Monday, December 30, 2013


The other night I time travelled back to the early-mid Seventies. This I achieved without the aid of any shiny metal thingamajigs or thingumabobs.  All that I needed to achieve such a wondrous feat was to watch a recorded Neil Diamond concert. Immediately and effortlessly, before I could say “Jack Robinson”, or “Sweet Caroline”, for that matter, I was transported back to a blissfully happy time in my life. 

I thought to myself – no, actually, I said it out aloud; “Once again, ‘I’m a Believer!’ – ‘I Am, I said!’”

One’s mind is a mysterious creature, full of explicit techni-colour memories. Well...speaking for myself, mine certainly is!

Back in the early to mid-Seventies when I lived in Brisbane, not only on a “Hot August Night”, but regularly on Friday nights, no matter what month it was, all through any given year, Margaret, a girlfriend (and neighbour) and I unintentionally and innocently began a challenge to see who could make the best Spaghetti Marinara and garlic bread in the universe surrounding our respective Toowong units; and beyond if any dared to take us on.   With nonchalant ease, we slipped into the habit without noticing what was happening; it was easy to achieve; and once addicted, we didn’t fight against the habit; we went with the flow!  Who wouldn't?

While sipping (read “slurping”) on “Red, Red Wine” we danced and warbled along to Mr. Diamond. We grew to know him well; and very soon he became “Neil” to us.  He didn’t mind the familiarity.

At times, Margaret and I opened a bottle or two of “Cracklin’ Rose”, but only when “Shilo”, who was “Forever in Blue Jeans” joined our mostly exclusive soirees.

Our prowess at preparing Marinara and the best garlic bread soon became a gourmet’s “must devour”; an epicurean delight for the chosen few we allowed enter our hallowed domain. Said permission and admission was not granted often.

And then, Margie, my friend, fell in love with Denis. 

Right from the start “It Was a Groovy Kind of Love”.  Denis passed muster, and soon thereafter he was inducted into our elite group.

“And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind”, Margaret declared as he began staying the night.  She’d feed him “Crunchy Granola” for breakfast.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere down along “Blues Highway” arrived “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show”.

They set up camp under the Camphor Laurel tree out front of our unit block on a few Saturday mornings, but “I Got the Feeling”  they soon realised that , even if there was some “Hanky Panky” going on, Margaret and Denis were “Headed for the Future” together. 

Defeated, but still disapproving, the Travelling Salvation Show sullenly packed up their gear one “September Morn”, and were soon on their way along “Glory Road”, via “Gitchy Goomy”.

The partnership of Denis and Margaret was never “Love on the Rocks” - they remain happily married to this day. Somewhere along the way they gained four lovely daughters
I’m sure the regular, weekly, abundant ingesting of garlic and fresh Australian seafood, washed down with copious amounts of quality Aussie red wine is the reason for this exceptional phenomenon. 

No “Song Sung Blue” for Margaret and Denis. 

There are times I miss those wonderful fun-filled evenings, but I have my fond reminiscences to “Rock Me Gently” back into the Seventies whenever the desire takes hold.

 I’ve given up looking for a “Solitary Man”. I may not be a “Kentucky Woman”, but I am a solitary woman…and I like it this way.

Tonight…”I Thank the Lord for the Night Time” because today is New Year’s Eve, and tonight I’m going to enjoy a couple of liquid refreshments while I reflect upon the past 12 months; before celebrating the arrival of 2014.   

I won’t “Be Dancing to the Party Next Door”, but I will probably do a “Reggae Strut”, if “You Know What I Mean”!   

And “When Morning Has Broken” I’ll sing a “Song for You” as I wish you all a very Happy, Safe, Healthy and Prosperous New Year…..”


Seafood Marinara: Heat 2tbls olive oil in pan; fry 250g halved scallops 1min; remove; set aside. Add 3-4 crushed garlic cloves and 1 finely-chopped onion to pan; fry until softened. Add 400g can diced tomatoes, 1tbl tomato paste, 250ml dry white wine (or red, if preferred), chopped basil, oregano, a dash of chicken stock powder, 1tbl lemon zest and cracked black pepper. Simmer 10-15mins. Add 500g green prawns; cook for 1min before adding sliced squid and oysters (or poached mussels in the shell, if you like); cook 1min; stir in scallops and 1tbls chopped parsley. Serve hot over hot spaghetti or linguine with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan. 

Garlic Bread: Toasted: Preheat oven 175C. Cut 1x450g Italian or French bread in half, horizontally. Mix together ½c softened butter, 3-4 large garlic cloves, crushed, and heaped tablespoon freshly-chopped parsley; spread over the two halves. Place on baking pan; heat in oven 10mins. Remove from pan; sprinkle grated parmesan over top if you feel like it; return to oven 2-3mins. OR: Make the butter, garlic, parsley mixture as above. Make 1-inch thick slices into the bread; don’t go all the way through. Put a teaspoon or two of the butter mixture between each slice, making sure to cover all of the bread slices. Wrap the bread in foil, leaving a top opening; heat for 15 minutes or so in the oven. Variations: Add Italian herbs, grated cheese or crushed chilli to butter/garlic for a difference
Prawn or Crab, Tomato, Chilli and Rocket Tagliatelle: Cook 500g tagliatelle in large pot of boiling salted water. Cook until al dente; drain reserving about 1tbs of the liquid in the pot; return pasta to pot; set aside. While pasta is cooking; place 125ml extra virgin olive oil, 1/4c shredded lemon zest, 3 peeled, sliced eschallots, 1 large garlic clove, crushed, 65ml lemon juice, 4 ripe, peeled, seeded, diced tomatoes, 2 small red chillies, seeded and sliced, salt and pepper to taste in small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the lemon zest and eschallots are soft. Add 250g raw, peeled king prawns; cook 1-2 minutes.  Add 4g butter, cubed…one cube at a time; swirl to amalgamate. Stir sauce through pasta with 1 bunch rocket, stems trimmed.  If using 250g cooked crab meat add it to the sauce before stirring through the pasta as above.  Serve immediately.

Friday, December 27, 2013


Tozer & Jeffery, Solicitors, Mary Street, Gympie..Building on right.

My friend Joy on the left.(in the mirrored reflection) and me on the right in the white dress taken at my boss's home. It was the 21st birthday party of my boss's son, Graham. Both Graham and Joy remain my very good friends to this day.

Vic Summers; Gympie's Legendary World Champion Wood-Chopper

Please don’t misunderstand me…I enjoy and am in awe of a lot of today’s technology, but I’m flat out keeping up with the pace; in many areas I don’t bother trying; heavy breathing is for the young and fit; or the perverted!   

It seems every day upgrades, or newer, brighter, cleverer creations hit the marketplace; Apple débuted two new iPhone back in September alone. As I’m the only person left in this world who doesn’t own an iPhone, a Smart Phone, Cell or mobile phone of any make, description, shape, size or colour, I don’t intend taking a bite from that particular apple.

I have no use for a mobile/cell phone or whatever else is on the market today that enables one to speak to others, loudly, while strolling down the supermarket aisles; or sitting sipping coffee in a café.  I have no need for one of my own because I can listen in, without any hindrance whatsoever, on the conversations of others, whether I want to or not.  Said “others” give me no choice.  I often feel like knocking the gadgets out of their hands away from their ears as I really have no interest in their chit-chat.  I don’t understand why people have to be on their phones all the time. What on earth do that have to talk about that is so urgent and important?  

I hate phones!  Often I won't answer my phone – landline- when it rings.  Sometimes I find it to be very intrusive; an invasion of privacy.  Of course, that’s just how I am.  We’re all different...and I can hear you agreeing with this assessment of me!

When I was a young teen, I was a young teen –  if you understand my meaning.

Invitations to parties were extended verbally, or by the written word.  Our home had no phone of any description, unless, of course, for the two jam tins linked by string my brother and I put together.

On the rare occasions a phone call was necessary we’d trek off to the post office to make the call. Sometimes we’d have to kick a half-clothed Clark Kent (he looked pretty good in his Chesty Bonds) out of the red public phone box down the road before inserting the required amount of coins into the slot; hoping we’d remembered the number. Most times the number was written on our hands.  Hands were the best notepads.

