|Alan in his usual jovial mood sitting on the floor around my coffee table in the Yorkeys townhouse. The floor was always a popular place to sit! Ann to the right of him also worked at Ramada Reef Resort|
|Me holding court at the Ramada Christmas Party, 1987|
|A shirtless Andrea at a gathering of some of my Ramada mates in my townhouse at Yorkeys Knob|
|The young Italian backpackers - my Christmas 1987 dinner guests|
|Me on the right with some of my Ramada mates|
|Alan with Pushkin Christmas Day 1987|
|Pushkin caught in the act checking out what's on the menu in the fish tank filled with fish Andrea gave me for Christmas 1987|
|There something mysterious about me and tables!|
|Pushkin, all ears and eyes...|
|Trevor play with Pushkin on his,Pushkin's, second Christmas|
|The party animal, Pushkin...sleeping it off!|
|Ouch! This is hot! Will I spill it before I reach the sink????|
Stored safely in my cache I’ve still many stories to share about my adventures on Hinchinbrook Island, but I’ll leap forward a few paces to when I returned to life on the mainland – returned to reality, in a way, I guess.
Upon leaving the island I decided to continue heading north rather than move back south from whence I’d come. “South” as in south-east Queensland…no further south – Queensland is where I was born and bred; Queensland is where I belong. It’s my home.
There were times, of course, I missed my little greengrocery-healthfood shop I’d owned and operated in Noosa before taking on Hinchinbrook Island Resort; even more so, and joined with anger when I learned the two young men who had bought the business from me ran it into the ground within a couple of months from take-over.
However, like the lyrics in Graeme Connors’ – “A Little Further North Each Year” became my mantra. The song resonated with me...and it still does....even though these days I’m back in south-east Queensland and have been for the past 15 and a half years.
I’d loved my stint managing the island resort. Not having a clue what lay in store for me when I’d accepted the challenge, it’d been a challenge I was eager to tackle, come what may. Leaving Noosa was a huge step; a step at one time I never thought I’d take. In my mind I believed I’d never leave Noosa/Sunshine Beach. Life so often has a mind of its own.
During the almost two years as manager of the Cape Richards Resort I’d met many, many interesting people. The good outnumbered the bad, and I can assure you I met a few of the latter. In earlier posts back in 2007 I wrote about some of those experiences.
Overall, however, I’d had such fun. My Hinchinbrook Island days and nights were among some of the best in my life. It was a time unique unto itself...and I feel so lucky that I was offered the chance to venture into unknown waters. I’m glad I grabbed the opportunity with both hands, mind and body.
Of course, it was not all fun and games. My marriage collapsed; my personal life did a complete about-turn. Randall went on his way, and I remained on my new path. There was no lingering vindictiveness or nastiness following our separation and ensuing divorce, and to this day we remain good friends, in regular contact. No matter what, we will always have each other’s back.
My role as resort manager and sales-marketing manager entailed many diverse responsibilities. I had staff to guide; guests to accommodate, trade fairs, conferences etc., to attend. On the home front it was my job to fulfill, to best of my abilities, the diverse, individual and group wants and needs, staff and guests alike. And I enjoyed every moment; almost every moment.
I learned so much and had grown in so many ways as a person. I learned about things I’d previously never thought about, or had had the need to think about. I discovered some things I’d not known even existed. I’d not had the need to know about some things until I lived on the island. I learned a lot about people, and I learned a lot about myself, as well.
Along with the wealth of laughter shared; tears, too, were shed. Hearts had been broken, and hearts had been mended. Emotions weren’t left behind on the mainland; somehow they managed to slip into everyone’s luggage.
Losing Ruska to the python had knocked the wind out of my sails. For me, a gear had shifted; his loss had made a difference. A few other matters had occurred and were occurring that went against my grain, against my beliefs. I felt it time for me to move on. The owner wanted to take the resort into different direction, a direction I believed didn’t suit what the resort was about; a direction that would be at conflict with the atmosphere – the ambience, the heart of the island. So I handed in my resignation. It was time for me to go. I didn’t want to be around to see the results of ill-considered decisions. I didn’t and have never harboured the desire to say “I told you so”...although sometimes I’ve thought it!
Before my departure date from the island I’d found a two-bedroom unit/townhouse in a block of only four, which suited my requirements perfectly. Without hesitation, I signed a lease. It was situated in Yorkeys Knob, a beachside suburb a approximately 13 kilometres (8.1 miles) north of Cairns.
