Wednesday, February 25, 2015

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



A cat similar in appearance to Sasha  (I posted this photo in a previous post)
Let's cuddle...photo from the Web

Ruska and me on the new deck at the Elanda St., Sunshine Beach house - circa 1982 - thereabouts....
Randall with the catch of the day; me with other catches of the day...and Ruska eyeing off the mud crabs and prawns.  Ruska LOVED prawns!  Circa 1982
Sunshine Beach
Nambour Main Street
Self-Explanatory Map...Sunshine Beach is situated just around the headland (on southern side) of Noosa.

"Randall George Real Estate" opened its doors; but before that day came, we'd put our heads together, pondered and considered for many hours, days and weeks on a suitable design for our logo and image for our real estate signs, stationery/letterheads and business cards etc.  

After much deliberation it was decided a seagull would be our logo; our symbol. A suitable seagull image modelled on the seagull on the cover of Richard Bach's wonderful, inspirational novella, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull was decided upon. An abstract, light blue bird in flight soaring to the heights, with the name of the business printed in a darker blue on premium quality white paper would be on all our stationery and signs.  (Artwork similar in style to the photo of the seagull shown above).  Satisfied, the final layout of our overall design, including typeface and the arrangement of the headings etc. were confidently put into the hands of a local printing company.  

We'd chosen the seagull as our symbol, not only because we lived at the beach, but also because Bach's story held a special place in our hearts, as did Neil Diamond's Grammy-winning soundtrack album  "Jonathan Livingston Seagull".  Diamond's magical interpretation played in the background during Randall and my relaxed, casual wedding service conducted by a Marriage Celebrant a few years earlier in 1976.
   
A hive of activity ensued as excitedly we set up our office in the main room in the downstairs area of our Elanda Street home. We felt like a couple of kids on Christmas morning! I became the proud owner of a brand new, you-beaut electronic Olivetti typewriter with display and 500 or 600 character memory. PCs were still a rarity in 1980.  I thought I was the ant’s pants!  Until, that is, the first time I placed my fingers on the keys of my new wonder machine. 
   
At first strike on the keys smoke billowed out from the interior workings, much to my shocked dismay. 

However, after a phone call to the office supply/equipment business in Nambour from where we’d purchased it, without argument or delay the explosive contraption was replaced with a brand new machine, no questions asked. The replacement never caused problems, performing excellently, without complaint; always at my beck, call and fingertips.  

A cabinet-maker situated in Eumundi Road, Noosaville constructed a large, one-off wooden desk for Randall to his personal specifications.  It's was quite a magnificent desk.

Before the new office furniture and other necessary items arrived and after we covered the interior walls a couple of coats of fresh, inviting white paint,  we laid sea grass matting on the floor.  The office of Randall George Real Estate was taking shape. My desk and work area was up one end of the room, not far from the entrance to the house. Randall operated from his desk at the other end of the room. No walls or partitions divided us. The office had a casual, coastal feel (and appearance) about it.

Three wide, large windows broke the monotony of the wall behind him and to the side of me. The windows, assisted by a partly-glassed door at the far end of the room, granted sunlight and sea breezes easy access.   

Against the opposite wall to Randall’s industrious work area we set up a day bed with a brightly-covered striped Mexican-themed woven bedspread.  A couple of colourful bean bags offhandedly scattered about the room added to the relaxed atmosphere we aimed to achieve.  Suitable chairs were also available for those clients more in favour of formal mode!  Leafy, green, potted plants completed the picture of unceremonious, natural surroundings.

Having immediately claimed the day bed during the daylight hours Ruska acting sometimes as receptionist, albeit unknown to visitors to the office. In between napping, which, I have to admit, took up most of his time, he kept a sneaky eye - briefly, mostly only one eye opened slightly just to do a quick scan, then it was back to the Land of Nod for him.  When we were in the office the day bed was his resting, reclining spot.  

Sasha was never far away, either. He had a favourite spot close to the entrance to the house. It allowed him initial surveillance of the people arriving on our doorstep. For a few hours daily he luxuriated in the filtered sunlight beneath the leaves of a healthy Umbrella tree. 

Umbrella trees are native to the northern Queensland rainforests, but in southern Queensland they’re regarded as fast-growing invaders; pests causing harm to local ecosystems.  In the late Seventies-early Eighties Umbrella trees  were a very popular tree in these southern areas of Queensland.  Who would ever think that trees became "in vogue"...but some did back then; and others probably still do.  Umbrella trees (along with Rubber trees) were the “in” tree to have in your garden.  As long as both varieties were/are planted well away from building foundations and underground plumbing; pipes etc., no problems should arise.  Both also were/are hardy, large-potted, indoor plants.  The Umbrella tree isn’t a declared pest under Queensland legislation, but local councils can, at their will, declare them under their own laws.  

"Note:  Rubber plant material can be toxic to small animals (including cats and small dogs) as well as young children.  The sap can irritate the skin and plant material can cause nausea and vomiting if ingested.  Care should be taken in homes where little people and little critters have access to house plants.    Those with severe latex allergies and sensitive skin should avoid growing this plant." 

However, Sasha wasn’t at all interested in the nitty-gritty botanical details, neither was Ruska. They left all those mediocre things up to Randall and me to worry about - after all, that what humans are for.   Both Sasha and Ruska weren't at all interested in indoor plants, either  Actually, gardening, outdoors or indoors, was not a hobby of theirs.  That silly pastime was the domain of humans. 

My ginger-furred elder feline mate loved wallowing in the warmth of the seaside sun, and in the dappled shade provided by the Umbrella tree’s broad leaves. If he wasn’t nearby outside indulging and rejoicing in his new found coastal freedom, quite often he’d be found curled up asleep at my feet under my desk; or when he’d had enough of his rest being interrupted he’d be found snoozing on the end of our bed in our upstairs’ bedroom.  He was always around close by, as was Ruska. During the day Ruska guarded the office while Sasha supervised the entry, exit and upstairs area.  At night when Randall and I were upstairs, whether we were in the kitchen/dining, out on the deck (the deck was our favourite spot to sit and talk), wherever we were both cats could be found; and Winston regularly could be heard in the trees over yonder.  Also we had a king-size bed, so there was room enough for the four of us!

