5

To Max, on finishing primary school

Dearest Max

You are about to have your last week at primary school. So, now’s a good time to think on what you’ve done and all that’s happened.

I recall your first Celebration Night at St Leonard’s. You were in Dennis’s class and with the sun slanting in above the gum trees you danced with your friends in the back row. What was the song called? Can you remember? It seems such a long time ago, but also as if it’d occurred just a few days back. You’ll find that time is weird like this and then it’ll start to accelerate like a Koenigsegg Agera RS (which we know is the world’s fastest production car).

I hope you enjoy Celebration Night and take a moment to think about this farewell and the many teachers who’ve helped you and the friends who’ve left and the friends who’ve stayed.

I’m also reflecting on Saturday mornings and soccer matches at school, in the Adelaide Hills and everywhere in between. It was sometimes freezing when everyone’s legs went blue through to torrential rain but we also had those cloudless, pale sun days. I loved your eagerness on the pitch with your team-mates and how you listened to the coaches and were keen to impress them. Every goal you scored was a life highlight for me but I particularly loved the one at Mitcham in 2020!

Tee-ball was summery fun and I lost count of the number of homeruns you whacked and how when fielding you sprinted like a leopard for struck balls across the crunchy grass. As the coach it was a challenge to get your team to sit in the batting line-up! Were you naughty then? Just a bit.

I’ve such special memories of the camp to Narnu Farm on Hindmarsh Island and especially the horse ride around the paddocks. I reckon you were on the old one named Pudding. Do you remember playing tennis? You were such a good sport and kept the game going with your kind leadership ensuring everyone had fun.

There were fifty kids on that trip and because you’d done everything with such unstoppable enthusiasm by 10pm you were the first asleep! Sitting in the kitchen with our coffee I remember Barry the Deputy Principal saying how he wasn’t shocked as you, “ran pretty hard most days” and I was delighted by this. I trust you’ll continue to live this way.

Next morning one of your friends said at breakfast that you were the first awake and with all the kids still in their sleeping bags you told everyone funny stories. This also made me smile.

My favourite achievement is your recent poem and debate on racism in footy. It was a task you took seriously and you worked so hard on this assignment. It was probably the most important piece of school work you’ve done and it showed your deep and growing skill with language. I reckon English and critical thinking will be at the centre of your success at Brighton and beyond school it’ll remain a big part of your life.

I was thrilled and not at all surprised when you earned an A+ for this task. No, you didn’t get or receive an A+, you deserved it.

Here’s some other writing you’ve done that I love. These are from your long “list of activities” which is still up on the kitchen cupboard-

1. Ride (anywhere)

8. Eat (food).

And in accordance with the tradition you began about once a month you announce on the fridge whiteboard

                The cordial is pre-made.

This is one of our great literary rituals and of social service too!

There’re many things I’ll miss as you finish at St Leonard’s but high on my list is driving past at lunch or recess when the playground is a surging sea of green shirts and hats and suddenly, just like that, I see you dashing about, your unmissable blonde locks bouncing along as you chase your friends or climb that tree just outside the front office or kick a footy.

So, primary school is over. I hope you’ll always look back upon this with deep affection and satisfaction. Enjoy your holidays.

I’m proud of you.

Love Dad

xx

0

Not the Kapunda Rodeo

It was a relief, really.

The date was chosen months ago. We’d meet at Dutton Park and watch a few hours of cricket under a tree on the northern lawns and as the sun sunk the nonsense meter would start lurching towards, “high” then, “dangerously high” and possibly even, “Are you blokes (Fats) kidding me?”

The pitch covers had been left off since Thursday and so the overnight rain meant that the match was abandoned early Saturday morning. Safely inside the Kapunda Cricket Club we were therefore relieved of the functional burden of spectating.

In the ragged glory of the communal shed we gathered in a loose circle about an esky (no ice necessary given the cold weather and a dozen task-focussed chaps) and inside the trotting track, just up the way, the star-spangled rodeo began in its ridiculous, boot-scootin’ style.

Meanwhile our gathering was opportune and contemporary and nostalgic, often in the same sentence. Almost immediately there was concurrent chat about matters weighty and matters trivial although our subsequent recollection of these topics is neither here nor there. The art and act of conversation is sometimes more important than any content.

Up at the rodeo a young chap pulled into the carpark in an overly large ute.

Out in the middle of Dutton Park’s oval encouraged by the wet spring and regular mowing the grass continued to grow.

In the KCC sheds someone, likely Fats or Whitey or Froggy told a story. There was much laughter as you’d expect on a Saturday afternoon a month or so out from Christmas.

Most of us then made our way up to the much-loved hotel that is Puffa’s. It was the rodeo-is-in-town quiet, and we determined to enjoy our time. There’s nothing quite like settling into your favourite hometown pub with people who’ve known you since you were wetting the bed (as a child).

For those following along at home Puffa’s doesn’t often serve meals however we’re invited to cook our own out by the back lawn on a hulking ancient barbecue. In an act of collective care Woodsy had organised and marinated some chicken, sourced salad (well, shredded lettuce but let’s not reduce the spectacle with culinary accuracy) and purchased bread rolls.