Having spent the previous nine years or so living beside the ocean I wanted the status quo to remain. My new abode was around a corner, just a hop, skip and a jump to Yorkey’s long expanse of beach and the lapping waters of the Coral Sea. Half Moon Bay where the boating club is situated was another hop, skip and jump around the corner on the opposite side of the street. The location of the townhouse gave me a choice. Do I turn left or do I turn right...left or right...right or left? What wonderful choices to be faced with – would I be able to cope?
In advance, before leaving the island I’d also gained employment at Ramada Reef Resort, Palm Cove. Palm Cove is approximately 16kms further north of Yorkeys.
The day finally arrived to bid farewell to my island home. Without fanfare or fuss, both of which I’ve always shied away from; with mixed emotions I boarded the “Reef Venture” for my final trip...away from Hinchinbrook Island...taking with me myriad memories. Memories which are as vivid today as the time they were made.
Looking back (I refrained from looking back to the island once the “Reef Venture” pulled out from the resort’s jetty), I seem to have squeezed so much into the Eighties. When thinking about it, I’m not sure how I managed to do so. It feels a little like being compressed into a time capsule. I find myself shaking my head at the wonder of it all, and in slight disbelief; but all if it did happen. Nothing is made up; nothing is invented or embellished. The Eighties were interesting decade; it was a decade filled with stepping stones headed towards the Nineties.
The role I was hired to play at the Ramada Resort was as Groups/Conventions/Function Coordinator. Everything pertaining to what the title denoted fell into my lap and became my responsibility. Within that capacity of the “title” (I hate titles) I worked closely with Fritz Weber, a Dutchman-turned-Aussie, the Food and Beverage Manager. Before Fritz joined Ramada he’d been employed at Jupiters Casino on the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast Casino opened officially in early 1986. Coincidentally, Rolf Bucher, Ramada’s head honcho had also worked at Jupiters with Fritz. Rolf was either Swiss or Austrian, one or the other...I can’t recall which.
As time progressed, unofficially, I became Fritz’s Assistant Food and Beverage Manager. He and I worked well together. Eventually, he and I shared the same office, which was more convenient and sensible thing to do because most of the time I was with him, anyway, liaising, working together on whatever function, dinner, seminar etc., we had in the wind.
Fritz and I also shared similar outlooks on life. An outlook that considered a bit of madness, an amount of insanity helped retain one’s sanity.
The Front Office Manager, Alan Raby and I became friends, too. Alan was a lot of fun. His sense of humour and mine were similar (our sense of the ridiculous). We bounced off each other, sometimes uncontrollably, not quite knowing when to stop; not quite wanting to stop. When we were together Alan and I morphed into “The Terrible Two”; we were possessed!
Some of the managers of other areas in Ramada were quite staid, too staid for their own good. They took themselves far too seriously. Their sombre outlook on life in a resort was all Alan and I needed to set us off. They became easy prey; fodder to feed our hunger.
Fritz always tried to retain his decorum when in their presence, particularly when Alan and I were in the mix, but mostly he failed miserably in his endeavour. Fritz would sit as far away as possible from Alan and me at the managers’ meetings, but he’d still get caught in our web. He was one of us; there was no escape.
Invariably a lot of squirming and snorting came from the other end of the two round tables that were drawn together for the Wednesday meetings as Fritz tried to pretend he didn’t know Alan and me!
The resort’s Sales-Marketing Manager, whose name I won’t mention, in particular, was a dour, sour, humourless pain-in-the-proverbial (and I don’t mean “neck”). He thought he was God; he hated the fact that I kept reminding him he wasn’t. We had a mutual non-admiration society going on, he and I. I didn’t like him and he didn’t like me, and the status of our relationship was okay with me.
He must have rued the day he put in a good word for me when I’d applied for the position at Ramada. He and I had previously met a few times when I was managing the resort on Hinchinbrook Island. We’d both attended the same travel-tourism shows, seminars etc., throughout the country.
On any given day and night, the hours I worked at Ramada were long, but I was used to long hours after being on the island, and from the previous positions I’d been involved in before moving to North Queensland.
I enjoyed what my job entailed. Dealing with future clients who came from many varied walks of life and areas with the desire to hold their business functions, seminars, special dinners etc., in one of the resort’s restaurants or reception areas was hectic, fulfilling, interesting...and fun.
