Issue No. 17 – December 2013
|The free newsletter aimed at fostering goodwill
among residents, merchants and visitors to Melville
It’s only since I’ve been living in Johannesburg that Guy Fawkes has assumed any meaning each November 5. As a pet owner, it concerns me so it was a pleasant surprise this year that no explosions disturbed the peaceful Melville sky.
We dined in 7th Street almost oblivious to the date and on our return home, Guy Fawkes was not on my mind. Then an almighty crash shook my complacency. Gingerly, I ventured towards the French doors, peeking between the curtains to ascertain the source of my fright, and there on the deck was an enormous branch from the soaring Chinese elm on the street outside our house.
I looked upwards as the street lights flickered through the leaves and realised the extent of the noise was directly related to the huge drop. We were fortunate it fell where it did.
I straightaway tweeted Joburg Parks and the following day was advised to log a call, which I duly did and was relieved when Petros Marobele arrived after work to assess the damage.
He bemoaned Chinese elms planted by settlers, which splinter all over town. His words did nothing to reassure me and another sleepless night ensued as I expected the worst. But Petros was a man of his word and the following day the crack team arrived to remove the large branches that umbrellaed over our roof. The elm looks pretty lopsided now but it’s comforting when you’re its target and kudos to the team for respecting our pavement garden.
Trees are such a big part of our lives in Joburg, it’s hard to believe this town was once rolling grassland. Out of date stats estimate more than 6 million trees make this the biggest man-made forest in the southern hemisphere (some say the world). Early farmers are credited with planting the first seeds of walnuts and oaks and pepper trees, to name but a few, and a horticultural centre was later established at Zoo Lake to test the strength of saplings best suited to propping up shafts for the new mining prospectors. These turned out to be another alien species, the Tasmanian blue gum.
A few years back there was a move by politicians to remove all alien or exotic species, a decision that author Thomas Pakenham (Meetings with Remarkable Trees) is said to have considered an over-reaction, especially when the alternative is communities exposed to the scorching sun.
Among the trees targeted in the long-term is the jacaranda, which receives a bad rap as an exotic, but not from this armchair critic. I marvel at the magnificent mauve-flowered spectacle in Melville every spring, the avenues of towering trees with roads covered in discarded flowers. (I bemoan the temporary closure of the Westcliff Hotel, which, on a clear day offered the finest view of Joburg’s jacarandas in full bloom.)
Which brings me to a Facebook post by Jenni Newman, who reminded her friends of the white jacarandas adorning an entire street in Waterkloof, Pretoria. She then alerted us to two specimens in Jellicoe Avenue, Rosebank (pictured right), where I was coincidentally headed. I couldn’t resist stopping outside the Everard Read Gallery to capture the pair among the mauve-flowered variety. The poor man’s Pretoria display, perhaps, but worth the trip.
Down a different kind of lane, memories abound in this issue. From Tannie Minnies’s reminiscences to Voulla Paraskevopoulos’ letter from abroad, nostalgia brings back the past.
Rooted firmly in the present, I can’t believe it’s almost the end of another year. To add some cheer, Melville News and Sodastream South Africa are giving away a great addition to any party – the new generation Sodastream valued at R999, which you could have by mid-December. It couldn’t be easier to enter, but do it now. Entry details are below.
All that’s left to say is have a happy and safe festive season and I’ll be back with another Melville News in 2014.
|IN THIS ISSUE
- Meet Tannie Minnie Breedt, one of Melville’s oldest residents
- BakGat Radio – 24-hour local music at your fingertips
- Columnist Stevie Godson suffers from rocking chair blues
- Dominique Kapery photographs newborns
- Jane Griffiths makes liqueurs for Christmas
- Homesick for Melville – a letter from abroad
- Snippets: new places, new spaces, news of the area
|DOWN MEMORY LANE
Tannie Minnie Breedt has lived in Melville for 87 years. Christine Pretorius visited her and discovered a little magic as they travelled back in time.
Tannie Minnie Breedt (nee Naude) was born in 1924 in Jagersfontein, where she lived until the untimely death of her father two years later at which stage her maternal grandfather invited his daughter and tiny Minnie to move to the family home at 59 4th Avenue, Melville.*
Oupa Machiel Daniel van Deventer was a builder and among his constructions in the area were two pairs of semis built in 1936 – one next door to his house and another at the bottom of his erf, but facing 5th Avenue. In 1945 Tannie Minnie moved into one of them and it’s where she still lives.
