Thursday, September 24, 2015


Ruska on deck (before I had the flooring replaced); and on "our" bed in "our" Hinchinbrook house!

Ted, my head maintenance guy in the staff room at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island
View of my little house on the island and view from deck through trees to ocean below

After spending the day alone with my thoughts on the beach at Ramsay Bay I joined the rest of the day-trippers on board the “Reef Venture” to be taken back to the resort.  As soon as the boat tied up at the jetty I raced across to my little shack to shower and change for the evening. Managing the resort and being hostess to the dinner guests waited for no one, whether going through a person upheaval or not.  On with the make-up…on with the façade; the show must go on.

The sun was setting in the west.  Still readying themselves in their respective cabins, no guests had yet arrived to the restaurant/bar area, but I knew they’d soon be gathering at the bar for a couple of pre-dinner cocktails while they shared stories of their day, and perhaps of their lives away from the island. 
I knew I had a small window of opportunity so I grabbed it in order to compose myself for the evening ahead.  Standing at the far end of the deck with my hands resting on the timber railings, I stared out to sea.  Brief moments of peace and quiet drifted over and through me. Below the sound of the ocean gently lapping the sand on Orchid Beach soothed my soul and settled my mind.

Rudely, my solitude, my moments of brief meditation were shattered.  Penny aka “Touché Turtle” was at my side.

“Lee,” she said; her eyes alive with inquisitive interest.  “I want you to know, if you need someone to talk to, I’m here.”

Turning my head, I looked directly into her curious (snoopy) eyes, and replied:

 “Penny…I don’t know you - you don’t know me.  We only met a couple of weeks ago.  You know nothing about me or my life.  Why do you think I need to talk with you?  My suggestion to you is…go back and finish off the setting of the tables in the restaurant.  The guests will be arriving at the bar shortly.”

Her mouth fell open, and then flapped shut again as she gulped in some of the late afternoon sea air. Not having a suitable response to my statement that had taken her by surprise, Ms Turtle moved faster than any turtle I’d ever seen, back to her job at hand, setting the dinner tables!  I’d not hired her to be my therapist or psychologist!

The following morning when all my staff was gathered together in the staff room having their breakfast before the guests arrived down to the restaurant, I decided I would nip everything in the bud, right there and then.  Get it over and done with.  I had a captive audience as I stood in the doorway of the sole door in the staff room.  They had no escape; they had no choice but to listen.

“Sorry to interrupt, I won't keep you long, but I have have something to say. As you are all aware, I’m sure, yesterday Randall and I separated.  There is no need for you to discuss this between each other; don’t waste valuable time speculating and gossiping.  What has happened is Randall’s and my business only.  It has nothing to do with anyone else.  Randall won’t be coming back, but I am staying.  I have a job to do, and if you want to come along with me in doing the job….please do.  If not, the “Reef Venture” will be leaving for the mainland as usual this afternoon at 4 pm.  The choice is yours…” 

At that stage in my oration, I paused briefly. Without being overly dramatic, I glanced upwards and made a slight gesture in the same direction with my hand…

”That’s where I intend taking this resort…if you want to join me on the’re welcome to do so.  It’ll be a fun ride.  If not, as I said, the boat leaves at 4 pm…end of discussion.”

And that is pretty much verbatim – word for word….my memory is vividly clear regarding that moment in time.  I remember it well, as if it were yesterday.

A hush settled over the room when I'd commenced talking.  Eating utensils stopped, poised halfway between plates and mouths.  No one other than me spoke.  All eyes were upon me.  I then turned and walked away into my office to do the daily worksheets, check the expected arrivals later in the morning and day by boat and seaplane.  Life goes on….

No one departed on the “Reef Venture” that afternoon. No one asked me questions about my personal life.   

We had a resort to run; there was fun to be had; people to meet; and a job to be done to ensure they had fun!

Ms Turtle never again approached me with her offer of counsel. 

Ruska’s job was to keep watch on our abode. He took his duties seriously and fulfilled his role admirably. He rarely ventured far from home.  After all, our little home had most of the comforts of home.   

Ruska shared my king-size bed with me. (It, perhaps, was more like the other way around...I shared his king-size bed with him).  He dedicated the daylight hours to keeping the bed warm.   

The interior spiral staircase led to the downstairs room.  Two and half walls of the lower room were louvered, almost floor to ceiling. Sea grass matting covered the floor.  two very large, comfortable cushions I’d had specially made were sofa substitutes.  They were also in lieu of, and better than, bean bags.   

