Tuesday, March 11, 2014

IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL…BUT THIS MAY NOT TURN OUT TO BE A SMALL STORY....CHAPTER ONE...




Chateau Hotel, Christchurch, New Zealand

Ruska, Derryn, Dylan and Me at my little house on Hinchinbrook.  Also Jacki, Derryn and Dylan at the bar and in the restaurant on Hinchinbrook Island


                         
The Hinch Clan Departing Hinchinbrook via Air Whitsunday's Beaver Sea Plane
                             
 
Similar to Glen's Little Sailing Boat

Me Behind the Bar on Newry Island
                                                       
Newry Island is the small island at the far right in green...Rabbit Island is the larger green mass. And "B" on the mainland is St. Helens Beach....just to give an idea.

Rimsky lording over the bar on Newry Island. looking down upon his subjects; And me sitting outside the main building chatting with a German backpacker who stayed on the Newry for a couple of days.
                       
                               



                                                      There is just one moon
                                                       And one golden sun
                                                      And a smile means
                                                      Friendship to ev'ryone
                                                     Though the mountains divide
                                                     And the oceans are wide
                                                     It's a small world after all....


Every day we read about people who’ve gone missing.  Some of whom have done so purposely, wanting to change their lives for whatever reason.  I’d never be able to disappear over the far horizon.  Invariably I’d run into someone I know; or someone who knows someone I know who knows me - ad infinitum.....

In my previous two posts I made mention of the stranger I met one Saturday afternoon in a little pub in Chillagoe out the back of Woop-Woop.  Not long after we’d started chatting he and I discovered we had a mutual friend.  In my case, an acquaintance; but in the stranger's case, his boss was guilty of being our common link.


There is no escape hatch for me! I will always run into a familiar face, no matter where I roam or how far I stray!

Back when I was managing the resort on Hinchinbrook Island I attended a travel/tourism conference in Christchurch wearing my "sales/marketing manager hat". Having returned to my hotel from a day of listening to speaker after speaker droning on and on about this, that and the other thing, I was relaxing at the cocktail bar enjoying a drink with one of the fellow conference attendees, a gentleman from Saudi Arabian Airlines otherwise known as “Saudia”.  I sensed someone come up beside me to my left.   

I didn’t turn until I heard the words: “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world….!  What’re you doing here in my home town, Lee George?  You’re supposed to be on the island!”

My head spun around at the sound of a familiar voice. 

To my surprise, standing beside me was Derryn Hinch, someone I'd gotten to know a few months previously..  

Derryn is a very well-known Aussie (New Zealand-born) media personality. 

He’s a reporter/journalist/author and strong advocate for sexually abused children in this country.  The latter he takes very seriously.  And I take my hat off him for his dedication to the cause.

Derryn is a vocal and harsh critic of Australia’s criminal justice system.  He doesn’t hold back; and nor should he. His outspokenness and beliefs have gotten him into trouble more than once; and, no doubt, will again. Because of his refusal to forgo his convictions he has been jailed a couple of times.  Only last week he was released from prison after spending 50 days in confinement for contempt of court.  He chose to go to prison in lieu of paying an unjust fine. I agree with him wholeheartedly in his convictions.

Derryn is a good man; I support him in his beliefs; in his fight for justice.  He’s ruffled a few feathers along the way…but they’ve been feathers that needed ruffling; and he'll continue ruffling feathers.  There are many in society who can't handle the truth!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derryn_Hinch

 I’d originally met and gotten to know Derryn and his then wife, Jacki Weaver, a highly-acclaimed Australian actress of stage, screen and television when they, along with Jacki’s then teenage son, Dylan came to stay at my island resort for a week-long holiday.  During their stay I broke from my usual set-in-stone protocol. I invited them to dine with me at my private abode; just the four of us (and Ruska, my ginger cat), away from the restaurant and the other guests; a little private time and space for us all. They were fun, normal people; good company and intelligent conversationalists. 

During one of my business trips to Melbourne after their visit to the tropical north, I met up with them again.  Another “small world” moment occurred during our rendezvous that afternoon, as well, but I won't go into that at the moment...this small story about how small the world is, is going to end up being a lengthy story as it is....

Jacki Weaver has been well-known in this country for five decades (she started young). She is now known internationally, also,  for her performances in the movies “Animal Kingdom” (an Australian movie), along with the popular and successful US movie, “Silver Linings Playbook” starring Jennifer Lawrence (who received an Oscar for her role). Jacki also played alongside Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in the movie. 

