|A cat similar in appearance to Sasha (I posted this photo in a previous post)|
|Let's cuddle...photo from the Web|
|Ruska and me on the new deck at the Elanda St., Sunshine Beach house - circa 1982 - thereabouts....|
|Randall with the catch of the day; me with other catches of the day...and Ruska eyeing off the mud crabs and prawns. Ruska LOVED prawns! Circa 1982|
|Nambour Main Street|
|Self-Explanatory Map...Sunshine Beach is situated just around the headland (on southern side) of Noosa.|
"Randall George Real Estate" opened its doors; but before that day came, we'd put our heads together, pondered and considered for many hours, days and weeks on a suitable design for our logo and image for our real estate signs, stationery/letterheads and business cards etc.
After much deliberation it was decided a seagull would be our logo; our symbol. A suitable seagull image modelled on the seagull on the cover of Richard Bach's wonderful, inspirational novella, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull was decided upon. An abstract, light blue bird in flight soaring to the heights, with the name of the business printed in a darker blue on premium quality white paper would be on all our stationery and signs. (Artwork similar in style to the photo of the seagull shown above). Satisfied, the final layout of our overall design, including typeface and the arrangement of the headings etc. were confidently put into the hands of a local printing company.
We'd chosen the seagull as our symbol, not only because we lived at the beach, but also because Bach's story held a special place in our hearts, as did Neil Diamond's Grammy-winning soundtrack album "Jonathan Livingston Seagull". Diamond's magical interpretation played in the background during Randall and my relaxed, casual wedding service conducted by a Marriage Celebrant a few years earlier in 1976.
A hive of activity ensued as excitedly we set up our office in the main room in the downstairs area of our Elanda Street home. We felt like a couple of kids on Christmas morning! I became the proud owner of a brand new, you-beaut electronic Olivetti typewriter with display and 500 or 600 character memory. PCs were still a rarity in 1980. I thought I was the ant’s pants! Until, that is, the first time I placed my fingers on the keys of my new wonder machine.
At first strike on the keys smoke billowed out from the interior workings, much to my shocked dismay.
However, after a phone call to the office supply/equipment business in Nambour from where we’d purchased it, without argument or delay the explosive contraption was replaced with a brand new machine, no questions asked. The replacement never caused problems, performing excellently, without complaint; always at my beck, call and fingertips.
A cabinet-maker situated in Eumundi Road, Noosaville constructed a large, one-off wooden desk for Randall to his personal specifications. It's was quite a magnificent desk.
Before the new office furniture and other necessary items arrived and after we covered the interior walls a couple of coats of fresh, inviting white paint, we laid sea grass matting on the floor. The office of Randall George Real Estate was taking shape. My desk and work area was up one end of the room, not far from the entrance to the house. Randall operated from his desk at the other end of the room. No walls or partitions divided us. The office had a casual, coastal feel (and appearance) about it.
Three wide, large windows broke the monotony of the wall behind him and to the side of me. The windows, assisted by a partly-glassed door at the far end of the room, granted sunlight and sea breezes easy access.
Against the opposite wall to Randall’s industrious work area we set up a day bed with a brightly-covered striped Mexican-themed woven bedspread. A couple of colourful bean bags offhandedly scattered about the room added to the relaxed atmosphere we aimed to achieve. Suitable chairs were also available for those clients more in favour of formal mode! Leafy, green, potted plants completed the picture of unceremonious, natural surroundings.
Having immediately claimed the day bed during the daylight hours Ruska acting sometimes as receptionist, albeit unknown to visitors to the office. In between napping, which, I have to admit, took up most of his time, he kept a sneaky eye - briefly, mostly only one eye opened slightly just to do a quick scan, then it was back to the Land of Nod for him. When we were in the office the day bed was his resting, reclining spot.
Sasha was never far away, either. He had a favourite spot close to the entrance to the house. It allowed him initial surveillance of the people arriving on our doorstep. For a few hours daily he luxuriated in the filtered sunlight beneath the leaves of a healthy Umbrella tree.
Umbrella trees are native to the northern Queensland rainforests, but in southern Queensland they’re regarded as fast-growing invaders; pests causing harm to local ecosystems. In the late Seventies-early Eighties Umbrella trees were a very popular tree in these southern areas of Queensland. Who would ever think that trees became "in vogue"...but some did back then; and others probably still do. Umbrella trees (along with Rubber trees) were the “in” tree to have in your garden. As long as both varieties were/are planted well away from building foundations and underground plumbing; pipes etc., no problems should arise. Both also were/are hardy, large-potted, indoor plants. The Umbrella tree isn’t a declared pest under Queensland legislation, but local councils can, at their will, declare them under their own laws.
