Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A NEWRY ISLAND TALE.....CHAPTER ONE.



St. Helens Beach

Newry Island looking across to Outer Newry Island


Time and light were rapidly running out.  Nightfall was nigh.  It was the enemy, not pausing for man, beast, or marine creature.  Not a single moment could be wasted. 

The previous morning, on a sunny, calm Saturday, Glen, a young man who had visited Newry Island a few times previously, had arrived by a tiny sailing skiff, having travelled across the ocean from Seaforth on the mainland.

Around noon on Sunday, Glen decided it was time to head off to St. Helens, also on the mainland.  There, as planned, a mate would be waiting for him.   

Glen was employed by Hastings Deering, a major construction and mining equipment company.  He worked at the mines in the rich coal fields of the Bowen Basin, an area that boasts the largest coal reserves in Australia.  The Bowen Basin covers over 60,000 square kilometres, in an area from Collinsville to Theodore, in Central Queensland.

At the time of Glen’s arrival to Newry Island the previous day, the ocean had been as flat as a mirror, and the breeze had been almost non-existent.  

Nonetheless, I was extremely surprised he had dared travel across the sea from Victor Creek at Seaforth on the mainland via such a small sailing skiff.  To me, Glen had always appeared to be a level-headed young man not prone to risky decisions and actions.  At a guess, Glen was aged in his mid-twenties. His travelling by the tiny craft to the island, to me, seemed out of character.

Late Saturday afternoon the weather performed a pirouette worthy of Nureyev, and did a complete about turn.  Dark clouds off-loaded their heavy burdens. Strong winds whipped the ocean into a frenzy turning it into angry boiling pot.  

On its mooring in the channel between Newry Island and Outer Newry Island, my boat, the 21ft, half-cabin De Havilland Trojan bucked like an agitated bronco at a Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

By late Sunday morning the ocean becalmed. Glen decided it was his opportunity to return to the mainland, but not to Victor Creek, in the south-east direction, but north-west to St. Helens Beach, on the mainland, to meet up with his mate, after which both would return to the coalfields as arranged.

Accompanying Glen down to the water’s edge, I bid him farewell, and a safe trip.   I remained on the beach watching as he sped off on his tiny skiff. 

Just as he rounded the point at the northern end of the beach, an unexpected scud came through. It was as if it was a final bow, an encore, to the previous evening’s wild weather performance.

With Glen gone, and my other guests who had left on the Friday, once again, I was alone on the island, other than for my two furry, four-legged mates, Pushkin and Rimsky...and the koalas, of course. Most of the time, the koalas kept a low profile. Although, often their guttural grunting would be heard in the bushes up behind the main building that housed “our”  living quarters (Pushkin, Rimsky’s and my quarters), the bar, dining area and kitchen.

My Sunday afternoon tranquillity was broken at 5pm by the ringing of the phone.  On the other end was Glen’s mate, asking if he, Glen, had yet left the island.  Immediately, I was on high alert. 

Remaining calm and in control, but with my heart thumping in my chest, I told Glen’s friend all I knew...from when I had waved goodbye to Glen as he rounded the point.   

After assuring Glen’s mate I’d do my utmost, while simultaneously trying to appease his concerns, I cut short our phone conversation so I could call the Air- Sea Rescue, Mackay Squadron.   Daylight was rapidly diminishing.

To Air-Sea Rescue I explained in minute, precise detail what had happened from the moment Glen had left the safety of Newry Island; from my last sighting of him when he rounded the point, as he headed for the mainland a few kilometres away.  I told the Air-Sea Rescue fellow about the scud that had gone through shortly after Glen’s departure; explaining it had been the final scud of the day. After the scud had blown through that was it. Miraculously, the weather had cleared within a few minutes.

The fellow on the other end of the phone informed me there was little Air-Sea Rescue could do at that point in time because of the failing light; the lateness of the day, but they would send up a plane to do a quick scan of the area between Newry, Rabbit Island and St. Helens Beach before darkness took hold completely.  

I didn't want to appear to be a know-it-all because I wasn’t; but I felt I had to express my thoughts of where I believed Glen most likely, in my humble opinion, could be found to the Air-Sea Rescue people.

The waters behind my island and the waters north-west, or further north of Newry Island were unfamiliar to me.  I’d never once traversed that part of the ocean.  My coverage, personal, hands-on knowledge of the sea surrounding Newry was between my island and Victor Creek on the mainland, which lies four kilometres north of the small coastal village of Seaforth. 

