Monday, July 21, 2014

LET IT ALL HANG OUT - LAUGH UNTIL YOU CRY!
















There’s nothing quite like it.  Nothing - not even a vacuum cleaner - clears away our mental, emotional cobwebs or dust more than a good belly laugh; laughter that isn’t over in a brief moment. Little else can beat a good dose of laughter; laughter that isn’t smothered or contained, but laughter that explodes like an erupting volcano. Laughter which lasts until all control is lost; laughter that grabs hold and refuses to let go. When it finally releases its grip you’re left drained with a tear-stained face and sore stomach muscles. Your mouth feels like it will never regain its original shape. Laughter which leaves you gasping for air; laughter that causes you to giggle throughout the ensuing hours each time the absolute absurdity resurfaces. In many instances, for the life of you, you can’t recall what kicked it off in the first place. But you don't care if you can't remember, preferring to relish the feeling.

I know what I’m talking about when I say a healthy dose of laughter is better than vacuuming because after re-training my vacuum cleaner this morning, I re-acquainted it with some old friends, dust and cobwebs. And boy, were they sucked in!  Unfortunately, the re-training exercise wasn’t completely successful (perhaps the re-training sessions should happen more often). I’ve noticed some dust and cobwebs are still hanging about. Where’s the humour in that?  It’s something to sneeze at, though.  I’m going to have to suck it up, and do it all over again; but not now; I’ve lost my sense of humour…and conveniently misplaced my vacuum cleaner.

In my opinion, these days there are few good comedians around, other than, of course, politicians; in particular, a certain chubby chappy here in this country, who shall remain nameless, but with whom I’d hate to share the maiden voyage of the Titanic. I'll leave it at that because he has fondness for suing those who don't agree with him.

The daily news is depressing. It doesn’t give us much to laugh about. Tears of sadness are shed over the news, not tears laughter. In a world full of violence and despair we have to find humour wherever and however we can because there are not many side-splitting moments in the news reports. If and when we do find something to laugh about, we should hold onto it for dear life!

For my liking, there are far too many unfunny TV panel-type shows filled with self-serving nonentities who, in their own mind believe they’re exceptionally clever and hilarious.  They must do, because they always laugh at their own “jokes”.  I  find them frustratingly annoying. They don’t tickle my funny bone, so I give them a wide berth.

Of course, the very clever, interesting and highly-amusing “QI” isn’t included in my above criticism. It’s a show beyond reproach. 

Seriously – this is no laughing matter - where have the good comedy writers gone? What’s happened to comedy shows today?  Perhaps it is just me; maybe I have lost my sense of humour.   

When I feel like having a hearty good laugh via the TV I watch recorded re-runs of “Cheers”, “Frasier” and “Everybody Love Raymond”. Even though I’ve already seen most of them, they still manage to make me laugh.  And, I find it difficult to ignore dear old Agnes and her boys.  She’s always up for it. Mrs. Brown has the insane ability to raise guffaws. I’m not too proud to admit my likeness for the non-politically-correct, cardigan-wearing hell-raiser. "Mrs Brown's Boys" and her ploys are good for a laugh  Irish writer/performer Brendan O'Carroll is a funny man; his alter-ego, "Agnes Brown" is a funny woman..

“Fawlty Towers” still takes the cake.  Actually, I think Fawlty was the icing on top of comedy cakes, or capers; capers of the playful kind, not the pungent, pickled flower bud of the spiny Mediterranean shrub.

It’s difficult to ignore the brilliance of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. So silly and irreverent they were; yet so intelligent, surreal and masterful.

Before the Python crew flew in, “The Goons” enthralled with their madness. Tony Hancock stepped up to the plate, as did Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

Stepping a little further back into the past - let’s not forget quick-witted Groucho Marx and his siblings; or the vaudeville comedy of the Three Stooges; the comical facetiousness of Abbott & Costello or Laurel & Hardy.

In today’s mad, mad world we need more zany laughter; more funny characters and storylines. It could be the cure the world needs to combat the indecent atrocities and craziness that engulf like a plague
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Brussel Sprouts with Fried Capers: Bring pot of salted water to boil; add 900g Brussels sprouts; cook until just tender, about 5mins; drain; set aside. Drain 1/2c capers. Heat 1/3c x-virgin olive oil in pan over high heat; add capers; cook, stirring carefully until capers start to open and become brown and crisp; about 5mins. Drain capers on paper towel. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, finely-chopped to pan; cook 1min; add sprouts and ½-3/4tsp chilli flakes; stir to coat with oil; cook 5mins; stir occasionally. Transfer to serving plate; sprinkle with capers and squeeze of lemon.  

Looney Tuna Capers: Cook 400g pasta bows al dente. Return drained pasta to pan over low heat; stir in 6tbs x-virgin olive oil and 2-3 crushed garlic cloves. After 1min, toss through 2x200g cans drained tuna, 85g halved pitted black olives, some sliced semi-dried tomatoes and 2tbs rinsed capers; warm through; season; serve. 

Tomato-Capers-Breadcrumbs & Olives Spaghetti: Combine 2tbs x-virgin olive oil and 2 sliced garlic cloves over med-low heat in pan. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic turns golden, about 2mins.  Remove the garlic slices with a slotted spoon; discard; then add 1/2c fresh sourdough breadcrumbs to the pan. Turn heat to medium; cook, stirring, until the breadcrumbs are crisp. Remove from the heat; set aside. Return pan to med-heat; add 1tbs x-virgin olive oil, 1/4tsp hot red pepper flakes and 1 minced garlic clove. Cook about 30 seconds; add 1 un-drained can chopped tomatoes, 2tbs rinsed, coarsely-chopped capers and 1/2c coarsely-chopped green or black olives. Simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down, 15 to 20mins; season to taste.  Cook 375g whole-wheat spaghetti to al dente; drain; toss with the sauce. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and 1/4c chopped fresh parsley; toss again briefly. Sprinkle over freshly-grated Parmesan cheese; serve.