My visit to Tannie Minnie brings ‘her’ Melville magically alive: she remembers visiting a Mr and Mrs Walters at 66 4th Avenue, where Trattoria Picobella enchants Johannesburg cafe society today. Mrs Walters ran a successful boarding house – dubbed ‘Mrs 66’ by her paying guests – that holds another special memory as the place Tannie Minnie met her future husband, Nick Breedt, who she married on 28 April, 1945.
Tannie Minnie reminisces about the shops back then. There was Mr Krige’s butchery in 3rd Avenue that supplied delicious lamb shanks. Natty young men bought their Oxford bags at Melville Outfitters and had their bicycles repaired at a shop owned by a man aptly known as ‘Hans Baaisiekel’. Tannie Minnie also recalls that the first De Vries Bakery was in Melville.
Groceries were bought from the Melville General Dealer, conveniently situated where the Hope Charity Shop now thrives, and if one needed medical care, doctors Fine and Lazarus were on call!
Walking around Tannie Minnie’s garden, she proudly points out an ancient almond tree planted by Oupa Machiel. Every year the tree still delights her with a profusion of blossoms and an ample supply of almonds. She shows where Oupa’s avenue of quinces and pomegranates had to make way for the garages of the ‘new’ semis he built for his four children.
Like many at that time, they enjoyed the abundant harvest of their orchard: fragrant apricots, several types of juicy plums and Oupa’s piece de resistance, two cherry trees! A rarity in the area, Tannie Minnie couldn’t wait to take bunches of cherries to her teachers at Auckland Park Laerskool – now the Foundation School in 1st Avenue – but she had to wait for Oupa as only he was allowed to pick the fruit.
Another fond memory is the tram that ran along 4th Avenue. Tannie Minnie still has a book of tram coupons which show it cost a mere tiekie to travel to Johannesburg city centre.
A social highlight was Friday or Saturday evening at the Scala bioscope on the corner of 7th Street and 4th Avenue**, where sixpence bought one entry, a cool drink, popcorn and chocolates too.
I ask Tannie Minnie what she misses most about ‘her’ Melville and she doesn’t hestitate. “The low garden walls,” she says, “and the fact that all the neighbours knew each other.”
She smiles as she thinks back to taking walks and stopping to chat with families sitting on their stoeps, and being invited in for a glass of refreshing gemmerbier.
It’s been a welcome stroll down memory lane for Tannie Minnie whose bright sparkling eyes and radiant smile tell a story of a fulfilled, rich life in Melville. She says that given the choice, she would pick her beloved Melville all over again as the place to spend 87 years.
*59 4th Avenue was until recently The Melville House, owned by the late Heidi Holland; ** the corner of 7th and 4th was formerly home to The Mixer and is now a TV recording studio;
Glossary: tannie – Afrikaans term of respect and endearment meaning aunty; oupa – grandfather; Oxford bags – baggy trousers favoured by young men at Oxford University; tiekie or tickey – SA nickname for the threepence coin; stoep – verandah; gemmerbier – ginger beer.
MUSIC IN THE ‘HOOD
The Bunker In The Sky, Melville, Johannesburg, South Africa is BakGat Radio’s website contact address. Intrigued, we found out more.
The location that sounds like something dreamt up by J.K. Rowling is just a quirk of its owner Richard Nosworthy. BakGat Radio is an Internet-based station dedicated to broadcasting 100% South African music.
Richard, a multi-talented writer, producer and director of photography who was recently co-creator and series producer of MNET’s The Wild, says he conceived the station out of frustration.
“After constantly hearing from artists about the lack of support for local music from SA radio stations, I decided to actually do something that no-one else had thought worthwhile in the history of South African broadcasting – we started the first and only station that only broadcasts South African music, 24/7, 365 days a year.”
Jawellnofine. Bakgat, as they say in colloquial Afrikaans, which means it’s great or cool and is an indication of the stations’s relaxed approach. “The BakGat philosophy is simple,” says Richard. “If it’s South African, we’ll play it.”
