Sunday, March 30, 2014


My goat has a backbone made of steel with Herculean shoulders as broad as a barn door. My goat has to be very strong because I kid you not - a lot gets on my goat. My poor goat has to bear a burdensome load; a load that increases daily, unfortunately.

Ironically, it’s because there appears to be more of its relatives lurking about these days than ever before - and this really gets on my goat!  Many of these goats should be penned up forever, whether they’re wethered or not; some should be wethered! 

Enough said about that – I won’t air my strong opinions - not at this time, anyway!

I’m not a speed hog, nor am I a speed hound. I’m more a greyhound than a grey fox. It’s more likely I’m a silly old goat! 

In case you’re unaware - the grey fox travels faster than the greyhound (by about 4kms an hour; but 4kms make a big difference if a speed gun is pointed at you).

If I had a choice of what speedy animal I’d prefer to be – I’d like to be a black panther. However, a grey panther is more applicable to me these days. The black (or grey) panther’s top speed is 56 kms; I’d never get a ticket.  With practice I could increase my pace a little.  I wouldn’t mind being known as a grey panther. I’d accept that description - it wouldn’t get on my goat.  It sounds more glamorous than a greyhound; or an old grey mare. 

What does get on my goat, however, is being forced to travel behind those folk who crawl along at 30 to 40kms in a 60km zone.  They amble along; their heads turning left to right and back again; usually with their mouths open; not dissimilar to those open-mouthed, head-turning clowns in a sideshow alley stall!

Another thing on my lengthy “what-gets-on-my-goat” list is people who immediately start complaining about rain when we’ve received about three drops of the precious commodity. Their washing won’t get dry is their woeful cry!

If we get no rain they’ll have no water in which to do their washing. D’oh! They’d then really have something to whinge about! 

Up here on the hill where many households depend solely on rainwater to fill their tanks why on earth would anyone want to complain about a measly few drops of moisture?

Why complain about rain when, in fact, we should be grateful hearing it land on our roof? It’s a comforting sound. We never know when we’ll hear it again. In the meanwhile, the precipitation fills or tops up our tanks. It waters our trees and gardens.  I kid you not – grumbling about rain really gets on my goat.

Forget the washing; an extra rinse or two won’t hurt it – it will dry eventually.  I’d rather have wet washing than a dry throat - that would get on my goat!  I hear dehydration isn’t much fun!

However, I must retract what I wrote above where I stated there seemed to be more goats around nowadays. I’ll never call those who get on my goat “goats” again. I shouldn’t insult goats this way.

I sincerely apologise to all you goats out there, hairy, old or otherwise!

My reasons are - goats are highly intelligent animals. Also, they are curious, coordinated and well-balanced animals.

We mountaineers up here on the range should proudly call ourselves “mountain goats”.  I won’t ram this down your throats, though. 

 I’m a slow old goat!  At a measly 19kms to 25kms top speed goats run faster than I can.

 A mountain goat can climb a mountain at 10kms per hour; downhill they speed it up to 30kms. I’m a ninny; not a nanny!  I can’t achieve either!  I doubt I could run that fast when I was younger! I hated running, uphill or down; unless I was being chased by a billy goat, of course!

Potato-Pumpkin-Goat Cheese Gratin: Preheat oven 200C. Lightly oil casserole dish. Use mandoline or very sharp knife; slice 500g Jap or butternut pumpkin and 500g 4 potatoes or kumara into very thin slices; toss slices with 3tbs olive oil. Spread 1/3rd slices in bottom of dish; season; top with 55g goat cheese, scattered evenly in large chunks. Repeat with another 1/3rd of vegetables; season; top with 55g broken-up goat cheese; finish layering with final 1/3rd of slices; season. Pour 1/4c whole milk over slices and cheese; top with freshly-grated parmesan. Bake, covered 30mins; then bake 15mins, uncovered.

Figs, Goat Cheese Pecans & Bacon: Preheat griller. Halve 6 figs; stuff with goat cheese. Press some halved, toasted pecans into the cheese. Wrap each stuff fig half with a bacon slice; secure with toothpicks. Arrange on baking try; grill 5mins or until bacon is evenly brown and crisp and goat cheese bubbly, slightly browned.

Green Beans with Goat Cheese & Pine Nuts: Heat heavy pan over med-low heat; pour in some olive oil; add trimmed green beans; cook covered; stir every couple of minutes until almost tender and lightly-browned. Add chopped garlic to taste; cook 2mins. Season; add goat cheese and pine nuts (55g pine nuts per 450g beans); stir gently to distribute; cook a couple of minutes to lightly toast the nuts.

Rolled Goat Cheese Omelette: Chop 6 mint springs. Mash 6 small goat cheeses coarsely with fork; add mint, 2tbs olive oil, salt and pepper. Beat 10 eggs; season. Heat 2tbs peanut oil in pan; pour in beaten eggs; cook until set; turn omelette halfway through cooking. Slide onto a plate; garnish with the goat cheese. Tightly roll; cut into thick slices; serve immediately with rocket salad.

PS: I've begun writing my tale about Klaus, the German backpacker I mentioned in my previous post.  Once completed, I shall post my story about Klaus. He was another special young person I've had the good fortune to have met.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Mackay Harbour

Rimsky Lording It Over the Bar; and Me and Klaus, German backpacker sitting at table outside of bar/dining area

Time and light were running out.  Nightfall was nigh.  It was the enemy. Not a single moment could be wasted. 

After assuring Glen’s mate I’d do my utmost, while simultaneously trying to appease his concerns, I cut short our phone conversation so I could call the Air Sea Rescue, Mackay Squadron.   

