Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Perfect One Day...Sublime The Next...

Guests who visited Hinchinbrook Island came from all walks of life, from overseas, intrastate and interstate. A few “name” people came for a “hide-away” break from the burdens of the “real world”. I love watching “Midsomer Murders” on television and am always happy when a new series arrives on our shores as it has at present. I may have mentioned in a previous post that John Nettles, the star of “Midsomer Murders” holidayed at the resort for a week. John was as nice a person in real life as he appears to be in this television series. Amongst the familiar faces and personalities were equally as nice and as interesting “normal” folk. One of the joys of the resort was everyone mingled together over evening drinks and dinner. There was no peer pressure and that’s the way I wanted it to be and orchestrated it to be. I treated the dinner guests as if they were guests in my own private dining room. How much or how little anyone had in their bank accounts mattered not at all. There was no “pose” and no “poseurs” (except two or three, but they were rapidly and subtly brought back down to earth with a jolt, with no prisoners taken!) Each guest was special in his or her own way.

A group of four arrived by sea plane one Saturday. Two women, both in their late fifties or early sixties, who had been friends for years I soon discovered, together with the daughter of one and the son of the other, stepped out of the Grumman Mallard into the punt, not quite sure of what lay ahead. The tentative looks upon their faces mirrored many who had gone before and of those yet to come.

Over dinner that evening, I spent a fair bit of time chatting with the new group at their table. Jo, the daughter of the Australian woman, worked in the film industry. A few years earlier she had worked on the production of “The Man from Snowy River”. Jo had some interesting stories to tell about the making of the movie and the magnificent “High Country” where the story was filmed. Sitting quietly, listening, but saying little, was Jamie, the son of one of the women. He was one of the most beautiful-looking young men I had ever seen…have ever seen. His blond hair, naturally streaked by the sun framed his near-perfect face. His clear green eyes displayed a youthful shyness. To match his good looks, he had the body of a Greek god. He and his mother were visiting Australia from Bellingham, way up north in Washington State, not far from Vancouver, British Columbia. To me, Jamie appeared burdened by his beauty. By no means was he vain, however, he seemed, to me, to hide from the world, a world that unfortunately in many cases, judges people on their appearance. Upon arriving in Australia, Jamie had gained part-time employment in Melbourne to help cover the costs of his vacation, a job he’d given up to come to the island with his mother and her friends.

Over dinner, I drew him into the conversation. He’d not long turned nineteen years of age and was taking a year’s “sabbatical” before going to college. During the following week of the group’s stay, I continued my attempt to draw Jamie “out of himself” at every opportunity. I realized it must have been a bit difficult for him being on holidays with his mother, her best friend and Jo, the daughter, who was in her late twenties. Not an ideal age group with whom a young man should be spending his holidays. On top of the obvious, Jo appeared to be in “recovery” from some unspoken malady, broken-heart or both, so she wasn’t the brightest of company for anyone, let alone a lad of nineteen. The day of their departure arrived. I took Jamie aside and told him if he ever wanted a job during his stay in Australia, to not hesitate in calling me. Somehow I would find a place for him on the island.

A pleasant surprise awaited me on the end of the telephone line a couple of weeks or so later when I received a telephone call from Jamie asking me if my job offer still stood.

“Of course it does!” I answered. “I’m so glad you made the decision. When can you get here?”

Within a few days, Jamie arrived to the island. At first, my staff was wary. Bronnie, for one, said to me when I announced that he would be joining them, “You mean that guy who was holidaying here a couple of weeks ago…the good-looking one?”

“Yep..that’s him,” I told her.

“But, he’s stuck-up!” Bronnie retorted petulantly.

“How would you know that, Bronnie? You don’t know him. Just because he’s a handsome young man, it doesn’t make him “stuck up!” I said, more than a little agitated by her prejudicial attitude. “Give the boy a chance when he gets here. I expect…I want you and the rest of the crew to give him a “fair go”. Don’t judge a book by its cover. I got to know Jamie when he stayed here, you didn’t! He's a lovely young fellow...you'll see!”

In no time at all, the staff, both male and female fell in love with Jamie. He was such a fine young man one couldn’t help but fall under his spell. He had absolutely no airs or graces about him whatsoever. David, my wild, cleaver-swinging chef and Jamie became great mates. It was the best thing that Jamie could have done, come to work at the island resort. It certainly made his visit to Australia memorable. Even hard-nosed Bronnie wilted in his presence and became a good friend. Daina, well, she fell hard. It was much more than “friendship” that Daina felt towards Jamie. She became smitten. It wasn’t difficult to understand. If I’d been her age, I would have done so, too. As it was I felt very protective towards Jamie. He was special. He glowed and all who met him couldn't help but be affected by his unique aura.