TARDIS, Dr. Who’s blue time-travelling vehicle wasn’t an option back in those days. It was before the good Doctor became a sticky-beak and headed off to explore the Universe; stirring up the Daleks in the meantime, the past time and future time as a pastime.

Red telephone boxes, not blue, adorned the landscape where necessary.  And, fortunately, vandalism wasn’t rife when I was young.  It was rare to come upon a public phone that didn’t work.

In my early teen years parties were held in private homes. Gatecrashers were unheard of; other than a gatecrasher being someone who accidentally crashed into the front, side or back gate while peddling their bicycles, I doubt we knew there was another meaning to the word.

Alcohol wasn’t a prerequisite at the parties. It never figured into the celebrations.  As for drugs, my friends and I lived in a foggy world of juvenile ignorance about drugs.

As we matured further into our teen years, alcohol remained unimportant. It was rarely used; and never abused. We somehow managed to have good times without it. The only stimulants we needed were our mates, music and interesting conversation, mixed with harmless, nonsensical, hilarious chatter about nothing.
The group I mixed with shared lots of innocent fun and much laughter.

At the parties I attended when I was 15 going on 16 year of age, we still played Spin the Bottle, Pass the Parcel; Pin the Tail on the Donkey; Bobbing for Apples (we did have apples back then – but of the edible variety only!): Blind Man’s Bluff; Musical Chairs, Charades, and many other innocuous pleasures.  We were such innocents.  We progressed to Strip Poker a year or so later!

Leaving school mid-year during my Junior year; in July to commence my working life as a legal secretary with a Gympie law firm, "Tozer and Jeffery", I was still only 15 years old.  A few months later in the November, I turn 16.

The transition from school to paid employment in a solicitor's office was a giant step for womankind...or perhaps I should say, in my case,  "girl-kind"!

I’d turned 16 a couple of weeks before I attended an end-of-the-year party held at a private home in celebration of a new chapter in the lives of the senior boys at the local Christian Brothers’ College; a tempered, mannered version of “Schoolies”, I suppose. It was the home of Vic Summers, legendary world champion wood-chopper. Information about Vic Summers is in the sites below.

The invitation extended by Vic Summer's daughter, Kate, came as a surprise to me. Being a Protestant having attended the State School and the Scots Presbyterian Sunday School and Church when I was younger, other than by name and sight, I didn’t know many of the other party-goers. Later on, I learned some of the senior Christian Brothers' College boys had had a crush on me, hence the invitation! I had not a clue. I was not worldly-wise regarding the opposite sex in those days.

It was on that fateful, memorable night I received my first kiss after being driven home and politely escorted to my front gate. I hated it; the kiss, not the gate!

Disgusted, I made a hasty retreat and rushed upstairs to our bathroom where I vigorously washed my mouth.

“Ugh!” I thought in disgust. “If that's kissing, I’ll never allow myself to be kissed ever again; at least not until Tony Curtis comes to rescue me”! 

I was pretty naïve back in those days! Circumstances, attitudes and people change…life changes….

Life all looked a little brighter a year or two later; and it needed to be explored!

Everyone, including me, takes a bit of the apple, eventually!

Chicken-Apple Sausage: Heat 2tsp oil in non-stick pan; cook 1 diced small onion about 2mins; add 1 medium Gala apple or similar sweet apple, peeled and diced; cook, stirring 2mins; transfer to bowl; cool, 5mins. Add 454g minced chicken, 1tbs chopped sage, 1tbs packed brown sugar, 1/2tsp chopped fennel seeds, salt and pepper to apples; gently combine. Wipe out pan; generously spray; heat over med-heat; scoop 4 portions of mixture and flatten into patties. Cook until browned, about 3mins per side.

Apple Fritters: Combine 1 heaped cup plain flour, 1/3c sugar, 1tsp baking powder, pinch salt, 1-1/2tsp cinnamon and 1/4ts nutmeg; slowly add 1/2tsp vanilla, 1tbs melted butter, 1 egg and 1/3c milk (a little more if needed). Mix until combined; don’t over-beat; gently fold in 1-1/2c chopped apple, about size of peanut. Batter should be consistency of light cake mix. When oil is hot enough, using soup ladle, place 4 or 5 balls of dough about the size of golf balls into oil; don’t overcrowd; flip when underside turns golden; continue frying; about 35secs per side; adjust according to size and oil temp. If desired, serve with Caramel Sauce: combine 60g butter and 1/3c brown sugar in saucepan over med-heat; cook 3-4mins; stir in 1/2c cream; simmer 2-3mins until sauce thickens. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over fritters; pour over sauce. OR; just dust fritters with icing sugar.

Apple Chips: Preheat oven, 95C. Thinly slice 2 large, cored apples crosswise (Delicious, Gala, Grannies etc) – about 2mm thick with mandoline or very sharp knife. Arrange slices in single layer baking paper-lined, rimmed backing sheets; spray with canola cooking spray. If using sugar…combine 2ts sugar with 1tsp cinnamon; place in sieve; sprinkle over apple slices. Bake until dry and crisp; about 2 hours. Cool completely.  

Apple Strudel: Pastry - place 1/2c milk, 125g butter and 2tbs sugar in a saucepan over med-heat; stir until butter has melted and sugar has dissolved. set aside to cool. Place 2c self-raising flour in bowl; make well in centre. Add 2 eggs and most of cooled milk, reserving a little to brush on the strudel. Mix to form a pliable dough; then turn onto a floured surface.  Knead the dough for a few minutes; cover in plastic wrap; then rest in fridge 15mins. (the pastry, not you!).

Peel, core and slice thinly 10 granny smith (green) apples.

To assemble strudel: halve the pastry; roll out to 5mm thick. (Set remaining pastry half aside). Spread pastry with 1/4c apricot jam. Place half of the apples on top of jam, leaving the edges free. Dot apples with 20g butter; then sprinkle with 2tbs currants,  2tbs sultanas, 1/4tsp ground cloves and 1/4tsp ground cinnamon. Fold in the pastry edges over the apples, and then, with the aid of wide spatulas, gently roll the pastry over the apples so that all the apple is rolled into the pastry. Place on a large greased baking tray, then brush with half of remaining milk.

Preheat oven to 180C. (356F).

Repeat above process with the remaining pastry, filling and left-over milk.  Bake both strudels in oven for 50 minutes, basting twice during the cooking with the juices on the tray.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


The “Season to be Jolly” is just around the corner; or, perhaps, as you’re reading this, the eagle has already landed (or Santa has); maybe Christmas has already been and gone. Either which way, this time of the year brings with it reflections of Christmases past.

The best gift I’ve ever received cost nothing. It still remains pertinent and up-to-date with me to this day. The gloss hasn’t worn off; it has lasted throughout my life. It remains untarnished, and has done so for most of the time, I think.   Hopefully, I have many kilometers remaining in my tank – even if these days I’m a little slower in traversing the metaphorical highway; but as I stroll along that highway I’ll carry the gift with me!

Being a flawed human being, I freely admit that there have been times I’ve unintentionally lapsed into complacency and overlooked the gift I was generously given when I was but a wee child; and I concede there were times, too, due to circumstances beyond my control, I deliberately disregarded the gift.  If one is pushed hard enough and often enough, it’s easy to do.

For the times I’ve unconsciously slipped up, I consciously apologise – even though I can’t pinpoint to whom I extend my apologies, or why, when or where said indiscretions occurred.

It’s a given, of course, that I’ve had my “moments” just like everyone; as I confessed above, I am not without flaws! 

Have I caused you to scratch your head in confusion?

The gift to which I refer is the gift of good manners; a gift handed to me by my mother and grandmother when I was very young. For their generosity, I am eternally grateful.

I was taught not to start eating my meal until everyone else was seated at the table with their own meal in front of them. I was taught never to overstuff my mouth with food; and never to speak with my mouth full; nor chew with my mouth open.

Whew! It’s a bit like trying to rub your head while patting your stomach!

Elbows were banned from the table during eating. Permission had to be asked for and given to leave the table; one must never leave the table until everyone has finished eating.  At the end of a meal, my knife and fork had to be placed closely together in the middle of the plate; never left askew or otherwise. A fork or a spoon could be placed in one’s mouth, but never ever a knife!

