Shap Shap Shanana

cape town pic

I love Cape Town this time of year. Spend enough Decembers and Januaries in the soggy greyness of Europe and you’ll stop moaning about the south-easter and the Vaalies (well, maybe not the Vaalies) and feel a deep, abiding gratitude for the fact that when the table cloth stops tumbling over the mountain and a still and clear blue morning awakens, get there early and you have the whole beach to yourself. And as you wade into the water it dawns on you that the summer is yours, all yours. In fact, the whole place is. Cape Town is the kind of city you own if you’re a local. I used to walk around the icy streets of Malmö, already dark at 3:30pm, dreaming of Clifton 4th. I knew what was going on there: that the sun was not even close to setting yet. That people were navigating the cold, clean waves on SUPs. That a granadilla lolly would, indeed, make you jolly.

And as the sunbathing crowd marches up the steps to wherever it is they came from, the picnic crowd would be marching down with white wine and blankets and things from Giovannis. And the knowledge that all this was happening on the other side of the planet while I pushed a double baby pram through slush was almost more than I could bear. And I’ll never take it for granted again: the girl crossing Buitengracht street yesterday in a strappy sundress and converse high tops, holding her skirt so it didn’t blow up around her head. She was just so Cape Town. The guy in the airport parking lot a few mornings ago who, to pass the time while he waited for his load of tourists, had opened all the doors, put his favourite song on loud and was dancing like nobody was watching. The bergies on High Level road wearing Christmas hats with flashing lights. iKapa.

It’s too hot inside the restaurants so patrons spill outside into courtyards festooned with fairy lights. Summer nights black as ink, balmy, alcohol-steeped, humming with the energy of the season. Midnight in a swimming pool underneath a blanket of stars. Carols by candlelight. Sunrise walks up the mountain. A friend recently arrived, coming home from Australia where he tried to emigrate but nearly died of dismay. He calls it ‘a dusty rock where souls go to die.’ Sometimes I sit on a bench at the Waterfront and watch the tourists go by. It’s easy to tell who is who. Nobody on the planet is as pasty as the Brits. Nobody wears uglier shoes than the Germans, and even though the Swedes have only been here for half an hour, they’ve already managed to turn themselves a deep shade of mahogany. But, come! Come! Spend your Kronor and your Euros. Heaven knows we locals can’t afford the seafood platter.

The thing is, you’d be hard-pressed to find worse whiners than we Saffers. Here we are actually living in the city the whole world rushes to in the summer and we still find things to complain about. Cape Town – like the whole of the country – is not without its problems. But actually it’s pretty amazing, as places go. And, as I’ve said many times in the past, sometimes I wonder if it really needs to be ‘fixed’. Like life, South Africa is messy, unpredictable and full of contradictions. Some days you’ll be frustrated, others you’ll be delighted. It’s the human experience presented in sharp technicolour. It’s like all the bad and all the good you can ever imagine has been crammed into this one little corner of the globe. Pour yourself a rooibos gin and enjoy the ride.

This year, despite the drought, hotels have been fully booked since July. Restaurants are crowded, main roads crawling. I know some folks get grumpy about actually having to plan in advance and make dinner reservations (the horror!) but I love it – the bustle, the vibe, the money pouring in which keeps the machine oiled and the wheels turning. And there’s a reason why everyone on the planet wants to be here. This city really does have everything. Last week a friend made an appointment over the phone. As they settled the details and she was about to hang up, the person she was talking to clinched the deal with, ‘shap shap, shanana.’ She was so amused she told me about it on Whatsapp. We both posted ‘laugh-till-you-cry faces. ‘You should write a blog about that,’ she suggested. So, here it is.

Happy 2018 to all my readers. Thank you for engaging with my ramblings over the past year. The past 12 months were a tough journey for many of us, but I think 2018 is going to be shap shap shanana.







