Oops. Another long gap in updating this. There's been a lot to record too. The Election, Melbourne races, another operation for Holly. I'm going to have to put this up in bits as and when I get time.

It was nearly three weeks ago we went off to the Caulfield Cup in Melbourne. What a day! Before we left the UK last year we'd been invited out by Colin Cowdrey to watch the horses his wife (Lady Herries) trains out on the downs for their early morning work. We'd seen Harbour Dues, who came out and ran fourth in last year's Melbourne Cup. And among other horses we'd seen Taufan's Melody who had impressed Katie. So she'd bet on him next time he ran, and watched him come in first at 25-1 only to get relegated to second after a protest. So we had an added interest when we heard that Lady Herries was bringing him out for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

Taufan's Melody was in the news all week in the run-up to the Cup. The Committee of the VATC, which runs the Caulfield Cup, discovered they had made a mistake in calculating his aggregate prize money in Australian dollar terms, and he wasn't properly qualified to run. But they used their discretion to give him a run anyway, to the fury of the owner and trainer of the horse that just missed out getting in the field. But Lady Herries rightly pointed out that she'd brought the horse over in good faith at the invitation of the VATC.

The day itself started with a lunch in the Committee Room. Katie was sitting next to the Governor of Victoria and as usual sneaked off between courses to put her bets on. He asked her to put a bet on for him and promptly won. Then down to the parade ring to see Taufan's Melody and the other horses. Taufan's Melody was drifting out in the betting, to 50-1 or more with no one really fancying his chances. But come the race he took the lead at about the half-way stage and held on to it against strong pressure. We were literally screaming him home. Huge celebrations, crowds around Lady Herries. But then the siren for a protest, sixth horse against first, claiming interference in the straight. We all sat back down rather nervously as they played and replayed the films of the race from every angle. It was obvious Taufan's Melody had cut in sharply and hampered the sixth horse. The more we watched it, the more likely it seemed he would be disqualified. But then relief: the stewards decided the sixth horse wouldn't have won anyway and let the race stand. Phew!

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. Lots of congratulations to Lady Herries, Colin Cowdrey, and the owner (one of a syndicate of people working on the QE2, who'd met Lady Herries when she'd been on a cruise). We somehow got back to Canberra and crashed out.

On the Sunday, we had Colin Cowdrey, Anne Herries and her sister Sarah Clutton to stay. They brought the Cup with them, so it sat on out mantelpiece for a day. We had an impromptu drinks party to celebrate, including the trainer who trains the horse we have a tiny share in in Canberra (a maiden, not in Taufan's Melody's class I'm afraid). The next day Katie and my mother drove off to Sydney while I arranged for Colin and the others to see round Canberra. We went round the Lodge, where the Prime Minister stays when he's in Canberra, and Colin was full of stories of parties he'd attended there on England cricket tours when Menzies was Prime Minister. Then to Government House, where Lady Herries had stayed in 1962-63 when her father, the Duke of Norfolk, was managing the England team. The current butler turned out to have been there then and remembered her and her sisters.

Later in the week I had to drive to Wagga Wagga for a speech at Charles Sturt University there. Katie couldn't come, so my mother joined me. It's a bit under three hours, through what is now pretty green countryside following all the rain. Or rather green and purple, since the Patterson's Curse (a weed) is flourishing too. My speech was OK: anecdotes about my time at Number 10 go down much better than serious stuff about Britain, especially after dinner.

Chris Patten had been in Australia promoting his new book, and I sat next to him at a lunch in Parliament House. I warned him and Lavender that Katie would be joining him in France with Holly if the quarantine laws weren't changed before my term here ends. He seemed very relaxed, despite a hectic schedule round Australia and Asia. Gareth Evans was also there (still rather bruised from the aftermath of the election campaign and his announcement that he was stepping down from Labor's front bench). The two of them had somewhat of a love-in: despite being from opposite sides of politics, their views on Asia are pretty close.

Friday was my mother's last night. We got her included in a dinner at the Australian National University given by the Vice Chancellor for Philip Hughes who had his first one-man exhibition opening that night (he's the founder of Logica, now at artist and Chairman of the National Gallery Trustees in London). Then we all went to the airport together the following morning, my mother to fly home via Sydney and Katie and me off to Melbourne again for the races.

This time it was for the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, the leading weight-for-age race in Australia. It's a delightful course, small with tight turns. We (and the rest of the large crowd) went to see Might and Power, who had won both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups last year. He won the Cox Plate comfortably in record time and to huge cheers. We stayed in Melbourne that evening, and went to see Claire Bloom doing a one-woman performance of "Shakespeare's Women." It made we want to see many of the plays again, which I guess is a tribute to her performance.

Heather (who's looking after our house in the UK) arrived on Monday for a holiday. I promptly deserted her and set off for Sydney, where I was doing a speech on the Euro at the University of New South Wales. There was a reception afterwards, and it made me realise again that I do enjoy debates with academics: it tests you out in your arguments in a way that you mostly don't get with other groups.

A round of visits in Sydney the next day. First another call on Ian MacFarlane, the Governor of the Reserve Bank who is one of the most interesting people to talk to about the Asian crisis and the wider world economic problems - I do sometimes miss that side of things and so do my best to keep in touch. Then I met up with Charles Masefield, the head of Defence Export Services at the Ministry of Defence in London, who was visiting Sydney and Canberra. I went with him to Thompson Marconi Sonar out at Paramatta: pretty impressive technology - they build everything from towed arrays for seismographic work to mine-hunter sonars and of course sonars for submarines. I split off then for a call on the Chairman of the ABC (Australian equivalent of the BBC) - it's interesting how similar are the broadcasting issues in the UK and Australia.

