Wednesday, December 26, 2007

And The Party Continues....

...showing no signs of ending!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I did! And the celebrations continue here "Down Under". I'm not sure when it all will end, or, for that matter, if I'll survive! But I come from pretty strong stock, so I won't give up or in! Time enough for sleep later!

My left-over visitor has snuck off to the pub to replenish the supplies, so I've taken this opportunity to sneak in here to catch up with you. If I was sensible (and I'm not), I'd be trying to catch a nap. However, the local liquor store is only a few moments away, so I really don't have time to have a worthwhile "catch-up" sleep!

Christmas Day was a bonanza of guests, food, champagne, wine and goodwill. I think it was only a couple of days ago, but as I've lost track of time and days, I really have no idea. I do know I had and am still having a marvellous time.

Now the run-down to New Year's Eve is upon us all. Although I'm sure I still have enough food within my household to last until New Year's Eve 2009, I'll be doing a run to the butcher on New Year's Eve to pick up some good, thick, juicy steaks as I'm planning a small barbecue. What's New Year's Eve without a good old Aussie barbie, I ask you? I might even do a "Paul Hogan" and throw a few "prawns/shrimp on the barbie", just because I can!

My two cats have just sighed, given up and decided to go with the flow. I think I've done similar as I know I will have no peace until around 2nd January 2008...not that I'm complaining, mind you! 'Tis all lots of fun and good cheer.

After a fairly erratic, and at times, a downright annoying 2007, I'm quite happy to bid it farewell with a loud"bang", and to be able to optimistically look forward to 2008. I have a gut feeling 2008 has a lot of good things in store for me, and I hope, likewise, for all of you.

Towards the end of next week, I'll have to take off my party hat, hide away the whistles, burst the balloons and burn the streamers, as it will then be time to get serious...head down and bum up to describe it with will be beckoning, and I shall have to heed the call!

Even though 2007 had its "moments", amongst those wasted times that I have since chosen to forget, I did have many good times (and the good times were in the majority), I was fortunate to meet some interesting, very nice, honest and "straight-from-the-shoulder" new friends. I bade farewell to some, but in the long and short of it, I gained more than I lost. And one can't ask for more than that, can one?

Here on the mountain and elsewhere in Australia from all reports, except for Western Australia that is, we've experienced a wonderfully cool Christmas season. Rain fell on and off throughout Boxing Day, making it gloriously cozy here in my cabin. I do so love rainy days...and nights.

I wish each and everyone of you a prosperous, healthy, peaceful and happy New Year. I hope 2008 is kind in every way to one and all (including me!).

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Ho! Ho! Ho! And a He! He! He! Ha!

Let's feast our eyes a while before attacking the repast on the "Day"! I'm whetting our appetites in readiness.

An Aussie Christmas is not Christmas without a collation of fresh seafood, in my opinion. Long gone are the days when I slaved for hours over a hot stove to produce the "traditional" fare to hungry hordes around my Christmas table. A "traditional" feast handed down by our Scottish, Irish and, in some cases, but not mine, English forefathers that is so, so wrong for our Christmas temperatures!

I've friends coming over on Christmas morning for drinks and tasty hors-d'oeuvres. Some will be staying on for a leisurely luncheon, which shall linger long into the afternoon through to dusk. No doubt by now you've guessed I'm having a scrumptious banquet of succulent seafood to be followed by a mixed berry Pavlova, a Sacha Torte, and of course, over to the side a rich fruit cake (which I've already made and have been "topping up" over the past few weeks), just in case we have any room left while we sip on coffee and liqueurs! Oh! Did I mention a variety of dark chocolate truffles and chocolate-coated ginger that will accompany the coffee?

As usual, I've broken my promise to myself. I had planned not to plan anything for Christmas, however the fever surreptitiously grabbed hold of me when I wasn't looking and was weak of mind and will. The above is the result!

It's been a year of ups and downs, more downs than I needed or wanted, I think. So I figured, "what the hell", I may as well go out with a bang, forgetting the bad (and those who caused it!), concentrating on the good with my eyes, heart and mind keenly on the future.

I'm starting a new job shortly, so that's a huge plus. With that in mind and on hand, my time for blogging will be very limited, at least for a while.

As much as I tried to escape pre-Christmas celebrations, I have failed and am failing miserably (read "happily", I guess!). Already I've succumbed to four celebratory gatherings with more to come over the next couple of weeks. And I've not even mentioned New Year yet! There's life in this old bird yet, it would appear! Ask me again around the second day of 2008 and I may answer differently!

All is good in this neck of the woods. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I hope you have a wonderful time with your families and friends. And may 2008 be kind to us all, bringing peace, good health ,and a little prosperity thrown in for good measure.

I'll leave you with a few fine words. When you hear the corks a-popping at the stroke of midnight farewelling 2007 while heralding in 2008, know that amongst that sound will be some of mine! "Here's to your top, here's to your middle, may you get a "liddle!"'

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of Auld Lang Syne.

Chorus: For Auld Lang Syne, my dear,
for Auld Lang Syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet
for Auld Lang Syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,
Sin' auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd.
Sin' auld lang syne.


And there's a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak' a right gude willie-waught,
For auld lang syne.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

An Irregular Visit!

I admit to the error of my ways! I've been missing in action! I apologise for my absence and thank you all for your good wishes in the meantime, and thanks to those who passed on your very nice comments for my birthday. I had a wonderful day, a wonderful weekend, actually. A friend came to visit for a few days and I had a group over on the day for a long, leisurely, totally misbehaved birthday celebratory lunch! We grazed over a table laden with delicious fare, tossed words and laughter back and forth. Food and wine, however, wasn't tossed around other than down our respective throats! I certainly proved I was still alive and kicking as did my guests!

Time has been my enemy. I've been busy with this and that and a bit more of that.

I'm working on a fairly large painting at the moment that needs constant care and attention. Together with answering the call of my creative juices, many other important chores have needed my attention.

The mountain has received some much welcome rain over the past few weeks. Daily I gaily watch as my vegetable plants reach out for the sun, their stems and leaves growing stronger by the minute. All are looking healthy with the promise of future home-grown, healthy produce to be heartily and thankfully consumed. Nature is an awesome phenomenon. It's so humbling.

David Beckham visited our fair shores this past week and proved what a wonderful young man he is. Some of our footballers, of all codes, would be well-advised to take a leaf or two out of his book. I'm definitely a fan of his. His professionalism and good manners during interviews and his behaviour when mingling with the crowds were impeccable. With all the pressures of his "celebrity-status" and the football field upon him, he stands tall.

The above painting and drawing were done for fun.

Thanks again, everyone....I must away to the woods. Duty calls!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Time To Take A Breather!

I'm taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks. There are a lot of things I have to attend to and never seem to have or find the time to do so. This, too, of course, is the start of the "silly season" for us all with the run-down/lead-up to Christmas.

