Volume 6 part 030 Hula Hula
Josephine came to the UK for her summer holidays accompanied by Carle, Allesandro and baby Alex. I still drove the drab dark Blue Disco II and with the aid of a hired roof rack gave enough seats for the six of us to do the pick-up from Stansted and a spot of UK touring during their stay. We chose the Lake District for a long weekend stopping off in Ambleside for the night at a curious hotel which frowned upon babies in the Restaurant. The Italians ate in shifts while one of the party paraded around a courtyard pushing a pram. Peter came along for the ride making up the 7th passenger along with baby JR, Stella. An overlong trip on a ferry around Windermere wasted most of a day made memorable only for a deranged sprog out with his grandparents who developed a need to follow us around the boat, discovering us hidden in a bar area shrugging off being told to piss-off with the immortal words “that don’t work with me!” clinging onto out table like a limpet. The grandparents came to our rescue hauling him off to plague another couple with a dog.
We nearly lost a suitcase on the way back to Stansted stopping in a lay-by to re-strap the roof rack. A planned sight-seeing stop-over in Cambridge nearly came a cropper when we realised that it might not be a good idea to leave the Landrover unattended when topped off with enough luggage to fill a camel train. Bubble volunteered to stand watch falling asleep before the rest of us had crossed the road heading for the town centre. We walked and lunched returning some 3 hours later to find the car and night-watchman intact.
The cycle of spring in the Canaries and somewhere else in autumn followed by Christmas in a van driving over the Alps to Italy had been severed with the death of Enzo in Spring of 2003. Joe thought it best not to be in England for that first Christmas without her husband.
Following the funeral Bubble and I agreed that if Joe came to England for Christmas 2003 we would do something a little special. I envisaged a surprise week-end in Paris or maybe Edinburgh for the New Year. Bubble took a taxi into Matlock and at the local travel agency she had used over some twenty years, booked a weeks’ vacation for five in Hawaii!
Having done the “LA-San Fran’-Hawaii” triangle with Walter whilst still living at the Crown Hotel she held onto an ambition to return to the Island someday. Joe and Elena needed a surprise. Syb now had Walter’s cash. I collected a brand new pale blue Discovery Mark III the day before Joe and Elena arrived by air from Italy. Two days later the five of us, Bubble, Pete, Joe, Elena and me were off to Heathrow. We stayed the night at the Ramada where the porter, recognising the very newness of the Landrover, parked it prominently, under the main entrance canopy for the duration of our week in Hawaii.
Checked-in bright and early, all went to plan for a 10.00am flight to Honolulu via Los Angles. Two hours after boarding the aeroplane awaiting a departure notice, the flight was cancelled due to a security threat to a BA flight to Bahrain parked on the adjacent stand. Baggage reclaim was the start of a five hour queue for rearranging flights and a further overnight stay in London courtesy of American Airlines. The replacement flight was via San Francisco due to a shortage of seats between Honolulu and LA over the holiday period.
A coach took us to a hotel immediately opposite the Ramada where a Pale Blue Metallic Disco still adorned their main entrance canopy separated from us by a dual carriageway. The valet parking had been true to their word.
We had arrived at the new hotel too late for complimentary packed lunches and too early for complimentary dinner. We dined a’la’carte, slept well and at five in the morning joined a two-hundred-meter queue snaking around the hotel lobby for coaches back to Terminal three.
Thank-you Mr Shepherd!
Mr Shepherd had the forethought to book a private mini-bus. Unfortunately Mr Shepherd didn’t leap forward when his name was called and, by coincidence, being within ear shot I took up the offer. With the total abandonment of social protocol, the five of us plus full luggage allowance stormed the Renault people-carrier and before Mr Shepherd could throw himself under the front wheels to reclaim his taxi we were off into the night. Reassuring the driver with a five pound note he accepted that his office must have misheard the booking and dutifully diverted to T3. Apparently Mr Shepherd, accompanied by his wife and three children were leaving from T2 and judging by the static being spat from the CB radio was quite pissed off that his car had been hijacked.
Departure went without a hitch. After an eleven-hour flight we begrudgingly enjoyed a four-hour stop-over in San-Francisco during which Elena almost managed to lose her lunch by taking an uninvited side swipe at Pete’s margarita. Her tongue had hit the glass with the agility of a tree lizard swatting flies! The irresistible, beautifully presented glass, glistening with a rim of sugar crystals was, in fact – salt. Maybe next time she’ll ask. We arrived in Honolulu exhausted, in no mood to be kept waiting for the transfer bus wrapped in garlands of wilting flowers, OR NOT! Elena’s face was still sucking lemons induced from attacking the Margarita.
No one at the Hotel appeared to know that we were coming and no one had acknowledged the telephone messages left to confirm our delayed departure. After a twenty nine hour journey over a forty eight hour period none of us, and me least of all, were in the frame of mind for a debate!
