Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Lennons George Street, Brisbane 1965

Lennons George Street 1949
Chifley at Lennons circa 2012

When Lennons Hotel opened in 1884 fashionable ladies wearing bustles, trains and “Josephine Curls” brought glamour to the new hotel. Lennons stood proudly in George Street, Brisbane until 1972.  By 1972 fashions had changed. In vogue ladies of various ages wore chignons and mini-skirts. Hemlines had risen; some disapproving eyebrows were raised.  

Brisbane’s Lennons Hotel played host to many dignitaries over the decades. It was home to General Douglas MacArthur and his family during WW11.

On a frenetic Saturday night in October, 1966 we went all the way with LBJ; and Lennons went all out accommodating him and his entourage.  With clarity, I remember being pushed from pillar to post by the hysterical hordes in George Street waiting for the President’s arrival.  The crowd erupted wildly when his cavalcade came into view. LBJ’s massive frame stood tall through the sun roof of his limo.  I cheered loudly along with the best of them. The air was electric with excitement; it was impossible not to get caught up in the moment.

The Beatles had already caused mayhem at Lennons on 29th June, 1964; but I wasn’t present for that life-affirming, earth-moving event. At the time of the mop heads’ visit, I was still living and working in Gympie.  For whatever reason that has now slipped my mind, I was unable to make the trip to the city to join in with the screaming throng of hair-pulling, tearful fans.  I imagine the main reason for my not being a part of the fray was the 29th June, 1964 fell on a Monday.

Lennons closed for business; and moved from its iconic George Street address into its brand new, modern Queen Street building in 1972.  It was a newsworthy, exciting event in capital city of Queensland.  Locals and visitors to the city alike couldn’t wait to taste the delicious, modern fare on offer in Lennons’ “Hibiscus Room” Restaurant; a restaurant the like of which the city had not seen before.

During the 14 years I lived in Brisbane I was employed by The Kolotex Group of Companies, as I’ve mentioned previously.

Kolotex was not only a hosiery manufacturer, with it head office and factory in Leichhardt, Sydney, New South Wales; the company also produced other aspects of women’s fashion - i.e. dresses, hot pants, pant-suits; summer, winter and in between; everything the contemporary stylish ladies wore about town for play and for work.

Glo International, the maker of Glomesh handbags etc., (not dissimilar to the Oroton Group who, in the early Fifties, discovered the fashion potential in interwoven metallic mesh.  In Australia, Oroton was Glo International’s main competitor; and vice versa).

Some menswear items were thrown into the mix; more as an afterthought, or appeasement. Women were our prime targets. The late Sixties fashion scene, worldwide, was evolving; and, in some areas, Australia was a step ahead of the game. We didn’t mimic all overseas trends, many of which evolved in Britain. We beat the UK and the US in the manufacture of pantihose!

To clarify - when I first started working for Kolotex in July, 1965 there was only myself and my boss, the manager in the Queensland office.  Our office, reception area and a small back room that carried some hosiery stocks (at that time we had wholesalers, Gresham, Down and Johnson as our wholesalers who distributed our products throughout Queensland, Northern and some central parts of New South Wales) was situated on the first floor of Heindorf House in Queen Street, Brisbane.  In those first four or so years of my employ Kolotex manufacturered and supplied of hosiery products only; they then ventured further forth into ladies’ and men’s fashions; and in metal mesh handbags, powder compacts, cigarette cases, clutches et al.

By 1969 six James Bond movies held our imagination.

In 1969 we, in the Queensland office hosted a promotional evening at Lennons in George Street to launch Kolotex’s new product, “Top Secret”.  Our new release was vibrantly colourful, befitting the fashion predictions for the winter ahead. "Top Secret" was very "Carnaby Street"....very "Mod"!

Four of Brisbane’s popular, beautiful models of the time were hired to showcase our new line.  Decked out in dark glasses, trench coats and turtle-neck skivvies, they looked mysterious and spy-like. With Fedoras pulled low over their foreheads, and our “Top Secret” covering their shapely long legs, they strutted confidently along the catwalk to the beat of John Barry’s Bond themes. Some themes were belted out by Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones; others were sung more sedately by Matt Munro and Nancy Sinatra. The scene was set for a lively evening.

And then, sometime or other when I wasn't looking; when my attention was elsewhere, Lennons in Queen Street became known as "Chifley at Lennons".  What Chifley was doing there and why I had to know about it, beats me!

Now Lennons and its pseudonym, "Chifley at Lennons" - either or - is not to be any longer. 

What’s next, I ask?   Well, I'll tell you....

What’s next is - 

Lennons is being redeveloped and refurbished -  and…wait for it… renamed…“Next”! 

Lennons closed in June. It’ll re-open mid-next year. 

The sands of time don’t change shape or name, but all else does!  


Swinging Sixties Prawn Cocktail: Place shredded iceberg lettuce in 4 chilled serving glasses. Sauce: Combine1/4c each cream and tomato sauce, 1tbs lemon juice, 1tsp Worcestershire sauce and dash of red Tabasco sauce; season. Top lettuce with peeled prawns; drizzle over sauce. Balance lemon wedge on side of glass.  

