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

By Patricia Page

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On the reef visit I was scared of the sea slugs that blocked my passage back to shore and shouted until my mother came and led me through them. A grasshopper got in the car and I yelled until it was taken Across the Magic Line 47 out. My father wanted me to help him catch whitebait with pieces of my clothing and I refused. The fearless little friend of rats and hornets was gone for ever. I was by then a squealy preadolescent. At Korolevu Beach in 1997, instead of a couple of old bures there was the Warwick Hotel, so luxurious it was intimidating — orchestrated to such perfection you felt emotional crashing music should accompany you on the drive through.

Straight in front he could see the downy slopes of the Domain, dotted with the mansions of those directly under him. Then, on the flat land below, Albert Park for ceremonies and sport and the new Parliament Buildings with a mini Big Ben. Slightly left he could see the raintree-lined Victoria Parade with the white wedding cake of the Grand Pacific Hotel at the water’s edge. On the same seafront strip were the library, the cinema, the Town Hall. Further along came the bustling Indian quarter, the market with its milling people and finally the docks with their constant loading and unloading, their vessels pulling in or out.

Rectangular highrises on the foreshore marred the harmonious downhill tumble of colonial dwellings, foliage and palms. But the city hadn’t spread from its original position on the east side of the bay. It could still look over to jagged mountains piled around a central peak turned back at the top like a tropical Matterhorn — Joske’s Thumb, named after Paul Joske, owner of Fiji’s first sugar mill.

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