Thursday, June 28, 2007

Yellow Submarine!

Watching the arrangements put in place for the first attempt to refloat the 40,000 tonne coal-carrier, the Pasha Bulker stranded at Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle on the television news last night reminded me of an incident on Hinchinbrook Island.

The dam on the island needed to be widened and deepened. An area of land around the staff quarters also needed to be cleared and leveled to enable extensions to be built.

“Q” who owned the resort was in the heavy-equipment construction business. Conducting the arrival of a large Caterpillar drot, (bulldozer) as shown above in the smaller picture, was done via telephone conversations between him in his office in Brisbane and me on the island. Needless to say, it was a job that needed detailed plans to be put into place to safely transport the drot from the mainland to the island. I hired a heavy-duty, weight-bearing barge to carry the drot across the sea. Timing was of the utmost importance, because everything depended on tides. On the mainland it had to be loaded at high tide and likewise when it arrived at the island. By the time it reached the island, the tide was too low to enable unloading, meaning the drot had to be left on the barge, moored a few metres out to sea in front of the resort overnight.

When I advised “Q” by telephone the situation, he “blew a fuse”, which in turn caused me to blow one, too…or perhaps more than one! Direct and to the point, I told him that he was the one in the construction industry, not me and if he knew a better way to get the drot onto the island, he should be on the island, not giving pointless orders hidden away behind the walls of his Toowong office. I was furious. Slamming the phone down on his ear, I stormed out of my office and went for a walk along the beach in the moonlight to cool off. I’d been stressing enough for the weeks leading up to the delivery of the drot, how to get it safely onto the island, but I knew everything depended on time and tide. One can’t fight nature, but should stop being so arrogant and learn to work with it as we humans are putty in its hands.

Anyway, Ted, Bernie, “Slip” and my brother Graham, who were my “maintenance” crew and I were up before dawn the next morning to attempt to manouevre the drot onto land. This is another whole episode, which I may have written about previously, but if not, I will leave it for the moment, to write about what happened to the drot a few days later, once it was on the island and why I was reminded of an event by the current situation with the “Pasha Bulker”.

“Slip”, who was “Q’s” head foreman on the construction side of the business, had arrived on the island to oversee the workings of the drot. He, his family and I had become good friends during the short time we had known each other and we’re all still friends today. Ted at times had also worked for “Q” in different jobs on the mainland, constructing roads, airstrips etc., so he and “Slip” had worked together previously many times on projects. They were both experts in their fields and both very proud of their abilities.

When it came time to move the drot around the resort area, they had in mind one way of doing it, and I had another. But, of course, being a woman, nobody was interested in listening to me.

My idea was that they “walk” the drot up along the inland side of the staff quarters to get it into the position they wanted to enable them to start the clearing and leveling. There was room, sparse though it was, to sneak the drot up past the quarters, if they took it carefully and slowly.

“No! No! No!” They echoed in unison. “That won’t work!”

“It will,” I insisted, “if you just take your time and “walk” it through. There is enough room there.”

“No…we’ll “walk” it across the front of the quarters, down along the rocks when the tide is out,” said a determined Ted, with “Slip” nodding his agreement beside him.

“You’ll lose it that way. The sand is too soft and the rocks too slippery,” continued an equally determined me. “Take it up behind the quarter…it is a safer, more sensible option.”

“We know what we’re doing. We’ve worked this equipment for years. When the tide is low, we’ll take it along the foreshore,” both men told me, and that was the end of that.

It was late afternoon. I’d gone back to my house to shower and dress for hosting the evening in the restaurant. Putting on the final touches, I heard footsteps coming past my cottage and a voice quietly calling out to me.


Up the spiral staircase came “Slip”, whose real name is “John”.

“Yes, John,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Come with me….just follow me,” he said, saying nothing further.

“Okay…” I answered following him downstairs and through the bush to the top of the headland looking down towards the jetty and the little beach area beyond that lay in front of the staff quarters. Nothing had been said on our journey across the way.

Looking down, I saw the “drot”. It was lying on its side, bogged in the soft, muddy sand.

“Jesus Christ!” I exclaimed. “How did you manage that?”

I refrained from saying “I told you so!” The looks on both faces of “Slip” and Ted told a million stories. I’ve never seen two more contrite, crestfallen men before or since.

Immediately, I headed to my office to make some phone calls, but I realized I was racing against time and tide. Both would beat me. The sun was on its way behind the mountains over on the mainland. Daylight was quickly disappearing. There was nothing I could organize or do that afternoon. The drot was going to go under water…twice a day until I could arrange for it to be hauled back onto dry land.

Poor “Slip” spent a miserable evening drowning his sorrows out on the deck around the restaurant. Ted, licked his wounds privately and headed back to his quarters very early in the night. I tried to console John, telling him accidents do happen. I could see the humorous side of it, as I can in most situations. There was no point crying over spilled “drots”. A workable plan had to be put into place to lead to our final step in getting it out of the ocean. Failing that, I told, “Q” when I finally plucked up the courage to ring to inform him of the misfortune that had befallen the drot, was to turn it into a “yellow submarine”, thereby turning it into an artificial reef! The drot would just have to remain where it was until a solution could be found and twice a day it would be covered by the salty sea.

Hiring a crane, getting it across to the island was price prohibitive. Finally, the crew from Dunk Island came to the party and said I could hire their barge. Ted got onto a guy he knew who had a D-9. A D9, made by Caterpillar, is a large bulldozer (ours was minus the "bucket")…that’s is the best description I can give. Ted assured me that the guy was an expert operator. That’s what he and “Slip” said about themselves!

Seven days later, Saturday of the “removal” arrived. The Dunk Island barge pulled into the island with the D9 on board on the Friday. Much had to be put into place to ready the salvage attempt. Strong, heavy cables were attached to the drot and to the D9.

Of course, all the guests came down to watch the exercise. And of course, they were all “experts”. The spectators and their “knowledgeable” comments began to aggravate me. I also could see an accident waiting to happen.

If one of the hefty steel cables snapped someone could get hurt or worse, lose their life. So, moving everyone one back up to the restaurant, I concentrated on what was happening without their interruptive comments. They were hesitant to leave, also having volunteered not to go on the offered boat trip for the day. More interesting events were unfolding at the resort.

Ted was correct in his assessment of the D9 operator. That man was amazing. He could turn the dozer on a sixpence. He was wonderful to watch in action. On the first attempt, not like the “Pasha Bulker”, he hauled the drot ashore.

