Thursday, January 29, 2015


Aerial shot of Kawana Beach, Kawana Island and Kawana Waters
Coolum Beach looking north towards Sunshine Beach at the far, far end

A 1964 Holden EH Station Wagon
The view from our Elanda Street house - from the kitchen, dining and deck areas

Two photos of a Barn Owl...just like Winston was.

Graphite sketch drawn by me.

Sasha settled in immediately. He didn’t even need a guided tour through the Coolum house and its surrounds. He was home; nothing more was required by him other than that knowledge.

Without missing a beat it was as if he’d never been away. He was a little scrawny when he re-entered my life, but he regained weight quickly.  Bowls of fresh meat and freshly-caught fish were at his disposal, day and night.  Ruska and he had their own food bowls. They ate side by side sharing their stories, catching up on old times and all in between, over breakfast and dinner. Sasha, of course, had more adventure tales to tell. Ruska was a willing listener.  No jealousy existed between the two.  They’d always gotten on well together. Their relationship didn't change when they were reunited; good mates they remained.

Our days of leisure came to an end.  Randall gained employment as a real estate salesman at an agency in Kawana, a coastal area south of Coolum; further south of Mooloolaba. 

Not long afterwards I decided it was time I, too, got my finger out.  Our fishing rods, reels and tackle were hung up to dry. Our casual attire and our fishing clothes were replaced by our business faces and wardrobes.  The time had arrived to put away our toys; it was time to get serious.

On a spontaneous whim one morning I jumped aboard the Magnette and headed off to do some door-knocking of my own.  I didn’t travel far.  The first office door I knocked on was at Peregian Beach, a couple of kilometers north of Coolum.  The office of T. M. Burke Real Estate Developers was situated in the Peregian Shopping Centre.  In 1979 the shopping centre was still relatively small, consisting of a hairdresser’s salon, a solicitors office, a privately-owned mixed business, a gift shop, a Peter Sharpe Realty (a one-man operated real estate office at the rear of Burke’s premises), and I think, from memory, there was a doctor’s surgery and a pharmacy somewhere in the equation.

T. M. Burke had been active developers on the Sunshine Coast since 1929, first building bridges across Doonella Lake and Weyba Creek at Tewantin and Noosaville, respectively on behalf of the shire council, for which Burke received 470 acres of land.  Land sales fell into the doldrums, so the land remained undeveloped for many years. Thirty years later from the bridge building days, T. M. Burke, in conjunction with the State Government (Queensland) build the David Low Highway, connecting Noosa Heads in the north to Sunshine and Peregian Beaches to the south. T. M. Burke proposed the development of Hays Island (at the rear of Hastings Street) in Noosa and Noosaville, an up-market canal development completed in the 1980s - known as “Noosa Sound”.  The firm was involved in lots of real estate development.  T. M. Burke worked closely with Cardno & Davies, Civil Engineering, who had an office in Maroochydore, a little further south on the coast. Cardno & Davies were also involved in the development of canals on the Gold Coast as well as the Sunshine Coast. From a humble beginning in 1945 Cardno is now a worldwide company…more information below for those who are interested in their history.

On that sunny day in late May/early June I walked into the small office of T. M. Burke Real Estate Developers, Peregian Beach. Why not, I thought.  It looked like a nice little office. I had to start my job search somewhere, and it may as well be there. Upon entering the premises I introduced myself to the young lass at the front desk, and then asked if it was possible for me to see the manager. Fortunately, for me, my timing was perfect.  David Young, the manager was in his office, twiddling his thumbs because within moments I was sitting before him and he looked as if he was prepared to hear my story; to listen to my request.  It was a simple question.  I asked him if he had a vacancy; if he had the need to employ another employee. After giving him an abbreviated version of my past working history, to my surprise, he said that, in fact, he was looking for a secretary. 

Well, there you go!  Sometimes luck does sit upon your shoulder – or mine!

David hired me on the spot, more or less.  I started working for him, as his secretary, within T. M. Burke Estates Pty. Ltd., Land Developers, Peregian Beach office (Head Office in New South Wales) the following day!  Janet, the young receptionist was as shell-shocked as I was.  She was unaware he’d had in his mind hiring himself a secretary.  Until I'd walked into his office I think it had only been a passing thought with him, too.  My presence had jolted him into putting his idea into action.
When Randall arrived home from his job later in the day he became the third surprised person.  It had happened so quickly.  In the morning when he’d driven off to Kawana he had no idea I’d even planned to go out in search of a job that day. 

Hi! Ho! Hi! Ho! It was back to work I went!   

The holiday was over, but not regretfully so.  It was time to rejoin the real world.  In truth, living and working at the coast, in the late Seventies/early Eighties, anyway, the “real world” was still miles away. 

Again, Sasha and Ruska were left to their own devices during the day.  They didn’t seem to mind that their fresh fish supplies had tapered off to nil. Having interior access to the lower level of the home that housed the double garage, laundry and storage area, they had no reason to roam the neighbourhood, or egress to do so. There was only one neighbour, anyway.  One house on the lower side of my in-laws’ home, our temporary abode housed Mary, a lovely, gentle, elderly widow.  Mary, too, missed out on her fresh fish because we’d always shared part of our catch with her.  Our fishing days were put on the back burner. Earning a living was once again our priority.

Beneath the brick home of Randall’s parents, on the upper side of the land on which the house was built, the area was bare dirt, not concrete flooring like the garage, laundry areas etc., so Sasha and Ruska had their own private, uninterrupted, accessible ablutions’ block.  It was a safe haven for them during our absences.   
During their waking hours, or minutes, when lounging out on the front verandah they had a view to the ocean and to Mooloolaba to the south. What more could they ask for?  More fresh fish, I guess….but they never lodged a complaint….

Randall and I were constantly on the look-out for a property to call our own. We came within a hair’s breadth of buying a house in Buderim, a small township up behind Alexandra Headlands, but in the eleventh hour before signing the contract, the deal fell over, through no fault of ours. Situated on a fabulous, private block of land, it was a solidly-built Queenslander. We were disappointed when the sale fell through, but as it turned out it was a blessing in disguise. Fate had a better plan in store for us.

We’d always said: “If we’re going to live at the coast, we must live close to the beach; where we have a view of the ocean.”  We didn’t need much convincing to stick to our mantra.

A few months after our relocation from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast we found and purchased a house at Elanda Street, Sunshine Beach.  Immediately falling in love with it, we knew it was the house for us.  The house wasn’t by any means of one’s imagination flash, but it did exude a special, sunny, happy atmosphere. 
Central stairs led to the upper level of the house.  The upstairs level consisted of two bedrooms and a large open area that included an open-plan kitchen and dining space. Off from the dining area was a small deck.  From the kitchen, dining and deck we had our much-longed for ocean view. The lower, ground level of the dwelling was of similar size. The downstairs area housed the bathroom, toilet, indoor laundry and a large “family” room (not a large family…but a large room…no large family came with the house when we purchased it)! 