"Note: Rubber plant material can be toxic to small animals (including cats and small dogs) as well as young children. The sap can irritate the skin and plant material can cause nausea and vomiting if ingested. Care should be taken in homes where little people and little critters have access to house plants. Those with severe latex allergies and sensitive skin should avoid growing this plant."
However, Sasha wasn’t at all interested in the nitty-gritty botanical details, neither was Ruska. They left all those mediocre things up to Randall and me to worry about - after all, that's what humans are for. Both Sasha and Ruska showed no interest in indoor plants, either Actually, gardening, outdoors or indoors, was not a hobby of theirs. That silly pastime was the domain of humans.
My ginger-furred elder feline mate loved wallowing in the warmth of the seaside sun, and in the dappled shade provided by the Umbrella tree’s broad leaves. If he wasn’t nearby outside indulging and rejoicing in his new found coastal freedom, quite often he’d be found curled up asleep at my feet under my desk; or when he’d had enough of his rest being interrupted he’d be found snoozing on the end of our bed in our upstairs’ bedroom. He was always around close by, as was Ruska. During the day Ruska guarded the office while Sasha supervised the entry, exit and upstairs area. At night when Randall and I were upstairs, whether we were in the kitchen/dining, out on the deck (the deck was our favourite spot to sit and talk), wherever we were both cats could be found; and Winston regularly could be heard in the trees over yonder. Also we had a king-size bed, so there was room enough for the four of us!
Life was going along smoothly. Our business was doing well. After a few months of operation, we employed a salesman, Paul Figalo, to cover the Peregian/Coolum end of the coastal strip. Paul was a lively little fellow; hyper-active is the word one would call him nowadays. Paul and his family lived at Coolum. He’d worked with an agency in Coolum before joining us, so he knew the area well. Mostly he worked from his home. Paul rarely visited our office, unless it was absolutely necessary for the signing of contracts, meetings, etc. Otherwise, there was no need for him to be in our Sunshine Beach home office. Randall and Paul met up often when they were both out and about running around the ridges; and there were phone calls back and forth all the time; night and day. Again, of course, this was long before mobile phones became glued to everyone’s ears.
Randall handled the sales, the listings and everything else entailed in real estate. It was his domain; and he was expert at what he did; figures and finance were his talents. He was an honest, efficient operator – and I’m in no way being prejudice by declaring this. It was what it was. Randall also managed the few rental properties we had on our books.
I handled the clerical side of the business and was pretty much confined to the office, but that suited me fine. Someone had to be in attendance to answer the phone and all else that running an office entailed. I had no interest in being a salesperson, myself. I preferred to leave that side of the business to Randall. He was the licensed agent/salesman; and he knew what he was doing. He soon built up a solid client base.
In the meantime, we’d also started on some renovations on the house. The first thing we did was get rid of the existing stove. It was electric. I’ve always preferred cooking on gas, although these days the stove in this cabin I’m renting is an electric stove. I have no choice; but then again, I no longer do the amount of cooking and entertaining I once did. Those days are long gone.
A brand-new, large six-burner gas stove and oven was fitted. I was in my element having gas to cook on and not an electric element!
The little existing ocean-side deck needed to go. This was a high on our list - top priority. With the view and the privacy we had from the north-eastern side of the house the small deck was totally inadequate.
We hired a couple of local guys who promptly removed the old deck. It was replaced with a much wider deck that, in length, spread from one side of the house to the other looking down through the dense vegetation to the street below. Treated timber posts almost as thick as electricity poles were set firmly in concrete into the dune below making them solid upright structures strong enough to support our extensive deck. We believed if we were going to build a new deck it should be one worthy of the view. Also our new outdoor area, of which we were very proud, melded in with the top level of the trees and vegetation that hugged the dune. Sitting on the deck level with the tree tops we unexpectedly found us in the bird paths (not the bird baths…but their flight paths); and the birds often unexpectedly found us, too! Often as they flew past they ducked or veered off with stunned looks on their faces (if that is possible).
Having been very pleased with the excellent workmanship shown by the people who built Randall's office desk, we had them construct for us a special large round outdoor table with seating to match to take up pride of place on our new deck. If and when needed table could comfortably sat eight people around it.
One Sunday morning while leisurely lingering over breakfast and the morning paper we heard someone call out from below. Going downstairs we discovered a concerned fellow standing at our front door
“Is this your cat?” He asked. “I was jogging by and I found him wandering erratically in a panic along the side of the street, just out the front there!”
I almost fainted. In the young man's arms was Ruska with his head stuck in an empty paint can!
