I moved to South Africa in 1986 to live with my dad. Initially it was obvious that this traditional man’s man and ex-soldier was at a loss as to how to take care of a teenage girl. He fumbled his way around the dual mom-dad role and I fumbled around being an awkward teenage girl in a place where I knew no-one else. Eventually we found a comfortable place in each other’s presence, not demanding too much from one another and discovering just how much alike we were.
My dad did the cooking, which he was very good at, always consulting his hand written recipe book and making notes of what we needed to get from the Pick n Pay for his next dish. I did try once to cook for us – it was slap* chips but I nearly burnt the place down when the oil caught fire. My dad thought it was very funny and never let me near the stove again.
On Thursday evenings we would go off to Norwood Pick n Pay for late night shopping and dinner in the little restaurant at the back of the store. That was when staying open until 8pm every day was not the norm. It was a big deal for us … it was our ‘thing’. We’d jump in the car when he got off work and head off down Louis Botha Avenue towards Norwood. As we passed all the landmarks, my dad would point them out to me … every single time we went and every time felt like the first time he was telling me their stories every time was just as fascinating and exciting as the week before.
One of those places was the Dollhouse Roadhouse. It was a favourite of my dad’s but he never took me there and I never asked why. Whenever he gave people directions to this place or that, he would always say ‘just look out for the Dollhouse…’. A bit like we do with McDonald’s today.
I drove along Louis Botha Avenue this past weekend. It brought back all those happy memories of my beloved dad. I took a photo of what remains of the Dollhouse. I had heard it was being demolished but it is still standing, like a ageing monument to time and joy and life.
*South Africanism for hot fried chips that are usually thick and soggy and best had with salt and vinegar