Around the same time or thereabouts of Randall and I finding the house in Elanda Street, L. J. Hooker Real Estate took over the T.M. Burke operation in Peregian Beach.  David Young, who was a wonderful man to know and to work for, went onto other pastures, and the new manager of the new set-up was a Terry Cranitch.

The Elanda Street, Sunshine Beach house with its north-easterly aspect was perfectly situated. Sitting on the elevated end of the land, the house was quite a distance from the lower the street-level entrance to the property.  Entering the property from the street, midway along the land was a neglected greenhouse. Opposite the greenhouse was a free-standing garage. Between the greenhouse and garage about four stairs led up to the elevated level of the property to where the house sat in all its glory, patiently waiting for Randall, Sasha, Ruska and me to move in.  Oh…and Winston, the Barn Owl, too!

Situated atop the well-vegetated secondary sand dune line formed many, many decades earlier inland within walking distance from the beach, the house was privately placed in a quiet area. On either side of the property were neighbouring homes, but the houses had been erected in a manner that none infringed upon the privacy of the other. 

Also, because the property we bought was been built on the high end of the long block, the street and houses that we classed as being at the “front” of our new home (being the ocean side) were well below our block.  Except for filtered glimpses through the rather dense vegetation (which included many glorious tree ferns) on the dune we were “perched on” down to Duke Street, “the street below”, the houses dotted along Duke Street couldn’t be seen from our newly-acquired dwelling. And as the house we purchased was up at the far end of the land, the houses across Elanda Street on the other side were a good distance away.   

Eagerly we signed on the dotted line even knowing the house required a lot of renovating, but the knowledge didn’t deter us.  . Our excitement over our find was palpable.

The week prior to us leaving the Coolum house was spent busily gathering all our possession together in readiness for the move to Sunshine Beach on the Saturday.  On the Wednesday night prior to our changing abodes, driving back from Nambour via Bli Bli and through back roads amongst the sugar cane farms Randall came across a bird on the road.  He'd noticed a car ahead of him hit something. The vehicle ahead failed to stop, but Randall pulled off the side of the road, leaving his headlights on. As he approached the fallen creature he discovered it was an owl. He picked up the owl believing it was dead, but he wanted to remove it from the road. It wasn't a well-used road at that time of the night but Randall didn't want any future vehicles running over it again and again. Picking the owl up. suddenly it wrapped its claws around Randall’s fingers. It was still alive.

As soon as he arrived home Randall called out to me to go downstairs because he had something to show me.  He lifted up the boot (trunk) of the car and there wrapped in a towel was the startled (and stunned) bird in wide-eyed wonderment; as was I, too!  We didn’t have any bird cages, but we did have a couple of mud crab pots, so we put the bird in one of them. 

At that stage we didn’t know what type of owl it was, but we knew someone who was an expert in all things native and wild, so the first thing we did the next day was ring Hardy Buzzacott telling him the story and giving him a description of the owl.  We needed to know what to feed the beautiful bird until we were able to get it back on its feet/wings again.  It wasn’t badly injured; more in shock than anything.  There were no visible wounds. It was Hardy who told us we had a Barn Owl in our presence. Amongst their diet they eat insects, so insects are what we gave “Winston”.  We called our guest after Winston Churchill.  There was a similarity in appearance! 

Hardy Buzzacott had been the manager of Radio Station 4GY, Gympie when Randall was a radio announcer at the station, years earlier. Mr. Buzzacott had been his boss.  He, Hardy Buzzacott, was a fine gentleman. Throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s he was well known for his wildlife interests, activities and knowledge.  He was one of the earlier “Wildlife Warriors”, long before Steve Irwin, or even his father Bob became known.  Mr. Buzzacott had retired to the coast and was living down Maroochydore way or thereabouts when we contacted him about Winston.

Every time we checked on Winston, and when we fed him, he’d rock back and forth making a throaty “ticking” sound. It sounded like when you click your tongue on the roof of your mouth.  Winston displayed no fear, but he did keep a keen eye on us.  I honestly believe he knew he was in safe hands, and he was grateful for being rescued.

Come Saturday, the move from one beach to another; from one house to another was conducted like a military manouvre!  We had three cars (the Ford Cortina Ghia, “Remy”, the MG Magnette and “Tonto” the EH station wagon), two humans, Randall and me; two cats, Sasha and Pushkin; and Winston, the Barn Owl.  It was probably more like a circus on the move!  It sure felt like it!

Randall, driving the Cortina, led the procession.  I followed in “Tonto” laden with potted plants, two cats and a Barn Owl in a mud crap pot! I felt as if I was in camouflage stuck somewhere in the middle of jungle warfare!  I’m sure all that anyone could see was an old red and white (with wooden panelling along its sides) EH wagon filled to the brim with greenery mysteriously travelling north along the David Low Way with nobody in the driving seat.  I could barely be seen through the vegetation!  Such a strange vision travelling along could also have been considered as being similar to the “Mary Celeste”;

Later a return trip was made to the Coolum house to pick up the Magnette. Remy was also a valued member of the troupe, and couldn’t be left behind.

Some houses welcome you with open arms (walls).  You know you just have to become a part of that special house when you find it; if you’re lucky enough to stumble across it.  It doesn’t have to be a mansion on a hill; it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Our house in Elanda Street, Sunshine Beach was neither a mansion on a hill, nor was it fancy, but it was on the top side of the block of land; a good distance from the street.  It had a view of the ocean.  It offered privacy, and it was just a fun house.  I often mention “ambience”.  The house we’d bought in Sunshine Beach oozed ambience by the truckload! 

Sasha and Ruska obviously felt it, too, because they entered the house as if they’d been there before.  They weren’t at all spooked by the disruption to their morning; or the car trip. After a brief scan of each room, both cats found a spot and settled down for the day, leaving the unpacking etc., to the two humans.  After all, that’s what we were for…Ruska and Sasha had done their bit.  They’d given their nod of approval.
Winston, still in his crab pot was put into the old greenhouse while we went about our business.  Late in the afternoon, we left the “door” on the crab pot open so Winston could come and go in the greenhouse at his own will.

Around 10 that evening, Randall and I ready to go to sleep after a fairly busy day, driving back and forth, unloading the cars etc., heard strange noises echoing up from the greenhouse.  Grabbing a torch/flashlight we scurried down to find out what the disturbance was all about.  Winston was rocking from side to side, making a more threatening noise than his usual clicking sound. It was a deep, loud, guttural hissing noise; not one that would attract new friends!  Standing a few feet from him was a black cat with its tail about three times its usual size and the fur on its back was raised like a Mohawk.  The cat backed out of the greenhouse slowly, and once out the door, it ran off as quick as lightning.  It just wanted to get out of there rapidly and well away from whatever the weird feathered creature was.  We never saw that cat again.

