I’v abandoned coffee and taken up jasmine tea instead. After two days of headaches am feeling a lot better and my thumb joints are starting to free up a little … but I’m still limiting my time at the computer.
Meanwhile … another waterblogged memoir
At fifteen I’d never fully recovered from a childhood spent glued to the Hollywood movies of the 1930s and 40s on our black and white TV, among them, the Road movies of Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour . Somehow Dorothy always seemed to finish up in a sarong, whether the road led to Hawaii or London.
The notion of a long haired beauty in a sarong worshipping some bloke in a grass hut on an island had imprinted itself on a particularly vulnerable part of my psyche. The message of these films … women needed to be sexy, and they could achieve this via the application of a floral sarong, a tan, and an exotic swimsuit. They should endeavour to find themselves in a warm location where they could wiggle their hips a lot on the dance floor, flower in hair, revealing the maximum amounts of skin, in order to fulfill their potential as females. I could just see myself in the role.
My concept of a holiday by the sea had previously involved hours of jumping competitively in and out of the water, or lying in goggles and flippers on the bottom of our swimming pool. Now that things were different, Fiji was to be the perfect locale for releasing my inner Dorothy Lamour …
Equipped with a red and white Hawaiian print bikini and a shark tooth necklace, a burgeoning weight problem, and a gigantic teenage ego … plus two astoundingly short mini dresses and some trendy long culottes I’d sewn myself … I was ready.
Only one thing stood in the way of my apotheosis – my inconvenient, but financially necessary middle aged parents. Try as I would to ignore them they remained steadfastly there, organising, criticising, paying for things.
The height of this incovenience expressed itself at the family resort, Korolevu. I had been cavorting on the dance floor with my sister Diana, who was legendary as a wild and uninhibited, if a little eccentric gogo dancer. Returning to the table, I was mortified when Mum hissed at me “Ask your father to dance. Go on!”
Gone were the little girl days when I delighted in standing on Dad’s feet while he foxtrotted round the lounge room to a 78 rpm shellac disc of Cole Porter’s 1940s hit Begin the Beguine. I loved Dad, but didn’t want to get up in public and dance with him. If I did that, my cover as international groove diva would be blown. Everyone in the restaurant would realise that I had boring relatives and the shame by association would be overwhelming.
However, Mum couldn’t dance with him any more since her tragic paralysis by polio some years earlier. We did our best to live like any other family, but an undercurrent of survivor guilt ran through the rest of us. From a moral blackmail standpoint she was unbeatable on this one. I was forced to briefly acknowledge that Dad had a right to enjoy himself, and caved in.
On the dance floor there was a bit of pulling and pushing while he tried to get me to foxtrot, until reason prevailed and we broke apart and danced as one was meant to in 1969 … throwing ourselves round, together but alone. Dad danced manfully on, but plainly times had changed since he and Mum first glided round the parquet.
Phew, no-one would realise he was my father, in spite of the undeniable resemblance. In my funky mini dress, it was all about me … and able to ignore him, I launched into the Skate, which Joscelyn Browning had taught me at school. Undeniably, I was the coolest person out there. The Skate involved a forward lift of the shoulders and arms as you slid from side to side with your feet.
As I sat down at our table, heaving a sigh of relief, Mum leant over and hissed at me again … “You can see your undies every time you lift your shoulders.”
This was well before the era when displaying your underwear became an important thing to do. For the rest of the holiday I moved as if in Riverdance replay … my upper body, specially my shoulders, frozen in place.
Next blog … Fiji part 2, some waterbound adventures …