Monday, June 23, 2014


The rocky outcrop is Cape house was situated at the base of the hill (about an inch to the left from the right of the photo.  The sandy beach is Orchid was the resort's main beach.  The cabins are dotted up amongst the trees)....Photo courtesy of Surf Lifesaving Australia.   My late brother, Graham, used to be a lifesaver at the Noosa Heads SLSC.
Aerial View of Resort Area
Preparations underway on the deck for the night's festivities. That's me in the black dress. Restaurant in the background.
A few of the yachties milling around on the deck
Me with a couple of my "girls" - from the left...Daina, Bronnie, Kylie and me; before the onslaught!
Bronnie with a couple of likely, yachtie lads!
"Lady" - One of the resort's friendly wallabies.  I asked her to join my work team,. but she declined and hopped away with a smile - "How silly do you think I am?" Was Lady's reply.

Flushed from the previous hours spent skimming the ocean’s surface; rolling with the waves, and sometimes not, under a star-filled sky, adrenaline flowed freely amongst the landed sailors.  The saltwater spray remained caked white on their skin; their hair matted and dry; but it mattered not. Contagious excitement and laughter filled the air; personal appearances were of no concern at that early hour of the morning. Pushing a couple of the larger round dining tables together, the yachties soon fell into story-telling mode.  Everyone had their own yarn to spin, and in most cases, without exaggeration.  I’m sure that would come later, down the track a bit!

I was kept busy between attending to their thirst; joining them at the table when I could, and running down to the jetty greet the new arrivals every time another yacht anchored up.  Some chose to remain on their boats until after sunrise; others, like the early birds already ensconced around the tables in the far, outer corner of the restaurant chose to come up to the resort and join in with the pre-dawn party that was well under way!

My day staff, which included the breakfast cook, my maintenance fellows, four in number, the housekeeping staff, usually two per shift, and whoever else chose to join them on any given morning started to come to life around 6 am.  Normally by the time they started wandering down from the staff quarters ready for their hearty breakfasts before beginning their shifts, I’d have their work-sheets made out for them.  The work-sheets listed out what chores needed their attention, in their particular fields, during their shifts.  In the grid on the sheets were shown the cabins that needed complete make-overs in readiness for new, incoming guests; which cabins needed luggage to be taken down to the jetty in readiness to be taken out to the sea plane when it arrived around noon to drop off new arrivals and to take off holidaymakers at the end of their stay; or for those who would later in the afternoon depart from the island back to Cardwell on the mainland on the powered catamaran, “Reef Venture”. which cabins needed beds to be made along with a general spruce-up for the on-staying guests; laundry chores.  My general maintenance staff knew pretty much what they had to do, and I mainly left them well enough alone.  I trusted their abilities and knowledge.  Their work-sheets, other than listing the transferring of luggage requirements etc., mainly were daily guidelines for them to follow. Maintaining the workings of generators, the septic-treatment plant, the dam, boat motors, carpentry, painting etc., etc., et al were their domain.  They knew what they were doing; and I had complete faith in them.  Fortunately, that faith was reciprocated.

The surprised looks on the faces of my staff as they entered the restaurant en route to the staff room situated off from the kitchen to have their breakfasts were hilarious; and remain embedded in my memory.  Still bleary-eyed from not long getting out of bed, they soon woke up with a jolt when they saw the party going on around the tables in the corner of the restaurant nearest the pool deck; and it was still not yet 6.30 am!  The yachties had built a pyramid out of empty beer cans...the pyramid of cans sat proudly in the middle of one of the tables

A long day and night lay ahead.  I’d already been through a long night…without sleep; and yachts were still arriving by the boatloads.   

More yachts meant more people; more people meant more greet-and-meets and socialising; more work; more food preparation; more socialising, and then some more non-stop socialising…more, more, more of everything.  My existing resort guests, not those off the yachts, needed attending to, as well.  They couldn’t be ignored.  Some were leaving by sea plane around mid-day; with new guests being dropped off to the island simultaneously.

As soon as Johnno, my barman arrived for his breakfast, he saw what was going on, and without ado, he raced back up to his room to shower and change, ready to start his shift.  His normal shift began at 4 pm, or thereabouts; but not that Saturday.   

Gavin, who sometimes acted as a gofer for the maintenance guys, and also as barman on Johnno’s days off, or when otherwise and elsewhere needed, stepped up to be counted, too.  All my staff put their hands up once they saw the droves of people arriving; more people than we’d ever seen at the resort before that day!

The resort was alive; in constant motion. People were coming and going. They moved around like ants on an anthill.  Some milled together in groups on the deck around the pool; some moved onto another cluster; heads of others bobbed up and down in the pool, while some slothful souls hung leisurely on its sides. Couples and groups lazed down on the beach, absorbing the harmony of their surrounds, a little removed from the madding crowd up above around the pool.  A few sat around tables in the restaurant, sipping on beverages, alcoholic or not. All the tables were occupied. Guests and yachties helped themselves to the coffee and tea set up on a side bench; and to the buffet breakfast. Others sat on stools at the bar; and a few leaned on the bar.  Anywhere an unoccupied space was found, a body or two took up residence.