The next morning Winston was gone.  We never saw him again, either, but we did hear him often at night, particularly when we were sitting out on the deck.  We were certain it was Winston, and that he’d remained in the area. No doubt he had found a suitable surfer chick.  Barn Owls mate for life, and if, by no fault of his own, he’d left a mate down Bli Bli way, I’m sure eventually she found a new mate; and I’m sure Winston was happy with his Sunshine Beach surfer girl.  One would hope so, anyway!

We used to joke the house had been built by a mob of drunks on a weekend…probably from left-over builders’ materials they’d snatched from the local dump.  That was part of its unique, contagious charm, I think.  And I say “contagious” because every visitor we had to our humble home unconsciously and helplessly fell under its spell.  And, no! The effects of the many fun dinner parties we hosted in that house weren’t entirely to blame.  The house, its situation…the view…all melded together wonderfully.  There was an infectious vibe about the property.  It may not have been fancy, but it radiated joy and goodwill…intangibles that no amount of money can buy.

Sasha’s cough remained, but it didn't affect him otherwise.  Sasha was in excellent health, other than his "smoker's cough".  

 He’d wander past visitors to our home on his way to a new resting spot coughing and spluttering as he strolled by, oblivious to the company.  The shocked looks on their faces caused us to break out in laughter.  We’d explain the situation and that, no, Sasha wasn’t about to expire!

Ruska and Sasha never wandered far, preferring to stick close to home and to us.  After all, they had a deck with an ocean view and the morning sun.  They had easy access in and out of the house. They could always be found snuggled up in the filtered sun beneath a tree or somewhere inside the house, either upstairs or downstairs.  Usually, downstairs during when Randall and I were there.  They never strayed far from where we were at any given time; or from each other.

Not long after we settled into Elanda Street, we converted the large, downstairs room into an office.  We painted the walls and ceiling; laid sea-grass matting on the floor; installed a couple of desks.  Randall had a beautiful wooden one specially handmade by a local craftsmen for him to work at.  We opened our own real estate agency – “Randall George Real Estate”.

More about our new venture/adventure in Chapter Seven.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


In honour of Australia Day, which is just around the corner and down the road a bit, I’ve composed a bit of nonsense and plonked it down below. (Read it after you've had a squizz at the history of Australia Day).   

It’s just a bit of harmless fun using some our Aussie slang.  I hope we never lose our identity in this wonderful country of ours; a country often referred to as “the lucky country”.  I hope, also, that we don’t lose sight or use of our unique slang.  It is ours to be proud of; not to be ashamed of. 

If my readers living in the Northern Hemisphere need translation, my hourly fee is low, practically non-existent, actually. Because I’m feeling in a generous mood during 2015 as a one-off offer, there will be no charge this year.  It might be more fun for you to attempt to decipher what I’ve written without my assistance.  I’m sure you will be able to do so.  You're all a smart mob! You’ll be able to make heads and tails out of it!

However, before you venture forth on an adventure Down Under…here’s some background on the background of “Australia Day…26th January” for your information, if you're so interested.   

An abbreviated history about the Land of Oz with compliments of Wikipedia:

Quote:  “Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and raising of the Flag of Great Britain at that site by Governor Arthur Phillip. In contemporary Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation, and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards, and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new immigrants into the Australian community.
The meaning and significance of Australia Day has evolved over time. Unofficially, or historically, the date has also been variously named "Anniversary Day", "Invasion Day", "Foundation Day", and "ANA Day".

26th January 1788 marked the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia (then known as New Holland). Although it was not known as Australia Day until over a century later, records of celebrations on 26 January date back to 1808, with the first official celebration of the formation of New South Wales held in 1818. On New Years Day 1901, the British colonies of Australia formed a Federation, marking the birth of modern Australia. A national day of unity and celebration was looked for. It was not until 1935 that all Australian states and territories had adopted use of the term "Australia Day" to mark the date, and not until 1994 that the date was consistently marked by a public holiday on that day by all states and territories.[

In contemporary Australia, the holiday is marked by the presentation of the Australian of the Year Awards on Australia Day Eve, announcement of the Australia Day Honours list and addresses from the Governor-General and Prime Minister. It is an official public holiday in every state and territory of Australia, unless it falls on a weekend in which case the following Monday becomes a public holiday instead. With community festivals, concerts and citizenship ceremonies, the day is celebrated in large and small communities and cities around the nation. Australia Day has become the biggest annual civic event in Australia.”  End Quote

As usual, no doubt there will be a few of the politically-correct mob out waving their flags; jumping up and down flapping their arms about in the air, spewing forth their rhetoric…I’m not one of them.  It is Australia Day! And I’m proud to be an Aussie…very proud, actually.

Fair suck of the sav! Belt up!  Button ya cake-hole and pull ya head in! Stop being a whinger! Get on with it! Enjoy it! Throw a prawn (not a shrimp) on the barbie.  Get ya laughing gear around it! If you don’t like seafood, toss a lamb chop on the barbie; and wash whatever your choice is down with a coldie!  Av-a-go-ya-mug! Have a cuppa and a lamington…but leave some room for the pav after the barbie!

Now that I’ve got your attention…let’s have a bit of a chinwag.  You might call it more of an ear-bashing, but, gee whiz, I hope you enjoy it either which way.  It’s seems yonks since we’ve been able to do this....

G’Day youse! Fair dinkum! Would I yank your chain?  Too right I wouldn’t!  Bloody oath! He strode into the bar as if he owned the place; his well-worn R.M. Williams’ riding boots caked with dry mud and God knows what else. His black Akubra had seen better days; his Wrangler jeans, although needing the help of a few soap suds, fitted him like a second skin – quite decoratively, I might add! I wasn’t having a gander, of course!

Banjo comes to town once in a blue moon, but when he does everyone takes notice except old Bluey. Sitting on his bar stool in the same spot he parks himself daily, Bluey, as usual, was away with the pixies.  Bluey only stirs to take a sip of his amber fluid, or whenever he reaches for his weathered leather tobacco pouch with his nicotine-stained fingers when the rollie glued to his lips is on its last legs; and to give the Aussie salute; but most of the time even the blowies leave Bluey on his Pat Malone with his thoughts.  Old Bluey’s harmless. No one knows how old he is. Some yobbos who are as useful as an ashtray on a Harley enjoy taking the mickey out of him by saying he hasn’t got all four paws on the mouse, but that’s a load of fertilizer! When they start going on like two-pot screamers I get very toey. I do my lolly; chuck a wobbly; spit the dummy and go to town on them: “Fair crack of the whip! Rack off, you no-hopers! You lot couldn’t go two rounds with a revolving door. You’re full of it! Deadset! You’re a mob of drongos!”

