Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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



View from Regatta Hotel front verandah...across Coronation Drive to Brisbane River
Regatta Hotel
Similar in style to the Workers' Cottage we bought and renovated...the first house we bought
Tongue & Groove Wall






Almost immediately upon Randall’s return to Queensland’s fair shores he gained employment as bar manager at the Regatta Hotel, a well-known popular watering-hole in Brisbane…in the suburb of Toowong situated on Coronation Drive just across the road from the Brisbane River; and a short distance from where we lived in the unit block.

For a period while living in New York Randall worked within the New Zealand Mission to the UN. He worked directly for Frank Corner who was New Zealand’s Ambassador to the United Nations, who was also the US Ambassador. Corner, who was born in Napier, New Zealand in 1920 (he passed away in August 2014 at the good age of 94), also served on the United Nations Security Council at the time.   

After leaving the employ of Mr. Corner and the New Zealand Mission to the UN Randall gained employment with the British Embassy within the UN boundaries.  After working for the British for a while, Randall changed pace and scenery to become the bar manager of O’Brien’s, a bar (and diner/restaurant) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  O’Brien's also had a :sister" bar out on Long Island.  Both of which are long gone by now, I imagine.  (It was a little before Carrie and her friends from “Sex and the City” discovered the city). 

From his time managing the bar in New York and managing the Long Island bar on summer weekends, Randall had gained a wealth of knowledge about the bar trade and the art of cocktail-making.  He had no interest in returning to radio work, the industry he was in before heading overseas; although he was urged to do so from a few quarters because of his magnificent, mellifluous speaking voice. Even to this day, so many years later, he is remembered by some who were around back during the time he was in radio…because of his deep, dulcet tones. 

Randall remained at the Regatta for a few months before leaving to take up a job waiting tables at night at Manouche Restaurant, Milton Road, which was within easy walking distance around the corner and up the road a bit from where we lived.  A while later when the owner of Manouche opened another restaurant romantically named Scaramouche in the city Randall commenced working there during the day doing the lunch shift as well as working at Manouche at night. 

Shortly after we married, he resigned from both to take up a position as salesman at a Toowong Real Estate agency, Conias Apollo.  Again, the agency was on Milton Road, Toowong, just around the corner from where we lived.

I still worked during the daylight hours within the fashion industry…in the employ of the Kolotex Group of Companies; a job I’d commenced in 1965, a couple of months after moving to Brisbane from Gympie.

Smocka was a young cat not long past kitten stage when Randall arrived on the scene.  The more experienced, worldly, sage Sergeant-Major Sasha was a mature seven years old. He ruled the roost. With that being a time-consuming role, he enjoyed a good night’s sleep. He'd been my shadow; my bodyguard for seven or so years.

Smocka’s greatest joy was to play through the night.  He’d worked out an exciting circuit better than any thrilling theme park ride.  Smocka’s fun-filled route commenced down in the lounge area; it progressed running up the carpeted stairs to the upper level culminating on our bed where he’d attack our toes before scampering up along our bodies and back down again, smiling all the way; and then he’d take off to repeat it all over again…and again!  Yippee!  It was a wonderful game.  His energy knew no bounds - but, boy...could he bound!  Humans…the greatest playmates in the world for young cats particularly at night!

When Randall was working nights only, he had his days free.  Fed up with Smocka waking us through the night, Randall devised a plan.  During the day every time he caught Smocka napping, Randall would wake him up!  Every time he passed Smocka he’d give him a nudge; a gentle shake; nattered nonsense in his ears, and kept him in lengthy conversation.  The plan worked.  After a while, Smocka, not getting a good day’s sleep, slept through the nights!  Peace reigned once more!

Not long after Randall commenced working in real estate we bought our first house.  It was a little two bedroom with front enclosed sleep-out “workers’ cottage” two doors along Cadell Street from where we lived in the unit block.  We’d attended an auction one Saturday morning – lost out on the auction – but bought the identical cottage next door for about a thousand dollars less!  Our intention was to live in our new home and renovate it ourselves as we went along…room by room.  This was in early 1976.

The move from our unit to the cottage was easy. It was a case of making a few trips manhandling our possessions, with the help of a couple of mates, the few metres along the footpath to our new little abode. The cottage in Toowong was the first house we bought.  We were thrilled pink.

Sasha and Smocka came with us, of course.  They settled in easily without complaint, or so I thought. However, unnoticed by me, Sasha had been stewing in private, trying to keep a lid on his emotions.  Enough was enough…that damn straw that broke the camel’s back was at it again. 

When Smocka came into our lives, Sasha greeted him with open, furry arms. He enjoyed having a little mate with whom he could share his stories and wisdom.  And then, Randall appeared on the scene.  Sasha’s good manners came into play.  He lodged no complaints with me.  Sasha put on a happy face and just got on with it.  I was none the wiser of what was bubbling beneath the surface of his ginger coat.  He loved me, and it was obvious right from the start when Smocka came into our lives, Sasha had room in his heart for Smocka, too. Whend Randall joined the throng Sasha didn’t kick up a stink. He graciously accepted the intrusion by another human into his life; a male intruder at that! It appeared he had enough room left in his heart for the new member of our gang.  Sasha, I was to learn, was adept at hiding his feelings when he felt it prudent to do so.  On the flip-side, he was also adept at being imprudent about not disguising his feelings when the situation (or person) suited.

