Monday, August 25, 2014

WHEN YOUR NUMBER COMES UP….



http://alvey.com.au/fishing-information/beach-and-surf-fishing/
Alvey Reels, in my opinion, are the best reels for surf fishing.
You've Gotta Have Sole!
Map of Peregian Beach/Coolum Beach and Yaroomba


As far as my Lotto numbers are concerned one number once in a while bounces out of the barrel; most times, however, none escape. I think they take one look at me and leap back into the barrel!

On rare instances a couple of my numbers exuberantly pop up like toast out of a toaster, but all my numbers never come up in the one draw; not yet, anyway. I live in hope!  I might be the one who is toast!

Years ago I erroneously registered my numbers. You know…the usual…birthdays, street addresses, that sort of thing. It wasn’t a well-considered decision for anyone as superstitious as I am. In truth, I’m not overly superstitious, but I am when it comes to looking at the winning numbers when I’ve not placed an entry.  On such occasions I never check the winning numbers. What would be the point? It’d be my luck that would be the time all my numbers spun out of control, and spewed forth from the Lotto barrel; then I’d be the one spinning out of control! The agony would be too much to bear. Being the quavering coward I am, I’d rather not know. 

My sparse winning history is…

In 1979 I won $300 plus change. I spent my winnings on a new, you-beaut 12-foot surf rod for myself, along with an equally-new, you-beaut shiny side cast Alvey reel (both of which I no longer have). When in my possession the rod and reel served me well. They helped me catch a lot of fish…a lot!  On the scale of things, I mostly caught bream with a quite a few tailor, flathead, whiting and dart thrown into the esky for good measure; and then, on one bright early morn, to my surprise I landed a flounder when surf fishing at Yaroomba.

Yaroomba is about 3kms (1.8 miles) south of Coolum Beach.  After we left Brisbane to live and work on the coast back in early 1979, my husband and I lived at Coolum for the first six or so months until we bought our house at Sunshine Beach. Sunshine Beach is about 15kms (nine miles) further north of Coolum; close to Noosa Heads.

On the particular morning I refer to, my husband (now ex) and I had been surf fishing from around 4 am.  We were packing up, ready to head back home for hot showers and a hearty breakfast when I cast out my line for one last try while Randall, my husband gathered together our gear. I started to reel my line in, when, right at the water’s edge where the water was shallow, I felt something on the end of my line. At first I thought my hook and sinker were stuck in the sand as the waves were rushing back out to sea...but lo and behold….I’d picked up a nice-sized flounder, probably around 30cm, just as my rigged line was about to hit the shore. 

We enjoyed fresh flounder cooked gently in butter and lemon juice for breakfast that morning.  It was the first and only flounder I’ve ever caught.

The last time I won a semi-reasonable amount in Lotto was in 1985. Once again, my windfall was three hundred dollars plus change; and then, a couple of weeks later I won a similar amount.  

Back then $300.00 was nothing to scoff at; neither was it a bag of peanuts; it still isn’t.  A pattern formed for a brief moment in time. It became apparent I had something going for me with the number three, but it didn’t last. It fizzled out like a candle in the wind, and never reignited. My luck is no match for Fate. Since then I’ve only won the change; here and there; once in a while. 

In 1967 I won a chicken in a raffle; the first and only time I’ve ever done so. Chicken trays are safe when I’m around.  As for meat trays - I’ve never won a meat tray, either. And, of course, to keep my clean record, I’ve never won a seafood tray from a Lions Club or a Rotary Club raffle; or from any other raffle run by an organisation, for that matter. I wouldn’t want to be starving, would I? With my winning history, or lack thereof, I should be skeletal. Thank goodness I’m an adept hand at food shopping. 

I may have mentioned somewhere along the line that I won a mountain bike in 1994 when I was living and working in Townsville; but as there is only one hill in Townsville, Castle Hill, and the fact that I wasn’t, and still am not into bike riding I gave the bike to a friend, a local 4TO radio announcer, and asked him to give it away to a worthy child listener by whatever method he saw fit, leaving my name out of the play. 

It was a Coca-Cola competition. I bought a ticket when fueling my car at the service station down the road a bit from the restaurant in which I was cooking at the time.

From memory that’s about it as far as my winning streaks are concerned.  I can’t even win an argument these days. Things are bad.

Taking all of the above into account, I must be due for a big win soon.  Perhaps, it’d be easier to buy a bag of raw peanuts.  Some I’ll roast; others I’ll boil; and the rest I’ll eat raw. While watching the Lotto draw - one I’ve entered, of course, I can throw peanuts at the TV screen when my numbers don’t come up.

Eggplant-Peanut Salad: Peel 2 eggplants, about 700g each; cut in ½ to 1-inch cubes. Put in colander; salt liberally; set aside 30mins. Rinse, drain and dry cubes.  Heat 1/2tbs oil in large pan; sauté 2 onions, cut in ½-inch cubes, 1-2mins; add 2 chopped garlic cloves; cook 1min; remove from pan; add eggplant in one layer; add more oil if needed; cook 5-7mins. Remove while eggplant still holds shape, soft but not mushy. Whisk together 1/2c red wine vinegar and 1tbs Dijon mustard; slowly drizzle in 3/4c olive oil while whisking; continue until emulsified; stir in the still warm vegetables; cool; cover and chill. About 30mins before serving add 1/2c raisins (plumped in water 10-15mins, then drained), 1/2c halved or chopped peanuts, chopped fresh thyme, and/or basil or marjoram to taste.  

Nut-Crusted Salmon: Place rack on baking sheet; put salmon fillets on top of rack; drizzle with a little oil; gently rub it in; season lightly; set aside. Process 1/3c unsalted peanuts, 1/4c cashews, 2tbs breadcrumbs, 1-1/2tsp Dijon mustard, juice of ½ lemon and some fresh parsley; pulse a few times until coarse. With processor running, drizzle in about 2tbs olive oil. The mixture should remain somewhat coarse. Press mixture onto top of salmon fillets; press down; cook in preheated 204C oven, 20mins, or until tops are golden.  

