Saturday, January 06, 2007

Finally! I Have Been Wanting To Post This All Morning!

After beating my head against an imaginary brick wall all morning into early afternoon, I'm finally able to post! I hope! I shan't speak too soon, or if I do, I'll say it in a whisper so only you can hear.

I'd like to tell you the story of how I ended up having the best barman in Queensland working for me/with me when I was on Hinchinbrook Island. He could very well have been the best barman in Australia!

For the two years prior to my stint on Hinchinbrook, I had my own business in Hastings Street, Noosa Heads...a very beautiful, and very popular tourist destination for those of you who have not heard of the area. Noosa is around 2 hours drive north of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland.

I operated a small boutique-style fruit/vegetable/healthfood store in Hastings Street, in what was then the "Laguna Arcade". The arcade has since been demolished. A fancy new building has been erected in its stead. I prepared and served fresh fruit salads, salads, cakes and cookies, fresh home-made (store-made) soups, fresh fruit juices, fresh vegetable juices, smoothies, dips, roasted and boiled peanuts...you name it...I made it and sold it...anything that wasn't bolted to the floor, nailed to the walls or hanging from the ceiling was unsafe in my presence. A full-blown stereo with two large, appropriately placed speakers, played music day long.

Almost every afternoon around two on his way to work, Johnno, a barman from 'Annabelle's Restaurant', popped into my friendly little shop for me to make him a fresh fruit juice or a smoothie. He always joined me out in the back area...which also doubled as my very small kitchen. Placing himself on an old Bentwood chair, he chatted while I prepared his drink. He was a pleasant young man, but half the time I didn't know what to talk with him about, so I usually swung our conversation around to the 'goings-on' in Noosa and the restaurant trade.

I sold my shop, moving to Hinchinbrook Island to a totally different lifestyle and...life.

It was late one May afternoon. As was my habit each day, I would walk to the end of the jetty with departing guests to farewell them as they left on the contracted island boat that deposited them back to the mainland at Cardwell. Daina (correct spelling), a young lass who worked for me was with me this particular afternoon. As the 45ft reef-cat pulled away from the jetty, I said to Daina..."Let's stick around here a bit...pretend we're admiring the sun go down. Just keep chatting with me. I don't like the look of those couple of fellows in that dinghy over there."

Out to the left of the jetty, a couple of scruffy-looking young fellows were sitting in their boat, staring across at us. Always on the alert, I was watching them, but not watching them, if you understand my meaning. Soon, they drew nearer to where Daina and I were standing. I noticed one of them smiling up at me with a grin on his unshaven face as wide as Missionary Bay on the island...and Missionary Bay is wide!

"Lee! It's me! John!" Said the sea-faring fisherman!

I looked again and broke out laughing. "What the hell are you doing way up here, Johnno? You're lucky! I was just about to chase you off!"

Laughingly, he replied, "I know! I could see the look on your face as we drew closer!"

He and his mates were camping at Macushla, a camping area run by National Parks further around at Missionary Bay on the island. The previous couple of days they'd spent fishing in and around the Bay and out at Brook Island.

We chatted at length. Seeing, unexpectedly, a friendly face from my Noosa days was a wonderful change from the customary strangers with whom I'd become used to dealing, day after day.

John asked if he and his mate could come to dinner the following evening, with me as their guest. "I promise you I will be better dressed than this," he grinned at me. "I'll even shave!"

"You don't need to dress up here, Johnno...no suits and ties allowed!" Laughing, he jumped back into his boat, waved and went off on his merry way.

Daina and I strolled back up the jetty. I did a lot of talking to convince her to join me for dinner the next evening.

"Daina...I really don't know John that well...I only know him from his coming into my shop every other day. He always liked to hang about for a bit of a chat before he commenced work at the restaurant, and I don't
know his mate...anyway...you'll make up the foursome!" I didn't quite twist her arm, nor did I threaten torture. Before I got that far, she relented and agreed to help bail me out!

The next evening arrived and the two young men arrived, scrubbed up, dressed in clean casual gear and shaven! I'd arranged for a table for the four of us out on the deck. I always feel more comfortable dining outside, for whatever reason. On this evening, in particular, I could see no good reason to dine inside when we could sit outside with the ocean just below lapping the shore on Orchid Beach. As it turned out, the conversation flowed freely around the table, although Daina, shy by nature at the time, had to be kicked under the table every now and again, (by me!) to stir her into adding her tuppence-worth! It was a very pleasant evening during which, jokingly, I mentioned a couple of times or more that John should come and work for me on the island. The evening drew to a close. Daina and I escorted the 'boys' down along the jetty to where their boat was tied. Both men had donned overalls for their trip back to Macushla. As we strolled down the jetty, John fell off the side into the water below! And...no...he wasn't drunk! I'm still not sure how it happened! It happened so quickly...and it was pretty dark...being about 11.30pm!

