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Small space, big problems: in the Suez Canal and the At...

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Small space, big problems: in the Suez Canal and the Atlantic Seaboard


Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a Brown Woman in a White South Africa. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd

But then, one day, somehow, after many, many years of hard work and big dreams your ship comes in and you buy a place on the Atlantic Seaboard that is not the size of a small box.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

The title of this piece, as I think of it while writing, is the perfect one to introduce the much-discussed issue of the ship that somehow got trapped in the Suez Canal recently as though the captain who was steering it was a bad driver in Sea Point.

But alas, my knowledge of ships extends as far as the movie The Titanic. Which is a heart-warming love story with an unforgettable Celine Dion ballad, a massive ship that sinks because of an iceberg and a door used as a float that isn’t big enough for two lovers. Other than that, I know nothing about ships and so I will not attempt to write about this meme-flooded incident. However, a big problem in a small space – which is exactly how one can summarise the great incident – is something I am very, very well versed in.

Finding the perfect apartment on the Atlantic Seaboard is easy only under these very important conditions:

You and your family have lived there for generations and it has been passed down to you. You spend your time on the top floor of an Art Deco building with large rooms, big windows and gorgeous views while sliding from end to end in your socks on well-maintained parquet floors.

Your parents live elsewhere but they are very, very wealthy and along with your Mini Cooper with tasteless personalised plates, they have also purchased a gorgeous apartment for you and have offered to furnish it and break down any unsightly popcorn walls as well as renovate everything else to your liking while you pretend to use all those extra bedrooms as office space for your very important job which probably has a very cool made-up title like: talent scout for underwater goat wrestlers, aspiring actor and influencer to The Promenade athleisure community.

You are from Europe. The property here is very cheap, comparatively. You have paid for it in cash, in full, and you are now using it once every three to four years.

For the rest of us, our idea of perfection is merely having the privilege of being able to smell the sea air from our front doors and whine about the dust constantly letting itself in from Lion’s head while we sleep in little boxes on the aisle of the Atlantic.

But then, one day, somehow, after many, many years of hard work and big dreams your ship comes in and you buy a place on the Atlantic Seaboard that is not the size of a small box. It is the size of a small box plus a shoe box. So in normal-people speak – and by this I mean anyone who does not fit into the above three categories,  your flat is huge. And to us, it was.

In fact, we were so intimidated by the extra 2.36 square metres (I exaggerate), that we spent the first month in our new place just in our bedroom. An assigned space for a living area? A separate bathroom? Two bedrooms? (Okay, the second one is kind of tiny after a very clever renovation), but still, two? And when you wake up in the morning and roll out of bed you don’t land in the kitchen? What grand magic this is. What grand magic it was…  until we got ahead of ourselves and constantly started having family from that place they call Pretoria come to visit and stay with us.

It is so lovely to return the gesture of a warm, beautiful, comfortable place for someone you love who is visiting to sleep in when they visit. Especially because they’re always offering their homes to us when we visit. And finally, when we got our perfect apartment, we could return the favour. But here’s the thing. A two-bedroom in Gauteng is not the same as a two-bedroom in Sea Point, and we never anticipated that the place we once thought of as so spacious would turn out to be a small space with big problems.

The perfect apartment is the Suez Canal. And we are the ships. Forward, forward. Reverse, reverse. Forward. But at the end of the day, what matters most, is that our hearts still go on and oooooooooon. DM168

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is an author and journalist.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.


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