There’s a furphy going around that Bluey, when he was a young jackaroo, got a biff to the head by a brumby he was trying to break.  It’s none of my bizzo; I don’t ask questions. I always shout him a couple of coldies. Bluey hasn’t got a lot of moolah, but he does have a kind heart and good manners. His faded blue eyes light up when I hand him his beer. With a smile he mutters: “Ta, dearie! Ya blood’s worth bottlin’!” 

This arvo when Banjo blew into town and into the boozer there was a different air about him.  He still walked as if he had a stallion between his legs; that’ll never change. You know the old saying about the wind changing your face. Well, riding horses does similar to your legs. You could fly a jumbo jet between Banjo’s legs with room for a Cessna, too!  Years being head ringer on a cattle station out the back of Bullamanka or wherever it is he shoots through to; somewhere out the back o’Bourke beyond the black stump, 50ks south, north or west of Woop Woop - you get my drift – astride a horse every day will do that to you. When you see a dusty old green ute rumbling down the main drag you know it’s Banjo. Lee Kernaghan blaring forth from the ute is a dead give-away, too.

 “Owyagoin’, Banjo?” I asked. “Do ya wanna crack a tinnie and chew the fat a while?”
Crikey! He stared at me as if I was some kind of galah.

“Nope,” he replied, happy as a pig in mud while I stood there looking like a stunned mullet. “Just a pot, please luv, then I’ll ‘ave to hit the frog ‘n toad.” 

 Holy-dooly! Blow me down!  You could’ve knocked me over with a feather, but I kept my gob shut other than to say, “No dramas!” 

Gulping down his beer Banjo wiped the froth from his lips: “Not to big note…I got meself a Sheila. She’s from the Top End,” he said, proud as Punch, a broad smile on his dial. “As soon as I pour this down the hatch I’ll be off like a bucket of prawns in the midday sun! I need to go tart meself up!” 

 “Good Onya, Banjo!”  I grinned. “Happy Australia Day!”

Spinach-Feta Damper: Preheat oven 200C. Dust baking tray with plain flour. Place 3c S.R. flour and 100g chilled, chopped butter in a bowl. Use fingertips (your own) to rub butter into flour until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs; stir in 200g crumbled feta, 1c shredded parmesan and 60g coarsely chopped spinach leaves. Add 2/3c milk and 1 lightly whisked egg. Stir until well combined; turn onto lightly floured surface. Using hands, bring the dough together; knead 1-2mins or until smooth. Shape into 20cm disc. Place on prepared tray; use sharp knife dipped in flour to score the top into 8 wedges; sprinkle top with 1-1/2tbs shredded parmesan. Bake 35-40mins or until golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.

BBQ Prawns with Mango-Lime-Mint Dressing: Soak 16 wooden skewers in water 60mins. Cut flesh off 1 peeled, ripe mango; add to blender with juice of 2 limes, 1tbs x-virgin olive oil, 1 long, mild, deseeded green chilli, 1tbs Tamari, 10 mint leaves and 6 coriander leaves; blitz until super smooth; season to taste; transfer to serving dish. Using 16 large green, peeled, tails intact, king prawns - thread one per skewer; place in wide deep baking tray. Whisk together 3tbs Ponzu sauce, juice of 1 lime and pinch salt; pour over prawns; turn over skewers to coat well; cover; marinate in fridge 30-60mins. Cook on super hot griddle pan or barbie until cooked through; serve warm with the sauce on the side. 

Barbecued Prawns with Coriander and Candied Lime Peanuts: Preheat barbie to high.  Grab yourself 16 large green prawns (more if you want); remove the heads from the prawns and de-vein, leaving tails intact.  Brush prawns with oil; cook 2-3mins each side; don’t overcook; set aside; keep warm (the prawns, you drongo, not you)!  Place 2tbs fish sauce, 1/4c caster sugar, 1/4c water and 2 finely chopped Kaffir lime leave into a small frying pan over high heat; bring to boil; add 1 cup roughly chopped raw peanuts; simmer 1-2mins or until thickened. Pour over the prawns; add 1/4c fresh coriander leaves (cilantro); toss to combine; serve with lots of fresh lime wedges and extra coriander.

Spicy BBQ Lamb Chops Tandoori: In a large bowl, mix together 2tbs quality tandoori paste, 1tbs honey and 2tbs natural yoghurt; then add 12 French-trimmed lamb cutlets; turn to coat. Allow to marinate while doing further preparation. Place 700g quartered chat potatoes (baby spuds, unpeeled) in pan of salted water; bring to the boil; cook for 10mins until tender. Heat 2tbs oil in large pan over medium heat; add 2tsp black mustard seeds; cook, stirring, 1min until seeds start to pop; add 2tsp quality curry powder, 1tsp garam masala, 2tsp grated fresh ginger and potatoes; cook, stirring 2-3mins, until potatoes start to crisp. Add 2 seeded tomatoes, cut into thin wedges, and 100g baby spinach leaves; cook 2-3mins until spinach has wilted. Keep warm. Heat about 55ml sunflower oil in pan or in a char-grill over med-high heat. Cook the lamb, 2mins each side until lightly charred and cooked, but sill slightly pink in the centre; serve with the potatoes, mango chutney and extra yoghurt.

Lamingtons: Make the cake: preheat oven 180C/160C fan-forced. Grease a 3cm-deep, 20cm x 30cm base lamington pan; line pan with baking paper, leaving a 2cm over-hang on all sides. Using an electric mixer, beat 125g softened butter, 1c caster sugar and 1/2tsp vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition – the mixture might curdle – but that’s okay. Have 1-3/4c self-raising flour on hand.  Sift half of the flour over the butter mixture; stir to combine; add 1/4c milk; stir to combine. Repeat the process with remaining flour and milk; spoon into prepared pan. Smooth top  Bake for 30mins or until skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Stand in pan (not you…you’ll squash the cake, and burn the soles of your feet!) for 10mins. Turn cake out onto wire rack; cover with tea towel; set aside overnight. Next day cut cake into 15 pieces. Place 2c desiccated coconut in a dish. Make icing: In another bowl add 3-1/2c sifted icing sugar and 1/4c sifted cocoa powder; add 1tbs softened butter and 1/2c boiling water; stir until smooth. Using a fork, dip one piece of cake in icing; shake off excess icing; toss in the coconut to coat all sides. Place on wire rack over baking tray.  Repeat process with remaining cake, icing and coconut. Allow the lamingtons to sit (we’re all tired of standing) for 2 hours or until icing has set; and then bog in! (In other words…eat)!