Life was going along smoothly.  Our business was doing well.  After a few months of operation, we employed a salesman, Paul Figalo, to cover the Peregian/Coolum end of the coastal strip. Paul was a lively little fellow; hyper-active is the word one would call him nowadays. Paul and his family lived at Coolum.  He’d worked with an agency in Coolum before joining us, so he knew the area well.  Mostly he worked from his home. Paul rarely visited our office, unless it was absolutely necessary for the signing of contracts, meetings, etc. Otherwise, there was no need for him to be in our Sunshine Beach home office.  Randall and Paul met up often when they were both out and about running around the ridges; and there were phone calls back and forth all the time; night and day.  Again, of course, this was long before mobile phones became glued to everyone’s ears. 

Randall handled the sales, the listings and everything else entailed in real estate. It was his domain; and he was expert at what he did; figures and finance were his talents. He was an honest, efficient operator – and I’m in no way being prejudice by declaring this. It was what it was. Randall also managed the few rental properties we had on our books.  

I handled the clerical side of the business and was pretty much confined to the office, but that suited me fine. Someone had to be in attendance to answer the phone and all else that running an office entailed. I had no interest in being a salesperson, myself.  I preferred to leave that side of the business to Randall. He was the licensed agent/salesman; and he knew what he was doing. He soon built up a solid client base.

In the meantime, we’d also started on some renovations on the house.  The first thing we did was get rid of the existing stove.  It was electric. I’ve always preferred cooking on gas, although these days the stove in this cabin I’m renting is an electric stove. I have no choice; but then again, I no longer do the amount of cooking and entertaining I once did.  Those days are long gone.

A brand-new, large six-burner gas stove and oven was fitted. I was in my element having gas to cook on and not an electric element!

The little existing ocean-side deck needed to go. This was a high on our list - top priority.  With the view and the privacy we had from the north-eastern side of the house the small deck was totally inadequate.   

We hired a couple of local guys who promptly removed the old deck. It was replaced with a much wider deck that, in length, spread from one side of the house to the other looking down through the dense vegetation to the street below. Treated timber posts almost as thick as electricity poles were set firmly in concrete into the dune below making them solid upright structures strong enough to support our extensive deck. We believed if we were going to build a new deck it should be one worthy of the view.  Also our new outdoor area, of which we were very proud, melded in with the top level of the trees and vegetation that hugged the dune. Sitting on the deck level with the tree tops we unexpectedly found us in the bird paths (not the bird baths…but their flight paths); and the birds often unexpectedly found us, too!   Often as they flew past they ducked or veered off with stunned looks on their faces (if that is possible).  

Having been very pleased with the excellent workmanship shown by the people who built Randall's office desk, we had them construct for us a special large round outdoor table with seating to match to take up pride of place on our new deck. If and when needed table could comfortably sat eight people around it.

One Sunday morning while leisurely lingering over breakfast and the morning paper we heard someone call out from below.  Going downstairs we discovered a concerned fellow standing at our front door
.
“Is this your cat?” He asked.  “I was jogging by and I found him wandering erratically in a panic along the side of the street, just out the front there!”

I almost fainted.  In the young man's arms was Ruska with his head stuck in an empty paint can!   

Hearts racing, we took Ruska from his rescuer's arms. We somehow managed to remove the can from Ruska’s head.  Don't ask me how because that part is all a blur.  My furry mate was physically unharmed, but, naturally, was he distressed and exhausted from his ordeal.  It was an upsetting, exhausting experience for us, too.  With our house being set a long way back from the road if that caring, thoughtful stranger who, by chance, happened to be passing by on his morning run hadn’t found Ruska I hate to think what the alternative result would have been.   

We thanked Ruska’s saviour profusely. We were so grateful.  Words didn’t seem enough.  He was happy to have been "Johnny on the spot"; to have been the one to find our loved pet. With a smile and a wave he went on his merry way never to be seen again.

From that morning onward all empty cans were immediately deposited in the garbage bin when emptied, and our garage door remained closed when not in use!  Perhaps Ruska thought he’d give us a hand with the renovations, but after his little adventure with the paint can, he never offered his services again.  I reminded him frequently of the saying - one he'd obviously had forgotten - "Curiosity killed the cat"!

Having much to discuss after the morning's traumatic event Sasha took Ruska aside. Gently reprimanding him Sasha waved his paw at a contrite Ruska warning him never to do such a silly thing ever again. (I might have made this part up, but...who knows?  It could've have happened)! 

 For the rest of the day they remained within easy view of each other – after I’d comforted Ruska with many cuddles. The whole episode had been extremely upsetting, not only for Ruska, but for Randall and me, too.

I don’t know what it was about Sunday mornings, but a few months later on another Sunday morning while Randall was in the kitchen making coffee I skipped down the interior stairs with the intention of collecting the daily newspaper from the yard out front.  The newspapers were delivered daily. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs I saw Sasha laying there.  I began talking to him and reached down to stroke him. Immediately, my heart leapt into my mouth.  I knew something was dreadfully wrong.  I screamed out to Randall.  He flew down the stairs, two at a time, if not more, recognisng from the tone of my voice something was amiss…really amiss.

Sasha was dead.  Sometime during the early hours of the morning he'd curled up and gone to sleep, never to waken again. Unstoppable tears streamed down my face.   

Tears brim my eyes as I relate this heartbreaking episode in my life. 

My mate…my beloved vagabond; my adored, sometimes headstrong Sasha was dead.  My dear pet, Sasha who had played a huge role in my life for approximately 15 years was gone…gone.  I was inconsolable.

Turning to Randall I said I couldn’t remain in the house…I had to get out - I had to go to the beach in haste. I had to get away without delay.  I needed to fall into the surf; I needed the ocean waves to sweep over me; to have the salt water somehow wash away my sorrow, even if briefly.  I wanted to feel the sun on my body and the sand between my toes.

He told me to go on ahead that he would join me in a little while.  Needing no encouragement, I grabbed a beach towel, and as if in a trance I walked to the beach, oblivious of the world around me. Tears still streamed down my face and I could not have cared if anyone noticed.   

They were my tears; my tears of sorrow over the loss of my precious, cherished friend, Sasha.

