Shots fired

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

“There’s a little incident downstairs.”

Incident: an instance of something happening; an event or occurrence.

E.g. “several amusing incidents”

There was nothing amusing about the ‘incident’.

Also, it wasn’t an incident.

It was a bloody (literally) armed robbery.

Not the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.

When we set out to go to the gym, I hardly thought that doing cardio was life or death training. It was just something horrible I had to suffer through in order to drop a dress size. That’s how trivial my thought processes were on Sunday morning.

When the gym lady said, “There’s a little incident downstairs’, it did not, in any way, convey that a gang of 5 armed robbers were shooting at people.

So, we went downstairs.

And the pharmacy was closed.

So, we walked to another one.

That’s when the shooting started.

That’s was when the screaming started.

And the running.

Turns out that even when my legs feel like overcooked noodles, I can run quite quickly when the situation calls for it.

All the shops slammed the doors shut and watched the panicked masses run past, banging on the doors only to be denied entry.

We hung a right and dived into the Nespresso kiosk.

Hearts pounding, we tried to catch our breath and not panic.

In fact, the lack of panic was quite strange. We were all very calm – eerily calm.

Hanging a right turned out to be an extremely beneficial decision. The robbers went left. A split second choice that could have ended quite differently.

As we made it out of the danger zone we met someone we knew.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“There’s an armed robbery and shooting.”

“But, can I go to Woolworths?”

“Um. No. It’s all locked down.”

“But, I just want pick up some groceries.”

Silence, as we absorbed this.

“Well, this is very inconvenient.”

Yeah, it was for us too.

Also, I imagine for the security guard who was shot and the robber who was killed, the other who was injured and the three who got away.

In mitigation, sometimes in such a dire situation you cling to the mundane like a small piece of driftwood in a tsunami.  

One upside from being denied entry into the stores, was that we managed to extricate ourselves pretty quickly from the chaos. Unlike the shoppers who found themselves locked in for the next 3 hours and who had to step over the discarded AK47s and the body.

As we sat in the corner of the Nespresso kiosk, all I could think was, “How very American”. It’s not really, but shootings seem to have made it into mass culture as an American thing. I didn’t even realise I had this stereotype until that moment. It all seems far too close to home for comfort, and I live in a city that competes annually for ‘Murder capital of the world’.

We arrived home.

I opened a bottle of wine.

And I drank it.

I don’t even like wine.

It gives me heartburn.

But, not nearly as much as being caught up in a jewelry heist.

Read the news report

“Gauteng police have launched a manhunt after armed men stormed a jewellery store in Bedford Centre in Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon. In an ensuing shootout with mall security, one suspect was killed.

According to Community Policing Forum chairperson, Gavin Henry, five men entered the shopping centre holding AK47 firearms when a security guard spotted them and raised the alarm.

“One of the entrance guards noticed them entering with their weapons and called in on the radio an armed robbery. One of the tactical guys responded and they started shooting at him first. He returned fire and the rest fled,” Henry explained.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said the suspect was declared dead on the scene.

“One security officer was rushed to hospital after he was allegedly hit by one of the suspects as the latter fled the scene,” she added. She said the suspects made off in two vehicles and [took] some watches. It’s unclear at this stage what the make and the value of the watches are. 

“Police recovered on the scene a rifle – AK47 – with two loaded magazines. The firearm will be subjected to ballistic testing for further investigation,” Peters said. 

In the video, which was posted on the Facebook group Intelligence Bureau SA, shots suddenly go off as people can be heard screaming in the background.

No other fatalities have been reported besides but some shoppers were treated for shock.”


So, there was this snake…

There was hooting. There was shouting.

And, I ignored it.

I was in my happy place.

Snuggled on the couch with a cat watching NCIS on Netflix.

That didn’t last.

“Mom. Mom! There’s a snake on the car!”

“Hmm. What?”

“A snake. On the car.”


I popped my head over the balcony.

There was a snake.

A big snake.

Not anaconda big.

But bigger than I wanted it to be.

I live in the damn suburbs.

Practically in the city center.

Why is there a snake on my car?