Jacki was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in both the above movies.  Since her being “discovered” by a wider audience (and movie makers) she’s been making movies in the States for the past couple of years.  This is an amazing for her; and she’s started a whole new career while in her mid-60s, proving anything can happen at any time. You're never to old!


Anyway, back at the bar in the Chateau Hotel in Christchurch….

Derryn told me he’d just flown in from Australia an hour or two before.  He was staying in the same hotel as I was.

“This is ridiculous,” he said.  “I was just talking about you!”

“Why would you be talking about me?” I asked somewhat incredulously, both at the statement and at finding him standing beside me.

His cousin had picked him up from the airport. While unpacking his suitcase in his room, the first item he removed from his suitcase was a Hinchinbrook Island tee-shirt.  

Before Derryn, Jacki and Dylan departed the island I’d given them a tee-shirt each.  So upon seeing the shirt Derryn told his cousin about his holiday on the island.  Derryn pointed it out to his cousin…saying, “Hinch on Hinchinbrook”. My name came as he had told his cousin about his happy, holiday getaway. 

He asked to join him and his cousin for a drink. They were sitting across the way in an alcove alongside the wooden-panelled wall.  Once I’d made my polite overtures and good-byes to the Saudi-Arabian Airlines fellow, who already had an appointment he had to run off to, I joined Derryn and his cousin in the alcove. 

Derryn was visiting Christchurch for a couple of days only. He was there to join in a favourite uncle’s 80th birthday celebration. Because of his hectic work commitments his trip had been a last minute decision made at the 11th hour.  That we should be staying at the same hotel was coincidental, as was my spontaneous decision to accept the invitation to have a quick drink at the bar with the Saudi gentleman.  We'd bumped into each other in the hotel's foyer upon our return from the seminar.

 Derryn never stood at a bar to drink, preferring to sit at a table or alcove as was the case that afternoon. The only reason he’d gone up to the bar was to request a bottle of mineral water to go with the wine he’d ordered and received.  The waiter had forgotten to bring him the mineral water when serving the wine.  If not for that reason, neither of us would probably have known the other was there.  We laughed about the power of coincidence.  

A week or two later when back on the island I received a postcard from Jacki, jokingly saying: “What’s the idea of meeting up with my old man in Christchurch?”  I still have the postcard here somewhere.

In a totally different story about different people and a different locale (but one still on the “Six degrees of separation” vein), this following anecdote began when Newry Island was my home.

By living on the islands - Hinchinbrook and Newry, I’d become very in tune with the weather forecasts; with what to expect; its predictability and its unpredictability; whether a south-easterly wind was due to upset the equilibrium, and at what rate of knots it intended doing so. The south-easterlies upset the comfort of my comings and goings by boat.  Their arrival always brought a lump to my throat if I had to take my boat across to the mainland to pick up guests and/or provisions.  

Also, at all times I had to be aware of the tides; when the high tide or low tide was due; when the tide was expected to turn, and so on.  The weather dictated to me, not vice versa.  I always heeded the forecasts - good and bad.

Friday arrived.  Along with it came a report of wild weather due to arrive mid-Saturday morning. It was predicted it wouldn’t last for long; probably 24 hours at the most.  Scuds were expected to pass through at regular intervals.

Fortunately, the weekend ahead was going to be quiet, people-wise. Only two guests were booked in for the Friday and Saturday. Their intended departure was Sunday. They’d arrived by their own boat earlier on the Friday morning.  Friday’s weather was near perfect.   

My guests, Ivan and Doris, sugar cane farmers from Mirani in the Pioneer Valley, 37kms west of Mackay, owned a beach house at Seaforth, my nearest port of call on the mainland.  Off-season, when possible, they enjoyed a few days respite at the beach, with the ocean as their backdrop for a sea change.  Sometimes a trip to the island was on their agenda. Through their visits we'd become friends.  They also generously stored most of my possessions in the lower level of their house in Seaforth; a gesture that saved me from lugging everything I owned across to the island.  I’ve have mentioned Ivan and Doris in previous posts when writing about my time living on Newry Island.  They were good friends of Willie Litz, the lessee of the island (or part thereof) at the time; and it was through him I originally met Ivan and Doris. It was Willie who suggested they house my possession.  Willie lived and worked elsewhere on the mainland, and only once visited the island while I was there, other than my initial introduction to the island and all that my job there entailed.

Saturday morning I went about my normal daily duties. Certain chores had to be routinely attended to each day.  I was most always up at the crack of dawn, if not before.   