Table napkins were placed on one’s lap, not tucked into the collar or neckline of one’s clothing; and definitely not tied around one’s neck; at the risk of having your neck wrung! 

Often, when I worked in restaurants, I refrained from clearing away diners’ plates if they’d not correctly replaced their cutlery. If they had failed to do so, I’d ignore them for quite some time before finally attending to their needs; and then I’d purposely make a point of putting the knife and fork into their rightful place – together, side by side, while simultaneously feigning surprise:

“Oh! I didn’t realise you’d finished eating!” 

There are times (often) the customer/diner isn’t right; don’t be fooled into believing otherwise.

Reaching across the table for food or condiments was, and still is, forbidden. If I needed something out of reach, I had to ask politely for it to be passed to me; with a “thank you” given in return.

I was taught to take what was nearest to me on a platter, even if it was the smallest and least inviting morsel. To covet and take possession of the largest, more delectable fairy cake, or the by far most enticing éclair, particularly if it was furthermost away on the serving plate, was strongly discouraged. 

I was taught never to interrupt when another was speaking.  This can be a feat extremely difficult to achieve at times if the speaker boringly drones on forever and a day. I do interrupt myself if I’m guilty of said offence; but I give myself permission to do so.

A huge “no-no” was/is not putting the chair back in its rightful position upon leaving the table. I really hate it when people don't put their chairs back in under the table!

And, another most important issue; to never blow one’s nose on the dinner napkin; use your tissue! Although you may be hankering for a handkerchief, your table napkin is not one - it’s not done!

Better still excuse yourself from the table before doing blowing your nose…leaving the napkin behind! 

This Christmas give edible treats of your own making; have fun preserving and baking; or better still, if the coffers are low, and time has run out...your presence will be the best present of all.

Merry Christmas, everyone…I hope your Christmas, no matter what you’re doing; where you’re doing it, or with whom you’re doing it is relaxed and hassle-free.  Dump all angst at the door, and forget to take it with you when you leave. 

Spread the love and goodwill…not only throughout the coming Season, but forever more.

My thanks to all of you who visit my blog; for taking time to read it; and for your most welcome comments. I enjoy your come again!

Rhubarb Chutney: Put 500g chopped rhubarb in saucepan with a drop of water; add 200g brown sugar; cook on medium until softened. Add 6 finely-chopped spring onions, 1tbs thyme leaves, 1 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 100g cherry tomatoes and 1 garlic clove; cook 5mins; add 200ml red wine vinegar, juice and zest of 1 lemon. Simmer 2hrs, until most of liquid has evaporated; check seasonings; cook; store in sterilized, airtight, jars.

Christmas Spiced Peaches: Put 450g sugar, 300ml white wine vinegar, 1tsp whole allspice, 2-inch cinnamon stick and 1-inch fresh ginger, thinly-sliced in saucepan; heat gently; stir to dissolve sugar; bring to boil; reduce heat; simmer 15mins. Halve and stone 450g each peaches and plums; add to syrup; gradually bring to boil, stirring; reduce heat; simmer 20mins; stir occasionally. Remove from heat; remove fruit with slotted spoon; reserve syrup; discard cinnamon. Fill jars to 1-inch from top; boil syrup a few mins; pour over fruit; seal jars. Keep for up to 3 months in cool, dark place. Serve warm with ice cream or room temp with ham etc.

Rocky Road Cake: Roughly crush 1 pkt Marie biscuits, ending up with chunky pieces. Melt together 400g milk chocolate and 100g butter on low heat; when melted, mix in 1 tin condensed milk. Remove from heat; add biscuit crumbs, 1 bag marshmallows, 200g glace cherries, some chopped nuts, raisins or sultanas and other chopped, dried fruits; whatever suits your taste. Tip into tin lined with cling-wrap; flatten out; chill to set. Grab hold of plastic wrap to assist removal from tin. 

Christmas Duck: Preheat oven 220C. Place 200g sugar, juice of 1 orange and 2tbs Cointreau in heavy-based pan over low heat; stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil; simmer 5mins or until syrupy. Prick skin of 1 whole duck; place 1 peeled onion and 1 sprig of rosemary in duck cavity. Sit duck on rack in roasting pan containing 150ml water; roast 20mins. Remove duck from oven; brush with some of the orange syrup; sprinkle with salt; roast 30mins; brush with more syrup; roast further 30mins; lowering oven to 200C. Cut 1 orange into slices. Dip slices in remaining syrup; lay slices on duck with 4 fresh rosemary sprigs; brush all over with syrup; roast a final 30mins. Cover loosely on platter; rest 15mins. Pour off fat from pan; place over med-heat. Add 150ml chicken stock and 1tbs Cointreau; deglaze; add any remaining syrup; serve with duck

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Cardwell Jetty

A day spent in and around the resort's pool. Life get's tedious, don't it?
Bronnie and Julie (staff) with Rick and Bob on "Reef Venture" and on the beach
Zoe Falls
Hinchinbrook Island
Raffles City, Singapore

Ho's Postcard

Raffles Hotel Swizzle Sticks
After a non-eventful trip from Singapore back to the Land of Oz; and then an equally non-eventful connecting flight from Brisbane to Townsville, I finally ended up in Cardwell where I stayed overnight, but not at the Lyndoch Motel, my usual mainland hang-out. The motel was booked out, so I stayed in a self-contained apartment further north along the highway from the Lyndoch.  

Excited in the knowledge my island home was just across the waters of Missionary Bay, I was eager for the night to pass. I was impatient for the morning to arrive; keen to jump aboard the “Reef Venture”.  I’d pre-arranged with Bonnie, the wife of Bob, the skipper of the “Reef Venture” to pick me up in the morning in my own car, to drive me to the Cardwell jetty.  Bonnie operated the small mainland booking office situated in the centre of the town.  She attended to all the office work, which included holiday reservations for the resort, day-trippers, and all other matters pertaining thereto. In the meantime Bob did the runs to the island, every day, except Mondays (and sometimes on Monday, if required), ferrying day-trippers, holidaymakers as well as delivering the resort’s provisions, gas bottles etc.  Bonnie and Bob stored my car, a Ford Cortina Ghia in their garage at the rear of their office.

Up bright and early, I was showered, dressed and ready to go.  I’d had a wonderful week in Singapore, one in which I’d created life-long, happy memories, but now with the island within my reach I could hardly contain my emotions.  I’d missed my island home and my staff.

Upon hearing my car pull into the driveway of the unit, I flew out the door before the motor was switched off; but, I immediately came to an abrupt stop.  My mouth fell open and my eyes grew as large as saucers!

“Who’s looking after the island?” Were the first words issued from my mouth.

In my car, with smiles as bright at the Evening Star and as wide as the Great Australian Bight, beaming at me were most of my staff members!

“What’s going on?” I exclaimed.  “Why are all of you here? Is anyone left on the island?”

“G’day, Mum!”  Cheerfully they shouted in unison as they leapt from the car full of vim and vigour.  Grabbing my luggage like a mob of frenzied porters, they promptly loaded it into the car’s boot (the trunk for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere). 

As explained in previous posts, often, with good-humoured affection, my staff called me “Mum”.  It grew from me regularly referring to them as “the kids” or “my kids” when talking with island guests. So the moniker of “Mum” stuck in lighter moments!  When they weren’t pleased with me, or vice versa, formality reappeared briefly.  That morning they figured using the nom de plume of “Mum” was the safe route to my heart and good nature!

“Well! Why are you all here? Who is left at the resort?” I repeated, too stunned to move.

“Everything’s under control, Mum! No need to worry!” One grinning renegade told me, as the rest of the cavalier bunch nodded in agreement.  

“We took a vote! We drew straws to see who would remain at the resort.  There aren’t many guests at the moment.  Rick was throwing a Thanksgiving Party, and he invited us along! So we’re the ones who won draw, and drew the long straws!”

