Tag Archives: V&A Waterfront

keeping it zipped

I’ve been a tourist myself, on many occasions – France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Mauritius, the Seychelles, the United States, Zimbabwe, Belgium – and I do hope I’ve never unthinkingly come out with a comment that may have offended a native of any of those beautiful countries. Examples of such comments might run along the following lines…

Woman: I love this scarf, I’m going to take it.
Her husband: We only have cash, okay?
Vendor: That’s fine, we’re happy to accept cash!
Husband: I mean, it’s American cash. US dollars.
Vendor: Oh. Okay. Well, that should be fine, I’m only hesitant because I’m selling the scarf on behalf of someone else.
Husband: It’s that or no sale. [Waves a couple of greenbacks in the air.] We were told you people love our money.
Vendor: [bites tongue] [then bites inside of mouth on both sides] Mmmphf. Let me put the scarf in a bag for you.

Woman: You make lovely things. The whole Waterfront is lovely.
Vendor: Thank you very much. I guess that means you’re enjoying your time here in Cape Town?
Woman: Absolutely. I mean, I had no idea it was so sophisticated out here.
Vendor: [stands on own foot so the pain will prevent her from making a sarcastic reply] Mmmmfmph.

Woman: Your knitting is very good. I like.
Vendor: Thank you, but it’s actually crochet.
Woman: I used to knit but I don’t have time any more.
Vendor: That’s a pity. It’s crochet, by the way.
Woman: No, knitting. In the Netherlands we call it knitting.
Vendor: Okay, but in South Africa we call knitting knitting. This is crochet.
Woman: Yes. It’s very relaxing. I like to knit a bag like one of yours one day.
Vendor: Mmphf. Well, I’d sure love to see how that works out for you.

Just thought I’d share those with you quickly. Not much time today – I have to hurry down to the river to fill my buckets (the hyenas in the back garden don’t like to go thirsty) and if there’s still time I’ll give the hut a bit of a clean.


Back soon x


How African is this really?

Yesterday a couple from Washington DC was keen on buying an owl beanie for one of their grandchildren.

owl hat

The woman asked if it had been made in Africa. Yes, ma’am, I replied, It was made by me. I indicated to the half-finished owl beanie I was making on the table next to me, as proof that I do indeed do all the making myself. But you’re not African, she said, I mean, how African is this really? [Take a deep breath, Jill.]
Well, I said, I’ve lived in South Africa for forty-four years, I own property here, I pay rates and taxes, I love biltong and bunny chow, I only use locally-manufactured cotton and it’s also hand-dyed in Cape Town by South Africans, and I can say “I made it myself” in Venda, Xhosa, Sotho, Ndebele, Afrikaans, Shona and Zulu. That African enough for you, lady? Okay, I didn’t actually voice the last question, but I think she heard it anyway, kubwa na ya wazi / hard en duidelik!

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Day Three at the Waterfront

Day Three was yesterday, Sunday, and it was AMAZEBALLS (as Lisa would say).

I’m loving being at the Waterfront, interacting with customers, and chatting to the other vendors.

red shed 009

My favourite new friends are the little band of tailors at Tidy Tucs, just across the way from me.  A steady (and I mean steady) flow of customers keeps them busy twelve hours a day, and they are always pleasant and efficient and sweet.  The lead singer, Ritesh, is about 26 or 27, and moved to South Africa from Pakistan seven years ago. He says he loves this country and the opportunities it has given him.  He tells me he’s on the market for a wife. He watches cricket on his DStv Walker which is presticked to the wall next to his steam press. He made some extremely helpful suggestions about my display yesterday and, after I’d made the changes, three customers in a row bought a pair of slippers. We high-fived six times (once for each slipper!)

Ritesh is in business with two of his uncles. An older man came by to visit and, when he’d left, I asked if that was one of them. No, he said, but also yes, because in a vay everyone’s my uncle. But vat I really vant is father-in-law. You have daughter?  

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Day One at the Waterfront

What a day. We set up from 7.30am, then I [wo]manned the shop from 9 to 9, with short food/smoke/toilet breaks. Expended more energy in talking than I usually do in two weeks. Met people from Taiwan, Sweden, Holland, Germany, the UK, the USA, Iran, Poland, France, and some new locals. Two shop owners approached me to stock my kits from the end of the month (when I leave). We had four sales. Everyone paid cash.

I love tourists. I love locals. I love crochet. I love cash.

The only tourist I didn’t love very much was, in fact, my first sale of the day. A Middle Eastern doctor in Cape Town for a conference was buying a pair of slippers for his wife, and wanted to bargain with me. He waved his money around like he thought he was a snake charmer or something, but I stood firm. I wanted to say, Listen, dude, this is a professional set-up. I have barcodes and printed labels and everything. Don’t mess with me, but I managed to find polite words and a reasonable tone.

Things I know I will have learned by the end of the month:

1. How to eat without moving my mouth.
2. How to say “Start with a foundation chain” in Swedish, French and German.
3. How to do pelvic floor exercises without getting out of my chair.
4. How to hide cash about my person when I walk to my car in the parking lot at night. My bra was bulging last night, and the coins were particularly uncomfortable.


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