Kale-Cabbage Peanut Salad: Combine thinly-sliced bunch of kale with 1c chopped red cabbage, 1 carrot, julienned, 2 thinly-sliced shallots, and ½c roasted or raw peanuts. Dressing; combine 2tbs rice or cider vinegar, 1tbs lime juice, 1tbs soy sauce, 1 minced garlic clove, 1tsp honey and pinch of chilli flakes. Slowly drizzle in 1/4c sesame oil while whisking; add to salad; mix well. Garnish with chopped peanuts. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ASSOCIATION BY ASSOCIATION - OR SO WORD HAS IT…



John Thaw aka "Inspector Morse"
Peter Falk aka "Columbo"
Barry Foster aka "Van Der Valk"...on right





My word! Who we associate with says a lot about us; and, in turn, about them, of course.  However, not having planted a bug I’m unable to tell you what is said about you, me or us. 

Please don’t go around sticking beetles on your friends. Arthropods are not the kind of bugs to which I refer.  If you do play around with bugs perhaps heed should be taken of the saying that goes something like this: “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas”. Where’s the advantage in doing so if that’s the result?

How silly!  And let's be honest here...it would be very unkind to infest your pets in such a way!

I'm not referring to the bug of the motorised kind - the Volkswagen “Beetle", either.

Gee! It bugs me when I’m misunderstood!

An exchange a friend and I shared a couple of weeks ago started me thinking about association.  Alright…an “associate”, if you insist on being pedantic. 

In a round about way my associate raised the subject of word association. She does it often, not the raising of the subject, but the practice of word association; the utilization thereof.  And it must be said, she often does go the round about route when telling a story; not dissimilar to what I’m doing at present!
Between you and me, she rarely gets it right. She always stuffs it up. I refer to word association, not the route she takes.

Frequently I drop subtle hints that she should give up trying. Her failures are far reater than her successes. Actually, my hints aren’t subtle in any way.  So, you see, I’m not talking behind her back. I tell it straight to her face…or in her ear when we chat via the phone.  We are best of friends, by the way…in case you’re wondering.  She will read this sometime or other. If I happen to go missing, please don’t link my absence my associate!

Our latest discussion proved, once again, word association doesn’t work for my friend.

I’m not sure how we got onto the topic of the late British actor John Thaw and his well-known, well-executed televised characterisation of author Colin Dexter’s “Inspector Morse”; but by the end of our conversation my facial cheeks were stretched and sore, not from remorse, but from laughter.

While on the subject of Thaw aka Morse word association, somehow, reared its fraternizing head.
My friend insisted Thaw also played the role of a detective in an Amsterdam-based TV series; my unswerving endeavour trying to convince her that this wasn’t so failed to quell or thaw her persistent, frozen insistence.

Before continuing I must point out here, without sounding like a big-headed, know-it-all, I am a bit of a Mistress of Useless Trivia, particularly when the subject strays onto movies, movie stars, television series, television actors, novels and their protagonists etc., et al.  It’s an unconscious idle, frivolous hobby I unconsciously stumbled upon when I was a kid; one that has stayed with me ever since.  I just can’t seem to shake it off. I have no desire to do so.  I enjoy playing with it!  And, in my defense, it also must be said that my friend frequently turns to me for answers to questions about such trivial subject matters.

During our telephone conversation the other day, impelled by an image in her mind, my friend upheld her argument. She stood her ground like a fierce Warrior Princess. Xena, eat your heart out! You would be no match for my associate when she’s on a roll about who played what role. And when it comes to putting both of us together, toe to toe,  Xena wouldn’t get a look in!

As our animated discussion continued I was in awe when Thaw magically morphed into Peter Falk, who, disguised as Columbo obviously must have left LA to do a stint in Amsterdam because my friend tossed Falk onto the plate for reasons known only to her. It made me baulk. All I could do was gawk at the phone and let my friend talk her way into more befuddlement.  I’d chalk it up to another example of muddled word association confusion.

A needless profusion of words; a diffusion of theories and suggestions floated back and forth as our discussion progressed. None made any sense. The preclusion of one idea didn’t automatically bring us closer to a satisfactory conclusion of our dilemma. All the while, my laughter bubbled and erupted, as did hers.  We became a lethal combination.

Of course, I found myself growing hoarse trying to explain to her that neither Morse nor Thaw had anything to do with whatever she was talking about. By that stage, she’d not only confused me, but herself as well. As a stubborn adversary she may be, I also can stand my ground until my feet are thaw - I mean sore!  I wasn’t going to melt into submission because I knew she was beating the wrong drum.

Two days later I received an email from said associate.  She’d remembered the mysterious TV series.  It had nothing to do with Thaw or Falk; Morse or Columbo. Our lengthy discussion had been just a pile of mumbo-jumbo. 

The show my friend was trying to recall at the time of our phone conversation was the British television series “Van Der Valk”. It starred English actor Barry Foster in the title role as the Dutch detective. The series was based mainly in and around Amsterdam.  The theme music from “Van Der Valk”; a melody otherwise known as “Eye Level”, became very popular in the early Seventies. Each time I heard the music (and, no doubt, when many others heard the music played on their radios) its association with the television series immediately sprung to mind.I suppose “Valk” could, at a squeeze, be associated with “Falk”, but only in the rhyming department. And of course, similar to Thaw playing Inspector Morse, Falk did play a homicide detective called “Columbo”, often with his arms held akimbo!

If pinch came to shove, I could be forced into admitting there was a similarity in appearance between Thaw aka Morse and Foster aka Van Der Valk; but that’s as far as I’m prepared to go!

It's patently apparent I don’t practice word association. Give me one good reason why I should.
My ex-husband practiced word association.  Much to his embarrassment, one day he discovered it was probably a better idea to give up such a foolhardy habit.  It was a moment of enlightenment!

We were living in Brisbane and, at the time, my husband was a real estate salesman employed by a real estate agency in the suburb of Toowong; a Brisbane suburb in which we also lived.  He dealt with properties in the popular Toowong area, as well as in the equally popular surrounding western suburbs of Brisbane.

During that period, prior to us leaving the city to live at the coast, he’d gained his real estate license. Soon after we settled into coastal living we began operating our own small agency from our home office at Sunshine Beach. 