Lobster Thermidor: Split 2 lobsters, lengthwise; remove meat from shells and claws. Clean shells and polish shells. Simmer 1/2c each, dry white wine and fish stock, 1c béchamel sauce, 1tbs English mustard, 1 chopped shallot, sprig of tarragon and a small bunch of chervil; strain carefully; gently reheat with the lobster flesh. Pile flesh back into shells; sprinkle with grated Parmesan; brown under grill. 

Veal Cordon Bleu: Flatten 4 large, thin veal fillets well. Grab 4 slices of ham and Gruyère cheese that are half the size of the fillets. Cover each fillet with the ham and cheese; then fold like a sandwich. Coat in beaten egg; and then in breadcrumbs. Chill for an hour. Heat 55g butter and 1tbs oil in pan; carefully cook the fillets; brown fairly quickly; then lower heat. Don’t over cook the veal; garnish with lemon wedges. 

Crêpes Suzette: Batter: Combine 125g plain flour, pinch salt, 2 eggs and scant 1c milk with a dash of water added. Cook pancakes the usual way. Filling: Cream 125g butter and 125g sugar; add grated rind of 2 oranges and dash of orange liqueur. Fold pancakes into 4 over the filling; place into very hot dish. Combine juice of 2 oranges, 2-3tbs orange liqueur and a little sugar; heat; pour over hot pancakes; ignite just before serving.
Brandy Alexander: Shake together 22ml each, cream, brandy, dark crème de cacao; pour into martini glass; sprinkle with grated nutmeg. 

Friday, July 26, 2013


Western view from up here on the mountain...taken just around the corner from where I live
Ad The plateau at the right rear in this photo is the hill upon which I dwell - Tamborine Mountaind caption
Me smiling - or is it Shama?
Remy pondering what to write in his blog...or is it me?

Have you ever noticed that some people suit their names or vice versa...either which way? 

Once upon a time I worked with a guy named Dick. He certainly was name-appropriate; if you know what I mean!  Unfortunately, there are a few too many uncontrollable Dicks running about our world; no matter where we live.  They should all be locked away for their safety…and ours!

There is a rumour going around; it’s been running rampant for years, actually.   The rumour is that after a while we humans begin looking like our pet/s (if we have a pet, of course.  It’d be even more disconcerting if we didn’t have a pet, and we started looking like a dog or cat)!

Now that I’ve had pause to ponder the subject, there have been a few instances where I’ve noticed a resemblance between some pet owners and their respective pets!

If once upon a time you used to have straight hair, and you’ve noticed lately that your once-straight hair is turning curly without the help of your hairdresser or rollers, you’re probably a poodle owner.  If your ears have suddenly had a growth spurt and are flopping around a bit, blame it on the cocker spaniel lying over there on the rug in front of the log fire or heater. 

When the morning paper is thrown over your front fence and you refuse to budge, making no effort whatsoever to go out to collect it, you’re mostly likely morphing into your cat. I have two furry, four-legged rascals, so there is no hope for me!

It’s just as well giraffes aren’t popular household pets.  Our ceilings are not high enough to accommodate the changes ahead.

What started me on this train of thought was an interesting, yet somewhat sad and unsettling documentary I watched about an experiment wherein a woman raised a chimpanzee in human society.  When only days old the chimp had been snatched, screaming, from its mother’s arms.  Of course, the story doesn’t end there, but my point, without becoming long-winded (I think it already has), is I could see a marked resemblance between the chimp and his human “mother”! 

Also, there’s a world-renowned, much-lauded and awarded female primatologist who shall remain unnamed herein who closely resembles my time-wasting, personal observations! Again, this is only my own humble, uninformed, probably over-imaginative opinion with no scientific research or facts to prove it; one, I’m sure, many will dispute. In my eyes, it looks like the primatologist has spent too much time with the chimps, if, once again, you understand my inference. 

I won’t even think about broaching dog shows!  I think I’ve covered it all; and have probably said too much already.

I’ve been wondering if the same phenomenon applies to cars and their owners.  I think it does.  At least, it does in my case.    

My poor little car, Bessie, is almost as old as I am.  Bessie limps along; I hobble along.  She’s showing a lot of wear and tear; so am I.  The rot is setting in for both of us. She won’t go anywhere without me; and vice versa. Bessie, like me, only travels as far as IGA Supermarket and back home again. That’s our limited range of travel; but we're happy with that. We’re not an adventurous, curious pair. We're loners, and we're happy being that way, too!

I have my visa extended every time I need to travel further afield to the Post Office or the Westpac Bank. 

I very rarely go off the mountain.  If I can help it, I never leave the hill. 2006 is the last time Bessie and I, as a duo, descended the mountain together to the nether regions.   

However, I have had my passport stamped before accompanying others in their vehicle a few times; not many, to visit the Gold Coast to see a movie; but only when I desperately wanted to see a particular movie on the big screen; for example – Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”; and “Water for Elephants”. Also, I’ve escaped my mountain greenery for the odd lunch or two.  Not “odd” in a weird way…but in a “rare occurrence” way.

