Sunday 29 November 2015

South Africa: From Sandton to Melrose Arch through Sandton

In any case
There is a more important blog I wanted to write that I have been ruminating over for days already and have not been able to write the first word of a sentence, yet it is working and forming in my mind as it is not ready to be birthed and given the light of expression.
On a lighter note, however, I hailed an Uber ride from my hotel to Melrose Arch, the driver decided to take the back roads through Sandton and it was quite revealing.
I would have loved to take pictures, but this might have been considered a security risk and probably endangered my life before I was given the opportunity to explain my interest.
Prisons of defence
Whilst I find the security at my hotel a bit superfluous and cumbersome because it requires all drivers of vehicles into the grounds sign in apart from the fact that gates are manned and have barriers, what obtains in residential Sandton is quite enhanced.
Literally all compounds have high walls topped with barbed wire fenced that I believe is also electrified. To my English mind, the affluent literally lived in the equivalent of prisons, if not fearful, at least, concerned about the world beyond their walls that is violent and so far removed from wealth and access to opportunity.
The walls themselves are architectural pieces and there are some notices that suggest that there are armed response units ready to tackle any trespassers.
Overwrought oasis
On arriving at this apparently exciting Melrose Arch that exudes affluence so alien to the generality of South Africa served by many from the townships spruced up to slave in genuflection to the presumably sophisticated or nouveau riche, it looked very much like an oasis in a vast desert, the appearance of Melrose Arch from the motorway read true in reality.
I first stopped at Sunglass Hut where I asked for lens cleaners having forgotten to pack any for my journey and the store assistant quickly offered a luxury case with a refillable spray cleaner, a washable ‘Microfiber’ cloth and a jeweller’s screwdriver. Meanwhile, he offered to clean my glasses.
When it came to paying for the goods, he could not operate the till, and after fumbling for minutes, he called his boss who was out of the shop on some business and he immediately appeared to sort things out. Why Sunglass Hut needs to have a mobile phone number to conclude a transaction escapes me, and if not because I felt a bit amenable since I was paying cash, I would not have parted with any information about me.
Cavalier cravats and more
My view was almost coloured by this experience until I was accosted further on by some affable gentlemen who looked rather dandier than I was. They run the Cavalier gentlemen’s fitters shop where for once they seemed to have everything that exuded class, taste and sophistication.
They had seen me walk by and came out to compliment my dressing and even averred that they have never seen someone as smartly dressed as I come by their shop before. They had me when they said they also had day cravats. This considering that last time I asked for cravats in Sandton, I was presented with a Velcro-fastened bib. The horror.
The variety of colours and quality of the stuff, I could not resist, yet I restrained myself, I left with two beautiful cravats, and to their recommendation of getting matching pocket squares, I intimated them of the fashion faux pas of matching pocket squares to ties, it should never be done.
Yet, I did like the way they wore their pocket squares, much like a blooming origami rose, I should have asked to be shown how to do that. I might well be inclined to have a bespoke Savile Row suit made for South African prices made for me. We’ll see.
After shopping at Woolworths a brand that looks a bit classy in South Africa though long since extinct in the UK and probably never really related to the one that once rules the shopping precincts of the UK, I hail an Uber ride back to my hotel having learnt again of the great disparities that ail South Africa.
Postscript: I have since learnt Woolworths of South Africa is modelled after Marks and Spencer of the UK and has never been related to the old Woolworth’s brand in the UK.

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