Tuesday, 30 June 2020

My Arrival in Fiji

Now I never really thought I had a particularly strange name. Unusual, yes, I knew that. But not strange.
Of course, some people get my name wrong just because it is unusual. I’ve been called “Bob” more times than I can remember. “Bose” is another favourite. An Italian friend insists on calling me “Boroo”. And when I went to Germany on business I was called “Bopsy”, but that might have been a joke because everyone at the meeting giggled.
Not until I came to Fiji did my name actually cause me any problems.
Like most people coming to Fiji, I arrived at Nadi Airport. I came in around dusk on Air Pacific and had been travelling for over 20 hours. I was tired, very tired. Knowing this was likely to be the case, I had a hotel room booked so I would not have to face anything too complicated on arrival. Get a taxi and head for the hotel. Then a quick bath and straight to sleep. Lovely! I’d leave finding the company flat in Suva until tomorrow. It could wait.
Like so many others, I made my way to the immigration hall, had my passport stamped and declared that I had no prohibited animal products in my luggage. Then I slipped past the white, glass-panelled doors and grabbed my luggage from the carrousel. After again assuring a smartly uniformed guard that I had no honey, meat or bonemeal in my suitcase, I emerged into the crowded arrivals lounge.
People swirled around the stark hall in an endlessly shifting pattern. Some walked with determined strides to where they were going. Others wandered about looking for family or friends. One elderly lady in a sari sat on her suitcase regarding everyone around her with complete disdain - including me.
That was when I saw my taxi driver. Very nice of the hotel to send a man to collect me, I thought. And a very smart taxi driver he was too. Dressed in the bright blue and red shirt which forms the uniform of Tulip Travel, he stood watching the passengers as we drifted out of the luggage reclaim room. In his hand he held a sign reading:
“Collecting Mr Bobo Worth”
It was fairly close. I’ve certainly been called by many names over the years. And I have seen my name written in a variety of ways. When you read them out they always sound pretty much like my name. This was close. I’d been told the Fijians were reliable. Excellent.
“Here I am,” I told the driver. “Beau Bosworth”.
The driver smiled broadly. “Bula,” he said. “Nice to meet you Mr Bosworth. I am here to collect Mr Worth.”
The young man had a small badge pinned to his chest telling me his name was Sanjay. “That’s right, Sanjay,” I smiled back. “That’s me. People always get my name wrong. Beau Bosworth - Bobo Worth. Same thing. See?”
Sanjay grinned again. He pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket and looked at it. He frowned. Then he smiled. “OK” he said. “No worries. You follow me, yes?”
Within minutes my suitcase was safely stashed in Sanjay’s car and we were off. The car glided past the long lines of people queuing to get into the airport’s departure area, past a clump of palm trees and out of the airport.
“Are you tired?” asked Sanjay.
I agreed that I was, almost too tired to do more than nod my agreement.
“It’s not far,” Sanjay said. “We at Tulip Travel look after our travellers. You need a nice room. This hotel has very nice rooms.”
I nodded again and peered out of the car window. It was almost dark now but I could see the shapes of tall trees gliding past and, every now and then, a brightly lit shop or house. Everyone seemed to be having a good time chatting to each other. I was, I thought, going to enjoy my time in Fiji.
Sanjay was still talking. “And if you want to go anywhere, you just ask for Tulip Travel. We have a man in your hotel. His name is Dhani. He is a very helpful man. We can take you anywhere. And at Tulip Travel we have guides to show you round Nadi or Suva.” Perhaps I looked uninterested - I was tired. “Or you might want to see the animals,” continued Sanjay hopefully. “Many people like the forest. Tulip Travel can take you to the forest. We have a very clever man who knows where the animals live. He will show you. Oh. Here we are.”
The car glided smoothly off the road along a short drive. As soon as the car stopped in front of a welcoming doorway, Sanjay was out of his door. He had my luggage out in a second and was smiling at me. “Here we are,” he declared. Then he pointed past the approaching member of hotel staff to an empty desk set against a wall. “That is the Tulip Travel desk. Dhani is not here. He will be here tomorrow. You ask him anything. Tulip Travel are always going to help.”
Well, Sanjay had certainly been helpful. I slipped him a few coins and thanked him.
He grinned. “You ask for Sanjay. I look after you. Yes?”
I nodded as my suitcase was expertly whisked off on a trolley by the hotel porter. I followed him to the reception desk and gave the woman on duty my name. She tapped expertly on a keyboard and studied her computer screen. She frowned and tapped some more.
The woman looked up at me. “I am sorry Mr Bosworth. You have no room booked here at the Domain Hotel.”
It was not what I needed. I needed a hot bath and a soft bed. I fished about in my jacket pocket and pulled out the slip of paper confirming my booking. I held it out to the receptionist.
“Here,” I said. “I confirmed the room by email before I set out. Here is your reply.”
The receptionist took the sheet of paper and studied it. Then she tapped on her computer again. Suddenly I realised what had happened. They must have me down as Mr Bob Worth, just like Sanjay did. That would explain it. “Try looking under ‘Worth’”, I said helpfully. “Sometimes people spell my name wrong.”
The receptionist smiled at me and went back to her keyboard and my sheet of paper. She tapped some more. She nodded. She frowned. She looked at me. She said something to the porter in Fijian, which I did not understand. He laughed and wandered off through a door leaving my suitcase looking rather lonely in the middle of the entrance hall. I was beginning to feel lonely as well. The receptionist tapped some more. Finally she looked up.
“Now I understand,” she said. “This is the Domain Hotel, part of the Tapoa Group of Hotels.” She looked at me as if this was going to mean something. It didn’t, of course, because I was almost asleep and wanted my room. She realised that she was going to have to explain more. “You are Mr Bosworth. You have a room booked at the Nadi Sun Hotel, also a part of the Tapoa Group of Hotels. Vilimoni will drive you there. It is not far.”
Even as she spoke the porter came back carrying a bunch of keys. He took hold of the trolley and began pushing it towards the front doors. I turned to follow him, eager to get to my hotel.
“Oh yes,” I heard the receptionist say. “Mr Beau Bosworth, a room at the Nadi Sun. Here it is on the computer. It is Mr Bob Worth who has the room here at the Domain. I wonder where he is.”
And that was when I realised what I had done. I had been so convinced that Sanjay had got my name wrong that I had not stopped to think. I suppose it was because I was tired. While I was being whisked off to my wonderful hotel room there was a Mr Worth standing around at Nadi Airport looking for his taxi.
I knew I should tell Vilimoni the porter to go to the airport to collect Mr Worth, but right now I needed a bath. I’d tell him when we got to the Nadi Sun. I hoped Mr Worth would see the funny side.
Well, perhaps.

