Tuesday, November 25, 2014


View from Regatta Hotel front verandah...across Coronation Drive to Brisbane River
Regatta Hotel
Similar in style to the Workers' Cottage we bought and renovated...the first house we bought
Tongue & Groove Wall

Almost immediately upon Randall’s return to Queensland’s fair shores he gained employment as bar manager at the Regatta Hotel, a well-known popular watering-hole in Brisbane…in the suburb of Toowong situated on Coronation Drive just across the road from the Brisbane River; and a short distance from where we lived in the unit block.

For a period while living in New York Randall worked within the New Zealand Mission to the UN. He worked directly for Frank Corner who was New Zealand’s Ambassador to the United Nations, who was also the US Ambassador. Corner, who was born in Napier, New Zealand in 1920 (he passed away in August 2014 at the good age of 94), also served on the United Nations Security Council at the time.   

After leaving the employ of Mr. Corner and the New Zealand Mission to the UN Randall gained employment with the British Embassy within the UN boundaries.  After working for the British for a while, Randall changed pace and scenery to become the bar manager of O’Brien’s, a bar (and diner/restaurant) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  O’Brien's also had a :sister" bar out on Long Island.  Both of which are long gone by now, I imagine.  (It was a little before Carrie and her friends from “Sex and the City” discovered the city). 

From his time managing the bar in New York and managing the Long Island bar on summer weekends, Randall had gained a wealth of knowledge about the bar trade and the art of cocktail-making.  He had no interest in returning to radio work, the industry he was in before heading overseas; although he was urged to do so from a few quarters because of his magnificent, mellifluous speaking voice. Even to this day, so many years later, he is remembered by some who were around back during the time he was in radio…because of his deep, dulcet tones. 

Randall remained at the Regatta for a few months before leaving to take up a job waiting tables at night at Manouche Restaurant, Milton Road, which was within easy walking distance around the corner and up the road a bit from where we lived.  A while later when the owner of Manouche opened another restaurant romantically named Scaramouche in the city Randall commenced working there during the day doing the lunch shift as well as working at Manouche at night. 

Shortly after we married, he resigned from both to take up a position as salesman at a Toowong Real Estate agency, Conias Apollo.  Again, the agency was on Milton Road, Toowong, just around the corner from where we lived.

I still worked during the daylight hours within the fashion industry…in the employ of the Kolotex Group of Companies; a job I’d commenced in 1965, a couple of months after moving to Brisbane from Gympie.

Smocka was a young cat not long past kitten stage when Randall arrived on the scene.  The more experienced, worldly, sage Sergeant-Major Sasha was a mature seven years old. He ruled the roost. With that being a time-consuming role, he enjoyed a good night’s sleep. He'd been my shadow; my bodyguard for seven or so years.

Smocka’s greatest joy was to play through the night.  He’d worked out an exciting circuit better than any thrilling theme park ride.  Smocka’s fun-filled route commenced down in the lounge area; it progressed running up the carpeted stairs to the upper level culminating on our bed where he’d attack our toes before scampering up along our bodies and back down again, smiling all the way; and then he’d take off to repeat it all over again…and again!  Yippee!  It was a wonderful game.  His energy knew no bounds - but, boy...could he bound!  Humans…the greatest playmates in the world for young cats particularly at night!

When Randall was working nights only, he had his days free.  Fed up with Smocka waking us through the night, Randall devised a plan.  During the day every time he caught Smocka napping, Randall would wake him up!  Every time he passed Smocka he’d give him a nudge; a gentle shake; nattered nonsense in his ears, and kept him in lengthy conversation.  The plan worked.  After a while, Smocka, not getting a good day’s sleep, slept through the nights!  Peace reigned once more!

Not long after Randall commenced working in real estate we bought our first house.  It was a little two bedroom with front enclosed sleep-out “workers’ cottage” two doors along Cadell Street from where we lived in the unit block.  We’d attended an auction one Saturday morning – lost out on the auction – but bought the identical cottage next door for about a thousand dollars less!  Our intention was to live in our new home and renovate it ourselves as we went along…room by room.  This was in early 1976.

The move from our unit to the cottage was easy. It was a case of making a few trips manhandling our possessions, with the help of a couple of mates, the few metres along the footpath to our new little abode. The cottage in Toowong was the first house we bought.  We were thrilled pink.

