Monday, 31 March 2014

The book is always better

Today Goran and I discovered the most awesome British author-slash-illustrator of children's books, named Anthony BrowneWe were particularly enthralled by Willy's Pictures, one of his titles published all the way back in 2000, about a chimp who paints himself and his friends into famous works of art. Below are some charming examples...

We were at the Johannesburg City Library, which is somewhere I have been meaning to check out for a full two years already - ever since I heard about its relaunch following a three-year, R68-million refurb. I haven't belonged to a library since we moved up to Joburg almost 12 years ago, so while we were there I applied for (free) membership - for both Goran and myself - which entitles us to borrow books from any of the city's libraries. I have to go back on Monday to collect our cards.

You are not allowed to take photos inside this beautiful old Italianate building (first opened in 1935), but below are some pictures I managed to snap on my iPhone. I also included my own set of directions on exactly how to get into and out of the underground parking garage beneath Beyers Naude Square (ex-Library Gardens). Even though it is not open to the general public, you'll be amazed at how far the flash of a friendly smile and a crisp R20 note can get you with the security guys. Unless, of course, you fancy trying to find parking on the street. Yeah. Didn't think so.

- The ENTRANCE to the underground parking is on Albertina Sisulu (ex-Market), just off the corner of Simmonds
- The EXIT is on President, just off the corner of Simmonds
- The green line shows the best route into town from the north
- The red line shows the best route back out
- The broken blue line shows the short distance you have to walk across the square, from the stairwell of the underground parking to the library steps

Please note you will not find this detailed, up-to-date parking info anywhere else online.

You can thank me later.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Black Betty had a child (bam-ba-lam), the damn thing gone wild (bam-ba-lam)

On Thursday Lee and I celebrated 20 years together. Yip, a full two decades – more than half our lives – joined at the hip... "dancing screaming itching squealing fevered, feeling hot hot hot!"

Ours is a tempestuous relationship, full of crazy ups and downs, and, like many other passionate couples, there have been more than a few times when we have wanted to kill each other. But so far, we have always managed to work through our differences, usually with a big fat slice of humble pie and/or a good dollop of compromise. We fight hard, but we forgive graciously, and I think this is what makes us such a formidable team.

Anyway, unable to mark the auspicious occasion on Thursday itself, due to babysitting constraints, we decided to celebrate last night instead, just the two of us, by checking out the newly opened Hard Rock Café Johannesburg, on Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton.

This is not the brand’s first foray on local soil. They had a restaurant at the V&A Waterfront in the late 90s (1996 - 2001), and from what I saw (on a Friday night, in the heart of Africa’s richest square mile), I have a feeling this venture won’t last even that long. Now while I don’t usually write restaurant reviews, I felt that this experience was worth putting out there in some detail – as a warning, a cautionary tale – to spare other genuine rock-music-and-food-lovers similar disappointment.

We got there just before 11pm and left just before midnight. Besides the hordes of schmangled douchebags 'dancing' all over the restaurant like buffoons to possibly the worst mix of music I've heard in two decades, we witnessed what could only have been a foreigner, tripping balls and being forcibly taken out by three or four burly bouncers. As we were leaving, this unshaven hippie, with a 30 Seconds to Mars 'bun', loose cotton clothes, and a cross-body canvas bag which he wore at all times (even whilst spazzing out on the dancefloor), came running past us like a maniac, out onto and around the piazza, and then back into the restaurant. It was on his return, eyes wild (clearly out of his tree, with an urgent need to gallop wild and free), that the bouncers rugby-tackled him right under our noses. Entertaining and disturbing at the same time. I think this freak would've been far happier at a trance party on a beach in Thailand than on a concrete square in the middle of Jozi.

The 'starter' nachos (R109) could've fed a family of four, and were seriously lacking in cheese (bigger is NOT always better; flavour is far more important to me), and they didn't have Peroni (WTF?!), so we ended up having to drink Heineken draught instead.

The size and layout of the venue itself is pretty rad, though (I think it'd make an awesome spot for intimate gigs, and they've got a nice size stage set up for just that), plus I loved the Black Sabbath, Mötley Crüe, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, KISS and The Cult memorabilia, amongst others.

Novelty of rock memorabilia aside, I can't / won't recommend this restaurant to anyone, and personally won't be going back, unless a decent band is performing.

