Monday, July 28, 2014


This is the townhouse I rented...on the corner of Clifton Beach Rd., and Arlington Esplanade, Clifton Beach. It wasn't painted white when I lived there. The sliding upstairs door led from the main bedroom onto the narrow deck...looking out to the beach and ocean across the road. Downstairs is the kitchen-living area. My unit was the one shown...on the right. There were/are only the two units in the block.
Upstairs and downstairs view from the above townhouse.  Great spot!

Courtesy of Surf Lifesaving aerial view of the main beach on Newry Island where the resort used to be.
Giant White-tailed Bush Rat (Placenta mammals)

The much smaller Marsupial Bush Rat

Pied Oystercatchers


Pushkin was an adorable cat.  He came into my life as a wee kitten Nov. 1987, and he was in my life until November, 2002.

Although it was good in some ways to return to the mainland after my time spent on Hinchinbrook Island, on reflection, I didn’t settle in completely to all aspects of mainland living.  I missed the island and its carefree lifestyle. It took me a while to get used to having my feet planted firmly on ground, not being surrounded by water on all sides.  Life was so much different to that on the island. However, I compensated by living as close to the beach and ocean as I could. 

Upon leaving Hinchinbrook for the tropical city of Cairns I rented a townhouse a few metres around the corner from the beach at Yorkeys Knob, and then later another at Clifton Beach in the Northern Beach area of Cairns.   

At Clifton Beach, when living in the townhouse at 97 Arlington Esplanade (pictured above), situated on the corner of Clifton Beach Road and the Esplanade, the beach was only a few metres away, across the road. I only had to take a couple of hops, steps and jumps and I'd land on the beach. There I'd enjoy the sand between my toes before allowing the salt water to wash it off at will.  From my bedroom and from the downstairs living area I had a clear vision of the ocean with only the palm trees and a few other coastal trees to interrupt the view, in a nice way. Night after night the sea gently lapping the beach was my lullaby; and each morning the orange glow of the rising sun across the ocean my alarm clock.

But I was floundering, even though I wasn’t aware, not consciously, anyway.  However, somebody else noticed. 

When I was living on Hinchinbrook Island Jesse Peach operated the Dunk Island barge that ran between Mission Beach and Dunk Island.  Often Jesse visited the resort on Hinchinbrook Island, which is about 53kms (33 miles) south of Mission Beach. By sea Dunk Island, which lies out front of Mission Beach is only 44kms (27 miles) from Hinchinbrook; and Dunk is only 10ms (6 miles) off shore from Mission Beach. 

I’d gotten to know Jesse quite well from his frequent visits.  He loved Hinchinbrook and he got to know all my staff, too. He was well-liked. 

Coincidentally, when I was property manager/receptionist/secretary/chief dog’s body and bottle washer at Inner Circle Realty, Smithfield, on Cairns' Northern Beaches area Jesse and his lady owned and operated a fish and chips shop in the same shopping centre at Smitherfield…just a couple of shops diagonally across and up from our office. Jesse had given up driving the barge, and he, too, had moved to the "big city" around the same time I had made my move.

The very astute Jesse paused for a chat one morning when our paths crossed at the centre's newsagency, which was situated opposite his shop, and a few metres/yards up from my place of employment.

“You don’t seem very happy, Lee.  You’re not the same person you were on the island,” Jesse declared, not holding back.

“It’s a whole different ball game, Jesse.  Island living is completely different to this.  It was free - you know what it was like…we were free know what I mean…” I stammered, a little taken aback by his unexpected, direct observation.

“I know, but I sense you feel as if you’re boxed in…trapped.  You don't seem to be very happy. It's as if you’ve forgotten how to be…” He continued.

“Yeah…” I sighed in resignation.

A couple of weeks later, again early morning before the rest of my co-workers appeared (I always arrived at work before everyone else) Jesse burst through the doors (they were open) filled with excitement, eager to share the information that was the reason for his visit.

That morning Jesse alerted me to Newry Island; to the fact that Willi Litz, the lessee of the resort on Newry Island was desperately searching for someone to take control of the reins.  He needed someone to look after the small, basic, down-to-earth resort for him because the previous manager had left Willi in the lurch, and he was in dire straits. Jesse knew someone who knew someone who told him about Willi Litz’ predicament; and Jesse immediately thought of me!  Of course, why not?  The Lone Ranger to the rescue…

I'd never heard of Newry Island until then.  I had no idea where it was, so a quick visit to the newsagency to grab a map soon put remedy to my ignorance.

In a way, I was the “Lone Ranger”…still am… nothing changes, and nor would I want it to.  I lived alone with only my two cats, Pushkin and Rimsky as my “roomies”.  I was tied to no one or nothing.  I was beholden to no one. So with little further ado, I did what I felt I had to do! What I wanted to do.

