Edlaw Mansions

I was born in a nursing home in the Southern suburbs of Johannesburg.  Why I got this special treatment at a time when home birthing was the norm, I never did find out.  When my mother and I got to go home it was to a two storey block of flats on Central Avenue which is the main road through Mayfair.  The flats were tiny two bedroom, one bathroom affairs and number 3 was to be my first home.

Edlaw Mansions

My first permanent abode (after the womb, I must stress)
Was number three Edlaw Mansions, Central Avenue no less
Sadly not Illovo nor Athol nor even Eastleigh my dear
But Mayfair, near Fordsburg, the wrong trackside I fear
 
And “Mansions” was poetic licence misused to excess
So grand a title far removed from reality, I guess
Yet its two bedroom flats served for many a year
As refuge and haven for all who lived there
 
A veritable potpourri of people used this address
All forced there by hard times, by financial distress
And things were seldom as they might outward appear
With any signs of prosperity just a fragile veneer
 
In the absence of affluence one could sense nonetheless
The unmistakable presence of class consciousness
And while the language division was painfully clear
Politeness and civility is what you’d publicly hear
 
Those on their way up might try hard to impress
With a new woollen suit or a smart winter dress
And those of less fortune would pretend to good cheer
Then blow their last shilling on two bottles of beer
 
Gone now the mansions, in the name of progress
But neither absence nor time can serve to repress
The memory of those who arrived in joy or in tear
To find warmth in her shelter, to be held by her near
 
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The Mayfair Tram

I grew up in a suburb of Johannesburg named Mayfair. Sadly it was not nearly as posh as its U.K. counterpart but was instead a working class neighbourhood with brick and iron single story houses, many of them small semi-detached affairs.  The area was situated on the Western side of the city and was served by a train service that stopped at Grosvenor station and a tram service that had its terminus opposite the train station.  The tram fares were cheap, the tramcars were clean and they ran pretty much on time.

 

The Mayfair Tram

We pull out from Market Street
And head for Fordsburg dip
The conductor shouts “All fares please”
(It’s sixpence for the trip)
 
Gong clanging, seats banging
Sauer Street we cross
The conductor shouts “Move forward there”
(On this tram he’s the boss)
 
Now slow down to a crawl
As the pointsman sets the rails for home
The conductor shouts “Look lively lad”
(And in a flash it’s done)
 
A stop to pick up passengers
Homeward bound like us
The conductor shouts “Off the platform please”
(It’s very dangerous)
 
Then up the hill we labour
Wheels grinding steel on steel
The conductor shouts “Stage two please”
(And some folks get up to leave)
 
Too soon we reach the terminus
Our journey’s at an end
The conductor shouts “Goodbye all”
(Then heads for town again)