Scary stories from a lovely place
It’s no secret that I miss living in Johannesburg. Talk to me for more than 5 minutes and I’m bound to mention that wonderful place, the people I miss there and the conflict I have felt within myself about leaving. Just the other day I met an ex-Jozi lady at Playgroup who commented “isn’t Wollongong such a lovely place to live compared to Johannesburg”. Well. I was feeling generous so I didn’t let her have it. Instead I politely told her about all the things I missed in Jozi that aren’t replicated here.
One of the major things I have missed about Jozi is Brixton, the wonderful suburb that we lived in. Despite it’s bad reputation and occasional piles of trash on street corners, I experienced in Brixton such fullness of life; in neighbours, recreation, diversity, beauty and pain that I don’t think I will ever see again.
One of my favourite things about Brixton was the Sentech Tower. Jozi’s iconic skyline is book-ended by two towering spires, the more formidable Telkom Tower in Hillbrow and Brixton’s space-like Sentech. Our bedroom was about 100m away from the Sentech Tower and I could lie with my head on the pillow and gaze up at its spire. I’m not sure if it was more spectacular during the day or at night, in fog, or in crisp winter sunshine. It was brutal and beautiful all at once; just like Jozi.
The Sentech Tower was my landmark whenever I drove around Joburg. My map-book was my best friend and the Sentech Tower my compass. Due to the undulating nature of Jozi, wherever I was I could see that beautiful behemoth and head towards it to get home; to safety and comfort. When walking the streets of Brixton as I did at least once a day, and certainly more after Silas was born I loved watching the way the light played on the shaft of the Sentech, the way it hid behind clouds or fog and the way it sprung out at me from behind beautiful flowering bushes.
While there will always be a Jozi shaped hole in my heart I am lucky enough to have a clever husband who has bought me a house in Wollongong’s answer to Brixton. Soon we will be moving to a suburb of Wollongong that is diverse, interesting, largely poor, multicultural, anchored by a traditional high street peppered with small business, hilly and scenic.
It’s the main chimney of the Wollongong steelworks. It’s an eyesore, but a bloody beautiful one. It can be seen from as far north as the Royal National Park and as equally far south. It’s another landmark. Another metaphor for beauty and brokenness. Another site for me to enjoy and appreciate. Soon I will walk around Lake Illawarra, play at Port Kembla beach and enjoy the ‘TOWER’, as my kids like to shout, from all these vantage points. And I will feel at home, because this tower reminds me of Brixton.