In January 1989 I turned up in Cape Town as a bolshy 18 year-old and my world was upended. Everything changed for me in Cape Town, and the months I spent here were hugely significant. It was also a time of dramatic change for South Africa. Apartheid was on its last legs, but exactly how things would work out when those legs gave way was anyones guess.
I went back to England (and to university in Newcastle) in September 1989. Early in 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from jail, and South Africa was clearly on an irreversible path to majority rule. That path was a rocky one, however, and for a time it seemed the nation might descend into civil war. Terrible fighting in Natal between members of the ANC and Inkatha, and the revolutionary rumblings of the white supremacist AWB, threatened the worst kind of future for what became known as the rainbow nation.
I returned to Cape Town for a few weeks in 1991. It was a different country, and I was a different person, but Cape Town was still her alluring self.
It was then another ten years before I came back, this time for a weeks holiday, with Mrs Hosier, and a six month old daughter No. 3 in tow. 2001, and everything was different, with apartheid dead and buried, but the ANC Government struggling to meet the expectations of a newly enfranchised people.
And now another decade has passed, and despite numerous trips to southern Africa, it has taken me this long to get back to the mother city. And even this time it was an 'accident' - a sudden rescheduling when my planned trip to Zimbabwe fell through because of problems organizing flights.
So I have been here 60 hours, and like a sailor reaching land after a long haul at sea I have been on the binge. 60 hours of swallowing as much of the Cape as I can before flying up to Johannesburg tomorrow. 60 hours per decade is not enough to slake this addicts thirst. The tourist advertising for South Africa used to boast, "The world in one country," and in many ways that boast was true. South Africa is a nation apart; but Cape Town is a whole other world to itself. It is a unique place, and gets into the blood as surely as the Cape winds cut through your clothes.
Spending time with Jubilee Community Church has been a massive joy and privilege. Even in a church of 1,000 people the passage of time means there are only a handful still here who were here 22 years ago; yet somehow it feels like coming home. This was a church that taught me so much, and my thinking has again been challenged and enlarged by this latest brief encounter.
Thank you Cape Town. Thank you Jubilee.
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