Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More Island Tales....

This is Post 400! Not bad for a newbie, eh? I commenced blogging in May 2006.

I find myself in a bit of a quandary, as I wish to make this post worthy of its position in the society of my posts, past and future. I’m flipping a coin whether to relate a story from Hinchinbrook Island, or perhaps, for a change, one from my time on Newry Island. While the coin is in the air, I’ll make myself a fresh cup of coffee. I’ll ponder the dilemma with which I am faced.

“Heads”….Hinchinbrook it is then....

When I was preparing myself for the move to the island I was still living in Noosa Heads, as most of you already have read. A couple of young people I knew from the arcade in which my store was situated begged me for a job up on the island. They were seeking adventure, and at that particular moment in time, they were a ‘couple’. (Something I’d completely forgotten until just now writing this…) Their pleading, cajoling and begging wore me down; they didn’t have to threaten torture. I relented and gave in before they ventured that far.

Mark, a nice young lad of pleasant disposition, was the nephew of a guy who owned and ran a dive shop next to my store in Hastings Street. Mark’s home-base was Sydney but, as with a lot of the young and restless, Noosa and the surrounding surfing beaches were impossible-to-ignore temptations, like ants to honey.

Mark and Bronnie were five of my original staff members who joined me on the island from Noosa Heads. Three of the five were brought up for the initial period to help with the renovations that had to be carried out, one a plumber, one a builder/carpenter and the other an electrician. It was almost like ‘home away from home’ during the first couple of months.

I wasn’t quite sure what Mark was capable of doing and, as I got to know him further and watch him work, I still wasn’t quite sure! However, he was a nice kid. He was eager to please and keen to be amongst the ‘early settlers’. He joined the melee just before I re-opened the resort, once the major renovations were completed. I anointed him ‘barman’ (this was before Johnno joined my merry band of pirates). He and Bronnie eventually ‘broke-up’ and went their separate ways. After a while, Mark returned to Sydney. From memory, I think there was a death in his family. He felt the need to return closer to his loved ones.

The major renovation work around the resort was completed, but as you can imagine, there was still a lot of work being carried on around the perimeters and up at the guest cabins. Guests, once they’d had their breakfasts either would grab a prepared picnic lunch before heading off for walks through the rainforest to other deserted beaches for the day, or some would board the ‘Reef Venture”, the reef cat that serviced the island, for trips to the Brook Islands, a distance away at the outer reef, to Ramsay Bay or across to Goold Island for a fun-filled day.

Mark’s first working day arrived.

Ted, my head maintenance guy (and knighted ‘python charmer) had everyone organized pushing wheelbarrows full of I-don’t-know-what, toting long beams of hardwood, shifting outdoor concrete tiles/blocks around…the air was alive and hectic with activity. Mark strolled down dressed in a very colourful shirt over freshly-ironed knee-length, spotlessly clean shorts. Begrudgingly, I have to say his shirt was slightly reminiscent of Hawaii, which wasn’t exactly my desired impression Hinchinbrook! The only signs of mankind were us workers. Everyone else had disappeared for the day. The only activity going on was by my busy workmen outside. I’d been helping them in whatever way they needed my assistance. I turned and there was Mark in all his brilliant glory, freshly showered, dressed with not a hair out of place, standing behind the restaurant bar broad smile on his face, not another soul in sight.

“What are you doing, Mark?” I asked querulously.

“Um…the bar…” he said, his voice trailing off as he tentatively looked about him.

“Oh…” said I. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. As gently as I could, I pointed out to him that there were no customers, and the likelihood of us having any around the bar until about 6pm that evening, was extremely remote. As diplomatically as possible, I also pointed out it wasn’t very productive his just standing there with a smile on his face in the desperate hope even a sole, desperate drinker would arrive. I also suggested, if such did eventuate, one of us, or the chef even, could run to the bar and commit the deed of drink service. Soon thereafter, he reappeared in more suitable work clothes as Ted’s ‘goffer’.

So this was Mark. A pleasant young man who sometimes needed prodding to wake up either the right side or left side of his brain, or sometimes both sides.

My intention here is not to be nasty. I’m painting a picture of Mark for you. He settled into life on the island, and, for a while, was happy in his day-to-day jobs helping Ted and the other guys. At night, he was barman-material.

