The trip to Sydney to do the constitution speech went well. I did a radio interview in the morning: pretty light-hearted, with the interviewer trying to startle me by playing Grateful Dead music as an intro. That was the morning Britain were knocked out of the World Cup by Argentina, so there was a bit of joshing about that. But I got my own back by saying how sorry I was that Iran had knocked Asutralia out during the qualifying rounds, and how much I had enjoyed the Henman/Rafter match at Wimbledon.
After a day spent calling on people in Sydney, I delivered the speech in the evening to an interesting (and I hope interested!) turn-out at the Australian Institute of International Affairs. Then to dinner with Jean-Claude Poimbeauf, the French Consul-General in Sydney who had worked on G7 Summits at the Elysee.
The weekend was relatively quiet, though staying up/waking up to watch Wimbledon and the World Cup didn't make it restful. Some good tennis before the wind picked up and the rain came.
The following week was pretty busy. We first had Bob May, the Chief Scientific Adviser, to stay, and then John Shepherd, one of the Foreign Office Deputy Secretaries. We had a dinner party for each on successive nights, and a big reception for the Australia/Britain Society the following evening. I spent most of one day with John Shepherd talking to people at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, mostly about events in Asia and in Indonesia in particular; these have a potentially big impact on Australia, not just economically but politically as well.
Then two friends from Western Australia, Fanny Roberson and Tad Powers, came to stay and to go skiing. We had rented an house in Jindabyne, about two hours drive from Canberra, and drove up there on the Friday evening. We had hired boots and skiis, and bought food for three days, so the car was fully laden - though Holly stayed behind. It was pretty cold when we got there - Fanny insisted on going and buying a hot water bottle.
We drove to Perisher on the Saturday, about twenty minutes drive and then a ten minute train ride. None of us had skied recently - in my case it was twenty years since I'd last tried. So I was pretty nervous. The weather was great: it had snowed on the Wednesday and Thursday, so there was reasonable snow coverage; and the weekend weather was gloriously sunny.
I insisted on starting out on the nursery slopes, but was happy to find things came back pretty quickly. Fanny was a neater skier than me, but I was faster, so we could ski together quite comfortably. Katie has not skied much at all so went off to join the ski-school, while Tad started off with Fanny and me.
We all met up for lunch and I went skiing with Katie after lunch. This was only a qualified success: Katie is not good at listening to my advice! I then went off to try some other runs - though not all were open - but couldn't find Fanny so skied on my own.
We'd all arranged to meet in a cafe between 4 and 4.40pm, but there was no sign of Fanny. But 5.30pm it was pitch dark and we were getting worried. We tried the medical centre but they hadn't heard anything. Neither had the police. We were all having visions of night patrols out on the mountains when the police discovered that she had thought she'd missed us and so had taken the train down to where the car was. Phew!
The next day we tried Thredbo: about a half-hour drive from Jindabyne. Different people seem to prefer Thredbo or Perisher, but we found the skiing at Thredbo much better. Nearly all the runs were open, and the long run from the top to the bottom was quite demanding in places. We again all met up after lunch and we did a bit of skiing with Katie, who was improving all the time.
We went back to Thredbo again for our final day, the Monday. Katie was coming on in leaps and bounds, happily skiing on more difficult runs. The snow was definitely wearing, in spite of snow-makers working flat out all down the main runs: very noisy.
In the afternoon I decided to rent a snowboard and try it out. Bad mistake. My reflexes seemed to be all wrong, and I spent the time careering around the nursery slopes and falling over very heavily. Next time I'll have a lesson.
Fanny and Tad stayed on in Canberra for few days with us, and spent one day with Katie at Braidwood and Tarago. I was going to go and meet them for dinner at the Pockleys, but at rather short notice we discovered Paul Boateng, the Health Minister, was visiting Canberra, so I hosted a dinner for him. The omens for this weren't good: it was such short notice that many people we wanted to ask couldn't come. But it turned out to be a surprising success. Paul Boateng himself was on good form and the guests were great value, including Trish Goddard, who's about to return to the UK to host a programme for Anglia, and Michael Moore, who's the only independent in the ACT Cabinet.
Yesterday to a conference at the Australian National University on the implications of the electoral success of Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party. Very interesting: some points expected, some not. I hadn't realised for instance, that the seats One Nation won in Queenland were not those where (aboriginal) native title was an important practical issue; her successes were much more in coastal seats with concentrations of people who felt themselves disadvantaged by economic change. Most of the speakers assumed One Nation posed a real threat to the major parties at the federal election. But Malcolm Mackerras (sort of the Australian counterpart of David Butler) argued that the voting system would make it very hard for them to win more than perhaps two seats in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate.
That's it for now: off to collect Katie from the airport.
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