|A day spent in and around the resort's pool. Life get's tedious, don't it?|
|Bronnie and Julie (staff) with Rick and Bob on "Reef Venture" and on the beach|
|Raffles City, Singapore|
|Raffles Hotel Swizzle Sticks|
After a non-eventful trip from Singapore back to the Land of Oz; and then an equally non-eventful connecting flight from Brisbane to Townsville, I finally ended up in Cardwell where I stayed overnight, but not at the Lyndoch Motel, my usual mainland hang-out. The motel was booked out, so I stayed in a self-contained apartment further north along the highway from the Lyndoch.
Excited in the knowledge my island home was just across the waters of Missionary Bay, I was eager for the night to pass. I was impatient for the morning to arrive; keen to jump aboard the “Reef Venture”. I’d pre-arranged with Bonnie, the wife of Bob, the skipper of the “Reef Venture” to pick me up in the morning in my own car, to drive me to the Cardwell jetty. Bonnie operated the small mainland booking office situated in the centre of the town. She attended to all the office work, which included holiday reservations for the resort, day-trippers, and all other matters pertaining thereto. In the meantime Bob did the runs to the island, every day, except Mondays (and sometimes on Monday, if required), ferrying day-trippers, holidaymakers as well as delivering the resort’s provisions, gas bottles etc. Bonnie and Bob stored my car, a Ford Cortina Ghia in their garage at the rear of their office.
Up bright and early, I was showered, dressed and ready to go. I’d had a wonderful week in Singapore, one in which I’d created life-long, happy memories, but now with the island within my reach I could hardly contain my emotions. I’d missed my island home and my staff.
Upon hearing my car pull into the driveway of the unit, I flew out the door before the motor was switched off; but, I immediately came to an abrupt stop. My mouth fell open and my eyes grew as large as saucers!
“Who’s looking after the island?” Were the first words issued from my mouth.
In my car, with smiles as bright at the Evening Star and as wide as the Great Australian Bight, beaming at me were most of my staff members!
“What’s going on?” I exclaimed. “Why are all of you here? Is anyone left on the island?”
“G’day, Mum!” Cheerfully they shouted in unison as they leapt from the car full of vim and vigour. Grabbing my luggage like a mob of frenzied porters, they promptly loaded it into the car’s boot (the trunk for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere).
As explained in previous posts, often, with good-humoured affection, my staff called me “Mum”. It grew from me regularly referring to them as “the kids” or “my kids” when talking with island guests. So the moniker of “Mum” stuck in lighter moments! When they weren’t pleased with me, or vice versa, formality reappeared briefly. That morning they figured using the nom de plume of “Mum” was the safe route to my heart and good nature!
“Well! Why are you all here? Who is left at the resort?” I repeated, too stunned to move.
“Everything’s under control, Mum! No need to worry!” One grinning renegade told me, as the rest of the cavalier bunch nodded in agreement.
“We took a vote! We drew straws to see who would remain at the resort. There aren’t many guests at the moment. Rick was throwing a Thanksgiving Party, and he invited us along! So we’re the ones who won draw, and drew the long straws!”
Rick, Bonnie’s brother-in-law, married to her sister, was an American from Boston. He and Bonnie’s sister were on an extended holiday, staying with the family in Cardwell. During his stay in Cardwell, Rick acted as Bob’s deckhand on the “Reef Venture”. Hinchinbrook Island and the resort became his second home, too.
I was too flabbergasted to kick up much of a stink; and seeing their happy faces milling around me made it nigh impossible for me to be cranky at them. Their actions, body language and comments showed they were very pleased to have me back within the fold. Anyway, it was too late to cry over spilled milk; they’d already enjoyed the Thanksgiving Party, perhaps, a little too much I sensed! However, their exuberance was contagious, and soon I joined in with their laughter. They were the ones who had to fight through hangovers, not me! I had faith in my staff (most of them, anyway). I knew they wouldn’t desert their posts before having all bases well covered.
To allow a chance to party slip out of their hands was not in my staff’s DNA. They worked hard when on shift, and they had partying down pat!