In the words of Douglas McArthur, "I shall return", or later in the words of the now governor of California, "I'll be back!"

Before I disappear o'er yon horizon, I'll leave you with a couple of recipes to tempt your taste buds.

Shed no tears, for all too soon, I'll reappear to tease and torment you!

Beef Stroganoff

1 1/2 lb. lean beef (rump or sirloin work well)

3 Tablespoons butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 large onion, sliced
2 Tablespoons flour
2 cups beef bouillon or consomme
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 tsp. dry mustard (or Dijon mustard)
3 Tablespoons dry sherry or brandy
2/3 cup sour cream

Remove all fat and gristle from beef; cut it into narrow strips about 2 1/2 in. long, 3/4 in. wide and between 1/4 and 1/2 in. thick. Dust strips with salt and pepper; set them aside for about 2 hours, but not in the refrigerator. When you are ready to prepare the dish, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy skillet and saute the mushrooms until tender. Then remove them and set aside. In the same butter, saute the onion until brown with a little crushed garlic; set aside. Add the last tablespoon of butter. When it is hot put in the strips of beef and sear them on both sides, but leave them rare. Remove them and set aside. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and blend it with the remaining butter, browning it well. Then slowly add the beef bouillon, stirring well to form a smooth gravy. Next add the sherry (or brandy), tomato paste, and dry mustard (or Dijon mustard), blending well. Now return the meat, mushrooms and onions to the pan and let the whole thing simmer very slowly over the lowest possible heat for about 20 minutes. About 5 min. before serving add the sour cream and blend thoroughly.

Double Chocolate Brownies

125g chopped chocolate
200g butter (unsalted)
1 cup of flour plain (sifted)
2 tablespoons of dutch cocoa (sifted)
2 cups of caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder (sifted)
4 eggs
Extra 100g chocolate chopped into chunks to add to the prepared mixture
Extra cocoa or icing sugar for dusting over brownies before serving.

Preheat the oven to 180c. Lightly grease a 20x 30cm rectangular cake tin and line with baking paper. Melt the butter and chocolate in a glass bowl over a medium sized pot with a small amount of water simmering (not boiling), keep stirring until melted smooth. In a bowl combine the cocoa, flour, sugar and baking powder. Add the melted chocolate mixture and the eggs one at a time, stirring well between each. Pour into the prepared pan and poke in the extra pieces of chocolate into the brownie mixture. Bake for 45 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer, the skewer probably won't come out clean, however the mixture should easily form into a ball when rolled between your fingers, not crumble. Once cooked, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Slice the brownies into squares and dust with cocoa or icing sugar.

And just for the fun of it, here's a bit of nonsensical verse! (I must have had nothing more important to do that day!)

Nursery Crhymes!

Jack and Jill didn’t go up the hill

To fetch a pail of water

Tho’ they thought they oughta

Jack had other things on his mind

So Jill followed close behind

To see what she could find

At the top Jack looked around

Much to his surprise he found

Our Jill had arrived before him

And was lying prone on the ground

Humpty Dumpty

Had a lot of gall

Humpty Dumpty was after a brawl

When the crowd left

He became quite bereft

In finding himself all alone

And all that Humpty could do was groan

Little Bo-Peep has had no sleep

And doesn’t know when she’ll get any

When she left home

She forgot her comb

Now she has tangled hair of mahogany

Jerry found a little clam

When the tide was low

And every time that Jerry looked

On a rock he surely kicked his toe

Airy fairy out on the prairie

Strong does the wind blow

Where nobody dwells

And there are no hotels

And definitely no maids in a row!

When Jimmy Buffett

Went to the banquet

He couldn’t get his way

He picked up a cider

And felt like an outsider

He wasn’t having a very good day

The little fluffy friend above will watch over you while I'm away! The original pencil drawing by me hangs, framed, upon my wall.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Time To Vent...A Time He Went!

Outback Vagabond

Stoically he traverses outback tracks unknown
With swag and blackened billy he wanders alone
Sun-bleached hair skin of leather wiry yet robust
Shielding his weary eyes from swirling red dust

Through the shimmering haze ahead a dry creek
As nightfall draws near the outcome looks bleak
Taking long strides determinedly he pushes on
Then he spies dancing brolgas beside a billabong

A restless sun peeps o’er horizon a new day dawns
The swagman stokes his campfire stretches yawns
His purpose lies at the end of an errant track ahead
What awaits fills him with pain sorrow and dread

(Paintings and poem by me)

I've been very remiss, this I admit. Time, or lack thereof, has been my enemy. Mix that together with a lack of motivation, what do you end up with?

Also, a friend has formed a habit of popping in on me every second day and it's beginning to drive me a little crazy, crazier than I normally am!

From reading my posts over the past few months, you may have gleaned that I enjoy my own privacy and space. I'm not one, and never have been, to "drop" in on people unannounced. And hate it when they do that to me. I don't need to be around people all the time, or have them around me. I'm starting to feel claustrophobic....and cranky!

Without offending the "offender", how do I explain my feelings to him? The silly part is, I'm being "offended" by his continual appearance at my door, and here I am feeling hesitant of offending him? I find myself with a perpetual knot in my stomach every time I hear a car drive up this private, one-way lane, hoping I don't hear a car door open and shut!

One of the things that really is starting to get under my skin and annoy the hell out of me is that those who know me well, know and understand my ways. This knowledge is known to my "offender", and yet he believes he has special dispensation!

Sorry, mate! You don't!

How do I let him know that he's beginning to (or has) step over the mark by appearing every second day on my doorstep? I don't want to hurt his feelings nor sever our friendship. He, his wife and I are good friends. We three get on well and always enjoy the special lunches we share together every now and then. I think his wife is glad to have him out of her hair for a while, but he's starting to get into mine and under my skin!!! I have to break him of this bad habit, without breaking our friendship. It's not my desire or want to hurt anyone's feelings.

Help! Here I am fearful of hurting his feelings, while mine are being angered and ignored!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Out of the blue yesterday, I received an email from someone I’d worked with many, many years ago in my first job. We’ve not seen each other since I left Gympie to live and work in Brisbane all those years ago (stories I’ve been relating in “Reaching Out to the City Lights”….which I must complete one of these days!). Vicki, the sender of the surprise email, for the past eleven and a half years was Personal Assistant to our recently retired Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie. See, I do have friends and acquaintances across the political divide! Tracking me down through mutual friends, Vicki imparted some sad news to me. A co-worker from those halcyon, innocent, naïve and simple days of our youth passed away. Tears flowed freely and unashamedly down my cheeks as I read and recalled the happy, fun times we all had shared.

On the one hand, my entrance into the wide, wonderful, grown-up “working world” was full of eager anticipation and bravado, but on the other hand, I approached it tentatively, with concealed inner tremors. A whole new life, filled with unknown adventures and promises opened up for me.