Upon reaching them I explained in minute, precise detail what had happened from the moment Glen had left the safety of Newry Island; from my last sighting of him when he rounded the point. I told them about the scud that had gone through shortly after his departure; explaining it had been the final scud of the day; of the afternoon. After it had passed, that was it - there were no more. The weather had cleared.

The service informed me there was little they could do at that point in time because of the failing light; the lateness of the day, but they would send up a plane to do a quick scan of the area between Newry, Rabbit Island and St. Helens on the mainland before darkness took hold completely.

By the time all of this mayhem was occurring I was alone again on the island, of course, because Ivan and Doris had left for their mainland home around 2 pm, under their own steam in their boat. The wind had dropped, and the seas had becalmed to a gentle, inoffensive ripple early afternoon as the forecasts had correctly predicted. At that time the three of us were unaware of the turmoil going on in Glen's life.  He was completely on his own.

Ivan, Doris and I were in total ignorance when I bade them farewell.

I didn't want to appear to be a know-it-all because I wasn’t; but I felt I had to express my thoughts of where Glen most likely, in my humble opinion, could be found to the Air Sea Rescue people.

The waters behind my island and the waters north-west or further north of Newry Island were unfamiliar to me.  I’d never once travelled that part of the ocean.  My coverage, personal, hands-on knowledge of the sea surrounding Newry was between my island and Victor Creek on the mainland, four kilometres north of the small coastal village of Seaforth. 

I knew my route to and from the island like the back of my hand. It was imperative I had that knowledge down pat.  I had no reasons to venture further afield. I knew nothing beyond my own sphere. 

However, I’ve always considered myself to have a worthy amount of commonsense – the majority of times, at least!

I could sense I was being humoured by the person on the other end of the phone when I shared my opinion of where I thought Glen might be located; of how the winds could have picked him up and forced him northwards, where he’d then be carried further by the currents.

You know that feeling when you sense you’ve lost the attention of the person you’re talking with - they drift off as if in a vacuum of their own. Suddenly you become invisible; a lonely voice in the wilderness.

I didn’t allow the attitude at the other end of the phone faze me, however.  The matter at hand was far too important – and urgent. I made my position clear, confessing my lack of knowledge of the areas beyond my little world, but I also gave my reasons for thinking the way I did before I completed my phone alert.

Dusk was descending rapidly.  There was no time to lose.  I ran to where my dinghy was hitched; unhitched it and rowed as fast as I possibly could out to my boat at its mooring.  I knew I’d get little or no sleep that night; and I knew if I didn’t make an attempt, at least, of trying to find Glen it would haunt me through the night.

Unfortunately, I had been having trouble with my boat’s motor…a Johnson outboard, 175 horsepower.  I’d just gotten to the northern point of Newry; at the end of the main beach…hoping to spot the colourful sail of Glen’s craft up on the beach at Rabbit Island, when the motor on my boat started coughing and spluttering. 

“Great!” I thought. “That’s all I need!  Me - stranded out in the ocean as well! Not a clever, comforting scenario!”   I uttered a few expletives that I won't repeat here; I'll leave those to your imagination. Suffice to say they were worthy of a pirate!

What help would I be, floundering about at sea in the middle of the night?  Just another problem added to the already existing one.

Good sense prevailed. I limped back to my mooring; and then rowed ashore in my little tender. 

It was better that I stayed close by to the phone and to my two-way radio.

Communication and the availability of same with the outside world were vital.  I would be of no use if I, too, was stuck out in the ocean overnight.  By the time I reached the safety of my sandy surrounds the curtain of darkness had been drawn.  Night had descended.

Not long after my own minor misadventure I received a call from the Air-Sea Rescuers informing me they’d ceased the search operation because of the failing light, but they would be out again at the crack of dawn to pick up where they’d left off.   

There was nothing else to be done, but worry.

All through the sleepless night I kept hoping I’d hear Glen’s voice echoing up from the beach; calling out to me, telling me he’d made it back to the safety of Newry Island 

It was a vain hope, I knew; but I had to hold onto something in an attempt to retain my sanity!

At first light I was informed by Air-Sea Rescue they’d resumed their search.

Again, I expressed my feelings about where I thought Glen most likely would be. My feelings had strengthened overnight.  That corridor; that avenue had to be pursued, I believed; but, clearly, I was alone in my belief.

It didn’t make sense to me that Glen would’ve ended up over towards St. Helens Beach where Air-Sea Rescue were directing the search.  They had set their minds upon that area and wouldn't be swayed. No matter how much I insisted I believed the wind would have picked Glen up and pushed his tiny craft directly north; and then the currents would have carried him towards Midge Point; that I believed they were looking in the wrong area, my pleas were ignored. 

My thoughts about where Glen could be made sense to me, even though I didn’t know the currents etc; in that area, but it seemed logical to me. 

He had just rounded the northern point of Newry when the scud hit.  In my mind’s eye, I imagined him being picked up by the strong wind and forced in a northerly direction towards Midge Point.  It just didn’t sit right with me that the scud would have pushed him between Newry and Rabbit Island.  It didn’t make sense to me.  If Glen was at the northern point on Newry - in my reckoning the wind would’ve driven him northwards, not around a corner!

Anyway, no amount of talking convinced the searchers to consider my thoughts on the matter. I was beating my head against a brick wall. I felt like pounding, not only a brick wall, but the Air-Sea Rescue men, as well.  By the second I was becoming more frustrated; and very angry.  They’d put me in a hopeless, helpless situation; and wanted to keep me there!  

And what really annoyed me - I believed I wasn’t being listened to because I was a woman!

