The Closer It Gets....
My memory bank is in over-drive at this time of the year. Reflecting back to times past. To friends and family no longer here. Lovers, at one time or the other the centre of attention and emotions, no more part of my reality or mine of theirs. Alone in my memories of them, I doubt they spend a moment or two thinking of me. Maybe one or two do. Christmas sets the wheels of the mind in motion.
Christmas Day on Hinchinbrook Island quickly approached. The resort was booked to its limits. My staff, some of whom were experiencing their first Christmas away from their families and loved ones, were of mixed emotions. Excited with the prospect of spending Christmas on an island and yet, a little sorrowful at not being around the Christmas tree exchanging presents with their families. Sensing their feelings, I warned the guests ahead of the day that once Christmas lunch was over in the restaurant it was then to be my staff's 'time' as they, too, must be able to enjoy Christmas. Everyone was very understanding. We set a long table out on the large deck surrounding the pool in eager anticipation for the afternoon.
Christmas Eve was full of good cheer and much gaiety as the staff and guests mingled around the bar before and after dinner. My head chef, David, who was a character much loved by staff and guests alike was in full form, regaling stories to everyone within earshot. At around 2.30am Christmas morning, he jumped up, letting go of an apt expletive or three, stating he had forgotten to put the whole suckling pig on to cook! Christmas lunch was to be an elaborate buffet complete with the traditional fare and an abundance of fresh seafood.
As the revellers meandered their merry ways back to their cabins, David and I were left to keep watch on the forgotten pig! From memory, I managed to slip in about an hour's nap before rising, showering, dressing and racing back to the restaurant. I had told my two chefs I would prepare all the salads, freeing them up to attend to all other preparations. With the adrenalin flowing at high speed, I gave no thought to my lack of sleep and the previous night's indulgences.
Lunch was a major success, with the guests arriving promptly at 11.30am to begin the celebratory feast. Sated and drowsy, like satisfied goannas, they drifted off to wherever they could find a welcoming bed, palm tree or shady she-oak to digest their gigantic meal around 2.30pm.
The fun commenced for us after the last guests left. With no opportunity to visit stores on the mainland, I'd decided the best Christmas presents I could give my staff was a bottle of their favourite alcoholic beverage. I gift-wrapped a couple of cartons full of Scotch, rum, bourbon, gin, vodka and whatever else took their fancies. I'd commandeered the skipper of the contracted island boat to purchase Christmas stockings, enough for each member of my staff. We gathered around the decorated table out on the deck, popping champagne corks and settled in for a fun afternoon. My staff presented me with a beautiful set of crystal Scotch glasses and a bottle of Johnny Walker Black with which to christen them. Poppers and slime, funny eye glasses, plastic rings and all such goodies from the stockings soon made a fine mess of our surroundings. The pool was too inviting and we couldn't refuse its offer. We all ended up in the pool, talking and laughing amongst ourselves. It was a wonderful Christmas for us all...so wonderful, in fact, dusk had long fallen. We had forgotten all about our guests!
Fortunately, having eaten so much at lunchtime, they arrived late, some not at all, for dinner. Dinner, being a re-arrangement of the luncheon fare. Everyone had had their fill and much more at lunch, so had little appetite at dinner. Soon sleepily, though happy, they wandered back to their accommodations, leaving us to clean up as we reminisced over a wonderful day spent together as a 'family'.