Sunday, August 30, 2015

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



Ramsay Bay
Boardwalk through mangroves leading to beach at Ramsay Bay
Cape Richards Resort Cabins...Circa 1986/87
A Lace Monitor or Lace Goanna
Part of Missionary Bay

When 8th March 1986 finally arrived our adrenaline flowed freely, beyond control. Not that we wanted to control it; the feeling was too thrilling to deny.  The air was electric with it. We wanted to wallow in the fever of our excitement. We’d worked long and hard for the moment; for the day and for what lay ahead. A feeling of exhilaration, tinged with a certain amount of nervousness, of course, held us captive, but we were willing, happy captives.  The emotion was akin to waiting for every Christmas and birthday to arrive on our doorstep – or jetty – at once – on the one day!

The kitchen pantry and cold room were fully-stocked to overflowing.  There was little chance the bar would run out of supplies.  The bar fridge was packed to the brim and back-up "just-in-case" supplies were taking up space in the store room. 

Randall and I were prepared and ready. Our staff was eagerly biting at the bit rearing to go.  The maintenance crew, which included my late brother Graham and Rin, calmly went about their jobs without drawing attention to themselves.   Rin, the Dutch plumber was still temporarily employed. A few plumbing jobs needed his attention before he returned to Noosa.

Ted, the resort’s head maintenance fellow led a team of four at that stage.   Ted and his one of his off-siders , Burnie, shared a two-bedroom cabin a few hundred yards from the house Randall and I shared.  Ted had taken Burnie under his wing...almost playing the part as a father figure.  They'd been previously employed by the leaseholder of the resort, Q. H. & M. Birt Pty. Ltd., and had worked together on other projects on the mainland, in the construction side of the business.  

Graham, Rin and Maurice, the rest of “Ted’s Men”, lived in the staff quarters with the other staff.                                     
The staff accommodation, as I’ve described previously, was quite a distance away from the little house Randall and I occupied.  The quarters were a few yards up the track beyond the generator/machinery/work sheds.

Shortly before 9 am on the 8th March, Bob, the skipper of the “Reef Venture” radioed from the boat when he was halfway across Missionary Bay to give us warning of his approximate arrival time.  That was our signal to round up the troops or, at least, those who were needed to be at the jetty when the powered catamaran bearing guests and provisions arrived. 

There were no roads as such at the resort; just narrow, vegetation-fringed, dirt walking tracks between the restaurant area, the guest cabins, and one leading up to the work sheds and staff quarters. 

The resort had only one vehicle, a battered, but in good mechanical condition Toyota tradesman's ute.  Its purpose was not only to transport the guests’ luggage to their respective cabins, but to transfer the provisions etc. from the boat to the main building and machinery shed.  The ute was a good old work horse.

With a beaming smile and a cheerful wave - proof he was as excited as we were - Bob, the skipper of the “Reef Venture”, slowly drew the powered catamaran in close to the jetty.  On board were our first guests, three couples, strangers to each other and to us; but that situation would soon change.

When it was safe to do so, Bob’s deckie, Royce leapt from the boat. Rope in hand he tied the boat securely to the jetty.  Royce, a man in his early 60s give or take, was a retired bank manager.  From his whole demeanour Royce obviously relished his new job. Who wouldn’t?   It was miles away from sitting in a bank office all day, five days a week! Spending his days in the outdoors, cruising the waters of the Coral Sea and whiling the hours between 9 am to 4 pm in a tropical paradise wasn’t a tedious, difficult substitute job for him. Royce - a good-natured, well-mannered gentle man - took to being a deckie like a duck takes to water…or an egret!

While the luggage and provisions were being deposited to their rightful places, the guests were guided up the slope to the restaurant, and to pool area where they sipped on a cold juice, hot coffee or tea, whatever their preference was, while I conducted a “Greet and Meet”. 

Always upon the arrival of new guests to the resort a “greet and meet” was given. It gave us a chance to get acquainted, and for me to give the inquisitive guests information about the island; meal times; what to look for; what to be wary of etc. There were certain things they had to be made aware of, the large pythons, for instance. 

