Wednesday, February 25, 2015


A cat similar in appearance to Sasha  (I posted this photo in a previous post)
Let's from the Web

Ruska and me on the new deck at the Elanda St., Sunshine Beach house - circa 1982 - thereabouts....
Randall with the catch of the day; me with other catches of the day...and Ruska eyeing off the mud crabs and prawns.  Ruska LOVED prawns!  Circa 1982
Sunshine Beach
Nambour Main Street
Self-Explanatory Map...Sunshine Beach is situated just around the headland (on southern side) of Noosa.

"Randall George Real Estate" opened its doors; but before that day came, we'd put our heads together, pondered and considered for many hours, days and weeks on a suitable design for our logo and image for our real estate signs, stationery/letterheads and business cards etc.  

After much deliberation it was decided a seagull would be our logo; our symbol. A suitable seagull image modelled on the seagull on the cover of Richard Bach's wonderful, inspirational novella, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull was decided upon. An abstract, light blue bird in flight soaring to the heights, with the name of the business printed in a darker blue on premium quality white paper would be on all our stationery and signs.  (Artwork similar in style to the photo of the seagull shown above).  Satisfied, the final layout of our overall design, including typeface and the arrangement of the headings etc. were confidently put into the hands of a local printing company.  

We'd chosen the seagull as our symbol, not only because we lived at the beach, but also because Bach's story held a special place in our hearts, as did Neil Diamond's Grammy-winning soundtrack album  "Jonathan Livingston Seagull".  Diamond's magical interpretation played in the background during Randall and my relaxed, casual wedding service conducted by a Marriage Celebrant a few years earlier in 1976.
A hive of activity ensued as excitedly we set up our office in the main room in the downstairs area of our Elanda Street home. We felt like a couple of kids on Christmas morning! I became the proud owner of a brand new, you-beaut electronic Olivetti typewriter with display and 500 or 600 character memory. PCs were still a rarity in 1980.  I thought I was the ant’s pants!  Until, that is, the first time I placed my fingers on the keys of my new wonder machine. 
At first strike on the keys smoke billowed out from the interior workings, much to my shocked dismay. 

However, after a phone call to the office supply/equipment business in Nambour from where we’d purchased it, without argument or delay the explosive contraption was replaced with a brand new machine, no questions asked. The replacement never caused problems, performing excellently, without complaint; always at my beck, call and fingertips.  

A cabinet-maker situated in Eumundi Road, Noosaville constructed a large, one-off wooden desk for Randall to his personal specifications.  It's was quite a magnificent desk.

Before the new office furniture and other necessary items arrived and after we covered the interior walls a couple of coats of fresh, inviting white paint,  we laid sea grass matting on the floor.  The office of Randall George Real Estate was taking shape. My desk and work area was up one end of the room, not far from the entrance to the house. Randall operated from his desk at the other end of the room. No walls or partitions divided us. The office had a casual, coastal feel (and appearance) about it.

Three wide, large windows broke the monotony of the wall behind him and to the side of me. The windows, assisted by a partly-glassed door at the far end of the room, granted sunlight and sea breezes easy access.   

Against the opposite wall to Randall’s industrious work area we set up a day bed with a brightly-covered striped Mexican-themed woven bedspread.  A couple of colourful bean bags offhandedly scattered about the room added to the relaxed atmosphere we aimed to achieve.  Suitable chairs were also available for those clients more in favour of formal mode!  Leafy, green, potted plants completed the picture of unceremonious, natural surroundings.

Having immediately claimed the day bed during the daylight hours Ruska acting sometimes as receptionist, albeit unknown to visitors to the office. In between napping, which, I have to admit, took up most of his time, he kept a sneaky eye - briefly, mostly only one eye opened slightly just to do a quick scan, then it was back to the Land of Nod for him.  When we were in the office the day bed was his resting, reclining spot.  

Sasha was never far away, either. He had a favourite spot close to the entrance to the house. It allowed him initial surveillance of the people arriving on our doorstep. For a few hours daily he luxuriated in the filtered sunlight beneath the leaves of a healthy Umbrella tree. 