Newry Island smiled back at me in welcome the first time I laid eyes on “her”.  As I approached Newry across the waters between Rocky Island, Acacia Island and Outer Newry Island my face spontaneously broke open in a wide smile; a smile I couldn’t contain.  I had no desire to contain it.  The feeling I experienced that morning was one of pure joy.  I felt as if I was “coming home”.

After my arrival to the island Willi remained only long enough to “show me the ropes”.  Ten days later I was on my Pat Malone (I was alone to those not familiar with Aussie slang)…and loving it.  A few weeks after setting foot on Newry my furry mates, Pushkin and Rimsky arrived, having endured a rather hairy trip by four-wheel drive from Clifton Beach to Victor Creek, with a blue heeler (cattle dog) to keep them amused.  They weren’t the drivers of the vehicle, of course; they were safely ensconced in a large cardboard box.  In the same sturdy box they were transported across the ocean to me.  Finally, we three were together again…and very happy to be so. The Three Musketeers never celebrated a reunion the way we did!

I’ve written the above details or words to similar effect previously, but I rekindled the description of my arrival on Newry Island for some amongst you who may not have read my other posts about my time on the island. The above prelude is to give the uninitiated a backdrop to my island background.

The times I spent on the island alone – alone other than having Pushkin, Rimsky as my companions, and whatever native animals and birds with which we shared the space - were perhaps my favourite times on the island. Living within the plentiful abundance of peace and tranquility, with only the sounds of Nature as our accompaniment, there was nothing left to be desired.

Pushkin, Rimsky and I shared the island with koalas, echidnas, possums and the white-tailed bush rats, along with bandicoots and, no doubt, numerous other nocturnal creatures that I never set eyes on. The native residents who’d called the island home long before my two furry rascals and I turned up welcomed us, innately aware we wouldn’t harm them.

Each night the possums played on the sloping roof on the left-hand side of my bedroom, raising an unholy row.  I think they held football matches. They sounded more like a herd of elephants than a passel or posse of possums.   

The top half of the stable door on the side bedroom wall leading out to the roof I left open most of the time, weather permitting, of course. The existence of the stable door leading to nowhere other than onto a pitched, corrugated-iron roof mystified me.  I never did discover its purpose or why it was inserted when the building was originally constructed.

The first night Pushkin and Rimsky heard the possums running around on the roof out from my bedroom , in tandem, they lept through the open top half of the door to investigate the ruckus.  Within seconds they returned, in surrender, each with a “Whooooaaaaa!!” look on his face. They never ventured forth out onto the roof again, not at night, anyway.

When on the island alone I switched the generator off early evening rather than  waste fuel unnecessarily.  Once everything was shut down I’d go upstairs to my bedroom. I’d read in bed for a while by candlelight, flashlight or, sometimes, by lantern glow. Mostly, I’d cherish the stillness, the quietness of the night, people-free.  At those times, Pushkin and Rimsky made the most of their freedom to move around downstairs in the bar and dining area uninterrupted by humans; by annoying strangers with whom they weren’t keen to mingle.   

The bar was of particular interest to them.  Once they knew I was securely nestled in upstairs, I’m sure they shared a shot or two of Scotch. It was their “Happy Hour”. A few times I did discover what they used to get up to down there.  They’d made a few friends, and enjoyed catching up with them when they had the chance.

Pushkin and Rimsky’s night time playmates were the native giant white-tailed bush rats. The white-tails are nocturnal rodents. They play an important role in the northern rainforest communities in the Wet Tropics where they’re quite prolific. The first time I’d ever seen a giant white-tailed bush rat was when I lived on Hinchinbrook Island.  It’s been recorded that they originated from Papua New Guinea about four million years ago. They grow to the size of a domestic cat or a rabbit and can weigh up to a kilogram. The giant white-tailed bush rats are placenta mammals different to the much smaller, daintier little marsupial bush rat that frequent the coastal areas of Australia.  The marsupial bush rats are much smaller than their larger cousins, weighing in at around a mere 160 grams (about 5 ounces). The white-tailed bush rats have formidable teeth and are able to cause damage to all sorts of materials, including PVC piping, leather, tin, canvas – you name it, and they’ll chew through it.  They’ve been known to bite through cans.  If you see a coconut on the beach with a hole in it, drained of its juice, nine and a half times out of ten the hole was caused by a white-tail biting through the coconut to get to the juice.  However, they’re not dangerous to humans…and it became obvious to me when living on Newry Island, they weren’t a threat to cats, either; or vice versa.

