|Noosa National Park|
|Tea Tree Bay|
|Roden Plug-In Electric Stove/Oven|
Upon my return from my brief hiatus at the lakeside cabin, refreshed, I jumped back into work - burying myself in fruit, vegetables and health foods....in my shop.
There was much to be done; much to be organised – not only in the shop, but elsewhere in our lives, as well.
My hands were continually busy making cakes and biscuit; preparing soups, salads, dips, roasting and boiling peanuts and blending smoothies, in between unloading cartons of fruit, vegetables and health food products. My little store was bursting at the seams. It was a hive of industry.
Next to my cash drawer, at all times, was a large jar filled with muesli cookies. If, at any time the need had arisen, I'm sure I would’ve been able to make them blindfolded. The jar was never allowed to run on empty. Same applied to the carrot-pineapple cake I used to make.
One day shortly after I bought the shop I decided to make the cake, just for fun. That moment of "fun" began an unending avalanche. It was akin to the “tiger by the tail” syndrome.
Carrot cakes were very popular in those days; everyone was making them. I wanted to do something slightly different and the carrot-pineapple cake I chose turned out to be a winner with the customers. It was a very moist cake; and one that was able to be successfully frozen. It reached the point where I was making 12 times the quantity each time I made them - by the time I’d finished grating all the carrots!
“Each time” grew into a few times per week! I sold the cakes by the slice, portion, and in some instances, whole. They were very popular, so I wasn’t complaining.
With Christmas only a couple of weeks away, I got stuck into making fruit cakes as well. A few months or so earlier I’d fallen into another cake trap, too; one I couldn’t climb out of - I had only myself to blame. One day I had a brain explosion to make boiled fruit cakes for sale. Why not?
Most mornings I was in my shop around 6 am, and closed its doors again at the earliest 6 pm, mostly thereafter.
One morning I decided to save time and effort. I had a brainwave to make a vegetable curry in my shop for Randall and me to dine on at home after we'd finished our day. We didn’t eat vegetable curry for dinner that night because as it was cooking on my little Roden stove in the rear section of my shop the aroma wafted through the open arcade luring inquisitive passers-by. Soon I had hungry customers hovering around my counter asking when the curry would be ready. I sold it all. Unintentionally and innocently, I started something that day. From then on I had vegetable curry on my shop menu a few times a week; word had passed around! The tom-toms were working overtime!
(The Roden stove I used in my shop was similar to the one pictured above, but an older model; and it was cream in colour. Only small, it sat on a shelf. If the oven was being utilised, only one of the top plates worked. The two top electric plates operated simultaneously, but when both were in operation, the oven couldn't be used. Upon reflection, I even surprise myself when I think about how much I cooked on that little plug-in oven/stove-top. I was a bit like a juggler! It was a major balancing trick. Somehow, I managed to cook many things on and in that little stove...at the same time. I had a two-bay electric bain-marie, also. It held and kept hot the soups I'd prepared for sale.)
Randall was still working at Ray White Real Estate, attending to business elsewhere. He’d placed the greengrocery/health food shop on the market, while I kept working it.
Ruska was unaware of what was going on. He went about his daily business as usual; mostly lazing in the dappled sunshine under the pandanus tree beside our cottage in Sunshine Beach.
In all matters Ruska's belief was – “Why get into a flap when the humans are there to take care of every detail?”
Sid, the owner of a dive shop next door to my store in the Laguna Arcade often had his nephew, Mark visit him from Sydney. Mark was a keen surfer. In December, 1985 Mark turned up to spend Christmas with his uncle. Along with his surfboard he brought a couple of his Sydney mates.
During his many Noosa visits Mark was a regular customer, having succumbed to an addiction for fresh fruit juices or smoothies after riding the waves for a few hours under the Noosa sun, either at First Point, Granite Bay or Tea Tree Bay. Sometimes he’d venture further afield through Noosa National Park to catch the waves at Alexandria Bay.