My feet are firmly planted on top of the mountain. I rarely venture further than the invisible elastic rope tied around my waist allows. It rebounds very quickly, taking me with it; and that suits me just fine. 

The Gold Coast has never been enticing to me, even when I was younger.  The Sunshine Coast is my preferred habitat. 

I do love the beach and ocean, but I don’t like concrete jungles; and that is what the Gold Coast has become.  It’s the second largest city in Queensland. I can live quite comfortably and happily without cities playing a role in my life.

These days I have no desire to go to Brisbane, either.

However, that’s just me. That’s how I am. It makes me neither right nor wrong.

It’s no rumour that I’m a bit weird!  I freely admit I'm becoming more eccentric as each day passes.  I'm proud to be an eccentric!

 Even more so nowadays, my old car and I are becoming as one! I’m full of aches, pains and groans. From the sounds that emanate from my little car when I coax her to start, we suffer from similar ailments.  Perhaps I need an oil change!

Getting motivated on rainy days is an ailment we both suffer; but as I refrain from going out on rainy days, preferring to snuggle up indoors, it doesn’t cause despair to me. I love rainy days; and I love staying indoors on rainy days. 

Bessie draws quite a few quizzical, critical looks from passers-by; as do I, no doubt! We both do our best to ignore them.  As long as we can still visit the supermarket, that’s all I ask.  I’ve no desire or need to travel far and wide.  I live a simple life, purposely and with purpose; and enjoy doing so.

What I can’t purchase here on the hill; I do so online without the anxiety caused by wondering whether Bessie and I will make it down the mountain, let alone back up again; or having to deal with the hustle and bustle of large, busy shopping centres, and the mayhem on the roads and motorways where everyone is in a hurry, impatient to arrive at their destinations.  To top it off…I hate large shopping centres.  Allowing my fingers to do the walking and purchasing online in the comfort of my own surroundings suits me down to the ground.

Until I can save enough money to buy a replacement car (which will be sad in a way – as I’m very attached to Bessie; and she to me, I'm sure), my car and I shall remain best mates, We'll continue to ignore the questionable looks tossed our way. We’ve shared much together; we’ve travelled far and wide through the years and through Queensland. We mean no harm to anyone. We hurt no one; nor have we yet lost our dignity!  We get dressed up for every game…and trip!

An elusive worthwhile win in the Lotto would help. One must have his/her pipe dreams and fantasies!

If I’ve started to look like Bessie, too bad; I don’t mind if I now resemble a Ford Festiva!

On the same theme, many couples after cohabitating for numerous years begin to look like each other; or so some do believe!  If this is true, I’ll bet London to a brick Maria Shriver is glad she kicked Arnie out of the nest! Sharon Osborne should take the time to look at her options, as well – just to be on the safe side; perhaps that’s the reason she’s had so much facial adjustment!  It’d be okay if both partners were female with Angelina Jolie as one partner; or the other way around; with one partner, Brad Pitt!  You know what I mean!

Oh! Dear! I’ve detoured from the beaten track!  Such an easy thing for me to do – with or without a vehicle.

Banana-Blueberry Bread: Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. Cream 1/2c butter and 1c sugar; beat in 2 eggs; add 1c mashed ripe bananas. Measure 1-1/2c plain flour; reserve 2tbls; coat 1c frozen or fresh blueberries in reserved flour; set aside. Add 1tsp baking soda and 1/4tsp salt to flour; mix well; stir in 1/2c quick-cook oats; fold into banana mixture; add 1tsp vanilla; fold floured blueberries into batter; add 1/2c chopped nuts; pour into loaf pans; bake about 50mins in 163C oven.  

Savoury Banana Drop Scones: Mix together 250g soft cream cheese, a little milk and 1-2tbls chopped fresh chives; set aside. Combine 2 large, very green bananas, mashed, 25g finely-chopped onion, 1 crushed garlic clove, pinch each oregano, thyme, salt and pepper; add 1 beaten egg; mix into dough. Heat oil in pan; drop spoonfuls of mixture into hot oil; fry until set; serve piping hot with lashing of cream cheese-chive topping.  

Peanut Paste-Banana Sandwich: Use fresh whole wheat slices or toast the bread; whatever you desire; slice ripe bananas; spread honey and peanut paste on bread; add banana slices; cover with other bread/toast slice.
Apple-Banana Sandwich: Mash bananas with lemon juice and lemon zest; add 1c shredded carrot; place lettuce leaves on pumpernickel; smooth banana mixture over lettuce; top with a couple of apple slices. Spread peanut paste on the pumpernickel first, if you like – experiment!

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Rockhampton in Central Queensland is where I was born.

A few months after that momentous. memorable event... between 12 to 18 months later, at a family moved to the Mackay area taking me with them, of course! I can’t confirm the exact dates as I’m the only one left to tell the story.

For those who are unaware and who could be interested in a bit of trivia that isn’t trivial; The Tropic of Capricorn crosses at Rockhampton.

