Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Today, 28th February is/was my late brother’s birthday. He just made it in before landing on a Leap Year. Naturally, my thoughts have turned to him today. My brother Graham who, through most of his life, ‘lorded’ over me, me being his ‘little’ sister, caused me both happiness and much heartache. It’s nine years this coming June since his passing. I really can’t believe it has been nine years since his death. Finally, I am able to look back in openness, honesty, and without emotion at our sometimes, oft times, tempestuous relationship. My brother thought in ‘black and white’. He called a ‘spade a spade’ and suffered fools not at all. He was complex, moody, angry, unpredictable, while at the same time he was sensitive, intelligent and caring. He was a paradox. However, I won’t go into all of his complexities. Today, his birthday, I want to share with you some moments he and I shared when working together on Hinchinbrook Island.
After Cyclone Winifred had ripped a path through the area from Mission Beach, Dunk Island and surrounding areas south to Hinchinbrook Island much repair work needed to be carried out, not only on the island, but on the mainland. I knew that the mainland towns, surrounding farms and areas north of Hinchinbrook required more urgent assistance than we, on the island did, as we had received the ‘tail-end’ of the cyclone. Also, I knew because of this fact, we would be last on the list in getting building materials. I understood and accepted the situation. The island had lost its jetty during the ‘big blow’. The only other damages caused were fallen trees and broken tree limbs etc.
Q (the owner whom I mentioned in my previous story “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” Parts 1-3) decided to dispatch a couple of his workmen to help me on the island with the re-building and renovations. At this point in time, the resort was closed, not to be re-opened until 8th March. During the resort’s closure it would a perfect opportunity to carry out, not only the re-building of the jetty, but the construction of the elevated timber deck around the pool and the many other renovations and maintenance jobs that desperately needing doing.
A working plan was put into place of what needed to be done and the materials were ordered to enable the work to be carried out once the necessary timber, roofing etc., arrived. As I mentioned above, I realized I would be on the end of the list of the hardware stores and timber suppliers, but the sooner the materials were ordered, the sooner I would creep up the list.
There was enough work to be done around the resort while waiting for the new material to arrive, so everyone was kept busying doing one thing or the other. I donned my cook/chef’s hat and volunteered myself as chief cook for all us ‘workers’, preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner each day for about 10 of us. I was never sure how many mouths I had to feed as people seemed to be coming and going all over the place. At one stage, I had the Pioneer Group from the Army, a fact I think I mentioned in one of my earlier stories. They had been sent to me to assist in the clearing of the walking tracks of fallen trees, branches etc., and whatever other jobs I could find for them during their few days stay. So, when the Army was in residence the island population grew. Without fail, I always set a spare setting at the dinner table and I always plated an extra meal, never intentionally. It just happened that way, day after day, night after night. This habit of mine became a bit of a joke amongst us island dwellers. We named our invisible guest, “Mr. Walker – The Ghost Who Walks…aka The Phantom”. Much to our surprise and delight, we found a large boulder at the end of Orchid Beach, the main beach of the resort. We reckoned it was the “Skull Cave” as there was a huge, deep indent in the boulder, reminiscent of a cave. One’s imagination does tend to run wild when living on a tropical island!
Over pre-dinner drinks late one afternoon, the two workers who Q had sent me and who I had grown to dislike immensely, announced that the very next day they were going to take the roofs off all of the cabins!
To explain my growing dislike of these two men…they never once thanked me for a meal. They would finish eating, push their plates aside and immediately leave the table without a word. I didn’t expect them, or anyone else for that matter, to get down on their hands and knees in gratitude or servitude, but a simple “Thanks for dinner, breakfast, lunch or whatever” would have been nice, and it’s simple good manners. Everyone else helped with the washing up at night, but they never once offered or pitched in. I learned from the others that they sat up on the verandah of the staff quarters and threw their empty glass beer ‘stubbies’ down over the rocks below, which bordered the waters of Mission Bay. Upon learning this, I promptly put a stop to their thoughtless, ignorant practice. Do I need to explain any further? No…I thought not.
When they announced their grand plan to de-roof the accommodation cabins during the tropical north Queensland “wet season”….the monsoonal trough was still skirting across the top of Queensland bringing regular nocturnal heavy downpours, I saw ‘red’. There was no sign of the new roofing material arriving. I had no idea when it would arrive. It could have been weeks away, for all I knew. These two men had already failed to follow my instructions over the first load of timber that had arrived to the island. After all, you must bear in mind, I am a woman…what would a woman know about such things?
They went against my instructions about the timber and because they did what they believed was right and what I instructed them not to do, the timber ended up on the ocean floor! I was highly amused at that outcome, as you can imagine! So there they both were, informing me of their latest brain-wave.
“Let’s un-roof the cabins, even though we haven’t got the new roofing material,” they brazenly announced. “We’ve got nothing else to do, so we will take off the roofs.”
I exploded. I went ballistic! I could not fathom their reasoning. Calmly, at first, I pointed out to them the foolishness of such an idea. I suggested they do some painting around the resort accommodation and restaurant. There were cans and cans of paint in the island work-shed and there were many areas that needed fresh coats of paint. They suffered from selective hearing and continued with the discussion of their plans to de-roof. One thing I cannot stand is ignorance. Their obvious dislike of having a woman instruct them was palatable. I spoke. They didn’t hear. I sat in front of them. They didn’t see me. It was at such a moment, I exploded. The full force of my wrath burst forth. I’d kept a lid on it for quite some time, as is my way, but when the pressure builds up to a point of no return there is nothing I can do to stop the fury. I fired them on the spot, ordering them to pack up their gear and be off the island first light in the morning. They had their own boat, so this was achievable. I rang the office in Brisbane to organize their final pays. I could have ordered them off the island there and then, but dusk had fallen and I wasn’t going to put myself in the position of being responsible for their drowning at sea, even though I felt like drowning them myself, physically!
Early the following morning, I was woken by the sound of their boat motor starting up. That was the last I heard of them.
Upon reaching my office, I immediately rang Graham, my brother, who lived in Mackay and offered him a couple of months work. At the time, he was employed by one of the sugar mills in the Mackay area as a ‘loco-driver’ and the sugar season was temporarily closed down as it does every year, so he wasn’t working. I knew that I could rely on him to do whatever job was necessary. He was a perfectionist in everything he did. He was very capable and could turn his hands to just about anything. So, in a flash, he was on the next coach to Cardwell on the mainland across from Hinchinbrook Isand. He became an ‘islander’ the following day, quickly falling under Hinchinbrook’s spell.
His arrival to the island happened a couple of weeks before his birthday. My brother hated a fuss being made over him. I knew if I told him I was planning a party for him there would not be chance in Hell that he would come down to the restaurant that evening. I swore everyone to secrecy. My threat was to dispatch anyone who opened his or her big mouth off the island on a ‘log with a teaspoon as a paddle’. That was the punishment if anyone let on to Graham what I had planned.
