The free newsletter aimed at fostering goodwill among residents, merchants and visitors to Melville
Letter from the Editor
There really are so many good things one discovers about Melville without even looking for them. Bamboo market on the first Saturday of the month is a mini-celebration in itself. Fresh vegetables from Magaliesberg, organic eggs, cheese and wine, award-winning honey, farm butter and yoghurt, home-made pasta and cup cakes are just some of the regular fare on offer. Jane Griffiths sells home-made product as well as her book Jane’s Delicious Gardens (a give-away in the last issue of Melville News). And what a fabulous book it is – written in her easy-to-read personal style, it is a fount of knowledge for beginners and gurus alike and the photographs and drawings (the latter by Jane herself) enhance this value-for-money publication. It is now in its third print run, which is no surprise to me.
On a different subject, I lived in London many years ago and among the countless attractions were summer parties in communal gardens to which all residents in the area had a key. Normally aloof and reserved neighbours made merry in the sunshine until late while West African kettle bands heralded the fleeting sizzling weather.
Sadly, we have no park anymore for such occasions but the spirit of Melville is irrepressible. We were among those who responded to an open invitation received via the MRA to a braai outside the Junction church in 7th Avenue and what a pleasant evening it was. It amazes me how few of us actually do know each other no matter what claims we make about Melville as a village. All I can say is do attend the next one – it has the potential to become a real community event to replace the Long Long Table.
On another front, a godsend in the form of Norman Baines has happened upon Melville News. Responding to my frustration expressed in my previous issue about the absence of editorial contributors, he volunteered his services (albeit that he lives in Westdene). Some among you know him already for his news page on the Melville Koppies’ website (www.mk.org.za/news.htm). For his contributions to this edition and for already received copy for future issues, there was no contest about who should receive the subscription to The Weekender. Happy reading Norman.
Of course I’m hoping his enthusiasm will inspire others among our readers. I wait with bated breath.
Lastly, please don’t forget Melville News’ free miscellaneous smalls section. Jenny Gillies wrote to enquire whether she could recommend reliable service providers who you’ll find below. As someone who thrives on good service, I welcome your suggestions too.
Until next time…
IN THIS ISSUE
- Norman Baines on Bill Craig and the Melville library
- John Vlismas
- Deon Maas
- Jane’s winter food-gardening
- Lochner de Kock’s hot stuff in the kitchen
- Snapshot 1: Marc Lawson Turnbull remembers the ’80s
- Snapshot 2: Melville SCF’s Cynthia Rose
- Melville News Smalls
- Winners and special offers
- Give-away: a handbag organiser from Pop*Ins
KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOUR
Bill Craig is synonymous with menswear in Melville. Norman Baines talked to him.
In the early ‘70s, Melville consisted of Polyfilla villas. So says Bill Craig (below), a long-time resident and merchant of what is one of the oldest suburbs of Johannesburg.
Bill arrived in Melville in 1976 with R 7 000, big dreams, and a plan. At the outset, he worked as a self-described ‘promoter’ at Erlings Outfitters where he remained until he decided to strike out on his own. Bill’s wife, Dawn, owned The Hair-Do in 7th Street, so he opened Bill Craig Mans Shop across the road.
According to Bill, at the time you could rent a semi in Melville for R28 a month. Houses sold for R15 000. The year 1976 was tough and Bill says he was taking between R20 and R50 a day – not a good living. In London, it was the era of Carnaby Street and Bill decided that a Saturday street-market was the answer to 7th Street’s decline. With a personally sponsored publicity budget of a substantial R80, Bill’s first Saturday market attracted over 3 000 visitors with the result that the traffic police complained about the unexpected congestion.
Ten months later, Bill says says his campaign had reversed the rot. Empty shops were occupied but now the new shopkeepers protested against the market competition on the pavement and it came to an end. In any event, with the new SABC and the new RAU (now UJ) on its doorstep, Melville was set to prosper.
In 1980, Bill moved his shop to Main Road (across the road from where he now trades) and in due course, he became a property owner of substance. By then, he had distinguished himself also as a window dresser and a shopfitter, and all the shelves, cupboards and window-dressing in his elegant shop are his own.
Bill is an encyclopaedia of local knowledge. He has menus from the Front Page restaurant and a mounted collage of charred fragments from Freddie’s Tavern, a gourmet restaurant which burned down mysteriously in 1990. (Bill has his own theory on this matter, but it’s not for publication.) A menu shows that in the 1980s, you could have a great meal at Freddie’s for R40.
Bill can tell you who made millions and who lost them. On a Saturday morning when I was in his shop, there was some bustle about the imminent arrival of Klaus, a former Melville shopkeeper who had placed a considerable clothing order. In due course, Klaus arrived looking very pleased with himself and driving a Rolls Royce.
So if you have a taste for local history, a bit of gossip or good clothes, you could do worse than to drop into Bill Craig Mans Shop in Main Road.
PULL THE OTHER ONE
A friend of Melville News and the suburb, John Vlismas is set to play the Johannesburg Theatre in June.
John Vlismas has been challenged.
My management commented over coffee recently that I was not capable of doing an entire 70-minute show without swearing.I did a Steve Hofmeyer in the coffee shop – a well-known Cresta venue – hurling lukewarm tea at the walls, attempting to sleep with three waitresses from different venues and using language not heard since the closing shudders of apartheid. Apparently, after taking some deep breaths and reading some verses from a Sarie reader’s poem, I agreed to give it a go.
