Sunday, July 21, 2013


Rockhampton in Central Queensland is where I was born.

A few months after that momentous. memorable event... between 12 to 18 months later, at a family moved to the Mackay area taking me with them, of course! I can’t confirm the exact dates as I’m the only one left to tell the story.

For those who are unaware and who could be interested in a bit of trivia that isn’t trivial; The Tropic of Capricorn crosses at Rockhampton.

For the ensuring two or so years after leaving Rockhampton I lived beside the ocean at Slade Point, a beachside suburb of Mackay. Mackay sits 330kms (205 miles) north of Rockhampton. In reality, we were on the southern fringe of Slade Point; down along the esplanade; on the southern side of the Point; closer to Lamberts Beach; an area of coastal dunes and paper-bark wetlands.

My brother and I swam in the warm waters of the Coral Sea every day. We learned to swim at an early age; a smart idea because the beach was our playground. The area is protected by the Great Barrier Reef; meaning there is no large, rolling surf pounding the shores. 

Our residence was attached to the local store – “Hill’s Cash Store”. The shop was run by my mother, grandmother and stepfather. I’m not sure if it was named after us, as that was our adopted surname…the Hill part, that is; not the cash or the store; or if it was so named because the buildings were situated at the base of the hill looming at the rear. The name remained for years long after we’d left the scene; and then it became a 7-Eleven Store. I’ve no idea if the store still exists today.

“Hill” wasn’t my birth name. It was the name of my stepfather. When he unfortunately came onto the scene our surname was changed from “Nicholson” (our biological father’s name) to “Hill” after our mother re-married.  

There was a lot going on in our small family unit in those years.

My mother and Joe Nicholson, my biological father, separated when my mother was pregnant with me. My brother, Graham, was older than me by almost three years.

 It matters not who we are - Life presents every one of us with hurdles to conquer; that was just one of many to follow.

I carried the surname “Hill” throughout my childhood until I changed it upon my first marriage. 

As a child I swore to myself I would change my name back to “Nicholson” when I reached 16 years; but I never did. I thought it would cause embarrassment to my mother that she didn’t deserve; and I’d be handing the gossip-mongers a story on a silver platter.

My step-father wasn’t a nice person. In fact, he was an arse-hole of the first degree; and that is putting it very politely. I have many more descriptive adjectives I could, and do use, but I shall spare you those.  I won’t go into further details of his sordid, brutal behaviour at this point in time. Suffice to say, a few years after we moved from Slade Point to Gympie, the police ran him out of town, with strict orders never to return.  The police no longer have the power to do similar; and some in our society, far too many, suffer because the police have been stripped of the capacity to perform their jobs effectively in such cases.

When my brother and I were little kids playing around the area surrounding the shop at Slade Point tidal fish traps were still in operation.  Whether they were originally indigenous fish traps, I don’t know.

Years ago stone wall fish traps constructed by Aboriginals were spread throughout the northern and central coast areas of this state.  The traps were common sights.

I can’t say with any authority the traps I remember at Slade Point/Lamberts Beach were originally built by Aboriginals, but I think, perhaps, they were more likely to have been built by Europeans; or, perhaps, another scenario is Pacific Islanders were their originators.

The Pioneer Valley was, and still is, the biggest sugar-producing area in Australia. From 1863 through to 1904 thousands of Islanders were brought to the area to work on the sugar cane farms. I have no one I can call upon to nudge my recall of those early times in my life spent at Slade Point. I’m able only to work off the memories I retain from so long ago. 

Each day on low tide when the fisherman descended upon the beach to pull in the nets strung between wooden stakes set firmly into the mudflats and sand, filled with excitement, my brother and I watched on from the sidelines; keeping well out of the way of the noisy, busy men. 

I imagine the wooden stakes were later additions to the original stone wall traps that ran out into the sea. 

The tanned, vocal fishermen dragged the nets filled with their lively, glistening bounty onto the beach. Generously, they  never failed to give Graham and me a couple of wriggling fish. We’d thank them before running back home holding on tightly to our slippery, squirming rewards. 

Fresh fish was regularly on our dinner menu.

My introduction to oysters was around that time, as well. I loved them at my first “Hello”; and  I’ve loved them ever since, particularly straight off the rocks; or au natural in half shells on a bed of ice!

When I lived on Newry Island in the early Nineties, the lessee of the little resort on the island and the area surrounding held a license for fish traps. The traps no longer existed. There was no sign of their existence, as far as I could see, anyway, but I dare say remnants remained on the sea bed covered by sand and mud etc. Nevertheless, I was instructed from afar to renew the license when it fell due.  If the license was allowed to lapse, one would never again be issued; and my life wouldn’t have been worth living…not on Newry Island, anyway!

Back to Slade Point…often our Nana would take Graham and me for walks around the cliffs leading to Lamberts Beach. It was a beautiful area.  I remember being terrified as I hung on dearly to the cliff-face fearing I’d fall to my death upon the rocks or onto sand into the raging sea below. However, I always managed to put on a brave face as I did my best to hide my fear from my grandmother and Graham.  Like older brothers have a habit of doing, Graham loved to tease me. He got great pleasure from doing so!  

I point out again, at the time I was not yet four years old.  The image of those rugged cliffs stayed with me and haunted my dreams for years.

