Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Alice & Her Friends...Painted by me 5 years ago for two of my grand-nieces

Moreton Bay Bugs

 Time spent pondering the future and now
    While the past
fades rapidly I know not how
  Today I spent learning about me as a whole
  And a peaceful calmness enveloped my soul
Once torn into a dark mass of dismal pieces
     As fond memories revisit the shadow decreases
                                                                                               By Lee

Inexplicably some incidents and some people stay locked away in our fathomless memory bank never again to see the light of day; lost; forgotten forever; while, for whatever reasons other memories of people, places, events, words, thoughts remain crystal clear.

Perhaps the former is not actually the case.  Maybe our memories of every experience; of every person we’ve met throughout our life are filed away in the back regions of our mental (not metal) filing cabinets. Bookmarked like bookmarked sites on our computers; patiently waiting to be re-visited; re-discovered; often by accident. Not discarded, but merely stored away from sight; out of our conscious mind; not deleted from our subconscious mind - our hard drive.

When I go through my computer’s lengthy bookmark list I discover myriad sites considered once to be interesting; worth setting aside for a rainy day.  Like my list I’ve a gazillion memories bookmarked in my mind; filed away for that very day - whatever the weather - whether damp or dehydrated…for a time when all will be re-revealed. 

What needs to be done is for me to locate the key to my mental filing cabinet.  It’s around here somewhere.

I may have not yet found the key to my inner vault, but often I do find a trigger that opens a locked door while in search of a particular item to satisfy a thought impulse. Soon thereafter I unexpectedly discover more doors I’m unable to resist entering.  Powerless, I’m led along corridors and through entrances that have remained closed for years.  Unwittingly I become waylaid. An unforeseen exploration abducts my attention. The minor search activated by my original thought multiplies in proportion.

Having veered off track I probe deeper and deeper, lost in the wonderment of discovery; of renewed recollections.

Similar to Alice during her journey through Wonderland when she followed the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole, my curiosity becomes aroused. So, too, are detailed misplaced memories about past events and deeds; of people I’ve met.  And, like Alice I become “curiouser and curiouser”.

Helpless against the revelations, intrigued, I’m guided down paths I initially had no intention of strolling.

The definitive quarry of my primary quest is unconsciously dismissed. Entranced, I wander along interesting avenues tracking clues impossible to ignore.

Time spent; lost, but not wasted on re-awoken memories; and then, continuing forth, being directed onto others.
Engrossed in fascinating discoveries - re-discoveries - minutes, then hours fly by. All too often my detours - my digressions - cause me to forget my initial goal (it’s been put on the back-burner; bookmarked to be dealt with later - if I remember what it actually was).

The unplanned deviations awaken forgotten memories filed away in the deepest recesses of my mind.

The rekindling of past experiences; of people once met; some never seen again, is welcomed; often with tear-filled eyes.

A photo, unobserved for years, uncovered by chance amongst unrelated memorabilia.

A letter on yellowed, ragged paper; read multiple times upon initial receipt, stowed away in a safe place located unintentionally; re-read.

Memories stimulated of times forgotten.

Once cherished moments re-ignited; old flames remembered with warm comfort, not cold.

Roasted Leek-Zucchini-Bacon Soup: Heat 1-1.2tbs olive oil and 30g butter in roasting pan over med-heat; add 5 washed, sliced leeks, 2 large, coarsely-chopped onions, 1-1/2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 juniper berry, 4 black peppercorns, 1 whole clove and 1 bay leaf; cook 3mins. Add 3 large, coarsely-chopped zucchinis, 2 sprigs thyme and 6 trimmed, chopped bacon rashers; cook 2mins; transfer pan to oven; roast at 180C, 40mins; stir often. Transfer vegetables to large pot; add 1ltr chicken stock; simmer until reduced by half. Add 600ml cream; simmer 20mins. Process until smooth; pass through sieve; transfer to saucepan; season; bring to boil; serve.

Seared Bugs & Asparagus Fettuccine: Melt 30g butter in saucepan; cook 2 finely-diced white onions and 4 crushed garlic cloves over med-heat until soft and translucent. Add 400ml vermouth; deglaze pan; add 80ml Thai fish sauce, 80ml sweet chill sauce and 1ltr cream; bring to boil; simmer until reduced by half; add 400g raw, shredded Moreton Bay bug meat; cook 3mins or until almost cooked. Add 800g al dente fettuccine, 12 slightly-cooked asparagus spears, 2tbs chopped basil leaves, 1tbs chopped coriander; toss over med-high heat 1 to 2mins.