Sasha and Smocka came with us, of course.  They settled in easily without complaint, or so I thought. However, unnoticed by me, Sasha had been stewing in private, trying to keep a lid on his emotions.  Enough was enough…that damn straw that broke the camel’s back was at it again. 

When Smocka came into our lives, Sasha greeted him with open, furry arms. He enjoyed having a little mate with whom he could share his stories and wisdom.  And then, Randall appeared on the scene.  Sasha’s good manners came into play.  He lodged no complaints with me.  Sasha put on a happy face and just got on with it.  I was none the wiser of what was bubbling beneath the surface of his ginger coat.  He loved me, and it was obvious right from the start when Smocka came into our lives, Sasha had room in his heart for Smocka, too. Whend Randall joined the throng Sasha didn’t kick up a stink. He graciously accepted the intrusion by another human into his life; a male intruder at that! It appeared he had enough room left in his heart for the new member of our gang.  Sasha, I was to learn, was adept at hiding his feelings when he felt it prudent to do so.  On the flip-side, he was also adept at being imprudent about not disguising his feelings when the situation (or person) suited.

Instead of taking his adverse feelings out on the interloper, Sasha started giving me the cold shoulder. I was going to have to pay the penalty for bringing another male into my life.  Goodness!  I already had two…Smocka and Sasha.  Why would I need another? Wasn't he enough? Weren't he and Smocka enough?

Eventually, Sasha didn’t attempt to mask his disdain.  He’d gone right off me.  And to rub it in even further…as if I wasn’t feeling hurt enough as it was…he became the best of mates with Randall!  If Randall had been into football, I’m sure the two of them would’ve gone along to games together, or sat on the sofa watching sport on television, while downing a couple of cold tinnies!

Shortly after moving into the cottage we decided it was time to attack the renovations.  Randall took a couple of weeks off from work to enable him to have free reign without interruption.  During the day I continued on with my job and left him to it.  I’d leave around 7.15-7.30 am each morning and returned around 6 pm or thereabouts.

Every time I arrived home from work, Sasha could not be seen.  And yet, Randall told me, all throughout the day Sasha was there at Randall’s side as he worked on the interior of the house.  It was as if Sasha wore a wrist watch…moments before I was due to arrive home from work, he would take off.  No matter how much I coerced, cajoled, begged, pleaded, wept, bribed, Sasha ignored my every heartfelt plea.  Nothing I did would change his mind or attitude.  I always filled his food bowl as usual...morning and night…that didn’t change. If he didn’t want me around when he ate, that was okay with me…as long as he ate; and as long as he knew food would always be there for him.  My love was always there for him, too.

I’d see him staring at me from the yard over the back.  Sitting amongst the long grass, thinking I didn’t know he was there, I’d burst his bubble and go up to the fence to chat with him.  He was a typical headstrong redhead!  I knew all about redheads.  My late mother, Elma who’d passed away in 1974 had had beautiful deep auburn hair – she was a natural redhead with a character to match.  I’d started to think perhaps Elma’s spirit had infiltrated Sasha’s!  My mother had been very headstrong, and now, Sasha was acting similarly! Every time I approached him, he’d just stare haughtily back at me.  He took up residence in a yard over the back from our cottage, a few doors down.  An elderly lady lived there.  We introduced ourselves to the lady and explained the situation.  She told us Sasha was not a nuisance to her and that he never entered her house.  She had greenhouse on the back fence line filled with potted cacti.  That was his favourite spot!  There’s no accounting for taste…but he had become a prickly character…so I guess it was in character!
Sasha still paid visits, some longer than others, but he remained stand-offish…with me.  It broke my heart, but there was nothing I could do to change the situation; no matter how hard I tried.  He’d decided I’d deserted him, and that was that.  He'd make me pay; he’d had enough of my wayward ways.  He didn’t blame Randall, nor did he blame Smocka.  He blamed me.

So life went on, as did our renovations every spare minute we found.  Well, maybe not “every spare minute”, but progress was being made.. We became very proficient painters of tongue and groove interior walls.

And then, one day we came home from our respective jobs and Smocka was missing.  He couldn’t be found anywhere.  We went up and down the street, the back streets and the front streets; Randall by car and me by foot.  We knocked on doors.  We called his name, but to no avail.  I was inconsolable.  Smocka was a true house cat; he was a sook...the softest, sweetest cat with not a nasty bone in his body. He never wandered; always content to be within his own boundaries.  I couldn’t understand what had happened.  Like a demented woman I scoured the streets, the gutters…perchance he had gone out on the street and he’d been hit by a car.   I didn’t find him.