All I could do was laugh when I got over the initial shock of seeing him, in slow-motion, descend to the dark depths below! The surprised look on his face when he re-surfaced still remains embedded in my memory!

"What are you doing down there, Johnno?" I asked between fits of laughter. "Your boat's tied up over there!" I'd be no good trying to save anyone! Bear that in mind if you're ever strolling down a jetty with me!

Somehow, with the help of his mate, I think, he scrambled back onto the jetty, dripping wet, of course! The overalls, which were meant to keep him warm on the trip back to the camping site were sodden! Luckily, he saw the humour in his misfortune.

Waving to our dinner companions as they rowed away into the dark of night, I said quietly to Daina..."Well, I guess that's 'bye-bye' to ever convincing him to come and work for me!" All the way back up the jetty to the restaurant, tears continued to flow down our faces from laughter.

About three weeks later, around ten o'clock one morning, I received a phone call from Johnno.

"Would you still like me to come and work for you, Lee?"

"Would I? Of course I would! But you would never leave Noosa!" I exclaimed.

"I'm taking a six-weeks' sabbatical from 'Annabelle's", John replied. "If you still want me...I can be up there in a couple of days."

John arrived as planned and promised, quickly fitting into the island way of life. The guests loved his sparkling personality and his brilliance at mixing drinks and cocktails. He could conduct conversations up and down the bar and never miss a beat. He was pretty to watch in his work!

One day a large yacht sailed in, anchoring out front of the resort for about five days. A lass of around 18-19 was part of the crew. It wasn't difficult to notice a 'friendship blossoming between John and the lass. All too soon, however, the yacht with the young lass on board set sail for reaches further north.

I had to go to the mainland for tourism business, to Cairns, which is a northern city about 2 hours' drive north of Cardwell/Hinchinbrook Island. John approached me asking if I could give him a lift to Cairns, but if, on the way, I would divert into Mission Beach to pick up Sue, the young lass who had set his heart a flutter. Mission Beach is north of Hinchinbrook Island. It lies east of Tully, a small sugar town. I declined to detour off the main highway as I needed to get to Cairns within a certain time, but I told him if he could arrange for Sue to be in Tully at 'such and such a time' etc., she was more than welcome to come with us. When a young heart is in anxious mode, anything is possible, I believe! Sue was at the designated spot and at the arranged time.

I dropped them off at a motel, then drove onto "Tradewinds" where I was booked in for the duration of my stay.
The next day I had a frantic phone call from Johnno asking if he could come to see me at my hotel. I agreed, setting an appropriate time.

He arrived a little flushed and, I imagine, a little nervous.

"I want to ask you, Lee," he started, "if there is room on the island for Sue...for a job for her?"

I looked at John, my mind racing doing the math. I knew that his 'sabbatical' from Noosa was drawing to the end of its course. Also, I knew that I didn't want to see him go. I would miss his bar expertise and his sparkling manner behind the bar. And, I knew that if I hired the 'girl', I would keep 'the boy'! So, I hired 'the girl' and kept 'the boy'...everyone was happy, including me!

Sue joined our merry band of outlaws. She was a very capable, lovely young lass. Her father had been in the diplomatic service. She spent a number of her growing years in the States.

John and Sue have since gone their separate ways. He has married. I was having breakfast at a restaurant in Noosa a couple or so years ago and who should walk up from the beach pushing a baby stroller... amongst all the surging tourists.... 'Johnno'! We talked and talked. It was so great to see him again. He moved back to Noosa. He presently operates and owns a nightclub in Hastings Street!


25 comments:

  1. I posted this through Internet Explorer...I usually bring up my blog with Firefox...but in Firefox I still can't post! Grrrr!

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  2. Hi Lee ~~ A very interesting post telling us about the businesses you have run and the story of Johnno;
    A really good read, thank you. Take care, Love, Merle.

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  3. I'm glad you enjoyed my tale, Merle...it took me forever to write it because I couldn't post anything, which was very frustrating. I had lots of things planned to do today but I got bogged down in trying to work out what blogger was doing to me that all other things went by the wayside! I still can't post through using Firefox.

    Thanks for popping in, Merle. :)

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  4. Another good story of island life Lee, can't work out why you and Merle are having trouble posting with Firefox it's working fine here, go figure.

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  5. Beats me, too Peter...well, it's trying to beat me...hasn't quite succeeded yet but it sure got close today! ;)

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  6. Lee, great story. Have you considered a novel or novelette about the time there. I would jump at buying a copy.

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  7. That’s a good story.