Whenever I went downstairs to check the progress of their party I’d discover my two furry mates nonchalantly sitting on the bar, their mates, the white-tailed bush rats, scampering around on the floor in front of them.  My two cats didn't twitch a whisker; nor did they offer me a drink!

 I constantly berated Pushkin and Rimsky about their failure as cats; about it being their job to keep guard against nocturnal visitors and to chase their feral mates away, but to no avail.  With a yawn and eyes cocked, they just poo-hooed my suggestions.  Their friends were their friends, and no one, not even I could tear them asunder.  Their loyalty knew no boundaries.

Because of that unfailing friendship there must have been an unspoken pact or truce; or one I was unable to translate or understand because the white-tailed bush rats never seemed to cause any damage to the buildings, pipes, etc; not any I could see.  Perhaps the buildings were so old, it was impossible to notice any damage!  There was nothing I could do to keep them in check, even if I wanted to do so.  I never locked any doors, windows, or anything else on the island. There were no locks, no keys. I had no need to lock anything up or away.  Living on the island I felt no threat from any living creature, including those of the two-legged human kind.  Only once was there a threat from a human…and that was from me towards a fellow human, but more about that in Chapter Two.

My Newry Island reminiscences kicked into gear in earnest after reading Stewart Monckton’s post on his blog “Paying Ready Attention”. Stewart is to blame. It’s his fault. He mentioned and pictured Sooty Oystercatchers…the birds.

At Stewart’s mention of the oystercatchers I was reminded of the Pied Oystercatchers that used to frequent the main beach in front of the resort on Newry Island. I loved watching them stroll along the beach.  Their not-a-care-in-the-world attitude was contagious. They weren't wary of me, mostly they ignored me as they enjoyed their day. Rarely did they fly away if I drew near.  There was enough room on the island for them and for me. So often I stopped whatever I was doing to leisurely watch them while they went about their own business. They were always in pairs.  They were never very far apart from each other. Amused, I’d watch them as they splashed about in the shallow pools of water left behind from an ebbing tide. 

Obviously, there were a few pairs rather than just the one pair, but as they all looked alike to me, it was difficult to my untrained eye to know which was which, who was who, or how many there were unless they all congregated together at the same time. 

I loved watching their antics when they bathed in a water pool oblivious to all else.  I’d sit quietly watching as one bird attended to its ablutions. After a few minutes of sole bathing the bird would look along the beach towards where its mate wandered about a few metres away, either in search of something tasty to nibble on, or it had chosen to take a casual stroll with no purposeful intention as it pondered the world through the eyes of an oystercatcher. 

Spotting his mate, the bathing bird would call out to it, beckoning the other bird to join him; and then, the two of them together would frolic freely.  Not wanting to disturb their fun, I didn’t have the heart to move until after they’d completed their gratifying pleasure.  Watching their daily ritual was a gratifying pleasure for me, too,

Witnessing the joyful antics of the oystercatchers was just one of the many things I loved about being on the island alone with only Pushkin and Rimsky for company...along with our co-inhabitants, the wonderful native creatures.

One afternoon I went for a stroll up along the beach towards the northern point when I noticed, a few metres up ahead, a tern was acting in a very distressed manner.  It was crying out in a mournful, yet frantic wail while flapping it wings and moving around in a most agitated way.  As I drew closer I noticed its mate was lying motionless on the beach in front of it. The surviving tern was in such a state.  I crouched down on my heels onto the sand. What I saw upset me very much.  Tears flowed freely down my face.  There was nothing I could do, so I backed away slowly, sobs racking my body. The bird’s anguish was palpable. Whether I was right or not, I believed the bird had to grieve in its own way. I didn’t feel it was my place to disturb the scene at that time, so I let it be.  The following morning I returned to the site and buried the dead bird, above the high water mark.

 I will never forget the incident; and I know some may think I’m silly -but I don't care - to this day, about 24 years later, it still upsets me when I think about that afternoon. 

I'm one of the biggest softies in the world ("sooks" as we're are referred to in Aussie slang)... but, on the other hand, I don't suffer fools easily - or at all, as a matter of fact.

Chapter Two will follow….

Monday, July 21, 2014


There’s nothing quite like it.  Nothing - not even a vacuum cleaner - clears away our mental, emotional cobwebs or dust more than a good belly laugh; laughter that isn’t over in a brief moment. Little else can beat a good dose of laughter; laughter that isn’t smothered or contained, but laughter that explodes like an erupting volcano. Laughter which lasts until all control is lost; laughter that grabs hold and refuses to let go. When it finally releases its grip you’re left drained with a tear-stained face and sore stomach muscles. Your mouth feels like it will never regain its original shape. Laughter which leaves you gasping for air; laughter that causes you to giggle throughout the ensuing hours each time the absolute absurdity resurfaces. In many instances, for the life of you, you can’t recall what kicked it off in the first place. But you don't care if you can't remember, preferring to relish the feeling.

