Monday, May 18, 2015

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



Cane Locos in sugar cane farms around Mackay
Racecourse Sugar Mill, Walkerston, via Mackay
The old, now demolished Commercial Hotel in Mackay, built in 1884; demolished 1978

Dame Nellie Melba's Old Home (restored) at Marian, Via Mackay

A Typical Irish Bar and Grill, Upper East Side, New York
Upper East Side, New York City

Cape Richards (at right)...the far north-eastern tip of Hinchinbrook Island

The Grumman Mallard...came into production in 1946...the one operated by Air Whitsunday was one of the originals.


During our brief overnight stop in Mackay we also paid a visit to my brother Graham. Graham had lived in Mackay since he'd left Gympie around 1964 for the northern spheres.   

Originally, he and a mate from their days when both were lifesavers with the Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club headed north to work the cane fields. Working amongst the sugar cane fields was a dream Graham had held since he was a kid.  Mal, his mate didn’t stick it out for very long. Mal returned to Brisbane, but Graham remained in Mackay until 1997. 
 
Eventually, after a season or two cutting sugar cane on the many farms around Walkerston, Marian and Farleigh, areas surrounding Mackay, he became a cane loco driver, along with other duties.  

His heart played a major role in his desire to remain in Mackay, too…he fell in love with and married a Mackay girl.  A few years later they divorced, but before that time, they had three children – two boys and a girl. 

Jokingly, Graham always said he was going to marry a publican’s daughter…and he was as good as his word!  So, I guess he was only half-joking! 

The parents of the young lady who became his wife owned the old Commercial Hotel in Mackay.  The pub, which was originally built in1884, was demolished in 1978. Nowadays a Toyota Dealership and service centre is situated on the land where the old pub once stood.

While on this path - you know how much I like taking detours; how much I love trivia and how I enjoy sharing my bits and pieces of, in some instances, probably incidental, insignificant trivia with you…please bear with me for a moment while I take a side-track; another brief stop-over before taking you along with me on my journey north to Cardwell. 

Internationally acclaimed Australian soprano of the early 20th Century, Dame Nellie Melba who was born in Melbourne (she adopted the stage name of “Melba” in honour of that city) spent the first year of her married life living at Marian, in the Pioneer Valley, 24kms west of Mackay.  The Pioneer River runs through the city of Mackay.   

The house in which Melba lived was restored and now stands proudly on the road between Mackay and Eungella, a small township nestled on the edge of the Clarke Range.  Eungella National Park is a popular tourist destination (shy platypus inhabit the streams up there on the range).  Many of the passing tourists on their way to and from Eungella call into Melba’s old house…it’s free to the public.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nellie_Melba
 
http://www.qhatlas.com.au/content/dame-tropics-nellie-melb

Back on the road again....

Once we hit the highway upon leaving Mackay the only stop I recall we made between Mackay and Cardwell, a road trip of approximately 552 kms/343 miles was when we pulled off the highway at Bluewater, 30 kms north of Townsville.  I slipped the collar and leash over Ruska’s head before taking him on a stroll around a well-maintained parkland area at Blue Water, a few kilometres north of Townsville for him to pay a visit to his first tropical ablutions block.  He calmly went about his business. Ruska was marvellous cat; he took everything in his stride with no complaints.

In Chapter Nine, the previous chapter in this saga,  I had a lapse of memory.  

When Randall flew north to Hinchinbrook Island (weeks before Cyclone Winifred unleashed her fury) I went with him.  Quentin who'd signed the Contract of Sale and was waiting for due settlement of the contract, which would make him the new owner/lessee joined us.  Together we three flew to Townsville airport where we disembarked. We then boarded the Grumman Mallard, the de Havilland amphibian seaplane. The magnificent old sea-faring machine whisked us away north to the waters off from the island's resort.  

Rumour had it the Grumman Mallard was originally owned by the Aga Khan, but you know that everything about Rumour isn't necessarily true; but it makes for a interesting tale...and it could very well have been true...I don't know. However, I admit I was known to spread the rumour!  Why not?  The resort guests loved the story!
 
Randall remained on the island, returning south to Sunshine Beach/Noosa when Cyclone Winifred began bearing down on the region. 

On the other hand, for my first ever visit to the island I stayed only the one day and night; just a few short hours to have a look around at what was going to be my new home and life before heading back to the coast and my shop.  Quentin flew to Brisbane at the same time and on the same flight.  Randall held the helm in the north; and I held the reins at Sunshine Beach and Noosa Heads.  My trip north had been so brief Ruska barely had time to realise I’d been absent. My friend Irene once again stepped in to take care of my shop for me during by short time away.

As each kilometre of bitument road (Aussie spelling) passed beneath the Cortina’s tyres as we drove north, the closer we came to our destination…and Ruska remained comfortably snuggled either in my lap or at my feet; at times, blissfully softly snoring. He wasn't one for sight-seeing; only for brief periods did he look out the car windows.

We pulled into Cardwell early afternoon. Waiting for us at the foreshore to the right of the Cardwell Jetty was a fellow with a boat.  He introduced himself to Randall and me as “David”. David was employed by Hunt’s Marine in Tully, not only as a boat salesman but as a boat mechanic, too.  His boat knowledge was vast, I learned later.  Hunt's Marine was to become my "go-to" business for all things to do with boats.

Tully, by road, is approximately 44 kms north of Cardwell.  Cardwell is approximately halfway between Townsville and Cairns, give or take.  David had driven south from Tully to meet us, towing the motor boat behind him. He was our transport across to Cape Richards, by sea only 22kms away; but to me, that afternoon, it felt like 220kms.

Randall and I travelled lightly; we only had a couple of suitcases with us bearing clothes and other personal necessities. It didn’t take long to unpack the car and load our luggage onto the boat.  Ruska travelled lightly, too. He didn’t even have a backpack with him.  However, I had packed a cat box to enable Ruska to be safely and securely transferred from the mainland by power boat to the island.

Some of our possessions were still in transit being transported north by a removal company.  As I mentioned previously, everything else we felt wasn’t necessary or was too cumbersome to take to the island was stored in a shed at my sister-in-law’s (Randall’s sister) property on Tamborine Mountain.

Once placed in his cat box Ruska curled up quietly, not making a murmur. I was the one feeling quite apprehensive about the boat trip across waters I'd never sailed upon before.  Sure I'd landed on them via seaplane...but, for me the boat journey was a whole different matter.

I waited by the boat chatting with David until Randall returned from taking our car across and down the highway a little, to be deposited with Bonnie at the small travel agency and resort booking office on the other side of the highway from the Cardwell Jetty. 
 