Mid-morning I was surprised to see a small one-man sailing craft taxi to stop at the ocean’s edge.  I strolled down the beach towards the little vessel to greet my unexpected visitor. As I drew closer I recognised the young, sole sailor.

“Glen!  G’day!  What on earth are you doing here?  And how did you make it here in that little thing?”  I exclaimed, somewhat aghast at the tiny size of his ocean-crossing craft!  My greeting, however, was issued in a friendly, welcoming manner.

The young man in front of me with a beaming smile across his face was Glen Winning. Glen often visited the island.  

 He worked for Hastings Deering in its Mackay division. The Mackay branch serviced the mines throughout the coal and natural gas-rich Bowen Basin. World-renowned yellow Caterpillar, heavy earth-moving, mining equipment etc., is distributed throughout Queensland, Northern Territory, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Island and New Caledonia by Hastings Deering’s branches. The majority of Glen’s working life was spent visiting the various mines throughout the Bowen Basin, and sometimes beyond. 

Quiet and unassuming, Glen was a nice, well-mannered young bloke in his mid-twenties. I always enjoyed chatting with him when he visited. Every time he came to the island I picked him up from the ramp at Victor Creek on the mainland, four kilometers north of Seaforth. I’d ferry him to the island in my boat, the 21-foot Trojan Dehavilland. Glen always came alone.  I’d sensed he was a bit of a loner like I am, so it never seemed strange to me. Most of the time he preferred to camp rather than stay in one of the island’s cabins. 

Within easy distance of the restaurant/bar and beach was a designated camping area for those who preferred to “rough it” rather than sleep within four walls. A free-standing shower and toilet block was available for campers and day-trippers to the island.  Every aspect was covered. The self-contained cabins, the bar/restaurant and public facilities were very humble; very simple, but that's what my visitors to the resort enjoyed.  They weren't looking for anything flash when they came to Newry Island..they sought and liked the modest, natural environment and ambience it had to offer.

When travelling to and from the island by my boat Glen’s toted a backpack. It held whatever meagre requirements he needed for his stay. It also held his one-man tent.  He had his favourite spot to set up camp. Protected by a shady tree it had a million dollar view of the bay and Outer Newry Island across the way.

He always joined in with the evening meals I prepared for my island guests.

At night, 99.99% of the time dinner on the island was a barbecue of fresh seafood held outside under the stars, with the ocean gently lapping the shore a short distance away. The barbecues always consisted of fresh prawns, fish and oysters, accompanied by a large bowl of mixed salad, fresh bread and butter. There's little to beat that, in my book!

Island lunches were never grand affairs.  Often I’d put out a large stainless steel bowl full of freshly-caught and cooked prawns. Whoever was present at lunch time would just bog in to their heart’s delight and content, heartily enjoying the feast set before them.

I’d trade with the trawlers who used to set anchor in the channel between Newry and Outer Newry before they'd head off to Mackay Harbour to off-load their catches. Contra deals were done; a case of beer; perhaps a bottle of bourbon, or rum (whatever their choice) for an abundance of fresh bounty from the sea.  I always came off best in the deals; and never once was cash exchanged for the seafood.  

I was in seafood Heaven when I lived on Newry Island.  And I can assure you...it was wonderful! (Pushkin and Rimsky, my two cats at the time would have confirmed it in gold lettering)!

In my opinion, the only accompaniments fresh prawns (and freshly-shucked oysters) need are fresh bread, lashings of butter (never margarine!), vinegar (and lemon for those who prefer lemon to vinegar with their seafood), pepper, salt, bowls of water for finger dipping and loads of napkins; and, of course, another large bowl or three for the scraps.

The rare times my stock of fresh seafood was depleted when lunch fell due, I’d prepare sandwiches, or, perhaps, heat up meat pies if they were the food of choice.  As I said, lunch went by without fanfare on Newry Island.  I kept the balloons and whistles for the evening seafood barbecues; along with the streamers - they were for those regular special occasions!

But the Saturday morning Glen arrived under his own steam; or should I say by his own sailing prowess, he’d travelled lighter than he usually did, so he rented a cabin, rather than camp.  I instructed him to drag his little sailing dinghy up high to the foreshore and to secure it well to a She-Oak tree; advising him on the expected downturn in the weather conditions.  

Already I could sense a change in the atmosphere.  Within an hour a gusting south-easterly wind had whipped up the ocean. Grey clouds loomed heavily overhead. Scuds started to come through frequently.  During their visits, wind-driven rain pounded the sandy beach; indoors was the preferred place to be.

