At that exact point we should have stopped for a family selfy. I can see the shot so clearly in my head, J-Rab and I tired but happy and The Cub cute as hell but probably looking the wrong way.
Moments later J-Rab’s cousin who stays in Twickenham met us and took us through to his place where I spent the last night with my girls. It’s weird. The whole thing feels like a long, long time ago.
After we got settled and showered, we passed out for what felt like the longest time only to wake up and find the light totally unchanged.
That happens here in summer when it’s grey from horizon sto horizon. From about 8am through till 6 or 7pm the light stays exactly the same, diffused through a veil of grey. It was grey like that for almost an entire week after I landed.
Not long after we woke up, we started making preparations for the annual street party that happened to be going down on that same night, which was how I found myself 9 635 kms from home on a Saturday afternoon drinking Carlsberg and sawing wood to start a fire for a braai.
Not long after I got a seriously dangerous-looking fire going, the street party slowly came to life with kids screaming and laughing and throwing water balloons at one another and parents drinking and watching over the fruit of their loins with glazed contentment.
A couple of Carlsbergs and jugs of Pimms later, I took a walk up the road with J-Rab’s cousin to meet with a friend of his. When I got there I perked up immediately because I realised everyone braaing at the house we ended up at were South African!
It had only been 1 day, but the feeling of reassurance I got from hearing other South African accents was significant.
“You guys from South Africa? Me Too!” I said.
“Oh hi,” one of them replied.
“Wow, I can’t believe you guys live on the same street as [J-Rab’s cousin], what are the chances?!”
“Ha ha. Yeah…”
“Anyway, how long have you guys been here for?”
“About 12 or 13 years I think?”
“Shit, that’s a long-ass time. So I’m guessing things must be working out pretty well for you then?”
“Yeah. ‘Spose so. It’s not South Africa, but yeah…”
“Huh…” I said, the smile slowly fading from my face. Something was weird about this situation. I didn’t realise it at the time because I was fresh off the boat, but London is fucking riddled with Saffas.
Conservative figures estimate there are roughly 250 000 Saffas in London, but I’ve read other figures that go as high as 490 000. Running into other Saffas is a pretty regular occurrence, especially in Twickenham, which is why the Saffas at the braai I met were almost completely not phased at meeting me.
Well that and the fact that they were probably the most lifeless people I’ve met since getting off the boat.
They had that look about them that wild animals get when they’ve been in captivity just long enough to realise that this is it, they’re never getting out, and in that moment their spirit cracks clean in half and they schloomf down on their crappy couches in front of their gigantic flat screen TVs to permanently check out of life.
Then I met the Twickenham Charna.
This guy, Jesus Christ. I know you can already see him in your mind – ruddy complexion, freckles, touch of the ginger in him, the kind of dry, chapped lips cricketers get, wrap-around sunnies, surf-brand T-shirt, baggy cargo shorts and Haviana slops.
This guy isn’t interested in any fucking thing you have to say about anything. At best he’s just waiting impatiently for his turn to talk and impress you with the eyeball-gougingly boring opinions about absolutely fuck all.
These types are the fucking worst. Ask them what they think about London and they’ll basically tell you it’s shit, but they won’t come right out and say it because it begs the question, “Well then, why the fuck are you here?” to which, if they were being 100% honest, they would answer, “Um… I don’t know.”
Maybe they were once as excited and electrified by this city as I am, which kinda scares me because if that’s the case then what the fuck happened to these poor sons of bitches?
In order to assert his dominance over the group, this fucking mouth-breathing, long-tom drinking Neanderthal then proceeds to spend the next 30 minutes telling us about the renovations he’s made to his house, like anyone actually gives a shit.
The level of detail he went into made me want calmly wrap my fingers around his neck and squeeze until he turned purple.
It made me ashamed to be South African. These guys leave South Africa to come to London and live in places surrounded by other South Africans so they can have braais on the weekends, watch the rugby and talk about how kak London is compared to South Africa.
No. Please. I want you guys to shoot me if I ever get like that.
I came here to experience something different, something more. I came here to jump head-first into the fathomless depths of this city, dive deep, deep down and swim as far out of my comfort zone as possible to see if I can actually handle it.
I came here for an adventure goddamnit! Not to sit around moaning about London and hating life.
This city is a powerful beast. It can either squash you down until you’re a shadow of the person you were when you arrived or it can grow you into a magnificent version of yourself, able to think and move and interact at a level far above what South Africa could ever offer.
Don’t get me wrong though, I still love South Africa and I always will, but that doesn’t mean I can’t love London as well.
I hope I never lose the sense of wonder I have when I walk around this city, I hope I never take it for granted because when that day comes, it’s a short fall to wearing wrap-around sunnies and wanking in people’s faces about how clever I am for extending my back porch by 3.5m.