Scary stories from a lovely place
As mentioned in my previous post Stephen and I have started to sell some of our worldly possessions in anticipation of our inter-continental move later in the year. It is expensive to send things to Australia and so we aren’t taking much. Stephen said when we first talked about it that he only wanted to take the clothes on his back, like a convict or something. But then I reminded him of his tools and he recanted somewhat.
But we won’t take much. So we are selling virtually everything. I like a lot of our stuff. It’s not particularly fancy or expensive, indeed most of it came from a second hand furniture store in the Brixton High St run by a friendly Russian family. But a lot of the items are imbrued with history and meaning from Stephen and my short relationship and marriage here in Joburg. As we sell them I thought I’d reflect on a few of the more memorable items here.
Firstly, the Laoliu bike. In 2009 Stephen bought me a bike for my birthday from he and his parents. I had been perving on bikes in two Chinese stores on the Brixton High St and he knew of my desire. But it was a fairly ill placed attraction between myself and the Laoliu.
First I should have been warned by the brand name ‘Laoliu’, not particularly well known in the world of cycling. Second I should have realised that a mechanical piece of equipment purchased from one of the Chinese stores in the Brixton High St wouldn’t do what it should. These stores sell eveyrthing; clothes, toys, prams, baby walkers, TV and stereo systems, kitchen appliances, luggage, cell phones, knives, bikes and all manner of plastic paraphenalia. Third, the Laoliu bike was only R400 which isn’t much for a mode of transportation.
But I loved it’s small size, I loved how light it was and I loved the little clip at the back to hold a bag or pile of books. I envisaged myself riding down the hill to University or church with my bible and notebook clipped onto the back. It was a fantasy that only lived for about two weekends.
We purchased it late one night (the shop was still open) and then took it for joyrides up and down Fulham Rd. But the chain kept coming off. I wasn’t deterred. That Sunday I rode the bike to church. I took off up the road and rounded the corner, stood up to pedal and get some speed, but the chain came off. I went home and Stephen fixed it and I tried again, but the chain kept coming off. I figured out that if I didn’t stand and pedal, but remained seated and if I didn’t put too much downward force into it, then the chain wouldn’t come off. It’s pretty hard to ride uphill doing that. But I still loved it.
Riding down the hill on Symonds Rd, past the Diners Club building on my left and the BC Res on my right was pretty hairy, but very exciting. It’s a really steep hill so while my speed climbed and I imagined crashing and grazing my entire body, I loved the thrill. I also loved the crazy looks people gave me as they drove past. But at the bottom of the hill, riding along Ditton Ave to church, the chain kept coming off.
And so it was. The chain wouldn’t stay on. I rode it a few more times, but it became pretty frustrating. Then I found out I was pregnant with Silas and figured that riding down the Brixton hill was too dangerous. So Laoliu became an ornament near the front door. I liked that it was still a part of our life. I still liked the little clip on the back. But recently Silas has tried to stand up by pulling himself up on the chain or the pedal and I figured he may pull the whole thing down on himself.
The other night we sold it for R150 to a nice gentleman who wanted it for his son. I was completely honest about Laoliu’s shortcomings, but I still felt bad to take his money for it. Perhaps he too was swayed by the little spring action clip on the back.