I left high school mid-Junior year without completing the final examination. Much to my geometry and algebra teacher, Mr. Martin’s mixed emotions of delight and disappointment. His lessons bored me. I must admit I was a disruptive student under his supervision. I wasn’t rude, but I had a bushel load of uncontrollable mischievous behaviour when in his presence. Consistently, I just scraped through any Maths A assignments. "As long as I passed" was my motto. In my other subjects I was always up with the first two or three in class, reveling in such subjects as English, History, Geography and the commercial subjects. However, when it came to algebra and geometry my interest flew out the window in a puff. To prove a point and to keep Mr. Martin on his toes, I believe upon reflection, I decided to knuckle down and study. For my last examination before the major Junior trial, I received 95% for the Maths A exam. Jimmy Martin’s “delight” was over my result, crowing, “I knew you had it in you…all you had to do was put your head down and concentrate. I knew it!”

Accepting his jubilant, congratulatory praise, I smiled at him, ‘You’ll never get me now!” My cry was in reference to his “little black book” in which my name filled its pages with enough detention dates to have carried me through until this day! That was his disappointment, I'm sure! Standing facing each other, we smiled, shook hands and acknowledging a “draw” in our “battle”, we each went our separate way, he back to school, and me towards my future.

Dressed in a crisp blouse, sombre sweater and skirt, with lightly and carefully applied make-up, I entered the hallowed domain of Tozer and Jeffery, Solicitors, (now known as "Jeffery, Cuddighy & Joyce) to commence my new role as legal secretary on a Monday morning in late July. I was fifteen years old, a naïve innocent in an unknown world. With me I carried a vague idea solicitors had something to do with the law, however I was not deterred by my lack of worldly knowledge, a fact I kept fairly well hidden…I believed! For the first time, I earned money of my own. I felt like a queen! My first pay packet enabled me to purchase a moss green short-sleeved woolen jumper (sweater), a pair of shoes and a 45rpm record of Gene Krupa of all people! It was proof of my love of the drums and for the maestro who had changed drumming in the eyes of the world, I told myself as I hugged my new purchase. He who had drawn people’s focus to drumming and drummers like no others before him had been an idol of mine from when I was a very small child.

A little history for you to ingest and digest:

Sir Horace Tozer (1844-1916), solicitor and politician, was born on 23 April 1844 and baptized Horatio at Port Macquarie, New South Wales, son of Horatio Thomas Norris Tozer, chemist, and his wife Charlotte Winifred Amelia, née Croft. Educated at Newcastle and at Rev. W. H. Savigny's Collegiate School, Sydney. He was articled to James Malbon Thomson in Brisbane in 1862 and admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland on 7 December 1867. The practice he established next year at Gympie soon flourished. A joint owner of mining leases, Tozer became an authority on mining law and was a member of the Gympie Mining Court; he conducted two mining appeals before the Privy Council, in London.

(Delving amongst some dusty, very old journals in what we named "the dungeon", a below-street level floor of the premises, I came across a thick, hard-bound ledger with hand-written, ink entries referring to James Nash, dated back in 1867-1868. James Nash, prospector, discovered gold in 1867 which put Gympie on the map as well as restoring the coffers of Queensland's treasury. I was thrilled with my own discovery. Years later I learned that all those historic, important journals and ledgers were dumped when interior renovations took place. Naturally, I was gob-smacked! They were important parts of Gympie's history, I believed...correctly!)

With my introduction to Tozer and Jeffery, came my introduction to Keith Brown, “Brownie” as he soon became affectionately known. To me, at that time, he was quite “old”, but in hindsight, he had not tipped the scales at forty years of age when I began working with him. Unconsciously, “Brownie” and I became drawn to each other. Perhaps it was because we were both Scorpios, with his birthday falling nine days before mine. He was, I guess, what is now known as a “Paralegal”, and then known as a “Legal Assistant”. “Brownie” also handled all taxation matters. Soon, I began doing all his dictation and kindred chores.

“Brownie” was generous of spirit, sporting a wicked sense of humour. Donning another robe and hat, he was one of the local professional photographers, taking photographs of weddings, special celebrations, etc., for the local paper, “The Gympie Times”, and on behalf of private contracts. Always in search of a subject and story to satisfy the newspaper’s requirements, we girls in the office soon became “Brownie’s” regular “models”. Barely a paper was published without one or more of us featuring on Page One, Two, Three, and/or wherever else a story and photograph could be placed.

His latest photographic efforts were displayed constantly in the window of Stalley’s Shoe Shop in Mary Street, the main street of Gympie, able to be purchased by the public, whether they were related to the subject or not! A fact I was to later to discover! A few of the local high school senior boys at the Christian Brothers’ College purchased photos of me and pinned said photographs up in their dorms at their boarding quarters! Quite an achievement, I suppose, considering I wasn't a Catholic! That was probably the first, and the last time I’ve ever been a “pin-up”!

I’ve always laid claim to the fact that “Brownie” was the first man I’d ever slept with!

Let me clarify that statement before your mind is flooded with incorrect notions and assumptions!

“Brownie’s” office was situated in the top level of the building in which legal practice operated. The morning sun poured through the wide, high windows. Often after a couple of hours of constant dictation a desperate desire for sleep would take over, not only by me, but “Brownie”, too. We formed a pact, where, in turn, with one keeping watch; the other would place his/her head on the desk and have a nap. This pleasure became a habit and throughout the five years I worked with “Brownie”, I also “slept” with him!

“Brownie” was a gem. He was a loving, proud husband and father of three children.

Every year following my departure from Gympie up until I returned back in 1998, I rang “Brownie” on his birthday. Being back in Gympie, I visited him and his wife a couple of times. They lived not far from my dwelling.

When “Brownie” retired from Tozer and Jeffery I was living in Yorkey’s Knob, Cairns. I was invited to his retirement party that was held at the RSL Club, but because of commitments I was unable to attend. However, I wrote a poem to him in dedication of the fond and fun memories I had of those wonderful days and years working with him. Graham Jeffery, the son of my boss, John Jeffery, who had completed his “Articles” beneath his father’s guiding hand, who also worked as one of “us”, staff, and who later inherited/bought his father’s practice had the illustrious duty of reading my poem during the evening’s festivities. Later that night, after the party was over and everyone was back in their respective homes, I received a telephone call from Graham, the anointed one, informing me that “Brownie” had been so thrilled and so very pleasantly surprised by his poem.

With conflicting emotions, ranging from tears to laughter and all those in between, I read yesterday’s email from Vicki. Transposed back to those years, one part of me wanted desperately to remain there, lost forever.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hind’s Bakery on the esplanade at Tin Can Bay, way back when I was a small child, made the best meat pies I’ve ever tasted. Full of delicious meat and sauce encased in golden, flaky pastry, they were a’ must’ during our visits to Tin Can Bay.

