Thursday evening I went to a book launch at Gleebooks: John Archer's Twenty Thirst Century: the future of water in Australia. John is an old friend from Pearl Beach days, an amazing character with an incomparable store of anecdote and story derived from the peripatetic and rapscallion life he has lived over the last sixty or so years. It would make a grand autobiography but, as a writer, he is not inclined in that direction. Not so long ago, when he was about to attend a family reunion up at the country seat in Queensland, I conceived the plan of driving up with him plus tape recorder and getting some of that vast range of experience into an oral history form ... but something happened, he flew instead of driving and the chance was lost. Another time perhaps. I was late for the launch, because my sister had just arrived from Aotearoa and I was taking her over to her daughter's place. When I walked in John was in full flight, orating like an old time carpet-bagger on the stump (except he doesn't want to be elected to anything) or perhaps an Old Testament prophet come out of the wilderness to berate the luxurious habits of the city dwellers. Not long after, another late comer turned up next to me, a blond woman in glasses who smiled at me not so much as if she knew me as if I knew - or should have known - her. Later I found out she is my local Member of Parliament, Virginia Judge. A most impressive person, and pleasingly irreverent as well. She was one of the loudest laughers when John described her colleague, Frank Sartor, until recently in charge of water policy in NSW, as the Minister for Kebabs. But, although it was a fun night, the subject is not fun, or funny. John has been campaigning for a sensible water policy for as long as I have known him - about ten years - during which time many of what seemed to be his wilder claims have become the subject matter of alarming newspaper headlines. His passionate engagement with the politics of water management has in fact meant he has left in abeyance his other passion, for what he calls the spirituality of water. He is always promising he will write his mystic treatise next, but then finds the practical problems we face demand urgent attention. It is perhaps the same with the autobiography I'd like him to write, or to write for him. Anyway, for those who are interested and can go, John will be presenting two events at the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, 280 Pitt Street in the City in the next fortnight. The first, on the 11th August, is a forum on Sydney's water future. The second, a week later on the 18th, is a talk about The Enchanted World of Water and the Spirit. Both events begin at 7 pm.

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