There’s a scene in the 1964 musical film My Fair Lady where Freddie, a young man hopelessly in love with the main character, Eliza Doolittle, visits the street where she lives. She refuses to see him, so he wanders up and down her street. It’s getting dark and the streets are empty, but Freddie is content just to be where she lives. He dedicates a love song to Eliza:
I have often walked down this street before
But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before
All at once am I several stories high
Knowing I’m on the street where you live
I also recently came across Flaneur after researching for creative magazines. Their statement is highly piquing:
‘Fragments of a Street: Flaneur is a nomadic, independent magazine focussing on one street per issue. The magazine embraces the street’s complexity, its layers and fragmented nature with a literary approach. The content of the magazine is produced with and for Flaneur by artists of all disciplines while the team spends two months on location. It is made using a collaborative, impulsive and unconventional approach. The magazine attempts to use a single microcosm to tell universal stories.’
I was sorting through my papers and came across a similar piece that was written by Mango’s inflight magazine, Juice (May 2015 issue). It is titled ‘Street Stories’, was written by Ruby Parker, and it focuses on three different individual storytellers’ memories of streets they have grown up on:
‘Every street has a story, woven into the lives of its occupants. We carry the threads of some places with us, and they constantly pull us back into the past.’
I am 30 years old, and I’ve lived in over 30 houses, which totals 10 towns overall.
Bloemfontein | Tsumeb (Namibia) | Pietersburg | Elisras | Bloemfontein | Port Elizabeth | Bloemfontein | Worcester | Bloemfontein | Pretoria | Bloemfontein | Rawsonville | Worcester | Johannesburg | Redding (USA) | Johannesburg | Bloemfontein
Lately, I’ve been pondering where I’ve lived in my life, the rooms, houses, and streets that have made an impression on me.
While I do not remember all the places where I’ve lived, there are quite a few that have left a considerable impression on my life and has left its mark in my memories.
Herewith, the towns, streets, and houses that I grew up in.
Koringblom Crescent – 5 Years old
I was born in Bloemfontein; both my parents went to school there and most of my family still lived in Bloemfontein.
Some of my first memories took place in this first house that my parents bought. They built a swimming pool for us in the backyard, and I remember most of my days were spent in that swimming pool. I wore hearing aids in both ears, and I always had to take them off before swimming. Our neighbor’s daughter also had a swimming pool, and I have a memory of where I desperately wanted to swim with her. My parents forbade me to do so, but I went anyway, without them knowing it. I remember distinctly I was swimming in the neighbors’ pool, and suddenly I saw my dad’s head pop up over the wall.
He said to me, ‘Vicki, did you remember to take off your hearing aids?’
Immediately I touched my ears – I still had them on!
I went home, had to take off the aids, and put them in the sun for three days. (It has to dry out before you can use it again)
Those three days where the longest days of my life; I hated not wearing my hearing aids as I always wanted to hear everything.
Needless to say, I learned my lesson that day.
Xandrie and Revonne were sisters and they lived in the same street as us. My sister and I spent many hours playing together with them.
This is the house where I first saw Nelson Mandela (read my essay A ‘Colourless Heart’ where I write about this experience).
I also remember that there was a day-care center just down the road. I first went there by myself; I can remember distinctly that my sister always wanted to go with me. Finally, she was big enough to join me, and then eventually I became too old to go.
My sister didn’t like it either that I couldn’t go with her anymore.
Both my parents were in the ministry, and they were asked to take over a church in Worcester that had had a split. We sold the house, left behind our extended family, and moved to the Western Cape.
Heller Boulevard – 7 Years Old
In this street, my sister and I tried to make new friends, to no avail. No one in that street wanted to be friends with us.
This is where my brother learned to crawl. I remember how he would cry in the hallway for my mom to pick him up, and then I would try to pick him up instead, but then my mom would scold me and say, ‘No, Vicki, he needs to learn to crawl.’
So I would leave him. But I always felt bad for him.
This is where I learned to ride the bike. I got my bicycle as well. There was a café a couple of blocks from our house, so my mom often sent me to buy milk and bread. Later on, video rentals were added, so I would rent videos now and then. One day, we forgot to close the garage door, and we went to church. When we came back, my bicycle was stolen. I was devastated.