Like the back of my hand, I knew my route to and from the island.  It was imperative I had the knowledge of the route down pat.  I had no reasons to venture further afield. I knew nothing beyond my own sphere. 

However, I’ve always considered myself to have a worthy amount of commonsense – the majority of times, at least!

I could sense I was being humoured by the person on the other end of the phone when I shared my opinion of where I thought Glen might be located; of how the winds could have picked him up and forced him northwards; where he’d then be carried further by the currents.

You know that feeling when you sense you’ve lost the attention of the person you’re talking with - they drift off as if in a vacuum of their own. Suddenly you become invisible; a lonely voice in the wilderness.

I didn’t allow the attitude at the other end of the phone faze me, however.  The matter at hand was far too important – and urgent. I made my position clear, confessing my lack of knowledge of the areas beyond my little world, but I also gave my reasons for thinking the way I did before I completed my phone alert.

Dusk was descending rapidly.  There was no time to lose.  I ran to where my dinghy was hitched; unhitched it and rowed as fast as I possibly could out to my boat at its mooring.  I knew I’d get little or no sleep that night.  I knew if I didn’t make an attempt, at least, of trying to find Glen it would haunt me throughout the night.

Unfortunately, I had been having trouble with my boat’s motor…a Johnson outboard, 175 horsepower.  I’d just gotten to the northern point of Newry; at the top end of the main beach…hoping to spot the colourful sail of Glen’s craft up on the beach at Rabbit Island, when the motor on my boat started coughing and spluttering. 

 “Great!” I thought. “That’s all I need!  Me - stranded out in the ocean as well! Not a clever, comforting scenario!”   I uttered a few expletives that I won't repeat here.  I'll leave them to your imagination. Suffice to say they were worthy of a pirate!

What help would I be, floundering about at sea in the middle of the night?  Just another problem added to the already existing one. Good sense prevailed. I limped back to my mooring, and then rowed ashore in my little tender. 

It was better I remained close by to the phone, and to my two-way radio.

Communication with the outside world was vital.  I would be of no use if I, too, was stuck out in the ocean overnight.  By the time I reached the safety of my sandy surrounds the curtain of darkness had been drawn.  Night had descended.

Not long after my own minor misadventure I received a call from the Air-Sea Rescuers informing me they’d ceased the search operation because of the failing light, but they would be out again at the crack of dawn to pick up where they’d left off.   

There was nothing else to be done, but worry...

 

To Be Continued....

 

 

 

Friday, April 09, 2021

VALE...PRINCE PHILIP, DUKE OF EDINBURGH

 




 

The passing of Prince Philip is very sad news...not unexpected, but sad nonetheless....

In 1954 I saw the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh during their visit to Brisbane.  At the time, I was in the Brownies.  My fellow Brownies and I travelled by train from Gympie to Brisbane to be part of a Guard of Honour for the visiting new Monarch and her Consort.  It was an exciting event.

Then in the early 1970s I was among an eager crowd of people as the Queen and her Prince drove along the streets of Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.  Fortunately, I was in the front of the madding crowd, fairly close to the passing parade.  The Duke was a handsome man.




A love story worthy of the most romantic novel...


Tuesday, April 06, 2021

TO LAUGH AT ONE’S OWN SELF IS HEALTHY, OR SO WE ARE TOLD!

 







 

If the above title is a fact, I must be very healthy, indeed!

I don’t need Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, The Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, or the rest of their ilk who have followed in their lively footsteps to keep me amused.  Successfully, with little or no conscious effort, I manage to amuse myself often...very often.  I’m not sure if it’s a good thing, or not.  There could be two avenues of thought.  Those blokes in the white jackets might have a different opinion to mine, so I’ll keep on keeping a low profile, and run/hobble for cover if I see them lurking around.  I duck for cover every time I hear a vehicle drive up the lane!  

Frequently I hear my two furry mates chuckling away behind their paws at my antics. Perhaps, they’re easily amused...maybe I am, too.  As for the kookas aka kookaburra...from the amount of laughing they do I must be the centre of their entertainment...the highlight of their days.

To me, it matters little if I make a spectacle of myself.  By this stage in my life I’m used to it, which became evident a couple of weeks ago while out shopping.  I broke into laughter at something I did. Story below...