Roasted Mustard Rabbit: Cover 1 whole rabbit, cut into pieces (or chicken if you’re chicken) with 1c crème fraîche, 3/4c Dijon mustard or wholegrain, 1tbs each chopped fresh thyme and sage, 85g thinly-sliced pancetta, cut into thin strips, 4 thinly-sliced garlic cloves and 2 bay leaves.  Mix well with your hands; cover; let sit at room temp 1hr; or chill overnight. Spread pieces in single layer in oven-proof pan; top with marinade; roast in 175C oven about 45mins; remove rabbit and set aside; put pan on stove-top over med-heat; add 1c chick stock or white wine and 1/2c heavy cream; lower heat; simmer; reduce sauce until thick and creamy; pour over rabbit/chicken

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Me at 2 consecutive Sydney ATEs - 1986 & 1987.  Sorry about the damage to photos.

Torres Strait Pigeon

Zoe Falls, Hinchinbrook Island

Two views of Orchid Beach - the resort's beach.

A wallaby local with guests in the restaurant

It must not have been "Happy Hour" at the bar!

Jetty at the resort...the restaurant is/was up behind the trees

Me looking quite serious during my Hinchinbrook days...somewhere in a motel north of Cairns - from memory.

Alan McGirvan 

Fortunately, the winds of fairness blew kindly upon me. 

Peter and his wife, Maree, having willingly agreed to produce the marketing video depicting the island resort’s temptations, could fit only one week into their growing busy schedule to come to the island to do the filming. They arrived the second week in May. With no time to waste they immediately got to work; time was of the essence.  The ATE was in early June; just a matter of weeks away.

Almost every day a trip was organised for the island guests.  Depending on the weather conditions, direction of the winds etc., Bob, the skipper of the “Reef Venture”, the powered catamaran that brought provisions and guests across to the island from Cardwell on the mainland conducted the day-trips for my guests. The tours varied between Garden and Goold Islands which both were just a few swim strokes across the way from the north-eastern tip of Hinchinbrook Island where the resort was; or further afield to the Brook Islands that are part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area. There the guests could go snorkeling to view the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, or, if they were lucky, spot the stunning Torres Strait Pigeons (also known as “Nutmeg Pigeons) that use the Brook Islands as one of their major breeding areas. Late in the afternoons during the pigeons' breeding season we'd watch them wend their way across the ocean back home to the Brook Island for the night.

At the beginning of last century the beautiful pigeon was on the verge of extinction.  If not for the wonderful work of naturalist and forward-thinker, Edmund James “Ted” Banfield, the Imperial Torresian Pigeons would not exist today. Banfield and his wife gave up life on the mainland to settle on Dunk Island in 1900.  And who could blame him? Dunk Island is part of the Family Group of Island to the north of Hinchinbrook Island.   A glorious part of the world....

Banfield wrote “Confessions of a Beachcomber”; “My Tropic Isle” and “Tropic Days”, with “Last Leaves from Dunk Island” which was published posthumously in 1925.  They are wonderful, highly-recommended reads.

However, I’ll leave you with the above interesting piece of worthwhile trivia, and move forward again to May, 1986….

On the rare occasions the south-easterly winds weren’t blowing the prized tour was a day-trip along the eastern side of Hinchinbrook, south to Zoe Bay, with a trek through to Zoe Falls.

Fortunately, while Peter and Maree were on the island filming the weather was conducive to boat trips every day. They were able to travel to not only the surrounding islands, but also to Zoe Bay and Zoe Falls. 

Luck was on my side; and on theirs, enabling them to achieve days of filming under clear blue skies and on a calm ocean.  Peter captured everything the island and its surrounds had to offer.  He and Lyn were in awe, having never visited the area before their assignment.  During the daylight hours I saw very little of them; and in the evenings not long after dining they’d return to their cabin, exhausted, eager for a good night’s sleep before the next early morning and full day that lay ahead.

And then Luck’s sister, Lady Luck paid me a visit, as well.  After phoning store after store from Melbourne northwards, I found the tuxedo I was in search of – at David Jones’ women’s fashion department in the main Queensland store - in Brisbane!  If only I’d rung the Brisbane store first I would have saved my fingers from all the walking I’d put them through! 

Not only did I find the perfect tuxedo, but I also found a suitable white women’s shirt of good quality to wear with it. The shirt I chose had fine pleating down its front.  At the same time, I purchased three bow ties – black, red and silver; so I could have a choice come time of wearing.   I bought sight unseen and without trying on before purchase; but sometimes one has to take a leap of faith; and that was one of those times.

Within a few days my new outfit arrived on the island, brought over from the mainland by Bob, on the Reef Venture.   