We had a beautiful black Labrador named Tammy, who was mostly a nuisance to us small kids. He would jump on us and knock us around. One day, when we got back from church, Tammy was nowhere to be found.
Later on, I asked my dad about Tammy again, and he told me that a car had killed him. He didn’t want to tell us to keep us from getting hurt.
My parents started a school especially for me – Lifestyle Christian Academy (LCA). It was a private English school with the A.C.E. system – perfect for someone like me with hearing loss. My parents also renamed the church they took over to Lifestyle Christian Ministries (LCM).
One day, after a church service at church, I told my dad that I needed a Bible for school. ‘I have an English one already, but I need an Afrikaans one,’ I told him. ‘Trust God; He will provide one for you,’ was his answer.
About two weeks later, I came home from school, and there was a gift-wrapped up for me at the front door. Someone had bought me an Afrikaans Bible. I kept asking my parents for years who gave me the Bible, and how did that person know I needed one? Up to this day, neither my parents knew who got me that Bible.
In this house, we didn’t have a swimming pool in the backyard, but an orchard. It had that Karoo vibe to it; it wasn’t a nice backyard and you couldn’t play in it.
At one stage my sister and I adopted two swan eggs. I wanted to raise swans after watching Fly Away Home. I especially took great care of it, putting it under warm lights and watching it every day after I came home from school.
Then one day the eggs cracked, the chicks were born and my sister and I were so happy with these new ‘pets.’ Eventually, they got too big, started making too much noise in the backyard so my dad took them back to the river and let them go.
Van Goens Street – 9 Years Old
In this house, we had a swimming pool again, and we were elated. My mom taught my sister and me to swim, and now it was my brother’s turn. He would cry every single time my mom taught him because he did not want to. It would upset my dad greatly and he would leave the swimming pool area every time my mom did that. But my mom was adamant that my brother should learn how to hold his breath underwater, and to get out of the pool by himself.
On two separate days, it saved his life.
The first time was when I saw him in the pool; he had fallen in while he had been running around. I panicked and wasn’t sure what to do; I ran inside the house and told my mom. She rushed out and pulled my brother out of the water by his hair.
If she hadn’t taught him how to hold his breath, he would’ve swallowed the water and drowned.
The second time, he was riding his black little bike and going around the rims of the pool. He fell in, managed to hold his breath, and got out of the pool by himself. He came into the house and went to my mom. He was completely wet.
‘He would’ve drowned, but he got out of the pool all by himself,’ my mom said. ‘That’s why I teach my kids about water safety.’
We had a huge kitchen; the sink was high and I had to stand on my toes to fill in my glass with water. I remember my brother often asked me to help him with that, as he couldn’t reach it. I felt like such a grown-up every time I had to do that.
My parents revamped the garage into a guest room. My cousins Monique and Peter-David visited us often from Bloemfontein until they moved to England. I remember it was a huge loss and we felt it, as we had been close to them.
At one stage a family from our church moved in next door with their two daughters, Eloise and Melishia. My sister and I were so happy that we had friends again, even though they were a bit younger than us. We would often go to the park that was just across the street, and across from the park was a small café where we used to buy sweets. I would also ride on my bike every second day or so, cross the park, and buy milk and bread.
One day, the younger sister, Melishia, and her maid were standing at our door, crying.
Eloise had been in an accident.
From what we could gather through the tears, shock, and hysterics, the maid had gone to the café with Eloise and Melishia. They crossed the park while riding their bikes. They went to buy some sweets at the café. When they were done, instead of crossing the park again, they decided to go around the park. A car hit Eloise head-on while she was still on her bike.
‘There was blood everywhere,’ the maid told us.
Melishia still had her sister’s sweets with her, and she refused to eat them.
Eloise died a couple of days later.
Quellerie Road #1 – 11 Years Old
This house was built weirdly; I remember that because there was an odd closed garden right in the middle of it. My brother had the smallest room and my sister and I shared a room, as we always used to.