Bonnie and her husband Bob generously offered to house the car in one of their garages at the rear of their office. Bonnie ran the day-to-day operations of the travel agency/booking office. The office handled bookings for the resort on behalf of future guests arriving to the area by road, not seaplane. Bonnie's husband Bob, the owner-skipper of the “Reef Venture”, the powered catamaran contracted by the resort to transport “The Reef Venture” transferred the island's guests who had arrived at Cardwell. He also carted provisions etc., to the island, and whatever else was needed for the successful day-to-day operation of the resort.

Without further ado, I found myself powering across unknown waters towards an unknown future.

Not only have I always believed I have a firm grip on reality, but that day I also had a firm grip on the side of the boat!

Having left behind a sense of security from my feet being firmly on the ground of the mainland to be skimming across an unfamiliar sea I instantly felt very insecure.  The knuckles on my left hand turned white from holding on so tightly. I was as stiff as a board.  One arm was securely glued to Ruska’s cat box and the other to the boat.  My heart pounded in my chest. I'm sure I’d forgotten to breathe.  Randall and David, engrossed in conversation at the boat’s helm with David at the wheel, were both totally oblivious to my nervous breakdown at the stern.

Suddenly I found myself engulfed by a new feeling of panic.  My heart, which had already been pounding, simultaneously seemed to pound and stop, if that is possible.   

I called out to Randall…“Randall!  Randall!  I think Ruska has died!  Quick!  Come here!”   I was distraught. Tears began to stream down my face.

Immediately upon hearing my outcry Randall rushed to my side. He, seeing my distress became very concerned.

He sat down beside me.  I’d let go of the side of the boat and was holding on tightly to the cat box with Ruska inside it.

I was dismayed when Randall let out a loud laugh.  It wasn’t like him to be so cold-hearted.

“Honey!” Randall exclaimed with a wide smile across his face.   “Ruska’s not dead!  He’s sleeping!”

The bloody cat!   He's sleeping and I'm having a heart attack, along with a nervous breakdown!

I said Ruska was a good traveller…but come on now…this was ridiculous!!

Apparently, as soon as we’d left the shore Ruska curled up comfortably in his safe haven and drifted off into a deep sleep with not a care in the world.  He wasn’t concerned in the least that he was in a power boat roaring across the deep, dark ocean waters for the first time in his life!  I was the only coward in the county – put to shame by a ginger cat!

Once we crossed Missionary Bay and had pulled into the ramp that led down to where the jetty had once reached out into the sea, a feeling of elation engulfed me. The drama (and humour) of the boat trip was soon forgotten. An odd feeling that I'd arrived "home" came over me.  Hinchinbrook Island welcomed me with open arms; and a wide smile opened up across my face. From that first moment I knew it was where I was supposed to be.

The original jetty that had stood for many years had been demolished by Cyclone Winifred’s wanton, indiscriminate fury.  It no longer existed.

The previous manager of the resort was still on the island.  The intention was he would remain with Randall and me for a couple of weeks to show us the ropes as we settled in.  He put me off-side from the moment I stepped off the boat onto the island. He didn’t come down to the waterfront to greet us upon our arrival. And when we finally did meet, he was very off-hand.

David, who'd skippered us across the sea helped unload our luggage and also helped carry it up to the main building housing the dining/restaurant/kitchen. I had Ruska in my care. David then said his goodbyes before returning to Cardwell where he hitched the boat to his vehicle, and then drove to Tully by road towing the boat behind.
  
We set ourselves up in one of the guest cabins where I made sure Ruska was settled in with no escape routes. I didn’t want him roaming out and about in his unfamiliar, strange new surroundings. On Ruska’s past behaviour I really had nothing to be concerned by leaving him alone in the cabin; but I didn’t want him wandering about at will outside unchaperoned.  Having conducted a brief reconnaissance of the cabin, and after having a snack and a drink, Ruska found a comfortable spot on the bed.  Purring his furry ginger head off, he promptly went to sleep!   

Ruska the Wonder Cat! 

Randall and I then left him, knowing he'd be fine. We walked along the track leading down to the main building into a new world; a new life. 

In previous year the resort closed for the month of February to enable maintenance work to be done and for staff members go on holidays; no guests bookings were accepted.   

February, 1986, in particular, regardless of the island policy wasn’t conducive to hosting guests because of the lashing received from Winnie late January-early February.  Before any guests could be welcomed a new jetty had to be erected; the old one was at the bottom of the ocean turning into a new reef.   Elsewhere further repairs needed urgent attention. Also vegetation that had been damaged by the cyclone required clearing away; much work awaited and required our urgent attention.

We’d decided the construction of a large brand new timber deck to surround the in-ground pool with solid, set-in timber tables to complement it was imperative.  The situation of the original surrounds of the pool were not, in anyway, inviting to those wanting to go swimming, let alone wanting to just lounge poolside. A new deck was amongst our top priorities.  We wanted it completed before we reopened the resort to the public.  We'd set the date for re-opening - 8th March, 1986; about a month away. Time was of the essence.

The manager we were replacing had also been one of the original five shareholders of the resort. All were a group of mates, based in Townsville, who’d formed a consortium. 

When Randall and I arrived on the scene his wife and two young children had already returned to the mainland, to the home they owned in Townsville, where they waited for him to join them once everything was in order on the island.

He, the previous manager, was more than a bit of a smart-arse, and as I said earlier, I’d not taken to him from the outset, but I kept my feelings to myself (and Randall during our private moments together).  There was no need to rock the boat. He was only going to stay a couple of weeks or so, and then he’d be out of our hair. He was similar to one of those people I referenced in my previous post…a know-all.  But, every time we asked him a question about the running of the resort, etc; normal questions necessary to learn everything pertinent to the running of the resort he skirted around the issues, never giving a straight answer.  Suddenly his knowledge deserted him.   It was easier to ignore his petty behaviour. We gave up asking him any questions. 

Randall and I weren’t stupid.  We’d operated our own businesses; together we’d managed a restaurant in Noosa, amongst holding other positions in our working lives up until that point.   We had faith in their abilities.

At the completion of his couple or so years working for the New Zealand Mission to the United Nations, followed by his brief stint with the British, and an even briefer stint working on the fringes with the Cambodian Embassy within the auspices of the UN - he left the latter because he was disgusted at their callous, light-hearted reactions to the images that came through of the atrocities perpetrated by Pol Pot – Randall made a 180° turn and became bar manager of  O’Brien’s Bar-Grill in New York’s Upper East Side. The bar was then situated on 83rd Street and York Avenue. Randall remained in that job for a few years before he returned to Australia.  During the summer months, he managed their sister bar and grill on Long Island. Currently there are other Irish pubs/grills in New York bearing the name “O’Brien’s”, but the “O’Brien’s Bar and Grill” Randall was employed by back in the early to mid-Seventies no longer exists.

There was much for us to do before the resort reopened, ready to accept guests, so we let the ex-manager go his maudlin way, while we went about ours, our way. 

