I live in Sea Point, which has the ocean and a promenade and views of Signal Hill, but most of all it has people.
Point is the least Capetonian suburb in Cape Town: we come from Durban and
Joburg and the Eastern Cape and Nigeria and Ghana and Iran and France and Hong
Kong and Seoul and some are even from Sea Point.
Sea Point is the Joburg of Cape Town, except that people walk in Sea Point. We walk to the coffee shop or the deli or the bus stop or to buy groceries or single cigarettes or just to see what’s happening on the other side of Sea Point, and when you walk with other people, you can’t help feeling connected to them.
When I’m away for any length of time, I start to miss the people of Sea Point. I don’t always know their names, but I wonder how they’re doing.
1. There’s a man who wears large square spectacles and a knee-length woolen coat who I always see at one of the tables outside the Deli on Main Road, except when I see him at the Deli on Regent Road, or walking in between. His hair is always neatly brushed but has a rumpled look, and he smokes a thoughtful cigarette as though he’s considering something very complicated. He gives the impression that he’s carrying a briefcase, even though he’s not. He reminds me of a spymaster in a John le Carre novel. I feel as though he’s waiting for reports from agents in the field, and depending on what they say, someone may soon be jabbed in the foot with a poison-tipped umbrella.
2. There’s a traffic policeman who walks the sidewalks of Sea Point giving tickets to those who deserve it. He’s an old white traffic cop with greying hair and tired blue eyes, but he’s still quite powerfully built. On hot summer days he sometimes wears his blue policeman’s shorts which make him look like the world’s most wrinkled schoolboy. Once I heard someone complain to him about an experience they’d had with a different policeman, and he shook his head saying, “Those guys give me a bad name.” I don’t know if he’s the most diligent traffic cop on the force, because I very often see him browsing in the charity bookstore, but only on the mornings when the middle-aged coloured lady with the pretty eyes is there. I’ve heard them talking about books, and the weather, and their children, and I’ve seen him try to make her laugh.
3. There’s a woman who lives in one of the blocks between Main Road and Beach Road who walks her dog every evening around seven o’clock. His name is Figo, and she never recognizes me, but I always recognize Figo, and when I say hello to him she starts telling me that Figo has been doing very well with his diet recently, or that Figo recently disgraced himself by eating a croissant. Personally, I think she places too much emphasis on Figo’s weight, but at least she walks him, unlike the woman on the promenade who pushes her two dogs twice a week in a twin-seater pram.
4. There’s a guy who I assume is called Steve because he has a car wash called Steve’s Car Wash. He made the sign himself, and he built the car wash too. Steve is from somewhere else. We are all from somewhere else, but he’s from one of the countries north of here. He stands at the gate of his car wash every day and looks proudly up and down the street and when you walk past he always says “Morning, morning”. His car wash is always busy, and people leave their keys with him and walk down to the promenade to stroll along the sea while one of his guys valets their car. Once a piece of paper dropped from my pocket as I walked by, and Steve chased me down the block to return it to me in case it was something important.
5. There used to be an annoying old lady who worked at the Pyramid Video Store. The Pyramid has been around for twenty years, and she was there for many of them. She had the sort of soggy Brit accent you could use to wrap an order of chips, and she smoked 1000 menthols a day and had terrible taste in movies and called everyone “luvvie”. I used to try sneak in past her without her seeing but it didn’t help because the moment she spotted me she’d bellow: “Can I help you, luvvie? Would you like me to recommend something?” I used to spend a lot of energy trying to avoid her, then one day I went in and her photo was prestiked to the wall beside an invitation to her funeral, and now I miss her every time I walk past.
6. There’s an Iranian couple who opened a fruit store on Main Road, which also sells dried spices and White Rabbit sweets. Every so often I buy another packet of some spice that I’ve never heard of. I do this because I think that will make it more likely that I’ll start cooking dishes with exotic spices. I’d like to be the kind of guy who can whip up a dish using Mother-in-Law spice, or Za’atar, but instead I just have a cupboard in my kitchen filled up with unopened packets of spice. When the Iranian couple arrived they had sad eyes, but now I see him making deliveries in a small new car and I see her smiling as she watches their kid playing on plastic push-bikes with the kid from the Thai supermarket up the road.
7. There’s a grumpy old man who swims very slowly at the Sea Point gym. He’s so slow he looks like he’s swimming through velcro. He shouts at the kids doing their swimming training and tells them not to splash in his lane. I always shake my head and tut-tut when he shouts at the kids, but actually those kids can be quite annoying. When he isn’t shouting at kids, he likes to give stock market advice to whoever’s swimming next to him. I don’t like that old man, but some of his tips are actually quite good.
8. On the promenade there’s an elegant old lady who may once have been a ballet dancer. Sometimes she wears long white gloves. A year or two back she had an operation on her hip, and I would see her hobbling very painfully around Three Anchor Bay. Every time I saw her she was near Three Anchor Bay, and she frowned at her feet and the pain was very clear on her face. Now every time I see her she is a little further from Three Anchor Bay, and she is still in pain but sometimes I see her looking out at the sea, at the tankers passing by all lit up with electric light like strings of jewels or at the grey sea turning violet in the early dusk.
Darrel Bristow-Bovey is a columnist, screenwriter, travel writer, author - follow him on Twitter