Thursday, January 31, 2013
The past week certainly has been an interesting one, to say the least. Although, I’m not sure that “interesting” is the correct adjective to describe the events of the past few days.
We badly needed rain…and, boy! What can I say?
Repeated weather warnings were issued leading up to the Australia Day long weekend. Big trouble was heading our way, and anyone with an ounce or gram of sense would heed the warnings. Even if it eventuated that the worst didn’t happen, all the warnings wouldn’t be in vain. I’ve still got left-over Girl Guide philosophy…Be Prepared! If the worst doesn’t happen, there’s no harm done. But, in truth, I wasn’t completely prepared for what lay ahead.
After having gathered his wits together in the Gulf of Carpentaria Cyclone Oswald soon got jack of the Far North once he’d crossed the west coast of Cape York. Ribald Oswald urgently wished to get to the Coral Sea on the east coast of the Cape. He’d heard a lot about the area, and perhaps thought he could do a cruise along the Great Barrier Reef while he was visiting the mainland areas as well. Kill two birds or more with one stone as it were. Whatever his reasons, his visit to Far North Queensland only lasted around 12 hours; maybe Oswald was on a promise. He was definitely on a mission! Once having satisfied his desires up north, Ex-Cyclone Oswald, became a low (he has many friends in low places, I hear) – he decided to tour Queensland’s coast, threatening and fulfilling his threats to all areas along his route. Not wanting to appear selective, Oswald thought, while he was on a roll, he may as well pay a visit to New South Wales as well. He didn’t want them to miss out on his generosity. Why not, I ask? He’d filled up all the clouds; they were packed to overflowing: and he had a very strong tail wind to help him on his way. He may as well not cut his trip short. That would be a silly thing to do!
And, just for an extra touch of drama, he contacted a couple of his relatives from the Tornado family, six in total; a wild and wooly bunch, once known as the Willy-Willies; but, of course, the politically-correct mob took offence at the original family name and made them change it; so at the risk of prosecution, they did.
I’m remiss…the tornadoes had a trial run at Grasstree Beach, just south of Mackay on the Thursday morning before regrouping and planning their next strike further south.
Ozzie (a fitting nickname seeing he shared his presence and liquid gale-forced presents with us all on Australia Day long weekend) asked if the tornadoes could join him while he visited the Bundaberg district. A rip-roaring barrel of fun, they happily obliged, of course; always up and ready for a free day out! They certainly had a great deal of pleasure at the expense of the people in Bundaberg’s surrounding areas on Saturday, 26th January – Australia Day. They couldn’t stop themselves from spinning and spiraling in excitement they were so chuffed!
Not satisfied with all the upheaval they caused in the Bundaberg areas, the tornadoes kept other areas in south-east Queensland on tenterhooks and on their toes (a difficult feat to achieve simultaneously, I can tell you – I’ve tried!); being unpredictable, untraceable and incapable of being tracked the possibility of more tornadoes striking hung heavily in the air hidden amongst the laden, grey clouds already threatening above.
Soon those exhausted clouds made good their threat; relieved, they began dumping their weighty burden. To give us here on the mountain a mild taste of what was to come, the precipitation began on Friday – just gentle rain at first; nothing much to write home about at that point in time. Saturday arrived and the wind thought it would poke its head out and join in the fray. It soon picked up speed and we were battered by blustering, tempestuous winds that were to last all weekend. The wind didn’t want to miss out, either; actually it was the star of the show, I think! Roaring like a fleet of F1-11s, the wind accompanied the rain from Saturday to around 3 pm Monday, when all of a sudden it was as if someone had turned off a switch. The rain and wind stopped…dead!
But, before that happened, the battering and drenching continued. Trees groaned, moaned and creaked under the force of the arrogant gale. Unidentified objects continually landed loudly on my roof and whacked forcibly against my walls. I think I spent the whole weekend purple in the face from holding my breath; expecting at any moment a large tree would come crashing down upon my cabin. Fortunately, that didn’t occur.
Come Sunday, I felt power outages were imminent, so fortunately, I filled up every container and bucket I could find with water in readiness. Losing power here on this property and others on Tamborine Mountain means we have no water. The mountain dwellers depend on their own water supply, not town/council supplied water. When there’s a power outage the electric pump, naturally, ceases working; therefore, no water for drinking, cooking, washing, bathing etc; and most important of all, for the toilet. The main water supply to my cabin on this property is pure, underground water from a bounteous aquifer, topped and backed-up by rainfall.
Shortly after 3 pm Sunday, 27th January, the power went off as I suspected it was going to do.
Here in my little abode, I’m all electric! But that’s okay…if I survived Cyclone Joy when on Newry Island, I surely could survive a blackout on Tamborine Mountain.
The hours ticked by; and then the days; the power was restored here to where I live on the hill on the dot of 10 am, Thursday, 31st January.
Unfortunately, when it rains my poor little car who is almost as old as I am and, who I believe, has caught some of my habits or quirks, doesn’t start. Don’t smile…of course Bessie is a “who”! She’s been with me for a long time, old Bessie. She’s been pretty good to me; I wouldn’t insult her by calling her an object or a thing!
I read by day as long as daylight permitted; and slept by night. I had a mass of early, but somewhat restless nights. There was little else to do. I had no television; no computer; I did have withdrawals over to loss of those two. Even my two furry, four-legged rascals - my good and best mates - were a little bemused with what was going on around them. Often I caught them staring at the television screen wondering why there were no pictures, sound and movement coming from that big flat thing! And as for no computer - that had them tossed as well! Animals are aware – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
I had no cooking facilities and none to make coffee or tea, but that didn’t worry me too much. I can do without coffee or tea. My existence doesn’t depend on them.
There were, and are still thousands of people far, far worse off than I was or am; and they will be for a long time to come, poor beggars. Many have lost everything; and that is just beyond my imagination. It’s so very sad.
I felt like the proverbial “mushroom”…you know the one…”kept in the dark” because I had no access to the news. I had no idea what was going on, not only in my little corner of the world, but in the greater “outside”, as well. Luckily, I still had telephone access. My ex-husband down the coast and my brother in Tewantin on the Sunshine Coast kept me up-to-date, daily, with some of what was happening throughout the south-east area; and I was grateful to them for that.