Then a couple of days later, still not having given up the search, a neighbour, a young woman in her mid-twenties whom I knew only by sight and a nod in greeting when our paths rarely crossed noticed I was somewhat distraught. 

In her most comforting way she said to me: “Maybe he’s been taken by someone.  I hear there are people going around stealing cats for greyhounds!”

She was lucky she walked away alive.  I just looked at her, open-mouthed.  I couldn’t believe anyone could be so thoughtless; so ignorant, but I should’ve known better…some people…too many people…do not think before they speak.

I turned my back on her and walked away without uttering a word.   

Climbing our front stairs, Randall could see I was very upset…and angry.  I told him what the lass had said. He was flabbergasted, too.  After that incident each time I saw the young woman I pretended I didn’t.  I couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge her…I didn’t trust myself to acknowledge her.

Smocka was gone…and I never discovered what happened to him.  I lived in the hope…in the dream…someone had taken him thinking he was a Russian Blue…and he was living the life of an aristocrat.   
Those thoughts still remain with me…the scenario helped me with my grief. Some may think that's silly of me...but I give no apology or excuse.

Sasha still watched on from the sidelines.

This is not the end of this story....there is more to come...the tail end of what is turning into a long tale will follow ...stick with me, please...


  1. Some cats carry a grudge very, very well.
    The skinny one had a cat that loved him. The skinny one went overseas. Moby was inconsolable. He cried. Himself couldn't get used to the time difference and often used to ring us up around 3am, when I was (naturally) in bed. So was Moby. He heard himself's voice and went hunting for him. Hunting and crying. It broke my heart.
    Himself got home. Moby met him at the door, said 'who are you?' and refused to treat him with more than common politeness. And never,ever forgave him.
    My heart breaks with you for the loss of Smocka - and that inconsiderate oxygen thief. Looking forward to the next installment.

  2. Hi EC...I love your story. Cats are incredible creatures of that there is no doubt. And so many people just don't realise how amazing they can be.

    Shama is here right now bossing me around. She's a little prima donna! A real little madam!

    Thanks for coming by, EC. Cuddles to the Js. :)

  3. Hi Lee ~ I renovated a workers cottage in Brisbane just like yours too. And I had a ginger male cat who sadly was victim to a tick. He was a big beautiful boy ~ and when he walked you would swear he was a big cat not a domestic cat. It was sad when we lost him.

  4. Hey there Carol...Yes, renovating was the thing to do back when we started doing it...in the mid-Seventies...a long time before all the reality TV reno shows! lol

    Ticks...I hate ticks. There are a lot of ticks here on the hill.

    It's always so sad when we lose a pet. I know I've broken my heart over many.

    Thanks for coming in...'tis always a pleasure to see you. :)

  5. Oh My Dear! This was Heartbreaking! I choose to believe he had a long good life with a lovely family, because the alternative is too painful!!
    Cats....they crawl into our hearts, forever and ever!

  6. I choose to believe the positive, too, Naomi...I had to do so...and I've tried to stick to the belief that it was so; but I still feel sadness of losing my little mate. I always will.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  7. "the tail end"? Was that deliberate wordplay Lee?
    We had a cat called Boris. He arrived as a young stray and stayed with us for ten years but then one night he disappeared and we never saw him again. I really connected with that cat - like a best friend without words. It's the not knowing that hurts the most.

    Cats for greyhounds? I didn't know that cats could run that fast!

  8. Yes, Yorky, "tail end" was deliberate.

    It was suggested many times that in some quarters cats were used as lures in the training of greyhounds...not a very nice thought...an extremely distressing one.

    Thanks for dropping by. :)

  9. We would be beyond devastated if one of our critters took off and never made it back home.

  10. G'day Jerry...I was beyond devastated. Even to this day, all these years later, I still get upset when I think (and write) about it. Smocka was a much loved little fellow; I adored him; and that he was such a gentle soul made/makes his loss even more painful. Our pets are so very dear to us, aren't they?

    Thanks for coming by, Jerry. :)

  11. Well I have allergies so I have never really had pets. This last pet Disco is a blessing from God - and if something happened to him i don't know what in the world would happen?????

