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Things I am curious about in this city

Cityscape in Lipstick
Joburg skyline in lipstick

Sacks that look like dead animals lying in the road until you get closer.

Why diners in restaurants and coffee shops started asking waiters for “the machine”.

Whether, if I take Jan Smuts Avenue to get to my appointment, I would have got there faster than if I’d used the highway.

The traders at the intersection of William Nicol and Main Road in Bryanston, who make life-size giraffes out of scrap metal. Have they ever sold one?

How on earth people living in this city are able to afford the repayments on their huge houses and luxury cars for themselves and their wives and the holidays in Umhlanga and the fees for the private schools where they send their children.

Where all the kugels went — the real kugels, the ones that I read about as a child. Some say they are all in Double Bay in Sydney.

Whether the drunk driver who went into the back of me at the intersection of William Nicol and Second Road Hyde Park ever did that to anyone else.

Why I always get lost in Weltevreden Park, my personal Bermuda Triangle.

Whether there is special training for the people who write the ads for estate agents, and whether they are instructed to write that houses always “ooze” charm.

Women waving those yellow caution wet floor signboards in supermarket aisles, to dry the floor. I see them everywhere.

Who lives in my house now and what they have done with it. The people who originally bought the house from us destroyed our beautiful indigenous garden and made it French, with roses.

Why Fourways bears such a remarkable resemblance to Dante’s Sixth Circle of Hell (Heresy), when it is thousands of miles from 14th century Florence. Perhaps it’s all the ersatz Tuscan.

Whether the people I see in the park down the road, who walk there with their children and their dogs, are happy with their lives.

The men who collect recycling and pull and push it on trolleys uphill and down, like some northern suburbs Sisyphus, and never seem to get run over.

Why people in traffic in this city take everything so personally, and yet still think they’re invisible when they’re in their cars.

The history of this place, and why things look the way they do, and what this place will look like 10 years from now.

What my life would be like if I hadn’t moved back here, and stayed in Australia instead.

This was originally written as a companion piece for a short essay that appears in the forthcoming issue of Migrate, the Loeries magazine.


  • During the day Sarah Britten is a communication strategist; by night she writes books and blog entries. And sometimes paints. With lipstick. It helps to have insomnia.