Iced Vo-Vo Cake: Grease and line 17x27cm brownie tin. Place 1-1/2c S.R. flour, 1/2c plain flour, 1c caster sugar, 150g cubed, room-temp butter, 2/3c milk and 3 eggs in bowl; beat on low speed until just combined; increase speed to high; beat 1-2mins until thick. Pour into prepared pan; bake in preheated 140C oven, 40-50mins. Cool on rack completely. Icing: Beat 125g room-temp butter and 2c icing sugar until fluffy. Melt 1-1/2c white & pink marshmallows in small saucepan. Transfer melted marshmallows to icing; beat until smooth; add a little pink food colouring; spread mixture over top of cake in two large strips, leaving gap down the middle; dollop 1/2c raspberry or strawberry jam down the middle; sprinkle top of cake with desiccated coconut. Serve with whipped cream! 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

HMMMMM…..WHAT DO I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP?



Marilyn Jones & Garth Welch...Australian Ballet Company Circa Early 60s.
The legendary Margo Fonteyn







Even after decades pondering this difficult, massive, life-altering decision I still haven’t a clue what I want to be when I grow up. Like a grasshopper, I jump from idea to idea. Do I really have to make my mind up today? 

Once upon a time long ago, inspired by many visits to circuses, to be a trapeze artist flew high on my list; but after a few practice sessions, that idea came crashing down with a thud.

After reading articles and watching newsreels about prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn, and following the graceful en pointe techniques of Australian ballet dancer, Marilyn Jones, a prima ballerina I would be. In reality, what was the point?  There was little chance of that particular dream coming into fruition because my ballet lessons lasted for about a year only – not enough time to fulfill my dream. I was devastated when I discovered I’d need more than 12 months’ worth of lessons to reach the dizzy heights of Fonteyn or Jones.

Pirate movies stirred the urges to become a cutlass-brandishing pirate-girl while wearing knee-high boots and a flouncy pirate’s blouse, minus eye patch. Thoughts of running away to be a pirate still linger.

Being a cowgirl was considered; a desire heightened regularly by the westerns shown at Saturday matinees. If given a choice I’d have chosen to be an alluring, glamorous Hollywood-version of Annie Oakley or Calamity Jane, rather than one of the dance hall girls; although I did love their captivating gowns; so to be a dance hall girl did have its attractions, too.  I could have been tempted if a handsome, gun-twirling, whip-cracking cowboy strolled into the bar....

Any thoughts of being a pirate pillaging and plundering on the high seas, or a cowgirl riding the ranges soon changed when I saw “Elephant Walk” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Finch.

Liz met Finch in a bookstore. It was a case of love at first sight when they set eyes on each other.  Oh! The romance of it all! It was then I decided I wanted a job in a bookshop or library when I grew up; or become a movie star. For a while my head floated aloft amongst the ethereal clouds when dreaming about either plan. 

Perhaps I should’ve frequented more milk bars. At only 16 years old, Lana Turner, one afternoon after high school, was discovered while sipping soda in a milk bar/drugstore; but, as mentioned in a previous post, I wasn’t fond of milkshakes, or of hanging around milk bars, thereby limiting my chances of being “discovered”.  Also, I didn’t like wearing skin-tight sweaters or twinsets. In particular, I was never a member of the “twinset” set; skintight or otherwise; and, I wasn’t a pearl sort of girl.

At the age of 17 I had a “light bulb moment, but it soon dimmed.  A nurse! That’s what I’d be – a nurse!  I’d go to Brisbane; to the Princess Alexandra Hospital, where I’d do my training. Brimmed with excitement at the thought, I raced home from work during my lunch hour to inform my mother of my momentous decision. Time was of the essence; and I didn’t want to waste it. Mum was sitting before the mirror on her duchess, applying make-up in readiness to go to town or to work.  She listened, showing great interest as I breathlessly prattled on at high speed. When I finally gasped for air, without hesitation and not missing a beat, my mother agreed it would be a wonderful idea.  Her acceptance without argument of my plan immediately deflated me.  Her agreement to my plan burst my bubble; my balloon.  I never did become a nurse.  Reverse psychology worked at its best!

Similar happened when I came up with another new, even brighter idea. I’d join the Air Force; but that meant I’d have to live even further away from home; and although the idea of leaving hearth and home was a thrilling prospect in my daydreams, the reality of doing so was an entirely different scenario, particular when I was, seemingly, being pushed out of the nest so eagerly by my mother without her even ruffling a feather!

After reading the romantic, sentimental novels written by Aussie novelist F.J. Thwaites I fell under the spell of his brooding, mysterious heroes. In all his books, the handsome, rugged protagonist always had a stray, wayward lock of hair falling wantonly and carelessly upon his broad brow. He’d suffered emotional damage in his past whether through his own fault or that of others. He of the wayward, errant lock was in need of redemption. His tortured soul desperately required healing; his broken, battered cold heart screamed out in silence wanting to be mended and warmed.  Who better to up the heat, than the innocent, young governess from the city to cure all his ills; or the new teacher at the local country school? 

The author took the reader to exotic places, not just to Australian outback cattle stations, but to the mystic East; to tropical islands; to the sands of the Sahara;across to the Alps in Switzerland and beyond.  No matter where the locale, the hero was always a wounded, tormented soul; and the brave heroine, not one to ever give up, fought to the end to mend and win his heart.  She always succeeded in her endeavours; and they lived happily ever after.  F. J. Thwaites most certainly was the precursor to Mills and Boon.

