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Louis Greenberg

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The better side of Johannesburg

I’ve done quite a bit of Johannesburg-bashing lately, so I thought I’d tell you about two of my favourite places in the city.

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The Johannesburg Zoo is a lovely place for a weekend outing with a toddler, or a truant day off during the week. I’ve had plenty of political opinions about zoos, and I am aware that the animals in the zoo aren’t as free as their wild counterparts, but the zoo remains essential to my city life. It is one place in the city where I can take small children to show them a variety of animals, and this instils a life-long love and respect for the world’s creatures. I fully trust that my son, after going to the zoo every second weekend, will grow up to be a man who loathes zoos and wants to release the animals.

Don’t go to the zoo if you don’t like children. It is a haven for toddlers and parents of toddlers where we can all veer dangerously in front of traffic and merrily lounge on the grass spilling sticky ice-lollies on ourselves and bend over changing a poo-nappy and showing our underwear in public. It is a place where kids can scream and tear around in bucolic safety and parents can shamelessly attempt to replicate the sound a hippo makes.

On our last outing there, I met with my favourite mousebird in the second aviary near the snow leopard’s enclosure. It saw me and tweeted and I tweeted back and it hopped along the railing of the bridge and came for a head-rub.

One morning a few months ago I was feeling depressed and instead of driving straight to work I went to the zoo. It was a weekday morning and there were no visitors. I watched a guenon monkey engaging with its new waterfall, and a gorilla eating its breakfast. There was birdsong, and space, and I felt human again.

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We went to the Emmarentia Rose Garden again this weekend, and while there were a couple of wedding groups, there were thankfully no pentecostal drum-bangers.

The Rose Garden section of Emmarentia is well maintained given that it’s free to enter, and kept on a city budget by City Parks. The dozens of rose varieties bloom to perfection every spring and seem to have a second life after the late-summer prune. The tiered formal garden has about six levels down which fountains and falls play. In the last few years the fountains have been working more often than not, and they bring back childhood memories of watching, mesmerised, the water gushing out of the stone lions’ and crocodiles’ and buffaloes’ mouths, down to the bottom pool and its great jet of a fountain.

There are shady prunus and cork oaks and soft, neat lawns and when I go there I collapse onto my back, regardless of the season, watching puffy clouds sail by in the cerulean sky, hatched by the imprint of luminious, sun-drinking leaves. The pefect sun, the perfect temperature, the perfect pressure on my back, the chattering of loeries, the trilling of barbets, the afterglow of a simple picnic, and I think this is one of my favourite parts of the world, right here in this small glade of this ghastly jungle.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    March 9th, 2009 @21:27 #
     
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    Ahhh, I love everything about this post. Those are indeed two magical spots in Jo'burg. Have you been to the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Roodepoort? It's also lovely, and a great spot for kids.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 9th, 2009 @22:47 #
     
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    Lovely, Louis, especially that last para. You have also (sorry) inadvertently put your finger on just why Capetonians love their city so much: after a horrible week, a horrible three weeks in fact, I took a book to Kirstenbosch today and gave thanks for the umpteenth time that I live in a city that allows many (although, alas not all) its citizens such easy access to vast havens of green.

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    March 10th, 2009 @02:12 #
     
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    Thanks, Fiona and Helen. You can now see the pic of the Rose Garden I at last made the right size.

    I was thinking of adding the Sisula Gardens also - it is indeed a lovely spot. I haven't been there that often though.

    Yes, Kirstenbosch... lovely. It reminds me also of a Botanic Garden near Betty's Bay... I'm not sure exactly where - you know how it is when you're road tripping - but it was so lovely, and so quiet of visitors.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 10th, 2009 @08:48 #
     
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    Lovely buffalo fountain pic, Louis! And the bridal couple, too...reminds me of Rhodes Mem at the weekends, where beautiful wedding entourages come to pose for pics. You're thinking of Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, a magical place for wandering up the mountain or along the river.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    March 10th, 2009 @08:53 #
     
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    Louis, wonderful posts, I too love those places. Once when visiting Joburg, staying with friends in Forest Town, we wickedly hired a golf cart to get up to the lions. Can be hard work walking the whole zoo with a toddler and all the paraphenalia (sp?).

    Does the Zoo have season tickets in the way that the Aquarium does here?

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    March 10th, 2009 @09:04 #
     
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    Colleen, the Zoo does indeed have annual passes... we go so often that ours paid off in a month. That way you also don't feel the pressure to see everything, and it's very relaxing to picnic with chickens one day, feed the giraffes another and swing with the monkeys the next.

    (PS, I meant Sisulu in the comment above, of course, but the edit function is bust.)

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    March 10th, 2009 @10:04 #
     
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    I shall revisit them both when I'm next in town.

    PS: Isn't that the rose garden where Aryan walks his Glock?

