A sea of umbrellas
Beating down sun. Umbrellas of all colours and sizes. People of Tully gathering, Young and old, families, babies, all backgrounds, a throng of people waiting for the Prince to arrive. They find their spots, on the boundary, in the stands, and some like me wandering to find the best camera vantage points.
The first royal visit to Tully, a second to Queensland. People chatter with the SES and police. Red cross staff walk around – maybe they are part of the select 50 guests in the igloo. Water and ice everywhere in big buckets so people don’t dehydrate. People waiting for the arrival. Orange lines marks the middle of the oval. He will be touching down at some point. A small emergency helicopter comes. He will be coming in an army helicopter. Elderly ladies with young spirits joke they’d like a kiss from the Prince.
I am on the fence line – I have a good spot, my telephoto lens is poised. I watch and wait to capture a photograph priceless for my family’s memory. I chat with all around me. I may not know their names but there is much I know of what they may have been through. A warmth is rippling through the crowd.
Radiant Crowd Members
Tropical clothes, shorts, and warm colours all around. I am dressed in blue with a blue glass necklace. My daughter is in a cherry dress. My youngest wears his Aussie shirt, green and gold, and plays his guitar. Eldest chats with high school kids- he is in a black Beatles shirt. Hubby is in a PNG shirt my Mum gave him when we visited Tasmania. I can’t look for friends in the crowd, I am focused on finding some photos to remind me of this day, but I speak to them whenever I spot them. I see people I haven’t seen for months.
Prince William Arrives
As the helicopter lands a group of girls squeal. They are making me giggle. They are media darlings, and reporters interview them. The media wander in the crowd, but they are also part of the crowd, like all of us trying for a glimpse. They feel the excitement of the crowd, and join in.
Girls being interviewed about the Prince’s Visit
I am filmed taking photos. I take photos of media, people being interviewed, the crowd, the stands — I am really enjoying it. People are calling out. Waving. They are full of joy. They are amazed that he has actually arrived. This is no rumour any more.
He is off to the igloo, to meet a few special select. We wait out in the heat. We chat with each other, some people grab water, my son plays the guitar, and the channel 7 camera men are taken with this pint sized guitarist, they want to film him but his camera shy, but they still chat to him for quite a while.
The kids are with Dad, I am quickly off again to find a good camera spot. Climbing into the stands, I find a midway point that will be good with my lens.
Prince Meets and Greets
I chat with an old school teacher of one of my kids. She hasn’t realised our old house didn’t make it through the cyclone, it had a tree come through the roof. I speak to her of people’s kindness. I am still watching for pics. Now the Prince is out again. He is following the fence line. He is shaking hands, stopping to talk, and is given a cassowary sculpture.
Prince William Receives a Gift — the cassowary
A kid runs up to the stands, ‘I shook his hand’ and she ‘s so excited. Some of my friends receive handshakes. I even photograph some of them saying hello. I am the observer. I don’t need a handshake I want to witness their joy. My youngest son is on his Dad’s shoulder, waiting for a glimpse. I am still perched in the stands.
Greeting the public..
Anna Bligh is there, in his shadow, but radiant. Her slouch hat shades her. She stops to speak to children especially. She is smiling warmly at them. The Prince has no hat. Someone says ‘he needs to be careful in the sun’.
The crowd almost Mexican wave. They wave at him. A sign that has been made for him is passed across, and it’s kept. The people are happy. They know he will be gone all too soon. They cheer, stand up and wave. He is heading back for the helicopter. What a strange life, shaking hands optimistically, watching people wave, looking at destruction and rebuilding. I wonder whether he will give the cassowary to his wife, or maybe the Queen and how it will look in the royal palace that royal bird.
We are watching the helicopter depart, and then we are moving in the wave of people, the healing wave, of people who have had optimism’s handshake.
It’s so hot. We go home, swim and later have delicious ice cream. When we watch the news we see that he has gone on to Cairns, Royal Flying Doctors, and he is still doing the Princely thing. Our golden gumboot is on the news as Heather Ford from channel 9 gives a report from Tully. She says ‘half of Tully were there.’ I think she’s right. She is smiling, as if she has caught the healing positivity something surreal and special can bring.
Heather Ford, Channel 9 Newsreader Queensland
(c) June Perkins, all rights reserved words and images, written permission must be sought for reproduction.
Published this in ABC Open’s I was There Project March 2013.