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The Governor-General, Inspector Morse + Jesuit didactic poetry

Books + Ideas — April 2011

At lunch yesterday I went to a reception at Rhodes House for the Australian Governor-General, Quentin Bryce (presumably in the UK for some minor ceremony or other). This was quite fun once some people I knew turned up, though as always I felt like an impostor when wearing a suit and tie.

One person I talked to was a colleague of Camilla's, John Finney - it's always a good conversation starter when you've read someone's latest paper ("An efficient record linkage scheme using graphical analysis for identifier error detection"). Another was Yasmin Haskell, who I recognised from when I studied Latin twenty years ago. She is a visiting fellow at Christchurch (so a temporary colleague of my sister's) working on scientific poetry in neo-Latin (PDF).

And in the evening Camilla and I went to listen to Colin Dexter (of Inspector Morse fame) talking at the Pegasus Theatre (which is just around the corner from us). He's a charming man and still at 80 a great raconteur and entertainer. He talked more about the television series than the books, but that was ok as Camilla and I have been working our way through the tv episodes. (I hadn't realised that the later books were written after the television series had started.)

Update: some photos of the GG walking through Oxford can be found on Oxford Daily Photo.


  1. How did you and Camilla score an invitation to the party. was it extended to all Aussies at Oxford University ?

    I had my fair share of encounters with famous people in my former job over thirty years ago. Rohan Cutler, the Governor, Zelman Cowan the G-G, Malcolm Fraser, state premiers, pollies of all persuasions, show business celebrities, sport identities, royalties, overseas luminaries, captains of industry, in fact the whole spectrum of the famous and notorious. Sometimes, I was able to have a brief word or two with the VIPs. One unforgettable individual was adman John Singleton. He got pissed and acted really rough.

    Comment by DL — April 2011
  2. How did you meet all those people, Doug? - Surely they weren't all catching buses!

    Camilla and I were invited because we have friends in high places (though Camilla had another engagement and couldn't go).

    Comment by danny — April 2011
  3. Hang around and you meet all sorts of people; when I was in Canberra I ran into Manning Clark (in the university bookshop) and Whitlam (wandering around campus) for example. Not counting various contemporaries who went on to make a name gor themselves.

    Comment by Martin — April 2011
  4. It seems you and Camilla are in good company with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, in missing out on the main event. Nonetheless, you scored a good consolation prize.

    From 1969, for about ten years I had a broken association with the Wentworth Hotel, the top hotel in Sydney for many years. It was there I got up-close to the heavies. It was my first real job meaning I had to get a tax file number. Back then, no ID was needed for TFN, driver's licence, or a bank account .

    I never burnt my bridges with the hotel, it welcomed me back on several occasions. During term, I worked casually as a dishwasher / cleaner. In summer vacation, I worked full time, When I won my PR, I worked a permanent job. When I returned after a long stint overseas in the mid-70s, the first place I turned to for a job was the Wentworth. When I returned from overseas again, this time a married man, it was the same hotel I turned to for employment.

    It was working the night cleaning shift that I observed Pele's preference for the company of blondes. I met my teenhood hero Herb Elliott http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb_Elliott early one morning, and had him sign a copy of his biography.

    It was in the late '70s that I swapped the mob and bucket, and vacuum cleaner for a tray at the same hotel that I got to see many, and talk to a few of the celebrities. I think I might have met Harry Messel also.

    Yes, I do get to see some well-known individuals in my present job. Barrie Unsworth, the former premier on many occasions. Phil Kearns , the former Wallaby forward with a chest like a beer barrel, was a regular. He, you remember, backed his FWD over his daughter in the driveway. The little girl miraculously recovered. Malcolm Mackerras the political scientist from the illustrious family, best known for his election pendulum swing, who was a spokesman for Amnesty International, Australia, at the time. We had a short chat. Ian Temby QC, a former DPP, and as head of ICAC, he found Nick Greiner guilty of corrupt practice and out with his premiership. Chris Puplick, a former small l Liberal Senator, who was head of some anti-discrimination or equal opportunity post. Bill Peach, a presenter of This Day Tonight on ABC TV ( some of you maybe too young to know). He has his touring company.His wife was an English teacher in my old school. There are many, many more examples.

    There is one thing in common, they were all pleasantly surprised to be recognised by me.

    Comment by DL — May 2011
  5. Another one of my brushes with the famous was an encounter with the late Julius Sumner Miller, the great, passionate science educator. I spotted him in Sydney's Dixon St. standing under an archway, in the heart of Chinatown. This was back sometime in the 1980s. I think he was not averse to a good Chinese tucker.

    I walked up to him and said something like Professor Miller I presume. And he said something like who are you. I said I am nobody. He corrected me and said no one is a nobody. I told him I like science but don't have what it takes to do well, then I moved on, in spite his attempt to call me back.

    To this day I regret not taking the opportunity to have a more meaningful and rewarding conversation with him.

    Comment by DL — May 2011
  6. A minor correction to my first comment. The Governor's name is Roden Cutler, not Rohan.

    Comment by DL — May 2011

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