Readers, at one point, we were only 2 metres away from him.
I went, tonight, to the grand opening of the National Gallery of Australia's latest blockbuster, Turner to Monet: The Triumph of Landscape. It was packed, even though it was out in the sculpture garden, and the chilled wine and beer was being quaffed in large quantities because the weather was very hot. The nibblies were very good, much better than they have been for ages, not leaving you with a handful of detritus after you'd had your bite.
I've been to lots of NGA openings over the last 5 to 10 years; I stand as far away from the speeches as possible and watch the crowd, who are very entertaining. Lots of glitzy summer frocks tonight, and the shoe du jour was very high, very strappy and of either a solid bright shade or totally black. Hattie was there, which is always a good thing. Hattie is a woman that BB and I have admired at many openings. She is an elderly lady who dresses beautifully, and is never seen without an elaborate headpiece. I've never seen her wear the same hat twice. One day we felt brave, and introduced ourselves to her; her name is Beryl, and she has 40-something hats, and she is a great supporter of the arts, but isn't an artist herself. Oh Hattie (Beryl isn't quite right), I beg to differ.
ANYHOO, at every single one of the previouos openings, there is always a jaded, cool bunch who hang around the back, standing equidistant from the catering entrance and the bar, and keep chatting through the speeches. One opening (the Bill Viola one), they were so shockingly loud that the speeches were badly disrupted.
Not this time. Because He was there. Kevin. Kevin Rudd.
I have never seen an NGA crowd so utterly rapt. They were silent, they huddled around the podium, they strained to hear, they stretched upwards to catch a glimpse of him. It was quite amazing. And I don't think he disappointed, even though he did get a bit dry in parts, especially when he waxed on about Australia 2020 and Cate Blanchett (gah). I wish I'd had my camera on hand, to capture the earnest, listening faces.
When will this awe subside? At which point will he become an ordinary man?
Don't ask me, I shamelessly fought through the crowd afterwards to catch a glimpse of him. Past the Whitlams in their matching wheelchair scooters (cute!), past James Gleeson in his real wheelchair, through the sea of admirers watching him work the sculpture garden. I watched a senior colleague from the art school, normally proud of her ability to poke politicians in the chest with a nana finger (even though she's much younger than nana age) turn to mush and gush when she shook his hand. He could do no wrong all evening.
We are so desperate for change, so keen for the fairy tale. Is it really happening? When does it start to go wrong?
The paintings were pretty good too, although they're not really my cup of tea. There were two Van Goghs, and they made my evening, maybe more so than being close to Kev. You just can't beat a bit of Vincent. Rapt!