When I was about five, Mother took me to Government House for a children�s fancy dress party. She made me a lovely petalled sateen green and blue frock - I was a water lily, and was delighted with my dolls' teaset prize. We had a lot of fun dressing up at home. During the war Mother organised various functions for raising funds. On one occasion she had a series of tableaux or little plays on the tiny stage in the drawingroom - the grownups in the audience sat on chairs, but the children were on the floor - all our friends came to Aytoun on these occasions. I was Little Miss Muffet and Mother, standing behind a screen, dangled a spider on a fishing rod. As [sat on my tuffet eating my (pretend) curds and whey, Russell raced onto the stage shouting; "That�s MY porridge bowl."
Accompanied by an adult, we enjoyed going to the "Swing Park" at the bottom of Kloof Nek Road, but Mother didn�t encourage visits there because she thought the children (and their overseers) were often rowdy and ill-mannered. Visits to the de Waal Park in Camp Street were more sedate, and not nearly so much fun.
Miss Stockdale left ( and was later in charge of "naughty red-headed 3-year-old Peggie Stuttaford") and Miss Wright came as our governess. In 1917 or 1918 my parents had planned to visit Scotland - this was a dreamlike phrase to me - but in the event Dad, who had joined up early in the First World War, and had been stationed in the Medical Services in the Cape Peninsula, was sent to South West Africa. That Christmas Mother took us children to Dalebrook Hotel, on the boundary between St James and Kalk Bay. Mother included Miss Wright in the holiday arrangements as she had nowhere to go at that time although she was due to have left us. My main present was a doll dressed in blue satin which I thought was very lovely, and Russell got a football.
On Boxing Day straight after breakfast Mother came upstairs to our bedrooms on the first floor and hastily bustled us downstairs and outside - the thatched roof of that lone two-storey building was on fire. We watched as the smoke curled slowly along the ridge - and gradually flames appeared and the whole building was in due course gutted. Memory of the frightening sight, the blackened walls, the smell of burning and the noise of bursting windows, is still very real to me. There had been no time to collect anything, so Russell and I loudly bemoaned the loss of our presents. Miss Wright wrung her hands as she lost everything she possessed - and Mother wished she had never soft-heartedly tried to help her. Friends took in the family - Mother, Russell and I went to the Beards at Blencathra on the St James main road, and Shena and Jim went to the Storms. The Kents had a holiday house in St J ames which we visited frequently.
Russell and I had one game which we managed to keep secret from grownups. The road surfaces were not smoothly tarinacked, and we picked up small stones and placed them in the tracks of the tramline, and then we dashed into our gate and climbed onto the high brick wall to watch with delight as the bucketing tram came down the road - and squashed those stones into smithereens. By that time the trams were short and light, and only operated between town and Kloof Nek.
A feature of Cape Town is the gun on Signal Hill which booms out every day at noon. Before the days of digital watches and BBC time signals, one could see almost everybody automatically looking at their watches when the gun went. I think I�m right in saying that South Africa (Cape Town) was the first to institute a two minutes' silence either during or at the end of the First World War. I certainly remember being with Mother, perhaps when I was 6 or 7, in Kloof Nek Road when everything froze into absolute silence, and then I (little prig that I was) was shocked to hear a woman's footsteps loudly in the silence.