    Noosa and Hastings Street are enchanting places to visit, remembering as I write this comment as having one of the nicest fish meals you could ever imagine. There were so many fine restaurants along Hastings Street.
    When we last stayed it was on the shores of a Lake Weyba , near Peregian Beach and a short (say 10minute) drive to Noosa. We stayed in a delightful self contained cottage on an estate with kangaroos and a variety of bird life.


    best wishes

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  8. Lindsay...that area used to be called "Murdering Creek" on the banks of Lake Weyba, the Peregian Beach end. We had quite a few picnics on the lake and fished and mud crabbed in the lake. Those cabins you describe weren't there at the time I had my shop, having been built a few years later. Have spent my childhood and teenage years growing up in Gympie, Noosa was my stamping ground. My brother was in the Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club...lots of good stories about the Noosa days, too. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Noosa.

    Hiya Steve...glad you enjoyed this story as well. One of these days, I should sit down and put together the crazy, wonderful times...mingled with the not so wonderful...on to paper or into computer...bit of both! I'll make note of your order! ;)

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  9. Hi Lee
    I became aware of the history of the place when there, what you also probably know well as that name of Murdering Creek arose because of an incident in 1860, where whites ambushed and killed many Indigenous men in canoes.

    At that time it was government policy not to issue any freehold land to Settlers if the land was already occupied by indigenous groups.

    I paddled down that creek, the site of all of the killing; now so very peaceful and serene.

    Best wishes

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  10. Yes...I do know the history attached to Murdering Creek, Lindsay and as you say it is a very peaceful place these days. I loved going there, because there was never anyone else around. We did have a staff, business associates and their families Christmas barbecue/picnic/party on the banks of the lake one year...and it was such a lot of fun. It was so hot and all us so-called adults just laid in the shallows at the edge of the lake (the whole lake is shallow) and commanded the kids to bring us cold beers from the eskies! It was nice to have a couple of little slaves for a day! ;)

    We add access to the land because when I first moved to the coast from Brisbane I worked for a short while as secretary to the manager of T.M.Burke who were then real estate developers in the area (later to be taken over by L.J. Hooker). T.M.Burke were developing, and had developed a lot of area around Peregian Beach, Marcus Beach and other sections thereabouts...and the Murdering Creek area was amongst their future development plans and this allowed us access to that section. At one stage during this time we had plans of setting up a bow-hunting club using the land around the lake there at M.C....only target shooting...but like a lot of ideas, they sound good over a couple of beers but fizzle out later on!

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  11. I'm still having problems with Firefox...now I've lost my blog entirely when I try to bring it up in Firefox! I think I'll go and beat my head against the gum tree at my back door as I've wrecked the brick wall! ;)

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  12. Hi Lee ~~ I am so sorry you are having such trouble, as I am, but I haven't lost my blog. Hopefully, yours will come back for you.
    It is a darn nuisance and is going on too long, but what to do? I don't fancy your brick wall or even the gum tree. Just keep trying I guess.
    Take care of that head, Love, Merle.

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  13. What a great story, Lee. Thanks for sharing.
    Hope your 2007 is treating you well so far.
    Take care, Meow

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  14. Well, I got the right blog back on Firefox, Merle but I still can't post through the Firefox browzer, having to use IE...I prefer Firefox but I guess at the moment I have to be thankful for small mercies. It is very annoying though...now I've got a flat forehead! ;)

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  15. Good evening, Lee. What a great story and told so well. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Start writing a book. Actually if you put all your posts together,
    your book's already written!

    So get touch that book agent, Selwa whatsername and then we can all say we knew you before you were famous!

    There you go, I've just organised your life for you and you are quite welcome to tell me to piss off!! Lol

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  16. lol Robyn! Why would I tell you to piss off? lol I wish someone would have organised my life at some stage then I wouldn't be sitting here late at night thinking about what to write about next in my blog! ;)

    Thanks for your good wishes, Meow. Same back at you and your family. I hope you enjoyed Bonnie Doon. :)

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  17. Noosa Beach? I think I've been there, but I never met Johnno, I don't think.

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  18. Yes, you were there enjoying a Crown Lager overlooking Laguna Bay one day, Don...so you told me! :) But, no...you wouldn't have met Johnno when you were there.

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  19. I just love the way you tell a story, Lee. But if I ever come to visit you, I'll take care walking down the jetty!

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  20. Well, I live on a mountain now, Welsh! The same warning should apply! lol

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  21. Gidday Lee,
    I've said this before and I'll say it again you write damn great stories. As SteveG said if you wrote a novel he'd grab at it and so will I, so now you have at least two sales. In the time I haven't either been blogging or viewing blogs maybe I've been lucky as I may have had problems also, as I use Firefox.

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