BakGat attracts great interest from locals, expats and international music lovers from across the globe, satisfying even the most diverse musical cravings with a solid South African diet of rock, maskande, reggae, metal, Afrikaans, gospel, hip hop, classical, blues, country, alternative – you name it.
Christine Voorendyk (pictured above with Richard) is among the newest show hosts. Richard recruited the voice artist, writer and actress in response to listener requests for an Afrikaans-specific music show. Her brainchild Sonder Sokkies is named after David Kramer’s Meisie Sonder Sokkies.
Christine says it’s not unusual to receive a Sonja Herholdt request from Texas, or an email asking for Koos Kombuis from a mining site in Senegal.
“The show is a hangout space where you can kick off your shoes, relax, and experience the best in Afrikaans – from nostalgia for times gone by to the most modern releases,” she says.
“It’s an interactive show, which means I take live requests via Facebook and the website,” says Christine. “It’s slowly becoming a bit of a community where people hang out for an hour, listening to the music they love, wherever they are in the world.”
Catch Sonder Sokkies on Mondays 18h00 to 19h00, rebroadcast at 01h00 SA time on Wednesdays for listeners in different time zones. For live streaming, go to bakgatradio.co.za, or use the free TUNEIN app. Apps for Android and Apple devices are also available for download on the site. There are also links to music submission, the gig guide and information about DJs and shows.
|ROCKING AGAINST THE CLOCK
Guest columnist Stevie Godson left Johannesburg for the Eastern Cape in 1999. A seasoned journalist, she was working on the fringe of Melville at Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) in Richmond before she headed east.
Teetering (more literally, these days) atop the downward slope of baby-boomerdom, and with all sorts of little aches and pains changing places quicker than a rock star’s groupies, I’ve been waiting for my inbuilt music monitor to switch off.
I’ll know when it happens, I’m sure. Tunes in the key of Kenny G will start to sound like, well, music to my ears. Barry Manilow will brighten my world. And, heaven forbid, I may even start to hum melodies from The Sound of Music. No shame in any of that, of course, but they’ve never been my style. I’m curious about whether growing older will put a cramp in my musical tastes as well as my muscles.
What started me off on this maudlin train of thought was a gift from a colleague who was leaving town. Wanting to offload some less essential worldly goods, he was offering CDs, DVDs and books to first-comers, including a limited edition, two-DVD Jimi Hendrix set.
My immediate response secured the prize. Nothing had dimmed my memory of Hendrix’s virtuosity. This love affair of mine with scorching guitar sounds isn’t just time-warped nostalgia, I’ve come to realise. A riveting riff, no matter how new, still puts me on a high; Kirk Hammett’s latest luscious licks; Chad Kroeger’s throaty vocals still set me all a-buzz.
Which is all very well, but what happens if one day I need to retire to a sedate gated community? Will I be given a hearing test to determine whether my decibel requirements will annoy my neighbours? Will I be evicted if I let slip that Stairway to Heaven is still one of my 100 best tunes? That would be ironic, especially as my fellow residents and I would be clambering onto the first rungs ….
So if the time comes, and if I’m allowed in, ignore that little old lady in the corner: she isn’t nodding off in her rocking chair – it’s just me head-banging to some of my favourite sounds.
Stevie Godson is a columnist for the Daily Dispatch and a reviewer for New York Journal of Books – http://www.wordnerds.co.za
To the uninitiated, newborn photography is unfamiliar territory, but it’s highly regarded as an art by those in the know. Melville resident Dominique Kapery specialises in the field.
Newborn photography is not a religious experience, it’s an artistic record of an infant’s early life. By her own account, Dominique (right) is enamoured with babies, hence her devotion to this form of photography.
“I love the smell and size of newborns, which is why my latest commission to capture baby Shayden (below) at just 3 weeks was so special,” she says.
“I was so moved by his beautiful blue-grey eyes, his gorgeous blond hair and the most perfect pink skin,” she adds, with unashamed sentiment.
Dominique has not yet been asked to cover a birth, but she’s up to the challenge if anyone’s looking for a lensperson.
The Namibian born photographer and blogger grew up in Cape Town and studied photography at the Ruth Prowse School of Art, from where she graduated in 2005. She worked until the birth of her now 2-year-old son and only resumed her freelance career when she moved with her husband Shaheen to Johannesburg, earlier this year.