It was Thwaites' fault I toyed with the idea of becoming a governess way out west. For all I knew, there in the hot, dusty outback my knight in shining armour could very well have been waiting for me to rescue him.  I never became a governess, so the poor fellow is probably still waiting, but as I've taken so long to venture out beyond the Great Divide his once shining armour is now rusty.

Of course, distance was also why I didn’t follow up being a movie star.  Hollywood, with all its glitz and glamour beckoned, but it was too far away! 

Call me a chicken, I don’t mind.  I was a spring chicken then; now I’m just an old chook!

I often dreamed of being a singer - without the twerking, of course - wowing audiences far and wide. A dampener promptly put paid to that brilliant idea. When I sing in the shower the water runs, screaming, back up the shower head quick smart; a fair indication there is no future on the stage for me. I’m no “Singing Budgie”; I’m more an “Off-Key Galah”.

What to be when I grow up is an important decision to make; one not to be taken lightly.  Until I know definitely what I want to do when I grow up, I shall remain in pondering mode. There is no hurry….

Moroccan Chicken Soup: Heat a little oil in large pan; add 1 chopped onion and 2 chopped carrots; cook 5mins; add 1 chopped garlic clove and 3tsp harissa spices; cook 1min. Stir in 125g barley, 800g canned chopped tomatoes, a sprinkling of chilli and oregano and 1.3ltrs cold water. Bring to boil; then simmer 15mins. To pan add 50g chopped dried apricots, 410g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, 140g cooked roast chicken, cut into bite-size pieces and chopped parsley. Cook 10mins.  

Chicken-Filled Potatoes: Preheat oven 180C. Prick 4 large, unpeeled baking potatoes; bake whole, 45mins. Heat 1tbs olive oil in fry-pan; cook 160g roughly-chopped bacon, 5mins; add 140g cooked roast chicken, cut into small pieces; toss 1min to warm through; stir in 100g small-leaf spinach and 50g grated cheddar.  Make a cross in each potato; ease open. Fill with mixture; top with more grated cheddar. Heat under hot grill until cheese is melted. 

Chicken-Potato Pie: Preheat oven 200C.  Thinly slice 4-6 medium, unpeeled potatoes. Dice 1 onion, 1 capsicum, halve and slice 1 zucchini. In pan fry onion in a little oil; add the capsicum and 3 chicken breasts, cut into small chunks; cook until chicken is lightly browning; add 2 crushed garlic cloves, zucchini, 1tbs smoked paprika and 1tsp dried thyme; cook 2-3mins; stir in 600g passata, a squirt of tomato sauce and seasonings. Simmer 2mins; transfer to ovenproof dish. Top with sliced potatoes, working round and layering as you go. Bake 25-30mins. If desired, sprinkle with a little grated cheese; melt in oven before serving.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

CHAPTER THREE…COME SAIL AWAY WITH ME



  

                                        
                                         Eddy Grant's music played a big, loud part on the Saturday night


The resort was right at the tip of Cape Richards

View taken from top of Cape Richards looking down upon Orchid Beach; my little house was at the base of that rocky outcrop...at the lower right of the picture (out of the frame).

A couple of the visiting yachties.  The fellow on the left was the one who had something to do with Australia 11 - the winner of the America's Cup, 1983

Sundown views from jetty across to Garden & Goold Islands...on a peaceful, yacht-free afternoon!

The party, the hi-jinks, the music and the dancing continued through until dawn.  The tamer merrymakers chose to rest their feet. Groups gathered around the tables; some sat on the deck, or on the side of the pool.  Happy persons, mobile and stationary, were everywhere. Some still moved to the music; others were content to just sit; happy to share stories and laughter.  The population eventually began to dwindle as the revellers’ energy levels wavered. Winding down, weary, but contented, they began to wander back to their respective bunks or beds…whether it was to the cabins on their yachts, or to the resort’s cabins.  Quite a few hardy, hearty stalwarts, which included a couple of my staff and me, of course (I always seemed to be the Last of the Mohicans), were left to hold the fort; to ensure the mainsail remained hoisted, and the gangplank lowered. Never let it be said we were party-poopers!  Never!  

Like the captain of a boat, I was the manager of the resort; it was my solemn duty - my happy duty - to remain until the very end...whenever that might have been....

At daybreak a few stragglers were seen strolling along Orchid Beach, nonchalantly wading in the shallows at the water’s edge. 

Putting on a brave front showing he was not defeated, my bleary-eyed breakfast cook arrived at the kitchen. I knew it was a fa├žade, but he carried it off successfully, having had myriad past occasions in which he'd done similar. He'd had much practice; many rehearsals. A hearty hot and cold breakfast he would prepare for all and sundry; for all-comers.  And after the previous evening’s boisterous activities, there were a lot of hungry bodies to feed.

Around dawn I'd raced home to have a refreshing shower; otherwise known as a “wake-me-up” shower. After another change of clothes – I think I had more changes of clothes that day/night/morning than model Miranda Kerr during a catwalk appearance – I returned to my office to write up the day’s work-sheets for my staff, and to attend to other necessary office duties, such as….and then my mind went blank.

Where do I start?” 

I had absolutely no idea who my island guests were; which of those guests staying in the cabins were yachties; and who were my holiday-making guests; those who’d arrived by sea-plane or were delivered to me from the mainland via the “Reef Venture”; guests who had absolutely nothing to do with yachts or yacht races.  Who was staying on and who was departing?  I had no idea; none whatsoever!  

On any "normal day", I never had to face such a dilemma. Not that there were many normal days on the island, but at least during those other times,  I knew exactly who was who, and who should be where; who should be leaving; who should be staying and who should be arriving! When, where, what and who; but this was no normal day; no normal weekend!  I hardly knew who I was, other than I knew I wasn't normal!

