Gerald Sheehy longs for the sound of children squabbling.
I never for a moment thought that I would miss the sound of holidaying, Australian mothers yelling at their children, in their harshest accent, "Esk ya bloody farva!" But I did — my god, how I did.
My darling wife, Bad Jelly, and I had just made what is surely one of the worst booking mistakes in a life full of travel . We had booked ourselves into an adults-only resort on Denarau Island, in Fiji. And yes, I admit: It was my mistake.
We had just spent a few days at the wonderful wedding of a good friend's son, at Musket Cove, and had decided to take some extra time on the main island. "I am tired," I told her. "Find somewhere I can just vegetate quietly by the pool with a good book in complete, uninterrupted silence." She did.
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As soon as we arrived at the resort I recognised my error. (I am good at that, despite Bad Jelly's efforts to get in first and point them out to me.) This was possibly the only resort in the whole South Pacific where our arrival actually lowered the average age.
As my mind wandered from the check-in ritual (why can't hotels have an easy gate too?) and I looked out the reception door, my heart sank. There, surrounding the pool, were rows and rows of ageing bodies, jammed, like sardines, side by side in individual cabanas, with all the occupants vegetating as if it were an art form.
I wanted to scream "I AM NOT OLD ENOUGH FOR THIS!", but instead I compliantly filled in forms like a new prison inmate, handed over the credit card and slunk off to my room, decidedly miserable. Over and over again, I kept thinking: "This is what you asked for. She booked what you asked for, make the most of it."
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A quick trip poolside, where the maitre d' hands you a towel, sunscreen and water, before showing you to your allocated lounger, was enough to finish me off. Watching all the guests tentatively lower themselves into the water had me momentarily wondering whether we were in Fiji or somehow ended up in Lourdes. I decided it was all too hot, too close and too nice. Which left me dwelling on an old saying I once heard: "Lay me flat in a tin can and cover me in oil."
That's when the longing started. I longed for the sounds of children squabbling, of water fights in the pool and, dare I say it, I was desperate to hear the terrible yelling and invasive noise that comes with public displays of guests engaging in aqua-aerobics.
Most of all I wanted to hear a corporate father give up on his attempt at bonding and yell: "How the hell would I know. Ask ya bloody muvva!" I didn't have to be part of it, I just wanted to hear the sounds of young life.
I spent the next few days feeling sorry for myself, uncharacteristically avoiding the free breakfasts and even the free happy hour, until I suddenly realised that we were not the worst off. We were not the ones who had made the biggest mistake. There at the corner table was a beautiful, young, honeymooning couple, staring into each other's eyes and holding hands across the table, but completely oblivious to the reality that their adults-only resort, was little more than an expensive, tropical retirement village.