Two guys from Caterpillar were in attendance and with the assistance of my “men”, they drained the diesel from the once week-long submerged drot. Once refueled, the engine was started and the “baby” ticked over at first try. Shouts of joy echoed across the ocean, the one time home of the now landed drot. We had achieved so much that morning and were, rightfully, feeling very proud of ourselves.

The next task we faced was getting the drot up from the level jetty area, but we left that for another day, as I shall with the continuation of this story.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Reaching Out To The City Lights...Chapter Fifteen.

Never being one to join clubs, groups and the like, I surprised myself by joining the Liberal Party, the North Toowong branch. I was fed up with the government in power at the time, headed by Labor’s Gough Whitlam. Instead of sitting around the dinner table, table-thumping and complaining, I decided to do something concrete. After twenty-three years conservative rule under the Liberal Party, Labor won the Federal election with Gough Whitlam at the helm. “Time For A Change” was their catch-phrase. On 5th December 1972, Whitlam became Australia’s twenty-first prime minister. Once in office he immediately implemented reforms. It was under his rule, that four weeks’ annual leave came into being, together with the 17-1/2% loading on employees’ holiday pays. I believe then, as I do now, if an employer can do without an employee for four weeks, the employer can do without the employee, period! The Labor Government was spending money like it was rapidly going out of fashion. A record number of Bills were introduced and a record number were enacted. But, the Senatealso rejected ninety-three Bills, more than the total number rejected during the previous seventy-one years of parliament.

Over-inflated egos, particularly those between Whitlam and his Attorney-General Lionel Murphy, as well as other ministers, exacerbated the government’s difficulties. It all came to a head with the crisis of the ‘Loans Affair’. In 1974-75 the government considered by-passing the Loans Council to raise US$4 billion in foreign loans. Although the plan was abandoned, Minister Rex Connor continued secret negotiations through an international broker, and the then treasurer, Jim Cairns, misled parliament over the affair. Whitlam sacked both ministers but the “Loans Affair” enabled the Liberal Party leader, Malcolm Fraser to justify refusing to pass the budget Bills in the Senate, which would force the government to an election. The government fortunes were in decline. Anyway, I was dissatisfied with the status quo and decided to become “political”.

Upon joining the North Toowong branch, sitting in the sidelines listening and learning, was where I intended to stay, but I was quickly drawn out of my corner to be elected secretary to the chairman/president of the branch, Denver Beanland, who, a few years later became Queensland’s State Attorney General. Denver was a character and we worked together well. He and I canvassed the whole of the Toowong/Torwood/Auchenflower/Milton area one weekend, door-knocking spreading “the word”. Guest speakers at our meetings included Dr. Llew Edwards, John Moore, the Federal member for “Ryan” who later became Australia’s Minister for Defence, Kathy Martin, (became Liberal Party Senator in the Australian Senate in 1974-1984). She was also a member of the North Toowong branch) and Col Lamont, who was also a member of the branch at that time, amongst others guest speakers.
Colin Lamont was an early campaigner for tighter powers for police in domestic situations. Having spent a lifetime active in diverse areas of agenda setting and public policy he is currently completing his Ph.D. in Politics and Public Policy. Colin Lamont left Australia to study at London University, was recruited by the then British Colonial Officer and trained and worked as a Detective Inspector in the Royal Hong Kong Police before being seconded to British Intelligence, Far East. He returned to Australia and did a stint in Parliament as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, and then became a professional political lobbyist. He has also owned his own newspaper and has written several books on history. He is now retired and living on the Gold Coast.
I upset John Moore’s rather pompous demeanour the night of his “guest appearance”. He held a blue-ribbon seat and he definitely still wore his “old school tie” of his private schooling days. His then wife (they divorced years later) said, “Good on you! It’s time someone threw questions at him!” Me and my big mouth at play again! My suggestion to Moore was why all the electioneering was conducted just in the lead-up to elections. It was my belief that elected members of parliament should be out and about all the time, explaining their policies to the “people”, not just prior to elections, offering false promises in exchange for votes. He threw the ball back in my court by saying, “Why don’t you do something about it, then?”
Not to be beaten by the self-righteous John Moore, I replied, “Okay…I shall. I’ll start the ball rolling by inviting the tenants in my apartment block to my apartment for a night of friendly discussion. It doesn’t matter if they are Liberals or not. I just hope others will follow my suit!”

Prepared to put my words into action, I set aside a Wednesday evening, cooked up a huge pot of Bolognese sauce, supplied flagons of wine, spaghetti and garlic bread, invited Kathy Martin to come along as my special guest to explain to the “un-informed” the policies and agenda of the Liberal Party and extended invitations to my tenants to come along for a fun evening of political discussion. And a great evening we had, too, but unfortunately, it was the one and only of such events. No one else bothered to carry the banner further.

Denver Beanland and I were invited to be delegates at the Liberal Party National Convention that was held in Brisbane that year. The then Liberal Opposition Leader, Bill Snedden was in attendance. The following link explains a lot of what was happening at that time. And there surely was a lot happening!

These were interesting times, politically and I was glad I’d joined the Liberal Party branch. I learned a lot and became involved in many things. I handed out voting pamphlets on Election Day, thoroughly enjoying interacting with the voters. Where others did two-hourly stints or similar, I remember I did the whole day from 8am until closing time of the polls. I’ve always hated to “miss out”! It was fun.

Out of the blue one Friday, I received a telephone call from Nana in Mackay. My mother had been taken to hospital. On the Saturday, I caught a flight en route to Mackay. Catching a cab to Slade Point, I quickly deposited my luggage asking the taxi driver to wait for me to return with Nana. He then drove us both to the hospital. Upon arriving at my mother’s bedside, I turned on my heel and demanded of the nurse in charge that it wasn’t my mother laying there in the bed.

Earlier in the year, Mum had come to stay with me. Originally, her visit was to be three weeks’ duration, but she stayed on and on. At one stage, when speaking with Nana on the phone I half-jokingly said, “I don’t think Mum is ever leaving!” Nana had laughed in reply, “I’ve had the same feeling!” Instead of the planned three weeks, it was nigh on three months before my mother returned home to Slade Point.