For the ensuring two or so years after leaving Rockhampton I lived beside the ocean at Slade Point, a beachside suburb of Mackay. Mackay sits 330kms (205 miles) north of Rockhampton. In reality, we were on the southern fringe of Slade Point; down along the esplanade; on the southern side of the Point; closer to Lamberts Beach; an area of coastal dunes and paper-bark wetlands.

My brother and I swam in the warm waters of the Coral Sea every day. We learned to swim at an early age; a smart idea because the beach was our playground. The area is protected by the Great Barrier Reef; meaning there is no large, rolling surf pounding the shores. 

Our residence was attached to the local store – “Hill’s Cash Store”. The shop was run by my mother, grandmother and stepfather. I’m not sure if it was named after us, as that was our adopted surname…the Hill part, that is; not the cash or the store; or if it was so named because the buildings were situated at the base of the hill looming at the rear. The name remained for years long after we’d left the scene; and then it became a 7-Eleven Store. I’ve no idea if the store still exists today.

“Hill” wasn’t my birth name. It was the name of my stepfather. When he unfortunately came onto the scene our surname was changed from “Nicholson” (our biological father’s name) to “Hill” after our mother re-married.  

There was a lot going on in our small family unit in those years.

My mother and Joe Nicholson, my biological father, separated when my mother was pregnant with me. My brother, Graham, was older than me by almost three years.

 It matters not who we are - Life presents every one of us with hurdles to conquer; that was just one of many to follow.

I carried the surname “Hill” throughout my childhood until I changed it upon my first marriage. 

As a child I swore to myself I would change my name back to “Nicholson” when I reached 16 years; but I never did. I thought it would cause embarrassment to my mother that she didn’t deserve; and I’d be handing the gossip-mongers a story on a silver platter.

My step-father wasn’t a nice person. In fact, he was an arse-hole of the first degree; and that is putting it very politely. I have many more descriptive adjectives I could, and do use, but I shall spare you those.  I won’t go into further details of his sordid, brutal behaviour at this point in time. Suffice to say, a few years after we moved from Slade Point to Gympie, the police ran him out of town, with strict orders never to return.  The police no longer have the power to do similar; and some in our society, far too many, suffer because the police have been stripped of the capacity to perform their jobs effectively in such cases.

When my brother and I were little kids playing around the area surrounding the shop at Slade Point tidal fish traps were still in operation.  Whether they were originally indigenous fish traps, I don’t know.

Years ago stone wall fish traps constructed by Aboriginals were spread throughout the northern and central coast areas of this state.  The traps were common sights.

I can’t say with any authority the traps I remember at Slade Point/Lamberts Beach were originally built by Aboriginals, but I think, perhaps, they were more likely to have been built by Europeans; or, perhaps, another scenario is Pacific Islanders were their originators.

The Pioneer Valley was, and still is, the biggest sugar-producing area in Australia. From 1863 through to 1904 thousands of Islanders were brought to the area to work on the sugar cane farms. I have no one I can call upon to nudge my recall of those early times in my life spent at Slade Point. I’m able only to work off the memories I retain from so long ago. 

Each day on low tide when the fisherman descended upon the beach to pull in the nets strung between wooden stakes set firmly into the mudflats and sand, filled with excitement, my brother and I watched on from the sidelines; keeping well out of the way of the noisy, busy men. 

I imagine the wooden stakes were later additions to the original stone wall traps that ran out into the sea. 

The tanned, vocal fishermen dragged the nets filled with their lively, glistening bounty onto the beach. Generously, they  never failed to give Graham and me a couple of wriggling fish. We’d thank them before running back home holding on tightly to our slippery, squirming rewards. 

Fresh fish was regularly on our dinner menu.

My introduction to oysters was around that time, as well. I loved them at my first “Hello”; and  I’ve loved them ever since, particularly straight off the rocks; or au natural in half shells on a bed of ice!

When I lived on Newry Island in the early Nineties, the lessee of the little resort on the island and the area surrounding held a license for fish traps. The traps no longer existed. There was no sign of their existence, as far as I could see, anyway, but I dare say remnants remained on the sea bed covered by sand and mud etc. Nevertheless, I was instructed from afar to renew the license when it fell due.  If the license was allowed to lapse, one would never again be issued; and my life wouldn’t have been worth living…not on Newry Island, anyway!

Back to Slade Point…often our Nana would take Graham and me for walks around the cliffs leading to Lamberts Beach. It was a beautiful area.  I remember being terrified as I hung on dearly to the cliff-face fearing I’d fall to my death upon the rocks or onto sand into the raging sea below. However, I always managed to put on a brave face as I did my best to hide my fear from my grandmother and Graham.  Like older brothers have a habit of doing, Graham loved to tease me. He got great pleasure from doing so!  

I point out again, at the time I was not yet four years old.  The image of those rugged cliffs stayed with me and haunted my dreams for years.

During early primary school in Gympie I related tales of those adventurous, heart-stopping climbs to my school mates.  Wide-eyed, they listened in awe.

