Thursday, May 31, 2007

Something To Chew Over

While I'm writing Chapter Eleven of "Reaching Out To The City Lights", I'll give you something to chew over in the meantime. My mind has turned to ducks lately...cooked ducks. I think the next time I have friends over to lunch, I'll serve duck, probably the one in the sour cherry sauce.

When I was living up in north Queensland, my brother visited me often, very often, on weekends, no matter where I was living at any given time, as long as it was within a couple of hours drive from Mackay. He had friends who raised ducks on a farm at Homebush, just south-west of Mackay. Graham, my brother, decided it would be a great idea to grab a couple of fresh ducks off his friends and bring them to me for me to cook. The "plan" was for me to prepare the duck; he and I would dine on it. Well, we tried many times before eventually the "plan" succeeded. One thing or the other always seemed to get in the way of our duck feast, usually one too many drinks. My late brother was one who never drank with his meals, or rarely, and never ever drank after he had eaten. Therein laid the problem! He was always having "one more", so by the time it came around to eating said duck, he wouldn't be in the mood for dinner and then blamed me, never himself, for its lateness! I shouldered the blame for many failed duck plans.

The funniest duck episode was one evening when I was living at Glenden, a coal town west of Mackay in the coal-rich Bowen Basin. Once again, Graham arrived bearing a duck! Late afternoon, we sat out in my courtyard enjoying a few drinks, he beer and me red wine. The sun went down. The moon came up. The stars twinkled brilliantly. I'd prepared the duck with soy, ginger, garlic and honey. It was doing what it was supposed to be doing in the oven. Another drink or two, another hour or two, the night progressed as did the time. An argument started over the lateness "again" of my serving dinner. Of course, it wasn't his fault. Again, the problems of the world were mine to bear. Graham stormed off to bed and I muttered a suitable phrase under my breath. Deciding it was better to ignore his grumblings, I went to the kitchen, removed the duck from the oven. Placing it on a platter, I took it back out to the courtyard with me. Once there, I realised my wine glass was empty. Back to the kitchen I went for a refill and then I returned to the courtyard. The duck has disappeared! I heard a crunching sound coming from the far corner of the yard. There in all her glory was Missy, the cocker spaniel. Missy was my brother's dog but for the last five years of her life, she was in my care. Missy had spotted the duck and decided it was hers! Munching away gaily, Missy was having a wonderful time, thoroughly enjoying her special duck dinner!

I went into my brother's bedroom, shaking him on his shoulder, I said repeatedly, "The "expletive" dog is eating the "expletive" duck!" (The expletive sort of rhymed with "duck")

Graham proceeded to ignore my wails as I continued with the above expression, finally giving up on him, returning to my glass of wine, minus the duck! The next morning, he was hysterical with laughter, explaining he had heard me and had been giggling his heart out at my complaints, but had decided to ignore me as I rambled on. We laughed about that particular episode for years.

Spicy Sicilian Duck

1 (3-4 1/2-pound) duck, cut into 8 pieces, rinsed, and patted dry
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 medium russet potatoes,peeled and cut into large cubes
2 capsicums/peppers, any color, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 celery, cut into 1-inch-long pieces
2 small eggplant, cut into large cubes
2 medium carrots, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
4 plum tomatoes, cut into chunks
1/2 cup Sicilian olives,pitted
2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
5 dried hot chillies
1.5 cups dry red wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1 hot red pepper flakes

Season duck pieces with salt and pepper. In a 10 to 12-inch sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add pieces skin side down; brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; set aside.In same pan, combine potatoes, peppers, celery, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, olives, capers and chilies; cook until softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add wine, return duck to pan, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, cover; cook until duck is cooked through, 15-20 minutes.Stir in mint, parsley, and red pepper flakes. Transfer stew to a large serving dish. Allow to cool to room temperature. Drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Roast Duck with Mung Beans

2 cups roasted duck meat, cut into small pieces.
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp dried prawns/shrimp (available at Asian stores)
4 cups mung bean sprouts
chicken stock
1 stalk green shallot, cut into approximately the same length as the mung bean sprouts


Heat up 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a frying pan or wok. Use medium heat. While heating up the oil, de-bone the duck and cut the meat into bite size pieces. Keep the bones.When the oil is hot enough, add the roasted duck, minced garlic, ginger and dried prawn and stir fry until you smell the fragrance of the garlic and roasted duck.Add the mung bean sprouts and stir fry until the mung bean sprouts become translucent. If the mixture is too dry, add 1-2 tbsp of chicken broth.
Add shallots and toss with the rest of the cooked ingredients.

Duck With Cherry Plum Sauce

Serves 4

1/2 cup Sour Cherries
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
2 boneless whole duck breasts,(about 1 pound each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces red cherries, stemmed, pitted, and halved
4 red plums, pitted and cut into eighths
5 teaspoons sugar1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 cup ruby port

2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar


Preheat oven to 250C/500F;. place sour-cherry preserves in a food processor, and puree. Transfer purée to a small bowl; set aside. Place peppercorns on a clean cutting board. Using the flat side of a heavy knife, press down on peppercorns until they are coarsely crushed, and set aside.Cut both duck breasts in half, and trim away any excess fat, leaving the skin attached to the breasts. Season both sides of duck breasts with salt and pepper. Spread 1 tablespoon puréed preserves on the flesh side of each breast; sprinkle with half of the crushed peppercorns.Place duck breasts, flesh side down, in a medium oven-proof skillet. Spread 1 tablespoon puréed preserves on skin side of each breast; sprinkle with remaining crushed peppercorns. Place skillet in oven; roast until medium rare, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven; set aside in a warm place.Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add cherries, plums, sugar, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Add port. Strike a match, and carefully ignite port; cook until flame dies out. Add vinegar, and cook until juices thicken, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat.Transfer duck to a serving dish, and pour fruit sauce over top. Serve.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Reaching Out To The City Lights....Chapter Ten

Before continuing to the opening of Baxter Street and the new world that was ahead of us all in the Queensland branch of the Kolotex Group of Companies, I’ll trace back over the few months leading up to the commencement of that wonderfully inspiring, energetic time.

In Panama, “R” jumped aboard a German cargo ship headed for Australia, working his way back home. He’d left New York where he’d been employed for some time with the New Zealand Mission to the United Nations and then later by the British Embassy to travel to Mexico. Making his way through the Panama Canal, en route south to Australia, he scrubbed rust off the deck of the ship to earn his passage “Down Under”. After my marriage break-up “R” and I restored our contact. Through the years, I had remained friendly with his parents. His mother and I, in particular, were very good friends and had been from our first meeting. It didn't mean I wasn't good friends with his father, but "R's" father at that stage traveled a lot within the position he held in Queensland Railways and was often away from home. He was manager of the dining rooms and dining cars throughout Queensland, ending his career years later as General Manager.

After I moved to my New Farm flat, I decided I wanted to earn extra money. I gained part-time evening employment in a small restaurant called “The Pelican Tavern”, owned by a Russian gentleman, Kryiol Wypow. Never having worked in a restaurant or similar before, it was quite a challenge for me, but one I was keen to tackle. I waited tables on Friday and Saturday nights. From there my hours grew, sometimes working a couple of nights during the week, as well. The Tavern opened my eyes to and began my interest in the food industry. I spent a lot of time with Mr. Wypow, watching him prepare meals for his diners. He was a self-taught cook and enjoyed my keen interest in what was going on around me. The Tavern was my first introduction into the restaurant industry. I was immediately addicted!

Socially, my life was pretty full, as well. By that time, I had a fairly wide circle of friends. When “R” arrived back home in Brisbane we picked up where we'd left off before he'd begun his US sojourn. His spirit remained restless however. “R’s” urge to travel hadn’t diminished. His odyssey was incomplete. After about four months back home, he returned to New York, the city he loved, but I had a dream of my own to help me through the upset of his second departure from my life. I placed “R” back into the deep, hidden recess in my heart, a place I had reserved for him.

