Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Noosa National Park
Tea Tree Bay
Alexandria Bay

Roden Plug-In Electric Stove/Oven
Silkwood Landscape
Upon my return from my brief hiatus at the lakeside cabin, refreshed, I jumped back into work - burying myself in fruit, vegetables and health foods....in my shop.

There was much to be done; much to be organised – not only in the shop, but elsewhere in our lives, as well.   

My hands were continually busy making cakes and biscuit; preparing soups, salads, dips, roasting and boiling peanuts and blending smoothies, in between unloading cartons of fruit, vegetables and health food products.  My little store was bursting at the seams. It was a hive of industry.   

Next to my cash drawer, at all times, was a large jar filled with muesli cookies. If, at any time the need had arisen, I'm sure I would’ve been able to make them blindfolded.  The jar was never allowed to run on empty.  Same applied to the carrot-pineapple cake I used to make.   

One day shortly after I bought the shop I decided to make the cake, just for fun. That moment of "fun" began an unending avalanche.  It was akin to the “tiger by the tail” syndrome.   

Carrot cakes were very popular in those days; everyone was making them.  I wanted to do something slightly different and the carrot-pineapple cake I chose turned out to be a winner with the customers.  It was a very moist cake; and one that was able to be successfully frozen.  It reached the point where I was making 12 times the quantity each time I made them - by the time I’d finished grating all the carrots! 

 “Each time” grew into a few times per week!  I sold the cakes by the slice, portion, and in some instances, whole. They were very popular, so I wasn’t complaining. 

With Christmas only a couple of weeks away, I got stuck into making fruit cakes as well.  A few months or so earlier I’d fallen into another cake trap, too; one I couldn’t climb out of - I had only myself to blame.  One day I had a brain explosion to make boiled fruit cakes for sale.  Why not?

Most mornings I was in my shop around 6 am, and closed its doors again at the earliest 6 pm, mostly thereafter. 

One morning I decided to save time and effort.  I had a brainwave to make a vegetable curry in my shop for Randall and me to dine on at home after we'd finished our day.  We didn’t eat vegetable curry for dinner that night because as it was cooking on my little Roden stove in the rear section of my shop the aroma wafted through the open arcade luring inquisitive passers-by.  Soon I had hungry customers hovering around my counter asking when the curry would be ready.  I sold it all.  Unintentionally and innocently, I started something that day.  From then on I had vegetable curry on my shop menu a few times a week; word had passed around!  The tom-toms were working overtime!

(The Roden stove I used in my shop was similar to the one pictured above, but an older model; and it was cream in colour. Only small, it sat on a shelf.  If the oven was being utilised, only one of the top plates worked.  The two top electric plates operated simultaneously, but when both were in operation, the oven couldn't be used.  Upon reflection, I even surprise myself when I think about how much I cooked on that little plug-in oven/stove-top.   I was a bit like a juggler! It was a major balancing trick.  Somehow, I managed to cook many things on and in that little stove...at the same time.  I had a two-bay electric bain-marie, also.  It held and kept hot the soups I'd prepared for sale.)

Randall was still working at Ray White Real Estate, attending to business elsewhere.  He’d placed the greengrocery/health food shop on the market, while I kept working it. 

Ruska was unaware of what was going on. He went about his daily business as usual; mostly lazing in the dappled sunshine under the pandanus tree beside our cottage in Sunshine Beach.   

In all matters Ruska's belief was – “Why get into a flap when the humans are there to take care of every detail?”

Sid, the owner of a dive shop next door to my store in the Laguna Arcade often had his nephew, Mark visit him from Sydney. Mark was a keen surfer. In December, 1985 Mark turned up to spend Christmas with his uncle.  Along with his surfboard he brought a couple of his Sydney mates. 

During his many Noosa visits Mark was a regular customer, having succumbed to an addiction for fresh fruit juices or smoothies after riding the waves for a few hours under the Noosa sun, either at First Point, Granite Bay or Tea Tree Bay. Sometimes he’d venture further afield through Noosa National Park to catch the waves at Alexandria Bay.

A beaming smile across his face, his body caked in salt and sand Mark would wander into my shop for a chat, a juice, and oft times a slice of cake, a muesli cookie or a container of fresh salad.  During his visits to Noosa, he became a bit of a fixture not only in his uncle’s dive shop, but in my shop, too.  Mark was a polite, nice young fellow. His two mates from Sydney who’d joined him were also keen surfers. Mark introduced them to me; and then later to Randall.  Daily, along with Mark, they, too, became regular customers. They showed a lot of interest in my shop and its contents.

Somewhere along the line I mentioned to Mark’s mates that Randall and I had placed the business on the market because we were relocating to Hinchinbrook Island around the end of January-early February.  By that stage it was mid-December, 1985. 1986 was looming rapidly.

Next minute, out of left field, the young men put in an offer to Randall and me for the business! 

For some time they’d wanted to move to Noosa to live and work (and surf), apparently…and they saw my little business as a perfect opportunity for them.  I spent an amount of time with them pointing out what needed doing, daily, hourly…at all times…in the shop. I impressed upon them that people don’t like walking into a store that has half-empty shelves, chill bins and refrigerators etc; that everything they see before them on the shelves, bins etc., just didn’t magically appear. Constant work and attention went into keeping them that way.  If the shelves were scant with stock, it’s a rapid, sure-fire way of losing customers.  Customers won’t return; they’ll go elsewhere.  The lads assured me they understood.  I feared they were buying a business to enable them to go surfing!  Life doesn’t work that way…not successfully!

After much consultation, pondering etc., the young men, Randall and I signed an unencumbered, 30-day Contract of Sale.  The sale was well and truly in the pipe-line.

We’d not placed our two blocks of land upon which the cottage in Sunshine Beach straddled on the market.