I was not going to be deterred, neither did I wish to see it killed by the very freaked out people in the street.

I got this.

I grabbed the braai tongs and stalked out to care of business.

Aunty Pam, who worked at the snake park, made it look really easy.

Turns out, picking up a snake with some tongs is not easy at all.

Snakes are very wiggly.

My children watched with fascination from the safety of the balcony.

Anyway, I coaxed it in the direction of the storm drain.

A very irritated owl huffed at me from the light pole and flew off.

I think I ruined his dinner.

People keep asking me what kind of snake it was.

It was a SNAKE people! Who cares!

I assumed, based on a recent neighbourhood Facebook post, that it was the non-venomous type. Probably just a brown house snake.

Some research proved me wrong. Turns out it was probably a stiletto snake. At least, this is the picture it most closely resembled. And stiletto snakes are very bad news. I’m somewhat glad I didn’t know this when I was channeling my inner Steve Irwin.

Not very awe inspiring in snake fetish circles, but plenty of excitement in mine.

My son said, “That is the most kickass thing I have ever seen you do.”

I don’t want to admit that I’m too scared to drive the car, in case it went back into the engine bay.

In the meantime…

I’m a kickass, snake wrangling mom.

Beat that soccer moms.

Have a TAD


In the heart of Maboneng, through a tiny unassuming gate, into a sunny courtyard and behind a darkened glass door lies TAD – The Time Anchor Distillery.

sunshinegun-tad-2That’s where Shanna-Rae and Warrick mix alchemy and science to create some truly unique, small batch, artisan gins, vodkas, rums and whiskeys.

As you walk in the door the scents and aromas embrace your senses and like a fish on a hook you can’t help but be drawn in.

Everything is made on the premises in gigantic copper stills surrounded by huge jars in which float a variety of herbs and spices.

sunshinegun-tad-16Bright red chillies, juniper berries and sacks of barley and grain lie in piles on crates awaiting their future.

Although Shanna-Rae described the science behind every step, it still seems more like entering Gandalf’s lair than a laboratory.

Despite the science, I firmly believe that it’s the magic, the heart that makes this place so incredible.

sunshinegun-tad-4Shanna Rae’s passion for what she does is palpable in every word and gesture. She places every label on every bottle, wax seals every cork or lid and, until very recently, hand-filled every single bottle. That’s craftsmanship.

They’re open for tours every weekend (take an Uber). It’s a great way to hide away from the rain, escape the mundane or buy a really fabulous gift for a connoisseur of fine spirits.






Consider It Done

Ice cream

I love sugary sweetness.

I’ve loved it all my life.

Condemned to incompleteness.

I’ve had to cut it from my life.

Not the best poem ever, but a life without sugar has tested the limits of my creativity. I’m now used to having no sugar in my tea and no chocolate, but certain things still make me groan in misery.

Like ice cream.

No ice cream?

The future – a barren ice creamless wasteland?

Bemoaning the sadness of my fate to everyone who still listens to me whining, my story found the ear of Carla Wesley. Now, she runs this fabulous company called ‘Consider it done’. Think of it like an everyday concierge service.

She went out and found me sugar-free ice cream made by Helen Robinson, a woman who deserves to be canonized – St Helen of the ice cream.

At sparrow’s fart on Sunday morning Carla arrived at rowing training with a tub full of toasted coconut sugar-free ice cream – handmade for me.

Last night when everyone was sleeping, I crept to the freezer, grabbed a spoon and indulged in a late night movie and ice cream marathon.

Whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t what I got.

That ice cream is without a doubt the best ice cream I have ever eaten. Better than Häagen-Dazs, better than Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough. It was toe curling, mind blowing and out of this world. It has ruined me for all other ice cream.

So, if there’s something out of the ordinary you need or want – whether it be sugar-free ice cream or a pink spotted rhino in a onesie, Carla will find it for you. She’s good like that.

Link here to Consider it Done

Hidden graveyards and heritage history


The funny thing about history is that it has tendency to trip you up when you least expect. Literally.

My friend Heather Oosthuizen tripped over a gravestone.

She got a nasty bruise too.