Hell!  If I was capable of living alone on an island; if I was capable of running the whole show single-handedly from driving the boat; operating the generators; handling the gardening; cooking; cleaning; running the bar - everything - surely I deserved a hearing!

As it was, I could’ve talked until I was purple in the face, if not black in the face, and my words would have kept going over their heads; in one ear and out the other.  They were probably laughing at me.  But I wasn’t going to give up!  I wasn’t going to give up on Glen.  They could keep searching the waters between Rabbit Island and St. Helens on the mainland until the fish came home; but they could be WRONG!  It was a strong possibility they were wrong!

I intended to keep harping on the matter until I grew hoarse. I had all the time in the world; but Glen didn't! I intended to keep being as annoying as I possibly could be until someone was prepared to listen to me!  I’m a true Scorpio!  I’m unyielding!

Between 11 am and 11.30 am that Monday I saw a trawler arrive in the channel between my island and Outer Newry.  It set anchor a little north of my mooring…a few metres away from my boat.  The skipper, “Rolly” Rollinson never came ashore whenever he anchored up in the channel before heading out to sea or on his return trip to Mackay Harbour. 

I’d never met the man face to face. I wouldn’t have recognised him if I’d fallen over him, but I had spoken with him via two-way radio and phone a couple of times. For various reasons “Rolly” wasn’t liked by many of his fellow-trawler skippers; a lot of whom, with their crews, were regular customers of mine on the island. Most of them were good blokes, and I had no reasons to doubt their words or opinions.

 “Rolly” was a fairly arrogant fellow.  Years before he’d had a falling out with Willie Litz, the lessee of the resort area on Newry; but that was none of my business.  Willi didn’t live on the island; I did.   “Rolly” had fallen out with lots of people, I’d been told; but that was the least of my worries that day.

I radioed “Rolly”. Not wasting words I told him of the frustrating position in which I’d found myself.  I explained what had occurred over the past 24 hours; and I told him where I thought the missing Glen was most likely could be found…up towards Midge Point somewhere; not where the search was presently being conducted. Precious time was being wasted!

To my surprise, “Rolly” agreed with my assessment.  I asked him if he was prepared to get in touch with the Air-Sea Rescue people and tell them of his thoughts; but to leave my name out of it.  They’d take more notice of him – he who had been sailing those waters for years – than they were of me – a mere female! They'd made it very obvious they were taking no notice of me!

What the hell would I know?

The rest of the afternoon I spent anxiously by the phone and two-way radio.  There was little else I could do, but wait…and wait.  Daylight was running out again with no positive results to hand. Night was just around the corner. 

My phone rang.  It was shortly after 5 pm. 

On their final fly-over for the day before pulling the plug on the search, intending to recommence the search again the following morning, the pilot spotted something on the beach, on the southern end of Midge Point.

It was Glen’s small sailing boat, with Glen standing beside it waving like a crazed lunatic!

Oh! God!  It was the best news I’d heard in years!  Tears of joy and of relief flooded down my cheeks.  I cheered loudly with no one within reach to hear other than Pushkin and Rimsky.  They didn’t mind being disturbed from their naps!  They barely moved a whisker.

Glen had been found where I had thought all along he could be. 

The wind from the scud had picked him up and carried him northwards. He didn’t turn the corner, nor was he forced towards St. Helens. His passage was taken completely out of his control.  He’d spent the Sunday night and the Monday in the open sea, holding onto to his small craft in sheer desperation. At one point it had flipped over.  In desperation he managed to right it.  

Finally, the currents nudged him to shore about an hour before the search plane spotted him – on their last fly-over for the day!

I felt extremely grateful to the faceless “Rolly” for insisting the search be extended to that area. 

After I learned Glen was safe, I made contact with "Rolly" Rollison to give him my heartfelt appreciation for his most important role in the play.  I never did meet him face to face, but I was very grateful for his actions that day.  I still am.

The following afternoon Glen rang me from Mackay to thank me for alerting the authorities etc.  He’d spent the previous evening in hospital where he'd been kept under observation overnight. Fortunately he had suffered no injuries from his adventures at sea.  He was calm and collected when we spoke. It was who he was. 

I never saw Glen again.  I think he’d had his fill of the ocean to last him for a while.  Who could blame him?

About three years later I was the cook/chef at the Town & Country Hotel Motel in Collinsville; back on dry land.

One evening after service I chatted with a young fellow at the lounge bar. He had the Hastings Deering insignia on his shirt; that’s what drew me to him. He was a motel guest, and he’d dined in the restaurant that night. 

I told him the above story. 

Looking at me, the young fellow said: “So you’re the one! You're the "Lee"! Glen told me about you! He’s told the whole crew!  I know of the story you’ve just told me! You have no idea how grateful he was for what you did.  He speaks often about that time. Everyone at work knows about it.”

I was taken aback to discover the story I’d just finished relating was familiar to the young bloke I'd not met before until that night.

At the time, Glen was still employed by Hastings Deering.  I asked the fellow sitting beside me at the bar in Collinsville to pass on my very best wishes to him the next time their paths crossed.  I often wonder how Glen’s life has panned out.  I hope he met a fine girl to spend it with; he was a fine fellow.