Randall joined me on the beach; and in due course he quietly told me that he had buried Sasha to always be caressed by the filtered sun under his favourite tree, the Umbrella tree.

We spent the next few hours on the beach that Sunday…rarely talking, but thankful we were there, together in our grief over the loss of Sasha. When we finally arrived back home I bestowed so much love and so many hugs on Ruska.  Ruska who was curled up on the matting at the bottom of the stairs waiting for our return.

I reflected on the life I’d shared with Sasha from when he was given to me as a little ginger kitten not much older than six weeks; of how strong and independent he was in so many ways, and yet in others he was so incredibly loving and loyal; of how protective he was; and of how he’d gotten his nose out of joint for a while when he decided to pack up his kit bag and leave home; of how he sent out a message to me to let me know it was time for him to come home; that he wanted to come home to me. (I’m sure he did; and I don’t care how weird it may sound; it is what I have always believed happened the day we received the letter in the mail when we were living in the house at Coolum advising us he was at the veterinary surgery in Brisbane).

For the last couple of years of his life Sasha rarely left my side.  He was glad to be home again; and I was so very glad that he was.  The past was the past. We’d picked up where we’d left off without missing a beat.   

At least for those last couple of years, Sasha’s life was wonderful. He lived out his days in the sunshine...at Sunshine Beach.  

I’m sure he was a wiser cat for his time on the “streets”…in the cacti greenhouse. Who wouldn’t want to spend their twilight years back in the loving arms of someone who adored them unconditionally without question?

I’m sure in their private, daily conversations out of earshot of Randall and me Sasha imparted his worldly wisdom to Ruska.  Sasha had a way with his furry roomies.  He’d saved Smocka from the albino boxer dog at the unit in Toowong; and he'd proudly taken on the role as elder citizen - as mentor to Ruska. 

Ruska idolised Sasha; I’m sure he missed his mate as much as I did...as much as Randall and I did.  

Sasha was a beautiful cat.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

WHERE AND WHEN ONLY THE BEST WILL DO



Shenzhen, Southern China
Warrior Goddess Athena
Exterior of Miner's Lantern Restaurant and Conference Room, Cedar Creek, Thunderbird Park
Cedar Creek, Tamborine Mountain


A local resident of Cedar Creek Lodges, Thunderbird Park...known as "Kooka" both to friends and visitors.
We’re lucky up here on the hill in many, many ways.  For one, it certainly is a beautiful area in which to live. Seeing it through the eyes of others, of visitors to our piece of paradise, we’re very often re-awoken to the fact of how stunning it really is. Again, I’m speaking for myself, of course.  A thump or two is required every so often as I do have a tendency to snooze off when least expected, and in the most unlikely spots. This happened to me at IGA yesterday, but the staff just tossed me into the trolley with the rest of my purchases and pushed the trolley in the direction of my car.  Groaning under the extra load, it automatically knew its way because I always park in the same spot. 

Albeit unconsciously, at times everyone is guilty of taking things for granted, there’s no point denying it.  For example, we become blind to nature and all that abounds within its wide and varied realm; to the (mostly) wonderful inhabitants (of the two-legged variety) who roam this mountain, as well as the many cafes and restaurants dotted here there and everywhere around the place.

Previously I mentioned I was attending a wedding on Valentine’s Day.  Everything went according to plan, even better, I think.  It was one of the happiest weddings at which I’ve been a guest. I’ve a sneaky suspicion I’m not alone in my thoughts. 

When the wedding ceremony, which was held in Brisbane, was over the wedding party and guests ascended the range road to congregate at the groom’s family home to glory at the setting sun; and for the catching of breaths and a “getting-to-know-you” interlude.

The groom’s parents are my landlords, so the gathering of the clans and friends was held on the verandah of my landlords’ home which is just up the other end of this three acre block of land from my cabin.

Tristan, the son and groom lives and works in China, and has done so for the past six or more years.  He teaches English - on mainland China. He and Palas, (his Chinese bride, also known as “Yang” – pronounced “young”) live in Shenzhen. Shenzhen is a major city in the south of Southern China’s Guangdong Province, situated immediately north of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.  Shenzhen is so far removed from Tamborine Mountain in every way possible.

During the late afternoon soiree here on the property I asked Palas from where she derived her name …seeing “Yang” appeared on the wedding invitation; and is her “true” name. 

Listening carefully to her explanation, I gathered it all came about when she was attending university, studying, amongst other subjects, Ancient Greece when she stumbled across a someone from history who inspired her.

The Greek goddess Athena was also referred to as “Pallas Athena”, as well as “Athene” and “Athina”. Pallas Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, arts, crafts and many other wonderful attributes and is portrayed as a shrewd companion of heroes.”

A far better person/image to aspire to than Kim Kardashian, in my opinion.  

As an aside, Palas is a tiny young woman...I think I could pick her up with one arm, with my other held behind my back...or in front.

At dinner and drinks with my landlords on New Year’s Eve I met Palas for the first time.  At that stage, the young soon-to-be married couple was visiting Tristan’s parents for a couple of days over the festive season. Palas and I got on like a house on fire. She’s a lovely lass.

Attending the wedding on Saturday, 14th February were six members of the bride’s family. It was their first visit to Australia’s fair shores.  Obviously none were Tristan’s students because they didn’t speak English, nor did they understand it being spoken to them.

However, as I’ve found many times throughout my time working within the hospitality industry; also in life in general, happiness, smiles and good manners have no barriers, no boundaries; no guard-protected borders; when and if the above are implemented any language barriers quickly disintegrate.  Sure, lengthy conversations trying to solve or make sense of the world’s mysteries won’t be conducted, but we have enough of those during our day to day lives.  And, too often, such discourses can become tedious and boring, and no matter how long or how in-depth we converse we never do, or will, solve the problems of the world...time wasted.  Such discussions definitely do not have a place during times of joyous celebration.

Not knowing what to give the young couple, who appear to have “it all” (they both are earning a good living doing what they do. Palas works for a company in some kind of executive position; and are off to Paris for their honeymoon) as a wedding gift, I decided that I’d supply the food; do the catering for the “getting-to-know-you” soiree at the family home after the wedding ceremony and the evening’s dining at a local restaurant.

