Our days are cold but our buildings are hot
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.