Our days are cold but our build­ings are hot

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

SATUR­DAY morn­ing was no time to wel­come an in­no­cent north­ern hemi­sphere vis­i­tor. Cold and grey and wet, and this is the Highveld! An ou can feel skaam, ngithi.

Cold is al­lowed, in my book. Cold is even re­as­sur­ing. This is mid­win­ter; it be­longs. In no win­ters, any longer, do we get the frost that we Wrin­klies knew in youth. In some win­ters you can worry that Cold lost its way en­tirely.

Wet, of course, is wel­come in its own right even when way out of sea­son, and even when it’s a mis­er­able mingy driz­zly trickle, a whim­per­ing shadow of the proper, proud, Highveld thun­der­storm.

In the cra­nium, Wet is wel­come even when the soul wishes it would hold off while you wel­come your vis­i­tor. Af­ter all, we only re­ally have two things to im­press vis­i­tors with – friendly faces and en­vi­able weather.

So when Cold and Wet and Grey come to­gether, all in one, you wish you hadn’t ven­tured the down­town route, which feels like a lit­ter-bin, and you’re be­ing cross-ex­am­ined on why peo­ple abroad see us as im­plod­ing…

Well, good reader, you were about to get a mo­rose Stoep, But to­day, as I write (which is yes­ter­day as you read) dawned so bright that the mind’s view switched to Fun and Beauty.

Fun was to come across the Semi­colon Ap­pre­ci­a­tion So­ci­ety. You have to re­joice in a planet that can pro­duce such a thing, not so?

The world has al­ways been split in two. There are those who vig­or­ously ap­ply the semi­colon; and those who turn their backs on it. But war­fare only be­gan when Kurt Von­negut threw a com­bustible quote into the pot: “Semi­colons are trans­ves­tite hermaphrodites rep­re­sent­ing noth­ing. All they do is show that you have been to col­lege.”

He’d be pros­e­cuted nowa­days for the first half. (Rightly! Re­spect hu­mans, the vul­ner­a­ble most of all. Which does not mean air­brush­ing his­tory to pre­tend that they were al­ways re­spected.) The sec­ond half con­tin­ues to sting.

The Ap­pre­ci­a­tion So­ci­ety arose in de­fence, and is mar­vel­lously ec­cen­tric. Proudly telling you that you have come to the right place to learn about ap­pre­ci­at­ing semi­colons, it presents a link. The link pro­duces the briefest mis­sion state­ment on the in­ter­net. It is two points. Point 1 en­cour­ages you to ap­pre­ci­ate the semi­colon. Point 2 is: “that’s ba­si­cally it”.

Well, even if they’re a lit­tle inar­tic­u­late on their big be­lief (and use not one semi­colon), I’m with them; can’t be­lieve how of­ten a comma is am­biva­lent, where a semi­colon makes things crys­tal. Long live!

Turn­ing to Beauty: to­day’s nom­i­nee is An­stey’s. Yep, An­stey’s. In 1936 An­stey’s depart­ment store was the Har­rods or Bloom­ing­dale’s of South Africa, and An­stey’s build­ing in Jeppe Street was Africa’s an­swer to the Em­pire State Build­ing. At 17 floors com­pared to 102, it was a part-an­swer, y’un­der­stand, but that it was Joburg’s great­est pride there was no ar­gu­ing.

The store is long gone, and for a time the build­ing was touch-and-go. Now it rides high in more ways than one.

A departed Joburg boy, Ted Botha, back from decades in New York to be­come South African again, bought on the 13th floor. At his roof-wet­ting his gob­s­macked Jozi guests had no difficulty be­liev­ing that his view from Jeppe Street is more of a leg­endary New York view than he or most New York­ers ever ac­tu­ally had. They mainly see the build­ing on the other side of the road. Here he sees Gaut­eng.

One day yet, those in­ner Joburg flats will all ride high. Even on Cold, Wet days.

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