Note that this is a fictional short story written for a newspaper in Fiji.

The Cog - a medieval ship

A cog, the type of ship used most widely in northern waters during the 14th Century. The ship was primarily a merchant vessel which had a large hold to carry cargo and needed only a relatively small crew to operate. In times of war these ships were fitted with temporary platforms at bow and stern, as here, from which armed men could gain the advantage of height over those on the decks of enemy ships.

RAF No.105 Squadron re-equips for war

Back in Britain, the squadrons that had survived the German invasion of France in 1940 was reformed as 2 Group, Bomber Command. The Group formally came into being on 18 June, but nobody seriously expected it to be operational for some time to come. The experience of one squadron, No.105, was typical of the Group. The squadron had lost all its Fairey Battles in France and was sent to Honnington, though it took some time before all the surviving personnel had turned up. On 27 June the 10 surviving pilots were sent to Bicester to be trained on flying a new aircraft, the Blenheim MkIV.

By the time the pilots had finished their course, the squadron had been moved to Watton and 16 Blenheims had been flown in by delivery pilots. Only three air gunners had survived France in a fit state to fly, so desperate pleas were sent up to Group to ask for more. By 27 July the squadron was up to strength regarding aircrew, though most of them were straight from training units, but was still short of ground staff. The squadron also lacked parachutes, maps and other equipment.

Meanwhile the squadron received a Battle aircraft. The bomber was not intended for operations, but to tow targets at which the new air gunners could practise shooting. Training was to be the new role of the Battles. Some towed targets, others were fitted with dual controls for pilot training or had gun turrets fitted so that gunners could use them as a platform. They were not to see combat again, which was probably just as well.

Bombing practice began in the last week of July, with dummy bombs being dropped on targets laid out on nearby Wainfleet Sands. The squadron had been told that it was earmarked for low-level precision bombing raids, so that is what was practised. Night flying was not something that No.105 had done much of, so it was decided that some practice was in order. Mist coming in off the North Sea to cover the airfield caused all attempts to be cancelled.

On 4 August the squadron took off fully armed and bombed to take part in a joint exercise with the army. The Blenheims of No.105 Squadron were to carry out a practise attack on a column of armour travelling from Corbridge to Risdale in Northumberland, while the tank crew were to practise defence against air attack. The mission was judged a success. On 7 August, barely seven weeks after reforming back in Britain, the squadron was declared operational. No.2 Group had actually gone officially operational on 12 July, though at the time none of its component squadrons had been ready for combat.