A humourless republican, with a lifelong dislike of the royal family, I was several paragraphs into reading the news story Royal Thieves: Queen Elizabeth Says That Harry And Meghan Took All 50 Sets Of Her Dentures With Them When They Left Buckingham Palace, before it began to occur to me that the story might, perhaps, be a satire.
For a few paragraphs the story had, for a humourless, socialistic republican, the ring of truth about it.
How like the Queen, I fumed, the richest woman in the world and the very symbol of bloated privilege, that she should have 50 sets of dentures (no doubt handcrafted by the world's leading denturesmiths, perhaps from the finest precious mammoth-tusk ivory, precisely tailored to fit the regal gums). Meanwhile millions of her working-class subjects must make do, for life, with their one set of one-size-fits-all, plastic, factory-made knockabout gnashers.
Then, as well, the news of Harry and Meghan's opportunistic last-minute looting of all they can carry away to Canada had a certain plausibility about it.
But it was when the story went on to say "The Queen says that she spent the entire afternoon yesterday running through the streets of London with a meat cleaver in an attempt to track them down and murder them to get her dentures back" that one began to entertain doubts.
That this inhibited woman, who for all of her interminable reign has never publicly shown any hint of an emotion (or of any capacity to feel emotions), should be going on a frenzied, wild-eyed rampage had a vague kind of improbability about it. One began to entertain doubts, even though the story's publisher, The Onion, is renowned as "America's finest news source."
Can it be that us humourless republicans, daring to dream that with these Megxit shenanigans we may be seeing the end of the irrational allure the royals have for simple Australians, are getting carried away?
Farewell to a dreamer
James Mollison, the bold and visionary founding director of the National Gallery of Australia, has just died. My admiration of the engaging and accomplished man got under way well before the gallery opened (in 1982), when, I think in 1978, he took me, a journalist, on a generously long personal tour of the busy building site that was his unfolding gallery.
This was one of several occasions on which Mollison was exceptionally time-generous towards this Canberra Times journalist. I wonder why? Was it that as a boy columnist I'd written something supportive of his controversial purchase of Blue Poles? Or was it that he was this considerate to everybody?
Whatever the reasons his personally conducted escorting of me through the nascent gallery on that day was memorably exhilarating for me.
His enthusiasm for everything about the building (he had for many years been involved in its planning and design) was simultaneously child-like in its joy (although there was not a hint of any narcissistic swagger about this being HIS gallery) and encyclopaedically well-informed.
He seemed to know and to rejoice in the fine details of all the miscellaneous materials and techniques being used in the making of the building. And as we trespassed though its spaciously empty, bare-but-beautiful raw concrete places one sensed him imaginatively hanging works on its inviting walls and standing grand things in its richly promising places.
His enthusiasm was so palpable that it seemed to me (though perhaps my memory, 40 years on is playing a trick on me) that, walking beside me, he occasionally began to float for joy and so needed to grab my arm to remain earthbound on the gallery's elegant slate floors.
A highlight of our tour (again, just the two of us, with me feeling a little like a respectful Winnie the Pooh out walking with Christopher Robin and listening attentively to Christopher's words of wisdom) found us standing high up on some unfinished internal battlement. Here we looked down on a bald, barren and builders-ravaged paddock beneath us and stretching out to the shore of the lake.
Here, my guide enthused, there was to be a sculpture garden that he was insisting was going to be entirely planted out with Australian native plants. I was then (and remain) a native plants nerd and zealot and found his sculpture garden vision deliciously visionary.
I mention this because the garden he envisioned and described in such detail (as if he had already time-travelled to it and walked among its flowering trees and shrubs) actually came wondrously to pass. It is the only instance I have ever known of someone's articulated dream of something big and important actually becoming a reality.
Today the sculpture garden, a kind of wattle-perfumed Australian Garden of Eden, may be the loveliest of all the federal capital's man-made spaces.
It is so fine that I never visit it without thinking (although I keep this thought to myself lest I offend Rodin's notoriously sensitive Burghers of Calais) that it is far too good for some of the sculptures ensconced in it.
In its loveliness the garden is one of the gallery's several testimonies to the goodness and greatness of the gallery's founding director.