Australia Day Pavlova: In a small electric mixer bowl, beat 4 room temperature egg whites on medium until soft peaks form. Add 1tsp white vinegar, 2tsp cornflour and gently sprinkle in 1c caster sugar, one teaspoon at a time, beating until stiff and glossy (you will be glossy with sweat and stiff after you finish all this beating), approx 10mins.  Trace a map of Australia onto baking paper; and cut out shape. Place cut-out onto a baking tray; spoon meringue mix inside the map.  Smooth sides and top of meringue with a spatula, leaving the centre slightly hollowed.  Bake in oven at 130C for 1-1/2 hours, or until pavlova is dry to touch.  Turn oven off; leave pavlova to cool in the oven with the oven door ajar.  Once cooled, place pavlova on a serving plate.  Beat 300ml thickened cream with a little icing sugar or caster sugar added, to desired taste (don’t add any sugar if that what you prefer).  Gently spread the whipped cream on top of the meringue; and decorate with fresh fruit, washed and sliced, to your heart’s content.  Whatever fruit you like…sstrawberries, mango, kiwi fruit, passionfruit, banana, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches…let your hair down – go for broke…use your imagination and whatever floats your boat.  You can even top the fruit and pav with some raw, coarsely-crushed/chopped macadamia nuts.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Entrance to Marks & Gardner-Secret Garden Restaurant
Rear area of Secret Garden
View from rear verandah of Secret Garden Cafe

Delicious Lychees

Only 345 days to go until Christmas Day and 351 days until 2016 (as at writing)!  Am I moving too fast?  Okay! I’ll put the brakes on and rein myself in.  Sorry to scare you that way!

We’ve yet to get past the tennis - here in the land Down Under, anyway.  So far in January we’ve had the Hopman Cup in Perth; the Brisbane International – in Brisbane, naturally; and presently this week the Apia International is being played in Sydney, and the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne. On Monday 19th January, the Australian Open commences – so you see what I mean.  January is “Tennis Month” for me.

I love watching the tennis; you’ll get no complaints from me about the amount of tennis viewing on TV at present.  It's too hot and muggy to do much other than watch the players play...they can do all the sweating for me. Or should I be a lady and say "perspiring"?  No, forget it...I can still be a lady and say "sweating"!  See, I just did and am!

But back to what I was talking about before I rudely interrupted myself….once we get past the tennis, there is still St. Valentine’s Day and Easter to get through; and I’ve yet to finish off my Christmas cake and all the rest of the decadent goodies still hanging around before all of the above occurs; before the Silly Season makes another appearance - sometimes I think it's always Silly Season...or is it that I'm always silly?

Hmmmm....I'll have to ponder that one for a while!

Oh! And there’s the Ekka, of course and Riverfire!  We mustn’t forget them!

“The Ekka” for the uneducated and uninformed is the annual Royal Queensland Show held in Brisbane every August. The first one was held in 1876.  It’s Queensland’s annual agricultural show, and lasts for 10 days. It was originally called the Brisbane Exhibition…affectionately and familiarly shortened to “The Ekka”.  The Ekka showcases Queensland’s culture, produce, resources etc; along with sideshow alley, showbags and numerous food outlets including Dagwood Dogs (Corn Dogs), Fairy Floss (Cotton Candy), Tasmanian Potato Chips (French Fries), Strawberry ice cream (strawberry ice cream)…all those foods that are terrible for us, but taste terribly good! Nightly firework displays cause the spectators to “ooooh!” and “Ahhhhhh!” and the ring events hold everyone in awe, or are a good excuse to rest up a while, so you catch your breath before hitting the Ferris Wheel and Dodge ‘Em Cars again, for the tenth time!

And, Riverfire, I’ve mentioned previously.  Riverfire is the finale to the annual Brisbane Festival held every September.  The Festival culminates in a cacophony of sounds and fireworks that light up the night sky as hordes of people line the banks of the Brisbane River, and all other suitable vantage points, floating and otherwise, to watch the grand display (while others, like me, watch the colourful explosions via our televisions in the comfort of home).

Don’t panic! No need to rush out and buy your turkey and ham, or start making your fruit mince pies just yet.  I’m only giving you a heads-up!  It will happen! Christmas will be poking its nose around the corner again, and faster than we can say Rachel Hunter, too, if the speed by which 2014 disappeared is an indicator. 

Again for those not in the know, model and ex-wife of Rod Stewart (one of them) famously starred in the 1992 Pantene shampoo commercial - yes, I know…it just seems like yesterday - wherein Rachel Hunter uttered the tagline that soon became a much-quoted catchphrase, and remains so in some quarters to this day:  “It won’t happen over night, but it will happen”.
On the eve of Christmas Eve a good mate visiting from the North escorted me to lunch at Secret Garden, a small café come art gallery and bookshop up here on the hill.  It was wonderful to catch up with David as it always is; as it always is with those who matter. David used to be one of my chef at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island.  We’ve remained friends since those crazy, wonderful days.  Birds of a feather flock together, you know!

Sadly, it’s no secret, Marks & Gardner-Secret Garden Restaurant closed down on 14th January, 2015; this past Wednesday just past. It didn't close its doors from lack of business, more so from too much business! 

The two women who operated the business originally opened the café/gallery to be more of a hobby - a pastime as such - than a busy operation, but it soon grew in popularity and in population. Interested diners, art, ceramic and book lovers flowed through its doors; spread the word and returned again and again.  Mary, the older of the two women lives in the home to which the café and gallery are attached  The time had come for the doors to the public to be shut; and the doors of her home to be opened to her and her family for them to live in privacy and in peace. 

Another friend took me to lunch at Secret Garden for my birthday back in November.  I’d kept my birthday pretty much a secret. I had no streamers, balloons, bells and whistles and no male stripper leaping out of a cake. Actually, I didn't even have a cake!  The café, now private home, is situated amongst a piece of paradise.  Money can’t buy the hypnotic ambience of the place.

The week before Christmas Day, joined by other usual suspects I mingle with only once a year, I enjoyed myself at my landlord’s annual Christmas gathering.  It’s always a fun, relaxed evening at Derek and Denise’s Christmas parties; and then, on New Year’s Eve I again joined the Double Ds (no…it’s not a cattle ranch) and a lesser cast of players for a condensed replay; and what a happy farewell to 2014 it was!  

However, they were in for an early night, not planning to remain awake until midnight.

After a 5.30 pm early start to the evening, which we spent out on their verandah with wine and tasty nibbles to wet our whistles and whet our appetites, and with rain falling upon the roof, I returned home to my cabin between 9.30-10 pm.

My friends may not have been in party mode to see 2105 in, but I was (I always see the New Year in regardless, whether in a party mood or not.  Although I’m really not one for New Year’s Eve parties as such.  I find them too forced…people believe “they have to have fun” – and nothing is spontaneous; and I prefer spontaneous).   But that’s by the by….

Not having to give anyone an excuse or apology for being in a light-hearted, happy mood, I bid adieu to one year, and the welcomed the beginning of another in good spirits; although no spirits passed these lips, only a couple of cold beers and a few glasses of red wine.

