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How Nearly Finished Got Lucky

Lying next to Richard Branson is terrific. There’s a buzz. Everyone wants to touch you. “”Wow”, people gasp, “you and Richard Branson. Amazing. Who would have thought of the two of you together – you from Cape Town and Mr B, the global entrepreneur”.

Indeed. Before you get too excited, let me explain. I am talking about my little book, Nearly Finished – a guide to home renovation (Double Storey, ) which for a few weeks, lay on the shelf (see, I told you not to get excited) next to Mr. Branson’s bestselling little book, called, Screw It, Let's Do It (Virgin Books, .80).

Our books nestled side-by-side at my local book shop in a section where they place the ten top selling titles of the week. The list is for that store only. Sure, it is not the national hit parade or The New York Times Best Selling list, but it was a huge rush for yours truly. To bask in the afterglow of Mr Branson’s fame was lovely.

Nearly Finished is based on articles I was commissioned to write for the Cape Times on the renovation of our house. South African publishers, Double Storey approached me and invited me to develop the newspaper series into a book.

When Nearly Finished was released, we were on holiday. On our return, we found that the little bookie was at no 9 at the bookshop. Thrilling. It soon moved to number four. Mr B was at no 3. Major thrills. Armed with a skinny cappuccino, I sat in the coffee shop adjoining the book shop, monitoring the action and smoozing potential buyers: “Hey, why are you not buying my book?! I’ll even sign it for you”.

A fascinating pattern emerged. People began picking up Mr Branson’s Screw it, Let’s Do It and then reached for Nearly Finished. Or the other way round. I was chuffed. I am still a virgin with this literary gig, so when I see someone buying my book, I can’t control myself: “Omigod – you’re buying my book”, I squealed to a nice man. “Well, since I am with the subject of screwing, I thought I’d buy Nearly Finished as well. Aren’t they about the same thing?”, he answered.

Hmm. Consider a review on Amazon for Screw it: “ …Screw It, Let's Do It reveals the lessons that have helped him through his business and personal life, like believing it can be done and that, if others disagree with you, try and try again until you achieve your goal or that you must love what you do.”

Exactly. In Nearly Finished, we reveal the lessons that helped us through the renovating process and our utter belief that it could be accomplished, even when others disagreed with us; when they said that it couldn’t be done; we persevered. When they said that we would fail if we sub-contracted and worked without a project manager or fancy designer, we said, ‘screw it - let’s do it’. Our philosophy is that anyone can build or renovate. Our mission: to demystify building. Get a handful of three inch screws and pay someone else to get on with your job. Love your home. Enjoy it.

With property values rocketing globally and living spaces shrinking – we are after the same thing. As homeowners who live in Cape Town, New York, London or Shanghai, we want to make the most of our homes, maybe buff them up a little bit or a lot. Ultimately, we all want to finish.

Although Nearly Finished is a story about one family’s experience of building in Cape Town (that’s us) and is not meant to be an A-Z of building, it does contain universal reference points and tips about the building process; what can go wrong and what to look out for. It is full of lessons we can draw from wherever we are in the global village – to help us take our homes from “need some work” to “simply stunning”

About the Author: Robyn Cohen is a Cape Town based writer, artist and photographer. She is a columnist and regular contributor to the Cape Times and other publications and treats herself to an excellent cappuccino every day with lots of chocolate sprinkles.

Her beat includes writing on books, culture, humour, food, décor/design and travel. She has derived considerable décor inspiration from staying in magnificent hotels in exotic locations with her family. It is a tough gig, but someone has to do it. She is a member of SAFREA (South African Freelancers Association You can buy her book at

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