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  • Writer's pictureDonette Werkman

The story of Casa Celtis #2 PART 3 -A WISER CULTURE

A WISER CULTURE THAN OURS WOULD RECOGNISE THAT THE START OF A RELATIONSHIP IS NOT THE HIGH POINT THAT ROMANTIC ART ASSUMES. It is merely the first step of a far longer, more ambivalent, and yet quietly audacious journey. – Alain de Botton

Growing up on the corner of Frank and Rubida Streets, The Wilgers (Or 2 Rubida Street, as we self-numbered our home), was indeed in many ways the dream and high point of a romantic perfect movie-like childhood.

A definite high point for my parents came late in 1997 when my sister, Marilene, became engaged to her now husband of 21 years, Erich Funk. The wedding date was set for 7 November 1998 – close to a year after the engagement and the wedding reception was to take place on the lawn between the house and swimming pool.

No stone was left unturned for this event and the garden had a close to total “rework” for the big event. The garden reminded me of the scene from Beauty and the Beast just after the curse was broken and the whole palace broke out into spring! It was truly magnificent and till this day I will remember the endless labour of love my parents put in for months on end to host the most spectacular fairy princess garden wedding!

As fate would have it, 7 November 1998, arrived being the coldest, rainiest day of the season and nobody was able to enjoy the splendour of the garden. Ever since, 7 November is marked without exception by cold and miserable rainy weather in Pretoria, so remember to work around it when planning a wedding!

The empty nest syndrome started to creep up on my parents - I was a young (irresponsible) Architecture student (Studying form home, but more than regularly out on the streets) and Marilene was proof that rain on your wedding day is a blessing to the marriage.

The safety and security situation in South-Africa took a turn for the worse in the late 90’s and the upkeep of the property became an increasing more costly and time-consuming effort.

A Tuesday night, late in August 2000 signalled the beginning of a rather sad chapter in the fortunes of the property on the corner of Rubida and Frank Road. Though not completely unexpected, because of non-existent security (up till then subtly ignored by its residents), in the middle of that night we fell victim to a 3 hour long very traumatic, armed robbery.

That final petal from the beautiful red rose under the glass fell, and it was difficult to remember why the property had any fairy tale attributes.

Till this day, I feel that that was the most senseless day of our lives in the house. I have never been able to fit that puzzle together and to see growth from it.

My parents were affected very negatively by the robbery and there was a kind of pessimism that moved into the house after that. Discussions about the future of the property came up more frequently and we were constantly looking over or shoulders and being overly safety conscious, which took away a great deal of the essence of the house. The house was designed to be open and spacious and suddenly that became part of the problem. A rather steady neglect of the structure set in… Discussions on doing a residential development the property was well under way.

In 2002 Jaco and I became engaged to be married and I think, as an afterthought to the property on the corner of Rubida and Frank Road, I requested that our wedding photos should at least be taken in the garden.

01/02/2003 was a perfectly sunny day - Our wedding day! A good farewell ode to the place I called home for more than 24 years!

I graduated as an Architect from the University of Pretoria in March 2003 and my first client signed up – no other that Frederik Werkman himself, with no less than a 34, full title and 7 sectional title scheme residential development.

Luckily, none of us knew anything about development or construction – otherwise we might not have taken the leap!

And so, the gates on the Corner of Rubida and Frank Roads closed to some degree only to be repurposed for a whole new adventure – That of 320 Frank Road - CASA CELTIS!

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