There were about 27 guests (plus a toddler and a three year old). Also a few more friends of the Aussie family called by to partake in the relaxed late afternoon interlude on the verandah.

I prepared a couple of large antipasto platters; a large cheese and fruit platter; bowls of marinated champignons and artichoke hearts and Chinese pickled cucumbers.  I also made two different chocolate slices (double quantities of ingredients in both recipes).  Enough, of course, to feed the Australian Army and the Chinese Army combined!  What’s new?  I alway over-cater, but I’d rather have more than not enough.  It all got eaten…even if it took a couple of days to do so!

After everyone mingled, relaxed, regrouped, sipped and snacked a while, with our happy mood intact we descended upon a local venue for the wedding dinner – off to The Miner’s Lantern Restaurant at Thunderbird Park we headed. 




Some restaurants/restaurateurs have that special potion – the “it factor” – and some don’t. Some appear not to care too much about their clientele, their diners; their guests, at times treating them as inferiors. This doesn’t apply to Thunderbird Park’s Miner’s Lantern. The service was swift; the staff efficient and pleasant. 

And then there was the food. What can I say?  The food was absolutely delicious!  Without a doubt; without hesitation, the food was brilliant. 

The Chinese guests enjoyed their meals because I noticed their plates at the end of each of the three courses left little evidence of food. That’s a sign of approval, isn’t it?

There was nothing inferior about the fare presented. It was first class. The lamb was the tenderest, most succulent lamb I’ve had in a long, long time.  The chicken must have grazed on the same pastures because it was tender and juicy, too. Don’t let me get started on the entrĂ©e and desserts! I’ll be here for a week if you do! 

I rarely go out at night. Boy! Oh! Boy!  Were my eyes opened!  There was a whole other world going on at Thunderbird Park on Saturday evening!  Of course, it was Valentine’s Day and that would’ve accounted for the crowds, but apparently they were catering for three weddings as well as the romantic couples celebrated dear old Val.

All venues were a hive of activity, a-brim with happy joyous people in celebratory mode.  Obviously, the folk who run the establishment are doing something right. The proof was there to be seen and savoured – it was in the pudding, too!

Apple Pudding: Preheat oven 180C.  Lightly grease 6-cup ovenproof dish. Place 4 large peeled, cored sliced golden delicious apples, 1/4c caster sugar and 2tbs cold water in saucepan; stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium. Cook stirring occasionally, 10-12mins, until apples are just tender. Pour into prepared dish. Beat 2 eggs until pale; gradually add 1/4c caster sugar; beat until thick. Sift 2tbs each S.R. flour, plain flour and custard powder together over eggs; fold in until just combined; spoon over apples; bake 20mins, until light golden. Dust with icing sugar.

Rhubarb Steamed Pudding: Cook over low heat 350g fresh rhubarb, cut into 4cm lengths with 75g caster sugar and 1tsp ground ginger, 2-3mins; remove from heat. Grease 900ml pudding basin. Cream 125g caster sugar and 125g unsalted butter; add a few drops of vanilla; beat in 2 lightly beaten medium eggs, a little at a time; sift in 175g S.R. flour; carefully fold in. Spoon rhubarb into bottom of basin; pour in the mixture; level surface; butter a piece of greaseproof paper slightly bigger than top of pudding; make pleat in centre; secure over top of pudding; repeat with foil; secure the lot with string. Place in a pan half-filled with simmering water. Cover; cook 1-1/2hrs. Don’t let it boil dry. Invert onto plate; lift off basin.

Baked Pear Pudding: Preheat oven 180C. Put 6 peeled, cored and quartered pears, 4tsp brown sugar and seeds of 1 vanilla pod into saucepan with 4tsp water; simmer 5mins. Place fruit mixture into well-greased ovenproof casserole. Beat together 1/2c butter and 1/3c white sugar; beat in 2 large eggs until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in 1c sifted S.R. flour until well-combined. Pour mixture over pears; bake for about 35-45mins. Serve with custard, cream or ice cream. 

A Long and Winding, Dark, but Tasty Rocky Road: Grease an 8cm x 20cm bar pan; line with baking paper, leaving some overhanging on all sides. Place 50ml Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur or any Irish Cream liqueur (drink the rest while preparing slice), 200g quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped, 20g unsalted butter and 1/3c sweetened condensed milk in heatproof bowl over pan of simmering water  (don’t let bowl touch water).  Allow to melt, stirring gently until smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Stir in 50g chopped unsalted pistachio kernels, 75g roughly crushed shortbread biscuits, 200g mini-marshmallows and 100g roughly chopped white chocolate (throw in some dried cranberries if you wish). Spread mixture into pan; then chill the mix for 2-3 hours until firm.  Melt 50g white chocolate as before.  Drizzle over the set mixture; leave for 3 to 4mins to set; then cut into squares.  Keep in airtight container in fridge for up to one week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

LOVE ME TENDER




Clearly smitten, he looked deeply into her eyes and said; “I don’t want to be a part-time lover. I realised as time goes by it had to be you. It’s the best thing that ever happened.  You made me love you.  You are so beautiful. I’m crazy for you. I can’t help falling in love with you. The first time ever I saw your face, I left my heart in San Francisco.”  He barely took time to take a breath.

Listening to his heartfelt words pouring freely from him, Rose thought to herself, “this guy's in love with you” even though a couple of week previously she’d thought she heard him tell his best mate to “tell Laura I love her; perhaps he’s torn between two lovers”; or perhaps she’d misheard; misunderstood what he'd said amongst the noisy crowd at the party.

For months, time after time, she’d waited; she dreamed; wanting to hear him say “Be my love Rose; Rose, Rose I love you.”   

And now, after all those sleepless nights hoping, here he was before her declaring his everlasting love. It can’t be puppy love because he’s not a teenager in love, she told herself; the look of love was definitely on his face. For so long Rose had asked herself "when will I be loved?" Maybe it’s time to stop listening to all those silly love songs; perhaps Chuck E’s in love with me, perhaps he really is!  Rose had never in her mind pictured lawyers in love - and Chuck E was a lawyer!