In front of me, in the hospital bed that Saturday, was someone I didn’t recognize. I had to leave her bedside to enable me to compose myself. I walked out onto the front verandah of the Mackay Base Hospital and broke into sobs. I didn’t want my mother to see me upset, nor Nana, for that matter. Her daughter, my mother, had never really “left home”. Nana had stood by her through thick and thin and two failed marriages. Nana was, in truth, the head of the household. She helped raise my brother and me when our mother had to go out to work. And now, she was standing by her daughter’s bedside, confused by what was unfolding around her.

When we arrived back at their home, later that afternoon, I sat Nana down in the lounge room. Facts had to be faced and faced there and then.

Taking her hand, I looked in her large blue eyes that looked so much larger that day. Solemnly, I said, “Nana…you have to face the fact now, your daughter, my mother will not be coming home from the hospital. It’s better you face this reality now…not live in false hope. Mum will not be coming home.” This very hard for me to say, but I knew I had to say it.

Nana looked at me, her blue eyes misting over, her lips trembled. “Do you think so, love?”

“Yes, Nana,” I answered quietly.

“I…I think you’re right, love,” she said. “I’ve thought the same but I’ve not said anything to Graham (my older brother). He thinks she will be fine.”

“She won’t be, Nana. I’ll have a quiet talk with him when I see him later. Leave it to me. He has to realize what is going on here.”

I don’t know where or how I got the strength, but I knew I had to be strong for Nana, in particular. It was her daughter laying in that hospital bed and they had never been apart, except briefly.

My brother wouldn’t listen to me. He refused to accept the truth. I told him to ring our mother’s younger and only brother, Dudley and tell him to fly up to Mackay immediately because our mother would not last the week. I rang John Trimmer back in Brisbane informing him of the situation. On the Tuesday, both John and our uncle, Dudley arrived in town. Dudley, like Graham, my brother believed everything would be “all right”. John booked into a hotel in Mackay, hired a car and both he and the car were there at my disposal. He was a wonderful support during such a harrowing time. It was good for me to have someone there upon whom I could rely. I talked with him, opened up my heart and feelings to what was occurring around me, telling him how I felt, feelings I held hidden from Nana, Graham and Dudley. Graham and Dudley still refused to face the truth. On Thursday morning Dudley and I visited Mum. She looked beautiful, with not a mark on her face. Her skin was as smooth as a baby’s skin. Dudley couldn’t contain his excitement.

“See.!” He exclaimed. “She’s going to be fine!”

“No, Dudley,” I told him. “That is the look of death. Mum won’t see this day out.” He refused to believe me. Before leaving my mother’s side, I bent my head close to hers and repeated firmly, “I love you.” I couldn’t remember the last time I had uttered those words to her.

In the cab back to Nana’s, I made him promise me that he wouldn’t say anything to her about the way Mum looked. He kept his promise. I spent the afternoon with Nana, preparing dinner and talking in general about nothing in particular. At 5.45pm, her neighbour rushed in. I raced next door and took the telephone call. My mother, Nana’s daughter, Elma had passed away.

Not wanting any fuss or ceremony, together Graham and I went to the funeral parlour on Friday. Dudley came along, too. John waited outside in the hired car. Beside the funeral parlour was a small chapel. It was mutually decided that we would hold a small service there. When talking with the minister I asked him not to make a”speech” about what a “wonderful person Elma had been etc., etc.” because he had not known her. I didn’t want a total stranger saying things about my mother, a person he had never met or known. To me that would have been insincere and hypocritical. I knew my mother. I knew her good points and her bad. She wasn’t perfect. None of us are. She was my mother. The minister started to protest, but I shook my head, instructing him that all we wanted was for him to recite the Twenty-Third Psalm. He acquiesced. It was not debatable. The service and burial were arranged for the following morning, Saturday. Graham and Dudley wanted to view Mum’s body. I didn’t, but I also didn’t want them to go in without me. I didn’t know how they would handle the situation. I don’t know what it meant, but I felt nothing standing there looking at the body. I told Graham and Dudley, who were overcome with grief, “This is not your mother…it’s not your sister laying there. Elma has gone….her spirit has left.” And with that, we left.

Upon arriving back to Nana, I took hold of the reins telling her I didn’t think it was a good idea for her to attend the funeral. I suggested to Dudley that he stay at home with Nana, that Graham and I would handle everything. To others this may sound strange and, perhaps wrong, but it wasn’t a thoughtless decision. I’d thought long and hard about it. I knew it would be just too much for Nana to go through. Maybe I was being selfish, but I didn’t want Nana to witness her daughter’s body being lowered into a cold, heartless grave. Without much discussion or protest they agreed with my decision.

Graham collected me in the morning. John arrived in his little, hired, bright red Chrysler Galant. No one else other than Graham, his wife, Lyn, John, Trevor, an old friend from our Gympie days, who I’d first met when he came to Gympie as a radio announcer and who had shared flats with “R”, Mum’s immediate neighbours from Slade Point and me were in attendance. It was just how it should have been.

However, there is always a funny side to every situation, no matter how grim. The hearse left the chapel, with Graham and me in close pursuit. We managed to reach the Forgen Street Bridge crossing the Pioneer River, linking North and East Mackay and the CBD, before the green light turned to red, as did the rest of the small, intimate entourage, except, that is, for John! Poor John! It couldn’t have happened to a nicer fellow.

As we drove along Harbour Road en route to the Mackay Garden Cemetery, in the rear vision mirror, I could see in the far distance a small blur of red. It was John, vainly breaking all speed limits trying to catch us up! He was unfamiliar with the directions and areas in Mackay. I knew what would be going through his head, his panic clearly evident in his driving. Of course, I got the giggles. Graham looked at me as if I was having some kind of fit, until I pointed out to him the drama that was unfolding behind us. He, too, saw the funny side.

We arrived back somberly after the funeral, where Nana and Dudley greeted us. It was then I knew I had made the right decision by not wanting her to attend Mum’s funeral. We all sat around, talking quietly amongst each other. Nana had prepared a light lunch. Later in the afternoon, I spoke with Graham out in the yard. At that time he was a member of a local fishing club that had a fishing event the next day, Sunday. I could see the pain he was feeling. I was feeling my own pain, too, but as I had done all week, I kept it hidden. I suggested he should not miss the fishing trip that it would be good for him to get out in the fresh, open air. It would help him get his mind into order. For once in his life he listened to his little sister and agreed to do so.

After Graham and John left and Dudley went to bed, deciding to have an early night, I sat on the end of Nana’s bed. She and I sipped on brandy until sun-up. We talked and talked. She told me stories about my mother when she was but a child, stories, I’d not heard before. It was so wonderful. It was a healing for me, but most importantly for Nana. I had never felt so close to her as I did that night. We spoke together as peers, both on the same level, in total honesty.

