I was winding my way around Woodstock in the Clio-patra, my embattled Renault Clio, dodging admiring glances as one does.
For this is the kind of valley where music evokes esteem, and I was blasting Yello’s The Race (bought at some pretentious hipster market the previous weekend), windows wide open to let the sunshine in.
Everyone knows cars were designed for the private and comfortable consumption of music. When pointed in the right direction, they also take you places of course.
The Clio-patra is a terrific creature; a beguiling mix of French craft and Egyptian lore (a bit like the pyramid at the Louvre), with forever breaking bits and bloody expensive new brake pads. A small dent lends character to her otherwise smooth, silver behind.
She’s an early 2000-and-something model. Insurers have quizzed me on her date of birth … Don’t they know a woman should never be quite accurate about her age? It looks so calculating.
I love road trips, even little ones, and like to waste time prowling around the city.
The Clio-patra and I were heading towards Salt River and Sir Lowry’s Road, past old Victorian slums and some recently gentrified pockets.
It was after lunch and Golden Arrow buses spewed tides of school children on to the pavements among high-pitched fruit vendors.
Not too far behind us to the left, on the juncture between Main and Ravenscraig Roads, sat the beautifully named fabric shop Kwaailappies, a stone’s throw from where artist Zwelethu Mthethwa allegedly beat a prostitute to death in the quiet hours of April 13.
Ahead I could make out the red façade of advertising giant Ogilvy, habitat of agency dolls who “thread” their eyebrows and breathe irony between sips of skinny flat white coffees. I love agency dolls. In fact, I keep a few as friends.
My tummy was running on empty when The Kitchen appeared like a mirage to our right. The tiny deli is known for fresh meals and sarmies; falafels, chickpeas, dukkah-encrusted goats cheese; clusters of framed pictures and shelves with faded cook books. Michelle Obama famously stopped here for lunch when she visited South Africa in 2011.
At the time, gossip had it that Michelle’s driver took a wrong turn. People smirked. Surely America’s first lady had intended to frequent The Test Kitchen, the upmarket restaurant of celebrity chef Luke Dale-Roberts, also in Woodstock, where bookings are made months in advance and deconstructed pig’s head is all the rage?
Karen Dudley of The Kitchen recalls the visit in a blog post: “And then Michelle Obama arrived! The music went on and yay, my girls swung into action putting together lunches and sandwiches for Mrs Obama and her family and all her entourage …”
On Monday morning, I pulled up at The Kitchen sans entourage. I sat at a wooden table with an old toaster for company, chomping on a plate of crisp, raw cauliflower, pan-fried brinjal slices and gammon with wholegrain mustard.
The shop was quiet inside, I buried my face in the Cape Times, chewing and contemplating life.
What struck me was a downpage snippet on Swaziland’s monarch, King Mswati III, who claimed God had paid him a visit over the weekend.
Mswati said God caused thunderstorms over his country that weekend. The king went on to explain that his high-placed visitor had revealed to him the name that shall be used to describe Swaziland’s controversial political system. A monarchal democracy! Thus the king decreed.
I chewed on my cauliflower; it was a lot to digest, all of the above.
They say success is preparation meets luck (or divine intervention, in the case of Mswati III).
I guess the lesson to be learnt here is to be prepared, always. You never know when Michelle Obama or some luminary might swing by.
On our way home, the Clio-patra and I made one more stop, to buy chairs and crystal wine glasses, just in case, you know.
The chairs survived the ride back home. The glasses were not so lucky. So it goes.
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