And they needed to know about the resort activities of which there were few compared to other holiday resorts.  What our guests chose to do with their time was up to them as long as they didn’t go off and drown themselves! 

Other than boat trips to Garden and Goold Island, to Ramsay Bay, Brook Islands and to Zoe Bay when the weather permitted, it was up to the individual to make his/her own fun.  Some chose to hike to North and South Shepherd Beaches or through to Macushla Beach, while others preferred lazing around the pool, on the foreshore or sand of Orchid Beach, or on the deck of their cabins.  Organised activities, rules and regulations were few and far between.  Books were a popular exercise tool.

There was only one phone one the island…in my office…with a line running across to our house with a second phone attached.  The staff quarters had a television set, and we had a one in our house.  The guest cabins and main building had no television sets.

The “greet and meet”, which usually took around 30 minutes or so, ensured the new arrivals relaxed into the mood of the resort (which was extremely laid-back).  Unnoticed, the ambience of the resort and the island soon enveloped them. It soothed their souls, and they were caught within its spell before they realised.  By the time a member of the staff escorted to their respective cabins their luggage was already in place,

Time was no longer of the essence.           

A couple of hours after our opening “greet and meet” on that initial day we had to repeat it again. It wasn’t a chore by any shape or form.

Around noon it was such a thrill to watch, for the first time of many more to come, the Grumman Mallard as it slowed to a landing on the waters of Missionary Bay. On board the seaplane was our second group of guests.

If the truth be known, we were probably even more excited than our guests, some of whom appeared to be a little white around the gills as they disembarked and boarded the punt that was to ferry them to the jetty.

During my time on the island I never ceased to be amused by the looks on the faces of guests as their climbed out of the seaplane. Some arrived with their eyes wide open, more from fear than wonderment.   

Frequently, for many, the whites of their eyes hid the colour of their irises!  

The excitement of others, the brave, fearless adventurers was palpable; and contagious.  

Every emotion – trepidation, excitement, expectation, anticipation, happiness - was interesting to witness.  

Appreciating being part of what was occurring, it was an enjoyable honour to be in the position of having the privilege of meeting and getting to know a diverse range of people, people who in a “normal” world, I’d never have met. It was fun being able to put them at ease. 

The person who arrived at the resort, more often than not, was a totally different person upon departure.

As I’ve described many time before during my writings about Cape Richards Resort,  Hinchinbrook Island – during my time on the island the resort buildings were not flash in any way.  The guest cabins were neat, clean and simple.  

Back in 1986 and 1987 when I lived and worked on the island there were only 15 guest cabins.  The cabins were capable of accommodating four people, but in the majority of times it was couples who chose to stay at the resort; hence the “population 30” tag.

“Hinchinbrook Island….Maximum population – 30…where the only footprints you see on the beach will be your own.  Where you’ll feel like you’re a million miles away from everywhere else…”

That was our logo…our motto; and it wasn’t an exaggeration.  We lived in a world of our own on the island.  And in no time at all after arriving at the resort, our guests felt similarly.  They rapidly fell into step.

Soon after Randall and I arrived on the scene we had the interior and exterior of the cabins painted. New manchester, including bedspreads to fit out the guest cabins was purchased. The old linen and towels were relegated to cleaning duties, either for the housekeeping crew, or for use by the maintenance men in the generator/work shed and elsewhere. 

Exquisite, framed nature prints by the famed award-winning Australian photographer Steve Parish were carefully chosen and bought. The stunning prints were hung on interior walls of the cabins.

 http://www.steveparish.com.au/about-steve-parish.html

http://www.picturestore.com.au/artist/steve-parish-posters-prints/22547~

We’d purchased new weather-proof outdoor tables and chairs for each cabin’s small deck overlooking Orchid Beach.

Within a blink it seemed, Randall and I had become managers of an island resort; hosts to visiting guest. The joyful business of running the resort was our main priority.  Guests came and went, leaving in far happier attitudes towards life than those they'd been burdened with when they arrived.