From Sunday to Thursday, I fed myself on raw nuts and fresh fruit. By Thursday, I was becoming a little concerned, however, that I might start swinging from the tree branches, those that are left, of course; or the rafters and chandeliers. It hasn’t happened yet, so I think I’ve managed to dodge that bullet, at least!
By Wednesday, I was sick to death of “bird baths” and “French Baths”…I wanted a good, old Aussie shower! And I was soon to have one!
The rain started falling again on Wednesday, but nothing like what we’d experienced previously. Around 1.10 pm a heavy downpour pounded noisily on the roof. I thought this could be my last chance for a while! I grabbed a cake of soap and left my modesty inside the cabin. I cared not. All I wanted was a cleansing, refreshing shower. Standing out under tepid rainwater overflowing from the guttering, I let out a sigh of sheer pleasure. I let the water flow through my hair and over my body…it was blissful!
I was caught between a rock and a hard place, you see. Even when I managed to get my car started on the Wednesday, I couldn’t bring myself to join the rest of the world. My hair felt ghastly, as did the rest of me. My outside shower under which I relished Nature’s bounty had made such a difference. My spirits were immediately lifted. However, even though I “washed” my hair, I hadn’t used shampoo and conditioner in fear that the rain would stop before I had time to wash it all out. If that had happened I would have ended up with hair stiffly standing up on end like a Golliwog in days of old before the PC crowd took hold of everything!
It rained lightly all throughout Wednesday night, and as the night progressed into the wee small hours of the morning it grew heavier. My window of opportunity, I believed, had closed. Once again, “Bessie” wouldn’t start, I thought. Just before 5.30 am, I decided I’d better top up my water supplies for toilet purposes, mainly (I still had enough for drinking), while it was pouring with rain because I still had no idea when the power would be restored. I had been advised on Wednesday that it may not be reconnected until late Friday, if then!
“What the hell!” I thought. “I’m going to get drenched filling up buckets, pots etc., I may as well have another shower while I’m at it!” So I did…at 5.30 am! And again, it was sheer bliss!
I was one of the first people into the local IGA supermarket as soon as it opened its doors Thursday morning. I was beyond caring that my hair hadn’t been shampooed; conditioned; blow-dried and in place; at least it was clean to a degree as was my body, beyond a degree. Anyway, most mountaineers were in the same boat as me, and in truth, I was probably a shower or two ahead of the majority. And talking about “boats”, we’d received enough water for an Ark! Move aside Noah!
I should learn to button my lips and cease from making what I think are humorous comments. As I was loading up my car with my fruit and raw nuts replenishments…yes…I needed to top up my supplies in case the non-power situation continued ad infinitum. I couldn’t buy milk as there was none to be found; anyway, I couldn’t at that stage still, keep it cold. I’d given up on all that was in my own fridge. The contents will fill up the garbage bin this week! The refrigeration sections and the freezers at IGA were empty.
Anyway…as I was saying…I should keep my insane sense of the ridiculous to myself. One would think I would’ve learnt by now…but no!
So there I was approaching my car to unload my purchases and feeling spritely and joyous that I had shed myself of my cabin-fever…perhaps it was the cabin-fever that made me do it…or the Devil as they used to quip on that great old show of the late Sixties-Early Seventies…”Laugh-In”.
Three or so people were wandering towards the IGA entrance and with broad smile on my face, I said to them: “I hope you’ve all had a shower this morning before venturing out!”
Don’t you just love it when in return you receive a blank look! Oh! Well! They probably just thought it was that crazy woman who lives on the mountain – ignore her, she’ll go away! But I won’t! One must stir up natives…they’ll become too complacent, otherwise!
Lo and behold! At 10 am…let there be light…and there was! Let there be television…and there was! Let the fridge start doing what it’s meant to do again…and it did! Let there be a computer…and there wasn’t! My computer was sulking and it wouldn’t start. “Edgar” obviously had been feeling neglected; he refused to heed my bidding; giving out “Beep! Beep! Beeps!” in protest. That’s enough to turn a girl grey; but as I’m already grey, my hair colour remained the same!
Wasting no time, I called the cavalry and the head trooper promptly arrived to solve “Edgar’s” and my problem.
So, here I sit on Friday morning, 1st February – showered (inside, hot water), shampooed and conditioned; coiffured; coffeed; sitting demurely, not swinging from the rafters. So sadly, I must disappoint you…you may not call me “Cheetah”!
An Addendum…but one of most importance – one must feel for our poor farmers…our hardworking people on the land…so many have lost so much. And, I, for one, can understand if they just want to throw their hands up in the air and walk away. It’s heartbreaking the devastating losses they are going through…again…so soon after 2011.
Friday, January 25, 2013
Following on from my previous post which was also about Australia Day, 26th January...I figured I'd post another post with an Aussie Day flavour...just a bit of fictional nonsense I composed when I had nothing else better to do! If those of you in the Northern Hemisphere need a translator...let me know!
“G’Day, Sheila! Whaddaya do for a crust?” He slurred; a durry hanging limply from his lascivious lips. Right up I could tell he was as useless as a pickpocket at a nudist camp! Strewth! It only took a brief squizz to see he was a wacka! He was so wet I could’ve shot ducks off him! I felt like telling him to put a cork in it! Dressed like a show pony, he was all froth and bubble. My dander rose straight away. He was as bald as a bandicoot; not that I’ve got anything against baldies, I haven’t; but I must say, I’ve seen a better head on a glass of beer! His was like a Mini with its doors open; and you could’ve hung your washing on his teeth, including the sheets! Mainly, it was his behavior. He carried on like a dingbat from the moment he set foot in the bar. He’d obviously had a skinful elsewhere. His parrot mouth got on my goat immediately. I felt like chucking a wobbly!