It is a small world after all….,Midge+Point+QLD&gl=au&ei=XnIrU9jOEIquiAf_8oCwDA&ved=0CCoQ8gEwAA

If you go into the above site...just click on the "South" arrow...and the right arrow...and you will see the distance between Midge Point and Newry/Rabbit Island etc.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Graeme Connors - A Little Further North

I will always love this many wonderful memories come with it...and they shall remain...forever...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Chateau Hotel, Christchurch, New Zealand

Ruska, Derryn, Dylan and Me at my little house on Hinchinbrook.  Also Jacki, Derryn and Dylan at the bar and in the restaurant on Hinchinbrook Island

The Hinch Clan Departing Hinchinbrook via Air Whitsunday's Beaver Sea Plane
Similar to Glen's Little Sailing Boat

Me Behind the Bar on Newry Island
Newry Island is the small island at the far right in green...Rabbit Island is the larger green mass. And "B" on the mainland is St. Helens Beach....just to give an idea.

Rimsky lording over the bar on Newry Island. looking down upon his subjects; And me sitting outside the main building chatting with a German backpacker who stayed on the Newry for a couple of days.

                                                      There is just one moon
                                                       And one golden sun
                                                      And a smile means
                                                      Friendship to ev'ryone
                                                     Though the mountains divide
                                                     And the oceans are wide
                                                     It's a small world after all....

Every day we read about people who’ve gone missing.  Some of whom have done so purposely, wanting to change their lives for whatever reason.  I’d never be able to disappear over the far horizon.  Invariably I’d run into someone I know; or someone who knows someone I know who knows me - ad infinitum.....

In my previous two posts I made mention of the stranger I met one Saturday afternoon in a little pub in Chillagoe out the back of Woop-Woop.  Not long after we’d started chatting he and I discovered we had a mutual friend.  In my case, an acquaintance; but in the stranger's case, his boss was guilty of being our common link.

There is no escape hatch for me! I will always run into a familiar face, no matter where I roam or how far I stray!

Back when I was managing the resort on Hinchinbrook Island I attended a travel/tourism conference in Christchurch wearing my "sales/marketing manager hat". Having returned to my hotel from a day of listening to speaker after speaker droning on and on about this, that and the other thing, I was relaxing at the cocktail bar enjoying a drink with one of the fellow conference attendees, a gentleman from Saudi Arabian Airlines otherwise known as “Saudia”.  I sensed someone come up beside me to my left.   

I didn’t turn until I heard the words: “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world….!  What’re you doing here in my home town, Lee George?  You’re supposed to be on the island!”

My head spun around at the sound of a familiar voice. 

To my surprise, standing beside me was Derryn Hinch, someone I'd gotten to know a few months previously..  

Derryn is a very well-known Aussie (New Zealand-born) media personality. 

He’s a reporter/journalist/author and strong advocate for sexually abused children in this country.  The latter he takes very seriously.  And I take my hat off him for his dedication to the cause.

Derryn is a vocal and harsh critic of Australia’s criminal justice system.  He doesn’t hold back; and nor should he. His outspokenness and beliefs have gotten him into trouble more than once; and, no doubt, will again. Because of his refusal to forgo his convictions he has been jailed a couple of times.  Only last week he was released from prison after spending 50 days in confinement for contempt of court.  He chose to go to prison in lieu of paying an unjust fine. I agree with him wholeheartedly in his convictions.

Derryn is a good man; I support him in his beliefs; in his fight for justice.  He’s ruffled a few feathers along the way…but they’ve been feathers that needed ruffling; and he'll continue ruffling feathers.  There are many in society who can't handle the truth!

 I’d originally met and gotten to know Derryn and his then wife, Jacki Weaver, a highly-acclaimed Australian actress of stage, screen and television when they, along with Jacki’s then teenage son, Dylan came to stay at my island resort for a week-long holiday.  During their stay I broke from my usual set-in-stone protocol. I invited them to dine with me at my private abode; just the four of us (and Ruska, my ginger cat), away from the restaurant and the other guests; a little private time and space for us all. They were fun, normal people; good company and intelligent conversationalists. 

During one of my business trips to Melbourne after their visit to the tropical north, I met up with them again.  Another “small world” moment occurred during our rendezvous that afternoon, as well, but I won't go into that at the moment...this small story about how small the world is, is going to end up being a lengthy story as it is....

Jacki Weaver has been well-known in this country for five decades (she started young). She is now known internationally, also,  for her performances in the movies “Animal Kingdom” (an Australian movie), along with the popular and successful US movie, “Silver Linings Playbook” starring Jennifer Lawrence (who received an Oscar for her role). Jacki also played alongside Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in the movie. 

Jacki was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in both the above movies.  Since her being “discovered” by a wider audience (and movie makers) she’s been making movies in the States for the past couple of years.  This is an amazing for her; and she’s started a whole new career while in her mid-60s, proving anything can happen at any time. You're never to old!

Anyway, back at the bar in the Chateau Hotel in Christchurch….

Derryn told me he’d just flown in from Australia an hour or two before.  He was staying in the same hotel as I was.

“This is ridiculous,” he said.  “I was just talking about you!”

“Why would you be talking about me?” I asked somewhat incredulously, both at the statement and at finding him standing beside me.

His cousin had picked him up from the airport. While unpacking his suitcase in his room, the first item he removed from his suitcase was a Hinchinbrook Island tee-shirt.  

Before Derryn, Jacki and Dylan departed the island I’d given them a tee-shirt each.  So upon seeing the shirt Derryn told his cousin about his holiday on the island.  Derryn pointed it out to his cousin…saying, “Hinch on Hinchinbrook”. My name came as he had told his cousin about his happy, holiday getaway. 

He asked to join him and his cousin for a drink. They were sitting across the way in an alcove alongside the wooden-panelled wall.  Once I’d made my polite overtures and good-byes to the Saudi-Arabian Airlines fellow, who already had an appointment he had to run off to, I joined Derryn and his cousin in the alcove. 