Throughout the day, the resident locals...our friendly wallabies - hopped around the restaurant building and the deck to take a look at what was going on. They enjoyed the "oohhs and aaahhs!" briefly; they were politely accommodating before hopping away to watch from afar.

Amongst all the pleasant, happy, somewhat controlled mayhem, our normal day-to-day chores had to be done. Time didn’t stand still; and work didn’t disappear. 

A barbecue out on the deck was planned for the evening. It was a much easier proposition than attempting to feed the hordes, individually, a la carte-style. A barbecue and buffet table bearing a broad variety of salads, vegetables, desserts and various other delectable accompaniments was the better option for all concerned; staff, resort guests and visiting yachties. 

My guests who’d come to the island for a quiet get-away weren’t at all disturbed by the influx of people. For twenty-four hours or so, they were very happy to forego “the only footprints you’ll see on the beach will be your own” – and “maximum population 30”! It was all very new and different to what they were accustomed to in their normal day-to-day lives, wherever those lives were lived. They soon fell under the spell, and were more than keen to join in with the fun.   

Electric energy floated through the air.  It engulfed all around, making it impossible to ignore or escape. Nobody wanted to escape its stimulating clutches once it wafted their way. Without reservations, the holidaymakers welcomed the yachties into “their” island paradise, firing questions at them from all angles; keen to hear stories of their many adventures at sea, and of their sailing expertise.

With barely a spare moment, if any, to catch my breath the day sped by at a rapid rate of knots (Pun definitely intended).

The sea plane arrived as scheduled, dropping off new arrivals from afar.  As they were picked up from the Grumman Mallard by the island punt skippered by a couple of my staff, the newcomers eyes widened larger than saucers, in amazement at the sight of the myriad yachts anchored in the waters off from the island; an awesomely beautiful sight.   

The Cape Richards’ end of Missionary Bay, between the resort and Garden and Goold Islands, a very short distance away to the north, was a vision; one filled with sailing craft.  So many yachts, in fact, it gave the appearance a crew from one boat could just step across onto the neighbouring yacht and keep walking, stepping from yacht to yacht without the help of their tender.

Yachts straggled in until around mid-afternoon. The late-comers cared less that they’d not won; not won by quite a few nautical miles – that wasn’t the point. The joy of being out on the ocean; under the moon, the stars, and then the clear, blue sky and sunshine; sailing, enjoying the elements; loving Nature at its best, was what it was all about.
By that stage of the day, I’d given up knowing who the yachties were; who my holidaying guests were; and which of the happy faces belonged to the crews staying overnight or for a couple of nights in the cabins.  I’d work all of that out later…or maybe not.   Perhaps it would be easier to let the “Gods-of-Working-Things-Out-Their-Own-Way” be in charge. I decided to take that route.  Everything would fall into its rightful place….eventually.   I had no time to worry about something so minor. I was far too busy.  I was enjoying myself much too much to be concerned with lesser details….a mere bagatelle!

Realising the existing resort bar wasn’t big enough to cater to the needs of the crowd, a second, temporary bar was set up out on the pool deck to assist with liquor service.  Having access to another outlet took a lot of pressure off the inside bar.  They were a thirsty, but well-behaved crowd.  Everyone realised there was no chance that the island’s supply of beverages would run out, so they drank at a leisurely pace while enjoying the relaxing ambience of their surrounds.  There was no hurry; not place to go; no better place, that's for sure!  

Even though my staff and I were kept very busy, we, too, couldn’t escape the atmosphere.  It was infections, and it was more fun to go with the flow, than to fight against it; there was no fun in doing that...foolish!

I’d given my staff new outfits to wear for the evening; white t-Shirts, shorts, slacks or Capris with the resort logo on them; from the resort’s shop.  The shop was a small room off from my office, a little bigger than the size of the office. The store stocked t-shirts, shorts, peddle-pushers (Capris), casual slacks, minor toiletries, and not much else.

As soon as the “Reef Venture” pulled out from the jetty around 4 pm on its return to the mainland most of the staff raced off to the staff quarters for a quick shower and change.  They certainly moved quickly that afternoon because within a blink of an eye, they returned all fresh and spruced in their new sparkling white outfits…with smiles to match.  I, also, grabbed the opportunity to run back to my abode for a quick, refreshing shower before changing into my evening attire; and to feed Ruska, my ginger cat, making sure he was comfortably set up for the night.  Ruska was an “indoors” cat; one who had a very nice view of the ocean, Garden and Goold Islands.

There was a lull amongst the crowd when I returned to the restaurant/pool area. Most, other than a few stragglers who’d remained sitting at couple of tables around the pool, quietly conversing, had returned to their respective cabins or yachts to ready themselves for the night’s festivities and hi-jinks.  

