Sunday, August 02, 2015

CHAPTER THIRTEEN….… MUSIC TO MY EARS...PURRRFECT....OR...TO ALL THE CATS I'VE LOVED BEFORE...AND STILL...

Maroochydore...Circa 1985

Judy, Daina and baby sister Kaycee...Circa 1986...cat unknown...
Me on the deck surrounding the resort pool....and Orchid Beach


Précis:
Before continuing further with my story, whenever I think about the resort at Cape Richards, along with my wonderful memories of my halcyon days spent on the island, I’m also angered and saddened to my core. These days the resort at Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island no longer exists. 

Through bad management/ownership the resort closed down in 2010.  Like an abandoned child or pet it was left, unprotected against the elements; the forces of Nature; and, unfortunately, unprotected from the hands of worthless human beings.   The main building and cabins were helpless victims.  Not only was it destroyed by Category 5 Cyclone Yasi who’d packed no mercy, but had packed a powerful, destructive punch when she visited north Queensland on 3rd February,  2011, brain-dead, waste-of-space  vandals had also paid visits to Cape Richards with one sole purpose in mind…to vandalise the property.  Vandals willfully wrecked everything in their path. Why anyone would take the time to cross the sea in their fishing boats with the intention of vandalising the property uppermost in their minds is beyond my comprehension!  I hear the sharks are pretty hungry up that way in the waters between Cardwell and Cape Richards…I hope the vandals need a swim to cool off…..I selflessly offer to drive the boat to drop them off into the waters off from Cape Richards....

Reflecting upon those few weeks in early 1986 leading up to the scheduled re-opening of the resort on 8th March, I’m in awe.  I don’t know how we managed to get everything or almost everything completed before the due date…before our first paying guests set foot on the island; but, somehow, some way, we did achieve most of what we’d set out to  before the first guests arrived by seaplane and by sea brought across from Cardwell on the “Reef Venture”.

The new jetty was completed and standing in fine form. The expansive deck surrounding the pool with the sturdy wooden tables securely set into the timber decking were waiting to be sat at with a tropical cocktail in hand!

We even managed to fit in Bronnie’s 21st birthday party which fell a week or so before opening day.  The party was also held before the deck was completed.  It’s a wonder we didn’t lose a couple of staff members through the unfinished decking…perhaps we did, and didn’t notice!  Our celebrations went long into the night - anything could’ve happened! 

The “Brothers in Arms” world tour by Dire Straits was in progress at the time and the band was due to perform at the Townsville Showgrounds on 2nd April.  I knew Bronwyn was a huge fan, so I organised two tickets for her; it would be her first ever live concert; and I knew she'd want someone to accompany her. Being on the island was her first time away from home.  In lots of ways she was still a shy lass. It was up to her who she'd choose from her workmates to join her at the concert.  She'd enjoy the concert far better with a mate by her side to enjoy it with her. 

Bronnie was over the moon when she received the tickets. They were only a part of a number of special gifts she received.  The best gift of all, I think, was her party.  It was surprise. She didn’t have a clue what was in store for her on her birthday.   

Everyone got on board with me and we kept it secret from her.  Mean me even got everyone to pretend they’d forgotten it was her birthday.  She came down for breakfast the morning of her big day, and we all just greeted her as usual…no fuss, no bother was made. We hardly interrupted the conversations we were having when she arrived at the table...purposely we made little notice of her appearance.

As breakfast progressed we could see her face grow longer and longer!  Finally, I gave a hidden signal and we burst into laughter and song…singing her “Happy Birthday”!   

Bronnie then felt like killing us all!!  There was no pleasing the girl!!  

She was still unaware a surprise party was ready and waiting to burst forth from the wings!.   

During breakfast I apologised to her saying with everything that was going on trying to get the resort ready for opening, I’d not had time to organise a gift for her. Things were so hectic etc., etc.  She took it in her stead…or, at least, pretended to do so.  She was very gracious about my lack of caring skills. 

When Bronnie appeared back down at the restaurant area at the end of the day, after she’d showered and had changed her clothing in readiness for a pre-dinner drink or two (casual clothing...it was the midst of summer and we were on a tropical island - "casual" was the name and dress of the day)…the “same old-same old” routine as the day before and the day before that etc., she got the shock of her life!  Her eyes grew wider and wider. It matched the smile that spread across her face. She couldn’t believe the number of gifts given to her…her favourite gift…the Dire Straits tickets.  

She still at that stage of the proceedings had no idea a party was in store.  When she finally woke up to what was going on, she had the time of her life...a night and celebration to remember.

My late brother Graham’s 44th birthday fell on 28th February.  Again, I swore the rest of the crew to secrecy at the promised risk of walking the plank if they divulged to him what I had planned.  Graham hated being made a fuss of, and more particularly amongst people he’d only met. Parties weren’t his “scene”; and more importantly, definitely not surprise parties!  I doubt he’d ever had a surprise party until 28th February, 1986!   

Full of bravado seeing I’d pulled off Bronwyn’s surprise party with aplomb and much underhanded sneakiness,I decided to try my proficient skills at subterfuge once more.  The whole day went by without anyone recognizing it was Graham’s birthday, other than me.  And with the status quo being what it was, he was content.

Surreptitiously, a couple of days before Graham’s birthday I made a huge, well-laced-with-rum boiled fruit cake. I hid it away in the restaurant kitchen’s pantry, out of sight of prying eyes, and away from nasal sensitivity. 

