Winning Big, (Part one)
© Dave McGettigan 5 November 2013 (Melbourne cup day)
After leaving school, Jenny had managed to talk the publican of the Arms hotel to give her a start as a barmaid. She went into TAFE to get the special certificates she needed for serving alcohol and for gambling places.
Jenny went to Grandma, who in her time was a barmaid herself.
“I need to know how to mix them fancy cocktails that people drink Gran” Jenny said.
“I don’t know nothing about em”, explained Granny, putting her teeth in because she had company, and scratching her hair to rid of the lice. “Back in my day, men drank beer, women drank shandies and the youngsters drank lemon squash out in the beer garden.
Since they didn’t have the internet hooked up on the wheat farm she called home, Jenny went to the local library to search out on the web how to make these drinks that everybody wanted these days.
At first, Brett, the publican, didn’t know what to make of these concoctions that Jenny was making but they seemed to be a hit with the younger set that came into town for a Saturday night dance. Jenny asked Brett to buy all these new fangled soft drinks and spirits that he had never heard of.
“Gotta move with the times I guess” he thought to himself. “I’m taking a gamble on ya girl, don’t let me down or cost me money” Brett warned Jenny.
Jenny got all excited. Giving Brett a kiss on the cheek “I won’t, you’ll see”
Jenny searched long and hard for new recipes. Soon Jenny had drinks for all occasions. Christmas saw drinks such as White Sangria, or Pomegranate Pimms. While for race day she had one for called the Flemington fling, and while punters were winning and losing money on the horse races, Brett was winning it big at the bar.
He got Jenny to teach a few of the others how to make those special drinks, while he was content serving the old timers their ‘schooners of new’. They made a formidable team.
Jenny convinced Brett to hire a chef and reopen the bistro which had closed for lack of patrons some years back. They were tossing up between having original Aussie cuisine for the tourists, and giving the locals something different when they met young David Sarawut. David’s Father was Thai and mother was Aussie. David had finished his chef apprenticeship in Sydney and was looking for a quiet country life away from the big city. With David’s experience and background, they offered diners the best of both worlds. Some of the locals dared to indulge in the oriental cuisine but most sticked to the tried and tested meat and two veg (with chips and gravy of course).
The new restaurant attracted curious locals, and tourists were drawn to the neon sign “All Thaied Up” with a cowboy hat and rope prominent in the display. The mix proved a big success. Business was booming for the Walgett Arms hotel.
On the upper floors were some accommodation rooms where Brett and David resided and where Jenny was contemplating moving to, now that she had a full time job there, and the farm was a long way out of town. She begged her parents until they relented and agreed only after seeing that her room was to be in a different part of the building to the boys. Mum even made her a new doona for the double bed Jenny would now be occupying, after only having a single at home. She insisted on helping Jenny move in, tut tutting at the dust and cleaning the bathroom before anything was permitted past the threshold.
With Jenny now moved into town, I get to have a room to myself. I moved her old bed out into the shed, and spread my horse memorabilia around. I set up a TV and DVD player in my room, so I could watch Idol and X factor without getting ribbed by the boys and dad. I also convinced dad to get the internet connected. I told him I really needed it to research for school, and he could do all the weather reports and crop yield forecasts by email. “You make sense girl”, was all he said about it before we saw the Telstra truck come up the drive a few days later. Seems to me he had already decided. You don’t get service that fast out here.
Things were a bit tough because of the drought but the pub was booming. Jenny asked Brett about opening up the other accommodation rooms for guests coming through town, and for shearers and farm hands who had too much booze on a Saturday night to drive back to the farm. The local Sergeant was on the lookout for drink drivers on Saturday nights and didn’t care that a bloke had to drive and have a licence to be able to work.
Brett and David moved up to the third floor with Jenny, and the second level was given over to guestrooms. Mum got a job housekeeping there three days a week, including Sunday after church which was her busiest time. She got me a job working with her on Sundays but wouldn’t let me work more with my HSC being only a few months away. Dad took the boys home after church and reckoned it was a good deal because they got to watch the footy on TV without interruptions when we were at work. Then he would bring the boys in and we all had dinner in All Thaied Up on Sunday nights.
It was me who first spotted the sparkle in Jenny’s eyes whenever David spoke to her. They both got Mondays off, and Jenny had decided to show David all the sights around Walgett. Not that there was much to see mind you, but they always seemed to find something to occupy their days off. I spotted them together one Monday afternoon when I was passing through town on the school bus on the way home. David was holding Jenny’s hand while they were walking along slowly the way that lovers do in movies. I knew it was serious because Jenny was wearing a dress. And her hair was flowing instead of being pinned up “all sensible”.
I was a bit upset a few weeks later, when my important study was interrupted by a knock on my bedroom door. “Come in”, I said, closing the One Direction magazine I had hidden inside my biology textbook. The door opened to reveal a bashful Jenny. She had a silly smile on her face as she sat on my bed.
“G’day”, I said, “What’s up with the smile?”
“I wanted to tell you something, and ask you something. I’m not interrupting am I? I know how important your studies are.”
“Just spit it out sis, you already ruined my concentration” I said making her feel even more guilty.
“David and I are moving in together” she whispered.
“Shit! Don’t tell mum, she will freak.” I exclaimed in a loud whisper.
“Oh don’t worry; we are not doing it until… AFTER THE WEDDING!” she screamed. I jumped up and screamed along with her. We were both screaming and jumping when dad entered the room.
“Oi, you two, quieten down, Landline is on the telly”. He said with a smile, clearly not upset. “Good onya girl, reckon you picked a winner there” and he closed the door, leaving us girls to make secret plans.
Jenny showed me the ring, told me all about David’s old fashioned proposal, even down to the point where he asked our dad for Jenny’s hand in marriage. I got out a paper and pen and started a list of things we had to do to prepare for the wedding.
“Slow down girl”, jenny said. “We are not getting married till November. We have plenty of time, and you have…”she picked up my textbook off the desk, and the magazine fell out with Niall Horan looking her in the eyes, smiling his winning smile. “Biology to study for?”
“So what did you want to ask me?” I questioned changing the subject.
“A couple of things,” she started “number one, Will you be my bridesmaid?”
With that, I started screaming with joy all over again “AAAhhh… of course I will. Oh my God, what will I wear?”
“Well, not your jodhpurs that’s for sure.” She laughed “Don’t worry we will get that all sorted. The second thing, and mum has already said its ok, can I teach you how to be a barmaid so you can fill in while I am away on my honeymoon?”
“Yeah righto, I can do that”, I said confidently.
“Brett has said it will be good to work alongside another pretty Coleman girl and will offer you regular hours once you get your certificates”. Jen announced.
“That’s awesome.” I was already dreaming of what I would spend the money on. “It can only be for a year though. I am going to Uni to be a vet after my gap year”.
“It’ll be great getting to spend more time with my sis,” Jen said “and in the quiet times, you can help me with dress ideas and music and stuff for the wedding.”
“Cool, since it’s gonna be in the spring racing carnival time, we can do a horse theme and I can sing ‘Winner takes it all’, and ‘Everyone’s a winner baby’.”
“Not on your Nelly” Jen laughed; my horse’s nickname being Nelly. “I just want a traditional white wedding, with standard music, the bridal waltz and then we are out of there, and on our way to honeymoon, in Thailand.”
“Oh, spoil all my dreams”, I smiled “but have it your way. You know I will help anyway I can.”