Easter was approaching rapidly.  In 1986 Good Friday fell on the 28th March.

Along with our staff we were kept very busy leading up to the Easter long weekend. Much needed our attention in readiness for the number of guests who’d booked accommodation for the holiday period that extended before and after the actual Easter weekend. The ordering of provisions; food, bar supplies etc; extra of everything over and beyond the normal to cater for the increase in population took up a major part of my time spent in the office.  Extra diesel was brought on board to ensure the generator didn’t run out of fuel; and extra gas tanks were set up to service the restaurant kitchen.

We were, one and all, looking forward to the busy – busier - time ahead. 

Even Easter egg hunts were planned (adults enjoy egg hunts as much as children do; and all the expected guests were adults). The hunt would go ahead if, in fact, we could master how to beat the goannas to the eggs!  

 Goannas love hen eggs – perhaps they loved chocolate eggs, too!  They’d not care about the wrapping; they'd not recognise it was just sparkling foil.  Goannas are short-sighted…and greedy!  Colourfully-wrapped Easter could be a welcome change from the boring old hen egg shells and their usual fare! 

The lace monitors or lace goannas, the type that roam around the island, are the second-largest monitor/goanna in Australia. 

They can be as long as 2.1 m (over 6.8 ft) with a head-and-body length of up to 76.5 cm (2.5 ft). The tail is long and slender and about 1.5 times the length of the head and body. The maximum weight of lace monitor can be 20 kg (44 lb), but most adults are much smaller.

Personally, my life was a paradox.  Nothing had changed on the “home front”. Randall and my relationship remained strained, but we hid our discontent from the outside world and our staff.  I think Randall’s head remained buried in the sand when it came to the state of our marriage. I could see the forest between the rainforest; and I knew the inevitable was inevitable.

With everything else that demanded our attention we had little time to ourselves, anyway. We were up at the crack of dawn, and then, other than a quick shower and change of clothes around 4.30 pm in readiness for the evening escapades, we didn’t return to our house until very late at night, or often past the witching hour.

On Good Friday morning, 28th March, 1986, Randall and I separated; 10 years and one week after we’d married on 21st March, 1976.    

With Ted as skipper of the island boat, the yellow Abalone, which the staff had named “Lady” otherwise known as “Lady of the Island”, Randall headed back to the mainland and a new life.  I remained on the island.   

However, I was in no mood for people and I needed to have some space…some “time out” for myself.  I could have chosen to stay over in the house, with Ruska, my ginger-furred friend and sole confidante, but I had a desperate need to get away from the resort proper; away from prying eyes and questions; away from staff and guests.

Bob, the skipper of the “Reef Venture” was taking some of the guests on a day trip to Ramsay Bay, a bay on the eastern side of the island; departing the resort around 9.30 am.  Access to the secluded beach at Ramsay Bay was by entering one of the numerous creeks that ran off Missionary Bay.  Upon coming to the end of the creek to reach the beach one had to cross a boardwalk leading through the mangroves to the beach.  The boardwalk had been constructed by National Parks’ people.  At the end of the boardwalk were remnants of shell midden heaps, evidence left by the original inhabitants of the island, the Bandjin people.

Ramsay Bay is many kilometres in length.  Its expanse would allow me to get away from people for a few hours. 

Once everyone had disembarked from the “Reef Venture”, I lagged behind, allowing Bob to guide them in the right direction.  Bob was aware of what had occurred, and he respected my mood; my desire for privacy.  Once everyone was had disappeared from view, well ahead of me, I went my own way. 

And that’s how I spent my time…alone…on that bleak, sunny Good Friday...alone with my thoughts and Nature; and the sound of the ocean as my symphony of solitude.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY…AND THE AWESOMELY BEAUTIFUL AND UNFORGETTABLE...





 Before I post Chapter 14 in my on-going saga - "Music to My Ears...Purrrfect...Or...To All the Cats I've Loved Before...And Still...." I need to preface it with this post....

