My first house - Brcue fordyce - The Property Magazine

Sorry I’m late… but I’m more sorry that I had to drive down this road and see what has happened to it…’ A slightly flustered Bruce Fordyce describes his first home in Collins Street, Brixton – back then, ‘the Chelsea of Johannesburg.’ Even though the homes are still sturdy and full of character, they seriously need paint and are tainted by litter, gnarled barbed-wire fences and makeshift barricades.

What used to be Bruce’s 500m2 character home with Oregon pine floors and pressed-steel ceilings is now a vacant scrapyard. Bruce says he thinks the house was demolished for a new building but, for some reason, the structure was never built.

Back in 1982, Bruce was single and very much into his marathon training. ‘I based my decision to buy the house on how much I could afford, and my training route.’

The house cost R60 000 and suited Bruce’s needs perfectly, being close to Braamfontein, where he worked, and the SABC. He was working at Wits University as a research officer in the Archaeology department and he was also training 200km a week, running twice a day.

With three bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms, the home was a halfway house for all his friends in crisis. ‘I often had friends stay with me for a week or two but I never had full-time housemates.’

The main improvement he made to the house was to ask his mother, twice a recipient of the Transvaal Gardener of the Year Award, to landscape his garden. ‘There were trees and beds - which I watered religiously - and it was all ripped up.’

He painted rooms in the house in pastel tones of pink and blue, popular shades for interiors in those days. His favourite areas were his sunny, airy bedroom and, of course, the outside entertainment garden. It was party time in the 1980s and there was no security issue at that stage, he says.

The memories of that era are fond ones, and Bruce reminisces about his social life and his actor neighbours Deon van Zyl and Liz Dick. ‘There was the legendary Ciro’s pizzeria down the road and it was a great place to gather.’

‘It was a cute house and I didn’t leave it easily,’ says Bruce, who sold four years later for R70 000, when he had started to make a bit of money out of his running. He upgraded by moving to the established green belt of Forest Town, near the Johannesburg Zoo. He paid R160 000 for a bigger home in a better area. And it was in the same street where former Comrades winner, Jackie Mekler (five times winner in the 1960s), also resided.

‘The house was still on my training route, and I’ve never really veered away from that.’ Home today is the third property he invested in, in Parktown West. I’ve lived in so many homes all over the world, being born in the Far East and schooled in the UK, but my son has only lived in this one home.’ Bruce is very happy in his home, describing it as 100 years old and only having had five owners in that time.He enjoys a comfortable house. ‘I couldn’t live in an ultra-modern home. I could also never live in a townhouse – it would be a nightmare for me.’

He’s self-deprecating, warm and funny: ‘If I’d stayed in academia, I’d probably still be living in Brixton…’

Bruce’s most recent property investment is a plot of land on the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal where he plans to build a holiday home. He is still in good shape and he runs every day. ‘Slowly – I waddle really…’ He doesn’t work a nine-to-five job but he keeps busy with his work on the Sports Trust, mentoring top runners, sports writing and motivational speaking. His office is very much part of his home, as Bruce does much of his writing work there.

And you can spot his cameo performance in the new Bill Flynn/Paul Slabolepsky movie Running Riot. ‘It was actually my idea that they do a spoof on running the Comrades marathon,’ explains Bruce.

He also has his monthly Supersport series Vlok & Fordyce on the Run with friends and actor David Vlok. ‘We are like two grumpy old men and we do silly things like climbing mountains and parachuting…’

An avid birdwatcher, Bruce goes on bird-watching trips around the world every two years or so. He enjoys a good curry and can list his favourite haunts. ‘The best curry restaurant in the world is in Nairobi, and the Singapore Chilli Crab at Changhi Beach is legendary.’

He’s been highly successful in all his sporting ventures – he’s completed the Dusi Canoe Marathon nine times – but his only regret, Bruce says, is that he never learnt to play a musical instrument. ‘I went to a dinner where Bill Clinton was the guest of honour and during the evening he got up and played the saxophone – not very well – but it made such an impression on everyone there.’

Your life in property Vered area specialist Christa Roller says Collins Street is not regarded as one of the most desirable streets because it is a one-way and in a high-traffic zone. She recently sold a semi-detached home in Putney Avenue (a more desirable street because it is quiet and close to Auckland Park) for R500 000. Christa says if the house were in good nick, it would probably fetch between R650 000 and R750 000 today. ‘Because prices in nearby suburb Westdene have gone up, Brixton has become the area for first time buyers.’ Vered’s Steven Hughes says that is someone were to buy the land, he estimates that it would be worth between R150 000 and R250 000. He says: ‘When this sort of demolition happens, and a business like a scrapyard moves in, it can devalue other property in the area.’

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Words: Rosanne Buchanan Photography: Gareth Gilmour - www.thepropertymag.co.za