Finally! I Have Been Wanting To Post This All Morning!
After beating my head against an imaginary brick wall all morning into early afternoon, I'm finally able to post! I hope! I shan't speak too soon, or if I do, I'll say it in a whisper so only you can hear.
I'd like to tell you the story of how I ended up having the best barman in Queensland working for me/with me when I was on Hinchinbrook Island. He could very well have been the best barman in Australia!
For the two years prior to my stint on Hinchinbrook, I had my own business in Hastings Street, Noosa Heads...a very beautiful, and very popular tourist destination for those of you who have not heard of the area. Noosa is around 2 hours drive north of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland.
I operated a small boutique-style fruit/vegetable/healthfood store in Hastings Street, in what was then the "Laguna Arcade". The arcade has since been demolished. A fancy new building has been erected in its stead. I prepared and served fresh fruit salads, salads, cakes and cookies, fresh home-made (store-made) soups, fresh fruit juices, fresh vegetable juices, smoothies, dips, roasted and boiled peanuts...you name it...I made it and sold it...anything that wasn't bolted to the floor, nailed to the walls or hanging from the ceiling was unsafe in my presence. A full-blown stereo with two large, appropriately placed speakers, played music day long.
Almost every afternoon around two on his way to work, Johnno, a barman from 'Annabelle's Restaurant', popped into my friendly little shop for me to make him a fresh fruit juice or a smoothie. He always joined me out in the back area...which also doubled as my very small kitchen. Placing himself on an old Bentwood chair, he chatted while I prepared his drink. He was a pleasant young man, but half the time I didn't know what to talk with him about, so I usually swung our conversation around to the 'goings-on' in Noosa and the restaurant trade.
I sold my shop, moving to Hinchinbrook Island to a totally different lifestyle and...life.
It was late one May afternoon. As was my habit each day, I would walk to the end of the jetty with departing guests to farewell them as they left on the contracted island boat that deposited them back to the mainland at Cardwell. Daina (correct spelling), a young lass who worked for me was with me this particular afternoon. As the 45ft reef-cat pulled away from the jetty, I said to Daina..."Let's stick around here a bit...pretend we're admiring the sun go down. Just keep chatting with me. I don't like the look of those couple of fellows in that dinghy over there."
Out to the left of the jetty, a couple of scruffy-looking young fellows were sitting in their boat, staring across at us. Always on the alert, I was watching them, but not watching them, if you understand my meaning. Soon, they drew nearer to where Daina and I were standing. I noticed one of them smiling up at me with a grin on his unshaven face as wide as Missionary Bay on the island...and Missionary Bay is wide!
"Lee! It's me! John!" Said the sea-faring fisherman!
I looked again and broke out laughing. "What the hell are you doing way up here, Johnno? You're lucky! I was just about to chase you off!"
Laughingly, he replied, "I know! I could see the look on your face as we drew closer!"
He and his mates were camping at Macushla, a camping area run by National Parks further around at Missionary Bay on the island. The previous couple of days they'd spent fishing in and around the Bay and out at Brook Island.
We chatted at length. Seeing, unexpectedly, a friendly face from my Noosa days was a wonderful change from the customary strangers with whom I'd become used to dealing, day after day.
John asked if he and his mate could come to dinner the following evening, with me as their guest. "I promise you I will be better dressed than this," he grinned at me. "I'll even shave!"
"You don't need to dress up here, Johnno...no suits and ties allowed!" Laughing, he jumped back into his boat, waved and went off on his merry way.
Daina and I strolled back up the jetty. I did a lot of talking to convince her to join me for dinner the next evening.
"Daina...I really don't know John that well...I only know him from his coming into my shop every other day. He always liked to hang about for a bit of a chat before he commenced work at the restaurant, and I don't
know his mate...anyway...you'll make up the foursome!" I didn't quite twist her arm, nor did I threaten torture. Before I got that far, she relented and agreed to help bail me out!
