IF you ever wanted to be a train conductor and ended up instead a company CEO, here’s your chance to indulge your childhood ambitions – loading trailers for the Uncle Willy tractor rides, one of the highlights of the festive calendar in Cape Town.
Every evening in December until nearly Christmas you can order people to “take your seats on the sides with kids in the middle, sitting flat on the floor!!”.
We don’t have black uniform and cap, with the all-important whistle, of course – perhaps we should, to blow the tractor drivers on their way– and we don’t walk around saying “alle kaartjies, asseblief”, but we do wear our nayvyblue Rotary windcheaters and caps which lend an air of authority, especially when we have to keep the excited kids in check.
They are literally jumping with anticipation as the brightly-painted tractors, driven by the usual club stalwarts, swing round the field. The danger is that the kids could break away from their parents before the “train” has stopped.
The grown-ups are also instructed to watch their youngsters, to keep them from standing during the ride, especially during bumpy parts. Usually there’s a Rotaractor or some other responsible young person permanently on the trailer who maintains order during the ride.
The queue for the rides keeps growing as cars keep coming, unloading families (parents have been met by Inner Wheelers who surreptitiously have relieved them of presents that will go into Father Christmas’s bag).
Then after about an hour of tractors coming and going, it’s all over. The last tractor hangs around in case of late-comers – and often there are, especially with load-shedding. And the sounds coming from Uncle Willy’s “castle” says another show is on the road.
Uncle Willy himself (Paul de Groot) ready to pull away with another load
Ann Lancaster, joins family members for the occasion –– with Mark driving
All smiles as parents and children wait for the next tractor