When doing a liquor order, I’d ordered in an extra 1125ml bottle of Bundaberg Rum. Graham enjoyed having a rum or two (never with cola), particularly in winter; and always Bundaberg Rum.  What true Queenslander doesn’t?  At times he enjoyed a rum chaser to accompany a cold beer.   

Along with the fruit cake, the surprise party and special party fare, the bottle of rum was also my birthday gift to Graham.

And what a party it was!  Graham had no escape.   However, as it turned out, after the first 30 minutes, give or take, he lost the desire to do so.   

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw my brother kicking up his heels and doing his rendition of the Can Can with Bronwyn.  I will never forget that sight.  It was my turn to be surprised; I’d never seen my brother act with such joyous abandon ever before that very special moment.  Everyone had so much fun that evening, my late brother Graham included – he most of all. 

Graham idolized Bronnie, and vice versa.  He treated her like a daughter, and he was very protective of her. She was only a couple of years older than Natalie, his own daughter.  A few months later Natalie came to work for me at the resort, too.

Sadly Graham and Bronwyn have passed away - Graham at 56 years of age; and Bronwyn, three years ago at the age of 47….far too young, the both of them.  Bronwyn left behind a husband and three children.

By the stage the two birthdays had come around, the chef who had been cooking at the resort under the previous management and his wife had returned to the fold. Steve, the chef, renewed his familiar relationship with up the island's pots and pans; and Kim, his wife, stepped back into her previous role as waitress. Penny, who’d also worked as a waitress before Randall’s and my arrival, along with her boyfriend, Terry returned to their previous posts. Terry worked the resort’s bar.   

Penny was later christened “Touché Turtle” by a staff member; and Terry “Dum Dum” (named after the Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters). Penny was about two feet tall (an exaggeration, of course…put it down to poetic license) and had a certain air about her that put her co-workers off, including me.  Terry followed her around like a lap dog, hence his renaming…more about that later.

As well as overseeing and assisting on the maintenance side of things, Randall, because of his past experiences in managing bars in New York and for a short time upon his arrival back home in Australia, would also work the bar when necessary, over and above the ordering and restocking of the bar. 

Ted, my brother Graham and Burnie were the resort’s maintenance crew.  Ron and Peter had returned to Noosa, but Dutchman, Rin, the plumber stayed on for a little while longer.  For a time he, too, was part of the maintenance men.   
And they were joined by Maurice. It’s difficult to put a name on what Maurice did…”Havoc” perhaps would’ve been a fitting title…more about that later, too!

“Old” Graham (the second “Graham” on the island) who had also been part of the team who had worked for the previous management returned to his role as breakfast cook. He worked split shifts; mornings and evenings; having a break each day from around 10.30 am until 3.30 pm.  “Old” Graham, as he was affectionately called, prepared the desserts and acted as chief kitchen-hand/dishwasher, as well.

Daina, the 17 year old daughter of “Slip” and Judy, both of whom I mentioned in Chapter 10 of this saga, joined the island workforce, working alongside Bronnie in keeping the cabins spick and span. They both attended to the laundry work, too.   

It was Daina’s first job out of school.  She’d spent a year as an exchange student in Japan. She also celebrated a birthday on the island…her 18th.  I threw a Toga Party for her. It was a fun night.   Daina is now store manager of K-Mart in Innisfail a town in North Queensland; north of Hinchinbrook…south of Cairns. She's married with two teenage daughters.  Daina and I are still friends to this day; and similar applies to some others who worked with me at the resort back then.

One morning while everyone was going about their duties the phone in my office rang (it was the only phone on the island; and, of course, in 1986 there were no mobile/cell phones).   

The phone ringing wasn’t an unusual event, but the message I received down the line from the other end was.   

A stranger told me Randall and I had won a car.  Actually, that we’d won the right to choose one from a choice of three! The choice was between a Nissan Patrol, a Mazda 323, and one other, the make and model of which now has escaped my memory. Being the disbelieving person that I am, I let known my disbelief to the audacious stranger calling me.  I was given a telephone number and asked to ring the number back; I did so.

My phone call was answered by someone from the Endeavour Foundation’s Nambour office.  

 The Endeavour Foundation is an independent not-for-profit organisation that supports people with a disability from more than 230 locations in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.  The Foundation was founded in 1951 by a group of parents who joined together to provide an education for their children with a disability. 

We had, in fact, won a car! 

Having become competent in the art of concealment, I decided to have a bit of fun. 

For the rest of the morning, exhibiting an admirable amount of self-control worthy of a gold medal, I kept the news to myself.  As was our habit to do, the staff, Randall and I gathered together for lunch...around the same long table we sat at for breakfast and dinner... at the appointed time. 

Waiting for the right moment, I nonchalantly broke my surprising news…just as Randall was about to insert a food-laden fork into his mouth! My timing was perfect...I couldn't have done better if I'd rehearsed it!

Ahhh….I will never forget that moment!  The expression on his face was priceless – and memorable!  

At first, the others around the table stared at me in disbelief, but they quickly realised from the look I gave them in return I was telling the truth. 

In stunned silence, scoffing at me between his silences, Randall still believed I was playing a joke on him. 

I escorted him into the office, placed the phone receiver in his hand and I dialed the number for him.  He finally believed me!

