Whether it’s Australia’s west or America’s Deep South, the recently appointed Governor of Western Australia arrives with heart and leaves with memories.
1954-2017 | Australia
Rottnest [offshore from Perth] was the place where I did my growing up. We’d go there as kids, we’d go when we finished high school and later we’d take our own kids there. In my youth, Rotto was like somebody with a face that only a mother could love. It was a good, knockabout holiday opportunity – funny old bungalows that were difficult to keep clean, barbecues and not much else around. The water was pure, the sand was sugary-white and you just got quietly burnt, quietly salty and listened to the crows. It was always the best holiday. My father would hire a boat and row us around. It wasn’t something he did every day so there was a lot of cursing. Everybody fished – from the boat, from the jetty. And while we didn’t have a lobster pot, I always had friends who did. We’d row out to it, haul it in and get a lobster. I recently took John Boehner, the ex-speaker of the United States House of Representatives, over there. I hadn’t been for 15 or 20 years. Rottnest has definitely gone upmarket.
1973-1976 | England
Some of the best years of my life were spent at Oxford University. I arrived during the big miners’ dispute and electricity was limited. I got off the train at Oxford Station and caught a cab, dragging this massive trunk across to Balliol College. I’m standing amid these huge, dark battlements; it was cold and miserable and there was one light, in the college porter’s entrance. I looked around and thought, “Oh God, what hell am I in?” The first couple of terms were nose down, tail up, work, work, work. Then comes summer and the whole of Oxford and the Cotswolds is transformed. Coats and hoods come off, the girls are out in diaphanous floral dresses and the blokes are in linen. Cricket starts at the parks. When I was there, Oxford University was being cleaned up and, as the college buildings got scrubbed and went from dark grey to light brown, the place assumed a magic all of its own.
2014 | United States
This place in South Carolina is beyond beautiful. The old town has links almost back to 1670 so you’ve got all these Colonial and antebellum houses. And the food is the best in the South, no question. At night, [my wife] Susie and I would go to the rooftop bar at our hotel [the Market Pavilion] and have a glass of whiskey and a cigar – Susie wouldn’t have a cigar – and look out over one of the loveliest parts of town. For all its beauty, though, Charleston has an evil past it was the headquarters of slavery and rebellion. There are plantations you can visit and get the history; they don’t gild it. It was a magical holiday. We thought we’d stay for a week and see what comes – and what came was everything.
The former leader of the Opposition served as Australia’s ambassador to the United States from 2010 to 2016. He was sworn in as Governor of Western Australia on 1 May.