Above: Lee and me, Monday 30th May 1994, two-and-a-half months after hooking up. One of the happiest times in my life. I was 19. Na-na-na-na-nineteen. Footloose, fancy-free, and in lust with an 18-year-old ex-Joburg boy, fresh on the Durban scene. Little did I know that this shy mohawked teenager would be 'the one', the man who would go on to become my husband, and then the father of my son!

This picture has quite a rich narrative, actually. It was taken by my mate Lisa, in Lee's bedroom at his parents' flat in Summer Glades, overlooking Greyville Racecourse. I found my crimson vintage frock at Granny's Attic (still going strong after all these years!), and my hair was done by Terry Scott in his very first salon at Musgrave Centre, a stone's throw from the now-defunct Legends Café (absolutely the best place for ribs at 2am). The upstyle cost me nothing (I was a model for one of the apprentices), and I vividly remember walking back to the YWCA on Musgrave Road where I was living at the time, in broad daylight, wearing my Docs and incongruous posh updo, feeling even more self-conscious than usual. Waha!!

We were on our way out to Play @ Berea Inn (our weekly goth haunt, which went on to became a Bluff Meat Supply, before the whole building was demolished), for an Intergalactic Party hosted by the inimitable Helgé Janssen. Play @ Berea Inn was always held on a Tuesday night, but because Tuesday 31st May 1994 was a public holiday (the last Republic Day in SA), it was moved to the Monday night instead. On Tuesday, while we were nursing epic Black Label hangovers, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations announced to reporters at the Commonwealth HQ in London that South Africa would resume its membership of the Commonwealth, effective the following day, 1st June 1994. Eighteen months later, armed with two-year working visas (thanks to SA's new-found Commonwealth membership), Lee, my flat-mate Zaga, and I, would be leaving on a jet plane bound for London town!

Just two more pics of the beautiful Nelson Mandela Square I snapped on my iPhone as we were making our way home.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Cape Town - March 2014

A photo diary of our seven days and nights in and around Cape Town, following my sister-in-law's Stellenbosch betrothal to her Irish beau...

Below: Our accommodation at The B.I.G (Backpackers In Green Point)

Below: View of Muizenberg en route to Kalk Bay

Below: Kalk Bay

Above and below: Lunch at Cape to Cuba in Kalk Bay. At 130 ZAR (7 GBP / 8.6 EUR / 12 USD), I challenge anyone to find a better value-for-money and equally tasty 'seafood platter for one special' anywhere else in the country! (These were also the most exquisite mussels I have ever had).

Below: View of Cape Town, nestled at the foot of Table Mountain, from Robben Island World Heritage Site and museum

Above: The (in)famous lime quarry, described in Nelson Mandela's autobiography Long Walk to Freedom

Below: Nelson Mandela's cell, in the maximum security prison where he served 18 years of his 27-year prison term

Above: Heading back to the mainland across Table Bay. Note the 'table cloth' of orographic cloud on Table Mountain.

Above and below: V&A Waterfront

Above: Goran and his 'Bunga' (Grandpa) Nils at Sea Point

Below: Front view of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway's upper station

Above: One of the switchbacks en route to the base station of Table Mountain's Aerial Cableway

Above: Rear view of Table Mountain's Aerial Cableway upper station

Above and below: Camps Bay

Below: Lunch at Zenzero in Camps Bay

Below: View of Lion's Head from the top of Table Mountain

Son: Gee, Dad, what do you want to do tonight?
Dad: The same thing we do every night, Son - try to take over the world!

Below: Goran and his Granny Marilyn

Above: Lunch at Dear Me on Longmarket Street

Above: Some fab vintage shopping in The Long Street Antique Arcade

Below: The stunning Imagenius 'gifting and living' store on Long Street

Below: Bo-Kaap (formerly known as the Malay Quarter)

Below: Panoramic sunset views from Signal Hill

Below: Goran hitching a ride with his Great Grandpa Des on a trip to the Two Oceans Aquarium

Below: Dinner and some end-of-holiday under rods silliness at Beluga in The Foundry precinct

All in all, a magical, memorable, much-needed 10-day break away from the frantic pace of day-to-day life in this crazy, and currently very soggy, mining camp of a town.