Lunch with Foreign Minister Carr to discuss Ed Snowden’s shenanigans. We meet downstairs in the first of Bob’s new award-winning Australian chain of Civil War-themed cafés, ‘The Robert E. Lee.’ I barely get time to take my seat before he launches into a full-on verbose promo of his latest book ‘Harping on About Harpers Ferry: Bob’s Civil War Secrets and other Hogwash.’ With typical enthusiasm, his legendary encyclopaedic knowledge of the war gets a full 20 minute airing: Lincoln this, Thaddeus Stevens that, before he proudly pulls out a small plastic box containing one of his prize possessions: a pair of 19th century nostril-hair tweezers he claims once belonged to Ulysses S. Grant. Around the walls are black and white pictures of field cannons, rusting Ironclads, Sheridan on horseback, tattered flags, mementos. A case on the wall nearby has embedded in amber whiskers collected from top Confederate generals, and others showcase burnished copies of letters from dead or dying soldiers.
Bottles of Bob’s new signature ‘Slaughter at Shiloh Shiraz’ and ‘Carr’s Chattanooga Chardonnay,’ are brought to the table by a curvy waitress dressed in Confederacy colours, complete with the prerequisite matching deep cleavage of the southern-belle. (Historically-authentic, he insists, and I welcome his attention to detail.) Pouring a glass of the Chardonnay Bob leans over to me, points at the label and confides that it will be a great vintage: “Grapes pressed in the traditional way recommended by Grant on his Missouri farm,” he assures me “using my own two feet.” Buy some now while I can still afford it, he implores, because it’ll be worth a fortune in 5 years’ time. Expressing enthusiasm while suddenly feeling a little bilious, I’ll need more convincing.