I’d been quietly minding my own business enjoying a couple of Aussie Day amber fluids at the pub in Bullamakana when the galah sidled up to me. At first glance I saw that he was all froth and no beer. He was drinking gee and tee with his pinkie cocked! If his brains were dynamite they couldn’t blow his Akubra off – if he wore one! Who drinks gee and tees in an outback pub, I ask? Yep! A dingaling…and that’s putting it politely! I could tell by his red bulbous nose with craters as deep as Etna’s that he’d been hitting the turps pretty hard and long. I didn’t come down in the last shower; and that’s saying something because I was out the back of Bourke in Never-Never country; so the last rain out in the mulga was when cocky was an egg; a long time ago! Deadset…this dropkick was as skinny as a sapling with the bark scraped off, and as thick as a brick. I reckoned he was so slow-witted he wouldn’t have been able to get a job as a speed bump! What was on his mind stood out as clearly as a black crow in a bucket of milk! He was a two pot screamer as well as being a two bob lair with high hopes! What a combination!
The atmosphere grew steadily heavier the longer he hung about, but he didn’t bat an eyelid. He was shickered! The words spewing out of his mouth were all over the place like a mad woman’s breakfast! Randy as a backyard rooster, he tried to put the hard word on, but he lucked out. He was as dead as mutton chops to me! “In ya boot, mate!” I told him. “Skedaddle before I spit the dummy! You’re as useless as fly screens on a submarine!”
By that stage, my stomach thought my throat was cut! Beckoning the bloke behind the bar, I ordered a steak sanga. The yob lit up like a Manly Ferry. He decided to put his two-bob’s worth in: “Great idea! I’ll join ya!”
“You’ve got Buckley’s! You’ve only got one oar in the water!” I tossed at the pest as I moved further down the bar away from him.
“Give it a break, cobber! D’ya think it’s bush week?” The barman growled. “You’ve taken on more than you can poke a stick at with her! You’re smashed. Time to have a break from the snake juice, Stop being a wally!” And with that, “Wally” was off like prawns in the noon day sun!
“Stone the crows! Your blood’s worth bottlin’!” I smiled at the barman as he handed me my steak sanga.
A fair dinkum Happy Australia Day to y’all!
Steak Sanga: Slightly flatten 4 rib fillets; spray with oil; press in cracked pepper; cook 3mins per side; set aside; keep warm. Toast 8 large, thick bread slices. Spread half with mayo; top with cheese slices, steaks, beetroot, sliced avocado, tomato, lettuce, and fried red onions. Spread remaining bread with mayo; place on top.
Spicy Mutton Chops: Melt 1/4c ghee over med-heat; increase heat a little; add 1tbs crushed ginger and garlic; sauté; add 10-12 mutton chops, 1c yoghurt, 1tsp each cumin, allspice, turmeric, garam masala and chilli to taste; season; cover; simmer 15-20mins. Oil grill; grill chops 10-15mins.
Aussie Meat Pie: Sauté 2 sliced onions and 4 crushed garlic cloves, 4-5mins; transfer to plate. Toss 1kg chuck steak, cut into 3cm pieces, in seasoned flour (salt, pepper, dry mustard, dried herbs). Add another 2tbs butter to pan; brown beef in 3 batches, 3-4mins. Return onions to beef; add 200g halved button mushrooms and 100g chopped pancetta; cook 3-5mins; add 2c beef stock, 1-1/2c shiraz, 1/4c oregano and 2-3tbs Worcestershire sauce. Cook 50-60mins. Lightly grease 8x1c pie dishes; press short-crust pastry into each dish, leaving overhang; spoon cooled beef into dishes. Cut rounds from frozen puff pastry; cover filling; press edges together; trim and crimp. Make a small steam vent in tops; brush with beaten egg; cook on baking tray in preheated 190C oven, 25-30mins.
Monday, January 21, 2013
The start to the new year of 1991 was soggy; the status quo remained for the first three weeks of January. There was no let up from the Christmas gift that kept on giving, Cyclone Joy. The cyclone may have dispersed once it crossed the coast, but the drenching continued bringing joy to the island’s dam. I accepted the conditions philosophically. There was nothing I could do to change the weather. It was an opportunity to catch up with some reading, so I just snuggled in with a few good books and my two best mates, Pushkin and Rimsky…not the Russian poet, nor the Russian composer…but my two cats.
Stubbornly, the monsoon trough hung low and heavy over northern Australia. The monsoon had arrived, displaying no urgent desire to depart. Contentedly, the laden clouds dumped their burdens knowing they had a lot more up their bloated sleeves! The ocean, a reflection of the gunmetal sky, although disturbed by the pounding rain, showed great restraint. It just lumbered and groaned under the weight. High tides helped clear the foreshore of the remaining foam whipped up during the frenzy caused by Cyclone Joy. Pumice stone was still scattered over the grassy verges beneath the palms and She-Oaks. One lone little Brazilian Cherry tree planted on the edge of the beach valiantly dug in its roots, refusing to budge for either a cyclone or a deluge. Weeks later the obstinate little shrub bore fruit, large and juicy, and lots of it, as if in defiance against the destructive weather conditions it had been forced to endure; I grew to love and respect that little tree.
The main building housing the bar, dining area, kitchen, laundry and my upstairs’ accommodation looked like a scene out of a movie; one where the occupants depart for an extended stay elsewhere leaving all the furniture shrouded in covers. Every chair, table, shelf and protuberance of any kind, size, shape and form was draped in sheets, pillowcases and towels in my primitive efforts to dry them. I was fighting a losing battle against mould. Mould had the upper hand and it marched forward taking no prisoners along the way!
Upon checking the cabins (something I did daily to ensure no unexpected, unwelcome problems occurred overnight) I was dismayed to see the once cream interior walls in every cabin had turned black! On top of the growth in the cabins, the septic systems had begun backing up. Concern upon concern grew, but, again, like with the weather, there was nothing I could do about anything until the torrential monsoonal rain ceased.
I kept my eye on the calendar because the Australia Day long weekend, 26th January, was approaching rapidly. Every cabin on the island was booked out for the long weekend. An engineering company in Mackay decided rather than to have a Christmas party for its staff, three days on Newry Island, fishing and just generally partying and relaxing was a far better plan! When I took the booking before Christmas I was thrilled to take a booking for 25, but every time I looked out the windows or viewed my mould-covered cabins and the septic problems, I felt chilled rather than thrilled!
