The free newsletter aimed at fostering goodwill among residents, merchants and visitors to Melville
Letter from the Editor
Sometimes I wonder how my generation survived without TV, computers, email, cell phones, Internet banking, iPads, Kindle and a great deal more. New technology has crept into our lives bringing social networking with it, though not everyone shares my enthusiasm.
To the unconverted, social media are irritating, time-consuming distractions from better ways to use one’s time. I’m among those who thrive on being part of this brave new world. I have a presence on Facebook but Twitter is my drug of choice. I love it for keeping me connected in an incomparable way with world news, trends, people I admire and even those I don’t. I love the discipline and challenge of succinct communication in 140 characters and the platform it provides to bitch about bad service or to praise the good.
Twitter has opened doors to new horizons. It’s a genie that won’t go back in the bottle no matter who tries to silence its users. It helps to know some Twitter tricks but it takes no time at all to fly with the twitterers. It’s pretty much a follow and be followed game and among those I keep track of is a gang of mostly American tweeters who stay in touch as a group. I became one of them through my BF tweetpal, Black Pearl, otherwise known by her handle (or username) @PearlofGr8Prize.
Pearl’s a singer, performer and writer and a great Twitter enthusiast. Full name Pearl Ramsey, she was in home-base Chicago when she started following me. I asked why she did. “Your AVI and tweets resonated with intelligent and candid simplicity, yet warmth,” she wrote. “There was a human behind the avatar, not just someone collecting people for status.” Translation: AVI = Twitter profile photo or avatar.
When I published Melville News, she declared her allegiance to the newsletter thus: “It felt like my home or I felt like it was home for those brief moments while reading,” she wrote. “The stories were from and about people I recognised but who lived in a different place. My mother also writes newsletters for our community, so Melville felt like a community with a pulse, opinions and pain. A family.”
Pearl (right) is currently in Nice in the South of France where she’s been embraced by the artists’ community. After being spotted in her self-conceived one-woman show HerStory in VerseStory, she was named resident artist at a new venue and voilà, doors opened for this American in France.
Via Cyberspace I share her big moments and I envy her experience on the coast of the French Riviera, the rosé wine of the region, oysters and other sea delights as well as access to fresh food markets only the French get right. With Pearl, I sample the brie, take in the aromas of just-baked bread and feast my imagination on gloriously displayed food. Through Pearl I can pace myself until July when I’ll also be in France.
And who knows, maybe I’ll meet my new tweetpal. Or maybe not, but I feel certain Twitter will keep us close.
IN THIS ISSUE
- Meet Andrea Burgener of The Leopard
- Jane Griffiths ponders her luck
- Jane Griffiths’ hen plays up
- Sue Olswang’s pavement garden is a winner
- Owen Muzambi is at your service
- Marie-Lais Emond chuckles and chats on radio
MELVILLE’S NEWEST STAR
The Leopard has arrived. Andrea Burgener’s acclaimed restaurant opened without ceremony in 4thAvenue and the locals are growling their approval. Suzanne Brenner was first in the queue.
The Leopard’s move from Parkhurst to Melville created an uncharacteristic stir among locals. The reason no doubt is that we’re chuffed to be ‘the chosen’.
The unpretentious venue where people gather to be fed at mismatched tables and chairs below too many light fittings has brought a devoted following of Andrea’s food lovers to this part of the world. Given that she’s in a league of her own when it comes to flavour and taste, it comes as no surprise.
A Fine Art graduate, her culinary talent was nearly lost at inception to the art world but she says she was “bludgeoned” by the experience of her Master’s degree. So she dabbled in TV production, freelanced at restaurants, worked as a picture editor and started writing about food for magazines and newspapers.
Luckily, her “compulsive” love of cooking won the day. “When people describe the desire to cook and own restaurants as being ‘in the blood’ I always think, yes, like a virus.”