No doubt the long forgotten inhabitant of said grave had a good chuckle in the hereafter.

The funny thing is a lot people go to the Field and Study Centre in Johannesburg yet these final resting places lay in obscurity until sweet Heather landed arse over face on top of one.

Now most people would hop up and down on one leg curse and then forget all about.

Not Heather.

She’s started a one-woman crusade to find out more about the graveyard and the people interred there.

She reported her finding to James Ball of the Heritage Portal who sent her off to Mimi Seetelo at the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). Eventually landing up with Joburg City Parks who couldn’t find any records of the cemetery at all.

The ghostly graves were largely inaccessible until recently when a section on fence was stolen and the area became a thoroughfare for the local Zionist church groups and sangomas.

Sadly, the increased traffic means that the graves are degrading daily. The sangomas dig new sweat huts and use the gravestones and slowly but surely this little piece of the past is disintegrating.

A Braamfontein Spruit Trail booklet from the 1980’s places dates these graves to the early 1800s when farmers began to settle there.

According to the book ‘Wagon Tracks and Orchards’, a book about the early farmers in Sandton, German immigrants, the Wilhelmi’s bought Driefontein Farm in the late 1890’s, however the graves may have been from a previous African settlement in the area or labour from various farmers over time. The ruins of the Wilhelmi’s stables still exist on this site and the family is buried just a short way up the hill.

It may not seem that a couple of old graves are worth preserving, but they are. They are repositories of the past and deserve a little respect and dignity.

Heather wants SAHRA to motivate for adequate and effective protection of the area to preserve our heritage for generation to come.

Retired archaeologist Revil Mason visited the area and suggested that archaeologists clear the greenery away and clearly document what is present.

If you in the mood for a moonlight walk in a mysterious spot, maybe spot a ghost or two, why not take a walk through the Field and Study Centre? If you follow the the fence between the stables and the park towards the river, you’ll find an opening close to the storm water drain. Tell me if you see any apparitions!


Coordinates:  26*05’10.41″S and 28*01’39.23″E.  (* degrees)


About Heather


Heather is a talented make up artist and social entrepreneur.


She features often in the local papers protecting the heritage and environment of the area.


Read more about her local efforts for Parkview

Exposed graveyards left for ruins

Bark stripped off Field and Study Park trees

Riverside Park a dumping ground for rubble


You can find her make up blog at:

And her funeral planning guide at


Back in the zone


The last time I left my comfort zone it ended in disaster.

When I was asked yesterday to venture forth once more I regarded my fate with ill-disguised revulsion.

I have to admit that the reason things go belly-up is usually my fault (except for the last time, which really had nothing to do with me at all).

The inner city of Johannesburg was once my teenage stamping ground.

I love that term, my mother always uses it and it describes just beautifully how I felt in my 16-hole steel-capped Docs. Maybe more of a stomping ground?

Well, when the directions I had carefully drawn from Google Maps and my colleagues let me down by being the site of an enormous pile-up, I veered off across the Queen Elizabeth bridge into Joburg Central.

With NO idea of how I was going find my way through the myriad random one-ways to my destination.

All I knew of my destination is that it was on the other side of town.

While I was fretting over my lack of direction and the fact that Google Maps on my mobile had no signal, I found myself driving directly into the parking lot of my destination.

It must have been subconscious muscle memory from all those late nights and early mornings between Alcatraz and The Doors. They stood me good stead.

My concern then peaked again as I realised I had to find my out of the labyrinth and the one-ways made it impossible to retrace my route.

A colleague very kindly explained the following: “Go straight down this road, okay? Through the robot (a traffic light), then there’s this lank dodgy slip road to the right.”

Armed with this knowledge I got in my little rental and made a mad dash down the road.

I almost missed the slip road.

Dodgy doesn’t describe this unmarked, potholed, dismal ramp that suddenly appeared between two derelict buildings and disappeared into nowhere.

I placed my trust in the hands of my somewhat vague colleague and prayed.

I got out in 10 minutes.