Back in Brisbane…a wealthy client was due in town. My ex’s would-be client’s name was Mr. Trigger. The sole purpose of Mr. Trigger’s visit to Brisbane was to purchase a couple of investment properties in and around Toowong. 

To ensure he’d remember his new client’s name my ex employed his word association skills prior to their appointment. Everything was going to well-rehearsed plan until my then husband extended his hand in welcome to - “Mr. Gunn”.

Citrus & Spice Pan-Seared Fish: Pat dry 3x155g fish fillets. Combine 1/2c orange juice, juice of 1 lime, 1tbs x-virgin olive oil, 3tsp soy sauce, 1tbs brown sugar, 1/2tsp each paprika and cumin, 1/4ts black pepper and 2 finely-chopped garlic cloves. Add fillets; coat evenly; chill 30-60mins. Heat pan on med-high heat; add fish to pan; sear about 4mins per side; remove and set aside.  Add rest of marinade to pan; bring to boil; reduce. Serve over fillets. 

Green Peas & Roasted Carrots: Cut 6 large carrots into 5x1cm batons; toss in 1tsp olive oil; add 1tsp each lightly-toasted caraway and cumin seeds, 1/4tsp smoked paprika, 2tsp maple syrup, 10g thyme sprigs, salt and freshly-ground pepper. Transfer onto lined baking tray. Roast at 220C, 20-25mins, until caramelized; cool. Tip into bowl; discard thyme. Blanche 150g fresh/frozen peas; drain; dry; add to carrots with 1tbs freshly-squeezed lemon juice, 1tsp orange zest, 1tsp finely-chopped tarragon, 1/2tbs olive oil; season. Toss gently; just before serving stir through 40g pea shoots.  

Three Fruit Citrus Loaf: Grease and flour two loaf tins; line bases. Cream 1c room temp butter and 2c sugar until light and fluffy. At med-speed, add 4 x-large eggs, 1 at a time and 1/3c grated lime and orange zest. Sift together 3c plain flour, 1/2tsp each baking powder and baking soda and 1tsp salt. In bowl combine 1/4c each orange and lemon juice, 3/4c room-temp buttermilk and 1tsp vanilla. Add flour and buttermilk mixture to butter/eggs alternately; begin and end with flour. Divide between pans; bake at 175C, 45-60mins. Cook 1/2c sugar with 1/3 lemon juice in saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Spoon sauce over still warm cakes; then cool completely.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

FRITTERING IT ALL AWAY….ONE WAY OR THE OTHER...



Taken for my 16th birthday...November, 1960
From left - Me (Lee), Vicki and Evonne in Gympie..taken in July, 1965


I wasn’t entirely a Child of the Sixties. I had my fingers in a couple of pies; my feet through a couple of doors; I mixed in a few circles. 

As an aside, it must be drawn to the attention of many, the Sixties started at the last of the stroke of midnight, January 1st, 1960; long before The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Flower Children, psychedelic illusions, et al arrived on the scene.  Chubby Checker, Dion & The Belmonts, The Marvelettes, Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, The Everly Brothers, The Beach Boys, Duane Eddy, The Champs, The Surfaris, Peter, Paul & Mary, The Kingston Trio, and so many, many more - too many to list here - beat them to the punch.

You see, to be more exact, to draw a clearer picture - I was a child of the Fifties who became a teenager shortly before the turn of the Sixties. Therefore, I was more a Teenager of the Sixties than a Child of the Sixties.

More precisely, I was a teenager for half of the Sixties; and then I became a “Twenty-Something” for the second half of the Sixties, and remained so into the early-to-mid Seventies...and so the pattern has continued through out the decades.  I'm a Child of the Half & Half! 

A few minutes have been frittered away figuring out the above calculations in my head, but I don’t consider it time wasted at all. It makes sense to me. However, if you’re confused by my nonsensical number-crunching and you’re now searching for an abacus, otherwise known as a counting frame, don’t be overly concerned because it really doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of things. 

I’ll keep frittering away on my keyboard while you catch up – if, of course, you’re in any way interested working out the math.  If you’re not interested it really doesn’t matter. I won’t know unless you tell me otherwise.

Before I cease my frittering I must say I’m glad I was a child, teenager and twenty-something during the above-mentioned decades.  Those years had much to offer even if today’s technology wasn’t available at our fingertips.  For example, the great music that filled our airwaves; some of which is still being played and enjoyed today.  It’s been around almost as long as I have – and that’s a long time. And, of course, the youthful years it offered; as in how old I was at the time - or how young. I can't ignore the generous gift of being youthful in those decades. Quite a few decades have since flowed under the bridge or disappeared beyond the far horizons into the Never-Never; but myriad memories have remained.

Flippantly I could be accused of having frittered away this morning. A couple of hours were spent talking on the phone with a friend of long-standing. We've known each other since I was four years old...long before I became a half-Child of the Sixties.

However, I don’t call the time I've spent this morning talking on the phone, writing this post, playing with Remy and Shama, preparing my lunch as being time wasted or frittered.  Some could say I squandered my morning; but I don’t believe time spent catching up with good friends not often seen as being time frittered away.  

 Sure! There’s housework that needs my attention; but it’s not leaving home. It never does; it’ll still be here tomorrow, the next day and the following day. To be honest with you, I did fritter away a little time earlier sweeping the floor. How frivolous of me!

While on the subject of frittering - lately I’ve had a yearning for fritters. I know myself very well; once a seed has been planted in my mind, rather than fritter away time fighting against whatever the persistent yearning is - I refer to food yearnings - I prefer to allow myself to succumb to the enticing allure of the longing. 

Why torture myself? There are enough people in this world of ours who, every day, torture my sensibilities and my perception of fair play without me tormenting me.

When I was a little girl Sunday lunches were the most important, grandiose meal of the week.  My brother Graham and I attended Sunday School each Sunday morning.  To be honest, I think our minds were more on what was to follow, waiting for us at home upon our return, than on our lessons. We were always eager for the lessons to be over because we knew a delicious lunch was in store for us.  We ran home rather than walked - the trip between the Scots Church and home was always covered at a much faster pace and in less time than it took going from home to Sunday School.  We knew what awaited our arrival home - a delicious, special Sunday lunch.  We raced up the backstairs, two at a time, led by our noses.  Tantalising aromas wafting out from the kitchen teased and greeted us.  

