Scary stories from a lovely place
I love, love, love living in Brixton.
Yesterday, late in the afternoon, I went for a walk to buy some milk from my local Portuguese grocery store. On the way I went via Kingston Frost and watched the smouldering embers of the sun drop below the horizon. It was spectacular. This detour did however render me on the streets after sun down which meant that every minute ticking by made my little sojourn riskier and riskier. Some would say living in Brixton made the whole exercise too dangerous for sense.
But I went on my way. Kids were playing soccer at the Hilltop Tennis courts. A lady was throwing a ball to her ghost-eyed dog in another part of the park. Countless kids milled around, running from the dog in mock terror. In the park by the play equipment a cluster of kids huddled around an older lady as she gave instructions for some game or another. Further into the streets I passed men and women walking home from work. People stood outside their homes talking to neighbours and passers-by, only stepping out of the way of me and Silas at the very last minute. Young, female students eyed Silas greedily, simultaneously wanting a cuddle and wondering why I was outside with such a tiny baby.
At the Portuguese grocery store I made my purchases – milk, tin of tomatoes and to my excitement, Tim Tam’s which were marked down to R19 (expensive for biscuits but not for Tim Tam’s which are imported from Australia and retail for about R35 in normal supermarkets). Outside I smiled nervously at the homeless boy who is always there. He smiled back, mesmerised by Silas’ buggy.
It was more of the same on the way home – neighbours, kids, those in transit. Outside a ramshackle building was a pile of freshly delivered Yellow Pages’, still in their plastic bags. A swarm of kids leaving the school across the road saw the pile and hungrily pounced like a flock of vultures. They grabbed at the wads of bag and paper, greedily wanting a Yellow Pages each. A family walking on the other side of the road shouted admonishingly at them. The kids ignored them and ran off home with their find. Close to my house two young girls were playing soccer in the street against a security guard and another man. One of the girls wrested the ball from the one man and deftly scored a goal through the brick posts. The men erupted in laughter, embarrassed at their fault. Further along a female student I have talked to before said hello. Last time I saw her was probably 3 months ago and she told me I would be a very yummy mummy. This time she approached me saying “last time I saw that baby he or she was inside you”.
“He’s a boy” I replied, happy to see her again. “I don’t know why he’s not crying, I thought he would be hungry by now”.
“He is a very disciplined baby then.”
“Maybe” I replied, a little embarrassed at the suggestion.
Finally in my street, I greeted one neighbour, then another and another. Our transparent walls make it easy to have friendships. And I arrived home safely as dusk turned into night.
As I closed the gate an old friend dropped by. I hadn’t seen Thuso for months, even twelve, since he had gone home to the Free State. Now he was back in the big smoke again, hoping to try his luck at finding a job. He was excited to see Silas and, even though he was unsure he was a boy (“are you sure it’s not a lady?”), he seemed impressed.
All in all, a lovely evening’s walk. It’s not perfect, Brixton has it’s fair share of Joburg’s poverty, drugs, rubbish and child abuse. But on afternoons like yesterday it feels quite idyllic. All it needs is a sea breeze.