It was around this time when I wanted to be ‘independent’, I was becoming a teenager and no longer wanted to share a room with my sister anymore. I was not interested in playing Barbies anymore, I now wanted to read all the time.
I went up to my parents and said, ‘Let me have the small room. My brother needs more space; he can share a big room with my sister.’
So we swapped.
I still rode my bike, only this time I was more careful now because of what had happened to Eloise. We now lived around the corner from the same café, although we did not go to the park as often anymore. I would still buy milk and bread every second day or so.
I would often go to the spot where Eloise had had her accident, and think about her and what had happened, and I would wonder if the same thing would happen to me as well.
There was another house down the road, a huge double-story house. For some reason, my parents liked that house.
I remember that because every time I drove by with my bike, I would wonder who lived in that house, and what it looked like inside.
One day, I saw a ‘For Sale’ sign at the front of that house, and I told my parents about it. They didn’t believe me, so we got in the car and rode straight to that house.
There it was, the ‘For Sale’ sign at the front.
‘This is wonderful!’ my dad exclaimed.
Within months, we bought that house.
Just before we were to move in, my father announced at church that we were moving house and that it was just a couple of houses down the same road.
‘We are moving in on a Saturday afternoon, so everyone – please join us and come and help us!’
That Saturday almost everyone from church turned up. Some had bakkies, other trailers. Everyone helped everywhere they could, and within one hour we had moved everything from one house to the other. We had a braai afterward (my dad’s way of thanking the church members).
Quellerie Road #2 – 12 Years Old
This is the house where I learned to remember our telephone number and postal address. It was a huge double-storeyed house; with over five rooms, three bathrooms, a separate guest room and toilet with a shower, as well as the garage that was revamped into a separate apartment for my grandmother. She had decided to move in from Bloemfontein due to her heart problems.
I visited T.B. Joshua in Nigeria two times, and I took off my hearing aids in ‘faith’ so that God could heal my ears. I would be without hearing aids and without sound for the next four years.
It was also around this time that I had my shooting accident and had depression. In-between, I was a teenager growing up.
We had a swimming pool, a pool table, tennis table, as well as a built-in trampoline.
We had a lovely living area; my parents hosted a lot of church events at our house. It was big enough to accommodate everyone. I still rode my bike; now I roller-bladed as well.
We had a balcony that overlooked the mountains.
In the winters, we had a fireplace that we warmed up. The last winter we were there, we had people over at our house once again, this time the church leaders.
I remember distinctly that I helped my father put logs in the fireplace, and he said to me silently (I could read lips very well): I want to get out of here. I want us to move back to Bloemfontein.
I was shocked by this revelation. I had never thought we would ever move away from Worcester. This is where my parents had built a church, a school, a family.
But I was so ready to go, as well.
This time around, when we left, no one came to help us move.
My father, especially, was hurt by this fact.
Lanquedoc Street – 16 Years Old
Back in Bloemfontein, my father almost bought a farm just outside of town. Because we thought we were going to live on a farm, my sister, brother and I decided to home-school.
My grandmother moved back to Bloemfontein with us. She was not happy about this, as she had been really happy in Worcester.
The farm deal didn’t work out. My uncle had other plans and asked my father to farm with him instead. He has a wildlife game farm outside of Bloem, and he persuaded my father to buy sheep with him. So my father ended up farming with my uncle for about six months. All the sheep died (my uncle bought sick sheep), so then my father went back into the ministry (CRC with Pastor At Boshoff).
This meant we ended up renting a house at Lanquedoc Street. There was a flat available as well, so my grandmother moved in there.
I remember the grey closet doors in every room. The walls were painted yellow. I didn’t particularly like these colours. But we were not allowed to paint over it, because the house was a rental.
One day, we all came home after having been in town, and when we walked into the hallway, we immediately realized something was wrong. We could hear it, and then we saw it:
The geyser above my parents’ bedroom had burst.
There was water EVERYWHERE. It was an absolute mess. My mom was highly and understandably upset; my brother was the only one who enjoyed it. He was only about 11 years old, but he had so much fun cleaning up the water and picking up all the debris and ceiling pieces that had come off.
Man, it was an absolute mess.
