Pilgrimages: Memories of Colonial Macau and Hong Kong

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Just a strip of beach and balloon sellers, temples alongside churches, and Indian policemen wearing the uniform of French gendarmes: pure nostalgia. The children of New Zealand and Australia would descend on Fiji for the summer holidays. The constant smiles of our hosts, the newfound friends, impromptu rugby matches on white sand beaches, the dramatic change of pace and the timelessness of the islands was something I looked forward to every year.

The pool was surrounded by pre-war British cannons, with a gorgeous view out to sea. Batu Ferringhi beach was a favourite haunt for jet-skiing before a massive seafood dinner at Gurney Drive. It was a simple time before everything was commercialised. Once you got there it was like Scotland.

Month: November 2018

You could wear a jumper and there was a club and a golf course. There still is. An annual pilgrimage to the industrial north for the Blackpool Illuminations.

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The slow bumper-to-bumper drive down the Golden Mile, the stretch of promenade between the piers that fizzed with multicoloured neon. Lights ricocheted. Padstow, Cornwall. There were windy picnics that blew sand instead of salt onto hardboiled eggs.

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We caught crabs using limpets. Days always ended with boardgames, charades and cards. No summer was complete without taking the Dymchurch to Hythe miniature railway in Kent, stopping off at the spooky funfair where the main attractions used to be a topsy-turvy house straight out of a horror film and a helter skelter slide that was worth the carpet burn and wooden splinters; then off for fish and chips, while being dive-bombed by seagulls.

It was a big old stone house set in rolling countryside. We went with family friends and I remember that their daughter and I wandered around the fields all day. We found a little wooden shed and set up a shop selling pumpkins, vegetables and all sorts of things that I supposed we pilfered from the fields. I also tried to flog a dried lizard in a cereal box. The parents drank wine, we ran around in the sun, and at night bats came in and my dad had to trap them under a sieve.

Celle is a small resort with a seafront spoilt by the cabins and umbrellas of private beaches, as is all too common in Italy. For us as children, however, it was a kind of paradise. The sun was always shining, or so it seemed; the rustic home cooking was always delicious, and the people always warm and welcoming.

Days were spent at the beach mucking around noisily, writing postcards home and waiting for the three-day old English newspapers to be delivered. It felt completely without threat: kids who roamed the streets were civilised, not feral. Gelato would be mandatory and for some reason I settled on the combination of chocolate and lemon. Celle was freedom; a place where enjoying life was natural and relaxation was the default setting.

I treasure the memories of spending long, hot summer days on the shores of the Swan river at Matilda Bay in Perth. It never gets old. Cathay Dragon is launching a route to Niigata, a Japanese region of hot springs, ski slopes and sake.


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