Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Reaching Out To The City Lights"...Chapter Fourteen

Included in my “cloak of many colours” within the company, I was Credit Manager for the Queensland office, which meant I had to chase up slow payers. Per capita, our Queensland office had less bad creditors than the rest of the states in Australia, something both John and I were proud of, and this, I believe, was because we “communicated” with our customers/clients. It was the belief of us both that by treating the client with respect, ninety-nine point nine percent of the time that respect was returned. I kept in close contact with our clients, far and wide, monitoring their businesses and orders. If I sensed they had a problem, I would either visit them personally or contact them by telephone to work out whatever the problem may be, to suit both parties involved.

My friends, Margaret and Denis announced their engagement. I was still single and "fancy-free" with no one particular, special "knight in shining armour" on the horizon or closer! Margaret asked me to cater for their engagement party, as well as being a guest. Again, my apartment was converted into a caterer’s kitchen. Our cars became “meals on wheels” carriages as we transferred foodstuffs, prepared and yet-to-be prepared, between Toowong where I lived to Wavell Heights where the engagement party was to be held in Denis’ family home, the home they were to move into after they married. They still live there today.

About sixty people were in attendance and the party was a huge success. I stayed the night to assist with the cleaning-up the next morning, washing down a couple of cleansing ales during the process. Then the “camel-train” transfer of all the empty, but clean utensils back home to Toowong again followed. It was a busy, yet fun weekend.

At the time, Marg’s younger brother John, who was sharing her apartment, was dating Jackie MacDonald. To my Aussie readers, Jackie’s name will be familiar. She was only eighteen or nineteen at the time. Although, a familiar face on Brisbane children’s television, she was yet to become the face of “Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday” where later she became the darling of national television. Jackie sat across my dining table one night lamenting her feelings of self-consciousness and the lack of confidence in herself; I remember suggesting she should take up some modeling in her spare time. She was aghast at my suggestion, saying there was no way she would have the confidence to do so! She was a sweet young woman, so alive and alert, which came to light as her television career progressed to heights she could never have imagined at the time I knew her. Jackie was a refreshing breath of air.

Our Friday night “Spaghetti Marinara” soirees, accompanied by red wine and garlic bread continued between Marg, Denis and me. We’d become addicted to our special evenings. I still hadn‘t found anyone “special” to join me and was quite happy “going it alone”. I wasn’t looking for a committed relationship, feeling comfortable in my own skin. Margaret asked me to be her only attendant at their wedding. I proudly said “Yes”. The marriage ceremony was to be held at the Catholic church at Coorparoo and the reception in the grounds of Margaret’s sister and her dentist husband’s home at Rochedale. Marg’s sister, Barbara and her husband Owen lived on ten acres of land at Rochedale, an outer suburb of Brisbane. They had four young daughters. A large marquee was organized to be set up in the grounds in front of their L-shaped home…between the home and the road. Time was quickly running out when the family decided the house needed painting. So, a working-bee was organized for one weekend. Putting all our heads together, we decided it would be time-saving if we painted the front of the house only, as that was the section that the guest would see. The rest of the house wouldn’t be visible to them. A vote was quickly conducted and the “Yes” vote won! We completed the paint job in one day, leaving time for a few beers after the job was finished!

Our final “Marinara” soiree loomed. We knew it would be the last time that we would be together as a threesome, knowing once Margaret and Denis had married and moved into their marital home across the other side of the city, our special evenings would no longer be. It was a bittersweet moment. And we let our hair down that final night. I added extra seafood and garlic to the sauce, presented bottled red wine rather than cheap flagons, pumped up the music and the three of us danced the night away. We laughed. We hugged and kissed. At times, we became misty-eyed. We bade farewell and we formed lifelong memories of fun times shared.

The couple had a nuptial mass that seemed to go on for a week. I think I was the only protestant in attendance! Secretly I was protesting, too, because everyone else was walking back and forth to the priest at the altar receiving “bread” and wine while I had to sit and wait it out in the front pew (so near, and yet so far!) with a thirst growing in intensity with every excruciatingly slow passing minute! With the constant ringing of the bells, the passing of the wine, I was very relieved when it was all over. John, Margaret’s brother sang an emotive, wonderful version of “Song of Joy” as the happy couple finally made their way out of the church. Arriving at the reception, I eagerly reached for a refreshing beverage. I had to catch up! Everyone else was ahead of me!

