|Yorkeys Knob and the Boat Club-Marina|
Before I moved from the townhouse in Varley Street, Yorkeys Knob to the house up the other end of the long road that led into Yorkeys I also changed jobs. I’d had my fill of the hospitality industry for a while. I felt in need of – stealing the words from Jimmy Buffett - a change in latitude; a change in attitude. I’d also had enough of the arrogant, self-centred, humourless, holier-than-thou Sales-Marketing Manager. People like him have never been my favourite people. If I don’t have to mix with them, I won’t, no matter what the situation, work or life in general. So Ramada and I parted ways, but not after planning and coordinating the New Year’s Eve festivities.
After spending time telephoning people I felt I needed to telephone and I eventually hired a country music quartet as well as a rock/pop trio. The plan was for the two bands to perform, alternating throughout the evening. To set the scene I wanted to decorate part of the stage with hay bales, a battered, rusted, old wagon-wheel, and if I could find one, a sun-bleached, weather-beaten skull of a bullock. My mate the Sales-Marketing Manager blanched at the thought of the bullock skull. He went whiter, greyer than any old bullock skull ever, even one that had sat out in the noonday sun for 20 or more years! All his nightmares came true at my mention thereof...so I mentioned it again, just for the hell of it!
His little pale hands quivered. His small, white, soft, feminine hands were two of the many things I didn’t like about him.
To his gloating satisfaction (and relief), my quest for a bullock’s head was in vain, but I did manage to get a loan of some hay bales and a rusted wagon wheel from a local farmer. Luck was on my side!
Alan, my mate who was the Front Office Manager and I had escaped the clutches of Ramada and we spent a few hours one morning traversing local properties throughout the northern beaches’ area of Cairns, knocking on doors, with pleading looks upon our faces, in the hope of finding what we (or I) were looking for. We had a fun morning, filled with lots of laughs - something which also got stuck in the S/M Manager’s craw when he saw us return to the resort. Haw! Haw!
During a planning meeting for the New Year’s Eve celebrations I suggested we highlight the resort’s large swimming pool with laser lights. My idea was to have the beams flashing across the pool from the top floor balconies on either side of the property to cause an exciting, adrenaline-flowing luminous show, like one never seen before at Ramada, or anywhere else in the Cairns and surrounding areas, for that matter...at that particular stage in time and space.
Of course, my nemesis torpedoed, vetoed my illuminating idea. Obviously, if he’d come up with the idea first, it would’ve been a whole different story...a completely different outcome. But I moved on with a smile, refusing to let him get to me. I knew that would get under his skin, too. Some people make it fun sometimes...if you know what I mean!
Never mind...the kind of person he was is put on this earth to try us...to say the least!
New Year’s Eve ended up being a typical hot, steamy tropical North Queensland summer’s night.
The night turned out to be an enjoyable success. Every nook and cranny was filled with merrymakers. All of whom had a good time, or at least appeared to be doing so. Unaware that they could’ve been further entertained by the flashing light beams and terrified by the skull, the crowd didn’t miss what they didn’t get!
A few months later I was approached by the then Australian manager of Richmond Grove wines. He offered me a job with the company.
After due consideration, I accepted the position to become their Area Manager for the northern and western regions, encompassing a territory from Townsville in the south to Cairns and regions north, and out through to the north-western areas. The job would entail me being on the road three weeks out of four, living out of a suitcase, sleeping in motel and hotel rooms along the way.; eating restaurant/hotel food day after day. A new company car was waiting to be collected by me. Generously, I had been given the right to choose the make of the vehicle. I chose a Ford, of course. Ford was my preference because I believed they suited our roads. When I was managing the resort on Hinchinbrook Island and needed to hire a car when travelling distances on the mainland I always requested a Ford from the hire companies.
While all of the above was underway I’d also thrown into the mix an application I’d placed for a position as receptionist/secretary/property manager at a real estate company in their office at Smithfield.
Smithfield is about 5kms west of Yorkeys...just across the Captain Cook Highway; a short drive from where I lived at the time of this story.
The Bruce Highway which runs north from Brisbane to Cairns morphs into the Captain Cook Highway at the northern outskirts of the city. It’s a reasonably short highway that ends up at the town of Mossman. North from Mossman the highway then becomes the Mossman-Daintree Road bearing travellers further north to the magnificent Daintree Rainforest.
I am repeating myself, I know – no need for you to tell me! I’ve spoken about these areas and some of these events previously...but sometimes once or twice or more aren’t enough...particularly when a story becomes as long as mine has become (and it’s not finished yet).
This story “Music to My Ears etc.,” is becoming almost as long as the Bruce Highway, the Captain Cook Highway and Mossman-Daintree Road combined!
The more I thought about the position with Richmond Grove wines - and I did ponder deeply and at length whether I should or I should not – tossing the pros and the cons back and forth. Three weeks away from home, and more importantly, from Pushkin hung heavily on my being. Trevor and Anne, the young couple who lived in the next door unit to mine said they were willing to keep a good eye on Pushkin for me; and I knew they would, particularly Trevor because he loved Pushkin; but that wasn’t the point.
