travelling heroes

Gough Whitlam is in the same place Ric is in, and Neville Wran was seen in the elevator the other day, so for a seventies-and-eighties ALP nerd like me it is sort of like visiting Valhalla. It’s a nice place, Lulworth House, a repurposed 19thC mansion – Patrick White’s boyfriend Manoly spent his last years there, and so did Kelso’s mum Pat. But the weird thing is that it’s right in King’s Cross, like two blocks from Big’s and Jeremy’s and my Surrey Street Aerospace and three blocks from my ex-boyfriend Phil’s apartment in the Statler.

I can’t really explain this geography in San Francisco terms, but the Cross is the red light district, all heroin and fab little street cafes and brothels and nightclubs, and Elizabeth Bay, which shoves up against it, is old old old money, where everyone’s Little Aunts used to live (squattocracy brats like our parents all had Little Aunts, left over from the Great War culling a generation of marriageable men.) So it totally makes sense to have this lovely Establishment nursing facility in Elizabeth Bay, except for the cognitive dissonance it creates in a girl who lived in Darlinghurst and Potts Point throughout her Australian would-be hipster years.

On the bright side, knowing this area like I know the inside of my own (equally shabby and incongruous) head meant that when Ric pointed to a review of a book that interested him, I knew exactly which too-cool-for-school bookshop around the corner was likely to have four copies: Ariel, and sure enough. I gave him Travelling Heroes today and we pored over the photos and read chunks to each other; he pointed out that all the Homeric heroes were very young, life spans being what they were then, and we agreed that this was a good explanation for how callow for example Achilles sometimes seems. It’s a great read and I’m going to grab a copy for myself.

Ric grew up in Girilambone, a place so small and faraway it makes my parents’ tiny Barraba seem bustling and urbane. He got himself to Sydney and trained as an architect and spent his life flitting around the world: London, Berkeley, den Haag, Easter Island. So many of my most intractable bugs – isolation, provincialism, cultural cringe, exile – he just seems to have sidestepped or routed around or floated above: a clever and accomplished man, a loyal and witty friend, a good father. Achilles without ever having been callow. I am very glad to know him.

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