|History-making female Melbourne Cup Jockey, Michelle Payne aboard winning horse, Prince of Penzance|
|Graphite sketches of horse and Aboriginal stockman drawn by me|
|The Central Hotel, Normanton. It also housed the local TAB|
|The Purple Pub, Normanton|
|The Albion Hotel, Normanton|
|Rugby League great Gene Miles playing for Brisbane Broncos|
Michelle Payne, her brother Stevie, along with their dad, Paddy and trainer Darren Weir sure put the "Bushie" on the map with their history-making achievements on Melbourne Cup Day 2015!
For those not in the know, Michelle Payne was the first female jockey in the history of Australia’s most famous horse race, the Melbourne Cup, to ride and guide the winning horse across the finishing line. It was an exciting moment, not only for Michelle, her family and trainer, but also for many of us keen spectators, some of whom only follow that one race – the Melbourne Cup. History most certainly was made on Tuesday, 3rd November, 2015.
Of course, let’s not forget the prince of all princes, Prince of Penzance. After the horse’s stunning performance on Cup Day he’s more a king than a prince. If there was a throne for horses he’d be perched on it, chewing on a carrot or leisurely munching on a hay stalk; and, perhaps, as a special treat, a sugar cube or two. The Prince certainly deserved and earned royal treatment.
If Gilbert and Sullivan were still alive writing and composing they’d be re-working and renaming their comic opera, “The Pirates of Penzance”.
There’s a story begging to be told on film about the humble players, the humans and horse alike in the makings of what occurred in the lead-up to and on Melbourne Cup Day. It’s a heartwarming, wonderful tale.
I bet Prince of Penzance was happy to be led to water after his gallant gallop. No one would’ve had to make him drink. He’d worked up a thirst and would have happily, without urging, quenched it.
More often than not our Aussie bushies have it hard. They’re a tough lot, but we must never take them for granted. Everyone has a breaking point. Our bushies are the backbone of our country. Without their hard work - without their dedication to the land -there’d be huge gaps on our supermarket shelves of Australian-grown produce and meats. Produce doesn’t just magically appear on the supermarket shelves, and yet, I’m sure there are many people who believe it does!
In days of yore I had myriad interesting experiences; challenges I grabbed hold of and ran with.
One adventure was when, for a few weeks, I stepped in as relief manager at the Central Hotel, Normanton, in Queensland’s Gulf Country - gulf savannah country just south of the Gulf of Carpentaria...in north-western Queensland. There were/are three hotels in Normanton.....the Central, The Purple Pub, and the Albion. The Albion was just across the road from the Central; and the Purple Pub was just up the road.
The owner of the real estate company for whom I worked at the agency’s Smithfield office in the Northern Beaches’ area of Cairns also owned the Normanton’s Central Hotel. At the time he owned another country pub in Herberton on the Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland. Because of my previous experiences within the hospitality industry, in one manner or the other, Ross, my boss, asked me to act as relief manager at the wonderful old country pub in Normanton while the managers went on holiday.
In 1989 only one race meeting a year was held on the dusty Normanton track. Not giving two hoots about dust, crowds from near and afar flocked to the annual event.
Because the pub sponsored the day’s main race, as its temporary manager, I was an invited guest. It was my job to put the sash around the winning horse’s neck and stroke his nose. Bronco, State of Origin and international Rugby League player, the great Gene Miles was also a guest. He was far more recognisable and famous than me. On the race day, Gene was representing Power’s Brewery. Power’s Brewery now CUB Brewery, sponsored the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla Sharks, both NRL teams.
It was a pleasure to meet Gene, a giant of a man in stature (193 cm /6 ft 4 inches), and the winning horse.
It was a fun afternoon. I didn’t stroke Gene Miles on the nose, but I did pat the winning horse on its nose.
Normanton, in the middle of beef cattle country, has a population around 1,300. The town is classed not only as the capital of the Carpentaria Shire, but also as the Barramundi Capital of the North.
These days its main street boasts a statue of an 8.64m salty croc; a gentle reminder of the largest crocodile ever taken from the Norman River. I bet the barra population (and blue-nose salmon) relaxed and multiplied when old Krys the croc met his match. It’s advisable not to dip your toes into water - Krys’ offspring, as well as his close and distant relatives still call the river home.
During my brief stint in Normanton I met many unique, interesting characters – all were bushies - wonderful, honest (but never shy about telling a tall tale), straight-forward, true blue Aussies - black and white. People I’d be proud to stand beside any day of the week. Folk I’d be privileged to have as friends. They called a spade a spade, but, on the flipside, were mischievous enough to try to convince you it wasn’t!
I loved my time spent in Normanton; and I've never regretted my decision to go there...I had a choice...I made the correct choice. I've a lot of good memories from my Normanton sojourn.
Stuffed Barra: Preheat oven 220C; line baking tray. Wipe dry 4 whole, scaled, cleaned baby barramundi (about 350g each); trim side fins; cut off dorsal and belly fins; trim tails to a V-shape. Cut 2 slashes, 1cm deep in thickest part of flesh on both sides. Stuffing – combine 3/4c chopped pecans, 1c fresh breadcrumbs, 3 chopped button mushrooms, 2tbs each grated parmesan, chopped chives and Italian parley, 1 whisked egg, 1tbs x-virgin olive oil and 1tbs lemon juice. Spoon stuffing into fish; press in firmly. Put on baking tray; brush with olive oil. Bake 10-12mins, until just cooked.
Barra and Vine-ripened Tomato-Spinach Salad: Finely shred 150g baby spinach. Heat pan on med-heat; fry 50g chopped speck/bacon until crisp; remove from pan; add 1tbs x-virgin olive oil; fry 15 basil leaves until crisp; remove from pan. Combine spinach, speck, 100g vine-ripened tomatoes and 50g toasted pine nuts in bowl; whisk 80ml x-virgin olive oil with 20ml balsamic; season; pour over salad. Heat pan, med-high; brush 4x200g barra fillets with a oil; fry skin side down to crisp, 2mins; turn; cook, 2mins until golden and cooked through; arrange salad on plates; top with fish.
Turmeric Coconut Barra: Make paste: place 2 trimmed, thinly sliced lemongrass stalks and 3 trimmed coriander roots in mortar; crush to a paste; add 2tsp ground turmeric, 2tsp ground ginger, 1/2tsp cumin, 3tsp grated palm sugar and 2tbs fish sauce; grind to combine. Heat 2tbs oil in saucepan; fry paste 2mins; add 1 finely chopped brown onion; cook 3mins; add 1c coconut milk and 1c fish stock; simmer. Gently lay 4x180g barra fillets into sauce; cover; reduce heat to medium; poach 8mins; halfway through add 1 bunch choy sum cut into 10cm lengths