Choosing Melville for home base is proving a great success for the whole family. “I love everything about Melville – the architecture, the Oregon pine floors, the stained glass doors and steel pressed ceilings,” she says.
And she likes the ambience. “It’s quiet and very green and leafy with well-established trees lining the avenues,” she says, “and my son has already made friends with two little girls who live on the same block.”
Mother and child frequent Bambanani on 4th Avenue, while the parents enjoy the “very young and vibey nightlife and the cafe culture”.
As she shares her observations of the suburb, it becomes clear her creative leanings are not limited to newborn photography.
“My interest extends to event, documentary and portrait photography too,” she reveals.
To best capture her subjects, she prefers not to be studio-bound. “I favour natural light and tend to shoot either in people’s homes or at a preferred location.”
And she’s fast becoming familiar with Johannesburg, something that was facilitated by work she undertook for the Joburg City Sightseeing Bus. “I’ve enjoyed exploring this city and my most favourite assignment to date is photographing the Mzansi South African Ballet Company,” she says.
To see Dominique’s impressive portfolio, go to www.dominiquekapery.co.za. She can be contacted on 061 419 4122.
|JANE’S DELICIOUS DESIGNER LIQUEURS
Nothing says I Love You as much as a homemade gift and even more so when the gift is also home-grown, says Jane Griffiths. Here she tells you how to make liqueur.
It is always shocking when I see Christmas decorations in the shops. The glittering balls and shiny tinsel are a glaring reminder that the year is nearly over – when it feels like only yesterday we were celebrating its start. In our fast-paced city, gardening helps slow things down. Especially when we utilise our garden ingredients in all aspects of our lives – including Christmas presents.
A home-made liqueur is an unusual and dead easy gift to make. Fresh herbs, vegetables and spices added to alcohol will quickly infuse it with their flavour. Mix and match different flavours, pop it in an unusual bottle (Consol always has a wide range) and add a hand-written label.
Vodka is a good choice as it is almost flavourless. Gin, tequila, sake and light rum can also be used. Darker alcohol (brandy, port and dark rum) is good for fruit like cherries, plums and apricots.
- Wash and dice the ingredients;
- Place inside a wide-mouth bottle;
- Cover with alcohol and seal;
- Store in a cool, dry place and shake every day. Infuse for one to 10 days, tasting until it reaches the strength required, then strain and decant. (As a general rule, the more intensely flavoured the ingredient, the shorter the infusion time. Hot chillies can take a few hours to infuse, whereas melon will take up to 10 days.);
- Drink it on its own or use as a base for a delicious cocktail.
Here’s a recipe to get you started:
* 2 tots elderflower and strawberry infused vodka;
* 1 – 2 Tbs vanilla flavoured sugar syrup (boil vanilla bean with two parts sugar to one part water until the sugar dissolves. Leave for a few hours for vanilla to infuse and strain.);
* Good squeeze of lime;
* Top glass with crushed ice and soda water.
Some flavourful ideas: Apple, cinnamon and nutmeg in brandy; Turmeric root, ginger and beetroot in vodka; Elderflowers and lemon in light rum; Licorice root, anise hyssop and fennel seeds in gin; Jalapeno in tequila; Melon and mint in rum; Asian lime leaves, lemon grass and jalapeno in sake; Horse radish in vodka and Raspberries and blackberries in dark rum.
Jane Griffiths is the author of the best selling Jane’s Delicious Garden, Jane’s Delicious Kitchen and Jane’s Delicious Herbs (published by Sunbird Publishers). Photographs: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton.
WIN A SODASTREAM!
To celebrate summer and fizz up your party, Melville News and Sodastream South Africa are giving away a new generation Sodastream. Unlike its long-ago predecessors, this design is so attractive you’ll want it displayed on your liquor cabinet.
The contemporary, eco-friendly Sodastream offers multiple options with more than 20 flavours including tonic, colas and ginger ale and more bubbles, less bubbles, sweeter, less sweet and sugar free. Tap water changes into sparkling water at a simple push of a button – no electricity or batteries are required and it uses a planet-friendly BPA-free bottle, which can be used to make drinks over and over again for up to 3 years.