Love is a battlefield of that she had no doubt, but to love somebody - I want to know what love is – what it’s like to be lost in love -  because I’ve heard love is a many-splendoured thing.  Oh, why, why do fools fall in love? Rose’s mind was in a quandary.

Reaching for Rose’s hand and tenderly holding it in his own, Chuck E said: “I honestly love you. Baby I need your loving. I’ll never fall in love again I love you more and more every day. I know you can't hurry love, but when a man loves a woman like I do you, I just fall in love again.  I’ll never love this way again.  I guess I’ve just got a bad case of lovin’ you. If the truth be known I was made for lovin’ you. I’d be lost without your love.  You don’t have to say you love me right now, but you’ll never find another love like mine. I’ll keep on loving you; mine is an endless love. You’re the one that I want. Be my love.”

Rose’s face turned a colour befitting her name. She lowered her head; and then raised it, a smile upon her lips.

“If I could paint a portrait of my love it would be dedicated to the one I love…you.” She said looking directly in his eyes.  “Chuck E, I love the way you love me.  You are the sunshine of my life. I’ll be there for you.  I’m crazy for you.  It’s more than a feeling. You’re in my heart. Love will keep us together – never tear us apart. I feel so happy having someone to love.  Baby, it’s you.  I got you, babe! Love to love you, baby…I love your way. Your love has lifted me higher and higher.  There ain’t no mountain high enough! I was made for loving you.”

Chuck E’s heart soared. “Too often I used to say I want to know what love is – till there was you; you, Rose, changed everything. Nothing's gonna change my love for you. I will always love you. I don’t wanna live without your love. What we have is a groovy kind of love. here, there and  everywhere, I’ll be there.  I can’t fight this feeling.  You’ve got a friend…we’re lovers and friends.  I don’t wanna live without your love.  I think it’s time we found ourselves a love shack of our own. I don't want to miss a thing.”

Her heart pounding, Rose took him into her arms; If I can’t have you in my life - bye bye love.  I wanna hold your hand up where we belong.  I’m all shook up.  How sweet it is! How I feel right now as the stardust falls around us will be unforgettable.  I think I’m addicted to love. Your kiss is on my list, I cross my heart. Have I told you lately that I love you?”   

Everybody Loves Somebody -  Can You Feel the Love Tonight?


Please don't cringe...it's all just a bit of harmless fun.  There's nothing wrong with sharing and celebrating love, particularly the way the world is today.  I believe love should be shared even more...love should engulf the world.


It’s not spring, but another date is imminent when many a young man’s fancy turns to love; that is, after his hopeful sweetheart gives him unsubtle nudges in the ribs and drops a few blatant hints! If you poor fellows don’t pick up on the hints and nudges before Saturday, 14th February aka St. Valentine’s Day, you’ll find yourselves in dire straits; and I don’t mean the British rock band headed by Mark Knopfler!  Take notice, you blokes!  I’m trying to save your skin. Do I have to spell it out even more for you?  I’m giving you a heads up here; a leg up even, in case you need it. It’s time to prove you can multi-task. If you get it wrong don’t blame me. All fingers will be pointed at you, not me! 

One lad, namely Tristan, whom I’ve known since he was 16; a lad I’ve witnessed grow into a fine, mature young man over the past nigh on 13 years certainly won’t forget what day Saturday is. He’d better not! He has a major separate celebration happening on the 14th.  Not only will it be Valentine’s Day…but it’s going to be his wedding day, too. So you understand what I mean!  If he does forget the most important event, the latter, he won’t only be in dire straits; he’ll also be in muddy waters! 

The reality is - Tristan should have only a couple of things on his mind this Saturday – his wedding and his future wife. I do hope he’s not thrown (only the bouquet gets thrown; and I tell you here and now I won’t be catching the bouquet or Tristan). There’s no reason for concern - everything is under control. All Tristan and his lovely bride-to-be Palas have to worry about is nothing at all!  The day and night are theirs to celebrate and savour.  Happy memories made this Saturday, Valentine’s Day 2015 will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

I wish the young couple well in their marriage, and in their future endeavours; may they always be surrounded by sunshine, warm loving hearts and happiness. 

The timid young romantics of the late 60s/mid-70s were easily recognised amongst diners in restaurants on Valentine’s Day. It was clear to all, or to me, at least, who were on a first date, and those who were still in the early tentative, heady stages of getting to know each other by the wine they sipped daintily upon. The sparkles, not only in their eyes, but those in the bottle of bubbly before them were a give-away, too. 

Ben Ean Moselle was a favourite with optimistic young lovers, as was Kaiser Stuhl Cold Duck (did people really drink that?), Porphyr Pearl, Sparkling Starwine, Hardys Eden Moselle; and, of course, Barossa Pearl.  Who could forget Barossa Pearl?  Pearl’s release date was to be the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, but being slow off the blocks it wasn’t decanted from the barrels in time. With its screw-top Pearl was ahead of its time in the sealing department. Barossa Pearl was finally released on Guy Fawke’s Day, 5th November, 1956 - it went off with a bang. Like a guest who never knows when to leave Pearl stuck around until the 1970s. 

And now I’ve read that Barossa Pearl is being revived!  I wonder if same will happen to me after I pop my cork. 

This Valentine’s Day I’ll be celebrating the nuptials of Tristan and Palas. I’m thrilled to be doing so; to be able to be part of their special day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Now that I’ve reminded everyone - don’t forget what you have to do! Failing all else, a heartfelt “I love you” will do! 

My double best wishes to Tristan and Palas!

Oysters Valentine: Finely grate zest of half a lime; add 1tbs grated palm sugar and ½ bird’s eye chilli, thinly sliced; mash together; add juice of 2 limes; stir until sugar dissolves; add 1tsp fish sauce and 1-inch fresh ginger, finely-julienned; cool. Sprinkle over natural oysters in half shell; lightly sprinkle with garam masala, chopped coriander and chopped chives.

Oysters with Avocado-Tomato Salsa: Cut 1 avocado into small cubes; gently toss in juice of 1 lime; add 8 finely-chopped cherry tomatoes, 3tbs chopped coriander/parsley, 1/4c finely-chopped red onion, pinch sugar, hot pepper sauce and salt to taste. Serve with half shell barbecued oysters or natural.