The “calm before the storm” suited my staff and me.  It gave us time, not only to catch our breath, but also to make sure any details we’d overlooked were taken care of; and to finish setting up the long buffet table, the bar etc., out on the deck, as well as a million other things. The kitchen was a hive of energy. Spirits were high, and I don't mean those in the bars!

Before returning to the fray after showering and changing, I’d grabbed a bundle of music cassettes to add to the existing selection in the restaurant.  Johnno had directed the outside speakers strategically to carry the music across the deck. There were speakers inside the restaurant, as well. 

A rockin’ good night lay ahead – and we were prepared and ready for it – every base was covered!

My two chefs, David and Ken were both on roster, and had been all day from breakfast through; as had the kitchen-hand/dessert cook, Graham. The housekeeping staff changed “hats”; assisting in the kitchen area where and when needed; helping Johnno and Gavin run the bars; turning their hands to food service, and wherever else their talents were useful.  Same applied to my maintenance guys – Ted, Graham (my brother who worked on the island with me for period) and Burnie; along with Maurice, Brett and “Skirt” aka Steve who were the general dogsbodies We were an adaptable, capable mob; or at least were capable of giving a good performance/show at being so!

I’ll relate the story of how Steve got christened the name “Skirt” at another time.

Somewhere, somehow, a silent whistle, or perhaps a silent siren alerted everyone that “Happy Hour” had begun.

Once again, as if by magic, there was movement at the station. People started drifting down from the cabins; and others meandered up from the jetty, after securing their dinghies. Cheerful chatter filled the late afternoon air, bidding a happy farewell to the sun as it descended over the mainland’s western horizon.   

The time had come to get serious about having fun!

No prisoners were taken that night! Pirates had taken control!

Everyone kicked up their heels, and let their hair down.  

Across Missionary Bay to Cardwell on the mainland I’m sure the music kept the townsfolk awake until early Sunday morning; or, perhaps, it kept the Torres Strait Pigeons awake out on the Brook Islands – depending on which way the wind blew.  Even further north, the Family Group of Island that consist of Dunk, Bedarra, Timana, Wheeler, Coombe, Smith, Bowden and Hudson Islands and Mission Beach on the mainland could've been kept awake, too!  Who knew? Who cared?  We party-people at Cape Richards couldn’t have cared less as we danced the night long.   

Even “Sly”, the 600lb (272kg) groper who lived around the rocks of the Cape, and who hovered around the jetty every morning looking for a free feed flicked his tail in time to the music while the other fish were flirtatiously contented to be his back-up dancers.
It was around midnight when someone decided a dip in the pool was a good idea.  Like lemmings, many others followed, all fully-clothed.  At one point there were so many bodies in the pool, it was nigh impossible to see any water!

I class myself as being a fairly alert person.  My antenna is just about always vigilant and in good working order. I knew what was coming next just through the glint in the eyes of a few of the pirates (yachties). 

I noted their plan was to grab me and throw me into the pool; but they hadn't counted on my determination for self-preservation.  Before anyone had a chance to lay a hand on me, I stepped out, as if into nowhere…off the edge of a cliff, untethered…off the side of the pool, spearing into the water as gracefully as I could - feet and legs first.  The black voluminous, tiered-cotton dress I wore floated out around me making me look like gigantic black moth floating in the pool with its head above the water!   

I laughed, and, even more so, when I saw the shocked, disappointed looks on the faces of my would-be assailants.  I’d spoiled their plan. My plan was a better plan than theirs!

After a few minutes of shared joviality, I raced across to my house to change out of my wet clothes.  I changed into a knee-length, light-woolen, brightly-coloured jumper/sweater; and soon I was back partying, as if nothing had occurred.

Chapter Three to follow...

Monday, June 16, 2014


Townsville Yacht Club
Mount Bowen, Hinchinbrook Island...taken from eastern side - ocean side.
The Southern Cross

‘Tis time for another Hinchinbrook Island tale…come sail with me beneath the Southern Cross….

The island resort was a-buzz! It had never seen so many people. Never before had it housed so many people. The resort was bursting at its seams and beyond.

A couple of months earlier I’d been approached by the “powers-who-be” at the Townsville Yacht Club asking for my participation in their grand endeavour…a yacht race planned to depart from the Townsville Yacht Club with the finish line being at Cape Richards Resort on Hinchinbrook Island.  I was informed many sailors had already shown keen interest; they'd already signed the dotted line.  Word was and had been passed around quickly and many more boats were expected to participate.  Old salts and young ; male and female were ready and eager not only to check future weather conditions, but to jump aboard their boats, biting at the bit to cross the starting line at the Townsville Yacht Club once the starter siren sounded on their way to Cape Richards on the north-eastern tip of Hinchinbrook.

