I spent a year in Bloemfontein from August 1989 until July 1990. I was a medic during my national service stint at Central Medical Command, Bloemfontein. I was 19 n n n n n n nn nineteen. It has as a result always been slightly strange coming back here.
I will be in Bloem for a total of two months. I am now almost 3 weeks into that. Yesterday I took a drive into downtown Bloemfontein to go and visit the old HQ building. Downtown is way busier than I remember. I found the street far more easily than i thought. Although I didn’t remember the canal vibe and the hum back bridge.
When I got to the top of the hill where the HQ was, it was gone. Literally. A car dealership stood on the ground it once occupied. The fort behind it was still there, now part of a museum, but the building was gone. I guess I was kinda relieved.
Back With The Band
This is not the first time I have returned to Flower Fountain. I have been back in the city many times with bands on tour in one form or another. It’s a great place. Friendly people great parties and always a keen interest in bands. I am definitely going to play a show or two while I am here, just to try it out.
But being back with a band for a night or two never gives you any real sense of what a place is like. This prolonged visit is putting me firmly back into the Bloem vibes. It is pretty slow as you’d expect from a small place, but not Cape Town slow…. more considered rather than laid back maybe?
Walking With My Father
In a way its like the city exists in a slightly different time zone to the rest of the country. Where I am giving training in the Volksblad building, I have the oddest experience every morning. When I go to the men’s room, I am transported to my childhood every single time.
I don’t know if it is someone with lots of cologne or if they use it as air freshener, but the men’s room smells of Brut every day. Remember Brut? I didn’t even know you could still get the stuff. It’s what my dad used when I was a kid. So every time I go to the loo in Bloem I get this powerful flashback to being or 6 and smelling my Dad.
It’s kinda cool and creepy all at the same time.
Literal Time Machine
When I first moved back to Linden I experienced a bit of this. I would turn corners and see massively familiar places that I hadn’t been in decades and a very specific memory would be triggered. It has worn off there now. But here in Bloem, my memory is time travelling me every single day.
My time in national service was when I began to emerge from my somewhat reticent adolescent self into the more outgoing adult me. On these roads, around these corners. I am not remembering anything earth shattering though. Which is unsurprising as I only really figured this out way after the fact.
But it’s cool to be back. I like Bloem. It’s a fun place and not as ugly as people like to make out!