A beaming smile across his face, his body caked in salt and sand Mark would wander into my shop for a chat, a juice, and oft times a slice of cake, a muesli cookie or a container of fresh salad. During his visits to Noosa, he became a bit of a fixture not only in his uncle’s dive shop, but in my shop, too. Mark was a polite, nice young fellow. His two mates from Sydney who’d joined him were also keen surfers. Mark introduced them to me; and then later to Randall. Daily, along with Mark, they, too, became regular customers. They showed a lot of interest in my shop and its contents.
Somewhere along the line I mentioned to Mark’s mates that Randall and I had placed the business on the market because we were relocating to Hinchinbrook Island around the end of January-early February. By that stage it was mid-December, 1985. 1986 was looming rapidly.
Next minute, out of left field, the young men put in an offer to Randall and me for the business!
For some time they’d wanted to move to Noosa to live and work (and surf), apparently…and they saw my little business as a perfect opportunity for them. I spent an amount of time with them pointing out what needed doing, daily, hourly…at all times…in the shop. I impressed upon them that people don’t like walking into a store that has half-empty shelves, chill bins and refrigerators etc; that everything they see before them on the shelves, bins etc., just didn’t magically appear. Constant work and attention went into keeping them that way. If the shelves were scant with stock, it’s a rapid, sure-fire way of losing customers. Customers won’t return; they’ll go elsewhere. The lads assured me they understood. I feared they were buying a business to enable them to go surfing! Life doesn’t work that way…not successfully!
After much consultation, pondering etc., the young men, Randall and I signed an unencumbered, 30-day Contract of Sale. The sale was well and truly in the pipe-line.
We’d not placed our two blocks of land upon which the cottage in Sunshine Beach straddled on the market.
The purchasers of my business asked if they could rent the two-bedroom cottage when we left for North Queensland. It was, after all, just a hop, skip and jump to the ocean and its rolling waves. Because we’d already decided to hold onto the property, we knew tenants would be needed, so we agreed to the arrangement. Everyone was happy; and everything was falling into place. Round pegs were fitting perfectly into round holes; and the square pegs were fitting comfortably into the square holes.
Shortly after New Year’s Eve, Randall flew to Townsville (by plane). From there he travelled north by Greyhound bus to Cardwell. At Cardwell he boarded the boat across the sea to the resort at Cape Richards on the north-eastern tip of Hinchinbrook Island.
Settlement on the sale of the resort was due for closure at any moment. Randall needed to be present at the resort to oversee proceedings, the workings of the resort and the current staff members, some of whom had decided to remain under our new management.
While Randall was taking care of business in North Queensland, I remained at the coast, in the Sunshine Beach cottage; still operating my shop in Hastings Street until its settlement. Ruska kept me company…at the cottage, not in the shop. At night we curled up together in the bean bag watching our favourite TV show...both dozing off after a couple of minutes!
I placed an advertisement in the local newspaper to sell my MG-Magnette. I hated having to part with it because I loved that car, but when living on the island we knew we didn’t need two cars, so one of them had to go. We’d already sold the “Fire Truck”…our old red Land Rover to a deer farm on the Sunshine Coast.
The Ford Cortina would eventually transport Randall, Ruska and me northwards once Randall returned from his resort secondment after every detail leading up to the change of ownership was settled; and all the finer elements at the Noosa-Sunshine Beach end had been settled.
However, no one had counted on Cyclone Winifred paying an uninvited, unwelcome visit to the northern regions.
A tropical low formed approximately 720kms north of Cairns on 27th January, 1986. It played around there for a couple of days, teasingly turning towards the north-west, but then, as cyclones have a tendency to do Winnie, as she’d been christened by the Bureau of Meteorology, decided she’d had enough of those climes. She wanted a change of scenery. Packing up her wares, she turned; gathered strength and headed south. Someone had told her that those areas needed a bit of a shake-up.