The emerging plans of our Queensland office and the joint marketing enterprise were coming into fruition. Fortunately, I had little time to wallow in my own self-pity, hurt and pain. As before, I kept my emotions and feelings private, deciding to put all my energies fervently into the gigantic task ahead of me. After all, during the preceding years, John and I had spent many hours discussing our dream of joint marketing. Now it was within our reach. Much had to be achieved to get if off the ground, up and running successfully. It was not only that we had put our dream on the line, a lot was at stake. We now had an extra fourteen people who were our responsibility. They had joined us in our dream. It was imperative that it be successful. “Mr. Trimmer” was now “John” to me as I’d become good friends with he and Shirley, and of course, their two boys, Gavin and Andrew. I became another member of their family, in a way.

Once again, I bade farewell to “R” as he boarded his return flight to the States. Turning swiftly on my heels, I strode determinedly towards my new world, leaving the past behind me.

Gathering together our eager, new bunch of “troops”, we were ready to “open our doors” by the time the New Year had come and gone. All decoration, fittings and fixtures were completed. The warehouse was stocked to its limit and more. Paddy, the head store-man, was diligently instructing his “boys”, with me busy interviewing, hiring and training the clerical staff. The Glo International showroom beamed proudly. Its glistening glass shelves and brass fittings adorned with showpieces. Men and women’s wear, displayed prominently and decoratively in the Rogtex showroom, were ready for the first buyers to step through its doors. The concertina doors were closed between the Rogtex and Kolotex showroom enabling the hosiery showroom to stand alone, displaying its wares. The building, its interior and the warehouse were ready. John, me and the rest of the staff were crouched at the starting line, waiting for the starter’s pistol. We heeded its sound. We were off! A commanding lot of competitors we were!

The excitement was contagious throughout the staff, but quickly came the time to knuckle down. Our dream was now a reality.

The heady days of “Clings, The Girl With the Poodle On the Pack”, Kolotex’s first major entrance as high-rollers in the hosiery trade, were in the past, but definitely not forgotten. “Clings” stockings had placed Kolotex Hosiery on the map. We had now expanded that map a thousand-fold with a vigorous resolve to keep the Kolotex name foremost in the minds of the retailers and their customers.

Paul Kornmehl visited from Sydney Head Office, (he didn’t get to meet his telephone buddy), as did Eric Baruch, the head of the handbag division, so did some of the other “heavies” from Sydney. Each and everyone were rightly impressed at what we had put together in Brisbane.

A few month’s into our first year of the joint marketing, Sasha and I left the New Farm flat to live in a brand-new apartment in a building of eight apartments, which had been completed within days before I took up occupancy. I was the first tenant to move into the new apartment block, other than the young owner/landlord and his mate who occupied the townhouse at the rear of the block. Sasha took one look at his new residence, nodded his head in agreement and then immediately found his cosy spot on my bed.

I became “married” to my job. My life revolved around my work and the Kolotex Group. I didn’t take holidays. Holidays were of no interest to me as there was so much happening within the company and my part in it all was major. Plus I was far more interested what was unfolding around me than going on a holiday. I’d miss out on all the fun! Sick days were not part of my vocabulary. New lines were being produced regularly, in all three branches of the company, meaning promotional evenings had to be planned to present them to the retailers. For the first year, Queensland Caterers were hired to handle the catering side for such evenings, but soon my interest in food again came to the fore. I presented a plan to John, who agreed with my idea, forwarding it on to the Sydney office for their “official” approval, but it was a done deal without their final nod.

Our young receptionist, Dale, soon blotted her copybook. Eventually I had no option other than to sack her. Not a month went by without her taking two, three or more days off work “sick”. I had no evidence to prove her deception, being forced to wait until she slipped up. Her attitude became brazen and cocky, tossing her nose in the air at instruction, then one day she tripped over her own deceitful attitude and careless ways. Westfield built a new shopping centre and the televised grand opening was on a Wednesday. Dale’s mother telephoned me advising that her daughter was sick and unable to come into work. On the television news that evening on the television screen as large as life almost, was Dale, arms laden with shopping bags filled with the day’s grand opening specials! Full of confidence and obvious good health, she bounced into work the following morning. I promptly summonsed her to my office, wherein she proceeded to continue with her lies until I made it clear to her that the television camera told no lies. I fired her on the spot, telling her to pack up her things and head back home as she seemed to prefer it to her workplace. A little while later, her mother telephoned abusing me on behalf of her daughter. I listened to her rant for a short while. Before hanging up the phone, I said, “Your daughter is not entirely to blame for her behaviour. You’re the one mostly at fault here as you are aiding and abetting your child in her lies. What chance does she have when she has a mother who lies for her and urges her to do similar?” That was the end of the telephone conversation.

Dale's replacement was Julie.

For the Queensland office’s future promotional evenings my idea was I would take over the catering from the “professionals”. I would plan, order, purchase and prepare the food for our future promotional evenings. Excited that my idea was agreeable to all concerned, I could hardly wait for our next event. I believed I could offer our clients better food than commercially-prepared fare, plus I would get paid for my services. The latter was a motivating incentive for me! The company was invoiced and payment was received by me accordingly. Everyone benefited from our "expansion" into the catering business because the young staff were trained in the art of food service...and washing up! The nights were good learning experiences for my staff because they gave them opportunities to meet personally with our retail clients on a different playing field. Such evenings gave them a further insight into business enabling them to understand their important roles in it.

To explain the ‘promotional evenings’, during my years with the Kolotex Group of Companies we held many such evenings and all were hugely successful. We had a few crazy, fun ideas such as a London black cab and London double-decker bus. We almost lost the top deck of the bus, transferring retail buyers up to Mount Coot-tha one evening for a promotion at the Channel Nine television studios. I exaggerate a little, but the bus did almost get stuck under the overhead railway bridge at Toowong, much to the delight of our champagne-swilling guests. The London cab was purchased by the company around the same time, but I can’t really remember the reason why. I know I used to revel in feelings of importance and hysterics the mornings John would stop by my apartment in Toowong to drive me to work in the black cab. Purposely, I’d sit in the rear seat. We raised many bemused, interested looks as we drove to the office building. John wore a small cap, similar to those worn by vintage car owners, so he suited the part. I pretended to be aloof as I practiced the “royal” wave!

Not only did I handle all the catering and everything involved with the catering side of our promotional evenings, but I also worked closely beside John in the choreography and themes to be used by the models during those evenings. We worked intuitively with the modeling agencies. We had our favourite models who we used regularly and we knew what we were looking for. Actually, the first ever panti-hose commercial produced in Australia, was produced by John at the Channel Nine studies, in Brisbane. Annette Allison, well-known television newsreader and presenter was our model. Annette started her career in television when she was only eighteen. Some of my Aussie readers may know of Annette. She now lives in Melbourne and has done so for many years. Annette Allison was one of our favourite people to use as she was a “television girl” with a beautifully modulated speaking voice. Annette was a huge fan of Kolotex. She and I remained mates for many years. The last time I saw her was when we ran into each other accidentally in Melbourne one afternoon during my Hinchinbrook Island days. Preplanned, I was meeting a friend for drinks on the Friday afternoon. Arriving at the designated place and time, who should also be one of his guests, no one other than Annette! It was such a fun coincidence, but that’s another story!

One massive promotion the company sunk their teeth into was when Kolotex flew a photographer, his crew and three models to Easter Island and Machu Picchu in Peru for a hosiery shoot. The launch of a new range of panti-hose was in the wings, with the new exciting product being centred on Erich von Däniken’s “Chariots of the Gods”. Invitations were extended to the Peruvian Consul and his wife, as well as to the Chilean Consul in Brisbane. On the day of the first evening (we always ran two consecutive evenings, one for the Myer Group and the other major stores and boutiques. The second night was solely for the David Jones stores…David Jones people were a little more conservative than the others! It was best that we held separate events!) a grey-haired gentleman, bearing a black Gladstone bag under his arm, arrived at the reception area asking for me. Opening the bag, he produced some bottles of Chilean wine, telling me they were “with compliments from the Chilean Consul”, Dr. Robert Wright. I asked the dapper gentleman in front of me if he was Dr. Wright but he said, “No, I run his messages for him.” With a twinkle in his eye and a smile, he went on his way. Shortly after his visit, a courier arrived from the Peruvian Consul, bearing bottles “Ica Pisco”. Pisco is a brandy distilled from whole white Muscat grapes. Both Chile and Peru claim it to be their national drink, causing a little consternation between the two countries. Peru was the first to produce Pisco back in the 1530s.

