A LADY AT LEISURE
A sunny winter sojourn takes the chill off a Scottish winter
A trip to Cape Town is the perfect antidote to the Scottish winter
We are just back from South Africa. It was a glorious few days of sundowners and good books. A chance to lie by the pool and think. January is summer there and it is the best time to be in Cape Town.
The blossom is brilliant and the wine lists are enticing. We drank bottles of delicious rosé. We ate fat langoustines dripping in lemon and butter. Despite the falling pound, it still felt like a pretty inexpensive place.
We stayed at a hotel called The Vineyard, which was built in 1799 as a private country home for the first daughter of James, Earl of Balcarres. Born in Fife, Lady Anne Barnard married a man some years younger than herself and went to live with him in the Cape of Good Hope. An artist and travel writer, her elegant house would become a centre of social activity for the great and the good.
Today we ordinary mortals can experience the delights of this colonial building; not least the natural wonders that surround it. A dull-looking black bird that sat on the veranda proved to be not quite so ordinary when it took flight, boasting a vibrant orange wing.
A dozen giant tortoises roamed around the grounds. Prehistoric and plodding, they looked lugubrious enough but boy could they motor when they put their minds to it. One of the porters’ jobs seemed to be to catch them in reception and trolley them back out into the garden where they continued to be giggled at by small children.
There is no scraping the January frost off the car in South Africa. There is no muffling up with scarf and gloves. We wandered round in lightweight cotton, sunglasses on head, reading matter in hand. From the bedroom balcony Table Mountain gleamed red in the early morning sun.
The reason for this short and delightful trip was to see a friend’s daughter tie the knot. Micheil Armstrong was born in Africa, but he takes his Scottish roots very seriously. Micheil stems from the Borderlands and he has spent much time there, helping to run a clan society and restoring ancient strongholds.
Micheil is more Scottish than most Scots. So, as you might expect, the marriage was a dramatically tartan affair. The beautiful bride walked down the aisle on her father’s arm, the full might of the Cape Town Highlanders pumping out Highland Cathedral in their wake.
I only had one piper at each of my two weddings. At the next one, perhaps I, too, could be fortunate enough to command a massed pipe band. I jest. There will no third time lucky in the nuptial stakes. After all, the chief is perfect. Apart from his ears, that is.
After the days of wine and roses, cold and damp greets us on our return home. Coughs and sniffles appear out of nowhere and it is affecting the MacGregor’s hearing.
I know the average attention span for a man to listen to a woman is just a few minutes, but sometimes he doesn’t hear a thing I say. It could be a virus. It is certainly not helped by all that shooting whilst serving in the army, and all those pheasant drives.
We will get it sorted. I will force him to go to see someone. In the meantime, we comfort ourselves with the fact that Micheil has two more daughters, all equally gorgeous and marriageable. Let us hope that when the time comes they do not decide to elope, but choose to stay in Cape Town. Then we can make plans to go back – again and again...
‘ From the bedroom balcony, Table Mountain gleamed red in the early morning sun’
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