Rolf Harris: remember «Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport»? «The Pub With No Beer?» Do you recall listening to «Jake the Peg», and shuddering? I thought so. Rolf reminds me of that other successful Australian export to London: Clive James. This news item arrived at the turning of the year:
Clive James, the Australian-born author, broadcaster and critic, has been awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). James, who has lived and worked in the UK since the 1960s, is among close to 1,000 people from all walks of life whose achievements are recognised in the annual New Year’s Honours List.[….]
Northern Irish golfers Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke, who won the US and British opens respectively this year, are also on the list, capping an outstanding year for UK golf. Most of the people honoured with knighthoods or a variety of slightly lesser traditional titles such as Commander, Officer or Member of the Order of the British Empire (CBE, OBE and MBE) are unknown to the public. [….] Queen Elizabeth, whose sporting interests lie more in the world of horse racing than of golf, does not draw up the Honours’ List herself. Government officials seek out worthy recipients, who can also be nominated by members of the public.
– From Australian Broadcasting Corporation news 2012-01-01 at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-12-31/clive-james-helena-bonham-carter-get-new-years-honour/3753582
A while ago I watched a television program about Rolf Harris painting a portrait of the Queen of England. The end result was similar to the portrait of Laura used in the movie «Laura», 1944, or like one of those portraits you see in soap operas from the 1970s, painted by a commercial artist for fifty dollars in real oil paints. They bear a strange family resemblance to the cover paintings for romance novelettes or historical costume dramas. These artworks are painted full size then reduced to a quarter of their original size to be printed, and they look very detailed as a result. And of course Rolf’s portrait of the Queen didn’t have her fainting in the arms of a handsome doctor or dashing buccaneer, more’s the pity.
And Clive? With his brash success, his hearty colonial manner, his rhymes that brag and stumble, his mournful longing to be a real literary artist and his tendency to gush at the mention of the Royal Family – I realised that Clive James was the Rolf Harris of Australian Poetry, his verse his wobble-board.