Mainsails were hoisted and checked. Jib stays, back stays, booms, rudders, mastheads, tillers, life-jackets and all else were being inspected and tested.  Already on-board provisions were being listed and purchased in readiness to fill the galleys’ cupboards.

Having no hesitation in agreeing in playing host to the competitors, their back-up support crews, families, wives, girlfriends etc., I immediately went into full-on preparation-mode, too.  A lot of planning and organizing was being done at both ends. Food provisions needed to be planned and ordered as did a more than ample supplies of alcohol and everything else pertaining thereto.  

A massive task lay in ahead; time was of the essence. Immediate action was necessary. We island-dwellers couldn’t just pop into the nearest supermarket or liquor store pushing shopping trolleys to pick up items forgotten. Water surrounded our island home. Everything that was required to satisfy the many, varied needs of our expected guests had to come from the mainland. Nothing could be left to chance; nothing could be left off the extensive, lengthy lists.

The weekend chosen for the yacht race I had some guests booked into the island accommodation. Once the announcement was made that I was on board re the race the remaining vacant cabins were rapidly reserved by members/families of the boat crews.Within no time at all, the "No Vacancies" sign was hoisted...metaphorically speaking.

Naturally, I couldn’t house everyone in the resort’s accommodation.  At the time I was managing the resort there were only 15 guest cabins.  The maximum number of bodies the cabins could bed was four. At any given time the majority of the resort’s clientele were couples. There were occasions, of course, when a family of four; or, perhaps, two couples occupied/shared a cabin, but primarily, twosomes chose the island as their preferred holiday spot.

The resort’s advertising/marketing slogan was: Maximum population 30; the only footprints you’ll see on the beach will be your own.” 

The slogan, with minor alterations, has been adopted since by many other resorts.  Proof, I believe, that it was a good marketing/selling tool.

Therefore I didn’t have enough cabins to accommodate the expected hordes preening themselves and their crafts in preparation to descend upon the island on race weekend.  Fortunately, most of the yachties were prepared to sleep on board their boats; not that much sleeping occurred when the fun weekend finally arrived!  And, after all, they had no other choice but to do so.

The yachts were set to leave Townsville at a designated starting time on the Friday afternoon. The Commodore of the Townsville Yacht Club, his assistants and I kept in regular contact throughout the Friday of the yacht race; from early morning. 

As soon as the first boats set sail I was made aware of the fact.  The pattern continued through the afternoon into early evening.  Once night fell most of the boat crews then kept in contact with me, on the island via two-way radio.  Between flittering about, being "Aunty Mame, the Hostess-With-the-Mostest" taking care of the diners in the restaurant that evening, I spent the rest of my time beside the radio keeping tabs on the progress of the yachts headed my way. The first boats were expected to arrive in the waters off the resort jetty sometime after midnight, and into the wee small hours of Saturday morning and thereafter.

My anticipation was at a high level.  There was no way I could go to bed.  I needed to stay by the radio.   

Once the guests left the restaurant after their evening of dining and socialising; and after my night staff (chef, kitchen-hand, waitress and barman) returned to their quarters I raced across to my little house to have a quick shower and change of clothes; into more suitable, casual day-wear.  I then returned to my post beside the two-way radio in my office, which was situated at the rear of the bar and restaurant…to wait for the arrival of the first boats. The radio needed to be manned; and I was the woman to man the two-way radio. 

Regular updates came through keeping me in tune with the progress of the boats headed my way.  I was comfortably ensconced in my office, but those on the yachts were out in the ocean fighting the elements and the darkness of night; and of the wee small hours of the morning.  

I knew where I preferred to be; and that was exactly where I was – on dry land that wasn’t rocking and rolling. I’ve never denied that I’m a fair-weather sailor. Actually, I’m not a sailor, fair weather or foul.  Sailing out on the ocean has never lured me into its clutches. I enjoy having my feet firmly on the ground far too much.  For one thing, motion-sickness and I are uneasy, queasy companions; we don’t get on at all.

However, I know it is a much-enjoyed pastime and desire of many, including my ex-husband who had always wanted us to have our own yacht to enable us, one day to go sailing around the world, including our own local waters. Many hours were spent discussing his plan; a plan I cringed away from, but I also told him if he wanted to do it, he could by all means do so.  And I meant it, with no nastiness or sarcasm attached.  Sailing wasn’t and still isn’t something I’d feel at ease doing. But I do understand others feel differently about it that I do.

Randall, my ex-husband had sailed a lot over the years; most of which he did around the Newport area when he lived and worked in New York City back in the mid-Sixties to the mid-Seventies.  I was happy for him to follow his dream; and would never have stopped him from doing so.  He knew it was his dream, not mine. 