We home-schooled, had a giant swimming pool in the backyard, and I played soccer and rugby often with my brother. This was the house where I discovered McLeod’s Daughters, an Australian television series that I still love up to this day. My sister got a beautiful white cat named Ludwig.
This was also the house where my aunt came and visited us from England. She noticed that my personality had changed and was worried about me. She kept asking me why I didn’t wear hearing aids anymore, and at first, I was annoyed, but then after a while, I also started thinking: Why am I not wearing hearing aids? I can wear my hearing aids and trust God for healing at the same time, right?
So I went and got hearing aids again. And heard sounds for the first time again in four years.
Sergeant Street – 18 Years Old
This is the same road where both my parents lived when they were still at school. My mom lived up the road; my dad down the road. And coincidentally, we ended up living there as well.
It was a very nice house, one of the best we have ever lived in as a family. But the kitchen was super tiny and oddly, it had three doors: one door that went to the backyard and the other two were entry points into the kitchen. A bit bizarre. So my parents tore down the whole wall and made it into an open space. The result was gorgeous.
This is also the house where there was a big tennis wall in the backyard. I spent hours there practicing my tennis training; now I had dreams of becoming a tennis champion.
My sister and I continued homeschooling, but my brother instead went to Grey College. He got into the wrong crowd and started skating (and soon doing drugs as well).
This is also the same time CRC offered my parents a pastors’ position at a CRC church in Perth, Australia. My parents flew to Australia and visited universities, schools, the church, and viewed houses as well.
They came back, sold the house, got rid of most of the furniture, and booked the flight tickets.
Two weeks before we were set to go, my parents woke up and just felt: No. No to Australia, no to going there.
I was crushed, of course. I had hoped to study creative writing there.
I started waitressing at Olive Ranch Estate, a function and event place. A friend of mine’s family owned the business, and she offered me the job. Later on, my sister joined as well. The pay was good. I met a guy there named J.C., and can you believe it, he lived in the same street as I. We often took rides together, working at the same hours. He also went to Grey College so sometimes he would take a ride with us to go to school as well. He also took tennis lessons every week, and sometimes he would come and help me pick up my tennis balls after tennis practices.
Years later – 5 years, to be exact – J.C. would contact me again out of the blue. It seemed that he had liked me all along, I just never knew it. He just never made it clear enough for me. He was an attractive guy, I always enjoyed having conversations with him. So we decided to give the relationship a go. By then I was living in Rawsonville, and he was still in Bloemfontein, so we made turns visiting each other. At first, it was okay, but then it became a struggle to do long distances. Eventually, we broke up.
And thus burst the romantic idea of us being meant for each other, as we both used to live on the same street as my parents did.
Langeberg Avenue – 20 Years Old
Now we were without a house, but luckily we got a better one instead: a plot, the mini version of a farm.
It was heaven on earth for me.
We had chickens that I fed every week, and they often laid eggs so I would go into their cages and take the eggs, make wonderful scrambled eggs for breakfast. There were springbucks on the veld next to us, as well as horses.
We also had Sasha, a Great Dane; Nala, a Jack Russel; and unfortunately, a Bull Terrier named Bene (my brother’s dog). Our cat Ludwig passed away shortly after we moved in (a car drove him over). I was heartbroken over this cat. We buried him under the trees, and every day I would force myself to go there and cry. I knew this was the healthiest way to get over a traumatic death.
Soon I got a gorgeous white cat named AllyCat. At first, I thought it was a female, so I named it Ava. After two weeks and taking her/him to the vet, the vet confirmed that it was, in fact, a male. So I had to come up with a name as close as possible to Ava, and came up with Ally.
Once, the Bull Terrier attacked AllyCat and gravely injured his paw. We almost had to put the paw off, but thankfully it healed miraculously (I prayed for this paw intensely for a couple of days).
After this incident, I put my foot down and said the Bull Terrier had to go. He was hurting all the animals on the plot – the Great Dane, Jack Russel, and he even killed some of the chicken. Soon he wanted to attack the horses as well.
This dog attacking my cat was just the final and last straw.
So we gave him away.
By now my brother’s drug addiction was taking its toll on him and the family. He moved out of the house. My sister started studying at the university, so she also moved out.
