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She usually just reads between the lines
– Effigy, 1998

I got back from Albury this afternoon and there at work was a care package from my old housemate Damian, who now lives in London. We’ve been collecting and sending random mementos across the world for some time now, about once a year (or whenever we remember).

Along with the ceramic bull from Tijuana and the signed Weddos t-shirt (Australian band plays in London, t-shirt flies back to Australia, how’s that for carbon kms?) there were three books of poetry by three London poets (I did say ‘random’). Not being familiar with any of them, I took the book by Linda Cash and did the open-page test: you open a book at a random page, and read the poem, see what it tells you. I suppose it’s a bit like a poetry version of the Tarot, or the I-Ching.

How about this, I got a poem called Woman with Exploding Head. It reads, in part,

Meanwhile fighter planes with improbable names
rev up in her temporal lobes

Hmmm. I’ve had quite a few days like that lately. There may be something to random poetry.

The Dog on the Tuckerbox, five miles from Gundagai

The Dog on the Tuckerbox, five miles from Gundagai

On the way back from Albury, my colleague and I stopped at Gundagai, or more correctly the roadside stop five miles from town, to refuel and stretch. It’s always a pleasure to see the dog sitting on his tuckerbox. It makes me think of the real story of the dog on the tuckerbox, which I first heard from Jim Haynes when we talked about one of his published collections of Australian rhyming verse. I recall it mostly because it was one of the few times I found myself helpless with laughter whilst on air. And if you wonder what’s so funny about Australian folk verse, it’s not the version of Five Miles From Gundagai that you probably know, but the doggerel that you don’t.

A tract I bought from the little shop at the truckstop ($1, 20c of the cover price donated to the Gundagai District Hospital) also tells the story.

Back in the day, more than a century ago, Gundagai was the halfway point on the inland route between Sydney and Melbourne, and bullocky teams camped at nearby Five Mile Creek on the highway. That’s where the dog’s story was said to have occurred. The tract says,

A faithful friend, the guardian of the teamster’s possessions, a dog accompanied every waggon that pushed inland. It was the action of one such dog in spoiling food stuffs whilst he sat on a tuckerbox that so amused the [unknown] poet that he wrote:

Good morning mate, you are too late,
The shearing is all over,
Tie up your dog behind the log
Come in and have some dover.

For Nobby Jack has broke the yoke,
Poked out the leader’s eye
And the dog shat in the tuckerbox
Five miles from Gundagai.

The original doggerel was crude and vulgar and verse after verse ran on depicting incidents along the track that leads to Gundagai.

I suppose that says it all. Poetry in (bowel) motion.

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If you sing me a song, you know that I’ll come running
Whistle me that tune that brings a tear to my eye
– The Go Set, 2004

dust21There’s a pall hanging over The Berra this afternoon. A furious windstorm has dragged in a massive dust cloud from somewhere way out west; driving around earlier, everything was quite indistinct, even the Tamil protesters camped en masse outside The Lodge, and their police minders. So much for the washing, of which there’s quite a bit, after a weekend at a shack up in the Barrington Tops.

It was nice to get away, after working on Good Friday. The OB was a success, great news for both our first foray into live broadcast of a new medium, and for a new community partnership. And what, you ask, would I be working at on Good Friday, doing all those things? It was the National Folk Festival.

When we first started getting our crap together for this year’s activity some months ago, I immediately began to wonder how much it might be like the Country Music Festival at Tamworth. I’ve covered six of those, replete with large hats, chaps (the leather kind), linedancing, and buskers of wildly varying quality. Back in the old days, I even covered the first six Big Day Outs (or should the plural be, Big Days Out?) I was looking forward to covering a whole new festival. Indeed, I was looking forward to adding to my collection of stubbie holders from unusual festivals, amongst which my CMF ones are dearly loved.