Life went on as usual on the 28th February. Graham came down to breakfast with the others. Nothing was mentioned. Normal breakfast conversation or non-conversation progressed or didn't progress in some instances with those who were a bit slow in wakening. I gave everyone their work-sheets for the day. I must point out here, those work-sheets were not worth the paper they were scribbled on as nothing ever went to plan on Hinchinbrook Island, ever...and the life expectancy of the work-sheets was something like five minutes, and that’s a slight exaggeration!
Once everyone was out and about doing whatever they were supposed to be doing, I raced to the kitchen to make a boiled fruit cake, a cake I knew Graham loved. I quadrupled the quantities. When it was cooked, I quickly hid it in the pantry to cool. The aroma filled the kitchen and its surrounds, but there was little I could do about that. I disguised its scent with whatever I prepared for lunch that day. Sneakily, I’d ordered from the mainland a couple of days earlier, a two-litre flagon of Bundaberg Rum as a birthday gift. My brother liked his rum chasers with his beer (or is it the other way around?) in winter, but I thought I’d get in early and give him a flagon in February. Well, it was, after all, almost March!
The day progressed into late afternoon. Everyone had showered after their labours of the day and had wandered down to the bar to have a couple of drinks before dinner. Still tight-lipped, the general conversation went on as usual about the day’s events. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Not a word of birthday cheer was directed to Graham, who had joined the throng around the bar. I placed some country music on the stereo, Graham’s favourite music genre. Very subtly the over-all mood kept lifting higher and higher. The crew got louder and louder. The atmosphere filled with laughter and good-will. I purposely delayed dinner. Actually, I had purposely prepared snacks only, rather than a ‘sit-down’ meal. I didn’t want to interfere with the spirit of the evening. It flowed just as I had had in mind for it to do. After a certain time, everyone opened up and wished Graham a “Happy Birthday”. By that time, he was in such a happy mood, it mattered not to him that he was the centre of attention. He enjoyed every moment of the evening and lapped up all the accolades and good wishes. My God! At one stage he was even doing the ‘Can-Can’ with Bronnie! I had never seen him dance, let alone a wild version of the ‘Can-Can’! I had never seen my brother in such a free-spirited mood and I never did again. It was wonderful evening. Graham had a terrific time. Bronnie thought the sun shone out of my brother. She idolized him.
Again, it proved spontaneity is the best. Maybe it wasn’t spontaneous for me, because I’d put a lot of sneaky planning into place. I really had no idea which way the evening would go. It could have turned out to have been a total disaster. Fortunately, because Graham was totally unaware of the evening unfolding around him and that the frivolity was on his behalf, he got sucked into the mood of the evening, unwittingly. By the time he was engulfed by the night’s fun, it was too late…he was trapped and had become one of ‘us’! He really let his hair down that evening…and that’s saying something, because he had a “Number One-blade hair-cut”!
Graham thoroughly enjoyed his "Island Birthday".
Acrylic painting by me
I'm posting here, as well, a copy of a short letter I received from one of my staff members upon his leaving the island and its employ. I found it a few moments ago as I was rifling through some papers. I'd like to share it with you.
This is a letter of thanks to you. During the time I have spent on this Island, you have showed me great kindness and respect. I return this to you.
These last six months I have learnt (sic) a great many things. These I attribute to you and one other person...being yourself and Graham.
May all the things in life abound for you. My heart goes out to you young lady. My time has come to improve myself in the sense, Lee. That it is time to get myself established in Melbourne to do more study into environmental research plus my companion, Lyn who shares with me. (sic) Thank you Lee for sticking with me as it is truely (sic) a nice and pleasant feeling.
May all that you do so be it and succeed and good health and well being be with you always my dear friend. (sic)
Monday, February 26, 2007
The above picture is for you, Don aka “Wino”. Your convincing display the other day begging me for more kookaburra pictures put so much pressure upon me, my heart crumbled. There was nothing else left for me to do. I folded and succumbed.
On the subject of kookaburras...when I was living at the coast…Sunshine Beach, around the corner from Noosa Heads, on the southern side of the Noosa National Park...excuse me please, I must digress for a moment or three…
I was still married when I lived on the coast. Our home was a two-storey dwelling built on the line of secondary dunes, about 500-600 metres from the main beach. The house had been erected on the highest section of the land, set back from the street. We renovated much of the house, knocking down the existing narrow, short deck and replacing it with a much wider deck that then ran the whole width of the house. It extended out to the edge of the dune into the tree-tops as far as safety would allow. When sitting out on the new timber deck, we were in line with the tree-tops, thereby placing ourselves in the flight path of the many varieties of birds that inhabited the area. The ocean was clearly visible from the deck, the kitchen and dining/living area. The view, however, didn’t extend to the broad, golden beach below, not that that mattered, because the privacy provided by the deck being so high up nestled amongst the trees, was worth more than a billion or so grains of sand.
As has been my habit for many years, I encouraged the birds to recognize the household as a bird-friendly household and, of course, it didn’t take them very long to discover ours was a ‘safe house’. Even Ruska, my ginger cat at the time (the one taken by the python on
Every day, most days more than once, Mum and Dad Kookaburra paid their visits by either sitting on the thick log railings of the deck or the outdoor table. Frequently, they would perch on the kitchen window sill, peering across the sink into the kitchen wondering what they could scrounge from my soft-hearted self. Then their little family multiplied in number. “Mumma” and “Poppa” brought their two kids with them and introduced them to me.
The house next door was rented out to a couple of very nice young surfer lads. Their life was filled with board surfing, girls, music, board surfing and more board surfing. In the back yard they set up an old bath-tub, which they would fill with cold water. After a morning of catching waves, they would then sit in it and play chess.
All was quiet next door. The boys were off surfing somewhere. I was on the upstairs’ telephone looking out my dining room window into the next door yard as I talked. I noticed one of the ‘Kookie-kids’ splashing around in a little bit of water left in the bottom of the bath-tub.
For a while, I thought, “How great! He’s having so much fun splashing around in the cool water.” Suddenly, much to my horror, I realized he was stuck in the pool. Each time he tried to escape, his little claws slid back down the enamel coating of the old bath. He couldn’t get out and he was distressing.
I quickly ended my telephone conversation. Tossed the phone aside, ran down the stairs and leapt the dividing fence between the two properties with the skill of the best Olympic hurdlers.
My poor little feathered mate wasn’t in a very good shape. He had water pouring out of every orifice. I cradled him in my hands and returned home with him. I thought twice about giving him ‘mouth-to-mouth’, but I laid him on his side, switching sides regularly, and then I held him upside down as the water kept pouring out of the poor little guy. To the best of my ability, I dried his drenched feathers with a towel. Placing him in a sunny corner of the deck, I left him on the towel in the sun to recover from his frightening ordeal. And recover he did, much to my delight.