Years later when I was much older – and much taller (at my best and tallest I was 5 ft 9 inches (175cm) – I revisited those steep, high cliffs at Lamberts Beach. 

To my surprised amusement, those stamina-testing, ruggedly dangerous cliffs that I’d bravely tackled time and time again were barely as high as my knees! In truth, they fell short by an inch or two!

I laughed as I remembered the many instances recounting my brave feats to my young school friends.  At the time of telling, I wasn’t exaggerating.  I wasn’t lying.  I was just a little girl; knee-high to a grasshopper; and those cliffs were very real; and so very dangerously high to me – that little girl!

Grilled Oysters with Brie: Slice 1 whole-grain baguette into 24 rounds; brush lightly with olive oil; place on baking tray. Toast in 180C oven until just crisp. Slice 400g Brie into 24 equal pieces. Top rounds with Brie; return to oven to melt, about 5mins. Heat grill; set rack about 15cm from heat. In oven dish, combine 24 oysters with 65g melted butter, a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper; grill until oysters begin to curl at edges, about 5mins. Place one oyster on top of Brie; top with red capsicum strips; serve warm. 

Steamed Ginger-Shallot Fish: Combine 1tbs dry sherry, 1tsp caster sugar, 1tsp sesame oil and 1/2tbs light soy sauce. Place 2 firm white fish fillets into a bowl that fits a steamer; top with 2cm piece of peeled ginger, cut into matchsticks; pour over above mixture. Place bowl in steamer over simmering water; cook, 5mins, or so. Divide steamed Asian greens onto plates; top with fish; drizzle with soy sauce and juices. Top with julienned shallots and mild chilli.  

Fish with Pine Nut Vinaigrette: Grab some white fish fillets; dry and salt; coat in flour. Heat a few tablespoons of olive in pan over mod-heat; fry fish until browned on both sides; remove. With pan on low, add minced garlic, chopped parsley and pine nuts. When nuts are toasted, add a splash of white wine vinegar, enough to coat bottom of pan; pour over fish. Serve immediately. 

Crumbed Fish: Combine 3/4tsp salt, ½tsp each paprika, onion powder and dry mustard, 1/4tsp each garlic powder, pepper, cumin, basil and Italian seasoning.  Rub some of this mix onto fish fillets; add rest to breadcrumbs; add 1tbs olive oil to breadcrumbs; blend with hands; dredge fish into crumbs. Bake on oiled pan, 6 mins; turn bake further 4mins

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Each man rides the elements
or pauses in reviewing stands
           as they pass by

To know the sea
you must plunge into it
not once but often
till the ocean, foe or friend
            becomes a habit

The quickest way
to learn the earth
is sifting gound
through ungloved hands

Touching the sky
              is easy,
once you've found
               the ladder 

With thanks to Rod McKuen...."We Touch the Sky"

Sunday, July 14, 2013


My head I’ve lost many times, along with my heart; not always concurrently. I’ll lose my head again - as for my heart, I doubt I’ll lose it again any time soon…or later.  The last time I misplaced my heart, it took too long to find! I did manage to locate it again, however; I've had a far bit of practice is the misplacing of it and in the finding!

For the uninformed or uninitiated, a “Parrothead” is the nickname for Jimmy Buffett fans; kids of said fans are called “Parakeets” or “Keets”.  “Parrothead” eggs were laid and hatched at one of Jimmy’s 1989 concerts. Like sprouting bird seed, the term rapidly grew from those insignificant small pips into a humanitarian group raising millions (money, not parrots) for charities, education, cancer research and general welfare of the community. 

I must go in search of a parrot.  I’ve not visited Margaritaville in such a long time. I miss Margarita!

As an aside; this mountain greenery where I dwell has an abundance of parrots of various kinds; this is also true throughout other areas of Australia.  The colourful plumage and behaviour of the parrot species intrigue us humans.  They are a cheeky, fun-loving group. Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets, Rosellas, Parakeets, Corellas are all part of the parrot clan.  The giant Macaws of Central and South America are relatives of this fascinating, intelligent group of birds, too.

Back to Margaritaville and Parrotheads –

In the past, I’ve enjoyed many good times in Margarita’s company; and unbelievable as it may seem, I remember them all! 

Nothing describes freedom and harmonious happiness quite like sipping on Margaritas with the ocean view as a backdrop. Margaritas must be of the true blue lime kind, of course; none of those evil pre-made mix frauds. 

Pure heaven is - being caressed by a gentle afternoon sea breeze as it affectionately strokes stress away. Relaxing with a Margarita to one side and a good friend or two to the other while relishing not only the drink and the company, but the final rays of the once-vibrant sun as it wearily strolls nearer the horizon at day’s end.
Naturally, the music of Jimmy Buffett has to be playing in the background!  That's a given!

What is a Margarita without “Margaritaville”?  One that’s not yet been mixed is the answer!

A few “Changes in Latitude” “Come Monday” would be required if that was the case! Until then, there’d be no “Cheeseburger in Paradise” for you over there with the “Pencil-Thin Moustache”!

