Wednesday, June 24, 2015


North Tamborine the Supa IGA complex

Remy and Shama's favourite section at IGA
Shama and Remy....The View Is Great From Up Here!

When I made the decision I wasn’t aware it was the right one; or by making the spur of the moment decision it’d be one that would shower me with such joy. 

In many ways I am a creature of habit; and in other ways I’m much like a leopard – I don’t change my spots. In another way I’m like an elephant. Play nice! I mean I never forget!  

My Saturday and Sunday mornings are almost always, without fail, alteration or altercation spent reading the newspaper. Come rain, hail, shine or fog Gavin, our local, always obliging and pleasant newsagent, delivers my papers early on weekend morns. ‘Tis a simple, basic pleasure, but one I enjoy. Bliss for me is being curled up each Saturday and Sunday mornings engrossed in the paper; a steaming coffee at hand; uninterrupted by the outside world.  For Remy and Shama my habit has become their habit.  They enjoy reading about Garfield’s adventures and live in constant hope that one day I’ll buy them each a doughnut or two.

A couple of Saturdays ago I broke from tradition. I decided to hit IGA early before preparing coffee; before unraveling the paper.  The tradition I shattered was going to the supermarket on a Saturday morning, not the early visit.  It’s my custom to go shopping early.  Our local Supa IGA opens its door each morning at 7 am; and that suits me just fine.  I like to get my shopping over and done with, so I can usually be found strolling through the aisle anytime between the hours of 7 am and  9 am; and if I’m really extending the perimeters…9.30 am!  I’m not one to go out shopping in the afternoons. I can see no point waiting around all morning, and to then go out shopping in the afternoon.  If I’ve not done the deed way before noon, nothing is so urgent it can’t wait until the following morning.   And I’m also a rare breed…almost extinct…or should be…in the majority of instance I only shop once a week.  Other than my grocery lines, fresh produce and newsagency necessities most everything else I require I purchase by online method when the need arises.  I’m not one who enjoys wandering around shopping centres etc.

For whatever the reason on the Saturday morning of my break from convention I wanted to be at the supermarket on opening so I could get in, do what I had to do and get out again before my fellow mountain dwellers stirred. My intention was to be home again as quickly as viable with as little disturbance possible to my normal Saturday morn routine.

Making my way along the aisles I was alone except for a couple of half-asleep early birds of the non-feathered variety, some staff who might’ve slept in-store overnight (I think I spotted a couple of swags and hammocks in between the shelves) and my reflection in the fridge doors.

Out of the blue the silence was broken by a father calling out to his daughter. “Poppy!  Poppy!”

In the distance a squeal of delight followed by a child’s laughter echoed through the store. 

A young father with a baby of about 12 months, give or take, in his arms was walking towards me. 

His little girl “Poppy” had cavorted off on an adventure of her own. 

As he approached me I was overwhelmed by a feeling of warmth.  His glowing face radiated happiness and love. I smiled at him and he smiled in return.

Out of nowhere a carefree, exuberant, pretty little girl skipped up to the young man. 

Poppy had arrived. 

Strolling through the store doing an early morning shop for his family - thoughtfully allowing his wife and mother of his two gorgeous children a break; a sleep-in - the young man appeared very content with his lot.

With not a care in the world Poppy bounced off again like a fully-charged Eveready-Energizer Bunny.

The father, a fine-looking young man and I laughed as we exchanged pleasantries. 

He told me he’d been away for a week, having only returned home late the previous evening.  The children were over the moon their much-loved Daddy was home, Poppy, in particular.

Powerless to put up a fight I succumbed, willingly – no white flag required - to the contagious, almost tangible euphoria both he and his lovely little princess exuded.  I wanted to share the light that engulfed them.

I’d witnessed a magical vignette of life.

Meanwhile, Poppy squealed and giggled as she darted back and forth enjoying her frolic. Like a melodious bell her laughter rang out through the store. It was clear Poppy couldn’t contain her excitement at being with her beloved father.

Driving past me in the car park while I was still loading my purchases into the boot/trunk of my car, the young man pulled to a stop.  A lovely smile still beamed like a neon sign across his handsome countenance.  With his little princess Poppy still full of beans and giggling away in her car seat with her baby brother gazing at her in wide-eyed interest, the father and I chatted briefly before he waved and smiled at me as he and his two beautiful children exited the car park.

I’d participated in an episode of pure, unadulterated joy. Driving home it was if I was floating on air. I felt at one with the world; a wonderful world. I’d made a smart decision to go shopping early that Saturday morning.   