Early in December, 1985, while shopping at Maroochydore'smain shopping centre, Randall bought a ticket in the Endeavour Foundation’s then current Art Union, which offered the choice of three vehicles as its first prize. 

Maroochydore is a Sunshine Coast beach area.  We were still living at Sunshine Beach, preparing ourselves for our relocation to Hinchinbrook Island.

Before leaving Sunshine Beach we’d sold our second car, the MG-Magnette, knowing we’d not need two cars when living on an island.  And now, we’d won a brand, spanking new car for the price of one ticket – a couple of dollars…or rather, Randall had won a car, if one needs to be pedantic. 

For the moment – a breathing moment or more, the decision of what to do about the car was placed in the “too hard basket”.  

In the meantime, all our energy and brain power had to be wholly committed to the work that needed doing before the re-opening date of the resort.  The car was safe. No time limit had been put upon us to make a decision about the vehicle, but time was on the move. It wasn’t going to stop for us, or anyone else, even if we’d been fortunate enough to win the lottery. 

The 8th of March was rapidly marching towards us.  Tick-tock…tick-tock….

Sunday, July 26, 2015

AND THE MUSIC GOES ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND....






Marvin Hamlisch
Edward Kleban
You know what it’s like when a song gets stuck in your mind. It becomes a squatter, taking up residence, stubbornly refusing to leave.

Unfortunately and annoyingly, there are some songs that hang around far too long (even two minutes can be too long for some) not unlike unwelcome, uninvited visitors.  No amount of hinting for them to go away makes an impression. Nothing seems to work in getting rid of the pesky pests. They have no intention of departing until they’re ready to go; not a moment before. 

On the flipside, however, the good news is there are melodies that make wonderful accompaniments to any day or any night; or both. Those are the ones welcome to set up residence in my mind, anyway.  Of course, I can only speak – sing along or hum – for myself.

Last night I woke up in the wee small hours.  As if by magic my in-built stereo began to play. I didn’t need to press my button!  It was too late for navel gazing, anyway. A song that had been haunting me - in a very pleasant way - burst forth in my mind. It won’t leave me alone, but I’m not complaining.  

Ever since I saw the engaging Josh Groban perform the song on TV a couple of months ago it’s stuck to me like glue. I’ve made no effort to shake it off.  It’d be pointless trying to do so. It’s gotten under my skin. And then, just to urge it along a bit further, he performed live on Channel 7’s “The Morning Show” last week and one of the songs he sang was the very song that’s been playing in my mind. It’s been on constant replay for weeks now; again, I’m not complaining. The funny thing is though…the song has been around for years, and I’ve never really paid too much attention to it until I saw Groban perform it.

I love Josh Groban. I could listen to him all day. In a way, it’s what I’ve been doing.

Groban first came to my attention in 2001. Playing the role of Malcolm Wyatt in two episodes of the quirky, entertaining television series “Ally McBeal”, Groban’s lyrical voice had me, not at “hello”, but at first note.  From the outset he stole my heart.

When Josh appeared with Ally he was a youngster of 20 years.

Lately my days and nights are constantly accompanied by one song; the song I saw him perform on television a couple of months ago; and then again last week.

The magical composition that has me so enthralled is - “What I Did for Love” - the memorable number from the multi-award winning musical, “A Chorus Line”; composed by the late legendary Marvin Hamlisch; lyrics by Edward Kleban.  Kleban, who died from throat cancer at the age of 48 years would’ve been thrilled by Groban’s interpretation of his stirring lyrics. Josh did them justice.

Kleban who wrote lyrics like......... “Kiss today goodbye, the sweetness and the sorrow”; or “Kiss today goodbye and point me toward tomorrow, we did what we had to do – won’t forget, can’t regret; the gift was ours to borrow…” .........was a master of pathos; a genius of understanding; of emotional sensitivity; an intuitive thinker.

The specific lyrics that have me under their spell; the line embedded in my mind refusing to let go is......

 “Kiss today goodbye and point me toward tomorrow”.

I can’t clarify the mystery surrounding those words - of why they bestir such strong emotions within me other than to simply say - to me they’re poignant; deeply moving; perceptively potent. 

Many times over the years I’ve heard the song performed by various artists. It’s been around since 1975.

Groban’s rendition moves me most. It’s the one that has grabbed hold of me; it won’t let go.

Eat your heart out, Elsa! I won’t be following your advice. I won’t “Let It Go! Let It Go!”  So just let it go! Stop harping!

“What I Did for Love” won’t let go of me, either, but I’m a happy captive; content to be enveloped by the intense, insightful lyrics; by the intoxicating melody. “The sweetness and the sorrow; the gift was ours to borrow; wish me luck…the same to you”.

I succumbed to the strain and bought the CD, “Stages”.  By Gosh! The classic show-stoppers are sung with love by Josh.   

Some songs are welcome to remain spinning around in the windmills of my mind; I don’t want to kiss goodbye. 


Mocha Kisses: Combine 140g S.R. flour, 15g cocoa powder and 75g golden caster sugar; rub in 75g cold butter; stir in 1 beaten egg and 2tsp freshly-made espresso coffee; mix well. Roll into even walnut-size balls; place onto well-greased baking tray. Bake in preheated 180C oven, 15mins or until well risen, firm to touch and cracked on the surface. Cool on wire rack. When cool spread with a little raspberry jam on both sides; then sandwich together with butter-cream:- cream 50g softened butter; then gradually add 100g icing sugar; beat until soft and fluffy; add 2tsp freshly made espresso; mix well.  

