|Kennedy Valley, just north of Cardwell|
|Billy Page and me outdoors on the deck around the pool|
|Pool and deck on at Cape Richards Resort|
|Ruska and me on Hinchinbrook Island|
Randall and I sat chatting with Major-Major-Major over coffee at the completion of his breakfast on the final morning during his and his men's brief, but helpful visit. Their time on the island was rapidly running out. They were moving further afield to other pastures later that morning.
Major-Major-Major asked if there was anything further we needed his men to do before their departure from our tropical paradise. Not wanting to let an opportunity go begging when offered so generously and freely we asked him politely if he could have his men assist our motley crew in bringing up the timber from Orchid Beach to the area surrounding the pool and main building. From the beach there was a rise, a climb up the dune to the level area around the main building and swimming pool. Any help they were prepared to give us would be gratefully received - and we were extremely grateful to those soldiers. The building materials had to be carried up manually. Other than physical blood, sweat and tears there were no other methods available to achieve what needed to be done.
The replacement load of timber along with other building materials, including sheets of new roofing for the cabins had arrived from the mainland. This time around the cargo had been safely deposited on the dry sand above the waterline on Orchid Beach, without any fuss or ado.
A small amount of the timber lost through the nonchalant carelessness of “Dumb and Dumber”, the two men I’d sacked, was recovered after it had floated around the Cape Richards headland. Thankfully it had ended up on Orchid Beach.. The majority of the stricken load remained on the bottom of the ocean never to be seen again, unless a later angry cyclone washed it ashore on beaches further south at the Whitsundays, or in the Wide Bay area; perhaps, in another scenario, it ended up on an island in the Torres Strait, or even further afield on Papua New Guinea - depending on the ocean currents; but I believe it remains at the bottom of the sea in Missionary Bay, probably covered in coral, or more probably, barnacles!
Before we could say “Jack Robinson” or “have another cup of coffee” we were surrounded by a hive of activity. To my amazement Major-Major-Major’s men from the Pioneer Unit were already on the job of bringing the hardwood structural beams up from the beach below…not two or three men per beam…but one soldier per beam! Those fellows were as strong as Mallee bulls!
I soon discovered, they were not only built like solid cement outhouses and physically strong, they were mentally focussed, as well.
I was outside in the area near the pool when one of the soldiers on, perhaps, his third or fourth journey up the hill from the beach below - on each back-breaking trip having toted a long, solid beam on his shoulder.
Bearing another sturdy, wooden, structural beam he headed towards where I stood doing whatever it was I was doing.
The thick, heavy spans such as the one the soldier heading towards me was carrying were to be used externally as structural supports for the underside of the large deck that would eventually become an outdoor dining and lounging area surrounding the pool. The completed deck would be cantilevered out over the high dune line on the ocean side.
I should’ve known better and not have opened my mouth when I jokingly asked the fellow as he drew near:
“Do you have a light?”
His eyes flickered ever so briefly. The movement was barely discernible, but, to my shame, I did notice the slightest waver. Instantly I woke up to my own stupidity. I felt embarrassed. Promptly and humbly I apologised and said nothing further.
He hadn’t missed a beat other than his scant almost undetectable eye movement. He might have flexed a muscle or two in frustration, too, but my embarrassment and annoyance at my thoughtless flippancy didn’t allow me to notice anything else other than my own inanity.
The soldier’s strength and that of his fellow dedicated servicemen came not only from their muscles and physical fitness, but also from their ability to focus completely; by having the conscious, and, perhaps even more importantly, through training, of unconsciously having the capability and the mental power to block out extraneous elements from their minds - and foolish people like me!
I’ve never forgotten the moment, brief though it was. It is said one should always learn from one’s mistakes; one’s missteps…I certainly had learned a lesson from my stupidity. And through the lesson learned that sunny summer’s morning on Hinchinbrook Island I discovered the admiration I already felt for our people in the Defence Force had grown.
In what seemed like no time at all every structural beam, every piece of decking timber and roofing material had been brought up from the beach below. What those five or six men did in two hours, give or take, would’ve taken us a month of Sundays to achieve – if not two months of Saturdays and Sundays!
There were not enough words to thank them for the assistance given by Major-Major-Major and his handful of men. We were extremely grateful for their help in the short period they were a part of our island world. It was sad to see them leave, but leave they did. Late morning we gathered around the helicopter to bid them goodbye.
Speaking on my own behalf, I felt sad to see them go, but I also felt an immense pride in being an Aussie.
The construction of the new jetty was almost at its completion. Billy Page, a wonderful man from Kennedy, a rural area a couple of kilometres north of Cardwell insisted on coming over to the island to give us a hand in the building of the jetty.
