Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: woodstock (Page 1 of 2)

Open Letter to City of Cape Town regarding Cissie Gool House

This is an open letter to the City of Cape Town, mayor Dan Plato, the DA run municipal government of Cape Town, the ward councillors and developers with any agency around who gets to live where, when and how.

I live two blocks away from Cissie Gool House. I walk past every day when I walk the dogs. I know people who live there. What an amazing and almost miraculous thing has happened there over the last four years. A community of sidelined, separated, unseen, and needy people have done the unthinkable, in a building abandoned and left to decay. Children play. Washing hangs from makeshift lines. A veggie garden has sprung up.

I am not naive. I live in Woodstock. Petty crime, drugs, theft and even gangsterism are part of this neighbourhood. It always has been like that. Neighbours two houses up were bust for having a dagga farm behind closed doors. The police are ‘invited’ to my street on many weekend nights when the students’ parties get out of hand. We look out for each other. We know each other. We wave. Mostly. Those behind new high walls, not so much.

I know that people in streets close to Cissie Gool House have complained about noise, parties, fighting, drugs. Like me. It’s normal.

Law enforcement have been gathering for daily meetings at the park across the road from the main entrance to Cissie Gool. They are a ‘show of force’ and it is unsettling and nasty. I know that they are getting ready to evict the occupants. It is coming, I just don’t know when.

And every day my fantasy is exactly the same. Imagine if, instead of the bullying, violent evictions that will leave the building abandoned again, while those who represent the city pretend to be ham strung in the area of providing social and low cost housing in the city and close surrounds, the city sat down with the occupants and said, how can we make this a viable reality? How can we help you? Imagine. Imagine how much less the city would have to spend. Imagine how much less policed this would have to be. Imagine. Imagine people in the area bringing their children to Cissie Gool aftercare. Imagine people going to pick veg, or plant veg. Imagine going to the party instead of complaining about it. Imagine. Imagine spending the littlest amount possible to make Cissie Gool House an official low cost housing option, with those who already occupy it being part of the decision making process. Imagine. Imagine people living legally, close to where they work. Imagine people not having to leave their neighbourhood, after many were forced out of previous accommodation because of rampant gentrification and price hikes. Imagine solid community engagement. Imagine a solution instead of a fight. Imagine metro law enforcement sitting inside the fence. Protecting not harassing. Imagine something like District 6, but not being torn down. Imagine. This is our chance to do it differently.

I implore you ‘stakeholders’ to embrace, engage, discuss, be solutions driven. That is what I want from elected officials. Work for me. Work for us.

Woodstock resident

Megan Choritz

A Dream of a Beach

(A semi-true story. The feelings are real.)

I feel the pull back to familiarity. There is a soft, furry body lying alongside me. Early risers; those getting children to school or off early to miss the worst of the traffic slam car doors or call loudly from the street to someone still inside.

 

I keep my eyes closed, not ready to let go of the feelings of my dream even though the images are still to coalesce in my mind. Loss. Longing.

 

I dreamed of a beach.

 

I was on my way home, walking through familiar streets, totally confident that I knew the way. I greeted passers-by and smiled and waved. And then I took a different path between two pale and old buildings, following a kitten who had looked at me with recognition on its dirty ginger face.

 

Then I was staring at a beach.

 

I remember thinking in my dream that my street had been close to the sea, right up until a hundred years ago. Woodstock Beach had been filled with swimmers, fishermen and strollers. I remember seeing black and white photos suspended on metal wires in a trendy, retro craft gin store. And I remembered this in my dream. I remembered that I drive on Beach Road.

 

In my dream this was Woodstock Beach. Accessible only to me. I alone knew that it was right there, a few metres from home. Nobody in today’s world would ever find it. It was safe. Our secret.

 

Between the grey, crumbling dolosse birds had made nests. A white whale skeleton formed a ghost wedding arch in the sand. Gentle, pretty seaweed and crusty mussels grew in a rockpool. Another was filled with giant purple and ruby red gem stones. I looked down at my feet making soft dunes where I walked. At the water’s edge I turned around to look back. The city was a smouldering, crumbling urban monster. It was exploding in a disorganisation of more building, more development, more greed.

 

I saw an old woman wave at me from under the frame of a beach umbrella. She looked like she had always been there although I had only noticed her in that moment.