If I sit quietly, letting myself drift back into years long gone by, I find myself being transported to those Sunday mornings…to those aromas and what they led to.  It’s not done by mirrors, but by the powerful magic of the mind.

The main feature of our Sunday lunch would be a chosen roast of some sort – beef, pork, lamb or veal, sometimes chicken (although chicken in those days was mostly preserved for Christmas lunch and Easter Sunday lunch) - accompanied by an enticing, wide variety of the obligatory roasted vegetables, often with a cheesy cauliflower au gratin as a side dish, and always fresh peas or green beans.

Of course, flavoursome “made-from-scratch” rich brown gravy graced our plates; as well as a jug of freshly-made mint sauce if lamb was the roast of the day. Homemade apple sauce always accompanied roast pork. 

The highlight, before actually sitting down to enjoy the meal was being allowed to make the gravy. Gravy might seem simple to make, but diligent care and skill were required to make perfect rich brown, lump-free gravy.   Gravy could make or break a meal; and to achieve “oohs” and “ahhs” about your gravy from your family members sitting around the table were rewards proudly received.

When our Sunday lunch didn’t consist of a roast of some kind, corned silverside or brisket cooked in an appetising stock of black peppercorns, cloves, vinegar, dry mustard and brown sugar was on the menu. Carrots, whole unpeeled onions and celery were added to boost the cooking liquid’s flavour.  A “boiled” lunch was enjoyed with gusto equal to that of a roast meal.

Shortly before the meat finished cooking, the vegetables planned to accompany the meal were added to the delicious stock. Also, cabbage – a must with a “boiled” lunch - was cooked separately in the corned beef liquid. The flavour permeated the meat and the assorted vegetables in the most delicious way.  

A white parsley sauce, or sometimes, a tasty cheese sauce, was served with the meal.

Without fail, Monday night’s dinner was always prepared from Sunday’s left-overs.

Often the main feature of Monday’s dinner was corned beef fritters; fritters packed with diced corned silverside, onion, tomatoes and corn.

Over the past few weeks or so, I’ve satisfied my fritter yearning by frittering away my time making fritters.  Not only did I make fritters each time the longing arise, I ate them, too!  

Oh! And I enjoyed them!

Delete from your mind the image of fritters soaked in and dripping with oil. The barest amount of oil, if any, in a non-stick pan suffices. You can throw anything into the fritter mix – within reason, of course - serve with a salad, or just as is.  If they’re made with whatever you can lay your hands on, little else is needed.  Just raid your vegetable crisper in your fridge and miracles will happen!

Artichoke, Feta and Lemon Fritters: Drain, rinse, and chop 2 cans artichoke hearts.
Combine 3 thinly-sliced leeks, 2 chopped shallots, 1tbs minced garlic and 1tbs extra-virgin olive oil in a frying pan; sauté until softened; add to artichokes. Stir in 1c flour, 1/4c breadcrumbs, 1/2c parmesan, 1/4c chopped parsley, 1/4c crumbled feta, black pepper, 1/2tsp Italian seasoning, zest and juice of 1 lemon; stir in 1 beaten egg; chill 1hr. Heat non-stick pan; add a little oil, if desired; add spoonfuls of fritter mixture; cook on both sides until cooked through; keep warm in oven while cooking remaining mixture. 

Spinach & Ricotta Fritters: Combine thoroughly, 500g fresh ricotta, 250g thawed, well-drained frozen spinach or 500g finely-sliced fresh spinach or silverbeet, 1c parmesan, 2 eggs, 6tbs plain flour and zest of 1 lemon. Heat non-stick pan; add a little oil. Ladle batter by tablespoon into pan; cook 2-3mins each side. Place fritters onto a paper-lined oven tray; place in 180C oven, 5-10mins. Serve with salad. 

Mixed vegetable Fritters: Make batter;  combine - 1/2c buttermilk (or milk) 2 eggs, 1.5c plain flour, 1.5tsp baking powder; add 2 grated zucchini, 2 small carrots, grated, 1c frozen corn, 1 diced tomato, sliced shallots, 1c frozen peas, chopped silverbeet/spinach, chopped parsley, 40g grated cheese and salt. Mix well. Heat a little oil in non-stick pan. Add spoonfuls of batter to pan; cook as previously described.  

Sweet & Spicy Banana Fritters: Mix 1/2c chickpea flour, 1/2tsp salt and 1tsp chilli powder; add enough water to make batter. Using 2c cut bananas, dip fruit into batter; fry in hot oil until golden

Thursday, August 07, 2014

CHAPTER TWO…. SWIMMING UP STREAM OR A FISH OUT OF WATER…OR BOTH



View from the main building...and me setting up a barbecue just out from the bar area...I've posted these photos previously


 
A newer model to the marine flashlight I had on the island


Warning: If some straight-forward, to-the-point words upset you (it’s nothing you don’t hear every day in TV shows or in movies or elsewhere)…my advice is for you to read no further…but this is a true story…and I’m telling it as it was….as it happened.


The majority of times Pushkin and Rimsky chose to stay well clear of my island guests.  They, my two furry rascals, spent most of their days and nights - those nights when they weren’t downstairs chatting with the white-tailed bush rats; the nights when no humans were present - upstairs in my living quarters. Both cats liked to stay within easy purr, miaow and reach to me. Sometimes Rimsky was known to sneak downstairs during the day.  A few times he’d lie curled up on shelf of a cane hutch against one of the walls in the dining/bar area.  The hutch held knick-knacks and books…and, at the odd time, Rimsky, (course of 'cos - my own private joke for those of you who don't get it)!  His presence usually went by unnoticed.  One day, a guest, in surprise, said to me she, at initial glance, had thought he was a ceramic work of art sitting on the shelf. Rimsky gave himself away when he stirred in his slumber. It was then she realised he wasn’t made out of clay!  He was a work of art, all right…but a furry, mobile, living one!

Both cats had ample room to move about, at will, upstairs. They also had access to the outside through the always open windows that faced towards the hill at the rear. However, they did prefer the indoors. Why lie on the ground where there were a couple of comfortable beds made up especially for them? 

