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Across the Magic Line: Growing Up in Fiji by Patricia Page

By Patricia Page

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Whenever there weren’t too many people around, he’d blow his nose like an Indian. ‘Ern. Ern [short for Ernest],’ my mother would protest in vain. There were contradictions in this attitude of Fijians versus Indians. An Indian servant was considered more ‘chic’ than Across the Magic Line 31 a Fijian one. When my mother gave a party an Indian in a white uniform and coloured sash would serve while the food would be prepared in the kitchen by an out-of-sight Fijian ‘girl’. She was always called a girl even when well and truly past girlish age.

Mossy Frisby appeared from one side, his gang from the other, swinging their legs arrogantly over the roots. He gave an infinitesimal signal — a mere flick of the head, the stirring of a finger — that I noticed as clearly as if he’d shouted an order. His followers immediately knew what to do and moved into their positions: a wide circle with me in the middle. Slowly they advanced and at each step they took they kicked a leg towards me. What Mossy lacked in expression, they made up for. Grinning, sneering, grimacing, they came towards me, their kicks gaining in force as they got nearer.

Confetti and streamers swirled in the air. Some people were crying — bystanders and troops alike. I clung hard to my father’s hand as I watched the tears running down the soldiers’ massive faces. They had so many leis around their necks they were like immense ruffs and the tears fell into the flowers. Some broke ranks to say goodbye to a loved one, to hug a child. The police cordon melted out of respect for these farewells and a confused, stumbling crowd made its way slowly to the docks. The battalion filtered through the wire enclosure and boarded the troopship.

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