When I was a young girl, aged nine, my family moved to Cape Town in the Western Cape. For the first few months we lived in a rented house in an area called Kirstenbosch and then we moved into another temporary house in a seaside village called Fishhoek. My mother was very busy at the time with my two younger sisters who were both under two years old so my second sister down, Catherine, and I had quite a free reign.
We used to walk from our cottage to the sea and spend the afternoon playing in the surf and collecting shells in a plastic bucket to take home with us. The first afternoon we went to the beach, my mother wanted to come part of the way with us. Some fresh air would do her and the two small girls good and she would also enjoy the exercise. Little Laura was put into the hooded pram and Hayley was dressed in her favourite boots and we all set off out of the small wooden gate and down the road. The wind turned into a vicious monster. It whooshed into the pram with such force that Laura screamed with fright and went all red in the face. I thought that she looked very ugly with her small face all screwed up and crying and I hoped the wind didn’t change so that her face stayed like that. I didn’t fancy a gremlin for a sister. Hayley was nearly blown off her feet and she too began to cry. My poor mother turned right around and took the two girls back home while Cath and I continued down to the sea. We were made of tougher stuff and the wind didn’t bother us that much.
On Saturday afternoons, my mother, father and the two small children would have a rest and Catherine and I would climb up onto the tin roof of the tool shed. The roof was partially covered by a large tree and we would sit up there in the shade and make decorations out of our shells and any smooth pebbles we managed to find on the beach or sometimes, I am ashamed to say, on the pebbled paths of houses we passed on our way to and from the beach.
I have always remembered those pleasant afternoons on that roof and all the lovely trinkets we made with our clear glue and a variety of different sizes and shapes of shells and pebbles. Small spiral shells became arms and legs and medium sized flat shares became bonnets and aprons. Larger spiral shells turned into dresses and tiny flat shells were hands and feet. We never made any boy shell people. Our little shell dollies lived in a ladies only society although I do remember making dogs, rabbits and other animals.
Three months after we moved to Fishhoek, we moved back to Kirstenbosch and into our own house. I was glad in many ways to move as our new home was close to my school and I could walk to and from school every day. That was a great deal pleasanter than having to wait on the pavement for my Dad to collect me each day. Often he was only able to fetch me at 5pm and on the odd occasion it was even later. I had a little boyfriend who lived down the road from the school. Gavin used to ride his bicycle back to the school and keep me company while I waited. It was safe in those days so it wasn’t risky for a child to wait outside the school for a parent to collect him or her. It did get a bit tiresome though, especially on the few occasions when I was forgotten and Dad was quite late getting me. It wasn’t his fault, he had a job to do and we only had one car at the time but I can remember being a bit worried he wouldn’t come.
Of course, he always did. Good old Dad.