#20laps – The Sydenham Public Pool

Walking into the change rooms of the Sydenham Public Pool is like stepping back into my 1980s childhood, except instead of a magical cupboard that opens onto Narnia, the change room reveals mirages of late apartheid, that I thought I’d forgotten: signs on the walls read DAMES/FEMALES / CLOAKROOM/ NA SWEMBAD TOE; the Nationalist concrete tiles; a broken deckchair; the slatted wood to sit on. NA SWEMBAD TOE. The language hasn’t changed but the sunlight now refracts off black bodies. The public pool is fairly busy on a hot Sunday afternoon, and there are a number of small black kids splashing in the shallow end. A young, beefy white guy walks next to the pool. He has a half-done dragon tattoo on his back, and a silver spiral pushed through one of his earlobes. A little black boy creeps up behind him and taps him on the back; the hulk-man pretend-smacks the boy on the cheek; the boy giggles and scampers off. Another kid springs off the diving board, feet first, while a guy with a man bun balances a small blond boy on his shoulders. At the far corner of the poolside there’s a middle-aged man with a black yarmulke atop his head, a lilo is stuffed under his wife’s arm. Another women wears a headscarf; her elbows and ankles hidden. There aren’t many people in the deep end…

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The L. Ron Hubbard House (The Church of Scientology)

Like a Minotaur in a maze, Scientology is an incredibly difficult beast to pin down. But I wanted to try. I’ve watched loads of documentaries on the subject, and Heather (aka 2Summers) shares my obsession with this rather unconventional religion – she almost peed her pants when I suggested we visit L. Ron Hubbard’s house on Linksfield Ridge. Prior to our excursion, I had never met a Scientologist, and I only knew about Scientology via three sources: Wikipedia, ex-Scientologists from the aforementioned documentaries, and Tom Cruise…

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Walking dogs and treading fine lines

I remember the first time I saw a dog walker in Joburg. It was a few years ago, and occurred somewhere between the last bastions of old, white wealth: namely Westcliff and Saxonwold. I was in a car, and was only able to catch a glimpse of a black man in blue overalls, with two Jack Russells tugging at the lead. The experience left me somewhat confused: did the dogs belong to the man? To me, it seemed incongruent if he was the owner. But I couldn’t pinpoint why…

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