Monday, July 31, 2017


My hair is no longer the colour it once was.  It once was dark brown/brunette with natural auburn-chestnuts highlights running at will among the strands.  (My mother had natural auburn-coloured hair; her mother, my grandmother, when she was a young girl and woman had rich, chestnut-coloured hair).  

I’m not sure if we were related to nuts or horses.  I suppose it could be said we were a little nuts in many ways.  I still am, having proudly accepted my eccentricities long ago.  Genes, other than those made of denim, are inescapable.  In truth, I’d rather be a little nutty than normal....whatever “normal” is; whatever it is, it does sound boring).  I intend growing old disgracefully eccentric or eccentrically far I’m succeeding either way!

My hair has been grey for many years.   I’m content with its colour.  I don’t wish to be a chameleon constantly changing colour. 

My hips aren’t as flexible as they once were; but not being able to run marathons doesn’t bother me one iota.  I never ran marathons, anyway.  Not pounding the bitumen has never bothered me, running or walking; or hobbling, for that matter. 

Over the years I pounded enough hard surfaces, hour after hour, up to 14 hours or more a day, when cooking in restaurants etc.  The thought of pounding roads was a pound to far.  

Twisting the night away is now an activity of the past, too, which is a shame because I did love dancing the night away. 

Nowadays I’d be flat out trying to climb upon a mare, grey or otherwise, old or young; and a stallion would be far too frisky.

The last time I hopped aboard a horse, which, coincidentally, was grey, I was the tender age of 15 years, with not a grey hair on my head.  The spontaneous adventure occurred one Saturday afternoon.  

After we’d spent a few hours at the public Olympic-size swimming pool, a friend and I were strolling past a Gympie sportsground when we spotted a horse grazing leisurely at the edge of the sports’ oval.  The temptation was too powerful to be denied.   No one else was around on that clear, sunny day.  No sporting events had drawn the locals to cheer on from the sidelines. The coast was clear, so up we got upon said mare.

The horse began to canter - not gallop – just a gentle canter, probably in an attempt to dislodge the inexperienced equestrians atop its back.  The grey mare succeeded in its endeavour. 

With no reins, saddle or stirrups to help us remain astride, our fate was sealed from the moment we’d swung our legs over the horse’s back.  Luckily, no one was around to see us hanging upside down beneath the horse’s belly (that’s how we knew it was a mare, not a stallion).

The horse sniggered as we gracelessly, clumsily slid to the ground.  Dusting ourselves off, with only our dignity injured, laughing, we continued on our way, with none others, other than the mare, my friend and me any the wiser. 

A few days ago, when shopping in a store I don’t often frequent; a store patronised mostly by men who consider themselves to be handy, the fellow who served me was patronising, condescending and rude. He’s definitely is in the wrong game!  He should be kept behind closed doors or out in a paddock away from having to deal with the public.

In his blinkered view all he saw before him was an elderly, grey-haired woman with a walking stick. Mistakenly, he treated me as if I had no grey matter whatsoever. 

Obviously, he needs his eyes tested.  I wasn’t wearing a hat or a beanie. My grey hair was clearly visible, to all and sundry...those not wearing blinkers, anyway. 

“What would an old woman like her know about anything?” He thought, while treating me accordingly.  Like my grey hair, his discourteous attitude was conspicuous; his thoughts, almost audible. 

I wonder if he has ever run an island retreat, solely, singularly – driven the resort’s boat to and from the mainland ferrying guests and provisions; operated generators etc; catered for the guests’ every needs, and more.  

In the past, this grey-haired old woman has done all of the above, and more when living on Newry Island and taking care of the small resort thereon.

It’s a laid down, open misère he hasn’t.  I’m prepared to bet he never will, and never could. 

Thankfully, there is always a rainbow.  

Still simmering after having had my morning disrupted by his brusque, ungracious, ill-mannered, ignorant behaviour, I paid a visit to the pleasant crew at IGA, my local supermarket, for a re-stock.

As I was about to climb into my car, two little boys alighted from the car next to mine.

“I’m three!” Announced one little fellow, as proud as Punch.  So delighted to be three, he again loudly proclaimed the wonder of it to me.  

Not to be outdone, his brother puffed up his chest like a pouter pigeon, declaring, “I’m four!” 

Bursting into laughter, I replied, “I’m not going to tell you how old I am!”  

Their father laughed along with me. 

Like a gentleman, he said, “You’re 21!”  

With that impromptu interlude, once again all was good with the world.

This old grey mare is still what she used to’ she ain’t gonna change for no one!

Orange-Mustard Salmon: Heat 1tsp butter in pan; add 3 salmon fillets, skin side down; cook 4-5mins until skin is slightly crispy. Whisk 1/2c orange juice, zest of 1 orange, 1tbs seeded mustard, 1tsp light soy sauce, 1tsp honey, 1tsp rice wine vinegar and salt to taste; add to pan. Bring to quick boil; simmer 2-3mins until thickened; gently flip salmon; coat with sauce; top with sesame seeds; serve.  