In only a matter of days, less than a week after we set foot on the island, the ex-manager did, literally, go on his way.   

Without notice, fanfare or farewell, he up-rooted and left long before the pre-arranged and agreed-to date for his departure.  Randall and I shed no tears over his unheralded, premature absconding. He’d been taking up space; we were better off without him.  After he left we discovered many files/documents were missing.  We didn’t pursue him or the missing files. We had more important issues to address.
 
We didn’t mourn his departure.  Actually, if my memory serves me correctly, I think we celebrated it over a few drinks that evening!

With him out of our hair, we moved from the guest accommodation into the small managers’ house at the base of Cape Richards itself with views of the ocean and beach on both sides.  Again, Ruska didn’t kick up a stink.  I think he’d known the cabin was only a temporary measure.

Randall and I were free to get stuck into what needed to be done, our way, without any hindrance from someone who didn’t want to be there any longer and who had been acting like a petulant child.

Before leaving Noosa we’d spoken with a few tradies we knew well.  Amongst them one was a neighbour of ours. He introduced us to one of his mates.  Both with talents we needed in the plumbing, electrical and construction areas. Ron, another we asked had built our deck on the Elanda Street house.  We knew his work was impeccable. Ron had a very good name in the Noosa area; he was a perfectionist at what he did.  

We asked if they’d be interested in a working/paid “holiday” on the island. Three of those we put forth our offer to jumped at the chance for an island adventure. Without hesitation they agreed to pick up their tools and join us on the island the moment we said the word.  

We said the “word”, and almost before we could say “Bob, the Builder”, the three Noosa fellows landed at the resort ready and eager to get to work. We had faith in their abilities.

The staff that had been on the island before our arrival and before the resort closed down because of Cyclone Winifred and the necessary renovations etc., were no longer on the island.  Some had taken the opportunity to take holidays with the intention of returning at the end of their vacation; others took the opportunity to leave the island permanently.

Along with Randall, me and the three men from the Noosa area, Quentin, the new owner/lessee of the resort and its surrounds sent us two of his men to assist in the physical construction work etc., that needed to be done. As well as those two, he sent us his  head man on the construction side of his civil engineering company. 

John aka “Slip” brought along with him his wife, Judy and their three year old daughter, Kaycee.  So, then we were nine; 10 including young Kaycee.  Kaycee was a great little kid, who within a day, if not less, had us all wrapped around her little finger. 

Of course, the number really was 11, counting Ruska into the mix. However, Ruska was content to remain, out of sight, comfortably ensconced in the house overlooking the ocean. Why wouldn’t he?  Ruska was fed morning and night and had no washing up to do. It was all done for him. He had a comfortable bed to sleep on; he spent most of his daylight hours sleeping, undisturbed by pesky humans and, when awake, he had a deck to wander out on to soak up the sun and drink in the views.  His job was to guard the house....with one eye open...some of the time...

On the subject of food, I became the cook.  I prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner for the "crew". In between times, I took care of the office/clerical duties and everything else pertained therein and applicable thereto. Also, somehow I volunteered to be on laundry detail, as well!

And then the Pioneer Unit of the Australian Army arrived on our shores - by helicopter – they couldn’t land on the jetty because we still didn’t have a jetty.

Thunder clouds were forming on the horizon – they, too, were headed our way.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

WHO KNOWS? I’VE NOT A CLUE - MAYBE YOU KNOW - I DON’T KNOW!



Audie Murphy - Second World War Hero - and Movie Star Cowboy

When we’re young we think we know everything. When we’re old and grey with our teeth in a jar beside our bed we no longer think we know everything - we know we know everything! You know I’m kidding! You do know that, don’t you?  

Maybe you and I don’t know everything, but I know you know you’ve met some who think they know they do.  I know I have.  Be honest! You know you have.  I bet even you and I have had our moments of glory when we’ve been guilty of a similar transgression.  I know I have; that much I do know; and I should know!

Mrs. Weller, one of our neighbours when I was growing up (I’m still in the process of growing up. It’s a slow, long process. I know many of you can empathise) was a simple, gentle soul. She was a person who never uttered a bad word about anyone, you know. 

Her husband’s name was Audie - “Audie” as in the baby-faced Audie Murphy, the Second World War hero and cowboy movie star . 

Audie Weller was neither, but he was a hero in kind; he was a butcher.  The couple had no children, you know.

Mrs. Weller completed all her sentences, or almost every one of her statements with – “you know”…you know.

Most of the time I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she kept telling me, as well as everyone else within earshot that we all did know.  Mrs. Weller never took into account perhaps the listener didn’t know. 
You know, I often noticed some captive listeners nod pretending they knew; perhaps some did know - I don’t know.

You know how frustrating it can be when you’re relating a story about which only you know the details because you personally played a part in the story you’re narrating, and the person to whom you’re telling your tale insists on interrupting frequently,  talking over you, and then practically taking over as if they already know the story!  It’s as if they participated in the actual event and they know more about it than you do!   

How can they know?  They weren’t there!  When I find myself in such a situation I end up shutting my mouth and let the other person continue on his/her all-knowing way. It easier to do so because it becomes obvious what I knew I knew I didn’t know at all. Much easier and more polite than clonking them over the head, you know!

We also have our “those-in-the-know” - the “faucet experts” aka “experts’ – the drips under pressure; those who love to tell us what they know.

You and I know they learned what they know from someone else who learned it from another in the know, and so on down the line until it reaches you and me.  Sometimes it’s all made up just to cover up what they really don’t know!

A current fad that’s being shoved down our throats (because the “experts” know what’s good for us; not, of course, because they’re making a mint from it) is the Paleo Diet aka the Caveman Diet; a diet based on what our ancient ancestors ate.  If Paleo is so great how come the life expectancy of humans nowadays is much longer than it was in said ancestors’ day?

Those-in- the-know who know everything about Paleo tell me I shouldn’t indulge in dairy products. Tough cheddar! I’m not relinquishing milk or cheese for any caveman! He can go wave his club elsewhere!

I’m told to give up wheat, rye, canary seed (I’ve never eaten canary seed; I know I’m pretty chirpy without it), barley, legumes, processed oils, potatoes etc., etc; an endless list that goes on and on.

I’ll have you know I’m not giving up olive oil, either!

One Paleo exponent said he realised how bad an early breakfast of boiled potatoes made him feel, so he gave up having them.  Who has boiled potatoes for breakfast? I don’t know anyone who does.  Do you know anyone who has boiled potatoes for breakfast? 

I know those-in-the-know believe they know, but I also know I don’t have to believe everything they insist on telling me they know.  I do know I don’t have to blindly follow them…you know what I mean.