When we were living at Noosa a friend asked him to join him in Cairns to pick up a sailing craft our friend had purchased.  Said friend had never sailed in his life and he needed someone with experience to skipper the boat from Cairns back to Noosa.   Randall jumped at the chance.  I could see that he wanted to do the trip. His eagerness was palpable. The men wanted me to join them on the trip, but I declined. I would’ve made their life hell, not purposely, but I wouldn’t have been a happy person on board. Not one among the rest of the crew would want me as a sailing companion. My presence would have made the situation very uncomfortable.  I knew that; I held no illusions.   So, I could see no point in joining them if I was going to make their lives and my own, misery.  Finally, my message got through, not with our my persistent reluctance and truth-telling!   

Eventually, the men went sailing, minus me.  I was very happy to remain at home alone until their return.

So, there I was - a keen and excited participant of the Townsville to Hinchinbrook Island yacht race; a happy co-organiser, one who was very willing to be the hostess, caterer and accommodation-giver; one who was also very pleased and contented to have her feet firmly planted on the ground, the sand, the deck and on floor of the resort's restaurant! I was ecstatic to be on the receiving end of the air-sea-two-way radio, sitting at my desk in my office.

The first boat crossed the finish line, which had been set out from the resort jetty, around 3.25 am Saturday morning.  My staff was all tucked up in their beds (or perhaps someone else’s - I didn't keep check) making me the sole member of the island's welcoming committee; but that was fine. There was no way I wouldn’t have been there on the spot (jetty) to greet the yachts.  Shortly after the first yacht arrived, three more boats sailed in.   

I welcomed the crews and led them up to the restaurant.  Upon my offer of tea or coffee, in unison they asked if the bar was open.  What could I say?  The island bar was never really closed.  If and when needed, the bar operated 24/7.  I held the liquor license; it was special license that covered island resorts. There were no limitations set that I had to shut the bar down at any given hour.  If I wanted to keep it open all day and night, I could.

On that particular early morning I stepped behind the bar, happy to serve my new patrons with whatever they wanted. to drink; and that is what I did.

More to stop rocking the boat......this is only Chapter One.....

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Blues on Blue...Painted by Me aka Lee
Enough Said...the Picture Says It All!
View from Main Western Road Across the Valley Below
Another Angle from Main Western Road Across the Valley to the Mountains Beyond...
Grey Day....painted by Me...aka...Lee

One morning a few weeks ago I awoke feeling gloomy; maybe the grey clouds hovering low shrouding the sun were to blame.  However, I doubt it because I love rainy days, and on the morning of my despondency rain threatened from above. 

Who knows why the blues decide to pay a visit or when?  Like uninvited visitors they always arrive when you’re not expecting them; and like some uninvited visitors they’re not welcome. I hadn’t extended nor mailed an invitation.  I’d not planned a blues’ party, but there they were, as large as life, ready and rearing to take hold and control. 

I considered burying my head, and whole body under the doona for the rest of the day; going into hiding; camouflaging myself as the bed, but I fought against the temptation. Added to my dreariness I’d pulled a muscle in my back at some time or other. I couldn’t remember doing it, but it was done whether I remember the occasion or not.  It’d already been giving me grief for a few weeks. My arthritic hip having felt it was hip to play up, as well, decided to join the fray.  Whoohoo! Party! Party!  How could I not join in?

Grumbling and mumbling I dragged myself to the shower refusing to glance, even briefly, into the mirror above the vanity basin. I figured I wouldn’t like the look of the person in there; in the mirror, not the basin!

I have no explanation why this strange person took up residence in my bathroom mirror. She lives there permanently. I don’t know who feeds her; and she’s always wearing my clothes!  I wish she’d get some of her own. To make matters worse she copies my hairstyle, too; even when it’s a bed- messy mess.  I ask you - how weird is that? Sometimes she looks okay, other times not.

I knew on the morning I’m describing I could do without seeing her glum expression looking at me. One would think she’d get a life of her own rather than spend her time annoying (at times –scaring) me. I was not in the mood for her silly, mindless antics.

After showering and dressing I headed off to the supermarket. Maybe while there I’d purchase a box or two of my favourite ice cream…Peters Chocolate Drumsticks; and perhaps, a box of Vanilla Drumsticks, too…when all else fails….

Driving along Main Western Road looking across the valley below to the mountains beyond my mood lifted a little; not a lot, just slightly.  Up above, the clouds, although fading to a softer shade of grey, still lingered. They, too, appeared to have lost interest in the day.  It was that kind of morning.

As my purchases were being checked and bagged I must have unconsciously winced because in a blink the solicitous, observant young checkout lass asked if I’d like someone to take my trolley and to load my goods into my car. Expressing my appreciation at her thoughtfulness, I smiled at the kind young woman telling her I’d be fine.

Still thinking about her warmth while transferring my groceries into my car, I leapt skywards when a deep voice broke the silence behind me. Generously a man offered to return the shopping trolley to save me the trouble. Thanking the stranger I let him take the trolley.

As I slowly climbed into my car an arm suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The owner of the arm had noticed my discomfort. He perceived I was struggling a little with my debilitated decrepitude. 

