When Una called from Johannesburg International Airport, the rain was crashing down so loudly I could hardly hear her.
Her plane arrived half-an-hour early and she found a big Sotho airport official in a blue uniform and asked where she could get a decent cup of coffe and a light breakfast.
‘I don’t know Cape Town very well, you see,’ she said to him, flustered.
‘Yo mama,’ he said and roared with laughter. ‘This is not Cape Town any longer, this is Egoli (the city of gold) and you must hit the Spur restaurant running. Fried eggs and tomatoes and a good steak!’
Johannesburg, Egoli, the city of gold. For years I would look out of plane windows and see the yellow mine dumps rising up all around the skyscrapers, looking down on the wealthiest city in white South Africa, built on the blood and sweat of exploited miners and those elusive seams of gold running underground to the deepest shafts in the world. Every now and again there are sudden sinkages and streets, bungalows, suburbs fall down into seemingly bottomless pits. The miners die in the rockfalls and mistimed blasts and still the search for gold goes on, deeper and deeper, even though the seams and ribbed veins of gold are mined out for the most part.
Enjoy the city! Lap it all up, I say to Una and she hesitates. The last time she went up to Johannesburg was 40 years ago during her nursing training and she stayed in a racially segregated nurses’ residence with other young white Afrikaner meisies and cried each night to come home to her mother in the Cape.
If only you were here, she says wistfully. I privately thank God I’m not there. She needs a break from me. Many of you, my blog readers, may feel the same way. That last post was seriously depressing. I hate to sound negative. I hate throwing curved balls at the desktop screen.
But sometimes just telling the truth changes something about that bitter truth, makes it somehow more palatable. And less of a secret. Thanks to all of you who emailed — I am fine, really.