Running a close second, if not nose to nose, were the pies from Webster’s, a small store operated by two sisters at the bottom of the hill, which is the junction of Lawrence and Mary Streets in Gympie.

To this day, I’ve never tasted pasties anywhere as good as those bought from Webster’s.

Condie’s and Harry’s were the two local bakeries in town at that time. The pasties came from Harry’s. Over the years, I’ve searched bakeries high and low to reproduce the taste of those marvellous pasties, but to no avail. I continue to be disappointed. I’ve tried so many different pasties from so many shops in as many areas. Not once have they matched those from Webster’s Corner Store. This is the closest to the original I can get.


2 cups flour

1/2 cup shortening

1/4 cup lard

1/4 cup scraped suet



1 1/4 lbs coarsely ground beef (lamb can be used, very finely diced)

4 medium potatoes, diced

1 large onion, chopped

1/4 cup Swede turnip, diced

1 English turnip, diced

1 carrot, diced

salt and pepper

Put the flour in a bowl and cut in the shortening, lard, and suet. Add just enough water to make a soft dough. Divide the dough into four parts and roll out each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate.

Crumble the meat into a bowl and stir in the potatoes, onion, Swede turnip, turnip and carrot.

Divide the mixture into four parts, putting some on one side of each piece of dough. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Fold the pastry over the filling to make half-moon shaped pies. Seal the edges and cut a couple of small slits on the top.

Bake on a baking tray at 200C for 30 to 35 minutes, then reduce heat to 180C and bake 15 more minutes.

Here’s another pastry that maybe a little simpler for the pasties.

4 cups self-raising flour

1 teaspoon Salt

1 1/2 cups Shortening

1/2 cup Ice Water

1 Egg – beaten

Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl; cut in shortening. Rub together with your fingertips until the mixture forms pea-sized crumbs. Sprinkle with water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing lightly with a fork after each addition, until dough forms a ball. DO NOT OVERMIX. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; set aside in refrigerator 30 minutes to rest.

The magic ingredient for great tasting pasties is the inclusion of Swede turnip to the filling. To my taste and mind, pasties never taste as good without it.

So often I become nostalgic thinking about food, wishing and wanting to recapture tastes from years gone by.

I'm still a lover of the great Aussie icon...the meat pie! Oh! How I love a good meat pie!

Meat Pies:

2 cups Plain Flour

125 gm Lard, chopped (or chilled butter)

2 Eggs, lightly beaten

2 Tablespoons Water, approximately

2 sheets pre-made Puff Pastry

1 Egg Yolk, lightly beaten


A dash or two of olive oil

2 Onions, chopped

900 gm minced Beef or finely chopped beef

1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 cup dark Soy Sauce

2 teaspoons Beef stock powder

2 cups Water

1/2 teaspoon ground Allspice and/or mixed herbs

2 Tablespoons Cornflour

2 Tablespoons Water, extra


Method for making Aussie Meat Pies

Sift flour into bowl; rub in lard/butter. Add eggs and enough water to make ingredients cling together. Press dough into a ball, knead gently on a floured surface until smooth, cover, refrigerate 1/2 hour. Divide dough into 8 portions. Roll out each portion on lightly floured surface large enough to line 11 cm pie tins. Trim away excess pastry. Place tins on oven tray, line pastry with paper, fill with dried beans or rice. Bake in moderately hot oven about 8 minutes, remove paper and beans, bake further 8 minutes or until pastry is lightly browned, cool. Spoon cold filling into pastry cases. Cut 8 x 12cm rounds from puff pastry, brush edges of pastry with a little egg yolk; gently press puff pastry tops into place; trim edges. Brush tops with a little more egg yolk. Make 2 small slits in centre of pies, place on oven trays, bake in moderately hot oven about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot with tomato sauce. Filling: Heat oil in pan, add onion, cook stirring until soft. Add mince/chopped beef; stir over heat until browned. Stir in sauces, stock powder, water and allspice/herbs. Bring to boil, simmer, covered, about 30 minutes. Stir in blended cornflour and extra water, stir over heat until mixture boils and thickens.

Once they're out of the oven, all you have to do is bog in and enjoy! (With mashed spuds and mushy peas!)

Not having a father in our household, Mum was the main "bread-winner". She was a "working mother" in the days when it was quite a rarity. When Mum was home, she preferred gardening to housekeeping or cooking. The running of the household was our Nana's domain. Mum prepared a garden to the side of the front garden path where she planted and tended to vegetables. Always, it seemed, we had tomatoes, beans, peas, lettuce, potatoes and corn on ready supply. When we had too many tomatoes, Mum turned her hand to cooking and transformed the over-abundant tomatoes into pickles.


2lbs tomatoes

2 large onions

1 tablespoon each of curry powder, pepper, dry mustard

3 tablespoons golden syrup

1 pint malt vinegar

Cut tomatoes and onions into slices. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for 12 hours. Then drain off liquid. Put vinegar, curry, mustard and pepper on to boil, then add syrup. Add tomatoes and onions. Boil until tender. Pour into sterilized bottles.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with some good old home-style food! It's an elixir for one's heart and soul.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Saturday Ponderings....

Love in Past Tense

Rarely did she see him...when she did his mind was elsewhere it was oh so clear
He spoke of much however not often to her alone...she, he had chosen to forego
His words although fluent were spoken only to impress others, to her it did appear
He craved the praise the accolades their swooning approval fodder for his ego

Foolishly she chose not to heed signs he so callously and readily waved her way
In the background lost in the shadows she waited in hope...unconsiously knowing
His desire for fawning adulation consuming voraciously manipulating night and day
A continual search for confirmation of his higher intelligence his demands growing

Generous with her love her heart she handed him never intending to smother him
An undemanding love never good enough for him he had proven time and time again
With awakened mind and aching heart she realised his feelings for her to be a whim
Unselfishly she gave of herself only to be spurned by him causing bitter tears and pain

Nothing left but echoing emptiness memories of happier times...had there been any truth
In their shared moments of passion early morning love their moonlit walks along a beach
The words 'I love you' locked in his throat so foreign to his heart always he was uncouth
Even moments she needed him most his love never hers to enjoy he kept far out of reach

(Butterfly and poem by me...and pictures of changing moods in my garden)

"What happens in the past never goes away".

An astute statement, but, unfortunately not of my creation. Memories remain long after those who shared in their formation have left our lives to follow other paths or some who’ve passed onto the ‘other world’, if there is such a place.

Flashbacks, oft-times welcomed…many times intrusive, frequent my mind. Mingled within my midnight to dawn travels, eerie dreams encroach to remind, torment and haunt. Anger undiminished as demons persist. Forever, my childhood years affect and colour my life. Amongst my memories are some I wish not to recall, but faithfully they remain, not eager to depart.