The room was very seldom used for any other purpose than to walk across to reach the staircase leading to the upper level. Upstairs consisted of the bathroom, a kitchenette (no stove…all my meals were catered for at the restaurant; but there was a fridge), and an open-planned area that led to where Ruska and I slept, with full length and width, sliding glass doors out onto a covered deck.  Off from the lower room, below the bathroom and kitchenette was an unsealed, dirt-floored section.  Ruska had his own private ablutions’ block.

The flooring on the deck I eventually replaced after one day my foot went through the deck's floor.  The brainwaves who'd originally built the deck used some kind of chipboard that works very well in wet, tropical areas, or wet areas of any description!  Please note my sarcasm!  I had the flooring replaced with hardwood!

Every afternoon as soon as I’d bidden farewell to the “Reef Venture”, it’s crew and any departing guests, I’d sprint home to shower and change for the evening’s performance in the restaurant.

While enjoying my cuddles Ruska dutifully listened to my stories about the day’s events.  Satisfied with the contents of his dinner bowl, he’d once again take up residence on our bed; perhaps it really was “his” bed, because he spent more time there than I did!  Before returning to the main building, I’d shut up the house…closing the un-screened windows and doors.  The few windows that were screened remained open, depending on the weather, of course.

Ruska was always snuggled up on “our” bed near the pillows when I arrived back home much later in the night.  Without fail he’d verbally greet me.  He was always happy to see me, and vice versa. When I finally crawled into bed, Ruska, 99.9% of the time, laid full length beside me with his head resting near or on my shoulder; and more often than not, one of his front legs would be extended around my neck.  He was an extremely loving cat.

Life and work on the island got underway…full steam ahead.  I’ve many stories to tell, and I will share them with you as time goes by, but this story really is about Ruska.  He’s the star.

1986 flew by.  Many interesting people visited the resort. Friendships were formed, some of which remain today.  Proof that they enjoyed their stay on the island; they, too, have cherished memories of their time at the resort.

One Sunday in 1987 four guests arrived on the island.  They were representatives of Ansett Australia/Ansett Airlines (ANA) who’d come to the resort to do a “famil” – a familiarisation for future bookings; future customers/guests.  On other occasions, I'd receive visits from tourism operators who also conducted their own "famils", gleaning information for their future customers, and then, hopefully, mine.

The now defunct airline company had been founded in 1935 by the then Reg Ansett (later to become Sir Reginald).  The resort had a deal with Ansett Airlines.  They handled all the flight bookings made by those who intended holidaying on the island.

I’d had a very busy week and come the Sunday I was exhausted, and to be honest, had had my fill of people.  I needed a few hours away from being the “hostess with the mostest”.  I needed to discard my “Aunty Mame” guise, if only for a short while. 

My staff worked two weeks on, and four days off.  They chose their work pattern.  It suited them.  I’d left it up to the staff to choose their work roster, and that is what they’d come up with…I went along with it.  If they were happy, then so was I.  However, I never took time off for myself.  I never had a “day off”, or a “weekend off”, but that, too, was of my own choosing.  It worked well for me.

However, that particular Sunday, I was very tired.  And on that particular day, I’d not been able to escape the restaurant/office etc., after the boat had departed as was my practice to do, as described above…to shoot back home for a shower and change of clothing etc, and to spend a brief time with my ginger, furry best mate.

The Grumman Mallard, the sea plane, had arrived at its normal time, somewhere between noon and 1 pm, off-loading guests, but it made a second trip later in the afternoon depositing the Ansett people at the resort, or, to be more precise, on the waters off from the resort.  Because of their late arrival I’d had no time to go to my house to change.   

I sat conversing with the new arrivals for some time out on the deck surrounding the pool.  For them it was a business trip, combined with pleasure. After a while, a couple of my staff then guided to their cabins.  I was still in my office doing paperwork when the Ansett crew arrived back at the restaurant. 

Around 7.25 pm, I made my excuses…and made-up excuses they were.  I told them I was burdened down with paper work that just had to be done by the next morning; that I couldn’t dine with them that evening, but I would like them to be my dinner guests the following evening.   

They were staying for a couple of days and nights.  By the time Monday night arrived they would’ve experienced a night and a day on the island, having done a boat trip on the "Reef Venture" to somewhere or other. We’d have more to discuss after their explorations, anyway.  They were happy to “do their own thing”.  And I had faith in my staff that they’d take good care of our Ansett visitors.