Since surrendering my Weber kettle I’ve not recently been a devotee of the charcoal grill despite the PM requiring us to all unconditionally love coal in its various forms. Tolly had left us an air-blower which quickly had lava-hotness happening and chook a-sizzling. How I marvelled at this miracle of modern hairdryers!

Up at the rodeo a young woman sang along to an especially dreadful country song. You know, one that can’t decide if it’s American or Australian as it chugs away but is forgotten moments after it stops.

Disappointingly nobody in our crew remarked, “If that’s dinner then I’ve had it.” We retired to Puffa’s tiny front bar where over the decades so much, and truth be told, so little had occurred. Chris and Andrew’s dad, Jimmy, made a welcome, patriarchal appearance as did my 1985 A3’s cricket captain Beetle and the A2’s vice-captain Fickle. The presence of these chaps gave our entertainment historical and personal context, I think.

Out in the middle of Dutton Park’s oval it was now country-town dark although nobody noticed at the rodeo or in Puffa’s where talk had inevitably moved to the prospect of spoofy. It would’ve been churlish not to rattle the coins and each utter in theatrical turn, “Good call” or “Your buy!” or “Three” (everyone’s favourite spoofy call).

All that boisterous and bonding nonsense complete we walked up Clare Road in the still evening, lighter in the (digital) wallet and lighter of heart with connections refreshed and hometown joys revisited.

I’d rarely enjoyed not watching Kapunda play cricket or going to a rodeo so much.

0

Beer Review: Nort

Sitting on our patio late Sunday I decide to open a beer. It’s a Nort and was abandoned recently by a supposed friend. Like an unwanted but inarguably ugly dog it’s been hiding in the beer fridge, all forlorn and problematic and somehow demanding my attention.

Easing off the top there’s no Christmas Day sizzle or birthday effervescence. Just grim functionality, like programming a Betamax VCR in 1984. It’s unceremonious.

The label is Scandinavian assertive and not casually idiomatic. It demands the drinker, “Enjoy More.” Enjoy more what I wonder. Bing Crosby albums or possibly Gilligan’s Island reruns? Seems a bit pushy.

In the bottom half of the label (there’s probably a technical term for this that the Gruen folk could doubtless tell me) it confidently declares the contents to be, “RERFRESHING ALE.” Well, I’ll be the judge of that I think. See, I’ve already started arguing with my beer and this is generally a harbinger of personal doom. Never a good idea on a Sunday.

I next learn that my beverage is “100% crafted.” Now, I’m pretty sure this is porky pies. Crafted by a kindly old grandpa in his rustic shed? Or spewed up on an automated and soulless conveyor belt in a post-apocalyptic industrial estate?

I think we both know the answer to this.

Spinning the bottle around provides further critical reading opportunity. Who knew that beer could be so educational, so enlightening? If I reflect sufficiently on this, I may concoct a taxonomy for future generations to apply to their drinking pursuits.    

Then I see that my ale is, “plant based.”

Ah.

This is great news for I had become weary of all the meat based beer I’d been happily consuming. All the sausage-centred lager and the steak-derived stout. Not to mention the pork pilsner (could be an adult film, produced in Hamburg).

As I type I wonder about the genius that would be a schnitzel-based beer. Imagine the time we could save! Just fire up the nutri-bullet and stick it all in together! Hot or cold, winter or summer! Yum.

So, how was the beer? Peering at the label again I note that Nort anagrams to Rotn.

Yes, this has been a decidedly rotten episode. Linguistically, spiritually, alcoholically.

I don’t know what it costs or where you buy it. If a mate leaves one in your fridge, tip in on some weeds you want dead and claim the ten cents refund.

0

October

Rocktober is an annual event on a certain blokey radio station where across the month they play Cold Chisel every fifteen minutes.

I’m starting my own series of themed months including Woktober in which I eat endless bowls of noodles. Jocktober means I’ll buy a new pair of underwear or eat haggis daily. Stocktober requires me to make gallons of soup or huge money on the currency exchange. In Hocktober I drink German white wine.

And Frocktober demands I get about in a dress. As is tradition.

I visited a place I worked at fifteen years’ ago and saw that this passive aggressive pissive sign is still there! Inaccuracy is always fashionable.
Got lost hiking near Chapel Hill and ended up taking refuge in the winery! It’s what Bear Grylls suggests.
Max’s school turned one hundred and he sang in the choir at the celebrations. Coincidentally, I was in my final year at Kapunda Primary when it also had its centenary!
The Kimba krew went to Barley Stacks winery where despite missing the wedding of Nug and Loz we all became friends for life.
I was chaperoned to the National Wine Centre by Claire one lovely Saturday. In the blind-tasting we scored a respectable 0/7.
The Whitlams personally invited us to The Gov last Thursday night. Sort of. OK, not really, or at all.
Rupert published one of my stories in The Australian. Payment is me being allowed to remain in his country.
2

Gough and The Whitlams: we’ll play chess and drink claret

I liked The Whitlams before I ever heard them.

How could I not enjoy a band named for this iconic leader, a man whose disgraceful 1975 dismissal interrupted Singing and Listening one Tuesday afternoon at Kapunda Primary School? The man whose perfect photo with Percy Jones hangs in the North Fitzroy Arms. I always bow at its altar.

“Gough” is my favourite Whitlams’ song and we played it at our wedding reception. It captures the wide-eyed awe I always felt about the man. I would’ve loved for Gough to, “Come over have dinner with me, we’ll play chess and drink claret.”