During our lifetime we experience memorable moments that surpass others; exceptional episodes; distinctly unique; occurrences that stand tall far beyond the mundane and banal. Some may even be minute in the overall structure of things, but cherished events they remain; chapters forever embedded in our psyche; imprinted in our memories; treasured evermore in our heart. Idylls which exceed the ordinary, as do some who starred in the exceptional vignettes. 

Even if we didn’t recognise or appreciate their value when we were caught up in the moment/s, in retrospect they’re remarkably unparalleled. 

Fortunately, I recognised at the time that my stint on Hinchinbrook Island was extraordinary.

Friday 15th August my heart shattered upon hearing the news fire had destroyed what remained of the island’s resort.

Police set up a crime scene to investigate.  To me it appears it probably was a “Jewish stock-take”!  From what I've read over the past few days the resort was in the process of being transferred to a new buyer. 

The fire burned for a number of days, destroying precious bushland as well as the buildings.

Regrettably, in February 2011, the buildings and their contents had already been victims of Cyclone Yasi’s indiscriminate fury.  Deplorable, unfathomable vandals with time on their hands and no brains in their heads had also left their mark by destroying fixtures and fittings in the main building that housed the resort’s restaurant.  

Man has little power over Nature, but the nature of man too often leaves much to be desired.

Through the almost 30 years since my island days a number of my staff and I have remained friends. Included in the circle are a couple of ex-guests from those halcyon days and nights. The friendships are as precious as gold. We care about each other. We’re in regular contact via social media, phone and in person.  Other than our ages, little has changed over the ages. They were special to me during our shared time on our tropical island in the sun; they still are. The bond is unbreakable.

Living and working in a world of our own, we created our fun. My staff was an inventive, ingenious crew; much merriment (and mischief) was had!

The “work” never really felt like work; it was more a pleasure than a chore.

Shortly after setting foot on the island the holidaymakers willingly succumbed to the island mood.  Enthusiastic recipients and participants, our guests enjoyed the fruits of our buoyant, happy attitude. The “real” world seemed a million miles away – for them and for us.

As soon as news of the fire hit the air-waves my friends and I contacted each other. It was a race to our phones and computers. They, like me, were devastated over the latest turn of events. 

I’m saddened greatly,  not only because of the fire, but from everything else that has occurred at the resort over the past number of years.

In 2010 the island resort was in the hands of developer Keith Williams’ son, Ben.

In the late 1990s, Williams Snr., who passed away October 2011, developed Port Hinchinbrook on the mainland, south of Cardwell.  In the wake of the GFC, Williams Corporation went broke.

Ben Williams closed down the island resort at Cape Richards in 2010. It was left defenseless against Nature and the destructive nature of humans.

A friend said to me as we discussed the latest jinx that befell the resort; “It costs less to remove ash than tonnes of timber. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. It’ll be nice to see new buildings that blend in with the environment. Perhaps Cape Richards can be open for business again allowing people to enjoy the island once more.”

 Ashes to ashes; rainforest to rainforest resort…

Perhaps Cape Richards should be allowed to revert to its natural state…let the forest reign…and humans leave it alone….

As members of a fortunate few we’ll always be grateful for our island sojourn. 

In 1986 and 1987 we experienced the resort at its best.  It wasn’t flash like the new Whitsunday island resorts, or as fancy as Dunk, Bedarra or Orpheus Islands, but Cape Richards Resort had heart; and it had soul. 

No man, vandals, cyclones, fires or whatever else, come what may, will destroy the precious memories my friends and I share; memories and friendships cherished to this day. 

There’s a lengthy, page-turning trilogy waiting to be written about our Cape Richards adventures, with more than fifty shades of everything!   

(I may have already started writing it....)!!!

Every thing I write about my time on the Hinchinbrook Island is a tribute to "Her".  "She" is one hell of an island...majestic, awesome, magnificent. diverse and stunningly beautiful....

Saturday, August 15, 2015

HITCHING A RIDE ON THE WIND; DRIFTING ON A DREAM




Afloat on anticipation; buoyed by probability; heartened by hope; inspired by possibility, let’s harness the moon and lasso a star. Come sail away with me; aloft on fairy floss fractostratus above a fluorescent ocean. Together we’ll frolic on a sunbeam. We’ll soar like gossamer-winged butterflies. Embraced by the sun’s splendent glow let’s dance.