Chocolate Almond Kisses: Preheat oven 80C-100C. Mix together 140g icing sugar, 80g room temp butter, 140g ground almonds, 140g grated cooking chocolate and 60g plain flour. Form 30 little balls; lay them on lined baking sheet; leave room between each. Bake 30-35mins. Cool completely before storing.  

Custard Kisses: Preheat oven 160C. Beat 250g softened butter and 75g icing sugar until pale and fluffy; add in 225g plain flour, 35g custard powder, 35g cornflour and 1/2tsp baking powder. Roll into small balls; place on lined baking sheets, leaving a little room between each. Press tops slightly. Bake 15-18mins; cool on trays; then sandwich with filling:– mix together 50g softened butter, 240g icing sugar, 3tbs custard powder, 2tsp vanilla; then add 1 to 2tbs hot water, a little at a time to adjust consistency.

Kiss Me-Tini: In ice cube-filled shaker, shake 1/4c vodka, 3tbs heavy cream, 2tbs vanilla syrup and 1tbs amaretto. Place vanilla sugar on small plate; moisten glass rim; dip into sugar to coat rim; strain cocktail into glass.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

CHAPTER TWELVE….… MUSIC TO MY EARS...PURRRFECT....OR...TO ALL THE CATS I'VE LOVED BEFORE...AND STILL




Cardwell Foreshore
Kennedy Valley, just north of Cardwell
Orchid Beach
Billy Page and me outdoors on the deck around the pool
Pool and deck on at Cape Richards Resort
Ruska and me on Hinchinbrook Island

Randall and I sat chatting with Major-Major-Major over coffee at the completion of his breakfast on the final morning during his and his men's brief, but helpful visit.  Their time on the island was rapidly running out. They were moving further afield to other pastures later that morning. 

Major-Major-Major asked if there was anything further we needed his men to do before their departure from our tropical paradise.  Not wanting to let an opportunity go begging when offered so generously and freely we asked him politely if he could have his men assist our motley crew in bringing up the timber from Orchid Beach to the area surrounding the pool and main building.  From the beach there was a rise, a climb up the dune to the level area around the main building and swimming pool. Any help they were prepared to give us would be gratefully received - and we were extremely grateful to those soldiers.  The building materials had to be carried up manually.  Other than physical blood, sweat and tears there were no other methods available to achieve what needed to be done.

The replacement load of timber along with other building materials, including sheets of new roofing for the cabins had arrived from the mainland. This time around the cargo had been safely deposited on the dry sand above the waterline on Orchid Beach, without any fuss or ado. 

A small amount of the timber lost through the nonchalant carelessness of  “Dumb and Dumber”, the two men I’d sacked, was recovered after it had floated around the Cape Richards headland.  Thankfully it had ended up on Orchid Beach.. The majority of the stricken load remained on the bottom of the ocean never to be seen again, unless a later angry cyclone washed it ashore on beaches further south at the Whitsundays, or in the Wide Bay area; perhaps, in another scenario, it ended up on an island in the Torres Strait, or even further afield on Papua New Guinea - depending on the ocean currents; but I believe it remains at the bottom of the sea in Missionary Bay, probably covered in coral, or more probably, barnacles!

Before we could say “Jack Robinson” or “have another cup of coffee” we were surrounded by a hive of activity.  To my amazement Major-Major-Major’s men from the Pioneer Unit were already on the job of bringing the hardwood structural beams up from the beach below…not two or three men per beam…but one soldier per beam!  Those fellows were as strong as Mallee bulls!  

I soon discovered, they were not only built like solid cement outhouses and physically strong, they were mentally focussed, as well.

I was outside in the area near the pool when one of the soldiers on, perhaps, his third or fourth journey up the hill from the beach below - on each back-breaking trip having toted a long, solid beam on his shoulder.

Bearing another sturdy, wooden, structural beam he headed towards where I stood doing whatever it was I was doing. 

The thick, heavy spans such as the one the soldier heading towards me was carrying were to be used externally as structural supports for the underside of the large deck that would eventually become an outdoor dining and lounging area surrounding the pool. The completed deck would be cantilevered out over the high dune line on the ocean side.

I should’ve known better and not have opened my mouth when I jokingly asked the fellow as he drew near:

“Do you have a light?”

His eyes flickered ever so briefly. The movement was barely discernible, but, to my shame, I did notice the slightest waver.  Instantly I woke up to my own stupidity. I felt embarrassed. Promptly and humbly I apologised and said nothing further. 

He hadn’t missed a beat other than his scant almost undetectable eye movement.  He might have flexed a muscle or two in frustration, too, but my embarrassment and annoyance at my thoughtless flippancy didn’t allow me to notice anything else other than my own inanity.

The soldier’s strength and that of his fellow dedicated servicemen came not only from their muscles and physical fitness, but also from their ability to focus completely; by having the conscious, and, perhaps even more importantly, through training, of unconsciously having the capability and the mental power to block out extraneous elements from their minds - and foolish people like me!