Umbrella trees are native to the northern Queensland rainforests, but in southern Queensland they’re regarded as fast-growing invaders; pests causing harm to local ecosystems.  In the late Seventies-early Eighties Umbrella trees  were a very popular tree in these southern areas of Queensland.  Who would ever think that trees became "in vogue"...but some did back then; and others probably still do.  Umbrella trees (along with Rubber trees) were the “in” tree to have in your garden.  As long as both varieties were/are planted well away from building foundations and underground plumbing; pipes etc., no problems should arise.  Both also were/are hardy, large-potted, indoor plants.  The Umbrella tree isn’t a declared pest under Queensland legislation, but local councils can, at their will, declare them under their own laws.  

"Note:  Rubber plant material can be toxic to small animals (including cats and small dogs) as well as young children.  The sap can irritate the skin and plant material can cause nausea and vomiting if ingested.  Care should be taken in homes where little people and little critters have access to house plants.    Those with severe latex allergies and sensitive skin should avoid growing this plant." 

However, Sasha wasn’t at all interested in the nitty-gritty botanical details, neither was Ruska. They left all those mediocre things up to Randall and me to worry about - after all, that's what humans are for.   Both Sasha and Ruska showed no interest in indoor plants, either  Actually, gardening, outdoors or indoors, was not a hobby of theirs.  That silly pastime was the domain of humans. 

My ginger-furred elder feline mate loved wallowing in the warmth of the seaside sun, and in the dappled shade provided by the Umbrella tree’s broad leaves. If he wasn’t nearby outside indulging and rejoicing in his new found coastal freedom, quite often he’d be found curled up asleep at my feet under my desk; or when he’d had enough of his rest being interrupted he’d be found snoozing on the end of our bed in our upstairs’ bedroom.  He was always around close by, as was Ruska. During the day Ruska guarded the office while Sasha supervised the entry, exit and upstairs area.  At night when Randall and I were upstairs, whether we were in the kitchen/dining, out on the deck (the deck was our favourite spot to sit and talk), wherever we were both cats could be found; and Winston regularly could be heard in the trees over yonder.  Also we had a king-size bed, so there was room enough for the four of us!

Life was going along smoothly.  Our business was doing well.  After a few months of operation, we employed a salesman, Paul Figalo, to cover the Peregian/Coolum end of the coastal strip. Paul was a lively little fellow; hyper-active is the word one would call him nowadays. Paul and his family lived at Coolum.  He’d worked with an agency in Coolum before joining us, so he knew the area well.  Mostly he worked from his home. Paul rarely visited our office, unless it was absolutely necessary for the signing of contracts, meetings, etc. Otherwise, there was no need for him to be in our Sunshine Beach home office.  Randall and Paul met up often when they were both out and about running around the ridges; and there were phone calls back and forth all the time; night and day.  Again, of course, this was long before mobile phones became glued to everyone’s ears. 

Randall handled the sales, the listings and everything else entailed in real estate. It was his domain; and he was expert at what he did; figures and finance were his talents. He was an honest, efficient operator – and I’m in no way being prejudice by declaring this. It was what it was. Randall also managed the few rental properties we had on our books.  

I handled the clerical side of the business and was pretty much confined to the office, but that suited me fine. Someone had to be in attendance to answer the phone and all else that running an office entailed. I had no interest in being a salesperson, myself.  I preferred to leave that side of the business to Randall. He was the licensed agent/salesman; and he knew what he was doing. He soon built up a solid client base.

In the meantime, we’d also started on some renovations on the house.  The first thing we did was get rid of the existing stove.  It was electric. I’ve always preferred cooking on gas, although these days the stove in this cabin I’m renting is an electric stove. I have no choice; but then again, I no longer do the amount of cooking and entertaining I once did.  Those days are long gone.

A brand-new, large six-burner gas stove and oven was fitted. I was in my element having gas to cook on and not an electric element!

The little existing ocean-side deck needed to go. This was a high on our list - top priority.  With the view and the privacy we had from the north-eastern side of the house the small deck was totally inadequate.   