 

I wanted to stay. I started taking my clothes off to get into the water but up close the surface was densely packed with completely transparent plastic bottles.

 

“You can walk on it, but you can’t swim” yelled the woman. Now she was surrounded by crime tape, held by four estate agent boards. She stood up and I saw her police uniform.

 

I thought about leaving and my heart shuddered. If I left I would never find this secret Woodstock beach again. I started scooping the sand in my hand, the damp sand. Could I build a house here? There was nothing to make it with. A hole. I would dig a hole.

About that Land thing

I eavesdropped on a casual conversation between two white Woodstock residents who were ignoring their dogs’ poo in the park. They were ‘ventilating’ the notion of social and affordable housing in Woodstock and they were kinda whinging about why Woodstock had to ‘get social housing’. ‘Why them, where they live and have recently spent a total and absolute fortune on their newly revamped old Victorians or built from scratch mixed development apartments?’ is what I think they were getting at. And I thought about the people, mainly tenants, who had had to make way for these revamps, and those who had been evicted to make way for the snazzy developments that show only white people in their artists’ impressions. What interested me more than their ignorance and short memories was that they saw absolutely no irony in the fact that Woodstock had been a social housing and affordable option up until they had moved here.

I got home in a prickle. I couldn’t get their voices out of my mind. I also kept seeing the smile on Brett Herron‘s face as he handed keys to a resident of a social house in the, to use his words, Bo-Kaap facaded, development in the arse end of the world, Fisantekraal. He was so proud. Fisantekraal. In the photo of the Bo-Kaap facaded houses Table Mountain looks tiny because it is so far away.

Brett Herron is in charge of transport and housing in the city. Brett Herron lives in Newlands. Brett Herron has explained to Reclaim the City that the only place evictees of Woodstock can be temporarily housed is Wolwerivier (not Blikkiesdorp anymore because it is even more terrible and isolated than Wolwerivier).

People in the wealthy suburbs of Cape Town have made it abundantly clear that social or affordable housing schemes are not welcome in their ‘hoods. Their main argument is that it will bring down the value of their property. Well, folks, your property became valuable because poor people were either forced out or were never allowed in. The birth of townships like Imizamo Yethu is a perfect example of poor people having nowhere to live or transport to get to work for the rich in suburbs like Hout Bay.

No apartheid campaign was as successful as the forced removal of communities, and the destruction of homes, history, livelihood, stories, culture, families, livelihoods and access. Nothing deserves our attention more than redressing this. And yet, it gets a band aid, photo opportunity, pretend solution of Fisantekraal. It also provides the worst possible excuse for those who do not want affordable housing anywhere near their unaffordable housing.

What I don’t understand even a little bit is why these rich snobs of the fancy suburbs are even allowed to voice these concerns. Why is there any delay in identifying land, and building on it right now? Why is this not happening in Maiden’s Cove, Sea Point, Constantia, Hout Bay, the CBD, Milnerton, Pinelands, Rondebosch, Claremont (where people were forcibly removed), District Six (where people live in holes in the ground), Simonstown, and on any single tiny patch of land owned by the city of Cape Town?

Every (white) one is hysterical about land expropriation without compensation in theory, but these same people are clinging to a notion that they can spout ‘property values’ and not be racist and complicit in perpetuating the radical spatial and geographic apartheid of this city. And the city of Cape Town is complicit and active in perpetuating this too.

 

 

A Swim

In a moment of relief and with the seed of delight that my sore back was much released by the chiro yesterday, I decided to go and check out our local public pool this morning. I have been there before, with crowds of local kids on sweltering afternoons, but never before in the early morning.

I was greeted by two police people at the desolate gate and box office. The ticket seller wasn’t at work yet so I was snuck in with the suggestion that I would pay the R6 entry fee when I left.

I walked through the spotless cool of the building into the beautiful lawned park that surrounds the old but immaculate pool.

I was the only swimmer there. I did widths across the deep end while the life guard and another maintenance man did work in the middle section. On the width back to the near end of the pool I stared at Devil’s Peak. Going in the other direction I was welcomed by the big blue sky. I only stopped because I didn’t have goggles or earplugs and my ears started throbbing.

I sat on the low wooden bench and drip dried in the sun. A flock of hysterical sea gulls swooped in and paddled and washed and shouted. When I was dry enough I threw on my sundress, stuffed my feet into my takkies and walked home again. It felt like the old days, and it made me so happy.