The helping hand belonged to the same compassionate trolley-returning gentleman; a man I’d never seen before; but he, along with the caring lass at the checkout brought sunshine into my day. 

I looked at the sky; the clouds had disappeared; the sun was shining brightly. My earlier dismal mood had dissipated with the melancholy clouds.

Credit must be given where credit is due; and thanks where thanks are deserved. I drove home smiling, giving silent thanks to two considerate strangers who, out of the blue, had changed my day; chasing my blues away.

Blue Cheese Dip: Blend 240g softened cream cheese, 120g crumbled blue cheese, 1/2c sour cream and 1tsp Worcestershire sauce. Stir in 2/3c chopped walnuts and 2tbs chopped chives; place into bowl; garnish with chopped chives; allow flavours to infuse.

Blueberry-Corn Salad: Cook 4 corn cobs; cool; cut corn off cobs. Dressing: juice of 1 lime, 1tbs each olive oil and honey, 1/2tsp cumin and pinch of salt. Combine 1c blueberries, 1 sliced cucumber, 1/4c finely-chopped red onion, 1c chopped fresh coriander, 1 seeded, chopped jalapeno and dressing. Add cooked chicken pieces or prawns, if desired.

Kale-Quinoa-Blueberry Salad: Dressing: blend 1/4c x-virgin olive oil, 1/8c balsamic, 1tbs low-salt soy sauce, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1tbs honey or brown sugar, 1tbs minced ginger, 1/2tsp toasted sesame oil and 1tbs water; process until smooth. Combine 1tbs dressing with 2c chopped kale; coat evenly; add 1-1/2c cooked quinoa, 1 grated carrot, 1c halved cherry tomatoes, 1c blueberries and 1/2c sliced almonds; add more dressing if desired. Top with toasted nori/seaweed, sliced thinly. Save remaining dressing in fridge.

Blueberry Clafoutis: Liberally butter a 25cmx20cm rectangular dish or 25cm round one. Sift 75g plain flour and pinch salt into bowl; stir in 75g caster sugar. Beat together 2 medium eggs and 1 egg white; pour into centre of flour; whisk in, gradually incorporating flour; slowly add 300ml whole milk, whisking all the while until a smooth batter. Spread 400g blueberries in the buttered dish; pour in the batter. Bake in 190C oven, 35mins. Dust with icing sugar; serve warm or room temp with cream.

Monday, June 02, 2014


My late brother Graham with a friend taken 2nd May, front of the old "Gympie Rattler"**

A collage of photos of Graham taken throughout the years...Clockwise from upper left with Bernice during one of her visits to Mackay in the early 90s; Graham taken at North Mackay circa late 1967; Graham - the day of his trip on the "Rattler", 1998l and finally, Graham, me and his first born son, circa 1969.
Noosa Beach in front of Surf Club Circa 1970
View from present Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club...circa 2014 - overlooking Laguna Bay

Six years ago - two days before 6th June, which was to be the 10th anniversary of the passing of my older brother Graham - I made a split-second, spontaneous decision.  The decision made on the morning of 4th June, 2008 turned out to be one of the best decision I’d made or contemplated making in a long time. It was probably the best decision I'd made in a long time.

Through life we’re faced with choices; some expected and wanted; others unexpected and unwanted.

On the morning of 4th June, 2008 I hesitated only a moment before making the decision to open Pandora’s Box in the search for my half-brother. I’d always known I had a half-brother - somewhere. His existence hadn’t been hidden from me. It was never the main topic of conversation of any given day; but stored in my mind the knowledge of his being persisted.

Every now and again in the preceding years I’d conducted half-hearted searches without success. Of course, my earlier investigations were conducted before the introduction of the internet and the expediency it offers. Day-to-day life, as it has a habit of doing, would take control demanding priority, and I got on with whatever needed my attention. In the meantime I carefully packed away, within easy reach, my pith helmet and safari outfit in readiness for future hunts whenever the urge nudged.

When caught at the crossroad of choices it’s probably prudent to contemplate a while before jumping; or tiptoeing even. However, spontaneity so often proves its worthiness.

My parents separated and divorced when my brother Graham and I were still very young.  Actually, my mother and father separated before I made my entrance into this world.  

Graham and I were never got to know our father other than through stories told to us about him by our mother and our grandmother.  Both Mum and Nana never uttered a bad word against our father. They never tried to sway Graham or me against him. Nana, in particular when talking about him with us, blamed the times (the “war years” – Second World War) for the troubles the then young couple faced.  And from what I’ve learned through the years, both our mother, Elma, and our biological father, Joe Nicholson were headstrong young people, not prepared to give the other leeway, as it were. 

 (To clear up what might be a misunderstanding; I wasn’t named after “Leeway”….I was named after Vivien Leigh. My mother loved her as “Scarlett O’Hara” in “Gone with the Wind”. Thankfully, whoever completed my birth certificate misspelled “Leigh”…making it “Lee”.  Personally, I prefer the latter spelling; it’s brief, straight-forward and to the point."