I did a gap year at 13thFloor, stayed in Bronkhorstspruit (Pretoria) for four months, then toured all over South Africa for 7 months. It was a good learning experience.
I got my motor license, got my first car. By now I was a waitress at Emoya Estate’s Spookhuis Restaurant, up until I won Miss Deaf South Africa. My father set up an office for me in the room upstairs. I worked hard and I worked every day. I wrote my first book there.
This house was our last time together as a family.
Gerhard moved out, finished high school by himself. Zoe moved to Johannesburg and got married.
This was the same street where my father lost all three of his jobs within two weeks: the CRC Bible School where he was the head, the church in Ladybrand where he had been the head pastor, as well as the weekly job he had at my uncle’s business Brocor.
Now he was without a job. I also felt that my time there was coming to an end, as I had visited almost every school, church and function hosted there. I had also been on every radio station, newspaper and magazine publication.
It was time for a change.
Scherpenheuwel – 23 Years Old
My parents felt led to go back to Worcester and finish what they had started all those years ago. While we were driving down to Worcester, I got a text from Antoinette Louw, a well-known actress, and producer. She asked if I could be part of Kinders van Stilte, an Afrikaans stage production based on Children of a Lesser God. She offered me the leading role, and the fact that I was going to be in the Western Cape made it so much easier.
We started with pre-production at Woodstock, Cape Town, and we would end up performing it at the Vryfees and Aardklop, as well as do a couple of shows in Worcester for the Deaf community.
We struggled to find a rental house in Worcester, so we ended up staying in a self-catering house on a farm called Reeds Country Lodge.
We hated living there.
It was winter and the house was ridiculously cold.
I remember I had my first cochlear implant operation at Tygerberg Hospital, and when I came home to that farm, I was so cold that it made the pain even worse.
My poor father tried to warm up the house by keeping the fireplace going, but it only helped a little.
I hated that house. It was horrible.
Before the op, I applied to Stellenbosch University. I got accepted and received a great scholarship. I started taking classes; I was there for about two weeks. One morning I woke up, and suddenly felt that I needed to quit university. At that exact moment my mom – back in Worcester on that farm – had the same feeling. We texted each other about our concerns, and we simply confirmed what I had to do: Quit university.
I was heartbroken, but for some reason, I knew it was the right thing to do at that time.
I also did the music video for Straatligkinders called Petrus; we shot the video on location in Cape Town.
One of kykNET’s producers contacted me and asked whether I would consider moving to Stellenbosch. He promised me my own television show where I would be the presenter. Every time I drove through to Tygerberg Hospital to do rehabilitation for my cochlear implantation aftermath, I would go see this producer and he would make all kinds of promises. He even showed me the studio where we would shoot the series and showed me my dressing room.
It never panned out; it was empty promises.
Eventually, I gave up visiting this producer.
Le Sueur Street – 24 Years Old
We knew we had to get away from that miserable cottage on the farm, so we found a rental house available in Rawsonville, which was about 20 km from Worcester. By now my father had started a church again in Worcester, and it was slowly growing.
I remember living on that street in Rawsonville. Rawsonville shouldn’t even be called a town; there are only about 3,000 people that live there.
We lived in the house behind the NG Church; after I got my cochlear implants, I would hear the church bell go off every time.
And every single weekend, there were drunk people in the streets.
Our garden had a huge problem with lice; they would constantly get on my cat’s hair.
Marius Smit Street – 25 Years Old
In all the years we’ve lived in South Africa, there have only been two burglaries done to our homes. The first time was at Van Goens Street; our maid was at home and she chased the burglars away.
The second time was at this house in Worcester.
They stole my laptop, my brother’s pay and his ID book and some of my cochlear implant equipment.
But thankfully, no one was home when this happened.
By now the church that my parents had was not doing well; there were all sorts of rumors making its rounds in town. This experience made me realize just how limited small-town people’s minds can be. If you live in a small town, you live in a small world. People started gossiping about us, making trouble for us.
My brother came home and brought home a girlfriend. She was still in high school.