I’ve been wondering about other Australian Prime Ministers and how they might connect to music. It follows from a game I like to play when someone says something – generally a snappy, domestic phrase that could, with minor adjustment, be the title of a country music album. For example, Claire might yell out from the shower, “We’ve run out of shampoo!” That’s my cue and I’ll yell back in my terrible American accent,

And the nominations for best Country Album are: (dramatic pause and then I lean into the microphone) Running Out of Shampoo by Claire and The Cactus Girls!

Or I’ll remember that most vital chore as I scramble about Friday morning. The bins! Again, I then put on my imaginary black Stetson and announce to the imaginary music awards auditorium,

And the winner is: (another dramatic pause) Putting Out The Bins by Chester Pink and the Garbage Trucks. 

But which other PM moonlights in music?

John Howard and the Horrible Bowling Action for their (unlistenable) record A Dead Ball in Pakistan. We’ve all watched the video of JH harpooning one into the pitch just beyond his (doubtless) sensible fecking shoelaces.

Defending himself he later explained, “They had a ball that was basically the inside of a tennis ball with some white tape around it.” What? Sorry, Little Johnnie but that’s just backyard cricket as millions of us know it! It’s how I spent half a dozen summers with my mate Nick down at his Port Willunga beach shack.

(Bob) Hawkey and Singo – A Beer with Belle du Jour. I’m anticipating a Dolly and Kenny style duet here. The story goes that, back in 2000, Singo hadn’t bought Bob a gift for his 70th so gave him a share in his racehorse, Belle du Jour. The filly then won the Golden Slipper. To celebrate Singo famously shouted the bar at Rosehill. A karaoke hit.

Paul Keating (performs solo; no backing band tolerated) – Flogged with a Warm Lettuce, the follow-up to All Tip and No Iceberg. Its first single is the surprise indie smash, “I Wanna Do You Slowly.”

***

The Whitlams’ leader is Tim Freedman and his sweetly sung songs of gentle optimism and suburban irony are Sunday barbeque joyous. Their best tunes also include ‘Melbourne’, ‘No Aphrodisiac’ and ‘You Sound Like Louis Burdett’ which was modified among my peers to honour the cult Adelaide oval curator Les Burdett.

At uni I once caught a bit of the Midday Show (probably having just arisen) when the preposterously coifed Ray Martin asked, “Who’s Australia’s greatest living politician?” His guest was Gough and he waited with faultless theatrical effect before replying with his very E. G. Whitlam vowels, “Well, Ray, I can tell you who the second greatest is.”

We’re going to see The Whitlams tonight at The Gov’s early show. They’re on stage at 6.30 so we’ll be home just after sundown for hot chocolate and a (shared) digestive biscuit. As we slide into the weekend I’ll be humming,

It’s for you Gough, you Gough, you Gough

Edward Gough Whitlam

1

Mindfulness on Mystery Date

Having met your gorgeous, smiling self at the gate we strolled through the Botanic Gardens, under enthralling arches, and along a winding path by which we happened across a wedding and this drew our sighing attention. Suddenly and not a little sadly, the day after would be our six-month anniversary. I love being hand-in-hand with you and the garden’s mysterious and magical qualities added to this soaring joy.

We arrived at the National Wine Centre. I had not been there ever and so was glad to be chaperoned in by you. Our blind wine-tasting was urgent and funny. We guessed none of the wines but sharing the tastings and swapping the glasses back and forward was an almost secretive endeavour, deep in the hull of that marooned viticultural ship. I watched you scribble your notes and thought of how I’d first been captivated by your quick, confident cursive many years ago, possibly in Year 9 or maybe year 10 homegroup.

Being led by you along the North Terrace was cocooned perfection. Peering east from the Luna10 sky bar we identified landmarks: Norwood Oval, Mount Lofty, and then we spied a hardware store. Again, we were trying to make sense of our world and connect to its shared locations, which sits among a marriage’s prime demands. It was an activity of such warmth and optimism. The buildings and the trees became mere context for our bigger story; sets for the private play in which we are both starring.

During the film we’d whisper thoughts to each other as we wrestled with its thorny notions. While we’d been to the cinema together over the decades from An American Werewolf in London to now, I’m not sure we engaged each other during a screening with such intimacy. I would’ve liked to but doubt I’d have had the requisite bravery.

As Nine Days was an essay on mindfulness and the towering, tremendous gift that is life, you were deeply moved by it. How great that we could explore it after in The Austral. Like most of our beautiful day, we were in the midst of a busy city but mostly seemed to be in secluded spaces. That part of the pub was ours alone too. Where were all the kids? It was 9pm so they were at home and would arrive in the CBD in a couple hours when their parents were snoring.

Finally, home at our table, we concluded our amazing afternoon with some lines from Walt Whitman whose poetry from Leaves of Grass had featured at the film’s climax. Walt’s book had been waiting patiently on our shelf for just this moment. He and the film’s director urge awareness of the links between self, others, and our environment.

Do you see, O my brothers and sisters. / It is not chaos or death, it is form, union, plan, it is eternal life, it is happiness. / The past and present wilt, I have fill’d them, emptied them, and proceed to fill my next fold of the future

And that’s exactly the day you lovingly arranged for us.

