“…me, and Mrs. Jones…” it is simply too good to resist crooning this classic when you meet the Jones clan (dogs included). In this edition, we meet a family wrapped tightly in love, warmth, and giggles. Say hello to Craig, Shelley, Carter, Bailey, Bentley, and Nonsense. (Yes, Nonsense).
It’s a quiet, dusky afternoon. The clouds are gently bobbing away to reveal a brooding sky as Craig steps out of the calming entryway of the couple’s home, hidden atop a winding driveway on Cussonia Way. Though his greeting is beaten by an enthusiastic, tail-wagging hello from Bentley and Nonsense, the furry family members, Craig extends the invite inside. Through a whimsical row of olive trees, Shelley appears in the doorway, her blue eyes twinkling. “Come in, come in,” she instantly offers snacks and gin and tonics while cradling her 19-month-old daughter, Bailey.
As we sit outside, listening to the distant neighing of the horses at the Stables, which the Jones home overlooks, Nonsense trots by again. “This was actually my mom’s dog,” Craig shares, giving the grey-haired pooch an affectionate pat on the head. “She went missing one day near the golf course. Imagine us all walking around, yelling ‘Nonsense!’”. Shelley laughs and says she still does it. “Quite a name to call, don’t you think?”
Directly across from us is a striking painting of a protea set against a black background. It, like several other superb works displayed around the home, are signed ‘Craig Jones’. “That was my Valentine’s Day present, last year,” Shelley nuzzles Craig’s shoulder, as he joked that painting Shelley a flower meant he did not have to buy them. Craig, an accountant, paints as a hobby. “It’s always been an interest, and during lockdown two years ago I had more time on my hands, so I painted more. Put me in front of a computer screen, and I am liable to doze off after an hour or two. But, in front of a canvas, I can paint until I hear birds chirping.”
Shelley, one of South Africa’s most decorated hockey players, met Craig through a mutual friend in 2016. Though, the first meeting was not as smooth as one might have hoped. “We were supposed to meet in a specific box, at the rugby. But I didn’t know about the set up, so I ended up at the wrong box.” By the time Shelley, and the 15 friends she had invited to tag along, arrived at the right box, Craig had charmed Shelley’s brother, Brent Russell (yes, that Brent: the Springboks’ ‘pocket rocket’) and the rest of her family. His charms did not immediately work on Miss Russell, though. “It was love at first sight for me,” Craig smiles at Shelley. “I knew immediately, but Shelley took some hard work.”
Eight months of friendship, first, Shelley clarifies, before she fell in love. “I thought I was immune to his charms, but…” she trails off, grabbing Craig in a quick cuddle. The couple was in a long-distance relationship for a time, with Sandton-born Shelley ripping through a glittering international career that took her around the world (Greece was her favourite, and a quick stopover in Ibiza). From her first national cap in 2006, to representing South Africa at two Commonwealth Games, four world cups and the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympic Games, Shelley – in her own words – lived her best life. “We qualified for a third Olympic Games, but it didn’t work out as the Olympic committee chose not to send us. I started to pull back on hockey a bit. I ended my international hockey career in 2019, after 270 caps.”
When the couple married in 2017, Craig was already living at Simbithi, on Sneezewood Crescent. Though he had travelled overseas and lived in Hillcrest for a while, Umhlali-born Craig’s family had always remained on the North Coast. “I used to walk my dogs and our family would drive around this area, when what is now Simbithi was still a farm,” he recalls. Shelley interjects, reminding him that he almost won a piece of land in Simbithi during the 2003 competition hosted by the Estate’s developers. “I did come close, but I eventually bought land,” Craig laughs. “And built a beautiful home on the golf course. Shelley came to live with me once we were married and, being a Jo’burg native, grew to appreciate the safety of Simbithi very quickly.”
In 2019, around the time the couple welcomed their son Carter, who proudly introduces himself by his full name, Craig and Shelley felt their home needed more space. “We toyed around with extending, but ultimately chose to hop across the road once we saw this place,” Shelley looks up at the home, smiling fondly. “With Bailey completing our family, it really is the perfect space. The children have a ball running around with the dogs in the yard.”
Though she does not play hockey professionally anymore, Shelley has not left the sport entirely. She is a consultant coach for the Ashton International College ladies’ first hockey team and plays for the Umhlali Impis Hockey Club, which she says is always on the lookout for new members. “This gives me the flexibility to be a stay-at-home mom and still do what I love.” Fitness remains a passion for Shelley, who enjoys Simbithi’s trails. “I love a good run, and I played a lot of golf when I was pregnant with Carter. I still play when I have the time: golf, and tennis.” Ultimately, it comes down to community Shelley has found within the Estate. “There is something special about taking my children to play soccer on the Guinea Fowl sports field, hanging out with other moms, then everyone ending up at the Heron for pizza. Simbithi is so friendly and warm. Our children have friends near our house, as do we.”
Craig agrees, calling Simbithi “a piece of paradise”. “My accountant’s brain reminds me that property values hold, and rise, in Simbithi, so I am grateful for the investment we made. I remember what the farm area looked like, so when I look around, now, I’m happy Simbithi kept most of the natural greenbelts and chose not to over-build the Estate. Simbithi is a pioneer in that space.”
Favourite Pizza from the Heron?
Shelley: The Franklin or the Moghul
Craig: The Franklin
Favourite Meal from the Fig Tree?
Shelley: Cashew Crusted Chicken, Yuzu Lomi Lomi Poké Bowl, or Fish and Chips
Craig: Beef Burger (so, so good)