The car was overloaded even before my presence. Ungainly, I squeezed in as best I could, sitting on someone’s lap, not having anywhere to put my arms or hands without causing someone embarrassment, including me. I held them were upright with my palms awkwardly splayed on the ceiling of the car’s interior. If the Cardwell police had been up out of bed they’d have booked us all and confiscated my car! But, maybe not…they were a good mob, the Cardwell cops. I got on well with them. Fortunately, it wasn’t a long distance to the jetty. We succeeded in making the trip safely without being hauled off to the Cardwell lock-up!
What a great headline that would have been!
Through the boisterous chatter and laughter I was informed by my bossy staff that I wasn’t going to do a scrap of work once we landed on the island. They allotted me no room for argument. Their orders were my commands; with promises of margaritas or pina coladas at my beck and call as incentives!
Who could refuse an offer/order such as the one issued me that morning…not I!
I didn’t feel in “work-mode”, anyway. I needed a day to digest everything I’d experienced the previous week – that’s what I told myself, anyway – and it seemed good advice. I followed it diligently, to the letter.
True to their word, as soon as we arrived at the island, my luggage was whisked away off the boat, taken in the direction of my island abode, with me rushing behind because I was eager to cuddle my beloved ginger cat, Ruska. I’d missed him very much; and from his reaction upon seeing me, it was very clear he’d missed me, too. After spending time with Ruska, ensuring him I was back home to stay, without further fuss or ado, I donned my togs (swimming suit) because the balance of the day was going to be spent in and around the pool. Tying a colourful sarong around my hips I walked back to the pool deck where an inviting cold drink was already mixed and waiting for me.
Oh! Life gets so tedious on a tropical island at the start of summer…but one has to deal with it the best way one can!
Sipping pina coladas in and around the pool while listening to the stories about what had transpired during my absence, as well as answering the endless questions tossed at me from all quarters, including from Rick whom I’d forgiven for stealing my staff overnight, and for being the cause of their hangovers, the day passed extremely pleasantly.
From memory there were only eight or ten guests staying in the resort’s cabins at the time. During the day guests were off doing their own thing. One by one, or two by two they meandered back to the restaurant and pool where they, too, soaked up the casual, relaxed atmosphere.
Morning morphed seamlessly into afternoon; lazy, leisure-filled hours were enjoyed by everyone; most of all by me. It was good to be home again with the sound of the ocean lapping the shore, even if, on the day of my return to the fold, the ocean sounds were mostly drowned out by the happy, at times lively, unrestrained revellers.
However, once the fun and games were over, it didn’t take me long to settle back into work rhythm.
About two days after being back home it was time to finish unpacking my suitcases. I let out a gasp when I found a brown paper bag bearing a pomegranate amongst the contents of a suitcase. I’d bought the pomegranate from a street vendor in Singapore. Obviously, in a hurry when I’d returned to my hotel room I’d tossed it onto the opened suitcase, and had rushed off to change before departing for my next assignation. I’d completely forgotten about it; forgotten I’d bought it. To find it in my suitcase still wrapped up in the paper bag caused my heart and stomach to do triple back and front flips in unison. Immediately, I grabbed the large, illegal, edible, hexagonal berry, and rushed out onto my deck overlooking the ocean. There, with all the force and strength I could muster, I hurled the forbidden fruit into the fathoms below. Let the sea creatures enjoy the fruit of my innocent, illicit importation!
What evidence, officer? It’s all conjecture!
One day a few months after my Singapore Fling a Japanese couple, husband and wife, arrived at the resort. I’d received about an hour’s notice of their pending arrival. They’d chartered a seaplane, a Beaver, through Air Whitsunday to bring them to the island for lunch; just the two of them, to dine at the island restaurant. They were keen to lap up the ambience of an Australian tropical island if only for a couple of hours. I welcomed them to the resort and escorted them to a table.
Lunch was never a big deal at the resort because most days after they’d finished their unrushed buffet breakfasts the guests went off on the “Reef Venture” to explore the Brook Islands, Gould Island, Missionary Bay, Ramsay Bay, or when the weather and wind permitted, to Zoe Bay, with a trek through the rainforest to Zoe Falls, thrown in for good measure – and exercise. At outings’ end, Bob deposited the adventurers safely back to the resort around 4 pm.