Then off again to the University of New South Wales to hear Charles Masefield deliver the Kingsford Smith Memorial Lecture. Charles Kingsford Smith was a pioneering Aussie aviator: among many flights he'd done the first crossing of the Pacific, but what I hadn't realised was that Charles Masefield himself had flown some of Smithy's routes himself in a twin-engine biplane in the 1960s. So it made for a fascinating lecture, a combination both of anecdotes and interesting analysis of the European defence industry.

I drove back to Canberra early the following morning, and we hosted a dinner in Canberra for Charles Masefield that evening. Then on Friday back to Melbourne, this time staying with friends, Mike and Fiona Dunham. Saturday was Derby Day and we decided to go by train out to the racecourse, all dressed up in race-going finery (morning dress for men and exotic hats for women). It was a huge squash on the train but a great atmosphere. The racing was high-quality, though I failed to win a thing all day (Katie fared rather better). There was a bitterly cold wind, and Katie and Heather were wearing short-sleeved dresses, so froze whenever we ventured out to look at the runners in the parade ring.

After the racing we went to meet Peter Jansen, who had kindly agreed to look after Heather on Melbourne Cup day, when Katie and I would be in the Committee Room. He lives in an extraordinary house in the middle of Melbourne, a converted warehouse with a rabbit-warren of rooms all full of books, animal heads and other objects. And a blazing log fire which Katie headed for. All sorts of people kept arriving and we ended up staying much loner than planned. Katie was introduced to a man called Wal Merriman and he said "Kay Clemson!" It turned out they had gone to the same round of B&S (bachelor and spinster) balls in their teens. Peter Jansen himself was full of entertaining stories about life in England, Australia and India.

On Sunday we went out to Ballarat with Mike and Fiona to see Ed and Susan Coleridge again. It was warming up, and we had a relaxing day, helping them get their sheep in ready for shearing and having a barbecue lunch outside. Katie sat on the lawn trying to make herself a hat for the Melbourne Cup - with some success but she was having problems getting bits to stick together reliably. So it may have been just as well that she went off with Fiona on Monday to a second-hand hat shop and found just what she was looking for: a wild little red hat that got lots of compliments at the races.

While she was doing that, I went to see the Howard Florey Institute, a medical research facility on the campus of the University of Melbourne. It was quite an intellectual work-out: they specialise in brain research and there were times when I was struggling for intelligent questions. At one point we walked through some heavy doors from sterile laboratories into an area that seemed to have a different but very familiar spell. Round a corner and there were dozens of sheep all wired up to various machines. They seemed pretty happy but I felt it was just as well Katie wasn't there.

I had lunch with Anna Cronin, Jeff Kennet's (premier of Victoria) chief of staff, so I told her that Katie had only just recovered from meeting him at Moonee Valley. I had introduced Katie and we had got talking about winning money of Taufan's Melody at the Caulfield Cup. Katie was wearing a hat that basically consisted of a hairband with feathers. So Jeff Kennet - who is famed for this sort of thing - said "you could have used your winnings to buy a hat!" Katie was momentarily stunned - and that takes a lot of doing!

That evening was the Governor of Victoria's eve of cup reception. It was held in the ballroom of Government House, which is huge, though many people spilled outside into the garden - it was a warm evening. We met up again with Colin Cowdrey and Ann Herries and wished them luck. They seemed quite confident - and had been keeping out of all the controversy that surrounded entries for the Melbourne Cup. Taufan's Melody was clearly qualified by his win in the Caulfield Cup, but the Committee had caused a stir by promoting another British horse, Yorkshire, into the field ahead of what seemed better-qualified Australian rivals.

Tuesday was Cup Day - and a public holiday in Melbourne. Murray had driven down and so took us out the Flemington in style. The racing started at 10.30 and we got there just as the runners for the first were getting loaded into the stalls. The Melbourne Cup itself wasn't until 3.20pm but the day went very quickly . Initially, we seemed to spend our time explaining how to bet on the Tote to various bemused ambassadors from Canberra, who understandably had difficulty with trifectas and quinnellas. Both Katie and I had early winners, so our reputations as racing experts soared. Then we met up with many of those who we'd got to know over previous weekends' racing, plus numerous others who had come for the day - the Governor General, the Treasurer etc etc. It was odd alternating conversations about horses' form with discussions about the international monetary scene, but I suspect the champagne helped!

The Cup itself was quite a race. It was won by Jezebeel from Champagne in second place, both New Zealand mares who had been hampered by Taufan's Melody in the Caulfield Cup, so perhaps there was some justice in that. Taufan's Melody came fourth, and the owners seemed pretty happy (the prize-money for 4th is $100,000!). Yorkshire came fifth, justifying the Committee in giving him a run. The post mortems went on for ages, and we went round a number of the hospitality tents meeting people we hadn't seen earlier, before staggering home for a quiet evening.

I nearly forgot! Another operation for Holly ... When we got back from Moonee Valley, Diana Ferry, who had been looking after her, said she had been limping and she'd taken her to the vet who hadn't found anything. We had a look that evening and found a wound under her shoulder, so Katie took her back to the vet the next day. It was a grass seed that had got well embedded, and she had to have an operation to get it out. She was pretty sorry for herself for a couple of days, hopping around on three legs, but was quickly back to her old self. Katie is now determined on radical shearing to prevent grass seeds getting ensnared again.

|Home|Journal Index|Photo Index|Speech Index|