Instead of taking his adverse feelings out on the interloper, Sasha started giving me the cold shoulder. I was going to have to pay the penalty for bringing another male into my life.  Goodness!  I already had two…Smocka and Sasha.  Why would I need another? Wasn't he enough? Weren't he and Smocka enough?

Eventually, Sasha didn’t attempt to mask his disdain.  He’d gone right off me.  And to rub it in even further…as if I wasn’t feeling hurt enough as it was…he became the best of mates with Randall!  If Randall had been into football, I’m sure the two of them would’ve gone along to games together, or sat on the sofa watching sport on television, while downing a couple of cold tinnies!

Shortly after moving into the cottage we decided it was time to attack the renovations.  Randall took a couple of weeks off from work to enable him to have free reign without interruption.  During the day I continued on with my job and left him to it.  I’d leave around 7.15-7.30 am each morning and returned around 6 pm or thereabouts.

Every time I arrived home from work, Sasha could not be seen.  And yet, Randall told me, all throughout the day Sasha was there at Randall’s side as he worked on the interior of the house.  It was as if Sasha wore a wrist watch…moments before I was due to arrive home from work, he would take off.  No matter how much I coerced, cajoled, begged, pleaded, wept, bribed, Sasha ignored my every heartfelt plea.  Nothing I did would change his mind or attitude.  I always filled his food bowl as usual...morning and night…that didn’t change. If he didn’t want me around when he ate, that was okay with me…as long as he ate; and as long as he knew food would always be there for him.  My love was always there for him, too.
 

I’d see him staring at me from the yard over the back.  Sitting amongst the long grass, thinking I didn’t know he was there, I’d burst his bubble and go up to the fence to chat with him.  He was a typical headstrong redhead!  I knew all about redheads.  My late mother, Elma who’d passed away in 1974 had had beautiful deep auburn hair – she was a natural redhead with a character to match.  I’d started to think perhaps Elma’s spirit had infiltrated Sasha’s!  My mother had been very headstrong, and now, Sasha was acting similarly! Every time I approached him, he’d just stare haughtily back at me.  He took up residence in a yard over the back from our cottage, a few doors down.  An elderly lady lived there.  We introduced ourselves to the lady and explained the situation.  She told us Sasha was not a nuisance to her and that he never entered her house.  She had greenhouse on the back fence line filled with potted cacti.  That was his favourite spot!  There’s no accounting for taste…but he had become a prickly character…so I guess it was in character!

  
Sasha still paid visits, some longer than others, but he remained stand-offish…with me.  It broke my heart, but there was nothing I could do to change the situation; no matter how hard I tried.  He’d decided I’d deserted him, and that was that.  He'd make me pay; he’d had enough of my wayward ways.  He didn’t blame Randall, nor did he blame Smocka.  He blamed me.

So life went on, as did our renovations every spare minute we found.  Well, maybe not “every spare minute”, but progress was being made.. We became very proficient painters of tongue and groove interior walls.

And then, one day we came home from our respective jobs and Smocka was missing.  He couldn’t be found anywhere.  We went up and down the street, the back streets and the front streets; Randall by car and me by foot.  We knocked on doors.  We called his name, but to no avail.  I was inconsolable.  Smocka was a true house cat; he was a sook...the softest, sweetest cat with not a nasty bone in his body. He never wandered; always content to be within his own boundaries.  I couldn’t understand what had happened.  Like a demented woman I scoured the streets, the gutters…perchance he had gone out on the street and he’d been hit by a car.   I didn’t find him.

Then a couple of days later, still not having given up the search, a neighbour, a young woman in her mid-twenties whom I knew only by sight and a nod in greeting when our paths rarely crossed noticed I was somewhat distraught. 

In her most comforting way she said to me: “Maybe he’s been taken by someone.  I hear there are people going around stealing cats for greyhounds!”

She was lucky she walked away alive.  I just looked at her, open-mouthed.  I couldn’t believe anyone could be so thoughtless; so ignorant, but I should’ve known better…some people…too many people…do not think before they speak.

I turned my back on her and walked away without uttering a word.   

Climbing our front stairs, Randall could see I was very upset…and angry.  I told him what the lass had said. He was flabbergasted, too.  After that incident each time I saw the young woman I pretended I didn’t.  I couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge her…I didn’t trust myself to acknowledge her.

Smocka was gone…and I never discovered what happened to him.  I lived in the hope…in the dream…someone had taken him thinking he was a Russian Blue…and he was living the life of an aristocrat.   

Those thoughts still remain with me…the scenario helped me with my grief. Some may think that's silly of me...but I give no apology or excuse.

Sasha still watched on from the sidelines.

This is not the end of this story....there is more to come...the tail end of what is turning into a long tale will follow ...stick with me, please...

Monday, November 17, 2014

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

Sasha looked very much like this cat
A Russian Blue...this is what Smocka looked like
Randall & Me in our courting days in the Sixties
Mum & Kittens....sketch done by me.