Hearts racing, we took Ruska from his rescuer's arms. We somehow managed to remove the can from Ruska’s head. Don't ask me how because that part is all a blur. My furry mate was physically unharmed, but, naturally, was he distressed and exhausted from his ordeal. It was an upsetting, exhausting experience for us, too. With our house being set a long way back from the road if that caring, thoughtful stranger who, by chance, happened to be passing by on his morning run hadn’t found Ruska I hate to think what the alternative result would have been.
We thanked Ruska’s saviour profusely. We were so grateful. Words didn’t seem enough. He was happy to have been "Johnny on the spot"; to have been the one to find our loved pet. With a smile and a wave he went on his merry way never to be seen again.
From that morning onward all empty cans were immediately deposited in the garbage bin when emptied, and our garage door remained closed when not in use! Perhaps Ruska thought he’d give us a hand with the renovations, but after his little adventure with the paint can, he never offered his services again. I reminded him frequently of the saying - one he'd obviously had forgotten - "Curiosity killed the cat"!
Having much to discuss after the morning's traumatic event Sasha took Ruska aside. Gently reprimanding him Sasha waved his paw at a contrite Ruska warning him never to do such a silly thing ever again. (I might have made this part up, but...who knows? It could've have happened)!
For the rest of the day they remained within easy view of each other – after I’d comforted Ruska with many cuddles. The whole episode had been extremely upsetting, not only for Ruska, but for Randall and me, too.
I don’t know what it was about Sunday mornings, but a few months later on another Sunday morning while Randall was in the kitchen making coffee I skipped down the interior stairs with the intention of collecting the daily newspaper from the yard out front. The newspapers were delivered daily. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs I saw Sasha laying there. I began talking to him and reached down to stroke him. Immediately, my heart leapt into my mouth. I knew something was dreadfully wrong. I screamed out to Randall. He flew down the stairs, two at a time, if not more, recognisng from the tone of my voice something was amiss…really amiss.
Sasha was dead. Sometime during the early hours of the morning he'd curled up and gone to sleep, never to waken again. Unstoppable tears streamed down my face.
Tears brim my eyes as I relate this heartbreaking episode in my life.
My mate…my beloved vagabond; my adored, sometimes headstrong Sasha was dead. My dear pet, Sasha who had played a huge role in my life for approximately 15 years was gone…gone. I was inconsolable.
Turning to Randall I said I couldn’t remain in the house…I had to get out - I had to go to the beach in haste. I had to get away without delay. I needed to fall into the surf; I needed the ocean waves to sweep over me; to have the salt water somehow wash away my sorrow, even if briefly. I wanted to feel the sun on my body and the sand between my toes.
He told me to go on ahead that he would join me in a little while. Needing no encouragement, I grabbed a beach towel, and as if in a trance I walked to the beach, oblivious of the world around me. Tears still streamed down my face and I could not have cared if anyone noticed.
They were my tears; my tears of sorrow over the loss of my precious, cherished friend, Sasha.
Randall joined me on the beach; and in due course he quietly told me that he had buried Sasha to always be caressed by the filtered sun under his favourite tree, the Umbrella tree.
We spent the next few hours on the beach that Sunday…rarely talking, but thankful we were there, together in our grief over the loss of Sasha. When we finally arrived back home I bestowed so much love and so many hugs on Ruska. Ruska who was curled up on the matting at the bottom of the stairs waiting for our return.
I reflected on the life I’d shared with Sasha from when he was given to me as a little ginger kitten not much older than six weeks; of how strong and independent he was in so many ways, and yet in others he was so incredibly loving and loyal; of how protective he was; and of how he’d gotten his nose out of joint for a while when he decided to pack up his kit bag and leave home; of how he sent out a message to me to let me know it was time for him to come home; that he wanted to come home to me. (I’m sure he did; and I don’t care how weird it may sound; it is what I have always believed happened the day we received the letter in the mail when we were living in the house at Coolum advising us he was at the veterinary surgery in Brisbane).
For the last couple of years of his life Sasha rarely left my side. He was glad to be home again; and I was so very glad that he was. The past was the past. We’d picked up where we’d left off without missing a beat.
At least for those last couple of years, Sasha’s life was wonderful. He lived out his days in the sunshine...at Sunshine Beach.
I’m sure he was a wiser cat for his time on the “streets”…in the cacti greenhouse. Who wouldn’t want to spend their twilight years back in the loving arms of someone who adored them unconditionally without question?
I’m sure in their private, daily conversations out of earshot of Randall and me Sasha imparted his worldly wisdom to Ruska. Sasha had a way with his furry roomies. He’d saved Smocka from the albino boxer dog at the unit in Toowong; and he'd proudly taken on the role as elder citizen - as mentor to Ruska.
Ruska idolised Sasha; I’m sure he missed his mate as much as I did...as much as Randall and I did.
Sasha was a beautiful cat.