Mingling with and attending to the needs of the holiday-makers who chose the resort for their days of leisure under the tropical sun, as well as ensuing the diners, local and visitors from afar, partaking in the resort’s two restaurants enjoyed themselves and their meals was satisfying.
In life, I believe, fun is the name of the game – and it should never be banned from the workplace; as long as the job gets done and done well, in my eyes, there’s nothing wrong in having some fun while doing so! Of course, don’t misunderstand...there are times when we have to be serious, but how boring life and work would be if humour wasn’t allowed a presence!
The resort was fairly new when I commenced working there in late 1987. Built in 1986, Ramada Reef Resort then boasted the largest free-form pool in the southern hemisphere.
The story was told to me that before the construction of the resort commenced the developers were made to sign a contract that they’d not remove any of the Melaleuca trees during the building of the resort; therefore the pool was built around the existing trees, and the trees were left undisturbed.
Ramada Reef Resort’s fine dining restaurant was named “Melaleuca”. And there is a “Melaleuca Resort” in Palm Cove, as well. Palm Cove is proud of its Melaleuca aka Paperbark trees; and rightly so.
An aside…Ramada Reef Resort through the years was managed by various large, international hotel chains. It has now been completely renovated into an apartment-style holiday complex. Managed by the Accor Group these days it’s known as “Grand Mercure Rockford Esplanade Apartments.
Back to business….
It was a Friday afternoon….the 6th November...when around 2 pm a sudden, desperate urge struck me; one I couldn’t deny. It held me in its grip. However, I didn’t want to ignore the thought that wiped all other thoughts from my mind. I was a captive in its clutches; a willing captive, I might add.
Reaching for the phone book I searched for pet shop listings. I’d been too long without a cat. It might have only been a few months, but it had been a few months too long. My heart still ached for Ruska. My love for my beautiful ginger cat would never go away; he remains in my heart today.
Something was missing in my life. There was a gap in my heart that needed to be filled. I had to get myself a kitten; no ifs or buts; no mucking about. I needed a kitten; and the more I thought about it, the more urgent every moment became. Not wasting any more time, I picked up the phone and rang a pet shop in Lake Street, Cairns. I told them what I was looking for…a ginger kitten…pure and simple.
“Do have a male ginger kitten?” I asked, holding my breath, with my fingers crossed. I was prepared to go through the discomfort while simultaneously trying to talk and hold onto the telephone receiver.
“Yes,” was the reply I received.
I was in luck! It was my lucky day; and, although he didn’t know it at the time, it was the ginger kitten’s lucky day, too.
Without hesitation, I said, “I’ll have him, but….”
Coincidentally, and fortunately, I wasn’t working that night, but I knew I wouldn’t be leaving the premises until after 6 pm. I explained my situation to the gentleman on the other end of the phone. Hoping perhaps I could quickly shoot into Cairns early the following morning before I went to work I asked if the shop would be open on the Saturday morning and, if so, would I be able to gather the kitten into my eager arms then. The answer I received to my questions caused my excitement to rise to even further heights. The fellow at the pet shop said he lived just north of Palm Cove. He told me it would be no problem or inconvenience for him to do a minor detour off the highway to Ramada Reef Resort on his way home that evening – kitten in hand – or in a box! If that suited me, that is what he would do.
Naturally, I jumped at his offer. It suited me down to the ground. Without hesitation, I accepted his thoughtful offer. He gave me a time to expect him. Hardly able to contain my excitement, I told him to either ask for me at the Reception Desk or I’d be waiting at the entrance to the foyer.
Of course, like a little child waiting for Christmas morning to arrive, I was waiting outside from the front doors to Ramada’s foyer for his arrival...and for the arrival of my new little furry friend.
Around 6.30 pm, a white Toyota ute pulled into Ramada’s arrival/departure area. I immediately approached the vehicle.
In a box on the tray of the ute was a dear little six-week old ginger kitten. Needless to say, I was immediately smitten.
Thanking the pet shop owner, I handed him $5.00, the quoted price; in exchange he handed me the box that safely held a very relaxed kitten. The kitten’s fate was sealed. He was destined to be mine; and me, his.
That day – that Friday 6th November was the first and only time I’ve ever paid money for a cat. I paid only $5.00 for the little ginger bundle of joy and love, but, in truth, I couldn’t have put a price on his worth. He was priceless.
