Switch off those lights!


Christmas is arriving unusually early in the Eastern Cape town of Jeffreys Bay – but only for a few minutes or there will be trouble with the neighbours again.

A blast of colour suddenly lights up the sky in Nell van der Poll Street and it’s sheer magic. Standing across the road from Johan and Elsie Grobler’s home we gape at the thousands of tiny lights.

Their house and garden have been transformed into something from a Hollywood Christmas movie: silver trees on the lawn, sleds flying over the roof – and 20 000 bright pinpricks that drown out the stars.

“It really makes you feel the Christmas spirit, doesn’t it?” enthuses Johann Steinberg, a friend of the Groblers who helps put up the lights every year.

It’s a display that draws thousands of visitors annually – and that’s why the surfing town’s notorious Christmas Lights House was almost no more. Neighbours tried to block the spectacle with a court interdict.

The courts have ruled in favour of the Groblers, first the magistrate’s court then in September the high court in Grahamstown. The lights may stay, provided they’re on only at specified times, starting on 14 December.

“The response makes it worthwhile,” Elsie says. She’s responsible for the design of the lights and says the display cost them R40 000.

“I wish everyone could experience the joy in our lights,” she says with a sigh.

Her elderly neighbours have reservations though.

In all the years there has been dissatisfaction about the lights no one has ever asked for their side of the story, says the 75-year-old woman who with her 79-year-old husband asked not to be identified.

“We don’t want the bad feeling here to spread like a disease and sour other people’s Christmas. We just want a bit of our peace and quiet back over the Christmas period. Is that so unreasonable?”

On busy nights they have counted up to 100 cars an hour passing their house in the street.

Have they thought about selling? “No,” they exclaim. “Then no one wins. What’s happening here won’t last forever,” he says.

Read all about it in YOU, 2 December 2010.

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