Rick, Bonnie’s brother-in-law, married to her sister, was an American from Boston.  He and Bonnie’s sister were on an extended holiday, staying with the family in Cardwell.  During his stay in Cardwell, Rick acted as Bob’s deckhand on the “Reef Venture”. Hinchinbrook Island and the resort became his second home, too.

I was too flabbergasted to kick up much of a stink; and seeing their happy faces milling around me made it nigh impossible for me to be cranky at them.  Their actions, body language and comments showed they were very pleased to have me back within the fold. Anyway, it was too late to cry over spilled milk; they’d already enjoyed the Thanksgiving Party, perhaps, a little too much I sensed!  However, their exuberance was contagious, and soon I joined in with their laughter. They were the ones who had to fight through hangovers, not me!   I had faith in my staff (most of them, anyway).  I knew they wouldn’t desert their posts before having all bases well covered.

To allow a chance to party slip out of their hands was not in my staff’s DNA.  They worked hard when on shift, and they had partying down pat!

The car was overloaded even before my presence.   Ungainly, I squeezed in as best I could, sitting on someone’s lap, not having anywhere to put my arms or hands without causing someone embarrassment, including me.  I held them were upright with my palms awkwardly splayed on the ceiling of the car’s interior.  If the Cardwell police had been up out of bed they’d have booked us all and confiscated my car!  But, maybe not…they were a good mob, the Cardwell cops. I got on well with them. Fortunately, it wasn’t a long distance to the jetty. We succeeded in making the trip safely without being hauled off to the Cardwell lock-up! 

What a great headline that would have been!

Through the boisterous chatter and laughter I was informed by my bossy staff that I wasn’t going to do a scrap of work once we landed on the island.  They allotted me no room for argument.  Their orders were my commands; with promises of margaritas or pina coladas at my beck and call as incentives!

Who could refuse an offer/order such as the one issued me that morning…not I!  

I didn’t feel in “work-mode”, anyway.  I needed a day to digest everything I’d experienced the previous week – that’s what I told myself, anyway – and it seemed good advice.  I followed it diligently, to the letter.

True to their word, as soon as we arrived at the island, my luggage was whisked away off the boat, taken in the direction of my island abode, with me rushing behind because I was eager to cuddle my beloved ginger cat, Ruska.  I’d missed him very much; and from his reaction upon seeing me, it was very clear he’d missed me, too.  After spending time with Ruska, ensuring him I was back home to stay, without further fuss or ado, I donned my togs (swimming suit) because the balance of the day was going to be spent in and around the pool.  Tying a colourful sarong around my hips I walked back to the pool deck where an inviting cold drink was already mixed and waiting for me.

Oh! Life gets so tedious on a tropical island at the start of summer…but one has to deal with it the best way one can! 

Sipping pina coladas in and around the pool while listening to the stories about what had transpired during my absence, as well as answering the endless questions tossed at me from all quarters, including from Rick whom I’d forgiven for stealing my staff overnight, and for being the cause of their hangovers, the day passed extremely pleasantly. 

From memory there were only eight or ten guests staying in the resort’s cabins at the time. During the day guests were off doing their own thing. One by one, or two by two they meandered back to the restaurant and pool where they, too, soaked up the casual, relaxed atmosphere.

Morning morphed seamlessly into afternoon; lazy, leisure-filled hours were enjoyed by everyone; most of all by me.  It was good to be home again with the sound of the ocean lapping the shore, even if, on the day of my return to the fold, the ocean sounds were mostly drowned out by the happy, at times lively, unrestrained revellers.

However, once the fun and games were over, it didn’t take me long to settle back into work rhythm.

About two days after being back home it was time to finish unpacking my suitcases.  I let out a gasp when I found a brown paper bag bearing a pomegranate amongst the contents of a suitcase.  I’d bought the pomegranate from a street vendor in Singapore. Obviously, in a hurry when I’d returned to my hotel room I’d tossed it onto the opened suitcase, and had rushed off to change before departing for my next assignation.  I’d completely forgotten about it; forgotten I’d bought it.  To find it in my suitcase still wrapped up in the paper bag caused my heart and stomach to do triple back and front flips in unison.  Immediately, I grabbed the large, illegal, edible, hexagonal berry, and rushed out onto my deck overlooking the ocean.  There, with all the force and strength I could muster, I hurled the forbidden fruit into the fathoms below.  Let the sea creatures enjoy the fruit of my innocent, illicit importation! 

What evidence, officer?  It’s all conjecture!

One day a few months after my Singapore Fling a Japanese couple, husband and wife, arrived at the resort. I’d received about an hour’s notice of their pending arrival.  They’d chartered a seaplane, a Beaver, through Air Whitsunday to bring them to the island for lunch; just the two of them, to dine at the island restaurant. They were keen to lap up the ambience of an Australian tropical island if only for a couple of hours. I welcomed them to the resort and escorted them to a table. 

Lunch was never a big deal at the resort because most days after they’d finished their unrushed buffet breakfasts the guests went off on the “Reef Venture” to explore the Brook Islands, Gould Island, Missionary Bay, Ramsay Bay, or when the weather and wind permitted, to Zoe Bay, with a trek through the rainforest to Zoe Falls, thrown in for good measure – and exercise. At outings’ end, Bob deposited the adventurers safely back to the resort around 4 pm.

Breakfast on the island, for our guests, commenced at 8 am.  The staff had their breakfast in the staff room from 6 am to 7 am or thereabouts.  Life on Hinchinbrook Island was conducted at a leisurely, unrushed, no-hassles-stress-free pace; at least for the holidaymakers; and also, at times, for us hard working islanders! 

If guests didn’t go venturing across the sea in the “Reef Venture”, they’d disappear for the day, by their own means – their legs.  They’d wander off to North and South Shepherd Beaches at will and under their own steam.  Whether they chose a boat trip or spent the day exploring by foot to nearby beaches my chefs prepared individual picnic lunches for them to feast upon. 

There were times guests would decide to just lounge around the pool for the day, having chosen to be sloths rather than active hounds.

Of course, sometimes guests who’d only arrived in the morning, brought across from the mainland by the “Reef Venture”, and those later arrivals by sea plane, would choose to spend their first day familiarizing themselves with their immediate surroundings and so on.

Most of my guests were off having fun elsewhere, away from the resort’s facilities the day the Japanese couple arrived.  I spent a great amount of time talking with my fleeting, fly-in-fly-out visitors. During our conversation I learned they lived in Singapore. 

The husband worked in the finance sector. His company operated from one of the office towers in the then new Raffles City.  Raffles City officially opened in October, 1986, about a month before my visit to Singapore. It was built on the former site of the Raffles Institution, the first school in Singapore. The modern style of architecture of Raffles City, a massive complex spread over three blocks, is in total contrast to the iconic hotel it’s located close to….Raffles Hotel.

I asked the husband if he ever went across to Raffles Hotel.  He replied he’d not often done so. I then proceeded to tell him the story of my love for Raffles; of my many visits to the hotel, and of the friendship I’d forged with Ho. 

“I want to ask you a favour, if I may,” I said to my Japanese guest. “When you arrive back home to Singapore would you, one day, at your leisure, call into the Writers’ Bar; introduce yourself to Ho; and pass on to him, please, my very best wishes?  Thank him on my behalf for his wonderful hospitality while I was in his country.  Tell him I will always remember his kindness to me; that I hold it dear to my heart. Please tell him I will never forget him.  I’d be so grateful if you could do that for me.”

“I’ll do better than that.” My smiling guest replied. “We’ll have our photo taken together; and allow me to take one of you alone.  I shall be pleased to do as you ask; honoured to pass on your message to your friend, Ho; and, while doing so, I will give Ho the photos.”

John, my barman obliged in taking the photographs using the Japanese gentleman’s camera.

Shortly thereafter, the time had come for my visitors to bid farewell before boarding the seaplane to take them back to the mainland.  They were a lovely couple. I enjoyed our time spent together.  At our parting, we hugged.  Waving, I watched as the sea plane lifted off the waters of Missionary Bay. I strolled back up from the jetty to the restaurant area as the Beaver, bearing the Japanese couple, disappeared over the island; out of sight…a brief encounter.

 Life went on with new people to meet; new guests to welcome; an island resort to run.