Margaret wore a lovely cream soft woolen, stylish, full-length wedding dress, no veil, but a cluster of matching-coloured flowers in her shoulder-length brunette hair. Her engagement ring was a rich emerald, reflecting both the bride and groom’s Irish heritage. My full-length soft woolen shirt-maker design was a similar cream to Margaret’s wedding dress but rather than just the plain cream, mine was cream with an emerald green “open” tartan-check, to reflect the emerald in her ring. Margaret’s regular dressmaker made them for us, following her designs and choices. I loved that dress. It’s difficult to describe them without pictures, but both dresses were very stylish and different from the “norm” in bridal attire. Both Margaret and I weren’t into fluffy, frilly dress of tulle, satin and lace; we spent many hours together choosing what we would wear. She had set firm ideas what she wanted for her wedding, and fortunately, her ideas were akin to mine in that department. Both being tall, with similar colouring, the dresses suited us perfectly. The reception under the marquee was a brilliant, very relaxed affair. Jackie Mac was John’s date. Denis’ best man, Ian, was his best friend from their school days. Years later, I met up again with Ian and his wife. It definitely is a “small world”.

Before dusk, the bride and groom, throwing Barbara, Owen and me a knowing wink, bade an early “good-bye” to everyone as they apparently left for their wedding night. We knew their game-plan, though the great-aunts, aunts, new mother-in-laws and grandmothers-in-law weren’t aware of our evil scheming. Shortly after the bride and groom left, all the “oldies” began disappearing, leaving us “party hounds”. A couple of hours went by, then Margaret and Denis reappeared in more comfortable clothes and the party really began! It continued into the wee small hours of the morning. Around nine the following morning, we finally said goodbye to the newly-weds as they headed off to the airport, this time for real! We saw them off with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” echoing across the property. Barbara and Owen’s four daughters and me running through the yard ringing cowbells, escorted Margaret and Denis off the property. I managed to twist my ankle when my foot went through the cow grate at the gate! I was feeling no pain at that stage!

So, I’d not only lost my dining buddies to the marital bed and a life of bliss, but I’d lost a tenant in the apartment block I was managing and living in. The search for new tenants didn’t take long and two young women moved in when Margaret moved out. I had more luck with female tenants than male. One so-called “young, male executive” proved to be a hopeless tenant when he managed to flood his apartment, causing major damage to the carpet, which had to be replaced. I promptly gave him his marching orders after seeing the disastrous results of his carelessness and untidiness. I advised him to get to work and clean up his accommodation and once that job was completed, pack his belongings and move on. Fortunately, the insurance paid for the replacement carpet, but I remained wary of prospective male tenants after that. All in all, I had no problems with my tenants and they were a fun-loving lot with good housekeeping skills!

Back at Kolotex, everything was going along smoothly.

Regularly, on Wednesday afternoons after the rest of the staff had left, a fine, elderly gentleman, Mick Peterson, would visit to share a drink or three with John Trimmer and me. One week, Mick would supply the scotch and the next week, Kolotex would supply the amber liquid. I’d place a platter of cheeses, salami etc., on John’s desk, sometimes we’d even feast on freshly cooked prawns. The three of us would settle in for a couple of hours of generous conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed those moments. Mick was an old trouper in the retail industry. He was “Barnum and Bailey” of the trade. At the time, he was high up the ladder with Woolworths in Brisbane. He had years and years of experience behind him and many tales to share from those years. Many a time Mick would purchase thousands and thousands of pairs of panti-hose off us at “bargain” prices. Loading up large containers filled with the hosiery, he would then stand out on the footpath in Queen Street (the main street in the CBD of Brisbane), loud-hailer in hand, “spruiking”. Without fail and in no time at all, he’d empty those bins. It mattered not to him that his “title” within the Woolworths’ corporation was one that matched those in high places. He was who he was and enjoyed every moment of it. He also had the respect of others in the trade. I learned so much from him and from John Trimmer in the art of marketing and sales during those hours we three shared together. They were magic moments, moments I’ve never forgotten. Many of the lessons I learned from listening to those two men I put into practice, not only immediately but throughout the years later in other positions I’ve held. Sadly, Mick passed away shortly after he had retired to live on the Gold Coast, but fortunately, John and I got to visit him in hospital briefly, before he died. He was missed as were our Wednesday afternoon get-togethers. Mick was a character. I feel fortunate that I’ve met quite a few “characters” throughout my life…and I’ve learned a lot from them.