No boats were out on the ocean; I’d not seen anyone since after Christmas. The solitude didn’t concern me. I’ve always enjoyed my own company and space. Loneliness is a word that doesn’t exist in my personal vocabulary. I still had sufficient provisions, so starvation wasn’t on my horizon, either. I knew, however, that once the rain ceased, if it ever did; and if it did before the arrival of my expected Australia Day weekend visitors, I would have to do a trip to the mainland, to Mackay for food and bar supplies. However, if the rain continued, my intention was to ring the engineering company to cancel the booking, and perhaps defer it to another more suitable time. My reason for doing so would have been clear to Blind Freddy, so I knew my decision would be accepted and understood.
Some time during Saturday night of the 19th January the rain ceased. Early Sunday morning, six days before my expected onslaught of guests, I awoke to silence other than the lapping of the ocean upon the shore. An unfamiliar sun eager to show its face impatiently shoved the clouds away. A blue clear sky bordered by a few lingering cotton ball cumulus clouds on the horizon replaced weeks enveloped by bulky, cumbersome nimbus masses that had mercilessly off-loaded their baggage upon the earth and sea below.
After carrying out another inspection of the cabins, I decided to unblock of the septic systems first before tackling the foot-deep mould on the walls of the cabins. Neither of the chores caused me excitement, but they had to be done; time was of the essence. My first guests were expected to arrive late Friday afternoon, with the balance arriving Saturday morning. One positive was my expected visitors were arriving under their own power, in boats owned by various members of the staff. It meant, fortunately, I didn’t have to ferry them back and forth.
Not having suitable plumbing tools at my disposal I rigged up a makeshift “unplugger” for the clearing of the septic pipes and individual holding tanks by wiring an empty soup can or similar to an old broomstick. The morning was rife with colourful language. Billy Connolly and a shipload of sailors would have been very proud of me! I could have taught them a lot! As I undertook the unpleasant job, I marveled at the fact that the plumber who laid the groundwork believed water and waste ran uphill! It certainly was a learning experience for me – I never knew that before I started unblocking chore! I certainly would have taught him a thing or two, too, if he’d crossed my path that morning! My mood was as dark as the now departed clouds had been!
Once that nasty job was finished, I showered long and hard with the help of Dettol and much soap.
The phone rang.
“Hello! My name is Kristin. I’m a backpacker from Germany. I’d love to come across to your island to stay for a couple of days…can you perhaps pick me up this afternoon? Well, actually, there are two of us who’d like to come to the island. The people at the hostel told me that you could meet me at a boat ramp in Seaforth…is that correct?”
Una and Bob operated a backpackers’ hostel in Mackay. They loved Newry and they often sent across to the island young backpackers over to me; ones who they felt suited the island’s ambience. In fact, Bob and Una were regular visitors to the island; they had their own small sailing craft. I got on well with both of them, but Una, at times, could become a little over-bearing – more than a little, particularly after she had a few wines under her tail! There were a few times I had to put her in her place. My doing so never caused friction between us. I think she realised she’d met her match and more, and each time she decided the best reaction for her to do was to pull her head in! Either that or she’d forgotten by the next day! Bob was the meeker and milder of the two, which is so often the case!
I explained to the backpacker, Kristin that, unfortunately, it was impossible for me to accept guests; and I gave her valid, truthful reasons why this was so. I had no cabins available after almost a month of heavy rain etc. Not only that, the sun had just come for the first time in ages that morning and I was valiantly trying to get laundry done and dried. I was running uphill; fighting a seemingly unbeatable battle in a race against time; and I definitely couldn’t see any forest or trees, let alone any clearing between, nor could I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn’t even see the tunnel! I was almost breathless at the thought of the hard work facing me in the few days ahead to enable me to have the resort up and running again for the coming weekend. It was a massive job. It wasn’t so much the hard work…it was the amount! There was no way on earth I could have guests before the coming weekend; and I was still unsure if I’d be ready to take on board those guests who had booked for the long weekend. I wasn’t ready; the island wasn’t ready!
Having convinced the caller, I wished her well and hung up the phone.
Later that afternoon, feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything I had to do, I grabbed an ice-cold can of VB - (Victoria Bitter Lager made by Carlton &United Beverages, for those uninitiated into Aussie terminology and beers – the same company who makes Fosters…an Australia lager very popular overseas, but hard to find in this country nowadays) - and I sat at the table on the patio area outside the bar with my feet up on a chair. Enjoying the cold beer as the sun headed towards the western horizon behind me, I mentally put into place my plan of attack for the next few days.
Lost in my reverie, suddenly out of nowhere two people appeared. Walking along the track in front of the main building; the track that ran parallel to the foreshore two people were walking and chatting…two humans! There was not a boat in sight. I’d not heard any boat motor. Where had they come from? My mouth fell open in surprise. I was speechless for a moment. I could not believe my eyes.
“Hello!” I exclaimed, quickly gathering my wits about me. “You must be Kristin! Are you Kristin?”
“Yes! I’m Kristin!” The young lass beamed at me. “And this is Klaus.”
“Boy! You sure were determined to get here! How did you get here?” I replied as I rose out of my comfortable chair. My peace had been shattered.
“Come here and join me…again, how did you get across to here? I didn’t hear a boat, nor did I see one!”
Joining me at the table, Kristin explained how keen she and Klaus were to come to the island. That was an understatement!
They’d hitched a ride from Mackay to Seaforth…and then, fortunately, for them, they met up with a yachtie and his crew. Convincing the yachtie of their desire to get to Newry Island they hitched a ride on the yacht across to Rabbit Island…and island that lies at the rear of Newry. Once they were dropped off at the other end of my island, they trekked their way across to my side! Now that’s what I call determination!
Kristin was from Frankfurt and Klaus, her young travelling companion, was Swiss, from Bern.
I invited them to join me for a drink. I had no idea what I was going to do with them. I then reiterated what I’d explained earlier on the phone, but as they were now there on the island, what else could I do but put them up?