I was also a bit worried about having to learn a whole new set of eccentricities in order not to draw undue attention to myself, or commit some fatal faux pas. It took some time, but I learned that country music is a serious business. For example: at the CMF, it’s important to know you can laugh with those in country music costume, but not at them; not at the elderly lady in the leather fringed vest without a shirt under it, not at the feral ute driven by that large fellow in the even larger black hat, and certainly not at the bloke playing guitar with the chicken on his head (I’m not making these up). Folk music lovers are preceded by their own special stereotypes: freaky folkies, feral folkies, beardy weirdies, flutes ‘n’ fiddles, twangy-twangy, fiddle-de-fiddle-de-fiddle-o. You know. (It also brought to mind words uttered by Mick Thomas at a particularly feral Tasnarnian gig, “I’m your worst fucking nightmare, mate. I’m gunna play folk music all night.”)

And it’s no small deal, this National Folk Festival. Five days, 22 venues at the Berra’s EPIC showgrounds (it’s a ticketed event), hundreds of performers, thousands of campers on site, and some 50,000 patrons through the gates overall.

So, what was it like?

Well, overall it was a very civilised affair. A family festival. Calm, well mannered, pleasant; some stereotypes were borne out, and some were exploded.

instrument1There were a surprising number of teenagers there without parents, well behaved (if a little prone to wearing long velvet capes) and having a good time. There was no conspicuous drinking or drunkenness (unlike the CMF, in which drinking to excess is an integral part of the festival for many); and so, sadly, there were no NFF stubbie holders; I only twice caught a whiff of wacky tobaccy. The music was quite good, a little broader-appeal than what you might expect, and yes it was taken seriously. Trad-folk, folk from non-Anglo traditions, local and overseas performers, protest music, contemporary and loud music, comedy, and even a spooky men’s choir, it was all there. There were men with beards (who had the good grace to laugh at themselves at our OB) and some really crusty old Deadhead-types. There were certainly weird (if beautifully crafted) instruments; over in the instrument-makers’ tent there were arrays of expensive wood-whistles, handmade harps, medieval dulcimers, mountain mandolins (I am not making these up) and a number of contraptions that didn’t seem to be related to normal instruments but evidently made music, somehow.

mulledwineThere were pantomimes and poets, most of which seemed to have strong left leaning, anti-establishment themes (I spotted a brace of children gathered around a man with a guitar conversing in parable-style with another man dressed as a tree about the importance of trade unions in democracies) (I’m not making that up, either). There was a yurt. Amongst the many venues there was actually one called Flute & Fiddle. And for a festival with definite alternative-left socio-political tendancies, there was a lot of commerce. Many stall names sported bad puns, and most touted some sort of perceived virtue (organic, eco, fair trade, hemp, hand-crafted, recycled, vegetarian, etc.) but it was still dirty, profit-making commerce. This kind of tension makes for interesting business and goods for sale. Two eye-catchers were an organic-halal gelato (I don’t know why, it was a very anglo crowd) and a fast-food stall called Voodoo Hamburgers (the logo was a smiling skull). There were vendors of goods you might not expect to see at a folk festival, including a broom maker. I heard one borderline feral mum saying to her 8-year old, “I’ve already bought you a firestick, I’m not going to buy you a puppet head too. I don’t care if it’s hand-made hemp.” Of course I was pleased to see mulled wine, though being at work I opted for the mulled and spiced orange juice.

mugsThe thing I liked best was only a little thing, but it summed up so much about the NFF: what it is, what drives it, and what it strives to be. Almost all the drinks on site were sold in sturdy plastic mugs. When you finished your drink, you dropped your mug in one of the many wire-cage mug collection points. Volunteers (the ‘mug jugglers’) regularly emptied out the cages, took the mugs away, washed them, delivered them back to the stalls, and the cycle began anew.

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I pray that sense and reason brings us in
Who’s gonna save me?
– Midnight Oil, 1990

We did not hear US Forces.
We did not hear Short Memory.