Financially, we were not making it. We sold my precious car to make ends meet. I went on a tour in August 2013 where I did over 19 motivational talks in two weeks, just so we could have a bit more money. I wrote a devotional book called God Lief My.
My father applied for jobs everywhere; no breakthrough came. My mother applied as well. My brother got his girlfriend pregnant, so she quit school and they both worked at Steers.
One night, while we were all sleeping, a gang of Coloured guys kidnapped a 14-year-old boy and raped him beside the Breede River, and then murdered him. This was the same river where we loved to go and swim.
After the murder, we all decided never to go there again. It was a horrible thing that happened.
My father tried to implement a strategy called ‘Adopt A Block’. He encouraged church members to reach out to their neighbors.
My father always practiced what he preached, so he tried doing that on our street. No one was interested, no one wanted to talk to my father.
This was such a strange thing. My father, who used to be beloved in this town, was now a rejected prophet, very much like Jesus.
The church wasn’t working out, nothing was working out. We chewed rocks during those three years in Worcester. We started praying for God to send us a ‘ship’, to rescue us from this hellhole.
Then the ship arrived. But it was in a place we never thought we’d go to:
While we were moving to Gauteng, my sister Zoe and her husband moved to Cape Town – to be closer to us. But it was 3 years too late.
Kambro Crescent – 27 Years Old
We arrived in Johannesburg, relieved to leave Worcester behind. By now my brother and his girlfriend had gotten married, the baby was born, and we temporarily lived in an apartment for three months while we were looking for a house big enough to accommodate all of us.
Both my parents were ordained as head pastors at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Mulbarton. The pay was excellent, and they bought a house for us in Meyersdal.
I visited a publisher’s company just outside Johannesburg, and we had a meeting about a series of teenage books that I had planned on writing.
During the meeting, the publishers told me that I will have to do my marketing. I left the meeting in tears, as I simply wanted to focus on writing. What’s the point of having publishers if I had to do all their work from them? So I pulled away from the publishers and stopped writing altogether.
No more motivational talks, no more marketing, no more writing.
I also got a car again. Freedom had never tasted so sweet.
I got a job at the church, doing admin and creative things. I also worked as a PA for my parents. I got a salary each month and I was able to relax. I met a guy, we got engaged, planned the wedding, postponed the wedding, broke up.
With my wedding money, I went to Redding, California for 9 months.
I stayed at Simpson University for 6 months, then moved into an apartment with a middle-aged woman from Australia. Worst decision I ever made; I should’ve stuck with Simpson University.
Just two months before I was set to return home, my father phoned me and told me he had cancer. He and my mom still flew to Redding for my graduation.
We went home, my father started with treatments for his cancer, and he passed away six months later.
My brother, his wife and now two babies moved out of the house and got their own place in Kempton Park.
My mother quit her job at the church; I quit as well.
My mom and I had to get rid of a lot of furniture; we gave so much stuff away. We knew we would have to downscale at the next place where we lived, as it would now just be the two of us.
Sedara Road – 30 Years Old
At first, my mom and I wanted to move to Cape Town to be close to Zoe and her husband. We also wanted to be close to the ocean. We went down there for a mini holiday and scouted for a house to buy. We went everywhere but felt no peace about moving to Cape Town. It felt too strange, foreign.
Then we visited Bloemfontein over New Year’s Eve, and then it just felt right:
We decided to move back to Bloemfontein.
Eventually, my brother and his family also moved back to Bloemfontein.
It was a familiar place to be.
It seems like no matter where we go, we always seem to return to the center of South Africa. This is where we come from, this is where we will always feel at home.
My mom and I just felt that we should ‘Just Breathe.’
It’s now two years later, and we feel there’s a change in the wind. Zoe and her husband are now moving to China; I want to study next in (either in Stellenbosch or California). My mom might go to China, move to Cape Town (like she always wanted to), or go to America (if I should study there instead).
Either way, it seems like we are a family that is destined to always be on the move, ready for change and growth.
Bring on 2020.
Where did you grow up? What was your street like? Do you still have memories of the places where you’ve lived? Where would you like to go back again?
In closing, the classic song ‘On The Street Where You Live’ from My Fair Lady.