There was a sole cabin, set out separately on the northern point of the main beach. It was fittingly called “The Point Cabin”. It had suffered fewer problems than the cabins along the other end of the beach; those along the south-eastern end past the main building, generator shed and storage shed; the end Kristin and Klaus had to walk along to get to where I sat, once they’d crossed the island. It didn’t have the mould like the other cabins, probably because it was more open to the elements out there on the point.
I asked if Kristin and Klaus if they minded sharing a cabin; there were six beds in the cabin; two doubles and four singles, making the choice fair and equitable. Kristin and Klaus didn’t mind (actually, they had no other choice!) so before the sun descended completely, I settled them in, and then we returned back to the main area. They weren’t a “couple” in the romantic sense of the word, having only met a couple of weeks earlier in the same backpacker hostel they were staying at in Brisbane. They got on well immediately and decided they’d continue their trip up the Queensland coast together, rather than separately. Because I was in no way ready for guests, and that meant the cabin they’d be sharing wasn’t completely fitted out properly for inhabitants, either, something both Kristin and Klaus didn’t mind and understood, I told them they could stay on the island, rent-free. It didn’t feel right, to me, to charge them for accommodation etc. They argued against it, but I stood firm.
Back at our table looking out to the bay, we sat out under the stars sipping on wine and chatting. I prepared a simple pasta meal, which we enjoyed by star, moon and candlelight. Klaus took control of selecting the music; he was our DJ for the evening. Outside above the doorway to the entrance into the building was a large speaker. A wide and varied selection of music played in the background as we conversed and entertained the fish out in the channel with our music. The three of us got on famously.
When I described the occurrences of the past few weeks since Christmas and the cyclone, and the work I had ahead of me cleaning the mould from the cabins along with everything else that needed to be done before my guests descended upon me within the next few days, both of my intrepid young travelers offered their help.
This time I was the one not allowed to put up an argument.
Around 10 pm Kristin said she was tired. She bade us good night and went off to the cabin and to bed. Klaus opted to stay a while longer. He was settled in for the long haul, it seemed, quite content to sit, sip and chat. I didn’t mind. I was enjoying his company and the clear, cool summer’s evening. He didn’t have a good command of English, but somehow we understood each other. About 15 minutes after Kristin had left us, she came running, screaming, along the path back towards us. I was surprised she hadn’t fallen into the empty pool on the way. The island pool had stood empty for years. I was gradually filling it up with palm fronds, etc., as instructed by the owner.
“There’s an animal! An…animal…in the…cabin…something…in the cabin!” Kristin yelled, trying to catch her breath.
Grabbing the flashlight, I headed to the cabin; Kristin and Klaus followed close, but tentatively, behind me. Upon entering the cabin, there was Pushkin, my ginger cat. He thought he’d pop in to see how the new occupants of the cabin were settling in! Once the panic settled down, Kristin rejoined Klaus and me over the remaining wine. About an hour later they decided to call it a night, and we all went our separate ways to bed…Pushkin, included; but this time he came upstairs with me, instead of scaring young backpackers from overseas half to death!
As always, I was up out of bed bright and early the next morning ready for the busy day ahead. A few minutes later, Kristin and Klaus joined me, refreshed from a good night’s sleep with no further visitations. Over breakfast, I laid out the plans for the day.
The previous morning, when full of excitement about finally seeing the sun after such a lengthy period of gloomy skies, I decided to use the site dumper (as pictured below) to remove a very large log that had washed ashore during Cyclone Joy’s visit. Inconveniently it washed right up to the top edge of the foreshore thereby blocking the main access to and from the beach. Its length, width and obvious weight made it impossible for me to move it physically without the help of machinery. Like a comedy of errors, the dumper started without a hitch in the shed, but as soon as I approached the log, it conked out; and refused to restart! That was that! Not only did I have a massive tree trunk obstructing access and egress, but now I had an immovable dumper as well! Frustrated, I left it there. I had no other choice. I didn’t have another dumper to tow the broken down one away!
Upon pointing out my dumper problem, Klaus’ eyes lit up.
“I’ll fix it!” He offered, excitedly.
“Do you know anything about motors, Klaus? Are you a mechanic?” I asked him. He certainly didn’t look like a mechanic; that is, of course, if someone can “look like a mechanic”. My mental image just didn’t match his physical image standing before me. I was a little hesitant about having a stranger fool around with the island equipment…and he really was a stranger. We’d only met for the first time late afternoon the day before. Also, I was still only the caretaker of the island and what was on it; Willi Litz owned all the equipment etc., I didn’t.
“My father is a mechanic,” Klaus replied, not at all offended by my hesitancy. “He taught me lots.”
Tossing my options in the air, I made a decision.
“Okay, Klaus! The dumper problem is now your problem. You will find a lot of tools in the shed out the back there. I have no idea what you need, but I guess you do. All I ask is that you clean them up when you’re finished with them; and put them back where they were. I’ll leave you to it. Kristin and I are going to start scrubbing the walls in the cabins.”
While Kristin and I put together what we needed to rid the cabins of the mould, Klaus raced back up to their cabin. Upon his return, I realised I’d had no need to instruct him about the care and welfare of the tools! He was Swiss, after all!
My mouth fell open as did my eyes when Klaus reappeared. He was neatly dressed from top to toe in a pressed, spotlessly clean pair of overalls! Clasped in his hand was a tool kit! Just what every young backpacker carries with him!
“Do you always travel prepared, Klaus?” I laughingly asked him. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Glancing at Kristin, I could see she felt similarly. Her eyes were as wide as mine!
With a broad grin, Klaus gave a brief answer. “Yes.”
“Okay…I’ll leave you to it, then! You seem to have things under control. If you need me for anything, Kristin and I will be down at the cabins.” There was little else left for me to say.
“Can you believe that?” I asked Kristin as we made our way to the cabins.
She shook her head in wonderment, and laughingly replied. “No!”
We weren’t laughing at Klaus…it was just such an unbelievable surprise that a young lad travelling the world would travel so prepared. Klaus was only about 22 or so years old, but he was very mature for his age, and it was obvious in the short time I’d known him he was well-versed in many things, including the mechanics of motors!