Turns out the rest of my party didn’t pay attention and ended up spending the next hour and a half of their lives in the late afternoon rush hour clomp pomp. (That’s Afrikaans for a cluster-f#$%).

Trust in your gut. That’s the lesson. That and sometimes leaving your comfort zone can be exhilarating.

So, I’m thinking about doing this now…

Past Experiences is Johannesburg’s Original Walking Tour Company and leading experts in all things Joburg Inner City. The City of Jozi is our passion and we want to share it with you through our exciting walking and public transport tours, corporate events, pub crawls and bespoke experiences.

The night the Boogiemen came

boogie man

Where I live getting robbed isn’t a big deal, not really.

It only counts if someone gets raped or killed in the process, otherwise it’s just another day in the city of gold.

I have armed response, two dogs, a wall and bars on every window.

That’s normal here too.

In Manchester, which is apparently the UK’s home invasion capital, 1 in 1 000 people experience a burglary. Every one of them makes it into the newspaper.

In South Africa a woman is 4% more likely to be raped than to be able to read and write her own name. Look online and you’ll see article after article about how crime rates are falling to acceptable levels. How is that acceptable?

It’s not a big deal.

My house was broken into.

Some stuff was stolen.

It’s just stuff.

We’re all okay and we have insurance – so, it’s all good.

Only it isn’t. All good.

My kids are terrified.

The fact that “bad men” watched them sleep has given life to a monster far scarier than the Boogie Man. Mommy can kill the Boogie Man, but she can’t stop the “bad men”.

Next time we might not be so lucky.

Next time they might not let us sleep.

The policemen who came told us that if someone wants to get in, nothing will keep them out. All we can hope to do is slow them down long enough for armed response to arrive.

Armed response took 12 minutes.

A lot can happen in 12 minutes.

I am very grateful to the men and women from the South African Police who came out to my house, took fingerprints, even though we all know it won’t make any difference, and spent an hour helping us upgrade our security.

Most of all I am grateful to the lady who called us the following day to offer counseling services to my children.

Thank you for realizing that just because something happens all the time doesn’t make it normal.

My husband said, “Its our fault. We become too relaxed.”

No, it is not our fault.

Yes, for the last little while we became less scared and starting living like normal people, having a glass of wine before bed sitting outside and watching the stars.

I hate that they stole that simple pleasure from me, it’s something insurance can’t get back.

That simple feeling of being safe in your own home.

My father-in-law spent the war in Dachau and what he said made me step back and evaluate what my life has become.

He said, “The way I am living now? It is worse than it was when the Nazis came.”

I am sick and tired of pretending that is all okay.

It is not f@$cking okay.

It is miles and miles away from okay.


1cm for Human Rights


Yesterday I asked my Facebook peers a question.

Is it acceptable to take your children to watch you get a tattoo for Human Rights at the Bassline?

004-international-declaration-of-human-rights-posterI was expecting widespread condemnation.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that most of my friends are a quirky as I am and fully supported this rather unusual foray into parenting.

When I reread the question I had written I was struck by its ambiguity.

Was it the venue I was unsure of or the tattoo?

I am still not certain.

I need to point out that if The Husband was not somewhere beginning with C this week, I would have gone solo.

But as it happened the father off my beloved offspring was in somewhere beginning with C so the option was moot.

human rights article 18

“We are going a grand adventure!” I announced.

“Can I bring my iPad?” was the answer.

On the trip into the inner heart Johannesburg we were at first led astray by my inexplicable decision to trust the stupid American GPS lady who quite obviously had no idea where she was leading us.

Once I had reasserted my authority over this virtual directionally challenged bint, we arrived at our destination.

I then had to fork over R20 to ensure my car’s safety and security, only to discover shortly afterward that there was a private secure parking lot I could have chosen. Never mind.

Click to visit Bassline
Click to visit Bassline

We went to the front of the club.

We went to the side of the club.

We went to the other side of the club.

We went to the back of the club.



We had found the Human Rights Tattoo initiative.

slide1I signed up and we went for hot chocolate, chocolate mousse and snails at Sophiatown – a truly fabulous restaurant next door to an equally fabulous little bar where the band let my kids help set up for their set.

