Back in the 90s…
It was your average sunny day in Kensington, Johannesburg. Lawn mowers whined, cars whizzed, dogs barked and children careened around the neighbourhood in great hoards, hurtling into nooks, crannies and under couches in search of cents to buy chappies from the ousies selling sweets on the corner. Jeppe borders jogged by, breathing in tune to the bass note of their takkies rebounding off the ground; a metronome for the intermittent groaning of centenary homes and the tok of tok-tokkies echoing on the koppie. The cry of the Mielie lady bounced off giant Oaks straight into the subconscious of chattering Madames who absentmindedly got up mid-sentence to find their purses whilst the hum of the nearby-CBD cajoled restless minds to calm. It was the song of suburbia.
But time was in a moment…
If you so happened to be standing, on this average sunny day, opposite number 15 Somerset Road in Kensington, amidst the joggers, mowers and chattering chappie-chewing children, you’d have noticed a lady.
…the lady looked pensive. Her head turned this way and that; too quickly, like a meerkat on the lookout for snapping snakes in the veld. A quick signal—a slight of hand and a knowing look. And then a man.
…a man jumping over a green palisade fence, unaware of six pairs of eyes invading the home invasion. Me, Ali, Chrisie (my two younger brothers), our neighbour Kate and our moms; we saw it.
But who were we to spoil a good robbery in action?
What were they going to steal? Where was the getaway car? And what about that poor lady standing lookout—the stress, yoh! Our moms thought that the best thing to do would be to offer her some tea. Rummaging through a stranger’s house could take time and televisions were heavy back then. At least she could have a moment’s respite from all that meerkat-ing—and who knows how long the police would take to arrive? She might need to reserve her energy for the loot-hauling and the getaway.
In fact, the moms reckoned that it would be right to offer help (maybe they could also be on the lookout) as well as tea because, well, robbing in broad daylight is thirsty work. So that’s what they did.
Everybody needs good neighbours, right?
**Thank you Kate for reminding me of this story and for laughing so much in your voice-note that you could barely get the words out. “The glorious Kensington days” in deed—so glad that we got to do them with you.
Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin
Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is.