As our guests began arriving, amongst them was the “grey-haired gentleman” who, in fact, was Dr. Robert Wright. Though a “true blue Aussie”, Dr. Wright was the Chilean Consul and had been for many, many years. Robert Wright was a Doctor of Dentistry. He was Queensland’s first Doctor of Dentistry. Robert served in the Second World War and still carried a bullet from when he was injured when serving in Guadalcanal. Born, raised and educated in Brisbane, the home he lived in at Kangaroo Point, “Sunnyside” had been constructed in the 1890s and had been in his family since 1920 when his father purchased the property from the son of the original owner.

The Peruvian Consul, whose name I’ve forgotten, and his wife attended. He was very quiet and conservative, a vast contrast to the more gregarious Dr. Wright.

Throughout the country Kolotex ran a competition, offering trips to Easter Island and Machu Picchu to the winner from each state. A woman from Townsville, who worked at James Cook University in that city, won the Queensland section of the competition. She attended our office to receive her flight tickets and accommodation details before leaving Australia for her prize destinations. We never heard from her again, perhaps she’s still over there somewhere chasing llamas!

After each of these promotional evenings John and I, particularly, would be exhausted. A lot of careful organization and planning went into the evenings. Beforehand, John would stress about giving his “sales pitch”, having to stand “bare faced” in front of a showroom filled with our business guests. He was a “man of words”, very intelligent, well-read and well-traveled, having at one time been the overseas’ buyer for a major South Australian retailer. He had been based in London for easy access to Europe. When the Cold War broke out John returned to Australia. John’s deep, dulcet tones commanded one’s attention, but he still fell victim to his nerves at such times and suffered “stage fright” the few minutes before facing the madding crowd of buyers etc. Knowing him well, I would make him empty out his trouser pockets of all loose coins and car keys, as he’d gained a habit of jingling whatever was in his pockets when he was nervous. I would coach him to calm down, telling him just to relax and then I’d hand him a stiff Scotch! It became the normal thing for me to place myself in the centre of the room amongst the keenly interested buyers, department heads and store-managers within John’s eye line. We had concocted between us secret signals. A nod or shake of my head, unnoticeable to others; a blink of an eye or a raised eyebrow each had its own meaning or warning. We certainly became an excellent double act!

In handling the catering side of the evenings, I made notes and notes during the weeks beforehand, planning the style of food for the evenings, listing ideas and ingredients, desirous that the menu I chose fitted the “theme” of the particular promotion. Raiding the supermarkets, butchers and delicatessens, soon the kitchen in my apartment was overflowing with groceries, which spilled over to the staff room at Baxter Street. The staff room had been fitted out full-sized refrigerator, a portable “Roden” oven and cook-top, benches, cupboards, sink, small table and chairs during the original preparation of the building for our occupancy. For the duration of the functions, I’d hire an upright holding/warming oven or two from a catering equipment supplier. These ovens were about six feet high by two and a half feet wide. Somehow, I’d squeeze them into the rather confined room that had originally been designed to cater for in-house staff only, not fifty or so hungry visitors. The day before the planned event, I’d spend at home preparing the majority of the menu in my own kitchen, leaving the final preparation to be done in the staff room on the day of the function. Transferring the ingredients, pots, trays and containers of food into the premises at Baxter Street became a major “meals-on-wheels” manoeuvre of expertly timed precision. For one such occasion I prepared twelve traditional English trifles as part of the desserts. I made egg custards and coconut macaroons for the trifles from scratch using the little Roden oven and cook-top. I must have been insane or stupid…perhaps both! Glassware and cutlery were hired to cover the requirements. A bar was set up at one end of the showroom in question. The staff had a quick lesson in the art of bar-tending as well. It was a "win-win" situation for all concerned!

So there I was chief caterer for our promotional evenings as well as secretary, office manager and whatever else I was. Titles have never meant anything to me. I was John Trimmer's secretary and under that umbrella I expanded my horizons. He allowed me to fly free, never clipping my wings.

Kolotex soon became the “talk of the town” because of our wildly successful promotional evenings. No one else could match them.

Carla Zampatti, the acclaimed Australian fashion designer, at that stage a few years into her career, was contracted to design a signatory range of women’s wear by the Rogtex Clothing division. I was the first person to cater for Carla in Queensland. Her virgin trip to Queensland was as our “special guest” at the launch of “Rebecca by Zampatti”, the line of women’s clothing bearing her signature. She was and still is a stunning-looking woman, tall with golden skin, evidence of her Italian heritage. Carla Zampatti was born in Italy. With her family, she settled in Australia in 1950. Her personality and grace matched her good looks.

The beautiful, effervescent, unstoppable Maggie Tabberer, former model, owner of designer label “Maggie T” and well-known personality was also contracted at one stage, putting her name to a new panti-hose line being produced. Maggie turned seventy years young 0n 13th December 2006. It was once said about her that she “was too beautiful to be a model”. She certainly has been a bright light in Australia’s fashion industry for many, many years

Coincidentally I was to meet up with her again a few years later, in my store at Noosa.

Our company became the major runner in the hosiery field and in the metal-mesh world of handbags and accessories. The Rogtex division was really a minor player in the fashion industry but it still played its small, though important part well. Its customer base was slowly but surely increasing throughout the retail outlets in Queensland and Northern New South Wales.

To be continued.....(pictures of Maggie Tabberer when she was younger and one taken about four or five years ago)

Leave Hinchinbrook Island Alone, Keith Williams!

I've written this post in FauxNew

However, I thought it worth of repeating in here. You all know how I feel about the resort on Hinchinbrook Island, of how close it is to my heart.

It was only a couple of nights ago, I discovered developer Keith Williams has purchased the resort at Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island.

I’m not some tree-hugging “greenie” but Hinchinbrook Island has a special place in my heart. Back in the mid-eighties I lived on the island and managed the small resort at Cape Richards. I would hate to see the resort area changed. Presently, the resort covers an area of only 22 acres. Please let’s leave it that way. Hinchinbrook Island is a national park. The island is 245 square miles in area. When I was at the resort the maximum number of people we could accommodate at one time was 45, although we advertised “maximum population 30″…thirty was a more comfortable number to cater for. A couple of years after I left, the number of cabins were increased to cater for a maximum 60 guests at any given time. Sixty guests is more than enough for this resort.

I know Margaret Thorsborne, personally. She is a wonderful elderly lady who loves Hinchinbrook Island and its surrounds dearly. She is the President of the Alliance to Save Hinchinbrook. I first met Margaret and her now late husband Arthur when I moved to the island. Throughout the years since then our paths have crossed quite a few times. I have also met Keith Williams a couple of times, when he used to stay in a motel I managed in Cardwell, a town on the mainland across from Hinchinbrook Island. Keith Williams is a very smart man, similar in age to Margaret Thorsborne, however Williams is more on the side of the fence of a developer than on the side of the fence to preserve Hinchinbrook Island resort.

Back when I was living on Hinchinbrook Island he was busy turning Hamilton Island into a clone of the Gold Coast, abounding with high-rise condominiums, canals, concrete and bitumen.

Let’s hope this is not allowed to happen at Cape Richards or anywhere else on Hinchinbrook Island. Leave the resort at Cape Richards remain as it is….low-key, natural and relaxed. We have enough high-powered resorts and hotels on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts and other island resorts.

There is only one Hinchinbrook Island Resort. The resort is unique amongst island resorts/retreats...please let's not change its uniqueness!

Margaret Thorsborne (Community Conservation)

Margaret, along with her late husband Arthur, has spent most of her life promoting and supporting environmental values. A founding member of the Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation (C4) in Mission Beach and of the Tully branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, Margaret is well known for her selfless efforts in working to preserve the unique and outstanding World Heritage values of Hinchinbrook Island and the Hinchinbrook Channel. The Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island was named in honour of Margaret and her husband.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Update and Interval...

