“I thought it was five years, but it’s actually six”, I told a friend over a beer at Perth’s Grosvenor Hotel. The last time we had seen each other face-to-face was at the funeral of Eoin Cameron, the former ABC Radio presenter.
I worked with Eoin during my year as the manager of ABC Radio Perth (then named 720 ABC Perth). After a career in both commercial and ABC radio, Eoin served as a Liberal member of Federal Parliament, before returning to the ABC as the host of the #1 breakfast radio show in Perth.
A couple of years later, another ABC Radio Perth breakfast presenter, Russell Woolf also died suddenly from a heart attack. I would have loved to attend Russell’s funeral, but COVID got in the way.
Over a couple of beers, we talked about life since then and the future.
I caught up with some other friends from my time living in Perth in 2004. Although it was only a year, it was a pretty important career moment for me, as it was the first time I held a senior management position at the ABC. I learned a lot about the “West Coast”, and some of the great advantages of a decentralised workforce (if you have staff based in WA, you gain an extra couple of hours in the day due to the time zone). And I also made some good friendships.
A couple of us caught up for drinks ahead of an opening night at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Janet Holmes a Court and Kim Beazley were also in the packed crowd. “It’s his final night as Governor”, Di noted.
There wasn’t a lot of “mask-wearing”, I noticed which worried me a little.
I was in Perth to meet a handful of staff I have, after a lengthy absence. At the last moment, one of the staff members I was hoping to meet came down with a positive diagnosis. Nonetheless, it was a really interesting, productive trip.
I also caught up with another former colleague, and with an ABBA fan friend over breakfast.
Returning to Perth, I couldn’t help but return to some of my favourite restaurants and bars. Even with a significant make-over, The Court (one of the local gay bars in Perth), still had a familiar vibe. I visited one of my favourite Chinese restaurants in James Street, and I was hoping to revisit another.
Previously I’ve written about the Sunday night ritual of BBQ pork I enjoyed during my year in Perth. https://jamesobrien.id.au/2012/01/the-return-of-pork-boy/ I took a seat at the restaurant, the Han Palace on Bennett Street, and asked if they still had BBQ pork on the menu. Sadly they didn’t. And when I told the young waiter about my fond memories of their dish, he looked at me with confusion. Clearly, they haven’t had it on the menu for as long as he has been working there. And then, I remembered, it was eighteen years ago, and he was probably only five or six years old back then.
The one thing I did this time that was quite different was appearing at the Barefaced Stories night. The event is run by a colleague, Andrea Gibbs, and she somehow convinced me to appear on stage and tell a story.
Even though I’m used to speaking in public, I was still a little bit nervous. However, I loved the way Andrea regularly checked in with me, ahead of the story, with encouraging words and looks. She also told me the audience would be warm and welcoming. She was right. As I stood on stage, the audience was close enough for eye contact.
I can’t tell you what the story was about, except to say the theme for the night was “my dirty little secret”. The story was warmly welcomed, with both emotions and laughter. Afterward, many people came up to me to talk about the story, and to say how much they enjoyed it.