Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Reaching Out To The City Lights"...Chapter Twelve

During these years, "R" and I continued our contact by the written word. He was still living and working in New York, but was also doing a lot of travel wide and far from his base. For a time he and a mate traveled frequently between New York and London scouring the countryside of England for antiques, which they brought back to New York City and sold to the budding British tourist trade! At that time he and his friend had set up a company selling cheap airline tickets, similar to what Freddie Laker was doing. "R's" life was going full steam ahead and so was mine.

My landlord met a young lady and they married. He moved out of his town-house apartment, which was attached to the rest of the units in the building. I reliquished my apartment to move into his now vacant town-house, taking over the management of the units on his behalf. Within a short time, he sold the whole complex to an Australian-Chinese who was based in Goroka, Papua New Guinea. I had a meeting with the new owner, Tennyson Lau, who was happy to have me continue to manage the complex. So the status quo remained. The building was tenanted with "twentysomething" occupants, all busy working in their various careers. I befriended one particular tenant, Margaret, who like me, had a great interest in food and the preparation thereof. Between the two of us, we threw many dinner parties. It became our habit each Friday evening to prepare Spaghetti Marinara. I'm not sure how it all began but soon we had a small, friendly, high-spirited competition going on to discover who could make the best, perfect Spaghetti Marinara. Neither of us won...I think it was a dead-heat, but the feasts were worth it. Alternate Fridays we would host our "Marinara" soiree, accompanied with red wine, garlic bread, good music, much laughter and interesting conversation. Sometimes it would be just the two of us, other times honoured others were invited to our festivities.

Marg and I often met up after work to have a few drinks at a cocktail bar, our favourite at the time being the "Hour-Glass Bar" at the Criteon Hotel in George Street, which has long gone now, I imagine. Every so often either one of us threw a small party of up to 12-15 people at our respective apartments. It was at one of these parties, Margaret met Denis, who later became her husband. Denis was a welcome addition to our Friday night "Marinara" restricted social circle. There was no one "special" in my life, but I was living a life fulfilled and had a wide group of friends.

John, Shirley and I became close friends. Often on Sundays, I was invited to their home in Kenmore for "choir practice", to be followed by a special Sunday lunch. "Choir Practice" commenced around 10.30-11 am out on their patio. The bar opened upon my arrival. Between drinks and conversation, I'd play with their sons, Gavin and Andrew, who were growing rapidly. The two boys and I had formed a strong bond from when they were babies. I was part of their life. I was their "pillow-fight" buddy. During those Sundays I spent at the Trimmer's home, the boys and I ran riot, with John and Shirley in the background telling me I was worse than the kids! Many times when John and Shirley had to go away, whether for matters of business, such as conferences etc., or sometimes for an "escape" weekend, I'd move into their home to look after the boys. Those times were great. We had football matches down the hallway, exploding into the family room. Wild pillow-fights each night before they went to bed. I took them "lobbying" to the little creek down the road for freshwater crayfish, until the day I discussed snakes with them. After that they weren't too keen on that pastime! I introduced them to Paul Gallico's "The Snow Goose". Gavin had commenced school. Andrew, three years younger, hadn't. Their father and mother were away in Adelaide at a Kolotex conference. I'd moved in lock, stock and barrel with Sasha, my cat. It was during this particular stay one chilly night with the fireplace, warming the lounge room, I gathered the boys around me in front of the fire. With Gavin to the left of me and Andrew to my right, I began reading "The Snow Goose". I was brought up with the story when I was a child, listening to the dulcet tones of Herbert Marshall as the reclusive crippled artist, Phillip Rhayader and Loretta Young as "Frith". I'd read the book many times, was disappointed by Richard Harris' version, the story has continued to hold a special part of my heart. Engrossed in telling the story, I paused for a moment when I reached a particular moving sad part of the story. I didn't want to break out in tears in front of the two little boys. The three of us were laying on our stomach facing the fire. I looked to my left, tears were streaming silently down Gavin's face. To my right, Andrew had his little face cupped in his hands, his arms bended at his elbows, resting on the lush carpet. He, too, had tears falling down his chubby cheeks. Seeing their tears caused the tears I'd been forcing to stop to spill. Quickly wiping them away, I closed the book, telling them we had had enough of the story for that night. I would finish reading the book the following night. I laid talking with them a while, before challenging them to a pillow fight before bed, after our game of soccer down the hallway. The night before their parents were to arrive back from their trip, I warned the boys that there would be no more football games once Mum and Dad came home. We'd have to behave ourselves when the "grown-ups" were around. We always had fun together. To this day we still talk about the fun we shared.