Late one afternoon as I approached the restaurant area after changing into my evening attire (smart-casual), I heard a lot of ruckus and much loud laughter. There in the pool in front of me, David and Jamie, dressed up as pirates, were sailing one of the island’s small (tiny) catamarans. They were smaller than a Hobie cat! I blew a fuse, even though inside I could see the funny side, but at the precise moment I kept a lid on it. I ordered them out of the pool and to take the craft back down to the beach where it belonged. I’ll never forget the look on their faces. They were like two little boys being harshly reprimanded by their mother! To this day, I laugh about it, each time I recall that afternoon.

It wasn’t really about them that made me angry. Only a couple of days before their innocent hi-jinx, a guest, unbeknown by me, had sailed one of the small wind-riders out far beyond the island’s permitted perimeters. Restrictions had to be put on to the area guests could sail. I didn’t have the necessary safety and rescue teams in case of emergencies. The small craft were really only suitable for playing around in close to the resort beach.

Bob, the skipper of the powered Reef Cat that was contracted to the resort to deliver guests, provisions etc., to the island and who also took the island guests for day trips to Ramsay Bay, the Brook Islands, Garden and Goold Island, and when the winds permitted, Zoe Bay, was coming back to Hinchinbrook from a day out with guests at the Brook Islands around 3.30 pm one afternoon when he passed the guest heading out to sea. Bob hailed the lone sailor asking if he’d like a tow back. The errant sailor shook his head and said he didn’t need any assistance. Bob continued back to the resort where he reported his sighting to me. I growled. I couldn’t believe anyone could be so stupid, but on second thought, I knew I should never be surprised by what some people will do!

I scanned the ocean, but could only see the outline of the Brook Islands on the distant, eastern horizon. There was no sign of the lone sailor. Dusk fell, followed quickly by the darkness of night. Ted jumped aboard “Lady of the Island”, the little island Abalone and headed out to sea. “Lady” wasn’t well-equipped for night travel, but Ted insisted he’d go in search for our thoughtless guest. By that stage, I couldn’t care less what happened to the guest, I was so angered by his arrogant stupidity. My concern was Ted’s safety, not the fool who had displayed little regard for anyone else, including himself.

Around 9 pm that night, Ted pulled into Orchid Beach, the resort’s main beach, with the not-so-ancient-mariner on board. The guy was in his forties and should have had more sense. I didn’t hold back in telling him so, either! I told him if he so much as put his little toe near the ocean I’d have his guts for garters! As far as I was concerned he was confined to quarters for the rest of his stay on the island. He was very contrite after my tirade. For the duration of his stay, he was meek and mild and on his best behaviour. I think his girlfriend had given him a tongue-lashing as well!

So when I spotted David and Jamie in the pool with the sailing craft so soon after that incident, I saw “red”. Their actions made my words to the foolish guest redundant. Anyway, my anger didn’t last for long. We laughed about it once they returned the boat back down to where it belonged. Jamie’s time on the island was good for everyone. He won the hearts of my staff, both male and female. Also, I think it served an important time in his growing up.

It was a Saturday. A journalist from the “Townsville Bulletin” was expected on the Reef Cat, which was arriving around 9 am. He was visiting the island that day to gather information for an exposé he was writing about the island for his newspaper. I planned to lunch on mud crabs with him as we discussed the business of the day. The telephone in my office rang. A friend of Jamie’s was on the other end of the telephone, calling from Bellingham in the States. Jamie’s father had passed away suddenly. Hurriedly, I went in search of Jamie. I took him to the beach, sat him down, and then told him the devastating news. For a while I stayed with him, quietly keeping him company to ensure he was okay. I then left him to his own thoughts. A little while later he came into my office, by that time I’d organized a flight south for him to link to a flight back to the States, the same day/night. Jim, the journalist, offered to drive Jamie from Cardwell to Townsville airport. Bob agreed to make an extra earlier trip back to the mainland taking both Jim and Jamie with him. It was all systems go for the next couple of hours. Jamie hurriedly packed together his belongings and brief, grief-stricken farewells were exchanged between him and his work-mates. Everyone was upset, not the least Daina, who was almost inconsolable. All of us had lost a good friend, a fun co-worker, who was genuinely a nice young man.

That evening the staff got together and a small party “for” Jamie eventuated. We toasted Jamie's future and in his absence, we wished him well.

Some of the staff and I heard from him a couple of times after he returned to the States, but as life has a habit of interfering, contact was eventually lost.

(I don't know why a portion of my post came up in smaller font...I've tried to correct it, but for reasons known only to blogger, I'm unable to rectify the situation!)


  1. Thanks for writing the story of this young man whom you briefly mentioned the other day at my blog. I can see why you remember him so well.

  2. It was your post that triggered this off, jmb...brought all those fond memories of Jamie back to me. I wish my scanner was working, then I could have posted a couple of pics of him.