During early primary school in Gympie I related tales of those adventurous, heart-stopping climbs to my school mates.  Wide-eyed, they listened in awe.

Years later when I was much older – and much taller (at my best and tallest I was 5 ft 9 inches (175cm) – I revisited those steep, high cliffs at Lamberts Beach. 

To my surprised amusement, those stamina-testing, ruggedly dangerous cliffs that I’d bravely tackled time and time again were barely as high as my knees! In truth, they fell short by an inch or two!

I laughed as I remembered the many instances recounting my brave feats to my young school friends.  At the time of telling, I wasn’t exaggerating.  I wasn’t lying.  I was just a little girl; knee-high to a grasshopper; and those cliffs were very real; and so very dangerously high to me – that little girl!

Grilled Oysters with Brie: Slice 1 whole-grain baguette into 24 rounds; brush lightly with olive oil; place on baking tray. Toast in 180C oven until just crisp. Slice 400g Brie into 24 equal pieces. Top rounds with Brie; return to oven to melt, about 5mins. Heat grill; set rack about 15cm from heat. In oven dish, combine 24 oysters with 65g melted butter, a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper; grill until oysters begin to curl at edges, about 5mins. Place one oyster on top of Brie; top with red capsicum strips; serve warm. 

Steamed Ginger-Shallot Fish: Combine 1tbs dry sherry, 1tsp caster sugar, 1tsp sesame oil and 1/2tbs light soy sauce. Place 2 firm white fish fillets into a bowl that fits a steamer; top with 2cm piece of peeled ginger, cut into matchsticks; pour over above mixture. Place bowl in steamer over simmering water; cook, 5mins, or so. Divide steamed Asian greens onto plates; top with fish; drizzle with soy sauce and juices. Top with julienned shallots and mild chilli.  

Fish with Pine Nut Vinaigrette: Grab some white fish fillets; dry and salt; coat in flour. Heat a few tablespoons of olive in pan over mod-heat; fry fish until browned on both sides; remove. With pan on low, add minced garlic, chopped parsley and pine nuts. When nuts are toasted, add a splash of white wine vinegar, enough to coat bottom of pan; pour over fish. Serve immediately. 

Crumbed Fish: Combine 3/4tsp salt, ½tsp each paprika, onion powder and dry mustard, 1/4tsp each garlic powder, pepper, cumin, basil and Italian seasoning.  Rub some of this mix onto fish fillets; add rest to breadcrumbs; add 1tbs olive oil to breadcrumbs; blend with hands; dredge fish into crumbs. Bake on oiled pan, 6 mins; turn bake further 4mins


  1. You have been through a lot, but there's no self-pity here - I admire you.

  2. There have been moments, that is for sure, RC.

    Sometimes your avatar depicts just how I feel when remembering those moments! ;)

  3. Echoing both of you here. You have indeed been through a lot - which has made you the interesting person we are coming to know.
    And I would OFTEN love Riot Kitty's avatar. I have uses for a machine gun. Rather a lot of them, so it is just as well I don't have one.

  4. Stand beside me, EC! No one would be game enough to take you and me on! I think RC might join our forces, too! ;)

  5. I think the title did my head in!

  6. I'm glad that scoundrel got out of your life as soon as possible.

    The fish with ginger sounds so good - I used to do that, but bake it. Time to try that one again, I think. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Wonderful account of both some good and bad memories. Please forgive me, but I LOVE deep-fried breaded oysters.

  8. I hope you managed to sort your head out, Cosmo! Sorry to do that to you! ;)

  9. Hey Lynn. I'm going to have to make that ginger-shallot fish, too, I think!

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  10. Hi Jerry.

    Don't apologise. I don't have to forgive you for anything.

    I love oysters each and every way, but my favourite is just as is...oysters natural.

  11. Hi Lee, great writing as always. You have had an incredible life to this point. Now keep at it.
    I envy you growing up so close to the ocean. I don't envy you your problems with the step father. He must have been a real creep.

  12. btw, I intend to read all I've missed. It will have to be when I'm performing a juggling act with irrigation center pivots.

  13. Hiya Cliff.'s always good to see you.

    It sounds like you're pretty busy up your way. What with the farm and the new kennels, it will be the animals doing all the scratching; because you'd have no time to scratch yourself! :)

    Take good care.

  14. UK police used to (and may still do) pick up vagrants who were a pest and drive them to the edge of their area and dump them! Move on was the instruction.
    Now courts have to give orders for people to stay away.

  15. Hi Adullamite. Unfortunately, I think our police must tear their hair out daily from the weak actions of our courts these days. The justice system has become a joke...a rap of the knuckles and send the perpetrators on their way! Not good enough!

    Thanks for dropping in. :)

  16. I've always liked the description of someone having been "run out of town." Nice to see that it really does/has happened. Sometimes I wish I could get run out of town, but not because I'm evil; I just don't necessarily like the town.

  17. Hi Dexter. Yes...the good old days when police had the powers to do so.

    You could always join the police marathon and go on a run with them! ;)

  18. Yeah! Sure! I believe you!

  19. And so you should, Cosmo! Would I lie to you? Never! And I never lie to Lee, either! Just ask him! ;)

  20. I wanna be by the sea!