Conversations with a Pickpocket

The atmosphere after winning the Rugby World Cup in 1995 was amazing.

There were six of us that went to the match and left the stadium in a national delirium by 3 different routes. My brother was collecting Dom and I, my father-in-law was walking to his car with 2 friends and my father was getting pickpocketted.

Everybody was on such a high that by the time we met up at home a few hours later for a braai we only found out that he was pickpocketted when we sat down to eat. We were all cathartic in expressing our new friendships in a new South Africa. Remember, the year before we were hoarding food and planning an Ethiopian type exodus to the European homelands. Now we were hugging strangers of all colour in the streets outside Ellis Park. We were on a high.

My father, normally on the edge of paranoia when it comes to credit cards and documents, was calm and collected about losing his credit card. Although I do think he only took one with to the match and that one had a significant limit on. I don’t even remember him cancelling it. He described the pickpocket as a thin wiry happy chap who was alone but was bubbling over and hugging everyone.  I think he was about to invite him to dinner. Ha! We would have all been pickpocketted.

But it wasn’t a robbery. It wasn’t violent. And we were all happy while it happened.

Conversations at 7th Avenue

My father was born in Benoni but they moved into Union Cafe and the house above it on 7th Avenue in Alberton a soon after that.

It was an old style house built in the fifties. There was no front garden to speak of, with the front veranda facing the short garden wall with wrought iron work edging the road. There was a central half circle that extended to the front gate, but you had to walk up steps on either side. There was a wire garden table and chairs where my grandmother would sit and knit, in the alcove of the half circle.

The front door was central as  well, yellow painted wood with a four pane glass section in the upper quarter. This was frosted, so you could not see in but from the inside you could see the size and shape of the visitors. As you entered, always under a cross burnt on the frame of the door by the priest who blessed the house every year, there was a room on either side. Each open entrance was edged by two simple columns.

The room on the left was the dining room, with an oblong table and red covers on the wooden chairs with rounded backs. There was an ornate display cabinet at the end, with rounded glass that distorted the few fancy silver and crystal items proudly stored inside.

The room on the right was the lounge. On the left was a three seater couch, and opposite two single seater loungers in the same now retro style. The curvaceous arm rests ended in a built in wood coffee table. I remember they were covered in a burnt red material that had fine ridges that add texture to the memories. The fireplace at the end was flanked by a server sized record player.  Above the fireplace and one the sides were paintings of village and harbour scenes in Greece. I have two of these oil paintings hanging in my house now. My lounge is bigger, fancier I suppose, with a fraction of the character of that old room.

The floor was pine, yellowed and pock marked by the stiletto heels of ladies dancing at New Year and other parties. If you passed the entrance of the dining room on the left and the lounge on the right, you faced the edge of a short passage. On the far left was the bathroom. Just off that corner was the entrance to three bedrooms. You had to pass from one to the other; there was no passage. Just to the right was another single bedroom, initially my grandmother’s and later Uncle Piet’s.  And to the right in the corner was the kitchen.