Decline of the Three Muses

Wed 29 Aug 2018 22:54

Decline of the Three Muses

For a day us three boats, Wavelength, Havachat and Zoonie chilled together back in the anchorage at Sandspit. Teri invited us all aboard Wavelength, Mark’s beautifully classic Cherubini 44, built in New Jersey in 1982, for some of her wonderful soup and home-made bread and then we all snorkelled around the corner and into the beautiful natural swimming pool we had discovered during the beach party.

The tide was on the rise from low tide so to begin with we were gliding along in just a few inches of water. A moray eel poked his snooty nose out at Rob and I from his coral cave as we flippered past. Concerned that because it was so shallow in places I might catch the coral with my knees if I used my flippers in the normal way which was not good for the coral or me, I used only my hands for propulsion until the creek bed before me dipped away into the beautiful white sand bowl shaped pool filled with refreshing blue water.

A leisurely circuit of the pool then I followed the others as we made an interesting detour through a gap between two islets which led out to the lagoon on the outer side with the ocean beyond. We all kept raising our heads like seals taking a breath to make sure we stayed close.

Snorkelling is good exercise for the old legs when there is a little current against one. If I go on like this I thought I will become a shadow of my former self, paddling away with my legs. No gain without pain. The waves were bigger on the outside but it was all a nice challenge and nothing too scary. The current that took us back in through the next gap was fun as it spat us into the warm water on the inside of the lagoon again.

Always there is something different at every single site we have snorkelled and here it was chitons within the holes and crevices in the limestone. We last saw them in Tonga and at the end of the concrete ramp in Marsden Cove. Our circuit completed we collected shoes and towels and wandered, well satisfied, back along the beach to our dinghies and on to our floating homes.

That evening we took our ‘Allo Allo’ DVDs and some popcorn to Havachat with the intention of enjoying a film night but we all had so much to chat about the prospect of sitting silent for at least 30 minutes at a time was well beyond our capability. Peter kept us plied with alcoholic lubricant, we even polished off a whole bottle of ‘Jägermeister’ just to help him out with his abundance of liquid ballast.

At one stage I was in a tight group hug with fellow Muses, Teri and Martina standing on the steps at the stern of Havachat, admiring the starry sky and identifying various constellations, sharing our knowledge you understand just like our Greek ancestors, when, with a “humph” and an “oops” we fell over in a serene pile, inboard fortunately. The resulting graze on my elbow is healing well!

“So what time did we get back last night?” I asked Rob,

“Just after one,” was the reply.

A fun day (we know how to play, us cruisers) was rightly followed by a day of much more sobriety. Zoonie and Havachat took us early around to the anchorage so we could attend the 10.00 o’clock Methodist church service with Mere. In front of us were three rows of children of all ages and I was impressed with their good behaviour. Then I saw why. An elderly gentleman walked up and down the aisle in a relaxed manner carrying a stick, not quite long enough for a walking stick, he had no limp either. Then I saw what it was for. A pokey stick to gently remind the odd child of his need to behave. He was the church Watchman and Bill’s stepdad and he kept respectful control over the potential monkeys for one and a half hours, sitting behind them and leaning forward for the odd prod.

It wasn’t until the service that we learned Tui was the childrens’ choirmaster. He gathered his little brood of fledgling voices around him and the sound they made was delightful, their only accompaniment was a single triangle tapping out the beat. There were no songbooks. The children start to learn the words of the hymns and psalms at a very early age at the Sunday school held after the service. So by the time they grow up and their voices break they sing with power and gusto and without the drowning out of organ music.

Two sermons were given, one by the pastor from the next village and each were loud and passionate and in Fijian. Later Mere explained that one of them explained to the children all the nasty things that can happen to the uninitiated in Suva and warned the young generation in no uncertain terms to return to the island after they have completed their education in Suva. He himself had gone to Suva with his sick wife and shortly after she died there he spent two and a half months in jail. Mere never did fine out why. But I thought what he said would be like a red rag to a bull for some boys who would venture forth out of sheer curiosity.

The village population is increasing with most youngsters returning home to where earning money is not the priority in life. Like in other parts of the world, poor discipline in the mainland schools is undermining the quality of education and making it harder for talented children to achieve.

So although the children with career ambition might be naturally led away from their home this gentleman’s philosophy seemed to ignore the fact that talented villagers deserve the opportunity to reach their potential away from their island, for example into the professions, again where earning money is not necessarily the sole motivation, as in medicine and law.

Back at Mere’s we tucked into a feast of a lunch. Vegetables and fish cooked in a communal lovo (earth) oven were delivered still hot in the banana leaf basket and when Mere had taken her needs the basket was delivered to the next home. We drank fresh coconut water straight from the nut and were treated to a luxury of orange squash with our pumpkin curry, Chinese leaves in coconut milk and roasted lovo food.

Home doors are always open in the daytime so passers-by can exchange pleasantries, and any breeze can circulate, even fly screens would be a barrier to neighbourliness and ventilation. It was all so comfortable and friendly and we were experiencing a typical Sunday. Nothing was laid on especially for us and I wondered what I would miss if I were to live here for any length of time. Apart from family of course, the internet and walking around my home naked in the lovely hot weather, I think. I can do that on Zoonie but not here.

Also such thoughts might well be based on knowing I will eventually return to an English way of life, variable weather and all.

We made our way out of the village watching the children playing ball games outside the church after their hours of Sunday discipline at the service and then Sunday school. Once again we were reminded of the strength of the community. All ages were occupied, every person had value and no one was neglected or lonely. I was impressed beyond measure with this way of life.