We DID hear Beds Are Burning, Best of Both Worlds, and Dream World, all with the BRASS SECTION.

Let me be clear about what I went for and what I did not go for when I saw Midnight Oil at the Canberra Entertainment Centre tonight.

I didn’t go to contemplate Peter Garrett’s political career. Others can and do freely accuse him of being a traitor to his class, his art, his audience, his causes. Others can and do freely defend his choices. I’m sure you have your own deeply held conviction in this area… or else you don’t give a toss.

There were five blokes on stage this evening, four of whom are still making music for a living, and five of whom were performing with passion and clearly having a bloody great time.

I went this evening for the music.

oils1smlThe last Oils gig I saw was at the University of New England. I must have been pushing 30 at the time and was therefore still relatively full of beans, not to mention still appropriately aged for a loud gig. This evening, a great many years later, as I pulled on the old Blundstones I confess I felt old. But standing in the foyer of the Entertainment Centre, it became evident I was at the younger end of the demographic. Bald Man, Caro, Ricky and I tried to spot someone under 25. There was one girl, accompanying an older boyfriend, who could have qualified. And then there were about half a dozen kids roughly 11 years old, attending with either dad, or mum, or both. Oh dear. Bald Man spotted Glen A. Baker (looking quite svelte, but still bearded and wearing a silly hat) lining up at the box office to collect his ticket.

This gig was not as rowdy as that UNE gig either; at that one I lost a couple of handfuls of hair but gained one of Rob Hirst’s drumsticks (he threw them into the crowd and I took a lucky catch). This time around the ageing Gen Xers and pretty decrepit younger baby boomers posed no kind of physical threat, though perhaps being more concerned with real estate they were much better at hanging onto their gig floor turf; very few drunken upstarts got through to the mosh pit. Of the 3000, about a third hung about in the standing room, while two thirds opted for the seating. Wusses.

oils2smlThe band opened with Redneck Wonderland, and it took them about 3 songs to find the magic. When they did, it was all go. They played a host of great classics, including When The Generals Talk, One Country, The Dead Heart, Blue Sky Mine, Truganini, Best of Both Worlds, Power And The Passion, Read About It… in fact, with two encores the gig went a good two hours. The sets were structured so that groups of more energetic songs were paced with slower tempo ones – not just for the middle-aged audience, I’m sure, but also for the middle-aged band. The one decoration on the stage was a small, old corrugated iron water tank, on which Hirsty stood up and played a percussion solo. The brass section was an unexpected treat, and received a huge roar from the crowd. (That really shows up the recent Saints reunion gigs, which did not feature a brass section and so the band didn’t play Know Your Product, a disappointment to quite a few I hear.)

Only Peter Garrett spoke in between songs, and mostly he talked about how good it was to be doing something they all loved to help raise money for the bushfire-affected; he also welcomed old friends and new, including visitors from interstate, overseas and Parliament. There was a curious moment during the second encore though when he said a few words about not always being able to win, but having to hang in there just the same. I’m sure those were not his exact words, but that was the sentiment as I heard it. Then the band moved into Sometimes – an interesting segue – and then that was the end, my friends.

oilsgigsml1I only got one stitch from jumping about too much, and didn’t lose any hair this time. Ah well. It was still a good gig. Clearly the gathered audience have missed the Oils a great deal, and were glad to welcome them back if only for a short time. It’s been a long time between gigs, but those years have not been forgotten years.

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These days turned out nothing like I had planned.
– Powderfinger, 2000

What a strange couple of weeks it’s been. Work took me to Victoria to help with bushfire coverage; though I stayed office-bound, the hours were long and weird, colleagues worn out and worn down, and smoke permeated even the Southbank studios. Outside visibility was low and everyone looked serious. (Readers of The Hobart Chronicles may remember that the smell of bushfire makes me twitchy. I left Melbourne with a full-blown coffee dependancy re-established, my caffeine free weeks a distant memory.)

