Everyone knows that moving, divorce and death are the three most traumatic life events. Well, around a year ago I experienced the first. And I can vouch for it, this is indeed horrifying.
It came upon me rather unexpectedly. Well to be honest, I ignored the symptoms for a very long time. Finally I was told “We’ve arranged the builders for the end of January, could you please be out by then?” Timeline: four weeks.
As always in my life when disaster calls an angel appears. This time it came in the form of Léo, an intern who arrived two weeks later. Having lived in Gardens for more than ten years, I had no notion of what to do to find an apartment. I’m sure Léo could see that lost look in my eyes. Being tech savvy, he quickly set up a pattern of trawling ads on different sites while I grudgingly packed up.
With D-day coming up super quickly, we kept a rigorous schedule of e-mailing, calling and visiting apartments all over town, but not finding anything vaguely suitable. The last week arrives and I’m desperate. Léo sends me an ad of a place in Sea Point. Walking through the flat, the bell rings and two girls arrive, also interested. Léo tells me “You’ve got to take it! This looks great!” I have my doubts. A phone call distracts me and Janet the agent tells Léo the deadline is tomorrow at two. Spending my evening and morning assembling a raft of documents I send it through at 13h40. At 17h01 I get an email from Janet:
“Unfortunately your documents have only just come through at 16.55.
I received 3 applications first thing this morning and the owner has already accepted one of these.”
She takes pity on me (my second angel) and asks me twice if I would like to view a new listing. Of course I would! Packing has more or less stopped and I have an uneasy feeling that the office will be totally disconnected shortly. Early Saturday morning Janet takes me to two current listings. The first one looks ok, but with no character or soul. The second one is in disrepair, Janet even apologises. Then we go to the promised one, with me saying “It’s expensive and has no parking, but let’s look.” En route she mentions “It’s been empty for awhile. I’m sure you can negotiate.”
I have no doubt in her abilities and am totally calm. Opening the door, I’m flooded with light. There are wall-to-wall sliding windows throughout, white tiles and walls, plenty mirrors contrasted by black marble tops in the kitchen and main bedroom. I must bite on my lips to keep from smiling.
“Call Greg, he’s moved many of my clients before” are her parting words. Now I have to face the packing. My place is crowded (thanks to inheriting two households) but that’s putting it lightly. I’m totally overwhelmed and frantically start giving away things to everyone vaguely interested.
To spice things up, there’s a 09h00 meeting with a USA client just before Greg and his team arrives. With almost not having packed at all, I literally put stuff into boxes while the guys come up the stairs. The day flows into night as I drive up and down filling and emptying my car, sweating profusely. Taking my fourth shower for the day I finally admit “This is not a one day affair.” In fact, moving becomes a week-long nightmare after being given grace by my landlady, interspaced with long calls to MWEB our ISP to urgently reconnect us. Telkom is the only company responding at surprising speed.
The Haven Night Shelter also pitches up on D-day to collect stuff that I have managed to put aside. During the following days and weeks they come another two times to fill up their bakkie. Life goes on, but at this point it’s a matter of survival. My new place, grand and spacious (double in size) as it is, looks like a warehouse with cartons and furniture stacked all over. Léo does wonders in keeping FMS in touch with the world, while I finally settle on Telkom to take us with fibre Wi-Fi into the 21st century.
This all happens while I’m negotiating the biggest transaction of the company’s existence with the most difficult client I’ve ever come across. On top of that, this whole process is through a translator as Mr. Lee only speaks Chinese. Needles to say, things don’t just get lost in translation; they also get delayed, tense and almost derailed.
Thanks to daily sunset walks on the promenade and beaches my energy level picks up as I relish this newfound luxury. It looks like a hotel with a sea view. And that’s only the start. The beach is across the road, the sea gulls are screeching above, the surf is pounding through the windows and “It smells like fish” one of the guys tells me when delivering my new fridge a year later.
P.S. This article was written entirely during load shedding. Here’s an ad produced by Santam during 2015 that shows what life in SA is like for the past decade or more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViorVDgiiOg
© Anton Blignault, Cape Town 2019