How a one day photography job led to a private island villa construction project

Jan 22, 2023Blurbs

Bluffing your way into a job with a camera and diploma in building with Lego
Bluffing your way into a job with a camera and diploma in building with Lego
Post Tags: Nanuku Levu
Well, here I am back on the web having trashed the old website a few months ago in a fit of exasperation after 3 years of procrastination doing a makeover. A secondary reason for the trashing was to avoid enquiries for photo jobs I couldn’t guarantee availability for, since I’m spending most of my time these days as something of a castaway sitting on a speck of sand about 45km east of Taveuni. So this latest incarnation of Jonny in Fiji will revert back to more personal posts and photos with large doses of self deprecation, cynicism, general rants, humour, and maybe a little creativity.

If you want to check if Google Earth has caught me with my pants down on the beach yet go search for Nanuku Levu Island and get your magnifying glass out – for the island that is, not my appendages.

Now that I’m a pensioner I do need magnifying glasses to see anything closer than 6 feet, mostly my own appendages, and they definitely look better in soft focus anyways. Although they do get further away each day. I guess it’s a race to the bottom – will the eyes deteriorate quicker or slower than the general drift downwards of my testicles. The sand is extremely hot here, so I’m hoping gravity will be the loser before I’m forced to invest in a baby sling.

Yes, indeed – a pensioner. Not a UK state pensioner, HM Gov keep upping the qualifying age closer and closer to death to avoid bankruptcy paying out billions to coffin dodgers, so the odds are shortening on ever getting that, but reaching 55 did mean getting my grubby hands on the personal pension pot. My wife was ecstatic. She got a new cooker the other day for me to cook on, but as yet I have not made it home to light her fire and stir the porridge.

Anyway, new toys aside, I’m trying to figure out how, after supposedly retiring back in 2007, bumming around for a while and then kinda working doing photography, property management and web work thru til 2021 (not a lot since 2020 thanks to Covid), getting my pension, and passing the official retirement age of 55 in Fiji, I’m working my tits off and spent about 16 months of the last 20 away from home. I’m supposed to be playing badminton and croquet on the back lawn whilst feeding grandchildren a years supply of sugar over the course of a weekend. Or someone elses grandchildren since I don’t have any. Do my bit to worsen Fiji’s diabolical diabetes statistics even further.

Early January 2021 – I’ve plummeted to FJ$14 (about five quid) in my Fiji bank account, about five thousand quid negative in my UK bank account, still just over a year away from 55 and pension fund access, and I’m kinda needing a miracle in a Covid fucked economy. And, a hairs breadth away from selling the family car and the family kids, a miracle plopped out of the sky right into my soft focus dangly bollocks. Now, I don’t believe in miracles, or God, but if I did I would have praised the Lord and never sinned again. Instead I stroked my lucky bollocks and my wife was ecstatic.

What I do believe is we make our own “luck”, and luckily someone needed a photographer to go check out this speck of sand and the stuff sitting on it before a decision deadline on whether to purchase the lease. Taveuni being the largest island within easy reach, and me sitting on it with a camera knowing what the buttons did got me a 1 day job. Go there, take photos and videos, come back, edit and Dropbox them. The site visit ultimately took 2 days thanks to boat engine dramas and rescue missions, but it got done – a bit of sunburn, no deaths, job done, got paid. A temporary reprieve – I could afford to feed everyone next week. Hurrah ! On the flip-side I lost my excuse to offload the kids for 0.6 Bitcoin + FJ$14 on the dark web. Hey ho – life is bittersweet, but opportunity knocks for those that are prepared, stay tuned on that one.

A few days after delivering the photos I got a follow up email. “Hey, Jonny. I can’t get to Fiji, but I’m gonna buy the lease. You up for an adventure ?”.

And so I became the project manager of a private island villa development, with a borderline pass in Lego construction to help me on my way.

I had nothing to lose. I couldn’t say no. I needed a job. The worst that could happen was I’d get paid for a few months until I was unmasked as an idiot. So I shoved my soft focus feet into my brand new FJ$25 Mr Project Managers’ flip-flops and my wife prayed for me not to drown as I set off on my commute to the new office – one and a half hours in a 20 foot fibre boat.

On arrival it was obvious the challenges would be many, Challenges have been many. The existing infrastructure had deteriorated through neglect and two back to back cyclones, one in late 2020 and then another in early 2021. A crapped out desalination system meant no water production. The defective solar installation meant reduced or no power. Generator failures exacerbated the power issues. A leaking roof on a main building, open to the elements anyway since all the doors and windows were damaged or destroyed by the cyclones. Add to this the ongoing pandemic, lockdowns, and supply chains coming to a virtual halt. The one upside was that the island acted as a full time quarantine location for us while Covid ran rampage through the rest of Fiji..

Building in Fiji can be frustratingly hard at the best of times, on Taveuni even more so – and more expensive. Stick yourself a couple of hours away from Taveuni with 2 small boats providing the main supply line (people, water, fuel, hardware, timbers, glass, roofing…) and everything is twice as hard again with trade winds, weather and ocean swells to contend with. Due east the next land is Bolivia. Due north – Russia in the Arctic circle. Due south – Antarctica. Due west – the safety of Laucala, Qamea, Matangi and Taveuni.

Almost 2 years and multiple commutes later I’ve not drowned and not gotten fired, although probably came close to the latter after one of our boats slipped its mooring and floated away into the blue yonder to be wrecked on a reef. What began as possibly one week on, one week off turned into 3-4 months on, 1-2 weeks off island. Work starts at 6am Monday thru Saturday (or 5am right now with no daylight savings time), with usually half a day of general admin or housekeeping on a Sunday. One Sunday a month I try and do nothing work related – doomscrolling, Youtube and reading. And once again, writing.

So, with this first post kinda done, I look forward to putting a few more words into the general mountain of shite that constitutes the web these days. I might pretend I’m 6 years old and go whack something onto Tik-Tok, or go punch some faces in the Metaverse before it dies a horrible death. Pretend I’m some sort of tech-toilet startup – WeWee sounds pretty cool . Any VC’s out there wanna send me some money? When WeWee fails miserably at least I’ll have a billion dollar payoff, Stuff it jn my babysling, sit on my own toilet and count it.



Share This