Rump Steak with Salsa Verde: Using 400g of a variety of tomatoes cut large ones in half; leave smaller ones whole; place in shallow dish. Combine 1tbs x-virgin oil, 25sp red wine vinegar and 1/4c caster sugar; season; shake well; add to tomatoes; gently toss. Salsa Verde: Process until finely chopped 1c firmly packed flat-leaf parsley, 1/2c firmly packed basil leaves, 1/4c firmly packed mint leaves, 1tbs drained capers, 2 chopped gherkins and 1tbs Dijon mustard; transfer to bowl; add 1-1/2tsp white wine vinegar, 1/4c x-virgin olive oil and 1tbs cold water; stir. Oil grill or pan; heat on med-high; season 650g rump steak with cracked pepper; cook 4-5mins each side for medium or as preferred. Add salad leaves to tomato; toss. Serve sliced steak with salsa verde and salad.

Red Lentil-Crusted Goat Cheese Salad: Combine 3/4c al dente cooked red lentils, 1 cup each cooked brown and green lentils in bowl; add 5 spears of cooked broccolini, roughly chopped, 1 sliced endive head, 2tbs x-virgin olive oil, 1tbs red wine vinegar; season; set aside 30-60mins. Place 1/4c cooked red lentils on tray; roll 270g goat cheese, sliced into 6x2-inch slices in lentils to coat; place into baking pan. Halve a ruby grapefruit; separate segments from one half.  Whisk together juice from other half with juice of 1 lime and 1/8c x-virgin olive oil; add segments; season. Distribute lentils onto 6 plates. Just before serving, heat cheese slices 3-5mins in 175C oven until warm, not melting; place on lentils; drizzle with vinaigrette.


Mashed Potato Puffs: Heat oven to 200C; lightly grease cups of mini-muffin tin (either a 12 or 24 cups). Whisk together 2 cups mashed potatoes, 3 large beaten eggs, 3/4c grated Parmesan or Gruyere, ¼ chopped chives or finely-chopped shallots and 1/4c diced cooked bacon or ham (optional); season to taste. Spoon mounds of mixture in each muffin cup; sprinkle tops with some of the grated cheese. Bake 20mins or until set, browned on top and hot through. Cool in pan 5mins, then gently release from the pan; serve immediately with dollops of sour cream, if desired.

Potato-Brie Frittata: Grab 150g Brie; slice thinly; set aside until later. Preheat oven, 180C. Lightly grease (or spray) 20x30cm lamington pan; line base and two long sides with baking paper; allow sides to hang over. Boil 3 halved desiree potatoes (about 600g). Peel them if you prefer…I never peel potatoes. Cook 10-15mins or until just tender; drain and set aside a few minutes to cool a bit. Heat 1tsp olive oil in non-stick pan over medium heat; add 1 halved, thinly sliced red onion; cook, stirring occasionally, 5mins or until onion softens. Using a fork, whisk together 8 eggs, 1/2c sour cream and 2tbs finely chopped fresh chives; season with salt and pepper. Thinly slice the potato; arrange half of the spuds in a single layer over the base of the lined pan; top with half the onion; then arrange half of the thinly sliced Brie over the onion; repeat the layers with remaining potato, onion and Brie. Pour over the eggs; bake in oven, 30min or until golden and just set; set aside approx 30mins to cool. Using serrated knife, cut frittata into squares to serve.

Kidney Bean Casserole: In pan sauté until tender, 3/4c chopped onion, 1/3c chopped green capsicum (pepper), 1/3c chopped celery and 2 minced large garlic cloves. Add 910g drained canned red kidney beans (or a combination of kidney beans, chickpeas, cannelloni…whatever takes your fancy along those lines), 1c peeled chopped fresh tomatoes, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1tbs tomato paste, ¼ chicken or vegetable stock, 1/2tsp chilli powder/flakes, pepper and a dash of hot sauce. Cover; cook 15mins. Spoon 2c cooked long grain brown rice into bottom of lightly greased casserole dish; spread bean mixture over rice.  Sprinkle grated cheese over the bean mix. Place in preheated 190C oven for approximately 15mins…until bubbling and cheese is golden.


One of the Best Smoothies I Know: Blend 1 kiwi fruit, 1 banana, 1/2c blueberries, 1c strawberries, 1c raspberries, 1/2c orange juice and 1c yoghurt or milk. You know what to do next! 


Even if you don't know...I do know that Chapter 10 of my seemingly unending story..."Music to My Ears...To All the Cats I've Loved Before..." etc., etc., will follow this post... 


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

SOMETHING NOT TO KEEP MUM ABOUT - SHOUT IT OUT LOUD!




Legendary Radio Show - "Yes, What!"
 
Bob Dyer and Jack Davey

Fifties' Television

My mother, Elma, 2nd from left, with Joe, Graham's and my father next to her - taken in Rockhampton in early 40s.
My Nana and Grandfather (Grand-Pop) on their wedding day

Mum aka Elma at 18 years of age

Chocolate-Ginger Self-Saucing Pudding
Carrot-Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


I’m ancient! I’ve been around since radio was king. Since mantle radios sat on mantles.  If there was no mantle the wireless sat on a table or a shelf. We didn’t have a mantle so our wireless sat securely on a sturdy shelf.

Here’s a clue to what an antediluvian I am - I was running up and down the hills of Gympie way before black and white television screens flickered in our lounge rooms. 

Television licences here in Australia were first issued in 1955, but in Sydney and Melbourne only. It wasn't until the following year test transmissions began, stirred into action because of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.  

A piece of interesting trivia is the wife and mother to end all wives and mothers, the now Dame Edna Everage, when she was still the simple housewife from Moonee Ponds, Mrs. Edna Everage aka Barry Humphries, was one of the first programmes screen on HSV-7 (Channel 7) Melbourne.  It takes Dame Edna to poke her nose in!

Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia lagged behind with television being introduced to those states in 1959.  Lagging even further behind were Tasmania, 1960; the Australian Capital Territory, 1962 (the Pollies must have been biting at the bit by that time!); and, last of all, the Northern Territory in 1971...a fact I find so difficult to believe...but there it is!

Finally, in 1959 television arrived here in Queensland. Shiny new sets enhanced shop window displays, enticing the excited public. Nightly, in droves curious locals gathered in front of the shop windows wondering when they’d be able to afford to buy a set of their own.

When they’d gathered together enough pounds, shillings and pence to purchase a television set broadcasts were still limited to only a few hours at night, which made viewing a special event. Stations shut down at 11 pm, signing off with “God Save the Queen”; not the unforgettable Freddie and his legendary band’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, but the anthem.

Radio was king in our home when I was a child.   My mother and grandmother had their favourite shows.

