Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Italian Invasion....Chapter Three

After a long bout of self-questioning and decision-making about my tenure managing the resort on Hinchinbrook Island, particularly after the death of the baby, I concluded it was time for me to move on, to relocate to the mainland. Cairns was my first and only choice to begin a new chapter and adventure. The unnecessary, tragic death of the newborn, which I’ve written about in earlier posts titled, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” back in February this year, continued to haunt me and irritate me. “Q’s” attitude at the time had angered me, and that anger still burned within me. Any respect I had had for “Q” disappeared, never again to reappear. As much as I still loved the island and the role that I played, the dark shadow of the infant’s death persistently, consistently hovered like a spell in the background. The acute anger I’d felt never quite left me.

A few months had passed by since that fateful night before, at last, I took the step to move on. I felt a hollowness leaving my beloved island, but I was driven by a desire to begin life anew. New surroundings, a new job, a new adventure, my life was in my own hands. It was something I had to do.

Some days before my departure from Hinchinbrook Island, Andrea set foot back on Australian soil. I waited until he arrived to the island to tell him of my plans. Empathizing with my decision and the reasons, he was a great comfort and support to me during, naturally, quite a harrowing, upsetting time. Up until the moment I stepped foot on the “Reef Cat” to take me on that final trip across Missionary Bay to Cardwell on the mainland, I had to remain composed and in charge of my emotions. I still had guests and staff to attend to, and at the same time, ready myself for my departure. With only so many hours in a day, having Andrea there was of great assistance and importance. He stayed in the wings, assisting in the packing up my goods and chattels.

A couple of weeks earlier, I’d spent two days in Cairns in search of suitable accommodation for myself. It was not long before I’d settled on a two-bedroom town-house at Yorkeys Knob, a beachside suburb a few kilometers north of the heart of Cairns. My town-house was in one of four in the apartment block, which suited my desire to not be inundated by the “outside world”. Having spent the previous few years a hop, skip and jump from the magnificent waters of the Pacific Ocean and Coral Sea and their generous, golden sands, together the freedom of “open space”, to be centred in a city and surrounded by madding crowds was not on my agenda. The entrance to my chosen new home was hidden by a vibrant, constantly blooming bougainvillea, a couple of pawpaw (papaya) trees and various lush tropical ferns. A huge Poinciana tree added further privacy plus welcome, cooling shade. The beach was only a few hundred meters away. Full Moon Bay, where the then small yacht club sat, was across and down a side street that ran off Yorkeys Knob Road, which passed the front of the unit block in which I was about to reside. The builders of the apartment block had used sensible thinking when constructing the building as the undercover car park area was at the front of the property, which meant the accommodation units were at the rear of the block of land, thereby placing them a fair distance from the road.

I’d organized, through friends, for a truck to pick up my “bulky” possessions to be then deposited at my town-house. The balance of my personal items came with me on the boat. With the timing of a well-orchestrated game plan, the truck and I arrived at the apartment block within minutes of each other. Actually, it had been “Slip” my mate who lost the “drot” (dozer) in the ocean out in front of the resort who helped me with my relocation. I guess he felt he “owed me one”, as my move ran like a well-oiled machine!

To say I felt sadness at leaving the island is an understatement, but I purposely didn’t cast a backward glance once I stepped onto the boat. I kept my eyes straight ahead. I felt the touch of Andrea’s hand on my arm. I turned as smiled at him. He put his arm around my shoulder and gently pulled me close to him.

“Onwards and upwards,” I said quietly to him, returning his reassuring caress. “The sun rose this morning on a new day and the moon shall rise tonight on a new night. Tomorrow…it will be the beginning of who-knows-what…but whatever it is, we’re going to make the most of it and we’re going to have fun and enjoy what lies ahead!”

Fortunately, I didn’t have the worry for looking for a job. I had already organized that part of my life. When I was ready, after having settled into my new abode, I was to commence a position as “Functions and Conventions Co-Ordinator”, and unofficial Assistant to the Food and Beverage manager, it eventuated, at Ramada Reef Resort, Palm Cove another northern beach suburb of Cairns. Palm Cove is a further few kilometers north of Yorkeys Knob. The resort, situated on the beachfront with only the esplanade and a row of coconut palms to separate it from the sand and ocean, was still very new at that time, approximately eighteen months' old. It had caused quite a stir when constructed, a positive “stir”. It set a benchmark for design in the north. The developers had to sign an agreement not to destroy the existing stands of Paperbarks (Melaleuca leucadendron), but to incorporate them into the design and lay-out of the resort. The pool was built to curve and meander around the trees. It was, at the time, the largest pool in the southern hemisphere.

Curious at my new surroundings, I chose to take a few free days before commencing my new job, a job I was fully aware would take up the majority of my time. Andrea and I explored the city of Cairns, briefly, preferring to spend what leisure time we had together on the beach or going for picnics, from which there were many stunning beautiful areas to choose. And of course, “just up the road a bit”, in typical Australian vernacular, ishe Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation which were just begging us to explore them!