A few weeks went by.  As was his habit, Bob, the “Reef Venture’s” skipper, dumped the mailbag on my desk one morning after his arrival to the island. 

To my surprise…great surprise, mixed with extreme pleasure an envelope addressed to me, personally, leapt out from the pile on my desk, as if it was saying, “Pick me!  Pick me!”

Tearing open the envelope, I discovered it was a postcard from Ho!

The Japanese gentleman was as good as his word.

He went to the Writers’ Bar; introduced himself to Ho; and passed onto Ho my message. 

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I read and re-read the postcard over and over.  Holding it gently in my hands, I treated it like a precious gem.  Included in the envelope along with the postcard was a green swizzle stick from Raffles Hotel!  I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

Tears of joy; tears created by wonderful memories filled my eyes. Emotions flooded my being.

My faith in humanity was restored.  Too many people say they will do something, but never carry it through; never fulfill their promises.  Words flow easily; and just as easily are soon forgotten. 

My Japanese guest, who had only spent a couple of hours on the island, had honoured his word.  I held the proof in my hands.

Ho’s postcard is a much cherished memento of mine to this day; as are my memories of that extraordinary, gentle man.

My memories of the rare gem of a genuine gentleman who so kindly kept his word after such a brief meeting remain with me, as well.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


View Across to Gloucester Island

Part of the grounds at the Resort at Horseshoe Bay as mentioned in my post.

Sunrise...Horseshoe Bay, Bowen

Do I really need to name these?

The Big Mango at Bowen

I’ve never been rowin’ with Owen at Bowen; but it sounds like it could be a lot of fun. I did once go rowin’ with Denis on Hinchinbrook Island, though. An episode that was more funny, than fun!

Silly me!  I let one of my guests coerce me into go paddling the resort canoe with him.  Until that particular afternoon, I’d never paddled a canoe in my life!  I not only ended up drenched, but one of my staff jumped into the island boat and towed us ashore!  His act of bravado wasn’t really necessary; he was being a little over-dramatic – and a mite hysterical – with laughter at our plight!   I must admit, I was engulfed with laughter as was my companion.  Actually, I think he was a little perplexed at my lack of paddling coordination.  He never asked me again.  Denis ended up at Oxford University.  He probably ended up in the Oxford University Boat Club rowing team; seen skimming along the River Thames on many a misty morning.  (I should have thought to have asked him to get an autograph from Inspector Morse)!

A couple of weeks ago when reading the travel section in Saturday’s paper I was reminded of one of my favourite places in the world; the mostly unheralded beaches of Bowen.  I’ve had many wonderful, happy times at Bowen’s beaches. I also had one of the worst times of my life there; but, fortunately, I’ve not allowed the latter experience to diminish my love of those glorious beaches up Bowen way. 

Everyone at some time or other has been disappointed by friends, strangers, relatives, business associates. 

My late brother and I innocently became part of a fiasco when we were employed to co-manager a resort at Horseshoe Bay in 1997. We were duped; conned by experts in the game of conning. Sadly, my brother fell ill, leaving me to manage the resort without his assistance; a sombre situation beyond his control.

In addition to the unexpected turn of events we discovered, to our dismay, the resort owners and the managers we’d been hired to replace were in cahoots, callously playing with the lives of others.  My brother and I became hapless victims of unscrupulous people who had no conscience; a word they probably couldn’t spell, let alone knew the meaning of! Obviously they’d not heeded the sage advice: “Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself”. They had no moral or ethical standards. I won’t go into the sordid details at this time.  Maybe I will later…at length.

Suffice to say there is truth in the maxim; “What goes around; comes around”. Karma works at its own inscrutable, enigmatic way and pace. One needs to exercise patience. 

In the words of model Rachel Hunter who wisely and frequently counselled consumers in her Pantene commercials of the early 1990s: “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen!”  Just desserts were served eventually; that they weren’t personally served by me was okay with me.

Back to my pleasant memories of the Bowen area…when I lived in Collinsville I sometimes managed to replace coal dust with sea spray for a day or two by making an escape to tranquil Rose Bay, one of the seven stunning beaches around Bowen. The town of Bowen is 87kms north-east of Collinsville; only a short hop, skip and prance away. Unbelievably, there were some in Collinsville who’d never ventured further afield than Bowen! Once I’d discovered the cosy cabin named “Laguna” situated on the foreshore at Rose Bay with its unparalleled panorama across the crystal aqua-blue water to Gloucester Island, I was hooked. Thereafter I booked the same humble dwelling for my every stay. I fell in love with the intimate shanty on the beach. It wasn’t flash, nor was it modern, but it was spotless, and its bed, comfortable.

 The cabin had everything I needed, except for George Clooney!  The cabin was within close proximity to the beach, which was only two or three metres away across a grassy verge; and then, after a short stroll, the water’s edge was lapping my toes.  What more could I want - other than George, of course?

 It was paradise. In paradise one wants for nothing else, other than Mr. Clooney, of course!

By George! Owen from Bowen was no substitute, no matter how expert he was at rowin’! 

However, Bowen makes ups for what it lacks in the presence of George Clooney a hundred times over and over again with its delicious mangoes.  Oh! Bowen's mangoes are irresistible!   And they're in season...right now!  So excuse me while I go and devour a couple over the kitchen sink!

Christmas Dessert: Put 125g light brown muscovado sugar, 50g butter and 175g water in a small pan; bring slowly to the boil; stir to dissolve sugar. Increase heat; bring to the boil; boil 3mins; cool. Place 40g cut mixed peel, 50g glace cherries, cut into eighths, 85g  each raisins and sultanas, 2tsp mixed spice and 1/2tsp almond essence in bowl; add 3tbs dark rum; leave to macerate. Beat 4 egg yolks until light and fluffy; gradually add the sugar syrup; beat all the time. Place in pan; whisk over direct heat until as thick as double cream. Place in the mixer bowl; beat until cold. It should now be thick and airy and leave a ribbon trail. Whip 450ml cream to the same consistency as the parfait base; fold in. Fold in rum-soaked fruits and 85g toasted almond flakes. Pour into clingwrap-lined 900g loaf tin; freeze overnight; or up to 2 weeks if wrapped well. Remove parfait from tin; place in fridge 30mins before serving; decorate with glacé cherries and dusting of icing sugar. 

Chilled Mango Dessert: Cut flesh of 1 large mango into chunks. Divide 12 roughly-crushed amoretti biscuits between 4 serving glasses; using 400ml Greek yoghurt, top with yoghurt; add mango chunks. Drizzle 1tbs clear honey over each; chill 1 hour or so.  

Mango Delight: Remove flesh from 2 large ripe mangoes. Place in blender or processor; puree with 300ml condensed milk, 1c ricotta and 3tbs lime juice for 2-1/2mins. Pour into individual serving glasses; chill 2hrs or so; garnish with mango.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Our Townsville ex-soldier mate and an artificial , man-made waterfall behind the Hilton Hotel.
Our unkempt hotel room...and THAT white dress...also shot of the Writers' Bar while I was having a shot!
Glass Hotel aka Holiday Inn
Lift in Lobby of Glass Hotel
Sentosa as at 1942...depicted at base of map in the middle of the photp
Fort Siloso
The final afternoon in the Writers' Bar...and the famous silver meat salver.

The Year of the Tiger book Autographed by Ho and Din
On the bus to Changi Airport...taking photos of photos with some co-travellers

Having enjoyed a few late nights when the morning of our Tanglin Club appointment arrived, Marj and I dawdled.  We decided a sleep-in for an extra hour or two would be necessary medicine to recharge our respective batteries. We’d been on the go non-stop since our arrival. The state of our room was proof positive of our hectic schedule; a frenetic schedule we’d bestowed upon ourselves, not one forced upon us by Herr Commandant!

Other than for showering; attending to our make-up and hair; dressing to suit the next assignment or engagement listed in our busy social calendars, and snatching a couple of hours sleep to top up our reserves, we spent little time in our room. The pattern was to remain in place for the duration of our Singapore visit. We had no time to stop; we were on a mission. Marj and I weren’t the tidiest of roomies, I must admit.  With our busy itinerary who had time for housework? Our hotel room looked like a Chinese laundry on a Sunday morning!  Clothes were draped about everywhere; on chairs; on shelves, even the floor wasn’t ignored!  
Marj and I each had our own designated area for our cosmetics and other personal effects necessary for stepping out into the world; or readying the outside world for us. The specified areas would’ve outdone the dressing rooms of London’s West End production of “The Phantom of the Opera”!