The kitchen floor at the Kenmore home was having its cork tiles re-corked, sealed and whatever else. I invited the Trimmer family to dinner on the Saturday night, allowing the seal to set properly without the traffic of little feet over it. After they had finished their meal, the boys became drowsy and wandered upstairs to the bedrooms. Come time for John and Shirley to leave at the end of the evening I suggested they leave the boys and for John come by to collect them up in the morning. This they did. After clearing away the dinner debris, I climbed the stairs to go to bed. Both boys stirred as I entered my bedroom. They'd taken over my double bed. I ushered a drowsy Gavin into my second bedroom, with Andrew insisting sleepily he wanted to stay in my bed. There began a night of musical beds. At one stage I had the two boys and my cat, Sasha with me in my double bed. Later when I thought they were well away with the Sandman, I crept out and crawled into the single bed in the other room. Upon waking in the morning, I had Gavin, Andrew, Sasha as my bed-mates, all squeezed up next to me in the single bed. The double bed in my bedroom was empty.

A couple of months after we commenced the joint marketing operation, I gave up my evening part-time job at the "Pelican Tavern" because my day job demanded my undivided attention. However, as our premises were within walking distance of the tavern, once a week I would have lunch with Mr. Wypow, the owner/chef. He, like me, looked forward to our get-togethers during which we would feast on the fare he presented as we discussed the events of the world. Kyriol Wypow was sixty-three years old at the time. He was a very interesting man, intelligent, quite pedantic at times and he enjoyed a good, healthy debate. We would sip on lemon tea as we grazed over the many small, but varied portions of food such as marinated herrings, dill pickles, olives, cheeses of different varieties, smoked meats, a reminder of his life in Russia. Mr. Wypow was quite a character, one I've always felt fortunate to know. He and his wife lived at St. Lucia, a Brisbane suburb. Their next door neighbours were Sir Rafael and Lady Cilento.

A little bit of history of Rafael Cilento and his activities shortly after the Second World War: quote: "...The United Nations at once provided the refugees with food, clothes, shelter, and medical attention. There was no system of identification; any Arab could register as a refugee and receive free aid. Immediately a large number of needy Arabs from various Arab countries flocked to the refugee camps, were registered, and thenceforth received their rations. Already by December 1948, when their total could not yet have reached the maximum of 425,000, the Director of the United Nations Disaster Relief Organization, Sir Rafael Cilento, reported that he was feeding 750,000 refugees. Seven months later, the official figure had increased to a round million in the report of W. de St Aubin, the United National Director of Field Operations." (Samuel Katz)

The lies, corruption, deceit, continues to this day. The Palestinian Authority claims there are 3 million refugees. Even by natural increase there could not be that many and some were absorbed back into Israel and into a few other states and some left the refugee camps for western countries and stopped being refugees. The claims are of course spurious." End quote.

Both Sir Rafael and Lady Cilento were medical doctors. Lady Cilento was known as "Medical Mother". Her career spanned five decades and made her name nationally known for her special interests in the health and welfare of women and children, family welfare, and nutrition. Mr. Wypow was Diane Cilento's god-father, or so he told me, and I had no reason to disbelieve him. He also told me it was he, who encouraged Diane to go overseas to fulfill her dreams of being an actress. Actually, the first night I attended tables at the "Pelican Tavern", one main table of eight I had to service was the Cilento family, David Cilento, Diane's brother and other members of the rather large family. Diane Cilento was one of six children. Years later, I met Diane briefly, not long after she and her then husband, Tony Shaffer (who wrote Sleuth" and "The Wicker Man" and whose twin brother Peter wrote "Equus", "Amadeus" and "Royal Hunt of the Sun") started "Karnak" outside of Mossman in north Queensland. This was during my Hinchinbrook Island days, and thereafter. Life certainly does move in mysterious circles.

One day, John Trimmer asked Chris, the young storeman Debbie and I had unintentionally locked in the men's toilet, to remove the registration sticker from his Chrysler Valiant. This was before registration stickers became self-adhesive. So, armed with a carpet knife, water and cloth, Chris did as he was bidden, only to return upstairs a little while later, again wide of eye, standing in front of my desk.

"Where's Mr. Trimmer?" He asked me.

"He's in his office," I replied.

"He can't be," exclaimed a confused Chris. "I removed half of his rego sticker, then I had to come back upstairs to get some more water and when I went back down, his car's gone!"

"Nope...he's in his office, Chris. He's not gone anywhere," I repeated. "Have a look for yourself."