The novelty very quickly wears off having to live out of a suitcase and in hotel/motel rooms day after day; having to eat restaurant/hotel food night after night. I know I've cooked in such establishments for many years throughout my working life, but I don't give a damn what anyone says...you can't beat a home-cooked meal. Eating out is great once in a while, but not every day, day after day, night after night.
The weather might have been growing hotter, but my desire of becoming a wine representative was growing colder and colder by the minute.
At the second last second of the 11th hour, I was saved by an alarm bell clanging loudly in my brain! It woke me up to reality. I didn’t want to be away from Pushkin and home for extended periods of time.
On top of the alarm bell, the manager of the real estate agency in Smithfield rang to inform me my application for the job with them had been successful!
That was just the final the nudge I needed. Without hesitation, I grabbed their offer with both hands. It was a true “saved by the bell” moment!
Immediately, wasting not another moment, I telephoned the person I’d been dealing with at Richmond Grove to inform him of my change of mind. He was disappointed, (probably annoyed as well – because the car had been arranged; as well as an airline booking to fly me to Brisbane to pick up the vehicle). He was shocked and bemused at my decision, but it was mine to make. Better to have made it then, than later.
The realisation had hit me like a brick falling from a great height...I wouldn’t have been happy living my life on the road. I’d not have become a ‘happy wanderer’. Leaving Pushkin alone for lengthy periods of time didn’t thrill me, either. I’ve never regretted the decision I made that day.
However, before I progress further with this saga...
Shortly before I left Ramada Reef Resort I organised one final farewell as a unique greeting for a group of visiting holidaymakers from the US. Because the members of the tour group were visiting Australia for the first time I came up with another bright idea. I wanted to do something special for them as a welcome to our fair shores.
At the time Aboriginal artist, didgeridoo player, entertainer David Hudson, along with his wife, had joined forces with some others and co-founded the Tjapukai Dance Theatre. They’d not long started up the dance troupe in Kuranda, a small town in the Cairns hinterland. Instantaneously the dance troupe became popular with tourist and locals alike. Visitors from wide and far flocked to see them.
My light bulb moment was to have David Hudson seated, on the ground (paving tiles) outside the front door, the entrance leading into Ramada Reef Resort’s foyer. While there he would play the didgeridoo as the guests arrived. I didn’t want the whole dance troupe there, just him....solo, playing the magical instrument.
The arrival time at the resort for the American tour group planned to be around 6.30 am. I believed it would be a unique, fitting and memorable welcome; a greeting that they’d cherish forever; and one they most likely would never have experienced before – or since. To my way of thinking the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo would suit the early hour.
It would make for a good story told over many dinner tables.
For once my idea wasn’t knocked on the head by you-know-who! I went to work immediately putting the plans into place. I made David Hudson an offer...one he couldn’t refuse!
The whole affair was a success! The US visitors loved the welcome to North Queensland they received.
After that I left the world of entertainment behind....for a while....
Through my role as property manager covering the northern beaches’ area from the Cairns' northern suburb of Freshwater further north to Palm Cove, one day a house landed on my list of rental properties. As soon as I inspected the new listing I was interested in it for me. The house was situated at the western end of Varley Street; the end known as “Yorkeys Knob Road”.
The tidy, renovated, high-set “Queenslander” had been relocated to a parcel of land on an existing sugar cane farm by the son of the farmer. Other than the two houses on the cane farm, one of which was to become my new home and one other a distance away, there was not another house to be seen; a situation that suited me just fine. Tommy Mason, the cane farmer and his wife (both father and mother of the young man whose house I rented) lived in the home next door, but there was a good distance between our two houses; and that suited me just fine, too. Old Tommy had been born in the home in which he and his wife lived, and there, they raised their own children.
(I have written about this house "The Plucked Emu" as I called it in previous posts).
Having given the required notice to vacate the townhouse, Pushkin and I packed up our wares, and without further ado we were off on our merry way to become the contented dwellers of our new abode. It took us quite a while to settle in...at least 30 minutes!
Wherever I chose to live, Pushkin gave his tick of approval...as long as I was there, he had no complaints. He was my shadow...where I went...he went...except not to work, of course - although I often told him he should get a job!
At the rear of the house was a large, covered, wooden deck. The deck spanned the width of the house and the depth of it was similar in size to the width. The deck soon became Pushkin and my favourite spot in the house. Cooling sea breezes wafted through. It was a great place to relax with a cold drink in hand and paw. Pushkin’s preference was water; mine depended on my mood.
The expansive deck overlooked the no-frills, in-ground pool below in the endless backyard that was bordered by cane fields, interspersed with bushland as far as the eye could see.
Ahhh....life was good...
As well as my Monday to midday Saturday job with the real estate agency, I also worked part-time for a while, a few nights a week at “The Beach Hut” in Holloways Beach, a neighbouring beach suburb approximately 10kms south of Yorkeys. (The Beach Hut no longer exists, I believe. I think a new, more modern establishment sits where it used to sit).