I'm sorry if I'm keeping you waiting on Chapter Ten of my "Reaching Out To The City Lights" story. I'm in the middle of writing it at the moment, and hopefully I should have it posted within the next twenty-four hours. I apologise for the delay but the "present" has interrupted the "past", therefore causing me to run out of time! I'm on my hands and knees begging your forgiveness, so hurry up and grant it or I'll turn into stone! (The flower is to bribe you!)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reaching Out To The City Lights...Chapter Nine

After a three or so years’ hiatus, interruption, detour or whatever it was, finally my life was my own. I was living alone as I had wanted to do when first moving to Brisbane. I loved having my own place and space for just me and Sasha, my spirited ginger cat of whom I got custody, of course. It was a given, where I went, he went. Like the flat Dawn and I’d shared in Toowong, my New Farm abode was part of a whole house. Mrs. Smith, my new elderly landlady, had converted the rear section of her home into a reasonably large, private one-bedroom flat/apartment. It possessed a well-laid out kitchen, a large lounge room, bathroom with full bath as well as shower recess and a large bedroom that opened out to a small balcony with four or five stairs leading down to the backyard that flowed onto a wide well-manicured bank of the Brisbane River. From my bedroom, I could see across the expanse of the river to Hawthorne, a suburb on the other side of the waterway. At night, I left the French doors open so I could enjoy the atmosphere of the lights of the river traffic together with the luminosity from the buildings and homes across the way dancing on the water like phosphorescence, while resplendent and interruptive in the night sky, brazenly in competition with the stars.

Mrs. Smith was rarely at home, spending most of her time in Papua New Guinea visiting her brother where he had lived for many years. Her abundant rose bushes and their magnificent array of colourful blooms, not only turned the front garden into a kaleidoscopic spectacle matching an artist’s palette with their breathtaking display, but they also enhanced every vase and empty container in my new home. Mervyn was happy. I was happy. Sasha settled into his new surroundings without a backward glance.

The outside world was changing on the business-front, and had altered in the lives of my boss and his wife, as well. A couple of years after Gavin was born, along came his baby brother, Andrew James. John and Shirley moved from their apartment in Kangaroo Point into the new home they built in Kenmore, a western suburb. Both boys became part of my world and I, a part in theirs.

Everything started to move at a rapid rate of knots. The search for our replacement premises came to an end with the discovery of a newly-constructed building in Fortitude Valley, an inner city suburb, only a few kilometers from the CBD. The new building suited our requirements. There was room within it for a large warehousing area with loading ramp, two large showrooms, one L-shaped, both able to be divided off into two smaller areas if and when necessary, a general office area to amply fit four work stations including filing cabinets etc., an accommodating staff room, four generously-sized offices, plus a spacious reception area to hold a lengthy front desk, receptionist, sofas and visiting clients, together with parking for six vehicles on ground, some undercover.

An architect-interior designer was hired. I hardly saw John Trimmer during those days as he was busily instructing him on the desired interior lay-out, meeting with telecommunications’ people, painters, office and warehouse-fitters, plumbers, electricians and whoever else was necessary to achieve the successful completion of the new home for the Kolotex Group of Companies and its increasing family.

Four sales representatives were hired. Well, actually, two. Ken and Charles, the two young men who had replaced Barry were promoted into the roles of representatives to sell the company’s products to the trade. Charles’ territory spread from Mackay to Cairns in far north of Queensland, out west to Mount Isa and all areas in between. Ken’s territory started in Brisbane, extending up to Rockhampton and all areas west. Ron, based in Inverell, a country town in New South Wales, covered all of the northern, eastern and western areas of New South Wales. The Gold Coast and suburban areas of Brisbane were handed to Ian. Paddy, an Irishman (how would you have guessed!) was hired as head store-man with two junior charges. Isabel managed the Glo International Handbags and Accessories. Mr. Cam Head and his wife Myrtle joined our employ as manager and assistant in the men’s and women’s clothing section of Rogtex. Mr. and Mrs. Head were always referred to as “Mr. and Mrs.” A young receptionist, Dale, adorned the reception area. Direct behind the reception area was my new office. Alongside my office was Mr. Trimmer’s office. The Heads shared an office between John Trimmer’s office and the Rogtex showroom. Isabel’s office was down the corridor, around a corner, nearby to the Glo International showroom. Kolotex Hosiery used either one of the showrooms when required. Two young ladies occupied two of the desks in the General Office area. The other desks were for the sales representatives and consultants when they were in-office. Pam remained our hosiery consultant.

When we opened our doors in 28 Baxter Street, Fortitude Valley, our original staff count of two had increased to sixteen.

Everyone was eagerly waiting in the wings as the interior of the premises was being put into shape. We’d hired the young receptionist before the rest of the clerical staff, who came later, once we’d moved lock, stock and barrel into our new “home”. As soon as the telephone lines were installed into the building, Dale was set in place, even though she would be surrounded by painters, electricians, tarpaulins, ladders and other work equipment. The architect, who was a very tall man of around 6 feet 7 inches in height, was present every day, too. One morning during this hectic time, John Trimmer came running into the Queen Street office where I was still ensconced holding the fort up that end of town. He was flustered, his normally tidy hair out of place. His face flushed, angrily he tossed his suit coat on one of the chairs in front of my desk. Growling rather loudly, he raged about our new young receptionist. Our “big kahuna” in the Sydney office had rung John, and Dale, still not familiar with the new-fangled switchboard and phones tried to connect John Trimmer to the big boss in Sydney, but somehow managed to connect him to one of the painters, instead! John never did see the funny side of it until years later. All I could do was laugh, because I could picture the scene vividly. I could clearly see John ranting and raving not caring who was within earshot, while the painters tried to become invisible, one having a conversation with Paul Kornmehl in Sydney, and John talking to one of the shopfitters. Meanwhile, the long and lanky architect, Ed Devenport was trying to minimize his height and presence in a corner, failing miserably!

The New Year was drawing close. So was the opening of our joint marketing venture. Stocks of clothing, hosiery and handbags were arriving daily by the truckloads. The little city office was looking forlorn and bare as the shining new offices were gradually being completed and fitted with new furniture and equipment. New carpet and tiles covered the floors. I went with John to an office equipment store to choose my spanking new desk, which ended up bigger than his! Drapes were hung. Concertina doors fitted to enable the showrooms to be divided when appropriate.

We were ready, straining at the bit. I was the last to leave the city office, saying a fond farewell as excitedly I looked to the future.

To be continued.....(I hope I'm not boring you all!)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Reaching Out To The City Lights...Chapter Eight

Returning from our honeymoon, Mervyn and I settled into our life together as man and wife. I enjoyed decorating our little apartment in an attempt to make it feel like “home”. And life was fine for a while, but in time I became unsettled and restless within myself. I began to feel fenced in, trapped. Discontentment crept in. It became invasive. Mervyn was a good man. What I was experiencing wasn’t his fault. I didn’t fool myself. Fully aware I’d married on the rebound, it was up to me to face and deal with the consequences. We socialized often; spent weekends at Noosa when we could juggle them in with our other commitments. Mervyn was still a surf lifesaver and had to fulfill club responsibilities. Reading, a pastime enjoyed by us both, filled our quiet hours. Periodically, we enjoyed small dinner parties with friends. My love of cooking had a stage on which to play. Recipe books began to take their place on my bookshelves joining my many other books. I was always eager to try something new in the cooking field. Mervyn was a keen participant and taste-tester, although he constantly raised my ire when he insisted on adding tomato sauce to a bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese or Worcestershire sauce to a special curry made from the blending spices! To save myself from rapid increases in my blood pressure, I soon learned to hide the sauce bottles at the back of the fridge or cupboard, guiltlessly and callously telling him I’d carelessly run out of the sauces. He’d have to adapt his taste-buds to eating certain meals without the addition of sauces if he wished to survive! His well-being was at risk if he didn’t!

Throughout the years, looking back to that time in my life, dissecting it and understanding it, I’ve spent many hours reflecting in an effort to understand my actions of rushing blindly into marriage. “R” had deserted me. I felt betrayed, lost and alone, not that I admitted my feelings openly to anyone else. The majority of the time, my pain and hurt I kept to myself, with only a couple of weak, indiscreet moments. Obviously, one such unfortunate untimely moment was when I attempted to enter the church to be married to someone else. For the next couple of years, I pushed “R” to the back of my mind and into a secret hidden cavern in my heart. My efforts succeeded for a while, but persistently my memories of him kept recurring to taunt and haunt me. As hard as I tried, he was difficult to forget. “R” had stolen my heart. He had failed to return it. Battling with the reality of my true feelings, I couldn’t get “R” out of my mind. His shadow hovered constantly, in my dreams and in the daylight hours. Unremitting, interfering thoughts of him teased and tormented me. I was fully aware that I had no one to blame for my disquietude except myself. Without stepping back, spending time to think, I’d vaulted the truth and plunged into the deep end without a life-preserver, with a lifesaver!