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    March 10th, 2009 @10:12 #
     
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    Oh, right... it is the same park, but the picture I had was of Aryan walking on the far side, the Marks Park / Melville end.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    March 10th, 2009 @10:24 #
     
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    Are you suggesting we're safe as long as he stays at that end?

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    March 10th, 2009 @10:42 #
     
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    I think the drummers are safe as long as he stays on that end.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    March 10th, 2009 @10:47 #
     
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    Drummers are never really safe.

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    March 10th, 2009 @10:51 #
     
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    PPPPPPPPS - just noticed that the cerulean-sky-and-fluffy-clouds image was cribbed wholescale from http://book.co.za/bookchat/topic.php?id=4704&replies=89#post-14451">Fiona's defence of the city.

    You say "plagiarism", I say "intertextuality". See I had a nice image of the city planted in my head and when I actually lay back and looked at the sky, the word cerulean and the image fluffy white cloud came into my head and out again. Fiona's rendering of the city affected my reading of the park and my writing of it and your reading of it.

    Powerful stuff, these "word" things.

    Or I could have pretended that all along I was paying deliberate homage to a familiar text in my own rendition. Or, to avoid seeming soppy, that I was pastiching it.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    March 10th, 2009 @11:06 #
     
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    This is exactly why I stick to Jozi bashing. There are just too few words to say nice things.

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    March 10th, 2009 @11:12 #
     
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    Louis, I thought it was a deliberate pastiche. That you were tipping your hat to me, so to speak, and acknowledging that I had a point about the nice weather.

    Not so nice today, though. It's a bit soupy looking out there, innit?

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    March 10th, 2009 @11:41 #
     
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    *Chiz. Should've stuck to that story.*

    That's what I meant all along! Of course.

    Yes, a bit ghastly (can you pastiche your own work?)...

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 10th, 2009 @13:51 #
     
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    Snickering at Richard.

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  • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    March 10th, 2009 @14:45 #
     
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    Saudade! Beautiful, Louis, I was looking for a word that was both happy and a little sad, which is the mood I get from this ... saudade, seems almost right, perhaps not perfect, but nearly...

    The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.

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  • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    March 10th, 2009 @14:50 #
     
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    It has something to do with love that remains after other things have gone...apparently the 7th most difficult word to translate.

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    March 10th, 2009 @14:56 #
     
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    What a brilliant word, Alex... I've always looked for a word to describe a nostalgia for something that was never part of your history, a nostalgia for the alternative lives you never had. Saudade!

    (Which are number 1 to 6?)

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    March 10th, 2009 @15:03 #
     
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    Melancholy.

    Try "gezellig", which is commonly used in Dutch. "Cosy" and "convivial" are proof that the English have survived without "gezelligheid" for centuries. Tragic.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 10th, 2009 @15:54 #
     
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    Lovely. Mm, no, English fails us here -- no single word equivalent. I think the closest is "nostalgic melancholy", and even that misses by a country mile.

    But YES, Louis -- that "nostalgia for the alternative lives you never had" -- I am so glad I am not the only one afflicted by this condition.

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    March 10th, 2009 @15:59 #
     
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    Saudade, by Chris Rea (remember him?) is part tribute to Ayrton Senna:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etQ8UOwNTX4

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuF52g8dUpI&feature=related

    The song is a bit mawkish, and more so with the first video, a slideshow of Senna pics, tending even to the macabre as pics of him dissolve into pics of a kid (not him) wearing a racing helmet.

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    March 10th, 2009 @16:02 #
     
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    Aberystwyth...

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  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    March 10th, 2009 @16:50 #
     
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    i once had hypnoregression and the hynoregressionista identified my brother and i on a chariot, racing over dry sand in Egypt. sometimes i can taste the sand in my mouth, the wind in my hair. Rustum maybe u were at Aberystwwytyhth some time, altho i am sure u weren;t singing Joseph and the technicolour dream coat

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  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    March 10th, 2009 @16:50 #
     
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    a Flash of light!

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  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    March 10th, 2009 @16:50 #
     
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    my Golden coat Flew Out of Sight!

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    March 10th, 2009 @16:56 #
     
  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    March 10th, 2009 @17:00 #
     
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    hehe. Insert blush.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    March 10th, 2009 @17:13 #
     
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    I'm with Louis and Helen.

    Except weirdly, the older I get, the happier I am with this life, and with each day. But I feel a kind of sadness, wistfulness for the passing of each day. I see my daughter busy and preoccupied with something, like making a dog outfit, at present she believes she has another self called Rosebud, a golden retriever. She even wears her hair in two dog ears, rather than 'pony tails'.

    I think to myself "what a wonderful world" (Louis Armstrong), I think - it is such a short period of time, where you can pretend to be a golden retriever, in fact be one or whatever else you decide to be. (Unless of course you decide to be a writer or unless you go mad or something, and perhaps they are the same thing. Writers are those who keep their heads in those clouds).

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  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    March 11th, 2009 @10:29 #
     
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    Or clouds in their heads.

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