Derryn was visiting Christchurch for a couple of days only. He was there to join in a favourite uncle’s 80th birthday celebration. Because of his hectic work commitments his trip had been a last minute decision made at the 11th hour.  That we should be staying at the same hotel was coincidental, as was my spontaneous decision to accept the invitation to have a quick drink at the bar with the Saudi gentleman.  We'd bumped into each other in the hotel's foyer upon our return from the seminar.

 Derryn never stood at a bar to drink, preferring to sit at a table or alcove as was the case that afternoon. The only reason he’d gone up to the bar was to request a bottle of mineral water to go with the wine he’d ordered and received.  The waiter had forgotten to bring him the mineral water when serving the wine.  If not for that reason, neither of us would probably have known the other was there.  We laughed about the power of coincidence.  

A week or two later when back on the island I received a postcard from Jacki, jokingly saying: “What’s the idea of meeting up with my old man in Christchurch?”  I still have the postcard here somewhere.

In a totally different story about different people and a different locale (but one still on the “Six degrees of separation” vein), this following anecdote began when Newry Island was my home.

By living on the islands - Hinchinbrook and Newry, I’d become very in tune with the weather forecasts; with what to expect; its predictability and its unpredictability; whether a south-easterly wind was due to upset the equilibrium, and at what rate of knots it intended doing so. The south-easterlies upset the comfort of my comings and goings by boat.  Their arrival always brought a lump to my throat if I had to take my boat across to the mainland to pick up guests and/or provisions.  

Also, at all times I had to be aware of the tides; when the high tide or low tide was due; when the tide was expected to turn, and so on.  The weather dictated to me, not vice versa.  I always heeded the forecasts - good and bad.

Friday arrived.  Along with it came a report of wild weather due to arrive mid-Saturday morning. It was predicted it wouldn’t last for long; probably 24 hours at the most.  Scuds were expected to pass through at regular intervals.

Fortunately, the weekend ahead was going to be quiet, people-wise. Only two guests were booked in for the Friday and Saturday. Their intended departure was Sunday. They’d arrived by their own boat earlier on the Friday morning.  Friday’s weather was near perfect.   

My guests, Ivan and Doris, sugar cane farmers from Mirani in the Pioneer Valley, 37kms west of Mackay, owned a beach house at Seaforth, my nearest port of call on the mainland.  Off-season, when possible, they enjoyed a few days respite at the beach, with the ocean as their backdrop for a sea change.  Sometimes a trip to the island was on their agenda. Through their visits we'd become friends.  They also generously stored most of my possessions in the lower level of their house in Seaforth; a gesture that saved me from lugging everything I owned across to the island.  I’ve have mentioned Ivan and Doris in previous posts when writing about my time living on Newry Island.  They were good friends of Willie Litz, the lessee of the island (or part thereof) at the time; and it was through him I originally met Ivan and Doris. It was Willie who suggested they house my possession.  Willie lived and worked elsewhere on the mainland, and only once visited the island while I was there, other than my initial introduction to the island and all that my job there entailed.

Saturday morning I went about my normal daily duties. Certain chores had to be routinely attended to each day.  I was most always up at the crack of dawn, if not before.   

Mid-morning I was surprised to see a small one-man sailing craft taxi to stop at the ocean’s edge.  I strolled down the beach towards the little vessel to greet my unexpected visitor. As I drew closer I recognised the young, sole sailor.

“Glen!  G’day!  What on earth are you doing here?  And how did you make it here in that little thing?”  I exclaimed, somewhat aghast at the tiny size of his ocean-crossing craft!  My greeting, however, was issued in a friendly, welcoming manner.

The young man in front of me with a beaming smile across his face was Glen Winning. Glen often visited the island.  

 He worked for Hastings Deering in its Mackay division. The Mackay branch serviced the mines throughout the coal and natural gas-rich Bowen Basin. World-renowned yellow Caterpillar, heavy earth-moving, mining equipment etc., is distributed throughout Queensland, Northern Territory, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Island and New Caledonia by Hastings Deering’s branches. The majority of Glen’s working life was spent visiting the various mines throughout the Bowen Basin, and sometimes beyond. 

Quiet and unassuming, Glen was a nice, well-mannered young bloke in his mid-twenties. I always enjoyed chatting with him when he visited. Every time he came to the island I picked him up from the ramp at Victor Creek on the mainland, four kilometers north of Seaforth. I’d ferry him to the island in my boat, the 21-foot Trojan Dehavilland. Glen always came alone.  I’d sensed he was a bit of a loner like I am, so it never seemed strange to me. Most of the time he preferred to camp rather than stay in one of the island’s cabins. 

Within easy distance of the restaurant/bar and beach was a designated camping area for those who preferred to “rough it” rather than sleep within four walls. A free-standing shower and toilet block was available for campers and day-trippers to the island.  Every aspect was covered. The self-contained cabins, the bar/restaurant and public facilities were very humble; very simple, but that's what my visitors to the resort enjoyed.  They weren't looking for anything flash when they came to Newry Island..they sought and liked the modest, natural environment and ambience it had to offer.

When travelling to and from the island by my boat Glen’s toted a backpack. It held whatever meagre requirements he needed for his stay. It also held his one-man tent.  He had his favourite spot to set up camp. Protected by a shady tree it had a million dollar view of the bay and Outer Newry Island across the way.

He always joined in with the evening meals I prepared for my island guests.

At night, 99.99% of the time dinner on the island was a barbecue of fresh seafood held outside under the stars, with the ocean gently lapping the shore a short distance away. The barbecues always consisted of fresh prawns, fish and oysters, accompanied by a large bowl of mixed salad, fresh bread and butter. There's little to beat that, in my book!

