This Unquiet Fale

Peaceful beach fales – or perhaps not?

Thump-thump-thump goes the music. I can’t make out the words. There are no words. Only blah-blah-blah from the DJ, then a thump like Jimmy Hendrix battering the wrong end of his guitar against an old wardrobe. No strings, no brass, no chorus. No sleep either, as I lie on the bed inside our beach fale trying to drift off.

We came here for peace and quiet, to listen to the sound of surf breaking as we slept. Fat chance of that.

Bed and mosquiito net.

We can’t hear the surf. The DJ has neatly disguised it into his beat. It’s nearly midnight and his weasel music shows no sign of stopping. Thud-thud-thud. Thud-thump-thud. Or is it thump-thud-thump?

That photo of a yellow and mint-green fale, of white sand and turquoise lagoon in front of us – it looks so tranquil doesn’t it? An idyll where you’re guaranteed to relax and sleep well, to return home refreshed the next day. And any other night of the week, we might have done that, but not Saturday when serenity is a word confined to the movie The Castle and all manner of loud sounds pound from an impromptu nightclub at Anita’s Beach Bungalows.

Kate stirs beside me. Mutters something about getting in the car and driving back to Apia if it doesn’t stop. She’s as fed up with the beachbeat as I am. At least in Apia we can shield some of the night noises by closing the windows and shoving the air-con on. Here we can do nothing. The walls are made of straws, the pillows are teabags, and we never thought to bring ear-plugs. Or industrial headphones – the ones with orange cones – because those are what we need.

Happy before an unquiet slumber.

Such a frustrating end to a pleasant day. Earlier we sat at a long trestle table with the other guests for a lobster dinner, followed by a fia-fia show with fire dancers. Everyone joined in, women first, then the men, jumping up and down in hot sweaty dancing. I was glad to sip from a large bottle of Vailima afterwards – a pint of amber refreshment rather than the paltry third of a litre in the smaller bottle.

“You must be a POM.” The guy next to me spoke with a Scottish accent and pointed at my bottle. “By the time you finish that, the beer’ll be as warm as bath water.”

“But yours will heat up more quickly.” His Filipino wife gently touched his smaller bottle. “Here, feel, it’s already warm.”

“That may or may not be.” He nodded, then shook his head.

He – Jim -turned out to be a man who favoured dilemmas – a hard choice between this or that – rather than talk about the weather.

“In England, you call them crisps.” He pointed at our packet of Bluebird Ready Salted. “Everywhere else, they call them chips.”

“And French Fries in America,” said Delilah, his Filipino wife.

“No.” Jim shook his head. “French Fries are chips, not crisps.”

Jim and Delilah were staying in an open fale in front of ours. Jim explained the dilemma of choosing an open fale over a closed one. “They’re cheaper and nearer to the sea, but there’s only a mattress and not a bed, and the tarpaulin around the outside flaps when it’s windy.”

He knew all about choices, such as the different maths streams at school: Maths A for Advanced; Maths B for Bloody Hard; and Maths C for fiendishly Complicated. Unfortunately there wasn’t time to discuss more of life’s great dilemmas. We’ll never know whether he believed in the wave or particle theory of light.  If he supported Rangers or Celtic.  Or pictured a haggis as a small scurrying creature with left legs longer than right and circling hills clockwise, or with right legs longer than left and circling anticlockwise.

None of which helps us now. Our dilemma of trying to sleep in a disco storm, or drive home.

View from Lalomanu Beach.

An itch on my foot, then my ankle. Mosquitoes have got in – and are biting – even though we have a net draped over our bed. I reach for the insect repellent and smear. Not that it does much good, not straightaway. The little bastards continue to bite. They’re so small, they’re practically invisible in daylight. And at night, I can’t hear them buzz, not with the rasp from Beach Boomer.

A change in the music, a new rhythm. Then a lull. Perhaps he’s finished. I turn over in hope, then Beach Boomer’s voice mauls the air. He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t speak with proper words, but shapes of words – whoo, wee, whoo – like his lips are glued around a plastic bottle. Then thud-thud-thump, his beat starts again, even though – peering through a hole in our wall – I see the dance floor is empty.

Forget sleeping tonight in our peaceful fale on Lalomanu Beach. We’ll wait until we return to Apia for that.


3 thoughts on “This Unquiet Fale”

  1. You could be worse off. You could be back in Wellington with the rain and biting cold, along with the large rock fall that has completed blocked Ngaio Gorge road


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