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Meeting the PM

I once worked computer operating for the Australia Government Health Department in Canberra. The Department was setting up the first online computer system in Australia for the Pharmaceutical Benefits.

I fell into an affair with the young lady who was working for the Foreign Affairs Deptartment and was about to be transferred to Washington DC USA. Our final dinner before her departure was at 'Zorba the Greeks' subterranean restaurant in Civic central Canberra. We ate thick and rare char-broiled New York steaks and drank a Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, funny how I remember things red!

As we departed the restaurant ascending a long set of whitewashed steps, I noticed a table below full of dark suited gentlemen, all eyes looking up no doubt enjoying the view of Vicki’s legs, thanks to that memorable tight green woollen mini skirt …. well it was the early seventies! I followed her ascent giving a clear single digit and a steely stare to the table of gentlemen. Most of them turned away in embarrassment realising they had been caught perving up my girlfriend’s skirt.

Vicki left for the States filling her post at the Australian Embassy in Washington DC and I caught up to her a couple of months later and secured a job with the same embassy in security.

Meanwhile back in Australia it was ’Time for a Change’, out went the established Conservative regime and in came the new Gough Whitlam Labour Government, to some ‘a leftist threat’ to others a ‘a breath of fresh air and a change for the better’. Our new PM’s first overseas trip was to Washington DC, so as to relieve Sir James Plimsol, the arch conservative Australian Ambassador to the USA, of his position. Apparently there was a smouldering resentment between the two and therefore the PM wanted to personally re-post Sir James, now approaching retirement, from this creme posting of DC USA, to the undesirable and bleak posting of Moscow, where he had already spent many years during this Cold War period. Plimsol was reposted.

I was standing behind the front desk at the Embassy on Dupont Circle when the new Australian Labour Government contingency arrived in the fleet of black limos and witnessed Ambassador Plimsol welcome PM Whitlam on the front steps. They then marched through the lobby, passing the front desk where we all stood respectfully, and on into the Reception Hall. As the delegation passed the front desk, the PM ’s eyes settled on me for what seemed a long period of time, causing Sgt. Bull, our rotund Federal Policemen in charge of Security, to scrutinised me warily. Perhaps a half an hour passed, I was sitting behind the console at the front desk when the PM approached me rapidly with an outstretched hand, such a tall and imposing character, shaking my hand vigorously and apologising humbly for his table’s behaviour in Zorba’s Restaurant, stating the date, place and time, no doubt relying on his infamous photographic memory.

I was left somewhat stunned, having no recollection of any such time or event. I immediately called Vicki, who was down in the embassy’s dungeon doing her communications spy stuff, still puzzled I explained what had just happened ….. she laughed and asked if I had not recognised the table of dark suited men that night in Zorba’s as the Australian Federal Government Opposition, led by Gough Whitlam now Australia’s Prime Minister?

 ‘You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.’