After prodigious delays we were taken for a short route march through part of the town, the main objects of interest were the well-built houses with plenty of white about them and usually slate roofs; good roads, thin horses, mules, donkeys; and blacks in all variety of disreputable European clothing. The white people of means all appear to have retinues of natives servants. Although approaching winter the weather is warm and sunny. It must be extremely warm in summer. Portuguese ships are in port, so I have seen some of that race too – they aren’t bad looking chaps though I wouldn’t vouch for their not being bad. What trees I have noticed are mostly familiar, gums, pepper trees, pines, banana palms, and a tropical tree of which there is a specimen in Albert Park. Two troopships that left N.Z. after us have arrived. Interesting to watch the blacks coaling the vessels at night, like so many devils; black skin, black clothes, gleaming white teeth and eyes. The deck is crowded with disconsolate men gazing wistfully at the shore.
Here we are, on a perfect day within about 20 miles of land – porpoises in thousands playing in the shining sea and all sorts of birds flying about and settling on the water, the Gannets diving after fish. Anchored in the stream at about 3 p.m. The scenery is very rugged and striking. Did a few pencil sketches of outline of mountains.
Nearing port (Capetown). Our trip must constitute something of a record of a non-stop run without sighting land or even another ship. Given scalding hot buckets of fresh water this morning and bathed ourselves – mine nearly took the skin off. Also got our identification disks, “cold meat tickets” as the men call them. Sailors are getting the hawsers out ready for berthing. Every-one excited at prospect of reaching land and hopes of leave.
When last I left you I was anticipating a pleasant morning’s potato and onion peeling, but my hopes were frustrated by the substitution in a later edict of “Butchers Shop” for “Cook House”. The work did not take above a couple of hours, but — well you know how fond I am of raw meat and scrubbing greasy floors. I often wonder what some of the perkier individuals would look like were they asked to put their patriotism to the test by, say, carrying half a dozen carcasses of mutton out of the nether slums of the ship, up a precipitous stairway and into the evil-smelling den of the fleshers. Pouff! There is now a “Submarine guard”, armed men posted round the fore-parts of the vessel looking out for submarines or mines. It doesn’t make us nervous, only blasphemous at the prospect of more frequent duty. It is difficult to see what use the rifles would be. Received wireless indicating that America seems to be on the move towards joining the Allies. You would have been amused to see me last night yelling such devotional exercises as “In the sweet bye and bye” – “When the roll is called up younger” at a service held by the Methodist Chaplain.
This morning, we went through the irksome performance of “kit inspection”, having to lug all our belongings, mattresses etc. up on the deck and display our wares there – pack them all up again and carry them back where they came from. Our half-crown band is wailing somewhere amidships (so called because it owes its existence to a subscription of 2/6 per man levied prior to our departure). Tomorrow I shall have another glimpse of the life of a scullion, being on cook-house fatigue, peeling spuds etc. The band has after long practice learnt the pathetic strains of “Sweet Genivive” which it now repeats ad nauseam. Wild statements that we are under invisible escort of a cruiser that only approaches at nightfall. Sweep-stakes are regularly got up on the ship’s run.
Life-boat drill: – Four blasts of the whistle sounded about 11 a.m. and we all fell down the gangways, donned out life-belts, and “fell in” round our life boats. This usually occurs on Saturday mornings. News is very scarce with us. If I repeat, that I have, on several occasions, obtained uninterrupted views of the vasty deep, I exhaust the day’s possibilities.
On Fridays we always get fish for breakfast and rabbit for dinner so we look forward to it gastronomically. Had tug-o-war and wrestling on the deck. Have I mentioned the brown gulls that are now accompanying us? They are very neat, sleek-looking chaps with knowing eyes; about the size of a molyhawk.