Thursday, February 6, 2020

Notes from Cape Town

I have been in Cape Town for three weeks now, nestled between Lion’s Head mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a gorgeous spot.

However, the time has been far from predictable, far from serene. For the most part, I have felt discombobulated most of the time.

Number 1: my flat

Last year Mette and I split our two-level flat and sold the top half. We then decided to renovate the lower half, adding a small bedroom to make it a two-bedroom apartment. As usual, I forgot about the universal law of cussedness and underestimated the amount of work. I expected, for example, that I had enough spare tiles to accommodate the very small extension I was making – about 4 square metres. Wrong! This small extension not only required tiles for the inside, but also for one long row outside to ensure the flat below didn’t get soaked when it rained.

Of course, there were no tiles to be found that matched. The whole frigging floor had to be lifted. The neighbours weren’t happy with the banging and chiseling.

Awaiting a new floor and windows. But what a view!
I wanted to add a small shower to the existing guest toilet. Access to plumbing infrastructure meant that the shower couldn’t be where I originally planned. The new location was where the door opened, so I had to replace the swinging door with a pocket door. Down came the wall with associated noise. The neighbours were even less happy.

The new guest bathroom

To accommodate the second bedroom, I had to move the kitchen and extend a wall. More banging.

The guest bedroom is behind that wall. 

And then, thinking that the deconstruction had finished and with it the noise, I discovered that the new design require extensive work by plumber and electrician to accommodate the new pipes and wires. Angle grinders, here we come. Arriving at the same time, was one of my neighbours who had not yet learnt to ignore noise. Her visit added to the noise.

In general, the contractors have been very good, working quickly, but not always letting me know when noise was planned. I send out emails almost every day with information what to expect. Turns out this attempt at transparency has its negative side, because when I say it will be a quiet day and it’s not, I get shouted at.

The upside is that the whole renovation SHOULD be finished by the end of March, resulting (hopefully) in a gorgeous flat overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Right now, however, it is a mess.

2. Load shedding

As you’ve read from posts by Michael and myself over the past years, South Africa is suffering from the aftereffects of enormous corruption by our previous president and his cronies. In fact, one family, the Guptas from India, basically tried to take over the country making it, like King Leopold did ith the Congo, their own private estate. Fortunately, they did not succeed, but left the country robbed of billions of rands.

The national electricity company, ESKOM, both through corrupt tender processes and total incompetence, now doesn’t have the capacity to supply the whole country with electricity at the same time. So everyone has to enjoy load shedding. At the least punitive, this means that for several hours a day, there is no power. The only good thing is that the timing is usually known in advance.

My flat during load-shedding
I had forgotten about load-shedding, which I last experienced several years ago, so I was ill-prepared, especially as I am not in my own flat. When the lights went out the first evening, I had the light on my iPhone, and that was it. Not conducive to doing anything. Now I am better prepared with solar lights and torches, but I can’t imagine the damage it is doing to small businesses that usually don’t have the ability to have their own private generators.

And all of this at a time when the economy needs all the help it can get. Sigh.

3. The weather

As reported a few weeks ago (The Cape Doctor), we have had some ferocious winds recently, which is not good, but also some unseasonal rain, which is good.

And they say Chicago is the windy city!

4. The water crisis

Fortunately, last year’s rainy season was good, so going from a total water crisis, the city is slowly getting back on its feet. The dams now average about 70% full, which is encouraging, as long as the next rainy season is also good. However, water restrictions still apply, although relaxed to 105 litres of water per person per day.

5. My golf.


6. The future

Despite all of this, the city remains gorgeous. And I have something very exciting to look forward to towards the end of March. On Sunday evenings throughout summer, there are concerts on the lawns of the national botanical gardens, Kirstenbosch. With Table Mountain in the background, they are very special.

Kirstenbosch Summer Concert
On March 22nd, one of my favorite sopranos, Pumeza Matshikiza, will be performing. She is a wonderful singer who hails from an extremely poor background here in South Africa. Listen to her story here (2 minutes). I can’t wait.



  1. The first part of this blog is why I live in a house with no roof at the back, and no flooring in another bit. I will get round to it one day.

    Re Water. We have plenty, some is coming through the bit of the house with no roof.

    Re Golf. Some young men of our acquaintance are flying from Texas to Hawaii in a private jet for the purpose of knocking small balls into holes....

  2. Jamie - it's dark and I can't see the keys.

  3. I love what you've done with the guest bathroom. It's reminiscent of Annamaria's photos of ancient Italia. And yes, GO JAMIE.

  4. Have No Idea why SA isn't switching to solar power completely.
    And there are things on the market which, by either using a sandbag or a crank can give you good light for a fair period and also can be used to charge things on a USB port.