I know what I’m talking about when I say a healthy dose of laughter is better than vacuuming because after re-training my vacuum cleaner this morning, I re-acquainted it with some old friends, dust and cobwebs. And boy, were they sucked in!  Unfortunately, the re-training exercise wasn’t completely successful (perhaps the re-training sessions should happen more often). I’ve noticed some dust and cobwebs are still hanging about. Where’s the humour in that?  It’s something to sneeze at, though.  I’m going to have to suck it up, and do it all over again; but not now; I’ve lost my sense of humour…and conveniently misplaced my vacuum cleaner.

In my opinion, these days there are few good comedians around, other than, of course, politicians; in particular, a certain chubby chappy here in this country, who shall remain nameless, but with whom I’d hate to share the maiden voyage of the Titanic. I'll leave it at that because he has fondness for suing those who don't agree with him.

The daily news is depressing. It doesn’t give us much to laugh about. Tears of sadness are shed over the news, not tears laughter. In a world full of violence and despair we have to find humour wherever and however we can because there are not many side-splitting moments in the news reports. If and when we do find something to laugh about, we should hold onto it for dear life!

For my liking, there are far too many unfunny TV panel-type shows filled with self-serving nonentities who, in their own mind believe they’re exceptionally clever and hilarious.  They must do, because they always laugh at their own “jokes”.  I  find them frustratingly annoying. They don’t tickle my funny bone, so I give them a wide berth.

Of course, the very clever, interesting and highly-amusing “QI” isn’t included in my above criticism. It’s a show beyond reproach. 

Seriously – this is no laughing matter - where have the good comedy writers gone? What’s happened to comedy shows today?  Perhaps it is just me; maybe I have lost my sense of humour.   

When I feel like having a hearty good laugh via the TV I watch recorded re-runs of “Cheers”, “Frasier” and “Everybody Love Raymond”. Even though I’ve already seen most of them, they still manage to make me laugh.  And, I find it difficult to ignore dear old Agnes and her boys.  She’s always up for it. Mrs. Brown has the insane ability to raise guffaws. I’m not too proud to admit my likeness for the non-politically-correct, cardigan-wearing hell-raiser. "Mrs Brown's Boys" and her ploys are good for a laugh  Irish writer/performer Brendan O'Carroll is a funny man; his alter-ego, "Agnes Brown" is a funny woman..

“Fawlty Towers” still takes the cake.  Actually, I think Fawlty was the icing on top of comedy cakes, or capers; capers of the playful kind, not the pungent, pickled flower bud of the spiny Mediterranean shrub.

It’s difficult to ignore the brilliance of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. So silly and irreverent they were; yet so intelligent, surreal and masterful.

Before the Python crew flew in, “The Goons” enthralled with their madness. Tony Hancock stepped up to the plate, as did Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

Stepping a little further back into the past - let’s not forget quick-witted Groucho Marx and his siblings; or the vaudeville comedy of the Three Stooges; the comical facetiousness of Abbott & Costello or Laurel & Hardy.

In today’s mad, mad world we need more zany laughter; more funny characters and storylines. It could be the cure the world needs to combat the indecent atrocities and craziness that engulf like a plague
Brussel Sprouts with Fried Capers: Bring pot of salted water to boil; add 900g Brussels sprouts; cook until just tender, about 5mins; drain; set aside. Drain 1/2c capers. Heat 1/3c x-virgin olive oil in pan over high heat; add capers; cook, stirring carefully until capers start to open and become brown and crisp; about 5mins. Drain capers on paper towel. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, finely-chopped to pan; cook 1min; add sprouts and ½-3/4tsp chilli flakes; stir to coat with oil; cook 5mins; stir occasionally. Transfer to serving plate; sprinkle with capers and squeeze of lemon.  

Looney Tuna Capers: Cook 400g pasta bows al dente. Return drained pasta to pan over low heat; stir in 6tbs x-virgin olive oil and 2-3 crushed garlic cloves. After 1min, toss through 2x200g cans drained tuna, 85g halved pitted black olives, some sliced semi-dried tomatoes and 2tbs rinsed capers; warm through; season; serve. 