Thereafter, that little fellow came to visit me every day. He would sit on the kitchen window sill watching my every move. Sometimes, he would venture further into the kitchen. I caught him a few times perched on the back of one of the kitchen chairs or on the table. I didn’t mind. I think he thought I was his second mother, or at least his personal Sunshine Beach Lifesaver!
Sunday, February 25, 2007
The British seem to be very proficient in such surveys. Perhaps it's all of that drizzly, bleak weather that has caused this phenomenon. Ummm...maybe I'll conduct a survey to see if my belief is factual. I'm going to poll myself.
The results of the latest British survey (well, the latest as of yesterday morning, that is...there probably have been more results of further surveys since yesterday...I'll check them out later!)...tell us to forget the "coffee break". 10.30am is the time to get creative. The poll found that was the best time of the day to think up your next big idea. Well, the big idea I came up with at 10.30am yesterday, while I was reading the survey results, was to have a nap as I'd had a late evening and had risen very early. My creative juices were flowing telling me to shut my eye-lids. I heeded them.
How do the young stand a chance when they're surrounded by incorrect spelling and grammar? It is reported a job advertisement last week (I have no idea where the advertisement appeared, whether it was in a newspaper or on a notice board) sought applications for the position of "barrister" for 25-30-hour week in an inner-city coffee shop. "Barrister"..."Barista"...take your pick of the cheaper option!
World! We have a problem! Global Warming...sorry, Climate Change...hang on! It's this week now, isn't it? Well, whatever it's called this week, it is so severe it will continue for centuries!
I think we should send Al Gore up to Mars, Saturn and the moons of Saturn, as soon as possible. He could take Mike Moore along as his co-pilot and Bob Brown* as navigator. Apparently, our entire solar system is warming, which is clearly not man's fault. How is it that the masses aren't kept informed of such events?
"Selective reporting", that's what it is. Who are these "experts" that keep spewing out data to us, the lowly rabble? I want to see their credentials. How come there were vineyards in the north of England in the 8th century, but by the 14th century the climate had become too wet, cloudy and cool to produce wine? Was that man's fault?
(*Bob Brown, for anyone who is not aware, is the "leader" of the Green Party here in Australia. He is a deep thinker. The week before last he announced that the coal-mining industry in this country should be shut down.
Coal-mining in the state of Queensland, alone, is just a minor, teeny-little industry worth a measly $20 billion and more a year.) Good idea, Brownie! And he gets well-paid for such ideas! /sarcasm off.
Dick Cheney has come and gone, not before getting stuck in Singapore for a few hours because Air Force 11 had a minor electrical fault. (I hope it wasn't caused by him joining the "Mile High Club"...like British actor Ralph Fiennes and the Aussie hostess did...the mind boggles...there's little enough room in airline toilets for one, let alone two!)
Mr. Cheney's visit disrupted our professional protesters of a hundred or so from their meditations in that they had to dust off their placards, touch up some of the faded paintwork thereon, dress in their scruffiest, dirtiest clothing, exercise their lungs that have only been exercised lately inhaling the smoke produced from bongs, and get out there in the street to shout slogans that nobody understands or takes notice of, while abusing the police in the meantime. I guess they figured they may as well get it all over and done with while they were out and about. As the saying goes, "One must get dressed up for every game!"
The 'protesters' time would be far better spent in support of our brave troops, instead of running around the streets acting like a pack of disrespectful idiots.
As for David Hicks...who? He can stay in Guantanamo Bay as far as I'm concerned, or send him back over to Afghanistan. I don't care about him one iota!
I'll step down off my soap-box. Like the protesters, I will dust it off and put it away until next time!
I think it's going to be a good week.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
It is not my fault I'm trigger-happy all the time! Blame this wonderful camera. It's the reason that you are now being inundated with photographic evidence of my extra-curricular activity. This stunningly handsome camera is a whizz. It is the master. I'm completely under its spell, a mere puppet in its hands. Mr. Minolta to you who've not yet been formally introduced, (Kon to his nearest and dearest) has captured my heart. Smitten, I am. His sheer brilliance takes my breath away. I never want him to leave my side. Around my neck in repose he waits patiently, until I gently stroke him into action. This is no 'ships passing in the night' dalliance. This is an enduring, never-ending love affair. I just know this is so. It's Kismet that we met, and one can not deny Kismet!
Now on to the photographs...more of the excellent work by Mr. Minolta. My friendly kookaburras knew film-making was on the agenda as swiftly they appeared to star in the feature. The water-lily is self-explanatory. The white flowers, (I have no idea what they are other than 'white flowers) are nestled away in a shaded corner on the banks the pond, towered over by conifers of silver, green and gold. (Again, as with my previous two posts, double-click on the photos for enlargement)
Excuse me for a while, I'm going to re-charge Mr. Minolta's battery......
I took these photographs of this dilapidated old shed today, also. No doubt, one day soon it will remain no longer. If you listen closely, it has many tales to tell, I'm sure. (Double-click on pics in this post and my previous post to enlarge the pics, if you desire.)
The first photo at the top is a partial view of my jungle on my patio. To the right is a pond on this property, followed by pink water-lilies in said pond. As you can see as you cast your eyes further down this colourful post are more photographs of the pond.
This property is 3 acres in size. The many trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetable gardens, rows of healthy rhubarb plants that adorn this acreage act as a safe harbour and restaurant for the myriad bird-life, hares, bandicoots (for Don...another of our mystical Aussie animals), possums, marsupial mice and whatever else that may roam hidden under the cloak of darkness.
The rock face is on a lower escarpment about half a kilometre from where my cabin is. I slipped that one in to confuse you.
The lower photograph is the vista that greets me when I walk out my front door to my patio area.
You can see some of the rows of rhubarb between the protea trees.
My cabin, which I rent from my landlords, who also live on this property, is situated about half-way down the land. The pond, on my side, is surrounded by conifers of various types with many other shrubs, lilies and trees. This foliage forms a private barrier from my landlords' home, which I fondly call "The Manor". A narrow track runs to "The Manor" between avocado trees on one side and the pond on the other. The gentry can't see my cabin from their home and I can't see their home from mine. In fact, sometimes weeks go by before our paths cross. We did have a soiree up on their veranda late this afternoon, when we solved the world's problems over a couple of wines.
I took other photographs today. I will post some more later.
Mount Tamborine is a beautiful area with village-type shopping. Further along towards the southern end of the mountain at Eagle Heights is "Gallery Walk". "Gallery Walk" is a tourist strip with an abundance of art/craft stores, cafe's etc. There are numerous Bed & Breakfast accommodation houses on the mountain, together with, restaurants, wineries, a cheese-maker and a liqueur distillery amongst other inviting temptations. The mountain can, at times, seem a million miles from everywhere else and yet, Brisbane, the capital of Queensland is only approximately 90 minutes drive away...less depending on the weight of one's foot, and the Gold Coast is approximately 30-45 minutes away.