Often described as the late Braam Kruger’s muse, Andrea dismisses this with contempt. A well-known artist before cooking took precedence in his professional direction, I ask Andrea whether art connected them.“I knew him vaguely through the art world, but that wasn’t it,” she says, “our connection was all about food.”
They met when Andrea was doing a cooking stint at Bob’s Bar, next door to Braam’s Kitchenboy. Describing him as a genius, Andrea says: “Our backgrounds were so different but it was almost freaky how similar our food loves and hates were.”
His style clearly influenced her. “He worked without boundaries and with little regard for fashion and fad. He had an almost childish joy in his creations, but never sacrificed taste for novelty. He is more remembered as an artist, but I think cooking was his real gift. “
When Andrea and her husband, Nicholas, opened their first restaurant Superbonbon in Richmond in 1999, Braam tried to talk her out of it. “He knew how hard it was and I think he was sort of scared on my behalf,” she says.
Deluxe at 44 Stanley Avenue was her next venture after which she seemed to disappear under the radar until she surfaced as a food columnist in The Times and at The Leopard.
Coinciding with the restaurant’s relocation, Andrea launched her quirky recipe book, ‘Lampedusa Pie’. She explains: “Lampedusa pie is a dish in the book ‘The Leopard’ written by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. It’s an old book that has nostalgic value for me.”
She’s also nostalgic about being in Melville. “Our first restaurant was down the road, and we lived in Melville and Auckland Park for about 12 years. I love the suburb. We’ve been delighted and flattered by the welcome we’re receiving.”
The Leopard is open Monday to Saturday for dinner and Fridays and Saturdays for lunch. Phone 011 482 9356.
Andrea was photographed by Theana Breugem.
Jane Griffiths’ success as a vegetable gardening guru and best-selling author was the result “of a passion which has never abated” and hard work. Or was it?
Hot, sweaty and aching after spending hours clearing summer vegetables and readying beds for their winter planting, I collapse onto a shady log and shut my eyes. The smell of mint mingles with the liquorice scent of tarragon and anise hyssop as I run my hands over the herbs nearby. And then I feel something out of place. I look down between the plants to see the eyes of a red frog looking back at me. A hard plastic Chinese frog with a coin held firmly in its mouth. Picking it up, the memories come trickling back.
A friend had given this to me years ago, telling me I should place it in my office as it was a Good Luck frog and it would bring money into my business. Finding its shiny red skin a little garish – and not having much space on my desk – I had popped it onto a log in my vegetable garden. He’d sat there for a long time and I had never noticed he’d disappeared. I had been busy writing a book on vegetable gardening. That became a best-seller. The first led to a second best-selling book, and then a third.
Sitting on my log, on that hot afternoon, I realised my ‘Money Come’ frog had also been hard at work, despite the fact that he had fallen off his log and been hidden for years in amongst my plants. Without planning it, I had positioned him in the best spot to be able to work his magic. He is shiny red no longer, years of gardening have mottled his skin. But he is now positioned on a flat rock at the entrance to my vegetable garden. A constant reminder to believe in Garden Angels.
THE WAITING GAME
Jane Griffiths reflects on her garden inhabitants and despairs about a drop in production.
Itchy and Scratchy have been living in our garden for over a year now, laying about 12 large eggs a week, with dark orange yolks from all the greens they eat. Unfortunately, over the last two months, egg production has dwindled.
Itchy wants chicks and spends her days sitting on a nest. Scratchy has gone on strike in sympathy for her broody friend, and makes a show of going into the nest box, but has stopped laying altogether. Now this is not part of the deal. I feed them – they lay eggs and produce nutritious manure for the garden. That’s the deal.
A duck farmer, who sells her products at the Bamboo Market, suggested I dunk her – head and all – in icy water. I’d read that chilling the nest box might break a broody hen and had tried frozen cooler box blocks in her nest. She just sat on them until they warmed up. So the ice water dunking idea sounded like it might work. However I couldn’t do it. It just seemed so mean. I mentioned it to my gardener, Hloniphani, hoping he might be able to do the deed but his response of “Oh, the poor hen” suggested otherwise.