Tomato-Capers-Breadcrumbs & Olives Spaghetti: Combine 2tbs x-virgin olive oil and 2 sliced garlic cloves over med-low heat in pan. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic turns golden, about 2mins.  Remove the garlic slices with a slotted spoon; discard; then add 1/2c fresh sourdough breadcrumbs to the pan. Turn heat to medium; cook, stirring, until the breadcrumbs are crisp. Remove from the heat; set aside. Return pan to med-heat; add 1tbs x-virgin olive oil, 1/4tsp hot red pepper flakes and 1 minced garlic clove. Cook about 30 seconds; add 1 un-drained can chopped tomatoes, 2tbs rinsed, coarsely-chopped capers and 1/2c coarsely-chopped green or black olives. Simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down, 15 to 20mins; season to taste.  Cook 375g whole-wheat spaghetti to al dente; drain; toss with the sauce. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and 1/4c chopped fresh parsley; toss again briefly. Sprinkle over freshly-grated Parmesan cheese; serve.

Iced Vo-Vo Cake: Grease and line 17x27cm brownie tin. Place 1-1/2c S.R. flour, 1/2c plain flour, 1c caster sugar, 150g cubed, room-temp butter, 2/3c milk and 3 eggs in bowl; beat on low speed until just combined; increase speed to high; beat 1-2mins until thick. Pour into prepared pan; bake in preheated 140C oven, 40-50mins. Cool on rack completely. Icing: Beat 125g room-temp butter and 2c icing sugar until fluffy. Melt 1-1/2c white & pink marshmallows in small saucepan. Transfer melted marshmallows to icing; beat until smooth; add a little pink food colouring; spread mixture over top of cake in two large strips, leaving gap down the middle; dollop 1/2c raspberry or strawberry jam down the middle; sprinkle top of cake with desiccated coconut. Serve with whipped cream! 

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Marilyn Jones & Garth Welch...Australian Ballet Company Circa Early 60s.
The legendary Margo Fonteyn

Even after decades pondering this difficult, massive, life-altering decision I still haven’t a clue what I want to be when I grow up. Like a grasshopper, I jump from idea to idea. Do I really have to make my mind up today? 

Once upon a time long ago, inspired by many visits to circuses, to be a trapeze artist flew high on my list; but after a few practice sessions, that idea came crashing down with a thud.

After reading articles and watching newsreels about prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn, and following the graceful en pointe techniques of Australian ballet dancer, Marilyn Jones, a prima ballerina I would be. In reality, what was the point?  There was little chance of that particular dream coming into fruition because my ballet lessons lasted for about a year only – not enough time to fulfill my dream. I was devastated when I discovered I’d need more than 12 months’ worth of lessons to reach the dizzy heights of Fonteyn or Jones.

Pirate movies stirred the urges to become a cutlass-brandishing pirate-girl while wearing knee-high boots and a flouncy pirate’s blouse, minus eye patch. Thoughts of running away to be a pirate still linger.

Being a cowgirl was considered; a desire heightened regularly by the westerns shown at Saturday matinees. If given a choice I’d have chosen to be an alluring, glamorous Hollywood-version of Annie Oakley or Calamity Jane, rather than one of the dance hall girls; although I did love their captivating gowns; so to be a dance hall girl did have its attractions, too.  I could have been tempted if a handsome, gun-twirling, whip-cracking cowboy strolled into the bar....

Any thoughts of being a pirate pillaging and plundering on the high seas, or a cowgirl riding the ranges soon changed when I saw “Elephant Walk” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Finch.

Liz met Finch in a bookstore. It was a case of love at first sight when they set eyes on each other.  Oh! The romance of it all! It was then I decided I wanted a job in a bookshop or library when I grew up; or become a movie star. For a while my head floated aloft amongst the ethereal clouds when dreaming about either plan. 

Perhaps I should’ve frequented more milk bars. At only 16 years old, Lana Turner, one afternoon after high school, was discovered while sipping soda in a milk bar/drugstore; but, as mentioned in a previous post, I wasn’t fond of milkshakes, or of hanging around milk bars, thereby limiting my chances of being “discovered”.  Also, I didn’t like wearing skin-tight sweaters or twinsets. In particular, I was never a member of the “twinset” set; skintight or otherwise; and, I wasn’t a pearl sort of girl.

At the age of 17 I had a “light bulb moment, but it soon dimmed.  A nurse! That’s what I’d be – a nurse!  I’d go to Brisbane; to the Princess Alexandra Hospital, where I’d do my training. Brimmed with excitement at the thought, I raced home from work during my lunch hour to inform my mother of my momentous decision. Time was of the essence; and I didn’t want to waste it. Mum was sitting before the mirror on her duchess, applying make-up in readiness to go to town or to work.  She listened, showing great interest as I breathlessly prattled on at high speed. When I finally gasped for air, without hesitation and not missing a beat, my mother agreed it would be a wonderful idea.  Her acceptance without argument of my plan immediately deflated me.  Her agreement to my plan burst my bubble; my balloon.  I never did become a nurse.  Reverse psychology worked at its best!

