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Full Circle

Day 136: Adelaide

 
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Michael Palin - Full CircleAt breakfast Roger, who listens more assiduously to the BBC World service than I do, says he has heard reports that the seventeen-month-old IRA cease-fire has been broken with a serious explosion in Canary Wharf. This chills me. For the last few months one of my sons has been working for a newspaper group on the nineteenth floor of the Canary Wharf Tower. I ask Roger what time the bomb went off. It was around seven in the evening. I know that Will works mostly at night, so he could have just been arriving. It's late in England, but I ring home. There is no answer, My mind races ahead inventing scenarios of Helen, barely recovered, having to deal with police and hospitals. With no other facts or details to go on beyond the ominously unhelpful phrases - 'substantial damage' and 'serious injuries' - the imagination runs down all sorts of dark alleys.

The gently rolling countryside of the Southern Vales south of Adelaide may be comforting to look at but it is maddeningly irrelevant to what preoccupies me at the moment. But worse, or better, is to come at the little village of Mount Compass which boasts 'Australia's Only Cow Race'. This is such a bizarre event that for the next few hours it takes my mind off everything except milking demonstrations, venison stalls, clay brick making (paint your own cow on the side) and the almost unbelievable Les. Les is a massive man, an heroic figure, a Falstaff of the farmyard, who for twenty-two years has been master of ceremonies at the Compass Cup Country Show. He keeps up a non-stop stream of politically incorrect banter for almost three hours. In a sack race in which contestants have to pick up an extra participant halfway through, he's in his element. 'Well he's got the girl in the sack - I wish I could do it as easy as that.'
Compass Cup, Australia 
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Les looms large over the Compass Cup.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 136
  • Country/sea: Australia
  • Place: Adelaide
  • Book page no: 194

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