As far back as I can remember I've had a cat in my life...see my post - "Saturday, September, 28th, 2013 - 'My First Love'"

 
Sasha never wandered far, preferring to stick close to home, hearth and me.  My bed was his bed; my sofa, his sofa; if push came to shove, my chair was his chair; and, of course, he showed keen interest in the kitchen, particularly come breakfast and dinner times.  He was loved and well-taken care of; and in return he gave me unfettered devotion.  Ours was a mutual admiration society.

After about 18 months living in the New Farm flat I found a two-bedroom, furnished unit in a newly-built block of six in Toowong, an inner-western suburb of Brisbane.  When I first moved to the city I lived in a flat in Toowong, so I was returning to familiar territory.   

Once again, I packed up my possession.  I hired a removals’ truck - not a huge one, but a truck all the same - to assist me in my relocation.  It served a couple of purposes.  At that stage, I didn’t own a car.  The car, a VW Beetle I’d shared during my marriage had remained with my ex-husband, Mervyn.  After all, it really was his - he'd bought it before we'd married or even thought of marrying each other.   

Not only would the removalist and his truck move my worldly possessions, which mainly consisted of books and more books, clothes and LPs (yes...it was that long ago); but he would also be my transport from my old abode to my brand new dwelling.   

The Saturday morning of the move arrived.  Sasha had been examining the boxes throughout the week while carefully monitoring my every action.  Being of foreman material, he didn’t assist physically, but his role he took seriously, and he did conscientiously oversee every detail.

The loading of the truck/van was almost complete.  I looked around for Sasha.  Calling out to him, I couldn’t find him anywhere.  Sighing and feeling concerned, I hoped he hadn't disappeared, disturbed by all the out-the-normal activity. He needed to be placed in a carrying cage because the plan was for him to travel with me as passenger in the cabin of the truck.  I was feeling very anxious by his sudden disappearance, but my concern quickly turned into laughter when I spotted him sitting in the back of the van amongst all of my possessions with a look on his face that clearly said: "Hurry up!  Let's get this show on the road!"  It was obvious I wasn’t going anywhere without him!

It didn’t take either of us long to settle into our new home…and it was sparkling new.  Other than the young owner-landlord and his mate with whom he was sharing his own accommodation I was the first tenant (along with Sasha) to take up residency in the newly-erected building, 

The landlord, Greg, was the son of a Central Queensland grazier who had a large beef cattle station west of Rockhampton.  Rockhampton is known as the “Beef Capital of Australia.  Greg’s mate, Ian Millroy was from Rockhampton. We three were of similar ages at the time – all in our mid-20s – and we became good mates.

Ian’s family owned a well-known department store in Rockhampton, James Millroy Ltd. The business had originally been established in 1888.  Greg and Ian had gone to school and then boarding school together where they’d forged a firm and lasting friendship.  From memory, I think the Millroys also had cattle holdings around the Gracemere area, too.  Sadly, just a few short years after having Ian as a neighbour he was the victim of a fatal road accident on the highway between Gracemere and Rockhampton.

Upon applying to Greg for residency in one of his units the first thing I told him was I had a cat. If he’d not accepted Sasha, I would have looked elsewhere, and kept looking until I found a home for the both of us.  Where I went, Sasha went, and neither the twain would be separated. Fortunately, my having a pet didn’t concern Greg, but I was the only tenant permitted to have a pet of the four-legged, furry kind, feline or canine (bovine, ovine or caprine, too).   

Sasha was the unofficial Mayor of the Estate!  I did think of getting him a robe, but he already had a fur coat.

A while after I took up residence in the block of units Greg married his lady love, Priscilla aka Prissy.  They bought a home elsewhere. Ian returned to Rockhampton and the family business.  Greg asked if I would like to take on the management of the block of units on his behalf.  I agreed to do so, and by agreeing he offered me the unit he’d been living in during his bachelor days.  It was a much bigger and better unit than the one I’d been renting.  It was a townhouse situated on the far end of the block with two bedrooms and bathroom upstairs; the kitchen, dining and lounge area were on the lower level.  Sasha settled in immediately without even a flick of his whiskers.  He just picked up his food bowl and followed me.

Shortly after Greg married he sold the units to Tennyson Lau, an Australian-Chinese who lived in and operated a business in Lau, Papua New Guinea.  Tennyson retained my services as manager.  I remained living in the townhouse so nothing changed on my home-front.

Except, that is, for the arrival of an unexpected visitor who moved in, minus luggage, taking up residence with Sasha and me.

A stray, pregnant female cat wandered onto the property. After looking around she liked what she saw so she decided to stay.  Sasha, by the way, had been neutered so he’d not been up to any midnight mischief. He wasn’t the father, in case that thought passed through your mind! I'd given him the story about the birds and bees and all things pertaining thereto when he was still a wee kitten.

A couple of likely lads living in my previous unit upstairs took Ms Mumma Cat under their wings.  Within a couple of weeks she gave birth to four kittens – in one of the bedroom built-in wardrobes.  A few days or so after giving birth Mumma Cat, probably following a chat or two with Sasha, decided to bring her kittens, one by one, down to my laundry.  The laundry was a secure room, just off from my kitchen.  It was part of my unit. Other than not having an outer door at the top of two concrete stairs leading to the yard, it was secure.  It housed a washing machine, two washing tubs and a bench.  I watched Mumma Cat deposit each kitten safely behind my washing machine before she returned upstairs for the next one.  Not have the heart to disturb her or try to change her mind I let her do what she was determined to do.  So now I had Mumma Cat and her four kittens as tenants in my laundry.  Sasha couldn’t have cared less.  He’d obviously given the little family his tick of approval.  Their mother obviously had been living on the streets before she found us. How could we be so cruel to toss her back out there?

