Sunday, December 10, 2017

THE CLOSER IT GETS.....



Happiness is.....All Aboard "The Reef Venture"...
Ramsay Bay, Hinchinbrook Island
Jetty...Hinchinbrook Island
My brother Graham and Bronnie, a staff membe,r relaxing after Christmas lunch..Christmas Day- Hinchinbrook Island,.1986  (Both Graham and Bronnie have, sadly, passed away - too soon - too young).
Andrea and Burnie...two more of my staff members on Hinchinbrook.  Burnie and I remain good friends to this day, 31 years later.
David aka Santa, Christmas Day, 1986

My memory bank goes into over-drive at this time of the year.  My memory bank is always over-active, but it kicks up a few notches as Christmas and New Year draw near...reflecting upon times past; of friends and family no longer here. Reflecting upon happy times and sad, all of which remain a part of my reality.  Although, at times melancholy has its way, I do not fret hour upon hour, alone with my memories, I am content.

The Festive Season sets the wheels of the mind in motion.

Christmas Day on Hinchinbrook Island approached. The resort’s cabins were booked to the limits. My staff, some of whom were experiencing their first Christmas away from their families and loved ones, had mixed emotions.

Excited with the prospect of spending Christmas on an island, most were a little sorrowful for not being at home, around the Christmas tree exchanging presents with their families and loved ones.

Sensing their feelings, I warned the guests ahead of the day once the lengthy Christmas lunch came to an end in the restaurant it was then my staff's 'time'.  I explained they, too, must be able to enjoy Christmas.  Everyone was very understanding.

A long table was set aside out on the large deck surrounding the pool to cater for my staff when the time arrived for their afternoon’s festivities.

Christmas Eve was full of good cheer and much gaiety as the staff and guests mingled around the bar before and after dinner.

My head chef, David, who was a character much loved by staff and guests alike was in full form, regaling stories to everyone within earshot.  David and I (and his wife) are still good friends after all the years.

Around 2.30am Christmas morning, he jumped up, letting go of an apt expletive or three, stating he had forgotten to put the whole suckling pig on to cook!

Our Christmas lunch was to be an elaborate buffet complete with the traditional fare, hot and cold, together an abundance of fresh seafood.

As the revellers meandered their merry ways back to their cabins, David and I were left to keep watch on the forgotten pig.  The night had grown longer....

From memory, I managed to slip in about an hour's cat nap before showering, dressing and racing back to the restaurant for the big day ahead. 

I had told my two chefs I would prepare the salads, of which there was a variety, to free them up to attend to the many other preparations.

With adrenaline flowing at high speed, no thought was directed towards my lack of sleep.

Lunch was a major success, with the guests arriving promptly at 11.30am to begin the celebratory feast. Around 3 pm or so, sated and drowsy, like satisfied goannas, they drifted off to wherever they could find a welcoming bed, palm tree or shady she-oak to digest their gigantic meal; in most cases, their over-indulgence.  But, who cared?  It was Christmas Day, after all.

The fun commenced for the island crew after the last guests left.

With no opportunity to visit stores on the mainland, I'd decided the best Christmas present I could give my staff was give each a bottle of his/her favourite alcoholic beverage.  I gift-wrapped a couple of cartons full of Scotch, rum, bourbon, gin, vodka and whatever else took their fancy.  As well as the liquid presents, I'd commandeered the skipper of the contracted island boat to purchase Christmas stockings, enough for each member of my staff.

Once the last guest disappeared into the distance, we gathered around our own decorated table on the deck, popping champagne corks.  We were eager and ready to settle in for a fun afternoon.

My staff presented me with a beautiful set of crystal Scotch glasses, along with a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label.

Poppers and slime, funny eye glasses, plastic rings and other inane, fun delights from the stockings soon made a fine mess of our surroundings. The pool was too inviting - an offer too good to ignore.  Everyone ended up in the pool, talking and laughing.

It was a wonderful Christmas Day...so wonderful, in fact, dusk had descended.  The sun had set behind Cardwell on the mainland, and was well on its way to Western Australia when we remembered we had guests!

Fortunately, having eaten so much good tucker at lunchtime, they arrived late, and some not at all, for dinner.

