Now a little background here. Many years ago, before I became a National Treasure, I used to spend time in Sydney trying to become a National Treasure by hanging around in the big smoke, then buggering off back to Hobart when the money ran out or I got sick of the nice weather.
This time around (I think it was around 1999) I was filling in on the oped cartoon for The Australian on one of the rare occasions when Peter Nicholson and Bill Leak were both on leave simultaneously (they didn’t run a page one cartoon in those days, and I had to walk to the newspaper in bare feet in the snow).
I had spent quite a lot of my previous trip in Sydney sleeping in the back of my Datsun 180B station wagon, but since the Datty was now deceased and I was between cars that wasn’t an option. Fortunately, the quite short but not-to-be-messed-with Claire, cat-lover, cynic and fellow expat Hobartian was up for a potentially short-term and far less tidy flatmate in upmarket Kirribilli.
Since I wasn’t going to be sleeping in the pinnacle of Japanese automotive excellence this time around, I had set my heart on buying a futon mattress in the name of luxurious decadence. As I wasn’t all that keen on lugging a mattress all the way home and I was too cheap to get it delivered, I called my mate Gus who I hadn’t spoken to in a while, but who I knew had a ute (he’s from the country).
“Gus!” I said when he answered his mobile, “I’m in Sydney mate! Where are you these days?”
“Now there’s a coincidence, so am I, in Elamang Avenue.”
“Get out!” exclaimed Gus (he’s from the country) “I’m in Elamang too! Number 21, 11th floor.”
“I’m two floors below you, I’ll be right up.” I said.
Now, for a Tasmanian, that’s not exactly gobsmacking, as you’re almost certain to be related to pretty much everyone, but Sydney’s considerably roomier and it was something of a coincidence.
It was very handy having a likeminded fellow working cartoonist hours just two flights of stairs away, and there was a very nice pub just up the road. Gus at the time was also of sub-National Treasure status but starting to kick off his book illustration career.
One fine day over an equally fine Guinness, he showed me a story he’d written about a very adventurous chicken. One day you’ll get that published,” I said, “and it’s your round.”
“One day, I’m going to get this published!” said Gus, and bought two more stouts to celebrate.
…and to cut a long story short, ten years later, I got along to Gus’ launch party and drank a responsible amount of beer to commemorate his transition from Book Illustrating National Treasure to Book Writing and Illustrating National Treasure (you get to wear a pink father boa when you graduate).
‘Tis a mighty fine book and well worth your buying for your little tacker. My three year old loves it.