The invitation arrived in the mail one day. It said that I had been nominated, with 2 others, to receive an award for the most successful venture as a recipient of Arts Venture Capital and would I kindly attend a Business & Arts dinner at the Perth Entertainment Centre, do you mind, on Melbourne Cup Day.
Well, I proceeded to extract my one and only suit from a long forgotten wardrobe, actually washed a suitable shirt and pressed one of my two ties. The first one shrivelled up, so my options ran out. I eventually found some shoes, with a reasonable amount of heel remaining, and polished them up. It was a toss-up as to whether I went for a haircut and beard trim, but I thought that seeing this was an ‘arts’ dinner I could get away with it and save the $18 for the taxi fare.
On the morning of the event it suddenly occurred to me that there was a distinct possibility that I may win this thing, so I put together a short speech of acceptance and gratitude. I was still trying to learn it off by heart when the taxi arrived to take me into town. I must have looked all right as even the cab driver called me ‘Sir’. So off we went, me with my speech tucked away in my inside pocket amongst three pairs of glasses, one to see the audience, one to see who was sitting on the other side of the table and reading glasses in case I forgot my speech… but more importantly, study the menu in detail.
So I sauntered in, feeling like a million dollars, along with 500 other guests and sat down at table number 13 which was, of course, full of strangers, all of whom were nodding politely at each other and generally feeling sheepish and uncomfortable, looking forward to a free tea.
Peter Holland from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was the Master of Ceremonies and his velvet tones introduced the co-hosts… The Hon. Peter Foss, Minister For The Arts and Mr. Kerry Stokes, Chairman and CEO of Channel 7. There was a cool jazz ensemble on stage endeavouring to constrain the volume levels without much success and the Australian Piano Quartet in the other corner.
Altogether it was very swish!
An entrée of seafood was eventually placed in front of me and I tackled it with such enthusiasm that I believe I had finished it before the last person on the other side of the table had even been served. Unused to social contact or conversation I casually sat back and sipped a glass of something, venturing a comment to the person next to me without much success and trying to appear as if the entrée had never been there, but the drop of tartar sauce on my tie gave me away, and the dish was repeating on me already.
The linen serviette was so stiff that I couldn’t even unfold it. Meanwhile I had sat on my reading glasses.
Anyway, the evening drifted on admirably and time was fast approaching for the awards to be presented. By this time I was getting stuck into a rack of lamb… and that was the only item on the plate, other that a small potato swimming around in the chefs’ sauce of the day.
“And the winner is…” my heart rate shot up dramatically… “John Barnard”.
I had a piece of lamb stuck in my front teeth and I was more worried about that, than accepting an award and delivering a speech, but it became dislodged whilst climbing the stairs to the stage, so I broadly smiled to all and sundry, quietly wishing I hadn’t had that glass of something. The written speech that I had so laboriously prepared for such an eventuality was not an option, as my reading glasses were not functioning and the text was only in 12 point, besides, my eyes were suspect by this time, with or without glasses. So I proceeded to ad-lib, trying to control my shaking knees and bottom lip.
After a few lines I heard a sprinkling of laughter. I remember subconsciously checking my zip, but it must have been something I said, so I became a little more adventurous, trying hard not to slur my words, concluding with a “thank you very much”.
The applause seemed to be at an acceptable level and went on for awhile, only because I was confused about what to do next, but I left the stage carefully and, on my way back to the table, shook hands with all these people I didn’t know from a bar of soap.
Desert was on the table and I had no hesitation in demolishing a double portion of black forest cake, totally without inhibition this time around. Everyone was smiling politely and insisting on engaging me in conversation whilst I had a mouth full of cherries.
So the evening was a complete success. I even had my photograph taken with the Minister, though, to date, I haven’t seen it. I managed to present Mr. Kerry Stokes(CEO Channel 7) with my latest CD, which by chance was in my pocket, personally signed, thanking him for a terrific evening. I had done that the day before! He said his wife already had ‘Beyond The Clouds’!