Excitedly, if not with some hesitation in fear the suit and the shirt wouldn’t fit, I unpacked my purchases from the packaging.  There was no need for fear because everything fitted perfectly.  I couldn’t believe it; and I couldn’t have done better if I’d physically gone shopping.  I was over the moon.  I fell in love with that tux upon first viewing and wearing. 

Once Peter completed the filming, he and Maree returned to their home-base on the Sunshine Coast.  Then the hard work began; the clock was ticking – rapidly.  There were hours; days of filming to edit; and all those hours of film had to be edited into less than five minutes of footage!  I’d been advised by all the experts of such matters that the limit of a person’s concentration when being “sold” a product is less than five minutes. After that you've lost them their attention.  The “seller” is really up against it.  The “seller” has to grab the attention of the “buyer” and get across as much information as he or she can in a very brief time.  I bucked the system a little by producing a five minutes promotional video – no less; no more. 

Peter and I were constantly on the telephone, back and forth frantically putting everything together by long distance – almost by remote control it seemed at times. We probably both had each other’s fingers crossed hoping it would all turn out right in the end. I wrote the script and chose the background music to suit.  The script and music then had to be applied to the appropriate images/scenes on the video.  Every aspect had to marry together.  The images, script and music had to blend smoothly and meaningfully.   

Once we’d ironed out the creases, knots and bumps it was time for the “voice-over” person to do his job.  I'd hired Alan McGirvan, a Brisbane radio announcer of note to do the job.  And as I was to discover – too late – he stuffed it up!  

When it came to the word “foliage” in a certain part in the script, he pronounced it as - “foil-i-age”; but by that stage it was too late to amend the “voice-over”; far too late in the day to have McGirvan do it over.   I was so angry and frustrated; but there was nothing I could do about it; time had run out.  The only thing to do was get over it and move on…but I did find a remedy of a kind….

Bidding farewell to the island and my staff, I was on my way to Sydney and the ATE with my tuxedo, fancy white shirt, bow ties and a load of video tapes packed safely in my luggage!  Look out world - Lee was on her way!

A busy, hectic and exciting time lay in store for me.

Five days of full-on, non-stop marketing; commencing at 9 am every morning lay ahead.  The individual sessions lasted 15 minutes. Two minutes before completion of a session, an alarm bell rang, alerting the seller and the buyers that the session was near completion. Another bell rang at the one-minute mark. It was then time to wrap up the session, in readiness for the next.  The buyer moved on to their next appointment; and the seller’s next client took their place; and on it continued day long, finishing at 5 pm.  As I wrote elsewhere, further networking continued into the evenings during business dinners, functions etc.

Upon receipt of the thick booklet from the Australian Tourism Commission inviting me, as manager of the resort to attend the ATE as the business/island's representative I gave the questions asked a great deal of concentrated consideration. It was of the utmost importance to do so. 

For instance, my main visiting tourists/guests (excluding Australian at whom the ATE wasn’t directed) were from New Zealand, USA, Britain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden; with, in those days, hardly any business from Japan and other Asian countries.

At that time, the majority of Japanese tourists weren’t interested in what Hinchinbrook had to offer, which was little, really for those seeking bright-light excitement.  Other than total relaxation with long walks thrown in to some other secluded island beaches, if so desired; and, of course, the boat trips, guests were left to amuse themselves, mostly by just soaking in the natural ambience. To holiday at the Cape Richards Resort was to experience the enjoyment and exploration of nature, with no neon lights thrown in.
The Japanese tourists preferred to travel in groups. Very few were “FITs” – translated into ‘free-independent travellers’; that was the term used within the tourism industry. The Japanese tourists sought the ‘bright lights’; cities like the Gold Coast, Sydney etc., where casinos were also on offer; and lots of shopping, duty-free and otherwise.

I concentrated on ‘my market’, the market that provided for guests who where suited to my ‘product’; who were in search of a relaxed, natural, laid-back, neon-light-free, traffic-free environment. No fuss; not bother; no hustle and bustle.

Of course, I projected some of my marketing towards possible new horizons, but my main focus was upon those who sought what Hinchinbrook had to offer.  The fruits of our hard work at the ATE and similar trade shows didn’t come immediately.  It could take up to 18 months for businesses to reap the benefits of attending the ATE, spreading the good word about their resorts, tour operations, hotels, etc., but the ATE was/is very important to the Australian tourism industry.