To be continued...


  1. If you were to give a bunch of Baptist wedding goers real 'wine' for communion, they'd all instinctively use the back door to leave the place for fear someone might see them.
    Sorry about the ankle.
    Rita Rudner says men live like bears...with furniture. I guess you could attest to that.
    Good stuff here girl. Thanks.

  2. lol Cliff! I wanted some of that "real" wine, not just sit there like an idiot waiting for everyone else to finish! It wasn't fair! ;)

    I was feeling little pain by that stage, the ankle pain came the next day! ;)

    I think this guy was definitely a raging bear...but he was so damn meek and mild and weak when I confronted him, I had little respect for him. The twit! lol

  3. Hi Lee ~~ Another good story and you make everything sound like so much fun. You sure have met a lot of very
    interesting people over your lifetime. And through you, we get to meet them also. The wedding sounded nice, but you should have taken a hip flask!! Thanks for your comments and get well wishes. I'll be fine. And I hope you dodge the "wog" going round
    the mountain. Take care Lee, Love, Merle.

  4. Nah, you don't want the communion wine, Lee. The real stuff is so much better!

    So you knew Jackie Mac before she was famous...she's such a wonderful personality.

    Isn't it lovely, in this day of divorces and separations, that your friends are still each other, rather than to someone else. Must unusual in this day and age. Good luck to them.

    Thanks for a very entertaining usual.

  5. I laughed about the male tenants. I always thought that myself. Another entertaining chapter.

  6. Hey why didn't I thing about taking a hip flask to the pockets I guess! ;) I made up for it at the reception!

    Hi Robyn,yep...Jackie was a lovely lass...and remained unspoiled even during and after all her success. She certainly was unique, wasn't she?
    As you say, Marg and Denis certainly are a rarity, I agree!

    I just gave up on them, CD, after that guy....he was totally useless..."never judge a book by its cover"...when he applied for tenancy, he appeared as thought he would be ideal, dressed in his business clothes etc...I was fooled! ;)

    Thanks for your comments, one and all. :)

  7. I liked your very fine description of the wedding attire. I'm wondering, though, if you were describing it from a picture or from memory. Thinking that you had such a mind for fashion design, I'm believing you described it from memory.

  8. Another lovely and entertaining chapter. How I laughed about the communion wine! I'm with you there, Lee! and what wonderful descriptions of so many characters...

  9. Lee
    Another great chapter. I am glad you got to "catch up" at the reception. I laughed as that is one of Mimi (age 88) favorite sayings when it comes to drinking wine.

    Speaking of Wine , it's after five. Gotta go hunt my glass.

  10. Another good post Lee. I'm eagerly waiting the transition from the hosiery industry to the hospitality industry. It seems to me you were really entrenched there in Brisbane.

  11. From memory, Dave. I can still picture our dresses clearly. :)

    Welsh, Lady Di and jmb...great to see you all...there's nothing worse than to sit by and watch everyone else enjoy a winde or two! lol I'm glad you are enjoying my ramblings. :)

  12. Thanks for another chapter Lee.

    Good dinkum.

  13. Hi Lee, you have had such an interseting life so far. By you sharing your story I feel like I am part of all the excitement. Thanks for all your comments, your kind words of encouragement help me so much. I was just talking to my husband about you, you seem like the type of person I could share anything with.

  14. No grass skirts in this one, Marc, so I'm glad you still enjoyed it! ;)

    Hi there Shelly...good to see you. Keep swinging and pitching, Shelly...hang in there..the sun has begun to shine upon you all again. :)

  15. LOL being on the front pew in the church with you in this story reminded me of the time I attended a catholic wedding years ago and that is exactly how I felt. Great story again and maybe one day I will be able to say to people, you know that famous author from Australia, I know her. :) Waiting for the next installment.

  16. Hahaha..that'd be a dream come true, Sandra! ;) I'll take you along on my book tours! ;)