Randall & Me...Our Wedding Day.
Mervyn & My Wedding Day
Noosa River, further along past Tewantin
Upper Reaches of Noosa River towards The Everglades
Randall and Me as Teenagers
Pirate Night on Laguna Belle - Me greeting guests. Jill, our kitchen hand sipping water *cough*
Pirate Lee with Guest
In March 1979, my ex-husband and I decided to leave city life behind; so we moved from Brisbane up to the Sunshine Coast.
To fill you in the on a little of the background story leading up to the tale I’m about to relate….
Randall, my ex, had arrived back in Australia late 1974 after spending nigh on a decade in New York City…on the Upper East Side. While based in New York, he also travelled extensively through other areas in the States and up into Canada, as well as to parts of Mexico and other Central America destinations, along with a few trips back and forth to London. Europe played a small part in his travels. In particular, a fun sojourn in Verbier, Switzerland, and a detour off the beaten tracks to Morocco.
While in New York he worked for the New Zealand Mission to the United Nations, for the then New Zealand Ambassador, Frank Corner. Randall for short time also worked for the British Consulate. Following on from those roles he went on to manage a bar and restaurant in New York’s Upper East Side, “O’Brien’s”. During the summer months he spent time out on Long Island where “O’Brien’s” operated during the summer.
Randall and I first met when he was 19 years old and me, at the tender age of 18 years. He arrived in Gympie to take up a position with the local radio station, 4GY as a radio announcer. His voice was, and still is one of the best I’ve ever heard. I’m not and wasn’t biased. I’m not alone in saying this. His fellow workers had admiration for his rich, dulcet tones; and some still do to this day. His voice is memorable; once heard, difficult to forget.
We became engaged on his 21st birthday. Our intentions were to have a lengthy engagement. We weren’t in a hurry to marry. Randall's feet got itchy. He was bitten badly by the travel bug.
Randall’s desire to “see the world” was strong. I was fully aware of his dreams from when we first met. I believed, and I still do, that it wasn’t my place, nor was it anyone else’s to hinder his or, for that matter, any individual’s personal wishes. I understood his need to fulfill his lifelong dream; I wasn’t going to be the one to stand in his way. To travel; to see the world was Randall’s dream; not mine.
I bade Randall farewell as he set off on his odyssey. Of course, I was sad, very sad to see him go. Many tears were shed; not only mine; but we were both young and we had our lives ahead of us.
A few months after Randall left our shores, I bumped into a friend from my past one evening at a Brisbane nightspot; a fellow who originally was from Gympie, but who had worked in Brisbane since he left high school. He’d return to Gympie on winter weekends to partner me to the Gympie balls. That he partnered me to the balls was just a habit we’d become accustomed to; we were good mates only. Mervyn was a lifesaver with the Noosa Surf Life Saving Club, as was my older brother. We’d never been romantically connected as such, although I knew that he had a bit of a crush on me during those years; and, I liked him, too. He was five years older than me. He was a nice fellow.
Caught up in the whirl of our rapid reconnection, Mervyn declared his feelings and intentions. I accepted Mervyn’s marriage proposal, knowing I was on the rebound, but all the while trying to deny it as best I could. I was aware of my true inner feelings; but at 21 years of age…I knew everything!
Mervyn and I married and remained so for two and a half years; and then we separated…amicably, as well. There has never been any bad blood between us. He married again about five years after our divorce. He and his wife raised a family of a daughter and twin sons. We keep in touch a couple of times a year, and always have done so.
On Randall’s arrival back to Australia he and I picked up from where we had left off, barely missing a beat. By that time, I’d been happily single for six years.
Randall and I decided, finally, to “tie the knot” in March, 1976.
After 12 years together from his return home (married 10 years almost to the day we parted) we separated; and then, we divorced two years later. However, we remain friends to this day. He is still a very important person in my life. We’re in regular communication either by telephone, Skype or email; and some times we catch up face to face. Actually, we live only about 30kms apart these days. We will always be good friends, no matter what; and I’m glad it is this way. The respect I feel for him is reciprocated. We parted amicably; no spite; no recriminations; no nastiness. We acted as adults. We were adults. I know that he will always have my back; and vice versa.
