More London VIP's

More London VIP’s

Last week our son and daughter-in-law were in Johannesburg on a visit from London and they visited the new house for the very first time.  We had not realised that Greg had not been home (ie to Jhb) since before we bought the original house in October 2012, so he has really been entirely dependent on this blog for information as to what his parents are getting themselves into.

It was interesting seeing his reactions and hearing his impressions.  Overall, he seemed to find the house bigger than the impression he’d had from the photographs I’ve posted and generally seemed quite satisfied with what he found.  I had the feeling he might have been surprised by this….  Of course, having lived in London since 2005, his perception of space is different from ours and he and Carly were quick to recognise that the cottage we’re building on the street side of our house is just about exactly the same size as the flat they have recently bought in Maida Vale.  But I am the first to acknowledge that there is absolutely no point in comparing South African sizes and prices with London.

A Maida Vale Mansion Block.

A Maida Vale Mansion Block.

The two aspects of the new house with the most appeal for them, are I think, the outlook over the trees in the park and the undercover veranda which will be similar in size to what we have in our present home.  Undercover verandas have become very important areas in South African homes.  Given our (usually) moderate climate, they are spaces where we spend a lot of time and are often treated more as an open-sided room than a veranda.  I think too that Greg realised if he ever wants to practice golf shots while home for a few days, he will only have to go through the gate in the garden wall to be able to swing golf clubs to his heart’s content.

Another discussion that came up was centred around the bathrooms.  There are three en suite bathrooms upstairs.  The ‘main’ bathroom was to have a bath and separate shower, the bathroom attached to the second bedroom was to have a bathtub and no shower and the third, only a shower.  I had reservations about the second bathroom and had discussed with Bernard the option of having a shower option over the bath.  He seemed resistant to this idea as being a less than ideal compromise.  I was planning to have the discussion again…  However, having discussed with Greg and Carly the fact that the second bedroom would probably always be first choice for guests, given that it faces the sunny north and has a lovely view, we decided that the bathroom should incorporate both a ‘tub’ and separate shower and discovered when talking to Bernard that by moving the passage wall just a few centimetres, we could achieve this.  Nothing like offspring to help one revise one’s ideas….  Needless to say, the builders will have had to move a wall this week. I use the word ‘tub’ with some hesitation as it is not one we hear often in South Africa.  Or in England, for that matter.  It is very much an American word.  In this country and in England we tend to refer to a bath tub as simply a ‘bath’.  We would never say ‘she’s in the tub.’  We’d say ‘She’s in the bath’ or, ‘She’s having a bath.’ With the internet, movies, international décor magazines proliferating everywhere etc, it is becoming more acceptable here and I have to say I really love the word.  There is something very satisfying about it.  I think I shall start to use it!  A few weeks ago I came across a whole article and debate on Houzz about the pros and cons of showers versus tubs.  Showers seemed to come out on top but if you can fit in both, I think that’s still first prize.


After checking out the house (in detail) we moved on to 4th Avenue Parkhurst where we had brunch at Vovo telo.  Despite it’s being the Monday of the long Easter weekend, (In SA both the Friday and the Monday are holidays) all the restaurants on 4th Avenue that were open (most of them) were heaving with people.  I was pleased the children were able to enjoy this aspect of Parkhurst as it’s one of the things we love about our new neighbourhood-to-be.  I love the High Street feeling of 4th Avenue where little shops and restaurants still open onto the pavement and the street as opposed to being stuck inside big shopping malls.

Downsizing is interesting.  It elicits different reactions from different people depending on their ‘head space’; on what age or stage of life they’re at.  We’ve had quite a few people express great surprise (shock, perhaps?) that we’re choosing to move from the suburb we’re in which appears to have a certain cachet, to where we’re going.  Even if we want to go smaller, the implication is that perhaps we could have simply gone to a smaller house in the same suburb or a similar one.  Well, we could have.  We have permission to sub-divide the property on which we now live and if we were really determined to stay here we could have built a house on what is now our tennis court.  And one day, someone might do just that.  But we were looking for something different.  Much as I love my neighbourhood, I feel as though we’ve ‘done our time’ here.  While there are still some ‘older’ people, there are also lots of new, younger families (just like we once were) with school-going children who love the bigger gardens, pools and courts and who fill up all the rooms in these rambling older homes.  If I could choose the buyers of this house, I’d pick a young family just like that and I’d hope that they wouldn’t even consider building a house on the tennis court.  We bought this home from a family who’d lived here 25 years and we’ve been here for 20.  I think we’re only the 3rd family to have lived here.

We could also have decided to move into a gated estate but we didn’t feel ready for something like that and many of them are quite far from the area in which we now live.  Moving to one of them would mean changing our whole lives.  As it is, Parkhurst is a 5 minute drive away as the crow flies and 10 at the most.  Although it has a completely different feel to it, it is still in the middle of my usual stamping ground.  We will have the same pharmacy, the same corner shop, the same supermarket, doctor, nursery garden and most importantly, the same veterinarian.  It has a more ‘urban’ feel to it and that is something we’re looking forward to.  We’ll be able to walk somewhere for Sunday brunch.

It seems to be a suburb for starting out and for winding down.  Whenever I drive through it, I am surprised by the number of prams being pushed along the pavements; some by young parents and some by nannies.  And at the same time we have several friends who started their married lives there and who have very recently moved back. We think we’re going to enjoy living there and also, we think that when our children and other family members visit from London, they’ll enjoy being there too.

Tubs of Fun

Tubs of Fun