The purchasers of my business asked if they could rent the two-bedroom cottage when we left for North Queensland.  It was, after all, just a hop, skip and jump to the ocean and its rolling waves.  Because we’d already decided to hold onto the property, we knew tenants would be needed, so we agreed to the arrangement.  Everyone was happy; and everything was falling into place. Round pegs were fitting perfectly into round holes; and the square pegs were fitting comfortably into the square holes.

Shortly after New Year’s Eve, Randall flew to Townsville (by plane). From there he travelled north by Greyhound bus to Cardwell.  At Cardwell he boarded the boat across the sea to the resort at Cape Richards on the north-eastern tip of Hinchinbrook Island.   

Settlement on the sale of the resort was due for closure at any moment. Randall needed to be present at the resort to oversee proceedings, the workings of the resort and the current staff members, some of whom had decided to remain under our new management.

While Randall was taking care of business in North Queensland, I remained at the coast, in the Sunshine Beach cottage; still operating my shop in Hastings Street until its settlement.  Ruska kept me company…at the cottage, not in the shop. At night we curled up together in the bean bag watching our favourite TV show...both dozing off after a couple of minutes!

I placed an advertisement in the local newspaper to sell my MG-Magnette.  I hated having to part with it because I loved that car, but when living on the island we knew we didn’t need two cars, so one of them had to go.  We’d already sold the “Fire Truck”…our old red Land Rover to a deer farm on the Sunshine Coast.   

The Ford Cortina would eventually transport Randall, Ruska and me northwards once Randall returned from his resort secondment after every detail leading up to the change of ownership was settled; and all the finer elements at the Noosa-Sunshine Beach end had been settled.

However, no one had counted on Cyclone Winifred paying an uninvited, unwelcome visit to the northern regions.

A tropical low formed approximately 720kms north of Cairns on 27th January, 1986.  It played around there for a couple of days, teasingly turning towards the north-west, but then, as cyclones have a tendency to do Winnie, as she’d been christened by the Bureau of Meteorology, decided she’d had enough of those climes. She wanted a change of scenery.  Packing up her wares, she turned; gathered strength and headed south. Someone had told her that those areas needed a bit of a shake-up. 

Numerous warnings were given out by the Weather Bureau.  The cyclone eventually made landfall at the little township of Silkwood, but before and after that event, Cyclone Winifred caused much damage to areas between Cairns and Ingham. Winnie was the worst tropical cyclone to make landfall in northern Queensland since Cyclone Althea in 1971.  Cyclone Winifred caused over $86 million in damage.  Sugar cane and banana crops suffered to the extreme.   

Mission Beach, Tully, Silkwood, Kurrimine Beach, Cardwell, El Arish, South Johnstone, Mourilyan, the Family Group of Island, and all areas in between north of Hinchinbrook Island suffered at the wanton, destructive hands of Winifred.  Trees were defoliated and uprooted.  The lush foliage of those areas was stripped bare like naked naturists; au naturel as a nudist. The cassowary population, already at risk, wasn’t immune, either.

However, shortly before Winnie reached those areas just north of Hinchinbrook Island, Randall battened down the hatches at the resort, and evacuated everyone from the island to the mainland - including him.  Making his way down the highway to Townsville, Randall flew home.

It didn’t take us long to tie up the loose ends.  Time was of the essence.  We had little other choice; we had to get on the move…Hinchinbrook Island Resort was impatiently waiting for us. 
My shop settled within a couple of days of Randall’s return.  I remained with the young purchasers for a week to “show them the ropes”.  The shop had been like my “baby”. I’d put a lot into it, and had enjoyed doing so.  I felt sad handing it over, but a new adventure beckoned; and I was excited about what lay ahead of me in North Queensland. 

So many mixed emotions were flooding through me. 

A bloke who lived at the end of Elanda Street, there street where we’d once lived, bought the MG-Magnette.  As I reluctantly handed him the keys of the car, I asked if he would wait to collect it after we’d left.  I didn’t want to see my much-loved “Remy” driving away at the hands of a stranger.  I know it sounds silly…but I offer no apology.  “Remy’s” new owner obliged my whim; and I learned later he’d restored the car to its original state; its original beauty – and that pleased me no end.

(I still have a “Remy” in my life.  I christened one of my cats…my black and white male cat – “Remy” – “Remy Martin” during formal moments.  His tabby sister is called – “Shama” – after the Native American Shamans)!

A removal truck was hired and packed with some of our possessions.  We didn’t take everything we owned with us. The future was still the future…and as always, it held uncertainty. The future is always an unknown.   

Coincidentally, we stored some of our belongings at Randall’s sister and her husband’s property here on Tamborine Mountain.  They had space in a shed on their three acre block of land.

I bought a leash for Ruska.  The boot/trunk and rear seat of the Ford Cortina were loaded with our personal belongings.  We were on our way….no looking back.  Although, I did cast a final, backward, misty-eyed glance at “Remy” as we pulled out of the Duke Street yard.

Ruska contentedly curled up on my lap as soon as I'd settled my own self in the passenger seat of the car; and there he remained for most of the 1,419 km (882 miles) road trip.  When not on my lap, Ruska curled up at my feet on the passenger side of the car.  He was an exceptionally placid traveller, not once did he kick up a fuss. Not once did he make even the slightest cry in fear.  Ruska, again, as he’d done previously, showed great insight; he knew he was safe – so he just settled in to enjoy the ride.

The leash I’d bought was used when he needed to pay a visit to a feline ablution block…which over that expanse of kilometres is quite vast!

When we three intrepid adventurers reached Mackay, an approximate distance of 869.8 km from Sunshine Beach, we broke our trip and stayed overnight at Randall’s brother and his wife’s home.  Again, Ruska took it all in his stride.

Upon leaving Mackay our next port of call before our final destination of Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island was to be Cardwell…the coastal mainland town on the highway across from the island.  From Cardwell, where our car was to be stored, Randall, Ruska and I would then be transferred across the Coral Sea, past Missionary Bay to the island…

A whole new world and life lay ahead…..for the three of us....