Island lunches were never grand affairs.  Often I’d put out a large stainless steel bowl full of freshly-caught and cooked prawns. Whoever was present at lunch time would just bog in to their heart’s delight and content, heartily enjoying the feast set before them.

I’d trade with the trawlers who used to set anchor in the channel between Newry and Outer Newry before they'd head off to Mackay Harbour to off-load their catches. Contra deals were done; a case of beer; perhaps a bottle of bourbon, or rum (whatever their choice) for an abundance of fresh bounty from the sea.  I always came off best in the deals; and never once was cash exchanged for the seafood.  

I was in seafood Heaven when I lived on Newry Island.  And I can assure was wonderful! (Pushkin and Rimsky, my two cats at the time would have confirmed it in gold lettering)!

In my opinion, the only accompaniments fresh prawns (and freshly-shucked oysters) need are fresh bread, lashings of butter (never margarine!), vinegar (and lemon for those who prefer lemon to vinegar with their seafood), pepper, salt, bowls of water for finger dipping and loads of napkins; and, of course, another large bowl or three for the scraps.

The rare times my stock of fresh seafood was depleted when lunch fell due, I’d prepare sandwiches, or, perhaps, heat up meat pies if they were the food of choice.  As I said, lunch went by without fanfare on Newry Island.  I kept the balloons and whistles for the evening seafood barbecues; along with the streamers - they were for those regular special occasions!

But the Saturday morning Glen arrived under his own steam; or should I say by his own sailing prowess, he’d travelled lighter than he usually did, so he rented a cabin, rather than camp.  I instructed him to drag his little sailing dinghy up high to the foreshore and to secure it well to a She-Oak tree; advising him on the expected downturn in the weather conditions.  

Already I could sense a change in the atmosphere.  Within an hour a gusting south-easterly wind had whipped up the ocean. Grey clouds loomed heavily overhead. Scuds started to come through frequently.  During their visits, wind-driven rain pounded the sandy beach; indoors was the preferred place to be.

That evening we island dwellers dined inside away from the inclement weather.  I prepared a tasty, relatively mild prawn curry with steamed rice as its accompaniment. We called it a night fairly early. My guests dashed off to their respective cabins when the rain ceased for a moment or two, leaving me to my own devices.  Allowing them enough time to settle, I went to the generator shed and switched off the generator; and then took myself off to bed. Stormy island nights have a unique special cosiness about them. (As long as it’s not a cyclone causing havoc)!

Upon waking Sunday morning the weather had abated a little, but the sea was still fairly rough and the wind was still gusting. Putting it simply, I would not have taken my motor boat anywhere.  It remained securely moored out in the channel. To reach it I had to row a little dinghy out to the mooring; and in weather such as it was that morning and the previous night, nothing was so important to make me do the trip.  Whatever it was could wait - too bad - even if it was the Queen of England!

Around 11 am, Glen came to me to pay for his stay. At the same time he informed me he would be on his way.  Alarmed, I told him firmly for him to leave at that time would be very foolish.  His small craft battling against the stormy sea didn’t conjure a pretty or safe image in my mind.

I’d been keeping an ear on the weather reports throughout the morning, and they were telling me that the conditions were due to change for the better shortly after noon.  I explained this to Glen and insisted he not leave the safety of having sturdy ground under his feet until another couple of hours; allowing time for the weather to settle down. Doris and Ivan backed my words.  They were delaying their departure until early afternoon; and they were travelling by a powered boat, and one much bigger and sturdier than Glen's little craft.

I could see Glen was itching to be on his way, so I did my utmost to delay him.  The scuds were becoming lesser in intensity, and more time elapsed in between each one's arrival; but the sky was still leaden and the wind hadn’t dropped to a satisfactory, calm pace to my way of thinking.

Just before mid-day, Glen followed the beat of his own drum.   

Filled with reluctance and concern, I walked with him to where his boat was resting. While he unhitched his little boat and dragged it into the water, not one to give up without a fight, I kept on trying to convince him not to go; to leave it for another couple of hours.  Doris walked with us to the water’s edge.  She could see I was fighting a losing battle.  No matter how hard I insisted and pleaded my words just faded off through the air..

Granted, the weather was clearing; but it had not yet.  The sun was fighting to peek through brief breaks in the still morbid clouds; but it was not enough, I believed; not without reason. 

Off sailed Glen, full of goodwill and good manners. As he turned around the north point of the beach, to our left, he waved and yelled out his good-bye; a big smile across his face.  Doris and I returned his wave.  Only a couple of minutes after he disappeared around the point, out of our view, a scud came blustering through from the south-east - passing between Outer Newry and Newry Island heading in a north-west direction.

“Oh! My God!” I exclaimed to Doris.  “I hope he’s okay!  I wish he’d taken notice and waited a while! Nobody ever wants to listen, do they?”

We rushed up to the point but there was no sight of Glen anywhere.

“Perhaps he found shelter on Rabbit Island,” I said, not believing my own words.  The scud had rushed through, suddenly, out of the blue (or grey) with no warning, leaving no time for preparation or forethought.  

Rabbit Island lies to the rear of Newry Island.  There is a narrow waterway separating the two islands.

As it turned out, it was the final, last scud of the day, and weekend. Shortly after it had barged its way through, the clouds cleared away. The wind dropped. The world around us was calm once again. The sun smiled down on a pond-like ocean. The weather forecasts had been spot-on.  The bureau had predicted the rough conditions would last for 24 hours at the most; and they were correct.  The rest of the afternoon and night was as if the past hours hadn’t existed. 