Then the penny dropped. Rushing downstairs, I burst out laughing. John Trimmer's car was parked where he had parked it upon arrival at the office that morning, registration sticker intact. Mr. Head, the manager of Rogtex Men and Women's Clothing division had a car similar in shape and colour to John Trimmer's! Cam Head was a conservative gentleman with little or no sense of humour.

Word quickly spread throughout the office and warehouse about Chris's blunder. I told John Trimmer. All of the staff, including John erupted into laughter. Tears flowed down our cheeks. We were holding our sides as we pictured Mr. Head discovering half of his registration sticker removed. I kept an eye out for his return, and as soon as I saw his car pull in, I told everyone to be quiet, to stop laughing, put their heads down and look busy working.

Mr. Head stormed into the reception area, smoke billowing out of every orifice! Growling he stood at my office door.

"Do you know what happened?" He growled at me.

Feigning innocence and ignorance, I asked him, "What do you mean, Mr. Head?" Somehow I managed to retain a serious appearance.

"That idiot, Chris!" He fumed. "He's taken half of my registration sticker off! I was turning into St. Paul's Terrace and the passenger side door flew open! There I was with traffic looming down on me from both directions, when I noticed it!"

"Oh! Dear! I'm so sorry, Mr. Head," I mumbled, in a painful attempt to put a lid on the laughter within. "He must have mistaken your car for Mr. Trimmer's! It's an innocent mistake. I'll go and point it out to him." John, in the meantime, had hidden himself away in his office, with both doors closed, the coward!

I'd never seen such a work-dedicated staff as I did that morning. While all this was going on they had their heads buried in whatever pretense of "busy-ness" they could conjure. Later jokingly, I berated the lot of them for leaving me to carry the can! I advised them never to mention Chris's misdemeanour to Mr. Head. He never did see the funny side of it, neither did his wife. It became an unmentionable subject, although the rest of us laughed about it for years.

I'd hired another "little princess" at one time. She was only a kid of around seventeen, her pert little nose permanently held up in the air. When Robyn started with us, I placed her in the general office, handling the work from each division. As is my want to do, I like to change staff around so that they become familiar with all aspects of whatever the jobs entail. I decided to move her out to the reception desk and move the receptionist into the general office, to enable both girls to gain further experience.

Upon informing Robyn of my decision, she tossed her long hair from her shoulders, her nose went a little higher in the air and she asked me, "What will my "title" be?"

In total seriousness, I looked at her and replied, "Well, Robyn, I can give you a "title", but I don't think you're going to like it!"

That was the end of the discussion!

To be continued...


  1. Once again a really interesting early morning read. Your life has been full of really interesting people and you remember everything in such interesting detail. Did you keep a journal the whole time?

  2. No, Rebecca...my "journal" is my memory...I rely upon it and it rarely lets me down. I never embellish. More likely scenario is, I play things down a bit. I've always had a good memory...and it's something I'm grateful for having. Thanks for your comment. :)

  3. Hi Lee, a good read after Cyclone Wazza's visit, I was in need of some calming influence.

  4. I bet you did need a calming influence after a visit from Cyclone Wazza, Peter! ;) Glad I could be of help!

  5. I think I would have wet my pants laughing that the wrong sticker was scatched off (nearly that is) LOL.. now that's funny!

  6. It was funny, Deslily...we were all in hysterics but had to choke on them when Mr. Head arrived back. He was like a raging bull! lol

  7. Well I had a long comment and my 'connection' disappeared. My connection is back but my comment disappeared.
    I've loved all of this. What an interesting life Lee. You are a darling.
    When my name begins to appear in your stories, I'll know you're about done.

  8. I just caught back up after being a few chapters behind. Still loving the story , and can't wait for more.

  9. Anonymous9:00 AM

    Ang the fine story continues. They should make a series on TV and let you write the script.

  10. Lee
    I was thrilled to see Chapter 12. What a wonderful relationship with the boys. I would like to have seen your surprise that morning when you opened your eyes to find you were not alone.
    Poor Chris, first the toilet and now the wrong sticker. I admire the fact you kept a straight face with CH as I would not have been able to contain myself. I am sure all involved in that office that day still laugh at the story.
    Thanks for giving me a good laugh.

  11. Snow Goose, eh. I've heard of the Snow Queen and Snow White, but the Snow Goose is a new one on me. I'll have to check it out. Must not be one they read much in the states here.

