Reflecting on a year of change

This photo taken of the wooden bridge yesterday morning shows its on its last legs.

Nostalgic and taxing are two words that spring to mind when reflecting on 2018. Tabletalk readers will know that, at many times, it has not been an easy ride as tragedy struck one time too many.

The senseless killing of beloved Table View biker and mother Zelda van Niekerk left people in a tailspin three months ago (“Mass ride for slain biker,” Tabletalk, Ocotber 3). The heinous crime of someone being murdered in broad daylight along a national highway beckoned the question of just how safe anyone is anymore — even bikers who are often revered for their freedom on the open road.

The death of eight-month old Rorisang Eland at a Phoenix creche was another heart-wrenching story that required a great deal of courage to write (“Baby dies at creche,” Tabletalk, March 7).

Tears rolled down his mother Joslin Eland’s face as she recounted her last moments with her baby boy before he went to creche on that fateful day. Ms Eland believed there was more to her son’s death than the creche let on but her questions and Tabletalks’s probing into the matter proved futile, making it one of 2018’s most emotionally draining and frustrating stories to report on.

Tabletalk also dealt with a fair share of development stories. Most of it surrounded Table View residents coming together to express their disapproval of high-rise buildings overwhelming the area (“Table View is being captured,” Tabletalk, February 21).

The year saw an outdated policy uncovered and “blamed” for developments going awry along Blaauwberg Road and saw the formation of the Concerned Citizens Coalition, a group of residents, who plan to tackle the over-development of Table View one high rise building at a time.

But more importantly 2018 has been a year of significant change – literally. The site of feet dangling upside down on the bright yellow Cobra rollercoaster at Ratanga Junction will forever be missed as Cape Town’s favourite theme park closed its doors in April (“Park to RIP,” Tabletalk, April 25). News of the closure saw fans of the park returning for “one last ride” and sharing some fond memories.

A few people were kind enough to share their special memories with Tabletalk and it was clear from their stories that Ratanga Junction had been more than just the “wildest place in Africa”. It was magic.

After much discussion and debate, the old bridge at Woodbridge Island is finally being taken down (“Water under the wooden bridge,” Tabletalk, July 4). Many believe the old lady does not deserve a R20.5 million “facelift” while others persist she’s a local treasure worth preserving. At the moment she’s slowly being dismantled and a drive by the island today will show there’s not much left but her tired legs protruding from the water. Whether you have sentimental attachments to the bridge or not there is nothing that encapsulates the end of an era more than a national monument built over a hundred years ago (in aid of a war few know about), reduced to a watery carcass.

Another gem for the year was witnessing the magnificent wrecked wooden hull of Commodore II lifted out of Milnerton lagoon and transported to a designated spot opposite Lagoon Beach Hotel (“Incredible hull rests in peace,” Tabletalk, November 21).

In 2016 a property company, Citylife Trust, applied to the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA) to move the wreck in a bid to preserve it and last month it finally happened.

I thought I knew all there was to know about the famous wreck: how she was once used on the set of a Hollywood film Mutiny on the Bounty in 1935; how she had been torched when she was no longer needed to ship coal; and how she finally came to settle along Milnerton’s coastline.

But as the massive crane slowly lowered the old timber on solid ground even more stories came to light by bystanders who told of how this one had chopped away at her for fire wood and how that one had used of her wood to build a bar in his home. Purely by coincidence my next story after seeing the Commodore removed that day was at a woman’s house who — lo and behold – had two massive pieces of the wreck parked in her backyard.

“My dad collected maritime objects,” she said sheepishly. It pleased me knowing that bits and pieces of the wreck, now seen as “archaeological material under the National Heritage Resources Act”, have become part of homes in Milnerton and who knows where else.