5.   🙈 A Jungle Symphony Especially For Me 

I can remember a time when I was about 14-15 years of age; I was still fascinated by the big screen.  In this instance I refer to the Indian movies that played only on Thursday and Sunday evenings.

The reel-to-reel films arrived from India or England either by ship or aeroplane and these were the selected nights of showing.  Clearly we had to wait awhile for the new release to get to our little corner of the South Pacific.  Once they arrived at the cinema house, the advertising could then go up for the next week or so and I’d make my plans to attend!

I was hell-bent on going to the cinema no matter the consequences!  In this case the consequence always came afterwards, when it was time to go home.  Yes I would have to face the squishy unpaved, shadowy and extremely long path which -if I survived- would lead me home.

I’d take this dark path, the only way leading home in fact and 9 out of 10 times I was walking it alone.  A simple fact one could count on most every night was at the very least, a solid rainstorm with or without a good wind accompanying it.

I knew full well I’d have to face this night path every time I went to the cinema yet I remained a stubborn lad who faithfully followed his heart’s current desires.

In the evenings the movie always started at 8 o’clock and would end between 10:45 and 11 at night.  You could probably set your watch by the night’s rain, which started as the show was letting out.  After all when you’re sitting in the warm theatre, captivated by the big screen you don’t fret about what comes next when it’s all over and the time has come to go home.

We’d take the last bus of the night aptly named the Hospital Bus due to its routing which serviced the hospital along the way.  Mine was nearly the last stop in the residential area.  I got off near the ditch at the bush illuminated by a street lamp on the roadside.  This was it!

As the bus drove off into the dark night, I was left standing with my umbrella somewhat protecting me ☔️ and I’d quickly glance at the finely built house with its electric porch light on the other side of the street: hmmm I could be  🏡  already.  Oh never mind.

I quickly turn my attention to the muddy path over here knowing this was my way and proceed to roll up my trousers to knee length, removing my sandals before entering the field that lay before me.  I switch on my torch with its dimmed light, it was still faithful.

I was only a few moments into the dark walk when my hearing was assaulted by thousands of cricket bugs, a choir of croaking 🐸 and the sobering moos of the cows in the field.

Picture if you will, a cow is sitting down in some random pasture location minding her own business just chewing away at the cud and I unknowingly approach her position.  She suddenly stands up – equally startled as me I think- and the brush that’s touching her manages to crackle, even as it is wet with rain.  Although I cannot see the cow, as it’s so dark, I do see shadowy figures that I’d rather not see.

Add to that the sound of my own bare feet squishing through the mud, the feel of my heart pounding in my chest and then the occasional frog decides to leap across my path, sometimes ending up either on or under my bare feet… aaagh!   Squish!

This wasn’t at all helpful especially when my senses were already heightened by the thick raindrops and *flying shadows and I thought for sure this was it; the ghosts were coming for me! ^^

I dare not direct my torch light away from the path in front of me because there was no telling what I might see surrounding me; I really didn’t want to know what else was out there.  My steps increased in speed.  And while there were just a few other homes around the area (very few and far between), their house lights were off as they were already in bed or gone out; this wasn’t useful to me here at all!

I remember these fairly large trees in that field -we called them ivy trees but I’m not certain what they’re known by in English- and sitting in those trees were the **oolooos, the watchful onlookers 🦉 who couldn’t help but to hoot incessantly after darkness arrived.

Oh this was all just too much for my youthful imagination and I could hear them asking me, “Whoooo goes there?”  Of course the wind seemed to pick up and the cricket bugs were going at it.

I thought I was hearing the whoosh of flapping wings, the jungle sounds surrounded me and my steps were becoming more slippery with the deluge of rain beating the already mudded earth!  It was time for this boy to run like hell and just as fast as I could towards the safety I knew I’d find at home.

Whew!  Finally that comfort comes -once more and thankfully I might add- when I’ve reached the end of that nearly one mile stretch and I can see my mother standing at the window with the lantern in her hand, as though she were watching out.  My heart knows she definitely was waiting for me.

She opened the door as soon as she caught sight of me and as I arrive at the front of the house, she reminds me to wash and dry my feet.  There’s an outside tap next to the porch, so I wash and dry as I’m catching my breath.  I go up the porch and as I go through the door I cautiously look behind me to be certain I’ve not been followed!

“Change into warm clothes and I’ll get some hot food for you.”  These words she lovingly repeated to me every time I put myself into this situation.  She also never failed to tell me, “I told you so!”

I am proud to say that I know how much my parents loved me.  I always felt it, I always knew it.

It was around the summer 1951 when my father passed away.

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*    flying shadows – 🦇

^^ Quite common in the Indian homes (speaking of the ones here in Fiji of course) are tales of spirits; ghost stories and a lot of them. Oft times these stem from tragedies, sad, scary and experienced sometimes by those known as well as unfamiliar to anyone kind of stories.

** oolooos – owls

2.  📽 the Cinema … part 1

Now I am wondering, do our island dogs look the same as the ones in Japan or England or any different from say the dogs in Africa?  Do they bark with an accent or is it all the same?  What about the people – how do they look when they smile or get angry and do the babies and children sound the same when they cry?

What about cowboys, do they really have gunfights and why do they say doggie when they talk about their cows?  I had to know!

📽 In the meantime my friends and I would get together on the weekends, most often going for ten-cent matinees, which bought us front row seats, the balcony costing two shillings.

Usually it was Captain America who ruled our weekends!  🎞 These shows were presented serial style in that there would be 2 episodes shown back-to-back on the big screen.  I do have fond memories of that pleasant theatre.  It even had a nice little café downstairs.

I was especially taken with their terrific papaya, 🍓, mango,  🍌 and  pineapple 🍍 milkshakes.  I can see the making of these milkshakes right now!  There were the always-fresh cut-up fruit chunks to one side of the counter, the🥛and ice cream on the other.

The ingredients were put into a silver can then mixed, blended and poured into the glass but only half the way.  The maker then placed the can up on the counter with the remainder of your shake and doing it with such great flair: perhaps it was just the thrill in anticipating the cool delicious milkshake at the cinema!

Needless to say the theater owners always made certain there was a nice variety of cool refreshing tropical fruit juices to savor as well sodas.  The café served up flavorful fish & chips, sandwiches, the best milk-coffee on the island, cupcakes and candies too.

Private vendor citizens were able to sell their freshly roasted warm peanuts and muttar (green peas) to the moviegoers, but they had to do this outside the theatre doors.

As a young lad around 10-11 years of age, I used to go with my brother-in-law and his brothers to the American soldiers’ camp in Tamavua.  We could sell snacks to them like narongi (tangerines), bananas, salted and dry roasted peanuts, and muttar.

We also offered an immediate favorite; rolled roti filled mostly with spicy-curried veggies and sometimes we filled them with chicken curry too.  I remember we would get a lot of silver dollar coins in our payments from these uniformed guys.

They must’ve liked us well enough because in the evenings, sometimes we would get to stay there in the GI soldiers’ camp (as we called it) and watch American movies.  These were projected on to a screen that was set-up outdoors.  They watched mostly Westerns and I quickly came to realize that John Wayne was my favorite cowboy!

I paid as close attention as I could to the friendly American military persons.  I silently noted to myself their demeanor and from what I could tell, I liked the attitude they demonstrated towards one another as well as how they interacted with us, the island natives, as we are that.

I was relaxed there, feeling perfectly comfortable.  These friendly experiences sparked a yearning to go to the USA and get myself a horse, some boots, a canteen and learn how to sling a gun or two!

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See you next Sunday night for the continuing chronicles!