A number of enjoyable phone conversations later…some received and others made by me, I eventually got to bed at 3 am on the first day of 2015…a fitting beginning, in my opinion; particularly when I awoke I was just a little weary, but had no hangover effects to suffer through.

Too many evil deeds perpetrated by evil doers occurred during 2014.  I think that is why I wanted to end 2014 with a blast of my own. 

To paraphrase the words of Nellie Forbush from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, “South Pacific” I was in the mood on New Year’s Eve to “wash that year right outa my hair”; and so I did, taking no prisoners; and I felt all the better for achieving my goal.

May every day be “Good News Day”!  Who am I trying to kid??  "Hopefully Hopeful-Lee" they call me!

Capsicum-Mint Salad: Preheat oven, 200C. Cut 8 red and 8 yellow capsicums into chunks; place in a large roasting pan; toss with 1/2c olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper; cook on centre shelf, 50mins; toss frequently. Remove from oven; cool. Place in serving bowl with some pitted black or green olives. Pour over some balsamic vinegar to taste; toss with 2 chopped bunches fresh mint; season to taste; crumble feta or goat cheese over top..  

Spiced Fish & Noodle Salad: Whisk together 1/2c soy sauce, 1tbs fish sauce, 4tbs sweet chilli sauce, 1/2c chopped coriander, 1/2tsp fresh ground ginger, 3 drops lime oil, zest and juice of 1 lemon and 2tbs teriyaki sauce; then divide in half. Marinate 300g white flesh fish fillets in half of the marinade; chill 30mins. Toss 250g cooked egg noodle or angel hair pasta in other half of marinade. Sear fish in oiled pan; transfer to rack over baking tray; cook in preheated 180C oven, 10mins; cool. Break up fish with your hands; toss 100g cooked, peeled, chopped prawns, 1 red and 1 yellow capsicum, finely chopped, 6 leaves Vietnamese mint and ½ bunch roughly chopped coriander leaves with the fish. Serve noodles in bowls topped with fish mixture.  

Lychee Sticky Muffins: In bowl combine 2c plain flour, 1tbs baking powder, 1tsp cinnamon and 1/4tsp salt. In another bowl, beat 2 eggs, 1c milk, 1/4c vegetable oil, packed ½ cup brown sugar and 1tsp vanilla until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened.  Into each greased muffin cup (12 cup), spoon 1tsp melted butter, 1tsp brown sugar and 1 heaped tablespoon chopped fresh lychees. Top with 1/4c of the batter; bake in190C oven, 25-30mins. Invert onto foil; stand 2mins (you can be seated); remove from pan; serve warm. 

Dagwood Dogs: Preheat the fryer to 175C. To make the batter, whisk to combine 3/4c yellow cornmeal, 3/4c plain flour, 1-1/2tsp baking powder, 1/2tsp baking soda, 1tsp sugar, 1/2tsp salt and 1/8 tsp nutmeg. In another small bowl, whisk to combine 3/4c buttermilk and 2 eggs; mix this into the dry ingredients until there are no more streaks of flour, but be sure to leave lumps in the batter (do not stir those out; do not over-mix). Transfer the batter to a tall glass. Skewer 4 saveloys/frankfurts/hot dog sausagess onto wooden sticks. Roll each in enough flour to coat, then shake the excess off. Dip the floured “dogs” into the tall cup of batter; and then put them straight into the fryer for about 3 minutes, but be sure not to overcrowd your fryer. Depending on size, you might need to make two or three batches. The Dagwood Dogs are ready when the exterior is golden brown. Serve with tomato sauce/ketchup or mustard.

Rocket, Spinach Cashew Pesto: Place 2 large garlic cloves and 1 small red chilli in processor; pulse until evenly chopped; scrape down sides; add 2c roughly chopped rocket, 1c roughly chopped spinach in batches until processed; add 100g raw cashews and seasonings; process until consistency of almond meal. Add a little x-virgin olive oil, if too dry; add 100g grated parmesan, 60ml x-virgin olive oil and a splash of lemon juice: process. When well combined scrape into a bowl. Place 100g raw cashews into processor; pulse lightly; keep nuts coarse for texture; add cashews to bowl with 65g x-virgin olive oil; mix until combined; check seasonings; place into glass jars; top with a little oil; store in fridge; use as needed. Substitute toasted walnuts, if preferred.  

Spinach Balls: Preheat oven 175C. Cook enough spinach leaves to make 300g (well drained) or use 300g frozen spinach, thawed and drained.  Mix spinach with 2c Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs, 1c grated Parmesan, 1/2c melted butter, 4 shallots, finely chopped, 4 lightly beaten eggs, salt and pepper Shape into 1-inch balls. Arrange in single layer on baking sheet; bake 20mins until lightly browned.  

Spinach Omelette: Beat 2 eggs until foamy. Thinly slice spinach, about 1/3c. Steam spinach about 1 min; drain; set aside. Add 1tbs butter to pan; melt; pour in egg; swirl to cover pan; set slightly; sprinkle spinach and 1tbs shredded Jarlsberg over egg; cook until barely dry; flip onto plate.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015


MG Magnette Varitone
Heindorf House - squashed in between the Regent and Odeon Theatres in Queen St. Brisbane - circa 1960s

Coolum Beach

Red Arrow marks the spot...Grandview Drive, Coolum with Mt. Coolum to left in background

Mount Coolum....lookin at it from the southern side

Mudjimba Beach

Holly & Cat - "Breakfast at Tiffany's"...a regular occurrence in real life...all cat owners will recognise!


We continued working on the house, mostly on weekends. However, I did take a week off from my job in August, 1977 to get stuck into the stripping….of the interior walls….I’d not taken up a second job in the evenings in case that thought had fluttered through your mind.  So we could complete the painting; to finally get it all over and done with Randall also took a week off from his job as a real estate salesman, not only to help me with the painting, but to finish off a major project of his own.

Why I remember the month and year so clearly is on the 16th August, both Randall and I were up on ladders painting the walls in the lounge room white when the news flashed over the air waves…Elvis had died!  It was one of those “remember what I was doing and where I was doing it” moments.  Randall and I looked at each other in disbelief.

Almost immediately upon moving into the house we literally stripped (there’s that word again…there was a lot stripping going on) the kitchen bare.  All that was left of the kitchen were its four walls, ceiling, windows, the scrubbed clean refrigerator, kitchen sink and the electric stove sitting in its recess.  The first things we did was get rid of the stove, replacing it with a new gas range, which fitted into the existing recess perfectly, (if and when I have a choice, gas cooking is my preferred method), and we ripped up the vinyl off the floor. The vinyl floor covering was beyond saving.  It ended its life at the local rubbish dump. 

After the demolishing of the kitchen for a period of time my work bench was a wooden door resting on two wooden saw horses.  If word had gotten around we would’ve started a new trend!