The unexpected “benefit” of arriving on holiday, almost exactly a day late is that the Hawaiian Hilton Village reallocate your room! Fortunately, after acknowledging their mistake, having been telephoned twice from Heathrow once from the travel agents in Matlock and three times by American Airlines, we were awarded complimentary upgrades. Being located in separate towers was an added bonus. Ma, Joe and Elena were given a suite on the 29th floor of the Tapa tower whilst Pete and I were on the 23rd floor of the executive, Kahlia Tower complete with complimentary, lounges and a free bar. Regrettably, neither of the two suites featured sea views but the ocean vista from our breakfast room would more than have compensated had we actually taken breakfast.
The penguin pond was larger than the hotel swimming pool. Why they keep penguins, in a pool in the middle of a Hawaiian Hilton Hotel defies all reason.
We found a restaurant by the beach that became our base for daily brunch after pegging out a stake of sand equidistant between the “lagoon bar” and the brunch house. Pete, goading Elena that she must be on her period as sharks were circling for the kill put the sea out of bounds. Pedal boats may have a shallow draft but with Pete and Elena up font and Joe and I depressing the rear of the catamaran below the water line we successfully succeeded in grounding the vessel on a bank of dead coral. Although being the only one of the four of us to be wearing sandals, Elena flatly refused to get into the water to give us a shove. Pete must have hit the nail on the head. His sense of smell is one of his greatest assets.
At sun-down, each evening we did the local markets whilst, invariably, Pete took his afternoon nap. Elena got her first trip in a stretch “Limo” and acted the part. We invested heavily in Hawaiian shirts and Hawaiian skirts and Hawaiian baggy dresses.
Elena bought a black dress with violent red poppies for an elegant, family, Christmas Eve meal. The restaurant with our table located in an open semi-circular balcony, over sailing an artificial tropical stream was fairly sophisticated but other than for the vaguely German puddings, the food didn’t match up to the surroundings.
An Italian restaurant received a double visit for its good food and air conditioning. The Chinese was a fantastic setting overlooking the ocean with unremarkable food served in remarkable portions. In the French restaurant we couldn’t get served until Pete returned wearing a formal shirt. In his absence our drinks were temporarily confiscated as we were an adult short for the number of alcoholic drinks served. The waiter was clearly concerned that there might be a repetition of the San Francisco Margarita nightmare. Elena was, indeed, on the edge of her seat hovering like a praying Mantis about to pounce. Although the food was noteworthy it was served by overfamiliar staff patently fresh off the boat from the San Francisco “Castro Fish-bar” Peter and I had visited in 2000.
The Indonesian food was something else, and well worth the risk of waiters being so close to your face that you could pick their black-heads. Being close enough to accurately count a server’s nasal hair is truly off putting.
Surf-and-Turf at an “all American” diner delivered all it boasted. Plates the size of dust-bin lids were totally eclipsed by steaks big enough to resurface a bowling green topped with giant mutations disguised as Cray fish smothered in waves of pinkie-cream-sauce deep enough for a foot bath and all sufficient to satisfy the most ravenous appetite. A week of playing referee to the diametrically opposed interests of a disparate family of five is enough to make anyone snap. I snapped. I left the table without any attempt to excavate my glutinous mound of in-edibles.
When we weren’t on tour, Pete and I could be found during the day in the lagoon bar overlooking the beach. Blue Hawaiian’s topped with never ending rings of pineapple, served by a singing waitress reminiscent of something from the “Sound of Music” turn your poo and pee lime green. After confiding with Pete I was relieved to discover that this was a common side-effect of too much pineapple and not a consequence of America’s indiscriminate irradiation of fresh fruit.
We spent Christmas day in a Submarine. Bubble chose not to be press-ganged into the trip due to having to change boats in mid ocean. Before heading for brunch we did the characteristically German thing of reserving sun beds. Towels, books, Tee shirts and flip-flops laid claim to five strategically placed recliners with an all-day exposure to the sun. We had studied precedent from the previous day having not managed to secure a congenial spot when we arrived and necessitating us to stake out the beach instead. Upon returning from breakfast and much to our annoyance, our beds had been over-ran by a South Korean invasion force comprising a mixed family of six. Our personal possessions had been unceremoniously dumped in a random pile on the tarmac. An old-money, American in the adjacent de-militarised zone offered moral support in our territorial claims. Taking advantage of them jumping to their feet, bobbing about like Zebedee on speed with arms and legs flailing in all directions and all the while screeching at us in an incomprehensible dialect we casually reclaimed the beds and refused to move. The crescendo of “Yu wascist” bellowed at an ear piercing high pitched scream elicited the attention of pool security. The assertion that you could not reserve beds by the pool was undermined by half the loungers surrounding the pool being occupied only by beech towels or Jackie Collins novels. Pete put to bed the accusation of being racists by pointing out that a German Grandma had paid for her Italian daughter and niece to holiday with their Gay English Uncle and his boy-friend. How bigoted is that? The six-foot butch lesbian security guard with an overactive trigger finger immediately swung around to our defence without us having to resort to any mention that Pete came from Wathe-on-Dearne or that I had been born in Belper! Our conciliatory offer to let the Koreans use four of the beds whilst we went in a submarine was perfunctorily rejected leaving them to regroup behind a low rockery presumably to plot their counter attack. Perhaps however, the mention of having a submarine for Christmas day had shifted the balance of power in our favour irrevocably. The “old money” American expressed her relief that the invasion of noisy riff-raff had been defeated, promising to keep an eye on Grandma until we returned. No doubt, she had not bargained on Bubbles snoring!