The first night’s gala event at the Sydney Town Hall was an eye-opener.  I wore my tuxedo, accompanied with black patent-leather high heels on my feet, and a black bow tie around my neck. I felt like a million dollars.  Formal gowns adorned the other women guests and dignitaries.  I was the only woman dressed in a tuxedo.  I was so glad I’d chosen it above a ball gown or cocktail dress.

Upon arriving at the Town Hall, a Sydney Brass Band stood at the top of the front stairs of the Hall playing, welcoming the dignitaries and guests to the special event - occasion.  And their appearance did make the night feel extraordinarily special. It made me feel very special, anyway.  It was an evening to remember; and one I’ve never forgotten.

A couple of years later I met a fellow at a function somewhere or other, and I was taken aback when he said to me:  “I remember you…you were the one who wore the tuxedo to the function at the Sydney Town Hall!”  I flabbergasted, but I felt flattered, too, I must admit, because his comment was made in praise.

Every time I played the video to the ATE clients and at various other business venues I attended I made sure I talked over the section where Alan McGirvan mispronounced "foliage" by saying "foiliage".  The fool - I had to foil their attention somehow!  

Sometimes I was sure I noticed the eyebrows of my clients raise a little when my voice grew louder when the film came to that section!!   It might have been just in my imagination!

The Northern Hemisphere (and New Zealand) was filled from country to country with my promotional video cassettes....I handed out many, many copies of that tape to the overseas operators.  No one escaped the Hinchinbrook Island Video Bandit!

As I write this I’m making a mental note that I have to spend a day or three dedicated to finding photos that I’ve got stored somewhere or other – amongst some things and others – of this time in my life.  I know they are still hidden here somewhere!

By the time the ATE ended and I arrived back to the island I was exhausted and almost without a voice from the ceaseless talking I’d done over the previous few days.  I was made even more speechless when my staff asked me: “How was your holiday?”   Holiday???

I attended two ATEs along with many other conferences, seminars and trade shows during my tenure as manager and sales/marketing manager of Hinchinbrook Island Resort; and without fail, every time I returned back to the island I was asked the same question about my "holiday"!  

Very quickly I learned to smile and reply: “Great, thanks!”  I knew it was impossible to even try to explain, so I just gave up!  It was simpler that way!

But I didn’t complain, then; and I’m not complaining now.  I loved the sales/marketing side of the business as well as the hands-on management.  And through it all I met some interesting, wonderful people (and a a few less so - but only a few in comparison)…and that includes most of whom worked with me to make the island experience an experience to remember.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Where else but Sydney!
ATE, Sydney Circa 2013

Daintree Rainforest by the Sea
World-Heritage Daintree
Self-Explanatory Business Card
A Map!!

Sydney Town Hall

Interior of  Sydney Town Hall

The "before" of the restaurant at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island

Me on the deck surrounding the pool; and a view of Orchid Beach at Cape Richards...where the resort was

Part of the Noosa Hinterland

A post on Carol’s blog - “Walking Through Clouds” - in which she referred to the ATE, otherwise known as the “Australian Tourist Exchange” being held in Cairns over the past few days is my prompt for this story/post. 

For the first time in the 35 year history the ATE  (The Australian Tourism Exchange) has been held in a regional city.  This year, 2014, the ATE was held in the beautiful city of Cairns in Tropical North Queensland.  The city and its surrounds alone have enough to offer discerning international buyers and their prospective, inquisitive, adventurous holiday-makers; enough to keep them happy and occupied; or happy and slothfully-relaxed at leisure for as long as they choose.

For instance – a couple of examples - the Great Barrier Reef is at Cairns’ doorstep; or just a swim/scuba dive away. Just “up the road a bit” is the world-heritage Daintree Rainforest, a tropical rainforest region that encompasses around 12,000 square kilometers in area. The Daintree, north of Cairns; north of Port Douglas and Mossman is an awesome, magnificent area where the rainforest caresses the edge of the sea. And no one will go hungry.  A wealth of good eateries offering a bounty of fresh foods wait with their doors open; cutlery polished and plates warmed.

All of Australia is represented at the ATE, not just Far North Queensland - the Tropical North.

Back to the ATE…the hugely-important, huge trade fair where it all begins... 

The Australian sellers each have their own booth. The booths are set up with promotional equipment, brochures etc., showing the beauty, the attractions, activities of the properties/business they represent. The international buyers are greeted upon entering the booth, and then the international “buyers” – the overseas tour operators, travel agents; the clients - ask the questions they want to ask, and to the best of the seller’s ability, answers are provided.

Appointments are pre-booked long before the ATE begins; long before the overseas visitors set their feet on our fair shores.