Life is what it is. Sometimes our lives don’t follow the dreams we’ve dreamed; or fulfilled the hopes we’ve hoped. All is not bad; all is not lost. This may sound odd to those not “walking in my shoes”; but they are my shoes that I have to walk in (and similar applies to Randall) and my choices are mine. It is better this way; it is for the best.
I was never one, even when I was a little girl, who wanted a big, fancy wedding with all the flowing white dresses and bridesmaids etc. Both times my weddings were relaxed low-key, laid-back fun affairs. Randall and I got married in the middle of a Sunday afternoon party at his folks' home in Brisbane.
Most of the above I have written about previously in my blog in chapters titled “Reaching Out to the City Lights”; but for those who’ve not read my earlier posts this is a synopsis to help fill in the blanks.
In 1983 Randall and I were living at Sunshine Beach; a beach close to the nearby Noosa Heads.
Friends of ours, a solicitor and a chartered accountant came to dinner at our home one evening.
Amongst our dinner conversation matters of business
were also on the agenda. Both of our dinner guests were acting on behalf of the owners of a restaurant.
During dinner they approached us with an offer...to manage the restaurant in discussion. The owner was running it into the ground (or a sand bank). The business owed money left, right and centre. The owner was more interested in leaning on the bar at the local Bowls’ Club; and his daughter whom he’d left in charge was more interested in drugs of the illicit kind and the hangers-on her lifestyle encouraged. Drastic measures had to be taken or the business would go under making
it necessary for the business to close down.
As a last resort, aware of Randall's and my history, we were asked if we were willing to give it a go; to give it our best shot to bring it back from the red, into the black; and attempt to restore its once good reputation.
After due consideration over a few scotches, we leapt at the challenge!
The restaurant, “The Laguna Belle” was a cruising restaurant.
“The Laguna Belle” was modelled on the Mississippi paddle-wheelers. Builder, Fred Cooper, (the original owner and not the one we were replacing), and his son, Peter, with the assistance of a Buderim boat-builder went to work in building the double-decker powered craft. “The Belle” was towed to Noosaville where it was moored at a jetty in the Noosa River. She had a shallow draft and a faux paddle wheel at her stern. Sadly, the old girl no longer exists. She was scuttled a number of years ago. "The Belle" stored many fun stories within her hull; and many occurred during our management!
The bar and an open lounge area were on the top level; the lower level consisted of the dining area and the kitchen/galley.
Tuesday through to Thursday evenings “The Laguna Belle” was tied up to the jetty. We catered for diners dockside. Friday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday lunches we cruised the Noose River to its upper reaches. Our staff consisted of a chef; a kitchen-hand; a waitress and bearded Charles, who skippered the craft when cruising. Appropriately, dear Charles was a pretty “cruisey” guy! Randall ran the bar; and I acted as hostess. I also waited on tables. During the day when all the preparation in readiness for the evening service was done, I assisted our chef in certain areas of food preparation; and I prepared all the desserts.
Sunday lunches, in particular, were the best times. They were fun. To cruise the river during daylight hours was a treat to behold; and one of which we never tired. The restaurant was closed Sunday nights; and Monday was our day off.
The mood of our Sunday lunch diners was always light, bright and happy. What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon! Dining and sipping on a cold beer or enjoying a wine or three while on a leisurely, fun-filled riverboat cruise along the mirror-like surface of the slow-moving waters of the Noosa River became a popular pastime for locals and tourists alike. An abundance of tea-trees fringed the banks of the upper reaches of river; they played host to myriad bird life. The trees are still there as are the birds!