In a perfect world to do so wouldn’t be a frivolous, light-minded, carefree daydream, it’d be possible and probable.

A merry band of troubadours, we’d be freewheeling vagabonds; wayfarers strolling to the rhythm of our own upbeat melodies; causing harm to no one; inviting everyone we meet to join us in our joyous roving. (I was going to say “rambling”, but I’ve got lengthy digressing covered).

If you’re feeling lighthearted and have an urge to throw caution to the wind; if you’ve a hankering to toss negativity out the window (making sure, of course, the window is open); if you choose to accompany me on my fanciful, wondrous wanders together we’ll be the allied Pied Pipers of whimsical happiness and goodwill on the hill.  I’ve previously admitted, without qualm or regret, I’m an incompetent trumpet blower so I’ll leave the pipe playing to everyone else. 

Now that’s settled, I nominate myself to be the bearer of drinks as well as fun.  I volunteer to be in charge of the snacks, if you’re of the same mind, of course. If asked I’ll sign a guarantee the snacks provided will be tasty, but I assure you here and now they’ll suit all gustatory sensations.

Out the back in the garage area I have a large esky gathering dust and cobwebs.  As well as being huge, it’s too heavy for me to carry when loaded. I’ll put it onto a flat-bed trailer so I can pull it along behind me.  A skateboard would be too small; too narrow.  When push comes to shove, as it will, I could motorise the trailer.

For my own pleasure and at my leisure, I’ll jump aboard, and then I’ll blithely cruise along handing out refreshments while traversing the route. No GPS navigation device or road map is necessary.
Trust me! I’m not taking you for a ride; you join at your own free will (peril).

My chosen course is along the Path of Happiness. It runs parallel to Winsome Way on the one side, with Beautiful Boulevard on the other.

Remember – it’ll be a perfect world we’ll be discovering; one alive with wonder and amazement; not a world burdened by shock and horror. It’ll be an extraordinary world miraculously minus of contradictions; one in which living is easy, with no complications; a world devoid of conflict, grievances, hate, poverty and diseases; free of prejudices and negativity; a world overflowing with positivity; one filled with love.

Isn’t that enticing? 

We humans create most of our own contradictions. If they are so easy to create, surely, if we put our minds and daydreams to work, it should be as easy to uncreate the contradictions. 

Rose gardens in full bloom will border our paths. They’ll be necessary for when we to pause to take time to smell the roses as we’re frequently advised to do. 

As we travel my imaginary happy highway, while we snack and sip, we’ll plant myriad rose bushes.

Sign up today - become a wandering minstrel!  It’ll be more fun than any of the rides you’ll find at theme parks – cheaper, too! 

When asked, “Where is fun to be had?”  

Reply with:  “Hitching a ride on the wind; frolicking on a sunbeam; lassoing a star – that’s where!” 

Here Down Under we live in the Land of Oz; we just need to find the Yellow Brick Road, some stardust and an active imagination. 

Stuffin’ Muffins: Preheat oven, 190C. Heat pan over med-heat; add 2tbs olive oil and 1 large chopped onion; cook 3-4mins; add 3 small apples, chopped and 4 chopped celery stalks; cook about 5mins, until softened; add 3/4c dried cranberries, salt, pepper. 1/4c chopped parsley, 2tbs each chopped sage, thyme and rosemary. Remove from heat. Cube 1 stale sourdough loaf; place in bowl; pour the vegetable-apple mix over bread; add 2-1/2c veg stock; mix gently. Lightly grease muffin tin; fill with mixture; bake 20-25mins, until golden.

Quinoa Pizza Bites: Cook 1c quinoa in 2c water; cover; bring to boil; simmer 20-25mins. Preheat oven 175C. Combine quinoa, 2 large eggs, 1c chopped onion, 1c shredded mozzarella 2tsp minced garlic, 1/2c fresh basil or 2tbs dried, 1/2c diced cherry tomatoes or 1/2c diced pepperoni, 1/2tsp salt, 1tsp paprika and 1tsp dried oregano. Fill cups of greased mini-muffin pan to top; press down gently. Bake 15-20mins; cool, 10mins; remove from pan; serve with tasty pizza sauce for dipping.

