The Fairy Trees of William Nicol

There is a road in Johannesburg, in the heart of the northern suburbs, called the William Nicol Highway.

It is named, I believe, after Sir William Nicol Highway, a bureaucrat and politician of the variety whose legacy lives forever on in the lane-markings.

It is a famous road, stretching all the way from the Tuscan settlement of Fourways, to the English country village of Bryanston, to the grand baronial fortress of Hyde Park Mall.

Along the road itself, there is not much to see, although there is a point, as you head into the dip near Bryanston High School and the Bryanston Shopping Centre, where you can enjoy a nice steroscopic view of the two Johannesburgs: the Dubai-like cloudscrapers of Sandton to your left, and the jagged District 9 skyline of the Joburg city centre to your right.

Then the robot turns green, and it’s clusters and office parks and pummice-stone salesmen all the way.

But this week, a little miracle took place on the traffic island that bisects this unlovely and much-travelled strip of macadamised tar.


Seemingly overnight, a platoon of naked, spindly trees blossomed into a blaze of colour, red and green and orange and pink and yellow blooms bursting against the icy-blue winter sky.

An unseasonably early harbinger of Spring? A student prank? The first, subtle signs of an alien invasion? An act of random kindness by a stranger with a ladder and a bakkie-load of industrial hair-netting?

No, as it turned out. It was a branding campaign by the  Breakfast Show of 94.7 Highveld Stereo. But still, I smiled, dammit.

And these trees, when Spring really comes, will look even prettier, reminding us, in our fast cars, glued to our cellphones, that there is beauty to be found even on a noisy, bustling highway in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg.


5 comments on “The Fairy Trees of William Nicol

    • But you dont have the great people of Jhb! Your legacy is of a totally stuck bunch of unfriendly SAns! Better nice people, we can always buy a postcard of the mountain! Cant buy nice friendly people though!

  1. Yes, but if you can’t make a snowball with it, it’s called sleet…and we get that on the koppies in Joburg too!

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