Ivan and Doris departed around 2 pm, leaving me alone once again on the island.  I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the two cabins that had been occupied; changing the bed linen etc. Those chores didn’t take me very long. I looked forward to spending the rest of the afternoon at a leisurely pace; talking to my two cats; reading a book; losing myself in the view while doing so.  I used to be an excellent multi-tasker!

Every now and then, my thoughts turned to Glen.  I hoped he'd been safe from that final scud.

At 5 pm the phone rang.

“Hi! I’m a friend of Glen Winning,” said the voice on the end of the line.  “He spent the weekend on the island.  He sailed over yesterday. I dropped him off at Victor Creek.” 

“Yes, that’s correct,” I answered.

“Can you tell me if he’s left there yet?  Before he headed off yesterday morning he asked me to pick him up here at St. Helens at 3 pm.  I’ve been waiting and waiting, but there’s no sign of him.”

St. Helens Beach is on the mainland, west of Rabbit Island and Newry Island.

My heart began to pound. My stomach did a few back flips and somersaults.

“Oh! I see!  Glen left here just before noon.  This isn’t good.  He should’ve been there hours ago. Give me your contact number.  I have to get off the phone now; I need to ring the authorities. I have to get in touch with the Air/Sea Rescue mob. It will be dark within the hour.  I’ll keep you posted.  If you hear anything, please let me know immediately!”

I didn't panic...panic doesn't solve anything...but I was very concerned...very concerned, indeed....

To be continued..... 

PS....I'll tell the tale about Klaus, the German backpacker another day, too....he was a lovely fellow.

Sunday, March 02, 2014


Overview of Chillagoe
Public Bar
Central Hotel  (It was painted maroon when I was there in late 1989)
A Picture Paints a Thousand Words....
Two Views of Red Dome Mine

Firstly, to clarify my erroneous description of the workings of air brakes on prime movers – I thank “goatman” in setting me straight; putting me on the right track. His comment, shown below, shows my description was upside down, inside out and the wrong way about!  Just as well I didn’t make a career change!

 “…the air pressure on the big rigs holds the brake shoe off of the brake drum. Some kind of safely device, I guess, in case the rig loses pressure the brakes will work to stop the truck. This is why you will hear an escapement of air when they stop -- releasing pressure, applying the brakes…” 

Once again I comfortably settled in the passenger seat with not a worry in the world.  Sprocket was back in his rightful position behind the wheel in control of the “beast”.  (Meaning the Kenworth, not me)!
My brief moment in the sun as a prime mover of a prime mover was over and done with forever and a day. It had been my one and only opportunity to show my mettle as a big wheel in charge of a big wheeler.

A lesson sometimes learned through life is if one always plays it safe; if risks and challenges aren’t taken, one can miss out on so much.  It is possible we can live to regret the chances we never took.  It can be fun and exhilarating at times to jump into the deep end without a life-jacket…or seat belt!

Not long after my trip to Chillagoe with Sprocket another challenge was placed before me. It proved to be one I had no choice other than to accept because it was too exciting a challenge/adventure not to step out into the unknown and take a chance; but on this particularly balmy Saturday afternoon, the subject of this tale, I was blissfully unaware of what was in store for me.  I was too wrapped up living in the moment.

The afternoon was sunny with a blue clear sky; pleasantly warm, not hot.  The landscape, although stark, had a unique, breathtaking beauty. Lulled by the movement of the truck as it rolled smoothly along the bitumen, and by the deep, but not throaty rumble of its huge engine I drank in the visual resplendence of the countryside.

I was brought back to the reality of the moment when we cruised to a stop outside Chillagoe’s Post Office Hotel. 
The pub is situated on the town’s main street, Queen Street.  From what I saw the main street wasn’t the hub of a bustling metropolis, but that was more than half its charm.  The town has two pubs, a general store and not much else; but that doesn’t diminish its appeal. 

These small outback/country towns scattered throughout this vast land of ours hold many told and untold stories. They abound in history; and they exude an attraction difficult to define. 
It is where the “real” people dwell. And these “real” people have some wonderful, real stories to tell; and they enjoy telling those stories.  A lot of bull manure is spread around, too, but it spread with good humour, rarely with malice. It is part of who they are.  They have an intangible essence that’s almost tangible, if that makes sense. They work hard; they battle the elements, and more times than not come off second best; but they grit their teeth, shake off the dust in preparation to fight another day; another drought; another bush fire or another flood.  Rarely do they give up the fight. They are made of steel; they are admirable people.  I discovered this in spades when I was relief manager for a brief period of three weeks at the Central Hotel in Normanton, out in the Gulf Country of north-western Queensland only a few months before my trip to Chillagoe. (I wrote about my Normanton adventure back in March, 2007).

Entering the pub I was surprised to see how quiet it was. The pub was almost empty.  Other than Sprocket and me, there were about six other drinkers leaning on the bar pensively pondering upon the cold beers in front of them.  They barely raised their heads as we walked in.  It was obvious our entrance caused little interest. 
Rather than sit at the bar, Sprocket and I chose a high table next to the front wall and windows of the pub.  Perched up on a high bar stool with rum and Cokes at hand we were only there a short while when a bloke sauntered across to us and asked if we minded if he joined us a while. 

We said, “No…of course not; join us! The more the merrier!”

His interest had been alerted when he saw the Kenworth pull in.  As it turned out, he, too, was a truckie.  His rig was parked further down the road.  He introduced himself as “Dave”. Once the initial formalities were over (which didn’t take very long), we were chatting like long-lost mates.

We laughed when he told us the publican’s wife cried out in excitement upon seeing our rig pull to a stop outside the pub.

“Oh! Great!” She exclaimed. “The beer truck has arrived!”