I worked in the kitchen alongside Fergus, the chef, as his kitchen-hand, helping with the food preparation as well as everything else that such work involves. Fergus and I worked in harmony. I knew what he wanted done without the need of constant instructions. It was smooth sailing working with him.
A few months later when Fergus was unfairly fired by the owners, I left, too. I'd arrived late one afternoon to start my shift only to discover Fergus was gone...just like that! So without even unpacking my knives, I turned and walked out of the kitchen straight to the office.
I had previously met Fergus' replacement and I didn’t like the fellow. I'd taken an immediate disliking to him when I first met him. I told the owners as much in as few words.
Also letting them know I disagreed with their decision regarding Fergus, and that I stood by him. Fergus “had his moments”, but he was an honest fellow; a hard worker; a straight-shooter; he called a spade a spade. The latter two parts of his character probably were his downfall. Whereas to me, they're a person's good points.
In my opinion, the new chef was a shifty bloke and there was no way I was going to work with him.
My on-the-spot decision was an easy one to make... it was “Bye! Bye! Beach Hut!”
I went back home...poured myself a Scotch on the rocks and sat out on the deck with Pushkin. He was very pleased to have my company; and I was happy to be with him. I pumped up the stereo and together, he and I had a fine evening!
Not long after I left the Beach Hut I took over the mantle, at night, as sole operator of a little pizza/lasagne take-away/eat-in eatery in Yorkeys Knob...back down the far end of the road...in Varley Street. Once I finished my day job I'd raced off to the little eatery to open its doors and fire up the oven! I enjoyed it...it was fun.
I’ll write more about it, in detail, at a later time.
Shortly before Christmas when I was still living at the house on Yorkeys Knob Road, one afternoon I arrived home from work...from the real estate office, Inner Circle Realty, and I’d just parked my car underneath the house when I heard something. As I walked out into the yard towards the stairs leading up to the rear deck what I'd heard was a cat’s miaow. I looked up to see Pushkin sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for me, watching my arrival. His mouth wasn’t moving, but I could still hear the miaowing.
I walked towards the direction of the miaowing. It led me to the large mango tree on the property, between my house and Tom’s home. I reached the tree and was standing beneath its dense growth of leaves and ripening crop of mangoes when something flashed past my face and landed at my feet.
There on the ground, looking up at me with eyes as large as two saucers (and I’m sure I glimpsed a slight smile) was a grey and white tabby kitten. At a guess the cat was around somewhere between six to nine months old.
Meanwhile, Pushkin watched on nonchalantly – still in the same spot he’d been when I arrived home.
Naturally, I scooped the kitten up in my arms, and took him upstairs with me. When I put him down on the deck Pushkin went straight to him. With not a hiss or a growl from either of them, Pushkin immediately began to purr as he rubbed against our little newcomer. Pushkin’s affectionate behaviour was reciprocated. Much smooging and purring was interchanged between the two.
My theory was (and still is) someone driving by figured the property, with just a couple of farm houses spread far apart on a fairly vast area of land was a good place to dump a kitten.
It’s always been my belief, also, that when said kitten arrived on the property sometime during that particular day he was met by Pushkin who immediately took him under his care, telling the abandoned kitten...
”Look, mate...Lee, my loyal servant, has a massive, loving heart. She is very kind to us furry creatures. She’s a bit of a sucker when it comes to us cats. Just stick with me, kid...and follow my lead. This is what you have to do....there’s room enough in our little family for you...and there’s room enough in the house. I won’t mind sharing our bed with you. There’s more than enough room for the three of us. Now....here’s the plan....follow it to the letter...”
I christened our new family member “Rimsky” – “Rimsky Korsakov” to those not in the inner circle.
So then I not only had Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, the Russian poet, playwright, and novelist in my life, but I also had Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov, the Russian composer!
To top that off, I still had “Amadeus” (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to those who dared to ask) the sole fish swimming around the fish tank Andrea had given me for Christmas a couple of years previously. Amadeus, an Angel fish (he was no angel) had eaten the rest of his flatmates, making him king of the tank; Lord Protector of his domain. At least he saved me on food bills there for a while!
Rimsky made himself at home straight away. There was no standing on ceremony. No shyness shown. He’d taken Pushkin at his word...at his miaow. and had followed his instructions. Rimsky was beautiful cat; he and Pushkin got on so very well. Because he’d arrived with no luggage/baggage, Rimsky had no unpacking to do; it was as if he’d always been a part of Pushkin’s and my world.
Rimsky had literally landed at my feet; and, for sure, he landed on his four paws! He was one lucky little cat.
Ahead of him were many adventures; more than he could have imagined...more than I could have imagined, at that time, too. I'd hazard a guess and say more than Pushkin had imagined, too! Rimsky would be taken on rides he’d never dreamed about going on...and not once did he complain.
Not one of the three of us did complain...as long as we were together...all was well in our little corner of the world. That "little corner" did vary from time to time, place to place.....