#20laps – The Bez Valley Swimming Pool (Hofland Park Recreation Centre)

Some white people come here, especially on a Sunday. But I don’t know where they are today,” says Thando. His faded, red board shorts have a large rip on the right leg, as if a sabre-tooth tiger got hold of them. He holds a plastic Power Rangers mask in one hand; its thin elastic bounces between his index and middle fingers. When he talks, his gold front tooth glints in the sun. Lots of small black children are at the Bez Valley Pool; Thando, the lifeguard, is one of the few adults. A group of teenage boys play soccer, a man with a Rasta hat sits on a bench under a tree and strums a guitar, while a guy in an incongruous Angkor Wat T-shirt stands with arms folded, looking at the kids splashing in the pool, wistfully (I wonder: where did he get the T-shirt from? Was it given to him? Has he been to Cambodia?)…

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Ways of being, the other, and productive trespassing in Bertrams

Celine Dion blares from a Nissan boot. A man pokes at the coals of a make-shift braai in an iron drum. A little white boy in a torn Spiderman T-shirt scampers across the road after buying a packet of Nik-Naks from a spaza shop. A police van hurtles past, blue siren screaming. A skinny dog pushes its snout into a pile of rubbish. Paint peels. The Jukskei stinks. Children sing. I’m walking through Bertrams, and watching a play…

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The Rosebank Catholic Church

They say ‘write what you know’ – so I thought I’d start this project off with Catholicism. I was brought up Catholic (I was dragged to Mass by my mother each Sunday, practically kicking and screaming). I remember how our parish priest, Fr Kelly, would ensure his lips extracted the very last drop of wine from the chalice after communion. Just before wiping the golden cup and putting it away, he’d tip it riiiight back and have a good sluk. I also remember him urgently puffing on a cigarette – still in his vestments – the minute he was outside after Mass and shaking people’s hands.

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A most extraordinary house

I first heard about ‘the Gordon Road house’ through my previous landlord, Toni Morkel. Along with stories about Bez Valley, she also told me about a house that she once lived in. The house, which is located on Gordon Road in a now derelict, forgotten part of the city called Bertrams, sounded like a fascinating and curious place – it was an abode of mostly fun, some pain, and a lot of history. And behind its two remaining bay windows, lived three pyrotechnic brothers – the Taylor brothers – who could bend your ear with stories about art, drugs, and Joburg…

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Toni Morkel – performer & theatre-maker

The first time I met Toni, I was roped in to ‘push the buttons’ on a cheap CD player that balanced on a wonky stool. Toni was rehearsing a scene for a play (The Last Show) in her front room with Roberto Pombo, and it was my job to press play, according to certain cues. I missed said cues because I was completely mesmerised by her performance – even though it was ‘just a rehearsal’, it was clear to me that Toni was a hugely talented performer.

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