Facing truth is difficult unless one is able to accept what occurred in the past. To be capable of staunchly moving forwards towards greener pastures by persistence and hard work is so often fraught with failure. Always afraid to show one’s true inner self, it’s seems easier to hide behind a make-believe persona. Recognising and accepting honest emotions towards siblings and parents without guilt, if the feelings are not always shrouded in love and lightness causes pain and confusion. Finding courage to express candidly thoughts that torment, takes a lifetime of inner turmoil. However, one can defy grief, heartache and lack of self-esteem by sustaining moral sensibility, patience and holding onto a continual enchantment in the simple pleasures of life and the intoxication of nature's bounty. All are positive, stimulating actions against persistent, character-demeaning demons.

It’s a given we love our parents and siblings. To have adverse feelings is not normal, or is it? Is it not possible at times to be inflicted by such inclinations? Embedded within us is the belief we are to love of our family members through thick and thin, come what may. It is expected. Is it abnormal to feel otherwise? Is it evil? Obviously one’s life can’t always be plain sailing, with smooth waters forever along the way. Each member of a family should conduct his or her self in a manner to earn, to deserve love and respect as one expects with and from chosen friends and others.

Unfortunately, this is not always so.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Falling In Love Again


I've had more than enough out he spat
of this brainless nonsensical chit-chat
who was I to offer him any back-chat
storming to the door he put on his hat
and I guess that was that...

My once happy mood did then fall flat
I felt he was acting unfairly like a brat
in a flood of tears on the cozy sofa I sat
at my feet on a fluffy red woolen mat
empathetically sat my cat

(painting, drawing and poem by me...I've shown these before but thought I'd resurrect them!)

The "Boss" is back and it's "Magic"!

After five years, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band re-united to create "Magic" and magic it is. Instantly recognisable, the energetic, musical genius of the E-Street Band is back where it belongs with the "Boss".
Steve Van Zandt is obviously at home with his bandana on his head instead of his brylcreemed, bouffant hairdo of Silvio Dante in "The Sopranos". I guess now that "The Sopranos" has gone where all good shows go, Steve has more time for his guitar and mandolin. The unmistakable sounds of Clarence Clemons clearly demonstrate that the big man feels right at home back where he belongs with the band he joined way back in the northern summer of 1971.

Only last month, I purchased through Amazon the CD of "Born In the USA", to replace my well-worn LP and cassette. I thought it time. A few weeks prior to that acquisition, I got hold of the double CD "Live in Dublin-Bruce Springsteen with the Sessions Band" after viewing the special on TV. It blew me away, so I had to have the CD.

Having watched Springsteen being interviewed on "Sunrise" yesterday and this morning, I realised I was falling under his spell all over again. He may not be the most handsomest man in the world, but he's certainly up there in the sexy stakes as far as I'm concerned. He can put his boots under my bed any day or night and also roll up the sleeves of his shirts!

Back in the eighties, after Springsteen released and won the world over with his "Born In the USA" album, I went to see him perform live in Brisbane one Sunday night. There was absolutely no doubt how he achieved his title "The Boss". He had both the crowd and the E-Street Band in the palm of his hand. As is his habit, the concert went over-time, much to the delight of his audience of devotees. I doubt there was one amongst us who wanted to see the end of the show.

It rained heavily throughout the show, but the rain deterred neither performers or spectators. Nothing would, or could, dampen our spirits. At one stage, Springsteen strode down the central catwalk jutting out into the crowd of adoring followers and announced if they were prepared to stand out in the rain to see him, he and the band would play in the rain. He waved the band on and the "Big Man", Clarence Clemons, ran down along the wet catwalk, leading the charge, not missing a beat in his saxophone playing. I held my breath as did the rest of the crowd, I'm sure, expecting any moment to see those massive thighs of his crash down upon the stage. Fortunately, for him (and the stage) that didn't occur. And fortunately, for me, the seats I occupied were under cover, but I doubt I would have complained nor noticed if I'd been out in the rain. Springsteen was mesmerising. And after seeing him this morning, he still is!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Quest For All Things Tasteful

Once again the weekend has surreptitiously and quickly crept up on us, catching us unawares. Well, it has me, at least. I'm not sure what I've done this week. Have I done anything worthwhile? I don't think so. Have I done anything memorable? I doubt it very much.

While visiting the legendary, local junk-yard up here on the mountain the other day, I did discover a large, old, discoloured brass cauldron. After a spot of "wheeling and dealing", I brought it home with me! My purchase barely fitted into my little car, let alone my cabin! This morning I started restoring my acquisition to its former glory (or near to as possible) with metal polish. Doing so, I felt like one of the witches who visited Macbeth, the Thane of Cawdor! Very soon, I started chanting, "Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble."

'Tis a worry!

Not knowing what to write about, I thought I'd give you one of my nonsensical verses to ponder upon and a couple of recipes to chew over. Included is a thought I think I thought about one night! As evidenced, my mind works in mysteriously weird ways!

The Quest

Throughout the years wide and afar
Trekking life's meandering highway
Defying the ebb stemming the flow
Beating the hurdles conquering the brae
Wistfully she searched high sought low
For him...her Lochinvar

Succumbing she wished upon a star
But to find emptiness heartache and pain
In giving her heart a problem arose
Their love for her so often they did feign
How badly she hurt nobody knows
In her quest for Lochinvar

Exploring on and on it was bizarre
If victorious what then would she do
A life complete with happiness and bliss
Or with tear-filled eyes bidding him adieu
A doleful smile a lingering farewell kiss
Perhaps instead she'd pickle him in a jar
Her Lochinvar.

Quote of the day:

Some men want you for always
Some men want you all ways

I'm not yet sure what I'll be preparing for myself over the weekend, but I do have some green prawns, squid and full-shell mussels in the freezer. I find myself leaning towards something with seafood. Lately I've liked the idea of food, but when the time has come to prepare and eat it, my appetite turns its nose up at it. The same applies to drinking. At the moment, I like the idea of having a few drinks, but don't know what I really feel like imbibing, and then I can't be bothered. I've got some fresh limes in a bowl on my dining table, perhaps the tang of the limes will enliven my palate. There is a bottle of tequila and one of Triple Sec in my personal liquor store...did someone mention "Margaritas"?

Lingune with Prawns & Mussels:
Finely chop 1-2 heads of garlic. In a pan add garlic and slightly less than a pint of olive oil (this recipe serves 10, so don't panic...just cut down the quantities for less if you so desire). On low heat simmer until garlic just begins to change colour. Add dried chilli flakes or paste, to taste and 1 bunch of Italian parsley, roughly chopped. Toss in a dollop of butter. Allow sauce to simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat. In a large pot, steam about 1kg mussels until shells open, discarding any unopened ones. Shell about 20 or so green prawns (raw). Lightly saute' empty shells in another dollop of butter and a splash or two of olive oil, a dash of salt and some ground black pepper. Remove shells, then add prawns. Cook until prawns have just turned pink. Set aside until 1.5lbs linguine is cooked al dente;. Drain but don't rinse. Plop pasta into a bowl. Add mussels, prawns and garlic mixture. Top with chopped Italian Parsley. Stir and serve.