The building had been constructed almost flush to the rise with only a fairly narrow gap between its outer wall and nature. Pushkin and Rimsky had their own personal, private au naturale ablutions’ block with, perhaps, only a koala passing by at infrequent intervals. Politely, they, the koalas, I’m sure, cast their eyes elsewhere when doing so. 

Of course, in the evenings when I set up the barbecue ready to cook a fresh seafood feast, Pushkin and Rimsky ventured downstairs. They would sit discreetly and patiently off to the side of the gas barbecue in the shadows, but close enough to be within easy reach as they waited for their fair share of what was on offer – a menu always filled with prawns, fish, oysters and crabs.  They manners were always perfect. What a life they had.  It’s little wonder they showed no interest in the bird life or the various animals wandering around our island paradise.  Why would my two furry rascals hunt for themselves, when fresh bounty from the ocean was regularly brought to their doorstep; when they had the trawler men do their hunting for them? Once they’d had their fill they scampered back upstairs and let the humans be.

Mostly the same group of trawlers called into the island after spending three to four weeks out at sea. They became my “regulars”; and they spent a lot of money over the bar after being so long at sea. I never had any trouble from them. I was always able to “nip it in the bud” if I noticed someone looking cross-eyed at another.

Sometimes, not often, a fishing-prawn trawler – a stranger to my shore paid a visit; not one of my regular boats, but rarely did that occur as far as the trawlers were concerned. Most of the faces and names were familiar to me.

The island was the last port of call for many of the trawlers before they returned to Mackay to off-load their catches. As I’ve written in previous posts I never paid for any seafood I received.  Our trading deals  – the exchanges between the trawlers and me – were conducted by the barter system…a carton of beer for a bucketful or two of prawns, fresh fish and/or oysters; or a bottle of bourbon, rum or scotch etc. etc, in other instances. I always had ample supplies of fresh seafood.  It was a very healthy existence…not only for my guests and me, but for Pushkin and Rimsky, too.       

One bright, sunny, clear blue sky day, along with a couple of other guests, a family of five came to stay on the island; a mother, father and their three children; the oldest of whom was a girl of around 14 years.  Her siblings were a couple of years younger.  The teenager was still very young for her years; an innocent. Developmentally she belied her years, mentally, but her body was blossoming into that of a young woman.  She was an attractive young girl who was at ease playing with her younger brothers.    

Earlier in the day I’d picked the family up from the boat ramp at Victor Creek and ferried them across to the island for the start of their three-day holiday.  Every member of the family was filled with excitement, particularly the three children.  Immediately upon arriving at Newry, I walked with them to their cabin so they could settle in. The kids hurriedly changed into their swimming togs; they were eager to get to the beach.  By the time I arrived back to the main building they were already on the beach, or in the water playing gaily. 

In the meantime a trawler had anchored up out in the channel between my island and Outer Newry Island. 

A little while later, the skipper along with a couple of his crew motored across to the resort.  I knew the skipper from his previous visits.  He was a quiet, well-mannered fellow.  With him on this particular visit he brought along his brother-in-law.  His brother-in-law was a temporary member of his crew.  The fellow had never been out on a trawler before, let alone for a three-week stint.  His brother-in-law was on holidays from his usual workplace and had decided it would be a good way to spend his time off – to help his wife’s brother on the trawler.

The children were still playing around on the beach and in the water, having a whale of a time. They were clearly enjoying a perfect day.   Their parents spent time wandering leisurely back and forth from their cabin, in between sitting on the foreshore relishing the balmy day as they talked between each other while watching their children at play.   

I wandered down to the beach…everything was under control up in the bar area.  No one needed my attention there.  For a while I'd noticed one of the crew from the trawler had been hanging around in the water, at about knee-high depth; near where the young lass was frolicking.  It was the brother-in-law of the skipper; the guy I’d not met before that morning.

Something about him caused the hairs on my back to stand on end, to coin a much-used phrase. An ominous feeling stirred in my gut – a warning.   I moved closer to the water’s edge, closer to where he was, to be within earshot.  I watched and listened awhile.  My antennae was up on high alert. It came time for me to make my move; to put a full stop to what he had in mind.  I believed in no time at all he would have persuaded the young girl to go for a walk with him…or for her to go for a walk, and he, just by accident or coincidence would catch up with her.  The scenario was so clear in my mind I could’ve written the script!

He was “grooming” the young 14 year old; and as I said, she was very young mentally for her years.  In her innocence she was lapping up his attention; his flattering, soft words. She giggled and squirmed. To me it was obvious she wasn’t used to receiving such attention.  She had no idea what he was up to; what evil thoughts he had in mind. 

He did…and so did I.   The young girl’s parents were unaware what was transpiring, and I wanted to keep it that way, if I could.  I’d handle it, my way.

There are a few things in this world I abhor.  Snakes are one of those things, but I abhor paedophiles - sexual predators even more.  I abhor domestic violence; but most of all, I abhor paedophiles...with vengeance.

Calmly wading through the water, I came to a standstill at the fellow’s left side.  He hardly noticed my presence.  After all, I was too old; and too smart to attract his attention.  Why, for goodness sake, would he notice me?

I said to him:  “I know what you’re doing.  I know what you’re up to.  I also know at this point in time the father of that young girl is unaware of your motives; your intentions, and I’d rather keep it that way if I can because I don’t want to have bloodshed on this island.”

He looked at me with a smug, half-smart ‘I-don’t-know-what-you’re-talking-about' look on his face.  His feigned innocence didn’t fool me. My instincts usually serve me well, and they were in perfect working order that day.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he responded. My skin crawled.

“Yes, you do. I suggest you leave this island right now; go back out to the trawler; stay there, and don’t come back. If you do, I won’t be held responsible for what I’ll do. I’m probably your worst nightmare…worse than that young girl’s father if he finds out.” I looked him squarely in the eye.

“Who do you think you are?” He sneered. “The police…”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, on this island I am the police.  I’m in charge, and what I say goes…so fuck off right now.  This is your last and only warning. Get off my island.  If you set even a toe back on this island, I’ll fucking well knock your head off.  You can be guaranteed of that!”

