Saturday, 22 December 2012

Sleepless in Suva

The tale of our encounter with Cyclone Evan starts with Mummy Cat pooing and meowing outside of our bedroom door in the wee hours of Monday morning. I guess that her agitated behaviour was due to the drop in barometric pressure or some such animal-ESP type thing. Anyway, once the hallway was cleaned, she continued to mewl. John put a pillow over his head to drown her out. Eventually I dropped off and woke a little while later to no noise except the growing wind and driving rain. I got up to check on Mummy Cat and couldn't find either her or the kittens in the house, but assumed that they must have found somewhere clever to hide. As I turned to go back up stairs, I was horrified to hear a kitten squeaking outside.

There was poor little Reg, wet and shivering, sitting outside on the front lawn all on his own. Mummy Cat, I assume, was trying to show the kittens how to survive in the bush during a storm. Reg, having shimmied through a torn window screen, had thought better of it once outside. After calling for them for a minute of two, Mummy Cat and Khali raced back out of the bush into the house. They did not try to get outside again for the duration.

So there I was, up at the crack of dawn, the weather worsening. There was nothing for it but to make scones for breakfast. We Skyped with the children and family in the UK, taking the iPad outside to show them the wind rattled trees which at the time didn’t look very impressive. Coming back into the house, we discovered the first casualty of the storm – the kittens had eaten my scones.

For most of the day, it was blowing a gale rather than hurricane force winds. We took garden chairs out to our covered garage and watched two trees nearly come down (from a safe distance). One was absolutely fascinating. First the ground heaved around the base during each gust, then a crack appeared in the lawn, then eventually you could see long strands of thick roots being pulled out of the ground as the gusts got stronger. The tree still stands, but rests at an angle against the fence. I guess it will have to be chopped down. Pity after such a tenacious struggle. The other was a lovely Royal Palm, which now rests askew on the tree next to it.

One of the victims of the storm (the tree on the right, not me on the left)

Eventually, when we were actually a little chilly, we came inside, had hot showers, got comfy on the sofa and started to watch an episode of Rome (which is excellent, by the way). Halfway through it we lost power, so we resorted to playing games (Yahtzee and cribbage) and made pizza. In the evening it began to calm down so we relaxed a little, thinking that the worst of it was over. Then BAM - the wind picked up to what appeared to be hurricane force winds, the rain being blasted into the windows in a weird high-power mist.

Cyclone pizza - note that I am not drinking so that I can keeps my wits about me. No comment about John.

One of the nice things about being married for such a long time is that we often think the same thing at the same time. We didn’t waste any time discussing it, we just went downstairs and began to get the linen cupboard ready for occupation. Think Harry Potter’s room under the stairs but with an eye-watering aroma of mothballs. We provisioned it with the cat carrier (without cats) and a bottle of water and sat around for a bit, wondering if it was bad enough to take cover. Again, the wind started to calm down a bit and exhausted, we went to bed. John was snoring instantly (he put in earplugs), but I was up and down most of the night dreaming strange dreams when I did sleep.

We woke up to strong wind and some rain, but the worst of it was over. We had banana pancakes and wandered about the campus taking pictures of what little damage had occurred. Our side of the island got off lightly compared to other side, though amazingly there have been no reported casualties so far. Around lunch time the power came on (we never lost water) and we spend the rest of the day laying about in a languid state watching Rome (we nearly jumped out of our skin when we turned the telly on – we’d had it so loud the day before in the storm), napping and finally drinking a bottle of post-Evan champagne outside with the sky turning the most amazing colours.

The university bure with fetchingly placed downed palm tree.

It appeared we’d got off lightly. Then on Wednesday lunchtime we lost water and power and it is Friday lunchtime and the power company is still not giving us any indication of when things will be back to normal. Living in the tropics with all modern accouterments is exhausting. Living in the tropics without so much as a refrigerator or a ceiling fan during the night is hell. Last night (2nd power-free night) I struggled to rouse myself when I realised I was sleeping with my eyes open. It’s so still that the occasional drip of water off of the roof and onto the barbeque sounds like cymbals being clashed.

And the really bizarre thing is that it’s nearly Christmas! It has never seemed less like Christmas in my entire life. I am so sad, thinking about the children being so far away, with some pretender renting our house, sitting in front of our fire, gazing at our views across the River Tyne. John, however, seems more sanguine as demonstrated by this exchange last night at a waterside bar while having a beer:

Me: I miss the children.
Him: (Silence)
Me: The kittens just aren't a satisfactory substitute.
Him: Oh, I thought you were referring to the kittens in the first place.

So despite the mental solidarity honed by over twenty years of marriage, sometimes we are planets apart.


  1. Great blog. The last bit made me laugh out loud!Paul and I have a telepathy, too. Last night at around 21:30 p looked up
    p: I really want some...
    c: It's too late.
    p: You are quite right...
    c: We can have it tomorrow.
    R looked very puzzled until I said as explanation 'apple crumble'.
    Merry Christmas x

    1. That's very, very funny. I miss you guys and owe you a very long email!

  2. very well written blog .... great insights into fiji, with great personal touches ... regards from chris, australia