meet jane kock- born in may 1959 (a few months younger than me - what a good vintage 59). i first met janey in 2003 when she lived on the streets and was part of the trolley-brigade that congregated on the corner of brooke street. she had 3 friends jennifer, sandra and maria and a more humorous foursome you would struggle to meet (especially now because maria has died and sandra is missing in action (kept in a cellar on the property where she works for a wealthy old man in fernwood estate, according to janey). these four ladies and i struck up a friendship. it started with the jenny, jennifer and jane connection. i would keep our office paper aside for them and in return they would recycle bishopscourt cast-offs to me. i have got some amazing bargains from them. one being a persian carpet (pretty worn) but awesome - for R30 (i then paid R800 to have it properly cleaned). gill would spy the heavily laden trolley coming down the road and try to barricade me in the office or take away my purse. "jennifer (me) do you really need that?" "what are you going to do with that old tin.?" janey was always very enterprising and would offer to tidy up our front verandah (nevermind the fact that it was her and her friends who were sleeping on our verandah and messing it up), wash cars or run an errand or two for cash. she would then run a tab with me and i would keep her "savings" until friday when the whole lot was blown at barbellas on the main road. she had a boyfriend kenny - pretty good looking and well spoken for a vagrant, very funny too but pretty awful to her when he had too much to drink. we shipped him off to johannesburg a couple of years ago and have not seen him since.
michael loves to repeat the story of when, on one of our first dates, he pulled up to collect me and i had a call from janey. please could i collect her from groote schuur hospital immediately (7.30 on a friday night)? kenny was supposed to fetch her at 3 and had not arrived. she had had an operation to her jaw which had been broken (by kenny) and her teeth removed (the few that were left). what a performance firstly to find her, then to find some soft take-away food which she could eat and then deliver her back to her treehouse on protea road. she lived in a tree (well next to a tree on a rooftop) on one of those open parking lots in protea road. really clever - i was curious and went upstairs to inspect. you climbed the tree and then a couple of steps along a branch and you were on the flat roof of the garage of another (not so well-known) firm of attorneys in claremont. what a fantastic unobstructed view of the mountain and if i did not have michael waiting for me in the car, i would stayed a while and had a night cap with her. it was not as easy to get down the tree so probably best i did not stay for that drink.
janey's visits started becoming a daily thing and she spotted a gap in the market when our messenger left suddenly due to ill health. there was much debate in the office as to whether she could be trusted with our post office key, banking and other messenger duties. we would employ her for an hour or so a day. at first we had to give her a formal letter on our letterhead advising that she was authorised to collect our post and to enter the banks doing deposits for us. certain banks would not let her in the front door (how rude). she is very bright (advises us that she was once a bookkeeper) and now has everyone in the office on her side (most of the time). she works full time for us and does a pretty good job. she is now not only our messenger but she does filing duties in our collection department as well. we know her limitations, we only allow her a minimal amount of cash everyday (the more cash she has the stronger the % of alcohol in her drink), we pay her rent and travel costs and save the balance of her money for her. friday's are usually a right off once she gets paid. happy hour starts early on a friday at the bottom of brooke street. she gets at least 3 paid holidays a year - her bus ticket to poffadder is paid for. she spends a week or two there and when her money runs out we get a reverse charges call and bank account details of some distant relative in springbok. we then have to pay her to come back!! michael often threatens not to buy the ticket for her return but he soon weakens as he has to suffer abuse and questioning from people in the post office and the banks who ask "what have you done with janey?" (he does most of her duties when she is not here - nice boss). she gets quite confused when he tells her that when he wins the lotto he is going to buy her a house in beaufort west. "why would i want to live in beaufort west, it is so far away from cape town and my job?" hello......
life with janey is never dull. she has had many chances and has abused our hospitality - she lived on the office premises for quite a while but we had so many complaints about noise, bad language and parties from the neighbours that we had to buy her a wendy house in hangover park. we told her no guests but it was extremely hard for her to sleep in her warm room under cover while her friends froze in front of the gate. if she did not open the gate missiles would get thrown down the driveway to her window. so she now commutes to work and she is definitely the best dressed employee at our office. you will not believe the extent of her wardrobe and each day she arrives in a different outfit, usually with a hat and always with earings.
i could go on and on - a more colourful character you could not meet. she has a tragic story to tell and i am trying to encourage her to make some notes and i will help her to write her story. she has added a lot to our office, she has a way of putting things into perspective, she will do anything for us, she knows where to get leather stitched, will buy our bread, rolls and cheese for lunch, collect our dry cleaning, order my pay-day sushi treat and collect it for me, she will dash out to buy emergency chocolate supplies and so much more. not that we take advantage of her. we struggle to keep her in the office and when she does goes out we try to keep her as busy as possible to curtail her very social habits.
she is a legend in claremont, she supplies her friends with food and clothing. she washes their blankets and dries their clothes. she knows the owners of the fancy boutiques by name.
the fact that with all she has had to go through in her life, having had to leave 2 children in onseepkans (near poffadder) with her family to come looking for work in cape town, having another daughter, robyn-lee in cape town (heatherton road in newlands) and then having her taken away from her when she found herself on the streets, being abused and spending nights beaten up in the gutters of claremont and spending years on the street - all this and that she can still arrive at work on time (mostly) in the mornings, neatly dressed with sparkling earings (eyes maybe not that sparkling - that comes later), a smile on her face and be just so happy to have a meaningful job. she now struts around claremont and pays her old friends to carry her packets back to the office. she is the one who now saves the paper for the trolley-brigade. it all says a lot about janey and i must put her right up there on the list of special people in my life.
janey dressed up for the world cup - she supported spain throughout and tells us she has "spanish and korean blood" (maybe khoi rean). coulters bought her the outfit - it lasted for a couple of days and was stolen by the "skollies of hangover park"
at nic's 21st where she came to "help" me. the shebeen theme was right up her street and
she almost had more fun than the birthday boy
before publishing this i thought i had better check the facts with janey and get her approval (i have been in trouble before). she came back to me with a list of small details which i had got wrong and i have corrected them. she also asked me to mention that she is trying really hard to stop drinking because she needs to save money. she has not had a drink since sunday (pretty damn good). we asked her how much she was spending a day on alcohol "between R20 and R30 but it is not for myself, i share". it is her birthday on sunday so she is not saying that she has stopped drinking because she probably will have to have a "small party". she is also pleased that i have reminded her about writing her story and she is working on it.