I followed other advice, kicking her off her nest as often as possible and closing off access. This meant hens running loose in the garden – not great as they can be destructive blighters. The other animals weren’t happy with this arrangement either. A broody hen can be a terrifying creature. The dogs quickly learned to give way after a few sharp pecks on their noses. Even the cats gave her a wide berth.
One morning, she fluffed herself up and made a cluck clucking beeline for the pond. She squatted down next to it and drank deeply. This was a first. I discovered that Hloniphani had attempted the water bath treatment, but just couldn’t dunk her entire body and had only dipped her feet in – hence her new-found drinking knowledge.
A few mornings later I was in the bedroom when both dogs suddenly looked up at the window. I stuck my head out and saw water splashed onto the side of the pond. Something had gone in – either a cat or a hen. Dashing out I saw it was Itchy – floating on the water looking just like a duck. Except she couldn’t paddle or get herself out as her wings were just not strong enough to lift her fat body up the side. Keith fished her out with much splashing and squawking and that was the last time we ever saw her drink from the pond. And despite the full body dunking, she is still broody.
PAVING THE WAY
Sue Olswang of Westdene took second place in GardenShop’s recent pavement garden competition. Melville News tracked her down and discovered a dedicated gardener with a passion for recycling.
When Sue bought her property 15 years ago, her pavement was a tarred eyesore with potholes filled with weeds that required constant management.She ignored it and concentrated on greening her off-the-street garden and it was only last year that she and an energetic friend confronted the task of removing the tar.
“Tearing up the tar took time and tough work, but it’s been worth it,” says Sue. “The soil under the tar was poor and filled with rocks and stones so it had to be worked and turned, and then in went bags of compost, top soil and potting soil.”
After they’d laid a rock path for pedestrians, Sue planted perennials interspersed with annuals and vegetables for passers-by to help themselves. “We share our country with 12 million people who go to bed hungry every night so it makes sense to me for those who can afford the seeds to feed others from community pavement gardens,” says Sue.
Beyond the front door and beyond the glass-fronted lounge, Sue’s enchanting private garden boasts the added bonus of a breathtaking view of Melville Koppies West. Close to the sitting room beneath two trees – a Cotoneaster and a Pineapple Guava – an abandoned cistern is concealed by plants. Sue’s a sucker for discarded items and has recycled ceramic plumbing pipes, toilets, a rain gauge and shower caddies that have all been given new life as planters.
Closer investigation of what appears to be the perimeter of the property is another surprise. A sudden drop downwards reveals a very steep staircase made of recycled wood that leads to a miniscule herb garden made to look double its size by a mirror behind a wooden gate on the boundary wall.
Gardening is clearly Sue’s labour of love that rewards itself although the unexpected pay-off of her prize allowed her to purchase a garden table she’d long been coveting.
And possibly even more rewarding and to Sue’s delight, some of her neighbours have been inspired to follow her lead. A year ago it was just another street, but now as if by magic food gardens are popping up all over this inviting short street in Westdene.
Sue is pictured here (left) with the GardenShop’s Deborah Hele in the prize-winning pavement garden.
Looking for someone to construct a tree house? Hang your picture frames? Or remove your garbage? Owen Muzambi and Vusi Sibanyoni are your manne. Suzanne Brenner tells more.
Perhaps it’s the recollection of childish escapes from grown-ups that makes a tree house such a cherished memory, but what more could a city child wish for? A recent commission saw Owen turning that wish into a reality for a child in Bryanston.
Carpentry is but one of the services offered by this team.
A couple of years ago, a Pikitup strike was inadvertently a lucky break for Owen (right) when David O’Sullivan mentioned his refuse removal service on Talk Radio 702. People took to Owen and his readiness to do any small jobs and kept going back.
Then he accepted a full-time job with an events company and we wished him well. In the manufacturing department he and Vusi pooled their carpentry skills (and Vusi’s welding ability) and the future looked rosy but the economic downturn closed their department.