Then just days later, attending to the outlaws took me to northeastern NSW where flooodwaters were receding; at the Bald Man’s mother’s property she’d had 25 inches in 10 days, exceeding all known records for the area, and a low-lying bridge was temporarily impassable. It was hot and swampy.

And here in The Berra? Dry, dry, dry. The gardens that started January so lush are now desiccated. Trees look like they’re turning early for autumn, but in fact the leaves are just dying. Miss Penny, visiting from Tamworse last weekend, was a bit taken aback by the dry landscape, but I’m pleased to say she enjoyed her stay having found The Berra very much to her liking. Sunday also happened to be my birthday. With each passing birthday, I seem to care about my age less, which is good; but I also seem to care about everything else a little less, too. Perhaps it’s smart not to look at the detail of one’s life too closely at times like these.

Anyway, The Berra offers many fine distractions, and we sampled a few on the weekend. Sunday was the annual open day for Government House at Yarralumla, and so early on we dropped in. I had a look at the work OB, and the Marketing guru snuck off and quietly organised for us to jump the queue of people waiting to walk through the grand old residence. Somehow this morphed into a personal tour by one of the senior staff for Miss Penny, the Bald Man and me through some of the open and not-so-open areas, like the kitchen and flower-arranging room (yes there is one of these). Built in the 1830s, it’s remarkable how the House relates to all the contemporary landmarks, including Lake Burley Griffin and the Telstra tower, none of which existed when the drawing rooms with the fine bay windows were installed. Now in its 18th decade, the house has a gentle, genteel atmosphere even when filled with hundreds of curious Berrans peering over the red ropes at the furniture.

Our guide, having served under several G-Gs, remembered some fascinating moments, a boon for the Bald Man who is in turn fascinated by the Dismissal. Here was where Whitlam walked in. There was where Fraser stood. Kerr was sitting behind this desk. And so on. We rounded a corner and nearly ran into an older gentleman coming down a flight of stairs. “Oh,” cried our guide, “Hello Mr Bryce!”

We left, awestruck, and discussed the tour while stuffing ourselves at yum cha for lunch. Then about two hours later, having clearly not eaten enough at lunch, we went out for afternoon tea.

Not just any old afternoon tea, but High Tea at the Hyatt, The Berra’s only 5-star establishment. It was very grand indeed. I’m told it’s something of an institution in The Berra, and I can see why. Luxurious surrounds and exquisite petits fours, and you can sit around for hours enjoying first-class people-watching. A group of forty-something women held what looked like a baby shower for one of their number; two dapper young fellows ordered elaborate pink-and-green cocktails. But what was going on at the next table, where a couple of dozen women of varying ages and flash frocks sat adorned with nametags, drinking champagne? We ran through some options: a business meeting; a briefing for Tupperware sales ladies; a church group outing. It finally emerged as some kind of bridal shower, complete with quizzes, little speeches, a sharply pretty Bridezilla and her cut-glass mother. It was a world away from our humble little trio. I thought people only had shoes made to match their dresses for the actual wedding, and then only people for whom the styling of the day may actually be more important than the happily-ever-after. But then, what would I know? It was a joy to watch it all.

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Let’s all celebrate and have a good time.
– Kool & the Gang, 1980

Happy Straya Day! Happy Chinky* New Year! Both good reasons for a knees-up, in my humble opinion, and here in the Berra we did it with gusto.

There’s no doubt that in the Berra, the national version of Straya Day is taken very seriously. As a former high level public servant reminded me as we stood in the VIP area of Australia Day Live 2009, we have John Howard to thank for that; he centralised celebrations here in the Berra, putting an end to the motley roadshow that went to a different state capital each year, only to do battle with local celebrations. Since then the Day has gone from strength to strength. But I’m getting the bragging out of order here.