I kept my eye on the little family. The mother cat came and went about her business not taking much notice of me; but she knew I was there, and that I was not a threat to her and her babies.  I left milk and food out for her…she needed sustenance to help feed her babies.

This all occurred in November of 1972; my mother was due to visit me for Christmas that year.  She was going to take the Sunlander (train) from Mackay to Brisbane and planned to stay with me for three or four weeks.

Mum arrived shortly before Christmas.  I remember clearly that Christmas was exceptionally hot.  We were suffering a heatwave of excessive temperatures.  My ginger cat, "Cat" had died earlier in the year or the year before. I wanted to give Mum one of the kittens as a Christmas present; for her to take back home to Slade Point when her holiday was over - for her and Nana to have as their new pet.  She declined my generous offer.  The boys upstairs had found two friends to give two of the kittens to; and I was left with the remaining two.

One little grey fellow made up my mind for me.  As Mum pointed out, he’d chosen me. I had no say in the matter whatsoever.

Everywhere I went, the steely grey kitten followed. He was a little, solid, yet fluffy ball of steel-grey fur. I’d go upstairs to the bathroom and when coming back down again the poor little guy would still be struggling up the carpeted stairs trying to reach me.  I’d pick him up and carry him back downstairs with me.  He was my shadow; but I didn't complain.  I may have gotten under his fur; but he'd gotten under my skin and into my heart.

I was good friends with my ex-fiancee’s (later to be my second husband, Randall) parent.  We’d met when Randall and I first started going out together back in 1963.  He and I got engaged on his 21st birthday in January, 1965; in November 1965 he headed off overseas for the next nine years, living and working in New York City, in between visits to other worldly places.  

 I married Mervyn in the interim in April, 1966 as a defiant revolt against humanity - otherwise known as "on the rebound", I guess!  (Mervyn was a good guy...life is life.  Actually, he rang me on my birthday, which has just gone – 11th November…he never forgets; and I never forget his, either).    And as I wrote in an earlier post, Mervyn and I separated in September, 1968; we divorced in 1973.

Throughout the years Randall was overseas, his parents and I remained on close, good terms.  Christmas was rapidly arriving.  Randall’s parents, that December, received from me as their 1972 Christmas gift a little fluffy grey and white kitten.  They had no say in the matter; but they fell under Snoopy's spell immediately, and Snoopy lived a long life in their loving care

So now there was only one kitten left…the steely grey one.  Well…what could I do?  Sasha had taken him under his sage wing, or furry front legs.  He and Smocka got on like a house on fire.  The little fellow looked up to his older ginger mentor.  Smocka joined the family; Sasha, Smocka and me; and yes, that was pecking order!  Who was I to argue?

Smocka was a most adorable cat.  He was a domestic moggie, not of royal or aristocratic blood, but he looked very much like a Russian Blue.  But then, I was unaware of his heritage; of his family tree; with whom his mother had cavorted!   

Smocka's thick, steely grey fur disguised his humble breeding. His amber eyes reflected the gentleness of his nature.  His nose was black as was the padding on each of his paws; and amongst all the grey and black his little bum was pink; a situation that caused me much amusement!  I’ve never denied my sense of humour is a little off the wall!

Both cats were loving and loyal, not only with me, but with each other.  There was never an angry hiss between them.  Sasha was the elder citizen and he took his role seriously.

I wrote in an early post about the morning Sasha attacked the boxer dog that had a terrified Smocka bailed up against my front screen door.  The dog didn’t stand a chance when Sasha took control of the situation.  He was protecting his mate, and no dog was going to hurt Smocka while Sasha was around.  I’d never seen a dog get such a fright and take off so quickly!  And I stood back, cheering on the sidelines!

Both cats didn’t wander far, preferring to hang around close to home. They spent most of their time indoors other than when nature called.  A downstairs window, secured with a strong piece of dowling was always open a little; just enough to allow them egress at will. Ninety-nine percent of the time they were inside eager to greet me upon my arrival home each day/night after work; or they’d be in the carport that ran along adjacent to my front door.  The other one percent of the time they didn’t wander far out of a few yards (metres) radius.  They had it too good at home to cut the apron strings.

Upon Randall’s return to Brisbane in late November, 1974, he and I literally took up from where we’d left off nine years previously; except for one difference.  The evening of the day he set foot back on Australian soil, he moved into my unit and we commenced living together.  We married in March, 1976.

When we'd been dating years before, I still lived at home until I moved to Brisbane.  Randall shared a flat with a co-worker (an other radio announcer) from when he arrived in Gympie to work at the local radio station, 4GY.  And then when Randall left Gympie to take up a job as one of the "Colour Radio Guys" at Colour Radio 4IP, Ipswich, which was then the most "with-it, modern radio station around, he found accommodation in Ipswich for the duration of his employ there.. Randall gave up that job when he headed off overseas.   . 