Wearily I climbed the spiral staircase in my little house, and I immediately discarded the clothes I’d been wearing.  

Out of the corner of my eye I saw something move.  At first I thought it was Ruska, but he’d been sitting on the floor beside the top of the stairs with a somewhat strange expression on his face when I'd arrived.

To my horror…and I do mean “horror”... when I turned towards my bed where I’d noticed the movement I discovered an 18 to 19-feet long python!  I feel there is no need to describe the thickness of the beast…the length of it should tell the story…clearly!

I felt frozen to the spot, but somehow I managed within about one movement to scoop Ruska up into my arms.  I locked him in the bathroom, out of the way.  The python, obviously, had Ruska in his sights.

By then, I was a shaking mess, and yet I felt frozen at the same time, if that is at all possible!  I couldn’t find the clothes I’d just moments before discarded; but finally I did find the knee-length T-shirt I'd been wearing and I threw it back on me.

The horrible creature was slithering across my bed, up around the wooden bed-head.  Knowing Ruska was safely locked away in the bathroom, I fled down the stairs and raced across  to the cabin in which Ted, my head maintenance guy lived, screaming out to him, “Ted! Ted! Snake!  Snake!”

Ted’s cabin was about about 300 yards away, give or take  - something like that.  I think I covered the distance in about two strides.

Ted was (and still is) a “man’s man”. He was very capable at what he did.  I had complete faith in him.

Hearing my anguished cries, he rushed out and met me before I’d quite reached his cabin.  Without further ado, we were both back upstairs in my house.   

The monster python was still on my bed.   

Ted thought it was a great joke.  I saw no humor in the situation.  I hate snakes…and particularly those that are 18 feet or more long, and are in my space, uninvited!

My fear was that it would get under the bed, making it nigh impossible to remove   

As he was trying to capture the bloody thing, Ted kept saying – “Get your camera! Where’s your camera!”

My reply was, without apology:- “Forget the fucking camera! The fucking camera is over in my fucking office! Just get the fucking snake out of here!”

I wasn't mucking about - I was deadly serious!

As Ted continued with his pointless instructions, still thinking the whole episode was humorous, I continued repeating my response! Was the man stupid, and deaf, as well?

I don’t know what good I thought I was going to do, but I grabbed the broom from the kitchen.  A broom was no weapon against a monster like that…and I’m referring to the python!  However there I was broom in hand…a shaking mess, still barking orders at Ted and telling him to forget about taking photos of the bloody thing!

Finally, Ted had the python by its tail.  Dragging it out through the sliding glass door to my deck he hauled it off the deck, throwing it out to the bushes and rocks below.

I was a nervous wreck.  Ted still thought the whole episode was funny.  I didn’t then, and I still do not see the humour.   

So much for my quiet, early night of restful sleep!

Because I’d not gone home at my usual time in the afternoon, the doors of my house had remained open from when I’d left in the morning!

Ruska and I certainly did snuggle up close together that night.  I doubt either of us got much sleep.

A couple of months or so later I had to go across to the mainland, to Cardwell for the night to attend a meeting.  I left at 4 pm on the “Reef Venture”, and arrived back to the resort the following morning at 9 am, by the same method.  I went straight to my house, which I’d locked up securely before leaving the previous afternoon.

Ruska was nowhere to be found.  I called and called him.  I looked everywhere.  The house was only small.  Where the hell could he be?  And then, I noticed one of the louvers in the downstairs’ room was open.  I know I’d closed them.  Had Ruska cleverly opened one that had been left slightly ajar?

I searched and searched…high and low.  He was gone.  I was heartbroken…more than heartbroken.   I spent a short time with Ruska before I'd left the previous afternoon, telling him I'd see him the following morning.  I cuddled him and he snuggled back into me.  It was the last time I saw my beloved Ruska. 

Both Johnno, my barman and Gavin, my general “dog’s body and fill-in barman when Johnno was on his time off, searched high, low and wide for days, looking for Ruska.  They knew how much Ruska meant to me.

Gavin was the son of friends of mine, my ex-boss from my years living and working in Brisbane. I’d know Gavin since he was born; and as a little kid he’d known Ruska!  Randall and I had gotten Ruska when he was just six-week old kitten from neighbours of Gavin’s parents.  They lived in Kenmore, Brisbane.  Gavin most certainly knew what I was going through. I was inconsolable.