Fruit-Oat Bars: Preheat oven 180C. Grease 16cm x 25.5cm slice pan; line with paper, extend 2cm above edges. Mash 3 large ripe bananas until smooth; add 3c rolled oats, 1/4c each finely chopped dried dates, finely chopped dried apricots and slivered almonds. 1tsp cinnamon and 1-1/2tsp vanilla; combine well; spoon into pan. Use back of spoon to press into pan; bake 30-35mins or until golden; cool completely; then cut into small bars.

Maple Nuts: Preheat oven 148C; grease 9x13 inch pan. Place raw nuts (macadamia, pecan, walnut etc) in bowl; drizzle over 2tbs maple syrup; stir to coat; sprinkle with 1/4tps ground ginger, 1/4ts curry powder and 2tbs brown sugar; spread on pan; bake 15-20mins. 

Sunday, August 09, 2015

ROASTING, NOT BOASTING - I'D BE TOAST IF I WERE!



Jack Kerouac
Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac

Ginsberg, Kerouac and Corso




I wish I was like those folk who are proficient in blowing their own trumpet. Many seem to have the art of blowing their own trumpet down pat; proving it often. Some do so too often!

It’d be a starting point if I had a trumpet to blow, I suppose. 

From the get-go I’m on the back foot because I don’t own a trumpet; not even a borrowed one; let alone a stolen clarion. If I had a horn to blow, no matter from where it originated or to whom it belonged, I’d have to learn how to blow it first, before I blew it. 

I wish I had something about which to blow my own trumpet - if I had a trumpet (borrowed or stolen), that is!

My neighbours are probably glad I don’t have a trumpet to blow; and that I have no idea how to blow one.  Anyway, I don’t have anything to crow about. The crows perched in the trees have a lot to crow about, it seems. Because they’re crows, I suppose they’re allowed to get away with crowing.  That’s their excuse, anyway; and they sure do flaunt it!

I could pretend by making up a few fictional achievements; spin a yarn or four or more; invent some fantasies about which I could blow my sham trumpet.  At first blast any would-be listeners would take flight!

Talking about spinning yarns - before I continue I freely admit most of my knitting efforts, of which there were few, were hopeless.  I was no pearl in the art of knitting. The first jumper/sweater I knitted was a moss-green coloured V-neck. The V in the neck reached my navel. When the instructions told me to “Cross two, purl left”; I purled left and crossed four.  When instructed to “Cross two and purl right” – I probably crossed them all off and did a diamond! Various stitches magically appeared throughout the jumper.  I discovered I could do moss stitch and didn’t have a clue how or where I learned to do it!  One sleeve was longer than the other, which meant the fingers on my right hand were kept warm, while I had to wear a woollen glove on my left hand to keep it warm otherwise if felt ignored.  The extra long V-neck matched the length of my finished product; the jumper ended up about one inch from the top of my knees.  I created the mini before minis were created! 

Fortunately, the “Beat Generation” was still swinging in the early1960s. After having seen the movie, “The Subterraneans” based on the novella written by famed Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac, and having fallen in love with the handsome, roguish Kerouac, the film and his writings, the romanticised beatnik stereotype captured an inquisitive young teenager’s fantasies.  My moss green, over-sized, completely out of whack jumper kind of suited the beatnik dress code; especially when worn with black tights while listening to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, The Springfields, Peter, Paul & Mary, Sonny (Terry) & Brownie (McGhee), Carmen McCrae, Odetta, Nina Simone and so many, many more…as my friends and I spent many hours discussing and questioning the poetry of Allen Ginsberg and the philosophies of Kafka, Nietzsche, Joyce et al.  The music suited our in depth conversations.

Once again…I’ve digressed…I wandered off on the road with Kerouac….