Sasha and Smocka barely ruffled a fur or twitched a whisker, but an invisible undercurrent had begun to stir.

More to come......  

Sunday, November 09, 2014

IT’S ONLY WORDS AND WORDS ARE ALL I HAVE



Poet Judith Wright in her younger years
A more mature Judith Wright

A Tamborine Mountain Local


The Bee Gees had a way with words.  Often I’ve warbled and croaked along with Barry and the boys mostly under the shower out of the earshot of others!

John Denver, Jimmy Webb and Kris Kristofferson are just three of many brilliant wordsmiths whose lyrical poetry has kept us enthralled for years.

There are many so-called “songwriters” who write garbage. Thankfully, however, there are those who are the poets; creative exponents of expressive, expansive, emotional and, at times, whimsical thoughts; magically marrying their words to music, stirring within myriad sensations.

Late August every year the Queensland Poetry Festival is held at the Judith Wright Centre.  Now there’s a lady who had a genuine fondness for words! 

Generously, the late highly-revered poet, environmentalist, social activist Judith Wright...(31st May 1915 – 25th June 2000) shared her love of words with the rest of us.  

Born in Armidale, New South Wales, Judith Wright and her partner, philosopher Jack McKinney moved here to Tamborine Mountain in 1950.  Their only child, a daughter was born shortly thereafter. Deciding to make things legal they finally tied the knot in 1962. McKinney died in 1966. Wright stayed on the mountain for another nine years following his death.  Wright began losing her hearing when she was in her 20s, by 1992 she was completely deaf – but she still heard the words. Nothing would take that away from her.  Words remained within; they were a part, a major part of who she was.

Is poetry still a part of today’s education agendas?  Poetry played a large part when I was growing up, not only at school, but at home as well. 

I hope today’s children are encouraged to read poetry; taught to appreciate it, and in turn, become inspired by the power and beauty of verse.

Where does one start? The question in itself is enticing! The poetry world is vast, varied, versatile and abundant.

I hope the young are encouraged to experiment with pen on paper or fingers on keyboards. No better way to while away a rainy day – or a dry day! It matters not if it’s raining, mid-drought or cloudy.

One morning one of my young staff on Hinchinbrook Island hovered annoyingly at my office door while I was busy trying to sort out the day’s agenda. 

On her four-day break Bronnie had made the decision to spend her four days break on the island rather than on the mainland. My staff worked 14 days on – 4 days off.  The staff chose their work roster. I’d left it to them to choose what they felt suited them.  Having four days off allowed them ample opportunity to spend their time off on the mainland; and the majority of times they chose the mainland as the place for their “play time”.

Shuffling her feet, twiddling her thumbs, Bronnie, leaning against my door frame, whimpered and whined, “I’ve got nothing to do! I’m bored! What can I do?”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Bronwyn!” I growled back at her. “I’m busy! Go for a swim! Get out of my hair! Stop annoying me!  Go! Write me a poem or something!”

 “A poem! I can’t write poetry!” She grumbled, shuffling from one foot to the other. 

Sighing heavily, I asked if she’d ever tried to write a poem.

 “No…” She replied grudgingly.

“Well, don’t say you can’t do something until you’ve tried! Scoot! Skedaddle! I don’t want to see you again until you’ve written two poems for me! Bye! Bye!” I barked back at her in an effort to reclaim my office and my peace.

With a look querying my sanity, Bronnie skulked away in a sulk as if I’d confiscated her last lollipop!

Hours later, around 4 pm, excitedly she bounded up to me; a proud, eager smile upon her face, and in her hands, two poems – two original, quirky, pensive odes.   

How sweet my victory was!  I remain the custodian of the poems!

Mint Humbugs: Combine 350g sugar and 5tbls liquid glucose in saucepan; add 250ml water; heat gently, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add 1/2tsp cream of tartar; bring to boil; boil gently until the mixture registers 140C on a sugar thermometer, the small crack stage. Remove from heat; add 1/2tsp oil of peppermint; pour onto lightly oiled slab; divide into two portions; add a few drops green food colouring to one portion; cool until workable; then pull each portion separately; using oiled scissors, cut into 1cm pieces, turning the rope at each cut; cool; wrap individually in waxed paper.

Fruit Jellies: Prepare 6-inch pan by wetting it lightly. Place 4tbls gelatin in 4tbls water to soften. Place 2/3c strained fruit juice of choice, 6tbs sugar and 4tbls corn syrup in med-saucepan over med-heat; stir until sugar dissolves; stir in gelatin; stir until dissolved. Add food colouring, if desired; pour into prepared pan; set completely; then cut with sharp knife into shapes. Roll in caster sugar or serve plain.

Cherry Marshmallow Fudge: Place 1tbl water, 90g butter and 250g pink and white marshmallows in saucepan; heat over very, very low heat; stir often until marshmallows melt. Break up 200g dark cooking chocolate; add to pan; remove from heat; stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir through 1/4c chopped red glace cherries; pour into lined 16cm square pan; cool; refrigerate until set.

Treacle Toffee: Put 450g brown sugar and 150ml water in large, heavy-based saucepan; heat gently until sugar dissolves; add 1/4tsp cream of tartar, 75g butter, 100g treacle or molasses and 100g Golden syrup; boil; brush insides of pan with water just above syrup level; boil to 149C; pour into lightly-oiled shallow tin; cool 5mins; mark into squares with oiled knife.   