I hope as I become more familiar with the laying out my photos and can claim a little amount of expertise at doing so, my posts won't be as "higgedly-piggedly" as this one is. Bear with me, please...I can only get better...one would hope!
Friday, February 23, 2007
While you are there, vote for "emmekelley" in the "give-away" post. She is well-deserving...a worthy recipient.
I went out and about this morning taking photos of everything and anything that wasn't moving, also of that which was moving! The latter might not have been captured in the frame because they were moving too fast!
As I was standing outside of my favourite restaurant up here on the mountain taking a few shots of the exterior, the chef/owner poked his head out the kitchen window. In his hand was a massive knife. I quickly re-introduced myself to him (I have met him previously, and I know he reads my weekly food articles in the local rag). Upon recognising me, he put the knife down! Whew! I experienced a few nervous seconds there for a while!
If any of the photographs I took are worth showing, I will post them later. All criticisms are welcome. Treat me gently and handle me with care. I'm a sensitive soul, you know!
I read an interesting little article in today's paper. A Channel 7 TV reporter who supplied chains to lock an 84-year old woman to a nursing home door for a story in their current affairs programme shown each week night at 6.30pm to beat-up a story, has been sacked by the Seven Network. Makes one wonder just how many other stories shown on our 'illustrious' current affairs programmes are similarly set up. All done in the art of telling a good story! Well, it didn't do much good for that reporter, who is now looking for another job. "He's gone to pursue other opportunities," the Network said last night. I guess that's another way of putting it!
Thursday, February 22, 2007
There's only one way for me to go now; that's onwards and upwards, forward to the goal of my five-hundredth post. However, let's not yet become too carried away or excited, this is only my four-hundred and onethestethestest!
A friend popped in, hence my writing of this post was interrupted for an hour or so, while we shared a bottle of wine, a platter of cheese, olives and crackers. At my request, he made for me a little step, which will serve many purposes. His visit heralded its completion. I could, perhaps, have hammered together a remote likeness of what I wanted, but he is very adept and most particular in the department of cabinetry etc., plus he has all the suitable tools required. My sparsely equipped tool box contains various sized nails and screws, two small hammers, brackets, hooks, a variety of screw drivers and a couple of pairs of pliers thrown in for good measure. If I'd attempted to make what I needed, the end result probably would have fallen apart at first glance, let alone stepping upon it! I asked if he would do this for me over lunch last Saturday. So here it is Friday, and already he has built and delivered it to me. Now, that's what I call 'good service'. I don't offer everyone a bottle of wine and cheese, though...only my very best friends!
Back to the filming of the sales/marketing video for the island and our dear protagonist, Mark. I should have learned my lesson from previous performances by Mark and not let myself be fooled by his photogenic self. He was a fairly good-looking young lad, in a home-spun kind of way. A thick crop of wavy black hair framed his open face. He wasn't built like "Arnie", but he was of a fine physique. I'm not fond of men with similar physiques to that of "The Terminator", anyway.
Depending on the winds, it wasn't often boat trips could be organised to Zoe Bay on the south-eastern coast of Hinchinbrook Island. Being on the outer, eastern coast of the island, the seas were frequently under the commands and pressures of the south-easterly winds, making travel south along that side of the island impossible or far too uncomfortable for our guests. Fortunately, during the making of the video, a perfect day dawned. After a rapid early liaison with Bob over in Cardwell, the owner-skipper of the "Reef Venture", a trip to Zoe Bay was organised and announced to the guests as they breakfasted in the restaurant. My chef prepared a picnic lunch for everyone. I decided, for once, I would go on the boat trip. I didn't want to give up an opportunity to visit Zoe, a place I'd heard so much about; and everything I had heard about Zoe Bay and Zoe Falls had been enticing. Both lived up to my expectations.
Peter, Maree and I joined the merry band of guests aboard the "Reef Venture", with the intention of not only enjoying the day-trip, but also to film the day's adventures, together with the picturesque land and seascape along the way and, of course, the magnificence of our destination, which lies under the protection of the mighty awe-inspiring Mount Bowen, with its peaks almost permanently shrouded in clouds that rise above and drift out from its majesty.
Once the "Reef Venture" was anchored securely in the bay, only to be re-boarded later in the day for the return trip to the resort at Cape Richards, we disembarked, full of high-spirits. Making our noisy way ashore through the crystal-clear waters of the bay, everyone was in the mood for a fun-filled day. Once across the reasonably wide stretch of clean, fine sand, we were met with the entrance to a tropical rain-forest. With about only one percent of the sunlight that shines on the crowns of the trees' canopies reaching the forest floor, the dense shade and coolness have a pleasant effect on a hot, tropical day. The luminescence, an essence of a translucent pale-green light filtering through the many, many species of rain-forest and palms, diffused in places by a fine mist, casts a spell over all who wander in it presence. It's a magical, evanescent experience. One would have to be without feeling not to succumb to its wonder and breathless beauty.
For the latter stages of the trek from beach to the pool beneath Zoe Falls, we hung closely to the banks of the creek that gushed mountain waters into the sea. Climbing over large, smooth river-boulders and stones, the happy group of 'adventurers' chatted amongst themselves along the way. I stayed close to Peter and Lyn assisting them with their camera equipment. After about twenty to twenty-five minutes, the forest opened up to a splendid vista of the falls, its foaming waters a continual fulsome stream flowing into the welcoming open mouth of the pool at its base.
It didn't take long for everyone to toss off their outer clothes down to their swimsuits beneath. Eagerly, we all joined the fresh-water Perch that showed no fear of the human presence in their underwater domain. I guess they knew they would be in for an easy, tasty lunch that day from our lunch scraps. There's nothing quite like mountain water. It's so crisp, crystal clear and clean. It makes one's skin feel like silk and one's hair like the finest spun gossamer. There is no product produced by man that feels as good as mountain water upon your skin and hair.
Peter was hard at work, filming. To the southern side of the falls and the pool, was a thick 'Tarzan' rope. All the guests, and the staff (which included Mark and Bronnie) who came on the trip, were soon clambering over each other and the rocky cliff-face to swing from the rope out across the water, to then let go of the rope, to crash into the refreshing effervescence of the pool, as you do in such situations. I didn't and don't. I'm not that brave. Unashamedly, I admit that to you right here and now!
Of course, Mark had to try his prowess! Up he went with great fanfare. Down he came with equally great fanfare! Unintentionally, he performed the best belly-flop I've ever seen. And, I still have it on video tape to prove that it was! As for the role of 'Tarzan'...he didn't get it.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
When I was preparing myself for the move to the island I was still living in Noosa Heads, as most of you already have read. A couple of young people I knew from the arcade in which my store was situated begged me for a job up on the island. They were seeking adventure, and at that particular moment in time, they were a ‘couple’. (Something I’d completely forgotten until just now writing this…) Their pleading, cajoling and begging wore me down; they didn’t have to threaten torture. I relented and gave in before they ventured that far.