Three years into our marriage, our life together had become robot-like. I knew Mervyn and I couldn’t continue living with our heads in the sand, pretending everything was all right. It wasn’t. Our arguments were minor and few, but we had descended into silences and remoteness. Knowing this wasn’t how life was meant to be, one evening I insisted we both sit down together to calmly discuss our situation. And we did. Brought out into the open, we were able to face each other honestly and reasonably as we dissected our lives, our marriage and what each of us expected and wanted. No blame was shed upon the other by either one of us. We’d shared many fun times. Generally, we’d had a great time. We were just not meant to be a “couple” forever. Agreeing we were better off parting and going our separate ways, I chose to be the one to leave the” marital home”. We weren’t in a hurry to get a divorce as neither of us had any immediate plans to get married again. I’d decided I'd “been there” and didn’t intend “going there” again for a long time, if ever. Mervyn felt the same, so the idea of divorce was put on the back-burner. More pressing matters were at hand, such as finding a place for me to move into. Within a couple of days, I found a flat in Oxlade Drive, New Farm, down the street and around the corner a bit from where Mervyn and I had spent the past three years. Plans were put into place for the big “move” to be on the Saturday. However, before that could happen, we received a telephone call from one of Mervyn’s sisters. She and her husband intended visiting Brisbane for the weekend. They asked if they could stay with us overnight on the Saturday! What could we say? The weekend was spent entertaining our visitors and my move was put on “hold” until the following Saturday. Our guests had no idea what we had in store, as we preferred to keep our personal business to ourselves. They were completely ignorant of how they'd upset our plans for the weekend. We could see the funny side of it all, though, carrying on as if everything thing was fine while they were with us. Not many people put off a separation to entertain guests!

The day arrived, again, for my removal from the ‘marital home”. Mervyn helped me pack and move, much to the delight of our upstairs neighbours who we had befriended. They were a young British couple, around similar ages to Mervyn and me. They thought they’d seen it all when he took off on foot towards my new abode with a tall bookcase resting on his head and shoulders. He’d made the bookcase for me, though not very handy in that department, he was very proud of his effort! Halfway through the relocation, we stopped, inviting Terry and Christine, our upstairs friends, to join us in going into the city to view the “Warana” procession. It was “Warana Festival” week and the parade of colourful floats etc., was about to commence. Shaking their heads and laughing, Terry and Chris joined us in watching the brilliant parade of floats, clowns and entertainers of all kinds. Now they had seen and heard it all, they reckoned. No one ever stops in the middle of moving out from a marriage to go and see a parade! No one except Mervyn and Lee, that is! There was no animosity, no spite or bitterness in our separation. Mervyn and I remain friends to this day. He has never failed to telephone me on my birthday. I do likewise. We email each other frequently. Periodically he rings me. He married again eventually. Jackie, his wife and I have met and spoken many times. They had a daughter, who only last week gave birth to their first grandchild. They also have twin sons. I’ve always been kept in the loop. All’s well, that ends well.

Five years or so after we separated, Mervyn rang me to enquire about us divorcing. I told him I would handle it myself, rather than donate money to solicitors for doing work I was more than capable of doing. I’d had five years legal experience. Divorce Law Reforms had come into being in the intervening years. We didn’t have joint property or children to be taken into consideration. So, I typed up the necessary papers etc., and in time, our divorce came through. It cost us $45.00 and that included my cab fares to and from the court! I don't regret those three years of marriage to Mervyn. I know he feels the same way about our time together. They were probably good for me. I matured. I needed that "life-line" to stay on course, I guess. Who knows? Life has its own mind. We are just mere actors in the play.

Settled into my new home on the banks of the Brisbane River, I ploughed my energies into my job with Kolotex Hosiery. For the previous couple of years, I’d frequently been expressing to John Trimmer my dream of how positive and intelligent it would be if we could set up our own joint marketing “under our own roof”, wiping out the need of the wholesale agents. I believed by employing our own people to market and sell our products; the company would expand even further, as our own people would be working for the company and themselves, putting their hearts, souls and loyalty into Kolotex. Something I didn’t believe we received from our agents’ salespeople, because the agents carried many different products manufactured by varying, diverse companies. One product soon became melded with the other in the minds of the salespeople. I spent hours and hours daydreaming. Even more hours were spent talking with John Trimmer about my dream for the Queensland office.

Our little Queen Street office in Heindorf House was bursting at the seams. Not only over the past couple of years had we hired two young men, Ken and Charles to replace Barry, but the “bigwigs” behind the tiller of Kolotex in Sydney had purchased a handbag company and factory. John Trimmer announced his plans of employing a hosiery consultant to be placed in the hosiery departments of the city and suburban stores, promoting our lines. The consultant would be booked out to the retail stores on a weekly basis to market and sell Kolotex Hosiery. My nose was put a little bit out of joint initially as I wanted so much to be out in the market-place, “hands-on” promoting the products of the company I so much believed in and loved. Although I said nothing about my feelings, my boss picked up on my discontent.

Taking me aside once afternoon when only he and I were in the office, John Trimmer said, “Look…I know you think you’d like to do the consultancy work, but I know better. It’s not what I want for you. It’s a shit job…you don’t want it, I promise you. We are moving forwards and upwards. Busy times, very busy times are ahead of us. I need you by my side to help me do what has to be done. I want to know you will be with me, beside me…I want you to be my “right-hand-man”. This company is growing and there are massive changes afoot.”

That proved to be an understatement.

John poached a departmental manager from one of the major inner city stores to join us. Isabell became manager of Glo International Handbags’ section of the Kolotex Group of Companies. Our little office of two had multiplied into six. The growth wasn’t to stop there.

Shortly after the purchase of Glo International, The Kolotex Group of Companies added another company to its stables. Rogtex Men’s and Women’s Wear was the latest acquisition.

John Trimmer formulated a plan based on his dreams and my daydreams of our ridding ourselves of the wholesale agents. He had always agreed with my vision for our Queensland office. Putting together a professional business plan, which I helped him work on, he flew to Sydney to present our idea to the “powers-that-be” in the head office and the Kolotex board. Not long after his Sydney visit, we were instructed to say farewell to the office in Heindorf House. A search began for new, much, much bigger premises, incorporating warehouse space, showrooms, general office area, reception area and managerial offices. The search began, also, for our own sales representatives to service an area extending from Tamworth in New South Wales to Cairns in North Queensland, west to the borders of Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia, together with warehouse and office staff.

We were about to embark upon the ride of our lives. We were on the brink of a most thrilling, exciting and fulfilling ride full of surprises, achievements and unexpected occurrences. I was ready but even in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined what was in store.

To be continued....

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Reaching Out To The City Lights...Chapter Seven

The “Top Secret” show at Lennons was a roaring success. Kolotex Hosiery certainly was no longer top secret. We’d made a grand entrance into the Brisbane fashion trade. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the invitees turned up for our promotional evening. The function room, filled to capacity with interested buyers, departmental heads, store managers, boutique owners, advertising and media people, etc., buzzed with the hum of excitement. The “Top Secret” launch was the first of many bigger, more adventurous promotional evenings we were to produce and entertain the trade with throughout the coming years. At this stage we were just dipping our toes into the shallow end of the pool. Many much more exciting times were ahead, though we weren't aware of that at the time.

Business increased. Our little office became busier by the day. Along with that growth the contents of our small storeroom grew and grew as well. Excess stocks of the various styles of stockings and panti-hose were bursting out of the shelves. Soon, our office of two expanded to three. A young fellow, Barry Lamont, was hired to assist in the storeroom with the packing of orders, also for stock counts and stock-control in the city retail stores, freeing up John Trimmer to handle the more pressing managerial, marketing and sales matters. After about twelve months, Barry left our employ and two young men were hired in his stead. Then we were four.