We hired a couple of local guys who promptly removed the old deck. It was replaced with a much wider deck that, in length, spread from one side of the house to the other looking down through the dense vegetation to the street below. Treated timber posts almost as thick as electricity poles were set firmly in concrete into the dune below making them solid upright structures strong enough to support our extensive deck. We believed if we were going to build a new deck it should be one worthy of the view.  Also our new outdoor area, of which we were very proud, melded in with the top level of the trees and vegetation that hugged the dune. Sitting on the deck level with the tree tops we unexpectedly found us in the bird paths (not the bird baths…but their flight paths); and the birds often unexpectedly found us, too!   Often as they flew past they ducked or veered off with stunned looks on their faces (if that is possible).  

Having been very pleased with the excellent workmanship shown by the people who built Randall's office desk, we had them construct for us a special large round outdoor table with seating to match to take up pride of place on our new deck. If and when needed table could comfortably sat eight people around it.

One Sunday morning while leisurely lingering over breakfast and the morning paper we heard someone call out from below.  Going downstairs we discovered a concerned fellow standing at our front door
“Is this your cat?” He asked.  “I was jogging by and I found him wandering erratically in a panic along the side of the street, just out the front there!”

I almost fainted.  In the young man's arms was Ruska with his head stuck in an empty paint can!   

Hearts racing, we took Ruska from his rescuer's arms. We somehow managed to remove the can from Ruska’s head.  Don't ask me how because that part is all a blur.  My furry mate was physically unharmed, but, naturally, was he distressed and exhausted from his ordeal.  It was an upsetting, exhausting experience for us, too.  With our house being set a long way back from the road if that caring, thoughtful stranger who, by chance, happened to be passing by on his morning run hadn’t found Ruska I hate to think what the alternative result would have been.   

We thanked Ruska’s saviour profusely. We were so grateful.  Words didn’t seem enough.  He was happy to have been "Johnny on the spot"; to have been the one to find our loved pet. With a smile and a wave he went on his merry way never to be seen again.

From that morning onward all empty cans were immediately deposited in the garbage bin when emptied, and our garage door remained closed when not in use!  Perhaps Ruska thought he’d give us a hand with the renovations, but after his little adventure with the paint can, he never offered his services again.  I reminded him frequently of the saying - one he'd obviously had forgotten - "Curiosity killed the cat"!

Having much to discuss after the morning's traumatic event Sasha took Ruska aside. Gently reprimanding him Sasha waved his paw at a contrite Ruska warning him never to do such a silly thing ever again. (I might have made this part up, but...who knows?  It could've have happened)! 

 For the rest of the day they remained within easy view of each other – after I’d comforted Ruska with many cuddles. The whole episode had been extremely upsetting, not only for Ruska, but for Randall and me, too.

I don’t know what it was about Sunday mornings, but a few months later on another Sunday morning while Randall was in the kitchen making coffee I skipped down the interior stairs with the intention of collecting the daily newspaper from the yard out front.  The newspapers were delivered daily. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs I saw Sasha laying there.  I began talking to him and reached down to stroke him. Immediately, my heart leapt into my mouth.  I knew something was dreadfully wrong.  I screamed out to Randall.  He flew down the stairs, two at a time, if not more, recognisng from the tone of my voice something was amiss…really amiss.

Sasha was dead.  Sometime during the early hours of the morning he'd curled up and gone to sleep, never to waken again. Unstoppable tears streamed down my face.   

Tears brim my eyes as I relate this heartbreaking episode in my life. 

My mate…my beloved vagabond; my adored, sometimes headstrong Sasha was dead.  My dear pet, Sasha who had played a huge role in my life for approximately 15 years was gone…gone.  I was inconsolable.

Turning to Randall I said I couldn’t remain in the house…I had to get out - I had to go to the beach in haste. I had to get away without delay.  I needed to fall into the surf; I needed the ocean waves to sweep over me; to have the salt water somehow wash away my sorrow, even if briefly.  I wanted to feel the sun on my body and the sand between my toes.

He told me to go on ahead that he would join me in a little while.  Needing no encouragement, I grabbed a beach towel, and as if in a trance I walked to the beach, oblivious of the world around me. Tears still streamed down my face and I could not have cared if anyone noticed.   

They were my tears; my tears of sorrow over the loss of my precious, cherished friend, Sasha.

Randall joined me on the beach; and in due course he quietly told me that he had buried Sasha to always be caressed by the filtered sun under his favourite tree, the Umbrella tree.

