Last week I moved from Melville, the central Joburg suburb where I’ve lived for the past 11 years, to Brixton, another central Joburg suburb about five minutes away.

Heather in Brixton
Here I am in a Brixton alleyway not far from my new house. I didn’t realize until afterward that my shirt perfectly matched the graffiti. (Photo: Thorsten Deckler)
New house in Brixton
Thorsten in front of our new house. It’s a semi-detached house (Americans would call it a duplex), meaning it’s two houses attached by one wall. Ours is the one on the left. The house is at least 100 years old, possibly older, and has just been renovated.
Thorsten's watercolor of Brixton semi
Thorsten coincidentally made this watercolor sketch of the house a couple of years ago, long before we decided to move there, as part of a series he created on old Brixton houses. See more of Thorsten’s artwork at @thethinking_hand.

Moving five minutes up the road should be no big deal, theoretically. People move all the time. But this move is, in fact, a big deal for me. It’s a huge fucking deal, so much so that I haven’t been able to figure out how to blog about it.

I generally try to move as little as possible. Despite my seemingly transient nature, I am a huge homebody. I’m a Cancer, and while I don’t think much about the Zodiac I definitely have this crab-like trait: Moving homes makes me extremely anxious. I just reread the blog post I wrote after my last move six years ago, when I only moved from one end of Melville’s 6th Avenue to the other, and couldn’t believe how emotional it was.

Also this is the first time since I came to Joburg that I’m living in a place other than Melville. Melville is a wonderful, unique neighborhood and living there was a huge part of my identity for more than a decade. For many years I thought I would never leave Melville. But a year or two ago I started feeling like I was ready for a change, especially after the Melville Cat died.

Even though Brixton is really close to Melville, it’s a very different type of neighborhood. Brixton is older than Melville and closer to downtown Joburg. The houses are different. The people are different. The sounds are different. Even the light is different.

Sentech Tower in the late afternoon
Brixton in the late afternoon, with the half-painted Sentech Tower (it’s transitioning from tan to gray) looming above. Brixton feels more urban than Melville and there are fewer big trees. While I do love Melville’s stately trees, I also love Brixton’s openness, which creates more poignant light in the mornings and evenings.
Jeanette selling amagwinya
Jeanette and her granddaughter Atlegang sell amagwinya (a.k.a. vetkoek, a.k.a. fat cake) for one rand apiece outside their home on Barnes Road in Brixton. (We bought some and it was delicious.) Although selling food in front of one’s home is very common in many parts of Joburg, this is not something you’ll see in Melville or the Parks.

There are tons of kids living in Brixton, and they tend to be more free-range than kids in other nearby neighborhoods. The park next to my house — Kingston Frost Park, which I need to do a proper blog post about soon — is teeming with children on weekday afternoons and weekends. I love listening to them play. I also love listening to the call to prayer, which I can just barely hear on clear evenings from the mosque in nearby Mayfair.

Kids playing in Kingston Frost Park
Kids playing on the communal exercise equipment in Kingston Frost Park.

So moving to Brixton is a big deal. The community here is really special; it’s extremely racially and economically diverse and there is a lot of pride in the community. I’m really excited to be part of it and to blog about all the amazing creative projects happening in Brixton.

More alleyway artwork by local artist Bronwen Findlay.

This move is also a big deal because I’m moving in with Thorsten. I’ve been living alone for the past four years and moving in with a partner is not a decision I undertake lightly at this point in my life. But we’re both so excited about it, and I’m putting real thought into home décor for the first time in decades. Thorsten and I realized we have really good taste as a couple. (He’s an architect and extremely handy, which helps.)

Fireplace in the new house
The house has a beautiful vintage fireplace, which Thorsten heroically got burning during an unexpected cold snap last week. Repairing the fireplace involved a complicated series of tasks, including angle-grinding clay bricks and stitching them together with wire. (See how Thorsten pulled this off in his Instagram post.)

Our cat, Trixie, looks amazing in this house.

Trixie on our newly reupholstered chairs
Trixie dozes on one of our newly reupholstered chairs.
Trixie in the kitchen
It’s uncanny how well Trixie matches the house. And she knows it.
Hallway in the Brixton house
Our double-width hallway (or “passage”, as the South Africans call it). I’m very pleased with the coat rack at the end, purchased from Simon Peacock at the Old Lake Market in Parkview.
Red shelf and pineapple picture
Pretty red shelf from Dokter and Misses below Thorsten’s architectural drawing of the Big Pineapple, which he gave me as a birthday present after our epic pineapple pilgrimage last fall.
Pineapple key holder
Thrifted pineapple key holder. We might start calling our home the Pineapple Palace.
Brixton bedroom
Continuing with the pineapple theme, we painted my formerly white bedroom furniture yellow. It contrasts well with our teal curtains from Mr. Price (the Target of South Africa). And I finally hung the beautiful mohair tapestry I bought years ago in Lesotho from the Weaving Women of Teyateyaneng.
Dressing table
My first-ever dressing table. This antique mirror belonged to Jon and I’ve been dragging it around with me from house to house for years. I think it’s finally found its proper place.
Trixie on the new couch
Trixie on the back of the couch, also newly reupholstered thanks to Sullies Fabrics and a fantastic upholsterer in Mayfair named Omar. (You can reach Omar at 068-551-5299.)

I live in Brixton now — yay! Thanks for all the great years, Melville.

I dedicate this post to the Melville Cat, who died exactly a year ago today. I miss you, Smokey. I don’t think you would have liked living in Brixton (not enough outdoor space at this house) but we did bring a little piece of you with us and I think about you every time I see it.

Shrine to the Melville Cat
Shrine to the Melville Cat in our Brixton passage.

More Brixton content to follow.

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