My brother Graham and I never missed an episode of “Jason and the Argonauts”, “The Quizz Kids”, hosted by John Dease, “Life with Dexter” (not Dexter Morgan, the anti-hero, vigilante-serial killer of the TV series) or “Yes, What” with its unforgettable characters; larrikin Rupert Bottomly, the ludicrous Cuthbert Horace Greenbottle Jnr, Ronald George Standforth, Francis Marmaduke Algenon de Pledge, and their recurring guests, Daphne and Mr. Basil Cornelius Snootles. What wonderful names created by an imaginative, quirky, lively mind. Of course, "The Adventures of Biggles" rated highly with my brother.  As a family, we all giggled over "Dad & Dave from Snake Gully", mimicking the droll characters.

Addictive radio dramas such as –“The Caltex Theatre”, “The Burtons of Banner Street”, “Hagen’s Circus”, “Blue Hills” and others commanded our undivided attention. True-life crime stories depicted in “The Colda Police Report” sent chills up and down our spines, but we wouldn’t miss it for quids!

As soon as we heard Jack Davey’s cheery greeting of “Hi! Ho! Everybody” at the beginning of his weekly radio quiz shows silence reigned.  Transfixed, we sat trying to come up with the correct answers to his questions.   

We preferred Jack Davey to his friend and rival, American-born Bob Dyer who first came to Australia in 1936.  However, we did listen to Bob, as well.  Bob and Dolly Dyer’s “Pick-a-Box” was a very popular quiz show, too; one that successfully flowed onto our TV screens in 1957.  Dolly, Bob Dyer’s wife was born in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. They married within two weeks of meeting in 1940 at Sydney’s Tivoli Theatre where Dolly was a showgirl.  Theirs was a long and happy union.  

Bob died in 1984 at the age of 75, followed 20 years later by his beloved Dolly. Dolly, aged 83 died after suffering a stroke on Christmas Day, 2004 in Gympie, my old hometown.

Both Jack Davey and Bob Dyer were the top quiz show hosts of their time.  They reigned supreme for many, many years.

The radio actors and actresses became household names; their voices were as familiar to us in those times as the faces of their television counterparts are today.

Many Aussie radio actors went on to great success on stage, television and in film here or in the UK and the US; they included Rod Taylor, Ray Barrett, Peter Finch, Charles Tingwell, Michael Pate, Madge Ryan, Ron Randell, Bill Kerr, Betty McDowell, June Slater and John Meillon, among others. Michael Pate regularly played a "Red Indian" aka Native American in Hollywood westerns.  

Peter Finch caused many a flutter in the hearts of fair maidens in "Elephant Walk" when he starred alongside Elizabeth Taylor.  And he caused tears to be shed in "A Town Like Alice" and the wonderful D'arcy Niland story made into the film - "The Shiralee".

Rod Taylor also starred alongside the stunningly beautiful Elizabeth Taylor in "Raintree County".

By the way, while waiting for my flight out of Mackay airport back to Brisbane after the passing of my mother in 1974, I met John Meillon. He was waiting for the same delayed flight that I was.  A couple of months before that day I’d seen him in “The Fourth Wish” a splendid, heart-wrenching, yet uplifting three-part television drama.  Michael Craig, the British actor and scriptwriter wrote the drama series.

My conversation shared with John Meillon wherein I thanked him for his wonderful performance in “The Fourth Wish” came many years later, long after the days I'd been a keen listener to radio dramas and comedies in which Meillon's star had shone brightly.

Through the television screen we were introduced to a wealth of strangers with whom we soon became familiar. No longer were we being entertained just by voices; now we could put a face to the voice. A whole new world had entered our homes, bringing with it people we’d never expected to have ever welcomed into our lounge rooms!

We loved Lucy.  My brother and I enjoyed raising a “bite” from our Mum, by calling her “Lucy”.  Our mischievous teasing always succeeded. Mum was a natural red-head and her blue eyes would flash with annoyance when we’d start giggling and carrying on like two fruit bats!  She’d huff and puff while telling us to behave ourselves, which made us giggle and tease more.   Knowing our mother’s sense of humour; her sense of the ridiculous, she would’ve been laughing inside. Years later she and I laughed about those times.

Western movies were no longer confined to Saturday afternoon matinees now James Garner aka Maverick; the towering, softly-spoken Cheyenne aka Clint Walker as well as Ward Bond and his Wagon Train played out their adventures in our homes.  Dragnet and Perry Mason showed us how it was done, and Father always knew best. 

Our own Aussie-produced shows quickly began to filter through.  We weren’t going to be left behind.   

“Bandstand” hosted by Brian Henderson was a show never missed in our household, nor was Johnny O’Keefe’s “Six O’Clock Rock”.  During our childhood Graham and I had been surrounded by music.  Mum had been a keen and wonderful pianist, so piano music regularly filled our home.  Nana played piano as well, and so did I.  Our radio was always on, too, so when the television programmes came on showcasing Australian talent singing and performing  the "songs of the day" our eyes were glued to the screen.

Where once we’d gather around the radio as a family to listen to our favourite shows, we now sat in front of “the box” and enraptured by with a whole new set of faces and entertainment.

Bakelite or polished wood radios took a back seat.  Computers and today’s technology were only future dreams and sci-fi movie themes.

There was little money to spare, if any, when I was growing up.  My brother and I, as I’ve written previously, were raised by our mother and her mother, our Nana.

Immediately upon leaving school at the tender age of 14 years, my brother commenced working for Queensland Railways, Soon after Graham started working the first item he bought after saving diligently and rapidly was a new, little gas fridge for the family to use.  Up until then, in the late Fifties, an ice chest held the food that needed to be kept cold. Throughout our childhood our little wooden ice chest did the job required of it extremely well; but like everything in life, its day had come. 

The next thing he purchased was a new, lairy (compared to our old one) dining table with chairs to match.  

Shortly after television sets hit the Gympie electrical stores, Graham bought a set.  We felt like we were the kings and queens of Fern Street, Gympie; the street in which we lived.

As far back as I can remember Mum worked outside of the home. She was the breadwinner; our Nana was the “bread-maker” – the homemaker. 

Our mother was a barmaid, a job at which she was very capable, but it was a job that wasn’t held in high esteem in some quarters back then in the Fifties. However, our mother looked the world squarely in the eye, without a blink; her head held high.  She was always well-dressed and immaculately groomed. She was good at her job and she was rightfully aware of her abilities.  Mum was one of the best, if not the best barmaid in town, and because of her adeptness at what she did she was much sought after by Gympie publicans.   

Our mother was continuously employed.  I don't recall there was ever a time she'd not held a job.  As children, Graham and I never returned from school to an empty house. Nana was always at home to greet us; always ready to learn of our day’s events; ever ready to sympathise, empathise, comfort and advise.

During my working years it was television that took the back seat.  I watched very little TV.  For years, particularly when working within the hospitality industry, my hours were long; extending through the daylight hours, well into the nights; a lot of the time seven days a week.   