Prior to the event the international clients are asked to fill in forms by stating what their requirements are; what they are looking for to satisfy their particular clients/customers. In turn, the Australian sellers complete their requisite forms; the questions therein are answered as to the market they are aiming for; what type of clientele/tourist they are looking for; those they believe will suit their properties; those holidaymakers/tourists who are in search of what their, the seller’s, particular “product” has to offer.

In 1986, as I’ve mentioned many times in previous posts/stories, I managed the Cape Richards Resort on Hinchinbrook Island in far North Queensland.  Along with being the manager of the resort, I also bore the banner of “Sales/Marketing Manager”. 

As an aside...due to the sometimes wicked, devastating, unforgiving hands of Mother Nature (in this instance, in the form of Cyclone Yasi that crossed the far north coast 3rd February, 2011; and by mismanagement/handling by the resort's owners; and, also, distressingly by the useless hands of some brainless vandals, the wonderful island resort no longer exists.  It’s now a pile of rubble).  The disturbing images on the site below tell the heartbreaking story.  I shed tears when I see this footage.

1986 brought many changes for me; personal and career-wise; as it did for the annual Trade Fair originally called “The Market Place”. 

The Market Place started in 1979. Initially it only serviced the North American market; but rapidly it gained world-wide attention and interest. Soon word had passed around, and buyers from Europe, Asia, the UK and New Zealand were beating down our doors desirous of being participants. 

In 1986 the trade fair, for the first time, became known as the “ATE – The Australian Tourist Exchange”. The event extended over seven days; seven days of non-stop talking; non-stop selling; non-stop marketing/networking.  In the evenings the selling/marketing continued over dinners etc.

There was no rest for the wicked, or for the good.

I’d only been on Hinchinbrook Island for a couple of months in my new role as manager; having arrived during the first week in February, 1986 - when I was informed I had to attend the ATE being held in Sydney in June.

I had absolutely no idea what an ATE was; let alone what I was supposed to do at it!  But I quickly got my gear into gear because I had no time to waste to get my proverbial into gear!  It was then I had the title “Sales/Marketing Manager” tagged to my “achievements”…achievements I’d not yet achieved!

With about six weeks left between me and the commencement of the ATE, I barely had room to breathe.  The race was on.

The first item I had to attend to was organise and produce a sales/marketing video, pitching the resort and island’s attractions. 

Bear in mind, I was living on an island, not on the mainland where everything was within reasonably easy reach - at my fingertips, if I was lucky.  I still had the resort to run; staff and guests to take care of, while trying to find out all that I could about this strange thing called the “ATE”.

Fortunately, I knew someone from my Noosa days who had worked with my ex-husband when both were in the real estate industry.  

Peter, a keen photographer and documentary-maker, albeit still in the early baby-step stages, had left real estate to follow his dreams.  He and his wife set up their own small photography/film business in the Noosa Hinterland – just the two of them.  I reached out to Peter.  Explaining the urgency of my situation/predicament, I asked (pleaded) if he and his wife would be interested in coming to the island as soon as possible (like yesterday!), all expenses covered, to do some filming. I explained a video needed to be produced to enable me to show to my prospective clientele the ATE; and I also informed him I'd need numerous copies to hand to my “buyers” so they could show it to their prospective customers – who would, hopefully, become mine. 

Of course, on top of the “all expenses covered”, Peter would be paid whatever his fee was for doing such a job.

Peter jumped at the chance, thank goodness!  One problem solved! No time to relax, however…there was still much more that needed my undivided (most of the time divided) attention. 

During my appearance at the ATE in Sydney I was expected to attend, amongst many other evening business gatherings, the formal opening of the ATE. The ATE opening was to occur on the first night of the first day. The stylish, social occasion was being held at the Sydney Town Hall. 

The lavish, heritage-listed building was constructed in the 1880.  The building may not seem old for some who live in areas of the Northern Hemisphere; but, here in Australia, the lucky and relatively-young country, it is classed as being “old”.  The Town Hall was/is constructed from local Sydney sandstone. It was constructed in reverent honour of Queen Victoria (or in the style of the era).

I really didn’t have anything in my wardrobe suitable for a formal evening of kind.  

The previous seven years I'd spent living in the Noosa/Sunshine Beach/Coolum area (note “beach”); and then I relocated to live on a tropical island.  Formal social evenings weren’t part of my social calendar; nor were the appropriate clothes needed to attend such auspicious occasions.  If that wasn't enough to raise my blood pressure, I had no time to spare to go off the island to the mainland to do personal clothes’ shopping. 

To find what I was seeking I’d need to go to one of the cities, preferably Brisbane; but that was out of the question.  There was no way I’d be able to leave the island to fly to Brisbane for shopping spree (and there also would be no way I'd have time when I arrived in Sydney for clothes' shopping).

