Johannesburg - 18th September 2018 - Day 1
Despite a delayed departure, our flight from Sydney is excellent, and blessed to be in business class, we are given Qantas pyjamas and a smart bag of toiletries, and after a delicious meal, as I watch Charlize Theron in “Tully”, I leave Gerald to a Movie Marathon, make my bed and clad in those pj’s, I sleep for seven hours. The flight attendant introduces us to two other couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries, one a 40th and the other a 45th, but we two Kids from Chingola at 50 years, win. We are delayed on arrival again as there has been a medical emergency during the flight, and wait as a team of medicos - all black, we are pleased to see - arrive to offload the patient.
The Oliver Tambo Airport in Johannesburg is almost deserted, and its dark outside, but we are met by our niece, Cindy, who looks beautiful and is happy to see us, and says she has been looking out for our distinctive hats. It’s an hour drive to her home in Kyalami, and we talk non stop. She stops her white BMW outside a set of impressive gates and a high wall, its a gated community watched over by two security guards who allow us to enter, and a minute later are met by three men, her twin sons Ryan and Dylan, and her partner Paul, given a royal welcome and escorted to our suite on the ground floor.
It is five years since we have seen this house, and I use the word ‘house’ loosely, for this is a home of grand design and grand proportions - it is a castle - yes - a castle. Back then it was a crumbling ruin, but Cindy had a vision, and this talented woman has stylishly and elegantly renovated every nook and cranny, with two amazing builders, Aclas and Blessmore, who have been working here for years, and are still at work. It is decadently eccentric, charming, bold and beautiful, with Romeo balconies, turrets, sheer walls of orange and yellow stone, sweeping lawns and manicured gardens, a turquoise swimming pool, umbrellas and sun beds, outdoor tables and chairs, courtyards, and secret garden paths, all lovingly attended by two gardeners, Stephen and Peter. There are three floors of residential living, and above that rooftop terraces which overlook the skyline of Johannesburg, a place to watch the red sun set. The ceilings are eighteen feet high, held securely by vast wooden beams, the floors are polished concrete and some are pale yellow old oak, adorned with animal skins and Turkish rugs, there are two mysterious spiral wooden staircases, there are rock walls and plaster walls and two fireplaces large enough for several six feet tall men to comfortably stand inside of, shoulder to shoulder. There are five large bedrooms, individually styled with their own bathroom, and each with a deep concrete bath. The master suite has a large verandah with swinging chairs which hang by chains from the ceiling, with an entire room dedicated to storing clothes and shoes.
Cindy has furnished this grand space with undeniably artistic flair, with simple pieces of grand proportions, there are vast mirrors reflecting other mirrors which cast infinite images, huge bowls of lilies, proteas and roses, there are vast original artworks, giant lamps and sofas piled with cushions and throws, and light pours in from ancient glass doors, fitted with rustic locks and chains, on either side of the house.
It’s magical, its stunning, and its a testament to her vision and her skill. And its our happiness to be spending five days here in her company. We sit around a huge table made of rough wooden planks, and eat a seafood risotto also made by her creative hands. We wash it down with sparkling water and wine served in goblets, whilst we talk small talk, in the way we do when we are tired and/or still getting used to being with each other again. We have not met Paul before, and I realise, I am ‘sizing him up’. - he’s a tall, handsome, articulate man, and their affection for each other is evident. The ‘boys’ are now men, and we need to get to know them. I watch Cindy, the daughter of Gerald’s older brother Greg, who died fourteen years ago, and the easy way she connects with her sons - tomorrow Ryan starts his first job, and Dylan has only recently begun working, as their University degrees almost complete. Cindy has a daughter too, Teighan, but she returned to University in Cape Town yesterday, where she is studying medicine. I feel a wave of nostalgia for the many times we have sat around a similar table with Greg, and how he would be so very proud of her and his grandsons, as we are. But our eyes are drooping, we’re jet lagged, and after a long hot bath, head to bed.