The timbre of my voice, my whole demeanour showed him I wasn’t fooling around. Without fuss or further argument from him, I escorted the despicable creature towards the dinghy in which he’d arrived to the island. In a quiet, but threatening voice, I ordered him to remain there; to not  move even a hair until I returned with the skipper. I was livid. Rage burned within me. I went up to the bar area where I took the skipper aside and quietly told him to take his new crew member off the island, and that, he, the skipper was welcome to return if he so wished, but in no way was the idiot he’d brought with him welcome. The skipper had been oblivious to what had gone on, as had everyone else.  At that point in time, I didn’t go into minute details. I wanted to keep a lid on everything.   

Once the problem was removed, I relaxed a little. However, I still kept a keen eye on the trawler anchored out in the channel.  It’s always good to be a couple of steps ahead of the game.

The children remained playing in the ocean and on the beach until their parents beckoned that it was time to return to their cabin for lunch and whatever other plans they’d made to fill the afternoon.  The tide was on its way out, so swimming wouldn’t be an afternoon pastime.  The tide went out a long way to the drop-off at the edge of the channel between the two islands.

A seafood barbecue was on the evening agenda. I’d finished preparation by late afternoon. Everything was ready for whenever my guests were.  Around dusk, shortly before 6 pm, daylight still lingered, but was fading.  My guests had not yet arrived to the main building, but I knew they were due at any minute.    

I looked out to sea…the tide was at its lowest.  I saw a dinghy, the tender from the trawler with one body aboard heading towards the island. My heart began to pound.  It felt like it was going to burst out of my chest.

On the island I had a heavy-duty marine flashlight, not dissimilar to the one pictured above. It was a necessity for island living. I always kept it within easy reach at the bar.  Grabbing the flashlight - I didn’t need it for light as there was still enough daylight for me to see clearly – it made for a good weapon if the need arose. In haste, I walked down to the beach. As I passed my little red dinghy that was securely tied to a tree on the foreshore, I picked up one of its oars. 

In one hand I had the oar; in the other I held the large flashlight.  Worthy weapons, I believed.  As I said the tide was well out. I had the mudflats to cross before I reached the water’s edge.  As I drew closer, I recognized who was in the dinghy.  I’d assumed correctly as soon as I’d noticed it coming towards the island – it was the fellow I’d banished earlier in the day.  He was coming back for a second shot. Some people never learn....

Over my dead body he was going to set foot on the island…but in the black mood I was in, the more likely scenario was it would be over his dead body.

I knew I had the advantage, even though the ground below me was soft, muddy sand, it was still “ground”, and both my feet were firmly planted on it.  He, on the other hand was at a disadvantage by being in the dinghy.  And for him to attempt to alight from it, a fair amount of uncertain, unsteady movement would be caused.

Just as he reached the water’s edge, simultaneously I reached the dinghy and him.   
He had a sneering, smirk on his face, but I soon wiped it off. 

“You don’t fucking listen, do you?” I said to him. “You’ve got shit for brains! I told you earlier you’re not welcome here. So, I’ll tell you again - one more time.  Turn this boat around, right now, and row back out to the trawler.  If you dare even make an attempt of getting out; if you dare set one fucking foot out of the boat, I’ll knock your fucking head off!  Don’t fool yourself, mate; don’t think that I won’t! Get the fuck out of here now, and don’t ever come back!”   

I was absolutely furious.  It’s not often I’ve felt anger like I felt at that moment.  It was a steely anger; a burning, and yet, cold rage.  I didn’t shake; I stood firm. I meant every word I said.  I had the upper hand.  If he’d made one movement, the slightest movement towards getting out of the dinghy I would’ve let fly with the oar. I was ready. The flashlight would’ve been quickly dropped to the ground, and with both my hands grasped tightly on the oar I would have struck out at his head with the full force of my being.  He would’ve been minus a head; either that or he would’ve ended up with a very sore, broken head.  And I would have given no apologies. I have no doubts whatsoever about what would have happened. 

From my words, my stance and the look on my face, he immediately had no doubts, either.  He knew I was serious.  It wasn’t a time for jokes.

I stood my ground. I didn't back off, nor did I take my eyes off him.  He turned and left, without even an attempt at rising, let alone setting a foot out of the boat. He went back from whence he came.

I waited at the water’s edge until he’d reached the trawler; tied up and climbed on board.  Then I returned to the resort’s main building.  By that time the few guests staying on the island had begun to meander down for pre-dinner drinks; the family included.  

Everyone was totally unaware what had occurred.  I intended to keep it that way.

The next morning the skipper of the trawler rowed across to the island to see me.  I told him what had transpired. He’d heard one side of the story.  It was my turn to tell him the other – the truth.  He listened without interrupting.  I said to him that he would continue to be welcome on the island, but his brother-in-law wasn’t; that he was never to bring him to the island again; and if he did, he, too, would be banned for as long as I was the manager of Newry Island.  The skipper apologised profusely for the behaviour of his brother-in-law. I just listened.  He never did bring his brother-in-law back to the island.  He never again had him as a member of his crew on the trawler.
    
The family had a wonderful, carefree, three-day holiday on the island; and left unaware of what could have transpired.  And that’s how I wanted it to be.

                                                                THE END

Monday, July 28, 2014

SWIMMING UP STREAM OR A FISH OUT OF WATER…OR BOTH….CHAPTER ONE



This is the townhouse I rented...on the corner of Clifton Beach Rd., and Arlington Esplanade, Clifton Beach. It wasn't painted white when I lived there. The sliding upstairs door led from the main bedroom onto the narrow deck...looking out to the beach and ocean across the road. Downstairs is the kitchen-living area. My unit was the one shown...on the right. There were/are only the two units in the block.
Upstairs and downstairs view from the above townhouse.  Great spot!

Courtesy of Surf Lifesaving Australia...an aerial view of the main beach on Newry Island where the resort used to be.
 
Giant White-tailed Bush Rat (Placenta mammals)

The much smaller Marsupial Bush Rat

Pied Oystercatchers

Pushkin

Pushkin was an adorable cat.  He came into my life as a wee kitten Nov. 1987, and he was in my life until November, 2002.