For those of you who live and work in Woodstock, I am sharing my secret with you. Morning swims at Trafalgar Public Swimming Pool.

Brothers in Blood

I have to say it was creepy parking in the almost empty parking lot behind Artscape and traveling though the empty building to get to the Arena on the other side last night. Just up the road Cape Town was pumping with the jazz festival, but where we were was a dark, lonely little piece of town. Again, the silence of the Arena bar was depressing, along with the exactly four bottles on the shelves and the wrong glasses. It does make it hard for us to feel like we are there because we wanted to be. We were actually there for Brothers in Blood, Mike van Graan’s play, directed by Greg Homann and performed by David Dennis, Kurt Egelhof, Conrad Kemp, Harrison Makubalo and Aimee Valentine. And, before we took our seats I considered the possibility that I shouldn’t have had that single Jack after all. Everything felt a little bit taboo, knowing what I did about the subject matter.

Brothers in Blood puts a Muslim father and daughter, a Jewish doctor, a Somalian Muslim refugee and a Christian reverend in the blender that was Cape Town during the height of PAGAD action in the late 90’s. It’s all quite complicated. Their stories are woven together and then folded into a bag of interconnections that double back on themselves, for further connecting. And they all have very similar losses, and painful histories that bring them to this mixed bag of need and blame and anger and conflict.

There were moments during the 80 minutes of the play that I was deeply moved, mainly by the really superb performances of the cast, across the board. They were very, very good and fabulously directed too. There were a couple of scenes that were breathtaking and riveting and deeply touching, in spite of the fact that I found the style and form of the play quite difficult to come to terms with. It’s that funny thing where the internal monologues have to serve a triple purpose to expose back story, subtext and opinion. We pretty much get told everything about our characters and then see how this plays out when they interact. And I think it is a pity that they don’t just get to be.

The story of PAGAD feels to me to be an old one. There was something clear and committed and passionate about the struggle against gangsterism and drugs then. Last night I felt I was watching a slice of history, and it is almost that what the play was predicting didn’t come to pass here. In Palestine maybe. In the Middle East differently. In Somalia much worse than we ever expected. The irony is that in present day Cape Town intolerance of this nature is defined as Xenophobia and it is pretty much confined to black communities.

This is my story. I live in a little street in Woodstock. My house, that was originally owned by a Jewish woman, was rented out to Muslims when she was ‘forcibly removed’ when this area was declared ‘coloured’ in the 60’s. Now we own it; one pro-Palestine Jew and her long white non-Jewish husband. The corner shop is run by Pakistanis who can hardly speak English. The threat of the revival of PAGAD enters our conversations on the street corners when all of us feel frustrated by the scourge of tik and petty crime and the ineffectiveness of law enforcement. Our neighbours to the left are deeply religious Muslims. Our neighbours across the road are deeply religious Christians. Mo is a lapsed Muslim, now atheist, married to Milly, who goes to church every Sunday. At the bottom of our road are a family of coloured hippies; more socialist than religious. We have children in this street called Dylan and Aaliyah and Faizel and Summer and Aaron and Blaize and Mikhail, and Robyn, and Fahiem and Yasser.

I have gone off track, into my real world, grateful it hasn’t ended up with the ‘usual suspects’ behaving in predictable ways. Go and see Brothers in Blood. See great performances. See how sometimes we need terrible things to happen before we are changed. But sometimes, luckily, we just do change.

Kool Waste

A couple of years ago I was on the hunt for a safe, easy way to do my recycling. I searched, called, googled and spoke to friends before discovering Barry Visagie and Kool Waste. Woodstock seemed to be an under serviced neighbourhood, for all sorts of obvious socio-political reasons.

The reason why Kool Waste were quite difficult to get hold of was because they don’t have a great on-line presence. Since discovering them though, we have had an amazing relationship. For R60 a month, Barry and his gorgeous guy swing by my house once a week and collect a full black bag of recyclables. All I have to do is to make sure the stuff is all clean and dry. Plastic, paper, tin, and glass is all put together and then Barry and the Kool Waste guys do the sorting.

They sent out a newsletter this week saying that a lot of their customers were in arrears and that they had been losing customers too. I suppose it might seem like an extra expense when people are tightening their belts. I think this is a great pity. So I am putting word out there. Here is how to get hold of Barry. 072 1295787 or barry@koolwaste.co.za

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