I’ve never forgotten the moment, brief though it was. It is said one should always learn from one’s mistakes; one’s missteps…I certainly had learned a lesson from my stupidity.  And through the lesson learned that sunny summer’s morning on Hinchinbrook Island I discovered the admiration I already felt for our people in the Defence Force had grown.

In what seemed like no time at all every structural beam, every piece of decking timber and roofing material had been brought up from the beach below.  What those five or six men did in two hours, give or take, would’ve taken us a month of Sundays to achieve – if not two months of Saturdays and Sundays!

There were not enough words to thank them for the assistance given by Major-Major-Major and his handful of men. We were extremely grateful for their help in the short period they were a part of our island world. It was sad to see them leave, but leave they did.  Late morning we gathered around the helicopter to bid them goodbye. 

Speaking on my own behalf, I felt sad to see them go, but I also felt an immense pride in being an Aussie.

The construction of the new jetty was almost at its completion. Billy Page, a wonderful man from Kennedy, a rural area a couple of kilometres north of Cardwell insisted on coming over to the island to give us a hand in the building of the jetty. 

Billy was a man in his early 60s, at a guess. He’d been born and raised in the area. Bill had lived there all his life; and it’s where he raised his family. One of his sons was a champion Motocross competitor.  Billy was part-Aboriginal; he was one of the loveliest, generously-spirited, well-mannered men I’d ever met.  Billy Page was a gentleman of the finest kind.

Work was progressing at a rapid pace; time was of the essence with the 8th of March re-opening of the resort looming. The air was filled in anticipation and excitement! With so much activity going on there was barely time to take a breath, but breathe we did!

Some of the pre-existing staff, which fortunately included a chef, who all had worked on the island prior to Randall and I taking over the management had returned, willing to take a chance on us, and vice versa.  The more “hands on deck” the better it was to help speed everything along. 

To counterbalance the absence of staff who didn’t return to the resort after the change of ownership/management new staff was hired.   

The head count of the island population stood at 17.  The number included the three tradesmen from Noosa we’d encouraged to join us; Ron, the builder; Rin, the electrician and Peter, the plumber. However, their term on the island was running out of time. It was time for them to go. Ron needed to be back in Noosa for both work and family reasons. Peter's services were also was required in Noosa, and the clock was ticking on Rin's period of tropical bliss, too.   The intention was always that our three coastal friends would only be with us a short while before they returned to their normal lives.  Rin, the Dutchman, stayed on a little longer than Ron and Peter.


Bronnie (Bronwyn), another Noosa-ite had, in the meantime, joined the crew. She eagerly took on the role as a housekeeper.  She set the style; moulded the mould. Bronnie claimed the guest cabins as her own territory and, accordingly forever after she kept them in sparkling order. Bronnie quickly fell under the spell of Hinchinbrook. Everything island life had to offer Bronwyn she embraced with open arms.

I wrote about dear Bronnie in a previous post…4th August, 2012 - titled - “EMBRACE LIFE…EMBRACE A LIFE WORTH HAVING KNOWN…EMBRACE THE MEMORIES…FOREVER”.  Sadly, in August, 2012 Bronwyn passed away at the young age of 47 years…in my post of 4th August 2012 I wrote in celebration of her life.

Randall and I had been having problems in our marriage for some time, long before we set foot on the island.   

Nothing was as rosy as it appeared to the outside world.  To many we were the perfect couple like those featured in the gilded picture frames.  However, we kept our private life private.  Our personal life had nothing to do with anyone else.  I recognised the ripples on the waters long before Randall did.  I think he believed they were just ripples, and with a wind change the troubled waters would soon smooth out.   

No marriage is smooth sailing all of the time no matter who the parties are.  I knew he and I weren’t exempt…I understood it to be so.  Randall, I believed, and I still do, wore a solid set of blinkers…although he would dispute that to be so, even to this day.  (By the way, Randall and I are good friends.  We communicate daily via email and talk via the phone at least once a week.  We will always remain friends.  I wouldn’t like it to be any other way; I know he feels similarly).

I sensed a tsunami was approaching. 

Our problems weren’t going to disappear just by ignoring them; pretending they didn’t exist.

There are always two sides to every story; there are two sides to every coin; and there are two people in a marriage, sometime three or more, but in our marriage there was only Randall and me.  There was no “Camilla” or a male equivalent rocking our bed.

During 1985, the year before we landed on the island, Randall and I had a trial separation.  Only he and I knew it was a trial separation.  To everyone else he’d gone up north to Emerald in Central Queensland to help his brother build a house for his brother’s step-daughter and her husband - a brother helping a brother, as brothers do.

Randall was away for six weeks or so. Before he left our plan was that I’d move out of our Sunshine Beach house into a unit/apartment taking Ruska with me. The plan hadn’t come into fruition.  I stayed put, in the hope, that perhaps upon his return Randall and I could find an illuminating light at the end of the tunnel. I didn't hold out much hope for that happening, but our relationship, no matter its faults, was worth fighting for even if the writing was on the wall and becoming more legible every day.

Through the years I always said, and I meant what I said… if Randall and I separated I wanted nothing other than my peace of mind. There would be no fighting over material possessions and resources. There would be no divvying up of who should have what and what belonged to whom. If our marriage ended all I wanted to take with me, all I needed along with my peace of mind would be what I’d brought with me into the marriage and before, at the very beginning of our relationship; my own personal possessions.  Of course, it went without saying that I’d have custody of the cat!  That was a given.