Sales in the country and regional areas, handled by our wholesale agents, Gresham, Down and Johnson, were exploding daily, too. I didn’t like dealing with our agents. I found the head of the company to be a pompous snob and his son, headed in a similar direction, to be a carbon copy of his father. He was a spoilt “private school” left-over! Often I would see the son, a few years older than me, at various night-spots or social gatherings I attended. I always dodged him, not particularly desirous of his loud-mouthed company and over-inflated ego. My dream was that we, in our own office, could handle all our sales ourselves, without the wholesale agents.

“Gavin John” also was growing into an even more beautiful, blonde-haired baby, chubby of cheek with wide, inquisitive blue eyes. As the months passed I got to know him well, often baby-sitting when his parents wanted a night out together. This was a wonderful treat for me, as well, not only because he was a very contented baby, but I’d fallen under his spell. He was a joy to be with and to spoil!

“R” and I continued to exchange letters. I wrote more often than he, of course, being “naturally gabby” in that department as friends of mine will testify to! He’d gained employment at a resort hotel in the North Island of New Zealand at Waitomo in the Waikato Region. He was having a wonderful time from all accounts. I didn’t stay at home packed in “moth-balls” either. I was a young, attractive woman who enjoyed life and all that it had to offer. I was damned sure I wasn’t going to sit around knitting. I was a hopeless knitter, anyway! I went out, met new people and had fun. I missed “R”. I loved him, but I wasn't prepared to let life pass me by, not for him, not for anyone.

Dawn and I rarely saw each, perhaps only once a week or so, and then only briefly. We both were busy going our own ways, living our own lives. She was still seeing her boss, socially and Jack made his odd appearances. One night when she was out with her boss, Jack arrived looking very forlorn on my doorstep. Feeling very sorry for himself, he blurted out to a surprised me (as during the very few times I’d met him, he hardly opened his mouth), that he was aware of Dawn’s “double life”. Obviously distressed, he didn’t know how to handle the situation. I sat him down and shared some words of wisdom with him, wisdom I never heeded myself, but was expert at sharing with others! Telling him he had to start putting Dawn ahead of his football and his football mates, I explained to him she was not to blame in seeking comfort and the company of another as he was never around. If he loved her as he said he did, he had to fight for her, be there for her and put her first in his life over and above his rugby league and "the boys". A relationship couldn’t survive on absence and a telephone call once in a while, or a visit once in a blue moon. He needed to “woo” her back. Send her flowers, take her to dinner, go on picnics, spend his time with her doing the "little things" together. I knew she cared for him but he was never “there”. I spoke at length to him that night and he listened quietly. Within weeks, they set a date to be married, and he became a regular feature at our flat. Whether he told Dawn of our chat or not I never learned, and I never mentioned it to her.

At a much-frequented nightspot, one night I ran into an old friend. I’ve mentioned him previously. During the Gympie Ball Season, he would return from Brisbane where he lived and worked, for the weekend to escort me to the balls. It became an unspoken habit with us for whatever reason, that he was my regular partner at the balls. Mervyn was also a lifesaver with the Noosa Heads Surf Club, along with my brother, Graham. My brother had since moved to live and work in Mackay and was no longer a member of the club. Mervyn had been raised and schooled in Gympie before moving to Brisbane to work in telecommunications and study when he completed high school. He grew up in a home in a street behind where my family and I lived. As he was older than me, I didn’t know him when we were children. From when I started going to Noosa Heads at weekends, he’d had a bit of a “crush” on me, but as he was five or so years older than me, he purposely stood from afar looking on, believing I was too young, when we first met, to be getting serious about anyone. He was right. I liked him. I always had. We both enjoyed surfing, rock ‘n roll, dancing and having good times. We had mutual friends! He would search me out at the record hops, but that was the limit of our “relationship”. When our paths crossed in Brisbane, we started seeing a bit of each other, going out for dinners, attending parties and various social events. His weekends were spent at Noosa with the lifesaving club. Sometimes I accompanied him, sometimes not.

Still engaged to “R”, I was in a bit of a quandary, torn between where my heart was, made tender and vulnerable by distance and absence. I found myself caught in a whirl at what was at hand. We’d not been seeing each other for very long when Mervyn asked me to marry him. Caught up in the moment, I said, “Yes”. The news shocked not only me, but everyone else around me. A few detractors tried to give me advice, my mother included, but stubbornly I didn’t listen to them, nor did I listen to my heart. I wanted to be placed on a pedestal and Mervyn had done that. I wanted to be “first” in someone’s life. Mervyn had placed me as Number One in his. My personal life had been thrown into turmoil when “R” left. I’d felt lost and alone, then Mervyn walked into my small world with love and caring. I wrote to “R” finally to give him an ultimatum. An ultimatum I’d never considered giving him when he first announced his plans to travel overseas, as I believed in his right to do for himself what he felt best to do, but now caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, I needed definition. I wrote saying, “if you don’t come home, I’m going to get married.” He didn’t come home. I got married.

Easter Thursday, 6th April, at 6pm, four months or so, after “R” left Australia’s shores, I was to walk down the aisle to be married to Mervyn. Misgivings began to make their presence known, but I forged forwards forcing myself to ignore them, naively believing I couldn’t go back on my word or decision. “Everyone knows”, I kept telling myself. “I can’t back out now.”

I’ve never been one to have pined for the whole “wedding catastrophe” of tulle, satin, silk or chiffon, penguin suits and lavish receptions, always believing it was all a total waste of money. Following my beliefs, I had a sheath mini-length dress of white linen made for the event. You can see a picture of me in it alighting from a car, which I’ve posted in an earlier chapter in this saga. Our guest list, which included immediate family members and very close friends, was very small. We offended some family members on Mervyn’s side as he came from a large family, but I didn’t care. The date was set for our wedding. We were wasting no time. I could see no point in being engaged again. I'd already done that and look what happened there! We didn’t have the money to waste on a big affair. I didn't want that anyway. We promised "the family" we’d throw a party in Gympie at a later date to celebrate our union.

My brother, mother and grandmother arrived in the morning of the "day". As I’d taken only that day off work, I was busy organizing the food for our “reception” that was just going to be a small party held in my flat after the ceremony. Again, I was the caterer. I’ve always been a demon for punishment, it would seem! Mervyn had found us a small one-bedroom apartment in Merthyr Road, New Farm, which we were moving into after our marriage. Mum and Nana would remain in my existing flat until the day after our wedding, helping Dawn with the cleaning up of the aftermath from the previous evening.

The time rapidly arrived. The clock ticked down. Soon it was time for me to shower and dress for my “event”. I could see the look in the eyes of my mother and grandmother but they said nothing. I knew they still were sure that I was doing the right thing, but they held their counsel.

We arrived at the little Presbyterian Church in Sylvan Road, Toowong just before the appointed time. Mervyn was already in the church. I froze at the top of the stairs. I couldn’t and wouldn’t move. Again the floodgates opened. Unstoppable tears poured down my face. I cried and cried. Mum and Nana tried to console me, telling me I didn’t have to go ahead if I didn’t want to. I shrugged off their words in a fruitless effort to compose myself. The minister came out to see what the hold-up was. Seeing the state I was in he told me to take my time because he had no other weddings or pressing matters to attend to that evening. I had all the time in the world to get myself in order. Poor guy he must have wondered what he had stumbled into. Finally, I calmed myself down, composed my fragile self, wiped away the remnants of my tears, took a deep breath or three and firmly held my brother’s arm. He walked me down the aisle to a beaming Mervyn, who was completely unaware of the drama that had unfolded outside the church.

Without further delay or hitch, the marriage ceremony went ahead, then the small group descended upon Dawn and my flat for a party. And it was a great party wherein everyone had a wonderful, happy time. My tears were forgotten. I was married….to Mervyn. We spent our wedding night in our new apartment before heading up to Noosa for a week’s honeymoon.

The day I got married, “R” stepped aboard a flight to Canada, en route to New York. Separately, both of us were heading into the unknown...

To be continued....

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Reaching Out To The City Lights...Chapter Six

Christmas was fast approaching. I wasn’t feeling in a celebratory mood, but decided that I would bury my pain and face the world head on with a smile on my face. Life was still going on around me. To hell with it all, I wanted to be part of life, not stay hidden away in some dark corner pining for something that couldn’t be altered. “R” and I hadn’t broken up. He had just gone away for a while, for how long at that stage, neither of us knew. I wasn’t naïve enough to think that he wouldn’t be out having fun. It was my intention to do similar.