Similar happened when I came up with another new, even brighter idea. I’d join the Air Force; but that meant I’d have to live even further away from home; and although the idea of leaving hearth and home was a thrilling prospect in my daydreams, the reality of doing so was an entirely different scenario, particular when I was, seemingly, being pushed out of the nest so eagerly by my mother without her even ruffling a feather!

After reading the romantic, sentimental novels written by Aussie novelist F.J. Thwaites I fell under the spell of his brooding, mysterious heroes. In all his books, the handsome, rugged protagonist always had a stray, wayward lock of hair falling wantonly and carelessly upon his broad brow. He’d suffered emotional damage in his past whether through his own fault or that of others. He of the wayward, errant lock was in need of redemption. His tortured soul desperately required healing; his broken, battered cold heart screamed out in silence wanting to be mended and warmed.  Who better to up the heat, than the innocent, young governess from the city to cure all his ills; or the new teacher at the local country school? 

The author took the reader to exotic places, not just to Australian outback cattle stations, but to the mystic East; to tropical islands; to the sands of the Sahara;across to the Alps in Switzerland and beyond.  No matter where the locale, the hero was always a wounded, tormented soul; and the brave heroine, not one to ever give up, fought to the end to mend and win his heart.  She always succeeded in her endeavours; and they lived happily ever after.  F. J. Thwaites most certainly was the precursor to Mills and Boon.

It was Thwaites' fault I toyed with the idea of becoming a governess way out west. For all I knew, there in the hot, dusty outback my knight in shining armour could very well have been waiting for me to rescue him.  I never became a governess, so the poor fellow is probably still waiting, but as I've taken so long to venture out beyond the Great Divide his once shining armour is now rusty.

Of course, distance was also why I didn’t follow up being a movie star.  Hollywood, with all its glitz and glamour beckoned, but it was too far away! 

Call me a chicken, I don’t mind.  I was a spring chicken then; now I’m just an old chook!

I often dreamed of being a singer - without the twerking, of course - wowing audiences far and wide. A dampener promptly put paid to that brilliant idea. When I sing in the shower the water runs, screaming, back up the shower head quick smart; a fair indication there is no future on the stage for me. I’m no “Singing Budgie”; I’m more an “Off-Key Galah”.

What to be when I grow up is an important decision to make; one not to be taken lightly.  Until I know definitely what I want to do when I grow up, I shall remain in pondering mode. There is no hurry….

Moroccan Chicken Soup: Heat a little oil in large pan; add 1 chopped onion and 2 chopped carrots; cook 5mins; add 1 chopped garlic clove and 3tsp harissa spices; cook 1min. Stir in 125g barley, 800g canned chopped tomatoes, a sprinkling of chilli and oregano and 1.3ltrs cold water. Bring to boil; then simmer 15mins. To pan add 50g chopped dried apricots, 410g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, 140g cooked roast chicken, cut into bite-size pieces and chopped parsley. Cook 10mins.  

Chicken-Filled Potatoes: Preheat oven 180C. Prick 4 large, unpeeled baking potatoes; bake whole, 45mins. Heat 1tbs olive oil in fry-pan; cook 160g roughly-chopped bacon, 5mins; add 140g cooked roast chicken, cut into small pieces; toss 1min to warm through; stir in 100g small-leaf spinach and 50g grated cheddar.  Make a cross in each potato; ease open. Fill with mixture; top with more grated cheddar. Heat under hot grill until cheese is melted. 

Chicken-Potato Pie: Preheat oven 200C.  Thinly slice 4-6 medium, unpeeled potatoes. Dice 1 onion, 1 capsicum, halve and slice 1 zucchini. In pan fry onion in a little oil; add the capsicum and 3 chicken breasts, cut into small chunks; cook until chicken is lightly browning; add 2 crushed garlic cloves, zucchini, 1tbs smoked paprika and 1tsp dried thyme; cook 2-3mins; stir in 600g passata, a squirt of tomato sauce and seasonings. Simmer 2mins; transfer to ovenproof dish. Top with sliced potatoes, working round and layering as you go. Bake 25-30mins. If desired, sprinkle with a little grated cheese; melt in oven before serving.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014



                                         Eddy Grant's music played a big, loud part on the Saturday night

The resort was right at the tip of Cape Richards

View taken from top of Cape Richards looking down upon Orchid Beach; my little house was at the base of that rocky the lower right of the picture (out of the frame).

A couple of the visiting yachties.  The fellow on the left was the one who had something to do with Australia 11 - the winner of the America's Cup, 1983

Sundown views from jetty across to Garden & Goold Islands...on a peaceful, yacht-free afternoon!