Upon Randall’s return from Emerald nothing much had changed, but we forged forward endeavouring to keep the ever weakening band-aid on the wound.

When we were presented with the job of managing the resort, as I said in a previous post, Randall believed by accepting the position offered us all our problems would be solved.

I had my doubts - serious doubts - but even though I'd voiced those doubts...they weren't heard. It takes two to tango...successfully....that's life!

No one is perfect. I'm not...not then; not now, nor shall I ever be.  Who would ever want to be a "Stepford Wife", anyway?

Monday, July 06, 2015

BRAVO! BRAVO!



Cafe Bravo, Tamborine Mountain



Late Friday afternoon a couple of weeks ago frenetic activity ran riot here in my little corner of the universe, but I wasn’t the frenzied one. My personal preening and primping seldom occurs during daylight hours let alone when the sun pauses briefly on the western horizon as a prelude to the nocturnal hours.

My bizarre, eccentric behaviour caused my housemates much consternation. As I readied myself they grew highly agitated by the minute – by the second, even.  My two furry rascals were displeased; notably vexed to put it mildly. And not only because the preening and primping, which, on any given day, is mostly done by them not me - but how dare I go out at night; particularly without their permission! 

Like them-who-must-be-obeyed I never go out at night; or I rarely ever do, but they never do. THEY don’t have MY permission to do so.

Furthermore, my bossy best mates only venture outside each morning for about 30 minutes at most; more often than not for less than 30 minutes. They then scamper back inside alerting me of their reappearance as they head straight to their bowl to see if breakfast is awaiting them. If it isn't...I make sure I hop to it immediately!

Remy and Shama are even more reclusive than I am; and that’s saying something! I’m not sure who caught the hermit virus from whom.  Did they pass it on to me or vice versa? The three of us are content to keep to ourselves, and mind our own business. We do our best not to cause disruption to the outside world and its inhabitants. So far we’re doing okay, I think. Our footprints/paw prints barely leave an impression. 

With great reluctance they allow me enough leeway to go to IGA, aware, naturally, it’s where I purchase their meat, canned food, dry munchies and litter.

I made a point of forewarning them, often and at length of my Friday night plans.

As a sweetener I promised them a reward for giving me the key to the door.  I told them they could choose whatever programmes they wanted to watch on television for a change!

However, no matter how much I bowed and scraped for me to be going out at night still didn’t sit well with them. They’re tough task masters these two! You’d swear I intended to desert them.  They were not amused.

To impress their displeasure they placed a strict curfew on me; one I was fearful of breaking. Even though I returned home well within the prescribed hour I was harshly reprimanded. Rigorous restrictions have been placed upon all future outings; the main one being I’m not allowed out after dark ever again. 

And I will come clean…I confess…while on my Friday night release I behaved myself and, although tempted, I didn’t dance on the tables – not one!

Even when approached the previous week by an acquaintance, and feeling like a deer caught in the headlights when out of the blue she cornered me in the IGA supermarket car  park to ask me to join her for dinner the following Friday, I’m glad I did accept Dianne’s invitation to dine with her at Café Bravo.

Initially, her invitation had surprised me; and being caught unawares and unprepared I had no time to think of a suitable excuse to politely decline.  So I was stuck; and had a week to dwell on my “stuckness”!

Café Bravo is more than a café. It’s a welcoming restaurant serving fresh, tasty fare. Until that Friday evening a week or so ago Café Bravo opened for business only during the daylight hours, for an ongoing breakfast and lunch.  They are now operating for dinners on Friday and Saturday nights. The Friday night Dianne and I visited was the first night of their new trading hours.

I was a stranger to the establishment until that night, but Sylvia, the manageress, Rick and the two cheerful lasses waiting tables greeted and treated me warmly.

What an aesthetically graceful, elegant building it is.

Dianne and I dined outside on the expansive deck beneath a ceiling of effervescent stars. The timber deck is built around many olive trees.  The original name of the restaurant was “The Olive Tree”.

I prefer al fresco dining. If given the choice that’s where you’ll find me, even on a winter’s eve.

Of course, don’t go looking through every restaurant’s al fresco area hoping to trip over me because in 99.99% of your searches you won’t find me.  Remember - I don’t go out at night - I’m not allowed to! As it is I’m let off the leash only briefly during daylight hours!

Keep this to yourself - don’t tell my furry guardians/wardens – I relished my few hours of freedom at Café Bravo. I managed to quell my anxiety of being free from their clutches, if only for a brief while!

I appreciated my delicious meal. I also enjoyed the non-stop, laughter-filled conversation my dinner companion and I shared.  Even the ease of our time spent together across the dining table out beneath the starry, starry night surprised me, in a pleasant way.  Dianne and I have known each other for a number of years…but not well; not as “good friends” – just acquaintances in passing.

Her daughter works at Café Bravo during the day as a barista, I discovered.
Sylvia, Rick  and the waitresses bestowed genuine hospitality, a necessity in the hospitality industry. Some places do; unfortunately some places don’t. Bravo Café Bravo…they do!

At evening’s end I was in for another surprise…our meal was complimentary.  I went to pay and that was when I discovered we were guests of the “house”.  No doubt because Dianne’s daughter works at Café Bravo and because I write my weekly article for the local rag up here on the mountain – and Dianne works at the local rag! 