Although it was good in some ways to return to the mainland after my time spent on Hinchinbrook Island, on reflection, I didn’t settle in completely to all aspects of mainland living.  I missed the island and its carefree lifestyle. It took me a while to get used to having my feet planted firmly on ground, not being surrounded by water on all sides.  Life was so much different to that on the island. However, I compensated by living as close to the beach and ocean as I could. 

Upon leaving Hinchinbrook for the tropical city of Cairns I rented a townhouse a few metres around the corner from the beach at Yorkeys Knob, and then later another at Clifton Beach in the Northern Beach area of Cairns.   

At Clifton Beach, when living in the townhouse at 97 Arlington Esplanade (pictured above), situated on the corner of Clifton Beach Road and the Esplanade, the beach was only a few metres away, across the road. I only had to take a couple of hops, steps and jumps and I'd land on the beach. There I'd enjoy the sand between my toes before allowing the salt water to wash it off at will.  From my bedroom and from the downstairs living area I had a clear vision of the ocean with only the palm trees and a few other coastal trees to interrupt the view, in a nice way. Night after night the sea gently lapping the beach was my lullaby; and each morning the orange glow of the rising sun across the ocean my alarm clock.

But I was floundering, even though I wasn’t aware, not consciously, anyway.  However, somebody else noticed. 

When I was living on Hinchinbrook Island Jesse Peach operated the Dunk Island barge that ran between Mission Beach and Dunk Island.  Often Jesse visited the resort on Hinchinbrook Island, which is about 53kms (33 miles) south of Mission Beach. By sea Dunk Island, which lies out front of Mission Beach is only 44kms (27 miles) from Hinchinbrook; and Dunk is only 10ms (6 miles) off shore from Mission Beach. 

I’d gotten to know Jesse quite well from his frequent visits.  He loved Hinchinbrook and he got to know all my staff, too. He was well-liked. 

Coincidentally, when I was property manager/receptionist/secretary/chief dog’s body and bottle washer at Inner Circle Realty, Smithfield, on Cairns' Northern Beaches area Jesse and his lady owned and operated a fish and chips shop in the same shopping centre at Smitherfield…just a couple of shops diagonally across and up from our office. Jesse had given up driving the barge, and he, too, had moved to the "big city" around the same time I had made my move.

The very astute Jesse paused for a chat one morning when our paths crossed at the centre's newsagency, which was situated opposite his shop, and a few metres/yards up from my place of employment.

“You don’t seem very happy, Lee.  You’re not the same person you were on the island,” Jesse declared, not holding back.

“It’s a whole different ball game, Jesse.  Island living is completely different to this.  It was free - you know what it was like…we were free spirits...you know what I mean…” I stammered, a little taken aback by his unexpected, direct observation.

“I know, but I sense you feel as if you’re boxed in…trapped.  You don't seem to be very happy. It's as if you’ve forgotten how to be…” He continued.

“Yeah…” I sighed in resignation.

A couple of weeks later, again early morning before the rest of my co-workers appeared (I always arrived at work before everyone else) Jesse burst through the doors (they were open) filled with excitement, eager to share the information that was the reason for his visit.

That morning Jesse alerted me to Newry Island; to the fact that Willi Litz, the lessee of the resort on Newry Island was desperately searching for someone to take control of the reins.  He needed someone to look after the small, basic, down-to-earth resort for him because the previous manager had left Willi in the lurch, and he was in dire straits. Jesse knew someone who knew someone who told him about Willi Litz’ predicament; and Jesse immediately thought of me!  Of course, why not?  The Lone Ranger to the rescue…

I'd never heard of Newry Island until then.  I had no idea where it was, so a quick visit to the newsagency to grab a map soon put remedy to my ignorance.

In a way, I was the “Lone Ranger”…still am… nothing changes, and nor would I want it to.  I lived alone with only my two cats, Pushkin and Rimsky as my “roomies”.  I was tied to no one or nothing.  I was beholden to no one. So with little further ado, I did what I felt I had to do! What I wanted to do.

Newry Island smiled back at me in welcome the first time I laid eyes on “her”.  As I approached Newry across the waters between Rocky Island, Acacia Island and Outer Newry Island my face spontaneously broke open in a wide smile; a smile I couldn’t contain.  I had no desire to contain it.  The feeling I experienced that morning was one of pure joy.  I felt as if I was “coming home”.

After my arrival to the island Willi remained only long enough to “show me the ropes”.  Ten days later I was on my Pat Malone (I was alone to those not familiar with Aussie slang)…and loving it.  A few weeks after setting foot on Newry my furry mates, Pushkin and Rimsky arrived, having endured a rather hairy trip by four-wheel drive from Clifton Beach to Victor Creek, with a blue heeler (cattle dog) to keep them amused.  They weren’t the drivers of the vehicle, of course; they were safely ensconced in a large cardboard box.  In the same sturdy box they were transported across the ocean to me.  Finally, we three were together again…and very happy to be so. The Three Musketeers never celebrated a reunion the way we did!

I’ve written the above details or words to similar effect previously, but I rekindled the description of my arrival on Newry Island for some amongst you who may not have read my other posts about my time on the island. The above prelude is to give the uninitiated a backdrop to my island background.

The times I spent on the island alone – alone other than having Pushkin, Rimsky as my companions, and whatever native animals and birds with which we shared the space - were perhaps my favourite times on the island. Living within the plentiful abundance of peace and tranquility, with only the sounds of Nature as our accompaniment, there was nothing left to be desired.

Pushkin, Rimsky and I shared the island with koalas, echidnas, possums and the white-tailed bush rats, along with bandicoots and, no doubt, numerous other nocturnal creatures that I never set eyes on. The native residents who’d called the island home long before my two furry rascals and I turned up welcomed us, innately aware we wouldn’t harm them.

Each night the possums played on the sloping roof on the left-hand side of my bedroom, raising an unholy row.  I think they held football matches. They sounded more like a herd of elephants than a passel or posse of possums.   

The top half of the stable door on the side bedroom wall leading out to the roof I left open most of the time, weather permitting, of course. The existence of the stable door leading to nowhere other than onto a pitched, corrugated-iron roof mystified me.  I never did discover its purpose or why it was inserted when the building was originally constructed.