2

Burgers and Bear Night

I love a good tradition such as watching the first over of the Boxing Day Test. I also hotly anticipate walking annually from the Melbourne CBD to the North Fitzroy Arms for a Footy Almanac lunch. I even love a bad tradition such as believing the Glenelg Footy Club will win grand finals! They’re now five from 19 appearances.

Tuesday is Burgers and Bear night. Like most traditions it simply became the repetition of a comfortable idea. When he was about eight Alex was a big Bear Grylls fan and had a collection of Man v Wild DVDs and water canteens and a pocketknife but like his dream of opening an Egyptian museum in his bedroom this, too, faded.

One Tuesday night a few years’ ago we saw on TV an episode from Bear Grylls’ adventure and survival vehicle, Man v Wild and Max was interested too so we watched again the following week and when the series finished airing, we dragged out Alex’s DVDs. Quickly, this became a weekly expectation. It also gave structure and when Bear was rescued the boys knew it was bedtime.

While enjoying the physical exploits of our protagonist we also discuss issues of media literacy such as how real or contrived the scenarios are- “Dad, do you think those goat-herders just happened to be there?” and “I think the cameraman is braver because he’s climbing the cliff with Bear while actually filming at the same time!”

In an affectionate way, the boys would also critique Bear’s habit of drinking his own pee (or worse still that of an animal), eating live snakes (beheaded, of course) and sleeping inside the dead carcass of a camel to protect against Saharan sandstorms (it’s what I always do).

I’m sure Bear views these as personal traditions. (*adopts Bond villain voice) See, we’re not so different, you and I, Mr. Bear.

Of course, he’d also strip off in subzero temperature to cross a freezing river whether it was required or not. If the icy river’s there it must be entered! As the Russian playwright Chekhov was always banging on about, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise, don’t put it there.” Bear’d be on the tundra and to build suspense he’d say, “In 2004 a group of hikers got lost out here, survived for a week and then went dog-paddling in a stream. Their bodies were found a year later.”

With our star was turning blue and doing star-jumps to maintain a pulse, he’d peel off the remainder of his clothes. It was always the bleakest of Siberian days and in post-production they’d fuzz out his genitalia and I once said to the boys, “Oh dear. Bear’s got out his John Thomas again” and the boys giggled. Attempting to recall this a few weeks’ later Alex asked, “Dad, do you think Bear will get out his Tom Johnson tonight?”

And, just like that, another family tradition began.

Each week Bear would eat tarantulas and extraterrestrial-looking bugs and horrific non-food things that’d inevitably led to yellow goo spurting from his grimacing mouth and running down his chin like crunchy snot, so I determined that in Glenelg North the accompanying culinary challenge would be minimised. Our dining experience would contrast completely with the on-screen revulsion. After-all, my favourite, yet to be broadcast episode of Man v Wild is when he makes camp in the Barossa on the lawns of Peter Lehman’s winery and survives only on mettwurst and emboldened Shiraz.

Therefore, we have burgers on Tuesdays which, even in winter, gives me a happy chance to ignite the barbecue and there’s a deep psychological reassurance in this ritual, at least for me. Max handles the salad, and his brother (with prompting) toasts the bread.

In recent weeks Alex began complaining about the eggs being prepared outside (really?) so now insists on doing these inside on the stove. While I love his rising independence, is there a more terrifying prospect than a teenage boy set loose in the kitchen with a spatula and frying pan?

But like many traditions, Burgers and Bear Night might run its race with the boys outgrowing it, or us simply exhausting episodes of Man v Wild.

Then one distant day, when working or at uni, I hope Alex or Max might cheerfully say, “Hey Dad, let’s watch an episode of Bear, you know, one when he swims in a freezing river with his Tom Johnson out!”

0

September

In our spot on the globe September means footy finals, spring racing, and vaguely improving, if wildly temperamental weather. It also marks when the lawns need more frequent mowing and attention as well as a chance to give the barbeque more love. I may begin a barbeque lobby group. I once read a book featuring a grumpy character who had a bumper sticker on his car.

The sticker said: Eat more beef, you bastards!

We took an Onkaparinga holiday and instead ventured to Belair. Until this happened I worried that it could be a stick-free hike.
I prefer my butterfly with soy sauce. Yes, they do taste like chicken.
After months with seemingly no beach one Sunday we could’ve hosted the World Beach Cricket tournament.
John Does’ Local Bar hosted (unbeknownst to them) Mystery Pub. It was the first MP to feature candles since the Lady Burra in July. I understand this worries many of you.
Dawn on a Saturday morning is, apparently, a real thing and we experienced it at Port Elliot. Might even do this again, one day.

So, Claire, who are you wearing? Answer to red carpet host: Beanie by husband.

After a long day of solitary relaxation and quiet introspection I rewarded myself with a $5 beer at Port Elliot’s Royal Family Hotel. It was the least I could do.
1

Mystery Pub: The Beer Smells Like A Microphone in John Doe’s Local Bar

The bookshelf’s stocked with crime novels and old Lonely Planets. I’m an incurable bibliophile so have a quick squizz. There’s also a stack of board games including, to my surprise, Twister. This is a tiny bar and I reckon if the plastic, colour-dotted mat is rolled out the writhing tangle of arms and legs might give some sizzle to the meaning of Happy Hour.

