You know that comfortable feeling you get around old friends? That feeling of ease and simplicity? That’s the feeling I get when we visit our old neighbourhood, Melville. It brings back memories of a time when the majority of my paycheck was spent on going out, when my clothes were looser and when I didn’t need a monthly appointment to cover my grey hairs. Driving down the avenues last night brought flashbacks of a younger us traipsing through the big old houses on the Show days dreaming what it would be like to be all grown-up with a big house and family of our own. When we stayed in Melville we lived in a crampy one bedroom apartment and those big charming old houses always intrigued us with their spacious kitchens, old wooden floors and pressed ceilings. Many a Sunday was spent scouring the neighbourhood for show boards. Finding a new house that we hadn’t seen before was like discovering money in an old jacket pocket at month-end.
Sipping red wine and peering out the bay window of the Ant Café last night brought flashbacks of a young impressionable couple who would spend early evenings after work enjoying the half price cocktail special at Ratz. After cocktails we would dash home to a humble meal of home-made fish and chips because our R800 a month grocery budget didn’t extend to eating out at restaurants. We have a bigger budget now but less free time. How things change. Life was simple and easy in our one bedroom apartment.
As we sat under the full moon last night in the courtyard of the much loved Bohemian Ant Café it dawned on me that Melville will always be my first love of Joburg. It was the start of my love affair for anything arty, different and quaint. It’s a place stored with memories of us starting up, gaining independence and enjoying our freedom. It was my first home away from home. It’s an old friend and first lover rolled into one.
If you ever find yourself in 7th Avenue in Melville make sure you pop into a good friend of ours, the Ant Café. It’s charm and quirkiness will have you captivated in no time.