Sunday arrived. A little blurry-eyed, but for some strange reason also feeling refreshed, Nana and I were ready to face a new day. Dudley was totally unaware of our “all-night girls’ night”. Graham arrived early for a brief visit before going off with the fishing club for the day. John arrived soon thereafter bearing a couple of bottles of scotch and some beer. Somewhere along the way, I’d managed to pick up a piece of silverside from the butcher, deciding that would be a good Sunday lunch. After doing the necessary preparations of the silverside, I sat at the piano. The piano had been given to my grandmother and grandfather as a wedding present from an aunt on my grandfather’s side. My mother had learned to play on it and for five years, so had I. It was an iron-framed German-made “Irving”. It had many stories hidden away in its ebony and ivory.

My mother had been a brilliant pianist, expertly playing anything from classical to jazz, to rock, ballads and all in between. At times she played in a dance band when we were younger. As children growing up, my brother and I were witnesses to many evenings filled with “sing-alongs” around the piano. Hardly a day went by without our mother playing the piano. It was a part of our lives. Beside the piano was a cabinet full of sheet music.

In respect of Mum and in full knowledge of my lack of ability as a pianist, I didn’t play the piano that day, but I did bring out the sheet music, placing it in front of me. Spontaneously, without warning or intention, a sing-song erupted. Nana, Dudley, John and me sang everything from Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust”, my mother’s all-time favourite song, to “Walking My Baby Back Home”, “Ain’t Misbehavin’, “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and so many, many other songs, reminiscent of days gone by. Looking at Nana’s face and her eyes that glistened, I knew what was happening was right.

Around 3-3.30pm a tentative, quiet knocking sounded at the front door. There upon the doorstep stood a neighbour from across the way, a timid, little elderly woman bearing a basket full of goodies. She looked upon the sight before her, with a slightly confused look upon her face. Our “concert” was interrupted briefly as Nana invited her in, thanking her very much for her goodwill gesture. Small talk lasted only a couple of minutes before she hurriedly made her escape. She must have thought us to be a wicked, irreverent lot! We all fell about in laughter after she left.

At 5pm, with the concert still in high gear and the drinks still flowing, Graham arrived back from his fishing trip. At the precise moment he arrived, Dudley and I were attempting our rendition of a tap dance to “Walking My Baby Back Home” in the backyard under the Hill’s Clothes Hoist! I will always remember the look upon his face. He had no idea what he had walked into!

We had had a fitting wake for Mum.

John and I flew back together to Brisbane the following Tuesday. It wasn't until the plane soared high in the limitless sky above, turned over the ocean to face south, that my world and I fell apart. Everything I had held inside, hidden away in front of Nana, Graham and Dudley came to the forefront and descended heavily upon me without warning or apology. John was my stalwart. I don’t know what I would have done without him during and after that time.
To be continued...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Farewell, Lawsie!

'Tis a sad day in radio today. John Laws, the man with the Golden Microphone...the man of the "golden tonsils" announced his retirement after more than fifty years in the broadcasting industry.

I will miss you, Lawsie. Your dulcet tones, irreverent logic, music choices, humour, wisdoms and, at times, acerbic wit no longer coming across the air waves is a scenario difficult to believe. I feel like I'm loosing an old friend.

John's influential relationship with his listeners is both as friend, confidante and teacher. The influence was recognised by former Prime Minister Paul Keating when he said in an interview with The Bulletin (July 1997) that, 'If you can educate John Laws, you educate middle Australia'

John Laws sees himself as entertainer and salesman. His morning show delivers a mixture of both regular features and the unpredictable to more than two million listeners on around 70 stations including Brisbane's 4BC, and his velvet voice is as well-known as his relationship with the products he endorses. His live reads are persuasive, educative, interesting - even witty - and form an integral part of the morning show's structure.

For virtually all of the 45 years he has worked in radio, John Laws has been the undisputed king of Australia's talkback airwaves and has remained at the top of the ratings - an achievement many say will never be obtained again.

Since his career began as an 18-year old announcer on 3BO in Bendigo in 1953 - John Laws has won more radio awards of excellence than any other Australian broadcaster. They include a special award from the Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters for his broadcasting excellence as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Producers and Directors Guild of Australia.

Thank you for the years of pleasure you have given, Lawsie. Your leaving is the end of a "Golden Era" Thank you for the laughs, the music and thank you for sharing your golden tones with us all. Bye! Bye! John Laws.

Well Hung!

That made you sit up and take notice, didn’t it? It’s not what you’re thinking! The other day I was conversing with my butcher. To clear things up for you…I was thanking him for the tender, tasty rump steak I’d purchased off him a week earlier while I was buying more to enjoy. We discussed the ‘hanging’ of meat. Previously I’ve written about my ‘entrée’ into the crazy, intriguing world of the hospitality industry via "The Pelican Tavern " in Fortitude Valley,
Brisbane. The Tavern used to be in St. Paul's Terrace, just down the road from our Kolotex base in Baxter Street.

The chef/owner, who built the premises including the cold room with walls about 100 feet thick, (slight exaggeration!) hung his rumps (well, not actually his "rump", but that of the beasts!) for 6-8 weeks before slicing, ready to be thrown the grill. The ‘Tavern’ was well-known for its top quality steaks. To my personal taste, rump steak is my favourite. Rump is gutsy and has much more flavour than scotch (rib) fillet or eye fillet. I do love a good, thick juicy T-bone, as well, or a good piece of sirloin (entrecote). I ask my butcher very politely to cut my steaks especially for me to the thickness I desire. When I have steak I want the best and I like it thick!

Butchers are fun people. I’m sure they all go to a special school to learn the art of dealing with the public. I’ve always found them jovial, full of good humour.

Pepper Steak: Prepare steak a few hours ahead. Crush 2 heaped teaspoons whole black peppercorns very coarsely. Pour 1tbl olive oil, mixed with1/2 clove garlic crushed into a dish. Coat each steak (2) evenly on both sides with crushed peppercorns, pressing them in firmly. Lay the steaks in the dish. Spoon in another tablespoon oil mixed with ½ crushed garlic clove. Cover and set aside for a few hours, turning the steaks once. Place heavy-based pan over very high heat. Drop steaks into the pan when very hot,. Sear quickly on both sides. Lower heat and cook as desired. One minute before end of the cooking time pour in 150ml red wine or brandy if you prefer (flame brandy). Let the liquid reduce. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Steak Diane: Heat 2tbl olive oil in pan. Gently sauté some crushed garlic. Stir in a splash of Worcestershire sauce, 1tsp wholegrain or
Dijon mustard and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Simmer for a few minutes. Bash out a piece of rump steak until thin. Heat a little oil in another pan. Cook the steaks to personal taste. Pour sauce into the steak pan and heat for about 1 minute. Serve.