I put most of my energy into my job becoming very involved in every aspect of it. My boss introduced me to a young hosiery buyer from one of the Myer department stores. Fay had moved down to Brisbane from north Queensland not long before my own relocation from Gympie. Mr. Trimmer believed she and I, being in a similar boat, would get on well. Feeling a little uncomfortable by being the subjects of “friendship-making”, we were a bit wary of each other when we were first “pushed together”, not particularly enjoying a friendship being forced upon us. To appease my boss, Fay and I agreed to meet. She came to my flat one Saturday afternoon. Mr. Trimmer had a better insight that we had it turned out, because Fay and I hit it off, once we recovered our discomfort of the first few minutes of our meeting. She was keen on having fun and causing a bit of mayhem. I was not at all opposed to that way of thinking, either. We were both as “crazy” as each other. Together we posed a dangerous threat to society! Fay was a very attractive lass, full of life, good humour and wit. Over the next few months we had some great times together, hitting the “high spots” of Brisbane and terrorizing the locals. The following year, Fay decided to “test the waters” up in Papua New Guinea, gaining a job with the Australian government at Boroka, outside of Port Moresby. We communicated for a while after she settled into Boroka, sending inane, insane letters back and forth, but after a time we lost contact, unfortunately. I’ve often wondered what happened to her and the directions in life she chose or followed.

Laurie, a friend of “R’s” from their high school days, whom I’d met and befriended, decided he, too, would try being a radio announcer. Following in “R’s” footsteps, Laurie decided to join the Colour Radio network, but because he was inexperienced, he was being sent to Mount Isa, a mining town way out the back of “Whoop-Whoop”, in far north-western Queensland. He was leaving shortly after Christmas to follow his chosen career path. (After a short stint, he discovered Radio and/or Mount Isa didn’t suit him. Soon after his entrance into the world of radio, he made his exit and returned to Brisbane). After “R’s” departure it was good to have a friendly face on the scene. I was glad to have Laurie as a friend. Regularly he telephoned me and often we met for coffee or drinks after work. Laurie had an empathetic ear. I hated the fact that he, too, would soon be leaving Brisbane. However, slowly I was meeting new people. My network of friends was steadily increasing.

That year my Christmas plans were made for me. I spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day with “R’s” parents who lived in Geebung, a Brisbane suburb. New Year had been booked out since a few months earlier. My girlfriend, Marj, planned her wedding to be held on New Year’s Day. I felt like throttling her for doing so. It meant I had to spend part of my New Year’s Eve on a train to Gympie, a thought that didn’t thrill me in the least. I’d not spent a New Year’s Eve in Gympie since before I commenced working. New Year’s Eve meant “coast” and “parties” to me, not sitting on a train and then being stuck in Gympie. I was not amused!

The eve of the new year arrived. I’d booked a seat on the Gympie train for around 6.30pm. As I was leaving my office, I ran into a guy I knew, Don Baker, who invited me to go for a quick drink with him for New Year. I had a bit of time up my sleeve so I agreed. On the way we crossed paths with Laurie, who decided to join us. Like the Three Musketeers we settled comfortably into a cocktail bar at a hotel in Queen Street. Too comfortably it soon came to my attention. Laughing, we scurried up to Central Station, only to see the end carriage of my train disappearing out of sight! Full of high spirits the three of us, like robbers after a heist, ran to Laurie’s car, a VW beetle. We finally caught up with the train at “Sunshine” station on the northern side of Brisbane. I jumped aboard the train, sad to be leaving my mad friends behind. It was a depressing trip to Gympie. In rhythm with the wheels on the rail lines, I cursed Marj under my breath the duration of the journey, a journey that seemed to take forever. What timing she had! Such a silly day to plan a wedding! Finally, the train pulled into Gympie station. I caught a cab home. Both Mum and Nana greeted me with open arms. Understanding my displeasure, although I hid it in their presence, Mum offered me a rum and Coco Cola, saying, “I’m sure you feel like one of these!” Readily agreeing, I took a long sip.

Sitting on our verandah chatting quietly with my mother and grandmother, a car pulled up outside. It was Marj and her soon-to-be husband, Quentin. (It was Marj’s older brother, some of you might recall, whom I had been seeing off and on before I met “R”, the one who sent me the “Dear John/Marsha” letter). She and Quentin, failed in their plan to meet me at the train station so decided to catch me at home. We all sat around talking and sipping on rum and cokes before Quentin was duly and dutifully chased away at midnight. Marj and I spent her last night of “singledom” discussing our past and what our futures may have in store for us, before finally drifting off to sleep in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

Another older brother of Marj’s was my escort to the wedding. Poor Des, he had no idea what was in store for him. He’d not long arrived back in Australia from Canada where he’d been studying for his Phd., in engineering, so he was unaware of the broken “romance” between Ron and me. Marj’s wedding was the first time I’d seen Ron since the fateful day of his letter, and it was to be the last time I ever saw him again. He barely acknowledged me, turning his back when he saw me only a few feet away from where he stood. It was a thoughtless, unfeeling gesture I believed I didn’t warrant. It mattered not to me that he was there with his wife. We had both moved on with our lives, or at least I had.

Everything was going along smoothly at the wedding until it came time for the speeches during the reception. Without warning I began to cry. Not just cry, I became uncontrollable, inconsolable! I was losing everyone, all my dear and much-loved friends. “R” was in New Zealand with plans to go onto the States. Marj was married. During their honeymoon, she and Quentin were moving to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, thousands of miles away. Within days I was going to be losing my good friend, Laurie. He was off to try to make his mark in radio in the copper city of Mount Isa, again thousands of miles away. Everyone I cared about was not just moving from one suburb to another. They were going to or had gone to far distant places. And there in the same room as I, was Ron pretending I didn’t exist and had never existed. It was all too much to digest or deal with. Marj’s wedding was the catalyst that caused the floodgates of my broken heart to open. I left the reception room, not wanting to make a total fool of myself or embarrass my very confused escort. After a while, a concerned Des came out to find me, a flood of tears still streaming down my face and my body racked with sobs. Feeling totally helpless, Des offered to take me home. I jumped at his offer. Mum greeted us at the front stairs, surprised that I was home so early. Poor Des, not knowing what to say or what to do with the crazy young woman he’d met for the first time that day, handed me over to my mother, making a hasty exit after doing so. I bet I was the last “blind date” he ever had!

Mum tucked me into bed that night, listening empathetically to my outpourings of grief. I cried until I could cry no more, finally descending into an exhausted sleep. I had depleted the dam, at least for a while. I awoke next morning feeling wrung-out. I caught the early afternoon train back to Brisbane. Mum and Nana were concerned about me, naturally, but I told them I would be fine. I knew I would be. It was entirely up to me to be so.

Once back in Brisbane, it was the New Year and I was going to treat and face it accordingly. I had many rivers yet to cross, successfully, hurdles to overcome, new people to be met and fun to be had.

Early in the New Year, Kolotex launched a new panti hose product called “Top Secret”. I was to become part of my first foray into the promotion of a new line to the retail trade en măsse. A local modeling agency, June Dally-Watkins, was contacted. Models were sent to us for our assessment. Lennons Hotel was the chosen venue to herald in “Top Secret”. A fashion parade already in the planning stages, based on a James Bond theme, we were moving at a rate of knots. Three top Brisbane models of the day were chosen. Louisa Van Duerzen, Kay Roberts and one of the Tamblyn twins, Tammy, from memory. Leading up to the evening, the office was a-buzz with energy and excitement. Invitations were sent out to the “trade”. Various outfits were chosen for the models, which included trench coats, scarves, mysterious hats and dark glasses, to display our new range of colourful panti-hose. The catering staff at Lennons Hotel had been instructed on the fare for the evening. We were ready to take on the retail fashion trade of Brisbane. But were they were ready for us? They thought they were, but we had a lot more in store for them in the ensuing years. This was to be the beginning of some wild and wonderful times, but before they came into being I was soon to go in a completely different, unexpected direction.