As soon as the vehicle pulled out, I gathered my gear together, plus my new acquisition, and then, with heart a-pounding I jumped into my car and headed home.
I christened him “Pushkin”...”Alexander (Sergeyevich) Pushkin” to those not in his inner circle. Together, Pushkin and I were to share many adventures.
On my way home I stopped off briefly at local corner shop to buy some cat food and litter. The decision I’d made earlier in afternoon had been a spontaneous one. I’d not planned to adopt a kitten at the start of the day. I didn’t have cat food or cat litter just lying around my unit. Come Saturday morning, on my way to work, I planned to pop into Woolworths at the Smithfield Shopping Centre to purchase meat and whatever else I needed for Pushkin, my new little mate; my “roomie”!
Pushkin showed no trepidation when I let him out of his transport box. He was a brave cocky, inquisitive little soul. When I finally stopped cuddling him, something he lapped up willingly, and he’d stopped smooching me in return; something I lapped up happily, I set him down so he could investigate his new home. And investigate he did. He left no corner, room, staircase, nook or cranny unexplored. Nothing was sacred from his curious nose and eyes. Of course, it only took him a couple of hours to decide my bed was his bed, too. No further debate was required. Actually, no discussion at all occurred about the sharing of my bed. From that moment on what was mine was his.
In no time at all...perhaps 10 minutes at most...Pushkin ruled the roost.
He was my birthday present to me. Pushkin had come into my life a few days before my birthday. And then Christmas was just around the corner…the first of all his Christmases had come at once!
Christmas morning I had to be at Ramada to accompany Fritz in the large “garden” restaurant where the resort was hosting its Christmas lunch. The restaurant was completely booked out with family groups and other hungry revellers. Extra tables spilled outside around the pool area to cater for the Christmas Day hordes.
Work beckoned loudly; a call I couldn’t ignore. A massive buffet lunch had been organised to cater to those in the public who chose to be waited on rather than do their own Christmas lunch.
Fritz had been “volunteered” into being Santa. (He and his wife, Margaret had two young children of their own, but their Christmas celebrations were delayed to appease the madding crowd). I’d put my hand up to be “Santa’s Helper”, with the proviso that as soon as the food had grabbed the full attention of the patrons I’d be racing off home to play hostess to my own guests for a late Christmas lunch. On my guest list were a couple of my Ramada co-workers. We were all orphans, miles away from the rest of our families and friends.
Alan, my mate from the Front Office Manager was one of my guests for lunch/dinner. Alan was from the Gold Coast so he was many miles away from his family and friends. Before joining Ramada, Alan had worked as a magician in various venues on the coast. He was gay and had not long before broken up with his boyfriend; hence his move to tropical Far North Queensland...a change of scenery to help him get over a change of heart.
I’d spent any spare time I had leading up to Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve night busily working through to the wee small hours getting my own preparation done to ease my load on Christmas Day. Being one who always enjoyed enjoying my own parties and not spending all my time in the kitchen when I was hosting a dinner party, luncheon or party through the years I’d become very efficient at pre-preparation. Over and beyond working within the hospitality industry, I used to also entertain a lot at home. Those days are long gone; but they used to be...again...lots of fun.
The more preparation I could get done beforehand for Christmas Day, 1987, the first of two to be held in my townhouse at Yorkeys Knob, the better.
Always being a glutton for punishment no matter how enjoyable the punishment may be; and never learning lessons from the past, I’d planned a hot tradition Christmas meal for my own dinner guests…along with some fresh seafood, of course! Naturally, Christmas pudding and its trimmings was waiting patiently as the finale of the feast; along with the rich fruit cake I’d made somewhere along the way. On top of everything else, was a Panettone I’d made after I arrived home from work on Christmas Eve!
The Italian sweet bread/cake loaf originated in Milan; and after I’d started making it I wished it had stayed in Milan! I tested every muscle in my upper arms after mixing and kneading it for hours it seemed. I needed to have my head read!
Traditionally, Panettones adorned Christmas tables in Italy; and elsewhere nowadays. Come Christmas 1987 one faithfully adorned my Christmas table.
Not coincidentally, three of my guests for Christmas 1987 were Italians; all of whom were from Northern Italy.
Over the previous few months I’d been in a relationship of sorts with an Italian fellow who was a million years younger than I was. Forget Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher – I was the original Cougar...I started it all off – you have my permission to blame me!