Tomato-Poppy Seed Tart: Sift 1-1/2c plain flour, 1/4tsp salt; add 1tbs poppy seeds and 1tsp ground thyme; if using processor, pulse once; add 100g cold, cubed butter; pulse until mixture resembles breadcrumbs or use fingertips, the old-fashioned way; add 2tbs icy-cold water; pulse/combine until dough comes together. Press dough into rectangle baking pan; cover, chill 1hr. Slice six medium tomatoes; leave to drain. Heat oven 200C. Zig-zag tomato slices over crust; add 150g cherry tomatoes; sprinkle over Italian herbs; crumble over 84g goat cheese; season; bake 40mins. Enjoy warm or cold.

Parmesan & Poppy Seed Biscuits: Line 2 baking trays. Sift 100g plain white flour, 100g wholemeal flour, 1/2tsp baking powder, 1tsp sweet smoked paprika, 1/2tsp hot smoked paprika, pinch of cayenne. salt and 1/2tsp freshly-ground black pepper. In a bowl beat 160g room temp butter and 140g grated parmesan until well combined; add dry ingredients; mix until soft dough forms. On floured surface divide dough into two; roll each piece into log, 3cm in diameter; wrap; chill 1hr. Slice logs into 6mm rounds; lay them on baking sheets, 3cm apart. Brush with beaten egg; place 3 pumpkin seeds on top of each; then scatter tops with poppy and sesame seeds. Bake in 170C oven, 12-14mins.

Orange-Poppy Seed Cake: Process 1 large, roughly-chopped orange until pureed; add 125g melted butter, 1-1/2c almond meal, 3/4c caster sugar, 1/2c poppy seeds and 3 eggs; process until smooth; pour mixture in paper-lined 20cm cake pan; bake at 180C, 40-50mins. The cake won’t rise much. Stand cake 5mins before turning onto rack. Make sticky orange syrup: Peel rind from 1 orange into long straight strips; then finely julienne. Combine 1/2c water and 1/2c white sugar in saucepan; stir over low heat until sugar dissolves; add orange rind; bring to boil; boil 10mins or until syrupy and rind is translucent. Drizzle warm syrup over cake; decorate with sticky orange rind; serve thin slices of cake with dollops of cream.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


The resort was a hive of industry. Much had to be done before the designated re-opening date…8th March. 

Our crew on the island wasn’t dissimilar to the United Nations. Amongst us we had a Kiwi, a Dutchman, Brits and Aussies.   

The two Pommie fellows sent to help with the renovations etc., were as useless as tits on a bull.  They thought they were there for a holiday and acted accordingly.  Their respect for the female gender was non-existent.  Not once did they clear away their plates after finishing a meal, whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner; nor did they once thank me for a meal I'd prepared for them.  I didn't them to bow down in gratitude, but a simple "thank you" would have been suffice. A woman’s place in the world was to wait on them they foolhardily believed.  They were soon to discover they’d been living in a fool’s paradise throughout their misguided, ill-informed lives! 

Randall and I were there to co-manage the resort; my position was of equal standing to his; but in the eyes and mind of the two tradesmen (and I use the word “tradesmen” very loosely) I was just “the little woman”…all 5ft 9 inches of me! And seeing I was a woman, anything I said was to be taken with a grain of salt…before I added it to their food!  They would talk over me and not direct any work-related discussions to me, or include me in them.  They wouldn't or couldn't look me in the eye, an immediate turn-off to me if anyone does that to me.  They only spoke with Randall…the male. In other words they were rude and ignorant.

Another bad habit they’d picked up while drifting around in their “man’s world” was to toss their empty 375ml beer cans and/or glass beer stubbies onto the rocks fringing the ocean below the staff quarters.  My opinion about their practice was soon impressed upon them, leaving the two brainless “builders” with no doubt about my feelings. Randall stepped in and told them to clean up their mess, and to cease and desist from that moment forth.

After they finished their day’s chores and before arriving at the restaurant’s dining area for their evening meal, they’d sit on the verandah of the staff quarters to enjoy a couple of beers.  They were welcome to do so to their hearts’ content as far as I was concerned – at day’s end we all enjoyed a few drinks while discussing what had transpired during the day and our work plans for the following day - but the discarding of the empty beer bottles and cans onto the rocks below and into the ocean was a definite “no-no” in my book! 

I couldn’t stand either one of the men, and they soon came to know it.  I couldn’t have cared less; but more about the despicable two later.  I have great difficulty in being a hypocrite.  Hiding my disdain for them wasn't one of my talents.

The rest of the crew gathered around the little cocktail bar or around the dinner tables at the end of each day.  We enjoyed relaxing and conversing together at that time of the day, but the two Poms rarely joined the rest of us. Their absence never bothered me much. If they didn’t want to join their workmates over a few drinks while planning our next moves regarding jobs to be done that was their prerogative.  I found them to be cloudy dampeners on what otherwise were enjoyable, pleasant interludes.

