The summer here in Canberra is proving very different to last year, when we had a drought and the temperature was consistently in the 30's centigrade. This year, we've had a lot of coolish days with showers or thunderstorms.
The day of our prom concert was no exception! Katie had wanted to try something different to raise money for some of the local charities. Last year, we had hosted a dinner for Save The Children, but this year she wanted to get support from a wider group. So we decided to hold two jazz prom concerts in the grounds at Westminster House, with people bringing picnics and enjoying the music. This was to raise money for Save The Children and Ryder Cheshire Homes. Katie has been chairing a committee of volunteers to organise this, and had got lots of support from a huge range of people.
The first prom was last Saturday. All through the week we had been watching the weather nervously, as thunderstorms seemed to sweep Canberra each evening. Saturday morning was reasonably fine, and we went ahead with setting everything up. The Royal Military College Big Band came and set up the staging and their sound system and Katie and others put up signs etc.
The first sign of trouble was when two people rang from the south of Canberra to ask what our wet weather plans were! Katie had arranged with the girls school next door that we could use their big hall, but we watched the clouds and hoped the storm would pass us by.
No such luck. We had said we would open up the grounds from 5pm, and at 4pm the heavens opened. We waited as long as we could, but by 4.30pm we decided we'd have to move. There was then a mad scramble as we all got soaked moving the band's gear and hastily decamping to the school. We had hastily to re-brief volunteers on where to direct people--not wholly successfully as some got thoroughly lost trying to find their way through the school.
But people turned up in gratifying numbers and the band dried out their equipment and settled down to play. The rain eased off - inevitably! - and it turned into quite a nice evening. Everyone entered into the swing of things and ate their picnics either in seats in the hall or scattered around the school. The Pimms bar did a roaring trade, and the evening ended in great style with a raunchy performance from Dianne Fogwell, an artist who also fronts a blues band. About 500 people came, and we seem to have raised much more money than from previous years' dinners. We would undoubtedly have got more if it hadn't rained, and we're hoping for better weather next time.
On other fronts, we had David Quarmby, the Chairman of the British Tourist Authority, in Sydney and Canberra last week. He was mainly promoting the millennium celebrations in Britain, and I went down to Sydney for the reception and dinner. I flew back early the next morning for the talk he was giving at the National Press Club - and nearly didn't make it. Canberra Airport was fogged in, and the pilot said we only had enough fuel to wait for 40 minutes before we would have to fly back to Sydney. After about 39 minutes circling, the fog lifted just enough for us to get in. It's very early in the year to be getting fogged in like that - just another symptom of the funny weather we've been having.
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