Without further ado, Kristin and I got stuck into the massive job ahead of us. As we scrubbed and washed walls, Kristin and I talked our heads off. She told me about her life back in Germany. She was attending university in Frankfurt. For a while she’d studied Russian language and literature, but she found it very hard going and gave it away after a year before moving onto other subjects. She had dreams of one day, perhaps, finishing her studies in an Australian university. She was a lovely young woman; again, in her early twenties, just like Klaus.
We laughed, talked and sang at the top of our lungs. There was no one around for us to disturb other than the birds and fish out in the bay; not that we cared if we’d disturbed anyone, anyway. We were having fun, amongst the hard work.
Klaus was busy up the other end doing whatever it was he was doing, and as we’d not heard a word from him, we figured he was lost in his own world of tinkering with the dumper.
Time went by; however, we weren’t keeping track. And then, over and beyond the noise of Kristin and my “singing”, I heard the sound of a motor.
“Listen!” I drew Kristin’s attention away from her barely recognizable rendition of an ABBA song. “Listen! I think he’s got the dumper working!”
I ran to the door of the cabin and looked out. In the distance, Klaus was heading our way, on the dumper!
“Quick! Come on, Kristin! Grab a curtain rod…with the curtain still attached! Grab one for me, too! We’ll give him a guard of honour! Come on! Quick! Quick! You go over on the other side of the track and I’ll stay here; we’ll raise the curtains and salute! Let’s pretend they’re flags! This’ll give him a laugh! Can you believe it? He’s fixed the bloody dumper!”
Both of us were in hysterics; laughing our heads off. As Klaus motored down the straight leading past the cabins he spotted Kristin and me up ahead acting like a pair of idiots! We were saluting and waving our giant “flags”!
He joined in with the fun, and fittingly saluted back at us. He stopped the dumper and leapt from it, looking as proud as Punch.
“Boy! Klaus! You fixed it! You’re a wonder! Thank you! Thank you! Wow!” I gushed.
He beamed at me.
“I’ve cleaned up your tools and put them back in the shed.” He said.
How silly of me it was to have instructed him to do so in the first instance. There was hardly a miniscule spot of dirt, sand or grease on him or his overalls; and I knew the tools would be in a similar condition. How do some people achieve that?
Kristin and I were covered in filth…and we were the ones using soap, water and bleach…and lots of it!
We took the opportunity to have a break as well as a light lunch. I’d whipped together some sandwiches earlier on, so we feasted on those and washed them down with fruit juice and then coffee.
“Do you have a chainsaw, Lee?” Klaus asked between mouthfuls. “If you have one, I could start breaking down that tree trunk. I moved it along towards the old pool, away from the main area there where it had been washed up; it’s out of everyone’s way, now, but it will need to be cut up.”
As I described earlier, Klaus spoke with a heavy accent, but I had no problem understanding him.
“Yes. There is one in the shed where the tools are kept, Klaus. I probably don’t need to say this, but I’ll say it anyway - just be careful when using it, please! I don’t want you losing a limb or two! If that happens, I’ll have to feed you to the fish! It’d take me too long to get you to a hospital in Mackay!” I said straight-faced.
Klaus looked at me with a certain amount of alarm in his eyes until I burst out laughing. He then realised I was joking; about feeding him to the fish, that is!
We finished off our lunch, regrouped and returned to our designated chores.
The next few days were carbon copies, except for the fixing of the dumper, of course.
With Kristin and Klaus’ help, the cabins were rid of any signs of mould. I did loads and loads of washing, mostly all by hand because the island’s cumbersome old washing machine was more of a hindrance than a help. With the assistance of clear, blue skies, a hot summer sun and ocean breezes all the washing dried quickly. By the end of each day, we three were exhausted little Vegemites! We ate our evening meal, and then quickly disappeared into our respective beds tired, but satisfied with our day’s work. Refreshed, the next morning we’d be up and at it all again full of vim and vigour.
Time was running out and the weekend was drawing nearer as were the 25 guests it was bringing with it. I still hadn’t been into Mackay for provisions; and I needed provisions, badly. I’d not been into Mackay for a “shop” since before Christmas!
The tide was right on the Thursday for me to make a quick trip to the mainland. My shopping trips were always organised around the attitude of the tides. It was much easier by far to unload a boatful of provisions that also included cartons of beer and other alcoholic beverages when the tide was high than when it was low. The same applied at the other end, at the boat ramp at Victor Creek when loading the boat. The tide went out a long way on the island making it nigh impossible for me to carry supplies across the mud flats; then over the sand and up to the main building. It took many exhausting trips that way. Keeping my eyes and wits on the movements of the tides was imperative for successful easy operations. And I liked easy!
Klaus and Kristin stayed on the island and continued on with their chores while I took my boat and headed off to Victor Creek, and then I drove to Mackay. I wasted no time in Mackay that day, not that I ever did, anyway. My plan had been carefully chartered and I strictly kept to it. Having my helpers really made the off-loading at the island end so much easier, too. Six hands got the job done far more quickly than two!
By the time Friday afternoon rolled around and the first boat full of guests were due to arrive…we were ready! Whooohooo! We were not only ready…we were showered and ready! Whooohooo ditto!
Klaus and Kristin decided to stay on, but I had to move them out of the Point Cabin, because it, too, was included in the Christmas party booking. They moved into a partly-constructed cabin next to Willi, the owner’s cabin. They were happy to doss down there. I gave them a couple of single mattresses each. It was kind of like camping but with besser block walls and a roof! They were happy in their new quarters. It was all a giant adventure for them.
By mid-morning on the Saturday everyone had arrived; and they arrived in a party mood!
Australia Day, 26th January, had begun and with it indications of lots of fun ahead for the Australia Day long weekend!
As always…more will follow!
Sunday, January 13, 2013
The story I relate below is about one of the most happiest, uplifting and inspiring episodes that occurred during my time spent on Hinchinbrook Island.
Air Whitsundays’ Grumman Mallard, (pictured above…except ours was dark red and white) flew guests to (and from) the island. The seaplane departed Townsville airport and landed in the waters off to the left of the resort's jetty; about 500metres or so away, depending on daily wind and sea conditions in Missionary Bay. Island living is largely dependent on the weather conditions and tidal movements and levels.