The submarine was a resounding anti-climax. At depth, the otherwise aquamarine sea is very grey. The coral is largely dead. Man-made reefs constructed from scrap metal are little compensation for the absence of sea life. Through tiny port holes, we saw a turtle, a small shark on the sniff for Elena, and on the inside, half a dozen Orientals sat on the next bench face-down in giant boff bags. The Orientals saw nothing except the bottom of the giant boff bags.
Pearl harbour is “a must”. Walter and Syb had done the guided tour in back whenever, and now it was our turn. Pete reluctantly agreed to the Boxing-day afternoon excursion which included a stop-off at the only Royal Palace on United States Territory and a drive through China town. Doing the rounds of hotels to fill a full coach load took longer than the actual tour of the harbour. During one particularly extended wait outside the Sheraton, Pete was persuaded to phone home on the “mobile” to wish his mother a belated “Merry Christmas”. Given the extensive time zone variation they were already half a day closer to New Year in the UK. For the remainder of the passengers on the bus the telephone call was something of a one sided conservation. “It’s Pete…Merry Christmas…no… we are going to see Pearl Harbour… what do you mean you’ve already seen it?…. when did you go with my dad? … Not the film, stupid! I’m in Hawaii, we are going to see the real Pearl Harbour!… Yes the real Hawaii and no!… it wasn’t my idea…” A momentary silence was broken by a bus full of raucous laughter.
A motor launch ferries tourists to the “Arizona”. What everyone needs on Boxing Day is a fun trip to a war grave. All very boring. China town looked interesting at thirty miles an hour. The palace was smaller than the Brighton Pavilion but without the spikey ornamentation. A Giant inflatable Santa seated on an inflatable Polynesian long boat flanked by a tribe of inflatable Polynesian elves provided both interest and sanctuary in the event of a flash flood. The flash flood on the last day of our stay in Honolulu prevented the shopping blitz planned for the repeat trip to China Town.
“Mele kalikimaka” in bright red neonadorned with lime green neon holly leaves spelled out Merry Christmas in Hawaiian. Elena was the only one of us capable of pronouncing the greeting but even more annoyingly, repeat the phrase incessantly for the next five days…
The prospect of a full day’s coach tour around the “big” Island was too much for Pete who bottled out before breakfast. We left him in bed, heading for the north of the island to see the tunnel surf via Magnum PI’s house. There were no Doberman’s or red Ferraris and when we eventually reached the beach the sea was so far away we could only watch the waves from the cliff top. It was chilly, windy and fairly grey, all as Pete had predicted. Forty years of the same trail made the driver a consummate commentator. After enduring a noticeable silence, extending over half an hour the tannoy burst into life by lambasting the entire twelve seater coach party for talking over him whilst he had been in full rant. With the exception of the four fatties from Philadelphia sat immediately behind the driver and droning on with riveting topics as varied as whether you need ketchup on a big Mac, to whether the toiletries in the bathroom were free, the remaining eight of us had been gripped by every tedious utterance in the running commentary from the driver. The four fatties hadn’t listened to a word. We lunched at a sumptuous golf Club somewhere in the mountains giving the “Fatties“ little excuse for raiding a Burger joint whilst the rest of us bought samples of every concoction of Kukui from the native cosmetics outlet. The sales pitch for the lotions and potions, soaps and spreads insinuates that Kukui is nothing less than plastic surgery in a jar. It cures everything from Acne to psoriasis and premature aging to the wrong skin colour!