To be continued....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Reaching Out To The City Lights...Chapter Five

November was around the corner and so was my twenty-first birthday. No huge “coming-of-age” celebration was planned for the “event”. I still didn’t know a lot of people in Brisbane, having been in the city for only a little over three months. Most of the people I’d met up to that point had been through “R”, his work associates and subsequent others involved in the advertising and music fields.

I’d become fairly heavily involved in “R’s” radio career in Gympie. Nightly, unfailingly, I taped his evening programmes to be played back and critiqued after his shift finished. Every evening following his four hour on-air shift, he came back to my home, where I always had a snack and coffee waiting for him. Together we would sit for hours, playing and re-playing his broadcast, picking holes in it, commending parts that deserved commendation, generally treating the sessions like a “broadcasting tutorial”. “R’s” deep, distinctive, resonant voice was a special gift, confounding many when they first met the slim young man with a voice from the Heavens. Although it wasn’t allowed by the radio station in Gympie, or elsewhere for that matter, I would sneak into the studios during his Saturday night shift and sit across from him at the turntables, having had carte blanche choice at the record library. Most of the music played those nights was of my choosing. It was fun! The hierarchy of the 4GY was unaware of our escapades, thankfully. We were pushing the boundaries, but the thrill of the game made it worth breaking the rules.

“R” had a brash, confident air about him that fooled many, but not me. He was handsome, independent, highly intelligent, drove a sports car, gifted with vocal chords that females swooned over and males envied, however, all of those curtained a certain lack of inner credence in his own abilities. He had turned twenty-one in the January before my November date with the milestone. As I’ve written earlier we became engaged on his birthday, with a long engagement in the wind. Neither of us was in a hurry to be married. We were young. A persistent desire to travel nagged at “R”. He frequently talked of his wish to travel overseas…"to spread his see the world"

A couple of weeks before my birthday, he came to the flat to see me. Dawn was out somewhere, so we had the place to ourselves. Sitting on the sofa, “R” told me he had handed in his notice to 4IP. The next bombshell to crash down upon me followed soon thereafter. He was going overseas at the end of November, firstly to New Zealand and then onto the United States.

My heart felt like it had been gripped by an ever-tightening iron vice. My stomach flipped. All that remained, it seemed, was a giant, endless, empty pit. I went cold all over as I sat, somberly listening to him excitedly detail his plans. He’d never kept it a secret from me his dream to travel, to go on his “odyssey” in search of the Holy Grail. Although I didn’t harbour a similar desire to his, I understood his want to see the world. My understanding didn’t make it any easier for me, however, as I sat there stoically bracing and steeling myself. I believed then as I still do now, one cannot live for the sake of another nor can one choose the path another decides is best for him or her. To travel overseas was “R’s” decision and desire, not mine. It was not for me to try to change his mind or alter his decision, no matter how much I was hurting inside. There was nothing I could do to stop him, whether I wanted to do so or not. Of course, I didn’t want him to go, but it was his individual right to walk the path he wanted to walk. From the moment we’d met “R” shared his dreams of travel with me. I didn’t share his dreams to travel, but I understood his wanderlust. Tears I shed, I shed alone in the darkness.

My birthday grew closer and so did the date for “R’s” departure. His flight to New Zealand was booked for November 30th. My birthday was November 11th. I intended to make the most of the little time we had left together and not allow myself to be bogged down in self-pity and sorrow. Time enough for all of that later when I was alone. I was going to make sure I had a damn good time and to hell with heartache and feeling sorry for myself.

We were still engaged, nothing had altered on that front. True to our word at the time of our engagement, marriage for the both of us was a long way off. I soon wearied of fielding questions from others who didn’t understand “R’s” change in direction. I told every curious by-stander he was fulfilling a dream. It was not for me to stand in his way. And I meant it. Privately, my heart was torn into many pieces, but I wasn’t going to allow others witness my pain. It was mine and mine alone to deal with. It was my life and it had nothing to do with anyone else.

Fate looked kindly upon me in a couple of instances, though. My birthday fell on a Friday, so I planned a party, inviting everyone I’d met since my arrival in Brisbane. My landlady who lived on the ground level below the two flats above, one of which Dawn and I shared, was absent for a few days, including the weekend of my pending celebration. That was a blessing in itself as I knew our landlady wouldn’t appreciate the pounding of many feet to the beat of music upon her ceiling! Dutifully, I did forewarn her of my planned party, subtly asking her permission, which she gave willingly. In the other upstairs’ flat adjoining ours, dwelt a very tall, quite large-boned Canadian young woman of around twenty-five or six years of age, Jan Plewman. Jan had moved in, with her little lady Chihuahua shortly after Dawn and I had set up our abode. We’d passed pleasantries while collecting our respective mail or while hanging out our laundry. I’ve never been one to “pop-in” on people and have never encouraged others to just “pop-in” on me. That’s one of my many quirks, I guess. Even so, Jan and I formed an “acquaintance”. I invited her to my party. It wouldn’t have seemed fair or polite not to have done so.

What became a habit formed back then in those early days, I handled the catering for my small gathering of around twenty guests. Leaving the office an hour or so earlier on the day in question, I raced home, eager to start my preparation for the night ahead. I’d bought a new “outfit” for the party at David Jones, a major department store in the CBD. I felt on top of the world. My new outfit was called a “skidoo”…and no, it wasn’t a snowmobile! It was actually Jamaican shorts, with a slit tunic of similar length to the shorts worn over the top. My “skidoo” was in a beautiful aqua-coloured woven-cotton plain fabric with the reverse side of the tunic, matching soft, multi-coloured floral voile or similar material. I’m not a wearer or lover of floral so I never did reverse the tunic, but when I walked or danced the contrast was very effective, or so I believed!

Of course, again, a habit formed all those years ago, I over-catered. At least I had food enough to cover Dawn and me for the rest of the weekend, if not the following week as well!

I enjoyed my twenty-first birthday party, spent with “R” and my new acquaintances, which included John Knox, known as “Gentleman John” even back in those days when he was one of the Colour Radio Good Guys. He and his wife attended. David Greenwood, who went on to make his name in Brisbane radio was in attendance with his girlfriend at the time, Rhonda Griffiths, who I was to meet up with again a few years later. Jimmy White, Gary Raines and his sister “Muff”, together with wee Donny Lloyd who brought along his advertising girlfriend, Carol. Carol and Donny married sometime later, then to later divorce. Carol Lloyd, with her wild, flaming red hair became known amongst many circles as “Australia’s First Lady of Rock”. She was lead singer/songwriter in the rock band, “Railroad Gin”, which rose to fame in the seventies and established quite a cult following. Carol has continued on with her genius in the advertising world and has been the recipient of many awards in that field. Amongst my party-goers was Brian King, a jazz pianist. I’d met Brian only once before that night. I couldn’t help but notice he and Jan, our Canadian neighbour had struck up a friendly conversation in one corner.

My birthday had been a happy one. The party was a roaring success. I managed to push aside, for a little while at least, what lay ahead of me. I tried not to let “R's” rapidly approaching departure put a damper upon my special evening. I succeeded, if only for a short time.

Putting on brave front, inside I was being torn apart, bit by bit. I didn't want anyone else to know of my torment or heartache. My steely facade and determination not to show to others what I was really feeling helped get me through the following couple of weeks between my party and "R" and my parting. Deep within, I knew our separation by sea and air wasn't going to be brief. However, I kept my thoughts to myself.

"Good-byes" have never been one of my fortes! I can manage to keep a "stiff upper lip" for only a short while when in the presence of a loved one's departure, then I'm ready to mercelessly crumble in a melting mess. It is best I make such farewells, brief, disappearing out of view of the "departer" before I, and he, become drenched in my tears. I prefer to perform this amazing feat in privacy.

Fortunately, I accompanied "R's" parents to Brisbane airport to farewell their son, my fiancee, on his flight into his future, into the unknown. Being in their company forced me to control my emotions, if only until I was once more on my own at my flat. Alone, I crawled into my bed, pulled up the covers and shut the rest of the world out. I didn't even have a cat to comfort me! I wanted nothing to do with the world or those who inhabited it. What was the point? No one could possibly understand what I was feeling. I was in no mood to try to explain. My feelings, my emotions were my own. I had to deal with them in my own way, in my own time and space.

To be continued....