Dame Kate Harcourt
Dame Kate Harcourt, 90, actor and broadcaster on a reunion year
Iwas 60 so the year would have been 1987. But to explain what happened then, I have to go back a bit further. Many years previously, myself and two friends — Anne Randles who was South African, and Susie Skerman, who is a New Zealand painter — lived in the same club in London — it was supposed to be just for students but we managed to stay there. It was great fun. One summer we hitchhiked through Europe for six weeks — from Spain to Italy and all over Europe. It was just a wonderful time. It must have been 1953, the year Hillary conquered Everest.
Eventually our group separated. Sue left, Anne went back to South Africa and I stayed on the longest.
I had been in London to study singing. I had gone to the Melbourne University Conservatorium and got a diploma in singing there; then I went to the Joan Cross Opera School.
I was in England for four years in total. I came home because my mother was not well but it was time to come home anyway
Despite my training, I was always too nervous to perform as a singer. But when I came back here, and met and married Peter, he introduced me to broadcasting and I got the job on Listen with Mother — a preschool programme that went out every morning on the radio. And it combined all the training I’d had and used all my skills, because I was a kindergarten teacher before I studied singing.
Anyway, when Anne went back to South Africa she married a man called Radclyffe Macbeth Cadman who was the head of the New Republic, an anti-apartheid party. They lived in Pietermaritzburg until he retired, when they went to live on a sugar farm in Zululand.
And that was where we three friends, who hadn’t been together since London, spent the most wonderful holiday. Susie and I flew from Auckland, to Perth, to Johannesburg and they picked us up and drove us to Natal.
Everything about it was magical. It was a beautiful place with huge stands of sugar cane.
They lived in the most wonderful house. There was a cook called Blossom and masses of servants. We didn’t have to do a single thing. Not even make our beds.
But mainly the holiday was about the people and spending time with such good friends after so many years.
We stayed there several weeks. They took us to a game farm, where we stayed in a lodge and saw zebras, giraffes and lions. It was exciting because it was all so different from anything in our own lives.
There was a swimming pool at the house that Sue and I swam in. It was too cold for them but for us it was just fine.
At the end of the holiday Anne drove us down the east coast all the way to Cape Town over three or four days, which was another marvellous experience, driving through incredible countryside with incredible views. I remember we had a cellphone in a box in the boot, which was not a lot of use to us as no one knew how to use it. It stayed in its box the whole time.
There was also a gun and a little white flag there. A hole drilled behind the numberplate meant that Ann could poke the flag through and wave it if she had been car-jacked and chucked in the boot. It was very different from Susie’s and my lives in New Zealand.
I remember we had a cellphone in a box in the boot, which was not a lot of use to us as no one knew how to use it. It stayed in its box the whole time.