Journal: 13 February 1999

I don't think the Committee of the Melbourne Cricket Club will ever invite us again! Our first invitation was for Boxing Day for the Test, which was a wash-out. Our second was for the one-day final yesterday, also a washout.

This is written on the plane back to Canberra after most of the week on the road. I flew to Sydney on Tuesday for the first of a series of meetings I'm doing with businessmen to discuss the impact of the Euro, in company with the Consul General in each State. I'm trying to find out whether Australian firms who have chosen the UK as the centre of their European operations are worried that Britain not being in the Euro may put them at a competitive disadvantage. There are lots of arguments why that should not be the case (lower taxes and more flexible labour laws are probably more important than exchange risks which can be hedged against). But newspaper comment has tended to focus on narrow point about the advantages of operating in a single currency. I was reassured to find that most firms seemed very content with their UK operations and were not fussed about the Euro at all. It really didn't seem to be an issue for them--though most did assume that the UK would join before too long.

Tuesday also happened to be my birthday, which we celebrated by going with friends to see Bryn Terfel sing Falstaff at the Sydney Opera House. He was magnificent, and I'm sorry I can't get to some of the concerts he's doing while he's in Australia. Afterwards we watched the QE2 sail away--unfortunately in the middle of a downpour.

Then we flew to Melbourne where I was opening an exhibition by a British artist, Tristan Humphries, of digital portraits he'd done of a range of people, including Katie and me. I hadn't seen our portrait before the night of the show--and was relieved to like it a lot: it's a sort of collage of images collected from things that mean a lot to both of us. Tristan's technique is fascinating, and his pictures have a lot of depth and complexity. The other portraits in the show included a politician, a writer, a restauranteur and many others. Tristan was sharing the gallery with an exhibition by another artist, which was being opened by the editor of 'Art And Australia': I was rather nervous speaking after her, but in practice we seemed to be a reasonably complementary double act and I enjoyed the evening.

The next day was a parallel series of meetings with businessmen in Melbourne, with similar results in terms of their views on the Euro. We had a free evening, so took a train out to Prahan and played bridge at the Victoria Bridge Association.

Friday was schedule to be the second of the one-day cricket finals, and it dawned grey and drizzly. I went into the Consulate office to catch up on some work and watched the clouds gather. It wasn't raining very heavily, but just as we were thinking of going down to the ground for the 2.30pm start, the heavens opened. We waited hopefully, but it became clear we weren't going to see any play. We went to the ground in time for what would have been the dinner break, and had a rather strange meal in the Committee Room looking out over an empty ground. But the company was good, and a few glasses of champagne made it all seem rosier. When we got back into the city it wasn't very late, so we went out to see Shakespeare In Love, which had just opened in Australia.

Today (Saturday) we went to the races at Caulfield, for the first time since we had seen Taufan's Melody winning the Caulfield Cup last October. We had been invited because one of the races was a reciprocal race with Sandown Park in the UK, and I had to present the trophy. It was fun to catch up with everyone, and it was another good day's racing. Then to the airport where I started writing this. The England innings was starting as we got on the plane back to Canberra and Katie and I were speculating what the score would be when we got home. Neither of us picked just how quickly England would collapse: it made us rather glad not to have been there watching!

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