Oh! Dear!  Sorry! I became waylaid meandering through my ethereal memories of late afternoons spent at the then Cairns’ Tradewinds-Outrigger with its salmon-pink walls, white plantation shutters and tropical palms. It’s now called “Country Comfort Outrigger; an unsuitable title for a resort hotel in a tropical city... in my opinion.

I became lost in recollections of sitting in the shade of coconut palms and she-oaks on the foreshore at Newry Island watching a tuxedo-clad, red-billed, red-legged Oystercatcher fluff his feathers as he bathes in a tidal pool. Joyously, he beckons his mate to join him.

Rapt, I sit recalling special moments when guests were few on Hinchinbrook Island. Late afternoon, pre-dinner Margaritas shared with guests at the resort’s bar on Hinchinbrook Island; or while leisurely lounging on the deck surrounding the pool with the ocean’s symphony accompanying those lazy, late afternoons.

With only one subtle nod to Johnno, my bar man, or a slight raising of an eyebrow, he knew that was the sign to put Jimmy Buffett on the restaurant’s stereo; and/or refills were needed!

I think it’s time I lost my head again (but not my heart – well….maybe)!

Donning my sarong; placing a hibiscus behind my ear, I’m off in search of a parrot and a Margarita. 

Dammit! I can never find a lei when I want one!

Grilled Fish with Lime-Coconut-Avocado Relish:  Relish: segment 1 lime. Cut off the skin and pith; hold fruit in your hand over bowl, cut each segment from the membrane. Roughly chop flesh; add to bowl with 80g grated fresh coconut, 1 small chilli, finely-chopped, 1 avocado, chopped, 5cm piece fresh ginger, cut into  matchsticks, 1c chopped coriander leaves, 1tbs fish sauce and 1tsp sugar; season. Heat olive oil in large non-stick pan over high heat. Slash skin of white fish fillets a few times; season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper; add fillets to hot pan, skin-side down; cook, 2-3mins or until the skin is crisp and golden. Turn; cook 1-2mins or until just cooked through. Serve on rice; top with relish; serve with lime wedges. 

Coconut-Lime Prawns: Cut long strips off 1 lime with peeler. Combine 1/3c coconut milk, 1/3c finely-chopped coriander stems, 3 garlic cloves, crushed, 1 long red chilli, finely-chopped, 1tbs fish sauce, 1tbs soy sauce and lime rind; reserve 2tbs mixture. Add 750g green king prawns, peeled, tails intact; toss to coat; chill 3-4hrs. Heat barbecue grill/plate to med-high. Add lime juice to prawn mix; toss to coat. Remove prawns; discard rind. Thread prawns onto skewers; cook, brushing with reserved coconut mix, 2-4mins each side; serve with rice. 

Avocado-Lime-Coconut Ice Cream: Place 2c sliced Hass avocados, 1c coconut cream, 1/2c lime juice, zest of 3 limes and sugar to taste in blender. Blend until creamy; adjust taste to suit; pour into glass dish; freeze; stir a few times per hour; takes 4-5hrs to really set. 

Margaritas: Put 3 parts of top quality Tequila, 2 parts Cointreau and 1 part freshly-squeezed lime juice into shaker filled with ice; shake well to count of 10. Strain into glass of choice. If salting glass rim, don’t use iodised salt, and just salt half of glass rim

Monday, July 08, 2013


Randall & Me...Our Wedding Day.
Mervyn & My Wedding Day

Noosa River, further along past Tewantin
Upper Reaches of Noosa River towards The Everglades

Randall and Me as Teenagers

Pirate Night on Laguna Belle - Me greeting guests. Jill, our kitchen hand sipping water *cough*

Pirate Lee with Guest

In March 1979, my ex-husband and I decided to leave city life behind; so we moved from Brisbane up to the Sunshine Coast.

To fill you in the on a little of the background story leading up to the tale I’m about to relate….

Randall, my ex, had arrived back in Australia late 1974 after spending nigh on a decade in New York City…on the Upper East Side. While based in New York, he also travelled extensively through other areas in the States and up into Canada, as well as to parts of Mexico and other Central America destinations, along with a few trips back and forth to London. Europe played a small part in his travels.  In particular, a fun sojourn in Verbier, Switzerland, and a detour off the beaten tracks to Morocco.

While in New York he worked for the New Zealand Mission to the United Nations, for the then New Zealand Ambassador, Frank Corner. Randall for short time also worked for the British Consulate. Following on from those roles he went on to manage a bar and restaurant in New York’s Upper East Side, “O’Brien’s”. During the summer months he spent time out on Long Island where “O’Brien’s” operated during the summer.

Randall and I first met when he was 19 years old and me, at the tender age of 18 years. He arrived in Gympie to take up a position with the local radio station, 4GY as a radio announcer. His voice was, and still is one of the best I’ve ever heard. I’m not and wasn’t biased. I’m not alone in saying this. His fellow workers had admiration for his rich, dulcet tones; and some still do to this day. His voice is memorable; once heard, difficult to forget.