Brain-food Prawns: Heat grill/ pan to med-high. Chop 1 red capsicum, 1 red onion and 1 yellow squash into bite-size pieces; toss with 2tbs chopped fresh thyme and oregano, 1tbs olive oil, salt to taste, freshly ground pepper and chilli flakes.  Toss 16 large green prawns, shelled, deveined in 1/2tbs olive oil; season with salt, pepper, chilli flakes and 1tsp of the fresh herbs. Place prawns and vegetables on separate skewers.  Grill vegies over med-heat, 6-7mins. When vegies are nearly done, grill prawns 1-2mins per side. Serve Quinoa Pesto: Combine 2c cooked quinoa and 1/2c prepared pesto (or make your own).
Goat Cheese-Brie-Tomato Tart: Heat oven 180C/ Line greased 23cm flan tin with shortcrust pastry; bake blind. Cut goat cheese and Brie or Camembert into thick pieces; cover base. Cut assortment of tomatoes into rounds; arrange on top of cheese; scatter thyme over top; lower oven to 170C; bake 20-30mins. 

Earl Grey Mousse:  Bring 3tbs milk to boil; turn off heat; infuse with 2 Earl Grey tea bags, 5 mins. Whip 1/4c cream to soft peaks. Add 2tbs icing sugar; mix gently. Beat 2 egg whites and pinch of salt in processor until stiff. Mix together whipped cream and egg whites, stir delicately with a rotary/vertical movement. Add milk tea, a little at a time; stir gently into mousse. Place final result in 2 dessert glasses; chill overnight.  

Grey Matter Smoothie:  Blend 1c blueberries, 1/2c steamed broccoli, 1c cranberry or blueberry juice and 1/2c natural yoghurt; add strawberries, if desired. 


Saturday, July 22, 2017


The Silkwood Pub
A Section of the Johnstone Shire, North Queensland

Paronella Park, Mena Creek
Above and below...Paronella Park, Mena Creek

Sundown on the jetty at Cape Richards, Hinchinbrook Island...Goold Island in the background
Painted Crayfish
Orchid Beach, Cape Richards...the resort's main beach.. My little abode looked down on it to one side; and to the ocean across to Goold Island on the other.

Kurrimine Beach

Over the years I’ve lived in some beautiful areas throughout Queensland, not the least being Hinchinbrook Island and its mainland surrounds, north and south.

In the late Eighties, early Nineties friends of mine (earlier, in 1986, one of their daughters was a member of my staff at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island), having, in the late 1980s, moved to North Queensland from Brisbane – first to Cairns, and then a little later to Silkwood, a sugar cane area southwest of Innisfail.  For a time, prior to building a new home for themselves on acreage at nearby Japoonvale, they rented a house on a cane farm a couple of kilometres out of Silkwood

 “Just up the road a bit and around a corner or two” is a verdant, magnificent area called Mena Creek.  Its waterfall, natural pool, rope bridge and lush surrounding are perfect backdrops to the legendary, wondrously mystical Spanish castle that was built in the 1930s by José Paronella as a monument of love has been a tourist drawcard throughout the years.

In 1913, José, a Spanish immigrant from Catalonia ,arrived in Innisfail to start a new life for himself and the love of his life, Matilda. Matilda had remained behind in Spain while he went about setting up their future.  José became an Australian citizen eight years after he stepped Australian soil.  He diligently put his nose to the grindstone.

From his hard work, within little over a decade José became a wealthy man. He bought cane farms, improved them, and then sold them.  It was during this fruitful process he discovered the lush forest, waterway and waterfall at Mena Creek....the perfect answer to his dream.  Paronella purchased 13 acres of Heaven.

With a happy heart and a healthy bank balance, Paronella returned to Spain. Upon his return, to his dismay, he learned Matilda wearied from waiting for him. She, of little faith, had married another, leaving poor José momentarily stranded.

“Determination” was his second name.  With no intention of return to Australia without a bride, José married Matilda’s younger sister.  A year later, with an exciting future ahead of them, the newlyweds set off to Australia.

At first the couple lived in a stone cottage, but soon José set about fulfilling his dream of building a castle reminiscent of the Catalan castles of his former homeland.  Tennis courts, entertainment/refreshment areas, a picture theatre, staircases and a ballroom with mirror balls were incorporated into the grand structure. 

José Paronella planted thousands of trees in the already dense forest.   

In 1933, it was on this property that Queensland’s first hydro-electric plant was built.

After a few years of neglect and decay, it has been restored to its former beauty...and the story goes does Mena Creek’s Paronella Park. 