    (Of course, I'm not a well read person. I just don't have the patience for reading)

  12. Lee, A good read, You would have been a hoot to work with.

  13. Hi Cliff...I'll try to fit you into my story somewhere...it will be without warning, so keep your eyes open! ;)

    Glad you were able to catch up on my very long saga, Shelly! :)

    Now that's a great idea, Steve! ;)

    I couldn't believe it, Lady Di, finding us all, plus the cat, all cramped up in the single bed! :)

    Dave...I thought everyone knew the story of "The Snow Goose" by Paul Gallico...it's a classic. It's not too late for you to read the story about Frith, Phillip Rhaydader, the hunch-backed, crippled reclusive artist and his role in the Dunkirk evacuation...it is a very, very moving, beautiful story, suitable for adults and children alike. Please, do yourself a favour and read it. It's not a big book in length but it is a "big" story.

    Hiya Marc, I am a bit of a clown at times...enjoy having fun, whether it be at the work place or elsewhere! :)

  14. Gosh Lee, this is like a book. Chapter 13 coming up. Still I find it very interesting. Lucky you, with a good memory.

  15. It's almost turning into a book, I agree, jmb! ;) Still more to come, too...after all, it spans fourteen years of my life. ;)

  16. Hi Lee ~~ Great chapter yet again -
    you have us all entranced. Those boys
    were so lucky to have you as a friend and vice versa. Poor Mr. Head
    nearly lost his- and poor Chris had a
    couple of narrow escapes. I feel Robyn may be next in line!! Lucky you with such a good memory. Thanks for your comments and kind words. Take care, my friend, Love, Merle.

  17. Hi Merle, they're great "boys"...now young men and will always be part of my life and I theirs in return. We've shared some magic times, that's for sure. Glad you're still enjoying the tale. :)

  18. I just wish to announce here that I am not the Robyn mentioned in this episode of Lee's Reaching Out to the City Lights...I wasn't in the country at that time!

    Now, Lee, that's a wonderful episode and you've lead a wonderfully interesting life. I think those two little boys will remember you with great love.

    In answer to your comment on my "Chaser" post, I agree, I didn't think the way they treated Sophia Loren was at all respectful...and sometimes they do go over the top. But when they get stuck into politicians...I just love that!

    As for the State of Origin...it's going to be a three game whitewash, don't you agree? Back to back Origins...I like that.

    Take care.

  19. Me again...I love "The Snow Goose" and introduced my grandchildren to it. I have a niece named Frith after the heroine in that story.

  20. That kept me engossed again, Lee. I was wondering that - dod you keep a diary - oh, now i've seen your answer. I can just imagine you pillow-fighting and being worse than the kids! I love that Paul Gallico tale - even now I cry over it. "Musical beds" - that's a nice one! And poor, accident-prone Chris! However did you keep a straight face when that angry man [forgot his name - sorry] came back? I agrre with Stave - they should make a TV series of your life! Now hurry up and write the nest part, Lee! Auguri x

  21. Hey Robyn...It sure was a great game and win on Wednesday night...I was a nervous wreck by the end of it! (Rugby League "State of Origin" series between Queensland & New South Wales, for those from other areas). It was mud in the eye for Phil Gould after his unnecessary sprouting before the game.

    I'm glad you're still enjoying my story, Robyn. Only the other night, Gavin rang me and we talked for FIVE hours!! Emails flow back and forth between us. Andrew is a very talented artist these days and also has his own graphic arts business and does a lot of animation work with Warner Bros. Studios down on the Gold Coast.

    G'day, Welsh...it was with great difficulty that I kept a straight face, Welsh...but I had to, as I'd told the staff to do so...I couldn't be the one to crack! lol

    Thanks everyone for your comments. It's always good to "see" you and read your thoughts on my ramblings. :)

  22. Five hours! You talked for five hours??? I thought I was bad enough talking for three hours, but you've beaten me.

    Years ago when my carrier was Telstra, they had a special on...talk as long as you like for $20...to various countries. I have a friend in the UK so rang him and we talked for the three hours. He was worried about my phone bill until I told him about the special.

    Talking of phone bills...I better pay mine today!

  23. Another wonderful installment, Lee. I can't believe that you have remembered all the details, without having it written down in a journal. I'm very much impressed.
    Take care, Meow

  24. Hahaha, Robyn...Gavin emailed me the next morning and told me he was never going to ring me again...I replied by saying I was never going to pick up the phone again! Hehehehe!

    I'm not sure if I'm cursed or blessed by having such a good memory, Meow! ;) It has gotten me into trouble at times, (or others!) ;)

  25. LOL, I love that - "What will my title be?" Your response was great. Another great chapter.

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