Joe, our father and my mother's younger brother, our Uncle Dudley, were good mates.  Dudley and Joe joined the army at the same time. Together, they got up to harmless mischief as young blades have a tendency of doing; so we were told by Nana.  Nana was the teller of stories in our household as I've previously mentioned in other posts. Graham and I often urged her to spill the beans because we loved listening to her tales.

Being of curious mind (in a past life I tutored Sherlock Holmes. It was by my guidance he became the competent sleuth he was) when in my 20s I conducted a couple of successful searches for family members on my father’s side.  Two of his sisters, their families and a brother still lived in Rockhampton, the town of their birth.  Our father’s parent came to Australia from County Cork shortly after they married.  They settled in Rockhampton where they raised their six children. The Nicholson clan was Irish-Catholic. 

Graham and I, raised by our mother and grandmother were true-blue Protestants; Presbyterians. As young children we religiously attended our local and nearest Presbyterian/Scots Church every Sunday morning for “Sunday School”.   

Dressed in our Sunday best, Graham would race on ahead of me; he didn't like to be seen in public with his little sister.  That would be a blot on his image; he had to put up a good front to his mates!  I'd run behind him, trying to swallow my tears; panting and  pleading with him to slow no avail.  Little sisters can be such pests!

Back in the Fifties there were two Presbyterian Churches in Gympie.  It was because, I imagine, many Scots settled in Gympie in the 1800s during its rich gold-mining days.

My maternal great-grandfather, Robert Hose – my Nana’s father- worked at the Scottish Mine at Monkfield, Gympie.  I wrote a story in my blog back on 2nd September, 2012, titled “Little Treasures of Days Gone by – Discovered and Uncovered”. Robert Hose was killed in a tragic, unexpected accident on that day; he was only 50 years of age.  He wasn’t an underground miner; he always worked above ground, but on that fatal day he stood-in for a fellow who couldn’t attend work because of illness.

As time went on I honed my sleuthing skills. In the early Seventies when I was living in Toowong, Brisbane I succeeded in locating my father, Joe Nicholson; but from afar.  He and I spoke a couple of times by phone.  He was, at that stage, living in Sydney, New South Wales. Unfortunately, we never did get to meet face to face.

Through my contact with my father's sisters, my aunties, I had learned I had a half-brother. 

Later, in 1994, when I was living in Townsville for a brief time, I learned further that it was thought my half-brother, named Warren and my father had left Sydney. It was believed both were then living in the Tewantin area on the Sunshine Coast.  Tewantin is close by to Noosa Heads; and to Sunshine Beach where I’d lived from 1979 to early 1986.  I conducted the usual phone book searches etc., but found no clues; uncovered no trails. Life returned to normal; investigations and manhunts were put on hold.

In late April 1998 I returned to Gympie from North Queensland to live and work. The next four years I remained in Gympie, my old hometown before in April, 2002 I moved here to where I presently live in. (There must be something about April that gives me itchy feet…sometimes).

Frequently on a Sunday, my day off…Sundays-Mondays were my weekends (at times only Sunday) I’d take a trip to Noosa, Noosaville and Tewantin to savour the magnificent ambience, and to enjoy a leisurely lunch at a favourite restaurant of mine on the Noosa River at Noosaville; or perhaps visit another favourite spot on Hastings Street in Noosa.  Those areas have always been close to my heart; my feelings won’t change.  I’ve written often about my times spent there; and no doubt will continue doing so. Back in the very early Sixties, my brother Graham was a surf lifesaver at the Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club. We spent every weekend at the coast.  He went his way; and I went mine; but he kept a sly eye on my movements and that of any prospective roving eyes of his lifesaver mates!  Many a time he warned them harshly -  "she's my hands off!"  Dammit!  And the warned heeded the warnings!

Moving forward to 4th June, 2008…without a tentative thought I pushed my office chair up close to my desk and computer.
Obviously, with the anniversary of my older brother Graham’s death drawing near, subconsciously, and consciously, I was missing him. My emotions were coming at me from all angles.

Entering the Internet Highway I began my search for my half-brother, Warren.

Lo and behold! Almost immediately, without a map to guide me, I’d made the right turn; taken the correct route. No dead-ends or detours hindered my journey. 

I found Warren Nicholson…my half-brother!  

Within minutes we were talking on the phone.  

When he first answered his phone, I gently eased into my call, allowing him time to digest who I was.  With clarity, I explained who I was while at the same time giving him information that only I, his true half-sibling would know.  I didn’t want him hanging up on me, believing me to be an annoying, unknown, faceless caller ringing him from a suspect call centre in the Philippines or India; or Nigeria, even! 

Although in a state of shocked surprise, he was thrilled I’d found him.  We talked at some length when he then asked if he could ring me back later that day.  He needed time to digest what had just occurred.  Good to his word, he rang me that afternoon; and again we talked animatedly.

