Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Italian Invasion....Chapter Five

With all the pre-Christmas functions and Christmas Day “done and dusted”, New Year’s Eve rapidly approached. A rock-country music infusion party was planned for the night, with two bands hired for the evening’s entertainment at the resort. The rock band would play their bracket, followed by the country music group and so on throughout the night to allow for no breaks in the momentum of the celebrations. Outside around the pool area gas barbecues offering a broad range of sizzling foods such as local seafood, steaks, sausages, ribs, chops, burgers and barbecued corn cobs, accompanied by a wide range of fresh, garden salads and tantalizing desserts catered to the madding, party-loving crowd. Portable bars also were strategically placed around the pool, taking pressure off the interior bars.

During our management meetings leading up to the event, I had suggested and fought for laser lights to be installed on the upstairs’ balconies to co-coordinately flash over and across the resort’s massive pool, but I fought a losing battle with the then Sales and Marketing Manager, who had a false god-like impression of himself. I also suggested that we do up the stage area that was to house the country band with hay bales, wagon wheels and a weather-beaten skull or two of bullocks. He cringed and readied himself for a further battle with me over this plan, but I won that round. One day leading up to New Year’s Eve, the Front Office Manager, who had become a good friend and co-conspirator, and I went off on a “beg, steal or borrow” expedition in search of the stage decorations. We’d borrowed the resort’s “ute” and, a few hours later, arrived back with its tray loaded with hay bales, a wagon wheel and two, much-maligned, sun-bleached bullock skulls. The look of disgust on Donaghy’s face, the sour Sales and Marketing Manager, made us laugh and more determined to achieve the desired “country” effect. To his chagrin, the decorations received great admiration from the party-goers on the night. Some people just don’t know how to have fun!

Andrea joined the revellers. He thoroughly enjoyed his first Aussie New Year’s Eve.

From the wide smiles on the happy faces of the jovial crowd they, too, enjoyed the evening, which had been hugely successful.

All good things come to an end and soon after New Year’s Eve, Andrea had to return to Italy once more. So it was back to life on my own without my lively, fun inamorata to distract my leisure hours.

Before he left Andrea arranged for me to meet with a group of Italian tourists who’d been traveling Australia on a tour organized by his father’s travel business. They were arriving in Cairns a week or two, after Andrea returned home, and, fortunately, would be in the area on my day off. Finalising the necessary details, I hired a Tarago van from Avis and headed off to pick up the group from their inner-city resort, “The Cairns Colonial Club”, (two pictures above) at the pre-arranged time. Soon the eight non-English speaking, boisterous Italians and non-Italian speaking me were merrily on our way out of Cairns en route to Port Douglas, seventy kilometers north along one of the most beautiful strips of highway in Australia.

One of my guests for the day was a dentist from Rome. Fortunately, he spoke some understandable English and he volunteered himself to be the “translator” during our escapade. We were all soon to learn, however, that language didn’t impose a barrier upon us and somehow we had little trouble understanding each other. I’ve always been told I “talk with my hands”, so I guess that helped a bit!

Not knowing quite what my group of wayfarers expected from the day or where and how exactly they wanted to spend their day, for a while I was in a quandary. Did they want to dine in a fancy restaurant for lunch? Were the very commercial tourist-directed stores on their agenda? Always preferring to attach a problem straight on, rather than work up a lather I asked them point-blank what they would like to do. With lots of head-shaking and “No, no, no’s”, I took the bull by the horns and then suggested that we buy some cheese, salami, olives etc., along with crunchy bread sticks, baguettes, liquid refreshments and with our “picnic” supplies safely in our possession, we find a few shady palm trees and she-oaks along the ocean front at Four Mile Beach. This was received with unanimous agreement. Outside the Post Office Hotel in the main street, some suggested we buy bottles of wine to help wash down our lunch. At that stage, my Italian friends had never heard of our ubiquitous, infamous wine casks. Shaking my head at their “bottles of wine” idea, I purchased a cold cask of dry white wine and a cask of red. They were suitably impressed. Running back into the nearby, small supermarket I bought some paper cups. What’s a true picnic without paper cups? Armed with our supplies we all piled back into the Tarago and headed to the beach-front.

My decision to “break bread”, washed down with wine at the foreshore overlooking the Coral Sea had been one of my better ideas, I must admit. My merry band of Italians was in absolute awe. We sat in the shade of the trees on the grass verge leading to the wide stretch of golden sand with a gentle sea breeze wafting softly, keeping us cool. Some wandered along the soft sand, wading in the shallows. Others lazed languidly in the dappled sunlight. All said it was the best day and time they’d had during their holiday tour of Australia. It was their last day on our sunny shores as they were flying back home to Italy the following morning. At that time, and I imagine it remains pretty much the same these days, only the well-to-do Italians traveled “Down Under” for their vacations, so this group who had been entrusted into my car had spent their time while holiday here staying in classy hotels and resorts, dining in the best restaurants. But, to them, that glorious, relaxed, fun-filled, “basic” day had been the best, and I’m sure, one that has remained uppermost in their memories of their holiday in Australia.