Wednesday, April 22, 2015




Imagine what life would be like if, from this day forth, the world experienced something the world has never had. Often I wonder what it would be like if, from this day forth, the best thing the world has never had became ours to enjoy; ours to appreciate for ever more.....

The best thing the world has never had?  


On 25th April we not only honour the Anzacs who fought in the First World War at Gallipoli, but also those who faced combat on the battlefields of the Western Front in Belgium and France; and those who battled in the Middle East.


On Anzac Day we also commemorate all our men and women of the Armed Forces, past and present who have served and are serving in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping missions overseas.  

25th April is an important day. However, it’s also important for us to every day remember and show respect to our brave Defence Force personnel who put their lives on the line to protect and conserve the freedom we experience in Australia; to preserve our National heritage.  I hope - as much as you do, I imagine - the freedom we enjoy in our wonderful country is not tenuous; that the sacrifices made by many haven’t been, and will never be in vain.

100 years have passed since the dawn landing on the beach beneath the rugged ridges of the Gallipoli Peninsula; difficult, unfriendly terrain fiercely protected by the Ottoman Army. 

More than 20,000 brave Aussies, New Zealanders and some from other countries went ashore, not knowing what horrors lay ahead.  They were met with heavy fire before their feet had time to touch the sand beneath the foreign water. 

The first Australian officer to fall that fateful morning was Captain William Annear from the 11th Battalion, Subiaco, Western Australia.  620 Aussies died the first day; 57 from the 11th Battalion. The rest of the four infantry battalions of the 3rd Brigade, First Australian Division were not left unscathed. The hostile barrage didn’t abate; nor did the iron will, the resolve of our Diggers.  

From a population of less than five million, during the First World War 62,000 Aussies were killed; 156,000 suffered injuries. 

Alex Campbell, the final surviving Aussie who participated in the Gallipoli Campaign passed away 16th May, 2002, aged 103. 

There’s no debate.  We must never forget the 416, 809 men who enlisted in the First World War; nor those in the years that have followed. Our Diggers past and present deserve our respect. 

Our brave men and women of the Armed Forces are heroes, not martyrs. 

They don’t operate from evil, hate, greed or prejudice.  They don’t trivialize life.  They are the epitome of freedom, justice, compassion, decency, courage, determination and spirit. 

Aussie men and women of our Defence Force, past, present and future - imagine how it would feel never having the need to use the word “future” again in reference to our Diggers - put their lives at risk, day after day; year after year. Their reward should be they’re able to return to their loved ones, unharmed, physically and mentally.  

If we, one and all, put our heads together and imagined a world filled with humans who would rather create than destruct; who’d rather dream than destroy; who chose love over hate; who made kindness their priority, not callous cruelty…a world filled with respect rather than disrespect; rich with liberty rather than oppression… maybe…just maybe…IMAGINE..... 

Anzac Day is a solemn, emotional day, but it can't go by without our iconic Anzac biscuits. I'm including recipes here because they are popular in Australia and New Zealand.  Anzac biscuits have long been associated with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC...established in World War 1).   During the First World War the biscuits were sent to the soldiers who were abroad by their wives, mothers, family members.  The biscuits kept well because the ingredients didn't spoil easily.  They are a tradition...many discussions are held whether Anzac biscuits should be chewy, crunchy or crisp...

Traditional Anzac Biscuits: Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Combine 1c plain flour, 1c rolled oats, 1c desiccated coconut, 1/2c firmly packed brown sugar and 1/4c caster sugar (combined) in a large bowl. In a small saucepan put 125g butter, 2tbs golden syrup and 2tbs water; place over medium heat until butter melts and the mixture is smooth; stir in 1/2tsp bicarb soda.  Add to dry ingredients; stir until well combined. Roll level tablespoonfuls of the oat mixture into balls and place, about 5cm apart, on the prepared trays. Flatten until about 1cm thick. Bake, swapping trays halfway through cooking, for 15 minutes or until light golden. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

HINTS - Make Anzac biscuits your way; 

 Soft and chewy: Omit the brown sugar and increase the caster sugar to 155g (3/4 cup).
Dark and crunchy: Omit caster sugar. Increase the brown sugar to 155g (3/4 cup, firmly packed). Bake for 18 minutes.
Thin and crispy: Omit the caster sugar. Increase the brown sugar to 200g (1 cup).  
Reduce the flour to 115g (3/4 cup).

Gluten-Sugar-Free Anzacs: Combine 1c almond meal, 1c flaked almonds, 1c desiccated coconut and 1tsp Xantham Gum. Combine 1/4c rice malt syrup and 1/4c butter in pot; heat gently; mix in 1/2tsp bicarb and 1tbs water; pour into malt/butter; mix until it starts to froth; pour into dry ingredients; mix to combine. Roll into balls; place on lined baking tray; flatten a bit; bake in 120C oven, 30mins until golden.  

Organic Anzacs: Combine sifted organic 1c wholemeal or spelt plain flour, 1c organic rolled oats, 1/2c organic coconut sugar, 1/2c organic desiccated coconut and 2tbs Chia seeds. In a bowl, combine 125g organic coconut oil (liquid form) and 1 or 2tbs rice bran syrup. Dissolve 1/2tsp bicarb in 2tbs boiling water; add to oil mix; stir into dry mix; if too crumbly, add 1tbs water; roll into balls; place on lined baking tray; flatten a bit. Bake in 175C oven, 12-15mins until golden.  