Sunday morning started out by having to regretfully decline an opportunity to tear down 20km of fire trail on a mountain bike in 35 degrees. I’m reliably told by the Bald Man that the event host’s description of it as ‘an easy ride’ was a gross exaggeration. Since the host, a very experienced rider, fell off his bike twice (very heavily) I’m glad I said no; I’d doubtless have spread myself across the scenery.

Instead I primped and preened to make myself presentable for an Australia Day luncheon hosted by the Governor General at Government House, Yarralumla. The luncheon was in honour of the state finalists in the 4 Australia Day Awards categories and their partners; since I was neither, I gather I was there to help with the honouring. In all seriousness, that wasn’t hard. Without exception, each of the finalists was remarkable in their (often multiple) fields of endeavour. It’s a joy to see such people recognised, so I was glad to spend time with them.

gussied-up jam sponge - our national cake for our national day

gussied-up jam sponge - our national cake for our national day

Naturally I also spent time honouring the buffet. The food was, well, worthy of a head of state, in both quality (outstanding) and quantity (lavish). It ensured the patrons (both the honourable and the hangers-on) had their mouths stuffed and could therefore listen to the speeches in silence. Her Excellency the G-G was gracious, and newly appointed chair of the Australia Day Council Adam Gilchrist was well-spoken and amusingly self-deprecating. Both were mercifully brief. Otherwise, we had time to enjoy each other’s company, admire the view of Lake Curly-Gherkin from our marquee on the Yarralumla front lawn, and nick into the loos for a peek at the interior of Government House (it was a strangely charming sort of landed-gentry time warp.) Dessert was announced as Australia Day cake – we all looked at each other in anticipation, and were rewarded with pieces of extremely fancy jam sponge. How very Strayan. I guess it could only have been bettered by an enormous pavlova.

The afternoon saw everyone transported to Australia Day Live, an event held on the enormous nature strip thingy that sits between the two roads connecting Old Parliament House and Parliament House. Really, it’s the Australia Day Awards presentation, followed by a concert, but since it’s all broadcast on a commercial TV station I suppose it needed a catchy name.

As we approached the VIP enclosure, a few people were gathering on the lawned area. A group of boofheads were playing a version of backyard cricket, and despite their obnoxious dress-ups (straight out of the Aldi catalogue) they showed some wit by having their outfield populated by blow-up kangaroos. We passed another silly bugger in stubbies and a blue singlet standing before a barbecue he’d brought along and fired up, tending snags. How very Strayan.

The Awards would have been stirring, but for the frequent breaks in proceedings to allow for commercials. The network even managed to shoehorn one in after announcing Professor Mick Dodson as the Australian of the Year, but before he could even give his speech. It was odious.

that's me in the corner, and KRudd in the spotlight behind me

VIP enclosure: that's me in the corner, and KRudd in the spotlight behind me

The crowd started to gather in earnest as dusk fell, and the concert got underway. The musical lineup was not to my taste, but it was only a backdrop for the hors d’oeuvers in the VIP enclosure. If ‘enclosure’ sounds vaguely zoo-like, well it was; inside was the usual exotic mix of folk one sees at Berra events, from diverse backgrounds and walks of life, scoffing nosh like feeding time. Outside? It was pretty mono-cultural. Not sure who was on display, and who were the animals? As I wondered, the Bald Man ate about a dozen lamingtons for dinner.

the New Year lion sizing up a red package

the New Year lion sizing up a red package

Monday, Straya Day proper, was also Chinese New Year. It was actually celebrated in the Berra, a vast improvement on Slobart where it was so mono-cultural the date always passed unremarked. On the previous Saturday evening, dropping in at the Dickson video shop, we spotted a troupe of lion dancers doing the rounds of the restaurants in the Asian quarter, scaring away evil spirits with the loud drums and extorting their annual protection-money bonus. Actually, that’s a terrible slur, at least on the Berran troupe, who looked pretty clean-living (unlike, allegedly, their Sydney counterparts). In typical Berran fashion, one lion was even operated by a young anglo fellow (gasp) and a woman (GASP!). How very post-modern.