The party, the hi-jinks, the music and the dancing continued through until dawn.  The tamer merrymakers chose to rest their feet. Groups gathered around the tables; some sat on the deck, or on the side of the pool.  Happy persons, mobile and stationary, were everywhere. Some still moved to the music; others were content to just sit; happy to share stories and laughter.  The population eventually began to dwindle as the revellers’ energy levels wavered. Winding down, weary, but contented, they began to wander back to their respective bunks or beds…whether it was to the cabins on their yachts, or to the resort’s cabins.  Quite a few hardy, hearty stalwarts, which included a couple of my staff and me, of course (I always seemed to be the Last of the Mohicans), were left to hold the fort; to ensure the mainsail remained hoisted, and the gangplank lowered. Never let it be said we were party-poopers!  Never!  

Like the captain of a boat, I was the manager of the resort; it was my solemn duty - my happy duty - to remain until the very end...whenever that might have been....

At daybreak a few stragglers were seen strolling along Orchid Beach, nonchalantly wading in the shallows at the water’s edge. 

Putting on a brave front showing he was not defeated, my bleary-eyed breakfast cook arrived at the kitchen. I knew it was a fa├žade, but he carried it off successfully, having had myriad past occasions in which he'd done similar. He'd had much practice; many rehearsals. A hearty hot and cold breakfast he would prepare for all and sundry; for all-comers.  And after the previous evening’s boisterous activities, there were a lot of hungry bodies to feed.

Around dawn I'd raced home to have a refreshing shower; otherwise known as a “wake-me-up” shower. After another change of clothes – I think I had more changes of clothes that day/night/morning than model Miranda Kerr during a catwalk appearance – I returned to my office to write up the day’s work-sheets for my staff, and to attend to other necessary office duties, such as….and then my mind went blank.

Where do I start?” 

I had absolutely no idea who my island guests were; which of those guests staying in the cabins were yachties; and who were my holiday-making guests; those who’d arrived by sea-plane or were delivered to me from the mainland via the “Reef Venture”; guests who had absolutely nothing to do with yachts or yacht races.  Who was staying on and who was departing?  I had no idea; none whatsoever!  

On any "normal day", I never had to face such a dilemma. Not that there were many normal days on the island, but at least during those other times,  I knew exactly who was who, and who should be where; who should be leaving; who should be staying and who should be arriving! When, where, what and who; but this was no normal day; no normal weekend!  I hardly knew who I was, other than I knew I wasn't normal!

Not one to fly the white flag of defeat; not one to give up or in easily, bravely I forged forth, having faith that somehow, some way, it would all work out in the end, even if only by bluff, smoke and mirrors!

I completed the work-sheets to the best of my inabilities; handed the sheets out to my staff, and wished them good luck. It was akin to tossing a boxful of bits and pieces up into the air and allowing them to fall at will.  

I said to myself - “to hell with it – I’ll leave it all in the laps of the gods” - I went for walk down along the beach.

My brother, Graham – not “Graham, my breakfast/dessert cook” – worked for me at the time, too, as I mentioned in Chapter Two.  Before I left for my brisk, bracing, mind-clearing walk, Graham came to me for his work-sheet.

Expecting a list of the cabins from which he’d have to load the guests’ luggage onto the island’s one an only vehicle, an old Toyota ute, for transfer down to the jetty, and then onto the punt in readiness for their planned departure later in the day via sea plane, he was slightly bemused when he tried to decipher my hieroglyphics. Little did he know that the next day's work-sheet would go down in history!

I told him to... “play it by ear, or by series of elimination because I have not a clue who is coming; who is going, or who is staying! And try to look intelligent and knowledgeable while doing so!”   

To be concise, I had no idea who was who; or where they were or were not going!  I tried to follow my own advice regarding keeping up the appearance of intelligence and knowledgeability.

I figured everyone could and would, eventually, work out their movements; their own comings and goings. It was up to my staff and me to make sure they were fed well, happy, comfortable and their thirsts quenched while doing so; with as little visible upheaval as possible.  Smooth sailing....

Sunday’s mood was much more mellow than the previous day and night’s had been.  We’d all partied beyond human limits, so a quiet, restful, peaceful Sunday was the order for the day. 

A couple of new, unsuspecting arrivals did step out of the sea plane into the punt around noon, their eyes opened wide in amazement.  There had been nothing in the holiday brochures at their travel agents warning them about a flotilla or fleet of yachts being in the waters off from the resort as a welcoming party to greet them as they disembarked.