Freely I admit, without embarrassment or apology, nowadays I love my TV. 

I have my preferred shows.  Those I can’t watch “on-the-spot” I record to view at a later time.

At the moment, one show I’m fond of is the series “Blue Bloods”.  It’s a cop show based in New York City, if you’re not already aware. Season Five is being shown at present. 

Along with the story-lines, I enjoy the family dinner scenes in “Blue Bloods”.  Each episode has one or two segments of the Reagan family gathered around the patriarch’s dinner table.

Our family wasn’t as large as the Reagans, but we ate our meals at the table, as a family unit.  Sunday lunches, in particular, were always grand affairs.  Sunday lunch was our “Feature of the Week”. The main features at the Saturday matinees had nothing on our Sunday feasts in our humble home.

Nana was chief cook and dish-washer; my brother and I were chief “dryer-upperers”, table-setters and clearers of the table. Mum was chief “clear-outerer”!  Without fail, Mum succeeded in disappearing when the dinner chores needed doing.  It was Mum’s special knack. She’d honed it to a fine art.  We’d tease her, good-humouredly, about her ability to successfully dodge the washing and drying-up.

As children we missed out on very little. There was always ample food on the table and in the cupboards…and in our sturdy, little ice chest.  At all times we had clean clothes on our backs and shoes on our feet – that is, other than when we weren’t running about bare-footed in play!  Graham and I always had a new outfit each to wear to Gympie’s annual show/fair.  Mum and Nana did good by us and for us.

Family memories are important. Mothers and grandmothers are important. They are very special people.

Of my family I’m the last of the Mohicans. 

Graham passed away in 1998.  

He and I were raised by a single parent in an era when single parent households were a rarity; particularly one in which divorce was involved.  Our mother wasn’t a widow – she was a divorcee. However, I don’t think of my childhood as being “raised by a single parent”. My brother and I were raised by both our mother and our grandmother…two good women who dual-parented without the assistance of a male, monetary or otherwise. 

The photo I posted above shows my mother, Elma (second from the left) holding hands with Joe, Graham's and my biological father. The photo was taken before I was born.  It was the wedding of one of Joe's sisters, Tessie...she married a US soldier...it was during the Second World War.  The weird thing about this is - I received this photo on 8th April, 2015 from a first cousin on my father's side...the son of another of his sisters. 

You may well wonder what is so strange about this seemingly innocuous thing...this is the first and only photograph I've ever seen of my mother and father together...ever...until this very year...2015!  

I never knew my father, Joe Nicholson.  He and my mother separated when she was pregnant with me.

The first time I ever laid eyes on a photo of my father was seven years ago, in June 2008...but until April just gone, I'd never seen a photo of my mother and father together.  I'm sure if you'd not understand how I felt when my eyes fell on that photo...and I realised what I was looking at....

Nana’s husband, our grandfather, passed away at the young age of 48 years.  I never knew him; he died before I was born.

My Mum and Nana were the two most significant women in my life.  I salute and thank them both – my memories are special – of two extraordinary ladies...who always fought through the difficult times believing there was a light at the end of each tunnel; their never gave into defeat during the hard times; they both taught Graham and me the true values of life. Two women who protected us as best they could - they did well.

If you’re fortunate to have either one or the other, or both in your life - cherish her; cherish them. Don’t hide your love and gratitude away; they shouldn't be kept as secrets. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mums out there....

Stuffed Sirloin Roast: Cut a long pocket in 2kg boneless sirloin roast to each end and almost through to the side. Grease a rack; place in roast pan. Make stuffing; melt 2tbs butter in pan over med-heat; add 1 finely chopped onion; cook 5-6mins; add 3tbs chilli dip; stir until melted; remove from heat. Add 1c fresh breadcrumbs, 1/3rd cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts, 3tbs chopped parsley, 2tsp finely grated lemon zest, salt and pepper. Layer 1c firmly packed spinach leaves inside opening in beef. Sprinkle with chopped blue cheese or feta; spoon in stuffing. Secure opening with skewers or tie with string. Place meat on rack in pan; add 1c water to pan; roast in 180°C oven, uncovered, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2hrs, brushing with glaze for last 15-20mins.  Glaze; combine 3tbs chilli dip/spread, 2tbs lemon juice and 2tbs Dijon mustard. Add more water to pan if pan gets dry. Cook roast as desired. Cover with foil; let stand 15mins before slicing.

Lemon Pork with Roasted Pears: Preheat oven, 200C. Cut 3 or 4 deep pockets about 1cm apart across a 1.5kg piece of scored pork loin. Spread 100g macadamia nuts over oven tray; roast 5mins or until golden; remove and set aside. Process nuts, 1 roughly chopped bunch of parsley, leaves from 4 sprigs fresh oregano, thick strips of rind from 2 lemons, flesh of 1 lemon, pith and pits removed (I’m not lisping) and 2tbs olive oil; process for 5 to 6 seconds.  Spread about ¾ of stuffing down into the pockets, pushing it down firmly. Rub pork skin with half of a cut lemon; then using your finger tips, spread oil and rub in salt flakes over the pork skin. Increase oven temp to 220C. Place pork onto a rack inside a roasting pan; place a little water in the pan. Roast 20mins. Reduce temperature to 190C; cook 40mins per kg of pork. Increase oven temp to 220C; place 4 ripe, but firm pears into baking pan, basting with the juices; sprinkle with 2tbs brown sugar and 1tbs balsamic vinegar. Push remaining suffing into the pockets; cook pork for a further 10mins.  Remove pork from oven; set aside 20mins while pears continue roasting; serve the pork with the balsamic pears.

Raspberry-Whisky Bread & Butter Pudding: Bring 400ml full cream milk, 400m double cream and pinch of salt to boil; remove from heat; add 1tsp vanilla. Beat 5 large eggs, plus 1 yolk and 150g caster sugar in bowl. Pour this onto eggs; stir constantly. Butter 250g soft white rolls, buns or brioche, sliced 1.5cm thick; spread with raspberry jam; layer, buttered/jam-side up in 2lt ovenproof dish; sprinkle over 300g raspberries and 100ml whisky as you go; pour on the custard through a sieve; let sit 30mins; ensure no berries are uncovered. Put dish in roasting pan; add boiling water to halfway up sides; bake in 180C oven, 40-45mins, or until puffy, golden and set on top. Cool slightly; dust with icing sugar. 