Knowing we had a lunch date at the Tanglin Club around noon, we didn’t bother about breakfast that morning; instead, we opted for coffee in our room.  Somehow we remembered how to boil water in an electric jug and open instant coffee sachets.

With the sacred bottle of Bundaberg rum securely gripped in Marj’s hand, we hailed a taxi outside of our hotel. Off we went along our own “Yellow Brick Road” for another adventure. We were both suitably attired to gain entry into the classy Tanglin Club. There was no fear we would disgrace our host, a man neither Marj nor I had met before.

At the club we were greeted by a handsome fellow with an unmistakable Aussie accent, so we knew we were in the right company. 
First things first, however – we handed over our prized cargo…the bottle of Bundy!  From that moment onwards, if it dropped to the floor and smashed it was the fault of our host, not ours.  Once more Marj and I could breathe easily!

The Tanglin Club was everything I imagined it to be.  Its staid, yet elegant interior oozed class of a bygone era.  Its atmosphere was subdued, and within its walls one felt compelled to act accordingly. Marj and I were on our best behaviour; but not to the extent of cocking our pinkies when lifting our wine glasses or coffee cups!  We’d not yet been inducted into the hallowed halls of nobility, and were never likely to be admitted in the near or far distance future.

In actual fact the habit of cocking one’s pinky originated in ancient Rome, not England.  Those Poms will take credit for everything if given half a chance! 
Don’t get your feathers ruffled…I’m just taking the Mickey for the fun of it…because I can – and because the Ashes are on here in Australia at the moment.  The cricket war between Australia and England!
Lunch at the Tanglin Club was wonderful in service, quality of food and company.  Our most pleasant, and grateful host, Michael, proved to be an intelligent, good-humoured luncheon companion.  We plied him with questions about Singapore; of places we should visit and so on. Without hesitation, he willingly shared his informed knowledge with us. He confirmed everything we’d heard from others regarding the safety of food prepared for sale by the hordes of street vendors.

Throughout lunch, Michael kept his eye on the bottle of Bundy like it was a long-lost golden treasure discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Conversation flowed freely across the table like Bundaberg rum over a rock’s glass full of ice.
Our interlude came to an end. Farewells and words of gratitude were exchanged. Even though both Marj and I were wearing high heels, we decided to walk back to the Hilton on Orchard Road.

The distance between the Tanglin Club on Stevens Road and our destination was only a couple of kilometres or so. We weren’t in a hurry.  A leisurely stroll seemed a good way to work off our mid-day meal and a chance to absorb some of the local landscape while we did so. 
The idea was a good one, but we’d no sooner crossed the road in front of the club when down came the rain.  We were caught, dressed in our best, in an early monsoonal tropical downpour, with no shelter within close proximity.  Rarely a day goes by in Singapore without a afternoon downpour to ease the intense humidity, whether it’s the northeast monsoon season or not. The northeast monsoon season starts in December and ends in March.  It was late November when we were in Singapore.

Marj and I exchanged looks. With a shrug of my shoulders, I laughingly said: “What the hell!  We’re going to get wet either which way…so let’s just keep on walking.  It doesn’t matter if we get soaked.  Do you care?  I don’t! Nobody knows us, anyway! If anyone thinks we’re a pair of crazy Aussies, they’re right! I’m not going to dispute them, are you?”

Marj returned my laughter and said: “No! I don’t care, either!  Let’s keep going!”

So we did, giggling like a pair of school girls.  We’d only walked a few yards when a taxi pulled up beside us.

“Hop in! Where are you headed?” Said the driver as he leaned across to open a back door of his cab, urging us at the same time to accept his offer; and “offer” it was we were to discover.

Rendered speechless for a couple of minutes, we couldn’t imagine an Aussie taxi driver doing such a gentlemanly act; no reflection on our Aussie cabbies, but in anyone’s book or country, the act we’d just become a part of was very uncommon to say the least!

Marj and I shook off the precipitation as best we could and told our rescuer of our destination.  We were quite wet, but our friendly taxi driver insisted it didn’t matter to him.  We noticed he’d tossed a couple of towels over the rear seat.

Again, Marj and I exchanged glances.  Without further protest or ado we thanked the cabbie as we climbed aboard.  No sooner had we settled in the back seat, the smiling driver handed us a towel each so we could wipe our faces and arms. At the same time, he introduced himself as “Peter”.

On the way to the Hilton Hotel the three of us chatted away like we were old friends from way back. 
The previous year, Peter told us, he’d been presented with an award for being Singapore’s friendliest, most obliging taxi driver.  His disclosure was no surprise to Marj and me. It was easy to see why he would receive such an accolade.  Peter was a worthy recipient. He was a wonderful, unique individual. Peter showed us the certificate to verify his word. He carried it in the glove box of his cab, protected in a firm plastic folder.  He was rightly very proud of his achievement; an award well-deserved. 
The rain ceased as we reached our hotel. Singapore’s afternoon cloudbursts mostly were just that, cloudbursts.  They never lasted for long. The sky had cleared and the humidity had dissipated. 
Our gallant Peter dropped us off at our hotel’s entrance, but as we went to pay him, he refused to accept our money.  He’d picked Marj and me up in the pouring rain out of the kindness of his heart, not for remuneration.

I asked for his business card if he had one. It was my intention to tell all and sundry about his hospitality. I explained to Peter that back in Australia I managed an island resort in tropical north Queensland; and guests who holidayed on the island came from all walks of life, from throughout the world. I assured him I’d spread the word of his generosity far and wide; and I did.

On handing me his card, a smiling Peter said: “Call me on Sunday if you’ve nothing planned, and I will take you both for a tour around Singapore.”

Did that man have no limit to his generosity?

As we said our final good-byes while expressing our gratitude, Peter remained stoic in his stubbornness regarding non-acceptance of payment for his thoughtfulness.  I put paid to his protestations; before he could stop me, I placed a tip on the passenger seat of his vehicle and said; “That’s for you, from us…no further argument!  Thank you so much, Peter.” 

Marj and I stood on the footpath outside of our hotel and watched that wonderful man drive away.  We didn’t take him up on his offer to give us a guided tour of Singapore, but I’ve have never forgotten Peter and his kind actions.  He was one in a million, that is for sure.

As we watched the rear of our benefactor’s vehicle disappear out of sight along Orchard Road a hawker approached in the hope of selling us one of the myriad watches he was hawking; some of which were on a display board clasped in his sinewy brown hands; others were clipped to his jacket. After we politely declined his sales pitch he went merrily on his way to find his next prey.  The hawkers were never intrusive. Once a maybe-customer showed no interest in purchasing the goods offered they weren’t persistent. As with everyone else we came across in Singapore, the hawkers were polite as well. It was like a “pay-it-forward”; everyone was polite to each, whether stranger or friend; hawker, cabbie, waiter or doorman. 
The one and only time I came across anything the remotely untoward it was easily handled.  Returning to our hotel one evening I sensed I was being followed. There were people milling around everywhere.  I didn’t feel threatened, but I was on alert. My antenna was in excellent working order.

As I entered the hotel lobby one of the regular porters or doormen recognised me. He smiled in greeting, and in return I raised my eyebrows at him; cast my eyes to the side and made an almost indiscernible movement of my head that only he noticed.  Immediately he understood my signals; no words were necessary. Without any fuss, bother or ado he ushered the culprit off the premises. No harm done. No disturbance caused.  I’d kept walking, bringing no attention to myself or to the fellow being gently shown off the premises. The next time I saw the Hilton employee I thanked him very much for his subtle actions.

Thanks to Peter, the cabbie, Marj and I entered the hotel lobby not as dishevelled and bedraggled as we perhaps could have been without his consideration.
After a quick shower and change of attire the time was nearing for my daily assignation.