Reluctantly, it was time to turn the Tarago around and head back to Cairns city. With a van full of enthusiastic, enraptured day-trippers, their enjoyment of the day so completely obvious, I drove along the meandering coast road filled with contentment. A smile on my face and in my heart reflected the feelings of us all. Around 4.30pm, I deposited my captivated, blissful assemblage at the front lobby of their resort. Thanking me profusely, I was crushed by hugs and overcome with kisses to my cheeks. I promised each and everyone of them that I would be at the Cairns airport the next morning to bid them farewell. I fulfilled my promise. They were delighted to see me and a little surprised, I think, that I took the time to say “Arrivederci”, “Ciao” and “Good-bye”. Even though we had known each other for part of one day only, it was an emotive leave-taking. One lady amongst the group was from San Marino. She gave me a 1986 500 Lire coin, as a token to remember her by. It remains in my memorabilia to this day as a very fond reminder of the wonderful people I shared those few hours with during that unexpected, wondrous trip to Port Douglas.

A couple of weeks later, I received a telephone call from Giuseppe, Andrea’s father, thanking me extravagantly for taking such good care of his clients. He told me each and every one of them had reported back to him, raving about their “best day” spent in Australia.

My work at the resort, once more, took over my life. Long, busy days and nights, with some days extending up to sixteen hours, filled my time, leaving little left over for other pleasures except sleep. With only “Pushkin” my ginger cat to keep me company at home, I missed the liveliness of Andrea’s presence. With him in my life, my life was never dull. His natural exuberance and zest for living was constant, even when we relaxed together listening to music.

The telephone interrupted my reverie. Andrea’s voice greeted me from the other end, from across the ocean and land, he was returning to Australia once again. My heart somersaulted with joy and eager anticipation.

To be continued....


  1. Hooray! Your inamorata returns...

    Isn't it funny, no matter how much money one has, it's always the simple things that give the most pleasure. That day out sounds like something for me, too. Much better than having to be dressed up all the time and dine at jades after a while.

    Roll on chapter six.

  2. Yep...the simple things are great. Nice to see you, Robyn...I hope you had a relaxing weekend ahead of next weekend because you will need it! ;)

  3. Glad you won the battle of the stage and the guest commented on it so well. Serves the bugger right for dapping your ideas.
    Love the day on the beach with wine in paper cups.

  4. The Italians know how to enjoy themselves, no matter what and if there is wine involved so much the better (even wine in a cask!)
    No matter how rich you are there is nothing better than enjoying a day on the beautiful Australian beaches.
    Where's there's a will there's a way and language difficulties can easily be overcome as I found myself on many occasions.
    Good post, Lee. You've been busy and not writing so much lately. Painting?

  5. I can well imagine how the Italians must have loved the day you gave them, Lee. And they must have appreciated your thoguhtfulness at seeing them off. You understood them and understood their culinary needs, which were for simple, good food. Love the bit about the casks and how I'd love to have seen their faces! And now Andrea returns....

  6. He was so far up himself, Lady Di, he was almost inside out! He and I definitely didn't see eye to eye. He had not a humorous bone in his body nor any imagination.

    I have been kind of busy, jmb...doing what, I'm not quite sure! I have been working (slowly) on my's a bit larger than usual. It made me feel wonderful seeing the enjoyment of my was contagious and it was great. :)

    I can still see that particular moment about the wine casks, Welsh. They thought the casks were a terrific invention! lol

    Thanks for your comments, folks. :)

  7. Anonymous4:51 PM

    I am both eagerly anticipating and dreading catching up on all the posts I have missed in my absence. I've either missed waaaay too much and should start again..... or I will sit here and read every single one of your posts until I catch you up! The latter is the choice me thinks.... though I shall wait until the chickens are sleeping I think. Missed you! xox Nic

  8. How great to have you back again, Nicole! You were missed! :)

    I hope you had a great weekend out at Warwick and that your Mum had a wonderful birthday.

    Don't be a stranger...your bright, shining light is always noticeably absent when you're not blogging.

  9. like others have said - the simple things in life are the best....and I am really touched by the extra effort you made by going to the airport...people never forget those personal I am going to get to read the Andrea returns episode..I cannot wait!

  10. I try my utmost to treat people as I would like to be treated myself, Rebecca. If I was visiting another country I know how much it would mean to me.

    Nice to see you...thanks for reading and commenting. :)

  11. Tropical Australia looks SO cool...

    ... (or hot) (!!)

  12. Both, gledwood! ;)

  13. You have given me itchy feet, you meet such lovely people on your travels. I have a soft spot for Italians too.

  14. Hey...good to see you, Ellee. You're so does meet some wonderful people along the paths we treaqd.