Almost by accident I discovered that Albury was holding the Write around the Murray Festival this week. Normally a gathering of the cultural elite wouldn’t be the type of thing to coax me from the Dave from Albury Compound on a winter’s evening, indeed in our pre-parent days the few forays that Mrsdave and I made to embrace the arts community in Albury usually saw us watching incomprehensible plays where they served overpriced drinks and the audience seemed to enjoy the incest sub-plots just a little too much. On this occasion though, there were two things in the plus column that convinced me to go, the keynote speaker was Peter FitzSimons, and the cost was only ten dollars.
As the time for the event approached I began to fret. I don’t have a black skivvy, a beret or a goatee, and as a keynote speech isn’t the type of event you pull a laptop out at I couldn’t even rely on my Mac to give me an air of pretentiousness. I decided that I would simply have to make do with my god given aura of smugness and try to wing it.
As it turned out I needn’t have feared. Entering the auditorium at the SS&A Club I came across what looked like combined meeting of every Rotary and CWA branch in the region. Where were the luvvies, the indifferent hipsters and the struggling self published authors? It turns out they were all absent. I suspect that the grade A wankers probably attended today’s literary lunch with some award winning author who plebs like me have never heard of.
I quickly scanned the room for any hint of free booze, which sadly appeared to be non-existent, and then reset my sights on the bar, only to find it closed. What sort of an arts event has no booze? No wonder the pencil necks had left the keynote to the crochet and tweed set. Perturbed, I took my seat and waited for the arrival of the guest speaker.
First impression, Peter FitzSimons is a really, really big bloke. Second impression, he is a born story teller. Fitz was here to talk a bit about his career as an author and his newest book, Charles Kingsford Smith and those magnificent men. For an hour he shared stories about his life and career, from rugby in rural France, to interviewing veterans about their exploits at Tobruk and Kokoda, and of course some of his favourite bits from the new book.
I’m actually quite impressed that Write around the Murray organised an author of the stature of Peter FitzSimons to attend the festival. I’m even more impressed with FitzSimons performance tonight, it wouldn’t have surprised me if, faced with a relatively small crowd, he had decided to just go through the motions, but it was the exact opposite. He was engaging and managed to drag the audience in to every one of his stories, and I’m sure I’m not the only one looking forward to reading his book.