Sauteed Sea Scallops with Rosemary & Lemon: Choose a pan that can hold 680g scallops in one layer later. Into the pan put 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and 2 garlic cloves, sliced finely. As the garlic turns golden, add 1-1.5 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves. Stir. Add the scallops, salt and ground black pepper. Turn up heat to high. Cook, stirring fequently until scallops change to a flat white. Add 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or lime juice, if you prefer). Turn up heat, again. Stir once or twice, then serve with crusty bread.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Paradise...In The Mind And Eye Of The Beholder...

"Paradise"......a sacred dream of perfection…supreme bliss.

A place where no flies, midges, sand-flies and ticks dare enter...include snakes and cockroaches in the list, too.

A special place wherein one says he/she is going to do something, and does it.

…where expectations are met and achieved.

…where love outweighs hate.

…where tenderness replaces violence

...where empathy replaces apathy.

Paradise is where respect for each other is mutual.

…where cowards do not exist.

…where consideration for the feelings of another is of most importance

…where corruption, duplicity and deceit are non-existent.

…where belief in one's self is allowed to grow, bloom and be.

…where greedy selfishness is replaced by the true meaning of 'selfishness'.

…where no falsehood is allowed.

A place where prejudices and assumptions are banned.

…where the only games are played in the sports/games arenas.

Paradise is where hidden agendas are non-existent.

…where murder, rape, war, abuse, poverty…and the abuse of children are unknown.

Paradise is where the battle for life, the battle to exist, does not exist.

Paradise be live in a democratic be an individual.

…where everyone has the right to live as an individual.

Paradise is to be able to listen, to appreciate what the other is saying, thinking or feeling.

Paradise is not being dictated to or to dictate to....

…being allowed to keep one's true dentity...

…to perceive reality

...where knowledge is gained by fact and not pretension.

…where human life is valued most highly.

…where self-esteem is valued most highly.

…where ego is understood and valued.

Where truth is.

Paradise is not being afraid.

Paradise is to laugh, openly and loudly...not at another, but with each other.

Paradise is to remember the past retain memories of the best of it and being able to toss away the debris.

Paradise is to cherish the present and be excited about the future.

Where the impotent have no place

...where the concept of 'right' is clear.

…where mediocrity has no place.

…where morality is not juggled.

…where standards are high.

Where do I begin to tell of its wondrous beauty
Miles of azure haze drifting across languid valleys
Variations of colours not unlike changes in moods
As the sun performs its first tremulous gesture
Of welcome to the dawning day awakening birds
A moment’s silence stilling the surging waves
Paying homage to the arrival of the golden orb
Conducting a symphony of powerful energies
Whilst bidding farewell to the serene mistress
Of the night her silver sphere wafts silently
Over the gentle stirrings of the day being born
And peace once more is abruptly disturbed
A new day dawns begetting fresh naïve promises

(Paintings and poem by me)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Darling Buds of Spring

Ahh! I love the scent of rosemary.

Purr! I love getting a tan on my tum! (Permission to quote given by Shama and Remy)

The cats and I are in hiding this weekend. It is "Springtime On the Mountain" this weekend, starting Friday just past. My landlords have opened the property for those in the community and from areas far-reaching to come and wander around, making the obligatory murmurs of wonder and awe at their garden in all its glory.

With a broad ribbon of red and white forming barricades of where the can stroll, it kind of looks a little like a crime scene out of "CSI" or "Law and Order"! Fortunately, my cabin is in a roped off area, not allowing the gawking crowds to invade my privacy. I feel a little like the "Mad Woman of Chaillot". I think I'm becoming eccentric enough to fit the bill!

Wanting to fire up my Hibachi to barbecue a chicken later, I'm a bit hesitant to do it earlier as the aroma might draw the madding crowds to my front patio. If I had a few more chickens, I could offer them a price! I've picked some fresh herbs from my vegetable plot, which I am going to finely chop, add to some butter and crushed garlic. Then, very carefully, I will lift the skin on the chicken which has been cut down its back-bone and opened out flat and rub the butter mixture in between the skin and flesh. Firstly, the chicken, skin side down, will be placed on the hot grill over hot charcoal to brown, and then flipped for the balance of the cooking time.

By the way, I intend laying some long stems of rosemary and marjoram over the coals, too, to further enhance the flavour of the chicken.

I have a large four-burner gas barbecue with hot plate and grill, but I've had this unscratchable urge lately to cook over hot coals. Exploring through a legendary junk-yard up here on the mountain the other day, I found exactly what I was searching for, although I didn't know it until my eyes landed upon it. A very old, rusty, decrepit base of a Hibachi barbecue lay hidden amongst other cast-offs under a pile of rubble. A thrill of discovery tingled through my body. I had to have it! Then, to top off the simple joy of my success, I found a metal stand, about hip-high on which the ratty old barbecue base can sit on, allowing for ease of cooking. I've scraped and cleaned up the tray with a metal brush. Eventually, I'll paint the stand with "Bristol Green", so it blends in with the plants on my patio. After I've burned a few coals in the tray a few times, no one will know the difference, whether it was a beaten-up, old unwanted relic or not! I've given it a new lease on, I'm happy!

I believe there are not many among us who don't enjoy the ambience of an open fire. And let's be honest, food does taste exceptionally wonderful cooked over hot coals.

So, I'll wait until the madding crowds have dispersed before I fire up the "barbie", open a bottle of wine or they might descend upon me as hungry, thirsty hordes!

In the meantime, I'm going to curl up with my book...and wait!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Italian Invasion...Chapter Six (Final & Last Chapter)

Being a member of the “management” at Ramada Reef Resort, my office was situated amongst an enclave of over-inflated egos upstairs on the second floor. To the left of my niche, across a narrow common area, Carol, the secretary of the General Manager reigned in all her glory. This “supreme being”, flitting back and forth from her monarchical throne, rapaciously held the destiny of the resort and all those who served it in her claw-like hands, or so she believed. Often, taking a break from her despotic duties, Carol would lean against the door frame of my office, or pull up a chair in front of my desk to share her wealth of gossip. Then, now, before and in between, I’ve always tried to shun gossip and those who marvel in the unnecessary, unbecoming, vulgar hobby. I’ve never been so naïve to think that I’m immune from flippant, loquacious tongues. Why should I be so unique not to be the subject of such inane wind-bagging? Carol’s gossip train obviously included me when I was out of earshot. Reticently, I half-listened to her mindless prattle, frequently politely excusing myself by saying I needed to visit the chefs or Fritz, the Food and Beverage Manager whether on pretense or otherwise. Anything to escape her clutches.

