28th April 1986
Friend E., who worked for a British NGO, had responsibilities in other island nations. So I headed for the quiet island of Ovalau. The following is adapted from a tale told to me by a fellow traveller.
Jonathon was sitting on the beach humming and strumming his guitar. Towards the horizon he could see gentle white waves breaking on the reef. Behind him lay the freshly manicured gardens of the International Pacific Hideaway Resort. This was the Coral Coast, his Fiji.
A clash of colours came towards him, a contrast with the tidy verdancy and the gentle brown’s and yellows of the mbures behind which housed the temporary, the transient travellers and tourists, and the bar where Jonathon’s girlfriend was working.
The Australian had a paunch, partly disguised by the cotton scenery of his shirt, a silhouette of black palms and lovers obscuring a lurid tropical sunset. Below, white shorts down to the knees which long white socks almost reached. The knees were pink. Smart brown polished loafers left flat prints in the soft sand, newly sea laundered.
Around the figure now casting a shadow over Jonathon’s muse hung a machine embroidered Nikon strap. The single lens reflex camera jutted out like a black baby’s belly button.
“What’s your name, son?”
A discordant harmony.
“Jonathon, sir,” said Jonathon trying to tune in as he ceased strumming the praises of his girl and his Lord.
“You work here, Jonathon?”
“You have a job, Jonathon?”
“Why not, Jonathon?”
“Well, you could get a job here, playing your guitar in the evenings.”
“Well, maybe later you could get a daytime job as a porter.”
“Why Jonathon? Well if you’re good at that, you could become floor manager, looking after the guests and be in charge of the porters and maids.”
“Well, Jonathon, the next step is to become manager of the entire hotel and look after everything. You would be in charge of the porters, maids, kitchen staff, waitresses, drivers, floor managers, gardeners, maintenance staff and tennis coaches.”
“Well, why, sir?
“Because, Jonathon, after a few years you will have a lot of experience and know enough bank managers to own and run your own hotel.”
“Why would I want that, sir?”
“Well Jonathon, you can then earn enough money to retire, and do whatever you want to do. You could sit on a tropical beach playing your guitar if you like.”
” Yes sir, that’s what I like.”