Written on a plane flying back from Adelaide.

We drove back from Melbourne after the Melbourne Cup - seven hours or so with a brief stop for lunch. Then plunged straight into the Consul Generals' conference which I chaired in Canberra. Got through a lot of useful work, coupled with an informal dinner when it was warm enough for us all to sit outside on the terrace until the rain came at about 10.30pm.

On the Saturday I opened the Major's Creek Music Festival about an hour from Canberra in beautiful countryside. Mainly Australian folk music, and a relaxing day until a huge storm came over in the evening. We had set off back to Canberra but had to stop since the rain was so heavy Katie couldn't see to drive. Lightning hit (and destroyed) the suspended globe outside the National Gallery - not clear whether it can be repaired: it would be sad to lose it.

On Sunday our horse Avocato won! He was running in a maiden at Goulborne. Katie went but I stayed back to finish off some work, and listened on the radio. I rang Katie on her mobile immediately, to find her hoarse from cheering him home. The other owners have now barred me from watching him run in future, since it's clearly been my presence that has brought bad luck on his previous unsuccessful outings.

On Monday I flew off to London for an Asian Heads of Mission conference in the Foreign Office. Quite useful to get a perspective on what is happening in China, Japan, Indonesia etc, as well as what is happening in the FCO itself. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday catching up with people, including those still in Number 10. Vera had told everyone about her visit to Canberra, and had disobeyed my instructions to say what a hardship posting it was! The conference itself was on Thursday and Friday, followed by a dinner with ex-Number 10 people - which was a chance to catch up on all the gossip.

Then down to Hampshire to see my mother and Jane and Ian (sister and brother-in-law), and back to our house in the New Forest for the night - a rather frosty welcome from our cats, but a warm welcome from Heather and friends who came round to dinner. I had brought all my maps so we could plan our trip round the north of Australia next year with Roddy and Susie.

Then straight back to Aus, and after a day in Canberra, off to Adelaide for the first part of the Ring Cycle, with a British conductor, Jeffrey Tate. It's the first complete cycle in Australia, but sadly I can only get to Rheingold and Valkyrie. The production was originally staged in Paris, and is pretty stark - a mostly bare, steeply-raked stage predominantly lit in gray. But I prefer that to fussy productions - it tends to keep the focus on the music. And playing and singing was very good: Jeffrey Tate got a marvellous sound out of the - largely South Australian - orchestra.

The Governor gave a reception on the first night. A huge mix of people, some having travelled from all over Australia and a few from overseas. Quite a lot I knew, including Ministers from the Federal and State Governments. In between Rheingold and Valkyrie, I spent a day visiting the Defence research organisation (DSTO) outside Adelaide. They do a lot of collaboration with their British equivalent (DERA) - and I found the research programmes on virtual ships and submarines fascinating.

I'm now en route back to Canberra. A bit tired, since supper went on last night after Valkyrie ended at 11.40pm and I had to catch an 8.20am flight. But still on a high from all the motifs ringing in my head. The Australia Britian Society Annual Dinner in Canberra tonight - badly timed to clash with the start of the First Test in Brisbane!


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