Dinner, became a rapid re-arrangement of the luncheon fare. Everyone had had their fill and much more at lunch, so had little appetite at dinner. Soon sleepily, though happy, they wandered back to their accommodations, leaving us to clean up as we reminisced over a fantastic, happy day spent together as a 'family'.

After bouncing back from our Christmas Eve celebrations, the guests, my staff and I were ready for a hectic (for us) but fun (for us and them) day.

I had “volunteered” David, my chef to be Santa Claus.  

Perhaps I need to point out - Hinchinbrook Island is in tropical North Queensland.  Christmas Day 1986 was a typical hot, summer’s day.


David was not a slim young man by any shape or form, but he had a sense of madness and humour larger as his own good self. Up for anything, he willingly accepted my decree.  I had great fun dressing David in a Santa's costume.  Cushions were added to his already bulky frame.

I guess I must have hired Santa’s suit from a Townsville fancy dress outlet.  I can’t remember the details.

I'd organised small, token gifts for the guests, some of whom were children.

My late brother, Graham was working at the resort with me at the time.    It was fun actually because for once in his life, he had to obey me as I was his 'boss'!   (Just kidding around).

Graham also 'volunteered' to be Santa's Helper!

Some help he turned out to be!

David, Graham and I loaded up a huge laundry sack with presents. Graham arrived with a ladder to enable Santa to climb upon the rather expansive roof of the restaurant/bar/kitchen/storeroom/office building.

Of course, this adventure/exhibition occurred in the heat of the almost-midday sun!

What do they say about "Mad dogs and Englishmen"? Well, we were neither, but we were insane Aussies getting in the swing of things...in the spirit of Christmas!

David aka Santa, in scarlet his glory ran around the roof, "Ho-Ho-Hoing" along the way, much to the enjoyment of our guests.  Among my guests was a Japanese family – Mum, Dad and two little kiddies.  They were in awe of the high jinx going on up on the roof, and those  of Santa’s Helper
below.

I bet that Japanese family have never forgotten the sight of Santa upon the roof in the heat of summer on an Aussie tropical island.

The time arrived for Santa to descend so he could begin distributing the presents among the already hysterical guests, who thought the performance was hilarious.

 However, the pantomime was to get funnier!

Santa's Helper, ladder under his arm, was at one end of the building, propping the ladder against the guttering to enable Santa to climb down, except every time Santa's Helper was on one side of the building, Santa was on the opposite side. They couldn't synchronise their movements and positions.

David would be at one side of the roof, and Graham, ladder in tow, would be at the other, and never the twain would match up!   One was as useless as the other in co-ordination!

The calamity went on for many minutes. As time ticked by, the laughter grew louder and Santa's face grew redder from, not only the heat of the day, but from his bulky attire. There was great 'to-do' going on.

All of us below watching the hilarious antics of these two had tears running down our faces, and pains in our stomachs from laughing and gasping for air.

Finally, Santa and his Helper connected around about where the radio mast stood aloft on the wall outside my office.  It stuck up between the large gas bottles.

The drama didn't end there!

As Santa began his descent he dropped his large sack full of presents! Naturally, it landed on the head of Graham, Santa’s Helper!

Eventually, the presents were distributed with much ado. Champagne corks popped and champagne flowed freely, as did the laughter.

Santa sat on the ladies’ knees while he asked if they’d been good and what did they wanted for Christmas.

These days, with political-correctness gone overboard, I guess, such behaviour wouldn’t be allowed.  But, then...in 1986, the guests, men and women alike loved the innocent frivolity.

The fun continued throughout lunch.  The guests were a happy bunch.  My staff were a cheerful crew.  

I'll always remember, particularly, the Japanese family. I'm sure they'd never experienced anything like it before, nor would they have since.

Ahhh...the halcyon days of island life!


35 comments:

  1. throwing oneself into a almost raucous spirit of the holidays is so much fun; I once dressed as Santa and had my friends children all fooled and it was so much fun.

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    1. Hi Linda....The fun of fun is having fun, Linda! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  2. Great memories of such fun. The ladder business must have been so funny. Imagine the Japanese telling their family and friends about their Aussie Christmas Day.

