10 Must-See Destinations In South Pacific

It was their first night of 10. Although Ian was well able to take her to Umbria, St Petersburg, Sardinia, the resort had come second on the magazine’s list of “100 must-see destinations – South Pacific”, and although generally it was Frances’ habit to avoid anything given five stars by others, as its editor she had been offered the trip on famil. The timing was right, Ian declared himself “amenable to it” and, most appealing, it required no planning on her part.

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And the island was beautiful. Of course it was. Beyond the terrace, the gently shifting sea ran knee-deep for miles. Further off, a reef held back the surging blue-black of the open ocean, nearly invisible now under a darkening sky. Inside the bay, the colour of the water had twice compelled her to use the word azure, even though Frances was known to colleagues as the most strident opponent of cliché. Freelancers had been quietly decommissioned for a single use of “winter warmers”, anything “of a lifetime”.

In spite of it all, the sultry air, the fragrance of gardenias, the rustle of palm fronds overhead, Frances felt restless and ill-content. In truth, her spirits had sagged on the day of the wedding and, despite considerable mental exertion on her part, so far she had been unable to revive them. But how much she needed this to work. How much she couldn’t fail at it again. How tired she was.

Ian offered a sample from his plate and she accepted it wordlessly. The fish was thick and sweet, and coated her gums as she chewed. If she thought about it, this existential decline began the moment she entered the marriage chapel. A moment of dizziness, a plummeting sensation in her bowels came and went as she started up the short aisle on nobody’s arm. You could not be given away at 41 when the job had already been done at 23.

It had been her idea in the planning stages to have only their children, six between them, and a good friend each in attendance. It seemed to befit the mature nature of their relationship to underplay the whole thing, to hold it late on a Friday afternoon, with dinner at a good restaurant afterwards. “We just thought, why not?” she’d heard Ian tell someone on the phone and it felt exactly right. Why not?

Without question, it would be in a registry office. Although neither were religious, Frances’ enthusiasm for a civil service was in greater part based on the fact that Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell had wed in the Old Marylebone Town Hall and were the only exemplars of happy second and third marriages she could think of. But when she went to put in their deposit, the building was so municipal in feel, Frances felt you could marry, then apply for a parking permit on the way out. So, Ian’s old school chapel instead. A pleasant sandstone building that, mercifully, had fewer than a dozen rows, facing inwards along a marble aisle.

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