The Australian Tourist Exchange (ATE) is the largest tourist exposition/convention in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s held in June each year in Sydney, New South Wales. In my capacity as ‘sales/marketing manager’ I had to attend. Tour-group operators, travel agents etc., from all over the world, travel to Australia to attend the five day conventions/sales/marketing exposition to learn what we have to offer down here. The exposition is organized by the Australian Tourism Commission. It is a massive event. Prior to the exposition operators of holiday destinations such as Hinchinbrook Island, for example, had to compile a list of tour operators and travel agents they thought suited their particular product. This quite thick booklet came from the Australian Tourism Commission and upon completion was returned to them for them to arrange the appropriate appointments between operators and marketers. For instance, my main visiting tourists/guests, excluding Australian at whom the ATE wasn’t directed, were from New Zealand, America, Britain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden with very, very little business from Japan and other Asian countries. So the areas from where my business originated were the areas I targeted. At that time, the majority of Japanese tourists weren’t interested in what Hinchinbrook had to offer, which was little, really, other than total relaxation and exploration by long walks thrown in, if so desired. And of course, the boat trips to other areas around the island. The Japanese traveled in groups. Very few were ‘free-independent travelers’. They desired and looked for the ‘bright lights’, such as areas like the Gold Coast, Sydney etc. I concentrated on ‘my market’, the market that provided guests who where suited to my ‘product’; who were in search of a relaxed, natural, laid-back, neon-light-free, traffic-free environment. Naturally, I projected some of my marketing towards new, possible horizons, but my main focus was upon those who sought what Hinchinbrook had to offer.

Before my first ATE, I had to produce a video depicting the island’s pleasures and temptations. I had very little time to do this but it had to be done for me to offer to ‘clients’ at the ATE and also to have playing in my stand on a television set while I ‘sold’ my product to the clients. Before I go any further, the daily sessions of the ATE commenced at 9am. Individual sessions last fifteen minutes; two minutes prior to the completion of the fifteen minutes, a bell would ring alerting both the seller and the buyer that there were two minutes left before moving on to the next booth/appointment. Then a further bell would ring at the one-minute mark, then the session would be wrapped up; the buyer would move on to its next appointment and your next client would move in on you ready for your spiel. This went on, non-stop except for one hour for lunch, ending at 5pm each day, for five days. Often, of course, the hours were extended and further business was conducted in the evening. It wasn’t all ‘beer and skittles’…by the end of each day, and in particular, by the end of the five days, one’s mind was fused together and confusion would set in whether you had already said ‘that’ to that person sitting in front of you, or were they sitting there waiting for you to start your selling pitch! I’m sure the ‘buyers’ were going through similar confusion as we, the “sellers” were.

Anyway I’ll get back to producing the video. I arranged for friends of mine from the Sunshine Coast to come to Hinchinbrook Island for a week to handle the photography side of things. Peter and his wife, Lyn, arrived the second week in May, immediately getting to work, as time was of the essence. I had to be in Sydney early June. Peter and Lyn returned to the coast, where he developed the hours and hours of film he had taken. I then had to help him edit the film, and there was lots of it, I can assure you, down to five minutes only, as that’s about the limit of one’s concentration when you’re trying to ‘sell’ a product. Experts say it’s even less than ‘five minutes’, but I ignored the ‘experts’ and produced a five- minute video tape of the island’s beauty and what it had to offer. In the short time we had to put this all together, I wrote the script, chose suitable background music and then had to go in search for a ‘voice-over’ expert. All of this I had to do from the confines of the island, by telephone between Peter and me. Fortunately, from the years of my time in the fashion industry, I had contacts in the media industry and I called upon them for the ‘voice-over’ person. In all I had a few hundred copies of the video produced. I still have a couple amongst my archives here at home.

Obviously being a latent/closeted movie director, I planned a few ‘staged’ scenes in the said video cassette. One such scene was me admiring the ‘catch of the day’ “caught” by one of my male guests. I organised for him to stand, gloating, proudly holding up a huge barramundi (a very much prized Aussie fish for you all up there in the Northern Hemisphere). I had just pulled the giant, frozen barramundi out of one of my freezers. Nobody viewing the cassette was any the wiser. My deception lives to this day…or did, until I revealed all here!

I wanted to depict weary, but happy guests arriving back to the resort at the end of the day from one of the boat trips to the outer reef or elsewhere around the island waters. So, donning my director’s cap, tossing aside my director’s chair, and grabbing the ‘clapboard’, I barked orders (not quite ‘barked’), arranged everyone on their invisibly-marked spots. Count-down was about to commence!

Mark arrived down to the restaurant area to prepare for his evening shift. Immediately, seizing the moment, I grabbed him, instructing him that I wanted him to help set the scene; for him to nonchalantly stroll along the path in the background that headed up to the island cabins; and for him to look and act naturally, to ignore that the camera was rolling; for him to keep walking until I called out for him to stop. The guests, excited that they were to feature in the island video, a cassette, copies of which would eventually go throughout the world, eagerly waited my order for them to begin their part in the mini-Cecil Lee. De Mille production! They handled their roles with the expertise of seasoned stars.