Anzac Cheesecake: Process 250g Anzac biscuits until fine crumbs; add 125g melted butter; process until combined; press into base of greased, base-lined round spring-form pan; chill 30mins. Beat 500g cream cheese, 200g sour cream, 1c caster sugar, 1/2c desiccated coconut and 1tbs golden syrup until smooth; add 3 eggs, 1 at a time, beating until all are incorporated; pour onto biscuit base; bake 1hr in 160C oven; then turn off oven. With door slightly ajar, cool in oven; then chill 3hrs or overnight.  Macadamia praline: Heat 1c sugar and 1c water over med-heat until bubbly and golden; don’t stir. When golden, add 100g chopped macadamia nuts; spread over tray; when cool break into pieces. Top cake with the praline; drizzle with a little golden syrup; serve.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Sunrise Beach
Sunshine Beach
Laguna Bay, Noosa Heads
Ray White Real Estate, Hastings Street, Noosa...circa 2015
Laguna Guest House - circa 1935...courtesy University of Queensland  (Collection of Megan Young)
Hastings St.  circa 2015
Lake Cooroibah
Lake Cooroibah

The seven years Randall and I lived on the Sunshine Coast flew by at a rapid rate of knots. 

Upon reflection, we crammed an incredible amount of living and working into those seven years. 

During the late Seventies into the early Eighties property investments soared on the coast. People were going crazy investing in land, houses, apartments etc.  It was party time for everyone involved, from investors, builders, contractors, home-owners, solicitors, accountants, real estate agents, etc., all down the line.  Everyone was affected by the boom, one way or the other. Dinner parties, lunches, dining out – good times abounded.  Local restaurants benefited greatly from the real estate boom.  Bookings were necessary or you just didn't get a table, or the wait for one to be vacated was lengthy.  But, true to the sayings…"all good things come to an end; every balloon bursts"....eventually. 

Before I venture forth, after Sasha’s death Ruska spent most of his days curled up on the day bed in our home office. Ruska was a very loving cat.  In Aussie vernacular....he was a sook.  And I love him for being that way.  Ruska preferred being close to where we were at all times; within eye-line and easy reach.  He never stirred, battered an eye-lid, nor did he twitch a whisker when clients visited to conduct their business, except every time when one particular fellow entered the office. Ruska's antennae perked on high alert; and it never let him down whenever the fellow approached.  

The offender to Ruska’s senses was a partner in a business partnership of two.  John, the other partner of the duo was a family man with a wife and two young kiddies.  Ruska never took any notice if only John came into our office; he never stirred or batted an eyelid, but he always high-tailed it as soon as John's partner entered the room.   

Most of our clients hardly noticed Ruska curled up on the day bed, asleep. Many never did notice him there. Some would stroke him, and he’d allow them to do so, but, not wasting a second, Ruska would always disappear as soon as this one client arrived, only to reappear when he left the premises.  There was something about this bloke Ruska didn’t like, and he, Ruska, made no pretense of his feelings towards him.
The partner, whose name I’ve not forgotten, but refuse to give recognition or voice to, was a chubby chap in his early thirties or thereabouts. 

Ruska wasn’t alone regarding his reaction to whom I shall name presently as  “Chubby”.  Every time he walked into our office he also caused the hairs on my back to go up; and a shiver would go down my spine. So there was Ruska with his fur up, and, me with my the hairs on my back upright - a matching pair!
Almost every time "Chubby” came to our office in total ignorance he’d walk up to where I was working at my desk, and there he'd stand behind me, peering over my shoulder while I was typing or attending to other clerical matters.  I hate it when people do that to me. More particularly, I despise it when I’ve asked them time after time not to do so, and my request goes unheeded, as was the case with "Chubby"!

It reached the stage with him when I’d had enough of his ignorance. I ceased asking him politely not to stand looking over my shoulder. The day had come that I’d had enough.  The camel’s back had been broken by the fragile straw! 

Not giving a damn about his sensitivities (he’d made it patently obvious he had none), I didn’t hold back.  I snarled at him, leaving nothing to his imagination, telling him to cease and desist…to walk away!   He finally…finally…got the message!

Between the partners, he and John had bought a couple of investment properties through our small agency, and had their eyes on a few others of interest.  Randall had also acted as John’s agent when he purchased his family home in Sunrise Beach, an area nearby to Sunshine Beach.  Both John and “Chubby”, as a business partnership, had been our clients for a year or so. 

One Monday morning John, extremely flustered and white of face, rushed into our office.  Randall and I looked at each other, surprised and concerned by his unorthodox entry.

John flopped down onto a chair at Randall’s desk.  Randall told him to take his time; to catch his breath.  I handed him a glass of water.  As he held his head in his hands, John's body heaved.  We waited as he calmed himself; and then, the words that fell from John’s mouth almost floored us. We were rendered speechless from what we were hearing.

In Sydney, the previous night “Chubby” had committed two murders!

Randall and I had seen and heard the news bulletins, but, of course, we were not aware of the details of the crime, and had given the matter little further thought…until John burst into our office with the unsettling information.

Apparently, “Chubby” had been having a relationship of sorts with one of the victims. John told us “Chubby” often visited Sydney to spend time with his wealthy “paramour”.   

The previous evening, as a guest in the victim’s home, the two of them shared a meal after which the host, soon-to-become-victim invited “Chubby” into his games’ room/bar.  Apparently, the den was lavishly set up with “boys’ toys”, including a billiard table etc., and a gun collection.  A heated argument ensued, and our boy “Chubby” shot his lover…dead. 

As "Chubby" was making his escape from the home, a young university student was walking along the footpath outside the house, minding his own business.  “Chubby”, henceforth known as  “Grubby", shot and killed the innocent, young bystander who, as fate would have it, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

John was devastated.  He was in shock.  Randall and I were, too, but not as much as John, naturally.  John was a good guy. What his partner did in his private life was none of his business, nor was it John’s lifestyle.  Plain and simple, they were business partners; they were friends through that professional link, of course, but nothing more, nothing less.

However, “Grubby’s” actions certainly explained to Randall and me why Ruska always reacted to him the way he did when he entered the room.  It explained the raising of the hairs on my back and the shivers that always fluttered up and down my back when he stood near me.  I’m certain Ruska sensed there was something sinister about him, and that’s why he, Ruska, always removed himself from his presence. 

