He had the most piercing blue eyes. His silver-grey hair telling a deceptive story, given he was only in the fourth decade of his life. Olive skin, sun tanned and with a sparkling smile. So, I was not surprised when Sue said, ‘He is awe-fully good looking! We both laughed. Sue was old enough to be his mother but that did not stop her from recognising his good looks.
Yet, he was not only a good-looking man with blue eyes and great physical features. He was also good natured, generous, helpful, and thoughtful. He came as a great package of humankind. The kind of person you would like to call a friend. James and I were fortunate to be friends with Brad. We all lived in the small township of Maleny in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland of Queensland.
Brad and Deb also lived in walking distance from our place. They had the same view as us, looking out across the Glasshouse Mountains. Our homes were on Mountain View Road, the dress circle of Maleny. At least that was what others called the area, those who lived on the other side of town!
Brad and Deb’s house had a look-out as high as an eagle’s nest, perched at the top of their house. It reached out of the roof like the Jimna Fire Lookout Tower. But Brad’s inspiration did not come from the Jimna Fire Tower. It came from the time he completed the Craggy Pinnacle Hike, in Western North Carolina. His idea for the design remained dormant in his mind for almost 20 years.
At the back of Brad and Deb’s house the ground plummeted away. Large pillars of igneous rocks higher than the tallest person I know. They were formed out of lava from times gone by and now this was Brad’s backyard, his playground. Brad had a keen interest in flora and fauna. He had turned his backyard into a child’s wonderland, even though he and Deb never had children.
Yet, it did not take a child to marvel at the rock formations. Walking paths wound their way amongst the rocks. Tropical plants were on full display. Flowers and butterflies peeking out with each corner turned. It was an enchanting place, like a fairy garden, so out of the ordinary.
Every morning Brad would leave Maleny and travel to Maroochydore to school. As an art teacher he was passionate about the natural world. He taught children to see the artistic features found only in a rainforest. The botanical names of common and rare plants fell from his lips. Children understood the purpose of the forest. It was a place for small animals to find safety in the clutches of plants in the understory.
On his way to school Brad would fly past our house. We heard the same sound Monday to Friday, the flight noise of a light plane. But no, there was no plane. It was Brad in his pale green 60s Volkswagen Beetle (VW). How he loved that car. I understood his love of the VW Beetle as I had a cream one in the 70s. The interior smell welcomed you as you settled your body into the driver’s bucket seat. The smell was a blend of rubber floor mats, vinyl seat covers, and an ivory moulded resin steering wheel. Not to mention the raindrops that had wriggled their way inside without telling a soul.
One day I blurted it out, ‘Brad, your car sounds like a low flying aeroplane.’ Brad laughed, we all laughed. He thought I was making fun of his beloved VW Beetle. But I convinced him he should have a listen to his muffler. The one that did not muffle! He was a good sport Brad, and before long all we heard in the early hours of the morning was the soft hum of his engine.
Like me he did the drive every day. Along Mountain View Road and down the escarpment. All the traffic would wind its way through the ‘icebox’ as the locals called it. The winding road was shaded by overhanging tree branches and when it was wet, it was dangerous. Like Brad I did not mind the drive. It was my thinking time, even as music often played in the background.
In the winter months it was always dark when I travelled home from Maroochydore. Up the mountain range, around the icebox and left into Mountain View Road. There were few cars on the road. It was in the mid-90s. As there were no streetlights and in the absence of moonlight the darkness was all pervasive.
There were times, when lying in bed at night, I could not see my hand held in front of my face. One of our treats for visitors to our place was to take them for a walk after dinner on Mountain View Road. It was exciting and scary all at the same time, walking on the darkened narrow bitumen road, without moonlight!
Even when driving in the dark and with the absence of other cars on the road it was no time for complacency. I always had to be on the lookout, not for cars but cows! It gives you an awe-full fright when you turn a corner on the winding Mountain View Road to confront a cow. Even more so as it remained stationless with a blank stare in the middle of the road.
Half-way along the road I would pass Sue’s house. Sue Becker was an Australian radio and television personality in the 1960s. An aerobics fitness guru, she also had a show on the BBC in the United Kingdom called Boomph with Becker. It was an exercise program for people over 60. In her late 60s Sue called Maleny home and this is when I met her. Educated in London, Sue had a crisp British posh accent. We often met up with Sue and others at her place. She enjoyed entertaining and yes, we were entertained!
In the dark night of winter or even late on a summer’s evening driving home from work I would drive past Sue’s place. I would see her long lanky frame adorning her couch. But this was before the hedge grew. As time passed, Sue disappeared behind leafy green branches.
One evening, at Sue’s place, in all his splendour lay …
But wait! That is a story for next week!