26 thoughts on “Shap Shap Shanana

  1. I just love your blog.Thank you for reminding me how lucky I am to live in the most beautiful city in the world. I’ve been home from the never-ending sandpit (aka Riyadh, KSA) since Dec 2013. I’ve recently felt a bit disillusioned with Cape Town (full of Vaalies / expensive for the locals / drought looming / etc.)…. Yesterday, I went to a petrol station, asked for unleaded petrol and the guy responded “…. sho sho… the cream soda” – because the unleaded is mos the green one. Where else would someone somma change the name of the unleaded and call it “cream soda”…. He changed my day. It was indeed an uplifting experience!

  2. Merry Everything and Happy Always Susan. I wish you a great 2018.

    Well, nobody could have said it better. For us die-hards, it is HOME!
    I love my country, warts and all.

    Camps Bay were beautiful on Saturday evening, after watching a 5pm of Allan Committee at Theatre on the Bay. I never get tired of the beauty that surrounds us. We are soooooo lucky.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. David here, in sunny cold Georgia, USA. Your writing paints such colorful pictures. But please explain to me the “shap shap shanana“. Or don’t. I do so very much enjoy your writing.

    1. It’s a mystery to us all, but I think the first part is meant to be ‘sharp sharp’, a South African expression which means, ‘cool!’ or ‘great!’ The shanana bit… who knows?! Thank you :-)

  4. Reading this from a cold and wet Portugal (admittedly not quite as dire as a Swedish winter) and wishing with all my heart that I was home in the most beautiful city in the world. Next year! <3 <3

  5. Entertaining reading as always, thanks Susan.
    I met a couple from Naples while backpacking around Corsica many years ago. They couldn’t speak much English and my Italian comprised a bit of Latin with some italianised English thrown into the mix. We sat around campfires discussing the meaning of life, the lyrics of Pink Floyd and the problems besetting Europe. In extremely broken English the guy told me: “the problem with Europe is, how you say, there is no combat for life”. When I read your posts I am reminded how much I love this place and how I missed the chaos and “combat for life” while stuck in predictable, secure Europe for years on end.

    Thanks for your marvellous insights and wit.

  6. ‘A friend recently arrived, coming home from Australia where he tried to emigrate but nearly died of dismay. He calls it ‘a dusty island where souls go to die.’

    I haven’t laughed so much in ages. Love your work. Formerly Aussie, now South Africa. :)

  7. I can totally feel the atmosphere of CT coming to me through your words. Oh, miss it so! What the heck is rooibos gin? Something to try next time I visit for sure.

  8. Always enjoy reading your ramblings. CT is a magical place and you describe it so well. Formerly from CT now living in NZ, its great to take a trip down memory lane and have a bit of a giggle. Thanks and keep rambling!!

  9. I’m originally from Pretoria. We’ve lived in a few places…Cape Town for 8 years, shortish stints in London and Houston, 3 years in Copenhagen, 2 years in Stockholm and now in Johannesburg for 7 years. As much as we miss Scandinavia, we miss Cape Town more…our soul city, our fountain of youth! May you have a fabulous year in the city where souls go to rejuvenate!

  10. Gosh, can’t tell you how much this resonated with me in overcase, freezing grey London, this week of all weeks… starting with it being Blue Monday! And yes, it’s really a thing…… must be true if it has its own Wiki page ;)

    I can’t wait to get back to Cape Town at the end of March to have one of this those bloody granadilla lollies on Clifton, whilst watching the sun set, ‘sneak sipping’ a glass of my favourite Sauvignon blanc!

    Shap shap, shanana, babe! xxx

  11. I love reading your blog. I’m returning to CT to attend a couple of weddings in April after 12 years. Very excited and looking forward to that African energy that one can’t describe unless you have visited or lived there. Keep rambling, Susan! #shapshapshanana

  12. Love this. Have returned to sunny SA from the soggy arse end of the world that is Ireland, and can’t agree with your sentiments more. But I’m loving Durban – the albeit unwashed sister in terms of SA cities. The sea breeze is warm and salty, the bunnies are spicy and all the Berea prozzies shout greetings at us 5am runners. All the best for 2018 – come visit the East Coast.

  13. Oh Susan Hayden, just when I think I’m over the worst homesickness, you make me cry again. How I miss my Cape Town, my people, my country. God, we have it in our blood, and no matter where in the world you are, there’s just nowhere that can compare💕

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