We spent the next few hours on the beach that Sunday…rarely talking, but thankful we were there, together in our grief over the loss of Sasha. When we finally arrived back home I bestowed so much love and so many hugs on Ruska.  Ruska who was curled up on the matting at the bottom of the stairs waiting for our return.

I reflected on the life I’d shared with Sasha from when he was given to me as a little ginger kitten not much older than six weeks; of how strong and independent he was in so many ways, and yet in others he was so incredibly loving and loyal; of how protective he was; and of how he’d gotten his nose out of joint for a while when he decided to pack up his kit bag and leave home; of how he sent out a message to me to let me know it was time for him to come home; that he wanted to come home to me. (I’m sure he did; and I don’t care how weird it may sound; it is what I have always believed happened the day we received the letter in the mail when we were living in the house at Coolum advising us he was at the veterinary surgery in Brisbane).

For the last couple of years of his life Sasha rarely left my side.  He was glad to be home again; and I was so very glad that he was.  The past was the past. We’d picked up where we’d left off without missing a beat.   

At least for those last couple of years, Sasha’s life was wonderful. He lived out his days in the Sunshine Beach.  

I’m sure he was a wiser cat for his time on the “streets”…in the cacti greenhouse. Who wouldn’t want to spend their twilight years back in the loving arms of someone who adored them unconditionally without question?

I’m sure in their private, daily conversations out of earshot of Randall and me Sasha imparted his worldly wisdom to Ruska.  Sasha had a way with his furry roomies.  He’d saved Smocka from the albino boxer dog at the unit in Toowong; and he'd proudly taken on the role as elder citizen - as mentor to Ruska. 

Ruska idolised Sasha; I’m sure he missed his mate as much as I much as Randall and I did.  

Sasha was a beautiful cat.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Shenzhen, Southern China
Warrior Goddess Athena
Exterior of Miner's Lantern Restaurant and Conference Room, Cedar Creek, Thunderbird Park
Cedar Creek, Tamborine Mountain

A local resident of Cedar Creek Lodges, Thunderbird Park...known as "Kooka" both to friends and visitors.
We’re lucky up here on the hill in many, many ways.  For one, it certainly is a beautiful area in which to live. Seeing it through the eyes of others, of visitors to our piece of paradise, we’re very often re-awoken to the fact of how stunning it really is. Again, I’m speaking for myself, of course.  A thump or two is required every so often as I do have a tendency to snooze off when least expected, and in the most unlikely spots. This happened to me at IGA yesterday, but the staff just tossed me into the trolley with the rest of my purchases and pushed the trolley in the direction of my car.  Groaning under the extra load, it automatically knew its way because I always park in the same spot. 

Albeit unconsciously, at times everyone is guilty of taking things for granted, there’s no point denying it.  For example, we become blind to nature and all that abounds within its wide and varied realm; to the (mostly) wonderful inhabitants (of the two-legged variety) who roam this mountain, as well as the many cafes and restaurants dotted here there and everywhere around the place.

Previously I mentioned I was attending a wedding on Valentine’s Day.  Everything went according to plan, even better, I think.  It was one of the happiest weddings at which I’ve been a guest. I’ve a sneaky suspicion I’m not alone in my thoughts. 

When the wedding ceremony, which was held in Brisbane, was over the wedding party and guests ascended the range road to congregate at the groom’s family home to glory at the setting sun; and for the catching of breaths and a “getting-to-know-you” interlude.

The groom’s parents are my landlords, so the gathering of the clans and friends was held on the verandah of my landlords’ home which is just up the other end of this three acre block of land from my cabin.

Tristan, the son and groom lives and works in China, and has done so for the past six or more years.  He teaches English - on mainland China. He and Palas, (his Chinese bride, also known as “Yang” – pronounced “young”) live in Shenzhen. Shenzhen is a major city in the south of Southern China’s Guangdong Province, situated immediately north of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.  Shenzhen is so far removed from Tamborine Mountain in every way possible.

During the late afternoon soiree here on the property I asked Palas from where she derived her name …seeing “Yang” appeared on the wedding invitation; and is her “true” name. 