I hid what I was feeling from the guests…life had to go on as normal at the resort…in front of the public.  But hell was breaking loose within me. 

(As I write this, my stomach, again, is in turmoil…and my heart still breaks each time I recall what happened to my darling Ruska).

I still blame myself for Ruska's fate.  

When we had the chance, we should've somehow bagged the python the night I discovered it in my house. The next day we should have taken it across to the mainland, perhaps to Bredl's Reptile Park in Cardwell.  We should've taken it by boat around to another part of the island, miles away.  Pythons are territorial...they need to be removed to an area miles and miles away, otherwise they will return.  We should have....

If I'd had my way, I would have smashed its head in!!!!!  

I know the python took Ruska...I wish I had done something before that sad day came.  I wish I'd been able to save Ruska.

And people wonder why I hate…why I abhor snakes!

Sunday, September 20, 2015


I wanted to Scream, but I was Breathless. I felt like a Trainwreck, and that’s putting it mildly!
During the previous week I’d been to Four Weddings and Funeral. Thank goodness they were all held in and around Notting Hill because I was staying there at the time. Even so, by the end of the week, to me, it had begun to feel like Groundhog Day. 

I had been on my way to 84 Charing Road to book into a hotel; however, fortunately, on the way I ran into Georgy Girl and Billy Elliott. They’d be attending the same events as I was. When they showed me Bridget Jones’s Diary that listed our busy schedules, they convinced me I should move closer to where the venue would be held, rather than having to travel back and forth.  While we chatted they also warned me not to have my hair done by Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

To top things off – just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, or better, depending which way I looked at it – I attended Muriel’s Wedding, Betsy’s Wedding and My Best Friend’s Wedding, all on the same day! Tender Mercies!

I was home Before Sunrise, though, because I had to be out again Before Sunset to meet The Great Gatsby On Golden Pond where A River Runs Through It.  No Strings Attached. We’re Just FriendsNot Friends with Benefits.  I have to admit there was One Fine Day while on A Walk to Remember we did have a romantic Breakfast at Tiffany’s; but that was as far as our relationship went. They were Days of Heaven.  He wasn’t Just a Gigolo as some ignorantly judged him to be. He was an Officer and a Gentleman.

Fortunately, that year I was on a lengthy Summer Holiday and Wimbledon had been thrown into the mix!  Young Winston had been seeded to play. He was really Brassed Off when he lost in the first round. It had gotten to Match Point, and then, due to inexperience he caved in under the pressure.

After my good friend Sabrina and I returned from our Roman Holiday, Moonstruck by the experience, we promised we’d return again Same Time Next Year. Before leaving Italy we spent a few days Under the Tuscan Sun.  The Last Time I Saw Paris I made The Vow I’d return, but I never thought it’d be Midnight in Paris when I did!

Regardless of the time, feeling carefree, I ran Barefoot in the Park, and then across Waterloo Bridge. 

I’m a Funny Girl, I know - but What’s New, Pussycat?

I had Fun in Acapulco, too; a story for Another Time. After all, this is the real deal; it’s not an Imitation of Life. I intend to enjoy life to the utmost. Pride and Prejudice are not words in my vocabulary.  I made a Titanic decision ages ago any inhibitions I’d harboured were Gone with the Wind.

For Nine and a Half Weeks I’d been Sleepless in Seattle when a dear friend said to me, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” 

I replied I was Clueless.

She told me her friend Dr. Zhivago had arrived Out of Africa.  He’d spent a few years there gathering Water for Elephants. On his return trip, while travelling through Morocco, he stopped in Casablanca briefly. It was there, by chance, he found Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. He also ran into Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary. Those two girls certainly do get around!  Apparently, they’d been travelling with The Fabulous Baker Boys of all people!

A while later I met the Object of My Affection. It wasn’t just Love in the Afternoon.  Our meeting was Serendipity; nothing like When Harry Met Sally. Ours was a brief, but intense Love Story. It was An Affair to Remember.

Together, we shared a few Nights in Rodanthe. Before we left the Beaches for the Bridges of Madison County I took The Notebook from my purse.  On a page I wrote: “Remember Me, The Way We Were. P.S. I Love You.”. I placed the Message in a Bottle. I then threw it into the ocean at Wuthering Heights.

Love Actually hung around for a while. Mysteriously, I could sense the Ghost of not only Annie Hall, but of all the Women in Love. Crazy, Stupid Love! 