John Doe’s Local Bar is a welcome addition to the grog-scape in this southwestern nook of the CBD. It’s home to some great pubs such as The Duke of Brunswick and the Gilbert Street Hotel but provides an appealing contrast for passers-by and residents. I continue to struggle however, with the notion of “local.” Can a bar or pub be anything but local? A remote or distant bar might really squeeze on the drinking handbrake.

On the surrounding footpaths are wine barrels converted to tables with a sprinkling of brave punters bunched about. It’s a frigid spring afternoon so Claire and I sprint inside and secure a spot. Like the Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey when the astronaut Dave Bowman hurtles through a psychedelic rush of things galactic and trippy, there’s much visual stimuli in this cosy boozer.

A quick scan reveals walls of beer coasters; a footy tipping chart; an old technicolor juke box; posters advertising the meat tray raffle on Fridays, live music, comedy nights and above the bar a small TV is set to Sky Racing with the gallopers in the dusk at Scone and Coleraine. My vista could also be a deleted dream scene from the Big Lebowski or an exhibit in the Tate Modern or Hobart’s MONA.

Approaching the bar there’s a man leaning dangerously into his drink and I wonder if he’s, “Makin’ love to his tonic and gin.” He might be making unwise preparations for Twister Night and mumbles something about buying some shots to which I can minister no helpful advice other than, “Good luck with that.”

I order a Prancing Pony Session Ale for me and a white for Claire and then spy a large wine rack under the big TV. All upright, there’s dozens of bottles shoulder-to-shoulder as if they’re ready for some grim but vague battle. It’s a phalanx of Cabernet Franc. At the end of one shelf is that most celebrated vintage: Coopers Sparkling Ale (750ml). Close inspection reveals these are the highly drinkable 2021.

Claire is most smitten because dotted throughout and in the centre of our table are lit candles. These contribute significantly to the bonhomie. The atmosphere is welcoming lounge room and surely, this must be the aspiration of every small bar. Pubs in Melbourne’s Fitzroy do this well but it’s rare in Adelaide.

On the TV screen next to the orangey, dancing fireplace a cricket match flickers green and gold. It’s Australia v India from Mackay and bowling with O’Reilly briskness is Kapunda’s own Darcie Brown. A couple of days’ ago she took 4/33 and became the youngest Australian female or male to grab four wickets in an ODI. Claire and I comment that Darcie looks like her Uncle Paul and grandfather, Bernie.

Three portly chaps have dropped anchor at the bar and appear as if they might be moored in the marina against an approaching storm. The bar does seem to attract folks from neighbouring homes. They could be here for the BBQ that’s soon to a-sizzle on the footpath or maybe there’ll be karaoke later. It’s a busy, ambitious place. I wonder if they have Macrame Mondays or if I’ve missed Sonnet- Writing September. Minimalism isn’t part of the strategic plan here.

Glancing again at these chaps I’m sure one is Paul and a real estate novelist. And his friend is Davy, who’s still in the navy. He probably will be for life.

Or maybe they’re all professional Twister players.

0

Sunday lunch review: J & F Pizza at 58 Cellar Door and Gallery, Port Elliot

For me life’s biggest dilemma remains: is Friday or Sunday the best day for a long lunch? Saturday is often hijacked by sport, shopping, and lawn-mowing but makes up the trifecta. I’m also a fan of strapping on my boots for a Friday lunch marathon that concludes dangerously close to the first appearance of twinkling stars.

But let me tell you about last Sunday’s lunch.

It was set by a leafy vineyard. There were families with kids on the balcony enjoying the mottled sun and a boisterous, happy group was gathered inside for a 60th birthday. We were close to the woodfired pizza oven, and a great vocalist and guitarist in Pat Ramm accompanied our meal and conversation.

We were guests of 58 Cellar Door and Gallery and particularly J & F Pizza run by two local mates, Josh and Frazer.

With champagne, two Meechi Pale Ales (brewed in nearby Langhorne Creek) and a bottle of Thunderbird Cabernet Sauvignon the refreshments were sorted, and our formidable batting lineup was set.

Frazer and Josh are always looking to keep their pizza menu dynamic and so offered us a Four Cheeses pizza as entrée. It was zesty and subtle, and I hope it finds a long-term place for it was an excellent start to our lazy afternoon.

Throughout, we spoke of footy and family and friends and art.

After a digestive interval the main event was upon us: Prawn pizza and one that was half Hot Salami and half Margherita.  At this point there might’ve been mutual food envy. All looked and smelt appealing, and the Hot Salami was especially delicious with the olives and pickled chilli working with and not against the salami.

The acoustic music continued with covers of Neil Young and The Eagles providing a relaxing soundtrack while over at the birthday gathering those good folks were settling into a rhythm too.

Back in my foggy uni days there was a local joint that did a dessert pizza, and I was once tempted although like many student culinary experiences it was horrible.

However, J & F Pizza do a Lemon Curd pizza which with its delicate blend of curd and basil is a fantastic way to round off a lunch at 58 Cellar Door and Gallery.

Moving toward summer and balmy holidays, when you’re next down around Port Elliot on the Southern Fleurieu, I urge you to sample the fine work of J & F Pizza. Find them on (08) 8554 3149 or at no58pizza@gmail.com.