Mark, a nice young lad of pleasant disposition, was the nephew of a guy who owned and ran a dive shop next to my store in
Mark and Bronnie were five of my original staff members who joined me on the island from Noosa Heads. Three of the five were brought up for the initial period to help with the renovations that had to be carried out, one a plumber, one a builder/carpenter and the other an electrician. It was almost like ‘home away from home’ during the first couple of months.
I wasn’t quite sure what Mark was capable of doing and, as I got to know him further and watch him work, I still wasn’t quite sure! However, he was a nice kid. He was eager to please and keen to be amongst the ‘early settlers’. He joined the melee just before I re-opened the resort, once the major renovations were completed. I anointed him ‘barman’ (this was before Johnno joined my merry band of pirates). He and Bronnie eventually ‘broke-up’ and went their separate ways. After a while, Mark returned to
The major renovation work around the resort was completed, but as you can imagine, there was still a lot of work being carried on around the perimeters and up at the guest cabins. Guests, once they’d had their breakfasts either would grab a prepared picnic lunch before heading off for walks through the rainforest to other deserted beaches for the day, or some would board the ‘Reef Venture”, the reef cat that serviced the island, for trips to the Brook Islands, a distance away at the outer reef, to Ramsay Bay or across to Goold Island for a fun-filled day.
Mark’s first working day arrived.
Ted, my head maintenance guy (and knighted ‘python charmer) had everyone organized pushing wheelbarrows full of I-don’t-know-what, toting long beams of hardwood, shifting outdoor concrete tiles/blocks around…the air was alive and hectic with activity. Mark strolled down dressed in a very colourful shirt over freshly-ironed knee-length, spotlessly clean shorts. Begrudgingly, I have to say his shirt was slightly reminiscent of
“What are you doing, Mark?” I asked querulously.
“Um…the bar…” he said, his voice trailing off as he tentatively looked about him.
“Oh…” said I. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. As gently as I could, I pointed out to him that there were no customers, and the likelihood of us having any around the bar until about that evening, was extremely remote. As diplomatically as possible, I also pointed out it wasn’t very productive his just standing there with a smile on his face in the desperate hope even a sole, desperate drinker would arrive. I also suggested, if such did eventuate, one of us, or the chef even, could run to the bar and commit the deed of drink service. Soon thereafter, he reappeared in more suitable work clothes as Ted’s ‘goffer’.
So this was Mark. A pleasant young man who sometimes needed prodding to wake up either the right side or left side of his brain, or sometimes both sides.
My intention here is not to be nasty. I’m painting a picture of Mark for you. He settled into life on the island, and, for a while, was happy in his day-to-day jobs helping Ted and the other guys. At night, he was barman-material.
The Australian Tourist Exchange (ATE) is the largest tourist exposition/convention in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s held in June each year in
Before my first ATE, I had to produce a video depicting the island’s pleasures and temptations. I had very little time to do this but it had to be done for me to offer to ‘clients’ at the ATE and also to have playing in my stand on a television set while I ‘sold’ my product to the clients. Before I go any further, the daily sessions of the ATE commenced at . Individual sessions last fifteen minutes; two minutes prior to the completion of the fifteen minutes, a bell would ring alerting both the seller and the buyer that there were two minutes left before moving on to the next booth/appointment. Then a further bell would ring at the one-minute mark, then the session would be wrapped up; the buyer would move on to its next appointment and your next client would move in on you ready for your spiel. This went on, non-stop except for one hour for lunch, ending at each day, for five days. Often, of course, the hours were extended and further business was conducted in the evening. It wasn’t all ‘beer and skittles’…by the end of each day, and in particular, by the end of the five days, one’s mind was fused together and confusion would set in whether you had already said ‘that’ to that person sitting in front of you, or were they sitting there waiting for you to start your selling pitch! I’m sure the ‘buyers’ were going through similar confusion as we, the “sellers” were.
Anyway I’ll get back to producing the video. I arranged for friends of mine from the
Obviously being a latent/closeted movie director, I planned a few ‘staged’ scenes in the said video cassette. One such scene was me admiring the ‘catch of the day’ “caught” by one of my male guests. I organised for him to stand, gloating, proudly holding up a huge barramundi (a very much prized Aussie fish for you all up there in the Northern Hemisphere). I had just pulled the giant, frozen barramundi out of one of my freezers. Nobody viewing the cassette was any the wiser. My deception lives to this day…or did, until I revealed all here!
I wanted to depict weary, but happy guests arriving back to the resort at the end of the day from one of the boat trips to the outer reef or elsewhere around the island waters. So, donning my director’s cap, tossing aside my director’s chair, and grabbing the ‘clapboard’, I barked orders (not quite ‘barked’), arranged everyone on their invisibly-marked spots. Count-down was about to commence!
Mark arrived down to the restaurant area to prepare for his evening shift. Immediately, seizing the moment, I grabbed him, instructing him that I wanted him to help set the scene; for him to nonchalantly stroll along the path in the background that headed up to the island cabins; and for him to look and act naturally, to ignore that the camera was rolling; for him to keep walking until I called out for him to stop. The guests, excited that they were to feature in the island video, a cassette, copies of which would eventually go throughout the world, eagerly waited my order for them to begin their part in the mini-Cecil Lee. De Mille production! They handled their roles with the expertise of seasoned stars.
Meanwhile, Mark had disappeared out of sight! Lost in my own directorial confusion in the process, I forgot to yell out to him to stop! I think if I hadn’t finally realized what was happening unnoticed in the background, he would have ended up at the other end of Hinchinbrook Island. The island you must remember, is 245 square-miles in area, with the resort situated on the far north-eastern tip of the island at Cape Richards. To this day, I am certain he would never have been seen again, or at least, not for a couple of months or so. And then, if he was found, he’d be completely unrecognizable!The scene still causes me to smile when I play the video tape bringing back memories of that time and that particular afternoon.
Monday, February 19, 2007
One article here in front of me tells me how to "improve my understanding of money". That's an easy one! I just wish I had more of it to understand!
Or this one; "Search for lost money"...I'm forever looking at the ground at car-parks, footpaths, wherever my feet may tread...I never have any luck in finding lost money. Oh! I lie...I found five cents the other day.
Gearing risk...I do have that problem. My clutch box in my car is making strange noises.
"They" also tell us how to set goals. Well, I can set the goals all right, but I'm a bit like a cricket player when it comes to kicking the football through the goal posts!
This is post 399! I wonder what I will write about in my post number four hundred!
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Being an honest person, I freely admit there have been times I have felt jealousy. No doubt, while I still have red blood flowing through my veins, I will continue to be jealous over certain issues.