Randall’s major project was building a new kitchen for me; a project he took very seriously.  He’d never tackled something quite as grand before, but he was up for the challenge.  The only wood-work he’d done in the past was at high school in the wood-working classes aka Manual Training Course.  Shadow-Boxes and the like were far removed from the design and construction of a kitchen! Carpentry was a whole new ball game; but, he was very capable. I had faith in his abilities.

I’d learned earlier on when our relationship first began when we were still in our teens that he could turn his hands to anything he set his mind to, whether it was mechanical, technical etc., so why not, in this case, carpentry? 

After completing his Junior year at high school Randall shrugged off the shackles of his childhood to become a trainee technician with the PMG (Postmaster General’s Department); a five year course in Telecommunications.  He left after completing three plus years of the course to take up radio announcing. He had (and still has) a wonderful speaking voice; deep, dulcet, mellifluous tones. His voice, over the years, has been admired by many, far and wide. Having set his heart on becoming a radio announcer he enrolled in the Jim Illiffe’s Radio and Television School.  In his spare time he attended classes. Some of my Aussie readers (of my vintage) might be familiar with the name “Jim Iliffe”.

A piece of trivia – but important trivia, I feel -

At the tender age of 17, Iliffe lied about his age and joined the Royal Australian Engineers at the outbreak of World War ІІ. Sent to Singapore he was on the Malay Peninsular when Japan entered the war. Jim was wounded in the leg and treated in a makeshift hospital in Singapore. The British surrendered the following day. Somehow he and some others made it to the docks.  They stole food supplies and a 16-foot boat.  Somehow, after sailing the open sea, unknown territory, they stumbled across some Dutch soldiers on an island.  Jim Iliffe, aboard an evacuation ship, was transported first to Perth, and then across to Melbourne, ending up back home to convalesce in Sydney, a month after the fall of Singapore. 

After the war ended, Iliffe became a radio announcer. In 1952 he started AIR-TV, the school, in Brisbane. When television entered our lives, Iliffe entered the television world.   He was quite a name and force in the industry in his day.  He passed away in 2005 at the age of 83.

Randall went to work on the kitchen…our new “country-style” kitchen.  Cypress pine was used for the cupboards. Dark brown ceramic tiles were used for the work bench and flashbacks.  As the carpenter’s assistant, I learned how to lay tiles and how to grout.  I was a handy side-kick.  New vinyl flooring that mimicked large tiles was laid. A new kitchen sink was installed along with a garbage disposal unit and a dishwasher

I didn’t know myself in my new kitchen.  It was wonderful. I loved it.  Randall had crafted a brilliant work area. It was more a “pleasure” area because I loved cooking and we regularly hosted dinner parties on Saturday evenings. The Saturday nights we weren’t entertaining others, I always presented a special dinner party for the two of us, candles and all.  

It was just as well I cherished every moment in my sparkling new kitchen because, as it turned out, those moments weren’t to last for long.

Noosa Heads and the area surrounding it have always been close to my heart.  Randall and I had spoken often of our desire to one day leave the city life and head up to the coast to live.  It was a dream we knew we would bring to fruition.

Randall was attending college a couple of nights a week studying for his Real Estate License.  It was also our intention to one day open our own real estate office up at the coast.

Ruska didn’t experience any more birds flying into his mouth; not that we witnessed, anyway. As he continued emptying his food bowls, I think his days of unintentional hunting were well in his past.

Sasha was still defiantly holed up in the greenhouse in Toowong, probably aimlessly roaming the streets a night.   Randall made regular greenhouse visits.  I made irregular greenhouse visits.  I’ve always known when I’m not welcome.  Call it a “sixth sense”; and my visits made me very upset; I felt so inadequate; so useless.

Having made our decision to pack up our swags and wares we put our properties on the market.  We gave notice to the tenant in our cottage in Cadell Street, Toowong that we were putting the house up for sale.  It was a very quick sale because the tenant bought the cottage.  He loved it as much as we had.  Again as an investment, we’d also bought another little house down the lower far end of Payne Street (Torwood), which we’d rented out to a couple of university students.  They proved to be far better tenants than the ones who’d tried to demolish the Payne Street house.   The two houses in Payne Street entered the “For Sale” market, and it didn’t take long for contracts to exchange hands.

Look out Sunshine Coast…we were on our way.

I’d suggested to Randall because we were changing our lifestyle…from city living to coastal living…we should take up a hobby that depicted the freedom; the open air; to seize the day and the ambience.  I suggested either golf or fishing.  He almost had a fit at both suggestions; but I wore him down. 

He had absolutely no interest in golf; and even less for fishing.  Apparently, so I was informed in lengthy descriptive detail, even as a little boy he hated fishing. always finding some excuse to get out of tossing a line into the water.

For his birthday that January, 1979 I bought him a book titled – “How to Catch a Fish”.  One may as well start at the very beginning, I figured; at the grass roots.  I also bought him a rod, a reel and all the fishing tackle required to catch a fish, including a tackle box.

To the day I die I will never forget the look on Randall’s face as he opened his birthday presents that 11th day of January!  He thought I’d finally flipped over to the dark side.  He was expecting the fellows in the white jackets to be knocking on our front door at any moment, ready to take me away with them in their padded van, to an equally padded cell. I’m sure his hand reached out to the phone to ensure that they were on their way.

In March, 1979 we were ready for our big move; our new adventure. We were off to the coast! Ruska already had shampooed and brushed his ginger fur after packing his bags and surfboard.  He was eager to go surfing.

Randall’s parents had built a new brick home on Grandview Drive, Coolum in readiness for when Father retired. His retirement was still a couple of years away, so the house was vacant other than on weekends when they visited from Brisbane.  The folks said we could use their new home until we found one of our own.  This was a great idea and one we jumped at willingly. To have accommodation upon our arrival without us having to go in search of same would allow us time to breathe; time to find a house of our own; and time to find suitable jobs. 

We set some ground rules with the folks.  When they visited on weekends they were to arrive empty-handed; they were not to bring anything with them other than their clothes.  Also, we would pay all utilities, including insurance while we lived in the house.  Our intention was not to stay there too long, but it allowed us a good stop-gap.  Everything went smoothly.

Randall and I paid a farewell visit to Sasha and to the elderly lady, explaining to her what was happening in our lives; but I stayed in the car.  I was much too upset to go through a final snubbing by Sasha.  I looked on from afar.  He knew I was there, I’m sure.

All loose ends were tied securely. Nothing was left to fate. We hired a small furniture removal van to transport what we’d not sold with the houses. Most of the space in the van was taken up with books, stereo, speakers, tape deck, television and VCR; the important stuff.  With both cars packed to the limit with our personal belongings and fishing gear, off we went; Randall in the Ford Cortina Ghia; Ruska and I in my grey and black 1959 MG Magnette Varitone (I’d christened the Magnette – “Remy”.  Yes…the same name as Remy, my black and white cat – Remy Martin used to be my favourite Cognac.  It probably still is, but I’ve not had any for a while).  