It’s Sunday lunch (and afternoon), done right.

*disclaimer: we luncheoned with Frazer’s parents, Chris and Letitia

6

Sausage Roll Review: The Port Elliot Bakery

It’s a curious and startling world that offers up the first Abba songs in four decades.

And, of course, both tunes feature immaculate vocal melodies, a pretty piano line, and lyrics that are at once sad and grimly triumphant.

But are they really any good? Or do we cut them extra slack just ‘cause they’re Abba?

What if they were a fresh Scandinavian pop outfit, trying to break into the moo-sic business? Would they make it?

Imagine driving to work with the radio tuned to your local Wacky Crew on 99.9 FM. You know the recipe- two guys and a girl all laughing way too heartily at their own jokes and endless torrent of stories about their goofy spouse and madcap kids. Alongside the city’s widest mix of old and new musical slop. Our Wacky Host announces-

“And that was our sixth song this hour by Pink. Up next is a new track by a group from Sweden called Abba.”

I wondered about all of this as I drove to the Port Elliot Bakery and speculated on the connection between Abba and sausage rolls, as I often do.

In the world of South Australian regional bakeries its reputation is colossal, and I imagine, unrivalled. But is it justified? I’d never been in there but just like the Famous Five on Kirrin Island, I was about to find out.

Departing the Southern Expressway, I was suddenly stricken with that ancient fear. What if I arrived and the warmer was devoid of sausage rolls? In forsaken earthly bakeries, no-one can hear you scream. A phone order and all was sorted.

I put on my favourite sausage rolls are a-comin’ playlist (actually a CD of Tame Impala’s Inner Speaker) and stepped on the gas, as they say down south. Doubtless, there’d be gas a-plenty by mid-afternoon if my baked goods form held up.

My Korean kar pulled in across the road from the Port Elliot bakery. Actually, it was outside the Royal Family Hotel. I peered in the window and couldn’t see Charles or Liz or Phil (in an urn above the fireplace). However, I bet Harry was out in the beer garden in a boisterous shout of Sparkling Ale with some old rugger types and soon to request, “Eagle Rock” to his grandmother’s limitless horror.

My sausage roll was huge and if frozen solid, could be used to rob a servo. The pastry was suitably flaky (like Port Power in a home preliminary final as folks other than me might suggest) but not sweaty. Sweaty Sausage Roll Syndrome (SSRS) remains one of this province’s biggest killers of the over 30’s.

I glanced up and saw their sandwich board on the footpath. It self-confidently declared, “Freshly Baked Daily on the premises.” This seemed a minimal achievement to me and should probably be a given in the bakery caper. But how would you react to a sign saying, “All Goods Baked last July in a Distant Anonymous Country”? I thought so.

And while we’re applying some critical thinking to country bakeries, can anyone tell me if there’s a one that’s not award-winning for pies or lamingtons or vegetarian pasties? Yes, they all are because each has signage festooned on the window telling you. It’s like the egg-and-spoon race at a church picnic. Everyone wins a prize even if it’s Best Mushroom and Goat Meat Pie- Barossa District, C Grade, 1994.

The sausage roll innards were peppery and delicious while hinting at delicate spice. It was a most excellent late lunch for a Wednesday. I actually bought two so Claire could sample one later, and that my research could be peer-reviewed. But she’s only coming down on Friday and It’s unlikely to survive until then.

So, you’ll just have to take my word for it. I’m off to listen to “Chiquitita” and the rest of Abba Gold.

0

An Alberton Afternoon

In the dining room there’s an upright piano.

This declares much about the Alberton Hotel: traditional values, a vibrant history, a suggestion of simpler, better times when live music was the entertainment.

Of course, there’s also a sign forbidding anyone to touch it. It’s a truth widely acknowledged that nobody wants their salt and pepper squid sound-tracked by a kid or drunk uncle banging out ‘Chopsticks.’

Still, there’s nostalgic delight in a pub piano.

The front bar bursts with football memorabilia. Framed premiership photos, ancient posters, murals. Both the Magpies and the Power. Which one is it? No, sorry, it doesn’t seem like one club. Drop Igor from Siberia in here and ask him how many clubs he can see. Igor will reply, “Is two.”

But it’s a traditional front bar and promoted on the website as one, ‘enjoyed by all the family’ and there’s kids in here with dad and granddad all around a table, in their Power tops. The atmosphere is pre-match, festive, Saturday.

Velour coats, black cans and fags are in vogue out in the sports garden. There’s a gigantic TV screen showing the early spring races. My Coopers pint is well-priced at $7 and while nursing this, Nature Strip, one of the country’s best sprinters, wins at Randwick.

A brisk shower squalls over as my beef parmigiana arrives, hearty and tasty, with a decent tangle of golden chips (mercifully not buried beneath the schnitzel). My salad includes pickled purple cabbage, and it’s an unexpected treat.

*

Today I’m also making my Alberton Oval debut. How can this be? Unlike Glenelg Oval, parking’s easy and there’s no 2-hour limit. I see no sneering knots of yoof in Everlast tops, and the lawns all look clipped. It’s a handsome suburb with splendid villas and bungalows. I enjoy the walk.

Coming through the Bob McLean Gate, the cheer squad is going off-chops. And we’re still a few minutes before the bounce. I’ve not seen (or heard) a real SANFL cheer squad for years so congratulations Port.