On top of the inconvenience, I always hated shopping for clothes when in search of a particular outfit.  During such nerve-wracking, stressful times, I never had success in finding what I was looking for. For some crazy reason, I only have success in that department when I’m not looking for a particular item.  Plus having to find and buy an evening gown made me squirm…I just couldn’t “see” myself in one. 

Don’t misunderstand me…I used to attend every ball in the ball seasons when I was a teenager in Gympie; but I’d given away going to balls by the time I reached my early 20s.   

After leaving Gympie to work and live in Brisbane I worked in the fashion industry for 14 years. I dressed well; but ball gowns were, by then, out of the equation; out of mine, anyway.  And I had no intention of bringing them back in again!

Then I had a brilliant “light bulb moment”!  Forget evening gowns; I wanted a ladies’ evening tuxedo!  My heart became set on a tuxedo; but I still had the dilemma of living on the island.  I didn’t carry women’s tuxedos in the little resort shop that took up a small amount of space next to my island office!

Computers and online shopping were things of the future for me in May, 1986,;but I did let my fingers do the walking.  I probably rang every major department store and boutique between Melbourne and Hinchinbrook Island in search of my dream…my tuxedo!

Along with organising the marketing video, I had to get my head together to write the copy to match the video images.  Fortunately, I knew a couple of people in the radio industry; radio announcers - so the island's one and only telephone line came in handy there, too.  I rang around in search of someone with a suitable voice, to do the "voice-over"on the video. I told them I would supply, compose the copy needed to be read in due course ("due course", too, had a stringent time limit attached to it).

It was all systems go!

To be continued……

Thursday, May 08, 2014


Mother's Day Cards given by my brother and me to our Mum when we were very young
Nana at 18 years

Mum at Yeppoon Beach and at Rockhampton Circa late 1930s-early 1940s
Kirbys' Staff Party...Circa late 1930s...my mother at rear slight to right of wall plaque..pen-marked on her neck to point her out...probably done by her!
A letter of thanks from Kirby & Co. to my mother for one of the fashion parades
Letter of Reference for Elma, my mother
Mum Circa 1966
Nana, Easter 1967

My mother, Elma...at 18 years of age


                                                 A mother’s enchantment at baby’s first cry
                                                 Is a thrill no lavish amount of money can buy
                                                 Contentment absolute as it suckles her breast
                                                 Its grasp of her hand as she gently lays it to rest
                                                To experience baby’s smiles; its tremulous steps
                                                Indescribable exhilaration at baby’s first word 
                                                Excitement trying to decipher what was heard
                                                Gentle caresses while wiping away tears shed
                                                Anticipation of the future; of what lies ahead
                                                A mother’s love is complete and unconditional
                                                'Tis a love never-ending; love so inspirational
                                                                           (Poem written by me)

Songs are composed; portraits painted and poems written in praise of mothers; and deservedly so. 

My mother with her blue eyes, fiery auburn hair and quick temper to match was a character in every way.  Her Scots-Irish heritage didn’t let her down. Her deep-rooted Celtic ancestry served her admirably in times of adversity; as it did her mother. 

Nana (“Nana” with a single “n” in the appropriate spot is of Scottish-Gaelic origin) was never one to be taken lightly, either. Those so lacking in judgment to be fooled by Nana’s quiet, soothing manner quickly learned if they stepped out of line they faced a formidable foe. Nana’s calm demeanour once stirred by wrongdoing or misbehaviour flared in reaction. She was a loyal supporter of her daughter and of we children. However, she was never so blinded by her love for us not to reprimand when needed.  The values taught by Nana and Mum have lasted long through the years; no “use-by date” applies. Good manners and respect were instilled from an early age.

My older brother and I were raised by our mother and our grandmother.  An early example of “same-sex-parenting” one could say.  Our mother and father separated before I was born.  

I’m writing in honour of my mother and grandmother…for Mother’s Day….this is for Ivy, my Nana.... and her daughter, my mother....Elma.

There was no money to spare or to waste in our humble childhood home, but there was little we did without; if there was anything, we probably didn’t need it in the first place. We certainly didn’t sit around pining and groaning. 

Mum and Nana never tried “to keep up with the Joneses”; nor did they covet or envy what others had. I doubt they had a materialistic bone between them; more smart lessons for children to learn.

Independent individuals, Mum and Nana were generally self-sustaining.  They were each other’s best friend; their bond was unbreakable. Whatever life tossed at them they faced head on, together. They dealt with their own problems conquering each hurdle that hindered their way.