FEELING GROOVY! 
Birds twitter dancing from branch to branch on high
Blossom to honey-scented blossom butterflies flutter
A gentle spring breeze wafts as if it were a lover’s sigh
Foaming cumulus hover over the horizon like a comforter
Seasons change while in silence I long for your embrace
The warmth of the day reminds me of your magic touch
Loving memories of moments spent with you I cannot erase
Your luminous presence remains and I still care too much

INTO A SOMBRE OCEAN OF OBLIVION

Lost in a dismal murky mire of immeasurable despondency
callously cast aside a counterfeit caricature of ship’s ballast
wretched descent to the dank pits of hell having no buoyancy
eclipsed by life’s engulfing twilight
my existence I lambaste

Forthwith summarily ‘twas vividly visible I was invisible
words unheard emotions shattered into severed fitful pieces
how could it not be known my fragile heart was breakable
desolate days tormented nights envelop
my heartache increases

Becoming in essence a nihility a soon forgotten evanescence
misplaced bittersweet gaiety fraught with invasive dreams
silent solitude dejected spirit crying a faded luminescence
an alabaster moon shrouded by dank darkness
my heart screams 

Plunging further deeper into a bottomless quagmire of oblivion 
like autumn leaves blown in the wind my quintessence strewn  
impenetrable suffering a feverish addiction life a fictitious illusion
unrelenting oppressive incubus reckless incursion
my life in ruin  

MOMENTS IN LIFE                                       
Along the way we say foolish words we regret
With moments we pray to become invisible
Puerile silly misunderstandings on which we fret
Our battered tainted emotions no longer concealable
Endless angry silences their reasons we soon forget

Progressing to games of cat and mouse hide and seek
Hearts and minds held by ransom emotional blackmail
Hours pass slowly sad nights dim days turn into a week
Frail sensibilities in disturbance as if buffeted by a gale
An eternity time wasted…over something so oblique
                                                                               
Poetry written by Me....

I wrote this post in the interim....I'm in the midst of writing my story of Sasha and my other furry, four-legged rascal....their tales shall follow....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

MUSIC TO MY EARS…PURRRFECT!



Ian Fleming's home "Goldeney"  in Jamaica
Another vista from "Goldeneye"
Interior....Goldeneye

I'm allowed to dream....

One thing leads to another. How often has that been said, I wonder?   Speaking on my own behalf, I’ve said it many times over; and no doubt will repeat the phrase ad infinitum - a slight exaggeration, I guess; but you know what I mean.  

It’s really very simple how I know this to be so. It happens to me all the time- the starting off in one direction, with one purpose in mind, and then becoming waylaid. 

For example – I start searching for something on the Web. Simple and swift it should be. It shouldn’t take me very long to find an answer to my query. It might be a word; an historical person of interest; information about a celebrity/sportsperson/writer etc; a song; a singer, songwriter and so on.  Within a blink or sometimes even half a blink, I become distracted from the initial search; stolen away as if kidnapped. 

Giving little resistance, I find myself being led along corridors; entering doorways to the left and to the right; even aloft into attics if they're on offer; being guided further and further into a world of wonder; a world of knowledge. No shoe leather is ever wasted or worn thin because my fingers do the walking.  I’m transported to foreign, exotic places without having expended a cent, let alone a dollar, on travel tickets; without having to pack a suitcase.  

A few years ago I spent a Sunday afternoon leisurely roaming around Jamaica.  While sipping on a drink more suited to a pirate than James Bond – Captain Morgan rum and mango juice, I spent hours enjoying the ambience at Ian Fleming’s estate “Goldeneye” in Oracabessa, on Jamaica’s north coast.  I found it very difficult to drag myself away. In 1976, twelve years after Fleming’s death the late Bob Marley purchased the property, but Marley resold it a year later, in 1977. 

It’s a most wonderful estate spread over lush green landscape. The home situated on the edge of a cliff, overlooks a private beach and the Caribbean Sea.  So, you see - you must understand how easy it was for me to willingly become lost in a fantasy world of dreams; of a reality I’d love to have been a part of, and probably would have never left if I had been so fortunate.  It is my kind of place!

In case you’re thinking otherwise, this is leading somewhere – really, it is.

Over the weekend I was searching for a song via today’s worldwide, endless highway…the Web. The Web Highway has myriad side tracks, and once on it, I dart off here, there and everywhere, never knowing where I’ll end up.  That’s half the fun, I guess.  Sometimes I become so engrossed I'm not aware I've ventured off the beaten track.  Next time I should pack myself a picnic lunch, grab a blanket; some fresh water, and fill a thermos flask with coffee.  Sustenance is needed.

I forget the initial song that kick-started my search, but I stumbled upon an old, all-time favourite – “Gentle On My Mind”. Glen Campbell made it famous, as did crooner, Dean Martin.  I prefer Campbell’s version, but that’s just my opinion and taste. It’s a beautiful song, and a melody difficult to be ruined by anyone - except when sung by me.

An interesting piece of trivia evolved out of my search.  John Hartford who wrote the song stated he was inspired to write it after seeing the movie, “Doctor Zhivago”.  Hartford wrote the song the same night he’d seen the film.  Engulfed by memories, it took him only 30 minutes or so to pen what was to become a chart-topper and a classic.   