Then the rain came down.

So we danced in the rain all the way back.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is made up of 6 773 letters.

(Obviously not 6 773 different letters, the alphabet is not that long. Argh! You know what I mean.)

Screen shot 2013-11-28 at 3.10.44 PM

The plan is to tattoo the declaration one letter at time on 6 773 consecutive people forming a walking, talking, breathing declaration.

It appealed to me on some primal level.

I wanted a tattoo that meant something, but couldn’t think of what.

I wanted a symbol of what I believe in, what I stand for, for the type of world I want for my children.

I want a world for them where human rights aren’t a question, a dream or an ideal, but a truth, a reality and the norm.

I wanted to be part of something bigger than me.

Something that said: You know what?

6 773 of us care.

Fair-hearing-UDHRBecause it is not okay to rape a 6 week old baby.

It is not okay to keep people in slavery.

It is not okay to deny education or healthcare.

It is not okay to bury your head in the sand and shake your head when you read the headlines.

It is up to you to stand up and do something about it.

By having this reminder on my body every time I look down I remember how I choose to live my life, so that every action I take is directed by 30 tenets that are obvious they should never have had to be written down.

Last night my children learned a lesson.

They learned about the city we call home.

They learned that R20 can feed a family.

They learned that grown ups can be so stupid they forget the things that children know.

They learned grown ups need to be reminded to be good as often as kids need to be reminded to put their toys away.

Joining me last night were businessmen, lawyers, hippies, emo children, homeless guys, ad executives, doctors, architects, rappers, teachers – people from all walks of life united by a single small action.

Visual art collective Tilburg CowBoys and Festival Mundial are the passion behind the ideal that is taking the Human Rights Tattoo initiative across the world.

So far they have tattooed people from Holland, Spain, Kenya and now South Africa.

1459302_10151672832166116_13697181_nNearly 1 500 people have already joined the movement.

I am the L in impartial.

I am number 1283.

I am proud my children were there to watch me make this pledge.

Even if they were disappointed I did not cry or scream or spout blood like a B-Grade horror movie victim.

So, when they come to your country or your town, why not donate 1 cm of your skin to human rights?

Hey, it’s better than getting your girlfriend’s name etched on your ass and have her break up with you 2 days later.

If you missed the Baseline in Johannesburg last night, you can still catch them in Soweto on Saturday morning at Slaghuis.

Just go to or find them on Facebook.

To find out more about Bassline or Sophiatown, just click on the images and off you go.

But, and there is always a but.

Perhaps having an L tattooed on my right wrist wasn’t the most intelligent option ever.

The Case of the Missing Luggage


The Husband came home this weekend.

For all of 7 days. I missed the first one.

Don’t even think about asking why, the ensuing spate of vitriol will continue for hours.

The Husband has been in Rwanda.

On Saturday morning he boarded a plane for Johannesburg.

So did his suitcase and R2.5 million rand worth of telecommunications equipment.

Later on Saturday morning, the Husband and a suitcase full of laundry arrived in Johannesburg.

The hugely expensive uninsured equipment did not.

According to the Airports Association of South Africa it went to Burundi.

Burundi is another country entirely.

They also told the two other guys with luggage went AWOL that theirs ended up in Ethiopia, also another country entirely.

On Sunday morning the Husband received a call that his case had been found and was waiting for collection.

So, here’s the funny thing.

lost-luggageThere are no flights from Burundi that could possible have arrived in that time frame.

This means that the case was never in Burundi.

It means it was snagged in Johannesburg by the good chaps that work for ACSA.

The Husband travels to approximately 17 countries regularly.

Each time his luggage disappears it happens here.

This time he was lucky.

The case was solid and could not be cut open and the locks he put on it were industrial strength.

My father travels regularly throughout Europe.

But every time he flies to South Africa his luggage goes mysteriously missing.

And I do mean every time.

It is high time ACSA took responsibility and did something about their security and staff.

Stop blaming it on every other country.

Look in your own backyard.

In the meantime, it is not worth putting your things in the hold.

If you can’t take it in hand luggage don’t take it at all. It’s not worth it.