Chocolate-Ginger Self-Saucing Pudding: Preheat oven, 180C. Lightly grease 2-litre oven-proof dish. Put 1-1/2c self-raising flower, 2tbs dark cocoa and 1/2c caster sugar into mixing bowl.  Using flat beater, turn mixer to Speed 2; thoroughly combine ingredients.  Add 125g room temperature butter, 2 eggs, 1tsp vanilla extract, 125ml warmed milk and 2tbs finely chopped glace ginger and a sprinkling or two of ginger powder. Turn mixer to Speed 2; beat until combined; increase speed to 4; beat 1min. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Mix ½ cup firmly-packed brown sugar and 2tbs dark cocoa powder together until smooth. Sprinkle over the batter; carefully pour over 1-1/2c boiling water. Bake on centre shelf in oven, 40mins; serve warm dusted with icing sugar.

And as promised – my Mother’s Day gift to all you Mum’s out there -  Carrot-Pineapple Cake: Grate enough young, fresh carrots to give one full cup; strain juice from half a 15oz (400g) can of crushed pineapple.  In bowl, mix 1c plain flour, 1tsp baking powder, ¾ tspn baking soda, 1/2tsp each salt and cinnamon and 3/4c raw sugar.  Add 2 eggs and 5tbs vegetable oil. Mix very well. Stir in the grated carrot, crushed pineapple and ¼ cup of chopped walnuts.  Bake in moderate oven, 175C (350F) for 35-40 minutes; cool before covering with topping.  Cream Cheese Topping: Place 3tbs butter, 3tbs cream cheese, 1/2tsp vanilla (I always substitute the vanilla with fresh lemon juice…add whichever you prefer), 250g (1/2lb) icing sugar; beat very well.  If too thick, ad a small amount of milk or a little more lemon juice. 

This carrot-pineapple cake recipe comes from my “Greta Anna Recipes” book; a book I’ve had since the early Seventies.  Over the years I prepared this cake many, many times; and as I wrote in my previous post, I used to make 12 times the quantities suggested when preparing it for sale in my Noosa shop and elsewhere throughout the years.  It’s a very easy cake to make; and a very tasty one in which to partake!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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



Noosa National Park
Tea Tree Bay
Alexandria Bay


Roden Plug-In Electric Stove/Oven
Silkwood Landscape
 
Upon my return from my brief hiatus at the lakeside cabin, refreshed, I jumped back into work - burying myself in fruit, vegetables and health foods....in my shop.

There was much to be done; much to be organised – not only in the shop, but elsewhere in our lives, as well.   

My hands were continually busy making cakes and biscuit; preparing soups, salads, dips, roasting and boiling peanuts and blending smoothies, in between unloading cartons of fruit, vegetables and health food products.  My little store was bursting at the seams. It was a hive of industry.   

Next to my cash drawer, at all times, was a large jar filled with muesli cookies. If, at any time the need had arisen, I'm sure I would’ve been able to make them blindfolded.  The jar was never allowed to run on empty.  Same applied to the carrot-pineapple cake I used to make.   

One day shortly after I bought the shop I decided to make the cake, just for fun. That moment of "fun" began an unending avalanche.  It was akin to the “tiger by the tail” syndrome.   

Carrot cakes were very popular in those days; everyone was making them.  I wanted to do something slightly different and the carrot-pineapple cake I chose turned out to be a winner with the customers.  It was a very moist cake; and one that was able to be successfully frozen.  It reached the point where I was making 12 times the quantity each time I made them - by the time I’d finished grating all the carrots! 

 “Each time” grew into a few times per week!  I sold the cakes by the slice, portion, and in some instances, whole. They were very popular, so I wasn’t complaining. 

With Christmas only a couple of weeks away, I got stuck into making fruit cakes as well.  A few months or so earlier I’d fallen into another cake trap, too; one I couldn’t climb out of - I had only myself to blame.  One day I had a brain explosion to make boiled fruit cakes for sale.  Why not?

Most mornings I was in my shop around 6 am, and closed its doors again at the earliest 6 pm, mostly thereafter. 

One morning I decided to save time and effort.  I had a brainwave to make a vegetable curry in my shop for Randall and me to dine on at home after we'd finished our day.  We didn’t eat vegetable curry for dinner that night because as it was cooking on my little Roden stove in the rear section of my shop the aroma wafted through the open arcade luring inquisitive passers-by.  Soon I had hungry customers hovering around my counter asking when the curry would be ready.  I sold it all.  Unintentionally and innocently, I started something that day.  From then on I had vegetable curry on my shop menu a few times a week; word had passed around!  The tom-toms were working overtime!

(The Roden stove I used in my shop was similar to the one pictured above, but an older model; and it was cream in colour. Only small, it sat on a shelf.  If the oven was being utilised, only one of the top plates worked.  The two top electric plates operated simultaneously, but when both were in operation, the oven couldn't be used.  Upon reflection, I even surprise myself when I think about how much I cooked on that little plug-in oven/stove-top.   I was a bit like a juggler! It was a major balancing trick.  Somehow, I managed to cook many things on and in that little stove...at the same time.  I had a two-bay electric bain-marie, also.  It held and kept hot the soups I'd prepared for sale.)

Randall was still working at Ray White Real Estate, attending to business elsewhere.  He’d placed the greengrocery/health food shop on the market, while I kept working it. 

Ruska was unaware of what was going on. He went about his daily business as usual; mostly lazing in the dappled sunshine under the pandanus tree beside our cottage in Sunshine Beach.   

In all matters Ruska's belief was – “Why get into a flap when the humans are there to take care of every detail?”

Sid, the owner of a dive shop next door to my store in the Laguna Arcade often had his nephew, Mark visit him from Sydney. Mark was a keen surfer. In December, 1985 Mark turned up to spend Christmas with his uncle.  Along with his surfboard he brought a couple of his Sydney mates. 

During his many Noosa visits Mark was a regular customer, having succumbed to an addiction for fresh fruit juices or smoothies after riding the waves for a few hours under the Noosa sun, either at First Point, Granite Bay or Tea Tree Bay. Sometimes he’d venture further afield through Noosa National Park to catch the waves at Alexandria Bay.

A beaming smile across his face, his body caked in salt and sand Mark would wander into my shop for a chat, a juice, and oft times a slice of cake, a muesli cookie or a container of fresh salad.  During his visits to Noosa, he became a bit of a fixture not only in his uncle’s dive shop, but in my shop, too.  Mark was a polite, nice young fellow. His two mates from Sydney who’d joined him were also keen surfers. Mark introduced them to me; and then later to Randall.  Daily, along with Mark, they, too, became regular customers. They showed a lot of interest in my shop and its contents.

Somewhere along the line I mentioned to Mark’s mates that Randall and I had placed the business on the market because we were relocating to Hinchinbrook Island around the end of January-early February.  By that stage it was mid-December, 1985. 1986 was looming rapidly.

Next minute, out of left field, the young men put in an offer to Randall and me for the business! 

