|Two Views of Ramada Reef Resort, Palm Cove, north of Cairns|
Harry and Meghan’s recent 16 day visit to the Antipodes brought out the best in people....highlighting goodness, sincerity, caring and love - pushing aside the ugliness we too often witness in this world – ugliness, which appears to be increasing daily.
The natural, genuine charm of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex cannot be ignored; should not be ignored. I don’t care if one is a Monarchist or is someone beating, out of tune, the “Let’s become a Republic drum”. ..it is clear from the goodwill and happiness shown during the Royal visit there are lessons to be learned by each one of us, whether we’re willing to admit it or not.
Of course, there are the cynics...there are always cynics and critics. I’ve never had a fondness for cynicism, in particular. I think cynicism is bred from an insecurity of one’s own self Of course, this is just my opinion. I am able to speak on my own behalf only, not the behalf of another.
The Invictus Games displayed the powerfulness of the human spirit; individual determination; respect for one’s fellowman; potent purpose, not allowing adversity to be the conqueror.
Witnessing positivity, instead of negativity for a change was, and is, uplifting. It warms the heart....inspires the soul.
Becoming aware of, and understanding, to the best of our ability, the challenges some face daily; learning to treat others with tolerance, respect and patience...have to be steps in the right direction.
Harry’s reaction and interaction with, perhaps, his biggest fan, 98-year old war widow, Daphne Dunne when he spotted her among the thousands gathered outside the Opera House, was a memorable, tender interlude, to say the least...as were the moments that followed when Harry introduced Meghan to Mrs. Dunne.
Forget “When Harry Met Sally”. ..it pales in significance.
And then there was the terrific sit-down chat between Harry, two Invictus competitors, Nicole Bradley and Matt Model...hosted by the irrepressible Paralympic Gold Medallist - Dylan Alcott... see below....
Unforgettable, also, was the meeting between Harry, Meghan and five-year old Luke Vincent in Dubbo. Precious moments, which will remain embedded in our mind for a long, long time; certainly in mine.
Luke, who has Down syndrome, stole everyone’s heart as he played with Harry’s beard. Young Luke endeared himself to all who witnessed that affectionate, warm encounter. Generous, sincere hugs were shared between Luke, Harry and Meghan.
Surely images of that darling little boy’s actions, playing with Harry’s beard and hair – the affectionate hugs - would have shattered even a heart made of the hardest granite.
My heart is made of mush - it was smashed to smithereens. I had to glue the pieces back together again.
Similar happened to me one day when I was working as Functions-Conventions’ Coordinator at the Ramada Reef Resort, Palm Cove, in Tropical North Queensland. (In case you’re wondering, I don’t mean a child playing with my beard or hair)!
On the day I’m referencing, the resort played host to a group of Down syndrome children. That particular day remains one of the most fulfilling times of my life.
It was impossible to be unhappy while in the company of such gentle, loving souls.
One spirited little girl took an immediate liking to the resort manager.
Originally from Austria, our manager was a nice man, but one with a rather stern, humourless nature...when working, anyway.
The staff always respectfully referred to him as “Mr. Burckhalter” (name altered to protect the innocent). However, his young fan, the joyful little girl, insisted on calling him by his first name - “Balthis”. She became his shadow, following him everywhere, tugging on the sleeve of his jacket, or patting him on the bum if he dared turn away. All the while, she constantly, loudly and clearly, and innocently, called him by his name, “Balthis”...much to the staff’s amusement.
No offence was intended....none was taken.
A couple of long tables were set up, and the children gathered around them excitedly. They enjoyed the feast before them. Joy filled the air.
The spirit of every member of the staff present, (our boss, Mr. Burckhalter, included),
was lifted higher than Mount Everest.
That wonderful, enjoyable, exceptional day spent with the group of special children – I say “special” because the children were special in every way - was one of the happiest, most rewarding days of my life.
Special Angel Pasta: Preheat oven 175C. In bowl, add 1 bunch kale leaves, in pieces, no stems, 2tbs olive oil, 2tbs parmesan; season. Toss to coat with your hands; massage kale 1min. Spread on baking tray; bake 15-18mins; toss 1-2 times, until crispy; set aside. Cook 455g angel pasta al dente. Cook 4 thick bacon rashers until crispy; drain; crumble. Drain all but 1tbs of bacon fat. Lay 4-8 lobster or Moreton Bay bug tails flat on a cutting board with the shell side facing upward. Cut tails in half lengthwise; slice all the way through the shell; season lightly. Bring pan used for bacon to med-high heat. Add 1tbs butter; swirl to coat. Place tails meat-side down in pan; sear 5mins, until shells turn orange. Remove from pan; set aside. To pan add 1tsb butter. Add 2 minced garlic cloves; cook 30secs; add pasta, 1/4tsp crushed red pepper, 1/4tsp cayenne; season. Toss well; cook 2mins, just until pasta is hot. Add 25 cherry toms and 240g cubed fontina/gruyere or gouda cheese. Remove pasta from heat; drizzle with juice of ½ lemon juice; toss well; add kale. In a small pan melt 4tbls butter over med-heat until just browned. Pop seafood meat out of shells; divide pasta among plates. Top each with lobster and chopped basil. Drizzle with browned butter; top with crumbled bacon.
Cheese Sticks: Preheat oven 180C. Line a baking tray with grease-proof paper. Set aside. Whisk together 1 large egg, 3-1/2tbs thick natural yoghurt and 2tbs melted butter. Add 160g grated extra tasty cheddar cheese; stir well. Combine 1-1/2c whole-wheat flour with 1tsp bicarbonate soda; tip all at once into the cheese mixture. Stir well to combine. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead for a minute. The dough shouldn't be sticking to your hands, but it shouldn't be dry either. Divide dough into 2 parts. Roll each part into a thin sausage shape and cut into approximately 5 cm long pieces. Roll each piece a little more to make thin finger shapes and place on baking tray, spreading them out as they will expand in the oven. Bake for about 18-20mins until the breadsticks are lightly brown.
Baby Corn-Noodle Fritters: Place 85g dried rice vermicelli noodles noodles in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water. Stand for 3mins or until softened. Drain. Cut into 2cm lengths. Combine 2 thinly sliced shallots, 125g baby corn, thinly sliced, 1 long red chilli, finely chopped, 2tbs soy sauce,1tbs oyster sauce, 1tsp sesame oil and 1/4c S.R. flour in a bowl. Add 4 lightly beaten eggs. Stir to combine. Stir in noodles. Heat 2tbs peanut oil in large frying pan over med-high heat. Using 1/4c mixture at a time, cook in batches, 2mins each side or until golden and cooked through. Transfer to paper towel-lined pate. Serve fritters with sweet chilli sauce and salad.
Tropical Banana Bread: Preheat oven 175C. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan. In bowl, whisk together 1/2c liquefied coconut oil and 1c light brown sugar, packed; beat well to combine. Add 1-1/2c unsweetened applesauce and 2tsp vanilla; beat well. In separate bowl combine 1-1/2c plain flour, 1tsp baking soda, 1/2tsp salt, 1/2tsp ground ginger, 1/4tsp nutmeg and 1/2tsp cinnamon; whisk well to combine. Add dry mixture to coconut oil mixture; whisk just until smooth. Fold in 1/2c drained crushed pineapple, 1/4c pineapple juice, 1/2c flaked coconut and 3 ripe bananas, mashed. Pour batter into prepared pan. Top with banana slices, if desired. Bake 50-60mins. Cool in pan 10 mins; then put onto a wire rack to cool completely.