The late-afternoon/early evening get-togethers were good opportunities to get to know each other, too.  They were fruitful hours spent. Good working relationships were formed. We were all living together in reasonably close proximity away from the rest of the world on the mainland. Our “happy hour” (which always extended more than an hour, of course ) was a time to wind down. 

Naturally, Ruska never joined us.  He kept the home fires stoked over in our little studio-style house, sitting  out on the deck with a Brown Cow or two in his paws enjoying the sunsets over Cardwell in the west.  Brown Cows…for the uninitiated are….Kahlua and milk.  And take my word for it…they are delicious!  It’s very difficult to have only one Brown Cow…it soon can turn into a fully outfitted dairy – a whole herd!

Building materials were needed urgently to enable us to get the construction of a new jetty underway. Along with other important projects work also needed to begin as soon as possible on the deck and tables planned to surround the swimming pool.  As well as the deck planned for the pool area, a covered deck with a loading bay was also part of our plans. The much-needed expansive covered area would extend out from the rear of the restaurant kitchen to meet up with the laundry room.  The extension would house a large new cold room and a second, separate dish-washing area.  The existing cold room stood out in the open like a pea on a pumpkin!  It wasn’t under cover, which meant when it rained one got soaked going to and fro from the kitchen to the cold room – an extremely unsatisfactory, unworkable situation.

However, the resort was the last cab off the rank as far as receiving building materials, and it was understandable.  Transport to the northern regions remained disrupted in places and building materials were at a premium.  There were shortages all round. We accepted our position at the tail end of "feeding chain".

In the wake of Cyclone Winifred there were many people on the mainland whose needs were far more important, more urgent than ours.  Our requirements, if one chose to be pedantic, were mostly cosmetic, except for the jetty. The extension at the rear of the kitchen was by no means cosmetic, for the running of a successful kitchen it was a necessity, but there were many others on the mainland who had lost their homes, businesses and everything pertaining thereto.  Their predicaments were more crucial than those of the resorts. We were prepared to stand in line…at the end of the line.

There were other jobs that needed our attention while we waited for the material, not the major works, but minor bits and pieces of renovations etc.  Our days weren't being wasted.

Shortly after we arrived at the resort, an order for a load of timber was placed with the hardware shop in Cardwell. They, in turn, had to order the timber from elsewhere. The day finally came - we were advised our timber had arrived. 

The two Poms volunteered to take the resort’s old barge across to the mainland to pick up the load and ferry it, slowly, very slowly back to the island.  The motor from “Lady” the island’s Abalone powered boat was transferred to the barge to assist it in its journey to and fro from Cardwell.  I welcomed a day without their annoying presence hovering about.

Night was descending rapidly when the two men arrived back to the island waters. Darkness soon replaced daylight. They anchored the loaded barge out from where the old jetty had once reached out to sea.  Randall asked the blokes to pull the timber-loaded barge into shore as far as possible and tie it up securely, or to take the barge around to the main beach, Orchid Beach and drag it up as close to the shore as possible, and tie it up accordingly so the timber could be off-loaded at first light the following morning. They refused to do so saying, as they rushed off to grab a couple of beers, the barge was fine anchored out where they’d left it. They knew what they were doing...after all, they were experts! 

Next morning we discovered through the night the barge had slipped its anchor, overturned and generously donated its cargo to Davy Jones’ locker!  We now had a timbered ocean floor out from the island!

Some of the timber had begun to float around the headland…some had already washed ashore onto Orchid Beach, the rest was resting on the sea bed.

To say Randall and I weren’t happy would be one of the greatest understatements ever uttered! 

I suggested to Randall we should just get rid of the two men – they were incompetent, cocky hindrances. He said it wouldn’t help sacking them not only because they were actually under the jurisdiction of Quentin, the owner of the resort – they were part of his construction team in his civil engineering company – but we needed the extra hands.  Useless hands as far as I was concerned!   I didn’t care if they were part of the Queen’s household.  I was prepared to kick them off the island there and then, without hesitation, but I my wishes were over-ridden.

Out of character, one afternoon they joined the rest of us for drinks.  From the beginning I suspected something was underway in their muddled minds. Before long, they announced their grand scheme.  I blew a fuse.  I spontaneously combusted!  I imploded and exploded simultaneously.

The two bright sparks- the Poms - decided, seeing we couldn't progress with our deck-building etc., until we received the replacement load of timber to cover that which was lost (by them) it would be a good time to remove the roofs off the guest cabins. 

 It was our intention to replace the existing roofs with new ones, but not before roofing material was on the island! The roofing hadn't arrive and we had no idea when it would; also another delay was in the offering regarding the replacement timber.  Our hands were tied every which way but loose!