I survey the ground. It’s long and broad and the turf is immaculate. Like the best sporting complexes, it’s a measured mix of the historic and the modern. The old grandstands are low and cosy while the Allan Scott Power Headquarters is sleek but not daunting.

I locate the imagery I was anticipating. The Dry Zone is empty. There’s an octogenarian in knee-high ugg boots. Near me is a skull completely covered in a curious tattoo and then, of course, I see his hairstyle opposite, Greg Anderson, whose locks, I suspect, will forever be 1990. While he was a fine footballer, his Vanilla Ice mullet should also enter various halls of fame.

A bar offers Point Nine beer by Pirate Life. It’s a ‘hop forward ultra-light.’ I ask for a 2007 grand final commemorative lager, the One Hundred and Nineteen, but they’ve sold out.

Unlike Glenelg home matches there’s no shrill, unrelenting music between quarters. Just a welcome chance to chat. Ducking into the Social Club it’s festooned in celebrated iconography. Ebert, the Williams family, Ginever. Unforgivably, no Bomber Clifford. This is a unified crowd, a mob who love their preacher, a bunch happy with their evangelism. Ambling about the ground the sense of community is indisputable.

Port’s in front all game courtesy of a five-goal opening stanza. The swirling breeze makes for scrappy footy punctuated by lightning bursts when one side gets clear. Glenelg’s not been in great form over the past month but has scrambled some last quarter escapes. While the Magpies get good service from some of their AFL types in Hartlett, Mayes and Woodcock they’re not the difference.

After seventeen consecutive wins, with all this significant history looming, Glenelg’s final minor round match is a loss at Alberton. But I’ve enjoyed an afternoon plunged in football culture.

However, and this really disappoints: I don’t spot a single duffle coat.

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August and Everything After

Quick! There’s only 113 shopping days until Christmas. Let’s make a list. Let’s all watch Love Actually every day between now and then! Let’s eat some rambutans. Let’s write a letter to every winner of Eurovision. Let’s write a poem as if we were a cat. Let’s pretend P!nk is good.

Here’s some photos I took in August.

We love Onkaparinga and ventured down into the gorge.
This West Beach sand graffiti is both innocent and menacing. It’s a symbol of modern life. Or just a picture done one Sunday morning by someone with a stick.
Mystery Pub was at the Historian. How curious that the wall-art depicts people in a pub. Post-modernism, dudes.
Remember that episode of Bear Grylls’ Man v Wild when he makes camp in the Barossa and survives only on mettwurst and big Shiraz?
At the Broady Claire silently recreated her favourite mime. More post-modernism.
Edging the lawn is an endless and futile attempt to control one’s inner and outer worlds.

Happy with our city car park. Number 157 would’ve been a psychological and logistical nightmare.

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Pub Review: Charlie Watts and the Ramsgate

Freshly painted like a Cunard ocean liner, the Ramsgate is a big, majestic seaside pub.

It puts me in mind of similarly white-washed beach-front boozers in Brighton, England and St Kilda in Melbourne. It’s Friday evening and Claire and I are about to dine with Nick and his wife, Chris.

Someone once observed that Glenelg’s Moseley Square is for kids and that you graduate to Henley Square as an adult. I’m not sure the demographics are quite this dichotomous, but it’s a curious thought. I feel lucky that we can enjoy both.

The barkeep speaks my language (a local dialect- Friday Night Thirsty), “We’ve imperial pints for $7.” This was welcome news indeed, but it troubles me that in our tiny colony we differentiate between pints (425ml) and imperial pints (568ml). Surely, a pint is a pint. And I, governor, vote for the big one. It’s like we’ve a South Australian minute that only runs for 45 seconds.

We’re shepherded to our table.

Port and the Bulldogs are playing on multiple screens. A few Januarys’ back Nick and I and some chaps booked lunch in the Ramsgate beer garden to watch the Sydney Test, only to discover that it was showing endless UFC fights. Unable to quickly get some neck tatts we slinked off to the front bar and the gentler magnetisms of cricket.

Nick and I’ve been mates since our Kapunda High days when we bonded over Skyhooks and the Stones’ 1981 album Tattoo You (predating UFC). Later came Midnight Oil and Dylan (for his 21st we gave him a book with the entire collected lyrics of his Bobness) and Nick Cave.

There’s sharing of family histories with ships departing from Hamburg mid-1800’s and Polish Hill and the Victorian goldrush. It’s a compelling privilege to hear the remarkable yarns tracing how you all came to be sitting at the same pub table on an August night. The waiter pays us three patient visits before we’ve decided on our tucker, such is the gusto of our yak. It’s a positive metric.

Claire and Chris finish their bubbles, so Nick asks for a Running with the Bulls Grenache, made in the Barossa. The wine’s Spanish narrative, I’m sure, is designed as a point of difference from the largely German motifs of the valley. Initially, it’s a little sharp but then softens, like a 1950’s hospital matron.

Nick and I have the first of our compulsory conversations about the Rolling Stones and again agree that “Gimme Shelter” is their finest song. I mention reading once of its opening being characterised by “apocalyptic dread” while Nick speaks in awe of Merry Clayton’s backing vocals, probably the most revered in music history.

