Friday, August 18, 2006


I have now lived in my new house for two weeks. The place is a barn compared to anything I've ever had before with acres of space that has swallowed our humble furniture and belongings and still, despite the strewn chaos of unpacked boxes still has space for more.

The joint fears of imminent interest rate hikes and instalment debt in general I have steadfastly refused to extend myself beyond the lowest possible 7 figure mortgage bond I could get (as negotiated by my mortgage broker). This is despite being offered more credit than I could possibly ever afford to pay back in my lifetime.

Mrs Wit is not too impressed by this steadfast refusal of mine because, of course, the bathrooms & kitchen clearly need redoing, it would be great if we knocked out this wall, filled in that door, replaced the 80's aluminium sliding doors that seem to run on rails of sand & glue with something better, made this more open plan, get rid of the choclate-porno-brown sanitaryware in the guest toilet, and of course put in the freestanding gas-electric stove. Not to mention cutting back the rampant garden, removing the palm trees, building a new exterior wall, getting the alarm system to work, ripping out the obsessive "panic-room style" trellis doors, getting the automated garage door to open above waist height (maybe I should buy a low slung Porsche?).

It is clear to me that the many things have not been attended to for years. I still can't find the switch to the world war two searchlight that glares over our backyard each night and into our as yet uncurtained bedroom. (I have resolved this by switching off an entire circuit on the mains board). The irrigation system sprouts water at random all over the place through the leaks in the pipes & the water timer switch that governs it requires a PhD in Irrigation Technology to operate.

The neighbours have a 2 pine trees as tall the Twin Towers and I've seriously considered contracting al queda to inflict a similar fate upon them. They provide winter shade over half the back yard and provide enough pine needles to terrify and clog up the pool barracuda hourly.

It still feels like someone else's place, even after putting up my large Klimt print on the lounge wall.  But I do want to do these things to be fixed and renovated into our style, and ultimately think I will get to them when I've caught up with 5 year backlog of maintenance on the place. So I resolved to get the plans of the place from the city planning department so that we can plot our attack plan. To the uninitiated one would assume that retrieving these plans would be an arduous process of standing in grubby queues, convincing someone that your property actually exists, that you actually exist, that your suburb even exists. Then one would place an order, after paying an exorbitant fee and obtaining a receipt from a cashier half way across town, and then being told to return in 3 weeks to stand in the same queue and collect the said plans. Not so. This is how it actually works. Drive up Loveday Street, look for the parking, drive around the block 3 times until you see the red one way sign that you've been told about. Follow the sign and the directions of the yellow-bibbed car guards. Park. Pay the guard R5 to put in the meter if she wants to. Enter the building, sign in, put your bag through the metal detector. Head to the 6th floor. Go straight to the counter. Smile. Fill in a request form with your property details. Wait two minutes for the man to return with the Microfiche film of you plans. Have a look at them on the screen. Tell him which pages you would like. He prints them then & there. Head back to the ground floor, pay the cashier R10 and get receipt. Head back to 6th floor and retrieve the printed plans. Get out of the building, find the bakkie & head home. All of 15 minutes effort! So naysayers some things in this town do work.

Also it's great to know now what the strange room behind the kitchen was intended for. I still have no idea why not one room in the house is truly rectangular, or why the interleading doorways are arched but I know that this will be a place that I will truly come to think of as home. I just need to convince Mrs Wit of that.


Dave said...

Congratulations on the new house, exciting times (and a lot of hard) work ahead it seems.

Third World Ant said...

The joy of a fixer-upper is that you get to fix it up over time, and watch the house grow and change along with your family! Patience, dear Wit, patience. (and flowers, to hold Mrs Wit back, too!) And chocolate brown bathroom mats, to make it look you wanted the bathroom to be that colour and it wasn't someone else's mistake...

Put that big bakkie to good use and bulldoze your way through the garage door!

ATW said...

Thanks Dave, serious work ahead.. One always anticipates that in a used house not everything is going to work as hoped, but at the moment this place is a little overwhelming. But Richard Scarry's Mr Fixit Fox was always one of my heroes..

ATW said...

Thanks Ant, the garage door is number 13 on the list. Brown bathroom mats - good one - genuinely. Perhaps I should also get one of those frilly toilet seat covers to match - not genuinely.

Tell you what with the bond payments on the place I'll be needing to put another 225,000 km on the Isuzu's clock. Perhaps I'd better be kinder to him.

Regret, that I don't think flowers are going to entirely placate the mrs, but I will try.

VallyP said...

I firmly believe Mrs Wit will love it in time because she'll be able to transform it into a home that's truly Witty..;-)..I do mean it too

It is the question said...

Congrats on the house.

Don't cut down those pines! I'm watching people cutting down trees everywhere and it is driving me wild. One of the reason Joburg has any beauty is its trees.

Also mature trees cost a bomb / take 20 years to replace.

But I understand the winter shade issue. Perhaps some judicious pruning in cooperation with your neighbour?

ATW said...

IITQ: I'm with you on preserving the greenness of JHB. I read somewhere that we have the world's largest manmade forest - not sure how true it is but as you leave town on the M1 North look left over the old money residences and it's just bush - quite awesome. (Compared to the plantations of clusters as you head to the outer north!)

Admittedly I'm not a huge fan of pines given their invasive nature, and I am giving a good home to at least 2 dozen trees on my (or is that the bank's?) piece of joburg as it is. These pines are just too big be happy neighbours with. Maybe I'll grow to love them as there is only the slimmest of chances of convincing my human neighbours, as friendly as they are, to cull them.

PS. One of our other neighbours actually gave us a chocolate cake as welcoming gift. How cool is that in this day & age.

It is the question said...

Chocolate cake - very cool!

It is the question said...

You're right about Joburg being the biggest man-made forest in the world.

More in this old post of mine.

ATW said...

IITQ _ great article on the trees..Maybe your site was where I read about it? Too much information these days.