Listening carefully to her explanation, I gathered it all came about when she was attending university, studying, amongst other subjects, Ancient Greece when she stumbled across a someone from history who inspired her.

The Greek goddess Athena was also referred to as “Pallas Athena”, as well as “Athene” and “Athina”. Pallas Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, arts, crafts and many other wonderful attributes and is portrayed as a shrewd companion of heroes.”

A far better person/image to aspire to than Kim Kardashian, in my opinion.  

As an aside, Palas is a tiny young woman...I think I could pick her up with one arm, with my other held behind my back...or in front.

At dinner and drinks with my landlords on New Year’s Eve I met Palas for the first time.  At that stage, the young soon-to-be married couple was visiting Tristan’s parents for a couple of days over the festive season. Palas and I got on like a house on fire. She’s a lovely lass.

Attending the wedding on Saturday, 14th February were six members of the bride’s family. It was their first visit to Australia’s fair shores.  Obviously none were Tristan’s students because they didn’t speak English, nor did they understand it being spoken to them.

However, as I’ve found many times throughout my time working within the hospitality industry; also in life in general, happiness, smiles and good manners have no barriers, no boundaries; no guard-protected borders; when and if the above are implemented any language barriers quickly disintegrate.  Sure, lengthy conversations trying to solve or make sense of the world’s mysteries won’t be conducted, but we have enough of those during our day to day lives.  And, too often, such discourses can become tedious and boring, and no matter how long or how in-depth we converse we never do, or will, solve the problems of the world...time wasted.  Such discussions definitely do not have a place during times of joyous celebration.

Not knowing what to give the young couple, who appear to have “it all” (they both are earning a good living doing what they do. Palas works for a company in some kind of executive position; and are off to Paris for their honeymoon) as a wedding gift, I decided that I’d supply the food; do the catering for the “getting-to-know-you” soiree at the family home after the wedding ceremony and the evening’s dining at a local restaurant.

There were about 27 guests (plus a toddler and a three year old). Also a few more friends of the Aussie family called by to partake in the relaxed late afternoon interlude on the verandah.

I prepared a couple of large antipasto platters; a large cheese and fruit platter; bowls of marinated champignons and artichoke hearts and Chinese pickled cucumbers.  I also made two different chocolate slices (double quantities of ingredients in both recipes).  Enough, of course, to feed the Australian Army and the Chinese Army combined!  What’s new?  I alway over-cater, but I’d rather have more than not enough.  It all got eaten…even if it took a couple of days to do so!

After everyone mingled, relaxed, regrouped, sipped and snacked a while, with our happy mood intact we descended upon a local venue for the wedding dinner – off to The Miner’s Lantern Restaurant at Thunderbird Park we headed. 

Some restaurants/restaurateurs have that special potion – the “it factor” – and some don’t. Some appear not to care too much about their clientele, their diners; their guests, at times treating them as inferiors. This doesn’t apply to Thunderbird Park’s Miner’s Lantern. The service was swift; the staff efficient and pleasant. 

And then there was the food. What can I say?  The food was absolutely delicious!  Without a doubt; without hesitation, the food was brilliant. 

The Chinese guests enjoyed their meals because I noticed their plates at the end of each of the three courses left little evidence of food. That’s a sign of approval, isn’t it?

There was nothing inferior about the fare presented. It was first class. The lamb was the tenderest, most succulent lamb I’ve had in a long, long time.  The chicken must have grazed on the same pastures because it was tender and juicy, too. Don’t let me get started on the entrĂ©e and desserts! I’ll be here for a week if you do! 

I rarely go out at night. Boy! Oh! Boy!  Were my eyes opened!  There was a whole other world going on at Thunderbird Park on Saturday evening!  Of course, it was Valentine’s Day and that would’ve accounted for the crowds, but apparently they were catering for three weddings as well as the romantic couples celebrated dear old Val.

All venues were a hive of activity, a-brim with happy joyous people in celebratory mode.  Obviously, the folk who run the establishment are doing something right. The proof was there to be seen and savoured – it was in the pudding, too!

