|Hilton Hotel, Brisbane|
|Brisbane's Hilton Hotel from another angle|
|Jimmy Sharman Boxing Troupe|
|A couple of my island "kids" on board the "Reef Venture" with the skipper, Bob and his brother; and the girls again on the beach|
|Ramsay Bay, Hinchinbrook Island|
Having flown out of Hobart airport without success in my all-consuming search for my elusive roast leg of lamb dinner, finally I was headed northbound once again; but it would be another 8 days or more before I’d reach my island home and my island “kids” again.
Somewhere along the line I’d begun an unconscious habit. More often than not I referred to my staff as “the kids” or “my kids”. Overall, I had good staff. Naturally, like everywhere else, I had a couple of “bad apples”, but they were soon told to move on; and thereafter any upsetting of the “apple-cart” ceased.
It became second nature to me to refer to my staff as “the kids”. Jokingly, my staff at times even called me “Mum”. I’ve written a previous post a couple of years ago about Mother’s Day on the island. It was a lot of harmless fun; and as I’ve never had children of my own, it was the first and only Mother’s Day I’ve celebrated. It was unforgettable.
Our life on the island was completely different to life on the mainland. We were a small community; a community who cared about each other. At most, excluding guests, our number reached 15, but the majority of the time, there was only12. All of my staff, except my head maintenance man, Ted and Burnie, one of his off-siders, lived in the self-contained staff quarters; some chose to share a room; others lived singularly. Ted and Burnie shared a two-bedroom cabin. I had my own little abode away well away from the restaurant and my staff. There were moments of discord, of course; and if things got a little out of control, I would call a “round-table meeting”, and very soon all problems would disappear. We were in our own little world on the island.
A guest asked me once, straight of face, if, in fact, they were all my children! She was serious and very curious to know. At the moment of asking there was not a humorous bone in her body or face! I gently set her on the straight and narrow path. What concerned me most was Ted, my head maintenance man, a trusted and extremely loyal member of my staff was a year or two older than me! I’ve heard of “starting young”, but that was ridiculous!
Having wrapped up my futile, fruitless search for the Tasmanian Tiger and the Tassie Lamb – please don’t misunderstand me, I had a fun time while also attending to other important Tasmanian pleasures and, of course, business - I filled the hours of Monday, 6th July 1987 travelling between Hobart and Launceston, collecting a parking ticket for my efforts; and then back to Hobart once again; from there, on the same day, I managed to fit in fleeting visits to the tarmacs of Melbourne and Sydney while still encased in the giant silver bird. Finally, my day culminated in Brisbane around 8 pm on Monday night.
Looking like an uncoordinated pack horse while struggling with my luggage I attracted the attention of an obliging, most pleasant airport employee; probably because he’d never before seen such as sight as I!
Along with my two suitcases bearing my personal items that included the many purchases I’d made during my times spent in Sydney and Melbourne en route to Hobart, I had a truckload of promotional material, such as posters, banners, brochures and videos. Explaining my reason for taking up his time my new-found friend allowed me to store the majority of my extraneous marketing material in an allocated area behind the baggage carousel; not only that, he assisted me in doing so. Storing the excess baggage, and taking with me only what I needed while in Brisbane was a better option than having to lug all of it into the city with me, and then back out to the airport again when I was ready to depart Brisbane for north Queensland a week later.
As it was, when I approached the waiting cabs out front of the airport terminal I sensed a combined shudder emanating from all the taxi drivers when they spotted me heading towards them with my two suitcases and three or more cartons. Some even slunk down in their seats in the hope I wouldn’t notice them; but that could have been my imagination at play!
It had been a long day, but not an unpleasant one. I’d travelled approximately 3000 kilometres (1864 miles) in 13 hours or so.
By the time I arrived in the inner city and found myself standing in front of the Hilton Hotel’s reception desk checking in I was relieved to finally have my feet back firmly on the ground. More precisely, after I’d ridden the lift (elevator) to the heights where my room was situated upon entering my room I immediately discarded my shoes and revelled in the feeling of the plush carpet beneath my bare feet; simultaneously I exhaled a sigh of contentment. I was back in Queensland. I was familiar with Brisbane. After all, I had spent 14 years living and working in the city.