For only the briefest time in their lives were they ever apart. They stuck by each other through thick and thin; through the good times and the bad.  Nana’s strength of purpose helped her daughter, our mother, conquer some of the darkest, bleakest episodes in her life.  Nana, like a lioness, protected her family…her pride of whom she was very proud.

Nana and Mum minded their own business, never the business of others. Rarely did either whinge or moan; when they did it’d be about trivial matters of no import. Figuring it was a pointless waste of time they just got on with it believing there were enough complainers in the world already without them joining the mob. Complaining wasn’t in their vocabulary; neither was blindly following the deeds or thoughts of others.

They had their disagreements; it would have been abnormal not to have had opposing opinions on different matters; but they soon got over whatever stirred the pot; and life continued on; sometimes not as before once the air had been cleared.

I argued with Mum; but never with Nana.  I probably knew better than to step over Nana's line! 

The arguments I had with my mother never lasted for long; and our verbal stoushes were never nasty. We didn’t carry things on. Our disagreements were over and done with quickly, and we moved forward, putting whatever caused the angst behind us.  

Perhaps the words oft repeated by Nana stuck with us – to never let the sun go down on your anger”.   

My older brother Graham and I were more fearful of Nana’s ire, than our mother’s.  We knew immediately just from “the look” on Nana’s face we’d gone too far; we quickly learned to pull our heads in, back off and start behaving ourselves before it was too late.  Surrender was the best course of action!

In our childish ignorance we thought we were clever enough to get away with more when around Mum, than with Nana.  We probably weren’t! Our mother just had a different way of dealing with us. 

I can’t remember ever being slapped by either Mum or Nana.  I remember the threats; the promises. They were enough for me.  I believed being hit wouldn’t be much fun. It didn't take me long to recognise where the demarcation lines were.

Mum’s pastimes when not working were gardening, fishing and crabbing.

She always looked her best when going out; whether to work or for pleasure - except when going fishing, of course!  

Graham and I frequently teased Mum about how long it took her to get ready to go out.  Her vibrant shoulder-length hair was always immaculately styled by her own hands. She always wore it up in a style befitting what was in vogue at the time. I can’t remember her ever going to a hairdresser.  She was adept at creating her individual styles. Her long fingernails were carefully manicured and polished; and her clothes always stylish, freshly-ironed and worn with grace.

My mother was born in Gympie, but when she was a toddler the family moved to Rockhampton; and it was there my brother and I were born years later.  A few years after our entrance into the world our small family unit moved back to Gympie. I was three years old and my brother, six years of age.

After leaving school Elma, my mother, worked for A.W.  Kirby & Co., Pty. Ltd., a fashion store in Rockhampton for a number of years.  She commenced in their employ on 28th July, 1933; and the date her employment ceased with Kirbys was 22nd April, 1941.  The reason she left was because the company retired from business.

Mum was also one of the company’s in-store mannequins, modelling the new season’s clothes in the fashion parades. Kirby’s was a major business in Rockhampton in those years.

Decades later, well into the Sixties, members of the Kirby family were still in contact with our mother at different intervals. Obviously, they held her in high regard.

Nana was the story-teller in our home.  My brother and I loved hearing her stories, over and over again. When we were young we would urge her night after night to tell us her stories of “the olden days”.  It never mattered how many times we heard those wonderful stories, they never ceased to delight us.

Nana was born at an area in Gympie called “The Dawn”. Shortly thereafter, Nana, her siblings and their parents moved to Goomboorian, 20ks (12 miles) outside of Gympie where they spent their childhood and teenage years. My grandmother's father, my great-grandfather worked at the Scottish Gold Mine, at Monkland, Gympie.  In 1918 he was killed in an accident at that mine.  (In a previous post I wrote in some detail about this part of my history/heritage/ancestry).

Our grandmother had a wealth of stories from Gympie’s early days; and of the areas surrounding Gympie. As there is only me left...my grandmother, mother and brother have passed away...I'm the only one left who knows these stories.  My late brother's adult children don't appear to be interested in learning about their forefathers/mothers, which, in my opinion, is sad....but that's their loss and a loss for their children. 

In awed astonishment we'd sit in silence listening to Nana tell the story of how fastidious our mother was about her appearance when she was a young, stylish girl-about-town working at Kirbys.   My brother, Graham and I listened intently to all of Nana's tales, interrupting only to ask questions here and there.

The headstrong young woman who later became our mother would go home during her lunch hour to change into a second outfit for the afternoon; and always, after taking an already ironed dress, blouse or skirt from her wardrobe would iron the garment again before donning it! 

