September already – 3 more months and then its Christmas – time slips away so fast when you’re in your late sixties – although I said that when I was in my fifties, forties etc! The 2018 Hibiscus Mother of All Festivals came and went and I didn’t even know it was on. At one stage the Hibiscus Festival was one of fun, good times, rides and fairy floss at Albert Park with the large lit hibiscus beckoning us to come and enjoy! The much looked forward to float parade, back then with magnificent structures on the back of trucks that absolutely blew us away, especially when it turned the corner to face you on the street, it was like the movies coming alive in front of you. The queens were beautiful and smart. I’ve not watched one for a number of years but from the pictures in the media, coconut draped trucks with dreary looking staff walking beside them and music blaring from a sound system is just about it. Have not heard the interviews with the contestants but from what I see from comments on social media, God bless them and I just hope they enjoyed the week. From those who attempted to go to Nasinu to see what was happening, the verdict has mostly been – they can keep it there! Looking back at some of my past columns I’ve noticed that I’ve complained a lot about services and road manners in Fiji which makes me seem like a fulltime whinger, but alas life goes on and am surprised that a few readers agree but are just not bothered to complain or take matters further because it goes nowhere. That’s sad. So I will continue to whinge my little $2 worth in my columns and immortalise all those whinges in ink and one day someone will say - “Oh yes I remember Bernadette writing about that some years back – and dang if it’s still not changed!” So this month is no exception. I had the misfortune to spend the night at what was once one of our leading hotels in Nadi – near the airport and part of an international chain of well known brand hotels. I officiated at the opening some years back as the Minister for Tourism, when it was refurbished and joined the hotel chain, and it was really quite nice. I have also stayed there during workshops in the past so many years, but was unpleasantly surprised to check in at the quiet reception area blaring with the most horrendous country and western music, and rooms not ready despite it being 2pm. What’s happened to our melodious island instrumental background music? Shown to another part of the hotel, the room was dark, the shower was in a small bathtub, the beds had seen and felt better days and at night you could barely see where you were going along the gloomy corridors. It was only one night so it was not much of a sacrifice, however the next day when we checked out and gathered what we thought were all our belongings, I realised when I got to Suva that I left my toothbrush and a bar of soap in the bath and a precious pearl earring that must have slipped to the back of the bedside table when I placed all my jewellery there the night before. I rang back to the hotel reception area to see if Housekeeping had reported it and after several phone calls was assured that I left nothing in the room – not even the soap and toothbrush. Sad, wages must be so bad in the hotel industry that staff take what is left behind by paying guests – and the amount I paid to stay there was equivalent to what I pay in Shanghai in a five star hotel of the same chain. I know that the exorbitant taxes that hotels pay to operate in Fiji is killing them, but honesty doesn’t cost money, nor a nice smile and mellow music in the background. Yikes, have since found out that local music copyright fees are also high – so I guess it’s back to that awful C&W music and me avoiding that hotel forever. I think there are so many people looking for jobs these days that companies don’t bother to train their staff, knowing their shelf life is quite short, especially those working in retail. Customer service manners are excruciatingly painful and misguided – I’ll never forget the little lass who charged me nearly $19 for a small bundle of dhania at our local supermarket here in Flagstaff. What was supposed to be $2.39, Miss Puss counted every root and charged me $2.39 per root! Some of these staff are really unique and beyond comprehension. Now the very same individuals are using my front nature strip outside of my fence as their lunchtime rendezvous to eat take away meals and smoke – not to mention lying on the driveway for a nap! It is OHS non compliant if their company does not provide sufficient space for staff to take their breaks and whilst I know smoking is not allowed on company premises, don’t come and smoke outside and leave your empty cigarette and match boxes lying around! Last week I kindly asked to take their photos to show their company director how sad it was that they had to come and use my front area to eat and smoke and its funny they haven’t returned since. Did you know that when you get a parking fine of $10 in Suva, you have to pay the Suva City Council? I was fined in July and went to pay the LTA who issued me my receipt. Lo and behold I received a registered letter last week informing me I had not paid my fine. I rang the Council and was told that I had to now pay the Council in Suva and the LTA should not have taken my money and that was that. Yikes – what happens now? The left hand knows not what the right hand is doing and that seems to be way things are these days. Carpe Diem. Yet life goes on and there is nowhere I’d rather be than in Fiji, yes sirree! I love the Hindu and Muslim religious festivals that embrace all races in their celebrations after prayers. Last month was no different and I just loved the drumming and dancing, colours and joy of those taking part. Well known business personalities and professionals with housewives and youth join in with such zeal, waving and enjoying seeing friends greeting them from the side. I know the Sangam organisation celebrated last month and it was an absolute pleasure to see the joy in their participation. I so look forward to joining close family friends for Diwali and Prophet Mohamed’s birthday in November – a tradition for us over the years in celebrating with our neighbours and families, with the reciprocation of gifts at Christmas. Have a wonderful month and stay safe and well and be good to each other. Pax Vitia.