Unreliable historian

I am worried that I have been stalking Charles Waterstreet, Sydney criminal defence barrister, writer, man-about-town, film producer, etc etc.

I have been reading his columns from the Sun Herald with interest tinged with fascination.

He’s not shy with details of his life when it suits him, though he’s also had some unwelcome exposure to the public gaze. You can read the whole grisly tale of the ravelling and unravelling of his and Kate Fitzpatrick’s financial affairs here (link broken, try here), at least so far as the details of it concerned the Court of Appeal.

Waterstreet is a great raconteur. He can tell a tale against himself, and there are plenty.

One crops up in the course of his unburdening himself over the sorry tale of his falling out with his landlord, none other than disgraced prosecutor (for once the over-worked “disgraced” seems unavoidable), Patrick Power.

Waterstreet starts off by saying that he hates moving, though you can’t help noticing that he’s nevertheless moved rather a lot of times.

Waterstreet had dealt with Power professionally in a case where Waterstreet’s client confessed to him but in which she was nevertheless acquitted because she was an “unreliable historian.” That is, she was someone whose confession was inaccurate so as to suggest that her confession was not a true confession.

At some point, then, Waterstreet moved in as Power’s tenant.

But in the meantime Waterstreet was also supposed to have provided a reference for Mr Power at his sentencing. He had drafted it, but not sent it.

If only he had! Those who provided references were subsequently pilloried, defamed and ultimately (at least sixteen of them), relatively handsomely compensated by the Daily Telegraph (to the tune of about $30K each). A little unreliability of his own meant that Waterstreet missed out.

But back to the stalking. Contemplating going to see Wake in Fright at the Chauvel, I was almost deterred from going by the fear that a favourable reference by Waterstreet in Sunday’s paper might provoke a rush on the cinema. I need not have worried – there was plenty of room at the 6.15 session anyway.

I was too young to see this film on its first release but old enough to hear my parents and my father’s mother (who went to it with them) talking about it. It’s been hard to see since. It’s now been digitally restored.

Waterstreet was old enough to see it, but instead (he tells us) spent that season lounging around Patrick White’s place (another Fitzpatrick connection) and behaving badly (liquor, bikes, airguns indoors) while White and Lascaris were away for six months. Ah! Old queens; young men: the susceptibility! I bet White was disappointed in Waterstreet in the end, but that’s an easy bet in White’s case about almost everyone.

All of which is ironic on a number of levels, including that Wake in Fright has its own Twybornish moment.

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