I am very happy and excited to introduce you to one of my closest friends, Alex Jongens, who has written today’s guest blog post where she shares her experience of what it has been like to live on the iconic Long Street in Cape Town, South Africa.
Alex gives you a glimpse into what Long Street is really like (not what travel tour guide books present), from the perspective of someone who weaves through the bustling city jungle-gym daily. Here is a taste of its vibrant, high-energy routine and the authentic characters that frequent the well-known city street.
When people ask me where I live and I respond with Long Street, their immediate response is: “That’s hectic. Isn’t it loud? Isn’t it unsafe?” My response is, “Nah, it’s awesome; however, Long Street is not for those who don’t like activity, people and noise. I’ve lived in Long Street, in the beautiful Victoria Court, for 2 years. My migration started from the Southern Suburbs (where I grew up) to Claremont and then on to Long Street.
Long Street is where I’ve felt most at home, in terms of living within a community. In the ‘burbs’ you don’t really know your neighbour; however, in Long Street you get to know your neighbours, shop owners, street traders and those who live on the street. There’s always someone to say hello to.
Long Street is always busy. Daytime activities comprise of café life, shoppers, workers, congregation attendees; crazy traffic and there’s always a constant flow of pedestrians. At night, activities shift to focus on clubbing. In-between day and night bustle, you have the activity of those who clean and prepare the street for its next performance.
It’s a 24/7 place. There’s the magical silent lull between 05h00 and 06h00 where it is still. Long Street almost seems vulnerable or naked during this time.
I’ve learnt to tell the time by the sounds of Long Street.
05h30 -06h30: the call to prayer.
06h45: the bottle clean up (trailers collect bottles from the night before and whisk them off to be recycled).
Sunday 09h30: church time, the bells play for 2 minutes.
07h00 weekdays: Hilton arrives at work (he is the mechanic owner in Vredenburg Lane. He arrives every morning at the exact same time listening to old school tunes really loudly – he’s my emergency alarm clock).
It can get a bit hectic on the weekends with The Long Street Symphony (as termed by my boyfriend) being in full swing. The Symphony comprises of club music base, police sirens, people jolling and the drunkards going home. There’s the odd fight with the colloquial term, “Your ma se p&%s” in between, that’s normally around 04h30.
Strangely enough I find the Symphony of Sounds comforting. There’s always something going on, someone awake, someone doing something. You’re never alone and I think it is this that makes me feel incredibly safe on Long Street. Yes, there are the professional scammers that prey on the drunk. But if you know how they work then you can predict and dodge them.
My favourite Long Street moments are Sunday breakfasts at Lola’s; walking to work every day; walking to meet friends for drinks / dinner; random people encounters on the street; listening to the madness outside yet feeling content inside; going for a run at sunrise and seeing Long Street at its stillest; watching the skateboarders use the street as their playground; being brave enough to cut the miscreant taxi drivers off and being the seemingly odd-ball girl in her apron nipping off to the shop (in my head I’m saying: “Yes people, this is my home and I need eggs”).
Long Street is a mad special place that is full of life and diversity.
Long Street, you gem.
Alex is a project manager at The Safety Lab managing a range of projects including CCTV public awareness campaigns and placemaking. She has a background in design process and systems thinking | MA in Landscape Architecture, UCT.