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As the tropical sun grew tired of being uncomfortably hot for the day, which was normally around 4.00pm, Mother, along with my sister and I in tow, would make our way to the end of an old ‘rickety’ wooden pier that was located on a peaceful deserted beach, not far from the family home. Here we would sit in a carefree manner, shoes off … three pairs of feet dangling over the edge of gnarled, aging timbers.

At the end of a busy day, this was a welcome retreat for mother, who would receive no end of pleasure waiting patiently with a nylon fishing line in hand … for at least ONE bite! If nothing eventuated, it didn’t really matter, as it was still pleasant for her to sit and ponder, even though the sun-dried planks on which we sat continued to reek strongly of a previous catch and a scattering of dry fish scales. During the course of the afternoon, an inquisitive seagull or two would drop by to settle on a railing, hoping for a tasty morsel. The cooling breeze on her face, coupled with the sound of the water lapping gently against the barnacle-encrusted wooden pylons below, made mother thankful to be out of the house for a while, now that the heat of the day wasn’t so oppressive.

A quick bite alerted her attention. However, she was disappointed to see that a large eel had entangled itself around the line. It was useless trying to struggle with the slimy creature, so she simply allowed it … and her line … to disappear forever into the shadowy depths.

My sister and I, meanwhile, heard noises and we caught sight of a group of children playing at the water’s edge beneath the pier. As they were from a nearby native village, we would quite often meet up and play games with them on the seashore. Up until that moment, we had done nothing except watch mother fish, which eventually became tiresome, so with her permission, we ran excitedly towards the beach. “Quietly please children, you’ll frighten all the fish away!” we heard mother call, but her request fell on deaf ears.

The late afternoon sun had begun to settle and as it disappeared behind a large copse of trees, lengthy shadows replaced what were once warm rays of sunshine. Meanwhile, John, the elder of the five children, had taken charge of a search for tiny crustaceans which we simply called ‘tortoiseshells’. As the water receded gently from the shoreline, the creatures would scamper away and quickly burrow into the wet sand, desperately trying to flee from mischievous hands. However, the ones that didn’t escape, ended up in a pail of fresh water, which humanely put them ‘to sleep’. Our reward, even though ‘the hunt’ was no more than an exercise in fun and laughter, were tiny juicy morsels that had been cooked very quickly in a pot of boiling water over a small camp fire further up the beach. Walking in our direction along the water’s edge was mother, who had been to the house to prepare a tray of extra refreshments, which included a pile of sandwiches and a large jug of ice cold drinking chocolate. There certainly wouldn’t be any dinner for US tonight!

It had been a breathtaking afternoon and upon our return to the house, we took a detour via the native village. As we drew closer to a large well-trodden clearing, white palls of fragrant wood smoke rose lazily into the cool twilight air. Amidst a number of thatched houses constructed on wooden stilts, glowing embers which surrounded a large, bubbling cauldron of food, silhouetted a group of women as they prepared the evening meal. Even though we had eaten only minutes before, we found the fresh aroma of fish, yams and rice quite mouth-watering! At that, mother promptly urged us to say 'marum' (goodnight) until the following day, when we would have the chance to play with our friends once again. Life in Papua New Guinea was wonderful!

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