Apple Pudding: Preheat oven 180C.  Lightly grease 6-cup ovenproof dish. Place 4 large peeled, cored sliced golden delicious apples, 1/4c caster sugar and 2tbs cold water in saucepan; stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium. Cook stirring occasionally, 10-12mins, until apples are just tender. Pour into prepared dish. Beat 2 eggs until pale; gradually add 1/4c caster sugar; beat until thick. Sift 2tbs each S.R. flour, plain flour and custard powder together over eggs; fold in until just combined; spoon over apples; bake 20mins, until light golden. Dust with icing sugar.

Rhubarb Steamed Pudding: Cook over low heat 350g fresh rhubarb, cut into 4cm lengths with 75g caster sugar and 1tsp ground ginger, 2-3mins; remove from heat. Grease 900ml pudding basin. Cream 125g caster sugar and 125g unsalted butter; add a few drops of vanilla; beat in 2 lightly beaten medium eggs, a little at a time; sift in 175g S.R. flour; carefully fold in. Spoon rhubarb into bottom of basin; pour in the mixture; level surface; butter a piece of greaseproof paper slightly bigger than top of pudding; make pleat in centre; secure over top of pudding; repeat with foil; secure the lot with string. Place in a pan half-filled with simmering water. Cover; cook 1-1/2hrs. Don’t let it boil dry. Invert onto plate; lift off basin.

Baked Pear Pudding: Preheat oven 180C. Put 6 peeled, cored and quartered pears, 4tsp brown sugar and seeds of 1 vanilla pod into saucepan with 4tsp water; simmer 5mins. Place fruit mixture into well-greased ovenproof casserole. Beat together 1/2c butter and 1/3c white sugar; beat in 2 large eggs until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in 1c sifted S.R. flour until well-combined. Pour mixture over pears; bake for about 35-45mins. Serve with custard, cream or ice cream. 

A Long and Winding, Dark, but Tasty Rocky Road: Grease an 8cm x 20cm bar pan; line with baking paper, leaving some overhanging on all sides. Place 50ml Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur or any Irish Cream liqueur (drink the rest while preparing slice), 200g quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped, 20g unsalted butter and 1/3c sweetened condensed milk in heatproof bowl over pan of simmering water  (don’t let bowl touch water).  Allow to melt, stirring gently until smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Stir in 50g chopped unsalted pistachio kernels, 75g roughly crushed shortbread biscuits, 200g mini-marshmallows and 100g roughly chopped white chocolate (throw in some dried cranberries if you wish). Spread mixture into pan; then chill the mix for 2-3 hours until firm.  Melt 50g white chocolate as before.  Drizzle over the set mixture; leave for 3 to 4mins to set; then cut into squares.  Keep in airtight container in fridge for up to one week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Clearly smitten, he looked deeply into her eyes and said; “I don’t want to be a part-time lover. I realised as time goes by it had to be you. It’s the best thing that ever happened.  You made me love you.  You are so beautiful. I’m crazy for you. I can’t help falling in love with you. The first time ever I saw your face, I left my heart in San Francisco.”  He barely took time to take a breath.

Listening to his heartfelt words pouring freely from him, Rose thought to herself, “this guy's in love with you” even though a couple of week previously she’d thought she heard him tell his best mate to “tell Laura I love her; perhaps he’s torn between two lovers”; or perhaps she’d misheard; misunderstood what he'd said amongst the noisy crowd at the party.

For months, time after time, she’d waited; she dreamed; wanting to hear him say “Be my love Rose; Rose, Rose I love you.”   

And now, after all those sleepless nights hoping, here he was before her declaring his everlasting love. It can’t be puppy love because he’s not a teenager in love, she told herself; the look of love was definitely on his face. For so long Rose had asked herself "when will I be loved?" Maybe it’s time to stop listening to all those silly love songs; perhaps Chuck E’s in love with me, perhaps he really is!  Rose had never in her mind pictured lawyers in love - and Chuck E was a lawyer!

Love is a battlefield of that she had no doubt, but to love somebody - I want to know what love is – what it’s like to be lost in love -  because I’ve heard love is a many-splendoured thing.  Oh, why, why do fools fall in love? Rose’s mind was in a quandary.