Rump Steak With Oyster Sauce:
Season steaks with ground pepper. Heat 35gm butter in pan, when hot add steaks. Cook to required doneness. Remove from pan and keep warm. Heat 35gm butter in another pan. Add 1/3cup finely chopped onion. Gently cook for 1min then add ½ cup brandy. Heat and set alight. Reduce by half. Add 1/2cup each beef stock and cream. Reduce by half. Add any meat juices from steak. Toss in fresh oysters and any juices from the shells, 1tbl oyster sauce, 1tsp lemon juice, 2tbl fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, chives, oregano, thyme) and quickly whisk in one egg yolk. Season to taste and remove sauce from heat. Whisk in a small knob of butter. Spoon sauce over steaks.

Ginger-Glazed Rump Roast:
Place rump roast on rack in roasting pan. Combine crushed garlic, minced fresh ginger, 2tbl olive oil, 1tsp finely chopped mint, salt and ground pepper. Spread over roast. Put some water in bottom of roasting pan. Roast for 30mins. Reduce heat to 140C. Roast for another 30mins. Combine 1tbl each honey and cider vinegar. Baste roast with mixture during cooking for another 40mins or to preferred doneness.

The above charts show, on the left, the US Beef Chart...and on the right, the Australian Beef Chart. (Click on the Aus Chart for a larger view)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

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

Included in my “cloak of many colours” within the company, I was Credit Manager for the Queensland office, which meant I had to chase up slow payers. Per capita, our Queensland office had less bad creditors than the rest of the states in Australia, something both John and I were proud of, and this, I believe, was because we “communicated” with our customers/clients. It was the belief of us both that by treating the client with respect, ninety-nine point nine percent of the time that respect was returned. I kept in close contact with our clients, far and wide, monitoring their businesses and orders. If I sensed they had a problem, I would either visit them personally or contact them by telephone to work out whatever the problem may be, to suit both parties involved.

My friends, Margaret and Denis announced their engagement. I was still single and "fancy-free" with no one particular, special "knight in shining armour" on the horizon or closer! Margaret asked me to cater for their engagement party, as well as being a guest. Again, my apartment was converted into a caterer’s kitchen. Our cars became “meals on wheels” carriages as we transferred foodstuffs, prepared and yet-to-be prepared, between Toowong where I lived to Wavell Heights where the engagement party was to be held in Denis’ family home, the home they were to move into after they married. They still live there today.

About sixty people were in attendance and the party was a huge success. I stayed the night to assist with the cleaning-up the next morning, washing down a couple of cleansing ales during the process. Then the “camel-train” transfer of all the empty, but clean utensils back home to Toowong again followed. It was a busy, yet fun weekend.

At the time, Marg’s younger brother John, who was sharing her apartment, was dating Jackie MacDonald. To my Aussie readers, Jackie’s name will be familiar. She was only eighteen or nineteen at the time. Although, a familiar face on Brisbane children’s television, she was yet to become the face of “Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday” where later she became the darling of national television. Jackie sat across my dining table one night lamenting her feelings of self-consciousness and the lack of confidence in herself; I remember suggesting she should take up some modeling in her spare time. She was aghast at my suggestion, saying there was no way she would have the confidence to do so! She was a sweet young woman, so alive and alert, which came to light as her television career progressed to heights she could never have imagined at the time I knew her. Jackie was a refreshing breath of air.

Our Friday night “Spaghetti Marinara” soirees, accompanied by red wine and garlic bread continued between Marg, Denis and me. We’d become addicted to our special evenings. I still hadn‘t found anyone “special” to join me and was quite happy “going it alone”. I wasn’t looking for a committed relationship, feeling comfortable in my own skin. Margaret asked me to be her only attendant at their wedding. I proudly said “Yes”. The marriage ceremony was to be held at the Catholic church at Coorparoo and the reception in the grounds of Margaret’s sister and her dentist husband’s home at Rochedale. Marg’s sister, Barbara and her husband Owen lived on ten acres of land at Rochedale, an outer suburb of Brisbane. They had four young daughters. A large marquee was organized to be set up in the grounds in front of their L-shaped home…between the home and the road. Time was quickly running out when the family decided the house needed painting. So, a working-bee was organized for one weekend. Putting all our heads together, we decided it would be time-saving if we painted the front of the house only, as that was the section that the guest would see. The rest of the house wouldn’t be visible to them. A vote was quickly conducted and the “Yes” vote won! We completed the paint job in one day, leaving time for a few beers after the job was finished!

Our final “Marinara” soiree loomed. We knew it would be the last time that we would be together as a threesome, knowing once Margaret and Denis had married and moved into their marital home across the other side of the city, our special evenings would no longer be. It was a bittersweet moment. And we let our hair down that final night. I added extra seafood and garlic to the sauce, presented bottled red wine rather than cheap flagons, pumped up the music and the three of us danced the night away. We laughed. We hugged and kissed. At times, we became misty-eyed. We bade farewell and we formed lifelong memories of fun times shared.

The couple had a nuptial mass that seemed to go on for a week. I think I was the only protestant in attendance! Secretly I was protesting, too, because everyone else was walking back and forth to the priest at the altar receiving “bread” and wine while I had to sit and wait it out in the front pew (so near, and yet so far!) with a thirst growing in intensity with every excruciatingly slow passing minute! With the constant ringing of the bells, the passing of the wine, I was very relieved when it was all over. John, Margaret’s brother sang an emotive, wonderful version of “Song of Joy” as the happy couple finally made their way out of the church. Arriving at the reception, I eagerly reached for a refreshing beverage. I had to catch up! Everyone else was ahead of me!