Until that day, I wasn’t aware “Grubby” was gay.  If I had been aware beforehand, I wouldn’t have cared less.  I’ve had workmates who were gay; and I’ve had gay friends throughout my life; I still do. Their personal sexual proclivity is their own business.  It had/has nothing to do with me, my life or our friendship. Randall felt similar. Two of our best mates when we were living on the coast were a couple of gay guys who, at that point in time had been together for over 11 years. Both were top blokes.

However, for an unexplainable reason, “Grubby” always gave me the creeps.  Whatever it was about him that caused me to feel that way, I could never put my finger on it; just like Ruska would never put his paw on it!   

I never liked the fellow; neither had Randall.  Long before he committed the heinous crimes, we often discussed "Grubby", and how he made the both of us feel.  We only put up with him because he was John’s business partner.  “Grubby” was promptly arrested, charged and imprisoned. And there the story of "Grubby" ends...as far as I know, anyway.

John continued on as a client, but he was a shaken man.  He’d had no control over the tragic events perpetrated in Sydney that fateful night, but his life, and business interests had changed because of the crimes committed by another.  

Ruska knew along something was wrong with the person I've just written about.  I’m sure Ruska felt the aura that had surrounded him; perhaps, our beautiful ginger cat even saw it.  Who would know; but Ruska never wanted to be within his presence, that much I do know.

Randall was an astute operator when it came to financial matters and current property market trends. He constantly warned, not only our friends, but our clients, too, of the “giant destroyer rapidly heading towards us across the horizon beyond”.  He advised all and sundry it was time to put head down; keep their hands out of their bank accounts; to consolidate their assets in preparation of being able to ride out the "take-no-prisoners" storm headed our way. 

Time after time I listened to Randal advising clients sitting opposite him at his desk not to purchase a property, telling them it would be in their best interests to hold off from investing in the market for a while until the mini-recession passed; that it would be better for them to hold onto what they already possessed, both in assets and in savings rather than risk it all on a shaky economic climate; for them to put all ideas of purchasing more properties out of their plans. They’d come to him with making a property purchase in mind, and they left with sound financial advice.  Perhaps some ignored Randall’s advice and went to other agents to purchase the property they had their hearts set on, but that was their personal, individual freedom of choice and right to do so. Others who did follow Randall’s lead were grateful that they heeded his warnings when the crash came.  We didn’t make any money by waving away sales, but at least we could sleep straight in bed at night; and were able to recognise ourselves when looking in the mirror.   

We followed our own advice (Randall’s…not mine…I wasn’t anywhere near as astute as he was regarding such matters of finance…not on the large scale of things, anyway.  I'm not even very good at the household budget)!  We off-loaded a couple of investment properties of our own.  To my sorrow, we sold our house in Elanda Street and moved into a small, two bedroom cottage we had down around the corner a bit in Duke Street, Sunshine Beach.

We virtually shut up shop on our home office. Randall retained a few clients, but the property market was very quiet; dead in the water.   

Feeling there was nothing to be gained by the two of us sitting around an empty office space looking at each, and rapidly getting sick of the view, I commenced employment as a legal secretary at Bergman and Reeve, Solicitors, in their Tewantin office, which was operated by Chris Reeve, one of the partners.  Their head office, run by Peter Bergman, the chief partner, was in Hastings Street, Noosa.

Coincidentally, Chris and his wife, Jenny, who was a doctor, had lived two doors up from our home in Elanda Street.  A few months earlier they’d sold their house in Elanda Street. They relocated to a new housing estate in Tewantin, within the Noosa area; in other words - a suburb of Noosa Heads.  Tewantin was the original settlement in the Noosa region. In its early days Tewantin, situated on the banks of the Noosa River was a timber town, and river port, allowing for easy transport of the timber from the surrounding area. Tewantin has grown in area these days, of course.  It's the launching point to Noosa North Shore, the Great Sandy National Park, and then onto Fraser Island, further north. The Noosa-Tewantin Shire Council Chambers are situated on the banks of the Noosa River.  It's a popular area with both locals and tourists alike.

It broke my heart to leave our home in Elanda Street, Sunshine Beach.  I loved the house. It was no glossy mansion on a hill, but I loved everything about it; its position; the ocean view; its privacy; its ramshackle charm; the new deck we’d built, to our design, on the ocean side; and the paved deck we’d happily slaved over at the entrance to the house.  I think I knew the first name of every brick I’d laid; and I did do all the paving of that area myself, while Randall attended to other chores.  I was very proud of my efforts when I finished the job. I've never done any paving since then.

After all our worldly possessions were transferred from Elanda Street to the cottage in Duke Street, I went back to the house, my special place, by myself to collect Ruska.  With all the activity surrounding him, I felt it best to leave Ruska until last rather have him be disturbed amongst all the mayhem in his new, future, unfamiliar surroundings. 

Randall made a head-start into the unpacking etc., while I made my final trip to the our now ex-home (we'd placed the house on the market to sell) to collect Ruska.  On my return, I found Ruska upstairs, unperturbed, sitting on the floor in the middle of the bare dining-kitchen area patiently waiting for me to come for him.  He knew I’d never leave him behind.   

I sat down beside Ruska. Taking him in my arms, I broke down in tears while he snuggled his head into my neck beneath my chin. He knew I was upset, and in his way, he comforted me.  I don’t know how long we sat there, but eventually, I dried my tears, pulled myself together, and said my farewell to the house I loved so much; but I didn’t say goodbye to all the good memories that had been created within its walls. 

Like a well-seasoned traveller Ruska sat calmly in the passenger seat of my MG-Magnette as I drove out of the yard into Elanda Street, turned left, and continue forth to traverse the short distance down around the corner into Duke Street to the cottage that was to become our home for the rest of our time living in the Noosa area. Fully prepared for whatever lay ahead, Ruska wasn’t concerned in any way. As long as he was with me, he was a happy, contented cat; and vice versa.

As I said at the commencement of this chapter, Randall and I fitted a lot into those seven or so years we lived on the coast.   