One mustn’t forget it was the month of February.  February in Queensland is a summer month.  Summer here in Queensland is our “wet season”.  February in North Queensland, otherwise known as “Tropical North Queensland” is hot, humid and awash with tropical downpours later in the day (almost every day).  I

In Queensland and, more particularly in tropical North Queensland, summer extends its stay from November (sometimes it pokes its nose in as early as October) through to April. The northern Australian monsoon season lasts, generally, from December to March.  Annually, the monsoon trough pays a visit during those months. It hovers above and over the northern areas of Australia, including North Queensland producing heavy rainfalls. During those months cyclones also love to pay a visit or two; sometimes more.

And those two brainless clowns wanted to remove the existing roofs off the guest cabins when we had no roofing on hand to replace the discarded materials!  They could’ve starred in their own version of “Dumb & Dumber”!

I leapt out of my chair in disgust and disbelief!  Their plan took the cake as far as I was concerned.  It was the straw that broke this Aussie camel’s back. 

Glaring at them, I fired them on the spot. Wasting no worlds, I told them to get off the island. They were fired. I never wanted to see their useless faces ever again!

Everyone at the table fell went quiet.  Randall reached out to me in an effort to sit me back down in my seat, but I shook him off angrily.   Nothing he or anyone else could say or do would appease me.  My mind was made up.

Randall didn’t back me in that instance, and his lack of support made me even more furious.  He was being “hail fellow well met”; being “one of the boys”; and I was having none of it.

I told the two men they were to be off the island first thing the next morning…no ifs…no buts…be gone! 

Going straight to the resort’s office, my office, I phoned the Toowong headquarters in Brisbane to inform them of what I’d done and to impress I wasn’t going to back down from my decision.  I asked Maree, the company’s bookkeeper/accountant and Quentin’s right-hand-woman to tally up what was owed to the Poms in wages and to deposit whatever was due to them into their respective bank accounts as soon as the bank opened the following morning.  This was long before the convenience of online banking etc. 

After speaking to Maree in the Toowong office, I rang my brother, Graham in Mackay. 

At the time it was off-season in the cane fields.  I knew Graham would be keen to have some work until the new season commenced.   He was a very capable fellow, one who could turn his hands to most things.  I asked if he would like a job on the island for a while, and if so, could he be, if not on the next Greyhound bus headed north, but the next one after that.  He answered “Yes” to both questions. 

Steam continued to billow out from my nose and ears when I stormed outside to the pool area, to stand alone, looking at the beach and ocean below.  I needed space.  I needed to exhale and be away from people…for their safety! 

Having had enough nonsense for one day, I left them all to it. I couldn't be bothered with anyone. If they wanted to be fed, they could feed themselves. Dinner was half-prepared. It was up to the lot of them to feed themselves.  I’d washed my hands of the whole affair.  I’d had enough of everyone, but Randall in particular for not standing alongside me in the decision made.  The operative term in the whole catastrophe was - "co-managers".  It didn't appear to be working!

I didn’t want to be around people. At that moment Ruska was better company for me than any human could ever be.  He certainly had a better brain than most of the humans I whose company I was sharing!

Ruska was a very affectionate, sensitive cat, particularly when it came to me.  He was my cat and I was his human. He loved to be picked up; he loved being loved.  His affectionate ways with me surprised many of our friends when they visited.  Many weren’t used to seeing a cat so tender and devoted. I suppose most weren’t “cat” people; and I’ve always been a “cat” person since I was just a toddler.  My first best friend in the world was Socksie, my beautiful grey and white tabby, who came into my life when I was about two years old.  I wrote about Socksie in a previous post a year or two ago.

With his head under my chin, Ruska loved to snuggle as close as he could into my shoulder.  One of his front legs and paws would gently reach up to the side of my face to my ear as if he was hugging me.  He could pick up on my mood at any given time. I’ve always talked a lot to the cats I’ve had; and I still do with Remy and Shama, my two cats who’ve allowed me to be a part of their lives for these past nigh on 13 years. My rewards have been their responses, their actions; their love. 

They’re more talkative than I am!  The majority of times they probably make more sense, too!

Wearily, feeling drained from what had and had not transpired, as soon as I entered the house I sat down on the bed, staring out at the ocean beyond.  Ruska came straight to me. There was no doubting he understood something was amiss.  To some it might sound whimsical imaginings on my part; but it’s fine…I can live with that.

