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Sample text

The non-princely Fijian was treated with condescending affection and never with the hostility shown towards Indians. An example of this anti-Indian feeling was the anecdote of Mrs Willoughby Tottenham. Head of the Empire Society and wife of puce-faced, rosykneed Major Willoughby Tottenham, who organised rallies and parades, she had wild wiry hair and protruding teeth. I’d always been afraid of her. She was deaf with a hooting voice and a large trumpet-like instrument she inserted in her ear as a hearing aid.

The traditional and unavoidable yaqona, or kava drinking ceremony, was hedged about with dos and don’ts that went on for at least a page. The bus had none of the personality of the BULA FM type. It was a banal tourist coach: air-conditioning chill, shinyhaired upholstery, dead television set, vast front window with windscreen wipers as big as brooms, curving seats that were supposed to fit your morphology but didn’t. The few passengers talked quietly, in pairs. This stretch of road had a special significance.

He was there the day the Fijians marched away to war. All of Suva — some had been waiting since dawn — lined Victoria Parade to see them go by in full battle-dress, their rifles on their shoulders, their bayonets flashing in the sun. There were cheers, screams, shouts. Confetti and streamers swirled in the air. Some people were crying — bystanders and troops alike. I clung hard to my father’s hand as I watched the tears running down the soldiers’ massive faces. They had so many leis around their necks they were like immense ruffs and the tears fell into the flowers.

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