Not one to fly the white flag of defeat; not one to give up or in easily, bravely I forged forth, having faith that somehow, some way, it would all work out in the end, even if only by bluff, smoke and mirrors!

I completed the work-sheets to the best of my inabilities; handed the sheets out to my staff, and wished them good luck. It was akin to tossing a boxful of bits and pieces up into the air and allowing them to fall at will.  

I said to myself - “to hell with it – I’ll leave it all in the laps of the gods” - I went for walk down along the beach.

My brother, Graham – not “Graham, my breakfast/dessert cook” – worked for me at the time, too, as I mentioned in Chapter Two.  Before I left for my brisk, bracing, mind-clearing walk, Graham came to me for his work-sheet.

Expecting a list of the cabins from which he’d have to load the guests’ luggage onto the island’s one an only vehicle, an old Toyota ute, for transfer down to the jetty, and then onto the punt in readiness for their planned departure later in the day via sea plane, he was slightly bemused when he tried to decipher my hieroglyphics. Little did he know that the next day's work-sheet would go down in history!

I told him to... “play it by ear, or by series of elimination because I have not a clue who is coming; who is going, or who is staying! And try to look intelligent and knowledgeable while doing so!”   

To be concise, I had no idea who was who; or where they were or were not going!  I tried to follow my own advice regarding keeping up the appearance of intelligence and knowledgeability.

I figured everyone could and would, eventually, work out their movements; their own comings and goings. It was up to my staff and me to make sure they were fed well, happy, comfortable and their thirsts quenched while doing so; with as little visible upheaval as possible.  Smooth sailing....

Sunday’s mood was much more mellow than the previous day and night’s had been.  We’d all partied beyond human limits, so a quiet, restful, peaceful Sunday was the order for the day. 

A couple of new, unsuspecting arrivals did step out of the sea plane into the punt around noon, their eyes opened wide in amazement.  There had been nothing in the holiday brochures at their travel agents warning them about a flotilla or fleet of yachts being in the waters off from the resort as a welcoming party to greet them as they disembarked.

Manager-mode took over immediately.  I knew I had to instill a sense of calm amongst the newcomers to dispel the wild looks of panic in their eyes. I explained the events of the past 24 hours or so. Assuring them everything would be back to normal at the resort by day’s end, if not, by the next day at the latest. I informed them they’d missed the majority of the boats, because many had already left our fair shores.  I crossed my heart and gave my word to my not-yet-disgruntled vacationers that soon the madding crowds, along with their yachts would be gone; sailing an ocean wave way out in the blue yonder. The peace, harmony and solitude they expected would once more descend. Before too long they’d become willing, carefree captives; caught under the gentle, mesmerizing spell of the island….or something like that.

As I’d expected, during the day quite a few of the yachts upped anchor and sailed off to their next destination. Not all were returning south to Townsville; not all yachts were Townsville-based. To some, the race had just been a minor portion of their cruising agenda; a bit of fun to add to their adventures.  But there were still a lot of people milling around; many more than “max. pop. 30”.

Sunday night in the restaurant was far more subdued than the previous night.  Dinner was served and eaten quietly, just the way a Sunday night should be spent; not that we had any set rules on the island. Most times, things happened spontaneously at the resort; which was more than half the fun of it!

However - “early to bed and early to rise” was the unspoken motto everyone followed on that particular Sunday evening…thankfully. 

I welcomed my bed.  I realised I’d not slept since the previous Thursday night!  Obviously, I’d been running on adrenaline…and on the fact I had a million guests under my care, and, hopefully, watchful eye.

Come Monday morning, I was refreshed after a solid night’s sleep. I was in my office shortly before 6 am trying to compose sensible, intelligent, legible work-sheets.  My brother Graham arrived to collect his, and immediately began shaking his head when he saw all my deletions; crossing-outs; additions; scribbles, scrawls and scratches.  He looked at me with a stupid look on his face, and immediately we both broke into the giggles. Our chortling grew into uncontrollable hysterical laughter. Our mutual sense of insanity was bouncing off each other.  The more we tried to stop, the worse we became, until we just gave into our out of control hysterics.  Graham slid down the wall and sat on the floor of my office.  Unbridled laughter engulfed us. We laughed and laughed until tears poured down our faces. We couldn’t talk. I laid my head on my desk, exhausted, yet exhilarated by our unrestrained, uninhibited mirth.  

Other staff came in to collect their work-sheets. After taking one look at Graham and me, they left, speechless, thinking we’d lost it and were best left to our shared, inherited insanity. Graham and I were siblings, after all.   I think they were right in their assessments.

When we’d exhausted our laughter (and were feeling a little exhausted from our unable-to-be-checked behaviour), I told Graham to do the best he could; to wing it.  Work it all out himself and whoever was left over at the end of the day would be our island guests, not yachties.

Graham kept that work-sheet.  He told me he didn’t have the heart to toss it away; he was going to have it framed! He treasured it, reckoning that one day, because it was so unique it would be worth a lot of money! He didn’t have it framed, but he did keep it, safely stored away in a book about Hinchinbrook Island.  I’m sure I still have the work-sheet here somewhere amongst some of my/his memorabilia.  Graham passed away in 1998.

Every time, in the ensuing years when Graham and I recalled that particular Monday morning on the island, in my office, we laughed our heads off once again. If his work-sheet had fallen into the hands of the CIA, MI6, ASIO or any other secret service agency, they wouldn't have had a hope in Hades of deciphering it!

Others probably didn’t/wouldn’t see the funny side of it, but to us - the moment - and my efforts of trying to fill in a workable work-sheet, one that could be followed to the letter, were hilarious. 