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    1. Hey Andrew. It was a memorable Christmas Day...and yes, Santa and his Helper created much hilarity. Both a pair of clowns! lol

      I would have love to have been able to read the minds of the Japanese couple, and heard what they told their family and friends when they arrived back in their home country!!!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  3. It sounds a perfect memory. And I love that the staff were given time to celebrate. Well done you. Another thing which I am not certain would be allowed today.

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    1. G'day EC....I've always held the belief, even though there have been times I worked on Christmas Day, that no one should work on the day. So with that in mind, my "kids" were going to enjoy it as much as the guests....and they did. Everyone had a grand old time. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  4. Wonderful memory of the Christmas season for you and good of you to share.
    I bet you all had the time of your lives - it seems to show through your words.

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    1. We certainly did, Margaret....It's a time of my life I will always cherish.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  5. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall that Christmas.

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    1. Hey, River....It would've even been better if you'd been one of the guests! :)


      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  6. Christmas on a tropical, hot island - what an interesting, memorable festive event!
    You were a fine boss to your crew, and a fine hostess to your guests.
    The incident with Santa, his helper, and the ladder added fun and suspense to the much loved tradition of gifts' distribution.

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    1. G'day, DUTA...We were like a family, the staff and me. As is always the case, there were a couple of staff members who didn't fit in, so they were given short shift...aka...first log of the island with a teaspoon as a paddle! (If you know what I mean). :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  7. You have some great, fun memories, Lee. You knew how to make everyone have the best time.

    I hope you make some good memories this holiday season also. Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

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    1. Hi Arleen. Much fun was had on the island. It was our little corner of the world away from the the mainland and all its distractions. We had only ech other (and the guests) so we created our own fun...and we were adept at making it! :)

      Thanks for coming by...and a Merry Christmas to you, too...and may 2018 treat you kindly, Arleen. :)

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  8. Such fun....and such wonderful memories to keep forever.

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    1. Hi Delores....Great memories they are...and always they will be cherished.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  9. Crikey Miss Lee .... you sure told me off, aye? It's not my fault .... it's. Mum's. Her eyes are shot bud we're ok. We are going to try and post at least a bit from time to time but it is hard going for Mum. We've been popping in occasionally to keep up with our favourites but haven't been commenting. Mum loves your posts and has missed your wonderful sense of adventure and larrikin like humour. She said to tell you she also loves Hinchinbrook Island and just maybe she was there from time to time at the same time as you. It was always a favourite place for her. Did you know Perry Harvey??? He too loved Hinchinbrook and was a friend of Mum and Dads. He ran a boat from Clump point near mission beach out to the reef. Good bloke! Merry Christmas to you and yours Miss Lee ... πŸ’•πŸΎπŸŽ„

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    1. G'day there, Charlie! So great to see you! Tell that Mum of yours she, too, has been missed. And, I'm sorry to learn she's been having a few problems. Bit of a buggar, hey?

      In those days....1986-1987 - I knew a lot of folk from the Mission Beach area. Many of them visited the resort often...they were as wild a mob as we were! So naturally, we all got on like a house on fire! :)

      Your Mum and I could very well have met and spent time together if she visited the resort anytime during 1986 and 1987.

      One fellow from those days, who was from Mission Beach, and who visited the island frequently was a Mal Charlwood. Mal was a One Nation candidate (failed to get a seat) for Mundingburra in the latest State election. Mal was, and still is, a real character. Fun bloke!

      You've got me thinking now...because there was a fellow who used to drive a boat out from Mission Beach...Jesse Peach is/was his name. Jesse used to come to the resort often, and then later he and his lady ran a fish-chip-and burger shop in the Smithfield Shopping Centre, at Smithfield, Cairns, when, coincidentally, I was working in a real estate office in the same shopping
      centre.

      It is a small world...the the six degrees of separation come into play so often.

      Thanks for coming by and being Mum's messenger, Charlie. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas...I hope Santa treats you kindly. :)

      It was Jesse Peach who put me onto Newry Island... Jesse knew someone who knew someone...so I rang that someone...and the rest is history...I ended up leaving the Cairns area for Newry Island!