Out of necessity came creativity and the pair conceived Handyworx and Edgeworx Design Lab, divisions of the same business. “It started as a survival journey,” says Owen, “but now it’s developed into a purpose-filled entrepreneurial odyssey.”
Their services include leakage repairs, recaulking (stain removal of your bathtub), tiling, painting, furniture removal, garbage refuse removal, minor plumbing and electrical work or any other small job that requires a willing fixer.
Edgeworx, while still “a work in progress”, plans to specialise in customised children’s furniture; they also envisage an entertainment arm that builds stages, flats, banquet tables and bars. “We’d like to expand into set building, stage design and construction for events,” says Owen.
Owen rates their “biggest highlights to date” as being part of the team that constructed the stage for the SABC reality show Class Act 2011 and being involved, in a small way, in the re-branding of Vodacom from blue to red.
Contact Owen on 078 334 4753.
LAUGHTER IN A PLACE CALLED MELVILLE
When Johannesburg community radio station Radio Today producer Alastair Graham approached the Melville Community Development Organisation (MCDO) about a programme, he seemed convinced it would be something short-term. Marie-Lais Emond had different ideas.
Since its first broadcast in May 2011, Marie-Lais and Alastair have bonded over A Place Called Melville. Coinciding with its anniversary date was their 100th programme – quite an achievement considering Alastair’s early refrain: “When you run out of subject matter…”
Marie-Lais just laughed. In fact, she laughs a lot. Radio listeners are familiar with her bubbly interjections in the relaxed and sometimes spontaneous, information-packed programme that captures the spirit of the suburb.
“We’ve not yet been close to running out of anything,” laughs Marie-Lais. “Alastair is bemused, but now he says things like, ‘It’s amazing how many interesting people there are in this small place.’”
For purposes of the programme, Melville’s footprint extends to Westdene, Auckland Park and Richmond and provides a limitless source of radio content.
“A Place Called Melville is our audio-stage,” says Marie-Lais, “and features everything that makes Melville, well, Melville. People, history, music.”
“We seem to have a faithful posse of regular listeners who often contact us,” says Marie-Lais, “many from weird places like Greece, Finland, Ireland and Brazil. And with such a wealth of local talent, so many great musos, singers, writers, artists, poets, film people, great chefs, famous people, academics and odd characters, there’s no sign of us running out of subject matter anytime soon.”
Run entirely by volunteers, A Place Called Melville airs on Mondays at 10:45am. It can be accessed via 1485 AM on your radio dial, audio 169 on DSTV; live streaming on www.1485.org.za, 1485.mobi on your cell or on podcasts via the Melville Information Centre facebook page.
Marie-Lais is pictured here (left) during an interview with Suzanne Brenner.
DOG WALKS IN THE KOPPIES These fluffy Samoyeds, Yuan and Rouble (seen here with Charles Erasmus and Nkosana Sibanda), are a familiar sight on Melville Koppies East, where socialised dogs and their walkers are allotted 10ha of the Koppies. Open daily from dawn to dusk. For information about hikes and guided tours, consult www,mk.org.za or phone 011 482 4797. Facebook: www.facebook.com/melvillekoppies
DOG WALKER, HOUSE AND PET SITTER Daniel is a reliable, affordable, kind and caring animal lover who takes the angst out of pets at home alone. Phone 083 237 9728.FOR THERAPEUTIC MASSAGE AND STOTT PILATES SMS or leave a message for Linda on 082 858 4268 or contact her via her website www.bodyworksmassage.co.za
GARDEN SERVICES Call Richard Shabangu on 073 281 8016 or 084 622 4758.
PRAMS IN GOOD CONDITIONneeded by Nkosi’s Haven for newborns. Please phone Gail Johnson on 011 942 5580/1/3/4 or 082 593 1999.
PROWRITE WRITING SERVICES for all your outsourced writing needs. Contact Suzanne on 011 482 1072 or email email@example.com
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