Carol was a slave to fashion, although I was never sure who her “Master of Fashion” was. Being of very slim frame, her legs resembled those of a predatory stork and when clad in various garishly striped, coloured or fishnet panti-hose they were quite frightening when one was confronted with them! Instead of disguising her legs, the stockings unflatteringly enhanced their unattractiveness
Gradually, I began spending more time in Fritz’s office. It soon became apparent my natural progression would be to move in with him. His office was large enough to accommodate both of us. He and I worked together in harmony with me being the “Functions & Conference Manager”. It was agreed that my idea of sharing his office with him was a good idea. Shortly afterwards, I became his unofficial “Assistant Food & Beverage Manager” along with my other role. Finally I’d escaped the suffocating atmosphere of the offices upstairs. My new “home-away-from-home” was located on the lower level, not far along from the main kitchen of the resort. It was a logical move as my main dealings were with Fritz and the chefs. Plus, it was much more fun “down there” away from those who took themselves far too seriously “upstairs”. Fritz and I became the renegades, “comrades in arms”. Our office was full of good cheer and frolicsome fun, minus vitriolic hearsay. It became the meeting place of those of like minds and seemed constantly filled with laughter and high spirits.

One morning the resort was on virtual lock-down as the staff all went into survival mode for fire drill. My role in the drill was to play a guest trapped in one of the accommodation rooms. The room attendants had to search the rooms to ensure no “guest” was vulnerable and then to escort the “guest” to safety. I ensconced myself in the bath tub, figuring that would be a secure spot in case of fire. The door of the room opened and I heard my would-be rescuer fumbling around. After only a few seconds searching, my “saviour” departed, not looking in the bathroom where I remained hidden. Alas, I “perished” in the “fire”!
After the drill was over, my name was put up on the notice board as one who had “perished in the resort fire”. Passing a housekeeper in the hallway, she stopped in stunned silence, looking at me with her mouth agape.

“Oh!” She said in total seriousness and surprise. “I read that you had died in the fire!” I burst out laughing, and then she realized what she had said. People never cease to amaze!

I knew that the clock was ticking on my relationship, my affair with Andrea. There were times when we were together that he would talk about “our future”, but I always nonchalantly tossed the subject aside, changing the direction of the conversation. I knew inside that we had no future together. Andrea was much younger than I and I knew what we had was only a dalliance, even though a “dalliance” that had lasted almost eighteen months. Many times he talked about my visiting his homeland, spending time in the Emilia-Romagna region, meeting his Nonna, his mother, sister, his friends and his father in Bagnacavallo. He wanted to take me to Venice. It all sounded fairy-tale romantic, but I realized that was all it was, a fairy-tale.

Andrea returned once more and we picked up our relationship where we’d left it a couple of months earlier. He was as beautiful to me as he’d always been. At night we’d sit out under the stars, stroll along the beach guided by an incandescent full moon. We’d grasp at the reflection of the luminaries, glimmering like diamonds upon the water. Kicking at the fluorescent phosphorescence at the ocean’s edge, we’d fall into each other’s arms, indifferent to the earth and those on it.

Gradually I felt a shift in beings. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I felt a breaking-away from the life we’d been sharing. Was it my fault? Or was it his fault? Perhaps, it was a bit of both. Life took on a superficial, inert atmosphere. The curtain, ready to be drawn on the final chapter in the lives we’d shared, trembled in the wings.

Bringing it to a head one Saturday evening about three months after his return to me, Andrea paled and fidgeted when I broached the futility of our relationship. I was plunging the knife not only into his body, but also my own. Silently and motionless, he watched me as I spoke, agony clear in his eyes. Beneath his solemn stillness, I detected a small sign of relief or did I imagine it to allay my guilt? We sat talking, sometimes quietly crying, until the sun made its first quivering appearance on the horizon. As soon as it turned into a molten globe blasting across the sky, too powerful to look directly at, we ran down to the beach and plunged our exhausted bodies and souls into the sea.

A couple of weeks later, Andrea and I said our final farewells at Cairns airport, both knowing and understanding we would never see each other again. It was bitter-sweet for us both as we held hands across the table, waiting for his flight to be announced, ignoring the coffee at our elbows as it grew colder and colder.

A few months, perhaps a year later, late one night I received a telephone call from Andrea. Forever gallant and mischievous in his manner, he asked if I missed him.

“No, not at all!” I replied in half-truth.

“I suppose you’ve got yourself a new boyfriend,” he continued cheekily.

“Hundreds!” I laughingly retorted.

It was the last time we talked. But, I do often think of him, remembering the passion, the laughter and the good times we’d shared, wondering where his life path has led him. I wonder if he ever thinks of me. I wish him well. I am glad I “had an Italian love affair”.
The End

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Pleasures of Nature

The birds around my cabin are a little confused. I think they should all go into therapy. Whenever I call my two cats, the kookaburras, magpies, butcher-birds and currajongs flock to the trees at my back door, the clothes line and a post at the edge of my vegetable/herb garden. Perhaps I'm being a bit hasty in calling them "confused". Smart is probably the correct description!

Each time I venture outside the birds spot me from afar, high up in their "look-out" posts. Within seconds, they've taken up their respective positions in the branches above, some milling around on the ground close to my feet, in total ignorance of my cats. Remy and Shama look at the birds of a feather disdainfully as uninvited interlopers, but they make no attempt to dissuade their expectant presence. I'm sure, though, if they, my cats, could work out a way to pick up a stone, they would kill two birds with one stone! Remy and Shama have decorum, however, and have been taught never to over-step the boundaries I've set. A guttural "ahhhh-ahhh" from me is enough warning for them. With a shake of their heads and a flick of their tails, Remy and Shama cast me looks of disgust as they walk away.

The pecking order amongst my family of native birds begins with the kookaburras, followed by the magpies, butcher-birds, with the currajongs waiting their turn after the former group have had their fill. Every now and then Mr. and Mrs. Crow make their appearance and they are always at the end of the line, which is quite amazing, really. Describing this phenomenon to friends the other day, I argued at length that this was so. My friends didn't believe that the crows waited until last, at the end of the pecking order. It is so, at least, with this particular jet-black, well-mannered family of two. Almost every day my feathered vertebrate friends receive the meat my furry rascals haven't eaten and the off-cuts. There is enough for everyone.

When the rain tumbles down, a rare event lately, and when gusty, vigorous winds cause chaos, my heart goes out to my "outside" friends, but I tell myself that somewhere out there in their homes in trees they inhabit, they have found their safe sanctuary against nature's forces.