Our memories can inspire us to do many things; to want to do many things; and to relive past moments- the good, the happy ones, in our life.  I wish some of my memories were capable of making me enough money to purchase “Goldeneye”. I’m just saying….I’m allowed to dream!

“Doctor Zhivago”, both the movie and the book inspired me, too…in a different way.

It was during my first marriage, in 1968 I saw the movie and read the book. I immediately fell in love with both.  How could anyone not fall under the spell of Lara and Zhivago; or drown willingly in the large, compelling, brown eyes of Omar Sharif?

(An aside: An aunty of mine – through my marriage to Randall, my second husband – was an avid and competent contract bridge player, as was Omar Sharif.  During a visit by Sharif to Australia to play contract bridge, Ethel, said aunt, played with him…contract bridge, that is!  She found it very difficult to concentrate on the game with him sitting across the table from her.  A very good ploy by the opposing team, I'd say)! 

Somewhere amongst my memorabilia I have a photograph taken at that moment in history.  I don't know where to start looking for it!

When I left Gympie in July, 1965 to move to the “big smoke”…the city of Brisbane...I had to leave my beloved ginger cat, suitably named “Cat”, behind with Mum and Nana.  Cat had such a unique personality from when he was just a little kitten, I couldn’t think of a name that suited his wonderful character, so he was stuck with “Cat”; and as it turned out, it fitted him well.  

I’d had Cat for years…a long time before “Breakfast at Tiffany's” hit our screens. I didn't see the movie until 1963; and I didn't read Truman Capote's 1958 novella until a number of years after I saw the movie.

Holly Golightly’s cat, also ginger, for the uninitiated, was, coincidentally, called, “Cat”.   "Breakfast at Tiffany's" remains on my list of top movies...movies that I love and have watched many times over.

Each afternoon my cat, Cat loyally would wait at the edge of the footpath outside our home  – waiting for me to arrive from work. He'd greet me with gusto and follow closely at my feet, fighting not only with possession of me, but for the stairs as we climbed them to enter the house. He never tried to hide the joy he felt at seeing me.  It broke my heart not being able to take Cat with me, but I had no other choice. I was to stay with friends for a couple of weeks or so until I found suitable accommodation of my own, and I couldn’t have my beloved furry mate with me wandering the streets of Brisbane looking for a flat in which to set up our camp. 

The day I left Gympie Cat sat forlornly on the very same footpath, right on the concrete edging of the gutter, watching me leave.  That moment was more of a tear-jerker than “Doctor Zhivago”; movie and book combined!  I think I cried most of the way to Brisbane.  It felt as if my heart had been wrenched from my chest.  

When Mum and Nana left Gympie to live at Slade Point via Mackay, Cat went with them. Cat remained in the loving care of Mum and Nana until he died at a grand old age.  More tears were shed.

Between my moving to Brisbane mid-1965 and shortly after seeing "Doctor Zhivago", the movie, I’d not had a cat in my life; and that was the longest period I’d ever been without a cat.  All through that period, which seemed like a lifetime to me, I felt something was missing from my life. The time had come to rectify the situation.

And then one Sunday evening a week or two after watching the film a friend visited, unexpectedly bearing a gift for me.  The gift was a fluffy, six-week old ginger kitten. I was immediately smitten.  Our feelings about each other were mutual. The little ball of joy was mine; and I was his (I wasn't a little ball of joy, of course!). From the moment he was placed in my hands there wasn't a moment of doubt.

I christened my little ginger friend – “Sasha”…named after Zhivago and Tonya’s son.

Sasha became my constant.  When Mervyn and I separated - when I moved into the flat with the rose garden on Oxlade Drive, New Farm (my post of September 16th, 2014) - I didn’t go alone.  Sasha went along with me.  He packed up his food bowls, his fur coat and moved out, too.

Wherever I went, he went.  There was never any thought about debating the situation.  It was clear cut. No contracts needed signing.  Sasha was smart; very savvy; and extremely loyal.  There was no pulling the fur over his eyes.

I told you there was a point to this story...I may have gone the long way around it...but I got there in the end...I hope you've not jumped off halfway through....

More about Sasha to come....

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ME, EMU, YOU AND ROO...AND IT AIN'T A CROCK!



Cartoon by Tony Turton

Red Wine Marinated Emu

Large Emu egg...in comparison to chicken eggs

Lake Elphinstone


Lately, it would seem, I’m unable to get off the subject of emus…but I will after this...I promise you.

There is no denying Australia is a country filled with many weird creatures.  Some (probably quite a few) would say that I comfortably fit into the “weird” category …but that’s okay with me.  I don’t mind being a step outside of the “norm”.  I look forward to becoming an eccentric old lady…I may have already achieved my goal!

Out of the blue one day when I was the chef/cook at “Lorikeets’ Restaurant”, Glenden back in the early 90s, upon unpacking and storing away my ordered stock that had been delivered from the Head Office of Morris Corporation/Catering, to my surprise, I found amongst my meat order a few kilos of emu meat!  I hadn’t ordered it; and, to be honest, I didn’t particularly want it.  But there it was as fresh as the day was long – waste not; want not. 

