Cape Town -- the place Jo'burgers love to hate
When you live in Johannesburg it’s easy to hate Cape Town.
The weather kills more people than the 27s, fynbos is more popular than Generations and if you miss the airport turn-off, you end up in a place called Borcherds Quarry, which is not a nice place to get lost in a Lexus without your hearing aid.
But hating Cape Town is often just envy in disguise.
After all, if you make it down the N2 without getting stoned from a bridge by tik-heads, it is a spectacularly pretty place where whales frolic in the surf and good-looking people in CREW T-shirts jam the streets making merry adverts.
Cape Town robot people are so chilled that waving R100 out of the window in an effort to get the guy selling Christmas decorations to come over and sell me one produced no effect. Imagine this happening in Johannesburg. Robot Man would approach very fast indeed and by the time you saw the spark plug and wondered madly whether you’d still get your change, it would all be over.
Capetonians also seem to have found a healthy work-play balance.
After 4.30pm much of the local workforce can be found lying under bushes whistling. Others are walking their dogs, which wear scarves and are called Skye or Louis, on the beach. Still others will drive straight from the office to the nearest beach and sit in their cars with the windows cracked open just enough to stop them suffocating.
For years I wondered, why don’t they get out of the car? On a recent business trip I got out of my Avis car and spent the remainder of the lunch hour picking sand out of my make-up and pressing a frozen latte to my head, which got slammed in the driver’s door by the wind. This is why locals stay inside their cars staring out towards Robben Island, that place of desolation, misery and rabbits, that for some reason provides a relaxing sight for Capetonians at the end of a short, soft day.
Peaceful Cape Town embraces sensitive poetry and semi-retired lesbians. The peaceful Capetonian’s inner warrior is kept largely in check, save the occasional skirmish when beached whales get shot and bread rolls from the Olympia café may be thrown at the authorities.
On a shack beside the highway, where the N2 Gateway mostly isn’t, I saw a starkly apt reminder that this Cape Town coexists with a vicious gang culture and appalling inequality—a beautifully drawn grafitto: “Third World Poverty”.
But peaceful Cape Town can be deceptive. Last week the Cape Times published a survey in which thousands of managers who had hit the “ebony ceiling” were interviewed about race in the country’s only province where Africans are in the minority.
By “broad consensus” it was agreed “Cape Town is hostile to African people”. Results suggested that racial transformation has stalled in the city, or worse, gone into reverse.
If Parliament moves to Pretoria, it is quipped in the corridors, Cape Town’s African population will halve overnight.
One manager who was interviewed for the survey observed: “I would like to hang out with more Capetonians but they are funny characters. They live in an environment that is peaceful, that allows you to be on your own. It is just Table Mountain and the sea. Johannesburg has ubuntu.”
What Johannesburg doesn’t have is Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay, two villages in the Overberg where holiday architecture has gone nuts, demonstrating what can happen when funny characters are let loose to design their dream homes by the sea.
You won’t find them in the tourist brochures, but there are three or four houses in Pringle Bay built to resemble igloos. I have yet to fulfil one of my life’s ambitions when visiting this area—to see with my own eyes the igloo people knee-walking through their little front doors wearing fur anoraks and driving a team of huskies to the lagoon.
There is also a house in Betty’s Bay that looks like a Weber braai and there is more face brick, broekie lace, Corinthian columns and sandblasted dolphin glass than you could shake an Equality survey at.
But my favourite worst houses in the Bays are from the school of Flintstone architecture. Thousands of ancient rocks that pepper the mountainsides have been entirely ignored when building in favour of rocks made of fibre glass. These “rocks” are stuck on walls and chimneys or turned into arched gateways and water features. It is not ironic.
My other life’s ambition is to spot the owners of a Flintstone house arriving home in animal skins and peddling the family rock car up the rock drive with their feet.
What terrible dreams must Capetonians suffer? So you see, Capetonians do not deserve our hatred, or our envy. I feel sorry for them really.