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  10. I envy your organizing abilities! I love to have company for holiday dinners but sometimes it gets stressful...You make it sound like falling off a log. I'm always impressed with businesses that treat their employees like humans and take into consideration that they also might like a chance to celebrate with their families and friends. When we were younger it seemed there were more stores and businesses that closed completely on Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. Not any more. Now these holidays have become media and on consumerism blitzes. Fortunately we can choose not to buy (pun intended)into all that!

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    1. Hi Molly....I used to love to have company for special dinners, and I enjoyed all the preparation etc., that went into them. Once upon a time I entertained often at home for numbers of guests...and I enjoyed hosting and catering for diners and guests professionally, too. However, those days are long gone now. I don't do that anymore.

      Nowadays I just cater for me and my two furry rascally mates! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  11. You have written about Hinchinbrook before but this time I felt I was really there - participating in the Christmas festivities. You are such a brilliant storyteller Lee. You have the capacity to both entertain and to make it all seem so real. "Hey Lee! Get me a beer lady!....Whaddya mean say please?...Okay. Don't get so angry! Get me a beer please! Tetley's bitter and make it snappy!"

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  12. "My barmen, Johnno or Gavin will tend to your needs, Mr. Pudding. Hey! Johnno or Gavin! Could you please grab Mr. Pudding a can of VB or Fosters, please?

    He's looking pretty desperate, hanging onto the bar by his fingernails!

    Stop your whingeing, Mr. Pudding. How many times do I have to tell you...we only carry canned beer on the island, no stubbies?"

    I'm glad you enjoyed my story, Yorkie. You would have had fun if you had been there. :)

    Thanks for coming by. Do come again! :)

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    1. They are, Sandra. My life is much quieter these days.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  14. Awww! SO sad about Graham and Bonnie...I'm SO sorry!
    hughugs

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    1. It is, Donna. My brother Graham passed away in 1998, aged 56. Bronnie passed away 3rd August, 2012 at the age of 47.I received word from Bronnie’s husband last night, Saturday 4th August, 2012;
      Bronnie passed away on Friday evening, 3rd August, 2012…at 10.25 pm, at the Mossman Hospital. Bronwyn was 47 years of age, leaving a husband and four children ranging from 19 to 9 years.

      She had her 21st birthday while working on the island. She and Graham got on very well. He was 44/45 at the time and he treated her like a daughter.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

      Th

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  15. That picture of Santa David on the roof is just a hoot.
    Hope you have a productive day and pleasant evening.
    Hugs,

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    1. The picture of the two of them during that bit of madness is still as clear as day in my mind, Sandra! :)

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  16. Oh, I just came back from vacation too! So good to make memories with our loved ones, right? Thanks for sharing your happy times.

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    1. Welcome back, Lux. I bet you had a lovely time wherever and with whomever! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  17. Christmas in the sun does not seem right somehow.
    Too enjoyable!

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    1. G'day, Adullamite...it seems right to us because we're used to it being this way. We crazy Aussies still have the full-on hot Christmas lunches, too...roast pork, chicken or turkey (or both), glazed hams, with all the accompaniments...maybe even a whole roast fillet or eye fillet thrown into the mix just for the fun of it....as well as a bountiful cold, fresh Aussie seafood.

      Some just have the seafood...but loads of it. This year I'm not having any seafood (that's the plan at this point in time, anyway). Silly me...I'm having a hot roast lunch...me and my two furry mates will bog in! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  18. I was in New Zealand before Christmas once and had to blink a bit at the strange mixture of cards in the shops, half were snowy and decked with holly, the others were bright and summery. Having said that though I lived in Australia as a child and do remember eating plum pudding on the beach and my parents commenting on it. I couldn't see what was strange about eating plum pudding on the beach myself - guess that's why I must have filed away that remark to think about later!

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    1. Hey Jenny...Yes...it is what we're accustomed to here in the southern hemisphere. And, of course, many of our customs were brought here with those who came from Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. My ancestry is Scottish and Irish so plum puddings and all the works for hot Christmas lunch was our norm, as well as it being summer. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  19. Thanks for sharing great memories of great fun!

    All the best Jan

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