Andrea and I wandered the beaches, swam in the azure ocean, sunbaked in the nude in solitary coves, explored the Daintree and Cape Tribulation. For those few days, we existed solely for each other, knowing soon, once I returned to work, our time together would have limitations put upon it.

His intention was to stay for six months and this he did. And then, at the end of the six months, he flew back to Italy to compile the contacts he had made in North Queensland for his father’s tourist business.

Before Andrea left to return home, however, Christmas was upon us. I had to work from early Christmas morning until around 2pm, but after that my time was my own. Well, Andrea’s and mine alone to do with what we wished. I invited friends for Christmas Dinner. There were eight of us at the Christmas table that year. Not many, but we had much fun. Andrea had met a young couple of Italians who were backpacking around Australia. We extended the Christmas dinner invitation to them. They were thrilled to be invited into an “Aussie home” for the special day.

As soon as I could get away from work, I raced out across the lobby, into the car-park, my car, fired it up and headed homewards.

Quickly, once home, I was into the rhythm of Christmas. Champagne corks popped and glassed overflowed with its bubbly effervescence. I’d spent every spare hour prior to the day, preparing the menu and fare so allow myself freedom while my guests were present. As soon as I’d arrived home into the oven went the turkey and pork. Andrea had followed whatever instructions I’d given to him to the “letter”. Together on Christmas Eve after I’d arrived home from work, we’d set the table.

Because Andrea was a long way from Bagnacavallo during the holiday season, I decided to make him a special treat. He spoke often and lovingly of his Nonna. There were so many similarities in his and my growing up years. He and his sister, like my brother and me, were raised by our grandmothers while our mothers went out to work. His mother and father had divorced when he was younger, too, as mine had done. In the lead-up to Christmas Day, he mentioned his Nonna’s panettone often. Panettone, I’m sure you’re all aware is the traditional Milanese Christmas cake. ..a sweet fruit bread, preferable made in a "flower-pot" mold. It's tall, cylindrical and fruit-filled. Natural yeast is essential in making panettone and there’s a lot of hand mixing to be done in the making until the dough becomes elastic. I decided as a bonus, an added Christmas present to Andrea, I would make him a panetonne as a reminder of his homeland.

There I was after work one evening sitting in my kitchen, stirring, stirring and stirring until my upper arms and my hands ached from the extend efforts. It was worthwhile, I told myself as I ploughed through the preparation, with Andrea excitedly looking on, serving me scotches in the meantime.

Christmas dinner turned out to be a huge, incredibly enjoyable affair. My little ginger kitten, Pushkin that I’d gotten for my birthday in November, joined in with the mood…and the food! He believed, I think, the whole affair was put on for him especially! Amongst my memorabilia I have a photograph of him sprawled out at the end of the Christmas table, which by the time of taking the shot, looked like a cyclone had gone through it. Crumpled party hats, destroyed Bon-Bons, empty wine bottles, together with various other flotsam and jetsam littered the once carefully decorated table. Contentedly, full of Christmas turkey, pork and whatever other goods in which he had partaken, Pushkin had fallen asleep, totally oblivious to the continuing celebrations going on around him.

Later in the evening, it was time to bring out the panettone. Having filled ourselves to capacity with Christmas fare, somehow we managed to find room in our over-loaded stomachs to indulge ourselves in typical Christmas style. It was then Andrea announced to all and sundry that it was the first time he had ever had a home-made panettone! The special treats his Nonna presented at Christmas had always been store-bought! Remembering my aching arms when making the cake, I could have killed him! At least, he had his first ever home-made panettone in Australia, made with tender, loving, if not painful care, by me! I’ve often wondered if he has ever had a home-made one since.
To be continued....


  1. I get to make the first comment! I can't believe it. I had to go read the sad story of your departure from your beloved Hinchinbrook Island which you wrote before I began to read your blog.
    As usual another good chapter in this story. I'm sure you could have killed Andrea after making the only home made panettone he ever had but I'm sure it was the best.
    Looking forward to the next chapter,

    1. @jmb ...Best "panettone" of my life ;-) Andrew

  2. Thanks, jmb...I'm happy to have you still on board. :)

  3. Hi Lee ~~ Great episode again. So
    sad to have to leave your island.
    Have you ever been back to it?
    I laughed at your aching arms and the first home made panettone!! Nonno was a wise old bird. I am sure he appreciated your efforts though.
    It was a very nice Italian Invasion.
    Thanks for your visit, and I am glad you liked my lovely old pictures.
    Take care my friend, Love, Merle.

  4. I can answer for him..... no, no one has since made him a home made pantettone since. IF Nonna didn't do it for him, naaaa you were the one!

