Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Room with a view

Many moons ago (ok, about two years back) I lived out in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. Muizenberg to be precise. I stayed in a teensy weensy absolutely charming little flat. The place was great! The building was an old hotel which had been renovated and turned into apartments. It had high ceilings, wooden floors and a stunning view of the mountain. (Okay, the guys on the other side of the building had a view of the sea, but you take what you can get, right?) Except for the "teensy weensy" part, the place had only two real flaws. Well, three. But that specific stalker neighbour is a story for a different day.

Flaw number one was the rumoured "drug element". Well people, this was Muizenberg... According to the caretaker they had had a few less pleasant tenants of the drug dealer variety a while before I had moved in. They had apparently been kicked out and the complex got electric fencing and security cameras. Problemo solved. One evening, a few months before I moved out, I started to imagine that I was smelling smoke. I checked the kettle. Checked the toaster. Also the oven, TV, computer, flat-iron and just in case, also everything else with a plug. I decided it must be my imagination (my nose is purely ornamental anyway) and continued with whatever I was busy with. A while later I realized the place was looking a bit hazy. Only then did I notice the smoke tendrils wafting underneath my front door. I yanked open the door to find a solid wall of smoke. I was still standing there mildly perplexed, when two firemen in full gear ran down the corridor past my open doorway. Through the thick smoke they looked like a pair of ghost firemen. Anyway, I closed the door, changed out of my pajamas and into something more suitable for when your house is burning down, shoved my camera in my handbag and headed for the door.

Finally, four flights of stairs later, I strolled down the front steps and found one very upset caretaker (my car was on its usual spot and I wasn't answering my intercom), a crowd of people (apparently everyone else's intercoms had worked...), six fire trucks of different sizes and varieties and about 2 rugby teams of fire-fighters. Total overkill of course. We were about a kilometre from the fire station and they must have been having a slow night over there? Back to the point. According to the caretaker (my usual source of info) a petrol bomb had been thrown through one on the ground floor windows. This specific apartment had been targeted before and they believed it had something to do with the tenants and drugs and or money.

The damage was pretty much limited to the ground floor, but all four stories were covered in soot for the next few weeks. I had to basically wash everything I own. Including me. Ever had soot up your nose? Not pleasant. But that is apparently pretty normal after walking down four flights of stairs and up again. Hey, it was cold outside! I wasn't going to stand there with stalker boy staring at me for the next hour...and the fire was basically under control...

I digress...

The actually point of this, the real fatal flaw of the complex, was the doves. The friggen doves. I had a serious problem with the doves in general, but specifically with the little dove couple (later family) that lived right outside my bedroom window. If measured, about 1.2 meters from where my head hit my pillow. And that is not very far, or for that matter, soundproof, when all that lies between you is the slanted roof (I stayed on the top floor and my outside walls were basically the roof of the complex). Fun fact of the day: doves do not have the same sleeping rhythms as humans... Less Fun Fact nr.2: when doves are awake, you will know it. They are noisy! That "Koer Koer" sound can drive you insane. I spent many a morning - I use the term morning very loosely because in my world when it is dark it is not yet morning - banging on the wall right on the other side of their nest. Until they got used to that. Then I had to resort to sticking my head out the window, screaming at them and waving my arms in a threatening manner. I am not by nature a violent person, so I declined my brother's offer to shoot them with his airgun. I was severely tempted though. So, I just continued attempting to intimidate them into moving somewhere else. Regrettably though, you can not frighten a dove to death. You can try, and I did, but eventually they will get used to anything. Or so I thought...and now I will actually get to the crux of my story.

I was not the only one with the dove problem. Especially the apartments with balconies really had a dove sub-letting problem. As mentioned I lived on the top floor and I normally took the stairs. We had a lift. A really, really old lift. About the size of a cupboard. With a door that you manually opened and a gate that slammed shut behind you... Still I didn't really mind the lift, but this was during the time of the power outages in Cape Town and I didn't especially want to be stuck in that mini lift for a few hours. So, on my "daily commute" down the stairs I passed the window that overlooked the third floor balcony of two of the apartments. Now that balcony had the most spectacular view all the way to the Muizenberg beach... (Regrettably the photo doesn't really show that as I had to take it from an upward angle to get my little friend in). Almost every morning, depending on how late I was, I would stop to have a quick look at the view. Yet, I almost never saw people using the balcony. Probably because the doves used it as a permanent residence.

One morning I saw the little scene in the photo above. Someone had gotten tired of their feathery friends and had placed a orange toy snake on the balcony. Very effective indeed. But what tickled me ....well, orange, was the placing of the snake in a pose so that it looked as if he was admiring the view. From then on, every morning (when I was not too late) I would stop to admire the dove-free view and to chuckle at the snake. So, did I get my own little snake to evict the doves from outside my window? Nah. It was their home too and in all fairness they had been there longer that me...not that that I suddenly stopped banging on the wall or shouting out the window.

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