Ted, my head maintenance man when I was manager of the resort that once held pride of position at Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island originated from Silkwood, (Ted now lives back in the little township, enjoying his retirement years) often spent his time off,  spear-fishing in the waters off Murdering Point and Kurrimine Beach (other friends of mine owned and managed the Kurrimine Beach Motel…I had a wild week there one night helping them demolish their wine cellar, but that’s another story!), which is east of the highway, opposite Silkwood.

My staff and I benefited when Ted took time off, which, in fact, was rarely, because invariably he’d arrive back to the island with a large esky or two full of Painted Crayfish upon which we would dine in style in the staff room, away from the prying eyes of the island guests.
“Painted Crays are magnificently armed and brilliantly coloured. Because they are vegetarians, it’s only possible to catch them by nets or spearfishing.

After one of his trips to Silkwood and Kurrimine Beach, Ted returned to the island armed with a large esky full of large crays just in time for one of my staff members’ birthday.

Daina (correct spelling…pronounced “Day-na”) turned 18 the day of Ted’s return.
I was in the midst of arranging a party for her to be held at my little abode on the island. In my not-so-infinite-wisdom I had declared it to be a “Toga Party”!   

My little studio-style house was off-limits to everyone other than me and Ruska, my beloved ginger cat.  I was rarely there because most of my time, every day and every night, was spent over at the main building that housed the restaurant, cocktail bar, office, kitchen, cold-room, store-room, laundry etc.   I valued and protected my privacy and time alone when I was “home”.  And my staff respected my wishes.

David, my head chef, unburdened Ted of his load of painted crayfish. Wasting little time, David proceeded to prepare them for dinner...for the staff, not the resort feast upon.

No one was late for dinner that evening.  Pre-dinner drinks at the bar were even ignored as everyone eagerly gathered around the large staff  table, drooling , waiting for the festive feast.

The staff dinners were always held early...before the guests began to wander down to the bar and restaurant.  Everything was done fairly leisurely on the island...that was our style; that what people wanted once they realised it was a world unto itself...totally divorced from mainland style of living.

That evening our poor island guests didn’t partake in the same tasty fare we did, but “you don’t miss what you don’t have”...but I feel certain some of my staff couldn’t resist bragging!  

As soon as the staff dinner was completed my staff, those who were not on kitchen and table duties, rushed off to the laundry to clothe themselves in “togas” using the older stocks of bed sheets as substitutes for the real thing.

In the meantime, I played hostess to my guests, joining and chatting with them at their tables.

One by one, my “kids” (by habit, I often referred to my staff as “the kids”), chanting "Toga! Toga! Toga!" happily strolled through the restaurant area donned in their “togas”, en route to my house, much to the guests'  interest and amusement.

Laughter filled the night air.

The party-goers each made a detour to the bar, for a warm-up drink before progressing out of the restaurant to the track leading across to where the party was to be held.

To my surprise, the last two members of my staff to parade through the restaurant were Ted, followed soon after by my brother, Graham.  I’d not expected Ted to get dressed up, and I definitely hadn’t expected Graham to do so.  He, even more so than Ted, wasn’t a “group” party person; and, normally, he definitely, once he grew out of childhood, was not into fancy dress of any description.   (As children both he and I attended fancy dress balls, as all kids do...and Graham, fittingly, always went dressed up as a pirate).

My mouth fell open in shock at the unexpected, hilarious sight before me.

At the appearance of Graham, the last toga-wearing renegade to walk through the dining area, I heard one of the guests exclaim good-humouredly;

 “There goes another one!”

Seeing my brother dressed in a “toga”, for one thing was surprise enough for me, but to see him strut through the restaurant with a wide grin on his face really “knocked me for a sixer”, as the saying goes!

Such a display was not his normal style. If you’d known my brother, you would understand.

Eventually, everyone gathered together on the deck overlooking the ocean at my little house.

I was the only “civilian” present, opting not to wear a “toga”.

Generously, knowing what was underway elsewhere, the resort guests didn’t linger long in the restaurant that night.  It wasn’t too long before the bar, restaurant and kitchen staff joined the party.

David, my chef, and the others who'd been on shift arrived armed with platters of tasty finger foods for us to nibble upon.

By the time they arrived, the party was well under way.  My staff were always "up" for a party, and never needed urging!  Every day was a party!

What a fun night we had.    

Ruska spent the night, sleeping on “our” bed, with one diligent eye on the high jinks going on out on the deck, a couple of metres away.

Daina and I are still friends.  She now lives at Japoonvale, near where her parents built their home.  These days she’s manager of Innisfail’s K-Mart store.   

She has never forgotten her 18th birthday spent on Hinchinbrook Island.

Where else could she have had such a feast of fresh painted crayfish for no cost, followed by a toga party to end all toga parties, accompanied by the sounds and view of the ocean on either side of the venue?