It was my turn to deliver Meals on Wheels to Yeoville today. I’m part of a group of 4 who cook 36 meals once a month, and every so often it is my turn to deliver the bootload of food to the headquarters located in a Yeoville church.
From here to there is like travelling to another country. Once I cross Louis Botha Avenue there is not another pale face to be seen and the neighbourhood is busy, slightly chaotic but productive and I love seeing all the children making their way to school. Where I live, children are driven to and from school by their parents or in carefully arranged lift-clubs. So it is something of a novelty to see small boys and girls with satchels, chattering on pavements and making their way – apparently enthusiastically – to school.
I have never felt in the least bit uncomfortable although I sometimes draw curious looks. The greatest hazard of the journey is negotiating my way through the many taxis that hurtle along Louis Botha with little regard to red lights or stop signs.
When I reach the church I am met by a small, elderly, frail, white lady who has run the whole operation for the last 16 years and who worked as a volunteer there before that. Today she tells me that an old black man she hadn’t seen for quite a while, appeared at her soup kitchen yesterday. He looked her up and down and remarked: “You’re the original and you’re still working.” This is very true as I often think she is the principal reason why the system seems to work so well against all odds.
Long gone are the days when people like me could deliver our meals to the actual, individual recipients. In fact, in the 12 years we’ve been doing this, it has never been possible, but we are always met by enthusiastic and charming helpers who unload our boots and transfer the food to vans waiting to be driven off to the people needing assistance.
It’s a quick, efficient hand-over and driving there, I always take the quickest route, usually the M1 South. Coming back though, without time pressure, I usually choose to drive through Upper Houghton, past the peaceful and organised playing fields of St John’s College and then over the ridge and down Munro Drive into areas of Johannesburg with which I’m far more familiar. And I’m always happily surprised by how beautiful the old Northern suburbs of Johannesburg look, spread out below me. Today is a lovely, mellow March day and despite the definite hint of Autumn in the air, there are all sorts of trees and shrubs in flower, punctuating the dark green of the forested gardens below.
Before I reach home though, I have to tackle the ongoing upheaval in Oxford Road around the Gautrain Station. As I manoeuvre my way round one giant pothole, so a wheel tips into another and I’m reminded, for the umpteenth time, why a few years ago, I decided that a 4 wheel drive car was the only way to go.
And then I’m back home. Cloistered in my own piece of ‘garden forest’, surrounded by birdsong and contented pets, I can draw a blind on this brief glimpse into another face of Johannesburg and continue in my usual tranquil way. Until the next time.