Meanwhile, Mark had disappeared out of sight! Lost in my own directorial confusion in the process, I forgot to yell out to him to stop! I think if I hadn’t finally realized what was happening unnoticed in the background, he would have ended up at the other end of Hinchinbrook Island. The island you must remember, is 245 square-miles in area, with the resort situated on the far north-eastern tip of the island at Cape Richards. To this day, I am certain he would never have been seen again, or at least, not for a couple of months or so. And then, if he was found, he’d be completely unrecognizable!

The scene still causes me to smile when I play the video tape bringing back memories of that time and that particular afternoon.


  1. Hi Lee, another great story of island life and the intrigue of film making.
    Now tell me how the hell did you get 400 posts up since May 06? I've been going since April 05 and only very recently posted my 500th.

  2. I'm just naturally gabby, I guess, Peter! ;)

    Glad you liked the story.

  3. Excellent story, Lee.

    I'm fairly certain Mark came to work for me in the US after he left Hitchinbrook. I had the exact same personality as one of my technicians, back in the 1990s. He's changed his name and dumped his non-accent (I call it an accent; you say I am the one with the accent).

  4. Aha! So that's where he ended up, Don! ;)

    Fair dinkum, mate...you're the one with the bloody accent...crikey...not me! Fair crack of the whip!

    I bet London to a brick it's you who has the accent, not me! That's a furphy, if ever heard one! ;)

  5. Don...thanks by the way...I'm glad you enjoyed my story. :)

  6. Great story. Will you be accepting the Oscar for your film? I will make it a point to watch if you will be there. :)))

  7. Hey there Sandra! I'll make sure I mention you in my speech! ;)

  8. lee,
    You are a story teller girl, and you do it so well! I can just imagine what mark was thinking as he walked along: hmm, where's the hidden camera, how long do I have to do this? Can they see me in the dark? I'll just keep goin', I don't want to screw this up.
    What happened to Bronnie and what was her role on the island?

    Congratulations on 400!

  9. Great story Lee. Congrats on your 400th post. p.s. I made sure I typed 400 reeaaalll sllooowww! ;)

  10. Bronnie stayed for quite some time on the island, Rel...it was just perfect for her and when she left, she went to college to study a three year-hotel/management course, did a work experience three months at the Maldives. She has since married and had a couple of kiddies and the last I heard she and her husband were running a child-care centre up in north Queensland. Thanks for your comments, Rel. :)

    Hey there Neocon...glad you enjoyed my story...and I'm even more glad you typed '400' slowly this time! ;)

  11. PS...Rel...those were Mark's thoughts exactly, I'm sure! He was lost in his moment! lol

  12. #400 was a good one Lee. But I must admit that from now on I'll need to be a bit 'on guard' with you because of that fish. You're apt to try anything I guess.

  13. Sure, Cliff...take this as a warning! ;)

    Anything goes, Cliff...as far as I'm concerned! ;)

  14. Congrats on 400...I've been going for nearly two years anmd haven't cracked 300 yet :)

  15. Hi there Scorpy...keep blogging along...you'll make it!

  16. Another wonderful story, Lee. And congrats on making 400.

  17. Thank you, Serena Joy...glad you enjoyed it.

  18. Hi lee ~~ Congrats on your 400th post. And another good Hinchinbrook
    story. Is there anything you haven't tried? Film making and directing etc.
    You get some great people to work for you and a few strange ones.
    Thanks for your visit, glad you enjoy.Take care, my friend, Love, Merle.

  19. My 400th post in a short time just proves I talk too much, probably, Merle! ;)

  20. Hi Lee, another great story, I hope you are saving these all for a book? "Tales of Hinchinbrook Island" ?

    CONGRATS on your 400th post - no, I don't think you talk too much at all...

    Perhaps we can get to see the video?

  21. Hey Della...we've had the "Tales of the South Seas"...I can see no reason why we can't have "Tales of the Coral Sea"! :)

  22. congratulations on post number 400!

    (I'm ready for my close up now! )

  23. A story worthy of your 400. Looking forward to more.


  24. It's a take, DesLily! ;)

    What are you doing scratching around there, Gto? ;)

    Thanks, both of you for your comments...I need as much egging on as I can get to reach my next 400!

  25. Hi Lee

    Congratulations on your 400th post!! And with so many great Island stories it seems to me it would be good to have them filed under your blog either using categories or label headings.

    Consider fileing all your past posts filed under different headings.

    I file my articles with Free Blogs under categories but using a URL link. Should you be interested I can send you the instructions.

    However now that Blogger has Labels it probably is superfluous and much easier to use that label facility.

    Best wishes

  26. Thanks for that advice, Lindsay...I appreciate it. You can if you like. :)

    I do keep the island stories in another file as well, for safe keeping. Maybe one day I will work on them further...I'll have to leave the "Procrastinators' Club" before I do that though! ;)