I love to get dressed up and I like to eat sweets, I mean really who doesn’t? Over the last two weeks we’ve had ample opportunity to do both as we’ve taken part in a multicultural trifecta of events here in Fiji.
First there was Diwali, a Hindu holiday that is in October/November each year. Known as the Festival of Lights it is a celebration of the triumphs of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair, well that’s what Wikipedia likes to think. Having been around for a couple Diwali’s now and having asked several people what it is all about the standard answer is “visiting your neighbours, eating sweets and lighting fireworks.” Of course to do all this requires a fancy dress, preferably new and covered with sparkles as every holiday dress should be. Never one to turn down an outfit with sparkles on it, and Steve rather keen on the fireworks side of things, it is a holiday that we both enjoy taking part in. Of course we stopped at our favourite Indian restaurant in Lautoka town and picked up a bag of barfi, a decadent Indian sweet sort of like fudge but spiced with cardamon, coconut, pineapple and a myriad of other exotic flavours. Happily this year Diwali also fell on a Thursday, or as it is known around the marina Thirsty Thursday, so we enjoyed cheap happy hour drinks before finding our way home in the dark and setting our fireworks booty alight. Everything went off with the appropriate bangs, and only a few of the cheaply made Chinese fireworks decided to shoot exploding flaming balls off in all directions instead of just skyward.
Note to self; If quality control doesn’t catch spelling errors perhaps you should rethink your fireworks purchase.
The following week was Hallowe’en, a personal favourite of mine. Growing up in Canada I have fond memories of Trick or Treating with my brother’s and sister on blustery moonless nights, the leaves making shadows under the occasional street lights as they swirled around in the wind. We made Molasses Pull Taffy to give out and Bobbed for Apples at our house. Mrs.Saunier made the best candy apples ever and the house way down the road by the beach gave out full sized cans of Coke, if we dared walking the long unlit stretch on the mainroad. It sounds idyllic, I know, but it was the early 80’s when people weren’t afraid that the little old lady next door was trying to kill all the neighbourhood children with her baked goods.
But Hallowe’en was really all about the pumpkin; choosing just the right one, gathering around the kitchen table to carve it, roasting the seeds for snacks and finally, when it was dark enough, lighting the candle inside and admiring our Jack-O-Lantern creation. The sweet smell of the charred pumpkin at the end of the night is still one of my favourite fall aromas. And it, above all others, is the tradition that I keep alive to celebrate Hallowe’en today. Every year we hold the annual Pumpkin Carve Off on board, and this year was no exception.
We decided to invite Jim over, the owner of the boat that has shared this little corner of the yard with us all winter, making sure he understood the rules; it is BYOP event, and costumes are mandatory. Since this is the tropics, and creativity is always encouraged on Kate, when Jim wandered over with a tee shirt over his head, a power saw in his hand and a pineapple under his arm we welcomed him with smiles.
The Carve Off was a success, topped only by the delicious pizzas made by Steve, which we enjoyed by the flickering light of our funny group of Jack-O-Lanterns.
Just about evented out we still had one long awaited activity to get ready for; The Melbourne Cup.
Touted as the “Race that stops the nation” the famous horse race takes place on the first Tuesday of November and is fast becoming a highlight of my year. Is is fun to watch the race unfold (and put a few bets on the nags, as they say in Australia) but it is the hats that the woman wear to the race that really steal the show. In fact there is Fashion Parade and Best Hat competition at Flemington Racecourse before the race is run.
We decided to go next door to First Landing Resort to enjoy the festivities, the Manager is Australian and she always puts on a bit of a do; all afternoon drink specials, plates of hors d’oeuvres, decorations and she usually runs some sweepstakes (basically an in-house way to bet where you pay to randomly draw a horse name out of the hat and the winner gets the total monies collected).
I had toyed with the idea of buying a fascinator (that’s what they call the hairband/sculpture/ oddity that women perch on the their heads in lieu of a traditionally shaped hat) when we were in Australia but couldn’t see the sense in spending $25 for a little frilly thing that I would only wear for a few hours. So I did what I have done for the last couple years and made one myself. Steve raided the gardens around the Marina for me and with the help of some electrical tape and a two dollar headband I concocted a fascinator that better reflected where we were celebrating the Cup.
We didn’t end up winning any money, in fact since we didn’t rush into Lautoka and put a real bet on at the bookies we probably saved ourselves a couple bucks. But I did end up winning Best Hat and got myself a free fancy rum cocktail for the efforts. We had a great afternoon watching the races together, so I guess you could say we did come out on top.