Billy was a man in his early 60s, at a guess. He’d been born and raised in the area. Bill had lived there all his life; and it’s where he raised his family. One of his sons was a champion Motocross competitor. Billy was part-Aboriginal; he was one of the loveliest, generously-spirited, well-mannered men I’d ever met. Billy Page was a gentleman of the finest kind.
Work was progressing at a rapid pace; time was of the essence with the 8th of March re-opening of the resort looming. The air was filled in anticipation and excitement! With so much activity going on there was barely time to take a breath, but breathe we did!
Some of the pre-existing staff, which fortunately included a chef, who all had worked on the island prior to Randall and I taking over the management had returned, willing to take a chance on us, and vice versa. The more “hands on deck” the better it was to help speed everything along.
To counterbalance the absence of staff who didn’t return to the resort after the change of ownership/management new staff was hired.
The head count of the island population stood at 17. The number included the three tradesmen from Noosa we’d encouraged to join us; Ron, the builder; Rin, the electrician and Peter, the plumber. However, their term on the island was running out of time. It was time for them to go. Ron needed to be back in Noosa for both work and family reasons. Peter's services were also was required in Noosa, and the clock was ticking on Rin's period of tropical bliss, too. The intention was always that our three coastal friends would only be with us a short while before they returned to their normal lives. Rin, the Dutchman, stayed on a little longer than Ron and Peter.
Bronnie (Bronwyn), another Noosa-ite had, in the meantime, joined the crew. She eagerly took on the role as a housekeeper. She set the style; moulded the mould. Bronnie claimed the guest cabins as her own territory and, accordingly forever after she kept them in sparkling order. Bronnie quickly fell under the spell of Hinchinbrook. Everything island life had to offer Bronwyn she embraced with open arms.
I wrote about dear Bronnie in a previous post…4th August, 2012 - titled - “EMBRACE LIFE…EMBRACE A LIFE WORTH HAVING KNOWN…EMBRACE THE MEMORIES…FOREVER”. Sadly, in August, 2012 Bronwyn passed away at the young age of 47 years…in my post of 4th August 2012 I wrote in celebration of her life.
Nothing was as rosy as it appeared to the outside world. To many we were the perfect couple like those featured in the gilded picture frames. However, we kept our private life private. Our personal life had nothing to do with anyone else. I recognised the ripples on the waters long before Randall did. I think he believed they were just ripples, and with a wind change the troubled waters would soon smooth out.
No marriage is smooth sailing all of the time no matter who the parties are. I knew he and I weren’t exempt…I understood it to be so. Randall, I believed, and I still do, wore a solid set of blinkers…although he would dispute that to be so, even to this day. (By the way, Randall and I are good friends. We communicate daily via email and talk via the phone at least once a week. We will always remain friends. I wouldn’t like it to be any other way; I know he feels similarly).
I sensed a tsunami was approaching.
Our problems weren’t going to disappear just by ignoring them; pretending they didn’t exist.
There are always two sides to every story; there are two sides to every coin; and there are two people in a marriage, sometime three or more, but in our marriage there was only Randall and me. There was no “Camilla” or a male equivalent rocking our bed.
During 1985, the year before we landed on the island, Randall and I had a trial separation. Only he and I knew it was a trial separation. To everyone else he’d gone up north to Emerald in Central Queensland to help his brother build a house for his brother’s step-daughter and her husband - a brother helping a brother, as brothers do.
Randall was away for six weeks or so. Before he left our plan was that I’d move out of our Sunshine Beach house into a unit/apartment taking Ruska with me. The plan hadn’t come into fruition. I stayed put, in the hope, that perhaps upon his return Randall and I could find an illuminating light at the end of the tunnel. I didn't hold out much hope for that happening, but our relationship, no matter its faults, was worth fighting for even if the writing was on the wall and becoming more legible every day.
Through the years I always said, and I meant what I said… if Randall and I separated I wanted nothing other than my peace of mind. There would be no fighting over material possessions and resources. There would be no divvying up of who should have what and what belonged to whom. If our marriage ended all I wanted to take with me, all I needed along with my peace of mind would be what I’d brought with me into the marriage and before, at the very beginning of our relationship; my own personal possessions. Of course, it went without saying that I’d have custody of the cat! That was a given.
Upon Randall’s return from Emerald nothing much had changed, but we forged forward endeavouring to keep the ever weakening band-aid on the wound.
When we were presented with the job of managing the resort, as I said in a previous post, Randall believed by accepting the position offered us all our problems would be solved.
I had my doubts - serious doubts - but even though I'd voiced those doubts...they weren't heard. It takes two to tango...successfully....that's life!
No one is perfect. I'm not...not then; not now, nor shall I ever be. Who would ever want to be a "Stepford Wife", anyway?