I'm never jealous over another's wealth, fancy house, car...material things like those. However, if I care for someone special, if my feelings are deeper than 'care', of course I feel twinges of jealousy if I see other women fawning over him. I feel proud that he is worthy of 'fawning over', too, by the way. That proves what good taste in men I have! It would prove the man of my choice was worthy of my feelings and of his position on top of the high pedestal upon which I've placed, but that doesn't mean I haven't felt a little jealous at times. If I didn't, I wouldn't be human! Well, at least, I wouldn't be "Lee"! I'm a Scorpio. I'm a passionate, possessive lover! If I love someone, I don't want to share him! Nothing can be more simpler than that! Would you want to share your loved one? Of course not! Some do, I guess...but I'm not one of them, never have been and never will be.
To some that could be a weakness in another, jealousy, that is...so be it.
I've never stooped to jealous lows of pulling out hair or other acts of violence. That's not who I am, but I have, at times hurt quietly on the inside, while keeping up a brave face on the outside with no one being the wiser, other than myself. Love, emotion, jealousy, envy...strange feelings, sometimes, often times, beyond our individual control. They do take on a life of their own forcing us to go with the flow.
A little jealousy hurt no one, I believe, as long as one does not let it take over, never pandering to it or handing it power. As long as you look at the reality of a situation that caused you those jealousy tingles, you will be okay...and so will I!
Well-paid Prof. Tim Flannery, this year's 'Australian of the Year', hauls in hefty fees of up to $64,000.00 for his speeches on whether it's Global Warming or whether it's 'Climate Change' or whether it's 'Hot Air' causing the weather.
Richard Branson, who, by the way, in case anyone of you out there are still unaware, started off Virgin Airlines many years ago, has offered a princely amount of $25million to whoever comes up with a solution to rid us of these gases causing all this hot air. (I'm thinking of putting my hand up...I have a couple of solution ideas). Airlines, again for any of you who may not be aware, spread a bit of gas throughout the skies of our world. As do these well-paid 'experts'.
On the front page of this weekend's "Australian" newspaper, so I was told, cat's are being blamed as a cause of Global Warming/Climate Change/Or Whatever Weather because of their flatulence. As an aside, I've never heard nor sensed any of my cats being flatulent...ever! Some others want sheep and cattle banned because of the methane gases they emit. If these 'insignificant others' have their way, we might all end up being vegetarians whether we like it or not. If this , indeed, did eventuate...there may not be any beans, vegetables or legumes for us to eat....as there will be no natural fertilizers. Anyhow, beans would have to be banned. Chickens would have to be banned as they lay eggs and eggs would be banned. Cabbages would have to be on the banned list, as would onions, I guess. I could go on...but then I'd be aiding and abetting 'hot air'!
Of course, we mustn't forget our politicians, they add vastly to all of these hot air and gas emissions. Take Bob Brown, for instance, the leader of the Green Party (I can imagine going to one of his parties...not!). Actually, I wish somebody would 'take' him and lose him. What an idiotic suggestion he uttered the other day! He wants to ban all coal mining in this country. Of course, he had no alternative to offer...just ban all coal mining. Simple as that. Even I could make headlines with statements like that! I wonder how he will manage to travel from his electorate in Tasmania to Canberra and elsewhere? He could swim across Bass Strait then pedal his bicycle to every where else on the mainland, of course and then swim back to Tasmania when he's finished his troubadouring around the country. He could always camp along the way with his candles...I think he would be an expert at that. He'd better not use Petroleum Jelly to protect his body, though.
So whether it's the weather or perhaps in simpler terms, nature, these 'experts' continue to be paid well when they probably are the worst offenders of all!
Saturday, February 17, 2007
I'm not sure what came after the aftermath....as I'm still in the aftermath...but when I find out, I'll let you know!
Lunch and my guests have come and gone. We had a magical, fun, sometimes pensive, but alway interesting afternoon. As I said in my previous post, I prepare far too much food...but what's new? At least, I don't have to worry about where my next ten meals are coming from!
Fia, the distaff side of my friends, and I fell apart in a fit of giggles at one stage. I have no idea, really, what started our hysterics, but they lingered on for quite a while. Tears of laughter flowed down the cheeks of our faces, while Paul, Fia's husband, looked on in askance...which, I might add, is not a foreign expression for a man when two women who understand and like each other are together!
Today, 17th February was/is my mother's birthday. My mother passed away many years ago at a young age...far too young for someone who was once a very vibrant, beautiful woman. Tall of stature, with a proud bearing and perfect posture, my mother had deep auburn hair and blue eyes. As a child, when her teacher asked her from where she got her 'red' hair, her answer was, "My grandfather's moustache". He, I was told throughout my childhood, was a proud, somewhat precocious Irishman, with jet black hair and a ginger moustache. He married a wee lass from Scotland. On the maternal side, a staunch, brave Scots Highlander played his part in the gene pool.
My mother, Elma Flora Hay, typical of her flaming locks, was head-strong. She was an in-store mannequin...not one of those window dummies...but a walking, talking mannequin aka these days, model, who modeled, it is reported, the first two piece bathing suit in Queensland. This story I believe, as I have a photograph of her in such attire from that particular time, framed upon one of my walls. After she passed away, I had the original photograph 're-done' for posterity.
My mother was many things. Spoiled as a child, she learned dancing...ballet and tap, piano, horse-riding and was always dressed well. She was a very good dancer and in my tender years she taught others to dance...and tried valiantly with me. I succeeded to a degree. She was a brilliant pianist, either by ear or what she learned by her years under the guidance of a teacher. She could play anything from classical, to jazz, to blues, to modern..ballads to rock. She knew how to improvise and did it expertly. I don't say this because she was my mother. I say it because she could and did it very well. At one stage she was part of a dance band in Gympie, where I grew up. She was a huge fan of the style of Fats Waller. Even today, when I play his music...I have a couple of CDs of Fats Waller's marvellous ability at the keyboard...I hear my mother playing the piano whenever I play Waller. I must admit I don't do that very often. Something I might rectify this evening...just for old time's sake. Unfortunately, I didn't inherit my mother's excellence at the ebony and ivory. I'm a bit like a herd of elephants when it comes to the piano, even after five years of classes. I have to be honest here, though, while attending piano tuition, I did earn top marks in all my examinations, both theory and practical, I am absolutely hopeless now! I guess I don't have the 'saving' capacity...my fingers and mind are like sieves as far as retaining the ability of nimble fingers across the keyboard of a piano. I can pedal a pianola quite well, though...if that is any consolation! Please excuse my singing, though!
I did, however, inherit some of my mother's bad traits...impatience, for one! There are others, but I'm not going to divulge those. I'm going to keep you guessing! I would like to keep you thinking that I'm perfect in every way!!!!!!!!!
No matter what direction life took my mother...she always dressed well, sometimes...perhaps often, to the envy of others. She was a good woman, albeit complex. But then, who amongst us, isn't?