Warm Duck-Pomegranate-Beetroot Salad: Cook 4 beetroot 20mins or until tender; peel and quarter when cool; set aside. Halve 1 pomegranate; press to extract juice and loosen seeds; place juice in bowl; remove seeds; add to juice. Warm 2tbs redcurrant jelly; then whisk with 1/4c x-virgin olive oil, 1tbs sherry vinegar, 1tsp Dijon mustard and 2tbs pomegranate juice; season. Preheat oven 180C. Score skin on 2 duck breasts. Mix together 1tbs brown sugar and 1tsp cinnamon; rub into duck skin. Heat pan on med-heat; cook duck, skin down, 6-7mins until crisp and fat rendered; turn; cook 1min. Bake duck in oven 5mins, med-rare, or until done to taste; rest. Slice on the diagonal. Divide radicchio, rocket, blanched green beans and cubed feta between plates; top with dressing, sliced duck and toasted, chopped walnuts.

Valentine’s Day Love Cake: You will need six 10cm (4in) heart-shaped cake tins. The number of cakes this makes will depend on the depth of your tins. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Brush the insides of the tins with the melted butter and dust with 1 tbsp of the plain flour, tapping out any excess. Melt 200g/7oz chopped chocolate either in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, or in a microwave on a low setting. Stir until smooth; set aside to cool slightly. Cream 150g/5-1/2oz unsalted butter and 150g caster sugar until pale, light and fluffy. Add 4 medium egg yolks; stir until combined. Add the cooled melted chocolate; stir again. Mix 2tbsp of plain flour with 75g ground almonds, freeze-dried raspberries (if using) and pinch of salt. Add to the chocolate mixture; mix thoroughly. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks. Stir one quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen and then, using a large metal spoon, fold in the remainder. Line the bases of the cake tins with baking-parchment and divide the mixture between them. Arrange on a baking-sheet and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 20mins, until risen and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins for 5mins, then carefully run a small palette knife around the edges and turn the cakes on to a cooling-rack; leave until cold. To make the ganache: melt together 200g dark 70% chocolate, 75g unsalted butter and 2tbs double cream either in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or in a microwave on a low setting. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool and thicken slightly. Using a palette knife, spread the ganache over the top of each cake and leave to set before decorating with sugar-paste roses or fresh berries. Stored in an airtight box or cake tin, these will keep for about four days.

Love Potion No. 14: Shake together; 1-1/2 shots Vodka, 1 shot Grand Marnier, 2 shots cranberry juice and ½ shot fresh lime juice; add ice; serve. 


Thursday, January 29, 2015

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



Aerial shot of Kawana Beach, Kawana Island and Kawana Waters
Coolum Beach looking north towards Sunshine Beach at the far, far end




A 1964 Holden EH Station Wagon
The view from our Elanda Street house - from the kitchen, dining and deck areas


Two photos of a Barn Owl...just like Winston was.

Graphite sketch drawn by me.


Sasha settled in immediately. He didn’t even need a guided tour through the Coolum house and its surrounds. He was home; nothing more was required by him other than that knowledge.

Without missing a beat it was as if he’d never been away. He was a little scrawny when he re-entered my life, but he regained weight quickly.  Bowls of fresh meat and freshly-caught fish were at his disposal, day and night.  Ruska and he had their own food bowls. They ate side by side sharing their stories, catching up on old times and all in between, over breakfast and dinner. Sasha, of course, had more adventure tales to tell. Ruska was a willing listener.  No jealousy existed between the two.  They’d always gotten on well together. Their relationship didn't change when they were reunited; good mates they remained.

Our days of leisure came to an end.  Randall gained employment as a real estate salesman at an agency in Kawana, a coastal area south of Coolum; further south of Mooloolaba. 

Not long afterwards I decided it was time I, too, got my finger out.  Our fishing rods, reels and tackle were hung up to dry. Our casual attire and our fishing clothes were replaced by our business faces and wardrobes.  The time had arrived to put away our toys; it was time to get serious.

On a spontaneous whim one morning I jumped aboard the Magnette and headed off to do some door-knocking of my own.  I didn’t travel far.  The first office door I knocked on was at Peregian Beach, a couple of kilometers north of Coolum.  The office of T. M. Burke Real Estate Developers was situated in the Peregian Shopping Centre.  In 1979 the shopping centre was still relatively small, consisting of a hairdresser’s salon, a solicitors office, a privately-owned mixed business, a gift shop, a Peter Sharpe Realty (a one-man operated real estate office at the rear of Burke’s premises), and I think, from memory, there was a doctor’s surgery and a pharmacy somewhere in the equation.

T. M. Burke had been active developers on the Sunshine Coast since 1929, first building bridges across Doonella Lake and Weyba Creek at Tewantin and Noosaville, respectively on behalf of the shire council, for which Burke received 470 acres of land.  Land sales fell into the doldrums, so the land remained undeveloped for many years. Thirty years later from the bridge building days, T. M. Burke, in conjunction with the State Government (Queensland) build the David Low Highway, connecting Noosa Heads in the north to Sunshine and Peregian Beaches to the south. T. M. Burke proposed the development of Hays Island (at the rear of Hastings Street) in Noosa and Noosaville, an up-market canal development completed in the 1980s - known as “Noosa Sound”.  The firm was involved in lots of real estate development.  T. M. Burke worked closely with Cardno & Davies, Civil Engineering, who had an office in Maroochydore, a little further south on the coast. Cardno & Davies were also involved in the development of canals on the Gold Coast as well as the Sunshine Coast. From a humble beginning in 1945 Cardno is now a worldwide company…more information below for those who are interested in their history.

http://www.cardno.com/en-au/MediaCentre/Pages/Cardno-Media-Contacts-and-Information.aspx

On that sunny day in late May/early June I walked into the small office of T. M. Burke Real Estate Developers, Peregian Beach. Why not, I thought.  It looked like a nice little office. I had to start my job search somewhere, and it may as well be there. Upon entering the premises I introduced myself to the young lass at the front desk, and then asked if it was possible for me to see the manager. Fortunately, for me, my timing was perfect.  David Young, the manager was in his office, twiddling his thumbs because within moments I was sitting before him and he looked as if he was prepared to hear my story; to listen to my request.  It was a simple question.  I asked him if he had a vacancy; if he had the need to employ another employee. After giving him an abbreviated version of my past working history, to my surprise, he said that, in fact, he was looking for a secretary. 