That evening we island dwellers dined inside away from the inclement weather.  I prepared a tasty, relatively mild prawn curry with steamed rice as its accompaniment. We called it a night fairly early. My guests dashed off to their respective cabins when the rain ceased for a moment or two, leaving me to my own devices.  Allowing them enough time to settle, I went to the generator shed and switched off the generator; and then took myself off to bed. Stormy island nights have a unique special cosiness about them. (As long as it’s not a cyclone causing havoc)!

Upon waking Sunday morning the weather had abated a little, but the sea was still fairly rough and the wind was still gusting. Putting it simply, I would not have taken my motor boat anywhere.  It remained securely moored out in the channel. To reach it I had to row a little dinghy out to the mooring; and in weather such as it was that morning and the previous night, nothing was so important to make me do the trip.  Whatever it was could wait - too bad - even if it was the Queen of England!

Around 11 am, Glen came to me to pay for his stay. At the same time he informed me he would be on his way.  Alarmed, I told him firmly for him to leave at that time would be very foolish.  His small craft battling against the stormy sea didn’t conjure a pretty or safe image in my mind.

I’d been keeping an ear on the weather reports throughout the morning, and they were telling me that the conditions were due to change for the better shortly after noon.  I explained this to Glen and insisted he not leave the safety of having sturdy ground under his feet until another couple of hours; allowing time for the weather to settle down. Doris and Ivan backed my words.  They were delaying their departure until early afternoon; and they were travelling by a powered boat, and one much bigger and sturdier than Glen's little craft.

I could see Glen was itching to be on his way, so I did my utmost to delay him.  The scuds were becoming lesser in intensity, and more time elapsed in between each one's arrival; but the sky was still leaden and the wind hadn’t dropped to a satisfactory, calm pace to my way of thinking.

Just before mid-day, Glen followed the beat of his own drum.   

Filled with reluctance and concern, I walked with him to where his boat was resting. While he unhitched his little boat and dragged it into the water, not one to give up without a fight, I kept on trying to convince him not to go; to leave it for another couple of hours.  Doris walked with us to the water’s edge.  She could see I was fighting a losing battle.  No matter how hard I insisted and pleaded my words just faded off through the air..

Granted, the weather was clearing; but it had not yet.  The sun was fighting to peek through brief breaks in the still morbid clouds; but it was not enough, I believed; not without reason. 

Off sailed Glen, full of goodwill and good manners. As he turned around the north point of the beach, to our left, he waved and yelled out his good-bye; a big smile across his face.  Doris and I returned his wave.  Only a couple of minutes after he disappeared around the point, out of our view, a scud came blustering through from the south-east - passing between Outer Newry and Newry Island heading in a north-west direction.

“Oh! My God!” I exclaimed to Doris.  “I hope he’s okay!  I wish he’d taken notice and waited a while! Nobody ever wants to listen, do they?”

We rushed up to the point but there was no sight of Glen anywhere.

“Perhaps he found shelter on Rabbit Island,” I said, not believing my own words.  The scud had rushed through, suddenly, out of the blue (or grey) with no warning, leaving no time for preparation or forethought.  

Rabbit Island lies to the rear of Newry Island.  There is a narrow waterway separating the two islands.

As it turned out, it was the final, last scud of the day, and weekend. Shortly after it had barged its way through, the clouds cleared away. The wind dropped. The world around us was calm once again. The sun smiled down on a pond-like ocean. The weather forecasts had been spot-on.  The bureau had predicted the rough conditions would last for 24 hours at the most; and they were correct.  The rest of the afternoon and night was as if the past hours hadn’t existed. 

Ivan and Doris departed around 2 pm, leaving me alone once again on the island.  I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the two cabins that had been occupied; changing the bed linen etc. Those chores didn’t take me very long. I looked forward to spending the rest of the afternoon at a leisurely pace; talking to my two cats; reading a book; losing myself in the view while doing so.  I used to be an excellent multi-tasker!

Every now and then, my thoughts turned to Glen.  I hoped he'd been safe from that final scud.

At 5 pm the phone rang.

“Hi! I’m a friend of Glen Winning,” said the voice on the end of the line.  “He spent the weekend on the island.  He sailed over yesterday. I dropped him off at Victor Creek.” 

“Yes, that’s correct,” I answered.

“Can you tell me if he’s left there yet?  Before he headed off yesterday morning he asked me to pick him up here at St. Helens at 3 pm.  I’ve been waiting and waiting, but there’s no sign of him.”

St. Helens Beach is on the mainland, west of Rabbit Island and Newry Island.

