When I was preparing myself for the move to the island I was still living in Noosa Heads, as most of you already have read. A couple of young people I knew from the arcade in which my store was situated begged me for a job up on the island. They were seeking adventure, and at that particular moment in time, they were a ‘couple’. (Something I’d completely forgotten until just now writing this…) Their pleading, cajoling and begging wore me down; they didn’t have to threaten torture. I relented and gave in before they ventured that far.
Mark, a nice young lad of pleasant disposition, was the nephew of a guy who owned and ran a dive shop next to my store in
Mark and Bronnie were five of my original staff members who joined me on the island from Noosa Heads. Three of the five were brought up for the initial period to help with the renovations that had to be carried out, one a plumber, one a builder/carpenter and the other an electrician. It was almost like ‘home away from home’ during the first couple of months.
I wasn’t quite sure what Mark was capable of doing and, as I got to know him further and watch him work, I still wasn’t quite sure! However, he was a nice kid. He was eager to please and keen to be amongst the ‘early settlers’. He joined the melee just before I re-opened the resort, once the major renovations were completed. I anointed him ‘barman’ (this was before Johnno joined my merry band of pirates). He and Bronnie eventually ‘broke-up’ and went their separate ways. After a while, Mark returned to
The major renovation work around the resort was completed, but as you can imagine, there was still a lot of work being carried on around the perimeters and up at the guest cabins. Guests, once they’d had their breakfasts either would grab a prepared picnic lunch before heading off for walks through the rainforest to other deserted beaches for the day, or some would board the ‘Reef Venture”, the reef cat that serviced the island, for trips to the Brook Islands, a distance away at the outer reef, to Ramsay Bay or across to Goold Island for a fun-filled day.
Mark’s first working day arrived.
Ted, my head maintenance guy (and knighted ‘python charmer) had everyone organized pushing wheelbarrows full of I-don’t-know-what, toting long beams of hardwood, shifting outdoor concrete tiles/blocks around…the air was alive and hectic with activity. Mark strolled down dressed in a very colourful shirt over freshly-ironed knee-length, spotlessly clean shorts. Begrudgingly, I have to say his shirt was slightly reminiscent of
“What are you doing, Mark?” I asked querulously.
“Um…the bar…” he said, his voice trailing off as he tentatively looked about him.
“Oh…” said I. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. As gently as I could, I pointed out to him that there were no customers, and the likelihood of us having any around the bar until about that evening, was extremely remote. As diplomatically as possible, I also pointed out it wasn’t very productive his just standing there with a smile on his face in the desperate hope even a sole, desperate drinker would arrive. I also suggested, if such did eventuate, one of us, or the chef even, could run to the bar and commit the deed of drink service. Soon thereafter, he reappeared in more suitable work clothes as Ted’s ‘goffer’.
So this was Mark. A pleasant young man who sometimes needed prodding to wake up either the right side or left side of his brain, or sometimes both sides.
My intention here is not to be nasty. I’m painting a picture of Mark for you. He settled into life on the island, and, for a while, was happy in his day-to-day jobs helping Ted and the other guys. At night, he was barman-material.
The Australian Tourist Exchange (ATE) is the largest tourist exposition/convention in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s held in June each year in
Before my first ATE, I had to produce a video depicting the island’s pleasures and temptations. I had very little time to do this but it had to be done for me to offer to ‘clients’ at the ATE and also to have playing in my stand on a television set while I ‘sold’ my product to the clients. Before I go any further, the daily sessions of the ATE commenced at . Individual sessions last fifteen minutes; two minutes prior to the completion of the fifteen minutes, a bell would ring alerting both the seller and the buyer that there were two minutes left before moving on to the next booth/appointment. Then a further bell would ring at the one-minute mark, then the session would be wrapped up; the buyer would move on to its next appointment and your next client would move in on you ready for your spiel. This went on, non-stop except for one hour for lunch, ending at each day, for five days. Often, of course, the hours were extended and further business was conducted in the evening. It wasn’t all ‘beer and skittles’…by the end of each day, and in particular, by the end of the five days, one’s mind was fused together and confusion would set in whether you had already said ‘that’ to that person sitting in front of you, or were they sitting there waiting for you to start your selling pitch! I’m sure the ‘buyers’ were going through similar confusion as we, the “sellers” were.
Anyway I’ll get back to producing the video. I arranged for friends of mine from the
Obviously being a latent/closeted movie director, I planned a few ‘staged’ scenes in the said video cassette. One such scene was me admiring the ‘catch of the day’ “caught” by one of my male guests. I organised for him to stand, gloating, proudly holding up a huge barramundi (a very much prized Aussie fish for you all up there in the Northern Hemisphere). I had just pulled the giant, frozen barramundi out of one of my freezers. Nobody viewing the cassette was any the wiser. My deception lives to this day…or did, until I revealed all here!
I wanted to depict weary, but happy guests arriving back to the resort at the end of the day from one of the boat trips to the outer reef or elsewhere around the island waters. So, donning my director’s cap, tossing aside my director’s chair, and grabbing the ‘clapboard’, I barked orders (not quite ‘barked’), arranged everyone on their invisibly-marked spots. Count-down was about to commence!
Mark arrived down to the restaurant area to prepare for his evening shift. Immediately, seizing the moment, I grabbed him, instructing him that I wanted him to help set the scene; for him to nonchalantly stroll along the path in the background that headed up to the island cabins; and for him to look and act naturally, to ignore that the camera was rolling; for him to keep walking until I called out for him to stop. The guests, excited that they were to feature in the island video, a cassette, copies of which would eventually go throughout the world, eagerly waited my order for them to begin their part in the mini-Cecil Lee. De Mille production! They handled their roles with the expertise of seasoned stars.
Meanwhile, Mark had disappeared out of sight! Lost in my own directorial confusion in the process, I forgot to yell out to him to stop! I think if I hadn’t finally realized what was happening unnoticed in the background, he would have ended up at the other end of Hinchinbrook Island. The island you must remember, is 245 square-miles in area, with the resort situated on the far north-eastern tip of the island at Cape Richards. To this day, I am certain he would never have been seen again, or at least, not for a couple of months or so. And then, if he was found, he’d be completely unrecognizable!The scene still causes me to smile when I play the video tape bringing back memories of that time and that particular afternoon.