The next evening arrived and the two young men arrived, scrubbed up, dressed in clean casual gear and shaven! I'd arranged for a table for the four of us out on the deck. I always feel more comfortable dining outside, for whatever reason. On this evening, in particular, I could see no good reason to dine inside when we could sit outside with the ocean just below lapping the shore on Orchid Beach. As it turned out, the conversation flowed freely around the table, although Daina, shy by nature at the time, had to be kicked under the table every now and again, (by me!) to stir her into adding her tuppence-worth! It was a very pleasant evening during which, jokingly, I mentioned a couple of times or more that John should come and work for me on the island. The evening drew to a close. Daina and I escorted the 'boys' down along the jetty to where their boat was tied. Both men had donned overalls for their trip back to Macushla. As we strolled down the jetty, John fell off the side into the water below! And...no...he wasn't drunk! I'm still not sure how it happened! It happened so quickly...and it was pretty dark...being about 11.30pm!
All I could do was laugh when I got over the initial shock of seeing him, in slow-motion, descend to the dark depths below! The surprised look on his face when he re-surfaced still remains embedded in my memory!
"What are you doing down there, Johnno?" I asked between fits of laughter. "Your boat's tied up over there!" I'd be no good trying to save anyone! Bear that in mind if you're ever strolling down a jetty with me!
Somehow, with the help of his mate, I think, he scrambled back onto the jetty, dripping wet, of course! The overalls, which were meant to keep him warm on the trip back to the camping site were sodden! Luckily, he saw the humour in his misfortune.
Waving to our dinner companions as they rowed away into the dark of night, I said quietly to Daina..."Well, I guess that's 'bye-bye' to ever convincing him to come and work for me!" All the way back up the jetty to the restaurant, tears continued to flow down our faces from laughter.
About three weeks later, around ten o'clock one morning, I received a phone call from Johnno.
"Would you still like me to come and work for you, Lee?"
"Would I? Of course I would! But you would never leave Noosa!" I exclaimed.
"I'm taking a six-weeks' sabbatical from 'Annabelle's", John replied. "If you still want me...I can be up there in a couple of days."
John arrived as planned and promised, quickly fitting into the island way of life. The guests loved his sparkling personality and his brilliance at mixing drinks and cocktails. He could conduct conversations up and down the bar and never miss a beat. He was pretty to watch in his work!
One day a large yacht sailed in, anchoring out front of the resort for about five days. A lass of around 18-19 was part of the crew. It wasn't difficult to notice a 'friendship blossoming between John and the lass. All too soon, however, the yacht with the young lass on board set sail for reaches further north.
I had to go to the mainland for tourism business, to Cairns, which is a northern city about 2 hours' drive north of Cardwell/Hinchinbrook Island. John approached me asking if I could give him a lift to Cairns, but if, on the way, I would divert into Mission Beach to pick up Sue, the young lass who had set his heart a flutter. Mission Beach is north of Hinchinbrook Island. It lies east of Tully, a small sugar town. I declined to detour off the main highway as I needed to get to Cairns within a certain time, but I told him if he could arrange for Sue to be in Tully at 'such and such a time' etc., she was more than welcome to come with us. When a young heart is in anxious mode, anything is possible, I believe! Sue was at the designated spot and at the arranged time.
I dropped them off at a motel, then drove onto "Tradewinds" where I was booked in for the duration of my stay.
The next day I had a frantic phone call from Johnno asking if he could come to see me at my hotel. I agreed, setting an appropriate time.
He arrived a little flushed and, I imagine, a little nervous.
"I want to ask you, Lee," he started, "if there is room on the island for Sue...for a job for her?"
I looked at John, my mind racing doing the math. I knew that his 'sabbatical' from Noosa was drawing to the end of its course. Also, I knew that I didn't want to see him go. I would miss his bar expertise and his sparkling manner behind the bar. And, I knew that if I hired the 'girl', I would keep 'the boy'! So, I hired 'the girl' and kept 'the boy'...everyone was happy, including me!
Sue joined our merry band of outlaws. She was a very capable, lovely young lass. Her father had been in the diplomatic service. She spent a number of her growing years in the States.
John and Sue have since gone their separate ways. He has married. I was having breakfast at a restaurant in Noosa a couple or so years ago and who should walk up from the beach pushing a baby stroller... amongst all the surging tourists.... 'Johnno'! We talked and talked. It was so great to see him again. He moved back to Noosa. He presently operates and owns a nightclub in Hastings Street!