There were roads named after Queen Victoria all over Cape Town. Forget history, the Queen had definitely made her mark in the geography in this former British colony.
The specific Victoria Rd, which she sought was the one housing a fabric store in Woodstock. She checked Google maps for directions beforehand and wrote out directions on the back of an old assignment. She didn’t want to be whipping out her phone while walking in the street.
The Myciti bus dropped her at Lawley Rd. According to her folio atlas, she was supposed to turn left when she saw a church. While in the street, she spotted a store named ‘Roodebloem Mart’. That wasn’t right. Roodebloem was another road. One which she was not seeking. She decided to walk up to a headscarf-clad elderly woman to ask for directions. She greeted her and asked: “Can Auntie tell me where Victoria Road is?” To refer to adults by first person pronouns was considered disrespectful amongst many older folk. Auntie smiled in a knowing maternal way: “Lovie, this is Victoria Rd.”
Woodstock was chaotic. As she walked, minibus taxis slowed down beside her, with the guardtjies screaming: “Kaap!” Every pedestrian was a potential commuter to them.
Woodstock had its own form of justice. She recalled headlines relating to this area from newspapers over the years: Investigator shot dead in front of police station! Gangster’s brother Burnt alive by a kangaroo court!
She remembered considering Woodstock to be ugly in its entirety when she was younger. The ugliness seemed to hover over the houses, seeping into businesses like a sponge absorbing dishwater on a kitchen sink.
The Woodstock of yore was undergoing dramatic changes a decade or so later. She only needed to walk a few streets down to see the freshly painted buildings and eye-catching graphics. Attempting to dissipate the ugliness, gentrification was sweeping in. It was squeezing out the dishwater, along with its residents in elaborate eviction and relocation plans, to make way for swanky joints.
She carried on walking, feeling the heat take its toll on her body. Finally she arrived at the fabric store. Her eyes took in the rolls and rolls of fabric, from chiffon to cotton in every colour she could imagine. Cloth fit for a queen at prices affordable for a peasant.