I’d never cooked emu meat, but I wasn’t going to let that faze me!  Always up for a challenge even if I wasn’t too keen about it, I pondered upon my dilemma for a while. 

I didn’t have Mr. Google to guide me towards a recipe, so I forged forth and made up my own as I went along.  Having no intention of putting emu permanently on my menu, I decided the best thing to do was get rid of what I’d received that night, if I could, by putting emu up on my “Special of the Night” board; and then that would be that – done and dusted.  Emu no more!

Some feather dusters are made with emu feathers; so, too, are ornate earrings. The emu I received had already been plucked, so I wasn’t faced with that problem.  Emu eggs are preferred for ornamental use; I never cooked with them because they took up too much room in the pans!

Emu oil is claimed to have many healing health benefits; research is ongoing in that department.

According to historians, emu oil was, and probably still is in some area, an Aboriginal traditional medicine. The then unadulterated oil was used for bites, cuts, sores, bruises, fevers, aches and pain. An all-purpose solver of problems it would appear. Nowadays it’s not as “pure”, of course, with additives added to the mix; but its healing uses and benefits are many, according to some “experts”.  The jury is still out in some instances.

However, when confronted with a parcel of fresh emu meat that day, the healing power of emu oil was the last thing on my mind.  

I’d cooked kangaroo meat; and crocodile many times.  A very popular entrée on the restaurant’s menu was Crocodile Kebabs.  To my taste there were (are) far more interesting and tasty foods to eat than crocodile! Crocodile isn’t on my list of things I want to eat; although I have tried it, of course.
I cut the croc meat into approximately 1-inch square pieces before marinating the pieces in brandy, garlic, fresh ginger, a pinch of chilli, a splash of soy sauce and some other spices just to infuse a bit of flavour into the blandness; and then I’d thread it onto skewers, alternating with similar sized pieces of capsicum/peppers and onion.  Crocodile meat not marinated tasted like cardboard drink’s coaster, I reckoned. Using a coaster would’ve been cheaper! 

However, as the saying goes…”there’s no account for taste”…who am I to questions the reasons why so many diners ordered my crocodile kebabs…and enjoyed them?  And doubled up and ordered them again when they re-visited the restaurant…..

Figuring emu was a very lean meat similar to kangaroo meat I decided to treat it similarly.  In other words, close my eyes and hope for the best!  What did I have to lose…just a few diners!

I cut the meat into serving-sized fillets, and then I marinated the “steaks” in a quality red wine, either a Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon – one or the other - crushed fresh garlic, freshly-cracked black pepper and some chopped fresh herbs; whatever I had on hand and ones I felt suitable to what I had in mind.  My intention was to grill the fillets briefly as the orders came into to me in the kitchen that evening.  Over-cooking would not do.

I then lived in the hope the dish would be ordered.

I wrote it up on the “Specials of the Night” menu; I invented a suitable description for my creation; and the rest was in the laps of the Gods…hopefully not in the laps of the diners!

One of the restaurant’s bookings that evening was for a table of some of the “big bosses” from MIM…Mount Isa Mines…the owner/operator of Newlands, the large coal mine just outside of Glenden.  Along with the MIM hierarchy were local top drawer representatives from the Newland Coal Mine; all of whom were playing host to visiting financiers and bankers from the US.  

After gathering for a somewhat brief interlude at the restaurant’s cocktail bar for pre-dinner drinks the party converged upon their table, with their appetites intact.  

Soon their meal orders flowed into the kitchen and were stuck on the spikes above my cooking range.  All systems go!

I’d struck it lucky!  Every one of the overseas visitors, plus some of the Aussie hosts ordered the emu! 

By the end of service, I had not a sliver of emu left in the restaurant, in the kitchen or the cold room, for that matter!  They’d depleted my stock.  I was so grateful and, out of the sight of others, proudly gave myself a pat on my back.  My emu dish had been received like first prize in the lottery!

Accolades were passed onto me from all and sundry. I humbly and graciously accepted the generous praise sent my way. 

Next day I phoned Head Office and told them never to send me emu meat again; in fact never send me anything I’d not ordered ever again.

On the subject of the crocodile kebabs - another night and another diner from the US – said diner stopped me as I passed his table to ask where I got my crocodile meat from.  Without missing a beat and with a very straight face, I told the inquisitive, quite naïve gentleman that every Sunday, my day off, I grabbed my rifle and headed off to one of the nearby local creeks; but I steered clear of Lake Elphinstone because it was too big and always filled with water skiers.  Once there I’d find a likely spot; take aim and nab my prey.  His host, one of the restaurant’s regular diners almost choked on his meal and tried to slide under the table out of view. 

His guest believed every silly word that had spilled out of my mouth.  And then, I just continued on to the kitchen, leaving our US visitor wide-eyed in wonder. 

I wonder how many people he repeated that story to!

It’s marvellous what you can get away with if you keep a straight face!

One day I did tell a tourist  to save fuel I sometimes hitched a ride on a kangaroo...and hopped down the mountain road, and then along the motorway up to Brisbane to do some shopping.  It was handy in a couple of ways because I could store my purchases in the kangaroo's pouch.

Well....I keep telling you I shouldn't be let out amongst the madding crowds....