  5. No, Merle...I've never set foot back on the island. I don't think I could. It would be a very emotional experience for me. I, have, however lived across the way from it when I went to Cardwell and managed the motel there. I would sit on the seafront and look across to it. Every day I could see the island from the motel. And, of course, many times I've driven along the highway and the island can be seen from the highway for quite a long way.

  6. I believe you are right, AM...I think I hold the award for that one! ;)

  7. Hi Lee, enjoyed this post, as usual, keep 'em coming.

  8. Shall do, Peter! Glad you're enjoying it. :)

  9. I'm sure after the initial shock of finding out he never had a home made panettone before that you must have also felt accomplished! You did something no one else had done for him before!

  10. WHAT A HOOT!!!! AT LEAST HE FESSED UP AND ADMITTED YOURS WAS THE FIRST HOME MADE. The cat sleeping on the table should have made for a good photo. hint hint.
    like jmb I had to go and read the other post yesterday and was too sad to comment. Finally she came to her senses.
    loved the pictures.
    take care Peace

  11. Wow I can see you’re really a good sport to undertake all that cooking and entertaining on Christmas day. Have you made panettone since!! And I agree on your sentiments on Pavarotti, an Italian who loved his food almost as much as his music ! but as to his voice I quote ~ God blessed his vocal chords !!

    Best wishes

  12. lee,
    Naked sunbathing in a seclude cove and party at lee's later? Yes, yes, yes...I'm converted.

  13. I can understand you wanting to leave the island after what had happened and I remember your previous posts about it. I'm sure Andrea must have been a great comfort to you and more after that! What a wonderful Xmas that must have been. love the story of little Pushkin there. And I'm sure Andrea appreciated your panettone! More, please!

  14. True,Deslily...I did feel quite good about making Andrea's first (and probably only) home-made panettone...even with my sore arms! ;)

    Lady Di...I do have a photo of Pushkin on the table but at the moment I don't have a scanner, unfortunately. When I get myself a new one, I will scan the pic...promise! :)

    No, Lindsay...I've never made another one! lol I grumbled about having to work on Christmas Day at the resort, but we all made up for it later in the day and night. :)

    Hey there Rel...we certainly did have some balmy days and times.

    There is more to come, Welsh...I promise ;)

  15. So...Andrea sat and watched you make the panettone, stirring it until your arms dropped off...then the next day told you that his Nonna didn't make it by hand...that would be grounds for divorce, if you were married!

    Still, it sounds like he is a part of your life to fondly look back on and that's the most important thing.

    I love your stories, Lee.

  16. Hi there Robyn...making the panetonne was better than lifting weights, that's for sure! ;)

  17. HI Lee, I've got to clean-up, and go direct my church choir. I'll return in a couple of hours to read up on the Italian Stallion or whoever this is. Parts two and three. Stay right there.

  18. The way you write about H.B. Island, I've been curious why you left it. Seems you had the right company at the right time to ease the pain of leaving. Even if ya' should have cracked the flower pot mold over his head. :)

  19. Great to see you, Cliff...and looking forward to your return.

    Gto...go back and read my "Good, the Bad and the Ugly" posts back in February and you might understand when the bubble got a small leak in it. All good things do come to an end eventually and we all must move on, even if at times it can be painful.

    Actually, the "flower-pot" cooking bowl that I used was broken by these two cats of mine when they were kittens...they knocked it off a shelf and ran to hide, giving themselves more of a fright than me! ;)

  20. Well, since Lady Di is asking for pictures of parts of this adventure... oh never mind. It can't be as good as the one you've already painted.
    The story goes on and you seem to glide easily over the really good parts. Oh well.
    I like the pictures of the foods and the recipes but I must say: SOMEBODY MAKE HER STOP!!
    I always leave your blog, wash my hands, and go to the fridge. But I suppose all men tell you that.
    Yes I was a Pavoratti fan. Not enough to have recordings (I don't really have a 'collection' of anyone) but I did enjoy his singing.
    Well take care. btw, Dan, on my sidebar, just put up a couple of pics of two of my Grandaughters. You might enjoy.

  21. Hi again, Cliff...I leave all the juicy bits to your imagination! ;)

    I'll definitely go and have a look in Dan's site to see two of your grand-daughters. See you there! :)

  22. I felt the story when I was reading it and love the way you write. It is great that you write, for me to be able to "Feel" the story. Keep up the great stories.

  23. G'day, Sandra...thanks...I'm glad you're getting enjoyment out of my ramblings! :)

  24. You always make me hungry when I read your posts. I should abstain late at night, particularly when you are making cake for people.

  25. Gidday Lee,

    What did I say about your being a bloody food tease, waal, here we go again with yet another "to be continued" story. As per usual well written and left wanting more.
    Gee sounds like some of those dinners you have....wanting more.

  26. Hiya Corn Dog and Wazza...I'm sorry to put your through all this misery! ;)