Breakfast on the island, for our guests, commenced at 8 am. The staff had their breakfast in the staff room from 6 am to 7 am or thereabouts. Life on Hinchinbrook Island was conducted at a leisurely, unrushed, no-hassles-stress-free pace; at least for the holidaymakers; and also, at times, for us hard working islanders!
If guests didn’t go venturing across the sea in the “Reef Venture”, they’d disappear for the day, by their own means – their legs. They’d wander off to North and South Shepherd Beaches at will and under their own steam. Whether they chose a boat trip or spent the day exploring by foot to nearby beaches my chefs prepared individual picnic lunches for them to feast upon.
There were times guests would decide to just lounge around the pool for the day, having chosen to be sloths rather than active hounds.
Of course, sometimes guests who’d only arrived in the morning, brought across from the mainland by the “Reef Venture”, and those later arrivals by sea plane, would choose to spend their first day familiarizing themselves with their immediate surroundings and so on.
Most of my guests were off having fun elsewhere, away from the resort’s facilities the day the Japanese couple arrived. I spent a great amount of time talking with my fleeting, fly-in-fly-out visitors. During our conversation I learned they lived in Singapore.
The husband worked in the finance sector. His company operated from one of the office towers in the then new Raffles City. Raffles City officially opened in October, 1986, about a month before my visit to Singapore. It was built on the former site of the Raffles Institution, the first school in Singapore. The modern style of architecture of Raffles City, a massive complex spread over three blocks, is in total contrast to the iconic hotel it’s located close to….Raffles Hotel.
I asked the husband if he ever went across to Raffles Hotel. He replied he’d not often done so. I then proceeded to tell him the story of my love for Raffles; of my many visits to the hotel, and of the friendship I’d forged with Ho.
“I want to ask you a favour, if I may,” I said to my Japanese guest. “When you arrive back home to Singapore would you, one day, at your leisure, call into the Writers’ Bar; introduce yourself to Ho; and pass on to him, please, my very best wishes? Thank him on my behalf for his wonderful hospitality while I was in his country. Tell him I will always remember his kindness to me; that I hold it dear to my heart. Please tell him I will never forget him. I’d be so grateful if you could do that for me.”
“I’ll do better than that.” My smiling guest replied. “We’ll have our photo taken together; and allow me to take one of you alone. I shall be pleased to do as you ask; honoured to pass on your message to your friend, Ho; and, while doing so, I will give Ho the photos.”
John, my barman obliged in taking the photographs using the Japanese gentleman’s camera.
Shortly thereafter, the time had come for my visitors to bid farewell before boarding the seaplane to take them back to the mainland. They were a lovely couple. I enjoyed our time spent together. At our parting, we hugged. Waving, I watched as the sea plane lifted off the waters of Missionary Bay. I strolled back up from the jetty to the restaurant area as the Beaver, bearing the Japanese couple, disappeared over the island; out of sight…a brief encounter.
Life went on with new people to meet; new guests to welcome; an island resort to run.
A few weeks went by. As was his habit, Bob, the “Reef Venture’s” skipper, dumped the mailbag on my desk one morning after his arrival to the island.
To my surprise…great surprise, mixed with extreme pleasure an envelope addressed to me, personally, leapt out from the pile on my desk, as if it was saying, “Pick me! Pick me!”
Tearing open the envelope, I discovered it was a postcard from Ho!
The Japanese gentleman was as good as his word.
He went to the Writers’ Bar; introduced himself to Ho; and passed onto Ho my message.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I read and re-read the postcard over and over. Holding it gently in my hands, I treated it like a precious gem. Included in the envelope along with the postcard was a green swizzle stick from Raffles Hotel! I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
Tears of joy; tears created by wonderful memories filled my eyes. Emotions flooded my being.
My faith in humanity was restored. Too many people say they will do something, but never carry it through; never fulfill their promises. Words flow easily; and just as easily are soon forgotten.
My Japanese guest, who had only spent a couple of hours on the island, had honoured his word. I held the proof in my hands.
Ho’s postcard is a much cherished memento of mine to this day; as are my memories of that extraordinary, gentle man.
My memories of the rare gem of a genuine gentleman who so kindly kept his word after such a brief meeting remain with me, as well.