During those years we also co-managed a restaurant for a while, the “Laguna Belle”.  I’ve written about the “Belle” previously. It was a floating, cruising restaurant…a riverboat built along the lines of the Mississippi paddle-steamers.  For the last couple of years of our time spent living beside the ocean I also owned and operated a greengrocery-health food store in the then Laguna Arcade, Hastings Street, Noosa Heads. (The arcade no longer exists. A multi-storey condominium now stands in its stead).

Randall finally closed down “Randall George Real Estate” entirely to take up a position as salesman with Ray White Real Estate in their Hastings Street office, a few doors along from where the little store I eventually turned into a thriving fruit, vegetable and health-food outlet was situated.
Ray White Real Estate is a well-known, well-respected name in the game throughout Australasia. It all started in 1902 with one small real estate office in Crows Nest, Queensland. Through the years Ray White became a household name. Ray White Real Estate are experts in property management, auctions, commercial, private, rural, hotels, marine; and the list goes on.
Crows Nest, where the company originated all those years ago, is a small rural town in the Darling Downs region of Queensland. It’s situated 158 kms from Brisbane and 43 kms from the nearby city of Toowoomba.  Crows Nest’s current population lies somewhere in the vicinity of between 2,000 and 3,000 people.

Randall retained his real estate license.  Some of his loyal clients stuck with him; they followed him to his new place of employment.

We’d been experiencing a few hiccups in our marriage, but we were working through them, or trying to do so.  All marriages have their rocky patches; it’s not all smooth sailing; moonlight and roses; ours was no different.

In November, 1985 a friend of Randall’s had bought himself a large catamaran.  The boat was based in Cairns.  It needed to be brought down to Noosa…by sea…to be exact.   Said friend had never owned, let alone skippered/sailed a boat before.  People never cease to amaze me.

During the years Randall lived in New York he did quite a bit of sailing, around and about Long Island, Fire Island and all places in between; even Newport.  Because of his sailing experience and his friend’s lack of sailing experience, the mate (not even First Mate) asked Randall if he’d be kind enough to fly to Cairns with him to pick up the catamaran; and then, for Randall to be skipper. Randall would sail the rather large catamaran back to Noosa, with the owner and couple of his mates as crew. 

The intrepid would-be sailors invited me to join them on their rather long jaunty jaunt, but I immediately made my feelings clear.  I’m not a sailor. To be stuck aboard a boat, no matter what the size of the vessel, out in the middle of the ocean is not my idea of fun!

Often, throughout our years together Randall talked about how one day he and I would buy a yacht, and then we'd head off together over the far horizon to sail and explore the world.  My reaction was always the same – it never changed…".that’ll be the day hell freezes over"! For me, anyway...

I told him he was more than welcome to do so, (and I meant it sincerely).  Happily, I would remain with my feet firmly on dry land, waiting his safe return. I’d cheer him all the way, and be interested in regular updates about his adventure, but never would I physically participate in “his adventure”. It was his adventure...not mine. 

Sailing the ocean waves is not for me.  It never has been; and it never will be; even though I lived and worked on two islands and two different stages in my life. 

When I lived on Newry Island I drove the island’s power boat, the 21-foot De Havilland Trojan, with its 175 hp Johnson outboard motor.  I lived on the island alone, with only my two cats Pushkin and Rimsky as my roomies.  I worked the island alone.  I was the skipper of my life...and, also of the island boat.  If I wanted paying guests to fill the resort’s cabins, which helped add much needed dollars to my coffers, I had to be able to go to mainland and back to the island...by boat.  It was too far to swim. 

Because there was just me and my two cats running the resort - they were not at all interested in learning how to drive a boat - I had to cross the sea to the mainland if I wanted to eat. I believed food was necessary not only to my survival, but that of Pushkin and Rimsky, and also of my guests.  As much as I love seafood, one cannot survive on seafood alone!  Not only did my guests needed feeding along with my furry rascals and me, but the island bar (not sand bar) needed stocking at a regular intervals, too.

However, back to the subject of sailing - sailing out in the wide, wild ocean blue never turned me on. It still doesn't.

Over and over until I was almost purple, light lilac at least, in the face I explained my sentiments. Finally, after much begging, enticing, cajoling, Randall gave up asking me to join the lads on their excursion. He realised I was serious. It took a lot of convincing, but men can be slow learners about some things.  We ladies do know that much - amongst many other things, but I shan't go into details right now!

My protests weren’t token objections.  I sincerely wanted Randall to do the trip.  It was clear for me to see…Blind Freddy could’ve seen…he very much wanted to do the sail. However, his wanting to do it didn’t mean I wanted the same thing. 

The main reason for my pressing; for my urging him to accept the offer was he may never get the chance again. (And, as life has unfolded he never did get the chance again).

I expressed my genuine feelings, not feigning in any way. If I were to join them they’d regret the invitation within the first hour.  With me as a member of the crew I would make the whole trip uncomfortable for everyone…not purposely; not intentionally.  I’d be claustrophobic (I know that sound crazy being out on the wide, expanse of an ocean – but that’s how I’d feel).  Constantly I’d be seasick. I certainly wouldn’t be good company for anyone else on board.  Come the end of the first day I’m sure they would’ve taken a vote and tossed me overboard!  I could say I wouldn’t have blamed them, but then, I had warned them…but it didn’t come to that.

I genuinely wanted Randall to do what I knew he desperately wanted to do.  I’m a believer in not stopping another from fulfilling their dreams; their personal, individual dreams.  I have no right to do so just because their dream isn’t mine. I've always felt this way.

Finally, I let out a long, loud sigh of relief.  I’d convinced him that I wasn’t just saying the words because they sounded nice…I was saying them because I really meant what I was saying from the bottom of my heart.  I bade farewell to a happy Randall before he set off to the airport.  His excitement at the prospect of sailing the catamaran from Cairns to Noosa was palpable. He was happy; I was happy.  I think even Ruska was happy - he had me to himself!