With no warning, Fast and Furious, Sunday Bloody Sunday arrived.
Abruptly The Days of Wine and Roses skidded to a halt.  I had no other choice but to leave for Mansfield Park where I was told by Shallow Hal to “Just Go With It - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”.

Proof it’s A Wonderful Life, Far from the Madding Crowd while en route to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel I met The Man from Snow River aka The Horse Whisperer. He’d just arrived Home from the Hill.

Without hesitation I told him- “This is your Last Chance Harvey!”

It was like Finding Neverland or having 50 First Dates – or both!

Jaffa Cake: Blend or process zest of 6 oranges and 6 dates; peel oranges; blend with zest/dates to smooth paste.  Melt 50g butter, 50g coconut oil with 200g dark chocolate. Beat 4 eggs until thick; fold in 200g almond meal, paste and choc-butter. Pour into greased, lined tin; cook about 1-1/4hrs at 180C. Cool; spread with Jaffa Icing – process big handful macadamias until smooth butter. Add zest of ½ orange; add 1tbs coconut butter and 3tbs cacao powder; blend until smooth; ice cake.

Jaffa Loaf: Preheat oven 180C. Butter and line base of 1.2lt loaf tin. Place 140g softened butter, 200g S.R. flour, 1-1/2tsp baking powder, 200g golden caster sugar, 3 eggs, 6tbs milk and finely grated zest of 1 large orange in bowl; beat with hand whisk or wooden spoon, 3-5mins, until light and fluffy; spoon into tin; level top. Bake 40-50mins. Heat 3tbs orange juice and 50g golden caster sugar gently; stir until sugar dissolves. Remove cake from oven; spoon over the orange mix; leave to cool in tin; then remove from tin; cool on wire rack.  Melt 50g dark chocolate; drizzle over cake; leave to set.

Jaffa Crème Brulee: Preheat oven, 150C. Bring 300ml cream, 1c milk and 2x6cm long strips orange rind almost to the boil over med-heat; remove rind. Whisk 5 egg yolks and 1/3c caster sugar until well combined. Whisk cream mix into eggs; strain into jug; place 15g piece of dark chocolate in base of 4x185ml ramekins; pour in custard mixture. Place ramekins in roasting pan; add boiling water to halfway up sides; cook for about 35mins, until just set. Cool slightly; chill 4hrs; sprinkle raw sugar over custards; caramelise under grill or with blowtorch.   

Jaffa Fudge:  Line a small brownie tin with baking paper. Place 300g dark chocolate and 395g condensed milk in a glass bowl and microwave for one minute; or melt in bowl over water (the tried and true traditional method). Stir mixture until chocolate melts; stir through 1 cup of Jaffas.  Pour into prepared tin; chill until set. Slice and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Aboriginal Stockman....Graphite Drawing by me

The painting I swapped for a fridge!  (This painting and the previous two above I painted using acrylic paints. The photo of my traded painting is not the clearest of photos. I took the photo as it hung on the wall of my friends' lounge after-thought - after lunch one day)
Bottle Trees (Water-colour)
Black Boy (Water-colour)
 As a follow-up to my previous article about Art this post displays a few of  my scribbles and splashings - just for the fun of it!   Art forced me to do it!  Blame him, not me!!!


The stockman's face glistens under the torrid outback sun
Weather-beaten wiry and worn his teeth tobacco-stained
 Alone he rode across the dusty dry land his day never done
His love for the vast brown land remained forever ingrained

Parched by day the unforgiving fiery copper luminary beyond
Unrelenting in its punishment upon those who wander below
As if obeying the devil's command it does eagerly respond
Silence shattered by bellowing cattle and the call of a crow


He wandered along a barren outback track unknown
With his swag and blackened billy he roamed alone
Matted sun-bleached hair skin of leather lean yet robust
He sheltered his weary eyes from the swirling red dust

Through the shimmering haze he spotted a dry creek
As nightfall drew close the outcome looked bleak
In long measured strides determinedly he pushed on
Until he spied dancing brolgas beside a billabong

An impatient sun rises obediently the new day dawns
The lone swagman stokes his campfire stretches yawns
His destination lay at the end of a meandering course ahead
What awaited there filled him with pain sorrow and dread
                                                                                             Poems by me....

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Graphite Sketch by me

Two Acrylic paintings both painted by me.