Since then Warren and I have kept in contact verbally at least once a week; and we’ve spent time together on occasions.

It’s as if we’ve known each other all our lives; we’re alike in so many ways, it’s incredible.  We don’t need a DNA test to prove we’re related; that we’re brother and sister.  There is no denying who and what we are.

And all those times I spent at Tewantin, Noosaville and Noosa when I was living back in Gympie before moving here to the mountain, I could have passed Warren or my father, Joe in the streets of Tewantin – because that is where Warren and his wife live.  Our father lived with them up until his death; approximately two months after I found Warren!  I’ll go into further detail about this in a future post

Along with finding my brother I acquired a whole new family; one which includes a wonderful sister-in-law, two lovely, unselfish nieces who are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. We, too, are in regular contact. Between them and their partners they have three gorgeous little girls; each one is as bright as the shiniest sparkling button. I also gained another nephew and a grandnephew. (Some may say “grand”; others may say “great”; to solve the dilemma - I say it’s both grand and great)! 

Finding my brother and his family gave me a fresh outlook on life; a different perspective on things past, present and future. People, and items, lost for years can be located. It’s a matter of looking in the right places when going off on a search.

I took a leap of faith in making the decision to open my Pandora’s Box. Don’t blindly believe everything you read. Pandora’s Box (the “box” was actually a large jar) doesn’t always harbour evil. By opening the lid doesn’t necessarily mean it will be detrimental to your health; or the far-reaching consequences - dire.

Another example, as the story goes, the Garden of Eden’s forbidden fruit included not only the apple, but pomegranate, fig, carob, citron, pear, quince, and more; they’re all very good for us. 

On 6th June, 1998 I lost my brother Graham.  He passed away from a vicious throat cancer at the age of 56…far too young. Graham had never smoked a single or part thereof cigarette in his whole life. He hated cigarette-smoking.  Constantly he berated me for being a smoker.  Mum and I were the smokers in our family.  I gave up, cold turkey, a few years ago.

Graham’s passing left a huge gap in my life.  He and I didn’t always get on. We had “our moments”; many of them.  There were times we didn’t talk because of one reason or the other. He could be pig-headed; cantankerous; one-eyed; he was set in his ways and beliefs – it was “his way or the highway”: and he could be damned right annoying.  There were times I hated him; but I always loved him.

He and I also enjoyed good times together. Our senses of humour were similar. He loved to tease me; he did it well, having had years of practice from when we were little kids!.  He knew he could always get a “bite” from me; take a rise out of me.  He knew which buttons to push.  He enjoyed the game.

We laughed at things others wouldn’t understand; or had a chance in Hades of seeing the humour.  Often, simultaneously we’d see the funny side of something so inconspicuous; so ridiculous.  Overcome with fits of laughter, we’d begin tossing mumbled asides back and forth between us.

Graham thought the world of me, this I know and knew; but he had difficulty in expressing his emotions; his inner feelings.  He was my “big brother”; and big brothers seem to believe it is their role (and right) to protect their “little sisters”…particularly those who don’t have a father.  Many times, even when he was a little boy, Graham took on the burden of being “Lord Protector” of Nana, Mum and me.  He felt it was his role to do so; it wasn’t. No child should bear that burden; or believe he should do so.

He always told me when he died he didn’t want any hymns played.  He asked that I play John Denver’s “Annie’s Song”.  I fulfilled my promise to him.

One of the best times, if not the best, Graham and I shared was the night we went to see John Denver live in concert at Townsville’s Entertainment Centre – 21st November 1994. Graham adored Denver – his words and music.  Graham took the Monday and Tuesday off from work, making it a long, long weekend.  He drove north to Townsville from Mackay so we could attend the concert together.  The evening of Monday 21st November, 1994 was magical.  Graham and I even got to meet and talk with John Denver; to shake his hand.  

After we arrived back home Graham and I talked long into the wee small hours. He was perched on a kitchen stool, and at times lent against the fridge; I sat on the kitchen bench with my feet dangling down.  We sipped on a drink or two…peace and tranquility reigned.  Denver gave us that special time; it was his gift to my brother and me. I will never forget that night.   It was meant to happen, I believe.

I miss Graham still, of course…and come Friday, 6th June….I’ll have a few words with him.  It won’t surprise him, though…often I have a few words with him...most days I've something or other to tell him....

It is a shame my two brothers never met…..

*** "The Gympie Rattler"...the restored old steam train takes tourists out through the Mary Valley...a rich, lush dairy-farming and agricultural area outside of Gympie.  Graham's first job after leaving school at the young age of 14 years was with the railway department. While on the job he often went out through the Mary Valley, to the little country villages along the way...chugging along in the old steam engines.  His friend Bernice, pictured with him above, took him out that day...just a few weeks before his death. For Graham it was a much longed-for trip down memory lane... one he'd wanted to do for many years.  I was so appreciate of Bernice's kind gesture...that Bernice did that for him.