The butchest of ballerinas

When I was 18, I started studying for a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts at UQ. I also enlisted in the Queensland University Regiment, and we would regularly train at places like Tin Can Bay. We needed to find camouflage for Initial Employment Training and other jungle exercises, and the sergeant sent us off to the Brisbane Arcade. On the top floor, there was a ballet shop and it sold a bundle of make-up as well as leotards, tiaras, etc. I went there with another QUR private called Richard Kirk (who is a distinguished architect these days), and the shop did a steady line in green and brown compacts for the soldiers from the Regiment.


When I had been a barrister for a few years, a mate bought his fiancée an engagement ring at Martha and TC Goods, upstairs, just near where the ballet shop had been. Years later, in September 2001, I decided to ask Marilyn to marry me. My mate, Michael, took me to see Martha. There was a beautiful ring that was silver and art deco. It was an estate piece from the 1930’s and it had a gorgeous single brilliant-cut diamond. It reminded me of the car I was driving at the time – a ridiculously beautiful 1974 Pinin Farina boxer engine HF 2000 Lancia. Her name was Dulcinea and she was long and silver and kind of art deco herself. But I digress. I wanted a woman’s advice on whether it was the right ring, but I figured I couldn’t bring my sisters or my mother along for a second opinion because maybe, if you end up getting married, your wife doesn’t want to know that someone else in the family saw her engagement ring first.


So I called up my god-mother, Margie Blocksidge, who is a very graceful and discerning lady from Bulimba. I took her to see Martha. I showed her the ring and said that, if she thought there was something better, I’d move. At the time, I had an idea that maybe a ruby or a sapphire would suit Marilyn’s complexion better. My aunt was kind of dismissive. She said that, all things being equal, rubies are bad luck, a girl prefers diamonds, and you should really concentrate on getting the biggest diamond you can afford. We tramped around the CBD together for an afternoon, and visited about 6 different jewellers but, in the end, Margie said that the ring I had chosen was the business, and I should stay with it. So I did. Marilyn loved it immediately, and we both still reckon it is very elegant and simple all at once.


That arcade has been my path many times. When I was a kid, I would buy Easter eggs at Darrell Lea for my sisters. When I was older, I read that fabulous book called the Mayne Inheritance by Rosamond Siemon, which explains how the arcade may have been built on the ill-gotten gains from a murder at Kangaroo Point. I had the army contact there and I have bought presents for Marilyn from Details Designer Jewellery and from Girls Love Pearls. I have used Duncan the engraver for rings and – a few months ago – for my son’s first serious watch, and I have stopped many times to have (former arcade tenant) Geoff the Optometrist adjust my glasses whilst he talks large about physics, politics and the weather. I bought shirts last week from a beautiful “Dad shop” called Indepal on the ground floor, and I have a book that Keri Craig recently sent me called The Lady, the Label, the Lifestyle, which documents all the distinctive fashions that pervaded Brisvegas in the 1980’s, and can still be found in the basement boutique. One time, I was walking along the balcony with the kids and I opened a door rather randomly, to find a lady lying back in a chair,  having her eyebrows threaded. That was slightly confronting, but the memory fits well with the quirky, mysterious mood of that strip.


Damien Atkinson, QC