I’d gotten into the habit every time I entered the Writers’ Bar of greeting Ho with a cheery, “Hi, Ho! Hi, Ho!”  His face would light up like a Christmas tree and he’d giggle each time, obviously having been a fan of “Snow White” and her little helpers.  He never took offense at my silliness, understanding it was done in good-humoured fondness.  And I had become very fond of Ho the more he and I chatted across his bar. 
I told him about our experience with Peter the taxi driver earlier that afternoon.  Ho knew of Peter. He remarked his actions that day were characteristic of all the stories Ho had heard about Peter.

Speaking of dates, Marj had another dinner lined up with her Texan.  I’d declined a second outing with the Arne, the Fin; not because I’d not enjoyed our dinner together at the Palm Court, I didn’t want our dining together to become expected or a habit.  The only fling I was interesting in having, was having a fling with the wonders of Singapore.

A couple of days later I did meet again, unplanned, with Arne. Along with the young Dutchman, Hans, we shared a couple of drinks at Raffles. Coincidentally, we happened to be there at the same time. Marj joined in with us that afternoon, as well. She was off to dinner again with the “Lone Star Kid”.  After Arne left us, Hans Marj and I wandered off into the Tiger Bar.

As described in a previous chapter Hans and I proceeded to convince Marj the bar girl was actually a bar man.  Marj then went on her way and Hans his; and I returned to the Writers Bar where Din, Ho’s offsider joined me at the end of his shift. We sat and chatted at length.  Din told me about the life he’d left behind in Sri Lanka; and he had many questions about life in Australia.  The night was still young, so upon leaving Raffles I decided to take myself to dinner at the same restaurant in the Hilton where Marj and I had dined on our first night.  I promised myself this time there would be no dancing on tables!
A little sheepishly I entered the restaurant only to be welcomed back with open arms.  I apologised to the maitre d’ for perhaps Marj and I making a nuisances of ourselves during our earlier dining experience in his restaurant, and for my Ginger Rogers’ table gymnastics. 
He immediately poo-hooed my apology and said that he wished more diners were like us; that he and the rest of the staff had thoroughly enjoyed the evening; and they had been very happy to see that we, too, were enjoying ourselves.  Regardless, I assured him there would be no more dancing on tables by me; no repeat performances.  I promised I’d behave myself and act accordingly.  He laughed; said he was disappointed as he led me to my table.

At the next table sat two ladies from the US.  We exchanged smiles. Soon we were chatting across our tables.  They introduced themselves as Mel and Peggy, and invited me to join them at their table. It sounded like a good idea, so I acquiesced.  Mel and Peggy, too, were on a similar trip to Marj and my own. 
Shortly thereafter, two fellows who were part of the tour group Marj and I were supposed to be members of, but refused to partake in, sat at the table next to my two new acquaintances and me.  The fellows recognised me, and immediately struck up a conversation; again from table to table.  Soon, they, too, joined us.  Seeing our group was multiplying by the minute the restaurant’s hospitable, obliging maitre d’ and one of his waiters pushed our tables together, which enabled us to dine in comfort…with elbow room!
What had started out as a quiet dinner for one had rapidly expanded into a party of five.

 A very pleasant night ensued.

One of the chaps was an ex-soldier.  He’d been based in Townsville during his service. After leaving the army he remained in the city and had been living there for a few years.  With Townsville only a couple of hours south of Hinchinbrook Island he was familiar with the area. When he discovered I managed the resort on the island, his interest heightened.  The two men also elaborated on the antics of Herr Commandant, making it obvious I wasn’t the only person who thought of her in that light! The two young men said I was lucky to have escaped her clutches. 
 “No, not lucky…smart!”  I responded wryly.

Mel and Peggy, both from Washington State, were interesting, fun company.  At times our wacky Aussie sense of humour and our weird turn of a phrase caused them bemusement, but they soon went with the flow, questioning without fear of embarrassment anything they didn’t understand. The wine also flowed, assisting greatly in intercontinental comprehension. Much laughter rang out around our dinner table that evening.
However, I declined an offer for an encore performance; there was no dancing on tables that evening. One table performance per country was my policy.  My feet remained demurely on the floor.
Saturday was spent wandering the streets of Singapore, taking in all the sights we’d previously missed, and revisiting others worth revisiting. Marj and I entered almost every store we came upon; and there were many. Our wallets had an uncanny habit of opening often.

We paid a visit to the Glass Hotel (now the Holiday Inn) where, under Marj’s insistence (because she had already partaken in the adventure a few days previously) we rode the lift/elevator in the hotel’s atrium. That lift ride was certainly the ride of a lifetime without having to visit any fun-adventure parks.

When descending in the Glass Hotel’s lift, one’s stomach was left at the top floor while the body, minus the stomach, sped southward at a rapid rate of knots.  I held my breath believing we were going to go crashing through the lobby floor, down into the nether regions of the hotel and beyond.  There was no way possible in the world that the lift would stop in time, I believed. But, it came to an abrupt, but extremely soft, cushioned landing; and I gulped!

Marj decided she would come with me to Raffles at 4 pm. After leaving Raffles we were at a loss what to do with the rest of the evening so we decided we’d return to the Hilton to ponder our next attack.  Returning to the Hilton from our Raffles sojourn proved to be a good idea.  Immediately Marj and I were drawn to the Lobby Bar. It appeared everyone else had been similarly seduced. The bar was packed to the hilt. Amongst the crowd were some familiar faces. Most of the tour group members were there, as well as Mel and Peggy. We all joined forces.  A Filipino rock band consisting of four musicians and a lead singer was the evening’s entertainment.  Their music was upbeat and contagious; the lively band members had mischief sparkling in their eyes.  And there we remained for the rest of the night.  What a night it was! I think everyone had received a memo it was the night to let hair their hair down and one where kicking up of heels was a must.  Everyone obeyed the command.

Sunday was Sentosa Day. A trip to Sentosa Island was a must.  In the back regions of my mind and in the deep reaches of my heart I was beginning to miss my own island.  Sneaky little tinglings of homesickness were poking their noses in.  Sentosa Island was nothing like my island home though.  Hinchinbrook Island was, and still is, thankfully, very underdeveloped. Similar couldn't be said about Sentosa...but that was okay with me.

Up bright and early, ready to go, Marj and I grazed on the hotel’s elaborate buffet breakfast before we headed off to join other Sunday trippers to Sentosa Island.  We climbed aboard the monorail. I’m not sure if the monorail is still in operation.  If it is, it has no doubt been upgraded and modernised greatly since 1986. This is not to say it wasn’t modern when we travelled in it
What amazed Marj and I was the way the day-trippers were dressed.  Here in Australia when we Aussie go on a leisurely outing such as the one Marj and I were on that Sunday, we dress very casually.  Not the Singaporeans!  Those around us on the monorail were dressed as if they were off to spend their day in an executive office.  Men were clothed in suits and ties; or dress shirts and ties; and the women matched their standard of attire.  It was all very foreign to Marj and me.

Once we disembarked, Marj and I found our way to the museum.  We’d been told about the Rock Museum and had become intrigued, wondering how interesting, in fact, rocks could be to play a major role in a museum.  The display of myriad rocks rocked us.  Within seconds we were mesmerized. Speechless, we wandered slowly down the aisle between the displays reading and learning on the way.  I can’t remember how long we spent in there browsing, but it was quite a while.

Back out in the sunshine we ventured forth to Fort Siloso which is situation on the north-western tip of the island. 
Before Sentosa was so named, and before it became a leisure island, it was called Pulau Blakang Mati.  There were three forts on the island.  The island was used by the British as a defense fortress.  The only fortress that has been preserved is Fort Siloso. It has one of the largest collections of artillery in Asia from the Second World War.  The displays are reminders, actually, of the many stuff-ups made by the British, who incorrectly believed the Japanese would land their forces on the north-eastern side of Singapore. An Australian night patrol leading up the Japanese attack discovered assault boats and a concentration of troops. The Aussies requested the immediate shelling of those positions, but Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival and the rest of his senior commanders ignored the request, showing a disgraceful display of poor leadership and decision-making. The rest is history. Singapore surrendered to the Japanese in 1942. 
During the Second World War the British set up artillery guns in Fort Siloso, facing south, seaward, falsely expecting that an assault would come from that direction. When the Allied Forces surrendered in February, 1942, Sentosa Island, or Pulau Blakang Mati as it was named at that time became a prisoner of war camp.  It housed Australian and British prisoners of war.

