stainless steel, right-angle bend which had to fit both into a chimney pipe and a fireplace.

When we got the new part to Langebaan, it fitted perfectly.

There are three fireplace companies next to each other and it was a case of third time lucky. I even met up with the man who remembered doing the measurements for that famous fitting.

“Sorry,” he said when he saw the broken ladder sprawled diagonally on the floor of my small car, “we don’t have a stainless-steel welding set, but maybe we can add a strip of mild steel to strengthen your ladder.”

And that’s what he did while I waited, without even charging! Two other flourishing small businesses, which are a joy to visit, are Mama’s Haberdashery in Diep River and the Rope World in Retreat.
Both have limited floor space but masses of stock in drawers, boxes and on shelves which only the helpful staff know where to find.

You don’t have to own a ocean-going yacht, a small dinghy or be a climber to get something useful at Rope World because if you ask them nicely they will quickly repair a dog collar or make you a new dog lead.
And the prices are almost laughable. You see customers leaving the shop happily satisfied with half a metre of some twine or cord that cost a few rand. As for Mama’s it’s the one place within miles where you can get everything you need to sew, knit or repair. So usually I leave the shop with a small packet but smiling about the excellent service.

Young sounds

On May 24 we went to a super concert at the Baxter to raise funds for, and featuring the UCT Symphony Orchestra. The programme, conducted by Conrad van Alphen, featured four young soloists and the popular Symphony No 1 in C Minor by Johannes Brahms.

What made the evening unusual was that three of the soloists, who in the first half dressed in their finery for their moment in the spotlight, later reappeared in black outfits to join the orchestra for the symphony.

While Seul Pearl Jung (cello) and Uliana Alekseev (viola) came across as highly-talented UCT students, violinist Bonolo Kgaile, 23, in her striking Afrooutfit, and flautist Sakhile Humbane, 22, were clearly experienced performers. This was reflected in their dashing musicianship and bolder stage presence.

Kgaile played two movements of Mendelssohn Violin Concerto while Humbane gave a stunning performance of two movement of C.P.E Bach’s Flute Concerto in D minor.

Train frustration

Every day I want to scream when I hear FMR’s Rodney Trudgeon announce there will be no trains between Simon’s Town and Fish Hoek because there is sand on the track. Why oh why can’t Metrorail do something about it?

Love me tender

Love is a temporary insanity curable by marriage.

fionachisholm@iafrica.com