The Sodastream Source Element retails at R999.00.
To enter, answer this simple question: What kind of bottle does the Sodastream use?
Email your answer with Sodastream in the subject line, and include your name and phone number and a daytime delivery address to email@example.com before 17:00 on Tuesday, December 10, 2013. The competition is open to Johannesburg readers only and the prize will be delivered before 17:00 on December 13, 2013. The decision of the editor and the sponsor is final.
For Voulla Paraskevopoulos, Melville is but a memory…
Looking back on my 26 wonderful years of Melville, where I grew up, what stands out most for me is the number of times I walked up and down the vibrant and busy Main Road.
So where did I go? To the doctor at Meldene, to Mays Chemist for medicine. To Koljander for daily, fresh home-baked pancakes sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, or delicious scones with fresh cream and strawberry jam – not forgetting their selection of savouries. Or I went to meet good friends for a quick cup of coffee and to catch up on the latest news, at any time of day or night at the lively Catz Pyjamas.
I remember the Spar, the friendly greengrocer’s daily fresh fruit and vegetables, the banks, the post office, the garage for a mid-night snack; and if I didn’t feel like cooking, there were so many restaurants and take-aways – Italian, Greek, chicken, burgers or fish.
On those hot, long summer days I’d go to the (old) Melville swimming pool to swim, laze in the sun and catch a tan. And then there were the nearby second-hand bookshops and the local library for my reading pleasure, and lovely little shops for browsing.
There was always so much to see and experience, always within walking distance.
Over time, one knew everybody and it was impossible to walk without stopping for chats or bumping into celebrities from the glamorous world of TV and the media.
Melville might not be my physical home any more, but it will always be my home. Leaving was very difficult, but for now, thanks to technology, I can still take virtual walks up and down Main Road!
Did I get tired of all the walking? No, never! Do I miss it? Yes, ever so much!
Would I return? In a heartbeat!
Oos, wes, tuis bes. Sometimes, to quote the theme song from Cheers, you just want to go “where everybody knows your name”.
|MELVILLE NEWS SNIPPETS
Congratulations to Andrea Burgener and her team at The Leopard in 4th Avenue (in middle Melville), for being named Best Bistro in Eat Out’s Best Restaurants of 2013.
The Slug and Lettuce is a classy UK franchise pub and eatery that opened some months ago in 4th Avenue near 7th Street. Already a popular meeting and eating destination, its private cigar room and outside courtyard is also becoming a choice party venue.
Next door to S&L is Pureberry, a delicious add-on to Melville’s eateries. A self-service frozen yogurt café, the on-tap yogurt is 100% sugar-free and fat-free and has no artificial colourants or synthetic flavours, according to its owners. Among the healthy temptations are toppings that include dark chocolate, granola, dried and fresh fruits and fruit puree.
La Luna is another new restaurant and can be found round the corner in 7th Street. In an apparent nod to Mezza Luna, the new establishment appears to have taken its name from one of its predecessors at the same premises. La Luna’s Italian kitchen boasts owner and chef Klaus and chef Lindy, both formerly of the Westcliff Hotel. The small menu is based on what’s fresh, and the wine list is in need of an overhaul.
Sweeping clean: Aimee Nel and her Broomworx team (in red overalls) are doing a great job in Melville by cleaning, painting and planting flowers. Aimee started Broomworx with her own money and donations and is determined to continue making a difference but this can only be achieved with financial contributions. To assist, contact Aimee on firstname.lastname@example.org or 082718 4375.
For their part, the MRA orchestrated the planting of trees donated by residents, corporates and local businesses, on the Main Road side of 4th Avenue.
There’s good news for Melville motorists who lamented the closure of the convenient little BP Service Station in Rustenburg Road, many of whom won’t fill up with Shell as an anti-fracking protest. Happily, Brent Oil has stepped in to resurrect the petrol stop.
RIP NICOLE BRITTON
1970 – 2013
Condolences to the family and friends of Nicole Britton, a familiar face in Melville these past 25 years. Living in Melville since she was 18, her quirky presence was felt at Nuno’s and in other restaurants where she worked following 10 years at the local florist. According to her friend Josie Nell, she underwent open-heart surgery in August last year and recovered well, only to succumb to pneumonia on October 11.
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