Randall finally turned up, saying I shouldn’t have done what I’d done, but I told him in no uncertain terms how I felt…about them…and him for not supporting me.  We argued a little, nothing too dramatic. He tried to explain his philosophy on the matter, while I counteracted with my own.  Randall felt we needed the extra two sets of hands.  I reckoned we didn’t because they were useless hands.  He said if I was going to sack the two men I should’ve kicked them off the island there and then because overnight the two Poms could do damage if they felt that way inclined.  I said they would be even more stupid than they already were if they did so because they had no way of escaping.  We surrounded by water.  All Randall had to do was go to their boat…they’d arrived to the island by their own mode of transport and would be leaving by the same method…all he needed to do was dismantle the boat’s motor to a stage making it impossible for the motor to start.  If push came to shove, I’d do it…with a sledge hammer!

As it eventuated the two fellows left with their tails between their legs shortly after dawn the following morning, leaving no trail of destruction behind them, other than my lack of faith and disgust in some of my fellow human beings. 

They skulked off without saying goodbye to anyone.  I never expected nor wanted a farewell from them, but I thought they could’ve at least said goodbye to their co-workers.  By not doing so they proved their lack of respect for others as well as their disdain for the environment.

Graham, my brother, arrived on the island ready to get his hands dirty well within 36 hours of my telephone call.  It was great to have him on board.  I felt I had an ally.

And within a day of Graham’s arrival the Army landed with little forewarning.

In the aftermath of Cyclone Winifred troops were sent to assist in the cleaning up of areas devastated by the wrath of Winnie, giving invaluable assistance where needed.  The soldiers were on the last leg of their secondment before returning to normal duties when they landed on our doorstep; or should I say - our beach.

Out of the blue, literally, the peace of the resort was suddenly interrupted by an almighty roar. A thundering noise drowned out the calming sounds of the ocean.  Ruska would’ve gathered together his food bowls and headed for under the bed.

Rushing to the top of the slope leading down to little cove where the old jetty used to hold court we were confronted by a sight we’d never expected even in our wildest of dreams.  There before us rested a huge metal intimidating creature like something we’d never seen before up close and personal. Thoughts of Robert Duvall’s character in “Apocalypse Now” flashed through my mind.

With our adrenaline flowing freely and wildly we hurried down the incline towards the monster. Our clothes clung forcibly to our bodies; our hair was windswept by the hurricane caused by the rotor blades of an UH-1H Iroquois Army Helicopter! 

Now I’d seen it all, I thought…until a cockpit door opened.  Out from the throbbing helicopter an imposing being began to disembark.  

 I say “began” because time slowed down; it seemed to take forever for the high-ranked soldier to disembark…all 6ft 6 or 7 inches of him. 

In awe of his stature and the aura surrounding him I tried to not to appear rude by staring, but it was nigh impossible not to do so.  I think the rest of us watching him dislodge – unfold from the helicopter were in similar states of shock as I was. He was imposing; a large man in appearance, but proportionate. Nothing about him was out of line or place.  He was quite the specimen of mankind, to say the least!

With my crazy mind running wild, I immediately nicknamed him “Major-Major-Major”, the character from Joseph Heller’s satirical war novel (and then movie).  I kept my thoughts to myself, of course, other than to share them with Randall…when we were alone!

Feeling somewhat stunned still, but managing to disguise our shock and awe, Randall and I extended our hands in greeting.  A firm handshake and a smile befitting the man gifted us in return.

Once “Major-Major-Major” had untangled himself from the helicopter the rest of his crew, which numbered three crew, from memory, along with four other soldiers disembarked. They were there to do a job. Standing quietly awaiting further orders from their commander their demeanour showed they took their role in life seriously.

They showed no signs of relaxation as they went about their business.

Randall and I invited our welcome visitors to the restaurant for coffee, but other than “Major-Major-Major” the others politely declined choosing to remain with the helicopter to unload what needed unloading.

The leader of the band of brothers told us we were not to cater for his men; that they would take care of themselves.  They were trained to do so; they were accustomed to doing so when “out in the field”.  Their arrival was in no way mean to “put us out”.

However, after much “to-ing and fro-ing” a compromise was agreed upon.  Randall and I could be very persuasive when we had to be; and, we, too, together could be a force to reckon with.  The men were now “out in our field” – and our rules applied!

If the men were going to be using their muscles, time and energy while doing some hard yakka out in the tropical heat and humidity doing us a mighty favour we demanded we return the favour; otherwise their next move would be to re-pack up their kitbags, jump back into the Iroquois and fly off across the waters, over the far horizon! 

There was room enough in the staff quarters to house the soldiers during their brief working sojourn. Free reign of the staff quarters, including hot showers were at their disposal. We informed “Major-Major-Major” he may as well save his breath for the work that lay ahead - we’d hear no further argument.

