A LADY AT LEISURE

A sunny win­ter so­journ takes the chill off a Scot­tish win­ter

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS - WORDS FIONA ARM­STRONG IL­LUS­TRA­TION BOB DE­WAR

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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