Country Girl

“Nellie looked at Laura and Mary and she wrinkled up her nose. “Hm!” she said. “Country girls!”

Don’t worry, Laura. I was a country girl too, and I still am. Even if only in my heart for now. Over the river and through the woods, or rather, down Route 60 and over the hills, that’s where you’ll find the town of Robertson. At the heart of the wine route in the Western Cape. 85 miles from Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa. Known as the valley of wine and roses. That’s where I grew up, in the country.

Let’s stop before that final hill, before we catch the first glimpse of the town of Robertson nestled in the valley and watched over by the majestic Langeberg range of mountains. Let’s backtrack a little…

Google Maps – what a marvelous age we live in. If you zoom in after clicking the link, you’ll find the location of some of the places I’ll be mentioning. Not too many, just the ones that stand out in my memories because they are part of who I am today. I love sharing pictures so my American readers can get a glimpse of the beauty of South Africa. I’ll add a brief “recollection of memories” at the bottom.

Picture a little girl going to school barefoot – yes, we didn’t have to wear shoes in summer. Picture a little girl on the back of a horse cart, hitching a ride to the main road. A fire in winter at the school bus stop to keep us warm. Hikes in the veld and finding edible succulents filled with water. A black bad-tempered stallion with the name of Satan. It took 5 grown men to hold him. I remember Adam, our farm manager. Sitting around the farm workers’ fire on a Friday night and learning the songs their children sang… magical days.

  • Madeba Farm : we moved from the city to Madeba Farm and lived there for 4 years. Idyllic days of sunshine, learning to swim in the irrigation channel (see picture), searching for my dad in endless rows of vineyards (he was pruning or something) so we can give him his lunch lovingly packed in a basket by my mom, trips to the Vink River (Vink = Finch) searching for finch eggs, playing in the attic of our cottage…
  • Graham Beck Wine Estate : Madeba Farm was eventually purchased by Graham Beck in 1983 and the Estate is now a world-renowned vineyard of note.
  • Church Street : the most visited street (shopping, of course). 🙂 No mall, just a couple shops, but everything you needed you could find in Church Street. The Dutch Reformed Church at the one end is an historical landmark.
  • Cactus Farm : We never bought plants, but it gave us a thrill to tell people we have a cactus farm, almost as if it was ours. Children tell fibs … Today it is a popular stop-over for tourists.
  • Silver Sands : that’s where we wanted to be on a hot summers day. Swimming in the Breede River. How we begged and hinted and great was the joy when the command came “get into the car”… 🙂
  • Barry Trading House : the Barrys were THE family with a history going back forever and they owned many businesses in the town. My highlight when visiting the store? Ice cream with strawberry syrup served in a stainless steel pudding dish.
  • Roodezandt Cellar : My dad worked there after we moved from the farm. He helped build the massive steel vats. We had a house next door. I “fell” out the bedroom window (another story) and broke my arm… That house is gone now. There was another house to the left, also gone, where we lived when my youngest brother was born.
  • Primary School : In my day it was a primary school for girls and I attended there from Grade 1 to Grade 7. We had a very strict head mistress. We had to march instead of regular walking. Left right, left right… and if you were close enough to her you felt the tiny drops of spittle as she commanded “left right, left right”…
  • Roodezandt Street House – we lived there for about 2 years. Wonderful days of playing in the woods across the road and getting up to mischief.
  • Loop Street House – the last house we lived in before we moved back to Cape Town and also the house I lived in when I “met Laura”. Park across the road where I broke my arm again. Carefree days for the most part. Apricot fruit orchard in the back garden 🙂
  • Robertson Show : Last but not least the event we waited for all year. I found an old picture. Much like the County Fairs in America. Toffee Apples, candy floss, chicken grilled over an open fire, popcorn… to this day I can hear the voice over the loudspeaker “canter please and repeated in Afrikaans gallop asseblief, walk please stap asseblief 🙂 ) – the announcer giving instructions to the riders taking part in the equestrian event..

I was reminded of Wordsworth’s poem “Daffodils” when thinking about memories :

“For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude”

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