My hotel room was on one of the upper floors of the 25 storey hotel; from memory, I was on the 24th floor or thereabouts.
Brisbane’s Hilton Hotel was practically brand new when I took up residence. It had been constructed in 1986, the year before my arrival. The hotel had a multi-million dollar refurbishment last year, 2012.
My first night in Brisbane after arriving back from Tasmania was spent quietly with a light room service meal and a couple of Scotches on the rocks; finished off with a reasonably early night as a chaser.
On my agenda for the ensuing couple of days was a list of city and inner city travel agencies I intended visiting to spread the good word about Hinchinbrook Island Resort.
At the end of the week from the Friday through to the Sunday, the Brisbane Holiday-Travel Expo was being held; where, once more, I’d be in attendance spruiking like the legendary boxing troupe impresario Jimmy Sharman in front of his boxing tent at Australia’s annual shows; beckoning and coaxing all and sundry to gather around so they could learn about the beauties of the island; and the indisputable reasons why they should seriously think about holidaying at my tropical resort.
Between 11 and 11.30 am on my third day in Brisbane, after being out since early morning doing the rounds fulfilling a hectic schedule that consisted of me doing a lot of talking, I returned to the hotel to restock my briefcase; followed by a light lunch before racing off again to whatever duties awaited me in the afternoon. I needed something to wet my whistle so I entered what was in those days known as the “Sportsman’s Bar”, I think, from memory. It was a vast room with a very high ceiling and bare, polished wood flooring. A rectangular or square bar took pride of place at the room’s centre. The only other person than me in the bar was the sole barman. He was busily polishing glasses and setting up the bar in readiness for future patrons to descend upon him.
I walked across the room in my high heels, but soon I found myself walking on my toes in an effort to cushion the strident sound of my heels clacking across the timber floor boards. Perching myself upon a bar stool, I ordered a Bloody Mary while exchanging brief pleasantries with the obliging bartender. Having expertly prepared my drink he placed it before me and immediately went about his chores, leaving me to my own devices and thoughts, which suited me. Then as now, I enjoy my own space and solitude…my “quiet” moments to put thoughts in order and pigeon-hole others.
However, unintentionally, I unexpectedly broke the silence. The fresh, crisp piece of celery that garnished my Bloody Mary was too tempting for me to ignore. Taking a bite, the crunch was so loud it echoed, reverberating throughout the empty bar like a thunderclap! It bounced off the walls, floor and ceiling! It was so loud it drew the busy bartender’s attention to me! I burst out laughing and I apologised for disturbing the peace. He returned my mirth in kind, so I didn’t feel too embarrassed. The noise the little bit of celery, with my assistance, caused would have woken up a sleeping grandfather!
With each passing day I became more settled into the Hilton. I felt as if I was one of the “family”. As I came and went each day, and often, a few times a day, the friendly staff on the reception desk, and elsewhere greeted me pleasantly above and beyond their normal day-to-day expected smiles to the hotel’s guests. My presence and face were familiar to them. It was a nice feeling. I enjoyed our greetings; our brief chats and smiles.
I’d already admitted defeat, if only to myself, and I’d given up my search for a roast lamb dinner.
The Holiday-Travel Show commenced, drawing thousands of interested visitors through its doors.
On the Thursday night before the expo opened I went to dinner with some of my fellow expo participants to a restaurant I used to work in part-time at night years before when Brisbane was my home city. It seemed like an eternity ago…and it probably was in one aspect because my life had changed drastically since those days…the days when the restaurant was known as “The Pelican Tavern”. It was situated in St. Paul’s Terrace, Fortitude Valley. I have written about the “Tavern” in previous posts.
Mr. Kyriol Wypow, “The Pelican Tavern’s” builder/owner/chef had passed away a number of years previously; and the night in 1987 when I visited the premises, the tavern was no longer; it had morphed into a Mongolian restaurant. To me, it was such a vast change in outfit…and ambience. Even though I had a pleasant evening, I much preferred my time spent at the tavern when it was uniquely, “The Pelican Tavern”.
On the Saturday night, I’d again been invited out to dine. At the closing of the Expo’s doors I raced back to my hotel room to shower and change. I wandered out from the bathroom after applying fresh make-up, not taking much notice of what was around me. I was putting on a pair of earrings when I glanced towards the window; and remember, I’m about 23 or 24 storeys up high in the Hilton.