For some time they’d wanted to move to Noosa to live and work (and surf), apparently…and they saw my little business as a perfect opportunity for them.  I spent an amount of time with them pointing out what needed doing, daily, hourly…at all times…in the shop. I impressed upon them that people don’t like walking into a store that has half-empty shelves, chill bins and refrigerators etc; that everything they see before them on the shelves, bins etc., just didn’t magically appear. Constant work and attention went into keeping them that way.  If the shelves were scant with stock, it’s a rapid, sure-fire way of losing customers.  Customers won’t return; they’ll go elsewhere.  The lads assured me they understood.  I feared they were buying a business to enable them to go surfing!  Life doesn’t work that way…not successfully!

After much consultation, pondering etc., the young men, Randall and I signed an unencumbered, 30-day Contract of Sale.  The sale was well and truly in the pipe-line.

We’d not placed our two blocks of land upon which the cottage in Sunshine Beach straddled on the market.

The purchasers of my business asked if they could rent the two-bedroom cottage when we left for North Queensland.  It was, after all, just a hop, skip and jump to the ocean and its rolling waves.  Because we’d already decided to hold onto the property, we knew tenants would be needed, so we agreed to the arrangement.  Everyone was happy; and everything was falling into place. Round pegs were fitting perfectly into round holes; and the square pegs were fitting comfortably into the square holes.

Shortly after New Year’s Eve, Randall flew to Townsville (by plane). From there he travelled north by Greyhound bus to Cardwell.  At Cardwell he boarded the boat across the sea to the resort at Cape Richards on the north-eastern tip of Hinchinbrook Island.   

Settlement on the sale of the resort was due for closure at any moment. Randall needed to be present at the resort to oversee proceedings, the workings of the resort and the current staff members, some of whom had decided to remain under our new management.

While Randall was taking care of business in North Queensland, I remained at the coast, in the Sunshine Beach cottage; still operating my shop in Hastings Street until its settlement.  Ruska kept me company…at the cottage, not in the shop. At night we curled up together in the bean bag watching our favourite TV show...both dozing off after a couple of minutes!

I placed an advertisement in the local newspaper to sell my MG-Magnette.  I hated having to part with it because I loved that car, but when living on the island we knew we didn’t need two cars, so one of them had to go.  We’d already sold the “Fire Truck”…our old red Land Rover to a deer farm on the Sunshine Coast.   

The Ford Cortina would eventually transport Randall, Ruska and me northwards once Randall returned from his resort secondment after every detail leading up to the change of ownership was settled; and all the finer elements at the Noosa-Sunshine Beach end had been settled.

However, no one had counted on Cyclone Winifred paying an uninvited, unwelcome visit to the northern regions.

A tropical low formed approximately 720kms north of Cairns on 27th January, 1986.  It played around there for a couple of days, teasingly turning towards the north-west, but then, as cyclones have a tendency to do Winnie, as she’d been christened by the Bureau of Meteorology, decided she’d had enough of those climes. She wanted a change of scenery.  Packing up her wares, she turned; gathered strength and headed south. Someone had told her that those areas needed a bit of a shake-up. 

Numerous warnings were given out by the Weather Bureau.  The cyclone eventually made landfall at the little township of Silkwood, but before and after that event, Cyclone Winifred caused much damage to areas between Cairns and Ingham. Winnie was the worst tropical cyclone to make landfall in northern Queensland since Cyclone Althea in 1971.  Cyclone Winifred caused over $86 million in damage.  Sugar cane and banana crops suffered to the extreme.   

Mission Beach, Tully, Silkwood, Kurrimine Beach, Cardwell, El Arish, South Johnstone, Mourilyan, the Family Group of Island, and all areas in between north of Hinchinbrook Island suffered at the wanton, destructive hands of Winifred.  Trees were defoliated and uprooted.  The lush foliage of those areas was stripped bare like naked naturists; au naturel as a nudist. The cassowary population, already at risk, wasn’t immune, either.

However, shortly before Winnie reached those areas just north of Hinchinbrook Island, Randall battened down the hatches at the resort, and evacuated everyone from the island to the mainland - including him.  Making his way down the highway to Townsville, Randall flew home.

It didn’t take us long to tie up the loose ends.  Time was of the essence.  We had little other choice; we had to get on the move…Hinchinbrook Island Resort was impatiently waiting for us. 
 
My shop settled within a couple of days of Randall’s return.  I remained with the young purchasers for a week to “show them the ropes”.  The shop had been like my “baby”. I’d put a lot into it, and had enjoyed doing so.  I felt sad handing it over, but a new adventure beckoned; and I was excited about what lay ahead of me in North Queensland. 

So many mixed emotions were flooding through me. 

A bloke who lived at the end of Elanda Street, there street where we’d once lived, bought the MG-Magnette.  As I reluctantly handed him the keys of the car, I asked if he would wait to collect it after we’d left.  I didn’t want to see my much-loved “Remy” driving away at the hands of a stranger.  I know it sounds silly…but I offer no apology.  “Remy’s” new owner obliged my whim; and I learned later he’d restored the car to its original state; its original beauty – and that pleased me no end.

(I still have a “Remy” in my life.  I christened one of my cats…my black and white male cat – “Remy” – “Remy Martin” during formal moments.  His tabby sister is called – “Shama” – after the Native American Shamans)!

A removal truck was hired and packed with some of our possessions.  We didn’t take everything we owned with us. The future was still the future…and as always, it held uncertainty. The future is always an unknown.   

Coincidentally, we stored some of our belongings at Randall’s sister and her husband’s property here on Tamborine Mountain.  They had space in a shed on their three acre block of land.

I bought a leash for Ruska.  The boot/trunk and rear seat of the Ford Cortina were loaded with our personal belongings.  We were on our way….no looking back.  Although, I did cast a final, backward, misty-eyed glance at “Remy” as we pulled out of the Duke Street yard.

Ruska contentedly curled up on my lap as soon as I'd settled my own self in the passenger seat of the car; and there he remained for most of the 1,419 km (882 miles) road trip.  When not on my lap, Ruska curled up at my feet on the passenger side of the car.  He was an exceptionally placid traveller, not once did he kick up a fuss. Not once did he make even the slightest cry in fear.  Ruska, again, as he’d done previously, showed great insight; he knew he was safe – so he just settled in to enjoy the ride.

The leash I’d bought was used when he needed to pay a visit to a feline ablution block…which over that expanse of kilometres is quite vast!

When we three intrepid adventurers reached Mackay, an approximate distance of 869.8 km from Sunshine Beach, we broke our trip and stayed overnight at Randall’s brother and his wife’s home.  Again, Ruska took it all in his stride.

Upon leaving Mackay our next port of call before our final destination of Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island was to be Cardwell…the coastal mainland town on the highway across from the island.  From Cardwell, where our car was to be stored, Randall, Ruska and I would then be transferred across the Coral Sea, past Missionary Bay to the island…

A whole new world and life lay ahead…..for the three of us....