Thankfully, I never inherited that trait from her.  I hate ironing!  Having to iron an item once is more than enough!  

When we were children often Nana proudly told my brother and me how our mother was the first young woman in Queensland to model the first two-piece bathing suit. If that was entirely true or not I really don’t know; perhaps she was the first young woman in Rockhampton to model such a bathing suit.  Nana wasn’t prone to lying or exaggeration so the former could very well have been the case.  Elma, our mother, was tall, slim and very attractive; she carried herself well.

In Gympie when Graham and I were attending primary school, Mum modelled in the local fashion parades on behalf of various local dress salons.

Home-body Nana enjoyed cooking. “Love” might be an over-statement; maybe she liked it more than loved it. However, preparing our meals never appeared to be a chore for her. I learned so much about cooking from my Nana.

Both Mum and Nana sewed; making their own clothes and mine; and sometimes shirts for Graham when he was younger.  Our sturdy Singer treadle sewing machine rattled along busily and often. 

It’s the simple things I miss most with my mother and grandmother no longer in my life.
I miss the “in-family” jokes. Our fooling around about nonsensical things others would have had no appreciation or understanding of; our silliness was unique to us; to our sense of craziness.

Mum was quick to take the bait; much to the delight of my brother and me. We loved to tease her. Mum bit quicker than our dog; or any of the fish she caught!

Often over the washing and drying up of the evening dinner dishes Nana and I played a game wherein we’d adopt personas; we’d put on false voices and accents.  Our silly, over-the-top conversations allowed our imaginations to run free. I think at times we almost believed we where the characters we were playing.. Both of us would end up in stitches; it was always such fun.

Of one thing I’m certain - Mum and Nana loved Graham and I very much; and we loved them equally in return.  Love costs nothing; but love is everything.

Happy Mother’s Day to Mums and Nanas.  It’s Mum’s day to take the load off – her day to be treated royally…

Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancakes: Combine 2c rolled oats and 500ml buttermilk. Set aside an hour or so until liquid is absorbed and oats are soft; overnight even. Stir together 1/2c whole wheat flour or oat flour, 1tsp each baking powder and bicarb soda, 1/4tsp each cinnamon and salt; add to softened rolled oats; add 1/2c buttermilk along with 2 eggs, 1/4c canola oil and 1tbs honey or maple syrup. Stir with rubber spatula just until well combined. Heat large, heavy pan over med-high heat; spray with oil. Cook 1/2c batter at a time; spread out to about 10cm in diameter; turn heat to med-low; cook until edges appear dry and bubbles begin to break on surface; flip; cook until golden; repeat with remaining batter. Serve with berries or bananas and honey or maple syrup.

Crab Benedict: Muffins: Whisk together 150g plain flour, 100ml each warm milk and warm water, 25g melted butter, 1tsp salt and 1x7g sachet of yeast; cover; leave in warm place, 1hr. Grease 8cm rings with butter; place in pan; spoon in muffin mix; cook gently on both sides, 3-4mins. Hollandaise: whisk 2 egg yolks with 50ml white wine vinegar in bowl over simmering water; slowly add 250g melted clarified butter or ghee; whisk continuously; then add a squeeze of lemon juice; keep warm. Have 800g cooked spinach handy. Mix 400g crab meat with 1tbs crème fraiche and a little lemon juice. Split and toast muffins; top each with some crab; then some spinach; and another lot of crab; top with hollandaise; sprinkle with chopped chives.

Nana & Mum’s Lemon Bars: Preheat oven 175C. Grease a 9-inch baking pan. Whisk togeterh 1-1/4c plain flour and 1/4c icing sugar; cut in 1/2c butter with 2 flat-bladed knives, your fingers or pastry blender to make coarse crumbs. Press into prepared pan. Bake 18-22 minutes until crust is light brown. Meanwhile, whisk together 2 large eggs, 1c white sugar, 2tbs plain flour, 1/2tsp baking powder, 1/2c fresh lemon juice and 1tbs lemon zest.  Pour filling over crust as soon as it comes out of oven (don’t wait for crust to cool). Return to oven; bake 20-25mins or until lemon bar is set.  Remove from oven; cool 5mins; dust with icing sugar.

Strawberry-Rhubarb “Mumosa”: Combine 1/3c each sugar and water, 1/2c each diced rhubarb and strawberries and 2tsp freshly-chopped ginger in saucepan; bring to boil; simmer 10-15mins; cool. Place in processor; add 1tbs lime juice; if too thick, add 1tbs hot water. Process until smooth; strain; pour 1tbs into champagne flutes; top with champers; garnish with strawberries.