Furthermore, they wouldn’t be catering for themselves in the food and beverage departments, either.  My larder was well-stocked. I had food enough to feed an army.  I’d always said (and still do) – “I cater enough to feed the army” – so now I could put my food where their mouths were! 

It was the least we could do for our men of the Defence Force.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Bill Bailey is the one on the left....
Top End street junction of Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley...
Fortitude Valley Circa 1960
Queen Street, Brisbane Circa 1969
Queen Street, Brisbane - Circa mid-Sixties

British comedian/ actor/musician Bill Bailey was a guest on “The Graham Norton Show” a few weeks ago. During his time on the show he related a story to the amusement of his fellow guests, his host and the audience.  

While out driving one day Bailey was stationary at a stop sign when out of nowhere an elderly woman (not me) opened his car door and climbed into his car. Settling into the seat the lady directed Bailey to drive her to a certain address. Bill said he had nothing else to do so he drove the lady to her destination.   

That’s taking “Won’t you come home Bill Bailey” literally, don’t you think?

A similar situation happened to a friend of mine in Brisbane back in the Sixties.  

At the time my friend Nancy worked in the offices of the “Truth”, a Sunday newspaper in days of yore, the premises of which were at the south-western corner of Brunswick and McLachlan Streets, Fortitude Valley.

During her lunch hour, as was her wont, Nancy visited Queen Street, the main street of the CBD, a couple or so kilometres from The Valley.  Those were the days long before Queen Street became a pedestrian-only shopping mall. Trams, buses, cars, trucks and other modes of transport (not horse and buggy) still bustled busily along the inner-city street.   

The noon-day clock was ticking at a rapid rate of tocks. 

Nancy's lunch hour was expiring. She needed to be back at work. Sweat (perspiration…she was a lady) formed on her forehead in her anxiety.  She jumped into a cab – after flinging open its door – and breathlessly asked the driver to take her to the newspaper's address in The Valley.  As the car pulled out and headed off in the direction of The Valley Nancy noticed the driver’s shoulders were shaking uncontrollably.   

At first she thought he was in the throes of a fit.  In a way he was - he was in fits of laughter.   

The man wasn’t a cabbie; he was private citizen going about his business when a frazzled stranger climbed into his car demanding, albeit politely, for him to take her to the address she’d hurriedly blurted out. 

It soon became obvious the driver was a gentleman; one who appreciated the funny side of the situation in which he’d innocently found himself.  Good-naturedly the driver attempted to placate his crazed passenger while, en route, an embarrassed Nancy apologised non-stop for her rash behaviour. 

She made it back to work – just in time! “Two for the Valley!” taken literally!

Nancy had a penchant for embarrassing moments. 

Another fateful day, with her macramé bag clasped firmly in her hand, she scurried along Queen Street trying to beat the unbeatable clock.  Her string bag swung freely in the breeze caused by her haste. Suddenly she was yanked backwards.  Her bag had snagged on something. Tugging to no avail, Nancy turned. To her abject horror she discovered her shameless bag had indiscriminately latched onto the zip of a blushing, unsuspecting man’s trousers!  Fumbling then ensued between two strangers in Queen Street in the height of the lunch hour rush; two strangers who hoped they’d never meet again - not in the night and, most definitely not in daylight!

Was it a case of fly-in-fly-out, or lunch on the fly?  Perhaps instead of fly-by-night, it was a fly-by-lunch. Lay-by would’ve been less awkward.   

A few months passed before Nancy was brave enough to make a re-appearance in Queen Street. She prepared her lunch at home. From then on for a while, Nancy ate her self-prepared lunch while glued to her work desk; it was a safer and less mortifying  way.

Lunch-On-the-Run Slice: Preheat oven 180C. Grease 30x20cm slice tray. In pan heat 1-2tbs olive oil over med-heat; cook 2 crushed garlic cloves, 4 chopped, rind-less bacon rashers and 1 finely chopped onion until onion begins to caramelize and bacon starts to crisp; remove from heat. In bowl, combine 450g grated zucchini, 200g ricotta, 1/2c grated parmesan, 1/4c chopped chives/shallots, salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine 6 eggs and 1c S.R. flour until smooth. Add bacon mix to zucchini mix; pour in the egg mixture; fold to combine well; pour into baking tray; bake 40-50mins; cut into slices.

Spinach-Cheese Rolls: Preheat oven 200C. Finely chop and cook 1 spinach bunch; drain; squeeze out excess liquid. Combine with ½ onion, finely chopped; blend with hand-mixer to thick paste; add 1tb cream cheese or soy cream cheese, 1tbs minced garlic, 1c plain flour, salt and pepper; mix well. Cut 4 sheets partially-thawed puff pastry sheets in half; spoon 1/3rd to ½ cup mix down short end of pastry; carefully roll up; repeat process; place on greased tray; spray with olive oil; bake until golden.