Kookaburra drawing by me...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Italian Invasion....Chapter Five

With all the pre-Christmas functions and Christmas Day “done and dusted”, New Year’s Eve rapidly approached. A rock-country music infusion party was planned for the night, with two bands hired for the evening’s entertainment at the resort. The rock band would play their bracket, followed by the country music group and so on throughout the night to allow for no breaks in the momentum of the celebrations. Outside around the pool area gas barbecues offering a broad range of sizzling foods such as local seafood, steaks, sausages, ribs, chops, burgers and barbecued corn cobs, accompanied by a wide range of fresh, garden salads and tantalizing desserts catered to the madding, party-loving crowd. Portable bars also were strategically placed around the pool, taking pressure off the interior bars.

During our management meetings leading up to the event, I had suggested and fought for laser lights to be installed on the upstairs’ balconies to co-coordinately flash over and across the resort’s massive pool, but I fought a losing battle with the then Sales and Marketing Manager, who had a false god-like impression of himself. I also suggested that we do up the stage area that was to house the country band with hay bales, wagon wheels and a weather-beaten skull or two of bullocks. He cringed and readied himself for a further battle with me over this plan, but I won that round. One day leading up to New Year’s Eve, the Front Office Manager, who had become a good friend and co-conspirator, and I went off on a “beg, steal or borrow” expedition in search of the stage decorations. We’d borrowed the resort’s “ute” and, a few hours later, arrived back with its tray loaded with hay bales, a wagon wheel and two, much-maligned, sun-bleached bullock skulls. The look of disgust on Donaghy’s face, the sour Sales and Marketing Manager, made us laugh and more determined to achieve the desired “country” effect. To his chagrin, the decorations received great admiration from the party-goers on the night. Some people just don’t know how to have fun!

Andrea joined the revellers. He thoroughly enjoyed his first Aussie New Year’s Eve.

From the wide smiles on the happy faces of the jovial crowd they, too, enjoyed the evening, which had been hugely successful.

All good things come to an end and soon after New Year’s Eve, Andrea had to return to Italy once more. So it was back to life on my own without my lively, fun inamorata to distract my leisure hours.

Before he left Andrea arranged for me to meet with a group of Italian tourists who’d been traveling Australia on a tour organized by his father’s travel business. They were arriving in Cairns a week or two, after Andrea returned home, and, fortunately, would be in the area on my day off. Finalising the necessary details, I hired a Tarago van from Avis and headed off to pick up the group from their inner-city resort, “The Cairns Colonial Club”, (two pictures above) at the pre-arranged time. Soon the eight non-English speaking, boisterous Italians and non-Italian speaking me were merrily on our way out of Cairns en route to Port Douglas, seventy kilometers north along one of the most beautiful strips of highway in Australia.

One of my guests for the day was a dentist from Rome. Fortunately, he spoke some understandable English and he volunteered himself to be the “translator” during our escapade. We were all soon to learn, however, that language didn’t impose a barrier upon us and somehow we had little trouble understanding each other. I’ve always been told I “talk with my hands”, so I guess that helped a bit!

Not knowing quite what my group of wayfarers expected from the day or where and how exactly they wanted to spend their day, for a while I was in a quandary. Did they want to dine in a fancy restaurant for lunch? Were the very commercial tourist-directed stores on their agenda? Always preferring to attach a problem straight on, rather than work up a lather I asked them point-blank what they would like to do. With lots of head-shaking and “No, no, no’s”, I took the bull by the horns and then suggested that we buy some cheese, salami, olives etc., along with crunchy bread sticks, baguettes, liquid refreshments and with our “picnic” supplies safely in our possession, we find a few shady palm trees and she-oaks along the ocean front at Four Mile Beach. This was received with unanimous agreement. Outside the Post Office Hotel in the main street, some suggested we buy bottles of wine to help wash down our lunch. At that stage, my Italian friends had never heard of our ubiquitous, infamous wine casks. Shaking my head at their “bottles of wine” idea, I purchased a cold cask of dry white wine and a cask of red. They were suitably impressed. Running back into the nearby, small supermarket I bought some paper cups. What’s a true picnic without paper cups? Armed with our supplies we all piled back into the Tarago and headed to the beach-front.

My decision to “break bread”, washed down with wine at the foreshore overlooking the Coral Sea had been one of my better ideas, I must admit. My merry band of Italians was in absolute awe. We sat in the shade of the trees on the grass verge leading to the wide stretch of golden sand with a gentle sea breeze wafting softly, keeping us cool. Some wandered along the soft sand, wading in the shallows. Others lazed languidly in the dappled sunlight. All said it was the best day and time they’d had during their holiday tour of Australia. It was their last day on our sunny shores as they were flying back home to Italy the following morning. At that time, and I imagine it remains pretty much the same these days, only the well-to-do Italians traveled “Down Under” for their vacations, so this group who had been entrusted into my car had spent their time while holiday here staying in classy hotels and resorts, dining in the best restaurants. But, to them, that glorious, relaxed, fun-filled, “basic” day had been the best, and I’m sure, one that has remained uppermost in their memories of their holiday in Australia.

Reluctantly, it was time to turn the Tarago around and head back to Cairns city. With a van full of enthusiastic, enraptured day-trippers, their enjoyment of the day so completely obvious, I drove along the meandering coast road filled with contentment. A smile on my face and in my heart reflected the feelings of us all. Around 4.30pm, I deposited my captivated, blissful assemblage at the front lobby of their resort. Thanking me profusely, I was crushed by hugs and overcome with kisses to my cheeks. I promised each and everyone of them that I would be at the Cairns airport the next morning to bid them farewell. I fulfilled my promise. They were delighted to see me and a little surprised, I think, that I took the time to say “Arrivederci”, “Ciao” and “Good-bye”. Even though we had known each other for part of one day only, it was an emotive leave-taking. One lady amongst the group was from San Marino. She gave me a 1986 500 Lire coin, as a token to remember her by. It remains in my memorabilia to this day as a very fond reminder of the wonderful people I shared those few hours with during that unexpected, wondrous trip to Port Douglas.

A couple of weeks later, I received a telephone call from Giuseppe, Andrea’s father, thanking me extravagantly for taking such good care of his clients. He told me each and every one of them had reported back to him, raving about their “best day” spent in Australia.

My work at the resort, once more, took over my life. Long, busy days and nights, with some days extending up to sixteen hours, filled my time, leaving little left over for other pleasures except sleep. With only “Pushkin” my ginger cat to keep me company at home, I missed the liveliness of Andrea’s presence. With him in my life, my life was never dull. His natural exuberance and zest for living was constant, even when we relaxed together listening to music.

The telephone interrupted my reverie. Andrea’s voice greeted me from the other end, from across the ocean and land, he was returning to Australia once again. My heart somersaulted with joy and eager anticipation.

To be continued....