AS published in Graziher Magazine.
It was a case of ‘long term listener, first time caller’ for Hamish Felton-Taylor, who seized the chance for a blind date with his favourite radio host, and found that life with Arlie Douglas was just as fun off air, than it was on.
Story: Georgina Poole Photography: Anna Tomlinson
She’s the darling of rural radio, the voice injecting a refreshingly wicked sense of humour into rousing households across Queensland.
Store sale reports take on new vigour. The glummest of weather forecasts suddenly thrill.
Listeners chuckle and chortle and sometimes even choke on their toast hearing her daily banter.
The Australian National Broadcaster unexpectedly exhilarates when Arlie Felton-Taylor is behind the booth, and quite possibly everyone falls a little bit in love with this quick witted rural reporter.
Certainly for Hamish Felton-Taylor, this delightful stranger became a constant companion during his daily commute from Toowoomba to the Oakey Air Base back in 2008.
“Every morning between 6.15 and 6.30am I looked forward to listening to Arlie, obviously she is an excellent reporter, but I loved her chat – her backhanded complements to Jenny Swan on those truly atrocious daily jokes, the weekly updates on her social touch footy team ‘The Rum and Cokes’ – I found her very, very funny,” Hamish admits.
Arlie laughs that with her early program, she could often get away with being slightly ridiculous.
After three years as an avid listener, Hamish seized an opportunity to make contact when Arlie made a public call out for genuinely funny jokes, in light of Southern Queensland Morning Presenter Jenny Swan’s approaching retirement.
“She read out her email address on air and I emailed in a very inappropriate joke about Kiwis and sheep,’ Hamish chuckles.
“She replied almost immediately confirming that joke was, of course, inappropriate for radio, but our email chat continued once we realised we had a common friend, Hamish’s cousin.”
Suddenly, a vague mention by this said mutual friend that she had a single cousin ‘working as a helicopter pilot instructor at the Oakey Airbase’ became of fervent interest to Arlie, an out and proud cyber stalker extraordinaire.
“I certainly didn’t waste any time putting my journalistic skills to good use and trawled the internet for anything I could find on Hamish,” Arlie confirms.
Lax social media privacy settings or the odd blog make for very good sport when cyber stalking, but alas, Arlie’s search engines continued to return blank.
“Apparently, my new pen-friend was old school and shunned any social media, or internet exposure of any type. I was disheartened, but not undeterred.”
And her commitment paid off, with Arlie celebrating a stalker’s jackpot, uncovering Ep 13 S1 of Top Gear Australia, dedicated entirely to Hamish’s Army piloting endeavours.
The results did not disappoint.
“It really did seem too good to be true, this extremely handsome man in uniform, performing adrenalin fuelled stunts on Top Gear Australia!”
“I thought how on earth is he still single, perhaps there’s something wrong with him?”
No stranger to the entire Queensland social calendar, Arlie was equally perplexed as to how a single man of this calibre could have slipped through the radar, right under her nose in her current abode of Toowoomba.
While Arlie proudly distributed the clip amongst her vast network of friends, Hamish was naively unaware of his newfound status as a viral sensation.
“I really don’t like any sort of attention, I’m quite shy and felt really uncomfortable about the whole Top Gear experience, but I was in the Army at the time I had no say in it all.”
“Needless to say, our courtship outlasted the ill-fated program!”
After weeks of friendly email exchanges, Arlie plucked up the courage to invite this strapping army pilot to the upcoming Horse Futurity show, on which she was reporting.
“He mentioned he’d like to experience a bit more of rural life, so I thought some horse sports could work well – and it also facilitated a cunning exit plan if he ended up being a jerk,” Arlie laughs.
Meanwhile Hamish, who admits he was never confident around women, took a little time to come to terms with the proposed date.
“Women really scare me to be honest, and someone as funny and smart as Arlie, I really worried that she’d find me boring.”
To the contrary, upon picking up his date the pair agree that conversation was easy.
“We were so busy chatting that in fact,” Hamish laughs, “it took us a while to realise that there were no glaring lights beaming from the showgrounds as we approached.”