On Monday, as we returned the video, a very shiny and tinted p-plated ute adorned with two enormous Australian flags was slowly cruising the Dickson Asian restaurant strip. When we came out, it was doing yet another slow lap of the block. It was a little early for public holiday trading hours, and there were plenty of parking spots, so I’m not sure what the driver was doing circling, circling, circling. Anyway, about then a police patrol car arrived and also began circling, circling, circling, and the ute eventually went away. How very post-Cronulla.

After an afternoon spent at the Canberra Yacht Club (yes there is one! on the shores of the lake) we gathered up our friends Caro, Ricky & Dom and trekked back to Dickson to see in the Year of the Ox over a sav blanc and mountains of barbecued duck, pork and fried octopus. We totally missed the state-sponsored fireworks. There was an episode later that involved a trip to the supermarket, the purchase of a 20-serve pavlova (this is not an exaggeration), cream and fruit; let me spare you the details and just say that on Wednesday we’re still eating the results. How very Australia in 2009.

* Please don’t take offence; it’s a term of endearment. I’m half Chinky, ok?

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And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
– Simon & Garfunkel, 1965

Boy, when the locals say The Berra empties over summer, they weren’t kidding.

I also joined the exodus for a period, visiting first the ancestral home deep in Melbourne’s burbs, followed by the obligitary stopover to some in-, uh, outlaws at the NSW mid-north coast hinterland, and then a couple of days’ relief in the wilds of the Barrington Tops with friends, where there were roos, wombats, quolls, wedgetails and water dragons to be seen on vast paddocks of cattle country freshly planted with eucalypts. I observed feral dog and razorback carcasses, climbed hills and forded streams, visited caves, abandoned quarries and old miner’s huts, drove quadbikes and shot at targets, and generally got in touch with my inner Sarah Palin. Yeeeeeeeee-HA.

Travelled back via the Central Coast (we spent NYE with some friends there, which was very pleasant in the way the evening should be, until 8 o’clock the next morning when the neighbour started up his lawnmower and proceeded to do his yard. On New Year’s Day – I shit you not). Bald Man and I got back in time to welcome our jazz officianado friends from Tamworth for a visit to Our National Capital.

They were here to tour a variety of the cultural institutions, which was great, as they were all open 9am-5pm every day. We whiled away some pleasant hours at the National Gallery, the Portrait Gallery, the National Museum, old and new Parliament Houses. Both veteran musicians and accomplished composers, Lis is also a painter and John originally an American (a ‘septic’, as he’s been taught to say) so there was a lot of culture for them to enjoy.

Alas, the enjoyment largely stopped there. Everything else we tried to take them to was shut. A late lunch/early dinner at Tilly’s, for a taste of a Berran institution? Shut, at 5pm on Saturday no less. Parlour Bar, for a civised cocktail and tapas? Shut, for renovations. Silo? Shut. A series of favourite cafes in Civic, Ainslie, Braddon? Shut, shut, shut. My poor friends. They thought the Berra was a ghost town, a poor impression since they were considering moving onwards and upwards from the country to somewhere with a little more happening, like the Berra – I’m embarassed to think where else they’d rather go now.

The final indignity came after our friends had departed, when the Bald Man and I went in search of a takeaway. His favourite is pizza – the good kind, with which we were very spoiled by several excellent purveyors in Slobart. In the Berra I’m sorry to say we have not found a single decent pizza place. We opted therefore for one of the cheap local outlets, Zeffirelli, which at least has the decency not to skewer your wallet for their ordinary fare. And it was… you guessed it. Shut. For three whole weeks over summer. As shut as Caffe Ravello around the corner. And that pretty much exhausts any of the edible pizza options in the locale.

Thank goodness for the cheap and cheerful Chinese, which was open and doing a roaring trade. Duck and noodles at the Tak Kee Inn went down a treat.

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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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