I’m not sure who Art is; although, I do know a little about him; and it’s not all just black and white! Art hangs around, but he doesn’t live with me - not officially, anyway. Art often goes into hiding. He thinks someone’s out to frame him! His background is somewhat abstract, therefore I usually brush his suspicions aside.

I loved drawing and painting when I was kid. I still do. After all, I’ve not yet grown up, let alone reached my second child/kid-hood.  I’m having too much fun the way I am to change.  Why move up a notch?  Why fix something that ain’t broke? 

Even though I still enjoy drawing and painting I’ve not lifted a pencil or paint brush for a while.  I ran out of space on my walls. - I’ve only four!
The fairest thing for me to do was to stop toying with Art. My decision, which I believed to be sensitive and considerate, broke Art’s heart apart.  Maybe it’s why Art hangs around. However, he stretched the limits. I canvassed friends; they agreed.

It was a tough, harsh judgment call, but rather than store any future masterpieces in folders for them to end up being dust and cobweb collectors, never again to be seen by human eyes, my brushes, paints and pencils are now the dust gatherers.  Collectors’ pieces they’ll never be!

I’m old enough to remember the Chucklers’ Weekly, a children’s magazine published in Sydney in the mid to late Fifties. Fortunately, I was young enough at the time to enjoy Charlie Chuckles and his gang. 

Eagerly, I became a member of the Charlie Chuckles’ Club. I wore my Kookaburra badge with pride!  The kookaburra was the magazine’s mascot. 

Perhaps it’s the reason the kookas hang around my cabin.  When I take a step outside the kookaburras break out in laughter. I’m never quite sure if they’re laughing at me, or thanking me because I give them meat scraps each afternoon - on the dot at the same time.  If I don’t abide by their schedule they make me aware of my tardiness.  Running late is not worth the abuse I receive. My heart is tender; I hurt easily. 

As a child, frequently, if not weekly, I contributed to the Chucklers’ Weekly, along with thousands of other Aussie kids of the era. 

One of my greatest thrills was to have an Indian ink or graphite drawing, or a painting I’d created using poster paints, published in the magazine.  Along with the excitement I felt when my artwork appeared in the Weekly was the delight I experienced the few times my childish verses of poetry were published. Naturally, at the time I didn’t think my poetry was “childish”.  In my dreams I became the modern-day Fifties’ reincarnation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning; a younger version, of course; innocent, simple pleasures and dreams of a simpler, more innocent time. I’m glad I was a kid during those years.  Perhaps some of the comic artists, the cartoonists on the payroll of the Chucklers’ Weekly inspired future illustrators; for satire, caricature or humour; or for more serious artwork; some may even hang on the walls in art galleries throughout Australia, or even further afield in countries across the oceans blue. 

A Charlie Chuckle’s Club past member might have won an Archibald Prize or an Archibald Packing Room Prize.  Who knows? Art might.  I’ll ask him on the quiet. He’s been framed so often his eyes glaze over when approached.

Art has a diverse range of activities; visual, decorative, performing, in print etc. Many questions were raised during his romantic period. The advent of Modern Art was a renaissance for him.  He’s a squatter, too. Home is where the Art is; make Art welcome; let’s open our hearts to Art.

(In an effort to kick start my latent itch I did, however, purchase a new sketch pad a few weeks ago, but I’ve not had the heart to tell Art as yet.  The unopened, unsullied pad sits on my coffee table hidden under a couple of books, out of Art’s view).

Spinach-Artichoke Penne: Cook 240g penne pasta per instructions. Heat 3tbs olive oil in pan; add 4 minced garlic cloves; sauté 2-3mins; stir in 1 bag fresh spinach; cook about 2mins; remove set aside; in same pan, melt 1tbs butter; add 1x440g can artichokes, rinsed, drained, quartered; cook 2mins; add to spinach. Melt 1tbs butter on low heat, whisk in 2tbs plain flour; whisk in 1-1/2c milk; season; cook 5mins; add 1/4c shredded parmesan, 1/2c shredded mozzarella, ½ cup shredded Colby; stir until melted; add pasta and vegetables; mix thoroughly; serve warm garnished with parmesan.

Kale-Spinach-Goat Cheese Penne: Cook 1-3/4 to 2c penne. Heat 2tbs olive oil and 1tbs butter in pan over med-heat; add 2 finely sliced garlic cloves and 1 minced onion; cook 2-3mins; add 1 can artichokes, quartered, 3c, packed, kale leaves, stems removed; then add 3c spinach leaves; add handful lightly toasted slivered almonds; season. Don’t overcook. Add greens to cooked pasta; add 85g crumbled goat cheese and 85g grated parmesan; stir to combine; serve. 