Almost without fail, wide-eyed guests alighted from the door at the rear of the aircraft while a couple of my staff members and I protected the punt from hitting the Mallard’s fuselage. Depending on the seas on any one day, this could, sometimes, be quite an effort.
The Grumman Mallard was an amphibian aircraft that could land and take off on either land or water. It was a cumbersome old aircraft, but so very beautiful. I loved flying in the old girl. The Grumman Mallard was first produced in 1946. Only 59 were built. It was rumoured this particular aircraft was once owned by the Aga Khan. Upon landing on the ocean, water would leak through the top of the plane into the cabin. This, of course, caused a certain amount of consternation to the passengers; hence a lot of the "wide eyes", I guess. It was a kind of christening in away; of those who’d never flown in a seaplane before!
It was a Thursday; a new group of eager, albeit stressed, guests arrived. Amongst them was a reserved, shy, bearded young man. At the “Greet & Meet” I conducted with all new arrivals to the island, the bearded, reticent young bloke introduced himself to me as “Richard Martin”.
Every evening the resort guests mingled around the bar for pre-dinner drinks and pleasantries. The first night of Richard's arrival he placed himself at the outer rim of the guests circling the bar preferring to watch and listen than to partake in the merriment. And that became his habit when in the presence of his fellow holidaymakers.
Early on the second evening of his stay, before most of the other guests arrived, I joined him at the end of the bar; gently I coaxed Richard into conversing with me. His speech was slightly impaired. Quietly, we spoke at length, discussing general matters. No one else bothered or interrupted us. John, my ever-knowing and alert barman understood and respected the privacy of our conversation. Without fanfare he refilled our empty glasses when needed, never drawing attention to himself or his actions.
After a while, I sensed Richard had begun to relax a little. Hesitantly, he started telling me the story of the past 18 months of his life.
Richard had suffered a stroke the previous year; he was only 36 years old. His black, trimmed, yet still quite bushy beard was grown as a result of the stroke. The beard was grown to disguise the disfigurement caused by the stroke to the left side of his face. The left cheek and corner of his mouth drooped somewhat. Of course, Richard was more conscious of the changes in his appearance than others were. It's only natural.
Richard was a lawyer in a Sydney firm. He told me of the shock he felt by suffering a stroke at such a young age. He told me the hardest part of all after his stroke was looking in the mirror and not recognising the person staring back at him. He explained how having to learn to speak and eat again were frustratingly difficult to achieve. For some time after the stroke he was forced to use a straw because he couldn’t chew his food; he lived on liquid or purees for quite a while.
His holiday to the island was his own personal form of therapy to try to get his life back on track. His reticence in joining the other guests was from his lack of confidence in himself and his appearance.
I wasn’t throwing around insincere platitudes when I assured Richard there was little wrong with his speech; and that he was easily understood. I also assured him what he called his ‘disfigurement’, was barelt discernible; and people could care less, anyway. I pointed out if anyone did react negatively towards him, then they were not worthy of the generosity of his company and time.
That night I was to dine with four of my guests; two couples; I insisted that he join us. (I didn’t always dine with guests; mostly, I didn’t, but if I found the company of some people particularly interesting, fun or inspiring, I did the “captain’s table” thing!). I told Richard I would make it worth his while; I tempted him with a bottle or two of Henschke's “Hill of Grace”; one of the best Shiraz wines this country has produced.
Certain Hill of Grace vintages have beaten Penfolds' Grange Hermitage to proudly and deservedly take first place (and they are not only my words and assessment, but those of wine expert and critic, James Halliday’s, as well). These days the cost of a bottle of Hill of Grace can range from $350.00 a bottle to over $1000.00!
Needless to say, the wine didn't cost those prices back in the mid-Eighties. I should've bought a boat load of it! In the early Seventies, I used to buy Henschke's Hill of Grace for $5.00 a bottle!!! I should've bought four boat loads of it at that price! Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Sorry...I have digressed!
In those days on the island, I always kept a case of “Hill of Grace” in a back room for special guests and moments. I believed this was one of those times, and that Richard was a special guest; he was a special fellow.
As things happened often on the island, unplanned and spontaneous, on the Sunday night of his stay, everyone, my staff and me included, was in a very happy, partying mood. Without notice, a party broke out amongst the guests and the staff. I raced over to my little abode and grabbed some cassettes to add to those in the restaurant's collection. Everyone was laughing, talking and dancing together. Again, Richard, true to nature, hovered around the outer perimeters of the group.
Taking a couple of my staff aside, I asked that they go to the laundry room taking the guests with them to commandeer them into dressing in togas made from some of the older, floral bed sheets we seldom used. The guests needed no encouragement. Without hesitation, full of exuberance they followed the staff. Laughter filled the air. Soon thereafter, in their toga transformations, everyone reappeared.
In no time at all, a boisterous ‘Toga Party’ was under way. I grabbed a spare sheet, and threw it at Richard. He had no other choice than to wrap it around himself over the clothes he was wearing. I didn’t heed his protests as I clutched his arm and dragged him out onto the deck surrounding the pool to join the rest of the dancing party. His protests were quickly drowned out by the singing, dancing, laughing group of people. Before too long, he forgot his reserve, his shyness and any affliction he ‘thought’ he had. The other guests took him under their wings; and he ended up high-kicking higher than all of them!
Someone - I forget who - led the merry group of revellers in a congo line around the pool; and, of course, soon thereafter everyone was in the pool; Richard included.
It was a wonderful, happy, unexpected, innocent, harmless evening; one that re-affirmed how wonderful most people can be; and one that showed their compassion for their fellow being. It was an evening that restored the joy of life to one young man.
The day arrived for Richard’s departure. He'd spent seven days and nights on the island. It was an emotional time for all concerned. My staff, other guests and I were sad to see him leave; but happy in the knowledge we had made a difference. Tears filled my eyes as I bade him farewell at the end of the jetty; I noticed glistening in Richard’s, as well. He asked if he could take a photograph of me.