Chicken Salad: Combine 1/2c orange juice, 1tbs grated orange zest, 1tsp olive oil, 1/2ts ground ginger, 1tsp honey and 1/4tsp cumin; add 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts; marinate 1-2hrs. Preheat oven 190C; remove chicken from marinade; place on baking dish; discard marinade. Sprinkle freshly-ground black pepper over chicken; bake 25-30mins. Toss together some mixed greens, 1/2c thinly sliced red capsicum, a few red onion slices, 1/3c thinly sliced cucumber and 1/4c toasted pecans. Whisk together a dressing – 1/3c orange juice, 2tbs olive oil, salt and pepper to taste (keep in separate bottle if taking salad to work). Add chicken to salad; sprinkle over some dried cranberries; drizzle with dressing when ready to serve.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015


Gympie State High School....circa 1959

For a period of five years, twice a week after school I went to another school conducted in a large downstairs room in the home of my piano teacher, Miss Alice Gidley. I wasn’t her only student, of course. Many other Gympie children throughout the years wandered in and out her doors.

Miss Gidley taught us the Major Scale; the seven-note diatonic musical scale; “Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do” (Eight, if you insist on insisting because “Do” is repeated on a higher level. Look closely - there are only seven original notes; but now I’m getting carried away on a major scale). 

Once we had the foundation down pat we moved onto melody and chords, whether major, minor, augmented, diminished, half-diminished, or just jumbled up.  It depended upon the number of hours spent practicing at home what we’d been taught by the ever-diligent, always patient Miss Gidley how disorderedly our muddle - our playing was.  

We were thrilled when we mastered Beethoven's "Für Elise" and his poignantly evocative "Moonlight Sonata, along with Debussy's hauntingly beautiful "Clair De Lune" - as well as the other classical compositions placed before us. Our fingers tripped over each other in the learning process.

Examination time came around all too quickly.  My nerves and the nerves of my fellow partners in crime were frazzled and our adrenaline flowed.  Somehow - someway - I must have done enough practice because I always did well in my music exams. Not that it counted for much, it appears.  These days I can’t play a note, let alone chopsticks (although the scales I'm sure I could still master - I think!)  

After my mother passed away, Nana gave our wonderful old German iron-frame upright piano to a childcare/kindergarten centre in Mackay.  

Originally, in the early part of the 20th Century, the piano had been a wedding gift to Nana and our grandfather on their wedding day.  It had belonged to an aunty of my grandfather. The aunty, I learned from Nana, had been a piano teacher.  Old though it was, our piano was in good "nick" and it had a rich tone.  Our old piano held a great many stories between and behind its ebony and ivory keys. I’m sure many of Mackay’s youngsters enjoyed fun times sitting at and around it.  I often wonder if it still exists.  Wonders do happen…

Each Christmas Miss Gidley hosted a party for her students. We had to perform either a piano piece or a comical interlude;  or both. Miss Gidley spent a lot of  the dough she earned from giving her piano lessons on those parties.

When I was attending Gympie State High School doing Commercial and Home Science studies, an hour or two each week was set aside for a music class – not piano – but singing lessons.  I must have been absent during those classes; not physically, but certainly in spirit because I still sing off-key…way off!  The key went missing, never to be found. Not once did it turn the lock enabling me to make some dough out of singing! 

Mr. Albert Leadbetter was our singing teacher. A pompous fuddy-duddy he approached the lessons seriously.  I doubt any of my fellow classmates returned the favour. I know I, for one, didn’t.  With his immaculately groomed, short back and sides, slicked-down hair, bow tie and braces how could anyone expect a roomful of teenage girls to contain their mirth? We tried our best; we really did, but he did himself no favours, particularly when he, stern of face, waved a baton about the place as if he was conducting the Vienna "Girls" Choir!

Week after week he tried, fruitlessly, to have us sing in tune about a poor harmless lark whose future was doomed. Albert Leadbetter probably didn’t know “Alouette, Gentille Alouette”, when translated into English, is about threatening to pluck an innocent lark. That’s not a lark – it’s a sick song with cruel intent. 

He also had us singing about someone called “Marguerita” or similar; Margie was fond of collecting seashells along the seashore. I can’t remember the song; I think it originated from across The Ditch.  Boringly he kept teaching us songs that inspired little interest.

D’oh! No wonder he lost our attention. 

Mr. Leadbetter had time off because he fell ill (not life-threatening) - so Miss Jeanette Ryan, our Math teacher stood in.  Miss Ryan taught us Guy Mitchell’s “Singing the Blues”, which certainly helped blow our blues away.