Andrea aka Andrew, as he preferred being called when he was visiting Australia, at the time lived in Bagnacavallo, an Italian town in the province of Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna, situated 50 kilometres southeast of Bologna, in Northern Italy. Bagnacavallo is approximately 278.7 km from Milan, which lies to the north-west.
Back in August/September, 2007, I wrote about a few chapters about this episode in my life...headed – “The Italian Invasion”.
Andrea worked for and with his father, Giuseppe (Beppe) who was a travel agent/tourist operator, based in Bologna. Beppe sent Andrea to various areas, not only throughout Italy, but to cities in Europe; to London and further afield to Cairns, Far North Queensland, Australia.
Within that capacity, Andrea/Andrew and I met, at Tradewinds Outrigger Hotel in Cairns through our mutual tourism/travel interests. I was on a brief visit to Cairns at the time and Andrea was on his first visit to Australia, at his father’s bidding. Cairns was his port of call.
I was still managing Hinchinbrook Island Resort when we met. We forged a relationship that lasted almost two years. Within that period he spent half his time here, returning to Italy for a couple of months at a time to renew his Visa or whatever else needed renewing. He’d spend six months here before having to head off back to Italy. When he was in here in the Land of Oz he lived with me.
Coincidentally, Andrea and his sister had been raised by their mother and grandmother, their Nonna. His childhood was similar to that of my brother Graham and me. We’d been raised by our mother and our Nanna. Beppe, Andrea’s father hadn’t played a role in the lives of Andrea and his sister when they were growing up...again similar to my own situation. When Andrea turned 21 years of age, he sought out his father; and he began working for and with his father; dissimilar to my situation.
Andrea spent Christmas 1987 in Yorkeys Knob, Cairns with me and Pushkin. A couple of days before Christmas while explore Cairns proper, Andrea had run into two young Italian backpackers who were visiting Australia from Northern Italy. Being the gregarious person he was, Andrea invited them to join us for Christmas lunch/dinner. When he told me he’d invited the couple, I didn’t mind. I’d planned more than enough food...enough to feed the Army, Air Force and Navy combined (it was a failing I had...and still have...I always over-cater. But my mantra has always been...”better to have more than not enough)! And I looked forward to opening my home to visitors from overseas at Christmas time.
Among the many stories of his life Andrea told me, he spoke regularly, and fondly, of his beloved Nonna. He told me stories of how his Nonna always had been the one who looked after the household while his mother, a nurse worked. My mother went out to work while our Nana took care of the home, too.
As it was Andrea’s first Christmas away from home and his family, I decided, as a special treat for him, I’d make a Panettone. He’d told me his Nonna always had a Panettone on their Christmas table.
Christmas lunch began around 3 pm. After we’d all had more than our fill of the Christmas fare, and with determination trying to find room to squeeze in a slice of Panettone to accompany our coffee and liqueurs, it was then, and only then, Andrea informed me that my Panettone was the first time he’d ever had a home-made one!
His Nonna, as was the habit of most others in Italy, had always presented the family with a store-bought Panettone, never a home-made one!
I could’ve killed him there and then on the spot – but the muscles in my arms were still sore from kneading the dough!
Pushkin enjoyed his first Christmas. He had a ball. I enjoyed my first Christmas with him in my life.
He lapped up the attention; he was a real party animal. He loved his new life, which was just as well, because he and I had many more fun in store for us to share.
A young married couple, Trevor and Ann lived in the townhouse adjoining mine in Varley Street, Yorkeys Knob. We became friendly. They were great neighbours. I didn’t get to know the tenants in the other two townhouses in our block of four.
Trevor idolized Pushkin. He teased Pushkin relentlessly. To the stage at times I had to ask him to stop, but Pushkin kept coming back for more, giving as much as he got. Pushkin loved being tickled and teased by Trevor. When together, they were like a pair of mischievous little kids. Trevor and Ann had a cat of their own, but their cat didn’t have the lively personality Pushkin had. Their cat wasn’t interested in anything other than sleeping. I think it may have been the first “Grumpy Cat”!
Pushkin and I spent two Christmases in the townhouse at Yorkeys; a couple of birthdays, his and mine and a few other spontaneous and planned parties before we packed up our belongings and moved into a rented house further along Yorkeys Knob Road, towards the highway heading north.
Pushkin didn’t have much to pack. Everything he owned he wore on his back..