Margaret wore a lovely cream soft woolen, stylish, full-length wedding dress, no veil, but a cluster of matching-coloured flowers in her shoulder-length brunette hair. Her engagement ring was a rich emerald, reflecting both the bride and groom’s Irish heritage. My full-length soft woolen shirt-maker design was a similar cream to Margaret’s wedding dress but rather than just the plain cream, mine was cream with an emerald green “open” tartan-check, to reflect the emerald in her ring. Margaret’s regular dressmaker made them for us, following her designs and choices. I loved that dress. It’s difficult to describe them without pictures, but both dresses were very stylish and different from the “norm” in bridal attire. Both Margaret and I weren’t into fluffy, frilly dress of tulle, satin and lace; we spent many hours together choosing what we would wear. She had set firm ideas what she wanted for her wedding, and fortunately, her ideas were akin to mine in that department. Both being tall, with similar colouring, the dresses suited us perfectly. The reception under the marquee was a brilliant, very relaxed affair. Jackie Mac was John’s date. Denis’ best man, Ian, was his best friend from their school days. Years later, I met up again with Ian and his wife. It definitely is a “small world”.

Before dusk, the bride and groom, throwing Barbara, Owen and me a knowing wink, bade an early “good-bye” to everyone as they apparently left for their wedding night. We knew their game-plan, though the great-aunts, aunts, new mother-in-laws and grandmothers-in-law weren’t aware of our evil scheming. Shortly after the bride and groom left, all the “oldies” began disappearing, leaving us “party hounds”. A couple of hours went by, then Margaret and Denis reappeared in more comfortable clothes and the party really began! It continued into the wee small hours of the morning. Around nine the following morning, we finally said goodbye to the newly-weds as they headed off to the airport, this time for real! We saw them off with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” echoing across the property. Barbara and Owen’s four daughters and me running through the yard ringing cowbells, escorted Margaret and Denis off the property. I managed to twist my ankle when my foot went through the cow grate at the gate! I was feeling no pain at that stage!

So, I’d not only lost my dining buddies to the marital bed and a life of bliss, but I’d lost a tenant in the apartment block I was managing and living in. The search for new tenants didn’t take long and two young women moved in when Margaret moved out. I had more luck with female tenants than male. One so-called “young, male executive” proved to be a hopeless tenant when he managed to flood his apartment, causing major damage to the carpet, which had to be replaced. I promptly gave him his marching orders after seeing the disastrous results of his carelessness and untidiness. I advised him to get to work and clean up his accommodation and once that job was completed, pack his belongings and move on. Fortunately, the insurance paid for the replacement carpet, but I remained wary of prospective male tenants after that. All in all, I had no problems with my tenants and they were a fun-loving lot with good housekeeping skills!

Back at Kolotex, everything was going along smoothly.

Regularly, on Wednesday afternoons after the rest of the staff had left, a fine, elderly gentleman, Mick Peterson, would visit to share a drink or three with John Trimmer and me. One week, Mick would supply the scotch and the next week, Kolotex would supply the amber liquid. I’d place a platter of cheeses, salami etc., on John’s desk, sometimes we’d even feast on freshly cooked prawns. The three of us would settle in for a couple of hours of generous conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed those moments. Mick was an old trouper in the retail industry. He was “Barnum and Bailey” of the trade. At the time, he was high up the ladder with Woolworths in Brisbane. He had years and years of experience behind him and many tales to share from those years. Many a time Mick would purchase thousands and thousands of pairs of panti-hose off us at “bargain” prices. Loading up large containers filled with the hosiery, he would then stand out on the footpath in Queen Street (the main street in the CBD of Brisbane), loud-hailer in hand, “spruiking”. Without fail and in no time at all, he’d empty those bins. It mattered not to him that his “title” within the Woolworths’ corporation was one that matched those in high places. He was who he was and enjoyed every moment of it. He also had the respect of others in the trade. I learned so much from him and from John Trimmer in the art of marketing and sales during those hours we three shared together. They were magic moments, moments I’ve never forgotten. Many of the lessons I learned from listening to those two men I put into practice, not only immediately but throughout the years later in other positions I’ve held. Sadly, Mick passed away shortly after he had retired to live on the Gold Coast, but fortunately, John and I got to visit him in hospital briefly, before he died. He was missed as were our Wednesday afternoon get-togethers. Mick was a character. I feel fortunate that I’ve met quite a few “characters” throughout my life…and I’ve learned a lot from them.

To be continued...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

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

All my family ties to Gympie had been severed a few years earlier. With my brother married and raising his family in Mackay, my mother and grandmother left Gympie to live at Slade Point, a seaside suburb of Mackay, to be closer to my brother and his offspring. I made fleeting visits to welcome a new nephew or niece. Separately, my mother and grandmother came for lengthier stays with me in Brisbane.I rarely took time off from work.So much was happening around me in my workplace and my role in it was major.They were exciting times. I didn’t want to miss out on a thing.

In fact, I had so much time and money owing to me from leave not taken, that I innocently became the pawn in a game orchestrated by the union in the Sydney hosiery factory. As I’ve said previously, I had never been a member of a union, and to this day the status quo remains. It is probably why they chose me to be the scapegoat in their silly game.I had nothing to do with the Sydney factory, nor they, with me. The reasoning, which was beyond my logical thought and comprehension then, continues to baffle me to this day. When I was advised by the head office in Sydney that the union threatened to close down the Sydney factory, that it was bandying my name around, without my permission, setting me up as some example in their socialistic blackmail, I saw red…more like white…I was feeling white-hot anger!To this day, even though my reaction to being held to ransom cost me a lot, I have never regretted what I did.

Sitting quietly, alone in my office, I wrote a concise, precise, succinct note to the company in Sydney for them to pass onto the union. No one advised me how to handle the matter, nor did they know what I had in mind to do. I told no one, not even John Trimmer, until after I wrote and sent the letter.

In the letter I wrote: “My not taking holidays has been of my own choosing and freewill. I write to inform you that I hereby forfeit and relinquish all time and monies owing to me from accrued holiday leave and from accumulated sick leave.”

I felt like telling them to “put that in their pipes and smoke it” or more descriptively harshly, to put it where the sun didn’t shine, but I kept my dignity intact.

The strike action didn’t go ahead. I heard nothing further from the union, not even an acknowledgement to my letter.

Promotional evenings continued. Some were organized “out-of-premises”, being held in chosen restaurants. John and I appeared together on a local Brisbane morning televisions programme, which was hosted by John Crook.We discussed Kolotex panti-hose, their benefits etc., and the place the company held within the industry, nationally.