It is said there is no such thing as a free lunch…but there was a free dinner!  I rang the following morning to thank Sylvia for her hospitality; and I wrote an article about the restaurant and the pleasant time I enjoyed there.

Remy and Shama have now forgiven me…sort of….

Potato-Kale Soup: Cook 180g diced bacon until browned; drain; set aside. In pot heat 1tbs olive oil; add 1 chopped onion; sauté until soften; add 8c quality chicken stock, 8 peeled, sliced potatoes and 6 garlic cloves; bring to boil; then simmer uncovered, about 15mins. Transfer potatoes and garlic to a bowl; lightly mash; return to pot; bring to simmer; add 1 bunch trimmed, thinly-sliced kale, a handful at a time; simmer until kale is tender; add bacon.

Winter Vegetable Stew with Dumplings: In large Dutch oven sauté 1 diced onion and 3 diced celery stalks in 1tbs olive oil; then add 2 diced carrots, 2 diced parsnips, 3 minced garlic cloves, 6 quartered mushrooms, 2 chopped potatoes, 1 chopped kumara, 2 chopped zucchinis, 1 chopped turnip, 1 can diced tomatoes, 2tbs tom paste, 1 can cannelloni beans, 1tsp dried oregano, 1tbs minced fresh rosemary and 2 bay leaves. Cover with 5c vegetable/chicken stock; simmer 15mins. Dumplings: Mix 1c S.R. flour and 1/2tsp mustard powder; cut in 1/4c butter with fork; rub with fingers until crumbly. Combine 1/2c milk with 1tbs grain mustard; add to flour; stir well; add 1tsp snipped chives. Form into loose balls; drop over simmering stew; cover, simmer 25-30mins.

Crunchy Blueberry Tart: Preheat oven 180C. Melt 170g unsalted butter. Combine 185g plain flour, 150g caster sugar and 70g rolled oats; stir into melted butter; press dough into 10-inch spring-form tart tin. Bake 10mins; then set aside. Topping: 85g butter; mix in 125g rolled oats and 150g caster sugar; set aside. Filling:  Combine 270g fresh/frozen blueberries, 1c blueberry jam and 1tbs balsamic; stir in 2-1/2tbs cornflour; pour into tart case; sprinkle topping evenly over top; bake 25-30mins, until topping is golden. 

Sticky Date Pudding: Put 200g pitted dates and 1-1/2 cups water in saucepan; bring to boil, add ¾ teaspoon bicarb soda; stir. Cream ¾ cup brown sugar and 60g soft butter; add 2 eggs; then add cooled date mixture and ½ cup chopped walnuts, fold 1 cup self-raising flour through lightly. Fill 1/2 cup lightly-greased dariole moulds to three-quarters; place in baking dish, fill with hot water to 1/2 way. Bake in preheated 180C oven for approx 45-50 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.  Walnut or Almond Praline: Melt 1 cup caster sugar, swirling until golden brown; pour over ½ cup chopped walnuts or chopped blanched almonds on cooking-paper lined tray.  Let cool; then chop into pieces. Split a vanilla pod; scrape out seeds and add to 1 cup pouring cream; refrigerate to infuse as long as possible. Butterscotch Sauce:  Put 50g butter, 1 cup cream, 1 cup brown sugar in saucepan over medium heat; bring slowly to boil.  Simmer, stirring occasionally until thick. Add 1/3 cup brandy; be careful…the brandy may flame; simmer 2 minutes.  To serve, invert the hot puddings onto a serving plates; top with butterscotch sauce and shards of praline.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT TO WRITE ABOUT THE PAST FOR THE FUTURE









I kid you not! I freely and openly admit there are times I can be a goat, but I had no kids.

I’ve no offspring to whom I can pass on family history; the good, the bad and the ugly.

Let’s be honest, every family has good and bad narratives in their archives. We’re all human - well, most of us are. Skeletons seek shelter in our closets. To rid them of cobwebs the skeletons need to be let out now and again. Some have more skeletons to hide, hence the need for larger closets; walk-in robes even.

Of course, there are those who aren’t interested in their family history, but they’re being unfair to their children who may, one day, want to learn about their heritage. No records will be available to satisfy their curiosity. Family for them becomes a dead end street; a large full stop with no green light.  Parents who display such inconsiderate, ignorant attitudes deny future generations of informed answers to questions their progeny no doubt will have. 

Ignorance never favours anyone.

Once I drop off this planet that will be that!  Ka-Boom! Farewell, Columbus!

With me will go my truths - the dark, deep, good, bad, ugly, happy, joyous, sorrowful, the hysterically-humorously insanely bold and beautiful – the whole catastrophe; the complete kit and caboodle; the entire uncut, unadulterated Volumes I, II, III, IV, V and VI. 

Gone without a trace will be the clue to where I hid the diamond, ruby, emerald, sapphire and black pearl-encrusted golden key that opens the vault bearing an unimaginable abundance of priceless treasures.

Okay! I confess - I swallowed the key years ago in a display of wilful rebellious recklessness.  The key worked better than an antacid. It’s gone with the wind!

As for the cache of the king’s ransom; the treasure trove of riches – that rogue Captain Jack Sparrow fortuitously stumbled across the map when he was looking for a hiding place for his two pooches.

I thought I’d buried the map with the interred treasure. No amount of interrogation could force me to divulge the whereabouts of the concealed store because my mind has returned to its natural state…a blank slate. 