A sombre cloud descended upon us as we strolled about Fort Siloso. In reverence to the thousands who lost their lives there; and in honour of those who miraculously survived the horrors inflicted upon them, Marj and I spoke little; when we did it was in hushed tones.

The melancholy mood engulfing us only lifted when we returned to Singapore.  Until then, we respected each other’s studied reverie. The atrocities of war; no matter which war, linger long; and still man never learns.

A visit to Raffles was definitely on the agenda to help blow the blues away.

Our days were running out; our time in Singapore was drawing to a close.

My visits to Raffles, to the Writers’ Bar and my chats with my friend, Ho were coming to an end. 
Marj and I never made it to Kuala Lumpur, but it had never been on our agenda, anyway.  I had no burning desire to go there.  We were too busy making the Guinness Book of Records on numbers of bars and restaurants visited in one week by two intrepid Aussie carefree women to have time for tripping around to other countries. And furthermore, Malayasia had thumbed its nose at Singapore in 1965, so I thought I’d return the favour on Singapore’s behalf.

The last couple of days were spent doing what came naturally; shopping, dining and checking out the local cocktail bars.
To my surprise, a dinner invitation extended by Arne, the Finnish marine architect awaited me on my return to my hotel one day towards the end of our stay. I hadn’t expected to hear from him again. I phoned him at his hotel, whereupo he told me he was returning to Finland the following day.  Arne asked if I had a particular place in mind I’d like to be taken. I’m sure it comes as no surprise I chose Raffles.  I felt comfortable there.  By that stage of my Singapore visit, I was a familiar presence, always recognised and greeted warmly by the staff. Raffles had become my “local”.
What better local pub hang-out to have than Raffles Hotel?
Raffles, with its timeless elegance and charm, is more than just a hotel. Raffles is unique. Nostalgia oozes from its walls and along its halls. Raffles is alive with the spirits of past guests. John Lennon probably still hangs out there, sipping Singapore Slings with Marlon Brando and Princess Grace aka Grace Kelly; while Elizabeth Taylor shares a nearby table with Mike Todd, Orson Welles and William Holden listening to Xaviar Cugat and his Orchestra playing.  Alfred Hitchcock lurks in the background, peeping through the tropical palms.

I don’t mind ghosts.  I’m very fond of some spirits.

While I was dining with the Fin in the Elizabethan Room, Marj was out dining with her friend from Texas, probably at the Glass Hotel.  Again, like two teenagers, back in our hotel room at night’s end Marj and I compared stories from our respective “dates”; our regular round-up of the days events before finally sleep took control. 
The next night, our last in Singapore, an outing had been arranged between our American counterparts, Mel and Peggy, the two Texans, Marj and me.

On our final day in Singapore Marj and I decided we’d while away the hours meandering, doing what we each wanted to do at our own pace.  She went her way and I, mine. We agreed to meet up, as usual, at the Writers’ Bar. There was no way in the world I wasn’t going to pay one last visit before leaving Singapore. I needed/wanted to say good-bye to Ho, and to Din; but to Ho, in particular.  I planned to arrive at the bar earlier than my normal 4 pm.

We were being transported from the Hilton to Changi Airport by bus. The bus was scheduled for a 6 pm pick-up. There was never any difficulty in hailing cabs in Singapore, so I knew there would time enough for me to do what I needed to do. Marj and I checked out of our hotel around mid-day. The staff generously offered to store our luggage until our departure time.

When I walked into the Writers’ Bar, Ho, knowing it was my last visit, stepped out from behind the bar. I was a little taken aback when he extended his arms and pulled me in towards him.  There I was, standing in the middle of the Writers’ Bar being hugged by Ho. Naturally, I reciprocated his unexpected gesture of warmth.

He was full of surprises. 
Ho looked at me and said: “I am going to miss you, Lee. You’ve become part of our family…our Raffles’ family.  You are one of us!” 

I could feel my eyes grow misty when Ho spoke those words. As I write this, I find my eyes becoming misty once more from the memory of that most special moment
Earlier in this chapter I touched briefly on the 1942 Japanese invasion of Singapore due to the disastrous sequence of events and official bungling
After the surrender by the British, the Japanese took over Raffles as their headquarters.

On 13th February, 1942 the Governor, Sir Shenton Thomas ordered the destruction of all stocks of alcohol on the island.  The manager of Raffles poured most of the hotel’s cellar down the drain. When the Japanese took over the hotel two days later all that remained was the aroma. Europeans had sought sanctuary in the hotel. When the Japanese arrived they belittled the Governor in front of them by slapping him in the face and screaming at him. Those taking refuge were then marched to Changi where they spent the next three and a half years in brutal internment.

Somehow the staff of Raffles stole a brief moment in time to bury the magnificent silver meat trolley with its ornate cloche.  They buried it and other treasures under the turf in the Palm Court before the Japanese commandeered Raffles Hotel for the use of high ranking Japanese officers.  The Japanese never discovered those treasures.

Ho had told me the story of the meat tray. 

At the end of the Second World War, once the Japanese had surrendered, the brave, dedicated Raffles’ staff dug up the silver beef tray and the other treasures.  Because it had been buried for so long, parts of the tray needed soldering; therefore it could never again be used for the purpose of serving meat; but it remains to this day, proudly on display as a reminder of both good times and bad, in the Writers’ Bar.
After the sorrow, despair and atrocities of Singapore’s occupation, Raffles once again shone brightly, giving hope to all who survived those terrible years
I asked Ho if he would do me a favour by taking a photograph of me beside the silver salver.  He was happy to oblige.  Marj arrived as this was taking place.  We had time to share a final drink at the Writers’ Bar, served by Ho, before we had to return to the Hilton to board the bus to Changi Airport.

As a physical memento of my visits to Raffles I’d purchased, earlier in the afternoon, at the hotel’s reception area, a hard-cover book. The book had been written and published in celebration of the “Year of the Tiger”. 
1986 marked the hundred years’ celebration of the arrival in town of Armenian Martin Sarkies. He was there to meet up with his brother, Tigran, who was already in residence.

After doing a bit of touring around (not unlike Marj and me 100 years later) they came upon the Raffles Institution in Beach Road. The institution had been founded by Sir Stamford Raffles, and named after him, obviously.  Being partial to hotels, the three Sarkies brothers – Martin, Tigran and Ariet decided to join forces; and in a short form…the rest is history; except to say that in 1886 the Sarkies’ trio acquired the Raffles Institution and the adjacent Raffles Girls’ boarding school; from that date forward history was being made.

 Raffles Hotel was born.

Upon my asking, Din, the Sri Lankan barman, and Ho signed my copy of the book as a parting gesture.
Sadly, the time had come for Ho, Din and I to say our good-byes. It was a bittersweet moment. 
Both men even walked to the door with Marj and me; and then the doorman as pictured in an earlier chapter took over.  Hailing a cab, he, too, bid us a fond farewell. 
I’ve often pondered how many other guests would have been treated as well as I was by those wonderful people I’d gotten to know so well at Raffles.

And there we were, finally, on the bus heading for Changi, and then home to Australia.

En route to the airport Marj and I sat next to some of the tour group members we’d gotten to know; the same fellows we’d spent the Saturday night with in Hilton’s Lobby Bar enjoying the Filipino rock band.  The group was high-spirited as they told us of all the places they’d visited while in the controlling clutches of Herr Commandant. Their happy mood was contagious. I think perhaps they were pleased, and relieved, to be free of their leader! Marj and I told them of all the bars and restaurants we’d visited. 
Deciding we had to have something to show for our week in Singapore other than bar tales, I took photographs of the photos taken by the tour group fellows of their various visits to the zoo and other likely places.

By the time we reached the airport we were exhausted from our gales of laughter.

The flight home to Oz was spent in reflection of a wondrous week; even if we didn’t visit the zoo!

Did I, in fact, visit Singapore; or was it Raffles?  Singapore just happened to be there!