When it came to crocheting I gave up crocheting after my second attempt. To see me making a botch of a swatch wasn’t pretty to watch. The bane of my existence was trying to progress to a chain. By hook or by crook I couldn’t even feign I had control of the skein. I slipped up; everything became knotted. In stitches, I was out of the loop so I gave up without a fight.

Nothing is as simple as it might appear.  I can’t blow a party favour properly!  You know the ones I mean.  They’ve been around since I was a kid. We had them at our birthday and Christmas parties.

Here’s proof of how inept I am at blowing a trumpet of any description - whenever I try to blow one of those multi-coloured party favours I either hit someone in the eye or nose accompanied by a weak squeak - from the party favours, not the person whose eye or nose I’ve hit. A loud roar, louder than a crow’s craw erupts from my hapless victim as he/she moves as far away from me as possible.

I’m not sure what got me started on this vein. Maybe an ill wind blew making me feel a mite defeated, useless and out of sorts because I’ve nothing worth boasting about. I didn’t even invent the wheel. How difficult could that have been? If I had I’d still be going around spruiking my moment of brilliant creativity.  I’d spin it for all its worth! 

Unlike a celebrity, I’m not famous enough to be the subject of a roast, but I could be given a roasting for being ineffectual; for not having done anything worthwhile to inspire some trumpet blowing.

I’m sure I’ve made a few ripples over the years, but none worth shouting about from rooftops. At times I’ve probably blown a fair bit of hot air.

However, even if I had achieved anything newsworthy I wouldn’t go around blowing my own trumpet, if I had one; nor would I blow a trumpet belonging to someone else - from rooftops or from ground level. In my opinion, it’d be uncouth to do so.  Feeling duly reproached I’d accept my deserved roasting. 

It’s obvious I’m no threat to Louie Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie or Wynton Marsalis, all of whom were expert trumpet blowers.

Blow it! I will boast by pronouncing I am able to cook a mighty mean roast. By that I mean a generously fine roast; and I can make golden toast!

Pot Roast: Heat oven, 180C. Combine 1tsp chopped fresh thyme, 2tsp sweet paprika, 2tsp flaky sea salt, 2tsp freshly ground pepper, 1tsp dry English mustard and 1tsp brown sugar. Rub into 2kg piece of brisket/chuck/round. Warm 2tbs oil in casserole; cook until crisp 200g bacon, cut into 1cm cubes; remove bacon; drain. Leave 3tbs fat in pot; add beef; brown; remove beef to plate. Add 500ml dry red wine or dark beer to pot; bring to boil; reduce to about 150ml; add 200ml beef stock and a splash of Worcestershire; add bacon; place 2 large onions, thinly sliced, 10 peeled garlic cloves and 3 bay leaves around beef. Cover; roast 1hr; turn beef; cook further hour; add water if it begins to look dry; transfer meat to plate. To pot add 4 large carrots, 4 medium parsnips and 1 small celeriac, cut into 3cm pieces; add 4-5 whole small turnips; stir to coat; put beef on top. Cover; roast 45-50mins; spoon fat from surface; season

Glazed Pork Roast: Preheat oven 175C. Rub salt and ground ginger into 2.5kg pork loin centre rib roast on bone. Place pork, fat side up in pan. Roast 2 to 2-1/2 hours. Combine ½ orange marmalade, 1/2c dried chopped cranberries, 1tbs Dijon mustard and 2-1/2tsp Tabasco; brush pork with mix after 1 hour; and thereafter every 15mins. Remove roast to platter; cover loosely. Skim fat off pan juices; serve roast with pan juices. 

Roast Lamb Shoulder: Preheat oven, 180C. Put 300g cubed Swede turnip, 2 garlic cloves, 4 chopped celery stalks, 2 red onions, cut into wedges, 300g sliced carrots, 300g pumpkin, chopped and 300g potatoes, halved into roast pan; nestle lamb shoulder in centre; add 200ml red wine, 1tbs water, 3tbs tomato purée and coriander; season; cover; cook 1hr; remove cover; cook uncovered 45-50mins.

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.