Monday, June 11, 2012

THE QUEEN, ROLF HARRIS AND I

Rolf Harris, OOA* (or should it be just OA?) and I once spent a night together. It was June but it was chilly and it was going to be a long night. He brought a blanket. So did I. He also brought his piano accordion. We went into the park and sat down on the damp grass right beside the avenue going through the park – we were young and didn't care about catching colds or anything like that, we were caught up in the moment.

So there was music and singing and stalls selling hot things to eat, and there were lots of people strolling about in the park. I know that I slept a bit, although it wasn't very comfortable. Or warm, even with my blanket wrapped around me. I don't know if Rolf got a wink – he says that he was playing Waltzing Matilda on his accordion to anyone who would listen, and even in those days he was ever the showman.

In the grey dawn we could see that the crowds had thickened and the mood was lifting in spite of the cold drizzle that was falling. And before long the avenue through the park began filling up with soldiers lining the route. Then the carriages started trundling past – prime ministers, presidents and majesties everywhere. Queen Salote of Tonga – she would have been majestic even if she hadn't been a majesty – went by, and sitting beside her was a small man. Someone nearby asked "who's that?" and someone else said "lunch".

Then Queen Elizabeth came rolling around Hyde Park Corner – tiny in her golden coach and waving at Rolf Harris and me and thousands and thousands of cheering, happy, cold, wet citizens. Sixty years ago. Rolf Harris was deeply impressed – he said so on the radio this morning. I wouldn't know – I never saw him at all.

* Officer of the Order of Australia, recently bestowed

Painting is "Reef"

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