It was a clear, sunny, spring Sunday afternoon in September; a blissful, perfect day to cruise the river. A multitude of happy, expectant diners, some with children, skipped merrily down the jetty to board “The Belle”. The air was filled with their cheerful chatter. Departure time on Sundays was 12 noon. The cruise lasted three and half hour; and we were always back, dockside at 3.30 pm. The guests were quickly seated; the signal was given to Charles. Randall unhitched the ropes; and we were off on our way!
Well, that was the plan!
“The Laguna Belle” had only travelled about one kilometer before she became stuck fast on a sand bank! She wasn’t moving. She wasn’t going anywhere! There we were, filled to capacity with diners, stuck in the middle of the river opposite the Tewantin Council Chambers.
There were quite a few boats out on the river that bright sunny day; mainly small dinghies holding a couple of forever-hopeful fishermen. There were a couple of permanent houseboats moored closer to the north shore banks of the river with their inhabitants kicking back over a cold beer. They watched on with amused interest. A few powered vessels cockily motored by, their skippers waved at us; broad smiles across their faces. Although Charles’ face was covered in ginger hair his blushing was clear to see. Frantically, he revved the motor in many futile attempts to dislodge “The Belle”.
Finally, a couple of Good Samaritans pulled in alongside us. Up for a Sunday adventure the boaties offered us their assistance. They had a wild plan in mind. We were in no position to decline their kind offer, no matter how wild it was. We were stuck in the middle of the river on a normally cruising restaurant full of people – with no where to go! On closer reflection, I think the wild plan, in actual fact, was Randall's.
Like a couple of cowboys rounding up the herd our rambunctious saviours cranked up their boat's motor and began to speed around and around our boat in an effort to create waves with the purpose of creating enough water to wash over the sand bank in the hope that the added water flow would release us from our embarrassing predicament.
The wild plan worked!
Finally, “The Belle” floated off the sand bank. Much hooting and hollering was heard, not only from the helpful boaties, but from our captive diners and our staff as well.
Jill, our kitchen-hand and I had been in hysterics throughout, while conducting a running commentary on the side like well-rehearsed tour guides. “Hysterics” as in laughter, not panic. We’d kept our guests highly amused as they watched the events unfolding around them on the river.
The diners thought it was part of our regular lunch-time entertainment, I think!
One little boy said to his father and mother that it was much more fun than Dreamworld, Gold Coast’s large theme park that offers a host of thrill rides and exciting attractions! The family had holidayed at the Gold Coast before they headed north to the Sunshine Coast. They’d only arrived at Noosaville the previous day to experience the adventure we’d given them.
We created quite a spectacular spectacle for the many spectators who gathered on the banks of the river, and for those in passing boats who paused a while to watch the fun unfold that Sunday afternoon.
Our delighted audience clapped and cheered once the mission of our rescuers was accomplished.
We were on our way again…we believed! But it was not to be!
Charles, while doing his utmost to dislodge our vessel, had used up a massive amount of diesel. Sheepishly, he emerged from the engine room. He whispered to Randall that not only were we now very low on fuel, but there was a blockage in the fuel lines, no diesel, the minute quantity that was left, was getting through. Sand had been sucked up into the lines during Charles’ efforts to get the boat moving and had blocked the lines!
To keep the latest dilemma we had on our hands from the diners whose attention, by that stage, had reverted to their dinner plates, I kept smiling as if all was well in the world. Meanwhile Randall and Charles descended to the engine room to start syphoning at least enough fuel to get us back to the jetty. Cruising further up the river was no longer on the cards.
We slowly returned to the jetty with the diners blissfully unaware of our problem. They were enjoying the ride!
The events had made the afternoon seem very lengthy to Randall; to me, and to our staff; but obviously not to our diners. After all of the fuss, bother, ado and rollicking high jinks, we made it back to the jetty at 3.35 pm…five minutes later than usual designated time of arrival!
Every guest, as they disembarked “The Laguna Belle”, gushed, thanking us sincerely for their very enjoyable, memorable afternoon. Their broad smiles and their sparkling eyes said it all.
They’d had a ball!