Reaching for Rose’s hand and tenderly holding it in his own, Chuck E said: “I honestly love you. Baby I need your loving. I’ll never fall in love again I love you more and more every day. I know you can't hurry love, but when a man loves a woman like I do you, I just fall in love again.  I’ll never love this way again.  I guess I’ve just got a bad case of lovin’ you. If the truth be known I was made for lovin’ you. I’d be lost without your love.  You don’t have to say you love me right now, but you’ll never find another love like mine. I’ll keep on loving you; mine is an endless love. You’re the one that I want. Be my love.”

Rose’s face turned a colour befitting her name. She lowered her head; and then raised it, a smile upon her lips.

“If I could paint a portrait of my love it would be dedicated to the one I love…you.” She said looking directly in his eyes.  “Chuck E, I love the way you love me.  You are the sunshine of my life. I’ll be there for you.  I’m crazy for you.  It’s more than a feeling. You’re in my heart. Love will keep us together – never tear us apart. I feel so happy having someone to love.  Baby, it’s you.  I got you, babe! Love to love you, baby…I love your way. Your love has lifted me higher and higher.  There ain’t no mountain high enough! I was made for loving you.”

Chuck E’s heart soared. “Too often I used to say I want to know what love is – till there was you; you, Rose, changed everything. Nothing's gonna change my love for you. I will always love you. I don’t wanna live without your love. What we have is a groovy kind of love. here, there and  everywhere, I’ll be there.  I can’t fight this feeling.  You’ve got a friend…we’re lovers and friends.  I don’t wanna live without your love.  I think it’s time we found ourselves a love shack of our own. I don't want to miss a thing.”

Her heart pounding, Rose took him into her arms; If I can’t have you in my life - bye bye love.  I wanna hold your hand up where we belong.  I’m all shook up.  How sweet it is! How I feel right now as the stardust falls around us will be unforgettable.  I think I’m addicted to love. Your kiss is on my list, I cross my heart. Have I told you lately that I love you?”   

Everybody Loves Somebody -  Can You Feel the Love Tonight?

Please don't's all just a bit of harmless fun.  There's nothing wrong with sharing and celebrating love, particularly the way the world is today.  I believe love should be shared even should engulf the world.

It’s not spring, but another date is imminent when many a young man’s fancy turns to love; that is, after his hopeful sweetheart gives him unsubtle nudges in the ribs and drops a few blatant hints! If you poor fellows don’t pick up on the hints and nudges before Saturday, 14th February aka St. Valentine’s Day, you’ll find yourselves in dire straits; and I don’t mean the British rock band headed by Mark Knopfler!  Take notice, you blokes!  I’m trying to save your skin. Do I have to spell it out even more for you?  I’m giving you a heads up here; a leg up even, in case you need it. It’s time to prove you can multi-task. If you get it wrong don’t blame me. All fingers will be pointed at you, not me! 

One lad, namely Tristan, whom I’ve known since he was 16; a lad I’ve witnessed grow into a fine, mature young man over the past nigh on 13 years certainly won’t forget what day Saturday is. He’d better not! He has a major separate celebration happening on the 14th.  Not only will it be Valentine’s Day…but it’s going to be his wedding day, too. So you understand what I mean!  If he does forget the most important event, the latter, he won’t only be in dire straits; he’ll also be in muddy waters! 

The reality is - Tristan should have only a couple of things on his mind this Saturday – his wedding and his future wife. I do hope he’s not thrown (only the bouquet gets thrown; and I tell you here and now I won’t be catching the bouquet or Tristan). There’s no reason for concern - everything is under control. All Tristan and his lovely bride-to-be Palas have to worry about is nothing at all!  The day and night are theirs to celebrate and savour.  Happy memories made this Saturday, Valentine’s Day 2015 will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

I wish the young couple well in their marriage, and in their future endeavours; may they always be surrounded by sunshine, warm loving hearts and happiness. 

The timid young romantics of the late 60s/mid-70s were easily recognised amongst diners in restaurants on Valentine’s Day. It was clear to all, or to me, at least, who were on a first date, and those who were still in the early tentative, heady stages of getting to know each other by the wine they sipped daintily upon. The sparkles, not only in their eyes, but those in the bottle of bubbly before them were a give-away, too. 