War, children
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Given Charlie Watts’ passing days after our discussion this chat now seems a little haunted.

Claire enjoys her butter chicken while Chris and I each settle upon the lime-infused squid. There’s no audible complaining. Nick’s steak is delayed due to human error, which philosophically, I’d argue, is the only real type of error. Ultimately, he’s pleased with it.

There would seem to be Teal-flavoured human error aplenty on the big screens for at half-time in the footy Port’s only managed a solitary goal. The pub’s front door is shut so we can’t hear the yelping from Alberton.

It’s a prosperous and lively place, this Ramsgate and our night’s replete with conversation, cups and respectable nosh.

Tomorrow night’s a full moon. We stroll up the balmy, windless esplanade for a nightcap.

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Macbeth marks strongly but misses to the near side

How evocative to attend the Goodwood Theatre for a performance of Macbeth.

It’s a play I’ve been spellbound by since I was at school and studied it in Mrs Maloney’s class. When she was a teenager this small theatre is also where my wife Claire made her theatrical debut in Lola Montez but, Your Honour, to my continuing shame I have no recollection of this.

While I’d read and taught the Scottish play countless times, the recent realisation that I’d never seen it on stage startled me. The Goodwood stage was raked towards the audience at an alarming angle and was diamond-shaped. It made me concerned that the artistes might tumble onto the spectators and make us unwitting, additional victims of the supernatural bloodletting.

Our state premier Mr Steven Marshall took his seat just in front of us. Looking like a Kelvinator draped in shapeless black shade cloth, his personal security chap sat next to him. I decided to behave myself. Given the play is about civil mayhem and assassination it is surely tax deductible for all aspiring and upright politicians. I trust Mr Marshall kept his ticket stub. Regicide’s always in vogue.

The production was arresting and visceral and I since discovered an article which argued that in this most sinister of Shakespearean texts made notorious by words such as dagger, cauldron and weird the most unsettling word is the.

Best illustrated by this famous section as lady Macbeth urges her husband-

Your hand, your tongue. Look like th’ innocent flower,

But be the serpent under ’t.”

Academics argue that instead of using the generic a, the definite article the as in the serpent rather than a serpent implies an underlying idea, a lurking agency and invests it with greater menace and unknown symbolism.

*

Friday afternoon in the city and Claire led me by the hand along the harried streets as we evaded the suits and clots of yoof and e-scooters. I felt warm anticipation and the joy of unveiling surprise for it was the monthly moment of personally curated escape that is Mystery Pub.

Tucked away in an almost secreted nook The Historian is like a summery London boozer as the punters were a-throng outside and in. Squeezed in around a pillar on our stools there was pub clamour and buzzing bustle. I was reminded of Jordan in the Great Gatsby who remarked that she loved big parties because, “they’re so intimate.” Our conversation took on a conspiratorial quality and we could’ve been Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in isolated Dunsinane castle, save for the murderous scheming and horrific descent into lonely madness.

*

I took Alex and Max and their mates to the Glenelg v Centrals game Saturday and can report that the five of them saw upwards of five minutes of footy, collectively. This healthy apathy transported me back to Kapunda games as a kid when the match was often just a loose backdrop, a vague context that gave shape to the afternoon. What a marvellous fortune to be able to take in this beachside frivolity in the late winter. And kids under 18, are admitted free!

During the A grade when I was about ten I ran after my footy among the pine trees behind Freeling Oval and almost stepped on a snake catching some winter warmth. Heart a-pumpin’ I stopped and then like a lorry took a wide arc to snatch my Lyrebird footy. Again, Macbeth and its reptilian imagery comes to mind-

We have scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it.

She’ll close and be herself, whilst our poor malice

Remains in danger of her former tooth.

*

Our Sunday morning pattern is to take the dogs Buddy and Angel (Buddy and Angel does sound like a dreadful movie in which two unlikely LA cops solve a previously impenetrable crime and win grudging praise from the grumpy Chief of Police) down the beach for a scamper among other hounds and humans.

The winter storms have dumped giant mounds of seaweed over the sand. On the grey, swirling days I could almost sense the hideous witches from Macbeth huddled over a bubbling pot, described thus

By each at once her choppy finger laying

Upon her skinny lips: you should be women,

And yet your beards forbid me to interpret

That you are so.

It’s an invigorating and elemental way to begin a Sunday and the brisk air does us good and Angel, such a timid, delicate puppy, yelps with delight and leaps like a hare. She’s a beach dog, more Enid Blyton than The Bard.

*

My old school friend Chris, now splitting his time between Angaston (Ango) and Adelaide texted asking me of my Wednesday night plans. I replied, “What have you in mind?”

My phone buzzed with his clear wish- “Meat and three veg.”

So we took our meat and (limited to potato) veg at the Duke of Brunswick. Unlike the charmless beer barns of the anonymous suburbs this pub’s an inner-city delight. Warm, snug and with glowing lighting it invites talk of hometown mates and ancient bonds.

In my week of diverse gratefulness, this is another luminous episode.

While the Duke of Brunswick is well-named there’s other British pubs like the Ape and Apple, The Cat and Custard Pot Inn and The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn (try the ploughman’s lunch).

But I’d opt for the title given Macbeth just before he slays King Duncan-

              The Thane of Cawdor.

That’d be an apt boozer for a gloomy winter’s night.