Plum Tomatoes-Artichoke Penne: Halve 250g cherry tomatoes; cut 1 red onion into very thin wedges; place on large baking tray; drizzle with 1tsp olive oil and 1/2tbs balsamic; season; bake in preheated 200C oven about 10mins. Cook 350g penne; drain, return to pan; add toms/onions, 1 jar of roasted red capsicum strips, 120g oil-free marinated artichokes, quartered, 50g drained, torn bocconcini and 1/2c fresh basil leaves, torn, to pasta with 1/2tbs balsamic; toss; season with pepper.

Arty Latte: Heat 55g Kahlua, 3/4c milk, 2tbs coconut cream, pinch of cinnamon and 2tbs sugar; froth in blender; pour into shredded coconut-rimmed 2 glasses; top each with an espresso shot.

Sunday, September 06, 2015


John Osborne

What a mess!  Oscar’s gone Wilde and George Bernard Shaw isn’t a Coward! Over there cringing in the wings is the worrier Daphne du Maurier.  Hemming, naturally, is having his way! 

Within my minute section of the universe remain friends from my childhood and teenage years. Over the many years in between much water has flowed under many bridges, but we were never carried away by the currents; we've clung on to our friendship.

I enjoyed being a teenager. No time for angst, we weren’t “troubled teens”; we were too busy having fun to be troubled!  Unstoppable and unbeatable were we! Probably the only thing we "troubled" over was what colour our next bikini we wanted to buy would be!

September to early June, from morning until dusk, without exception, our weekends were spent at the beach chasing waves and a tan. At record hops we jived, twisted and stomped the nights away; and we wriggled under limbo sticks.

Mondays to Fridays, 8.30 am until 5 pm, my daylight hours were spent taking shorthand and pounding away on a typewriter deciphering my hieroglyphics.  After five years of doing so, I began to walk like an Egyptian. I gave up after my bangles started falling off!

Three members of the select, exclusive posse and I worked/played together in a legal office; one, an articled law clerk, was the son of our boss. He, the son, eventually became a fully-fledged solicitor and took over his Dad’s firm.  

The rest of the dedicated group held various office jobs within companies of one kind or the other. A member of the gang even married the articled law clerk/solicitor, and they remain wedded, living happily ever after, to this day. Another in our coterie was a hairdresser.  She ended up operating her own salon while at the same time raising four wonderful children. I'm the only one of the troupe who didn't have children.

Nowadays we’ve all been put out to pasture because we’re of the age and beyond.  However, in one way or the other we’re still kicking up our heels; not pushing up daisies!

“In the good old days” not only on weekends, but also during the week we didn’t believe in wasting our time.  There were dances and record hops that needed our unfailing, reliable attendance in our leisure hours.

Sports, too, required our attention. Basketball (we didn’t call it “netball” when I was a teenager), tennis (I was a hopeless tennis player, but that didn’t stop me) and swimming were on our agendas.

Broadening of our inquisitive minds demanded our in-depth scrutiny and dissection. We questioned, prodded and argued (peacefully) poets diverse as Whitman, Ginsberg, Poe, Emerson, Frost, Plath, Cummings, Auden, Byron, Thomas, Keats, Yeats etc.

At length we discussed and analysed the philosophies of Kafka, Nietzsche, de Beauvoir, Sartre, Russell, Kant et al. We ploughed our way through Proust, Joyce and Homer, as well as D.H. Lawrence and Kerouac, both of whom sat high on our extensive list. 

Music of all genres played a major role in our lives. And anyone who had a set of bongo drums had me at “G’day”!

Somehow, among those activities I found time to become a member of the local drama group. Not only was the acting fun, but so too were the play-reading evenings.

By becoming a member of Gympie’s Drama Group (a branch of which included the Musical Union) I was introduced to a whole new world brimming with playwrights beyond William Shakespeare.

Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, O’Neill, Ibsen and Pinter became new friends, along with the familiar Coward, Shaw, Wilde and du Maurier. 

In readiness for a visit from "Rebecca" we studied our lines; borrowed furniture; went in search for costumes and we willingly offered to paint backdrops.  For four nights we shared Rebecca's plight with those among Gympie's population who were interested in small theatre productions.