Today is a celebration of the life of Elma Flora Hay-Nicholson-Hill...my mother. The good and the bad...the human frailties of us all. Without her and Joe Nicholson, my father, I would not be here today. And...hey! That would be a sacrilege! What would I do without me? Here's lookin' at you kid!
PS....to everyone who trips through my door and whose door I poke my head around...sorry I've not visited you over the past couple of days. I promise you I will catch up with you all tomorrow!
Friday, February 16, 2007
I borrowed the following article from another blog but I thought it worthy of a repeat in here.
"I’ve just been told a heartbreaking story. And it’s one of those stories that usually end in total helplessness, but since I’m fortunate enough to have a forum like this weekly column at Townhall.com, I hope you’ll engage me for a minute or two and allow me to share this awful tale with you.
This morning, I heard from an old friend of mine, someone I knew many years ago when I was a young man in Ohio. I could hear the pain and anger in his voice, even after not talking with him in a number of years.
One of his closest friends, a young man named Nicholas, was killed in Iraq last month. This hero soldier had recently married his sweetheart and was home on leave when he and his wife welcomed their new baby into the world. A few weeks later, Nicholas lost his life in Iraq while fighting for his country.
As many soldiers before him had done, Nicholas had requested that if he wound up paying the ultimate sacrifice, he wanted to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington, of course, is sacred ground, the ultimate resting place for thousands of our nation’s bravest and finest Americans.
My friend drove from Ohio to D.C. to say good-bye to his friend. The ceremony was simple and poignant, the tears flowed freely. As the family left the cemetery, he lingered a bit at the grave with some other friends. They just couldn’t comprehend that their buddy was gone. Still can’t, in fact.
What they witnessed next was something that will haunt them forever.
With the family gone and the area cleared out, my friends watched as four civilian workers began to handle the casket. The honor guard was gone, the military escort had left. Just four workers and a beloved soldier, husband, father, and friend in a casket.
The men struggled to lift the casket and put it into the vault, which was up on some kind of a forklift. Evidently, the walls of the grave that had been dug were collapsing and they weren’t able to lower the casket into the ground. They watched as the men basically dumped the casket, like a load of garbage, into the vault. It crashed into the container, and the forklift spun it around like a top. My friend said there could be no doubt that Nicholas’ body would have been thrown around in the casket. In fact, he believes that the casket would have been damaged considering the way the men tossed it around in the container.
These witnesses cried out in anger and anguish. They went to Arlington’s administration office and encountered a sympathetic officer. “What would you like us to do?” he asked my friends. “We want the body exhumed so that Nicholas can be straightened out in the casket, the men who did this to him should be reprimanded, and there should be some kind of protocol change so that someone can oversee these soldier’s burials so that this can’t happen again to anyone else”, they said.
The officer was patient and kind and sympathetic, my buddy told me. But he indicated that none of that is likely to happen. He told him that there are, on average, 22 funerals a day at Arlington. This was probably an isolated case, he said. It would be too expensive to exhume the body. And there would be no plans to change their protocols.
Not long ago, there was a huge controversy that arose when an airline passenger saw a military casket loaded onto a baggage cart. She wrote a column that expressed her belief that the casket was loaded onto a cart with other luggage, an assertion the airline disputed. But at no point did the woman claim that the casket was tossed around or the body disturbed.
In this case, my friend insists that several civilian workers threw around their close friend like a rag doll. Their hearts were torn out over what they saw. They asked for, and expect, some kind of response. This isn’t the kind of person who will run to a lawyer threatening a lawsuit. He just wants to make sure his friend’s body is treated respectfully and that nothing like this can happen to anyone again.
On the phone, my friend began to cry. He called me, after all these years, because he didn’t know who else to turn to.
I don’t exactly know who to turn to, either. I certainly know some Congressmen and Senators who might be able to help. Maybe someone who reads this column can make some suggestions.
But I promised my friend that I would tell you his story.
At least that’s a start."
It's so sad and something has to be done about such behaviour. It is not unlike the story of our own Private Jake Kovco who died accidentally while serving in Iraq and when it came time to return his body to Australia, whoever was responsible sent the wrong body home. That was a shocking error and one that should not have occurred. What happened in the above article is another example of total disrespect for our people in the Armed Forces.
On a much, much lighter note, I have friends coming to lunch today. All is prepared, with nothing further to do than open the wine upon their arrival and lay out the food. Oh! Of course...the eating of said food and drinking of said wine! But then that should go without saying. The day is pleasantly cooler than what is normal expected at this time of the year here in South East Queensland, so that's a 'plus'. Actually, I was up very early this morning and it was quite cool in the wee hours. I'm not complaining, however. I can take as much of this as Hughie wants to give. I think more rain will fall throughout the day.
I've prepared a salmon mousse (that's not plural for "mouse") with other accompaniments as a starter. To be followed by a chicken, toasted pine-nuts, walnuts, crisp pancetta, grilled haloumi cheese, cherry tomatoes, red onion and mesclun salad, marinated bbq pork spare ribs, and two different varieties of small pizzas...one kind is chicken, marinated asparagus and artichoke....and sopressa, grilled capsicum/peppers, semi-sundried tomatoes and marinated champignon is the other variety. I made a Panna Cotta with blueberry coulis as dessert.
Again, I've got far too much food for three people, but if all is not eaten...it's left-overs for me tomorrow. I was asked to dinner with neighbours and friends this evening but I declined. One thing is certain after today's lunch, I definitely won't feel like eating again this evening. (I think I must have a phantom diner at the other chair to help in the eating of all this food! I know he's there!)
Thursday, February 15, 2007
I shared a bottle of champagne with a couple of my neighbours late on St. Valentine's Day afternoon. A little soiree we sometimes have. I don't see them often, mainly because I keep pretty much to myself and am always doing 'my own thing'. As it was St. Valentine's Day, we thought we would enjoy a tipple, while also, I was introduced to their new family member...a beautiful furry little kitten. Of course, I became immediately smitten! He is a darling little fellow. They didn't have much luck with the kitten they got a couple of months ago. "Polly" was free-spirited, very sociable and very, very adventurous. She disappeared one morning never to be seen or heard of again. In positive mode, I believe she found herself another home, probably one with a large dog that she can tease and terrorise. I think the new kitten, "Olly" is of a different disposition. Already he's a home-body, enjoying many cuddles and not venturing far from their verandah.
Just before heading up to their home I somehow did something untoward to my back. The wine eased the burden a little, but for the balance of the evening after arriving home, I had difficulty sleeping and then all day yesterday I was either resting, trying to exercise the damn thing or feeling sorry for myself! Resting and feeling sorry for myself won the battle....with "feeling sorry for myself" easing its nose in front.
Then out of the blue last night, I received a couple of longed-for emails from a friend and then a call from said friend. It had been a while since we had spoken (a little while can seem like an eternity to me sometimes). His contact was a magical elixir for not only my back, but my spirits. I hope he realises just how much hearing from him means to me. His contact was the medicine I needed. My back is still a little stiff, but I can feel it's much better this morning than yesterday, so it's well on the mend. My spirits...what can I say....they are high! Definitely mended!
