Last year, I made a mess of my first wedding anniversary by foolishly taking my wife’s plea of ‘Let’s not make a big thing of it’ at face value. She was disappointed by the lack of anything bar a simple (but heartfelt) verbal acknowledgement. This year I spotted an opportunity to make amends by having two wedding anniversaries. The first in Fiji and then, by jumping on a plane, crossing the international dateline and shooting back a day, having a second in LA. A simple notion and a chance to rectify the previous year’s golden, or, should I say, paper error.
Staying at the Koro Sun Resort on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island, the first anniversary went well. We rose early to kayak with Tim Tam, our local guide, and Rod and Glenda, a semi-friendly couple from Brisbane. Our destination was the large, gloriously isolated Salt Lake. This, as well as being as its name suggests a salt-water lake, has large swaths of floating magma from ancient volcanic eruptions. It makes kayaking a bit like negotiating the croutons on top of a giant bowl of soup (presumably the many American visitors call this activity ‘rock and oar’). The lake is full of the most wonderful fish, although Tim Tam was vague about specification. ‘Those are red ones and those are brown ones,’ he said at one point.
Back at the resort, breakfast was climaxed by the triumphal entrance of a large chocolate cake paraded by six members of the consistently jolly staff. One of them had amateurishly but lovingly iced it in the manner of home-made birthday cakes of the early 1970s, before everyone bought them in Marks & Spencer. They sang a special Fijian anniversary song and there were handshakes and mini-hugs from Rod and Glenda. So far, so good.
After a couple of hours’ snorkelling, we were whisked off to the airport at Savusavu to fly to Nadi for our international flight. It was only 40 minutes late, excellent by Fijian standards, and as we boarded the tiny plane, all looked set fair for the two smiling pilots, who had waved energetically to us on arrival, to get us back to the main island. Excitement was beginning to build. Then the smiling pilots taxied too close to the terminal building, little more than a large shed, and wedged the tip of the wing against its side. They did not notice at first, but panicky waving from the single ground crew member meant we all had to disembark and help push the plane backwards. There was a hole in the wing and the smiling pilots were suddenly being accused of mucking about and not showing suitable responsibility. They carried on smiling nevertheless.
Gaffer tape was mentioned but it soon became clear that we would not be leaving that day. Passengers suddenly began talking to each other in animated detail; a common occurrence when misfortune throws people together. I tend to keep away from others in these sorts of situations as I dislike the oneupmanship of who has the most complicated ruined logistics. Although, funnily enough, this was won convincingly by a pretty little Australian girl who said to me sadly, ‘I just want to go back to school.’ I like to think that English schoolchildren would have similarly impressive attitudes when stuck in the glorious sunshine of a Fijian island with the prospect of an extended holiday.
It was interesting to note how the cultural stereotypes began to appear under duress. ‘How do we go about claiming compensation?’ was the opening gambit from the American couple. ‘You need to start talking to us, mate, we’re missing beer time,’ insisted an Australian. And ‘I wonder, is there any chance of using the telephone at all, please?’ from us English.
Of course, all this meant wedding anniversary take two was not going to happen. And consequently we did not arrive in LA for lunch, we did not book into the Mondrian Hotel on Sunset Boulevard and relax on magnificent day beds by the pool and did not eat a sumptuous, candle-lit dinner in the Mondrian’s internationally acclaimed restaurant. We did none of that. Instead, we trudged back to the Koro Sun. ‘Oh you’re back, are you?’ said Rod and Glenda, ‘since you left the fun’s really begun.’ Clearly, it was us who had been the semi-friendly couple, as they were having a whale of a time with their new pals, Milan and Pattie, both fresh from the States.
We did eventually repeat a day, but it was the day after our cotton celebration. Next year, I may have another go: Tonga and Hawaii, for example. Alternatively, we could cross the dateline going the other way (Hawaii then Tonga) and completely lose a day — our wedding anniversary perhaps.