I said, “Sure...as long as I can take one of you!” We took one of each other, taking one of each other, simultaneously! I still have the photograph amongst my Hinchinbrook Island memorabilia.
About two weeks after Richard’s departure from the island, I received a letter from him.
He wrote that he felt renewed and rejuvenated in a way that no amount of professional therapy could have done. Richard told me he was now ready to face life, and his future, with confidence. He thanked me and my wonderful island staff for helping him. Without us, he said, he would still be battling his demons.
Tears fell as I read his letter, but I felt very proud; not only for what he believed we had done, but for my having the opportunity to meet and get to know him.
Richard, himself, did all the hard work, shaking off his insecurities, frustrations and self-consciousness. We just handed him the keys. He was a fine young man who, for a short while, had lost sight of his true worth.
I've often wondered how his life progressed after his holiday on our magnificent island. I wished him well then; and I still do now, wherever he may be.
Sunday, January 06, 2013
The “new again” excludes me. I’ve not yet tried renewal revival or rejuvenation experimentation; perhaps I should, but I’m still enjoying my first childhood. To date, my second one hasn’t yet come a-knocking. At least, I don’t think it has. I don’t recall it announcing its arrival. Maybe I didn't hear it the day it came knocking on my door; although, as far as I'm aware, my hearing isn't on the wane! Perhaps, I did hear it, but chose to ignore it. I hate unexpected, uninvited visitors, so the latter could very well be what happened.
I suppose I could do with a retread. My exterior is showing some wear and tear, which is an obvious clue, but my mind stubbornly refuses to succumb to the ravages of the rapidly passing years. Rather than go for the "nip and tuck" and a jab of Botox, I just skirt around all mirrors and shop windows without casting a glance their way...simple...and painless! That's no reflection on me!
Be gone, Demon of Aging! You’re not welcome here!
Repetitively we’re told to recycle; reuse; re-adapt; reprocess; recover; salvage; re-utilise; recondition; renew; replenish; regurgitate. Well, maybe not “regurgitate”! I got carried away. So many "re's" - it's hard to keep tab!
Knowing when to stop is, at times, a problem.
George Orwell warned about “Big Brother” in his novel, “1984”, but he failed to mention “Big Father” and “Big Mother”.
The media is replete with reports handing out myriad instructions on how we should conduct our lives. I wish “they” would stop treating me like a child. Repeatedly, we’re told what we should or shouldn’t do. Have the mysterious “they” nothing better to do with their time other than conceive wild and woolly ideas? The rest of us are told to follow, like sheep, the outcome of their researches; and often, those outcomes are disproved within a few years! The results of many researches are pretty feral; some simply hideous! Repeatedly, it’s blatantly obvious some subjects don’t need researching.
I don’t need to be told to recycle; at least not have it shoved down my throat, day in; day out! I agree with recycling. I grew up in an era when little was wasted. We recycled long before recycling became the “in” word. We didn’t need the so-called "experts" constantly nagging at us. I even recycle air here at home! Air comes in; air goes out, then it wafts around outside before re-entering, at which point I inhale it again – often! I exhale regularly, too. So the cycle continues!
Recycling extends beyond decency or understanding in some areas. For instance, our law courts. Our courts are guilty of this extremely disturbing transgression. By handing out their lenient, laughable sentences, the courts appear intent on recycling criminals! It’s a joke, but, like Queen Victoria (not in appearance), I’m not in the least bit amused. Every time I hear of or read about the latest frivolous judicial judgments, I become frustrated and very angry.
It’s beyond my imagination what our hard working police must feel! I bet they’ve little hair left! Reprocessing should be put in place and re-utilised as far as our court system is concerned; a few old-fashioned stiff, unforgiving penalties from the past should be recycled. They wouldn’t go astray if renewed!
I’ll cease beating my drum ..for now! I'll put it and my soap-box away...again, for now!
Let’s dig deep in those storage boxes gathering dust in our sheds. It’s time to regroup; time to re-adapt the recipes of our grandmothers. Let’s cook the recipes as the instructions instruct.
Enough with all the fancy-dancy, Nancy!
Asparagus Roll-Ups: Drain 24 canned asparagus spears; marinate in 1/4c French dressing. Smear 24 slices wholemeal bread with cheese spread; sprinkle over paprika. Trim crusts from bread; put asparagus on top; roll up bread; arrange on pan with last turn of bread on base; place under grill until golden all over.
Baked Drumsticks: Preheat oven, 218C; lightly oil roasting pan. Combine 1/4c mayonnaise, 1/4c Dijon or grain mustard and 2tsp Worcestershire sauce. Combine 3/4c dry bread or cornflake crumbs and 1pkt French onion soup powder; add 2tbs finely-chopped chives. Coat 6 chicken drumsticks in mayo mixture; then dip in crumb mixture; coat well. Chill 1hr. Place drumsticks on roasting pan; bake 20-25mins or until cooked through.
Pot Roast: Brown a large hunk of topside/chuck/round/rump on all sides; remove from pan. In pan, sauté until golden, 3-4 diced parsnips, 3-4 carrots, chopped into chunks, 8 small whole onions, 6-8 tomatoes, quartered, a couple of celery stalks, cut into pieces and 4 potatoes, halved.; remove from pan; add dollop of butter to pan; add 1/4c plain flour; stir until browned; add beef stock to cover beef - quantity depending on beef size; also add some red wine, (optional), toss in a dash of Balsamic vinegar, 3tbls Worcestershire, 2tbls tomato paste, 400g tomato puree, about a tablespoon of sugar and some herbs; season; return to heat; stir until thickened a bit. Put meat in large pot; pour over sauce to cover beef; bring to boil; cover; reduce heat; simmer gently 2hrs; add the vegetables; simmer 30-35mins.
Chocolate Blancmange: Combine 1-1/2tbls cornflour with a little milk. In saucepan over heat, add 2tbls grated dark chocolate and 1tsp sugar to 473ml milk; when almost boiling, stir in blended cornflour; cook 5-6mins or until thickens. Pour into mould that’s been rinsed in cold water; Chill to set; turn out to serve.