My home and I have a lot in common. We’re both old and unwanted. Although I will admit that my home is a lot more glamorous than me. And a lot older. Looking for a job and putting your house on the market at the same time can be very testing these days. Especially in South Africa, and more so in Durban.
My house is a 1940 model. Like most grand old dames about to turn 75 she is regal, even haughty at times. Larger than necessary and often difficult to keep — and keep up with. She was born of an era when men were men and land was plentiful. So much so on the northern hills of Durban that men often claimed too much without realising what consequences this would spell for future generations. And innocent purchasers of property. I, on the other hand, am a 1960 model. Brought into a world about to go hippy and potty on everyone.
But while my house and I have a lot in common now days we had very little to share back then. She was more than likely host to a comfortable, middle-class white family. Daddy was probably in sugar or government and the wife and children had a dandy colonial life up on the hill. I was being dragged from the Turffontein race course to the Turffontein hotel to the local Southern Suburbs bowls club. Any place that entertained a dop or a bet, or both, was fair game for my mom and pop.
And so we fast forward to that eventful day back in August 2001 when my wife spotted this old gal and fell in love. At 61 years young my house was looking middle aged and wrinkly. Tired she was but every now and then glimpses of her former beauty shone through. And oh boy, did she preen when my wife saw her. It took six visits for me to be convinced that she was the one. Notwithstanding I had no idea how we could afford her. And with two small kids and a move from the fairest Cape back to Durban to take on a new job, I was a wreck. But as woman do, my 1960 model wife and her new, older best friend soon got to know each other. And to love each other very much. Over time Miss 1960 gave Miss 1940 several makeovers which would make strong men weep. Inside, outside, upstairs, downstairs, in the garden and over the wall, changes appeared. And the middle-aged lady became a thing of beauty. Much admired and loved again. And the boy who started a life in Turffontein was happy, and proud. He prospered and grew just as the grand old lady did. And life was dandy.
There are many reasons why people sell their homes, or give up their jobs. In my case it ultimately came down to one incredibly painful tragedy. On May 2 2011 our son was killed in a motorcycle accident less than 2km from our home. He was 18. The loss of a child to us parents and of a brother to his sister is indescribable and life changing. This event was the start of a process of deep hurt and withdrawal into a place of darkness, which many will never understand. It was a time for healing and discovering how to carry on with our lives. And it was the start of a time for change.
Less than a year later I quit my fancy, well-paid corporate job and took the balance of that year off. I had been commuting between Durban and Johannesburg every week for eight years. It was time to give back to my wife and daughter. And the gracious Durban home on the hill became our sanctuary. It enveloped us and made us feel safe. The many magnificent friends who supported us with love and comfort and food were all entertained in that beautiful place we called home.
And now we have decided that it is time to say goodbye to our gorgeous old home. It’s time for smaller, perhaps younger — men are so fickle. It is also time for a self-employed consultant and wannabe blogger to go back to a real job, where he belongs. But no one warned the old lady and her sidekick what a challenge we faced. Compared to Cape Town, the Durban property market sucks. And job people can be rude and ungracious. But my old lady and me, we won’t be unwanted for long. We have too much class for that.