Archive for December, 2008

When I think of home, it sparkles
And so brightly shines
– Paul Kelly, 1991

I can’t remember the last time it rained for 24 hours.

That was the Bald Man’s observation about the cold snap of last week. He also said, I can’t believe we’re using the heater in December, but that’s just whining.

A low pressure system brought 50mm of good, honest precipitation to the Berra. It rained steadily, softly, with only the occasional downpour or wind gust. At work there seemed to be an excited undercurrent as we all went about our business. At home, the green tomatoes and seeding rocket bowed under the weight of the water. Rain was falling when I woke up on Friday, and still falling when I went to sleep.

What was remarkable about last week was that rain used to be so ordinary. It used to rain like that all the time when we were children, but now it’s unusual enough to be worthy of comment.

Is that why I felt hollow at the numbers ‘5pc by 2020’ as they passed KRudd’s lips? And positively got indigestion as the big polluting manufacturers still squealed like stuck pigs?


At least the AFL might screw Richmond out of choosing Cousins. Damned Tiges need to be saved from themselves.

The Berra’s winding down for Christmas. I can feel it. Apparently the town empties out at this time of year, as the many immigrants head back to their families in other cities and towns, and locals migrate to their annual destination on the south coast. A colleague taught me how to discern someone who is doing neither: they sidle up to you and say, “What are you doing on Christmas Day?”. A bit of probing will usually reveal some sort of orphan status, as well as either an invitation to a Christmas dinner or the hope one might materialize.

Last Christmas I learned that Darwin also empties out like the Berra, and only partly due to the threat of cyclones. Conversely, people seem to go home to Sydney, or Melbourne, or a myriad country towns. But what is home? And how long can you be away from your childhood place, flying in and out just occasionally, before the homing instinct fades?

Soon I’ll catch up with a friend who grew up in my neighbourhood but who’s flown all the way to Japan and made her life there. She still comes back once a year, bringing her little girl with her – for now. I love to catch up; we had a lot in common and still have a lot to talk about. I’m glad that about once a year or so, our paths cross as I too head back home – for now.

Noooo! They bought Cousins! Hopeless.


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I said, beautiful people,
You know they’re going out tonight to get their Bombay Rocks off.
– Australian Crawl, 1980

As a former Tasnarnian colleague would have said, “je sui arrive” – I have arrived.

My Canberra experience is truly consolidated. I have attended an embassy function and a gala opening. No really, this important stuff in the national capital of Oz. It’s what all the locals seem to do.

The embassy function happened some weeks ago. Colleague Caro and I both received invitations to the Finnish Embassy – to attend a jazz recital. Upon reading this I thought I was hallucinating, but I placed a strategic call to some jazz aficionado friends who assured me that Finland had a quite respectable contemporary jazz scene. Who would have thought.

The Finnish Embassy is all about angles

The Finnish Embassy is all about angles

The interior of the Finnish Embassy was most impressive. The Bald Man slavered over the clean Nordic lines, strange protruding walls and upper floors, and shiny contemporary sculptural pieces. Caro and I were agog at the sculptural nature of the hairdos worn by some of the better class of mature lady in attendance.

The jazz was, well, jazz. That is to say, I have no idea if it was good or not. But I enjoyed it, even if it was clearly wasted on me.

The gala opening occurred last night – the formal launch of the new National Portrait Gallery, which had been most recently shoehorned into the Old Parliament House – not always a comfortable fit for either party.

Anyway, the evening was a balmy Canberra summer one, and so I dragged out one of my better frocks. I have to say the standard of frock amongst the other guests made me look like I was wearing a gunny sack, but there you go. It was a gala event, after all, and gala is not my natural state.

It was interesting to note that for a function advised as ‘6 for 6.30’, there were a lot of people there well beforehand. By about 5.40 there were already several hundred guests milling about and hooking into the refreshments. This was confusing to me, a former southerner; in Melbourne ‘6 for 6.30’ means no earlier than 6.45 for the diligent and well after 9 for the fashionable. Being there early to visit the work OB, I got a good look at the name tags on the VIP seats, enjoyed a few of the A-class canapes, and set myself up to people-watch.

Included in the more than 900 attendees there was a brace of current and former politicians, including PM Kevin Rudd and Therese Rein, Peter Garrett, Malcolm & Lucy Turnbull, John & Janette Howard, Peter Reith and Tom Uren (seen looking at his own portrait). Amongst the many beautiful people I personally spotted Janet Holmes a Court, Margaret Olley, Lowitja O’Donohue, William Wang (taking photos), one of the Sass & Bide pair (I can’t tell them apart), the newly crowned -second favourite Australian Peter Cundall, a 6’6″ bloke wearing a skirt and jackboots, and Rolf Harris (I’d met Rolf much earlier in the day. He tickled me in the ribs, twice. Don’t ask).

Me and a colleague in the crowd. If you squint, you can see the back of KRudd's head in the scrum behind us. Really.

Me and a colleague in the crowd. If you squint, you can see the back of KRudd's head in the scrum behind us. Really.

Sometimes politics and celebrity is a less than happy mix. One of the more entertaining moments occurred in the entrance foyer just as KRudd entered and shook hands with Johnny H, unaware that Terry Hicks (father of David) was just metres away. The blanket of suited security heavies, wearing curly thingumies in their ears and talking into their hands, were too intent on whatever they were doing and Terry slipped neatly under their cordon for a few words with the former PM. The massed media scrum were ecstatic – they’ll have some good shots stashed away for a rainy day.

It was certainly an event rather than an opportunity to see the gallery or view the collection past the maddening crowds. By this part of the evening it was becoming clear I had worn the wrong shoes for KRudd’s speech (it had multiple opportunities for early outs that weren’t used), and was suffering the consequences. Time to hobble back to the car and head home; I’ll have to go back another day for a proper look.

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