Leaving Brisbane after 14 years was bittersweet; because of Sasha not being with us, to share our new life, I shed tears while Ruska looked on solemnly through the gaps in his cat box.

We three settled into our new surroundings without a hiccup.  Randall and I decided we’d take a month off from work before looking for jobs. 

In the 14 years I’d been working with the Kolotex Group of Companies I rarely took holidays.  In total, through those 14 years at most I would’ve had six or seven weeks off from work.  And during those years there were periods where I worked two jobs; working in restaurants at night and on weekends.

The major thing stopping me from taking holidays (doing so was my own decision) was there had been so much happening within the company. I was enjoying my part in what was going on far too much to take time off.  I had no interest in taking holidays – scared I’d miss out on something! 

After all, John, my boss and I were the creators of branching out, enlarging the Queensland office, its duties and responsibilities. From a small office in Heindorf House, Queen Street, Brisbane (the main street of the CBD) with an original staff of two – John and me, then grew into three when we hired a young lad to pack stock, sales and marketing.  It was an exciting time. I joined the company in September, 1965 and left in 1979 when Randall and I moved up to the Sunshine Coast to live.  In January, 1970 John and I kicked off our joint marketing idea. The once small Queensland operation of Kolotex Group of Companies - which had grown larger than just the hosiery side of things, having taken over an Australian  womens' and mens' wear company as well as Australian-made metal mesh handbags and associated products' company during 1969 - packed up and left Heindorf House in its wake.   

We expanded into offices, warehouse and showrooms in a new building in Baxter Street, Fortitude Valley where and when our staff number grew from three to 15.

Randall and my first month living in the house at Coolum flew by in a blink of an eye. 

Ruska fell off the verandah of his new home one Saturday when Randall's parents were visiting for the weekend.  All I saw was a ball of ginger fur falling to the ground below.  

The land that the Coolum house was built upon fell away somewhat steeply on the eastern side, the ocean side...and, of course, Ruska overstepped his mark and down he went through the railings.  In a bit of a panic I raced to the interior stairs that led down beneath the house out to where he'd fallen, but by the time I got to the top of the stairs, Ruska was already standing at the sliding glass doors at the front verandah, unhurt, with a smirk on his face!

There was an ongoing discussion between Randall's folk and us whether the street side of the house...the western side was classified as the front; and the eastern side of the house facing the ocean was the rear of the house.  They believed that to be so, but Randall and I argued that the ocean side of the house was the front of the house; and we stuck by our argument!  It was a friendly, good-humoured argument.

Randall and I decided we deserved another four weeks of leisure before we put our heads down once again into working for a living.  Much to his surprise (and mine) he’d taken to the fishing caper like fish to water!  Because our time was our own, we fished by the tides and moon, and whatever else was conducive to the catching of fish.  If the tide was right at midnight, 3 am, 4 am…off we went.  And out we’d go with our surf rods around 4 pm to do it all over again until night fell. We mainly fished at Mudjimba Beach, at the mouth of the Maroochy River.

We always stopped fishing around 8 am in the mornings because we found between then and 4 pm the fish headed out to the deeper, cooler waters to play. 

Arriving back to the Coolum house one morning after a successful early fishing outing as we were unloading the car the postman rode by on his motor bike.  He pulled in and handed Randall a letter. I continued what I was doing, but soon came to a full stop when Randall handed me the letter. I didn’t recognise the writing.

Tears flooded down my face. The letter was from the elderly lady in Toowong with the greenhouse.  She’d found our address by visiting Conias Apollo, the real estate agency Randall had worked for in Milton Road, Toowong.

She’d taken Sasha to the vet; and felt we needed to know.  It was the same vet in Indooroopilly, Brisbane, where 12 years earlier, I’d taken Sasha to be neutered when he was still a kitten.

Without hesitation, we tossed our fishing gear in the garage area underneath the house; and after throwing the fish fillets into the fridge, we hastily showered and dressed.  Wasting no time, we knew what we had to do.

Within minutes it seemed, we were on our way to Brisbane…to pick up Sasha.  I think tears fell down my cheeks the whole trip - 127.5 kms (79 miles).  Trying not to draw attention for the" boys in blue" we sped along the highway and through Brisbane to the western suburb of Indooroopilly as fast as was allowable (and, no doubt, in spots, where not allowable)!

When we pulled into the veterinary surgeon’s car park, I flew out of the car leaving Randall in my wake.  Racing up to the receptionist I told the lass who we were and what our purpose was.  She ushered us into a room off from the reception area. As soon as I walked in, ahead of Randall, there in a wire cage was a ginger cat, Sasha.   

He looked directly at me and gave the loudest miaow I think I’d ever heard from him.  He recognised me immediately.  I was a mess, but I didn't care.  Tears streamed down my face as I reached for him. He snuggled into my arms, purring furiously. He snuggled his head into my neck.

I told the vet that I’d not, by any means or purposes deserted Sasha.  I told him how much I loved my cat. I explained in detail what had happened; how Sasha had left me, and no matter what I did; how hard I tried, he would have nothing to do with me.  He treated like I was a traitor or worse.   

The vet was sympathetic.  He said he believed me entirely. He’d seen many similar cases.  He also told us that he thought someone had tried to strangle Sasha; and that Sasha would, for the rest of his life, have a cough, but for us not to be concerned about it. It was just “one of those things”.  It wouldn’t interfere with his enjoyment of life.  Sasha was fine and would continue to be fine. 

And, boy, oh, boy…I was just fine, too.  I was over the moon!

After paying the vet for his services, we climbed back into the Cortina and headed northward.  For the entire trip back to Coolum, Sasha remained curled up in my lap, purring all the way “home”.

We, of course, wrote to the wonderful lady to thank her for getting in contact with us.  I was so grateful to that lady...a lady I really didn't know.

I know this may sound silly, but I don’t care.  I believed then, and I will always believe – Sasha had tired of being a delinquent, a street child and he wanted to come “home”.  He wanted to be back with me…back in my loving arms.  He sent out a message…and I received the message…loud and clear. 

That particular day was one of the happiest days of my life…the day Sasha came back into my life.  And if I may sound even sillier, I think, similar feelings applied to Sasha.  

Once we arrived at the house in Coolum, and thereafter, Sasha rarely left my side. I was forgiven for my transgressions. He and Ruska immediately recognised each other, too. 

The old master, the mentor had returned to fold. Ruska had a lot to learn. He was a willing student; and Sasha a wise tutor.

Oh!  Glory days….life was good…oh, so good!

This has turned into a never-ending story…there is still more to follow.