Well, there you go!  Sometimes luck does sit upon your shoulder – or mine!

David hired me on the spot, more or less.  I started working for him, as his secretary, within T. M. Burke Estates Pty. Ltd., Land Developers, Peregian Beach office (Head Office in New South Wales) the following day!  Janet, the young receptionist was as shell-shocked as I was.  She was unaware he’d had in his mind hiring himself a secretary.  Until I'd walked into his office I think it had only been a passing thought with him, too.  My presence had jolted him into putting his idea into action.
 
When Randall arrived home from his job later in the day he became the third surprised person.  It had happened so quickly.  In the morning when he’d driven off to Kawana he had no idea I’d even planned to go out in search of a job that day. 

Hi! Ho! Hi! Ho! It was back to work I went!   

The holiday was over, but not regretfully so.  It was time to rejoin the real world.  In truth, living and working at the coast, in the late Seventies/early Eighties, anyway, the “real world” was still miles away. 

Again, Sasha and Ruska were left to their own devices during the day.  They didn’t seem to mind that their fresh fish supplies had tapered off to nil. Having interior access to the lower level of the home that housed the double garage, laundry and storage area, they had no reason to roam the neighbourhood, or egress to do so. There was only one neighbour, anyway.  One house on the lower side of my in-laws’ home, our temporary abode housed Mary, a lovely, gentle, elderly widow.  Mary, too, missed out on her fresh fish because we’d always shared part of our catch with her.  Our fishing days were put on the back burner. Earning a living was once again our priority.

Beneath the brick home of Randall’s parents, on the upper side of the land on which the house was built, the area was bare dirt, not concrete flooring like the garage, laundry areas etc., so Sasha and Ruska had their own private, uninterrupted, accessible ablutions’ block.  It was a safe haven for them during our absences.   
During their waking hours, or minutes, when lounging out on the front verandah they had a view to the ocean and to Mooloolaba to the south. What more could they ask for?  More fresh fish, I guess….but they never lodged a complaint….

Randall and I were constantly on the look-out for a property to call our own. We came within a hair’s breadth of buying a house in Buderim, a small township up behind Alexandra Headlands, but in the eleventh hour before signing the contract, the deal fell over, through no fault of ours. Situated on a fabulous, private block of land, it was a solidly-built Queenslander. We were disappointed when the sale fell through, but as it turned out it was a blessing in disguise. Fate had a better plan in store for us.

We’d always said: “If we’re going to live at the coast, we must live close to the beach; where we have a view of the ocean.”  We didn’t need much convincing to stick to our mantra.

A few months after our relocation from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast we found and purchased a house at Elanda Street, Sunshine Beach.  Immediately falling in love with it, we knew it was the house for us.  The house wasn’t by any means of one’s imagination flash, but it did exude a special, sunny, happy atmosphere. 
Central stairs led to the upper level of the house.  The upstairs level consisted of two bedrooms and a large open area that included an open-plan kitchen and dining space. Off from the dining area was a small deck.  From the kitchen, dining and deck we had our much-longed for ocean view. The lower, ground level of the dwelling was of similar size. The downstairs area housed the bathroom, toilet, indoor laundry and a large “family” room (not a large family…but a large room…no large family came with the house when we purchased it)! 

Around the same time or thereabouts of Randall and I finding the house in Elanda Street, L. J. Hooker Real Estate took over the T.M. Burke operation in Peregian Beach.  David Young, who was a wonderful man to know and to work for, went onto other pastures, and the new manager of the new set-up was a Terry Cranitch.

The Elanda Street, Sunshine Beach house with its north-easterly aspect was perfectly situated. Sitting on the elevated end of the land, the house was quite a distance from the lower the street-level entrance to the property.  Entering the property from the street, midway along the land was a neglected greenhouse. Opposite the greenhouse was a free-standing garage. Between the greenhouse and garage about four stairs led up to the elevated level of the property to where the house sat in all its glory, patiently waiting for Randall, Sasha, Ruska and me to move in.  Oh…and Winston, the Barn Owl, too!

Situated atop the well-vegetated secondary sand dune line formed many, many decades earlier inland within walking distance from the beach, the house was privately placed in a quiet area. On either side of the property were neighbouring homes, but the houses had been erected in a manner that none infringed upon the privacy of the other. 

Also, because the property we bought was been built on the high end of the long block, the street and houses that we classed as being at the “front” of our new home (being the ocean side) were well below our block.  Except for filtered glimpses through the rather dense vegetation (which included many glorious tree ferns) on the dune we were “perched on” down to Duke Street, “the street below”, the houses dotted along Duke Street couldn’t be seen from our newly-acquired dwelling. And as the house we purchased was up at the far end of the land, the houses across Elanda Street on the other side were a good distance away.   

Eagerly we signed on the dotted line even knowing the house required a lot of renovating, but the knowledge didn’t deter us.  . Our excitement over our find was palpable.

The week prior to us leaving the Coolum house was spent busily gathering all our possession together in readiness for the move to Sunshine Beach on the Saturday.  On the Wednesday night prior to our changing abodes, driving back from Nambour via Bli Bli and through back roads amongst the sugar cane farms Randall came across a bird on the road.  He'd noticed a car ahead of him hit something. The vehicle ahead failed to stop, but Randall pulled off the side of the road, leaving his headlights on. As he approached the fallen creature he discovered it was an owl. He picked up the owl believing it was dead, but he wanted to remove it from the road. It wasn't a well-used road at that time of the night but Randall didn't want any future vehicles running over it again and again. Picking the owl up. suddenly it wrapped its claws around Randall’s fingers. It was still alive.

As soon as he arrived home Randall called out to me to go downstairs because he had something to show me.  He lifted up the boot (trunk) of the car and there wrapped in a towel was the startled (and stunned) bird in wide-eyed wonderment; as was I, too!  We didn’t have any bird cages, but we did have a couple of mud crab pots, so we put the bird in one of them. 

