I was very happy during the short time we lived in George for the first time. George is in the Western Cape in South Africa and is north of the very beautiful and lush Outeniqua Mountains. The word outeniqua is said to have come from a Khoikhoi tribe that once lived in the mountains, and means “they who bear honey”.
At that time, the town of George was predominantly Afrikaans speaking and I went to a new school which was dual medium and taught in both English and Afrikaans. I settled in quickly at Outeniqua Primary School and soon made new friends. I think I learned more Afrikaans during the six weeks I attended this school than I did during the entire rest of my school career. My Afrikaans teacher was quite vociferous about her language and I was really scared of her. I can remember her banging my elbow on the table because I mispronounced a word. I can also remember her calling me pampoen kop (pumpkin head) when I got an answer wrong. Despite my anxiety about the Afrikaans teacher and the fact that they used to perform a uniform inspection and check whether we were wearing the regulation green nylon nickers that came up to our middles, I still enjoyed the freedom that living in George brought. Catherine and I could ride our bicycles everywhere and run about on our own to our hearts content.
My Father, however, did not like living in George. He did not like the weather as it was cold and rainy compared to Johannesburg. He didn’t want to stay in George and was making plans for our family to move to Cape Town. Due to the fact that our stay in George was transitional, we lived with my grandparents for the entire six weeks. I enjoyed staying with my grandparents. Catherine and I got to camp out in the library. We slept on mattresses on the floor surrounded by books of all sorts and I used to spend a lot of time looking at the books and reading bits of the ones I could understand. I can specifically remember reading Aesop’s Fables. My Granddad Jack had an old copy bound in brown paper which had beautiful colour plates and I was completely fascinated by this book. I used to read the stories in the book to Catherine.
Granny Joan was working during the day time. She had a children’s clothing shop in the local mall and she had to be there every working day and on a Saturday morning. At that time, all of the shops had to close at 1pm on a Saturday and all day on a Sunday. My Mother was very busy with Hayley and the new baby which left Catherine and I with lots of free time.
One Sunday afternoon, Granny Joan decided to show me how to make a doll’s crib. She had carefully kept a plastic margarine tub for this purpose as this would be the crib. Granny Joan showed me how to make a frill to go around the outside of the margarine tub to hide its ugly sides. I had to hem a long strip of pretty white cotton material all along the bottom and make a turnover at the top to thread a piece of elastic through to draw the frill tightly around the margarine tub. I also had to join the ends of the frill together. She showed me how to make a curtained hood for the crib out of the same white cotton material. Granny Joan cut a strip of the top of the margarine tub and bent it so that it curved in the middle. She then attached the strip to the bottom of the margarine tub so that it curved up and over the box. She did this with strong wood glue and staples to hold it in place. She taught me how to make the curtains by cutting out a rectangular piece of white cotton cloth and hemming all around the edges. There were no short cuts with Granny Joan. If you wanted her to make something with you, you had to be prepared to do every step properly. Once the rectangle of material was hemmed to her satisfaction, she showed me how to run a line of tacking stiches down the centre of the rectangle and to pull it slightly so that it gathered. We used the strong wood glue to attach the curtain to the strip of plastic to form the curtains. The basic form of the crib was now complete.
Granny Joan then showed me how to make a mattress and pillow out of a pretty flowered material. I had to neatly sew three sides of each of the pillow and the mattress together, Granny Joan then turned the sewed rectangles inside out so that the seams were on the inside. We stuffed the pillow and the mattress with filling out of an old pillow and then Granny Joan helped me to sew the two items closed. The last step was to make a blanket for the crib. I made this out of a square of the pretty flowery material which I hemmed along all four sides.
It took me much longer than that one Sunday afternoon to finish off the crib. It must have taken me at least two weeks of sewing but I was very tenacious. I wanted this crib very much as Granny Joan had promised me a small little doll to go inside it when it was finished. Granny Joan delivered on this promise and she gave me a pretty baby doll which was the perfect fit for the crib. I named this small doll Rosebud and I kept her for a very long time after the crib had eventually fallen apart.
This is the last episode of The Little Girl Who Loved Dolls for the time being. I hope you have enjoyed my little trips down memory lane.
Robbie and Michael Cheadle are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series and Robbie Cheadle is the author of Silly Willy goes to Cape Town (coming soon)