  12. G'day Sandie. All my life I've had a pet or pets. Fortunately, I've never had any allergies.

    I think these days I might have become allergic to humans, though! :)

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  13. We celebrated Thanksgiving this week and it is a wonder I have any cats left. My family loves felines and enjoyed playing with David, Olive, Luke, Han, Leia and Yoda. I had to count when the company left to make sure none of my cats had been cat-napped.

    Sorry someone place a sad vision in front of you about your lost cat. You never know what some people will think they should share.

  14. Lee
    I totally understand about the missing kitty. When Moe left I was so miserable. Like you I looked everywhere for him and then on his own he came back to spend his remaining few months with the lady he adopted. Peace

  15. I bet he was scooped up because he was so cue. So sorry though! That must have been so tough.

  16. Hi Annie...I bet your furry rebels lapped up all the attention, too, and are now comparing notes between each other!

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  17. I remember reading about Moe's disappearance, Lady Di...and I knew you were upset...and I was upset with you. I was also very happy when I learned he'd returned.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  18. Hi RK...I knew what you meant...and you were on cue, though. :)

    Yes...it was really tough to have lost him.

    Thanks for popping in. :)

  19. Greetings from Dubai!!I really enjoyed going through your blog. Have a great week ahead!


  20. Thank you, Shantana. Greetings back at you from Australia! :)

  21. Finally catching up Lee. I grew up in Taringa so not far from you and my SIL lived in a unit in Sylvan Road in 1971. She lives at Eagle Heights these days - a bit arty ( knits tea cosies and does mosaics... and makes a little money from selling them too !!). I gather you missed the damaging storm like we did. More rain this weekend though. We need it.

  22. Hi there, Helsie...yes, we did miss that terrible storm, thank goodness. I do feel for those who were affected by it, though...the poor buggers. So much damage..it's unbelievable and it happened so fast. I'm glad to hear it didn't cause any harm to you, too. I love the rain and look forward to receiving more...but the fierce storms we can do without. I'll be battening down the hatches this weekend.

    I know Sylvan Road well...it was just around the corner from Cadell Street where I lived in the unit and then in the cottage...and it's where, as you know, the Regatta Hotel is on the corner of Sylvan and Coronation Drive. A great watering hole!

    So your SIL would've been in the same neighbourhod as I was in those years. We probably passed each other or came across each other in Conias' mixed business shop in Milton Road...and now she is living in almost the same precinct as I am....again!! This time we probably cross paths in the aisles of IGA!

    Thanks for coming in. :)

  23. Nice post - cats really do own us!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  24. Hi there Stewart...yes, they certainly do. The two I have now control me...and they know it!

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  25. Heartbreaking. Ugh. I hope also that Smocka lived out the remaining part of his life as an aristocrat.

    Not knowing though must have been sooooo bloody hard. And painful.

    Another interesting installment of your life, which I enjoyed, Lee :)

  26. G'day Wendy...I'm glad you're enjoying my rambling ruminations, Wendy. It was hard when Smocka disappeared and I still get upset when I think/write about that time.

    Thanks for popping in. 'Tis always nice to see someone from across the Ditch. :)

  27. Poor Sasha, feeling left out and punishing you for it. Clearly he thought you were his alone after all those years before Randall. Sad that he didn't eventually come back to you.

  28. Yes, it was heartbreaking for me, River...because he remained in my heart...I loved Sasha.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  29. I'm amazed Randall was able to change Smocka's sleeping habits. But then again our cats sleep 22 hours a day so we've never had to try.

  30. Hey Dexter...the power of sleep deprivation works every time! If that hadn't worked the thought of giving him a nip or two of Scotch had passed our minds! ;)

    Thanks for dropping in. :)

  31. My hearts breaks for you that you lost your Smocka like that. I loved the two cats I had and that was a constant worry - especially when workman were about - that they would get out and disappear.

    Sasha sure could hold a grudge, sounds like. He was a redhead like my cat Sophie. That photo with his back to you cracks me up and I love that he had the shape of a heart on his back.

  32. Hi Lynn...firstly the photo of the cat with his back to the camera isn't actually Sasha...I found it on the Web; and it depicted Sasha's attitude down pat!

    Sasha definitely had has feelings hurt...so did I, and I was helpless in changing the situation...nothing I did worked.

    Thanks for coming by. :)