A special place is Montclair. I’ve been here seventeen years now. Longer than I was downtown, or at Musgrave or Pavilion!
My car guard is 80yrs old, a proud member of the McGregor clan. Knows exactly what the weather is going to do each day and tells me with unerring accuracy. “Sunny tomorrow”. The next day if it’s raining: “I knew it would rain today”. Never wrong. Knowledgeable on birds, too. Two drongos attack a kite, dive-bombing it. “Look, that mother bird is teaching the two young ones to fly”. Had me searching the skies hopefully recently for an albatross that hangs around here. “It just flew over. Yes, an albatross. It’s here all the time,” she says. It would be a lifer for me and it would have all the birders in Durban flocking to the centre if there really was an albatross in Montclair! Of course it could be a wagtail.
The bane of her life is school holidays when the youngsters of Montclair use HER roof to kiss, cuddle, grope and “who knows what else!” She chases them off like they’re alien vagrants. When pressed she will confess she was a handful herself in the old days in Joburg. She worked at the Norwood Pick n Pay and frequented the Braamfontein & Downtown pubs, Wolmarans Street was one I remember her telling me about. Speaks fondly of the Victoria Hotel and the Station Hotel.
If I leave my lights on she marches into the shop: “Where’s your boss?” she’ll bellow. Stentorian, you could call her voice. Demure, not so much. And off she’ll go with my keys to switch them off for me. If I’m around when she returns she’ll deliver a short lecture about the battery. I know it off by heart, of course, but she’ll repeat it. She also gleefully tells us when the lift is working (which is often) to save me the extra twenty metres I would walk to the immobile lift.
Knows all the skinder does Bridget. Which shop got robbed, who did it, what the cops said, her opinion. What the punters at the tote on the roof do and say, whether they have won or lost. How much they drink. Who drinks inside at the bar and who saves money by drinking standing around an open boot with a strong cane and coke mixture in polystyrene cups.
What a centre. Whose car guard comes to fetch them in the shop, pops up a golf umbrella and walks them to their car every time it rains? Mine does.