Naturally, during our play-reading evenings “the drinker who had a writing problem” - Brendan Behan - held a place of prominence. To make him feel welcome often a forward-thinking/forward-planning fellow member of the club brought along a Scotch-filled flask  We'd add a dash or two to our coffee.  Those holding the play-reading evenings, the producers/directors, didn't have a clue!  It was kind of like a lesson in Method Acting.

And then, it was time to get down and dirty.

We exited Noel Coward’s rather dignified drawing rooms and jumped head first into the revolutionary “kitchen sink” dramas such as John Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger”. Osborne and Kingsley Amis were part of the emerging “Angry Young Men” brigade. 

An even angrier young woman, Shelagh Delaney had joined the squad. Delaney, in 1958, at the tender age of 18 years, wrote the raw, meaty “A Taste of Honey”.

Suddenly we were awash with the true-to-life frustrations of the “working class”; the “silver spoon-upper-crust” set were pushed aside.

Now the cutlery was tarnished; the crockery cracked; glasses chipped and unpolished.

Our teenage years were filled with inquiring enlightenment, not cultivated, mimicked troubled angst.  The only peer pressure we succumbed to was learning and having fun while doing so.  I doubt we'd even heard the term "peer pressure", let alone understood what it meant.

The only ice we sought were the fresh fruit salad ice-blocks we bought from Webster’s Corner Shop. The drink we binged on was Golden Circle Pineapple juice.

Pineapple Chicken: Bring to boil; 1/2c pineapple juice, 1/4c honey, 4 minced garlic cloves, 3tbs Worcestershire sauce, 1tbs grated fresh ginger or 1tsp ground ginger and 1tsp salt; simmer uncovered until reduced to ½ cup; stir occasionally; cool. Marinate 12 chicken drumsticks/thighs; chill overnight. Drain; reserve marinade. Place chicken on rack over drip pan over bbq grill; shut hood; grill 40-45mins; for first 30mins brush occasionally with marinade.

Salmon with Sweet & Sour Cucumber Salad: Heat 1c pineapple juice, 1/2c honey, 1/4c brown sugar, 1/2c soy, 2tbs sesame oil, 1c water, juice of ½ lemon and 1tsp white pepper; once sugar and honey melts, put into bowl; cool; then pour over 4 salmon fillets; marinate 15mins; drain marinade into pan; bring to boil; simmer. Pat salmon lightly with paper towel; heat pan to very high. Crust salmon in sesame seeds (including black sesame seeds, if you like), Pan-fry on both sides; once seeds are golden, turn heat to medium; cook to med-rare. Salad; slice Lebanese cucumbers; toss slices in 1/2c white vinegar, 1/2c white sugar, 1/4c sesame oil, 2tbs sesame seeds and 1/4c chopped shallots.

Apple-Cranberry Oatmeal Crust Pie: Combine 3c rolled oats, 1c plain flour, 1/2tsp salt, 1-1/2tsp cinnamon, 6tbs light brown sugar, 1tsp vanilla and 1c melted butter; mix well. Press firmly into bottom and sides of a 9 or 10-inch pie pan; reserve about 1c of crust mix for topping.  Drizzle 3tbs lemon juice over 7c peeled, thinly sliced Granny Smiths and 1c frozen cranberries; toss through ground cinnamon, ground allspice and ground nutmeg; add 1/2tsp grated lemon zest; sprinkle in 3tbs plain flour; add 1/4c packed light brown sugar and 1/2c sour cream. Place into unbaked crust; sprinkle crumbs over top; pat into place. Bake 45-50mins in 190C oven until apples are soft, crust browned; serve hot, warm or room temp.

Apple Sultana Pineapple Cake:  Preheat oven 180C/350F. Lightly grease a 23x13cm loaf tin. Put 125g self-raising flour and 125g unsalted butter, softened and cubed in a bowl; mix with fingertips…preferably your own…until you have a fine breadcrumb-like consistency. Stir in 140g chopped walnuts/pecans, 140g sultanas and 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and grated; add 3 eggs and 65ml pineapple juice; beat everything together until well combined. Spoon the mixture into loaf tin; smooth top. Bake in centre of oven, 1-1/4hrs; or until skewer comes out clean; cool in tin for a few minutes; then turn out onto wire rack and leave to cool before slicing and serving.

Pineapple-Ginger Juice: Push 2 cups cubed pineapple, ½ to 1-inch peeled piece of fresh ginger and half a pear.  Garnish with fresh mint leaves.