I did double-take! Actually, I think I took a triple and a quadruple take, if not more. I lost count or lost my concentration to count. I couldn’t believe my eyes; and I’d not yet even had one drink! I did, however, begin to question my sanity!
Out on the ledge of the narrow balcony that ran along the outer side of the fixed window of my hotel room was a Siamese cat! As calm as you like, or as it liked, the cat strolled gracefully along the edge; not teetering; not looking down. I dared not move. If, in fact, it wasn’t an apparition; a figment of my imagination, I didn’t want to surprise it causing the animal to descend below to the nether regions. That wasn’t a pretty thought! I stood frozen to the spot, not game to move; I just stared at the cat! I probably did blink a few times, to try to clear my vision. And then, the cat was gone. He had moved onto the next balcony’s railing; probably causing my neighbour to have a fainting spell, also. I thought I heard a thump!
I was to meet my dinner partner in the hotel’s foyer. Having completed my dressing, I caught the lift down to the reception area.
Recognising the girls behind the reception desk, I walked across to them to tell them about the cat, all the time fearing they were going to think I’d lost my mind; but, what hell, I decided to toss all my inhibitions to the wind, and take my chances!
“I just saw the strangest thing! I know you’re going to think I’m crazy. I think I’m crazy; but I just saw a cat…a cat walked past my window…and I’m up on the 24th (sic) floor! And, no! I haven’t been drinking; but I’m about to start!”
They burst out laughing.
One of the girls took control of the situation: “Oh! Was it a Siamese?”
I’d lost my vocal powers so I just nodded dumbly.
Displaying no surprise or shock, she informed me; “He does that all the time. Don’t worry – he’s never fallen.”
My mouth fell open. If any flies had been flying around I would have caught them all!
“What do you mean? This is a normal occurrence?” I spluttered.
“Yes! He belongs to the hotel manager. They live on the floor above your room; and he’s their cat. He roams all over the hotel…on the outside from floor to floor - railing to railing!”
“Oh! Okay!” I responded, shaking my head. “That’s a relief! I’ve not gone crazy after all, but I’m still going to have a few drinks!”
I joined the girls in their laughter; and I went on my way.
I had an interesting story to tell over dinner that night!
Finally the day came for me to board a flight out of Brisbane on its way to Townsville, my second last stop-over before returning to Hinchinbrook. The only stop-over after Townsville was an overnighter at Cardwell.
The island was drawer closer; or I was to it.
The distance between Brisbane and Townsville is 1,3578kms (844 miles); and the distance between Townsville and Cardwell is 165kms or 103 miles.
My excitement levels were rising to heights as high as my Hilton Hotel room the closer I got to home…and my “kids”…and my guests; and, last, but by no means least, my beloved ginger cat, “Ruska”. I knew he would have been missing me, like I’d been missing him. He and I went together like ham and cheese; Abbott & Costello, or Martin & Lewis!
I caught a Greyhound bus to Cardwell, where I stayed overnight at The Lyndoch Motel…the motel I described in a previous post a couple of weeks ago.
Early on the morning shortly before I was to jump on board the “Reef Venture”, the powered catamaran contracted to the island to transport guests and provisions across the waters, I paid a visit to Cardwell’s butcher.
The local butcher supplied the island’s meat demands. He supplied all the restaurant’s needs, and those of my staff. The butcher greeted me warmly as I bounded through his door, demanding, laughingly, two of the largest, sweetest legs of lamb he had in stock.
I was going home…and I was going to feed my “kids”…and me…roast lamb for dinner that night…with all the obligatory roasted vegetables, and all the other equally obligatory accompaniments, including, of course, mint sauce – lashing of mint sauce!
As we passed Missionary Bay en route to Cape Richards where the resort and my home awaited the island jetty came into view. My heart was almost jumping out of my chest as the “Reef Venture” and I drew closer and closer. I could see members of my staff waiting at the jetty’s end.
The first thing I said when I leapt of the boat was; ‘“Mother’s” home! And we’re having roast lamb for dinner!”
An exuberant cheer burst out and echoed across the water as my “kids” gathered around me.
There’s no place like home; no matter where home is!