Upon his return, Mr. Leadbetter asked us what song we’d learned during his absence. He wasn’t impressed when we told him we’d learned the latest “Top of the Pops”; and he was even less impressed when we told him how much we’d enjoyed singing the blues. To his horror we asked if he’d like to hear our rendition. He almost ran screaming from the class room, bowtie askew; hair standing on end!

We teenage girls preferred upbeat to what he had us lackadaisically warbling off beat; but, it was back to the “Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do” for us - as punishment, probably for being so crass!  He considered us, en masse, low class musical incompetents; he was so passé!

Quick Oatmeal Bread: Preheat oven, 230C. Grind 1c rolled oats in processor.  Combine oatmeal, 1-1/4c whole wheat flour, 2tsp baking powder and 1/2tsp salt. Dissolve 1-1/2tbs honey in 1tbs vegetable/coconut oil; stir in 1c milk (over low heat to dissolve the coconut oil, if needed). Combine both mixtures until soft dough is formed. Form dough into ball; add more flour if needed; place on lightly oiled baking tray; bake, 20mins or so.

Tomato Bread: Combine100g natural yoghurt, 25g tomato paste and 25ml olive oil; add 125ml water; add150g sundried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped (not semi-dried) and leaves of 1 rosemary sprig. Put 400g strong white flour, 1-1/2tsp salt and 1tsp instant dry yeast in bowl; pour in tomato mix; work to soft dough; leave 10mins; lightly knead on oiled surface, 10secs; return to bowl. Repeat twice more at 10min intervals; then leave 1hr. Pat dough into an oval; roll it tightly like a scroll; roll back and forth on bench; press down ends to taper slightly. Brush lightly with water; roll in polenta; place seam-side down on lined baking tray; cover with cloth; leave 1hr. Slash down centre; bake at 220C, 45mins.

Carrot-Sesame Bread: Grate 175g carrots; add 150ml warm water and 100ml room temp orange juice; stir in 7g sachet yeast; leave 5mins to dissolve; add 25ml olive oil, 450g strong white flour, 50g wholemeal or spelt flour, 2tsp salt and 50g black/white sesame seeds. Mix well to firm-ish dough; leave covered, 10mins. Lightly oil worktop; gently knead dough, 10-12secs; return to bowl; cover; set aside 1hr or until risen by half. Line base and sides of large loaf tin. Dust clean worktop with flour; pat dough into an oblong; roll tightly like a scroll, squeeze ends together as you pick it up; lower, seam-side down, into tin. Cover; leave 1hr. Lightly brush top with wet brush; sprinkle thickly with sesame seeds; cut deep slash down middle; bake at 200C, 50mins.

Cheese-Onion Soda Bread: Preheat oven 220C. Heat 1tbs olive oil in pan; gently fry 1 large sliced onion until translucent, about 10mins. In bowl mix together 450g plain flour and 1tsp bicarb soda; add 150g grated Gruyère/Swiss or Emmentaler, onions and 2tbs sun-dried tomatoes, chopped.  Mix together 300ml yoghurt and 3tbs water; then stir into the flour. Mix with spoon until it comes together to form a soft dough. Turn onto floured surface; knead until smooth dough is formed; shape into a 20cm round. Place onto a baking sheet; mark out wedges with a knife. Bake 30-40mins until gold and bottom of loaf sounds hollow when tapped. If it’s not ready, turn loaf upside down on baking sheet and bake for a few minutes more.  Serve warm.

Easy Garlic Bread: Soften 1 envelope active dry yeast in 1/4c water. Place in bowl, 1c warm cottage cheese, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1 unbeaten egg, 1tbs oil, 1tbs dried oregano, 2tsp sugar, 1tsp salt, 1/4tsp baking soda; mix in the yeast liquid; add 2-1/2c plain flour; mix well. Cover with tea towel…let dough rise until doubled in size. Stir down; turn into a greased casserole dish or loaf pan; let rise 30mins. Bake 40mins in preheated 180C oven.

Fig-Hazelnut Bread: Butter 23x9cm (9x3-1/2 inch by 7cm/3-inch deep) loaf pan. Preheat oven 180C/350F.  Combine 250g wholemeal flour, 85g plain flour, 1tsp bicarb soda and 40g soft light-brown sugar; using your fingers rub in 70g cold butter, cubed, until like breadcrumbs; mix in 175g soft dried figs, stem heads removed and 100g blanched out; cool on wire rack.whole hazelnuts. Add 300ml buttermilk; bring everything together with your hands.  This is a sticky dough; no need to knead. Put in the prepared tin; smooth top; sprinkle with oats and sesame seeds; bake 50mins. Leave to cool in tin, 5mins; then turn onto wire rack to cool.