Ben Ean Moselle was a favourite with optimistic young lovers, as was Kaiser Stuhl Cold Duck (did people really drink that?), Porphyr Pearl, Sparkling Starwine, Hardys Eden Moselle; and, of course, Barossa Pearl.  Who could forget Barossa Pearl?  Pearl’s release date was to be the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, but being slow off the blocks it wasn’t decanted from the barrels in time. With its screw-top Pearl was ahead of its time in the sealing department. Barossa Pearl was finally released on Guy Fawke’s Day, 5th November, 1956 - it went off with a bang. Like a guest who never knows when to leave Pearl stuck around until the 1970s. 

And now I’ve read that Barossa Pearl is being revived!  I wonder if same will happen to me after I pop my cork. 

This Valentine’s Day I’ll be celebrating the nuptials of Tristan and Palas. I’m thrilled to be doing so; to be able to be part of their special day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Now that I’ve reminded everyone - don’t forget what you have to do! Failing all else, a heartfelt “I love you” will do! 

My double best wishes to Tristan and Palas!

Oysters Valentine: Finely grate zest of half a lime; add 1tbs grated palm sugar and ½ bird’s eye chilli, thinly sliced; mash together; add juice of 2 limes; stir until sugar dissolves; add 1tsp fish sauce and 1-inch fresh ginger, finely-julienned; cool. Sprinkle over natural oysters in half shell; lightly sprinkle with garam masala, chopped coriander and chopped chives.

Oysters with Avocado-Tomato Salsa: Cut 1 avocado into small cubes; gently toss in juice of 1 lime; add 8 finely-chopped cherry tomatoes, 3tbs chopped coriander/parsley, 1/4c finely-chopped red onion, pinch sugar, hot pepper sauce and salt to taste. Serve with half shell barbecued oysters or natural.

Warm Duck-Pomegranate-Beetroot Salad: Cook 4 beetroot 20mins or until tender; peel and quarter when cool; set aside. Halve 1 pomegranate; press to extract juice and loosen seeds; place juice in bowl; remove seeds; add to juice. Warm 2tbs redcurrant jelly; then whisk with 1/4c x-virgin olive oil, 1tbs sherry vinegar, 1tsp Dijon mustard and 2tbs pomegranate juice; season. Preheat oven 180C. Score skin on 2 duck breasts. Mix together 1tbs brown sugar and 1tsp cinnamon; rub into duck skin. Heat pan on med-heat; cook duck, skin down, 6-7mins until crisp and fat rendered; turn; cook 1min. Bake duck in oven 5mins, med-rare, or until done to taste; rest. Slice on the diagonal. Divide radicchio, rocket, blanched green beans and cubed feta between plates; top with dressing, sliced duck and toasted, chopped walnuts.

Valentine’s Day Love Cake: You will need six 10cm (4in) heart-shaped cake tins. The number of cakes this makes will depend on the depth of your tins. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Brush the insides of the tins with the melted butter and dust with 1 tbsp of the plain flour, tapping out any excess. Melt 200g/7oz chopped chocolate either in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, or in a microwave on a low setting. Stir until smooth; set aside to cool slightly. Cream 150g/5-1/2oz unsalted butter and 150g caster sugar until pale, light and fluffy. Add 4 medium egg yolks; stir until combined. Add the cooled melted chocolate; stir again. Mix 2tbsp of plain flour with 75g ground almonds, freeze-dried raspberries (if using) and pinch of salt. Add to the chocolate mixture; mix thoroughly. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks. Stir one quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen and then, using a large metal spoon, fold in the remainder. Line the bases of the cake tins with baking-parchment and divide the mixture between them. Arrange on a baking-sheet and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 20mins, until risen and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins for 5mins, then carefully run a small palette knife around the edges and turn the cakes on to a cooling-rack; leave until cold. To make the ganache: melt together 200g dark 70% chocolate, 75g unsalted butter and 2tbs double cream either in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or in a microwave on a low setting. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool and thicken slightly. Using a palette knife, spread the ganache over the top of each cake and leave to set before decorating with sugar-paste roses or fresh berries. Stored in an airtight box or cake tin, these will keep for about four days.

Love Potion No. 14: Shake together; 1-1/2 shots Vodka, 1 shot Grand Marnier, 2 shots cranberry juice and ½ shot fresh lime juice; add ice; serve.