Around 1.25 pm one Tuesday in late November, 1985, the telephone in my little shop rang.

By that stage, Randall was already sailing the waters off from Innisfail…a town approximately 88 kms south of Cairns.  Some amount of preparation needed to be done to the catamaran before they had been able to safely set sail, but they were on their way...almost.

In my shop that afternoon, the voice greeting me on the other end of the phone was that of a friend I’d known for many years.  In fact, he’d married a girlfriend of mine on New Year’s Day, 1966, in Gympie.  Something I’ve never forgiven them for (joking)…I spent that particular New Year’s Eve on the train, travelling between Brisbane and Gympie…another story for another day!

At the time of the surprise telephone call my friends, after 19 years of wedded bliss and un-bliss (obviously) had separated a few months earlier.  
The reason for the call was an offer was in the wind, with Randall and me as the recipients. 

Quentin, our friend on the other end of the line was in the process of settling on a property he’d purchased – the resort at Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island.  The resort covered an area of 22 acres…a small portion of the massive island.  Hinchinbrook is 245 square miles in area.  The balance of the island was/is classified National Park.  I knew very little about the island at the time of the phone call, other than seeing it across the waters from the highway as we passed through Cardwell when Randall and I went on our caravan odyssey from Noosa to Port Douglas and return earlier in the Eighties.

The soon-to-be new owner of the island resort said as soon as he’d settled the purchase he’d like Randall and me to manage the whole kit and caboodle on his behalf!  Quentin had/has his own heavy construction company - a civil construction contractor.  His company has been in operation since 1976.

Stunned, the first words that came out of my mouth were…”Can I take my cat?  Can I take Ruska with me?”

“You can take whatever you like!” Was Quentin’s immediate response, settling the most important issue for me.  If he’s said “No”…the matter would’ve been dropped there and then; no further discussion. There was no way I'd leave my beloved pet behind. 

I informed Quentin that Randall was in North Queensland waters sailing the Coral Sea with Noosa his destination.   Once I knew Ruska was welcome to share in the island experience, if we were to agree to take on the position as resort managers, I explained Randall and I had a few “minor” issues to attend to before we could go anywhere.  There was much to do and consider before any decisions could be made.

I had a business I was operating, solely, seven days a week, 12 to 13 hours, oft times longer, a day. Randall had a job.  It, too, soaked up many hours of his days and weeks. Also we had another little shop down the far end of Hastings Street. It operated limited hours, offering touristy-type trinkets, bits and pieces, bibs and bobs, and secondhand books.  And then there was our cottage in Duke Street, Sunshine Beach. Minor details, but a few details nonetheless; all of which would need much consideration and attention! And, on top of everything else, by the sounds of it, time was of the essence.  

In fact, everything we were suddenly faced with weren’t minor details at all!  

Fortunately, we'd managed to sell the Elanda Street house fairly quickly.  One of the local chemists (pharmacists) Richard, who had his business in Hastings Street in the same arcade my shop was in, bought our house.  He and his wife intended to do major renovations on the house.  They had a young family.

I dare to remind you those were the days before mobile/cell phones, too.

As fate would have it the motor on the catamaran needed attention, causing the intrepid sailors to limp into Flying Fish Point at Innisfail to have the problem fixed before venturing further southwards.  The distance between Innisfail and Hinchinbrook Island is approximately 92.5 kms, give or take a wave or three.

Fate plays its unpredictable hand often, without warning. The very same night of the afternoon I’d received the proposition regarding the resort on Hinchinbrook Island Randall rang to inform me of their plight and their whereabouts. 

I filled him in on my intriguing information. Immediately he expressed interest at the idea.  I figured because he would be sailing past the island within the ensuing days, he and his fellow sailors could perhaps call into the resort to have a look around; to assess the situation, but all the while keeping the reason why to himself, of course. It was only early days...many decisions had to be made.  The pros and the cons both had to be seriously considered. Nobody else needed to know about our business.

A couple of days later Randall rang with positive thoughts about the resort.  He and his crew had sailed into the waters off from Cape Richards, anchored up and set foot on the island.  While having a few drinks at the resort’s bar, Randall, not revealing the reason why he was there, asked a few pertinent, yet subtle questions. The less said the better in those early stages of the negotiations.

He had a look around and what he saw, he liked. There was nothing unusual about a yacht and its crew making a pit-stop at the island, so no suspicions were raised.  Randall was just a passing, thirsty sailor; and we all know sailors go weak at the knees when a rum or two are within easy reach.  The aroma alone is as tempting and as irresistible as a wantonly beckoning siren.  

With the green light shining brightly following Randall’s positive report, while he was still navigating the Great Barrier Reef I managed to quickly sell, off-load our second little shop down the far end of Hastings Street.  When he arrived back at home, with the catamaran safely moored in the Noosa River or thereabouts, to Randall’s surprise I showed him the signed, unencumbered contract of sale.  Actually, I’d even surprised myself at the ease of the sale.

Christmas 1985 was rapidly approaching.  I wanted to “grab” the business generated by the holiday season before placing my store on the property market.  It made perfectly good business sense to me to enjoy the fruits (excuse the pun) of busiest tourist time of the year.  No one wants to be in business and not make a profit…that’s the name of the game; and it’s what pays the bills, taxes and whatever else.  It's pointless being in business and not doing your utmost to make a profit.  No one wants to go broke! No one wants to not be able to pay the bills; one's taxes and all else. Money, unfortunately, does grow on trees...or from welfare...it comes from hard work.

The Christmas “rush” hadn’t started, but it wasn't far off.  I was already exhausted, and knew I needed a couple of days’ break away.  I worked my shop alone.  Not only was I the vendor of fruit, vegetables and health-foods, but in the small, narrow kitchen area at the rear of the main section of my shop I also cooked, to sell in my store; cakes, biscuits/cookies, soups (I always two freshly-made hot soups on offer every day), boiled and roasted peanuts. I made dips for sale; prepared on-the spot fresh smoothies and fresh fruit juices.  At all times I always had a large bowl of fresh fruit salad in my refrigerated section, along with a variety of at least six salads on offer to the public. 