It was a dark, eerie and certainly uncomfortable approach to the silent showground.
An empty car park, while Arlie laughs allowed for a prime parking position, confirmed their suspicions.
“I was quietly dying by this stage – I had kind of talked up my gig reporting at this event, and it was abundantly clear that it was not on,” Arlie cringes.
Quick to extinguish any awkwardness, Hamish suggested dinner instead at Toowoomba favourite La Pizziola, where the faulty towers of blind dates continued.
“Lets just say there was a quick bathroom exit when I thought I’d lost an earring down my cleavage,” Arlie laughs, “but it was a wonderful night that we still laugh about often.”
So busy were the two chatting, that the waitress had to return no less than seven times just to take their order.
A work assignment for Arlie in America soon after stalled proceedings, and unbeknownst to her, Hamish tragically lost his brother-in-law in the meantime.
“It took me a while to finally get back to Arlie,” Hamish explains, during which time, Arlie adds, she may, or may not have been, frantically dog earring ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’.
“I eventually invited her over to watch the footy, and you wouldn’t believe it, as soon as she arrived I started to feel really crook,” Hamish laughs.
“I finally had her over, and I had to ask her to leave.”
“Mmm, I didn’t over-analyse that sudden ‘bout of nausea’ at all,” Arlie winks.
Needless to say, further, more successful dates followed, until Hamish, every inch the gentleman, finally landed that first kiss.
“Well, that took you long enough!” was not the heartfelt response he envisaged would follow the highly anticipated, and nerve wracking event.
“It’s fair to say I was pretty smitten, and very proud to claim Arlie as my girl.
“I felt like I knew her from listening to her on the radio, but I didn’t at all, and it was great getting to know the real Arlie.”
“I also became somewhat of a roadie, venturing with across the State for outdoor broadcasts, Moonie Yabbie Races, Burren Downs Picnic Races, Myall Plains Bull Sales and the likes.”
While Hamish’s parents, Michael and Helen Felton-Taylor, are originally from the bush, Hamish grew up between Newcastle, Coffs Harbour and Sydney, before joining the Army after school.
Arlie, daughter of Jeremy and Robyn Douglas was raised on a number of grazing properties including ‘Congewoi” Kynuna, “Sondella” Clermont and “Oakland” Sarina.
After a Bachelor of Agriculture from The University of Queensland, Arlie ventured to the top end, working with Rite?? In ?? before making the jump into radio.
“I don’t mind a chat, so it made sense, and the ABC has provided me with fantastic opportunities to work in towns like Mt Isa and Longreach – but who knew it would eventually lead me to my husband!”
The couple was engaged in 2011, and typically, it didn’t go to plan.
“We were at Noosa doing a bit of fishing on the river and I had the ring, I really didn’t want to propose on the boat covered in fish guts and sunscreen so suggested we go for a walk to the headland later in the day,” Hamish explains.
“Arlie quashed that idea and wanted to keep fishing, and I was reminded of what a cool chick she was, but it didn’t help my cause.”
Later, Hamish spied a sand flat which would take full advantage of the impending sunset. Yet there was one hitch, Arlie still would not get off the boat – a fact she now acknowledges is due to her competitive nature ‘I was not going home without a bite’.
“Eventually I just had to jump out, waist deep into flowing water with the ring in my hand and hope she’d follow – which she did – and I managed to drop the knee just in time to coincide with the most magical sunset, and then proceeded to put the ring on her wrong hand!”
Now with three children, Fredrick, five, Lucinda, four and Angus, two, Arlie is currently on maternity leave while Hamish works with the LifeFlight Community Rescue helicopter Service.
Theirs is a household with much laughter, and a small hobby farm on the outskirts of Toowoomba affords them a rural lifestyle they both cherish.
“If you put aside the sleepless nights, melting down toddlers and nappy explosions, life is good,” Arlie smiles, “and we do look back on those early encounters and it was all quite mad, but so exciting!”
It’s a love story so unique, perhaps even the queen of yarns herself wouldn’t have believed it possible.