Houses and apartments have always fascinated me. Years ago, I bought imported magazines, and when I was studying French, not too successfully, I bought French ones and dreamt over cottages that we could perhaps afford one day. I read and still do, of people restoring properties in France and Scotland. Of course, we are now too old for that and rely on Netflix and BritBox for glimpses into often spectacular properties in strange locations.
The first house I remember was my grandmother’s home in Johannesburg where we stayed with her and my aunt during World War Two when my father and uncle were fighting in North Africa. Coming home from nursery school with my nanny, I’d find family and friends gathered in front of the wireless. ”Be quiet!,” they said, “ we’re listening to Churchill!” When I was two, I remember singing the well-known prohibition song, Little brown jug, accompanied by much laughter and applause. It went “Me and my wife live all alone/ In a little log hut we’ve all our own/She loves gin and I love rum/ And don’t we have a lot of fun/ Ha! Ha! Ha! You and me/Little brown jug don’t I love thee!” I remember walking past a house and seeing a woman running round and round her garden, screaming. Her husband had been killed in battle. I remember my mother sewing blackout curtains, and the lovely new dresses she made for my sister and I to welcome my father home.
When my father was working in London for ten years, my parents lived in a small, leafy town outside London, and we stayed with them on two occasions. The first time we left our three young children with them while we travelled in America and Europe. My mother had found the shopkeepers unfriendly but after our three had been running around buying comics and sweets, they became very chatty! They lived in a large ground floor apartment at the top of a hill. On leaving, they could have bought it but my father was retiring and they decided not to buy. Today it is worth a fortune because the hill has been taken over by pop stars and “the beautiful” people.
We have lived in houses and apartments all over South Africa. Our first home was in Welkom, a newly established town, built when gold was discovered in the Free State, a province of South Africa. All the farmlands were gone, and the wind swept up sand which crept under doors and on to windowsills. The house I loved the most was in Westville, a town outside Durban. It was the first property we owned. Set on sloping land with a large garden, it had high beamed ceilings, odd corners, and beautiful views to the forested hills beyond. We fell in love with it, built additions and then moved to another dusty town in the Eastern Cape where we lived in two houses for about ten years each, the first ancient but with character, and the second modern with a large and beautiful garden.
Our next destination was Cape Town where we bought an apartment, and lived for some years, on the slopes of Devils Peak in one of the three blocks ridiculed as the Pepper Pots. They can be seen on all photos of Cape Town. Behind the blocks was the mountain, and one year a fire started at the top and due to strong winds swept down the mountain. We had to evacuate and move our cars out of the garage. Our large windows were blackened with soot, and it was a horrible job to clean them! We then bought a lovely apartment in a block on Bantry Bay with a beautiful garden where we lived for nine years before moving to our present apartment in a retirement block some distance from the city.
Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you.” So, I won’t be able to write about our final home, but one thing is certain: it will be completely different from anything we can image. It will be glorious- built for us by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!