If only the guests had known…..it was better they didn’t.  They were totally oblivious to all the inner machinations and mayhem!

It was a wonderful, unforgettable, fun-filled weekend.  It was a hectic time, no doubt, but everyone who participated one way or the other, had an absolute ball.  I met a lot of interesting people over those few days; I heard so many great stories. I made many memories; and I shared much laughter. 

A crew member of one of the visiting yachts had been part of the crew on Australia ll; the Aussie yacht skippered by John Bertrand, which, three years earlier, in 1983, had won the America’s Cup; famously ending US domination of the racing series. I can’t remember his name, or what his exact role was.

By Tuesday afternoon the bay was empty of yachts. The only craft left at the resort were “Lady of the Island”, the yellow Abalone, the powered island boat; the AIMS punt (The Australian Institute of Marine Science) – the punt the AIMS folk left tied up to the resort’s jetty; the punt we used for the collection or depositing of guests to and from the sea plane; and the Topper; the small, single-person (and I don’t mean “unattached”) sailing craft mentioned in an earlier post. 

All other water craft, big and small, had left our precinct.  Life on the island, at the resort returned to normal; peace reigned once more; and the only footprints we saw on the beach were our own – or those of our resident wallabies.

It was then, and only then, I discovered who my true-blue holidaying guests were; those who were left on the island...that's who....

And this is the tail end of my sailing tale.....the stern....

Monday, June 23, 2014

CHAPTER TWO – COME SAIL AWAY WITH ME….



The rocky outcrop is Cape Richards...my house was situated at the base of the hill (about an inch to the left from the right of the photo.  The sandy beach is Orchid Beach...it was the resort's main beach.  The cabins are dotted up amongst the trees)....Photo courtesy of Surf Lifesaving Australia.   My late brother, Graham, used to be a lifesaver at the Noosa Heads SLSC.
Aerial View of Resort Area
Preparations underway on the deck for the night's festivities. That's me in the black dress. Restaurant in the background.
A few of the yachties milling around on the deck
Me with a couple of my "girls" - from the left...Daina, Bronnie, Kylie and me; before the onslaught!
Bronnie with a couple of likely, yachtie lads!
"Lady" - One of the resort's friendly wallabies.  I asked her to join my work team,. but she declined and hopped away with a smile - "How silly do you think I am?" Was Lady's reply.
Groper


Flushed from the previous hours spent skimming the ocean’s surface; rolling with the waves, and sometimes not, under a star-filled sky, adrenaline flowed freely amongst the landed sailors.  The saltwater spray remained caked white on their skin; their hair matted and dry; but it mattered not. Contagious excitement and laughter filled the air; personal appearances were of no concern at that early hour of the morning. Pushing a couple of the larger round dining tables together, the yachties soon fell into story-telling mode.  Everyone had their own yarn to spin, and in most cases, without exaggeration.  I’m sure that would come later, down the track a bit!

I was kept busy between attending to their thirst; joining them at the table when I could, and running down to the jetty greet the new arrivals every time another yacht anchored up.  Some chose to remain on their boats until after sunrise; others, like the early birds already ensconced around the tables in the far, outer corner of the restaurant chose to come up to the resort and join in with the pre-dawn party that was well under way!

My day staff, which included the breakfast cook, my maintenance fellows, four in number, the housekeeping staff, usually two per shift, and whoever else chose to join them on any given morning started to come to life around 6 am.  Normally by the time they started wandering down from the staff quarters ready for their hearty breakfasts before beginning their shifts, I’d have their work-sheets made out for them.  The work-sheets listed out what chores needed their attention, in their particular fields, during their shifts.  In the grid on the sheets were shown the cabins that needed complete make-overs in readiness for new, incoming guests; which cabins needed luggage to be taken down to the jetty in readiness to be taken out to the sea plane when it arrived around noon to drop off new arrivals and to take off holidaymakers at the end of their stay; or for those who would later in the afternoon depart from the island back to Cardwell on the mainland on the powered catamaran, “Reef Venture”. which cabins needed beds to be made along with a general spruce-up for the on-staying guests; laundry chores.  My general maintenance staff knew pretty much what they had to do, and I mainly left them well enough alone.  I trusted their abilities and knowledge.  Their work-sheets, other than listing the transferring of luggage requirements etc., mainly were daily guidelines for them to follow. Maintaining the workings of generators, the septic-treatment plant, the dam, boat motors, carpentry, painting etc., etc., et al were their domain.  They knew what they were doing; and I had complete faith in them.  Fortunately, that faith was reciprocated.

The surprised looks on the faces of my staff as they entered the restaurant en route to the staff room situated off from the kitchen to have their breakfasts were hilarious; and remain embedded in my memory.  Still bleary-eyed from not long getting out of bed, they soon woke up with a jolt when they saw the party going on around the tables in the corner of the restaurant nearest the pool deck; and it was still not yet 6.30 am!  The yachties had built a pyramid out of empty beer cans...the pyramid of cans sat proudly in the middle of one of the tables

A long day and night lay ahead.  I’d already been through a long night…without sleep; and yachts were still arriving by the boatloads.   

More yachts meant more people; more people meant more greet-and-meets and socialising; more work; more food preparation; more socialising, and then some more non-stop socialising…more, more, more of everything.  My existing resort guests, not those off the yachts, needed attending to, as well.  They couldn’t be ignored.  Some were leaving by sea plane around mid-day; with new guests being dropped off to the island simultaneously.

As soon as Johnno, my barman arrived for his breakfast, he saw what was going on, and without ado, he raced back up to his room to shower and change, ready to start his shift.  His normal shift began at 4 pm, or thereabouts; but not that Saturday.   