Manager-mode took over immediately.  I knew I had to instill a sense of calm amongst the newcomers to dispel the wild looks of panic in their eyes. I explained the events of the past 24 hours or so. Assuring them everything would be back to normal at the resort by day’s end, if not, by the next day at the latest. I informed them they’d missed the majority of the boats, because many had already left our fair shores.  I crossed my heart and gave my word to my not-yet-disgruntled vacationers that soon the madding crowds, along with their yachts would be gone; sailing an ocean wave way out in the blue yonder. The peace, harmony and solitude they expected would once more descend. Before too long they’d become willing, carefree captives; caught under the gentle, mesmerizing spell of the island….or something like that.

As I’d expected, during the day quite a few of the yachts upped anchor and sailed off to their next destination. Not all were returning south to Townsville; not all yachts were Townsville-based. To some, the race had just been a minor portion of their cruising agenda; a bit of fun to add to their adventures.  But there were still a lot of people milling around; many more than “max. pop. 30”.

Sunday night in the restaurant was far more subdued than the previous night.  Dinner was served and eaten quietly, just the way a Sunday night should be spent; not that we had any set rules on the island. Most times, things happened spontaneously at the resort; which was more than half the fun of it!

However - “early to bed and early to rise” was the unspoken motto everyone followed on that particular Sunday evening…thankfully. 

I welcomed my bed.  I realised I’d not slept since the previous Thursday night!  Obviously, I’d been running on adrenaline…and on the fact I had a million guests under my care, and, hopefully, watchful eye.

Come Monday morning, I was refreshed after a solid night’s sleep. I was in my office shortly before 6 am trying to compose sensible, intelligent, legible work-sheets.  My brother Graham arrived to collect his, and immediately began shaking his head when he saw all my deletions; crossing-outs; additions; scribbles, scrawls and scratches.  He looked at me with a stupid look on his face, and immediately we both broke into the giggles. Our chortling grew into uncontrollable hysterical laughter. Our mutual sense of insanity was bouncing off each other.  The more we tried to stop, the worse we became, until we just gave into our out of control hysterics.  Graham slid down the wall and sat on the floor of my office.  Unbridled laughter engulfed us. We laughed and laughed until tears poured down our faces. We couldn’t talk. I laid my head on my desk, exhausted, yet exhilarated by our unrestrained, uninhibited mirth.  

Other staff came in to collect their work-sheets. After taking one look at Graham and me, they left, speechless, thinking we’d lost it and were best left to our shared, inherited insanity. Graham and I were siblings, after all.   I think they were right in their assessments.

When we’d exhausted our laughter (and were feeling a little exhausted from our unable-to-be-checked behaviour), I told Graham to do the best he could; to wing it.  Work it all out himself and whoever was left over at the end of the day would be our island guests, not yachties.

Graham kept that work-sheet.  He told me he didn’t have the heart to toss it away; he was going to have it framed! He treasured it, reckoning that one day, because it was so unique it would be worth a lot of money! He didn’t have it framed, but he did keep it, safely stored away in a book about Hinchinbrook Island.  I’m sure I still have the work-sheet here somewhere amongst some of my/his memorabilia.  Graham passed away in 1998.

Every time, in the ensuing years when Graham and I recalled that particular Monday morning on the island, in my office, we laughed our heads off once again. If his work-sheet had fallen into the hands of the CIA, MI6, ASIO or any other secret service agency, they wouldn't have had a hope in Hades of deciphering it!

Others probably didn’t/wouldn’t see the funny side of it, but to us - the moment - and my efforts of trying to fill in a workable work-sheet, one that could be followed to the letter, were hilarious. 

If only the guests had known… was better they didn’t.  They were totally oblivious to all the inner machinations and mayhem!

It was a wonderful, unforgettable, fun-filled weekend.  It was a hectic time, no doubt, but everyone who participated one way or the other, had an absolute ball.  I met a lot of interesting people over those few days; I heard so many great stories. I made many memories; and I shared much laughter. 

A crew member of one of the visiting yachts had been part of the crew on Australia ll; the Aussie yacht skippered by John Bertrand, which, three years earlier, in 1983, had won the America’s Cup; famously ending US domination of the racing series. I can’t remember his name, or what his exact role was.

By Tuesday afternoon the bay was empty of yachts. The only craft left at the resort were “Lady of the Island”, the yellow Abalone, the powered island boat; the AIMS punt (The Australian Institute of Marine Science) – the punt the AIMS folk left tied up to the resort’s jetty; the punt we used for the collection or depositing of guests to and from the sea plane; and the Topper; the small, single-person (and I don’t mean “unattached”) sailing craft mentioned in an earlier post. 

All other water craft, big and small, had left our precinct.  Life on the island, at the resort returned to normal; peace reigned once more; and the only footprints we saw on the beach were our own – or those of our resident wallabies.

It was then, and only then, I discovered who my true-blue holidaying guests were; those who were left on the island...that's who....

And this is the tail end of my sailing tale.....the stern....