  3. A nice story Lee of a very nice sounding young man.

  4. Hi Lee ~~ Another nice story
    about a young man you got to meet and
    help. So sad he had to leave in such a hurry. I think Hinchinbrook was your favourite place. How long were you there Lee ?
    Thanks for your comments, glad you don't need to drink bottled water
    but not everyone is so lucky. Glad you have enjoyed my post. Made your meatloaf today - very tasty -thanks
    for the recipe. Take care my friend, Love, Merle.

  5. Blogger is getting younger it doesn't need the bigger font with it's reading glasses. That must be why the smaller font. :) I love reading your stories.

  6. I saw the picture of those two sailing craft and immediately thought, "Now that's what I want to do some day." But not like that fool you talked about. Aren't there sharks in the waters there? Big ones too? That's what I keep hearing.

  7. lee
    You write so well that I am forever in sprit with you as you tell those stories. I could even feel the wath of a breeze at times. What a lovely youngman to remember.

  8. Peter and Merle...there you go again...in tandem! I'm sure you two are joined at the hip! ;) Two years almost, Merle.

    Is that what it is, Sandra? I thought perhaps my fingers were getting smaller! ;)

    Yep, Dave...if you want to go out further, a larger craft would be advisable!

    Hi Lady Di...Jamie was unique...I hope he has done well in his life.

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. :)

  9. Lee, you are a greater weaver of stories...Jamie sounds a lovely young man and your portrayal of him is a picture in words. Lovely story.

  10. Hey, Robyn...glad you enjoyed it. :)

  11. He sounds a lovely young man in all ways, Lee and it's interesting how people prejudged him because they felt threatened by his looks. I'd have had no time for that inconsiderate guest either! How awful for you having had to break the bad news to JAmie.

  12. I meant to say I like John Nettles, too, and it's good to hear he's a nice guy in real life. Also meant to say those are stunning photographs.

  13. Yes...the staff soon learned the error of their prejudicial ways when Jamie entered their domain, Welsh. It was good for them, I believe...as they had created their own little world on the island and then along came Jamie, who shattered all their preconceived notions. ;)

  14. Nicely done Lee. Great read as per normal for you.
    You spoke of a lad at one of the hardest points in his life. That age is surrounded by so much uncertainty. At the age it's "What am I going to do, believe, act like and the list goes on and on."
    And of course the ever constant search to insure his gene pool lives on. I suspect that part went okay for him owing to his looks./

  15. Hi Cliff...yes, it is a difficult time in a young person's life. I think as far as his progress in the "genes' pool"...I think, with Jamie, that would have come a lot later than some of his peers. He was a shy lad. I think his short time on the island did help him come out of himself a lot. I think it was probably one of the best things that could have happened to him. Unfortunately, his time on the island was cut short.

    Good to hear from you, Cliff. :)

  16. Good one Lee.

    At 19, I would have been estatic to be in Australia. I was into SCUBA with the old WW II style gear that was really cheap then.

    It was a dream come true in 1990, a whole lot of years later, when we spent our 10th aniv. there. I am ready to come back again. I met a lot of great folks. Lost track of all of them. Time does that.

  17. BTW, the font size looks ok to me.
    You must have forgotten your specs.

  18. Hi Marc...no, not forgotten my specs...impossible for me to do so as I have a million pairs laying around (slight exaggeration)...one paragraph is in small font than the others...the paragraph that starts with "A group of four arrived by seaplane one Saturday."

    You would have loved diving out at the Brook Islands...next time you come this way you'll have to go out for a look, at least...and of course, you and Stormy have to knock upon my door! ;)

  19. Anonymous11:25 PM

    Lee, an enjoyable read. Pirates in the pool, that's good.

  20. Welcome back, Steve...good to see you. :)

  21. Surely there must be someone out there somewhere that knows where Jamie is now...what a sad ending to a wonderful working summer....

  22. I would hope so, Rebecca...I'm going to do a search on the net for him, I think...just out of curiosity. Thanks for your comment. :)

  23. Interesting story about the Island guests and the young man. Despite the annoyances of unreasonable guests it’s appears your stay was a memorable and an enjoyable period of your life. A relatively smaller Island I think has its own unique flavour which is distinct from the mainland; Hinchinbrook obviously was very agreeable.

    Best wishes

  24. I'm so glad you offered the Jamie a job. I know it was a time he will always remember fondly. Another great story, Lee.

  25. It certainly was a wonderful time of my life, Lindsay and one I'm glad I had the chance to experience. I'm not sure what you mean by "a relatively smaller island" as Hinchinbrook is a large island, 245sq miles in area...although, I must admit, the resort is only small...taking up only 22 acres of the greater expanse. I guess, that's what you mean. Island life is unique, completely from mainland life, you are so right. :)

    Hi Corn Dog...that was one of my rare good decisions, offering Jamie a job! It was good for all of us. :)

    Thanks to you both for your comments. :)