At that stage we didn’t know what type of owl it was, but we knew someone who was an expert in all things native and wild, so the first thing we did the next day was ring Hardy Buzzacott telling him the story and giving him a description of the owl.  We needed to know what to feed the beautiful bird until we were able to get it back on its feet/wings again.  It wasn’t badly injured; more in shock than anything.  There were no visible wounds. It was Hardy who told us we had a Barn Owl in our presence. Amongst their diet they eat insects, so insects are what we gave “Winston”.  We called our guest after Winston Churchill.  There was a similarity in appearance! 

Hardy Buzzacott had been the manager of Radio Station 4GY, Gympie when Randall was a radio announcer at the station, years earlier. Mr. Buzzacott had been his boss.  He, Hardy Buzzacott, was a fine gentleman. Throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s he was well known for his wildlife interests, activities and knowledge.  He was one of the earlier “Wildlife Warriors”, long before Steve Irwin, or even his father Bob became known.  Mr. Buzzacott had retired to the coast and was living down Maroochydore way or thereabouts when we contacted him about Winston.

Every time we checked on Winston, and when we fed him, he’d rock back and forth making a throaty “ticking” sound. It sounded like when you click your tongue on the roof of your mouth.  Winston displayed no fear, but he did keep a keen eye on us.  I honestly believe he knew he was in safe hands, and he was grateful for being rescued.

Come Saturday, the move from one beach to another; from one house to another was conducted like a military manouvre!  We had three cars (the Ford Cortina Ghia, “Remy”, the MG Magnette and “Tonto” the EH station wagon), two humans, Randall and me; two cats, Sasha and Pushkin; and Winston, the Barn Owl.  It was probably more like a circus on the move!  It sure felt like it!

Randall, driving the Cortina, led the procession.  I followed in “Tonto” laden with potted plants, two cats and a Barn Owl in a mud crap pot! I felt as if I was in camouflage stuck somewhere in the middle of jungle warfare!  I’m sure all that anyone could see was an old red and white (with wooden panelling along its sides) EH wagon filled to the brim with greenery mysteriously travelling north along the David Low Way with nobody in the driving seat.  I could barely be seen through the vegetation!  Such a strange vision travelling along could also have been considered as being similar to the “Mary Celeste”;

Later a return trip was made to the Coolum house to pick up the Magnette. Remy was also a valued member of the troupe, and couldn’t be left behind.

Some houses welcome you with open arms (walls).  You know you just have to become a part of that special house when you find it; if you’re lucky enough to stumble across it.  It doesn’t have to be a mansion on a hill; it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Our house in Elanda Street, Sunshine Beach was neither a mansion on a hill, nor was it fancy, but it was on the top side of the block of land; a good distance from the street.  It had a view of the ocean.  It offered privacy, and it was just a fun house.  I often mention “ambience”.  The house we’d bought in Sunshine Beach oozed ambience by the truckload! 

Sasha and Ruska obviously felt it, too, because they entered the house as if they’d been there before.  They weren’t at all spooked by the disruption to their morning; or the car trip. After a brief scan of each room, both cats found a spot and settled down for the day, leaving the unpacking etc., to the two humans.  After all, that’s what we were for…Ruska and Sasha had done their bit.  They’d given their nod of approval.
Winston, still in his crab pot was put into the old greenhouse while we went about our business.  Late in the afternoon, we left the “door” on the crab pot open so Winston could come and go in the greenhouse at his own will.

Around 10 that evening, Randall and I ready to go to sleep after a fairly busy day, driving back and forth, unloading the cars etc., heard strange noises echoing up from the greenhouse.  Grabbing a torch/flashlight we scurried down to find out what the disturbance was all about.  Winston was rocking from side to side, making a more threatening noise than his usual clicking sound. It was a deep, loud, guttural hissing noise; not one that would attract new friends!  Standing a few feet from him was a black cat with its tail about three times its usual size and the fur on its back was raised like a Mohawk.  The cat backed out of the greenhouse slowly, and once out the door, it ran off as quick as lightning.  It just wanted to get out of there rapidly and well away from whatever the weird feathered creature was.  We never saw that cat again.

The next morning Winston was gone.  We never saw him again, either, but we did hear him often at night, particularly when we were sitting out on the deck.  We were certain it was Winston, and that he’d remained in the area. No doubt he had found a suitable surfer chick.  Barn Owls mate for life, and if, by no fault of his own, he’d left a mate down Bli Bli way, I’m sure eventually she found a new mate; and I’m sure Winston was happy with his Sunshine Beach surfer girl.  One would hope so, anyway!

We used to joke the house had been built by a mob of drunks on a weekend…probably from left-over builders’ materials they’d snatched from the local dump.  That was part of its unique, contagious charm, I think.  And I say “contagious” because every visitor we had to our humble home unconsciously and helplessly fell under its spell.  And, no! The effects of the many fun dinner parties we hosted in that house weren’t entirely to blame.  The house, its situation…the view…all melded together wonderfully.  There was an infectious vibe about the property.  It may not have been fancy, but it radiated joy and goodwill…intangibles that no amount of money can buy.

Sasha’s cough remained, but it didn't affect him otherwise.  Sasha was in excellent health, other than his "smoker's cough".  

 He’d wander past visitors to our home on his way to a new resting spot coughing and spluttering as he strolled by, oblivious to the company.  The shocked looks on their faces caused us to break out in laughter.  We’d explain the situation and that, no, Sasha wasn’t about to expire!

Ruska and Sasha never wandered far, preferring to stick close to home and to us.  After all, they had a deck with an ocean view and the morning sun.  They had easy access in and out of the house. They could always be found snuggled up in the filtered sun beneath a tree or somewhere inside the house, either upstairs or downstairs.  Usually, downstairs during when Randall and I were there.  They never strayed far from where we were at any given time; or from each other.

Not long after we settled into Elanda Street, we converted the large, downstairs room into an office.  We painted the walls and ceiling; laid sea-grass matting on the floor; installed a couple of desks.  Randall had a beautiful wooden one specially handmade by a local craftsmen for him to work at.  We opened our own real estate agency – “Randall George Real Estate”.

More about our new venture/adventure in Chapter Seven.