|View from Regatta Hotel front verandah...across Coronation Drive to Brisbane River|
|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...