Journal: 5 December 1999

A quietish week in Canberra has finally let me clear my backlog and even find time to catch up on my journal again. I'll work backwards filling in the gaps since the last update.

I've been swamped with e-mails since my new job was announced. Some just congratulating me on my appointment. Some pressing particular points or causes. And more recently, now that my office in London is up and running, lots of correspondence about issues that are coming up. Just when I think I've cleared my intray, I log on late at night and get dozens of responses and new messages! It will be good to get started on the job properly.

Good in some ways, but not in leaving Australia at this time of year. Summer officially started on 1 December and it seemed to work to plan this year. The past few days have been hot and sunny - we've been sitting out on our terrace in the evenings, having barbeques and watching the sun set over the Brindabella ranges. We played in a tennis tournament this morning and had to stop to drink water at each change of ends, and then dive in the swimming pool to cool off when we got home. And all this while reading of storms in England, blizzards in Scotland etc. Heading back in January doesn't sound very enticing.

And it will be a wrench leaving Katie and Holly. We carted some of Katie's stuff off to Tarrago yesterday, where she will be living - it's only 60k from Canberra. We still don't know how the changes to the quarantine laws will work, and when we can get Holly back to the UK - one option seems to be for Katie and Holly to live in France for a while!

We've started doing farewell-type things - including a call on the Governor General and his wife. They were very warm and friendly, and we stayed longer than planned - which meant we arrived back late for a lunch we were hosting for a group from the National Art Collection Fund who were visiting Australia. We had invited people from the Canberra art scene, and all the talk was about the National Gallery here deciding to cancel its plans to bring the 'Sensation' exhibition of modern British art here next year. The fuss when it was shown in New York, and particularly the issues over the financing, had made it hard for the National Gallery to go ahead. But it can't have been an easy decision for the Director, Brian Kennedy, and he's been under constant media pressure this week.

Last Saturday was the St Andrew's Day dinner of the Melbourne Scots. An amazing affair - the second I'd been to. Over 300 there - all male, in black tie or kilt. And a distinguished gathering, with the former Governor General, Sir Ninian Stephen presiding. Lots of ceremony, lots of pipers, lots of Scotch whisky. Not an easy audience to make a speech to, but I'd at least had a dry run last year to get a feel for the occasion. The Dutch ambassador was one of the guests this year, and looked decidedly apprehensive at the thought of having to make a speech next year.

I'd flown down that afternoon to Melbourne and had a meeting with Julia Schofield, a British woman who's been doing work for the Victorian Government on getting government services online. Very impressive. Then an early flight back to Canberra and a pleasant day out in the country as guests of 'Friends of the Opera'.

I'm pausing here to get ready for another farewell this evening - a very relaxed barbeque at the home of our Defence Adviser, Jonathan Lyall. So I'll continue filling in gaps as I get time.

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