It seems that we now have to move to Johannesburg. Not being a huge fan of the place, I can’t say that the notion fills me with any particular joy, but the choice is not mine to make.
As I tell myself several times a day, however, I’m sure it’ll be fine once we get there. We just have to make the most of it. Etc etc.
I can’t say that the last literary choice of our Book Club, ‘Zoo City’ by Lauren Beukes, helped inspire me with a desire to move to the City of Gold much either though. Set in a Jozi of the future, it’s a dystopian murder mystery-cum-sci-fi novel-cum-magical tale, based around a heroine/anti-heroine called Zinzi December.
All very eclectic – and vaguely familiar. It felt to me as if she’d taken bits from every story/film she’d ever read/seen and stuck them all together to make something new. But focusing on the delights of Jozi’s underbelly isn’t perhaps quite what I need right now.
Instead trying to look on the bright side, I’m told that the climate in Joburg is fab – the average is a very pleasant 25 degrees Celsius for most of the year but, even in winter, it only drops to 20 degrees or so, although it can get cold at night.
Another thing that everyone keeps mentioning is that, unlike the Cape, which is generally considered very cliquey, people in eGoli (the Zulu name for the City) are really friendly and will invite you to a braai at the drop of a hat.
So at least that bodes well – unlike the house-hunting situation, which is proving to be an almighty pain. Once again, after a respite of only eight months, we’re back to calling and traipsing around mostly disinterested estate agents in the vain hope of finding somewhere half decent to live.
Unfortunately, their usual line is that that there’s not much around, particularly for the likes of us who require furnished accommodation – something that I wouldn’t have thought was that peculiar in a city with a large and transitory ex-pat community.
But hey – what do I know. Most people prefer to have their own stuff around them apparently, which isn’t much good to us when most of our belongings are 9,000 or so miles away in storage.
Another important consideration, however, is the question of neighbourhoods. By far and away at the top of our list of desirable areas is a small, but leafy northern suburb called Parkhurst.
Unlike most of Jozi, which comprises mainly faceless suburbs and shopping malls in the US style, Parkhurst actually has its own glorious street life in the much-more-palatable-for-us European fashion.
Fourth Avenue, although not vast, is blessed with buzzy pavement cafes and restaurants, antique shops, funky gift and clothing stores as well as the inevitable beauty salons.
The whole place has an urban village feel, with the houses being smaller and older and more cottage-y than seems to be the case elsewhere. All very pleasant and, as a result, distressingly popular, particularly with young couples and your arty types apparently.
Nearby Parktown North or Greenside, which offer more limited versions of the same, come next on the list, meanwhile, followed by Melrose. Or Melrose North to be precise, which seems to be jam-packed with “executive apartments” and is within walking distance of the trendy and ridiculously over-priced Melrose Arch.
The waiting game
Melrose Arch itself is like a mini, security-gated Canary Wharf, complete with modern red brick buildings in a functional grid-based development. So, while not totally ideal, at least it has pavement cafes, restaurants and real streets with shops on them, which is a definite plus and means that the area has wormed its way onto the list too.
Off the list in terms of affordability – for us anyway – is Sandton, which has taken over in recent years from troubled downtown Johannesburg, generally known as CBD or Central Business District, as the main business, entertainment and shopping hub.
Ditto the upmarket Hyde Park and most of Bryanston, both of which look lovely but, given the size of the properties, could only be inhabited by millionaires, politicians, diplomats and the like.
But it’s now just a matter of playing the waiting game.
After performing the daily ritual of searching the Property24.com aggregation website and contacting the relevant estate agent should anything tantalising appear, there’s nothing more to do than quietly save for the standard deposit of two-month’s rent as any potential accommodation is a two-hour flight away.
What this means, unfortunately, is that most of the official house-viewing activity will inevitably fall to my Beloved as he’s the one on site whenever he flies up to the Gauteng office. Not easy when you’ve got a demanding full-time job to do as well though.
But when I schlepped up there for a few days last week to do likewise, it was, sadly, to no avail. Either the accommodation on offer was nice but in the wrong area, or awful but in the right area. And it’s a lot more expensive than the Cape too so we definitely won’t be getting as much for our money.
Still, as I’m sure someone used to say to me in days gone by: “Good things come to those who wait.” I just hope they were telling the truth.