Thankfully, the good manners instilled in me throughout my childhood are still at play...most of the time, anyway. 

As I approached the entrance to IGA, our local supermarket, a few weeks ago I paused to allow a fellow shopper to exit the store through the sliding glass doors.  I broke out laughing when I realised I was looking at my own reflection and that of my trolley in said glass doors! 

There I was waiting for me to exit when I hadn’t yet entered.  Who was going to move first...give way first?  A Mexican standoff ensued. I could have stood there all day long, but, finally I took the trolley by the horns, and entered the store. The exiting me thanked me for my politeness.  By golly...that’s how to be jolly with a trolley...

And, then there was the time in Sydney in the mid-80s....another moment of hilarity for me caused by me. 

At the time I was manager of the then Hinchinbrook Island Resort in North Queensland. I was in Sydney attending a tourism expo, promoting the island resort and surrounds as a choice holiday destination.

Clad in a stylish women’s Pierre Cardin pant suit, high heels, well-groomed hair and make-up, I felt very glamorous in my smart outfit. Cocktail in hand, I mingled with other attendees in a crowded bar at the Sydney Hilton. 

My bubble of confidence rudely burst when I looked down and noticed the fly on my chic trousers wasn’t, not even at half-mast, but unceremoniously fully lowered!

Hoping no one had noticed my uncouth public display, surreptitiously, I re-zipped, embarrassed, yet amused by my fashion faux pas. My unintentional social blunder brought me swiftly crashing back down to earth (or carpeted floor). My brief feeling of being a member of the catwalk brigade alongside the likes of Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, Heidi Klum, Gisele B√ľndchen et al disappeared without my even making the back cover of Vogue magazine! 

It’s no secret I’ve never strutted my stuff for Victoria...or any other state, for that matter.

 I did, at the age of eight years, sashay along a catwalk in tune with the joyful song, “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic”.

I was the one and only juvenile member of the fashion parade hosted by a Gympie dress salon.  As she frequently did for such parades, my mother was a model.  I adored the dress I was showing off...a crisp white voile dress with emerald green embroidery and an emerald green satin sash to match. I loved the melody which accompanied my strutting. 

Carried away under the spotlight...from the smell of the make-up, and the roar of the madding crowd...I literally had to be dragged off the stage!  Not quite “dragged’, but a lot of urging, beckoning and encouragement from the wings went on until finally the message got through to my brain. 

The images from so long ago remain embedded in my mind.  It was not only the teddy bears who had a picnic that evening. The innocent enjoyment the little girl felt all those years ago still amuses me, causing laughter.

As you can tell...it takes little to amuse me...   Not a bad way to be, in my opinion...particularly during this time of gloom and doom....

 

Picnic Muffins: Preheat oven 200c.  Spray a 12 hole, deep muffin tray. Add 5tbs x-virgin oil, 2tbs cooled, melted butter, 1 large egg and 240ml buttermilk to bowl. Mix using a fork or balloon whisk. Add 250g plain flour, 1tsp baking powder, 1tsp bicarbonate soda, 85g grated parmesan, 1/4tsp salt, 1/4tsp garlic salt, a few sprigs chopped parsley, and 6 Prosciutto slices, chopped into small pieces. Mix together with wooden spoon until just combined (don’t over-stir or the muffins will be tough). Add 1tbs of the muffin mixture to each of the holes. Using 12 hard-boiled, peeled eggs, place one on top, in each of the holes; then top with remaining muffin mixture. Push mixture down the sides and around the egg using a spoon. Sprinkle each with grated parmesan; place in oven. Cook for 5mins, then turn oven down to 175C; cook a further 12-14mins – until the tops are golden brown. Once cooked, leave to cool in tin for 10mins before removing.

Veggie Picnic Pinwheels: Set aside 1/2c each of thinly sliced capsicum strips, thinly sliced carrot strips, thinly sliced yellow capsicum strips, baby spinach leaves and shredded purple cabbage.Mix together 2/3rd cup whipped cream cheese and 1tbs ranch powder until thoroughly combined. Spread mixture evenly over the 4 large tortillas. Leaving a 2.5cm border on all sides, lay out 1tbs of each vegetable in rows across tortillas; top with shredded chicken. Roll up each tortilla tightly.  If the tortillas refuse to remain closed, you can use a toothpick or two to do the job....or tie with chives or shallots.