She was a slight, short in stature, Filipino woman. I thought at the time she was probably a newcomer to the Aussie outback.  Sprocket’s tanker did have some yellow and red colours painted on it, so to an untrained, unfamiliar eye, I guess, at a glance a mistake could be made…maybe…

I giggled to myself as I imagined Sprocket and I pumping beer from the tanker into the hotel’s kegs!  If I’d tried to reverse the rig there, I might have taken out the pub!

As Dave, Sprocket and I conversed the “Six Degrees of Separation” theory soon came into play. 
Dave, as it turned out, worked for a fellow named “Lennie Robinson” whom I’d met briefly years and years previously…in 1963 in Gympie….1,671.3 kms (1038 miles) and 27 years away!

Back then Len Robinson not only drove his own truck, but he operated a little trucking business between Gympie and Maryborough, as well. More importantly, however, his main claim to fame was he bought and owned the first E-type Jaguar in Queensland. 
As fate would have it he was a friend of friends. When he was in town visiting family at one stage he took me for a ride in the E-type!  Wow! That was a ride of my life, too!

Over the years, apparently from what Dave told us, Lennie’s business grew in leaps and bounds. He’d become a wealthy man from his trucking exploits. Dave was employed as one of his truckies. Also, Lennie, who, at that point operated out of Nambour, a town south of Gympie, from memory, collected jaguars of various models; sedans and E-types. 
And to go further in the degrees of separation (perhaps closeness is more appropriate), when I moved back to Gympie to live and work in 1998, coincidentally, my neighbours on one side for the four years I lived there were the brother and sister-in-law of Len Robinson!  Lennie, by that stage in time, lived in our nation’s capital, Canberra. He was still a collector of jaguars of the motorised kind.

The world, certainly at times, is a small place….

The afternoon drew to a close. Dusk turned into darkness.

Dave had gone on his way, as had, when we weren’t taking notice, all the rest of the drinkers, the whole six of them!  Sprocket and I were left to our own devices.  Periodically, a patron or two sauntered into the public bar, but not many more than that number.
The room off to the side of the public bar that housed a few dining tables, a jukebox and a couple of billiard tables was deathly quiet.  The lack of fellow Saturday night revelers didn’t bother us.  We were content within each others' company. 
The publican asked if we wished to dine. Suddenly we realised we were hungry.  Shortly thereafter, in time to catch the cook before he signed off for the night, we enjoyed a hearty pub meal at one of the tables.  Two other tables were occupied; by a couple of people apiece.  We lingered long over our meal.  The leisurely ambience of the pub was contagious. There seemed no reason to be in a hurry. At dinner’s end we drifted back out to our original spot in the public bar where we discovered the crowd had grown to four.  Our table and stools by the front window had remained vacant.  The other drinkers in the public bar soon drifted off to greener or, perhaps, dustier pastures.  Perhaps, they were on a promise.

Around about 9.30 pm the publican began shutting windows, doors and shutters.  Sprocket and I looked at each other. We decided it was time for us to make a move. We had no intentions of driving anywhere.  We were going to camp overnight in the cabin of the prime mover, and head out to Red Dome Mine to off-load the lime in the morning.

We began to stir; to make our departure.  We told the publican as he leaned across to close the windows near where we were sitting that we’d be on our way; we’d get out of his hair.  While thanking him for his hospitality we asked if he minded we leave the rig where it was parked, overnight. He said he didn’t mind in the least.

“Not at all!” He gushingly replied.  “But you don’t have to leave yet. I’m not closing up. I’m not trying to shoo you off. Have another drink or two.  There’s no hurry! Stay as long as you like.”

Subtly, Sprocket and I raised our eyebrows at each other.

The publican had closed all doors and windows…if that wasn’t closing up, what, in Chillagoe, at the Post Office Hotel, was classed as “closing up”?

The publican had not long further extended his hospitality and our visit when suddenly the world exploded around us. A crowd entered the pub from all directions, out of nowhere, it seemed. People were coming out of the woodwork!  The pub erupted into life.  The jukebox kicked into gear. Music blasted forth. The click of billiard balls rang through the air. Four-wheel drives, many rigged up for pig-shooting, arrived in droves. Fellows poured out of the vehicles and into the pub. 
It became apparent night life in Chillagoe began after 10 pm!  And boy!  It started with a bang!

Employees from the surrounding mines had arrived, making their presence known.   Suddenly there was a feeling of the “Wild West” about it all. The pub was bursting at the seams!

We stuck around for a while, but then finally decided to call it a night, leaving the night to the celebrators.

The noise emanating from the pub didn’t disturb us.  The tightly-closed doors and windows dampened the volume.  It was happy noise; and there is a difference between happiness and trouble, in my opinion.   The laughter and music faded into the background as, effortlessly, slumber took over.

With the morning sun we, too, rose.  The call of the road beckoned. It was impossible to ignore. We were on our way…to Red Dome Mine.

Once at the mine it didn’t take long to empty the tanker of its cargo. This time I stayed seated in the cabin on the passenger side; and quite happy to do so.  I had no urgent desire to tempt fate again.  To be honest, I wasn’t asked to assist in the operation.

Job done…we headed back to Mareeba where Sprocket and I bid each other farewell.  He went his way, and I went mine.  I jumped into my car that had remained safe and untouched overnight, parked where I’d left it opposite the Ant Hill Hotel.

Driving back to Clifton Beach I was absorbed in my thoughts of the previous 24 hours or so I’d just enjoyed.  Everything that had happened had been unexpected and unplanned. My weekend had been spontaneous; full of surprises. It was an experience that has remained with me all these years.

I’m glad I took the chance...I'm glad I went for the ride....