While we were talking my cats were grumbling as they wanted me to go back to bed. When I eventually did, Remy, my male cat, who weighs half a ton, decided the best way to keep me there was to lay on me. This he did as if to say, "You ain't going anywhere, lady!"
As I have a tendency to prolong any celebrations, I've decided to extend St. Valentine's Day.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
SPREADING THE LOVE!
I couldn't let the day go by without spreading a little love. Even though many of us say St. Valentine's Day is far too commercialized, it doesn't have to be so. It can be what we make it. St. Valentine's day can be simple, kept low-key but still a day for romantic gestures and thoughts, whether or not one has a paramour at one's side or in some case, he or she maybe far, far away. With so much hate in the world, a celebration of love is a wonderful celebration and one that shouldn't be confined to just one day.
Let's all raise our glasses to 'love'...to those we love...to those we have loved...and to those we've yet to love.
Wilderness of the Heart
In the deep of night like the ancient call of the dingo
My heart howls in the darkness I weep despairingly
Wondering why my precious love you chose to forego
Tenacious images of you tease my mind persistently
Times past, times to come and today a lonely journey
Forever seeking with hopeful breaths of expectation
Through the frenzy of life blindfolded by melancholy
I exist in an artificial world surrounded by frustration
I love you dearly…I know that now
As time unfolds your presence I adore
A lost lonely spirit I appeared before
You strode into my life without a care
Showing me the way to trust love to share
Without your support the belief I so need
I would flounder stumble never to heed
Heart’s yearning desire its plaintive plea
I reach out to you for the guidance to be
My arms enfold you my soul inspired anew
Without you an eternity…
With you moments too few
Happy St. Valentine's Day To You All!
Poems and butterfly painting by me.
Monday, February 12, 2007
More Island Tales.
After the dramatic sadness of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, it’s time I returned to relating happier, uplifting moments of my life on Hinchinbrook Island.
Air Whitsundays’ Grumman Mallard, as pictured above, flew guests to the island, departing from Townsville airport and landing in the waters off to the left of the island jetty. Wide-eyed guests alighted from the door at the rear of the aircraft, as a couple of staff members and I protected the punt from the Mallard’s fuselage. Depending on the seas on any one day, this could, sometimes, be quite an effort. The Grumman Mallard was an amphibian aircraft that could land on either land or water, a flying boat with wheels. It was a cumbersome old aircraft but so very beautiful. I loved flying in the old girl. The Grumman Mallard was first produced in 1946. Only 59 were built. It was rumoured this particular aircraft was once owned by the Aga Khan. Upon landing on the ocean, water would leak through the top of the plane into the cabin. This, of course, caused a certain amount of consternation to the passengers. One story we often told the guests after they’d settled in to the island way of life, while they enjoyed a drink around the bar, was about an elderly lady who boarded the Grumman Mallard at Townsville airport, only to land on the waters off Hinchinbrook. No one had thought to explain to her this would happen. On the verge of a heart attack or nervous break-down, she downed a bottle of scotch upon reaching the island bar!
A new group of eager, albeit stressed, guests arrived. Amongst them, a reserved, shy, bearded young man of around 36 years of age. He placed himself outside of the guests circling the bar the first evening, preferring to watch and listen and not partake in the merriment. On the second evening of his stay, I joined him at the end of the bar, coaxing him to converse. His speech was slightly impaired. Quietly, we spoke at length. After a while, he relaxed and told me about his past eighteen months. He had suffered a stroke. The stroke was the reason for him growing his beard as a disguise for the disfigurement to one side of his face. He was a lawyer in Sydney. He told me of the shock caused from suffering a stroke at such a young age. Richard was his name. Richard told me the hardest part of all after his stroke was looking in the mirror and not recognizing the person staring back at him. Also, that he had to learn how to speak and eat again. For some time after the stroke he had to use a straw as he couldn’t chew food. His holiday to the island was his form of therapy to get his life back on track. His reticence in joining the other guests was from his lack of confidence in himself and his appearance. I assured Richard there was little wrong with his speech and that he was easily understood. I also assured him, what he called his ‘disfigurement’, was hardly discernable and that people could care less…and if anyone did, then they were not worthy of the generosity of his company and time. That night I dined with some of the guests and insisted that he join us. I told him I would make it worth his while and tempted him with a bottle or two of Henschke’s “Hill of Grace”. Those of you, who know your Australian red wines, will know that “Hill of Grace” is almost on par to Penfolds Grange Hermitage. In those days on the island, I always kept a case of “Hill of Grace” ‘out the back’ for special guests and moments. I believed this was one of those moments and that Richard was a special guest. He was a special fellow.
As things happen, on the Sunday night of his stay, everyone was in a very happy, partying mood. Spontaneously, a party broke out amongst the guests and the staff. I raced over to my house and grabbed some cassettes to add to those in the restaurant. Everyone was laughing, talking and dancing together. Again, Richard hovered around the outskirts of the group. I took a couple of my staff aside and asked them to go to the laundry room taking the guests with them to commandeer the guests into dressing in togas made from some of the older, floral sheets we seldom used. Without any hesitation, the guests followed my girls in high hilarity.
Soon, they all reappeared. In not time at all, ‘toga party’ was under way. I grabbed a spare sheet, threw it at Richard, who had no other choice than to wrap it around himself,over the clothes he was wearing. I didn’t heed his protests as I clutched his arm and dragged him over to the rest of the dancing party. His protests were quickly drowned out by the singing, dancing, laughing group of people. Before too long, he forget his reserve, his shyness and any affliction he ‘thought’ he had. The other guests took him under their wings and he was high-kicking higher than them!
Someone, I forget who, lead the merry group out onto the deck and, of course, soon thereafter everyone was in the pool. It was a wonderfully, happy, unexpected harmless evening, one that re-affirmed the greatness of people, and one that restored the joy of life to one young man.
The day arrived for Richard’s departure. He had spent seven days and nights on the island. It was an emotional time. My staff, other guests and I were sad to see him leave, but happy knowing we had made a difference. I had tears as I bade him farewell at the end of the jetty. He asked if he could take a photograph of me. I said, “Sure…as long as I can take one of you!” We took one of each other, taking one of each other! I still have the photograph amongst my Hinchinbrook Island memorabilia.
About two weeks after Richard’s departure, I received a letter from him, in which he wrote that he felt renewed and rejuvenated in a way that no amount of professional therapy could have done. He was now ready to face life with confidence. He thanked all of us on the island for helping him. Without us, he said, he would still be battling the demons. Tears fell as I read his letter, but I felt proud, not only for what he thought we had done, but at having the opportunity of knowing Richard. I often wonder how his life progressed after his holiday on the island. I wished him well, and I still do, wherever he may be.