Exactly a year ago I set up my folding chair on a beach on the North Shore of Oahu, in Hawaii, and sat down to read The New Meaning of Treason by Rebecca West. I had scarcely read a page when a big blue policeman approached me and said, ‘Show me your ID.’ I asked him why. He said I was breaking the law by sitting there. I indicated to him that there was no sign anywhere saying it was forbidden. ‘The governor made a statement,’ he said. I told him I hadn’t heard it. He handed me a ticket, with a date to appear in court. ‘I’m a kupuna,’ I protested, using the Hawaiian word for a respected elder. He laughed and walked away. My court date was moved twice because of the backlog of cases – over five thousand people ticketed for sitting on a beach. Four months after the ticket was issued, my case was heard by phone. I pleaded ‘no contest’ and was fined $200.
The beaches were open by then, as they are now, with people sitting on them, social distancing. But because of the downturn in tourism, the beaches and car parks are emptier, and people have begun to realise that the ten million tourists we had annually before the pandemic was perhaps