No Peace For Dead Writers

Kate’s gifts.

Colours ambush the long straight road up to Robert Louis Stevenson’s house. The plants on this island don’t know how to be wallflowers.  They shout in yellows, reds and greens. Yet this promises to be a peaceful walk. Or so I hope, enjoying a breeze that rustles palms and teuila flowers.

Then I listen more carefully. Embedded in the fragrance of the silence is the distant noise of dogs. Children shouting too.

Today isn’t any old old Friday. Today is the end of term.

I reach the start of the RLS Tomb trail and begin to climb. Sweat sheens my face while squeals of laughter shave the air ahead. A regiment of teenage girls march past single-file, giggling and hooting, amused by something further on.  At the top, a pounding of music. A party in full swing. Three separate beatboxes bash the air, a battle of hip-hop, vibrato and screaming pop princesses.


No peace for old Robbie’s soul nor his bones today. Two girls and a boy fluoresce and boogie on the wooden viewing platform. Another couple canoodle on top of his tomb, well inside the little chain fence labelled ‘Do Not Enter’.

Nice to see teenagers celebrating the storyteller, the Tusitala. To hear them not so nice. Next time they should try more traditional music, Andy Stewart or ‘The Mull of Kintyre’. Something that old Robbie would like. Or maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe music was the true reason he left Scotland.

I set off back down the track, sweating again. No cold dip at the end either. The RLS swimming pool is full, packed with pupils from Year 9. Possibly the most people in one tiny water hole ever. It’s the same in the adjoining Botanical Gardens, where a busload of children yell at the plants.

Kate arrives from her presentation ceremony at school. The staff have been gift-shop extravagent. They’ve given her wood carvings, a woven bag, a lacquered painted coconut, a fan and a little wooden turtle.  As the late, great Brucie would have said, ‘Didn’t she do well!’

“It’s really noisy here.” Kate threatens a wooden blade at no-one in general, and me in particular. “Let’s go somewhere quieter.”

“Okay.” I nod. The blade has a nasty hook at the end.

We drive to Le Petit Cafe, tucked away in a rue off a boulevard off an esplanade. The lemonade fizzes ferociously and the omelette squeaks louder than Lena Zavaroni.

“These mosquitoes get everywhere.” Kate brandishes a spoon in the air, then swats an extra milligram of protein that has landed on her crepe. “I know the place to go.”

The place turns out to be the main hall at school, where the end of term concert is gearing up in a storm. Enough Samoan audio power to rival the Jacobite Risings. The theme is ‘The Wave to Intellectual Success’ and the dancing is synchronised, collective and awesome. A troupe of pipers and sword-dancers on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ couldn’t have performed better. Give us a twirl! Good game, good game! It’s not Mother Goose, is it? Years 9 through 13 each dance an episode in the lives of two boys growing up, one who does well and the other who falls – then is saved and rises again. The hall shakes with the bravado of cheering parents and siblings. It is a great noisy experience, even more entertainment than a whole season of the Generation Game.

Then back to the apartments where another party is in full swing.  Whisky bottles and matches adorn the balcony, while from underneath comes the yowling of a cat.

No peace for dead writers. Or live ones either.  Not here in Samoa. No peace for anyone.


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