I never would’ve imagined Captain Jack to be the one to locate my stash. Being the cunning critter he is, he smuggled the invaluable prized hoard to the US concealed in Pistol and Boo’s personalised Louis Vuittons. 

A friend’s tale prompted me to I leap aboard this in-depth train of thought, not Sparrow, Pistol or Boo. Two years or so years back my friend’s children presented him with a journal and an embossed silver pen with the purpose of inspiring him to put pen to paper. Until a few weeks ago he’d failed to find a subject worthy enough to sully the pristine pages of his elaborately bound gift. But then he began to reflect upon his experiences during the Vietnam War, comparing his personal encounters; his observations; his own trials and tribulations with those of his great-grandfather during the American Civil War. As if by magic his pen sprung to life; the process began.

When we were young my late brother and I never tired of the tales our Nana related about the “olden days”.  I wish I’d had the foresight to record her stories for longevity.

Life is strange, so too are families. Not one of us has the right to erase our family history as if it never occurred.

There’s no time like the present to honour the past for the future.

Blood Orange-Goat Cheese-Carrot Salad:  Slice a bunch of carrots lengthwise. Peel and de-seed 1 blood orange, 1 navel orange and 1 tangerine; chop into cubes. Place on oven tray; drizzle with olive oil; season; sprinkle with chopped thyme and parsley; toss to coat. Bake at 200C, 25mins. Put 1 packet of rocket in bowl; add veg and fruit; sprinkle over 240g crumbled goat cheese and toasted nuts of choice (and/or seeds); drizzle with dressing:- 3tbs orange juice, 2tbs lemon juice, 1tsp Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, 2tbs chopped parsley and 1/2c x-virgin olive oil.

Blood Orange Quinoa Salad: Dressing, combine 1/4c finely-chopped shallots, 2tsp grated blood orange rind, 1tsp grated lemon rind, 2tbs blood orange juice, 1tbs fresh lemon juice, 2tsp finely chopped coriander (cilantro) 1/4ts each of salt, ground coriander, ground cumin and paprika; whisk until thoroughly combined. Gradually add 3tbs ex-virgin olive oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Set aside.  Salad:  Place 1c uncooked quinoa in a fine sieve, and place sieve in a large bowl. Cover quinoa with water. Using your hands, rub grains together for 30 seconds; rinse and drain. Repeat procedure twice. Drain well.Combine 1- 3/4c water, quinoa, and 1/4tsp salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat; simmer 10mins, or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; fluff with a fork. Combine quinoa, 1/4tsp salt, 1c blood orange sections, 1c diced avocado and 6 kumquats, seeded and sliced in a large bowl; toss gently to combine. Add dressing; toss gently to coat salad. Spoon 1 cup salad onto each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 1/2 cup cooked beets cut into wedges.

Braised Oxtail with Olives: Heat 2tbs olive oil in pot over med-heat. Season 2kg trimmed oxtails, cut into 2-inch pieces; brown in batches; remove; set aside. Add 1 sliced onion, 2 sliced carrots and 125g bacon, cut into strips; sauté about 10mins; add 3 minced garlic cloves; cook 1min. Return oxtail to pot; add 3c beef broth, 2c white wine, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 bay leaf, 1/2tsp dried thyme, 1tsp anchovy paste; season; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 3hrs or until meat is tender; skim occasionally. Add olives and 2tbs red wine vinegar; cook 1min. Chill overnight. Skim fat off top; gently reheat to simmer.

Roasted Bone Marrow: Sauté 1 small finely-chopped onion and 2 large finely-chopped garlic cloves in butter. With spoon scrape marrow from 4x6cm beef shin bones, halved lengthwise; chop; add to onion mix; spoon back into bones; roast at 220C about 12mins; don’t melt marrow completely; serve with golden toasted slices of garlic sourdough bread and Chimichurri:  Combine 1/2c flat leaf parsley, 1 finely-chopped shallot, 1 finely-chopped garlic, 1-1/2tbs rinsed, drained, finely-chopped capers, 1tbs white vinegar,1-1/2tsp  red wine vinegar,1-1/2tsp sugar and 1/4c ex-virgin olive oil in small bowl. Season to taste. OR - Bring 1c water to a boil in a small saucepan; add 1tbs coarse salt; stir to dissolve; cool.  In bowl, put 8 finely minced garlic cloves, 1c finely-chopped flat leaf parsley, 1c finely-chopped fresh oregano leaves and 2tsp dried, crused red chili; whisk in 1/4c red wine vinegar; then ½ c ex-virgin olive oil; then the cool salted water. Will keep in fridge in sealed jar (there’s those bloody jars again!) for 2-3 weeks. Chimichurri is of Argentine origin.

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake: In bowl, whisk together 1c plain flour, 3/4tsp baking powder, 1/4tsp baking soda and 1/4tsp salt; in separate bowl, whisk together 1 large egg, 1/2c fresh orange juice, 1/2c olive oil and 1/2c sugar. Stir together the dry and wet ingredients. Oil an 8-inch cake pan; sprinkle with 1/4c sugar. Peel 5 blood oranges; slice into 1-1/2-inch thick slices; remove seeds. Arrange slices in bottom of prepared dish. Pour batter over oranges. Bake in preheated 190C (375F) oven, about 45mins; cool in pan 1 hour; then invert onto a plate.