Gavin, who sometimes acted as a gofer for the maintenance guys, and also as barman on Johnno’s days off, or when otherwise and elsewhere needed, stepped up to be counted, too.  All my staff put their hands up once they saw the droves of people arriving; more people than we’d ever seen at the resort before that day!

The resort was alive; in constant motion. People were coming and going. They moved around like ants on an anthill.  Some milled together in groups on the deck around the pool; some moved onto another cluster; heads of others bobbed up and down in the pool, while some slothful souls hung leisurely on its sides. Couples and groups lazed down on the beach, absorbing the harmony of their surrounds, a little removed from the madding crowd up above around the pool.  A few sat around tables in the restaurant, sipping on beverages, alcoholic or not. All the tables were occupied. Guests and yachties helped themselves to the coffee and tea set up on a side bench; and to the buffet breakfast. Others sat on stools at the bar; and a few leaned on the bar.  Anywhere an unoccupied space was found, a body or two took up residence.

Throughout the day, the resident locals...our friendly wallabies - hopped around the restaurant building and the deck to take a look at what was going on. They enjoyed the "oohhs and aaahhs!" briefly; they were politely accommodating before hopping away to watch from afar.

Amongst all the pleasant, happy, somewhat controlled mayhem, our normal day-to-day chores had to be done. Time didn’t stand still; and work didn’t disappear. 

A barbecue out on the deck was planned for the evening. It was a much easier proposition than attempting to feed the hordes, individually, a la carte-style. A barbecue and buffet table bearing a broad variety of salads, vegetables, desserts and various other delectable accompaniments was the better option for all concerned; staff, resort guests and visiting yachties. 

My guests who’d come to the island for a quiet get-away weren’t at all disturbed by the influx of people. For twenty-four hours or so, they were very happy to forego “the only footprints you’ll see on the beach will be your own” – and “maximum population 30”! It was all very new and different to what they were accustomed to in their normal day-to-day lives, wherever those lives were lived. They soon fell under the spell, and were more than keen to join in with the fun.   

Electric energy floated through the air.  It engulfed all around, making it impossible to ignore or escape. Nobody wanted to escape its stimulating clutches once it wafted their way. Without reservations, the holidaymakers welcomed the yachties into “their” island paradise, firing questions at them from all angles; keen to hear stories of their many adventures at sea, and of their sailing expertise.

With barely a spare moment, if any, to catch my breath the day sped by at a rapid rate of knots (Pun definitely intended).

The sea plane arrived as scheduled, dropping off new arrivals from afar.  As they were picked up from the Grumman Mallard by the island punt skippered by a couple of my staff, the newcomers eyes widened larger than saucers, in amazement at the sight of the myriad yachts anchored in the waters off from the island; an awesomely beautiful sight.   

The Cape Richards’ end of Missionary Bay, between the resort and Garden and Goold Islands, a very short distance away to the north, was a vision; one filled with sailing craft.  So many yachts, in fact, it gave the appearance a crew from one boat could just step across onto the neighbouring yacht and keep walking, stepping from yacht to yacht without the help of their tender.

Yachts straggled in until around mid-afternoon. The late-comers cared less that they’d not won; not won by quite a few nautical miles – that wasn’t the point. The joy of being out on the ocean; under the moon, the stars, and then the clear, blue sky and sunshine; sailing, enjoying the elements; loving Nature at its best, was what it was all about.
  
By that stage of the day, I’d given up knowing who the yachties were; who my holidaying guests were; and which of the happy faces belonged to the crews staying overnight or for a couple of nights in the cabins.  I’d work all of that out later…or maybe not.   Perhaps it would be easier to let the “Gods-of-Working-Things-Out-Their-Own-Way” be in charge. I decided to take that route.  Everything would fall into its rightful place….eventually.   I had no time to worry about something so minor. I was far too busy.  I was enjoying myself much too much to be concerned with lesser details….a mere bagatelle!

Realising the existing resort bar wasn’t big enough to cater to the needs of the crowd, a second, temporary bar was set up out on the pool deck to assist with liquor service.  Having access to another outlet took a lot of pressure off the inside bar.  They were a thirsty, but well-behaved crowd.  Everyone realised there was no chance that the island’s supply of beverages would run out, so they drank at a leisurely pace while enjoying the relaxing ambience of their surrounds.  There was no hurry; not place to go; no better place, that's for sure!  

Even though my staff and I were kept very busy, we, too, couldn’t escape the atmosphere.  It was infections, and it was more fun to go with the flow, than to fight against it; there was no fun in doing that...foolish!

I’d given my staff new outfits to wear for the evening; white t-Shirts, shorts, slacks or Capris with the resort logo on them; from the resort’s shop.  The shop was a small room off from my office, a little bigger than the size of the office. The store stocked t-shirts, shorts, peddle-pushers (Capris), casual slacks, minor toiletries, and not much else.

As soon as the “Reef Venture” pulled out from the jetty around 4 pm on its return to the mainland most of the staff raced off to the staff quarters for a quick shower and change.  They certainly moved quickly that afternoon because within a blink of an eye, they returned all fresh and spruced in their new sparkling white outfits…with smiles to match.  I, also, grabbed the opportunity to run back to my abode for a quick, refreshing shower before changing into my evening attire; and to feed Ruska, my ginger cat, making sure he was comfortably set up for the night.  Ruska was an “indoors” cat; one who had a very nice view of the ocean, Garden and Goold Islands.

There was a lull amongst the crowd when I returned to the restaurant/pool area. Most, other than a few stragglers who’d remained sitting at couple of tables around the pool, quietly conversing, had returned to their respective cabins or yachts to ready themselves for the night’s festivities and hi-jinks.  

The “calm before the storm” suited my staff and me.  It gave us time, not only to catch our breath, but also to make sure any details we’d overlooked were taken care of; and to finish setting up the long buffet table, the bar etc., out on the deck, as well as a million other things. The kitchen was a hive of energy. Spirits were high, and I don't mean those in the bars!