Frozen fruit salad ice blocks I put together from the fruit salad when it'd gotten to the bottom of the bowl. I kept the large stainless steel bowl of fruit salad topped up to the brim at all times - eye appeal draws the customer; almost empty bowls don't.  The ice blocks were a popular snack with kids of all ages to lick as they strolled along Hastings Street, or if they had just arrived off the beach of Laguna Bay, covered in sand and the salty remnants of the ocean. At 50 cents a pop, the fresh fruit salad ice blocks were cheap. 

My shop was situated in "The Laguna Arcade", which had years before been built on the site that once housed the iconic "Laguna Guest House".  The Laguna Guest House had been constructed back in the1890s.  Its timber walls housed and protected a multitude of tales! Many times, as teenagers, my girlfriends and I stayed at the guest house when we spent our weekends surfing at Noosa.  My friends and I added a couple of tales to those discreet walls.

In the Seventies the guest house was demolished to make way for the Laguna Arcade, which housed about nine shops, including the one I eventually owned for a while.  The Ken Rosewall Tennis Courts were on land at the rear of the property upon which the arcade stood.

In my shop, I was always as busy doing something or other in between serving customers. No time for idle hands...although, I did find time at times!  I loved my shop. I had lots of fun operating that little business.  It was my "baby".

I needed to restore my batteries before the Christmas rush, so once Randall was back home again, I asked a girlfriend if she’d take care of business for two days while I did whatever personal restoration work that needed doing.   

With everything under control and my mind at ease knowing Irene would do a good job,  I booked myself into one of the small holiday villas on the banks of Lake Cooroibah.  The lake is on the northern side of the Noosa River.  Whether the actual holiday resort I stayed at back then in early December 1985 is still there, I know not.   

It was a wonderful, peaceful place to stay with the lake nearby; just a few long strides away.  The holiday park/accommodation consisted of a few free-standing cabins…I have no idea how many, along with one little on-site store that sold newspapers, ice creams and other minor essentials.  I didn’t visit the store during my brief stay. I had no desire to do so.  

Before leaving our cottage in Sunshine Beach I’d packed a couple of boxes with enough provisions to suit my needs for a couple of days, along with an overnight bag of a change of clothes etc., and other personal items. I needed little.

It wasn’t my intention to mix with humans.  All I wanted to do was mix with Nature and sleep!    

I said adieu to Randall; cuddled Ruska while assuring him I wasn’t deserting him; and then I headed off in my MG-Magnette, alone, on my own adventure…albeit a stable one, set firmly on land; and a short one at that.

It was early afternoon when I reached my destination (I’d left Sunshine Beach around noon…my destination wasn’t far afield…only 17 kms or thereabouts). The Magnette and I were carried across the Noosa River by the vehicular ferry that departed from Tewantin.  The moment I arrived at my little cabin by the lake I felt as if I was miles away from the rest of the world. 

Other than to put my provisions that needed chilling in the small fridge, I didn’t bother attending to other unpacking.  Without further hesitation or ceremony, I threw myself on the inviting bed and promptly fell into the deepest sleep I think I’ve ever experienced.  I can still remember how I felt when I awoke a couple of hours later.  I could hardly move; my body felt incredibly heavy. I felt as if a giant weight was holding me down.  During my slumber, I dreamed in vivid clarity of my late mother and grandmother. It was if they’d been there in the room with me; perhaps they had been.

Fleeting though my stay was I utilized the time well – my way.  All I did with the time I'd allotted myself was read, sleep, walk to the lake’s edge, and pensively sit a while, hoping my solitude wouldn’t be interrupted by anyone. Fortunately, it wasn’t.  I didn’t speak to another soul. I didn’t want to interact with anyone else.  If I saw someone in the distance coming my way, I’d slowly turn. Without making an issue; it wasn't my intention to cause offence - I'd stroll off in a different direction, ending back in the sanctuary of my little holiday cabin.  The cabin consisted of one bedroom, a combined kitchenette-dining-lounge area and bathroom.  A small patio faced the lake.  It was all I desired.

Once I returned to civilisation I was rearing to go once again.  I was refreshed; renewed, ready to take on all and sundry...come what may. 

The Christmas-New Year period was around the nearest corner. Orders had to be placed. Carrot cakes, muesli cookies and fruit cakes had to be made ready for the onset of holiday-makers. A lot needed to be done, but I was feeling fighting fit, ready to step into the ring.

There was a lot to be attended to elsewhere, too, not just in my shop.   

Our decision was made.  Randall and I accepted the offer of becoming managers of the resort at Cape Richards, Hinchinbrook Island.  When we’d moved to the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane I never thought we’d leave the area.   I'd always loved the Noosa area from when I was a child; and I still do love it. I personally believed once I was back in Noosa/Sunshine Beach there I’d remain for the rest of my life.   

Life…it has a mind of its own sometimes...oft times. 

Randall thought our marriage would get back onto even footing, level ground again once we took up our posts on the island.  I was not as confident as he.  I felt he was kidding himself, but mainly I kept my thoughts to myself.  I didn’t believe that a change of  locale; a change of our day-to-day situations would alter the course on which we’d found ourselves.   Unconsciously, we'd set off on a course; one from which it was difficult to disembark.  I had my doubts about the stability of our marriage; of its future longevity; but, in fairness and honesty, on the other hand, I was also very keen to take on the challenge of Hinchinbrook Island Resort.  It was an adventure I did want to go on.

I wasn’t a soothsayer; I couldn’t tell the future (I'm still not and can't)…but I did have a fair idea about some of it; and I guess I still do...to a degree....about some things. 

Ruska looked on with interest at all the activity going on around him.  He made sure he stuck close within easy listening distance so he could eavesdrop  Here we go again, I'm sure he was thinking.  He already had his food bowls packed.