Numerous warnings were given out by the Weather Bureau. The cyclone eventually made landfall at the little township of Silkwood, but before and after that event, Cyclone Winifred caused much damage to areas between Cairns and Ingham. Winnie was the worst tropical cyclone to make landfall in northern Queensland since Cyclone Althea in 1971. Cyclone Winifred caused over $86 million in damage. Sugar cane and banana crops suffered to the extreme.
Mission Beach, Tully, Silkwood, Kurrimine Beach, Cardwell, El Arish, South Johnstone, Mourilyan, the Family Group of Island, and all areas in between north of Hinchinbrook Island suffered at the wanton, destructive hands of Winifred. Trees were defoliated and uprooted. The lush foliage of those areas was stripped bare like naked naturists; au naturel as a nudist. The cassowary population, already at risk, wasn’t immune, either.
However, shortly before Winnie reached those areas just north of Hinchinbrook Island, Randall battened down the hatches at the resort, and evacuated everyone from the island to the mainland - including him. Making his way down the highway to Townsville, Randall flew home.
It didn’t take us long to tie up the loose ends. Time was of the essence. We had little other choice; we had to get on the move…Hinchinbrook Island Resort was impatiently waiting for us.
My shop settled within a couple of days of Randall’s return. I remained with the young purchasers for a week to “show them the ropes”. The shop had been like my “baby”. I’d put a lot into it, and had enjoyed doing so. I felt sad handing it over, but a new adventure beckoned; and I was excited about what lay ahead of me in North Queensland.
So many mixed emotions were flooding through me.
A bloke who lived at the end of Elanda Street, there street where we’d once lived, bought the MG-Magnette. As I reluctantly handed him the keys of the car, I asked if he would wait to collect it after we’d left. I didn’t want to see my much-loved “Remy” driving away at the hands of a stranger. I know it sounds silly…but I offer no apology. “Remy’s” new owner obliged my whim; and I learned later he’d restored the car to its original state; its original beauty – and that pleased me no end.
(I still have a “Remy” in my life. I christened one of my cats…my black and white male cat – “Remy” – “Remy Martin” during formal moments. His tabby sister is called – “Shama” – after the Native American Shamans)!
A removal truck was hired and packed with some of our possessions. We didn’t take everything we owned with us. The future was still the future…and as always, it held uncertainty. The future is always an unknown.
Coincidentally, we stored some of our belongings at Randall’s sister and her husband’s property here on Tamborine Mountain. They had space in a shed on their three acre block of land.
I bought a leash for Ruska. The boot/trunk and rear seat of the Ford Cortina were loaded with our personal belongings. We were on our way….no looking back. Although, I did cast a final, backward, misty-eyed glance at “Remy” as we pulled out of the Duke Street yard.
Ruska contentedly curled up on my lap as soon as I'd settled my own self in the passenger seat of the car; and there he remained for most of the 1,419 km (882 miles) road trip. When not on my lap, Ruska curled up at my feet on the passenger side of the car. He was an exceptionally placid traveller, not once did he kick up a fuss. Not once did he make even the slightest cry in fear. Ruska, again, as he’d done previously, showed great insight; he knew he was safe – so he just settled in to enjoy the ride.
The leash I’d bought was used when he needed to pay a visit to a feline ablution block…which over that expanse of kilometres is quite vast!
When we three intrepid adventurers reached Mackay, an approximate distance of 869.8 km from Sunshine Beach, we broke our trip and stayed overnight at Randall’s brother and his wife’s home. Again, Ruska took it all in his stride.
Upon leaving Mackay our next port of call before our final destination of Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island was to be Cardwell…the coastal mainland town on the highway across from the island. From Cardwell, where our car was to be stored, Randall, Ruska and I would then be transferred across the Coral Sea, past Missionary Bay to the island…
A whole new world and life lay ahead…..for the three of us....