Before returning to the fray after showering and changing, I’d grabbed a bundle of music cassettes to add to the existing selection in the restaurant.  Johnno had directed the outside speakers strategically to carry the music across the deck. There were speakers inside the restaurant, as well. 

A rockin’ good night lay ahead – and we were prepared and ready for it – every base was covered!

My two chefs, David and Ken were both on roster, and had been all day from breakfast through; as had the kitchen-hand/dessert cook, Graham. The housekeeping staff changed “hats”; assisting in the kitchen area where and when needed; helping Johnno and Gavin run the bars; turning their hands to food service, and wherever else their talents were useful.  Same applied to my maintenance guys – Ted, Graham (my brother who worked on the island with me for period) and Burnie; along with Maurice, Brett and “Skirt” aka Steve who were the general dogsbodies We were an adaptable, capable mob; or at least were capable of giving a good performance/show at being so!

I’ll relate the story of how Steve got christened the name “Skirt” at another time.

Somewhere, somehow, a silent whistle, or perhaps a silent siren alerted everyone that “Happy Hour” had begun.

Once again, as if by magic, there was movement at the station. People started drifting down from the cabins; and others meandered up from the jetty, after securing their dinghies. Cheerful chatter filled the late afternoon air, bidding a happy farewell to the sun as it descended over the mainland’s western horizon.   

The time had come to get serious about having fun!

No prisoners were taken that night! Pirates had taken control!

Everyone kicked up their heels, and let their hair down.  

Across Missionary Bay to Cardwell on the mainland I’m sure the music kept the townsfolk awake until early Sunday morning; or, perhaps, it kept the Torres Strait Pigeons awake out on the Brook Islands – depending on which way the wind blew.  Even further north, the Family Group of Island that consist of Dunk, Bedarra, Timana, Wheeler, Coombe, Smith, Bowden and Hudson Islands and Mission Beach on the mainland could've been kept awake, too!  Who knew? Who cared?  We party-people at Cape Richards couldn’t have cared less as we danced the night long.   

Even “Sly”, the 600lb (272kg) groper who lived around the rocks of the Cape, and who hovered around the jetty every morning looking for a free feed flicked his tail in time to the music while the other fish were flirtatiously contented to be his back-up dancers.
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It was around midnight when someone decided a dip in the pool was a good idea.  Like lemmings, many others followed, all fully-clothed.  At one point there were so many bodies in the pool, it was nigh impossible to see any water!

I class myself as being a fairly alert person.  My antenna is just about always vigilant and in good working order. I knew what was coming next just through the glint in the eyes of a few of the pirates (yachties). 

I noted their plan was to grab me and throw me into the pool; but they hadn't counted on my determination for self-preservation.  Before anyone had a chance to lay a hand on me, I stepped out, as if into nowhere…off the edge of a cliff, untethered…off the side of the pool, spearing into the water as gracefully as I could - feet and legs first.  The black voluminous, tiered-cotton dress I wore floated out around me making me look like gigantic black moth floating in the pool with its head above the water!   

I laughed, and, even more so, when I saw the shocked, disappointed looks on the faces of my would-be assailants.  I’d spoiled their plan. My plan was a better plan than theirs!

After a few minutes of shared joviality, I raced across to my house to change out of my wet clothes.  I changed into a knee-length, light-woolen, brightly-coloured jumper/sweater; and soon I was back partying, as if nothing had occurred.

Chapter Three to follow...

Monday, June 16, 2014

COME SAIL AWAY WITH ME…TO HINCHINBROOK ISLAND - CHAPTER ONE.




Townsville Yacht Club
Mount Bowen, Hinchinbrook Island...taken from eastern side - ocean side.
The Southern Cross


‘Tis time for another Hinchinbrook Island tale…come sail with me beneath the Southern Cross….

The island resort was a-buzz! It had never seen so many people. Never before had it housed so many people. The resort was bursting at its seams and beyond.

A couple of months earlier I’d been approached by the “powers-who-be” at the Townsville Yacht Club asking for my participation in their grand endeavour…a yacht race planned to depart from the Townsville Yacht Club with the finish line being at Cape Richards Resort on Hinchinbrook Island.  I was informed many sailors had already shown keen interest; they'd already signed the dotted line.  Word was and had been passed around quickly and many more boats were expected to participate.  Old salts and young ; male and female were ready and eager not only to check future weather conditions, but to jump aboard their boats, biting at the bit to cross the starting line at the Townsville Yacht Club once the starter siren sounded on their way to Cape Richards on the north-eastern tip of Hinchinbrook.

Mainsails were hoisted and checked. Jib stays, back stays, booms, rudders, mastheads, tillers, life-jackets and all else were being inspected and tested.  Already on-board provisions were being listed and purchased in readiness to fill the galleys’ cupboards.

Having no hesitation in agreeing in playing host to the competitors, their back-up support crews, families, wives, girlfriends etc., I immediately went into full-on preparation-mode, too.  A lot of planning and organizing was being done at both ends. Food provisions needed to be planned and ordered as did a more than ample supplies of alcohol and everything else pertaining thereto.  

A massive task lay in ahead; time was of the essence. Immediate action was necessary. We island-dwellers couldn’t just pop into the nearest supermarket or liquor store pushing shopping trolleys to pick up items forgotten. Water surrounded our island home. Everything that was required to satisfy the many, varied needs of our expected guests had to come from the mainland. Nothing could be left to chance; nothing could be left off the extensive, lengthy lists.

The weekend chosen for the yacht race I had some guests booked into the island accommodation. Once the announcement was made that I was on board re the race the remaining vacant cabins were rapidly reserved by members/families of the boat crews.Within no time at all, the "No Vacancies" sign was hoisted...metaphorically speaking.