My heart began to pound. My stomach did a few back flips and somersaults.

“Oh! I see!  Glen left here just before noon.  This isn’t good.  He should’ve been there hours ago. Give me your contact number.  I have to get off the phone now; I need to ring the authorities. I have to get in touch with the Air/Sea Rescue mob. It will be dark within the hour.  I’ll keep you posted.  If you hear anything, please let me know immediately!”

I didn't panic...panic doesn't solve anything...but I was very concerned...very concerned, indeed....

To be continued..... 

PS....I'll tell the tale about Klaus, the German backpacker another day, too....he was a lovely fellow.

22 comments:

  1. Love Ruska. Lord of all he surveyed.
    And looking forward to part two. You have had an exciting life.
    Re the small world thing? A few years ago the skinny one was in a bookshop in Nepal. He turned around to discover a friend he had been to college with - neither knew the other was overseas, much less that they would be in the same country at the same time.

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  2. Hi EC....that was Rimsky surveying the world below. Ruska was a ginger cat...and he growled and stormed away when humans deemed to enter his domain. He got his habits and attitude from me, I think! ;)

    My life is very peaceful and quiet these days, EC.

    It's amazing, isn't it how we run into people we know in the most unlikely place...it's hard to believe sometimes.

    Thanks for coming by. I loved your book review, by the way. :)

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  3. When the kids were little and we went to Disney and my mom was alive - we used to go round and round and round on the ride It's A Small World After All.

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  4. I HAVE JUST GOTTEN BACK TO READING THE POST i FOLLOW SO DID GLEN EVER REAPPEAR? Never ridden in a big 18 wheeler. When my Dad worked for the local Co-Op I went with him once in a huge feed truck. I stood on the floor board of the truck and felt as if I was riding on top of the world. Btw are scuds large waves? Peace

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  5. Hey there, Sandie...I bet I started off that song in your head and it kept going around and around in your mind all day! ;)

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  6. G'day Lady Di...good to see you.

    Scuds are squalls that blast through intermittently; wind and driving rain.

    It is a feeling of riding on top world when riding in the cabin of a big prime mover...it's a wonderful feeling and a great view.

    You're just going to have to exercise a little patience...my post was getting a little too long...so chapter two will be due in a couple or so days....and then you will learn more... :)

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  7. You are too unfair to leave me with a cliffhanger!

    I will go read up on your media and actor friends now.

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  8. Patience, dear Riot Kitty...patience, dear girl! ;)

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  9. You certainly have lived an interesting life. I hope you find your friend.

    I find it mind-blowing that there are not better tracking systems for big airliners like the missing Malaysian flight in this day and age. Now, I can understand how hard it might be to find a big plane after it sinks in the ocean, but not knowing where it went down is inexcusable to me.

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  10. Hi Jerry...yes...I agree with you about the missing airline. It certainly is a mystery...and I feel so for the families and loved ones left waiting, hoping, standing in limbo. It's a strange one, that's for sure.

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  11. I've posted a comment but you cannot see it.

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  12. No...I can't see it, Adullamite!

    How strange this is! I don't know what's going on between your blog and mine... my mind is in a fog!

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  13. Isn't that amazing when you are just talking about or thinking about a person and then there they are? I love that happened to you.

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  14. Hi Lynn...it certainly was a surprise...for both of us.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

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  15. Oh, Lee, I have just managed to get the Disney song "It's a Small World After All" out of my head, after hearing a radio item about the Sherman brothers who wrote it. And now you remind me again..... that must be the most persistent song ever... laaalala....... But apart from that, you are right, some coincidences and meetings are really remarkable!

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  16. Oh, Lee, I have just managed to get the Disney song "It's a Small World After All" out of my head, after hearing a radio item about the Sherman brothers who wrote it. And now you remind me again..... that must be the most persistent song ever... laaalala....... But apart from that, you are right, some coincidences and meetings are really remarkable!

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  17. And now as payback, Jenny...your response is going over and over in my head! ;)

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  18. Alive and well - lacking inspiration.
    Thank you for asking, no-one else has.
    JCN.

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  19. That's good to hear, Cosmo...I was concerned...sincerely.

    I class you as a friend even if we've never met out here in the real world. We have "known" each other for quite some time now. :)

    We all hit those blank walls in our mind at times. I know I have and do!

    Take care and thanks for popping in.

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  20. OMG! That would be your worst nightmare come true! I started reading Part 2, then thought, hang on a minute...I'd better find part 1 and read that first!

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  21. Good thinking, 99! ;)

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