Neither journalists nor scientists are renown for sartorial sophistication but the crowd looked particularly dapper at the farewell reception held at the Governor’s house last night.
We arrived in an armada of tour buses, each of us holding fancy little personal invitations as the buses wound their way up the long drive to the impressive estate. The fleet parked in the courtyard but, before we were allowed to disembark, each bus was boarded by a security guard who examined our invitations.
I think we were all impressed with the residence. I certainly wasn’t expecting anything quite so spectacular. As we walked into the grand hall, a room in which you could fit at least a dozen family homes stacked upon each other, one of my colleagues, looking up and taking in the dramatic heights of the ceiling, turned to me and said: “Man, this place is like Versailles.”
The governor, Professor David de Kretser, who is affable and well-spoken (and a scientist himself) congratulated us on a successful conference and Wilson da Silva handed over the reigns to Pallab Ghosh of the BBC, who takes over as the new president of the World Federation of Science Journalists.
Then the crowd dispersed and milled about, exploring the premises. Each room seemed grander than the next but journalists don’t necessarily always meet grandeur with reverence. One of my colleagues was debating trying to take a seat upon the governor’s throne, a rather inviting chair with comfy-looking blue upholstery and lots of gold gilding. In the dining room, there was a very long table that could serve as an aircraft carrier if pressed into service. Along its length was a row of highly-polished candelabras, about a dozen of them. One delegate asked me how far down the table I thought he could slide, if he took a good running start. I sized him up. “About the fourth candelabra,” I told him. “But then, I’ve never been very good at physics. You might go a lot further than that.”
I think we were all a little giddy after such an intense week. There was plenty of laughter and warm camaraderie. Eventually we were called back to the buses and, as we were leaving, there were plenty of last-moment business card exchanges, handshakes and hugs. I’m leaving Melbourne with many new contacts, a lot of ambitious project ideas and a sense of belonging to a crew of committed, hard-working and wonderfully irreverent professionals.