One special fun event I organized was held at “The Courtyard Restaurant” in Bowen Hills.We had held one or two functions at the restaurant previously.John and I had also entertained business associates there often over lunch. This particular evening was to have a “Hawaiian” theme, for no particular reason other than I thought it would be fun. The evening wasn’t to present a new product, but a goodwill-public relations gesture for the buyers and departmental managers from the Myer stores. More than likely, to be honest, it was just a good excuse to have a party! During the few weeks leading up to the evening, I spent time with the owner/chef of the restaurant, planning the format and choosing the menu for the evening’s pleasures. I’d decided we would hold a luau. Not an authentic Hawaiian Luau, of course, as the party was to be held in-doors in the restaurant’s function room.A long, low table made from trestles on blocks was laid out. It ran down the centre of the room to be surrounded by large plump cushions for our guests to sit and lounge upon. The room was transformed from a boring nondescript one of shades of grey and burgundy to a tropical paradise filled with potted ferns, palm fronds, banana leaves, frangipani blooms, hibiscus flowers and vibrant, multi-coloured sprays of bougainvillea blossoms. I begged, borrowed and didn’t steal fish-nets, shells and Japanese floating buoys.Generously, a neighbour of one staff member lent me a small, no-longer-sea-going craft that was decoratively placed at one end of the room, with much effort and sweat!I went on a search of suitable Hawaiian music and hired grass skirts and leis for my junior female staff members. Much to their shock-horror, I told them of my plans and their roles in those plans for the evening!Under instruction, after they finally realized I was serious, I guided them in the art of hula-dancing! Under my strict choreography, they spent their lunch hours leading up to the event, learning how to sway to the music. It was so funny!They did everything possible to try to talk me out of their on-stage performance, but I wouldn’t listen to the excuses they invented!

Melbourne Cup Day was the day before the event. Melbourne Cup Day in Baxter Street was always “party day”. “Sweeps” were organized.Fresh prawns brought in from Burleigh Marr at Breakfast Creek, an area well-known to "Brisbanites", together with other savoury delights, were part of the afternoon celebrations.Each year, John generously supplied a television set from his home or hired one for us, and equally generously went to the Tattersall’s Club for lunch, leaving the rest of us to the fun and games. At mid-day, someone was nominated to drive to Burleigh Marr to pick up the ordered seafood. Usually the day before Melbourne Cup Day, I did a “grog-run” to pick up the necessary supplies, together with the appropriate mixes. From noon onwards, no work was conducted by the Brisbane office. The Glo International showroom became the site for the party. On a normal day, John would ring me from the club to drive up to the city to collect him, but on Melbourne Cup Days he found his own way back by taxi, arriving back to the office later than usual.Each year at these parties, I knew there was no point expecting work out of any of us, once the feature race had been run.Grabbing some petty cash, I would commandeer one of the storemen to run across to the pub on the corner up the road from our premises to purchase a bottle of scotch, rum or brandy, whatever the spirit of choice John was drinking at that time.As soon as John arrived back to work to be confronted by his high-spirited staff, I’d place a glass of scotch or whatever in his hand.He had no other choice but to join in the revelry.He learned very quickly that any protests he made were purposely not heard or were purposely ignored.

The day before the Hawaiian party, he walked into the showroom to be confronted by the sight of two of his salesmen, Ken and Charles, leis around their necks, dressed in hula skirts, swaying non-seductively to the beat of Hawaiian music blasting forth! John just shook his head, burst out laughing and joined in the fun. He knew he couldn’t “beat us”, so he joined us in the fun.

The following day was busily spent finishing off the final arrangements for the evening ahead.My “girls” were still protesting about their coming performance, but I remained adamant. I told them “this could be your defining moments”!

Dressed in their grass skirts, bikini-tops and colourful leis the time arrived for their opening act. Nervously, they clustered together in a room off to the side of the stage that had been set up in the function room. Being the consummate “agent/manager/choreographer” my main fear was not that they wouldn’t go on, but that they would get the giggles. With a straight face, trying to hold down my own laughter, I glared at them, threatening them with “death” if they dared giggle.I told them not to look at each other but to “get up there and give it your all!” And that they did…expertly.Not a beat was missed as they did their “dance”. They were brilliant and received loud applause and accolades from our guests at the end of their performance. I sighed with relief!

They each told me later that they weren’t game to get the giggles; that I had put the fear of God into them with my before-performance lecture and threat!We laughed many time afterwards when we talked about that night.A couple of years ago, Debbie, who was one of the “dancers’ came up to visit me one weekend. She is now has a Phd. in Marketing and lectures at Griffith University on the Gold Coast. We recalled that night and laughed our heads off over it. Again, she told me there was no way they were going to get the giggles. “Lee” had spoken!At least on the night, my conviction and firm words worked, even if I was trying vainly to bury my own laughter. I will always remember the looks of absolute terror on their faces before they went “on stage”!

Our guests, plus us, sipped on heady, colourfully-decorated tropical cocktails served in scooped -out pineapples upon arrival, some choosing to stay with the cocktails throughout the evening, others drinking their beverages of choice. Sounds of "ooi-ng and ahh-ing" echoed through the room when dinner was served. The food was laid out down the centre of the table. The menu included as the centre-piece, a whole suckling pig, its crackling crisp and golden, served on a large platter surrounded by char-grilled pineapple rings and stuffed tomatoes. It was accompanied by chicken dishes, baked fish, coconut prawns, platters of fresh fruits, confetti rice, vegetables and a variety of salads, followed by coconut desserts, macadamia nut tarts and much more.

Those who managed to drag themselves away from the lowset table danced the night and the extra calories away, others chose to watch on from their large cushions, chatting amongst each other as their dinner digested slowly.

The night was a huge success. Everyone had a wonderful time, including my "hula dancers", who, by the way, never went on to achieve fame and fortune on the stage circuit!

To be continued...

(I don't know why this post has slipped over to the "right"...I hope it doesn't disturb the flow of your reading...I've just installed Microsoft Office, so perhaps the tabs on Word are out of alignment...I'll check into that...sorry)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I Just Have To Do This!

For those of you who may have missed the clip of this guy on TV...please do yourselves a favour and click on this link

I posted on FauxNEWS about him, but felt I had to spread the joy here as well.

This guy has an amazingly, beautiful voice. Note the changes in attitude and looks on the judges' faces from before his performance to after it!

And just when you thought it was safe to wipe those tears's another to stir you!

UPDATE: Thanks to "Granny" mentioning's another song by Paul Potts

Friday, June 15, 2007

Let's Get Delectably Decadently Decadent!