We became engaged on his 21st birthday. Our intentions were to have a lengthy engagement. We weren’t in a hurry to marry. Randall's feet got itchy. He was bitten badly by the travel bug.

Randall’s desire to “see the world” was strong. I was fully aware of his dreams from when we first met. I believed, and I still do, that it wasn’t my place, nor was it anyone else’s to hinder his or, for that matter, any individual’s personal wishes. I understood his need to fulfill his lifelong dream; I wasn’t going to be the one to stand in his way. To travel; to see the world was Randall’s dream; not mine.

I bade Randall farewell as he set off on his odyssey. Of course, I was sad, very sad to see him go. Many tears were shed; not only mine; but we were both young and we had our lives ahead of us.

A few months after Randall left our shores, I bumped into a friend from my past one evening at a Brisbane nightspot; a fellow who originally was from Gympie, but who had worked in Brisbane since he left high school. He’d return to Gympie on winter weekends to partner me to the Gympie balls. That he partnered me to the balls was just a habit we’d become accustomed to; we were good mates only. Mervyn was a lifesaver with the Noosa Surf Life Saving Club, as was my older brother. We’d never been romantically connected as such, although I knew that he had a bit of a crush on me during those years; and, I liked him, too. He was five years older than me. He was a nice fellow.

Caught up in the whirl of our rapid reconnection, Mervyn declared his feelings and intentions. I accepted Mervyn’s marriage proposal, knowing I was on the rebound, but all the while trying to deny it as best I could. I was aware of my true inner feelings; but at 21 years of age…I knew everything!

Mervyn and I married and remained so for two and a half years; and then we separated…amicably, as well. There has never been any bad blood between us. He married again about five years after our divorce. He and his wife raised a family of a daughter and twin sons. We keep in touch a couple of times a year, and always have done so.

On Randall’s arrival back to Australia he and I picked up from where we had left off, barely missing a beat. By that time, I’d been happily single for six years.

Randall and I decided, finally, to “tie the knot” in March, 1976.

After 12 years together from his return home (married 10 years almost to the day we parted) we separated; and then, we divorced two years later. However, we remain friends to this day. He is still a very important person in my life. We’re in regular communication either by telephone, Skype or email; and some times we catch up face to face. Actually, we live only about 30kms apart these days. We will always be good friends, no matter what; and I’m glad it is this way. The respect I feel for him is reciprocated. We parted amicably; no spite; no recriminations; no nastiness. We acted as adults. We were adults. I know that he will always have my back; and vice versa.

Life is what it is. Sometimes our lives don’t follow the dreams we’ve dreamed; or fulfilled the hopes we’ve hoped. All is not bad; all is not lost. This may sound odd to those not “walking in my shoes”; but they are my shoes that I have to walk in (and similar applies to Randall) and my choices are mine. It is better this way; it is for the best.

I was never one, even when I was a little girl, who wanted a big, fancy wedding with all the flowing white dresses and bridesmaids etc. Both times my weddings were relaxed low-key, laid-back fun affairs. Randall and I got married in the middle of a Sunday afternoon party at his folks' home in Brisbane.

Most of the above I have written about previously in my blog in chapters titled “Reaching Out to the City Lights”; but for those who’ve not read my earlier posts this is a synopsis to help fill in the blanks.

In 1983 Randall and I were living at Sunshine Beach; a beach close to the nearby Noosa Heads.

Friends of ours, a solicitor and a chartered accountant came to dinner at our home one evening.
Amongst our dinner conversation matters of business were also on the agenda. Both of our dinner guests were acting on behalf of the owners of a restaurant.

During dinner they approached us with an manage the restaurant in discussion. The owner was running it into the ground (or a sand bank). The business owed money left, right and centre. The owner was more interested in leaning on the bar at the local Bowls’ Club; and his daughter whom he’d left in charge was more interested in drugs of the illicit kind and the hangers-on her lifestyle encouraged. Drastic measures had to be taken or the business would go under making it necessary for the business to close down.

As a last resort, aware of Randall's and my history, we were asked if we were willing to give it a go; to give it our best shot to bring it back from the red, into the black; and attempt to restore its once good reputation.

After due consideration over a few scotches, we leapt at the challenge!

The restaurant, “The Laguna Belle” was a cruising restaurant.

“The Laguna Belle” was modelled on the Mississippi paddle-wheelers. Builder, Fred Cooper, (the original owner and not the one we were replacing), and his son, Peter, with the assistance of a Buderim boat-builder went to work in building the double-decker powered craft. “The Belle” was towed to Noosaville where it was moored at a jetty in the Noosa River. She had a shallow draft and a faux paddle wheel at her stern. Sadly, the old girl no longer exists. She was scuttled a number of years ago. "The Belle" stored many fun stories within her hull; and many occurred during our management!

The bar and an open lounge area were on the top level; the lower level consisted of the dining area and the kitchen/galley.