The first night Pushkin and Rimsky heard the possums running around on the roof out from my bedroom , in tandem, they lept through the open top half of the door to investigate the ruckus.  Within seconds they returned, in surrender, each with a “Whooooaaaaa!!” look on his face. They never ventured forth out onto the roof again, not at night, anyway.

When on the island alone I switched the generator off early evening rather than  waste fuel unnecessarily.  Once everything was shut down I’d go upstairs to my bedroom. I’d read in bed for a while by candlelight, flashlight or, sometimes, by lantern glow. Mostly, I’d cherish the stillness, the quietness of the night, people-free.  At those times, Pushkin and Rimsky made the most of their freedom to move around downstairs in the bar and dining area uninterrupted by humans; by annoying strangers with whom they weren’t keen to mingle.   

The bar was of particular interest to them.  Once they knew I was securely nestled in upstairs, I’m sure they shared a shot or two of Scotch. It was their “Happy Hour”. A few times I did discover what they used to get up to down there.  They’d made a few friends, and enjoyed catching up with them when they had the chance.

Pushkin and Rimsky’s night time playmates were the native giant white-tailed bush rats. The white-tails are nocturnal rodents. They play an important role in the northern rainforest communities in the Wet Tropics where they’re quite prolific. The first time I’d ever seen a giant white-tailed bush rat was when I lived on Hinchinbrook Island.  It’s been recorded that they originated from Papua New Guinea about four million years ago. They grow to the size of a domestic cat or a rabbit and can weigh up to a kilogram. The giant white-tailed bush rats are placenta mammals different to the much smaller, daintier little marsupial bush rat that frequent the coastal areas of Australia.  The marsupial bush rats are much smaller than their larger cousins, weighing in at around a mere 160 grams (about 5 ounces). The white-tailed bush rats have formidable teeth and are able to cause damage to all sorts of materials, including PVC piping, leather, tin, canvas – you name it, and they’ll chew through it.  They’ve been known to bite through cans.  If you see a coconut on the beach with a hole in it, drained of its juice, nine and a half times out of ten the hole was caused by a white-tail biting through the coconut to get to the juice.  However, they’re not dangerous to humans…and it became obvious to me when living on Newry Island, they weren’t a threat to cats, either; or vice versa.

Whenever I went downstairs to check the progress of their party I’d discover my two furry mates nonchalantly sitting on the bar, their mates, the white-tailed bush rats, scampering around on the floor in front of them.  My two cats didn't twitch a whisker; nor did they offer me a drink!

 I constantly berated Pushkin and Rimsky about their failure as cats; about it being their job to keep guard against nocturnal visitors and to chase their feral mates away, but to no avail.  With a yawn and eyes cocked, they just poo-hooed my suggestions.  Their friends were their friends, and no one, not even I could tear them asunder.  Their loyalty knew no boundaries.

Because of that unfailing friendship there must have been an unspoken pact or truce; or one I was unable to translate or understand because the white-tailed bush rats never seemed to cause any damage to the buildings, pipes, etc; not any I could see.  Perhaps the buildings were so old, it was impossible to notice any damage!  There was nothing I could do to keep them in check, even if I wanted to do so.  I never locked any doors, windows, or anything else on the island. There were no locks, no keys. I had no need to lock anything up or away.  Living on the island I felt no threat from any living creature, including those of the two-legged human kind.  Only once was there a threat from a human…and that was from me towards a fellow human, but more about that in Chapter Two.

My Newry Island reminiscences kicked into gear in earnest after reading Stewart Monckton’s post on his blog “Paying Ready Attention”. Stewart is to blame. It’s his fault. He mentioned and pictured Sooty Oystercatchers…the birds.

At Stewart’s mention of the oystercatchers I was reminded of the Pied Oystercatchers that used to frequent the main beach in front of the resort on Newry Island. I loved watching them stroll along the beach.  Their not-a-care-in-the-world attitude was contagious. They weren't wary of me, mostly they ignored me as they enjoyed their day. Rarely did they fly away if I drew near.  There was enough room on the island for them and for me. So often I stopped whatever I was doing to leisurely watch them while they went about their own business. They were always in pairs.  They were never very far apart from each other. Amused, I’d watch them as they splashed about in the shallow pools of water left behind from an ebbing tide. 

Obviously, there were a few pairs rather than just the one pair, but as they all looked alike to me, it was difficult to my untrained eye to know which was which, who was who, or how many there were unless they all congregated together at the same time. 

I loved watching their antics when they bathed in a water pool oblivious to all else.  I’d sit quietly watching as one bird attended to its ablutions. After a few minutes of sole bathing the bird would look along the beach towards where its mate wandered about a few metres away, either in search of something tasty to nibble on, or it had chosen to take a casual stroll with no purposeful intention as it pondered the world through the eyes of an oystercatcher. 

Spotting his mate, the bathing bird would call out to it, beckoning the other bird to join him; and then, the two of them together would frolic freely.  Not wanting to disturb their fun, I didn’t have the heart to move until after they’d completed their gratifying pleasure.  Watching their daily ritual was a gratifying pleasure for me, too,

Witnessing the joyful antics of the oystercatchers was just one of the many things I loved about being on the island alone with only Pushkin and Rimsky for company...along with our co-inhabitants, the wonderful native creatures.

One afternoon I went for a stroll up along the beach towards the northern point when I noticed, a few metres up ahead, a tern was acting in a very distressed manner.  It was crying out in a mournful, yet frantic wail while flapping it wings and moving around in a most agitated way.  As I drew closer I noticed its mate was lying motionless on the beach in front of it. The surviving tern was in such a state.  I crouched down on my heels onto the sand. What I saw upset me very much.  Tears flowed freely down my face.  There was nothing I could do, so I backed away slowly, sobs racking my body. The bird’s anguish was palpable. Whether I was right or not, I believed the bird had to grieve in its own way. I didn’t feel it was my place to disturb the scene at that time, so I let it be.  The following morning I returned to the site and buried the dead bird, above the high water mark.

 I will never forget the incident; and I know some may think I’m silly -but I don't care - to this day, about 24 years later, it still upsets me when I think about that afternoon. 

I'm one of the biggest softies in the world ("sooks" as we're are referred to in Aussie slang)... but, on the other hand, I don't suffer fools easily - or at all, as a matter of fact.

Chapter Two will follow….