I think it's time we had a little indecent fun, don't you? After all, it is the weekend. I'll stop "Reaching Out To The City Lights" long enough to drool over some rich chocolate dessert. I'm having a very lazy weekend. At the moment my appetite is being drastically teased by the aroma of my shoulder of pork with its accompanying vegetabes roasting away in the oven. Drooling, my thoughts turned to chocolate cake and other disgraceful goodies, not that I'm guilty of making the following. I'm just guilty of the thought and posting my thoughts. If I'm going to get into trouble, you may as well come along with me on the ride!

All's fair in the love of chocolate, I believe!

Rich Chocolate Brownies:

6 tablespoons butter
1-1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3 large eggs

3/4 cup plain/all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350*F (175*C).
Grease 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish. Set aside. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate chips and stir until chips are melted. Set aside. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Mix in the flour, cocoa, sugar and baking soda . Stir in the melted chocolate, then the nuts and white chocolate. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake for about 25 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before topping with melted dark chocolate or dark chocolate icing, cutting into squares to serve.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen bars.

Chocolate Caramel Tart:

Serve with cream or ice-cream. Serves 12-16

1 cup (150g) plain flour
½ cup (80g) icing sugar mixture
1/3 cup (40g) almond meal
125g chilled butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
2 x 395g cans sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup (80ml) golden syrup
100g butter, extra
200g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
Gold leaf*, to decorate

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the flour, icing sugar mixture, almond meal and chilled butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and process until mixture just comes together. Turn on to a lightly floured surface and gently knead until just smooth. Shape into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

Use a rolling pin to roll pastry to a 3mm-thick disc. Line a 22cm round (base measurement) fluted tart tin with removable base with the pastry. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

Line pastry with baking paper and pastry weights, rice or dried beans. Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. Remove paper and weights, rice or beans and cook for a further 5 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Combine the condensed milk, golden syrup and half the extra butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 5-7 minutes or until golden in colour and caramel thickens. Remove from heat and immediately pour into the pastry case. Use a small palette knife to smooth the surface.

Place the chocolate and remaining extra butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water and stir with a metal spoon for 5 minutes or until chocolate melts and mixture is glossy. Pour over the caramel and use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface. Set aside for 30 minutes to set. Decorate with gold leaf and cut into wedges to serve. "A hint of gold adds a decadent touch to desserts. Packets of edible gold leaf are available from specialty food stores and delicatessens. Use tweezers to arrange pieces of gold leaf on the chocolate before it sets. Silver leaf can be used as an alternative."

Now, wasn't that fun?

I hope to have Chapter Thirteen of "Reaching Out To The City Lights" written and posted tomorrow or the following day.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Something To Fill In The Time & The Hunger!

We need something to eat while I write Chapter Thirteen of my “Reaching Out To The City Lights” and as I have a piece of shoulder pork defrosting in my fridge in readiness for tomorrow, I thought I’d share a couple of pork recipes with you just to whet your appetites. Mine is already whetted and impatient from every time I open my fridge door and I see that glorious piece of meat sitting there waiting for me to do wonderful things to it! I can’t wait to get my teeth around the crisp, golden crackling (that’s after I retrieve them from under my bed!)

A friend is popping by this afternoon to show me a painting of mine that I gave him and his wife. He’s had it framed, so I’m looking forward to seeing the end result. A good frame makes so much of a difference to paintings. Paul and Fia already have three of my paintings on their walls. I feel kind of proud that they like them enough to display them in their home. So, while he’s here this afternoon, I will no doubt pop the coke on a couple of bottles of wine, white for him, red for me and we’ll “chew the fat” over an antipasti and a glass or three. I’ll try not to ruin my appetite for tomorrow’s gala dinner of roast pork. I can’t disappoint my dinner guest, who will be me!

Balsamic Roast Pork:

1.1-1.3kg pork boneless loin joint

50g unsalted butter

2 red onions, each cut into 8 wedges

15g fresh rosemary, chopped

250ml balsamic vinegar

6 small green apples


Preheat the oven to 180°C/375F; season with freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large frying pan to smoking point, add the meat and seal on all sides for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown, then transfer to a roasting tin. In the same pan, melt the butter then add the onion and rosemary. Sauté for 5 minutes until the onion has softened slightly, then tip into the roasting tin and pour over half the vinegar. Make sure the meat is well coated. Place in the oven and cook for the calculated time, stirring the onions occasionally and basting the pork. Forty minutes before the pork is ready, add the apple halves to the tin and pour the remaining vinegar over. When the apples are tender and the pork is thoroughly cooked with no pink meat, remove the joint from the roasting tin and allow to stand for 10 minutes before carving. (The pork that is...not you!) Place the apples in a serving dish, cover with foil and keep warm until ready to serve. Stir the wine into the juices in the tin and simmer for 3-4 minutes over a medium heat. Serve the pork with the apples and a little juice, with creamy mashed potatoes and lightly sautéed zucchinis/courgettes.

Roast Pork Loin in Horseradish Crust:


1 cup fresh bread crumbs (about 2 slices)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons drained bottled horseradish, or to taste

2kg/1 lb. boneless pork loin

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise


Preheat oven to 220C/475F. In a heavy skillet cook bread crumbs in 1 tablespoon oil with salt and pepper to taste over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown. Transfer bread crumbs to a bowl and toss well with horseradish. Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper. In a skillet heat remaining tablespoon oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown pork on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer pork to a shallow baking pan. In a small bowl, mix mustard and mayonnaise; coat top and sides evenly with mixture. Press bread crumb mixture evenly onto mustard and roast pork in middle of oven until a meat thermometer inserted in center registers 145 degrees for slightly pink meat (if bread crumbs begin to get too browned arrange a sheet of foil loosely over pork), 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes. Cut pork into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Serve with balsamic-braised red cabbage and onions and boiled new potatoes with chive butter.

Lemon Pork Scallopini:


2 pork scallopini (thin slices of boneless top round or tip), cut in half, about 1 pound total

1/4 cup Italian dressing

2 teaspoons lemon pepper

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon butter


Brush scallopini on both sides with dressing, season with lemon pepper, set aside. Mix together flour and Parmesan on shallow plate; coat pork generously and shake off excess. Heat butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Quickly cook scallopini, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with hot cooked noodles, buttered broccoli spears, sliced tomatoes vinaigrette with blue cheese, and warm dinner rolls.

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...