Tuesday through to Thursday evenings “The Laguna Belle” was tied up to the jetty. We catered for diners dockside. Friday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday lunches we cruised the Noose River to its upper reaches. Our staff consisted of a chef; a kitchen-hand; a waitress and bearded Charles, who skippered the craft when cruising. Appropriately, dear Charles was a pretty “cruisey” guy! Randall ran the bar; and I acted as hostess. I also waited on tables. During the day when all the preparation in readiness for the evening service was done, I assisted our chef in certain areas of food preparation; and I prepared all the desserts.

Sunday lunches, in particular, were the best times. They were fun. To cruise the river during daylight hours was a treat to behold; and one of which we never tired. The restaurant was closed Sunday nights; and Monday was our day off.
The mood of our Sunday lunch diners was always light, bright and happy. What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon! Dining and sipping on a cold beer or enjoying a wine or three while on a leisurely, fun-filled riverboat cruise along the mirror-like surface of the slow-moving waters of the Noosa River became a popular pastime for locals and tourists alike. An abundance of tea-trees fringed the banks of the upper reaches of river; they played host to myriad bird life. The trees are still there as are the birds!

It was a clear, sunny, spring Sunday afternoon in September; a blissful, perfect day to cruise the river. A multitude of happy, expectant diners, some with children, skipped merrily down the jetty to board “The Belle”. The air was filled with their cheerful chatter. Departure time on Sundays was 12 noon. The cruise lasted three and half hour; and we were always back, dockside at 3.30 pm. The guests were quickly seated; the signal was given to Charles. Randall unhitched the ropes; and we were off on our way!

Well, that was the plan!

“The Laguna Belle” had only travelled about one kilometer before she became stuck fast on a sand bank! She wasn’t moving. She wasn’t going anywhere! There we were, filled to capacity with diners, stuck in the middle of the river opposite the Tewantin Council Chambers.

There were quite a few boats out on the river that bright sunny day; mainly small dinghies holding a couple of forever-hopeful fishermen. There were a couple of permanent houseboats moored closer to the north shore banks of the river with their inhabitants kicking back over a cold beer. They watched on with amused interest. A few powered vessels cockily motored by, their skippers waved at us; broad smiles across their faces. Although Charles’ face was covered in ginger hair his blushing was clear to see. Frantically, he revved the motor in many futile attempts to dislodge “The Belle”.

Finally, a couple of Good Samaritans pulled in alongside us. Up for a Sunday adventure the boaties offered us their assistance. They had a wild plan in mind. We were in no position to decline their kind offer, no matter how wild it was. We were stuck in the middle of the river on a normally cruising restaurant full of people – with no where to go! On closer reflection, I think the wild plan, in actual fact, was Randall's.

Like a couple of cowboys rounding up the herd our rambunctious saviours cranked up their boat's motor and began to speed around and around our boat in an effort to create waves with the purpose of creating enough water to wash over the sand bank in the hope that the added water flow would release us from our embarrassing predicament.

The wild plan worked!

Finally, “The Belle” floated off the sand bank. Much hooting and hollering was heard, not only from the helpful boaties, but from our captive diners and our staff as well.

Jill, our kitchen-hand and I had been in hysterics throughout, while conducting a running commentary on the side like well-rehearsed tour guides. “Hysterics” as in laughter, not panic. We’d kept our guests highly amused as they watched the events unfolding around them on the river.

The diners thought it was part of our regular lunch-time entertainment, I think!

One little boy said to his father and mother that it was much more fun than Dreamworld, Gold Coast’s large theme park that offers a host of thrill rides and exciting attractions! The family had holidayed at the Gold Coast before they headed north to the Sunshine Coast. They’d only arrived at Noosaville the previous day to experience the adventure we’d given them.

We created quite a spectacular spectacle for the many spectators who gathered on the banks of the river, and for those in passing boats who paused a while to watch the fun unfold that Sunday afternoon.

Our delighted audience clapped and cheered once the mission of our rescuers was accomplished.

We were on our way again…we believed! But it was not to be!

Charles, while doing his utmost to dislodge our vessel, had used up a massive amount of diesel. Sheepishly, he emerged from the engine room. He whispered to Randall that not only were we now very low on fuel, but there was a blockage in the fuel lines, no diesel, the minute quantity that was left, was getting through. Sand had been sucked up into the lines during Charles’ efforts to get the boat moving and had blocked the lines!

To keep the latest dilemma we had on our hands from the diners whose attention, by that stage, had reverted to their dinner plates, I kept smiling as if all was well in the world. Meanwhile Randall and Charles descended to the engine room to start syphoning at least enough fuel to get us back to the jetty. Cruising further up the river was no longer on the cards.

We slowly returned to the jetty with the diners blissfully unaware of our problem. They were enjoying the ride!

The events had made the afternoon seem very lengthy to Randall; to me, and to our staff; but obviously not to our diners. After all of the fuss, bother, ado and rollicking high jinks, we made it back to the jetty at 3.35 pm…five minutes later than usual designated time of arrival!

Every guest, as they disembarked “The Laguna Belle”, gushed, thanking us sincerely for their very enjoyable, memorable afternoon. Their broad smiles and their sparkling eyes said it all.

They’d had a ball!