By the time we arrived at the pineapple farm the driver finally snapped, ordering the fat family to grab a cab for the rest of the journey. Fearing similar exorcism, Joe attempted to politely point out that she, too had been mumbling for the whole day, but as a consequence of having to translate his running commentary into Italian for the benefit of Elena. The fact that Elena was conversing perfectly well with me and Ma in English was not lost on the old Polynesian bus driver who dismissed her protestations with a fixed death stare. At his age, he was unappreciative of unsolicited lessons in Italian! A Buddhist shrine donated by rich Japanese families along with lots of gold-fish ponds rounded off a perfectly drab tour. For the rest of the holiday Pete used his day in solitary as moral blackmail, matched by Bubble slipping a gear into full martyrdom culminating in my explosion at the “Surf and Turf “event at the American Diner.
Lights-out at the “Hilton Village” was about eleven PM. The first sitting for dinner was preferred to give us some time for drinks afterwards on the terrace. Most hotel bars emptied before ten. Safely sent on their way to bed on the twenty-ninth floor it was time for Pete to get his share of the action. Armed with the “Gay Rough Guide to the World” we easily found the gay bar of repute. The “Angel” was reported to be the only gay bar worth visiting. Spread over two floors and two buildings it turned out to be about as exciting as the trip to the “Arizona” and with almost as many corpses to choose from. Sailors lurked in every corner. In this generally, conservative and politely homophobic city the uniforms were a significant clue that these men were not real sailors. The alternative to posing as a “sailor” was to dress straight out of the Boston Branch of Alfred Dunhill. Deck shoes, chino slacks and various pastel shades of cashmere sweaters draped casually over the shoulders of crisp button-down collared cotton shirts without a hint of Hawaiian Tropicana were the order of the day. The ambiance was as dire as the conversation. The company sipped local beer straight from the bottle.
A desk clerk doubling as security at the Tapa Tower advised of a little known gay bar quite close to the hotel. After a number of abortive attempts to give us directions he produced a black long-wheel-base “Lincoln” town car courtesy of the house and a telephone number if we needed a lift home. After a journey that took ages but probably only twenty minutes in heavy, one-way traffic we arrived at a tiny two storey shopping complex surrounding a courtyard centred on a lifeless fountain. The whole thing was a typical Hispanic style stage set designed to attract tourists complete with fake hibiscus and cream stuccoed walls, topped with mock pan-tile roofs. Terracotta stairs, open to the sky took us to a bar located on the first floor gallery. A congenial barman dispensed a couple of large Gin and Tonics. In the gloom there appeared to be a few other customers although as they kept moving it was difficult to carry out a head count. An estimate of four to six would have been a fair guess which explained the barman’s enthusiastic welcome. A creaking door in the side wall flapped open and shut from time to time indicating an interconnection to a place with music. Since San Francisco, dark places held no fear. We ventured out. A narrow bridge link, about 2 meters in length and clad in tennis netting under a corrugated tin roof linked an adjoining building to the bar. Equally dark and equally empty the boom-box disco was as boring as the sleepy bar. Strobe lights picked out the urinals. A beer or two later I was making the return journey through the net clad corridor when it became apparent that the heavens had opened. The sound of torrential rain slapping the courtyard terracotta tiles could be heard above the muffled disco dance music. Pete ventured to the loo to corroborate the downpour. Three double G & T’s later matched by a similar number of trips to the bog and we were still perched on the same stools in the now empty bar. Time to call it a “night”. The fifteen to twenty minutes’ drive to get to the bar would be plenty of time to get soaked if we walked back to the Hilton as planned. Somewhat bemused the barman politely took the Tapa Tower executive card and called for the “car”.
The driver arrived quickly announcing his arrival over the telephone. The barman had no difficulty finding us in a crowd of three. We downed the last G&T in one pulling open the heavy door onto the high level walkway with trepidation before making a dash across the covered terrace in the direction of the open stairs. Contrary to expectation from the sound of the torrential downpour the terracotta steps were perfectly dry. There wasn’t a drop of water to be seen.
Someone had switched on the fountain!
We had spent two hours in a dusky dive waiting for the rain to stop and it wasn’t raining. No wonder the barman looked bemused. On the pavement the chauffeur stood by the rear passenger door obediently waiting for us to alight. Once settled into a soggy excuse for Connelly Hide the Lincoln gracefully pulled into the traffic, crossed the road and came to a graceful halt under the canopy to the Tapa Tower. The driver jumped clear, reopening the rear door beckoning us to disembark. The five dollar tip for the fifteen meter ride undoubtedly reinforced his opinion that some folk must have more cash than sense. The elevator ride to the 23rd floor was sufficient for us to realise that between a one-way system and heavy traffic it takes fifteen to twenty minutes to drive across the dual carriageway between the Hilton and the shopping centre. It takes thirty seconds to do the “U-turn” on the return… but maybe we would truly have lost our way walking back using the underpass… I suppose?
I left the lift pink from embarrassment and not the Gin!
The same driver took us to the airport the following day. I could see him smirking through the rear view mirror. He didn’t get a second tip. We did Champagne at thirty five thousand feet, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean to celebrate the New Year.