Naturally, I couldn’t house everyone in the resort’s accommodation.  At the time I was managing the resort there were only 15 guest cabins.  The maximum number of bodies the cabins could bed was four. At any given time the majority of the resort’s clientele were couples. There were occasions, of course, when a family of four; or, perhaps, two couples occupied/shared a cabin, but primarily, twosomes chose the island as their preferred holiday spot.

The resort’s advertising/marketing slogan was: Maximum population 30; the only footprints you’ll see on the beach will be your own.” 

The slogan, with minor alterations, has been adopted since by many other resorts.  Proof, I believe, that it was a good marketing/selling tool.

Therefore I didn’t have enough cabins to accommodate the expected hordes preening themselves and their crafts in preparation to descend upon the island on race weekend.  Fortunately, most of the yachties were prepared to sleep on board their boats; not that much sleeping occurred when the fun weekend finally arrived!  And, after all, they had no other choice but to do so.

The yachts were set to leave Townsville at a designated starting time on the Friday afternoon. The Commodore of the Townsville Yacht Club, his assistants and I kept in regular contact throughout the Friday of the yacht race; from early morning. 

As soon as the first boats set sail I was made aware of the fact.  The pattern continued through the afternoon into early evening.  Once night fell most of the boat crews then kept in contact with me, on the island via two-way radio.  Between flittering about, being "Aunty Mame, the Hostess-With-the-Mostest" taking care of the diners in the restaurant that evening, I spent the rest of my time beside the radio keeping tabs on the progress of the yachts headed my way. The first boats were expected to arrive in the waters off the resort jetty sometime after midnight, and into the wee small hours of Saturday morning and thereafter.

My anticipation was at a high level.  There was no way I could go to bed.  I needed to stay by the radio.   

Once the guests left the restaurant after their evening of dining and socialising; and after my night staff (chef, kitchen-hand, waitress and barman) returned to their quarters I raced across to my little house to have a quick shower and change of clothes; into more suitable, casual day-wear.  I then returned to my post beside the two-way radio in my office, which was situated at the rear of the bar and restaurant…to wait for the arrival of the first boats. The radio needed to be manned; and I was the woman to man the two-way radio. 

Regular updates came through keeping me in tune with the progress of the boats headed my way.  I was comfortably ensconced in my office, but those on the yachts were out in the ocean fighting the elements and the darkness of night; and of the wee small hours of the morning.  

I knew where I preferred to be; and that was exactly where I was – on dry land that wasn’t rocking and rolling. I’ve never denied that I’m a fair-weather sailor. Actually, I’m not a sailor, fair weather or foul.  Sailing out on the ocean has never lured me into its clutches. I enjoy having my feet firmly on the ground far too much.  For one thing, motion-sickness and I are uneasy, queasy companions; we don’t get on at all.

However, I know it is a much-enjoyed pastime and desire of many, including my ex-husband who had always wanted us to have our own yacht to enable us, one day to go sailing around the world, including our own local waters. Many hours were spent discussing his plan; a plan I cringed away from, but I also told him if he wanted to do it, he could by all means do so.  And I meant it, with no nastiness or sarcasm attached.  Sailing wasn’t and still isn’t something I’d feel at ease doing. But I do understand others feel differently about it that I do.

Randall, my ex-husband had sailed a lot over the years; most of which he did around the Newport area when he lived and worked in New York City back in the mid-Sixties to the mid-Seventies.  I was happy for him to follow his dream; and would never have stopped him from doing so.  He knew it was his dream, not mine. 

When we were living at Noosa a friend asked him to join him in Cairns to pick up a sailing craft our friend had purchased.  Said friend had never sailed in his life and he needed someone with experience to skipper the boat from Cairns back to Noosa.   Randall jumped at the chance.  I could see that he wanted to do the trip. His eagerness was palpable. The men wanted me to join them on the trip, but I declined. I would’ve made their life hell, not purposely, but I wouldn’t have been a happy person on board. Not one among the rest of the crew would want me as a sailing companion. My presence would have made the situation very uncomfortable.  I knew that; I held no illusions.   So, I could see no point in joining them if I was going to make their lives and my own, misery.  Finally, my message got through, not with our my persistent reluctance and truth-telling!   

Eventually, the men went sailing, minus me.  I was very happy to remain at home alone until their return.

So, there I was - a keen and excited participant of the Townsville to Hinchinbrook Island yacht race; a happy co-organiser, one who was very willing to be the hostess, caterer and accommodation-giver; one who was also very pleased and contented to have her feet firmly planted on the ground, the sand, the deck and on floor of the resort's restaurant! I was ecstatic to be on the receiving end of the air-sea-two-way radio, sitting at my desk in my office.

The first boat crossed the finish line, which had been set out from the resort jetty, around 3.25 am Saturday morning.  My staff was all tucked up in their beds (or perhaps someone else’s - I didn't keep check) making me the sole member of the island's welcoming committee; but that was fine. There was no way I wouldn’t have been there on the spot (jetty) to greet the yachts.  Shortly after the first yacht arrived, three more boats sailed in.   

I welcomed the crews and led them up to the restaurant.  Upon my offer of tea or coffee, in unison they asked if the bar was open.  What could I say?  The island bar was never really closed.  If and when needed, the bar operated 24/7.  I held the liquor license; it was special license that covered island resorts. There were no limitations set that I had to shut the bar down at any given hour.  If I wanted to keep it open all day and night, I could.

On that particular early morning I stepped behind the bar, happy to serve my new patrons with whatever they wanted. to drink; and that is what I did.

More to follow...so stop rocking the boat......this is only Chapter One.....