So now I’m holed up in a Dunkeld apartment, eating and sleeping only when absolutely necessary, while I prepare for the new show, which is called POW! I haven’t used a telephone or knife and fork for several weeks, and I’m told I have taken to spontaneous diaphragmatic breathing, elements of Judaism and intercostal yoga to assist in the process of purging swear words form my core.My diet consists only of found objects, fruit handed over by trees themselves and limbs of Danny K.
My plan is to do the whole show in a trance, with Backstreet Boys playing in my mind and an image of Bob Hope between my eyes. You know Bob never swore and my dad says he was funny, so it is possible. See, the stakes are high, so I have to stay focused – they say that if you lose it in mid-stream, you can do yourself permanent damage, and I don’t even know who they are, so it’s really tricky.
As I hum a cover version of a Rihanna song, I’ve decided to up the ante for myself by vowing to leave the stage and retire immediately should I use any of the Big Five swear words or even the medium six lesser known – but still poefie – words.
While the show will not contain Schedule Seven words, it may still not be suitable for children, as I find them irritating unless they belong to me.
POW! runs from June 2 to 14 at Braamfontein’s Johannesburg Theatre complex (formerly The Civic) in the Fringe (formerly The Tesson). Bookings is open at Computicket.
Norman Baines visits the library at Melville Boulevard.
For years the web page www.shibumi.org/eoti.htm has proclaimed its site thus:
The End of the Internet
Congratulations! This is the last page.
Thank you for visiting the End of the Internet. There are no more links.
You must now turn off your computer and go do something productive.
Go read a book for pete’s (sic) sake.
If inclined to take this advice you can find 20,404 books on the upper level of the Boulevard shopping centre. They are squashed a little incongruously between a shop which will do you a tattoo, and one which will do your nails.
The Melville Library has moved around a bit. It used to be in a shop on the west side of Main Road, then it moved to a house on the corner of Main and 2nd and is now rather inconspicuous at the Boulevard. It is also not very accessible, because you have to climb the stairs. If you are not in a position to do this you can get there from Ayr Road, but not easily.
All this worries Sithembile Mkhize (right, with children) who, with her colleague Khan Ahmed, would like to see the library more busy. Sithembile and Khan have only been at the library since late last year and feel that it is “very quiet”. True there are above 900 ‘transactions’ a week – books in and out – but at most there are three new members.
The library receives about 35 new books a week, mostly for children and adult fiction (no, not the kind of ‘Adult’ on the corner of Main and 4th). You could ask, as I did, how this doesn’t lead to overcrowding, and the answer is “weeding”. Not quite the garden variety, it involves going systematically through the shelves and weeding out the books which haven’t been taken out for a long time. So the message is clear – read ’em or lose ’em.
A new effort, which certainly makes the library less quiet on Wednesday afternoons is Storytime. About 30 four- and five-year-olds from the Montessori school came storming in the other day and then settled down quite quietly to be read to.
So if you are interested in Storytime on Wednesday afternoons or just want a book, you can contact SithembeleM@joburg.org.za or phone 011 726 7702. Or just visit the library. Go read a book for Pete’s sake.
MAN ON THE RUN
Melville News columnist Deon Maas discovers Melville wannabes all over South Africa.
At the age of 47 I have finally come to the realisation that I will never be a rock star. I will never have the free lifestyle that involves different drugs, towns and women on various nights of the week. This is quite sad.
I am however in a position to do other things that can faintly emulate it. So, thanks to a grant from the Norwegian government, I am presenting a series of music business workshops to teach aspiring rock stars how to take care of their business. I am finally on tour. For the record I have to state that I’m doing it with my wife and I don’t do drugs but this does not preclude me from going out after our shows and dipping into the delights of the nightlife in various towns.
Much to my surprise, I have found out that every town has a Melville.
It may not be its official name but that’s how locals describe it to me, a Johannesburger.
Bloemfontein’s Melville occupies about two blocks, Potchefstroom is a single street and Nelspruit is one venue – but it’s a start. The idea of Melville and what it represents has become a trademark like Xerox, Jacuzzi and Hoover everywhere you go.
Cape Town, of course is loath to describe any part as Melville and would rather make a comparison to someplace similar in London, but if you look slightly blank, they’ll unwillingly drop the name Melville. They even have a dingy bar called Joburg in their Melville – no wonder they have a skewered idea of what Johannesburg is.
All their Melvilles, of course, are not like Melville at all. Rather a concept and interpretation of what it stands for – a specific kind of entertainment that attracts a specific kind of a person looking for a specific kind of experience – at a specific kind of a price of course. Restaurants are described as Melvillesque and I even came across a shooter called Melville.
So while Johannesburgers may have their own idea of Melville, for the rest of the country it serves as a synonym for innovation, originality and a carefree time.
I’ll drink to that.
THREE DIMENSIONAL GARDENING
With a best selling book to her credit, Jane Griffiths continues to let us in on her vegetable gardening secrets.
No matter what size our gardens are, we run out of space. The vegetable garden is no exception. Lured by pictures on seed packets, we plant until our gardens burst. A simple solution is to grow upwards. I call it 3D gardening. Adding tripods and other vertical structures to our vegetable gardens maximises space. Vegetables, such as butternut and gem squash, which normally ramble across metres of ground, can easily be trained to grow up tripods.
There are additional advantages to this method:
Vegetables are lifted off the ground, limiting attacks from bugs and assisting all-round ripening;
Airflow is increased, reducing disease;
Plants with differing needs, which are beneficial to one another, can be combined on one tripod;
The ground around the base of the tripod can be utilised for non-climbing plants.
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