This was a worry. Can I help you? asked one of the three.
Claire patiently explained that we were here for a drink (possibly predictable for a bar) to which another of the three replied that they were closed for a private law firm function. My heart was gladdened. Law firms need a leg up.
Claire further explained that she had phoned the day before and was told that our brief and good-natured visit would be fine. Be great to see you, they said.
With that we all decided it would be best if Claire and I departed. So, we left the Treasury bar that will remain nameless. Afterall, in there they know lawyers.
The Hilton Hotel has sat by Victoria Square for forty years. Last I checked its bar was called Charlie’s, but the name seems to have disappeared.
The bar is not so much a dedicated room within the hotel but rather a commandeered chunk of the lobby. It’s spacious and host to big and low chairs and a large light fitting that, like all large light fittings, wants to be interesting and a conversation piece. Sadly, for it, it’s only functional and dull (in aesthetic heft, not wattage).
One of the beer taps is labelled 1837 which is a pale ale from Tanunda’s Rehn Bier. Being permanently beer-curious, I order one. Veering across the brown carpet (a tragic phrase, even in 1977) we claim a spot.
I then learn that at this precise moment friends are at the Rehn Brewery in Tanunda and Mozz is also sampling the 1837. I announce to Claire that this is surely another Pina Colada moment. Of course, it’s not but I’m addicted to the song and applying this malapropism whenever there’s a vague coincidence.
Tellingly, I’m not into yoga and I have half a brain.
We then spend time, as we often do, speculating upon the backstory of Kath Day-Knight. Did she ever have a job? If her first husband Gary Poole was such a rogue, how did she end up with a house? What is it with the speed reading?
I have a second 1837 (does this make 3674?) and Claire has a glass of red. We speak of other matters, not including: Japanese constitutional law, Schrödinger’s cat, the discography of Pink.
The year’s penultimate Mystery Pub clocks in under an hour, but is a vibrant affair, what with the estimable atmosphere of the CBD.
At no point do we wonder how the legal firm private function is going just up the road at the Treasury.
Annie and Bazz came to Kimba in 1993. Back then the school’s principal was a man called Whitington. The kids, and I think it was Blue Woolford’s idea, nicknamed him King George.
I remember the musicals Annie pioneered and the huge contribution of these to both the students and the community. I fondly recall No Ill Feeling and Grease and we thank her for every production. That a small school could stage these regularly is representative of Annie’s vision and passion.
At Kimba no.2 for cricket, I first met Bazz. Later that day I made 100, or maybe it was 3. I can’t quite remember. Bazz introduced himself by saying, ‘I prefer Vivaldi’s String Concertos in C Major. How about you?’ I replied, ‘On these matters I’m an E Major man.’ Here’s what actually happened: Bazz offered me a beer. Being a dedicated athlete, I declined. And with that we established the fundamental loving dynamic of our relationship.
The homes of Annie and Bazz are warm, fun and places of immense generosity, and these times are among my favourite memories. For countless people you made their Kimba lives rewarding and joyous.
Your retirement to Moonta is richly deserved, and for you we’re tremendously excited. We know you’ll enjoy it. My advice is to always think of this parable. A young boy asks, “Dad, can you tell me what’s an eclipse?’ The father replies, ‘No sun.’
Driving for over four hours, dodging roos and road-trains, I fell into a schooner at 8pm. A hike from Kimba where I was living, it’s always great to come home to Kapunda for a weekend. Of course, I’d driven straight to the pub.
There was a warm reception.
“Hello, West Coast smack-head,” said mine host. It’d been a couple months since I’d popped my head in the door. He continued. “Are you still driving that dopey sports car?” And finally, “Gee, you’re getting fat, Mickey.”
Welcome to the Prince of Wales hotel, run with affection by our gruff publican Peter “Puffa” Jansen.
But the curt comments were really like warm handshakes. This was Puffa’s way. His was an inclusive environment: no-one was spared and barbs were part of the boisterous charm. To not be insulted would’ve been offensive.
In 1989 Mikey Swann, Paul Hansberry (son of Roger who was a regular in here), Bobby Bowden, Greg Mennie and I hired a VN Commodore wagon and drove, sometimes legally, to Brisbane for three weeks. We set off from the Prince of Wales. Ever the benefactor Puffa said, “I’ve seen you blokes drive. Here you yo-yo’s, take my radar detector. It’ll save you a few bucks. Just bring me back a carton of that new Powers beer.” On our way across New South Wales the detector beeped frequently. When it did those who were awake or sober or driving or maybe even all three would chorus, ‘Thank you Puffa!’
Puffa loved a bet. It was but one way he nurtured the pub’s community. Behind his bar, up on the wall, next to the clock, was a bunch of beer coasters on which the wagers were scribbled. He once said to me just after Christmas, “Don’t worry about the Sydney Test. It’ll be a draw. It’ll be rained out.”
I’d seen the forecast, so saw my chance. I retorted, “I reckon it’ll stay dry.”
Puffa then growled, “I’ll give you 4 to 1 that it won’t rain. Easy money for me, you yo-yo!”
So early in the new year, Fanie de Villiers (and what a splendid name that is) bowled South Africa to victory in a rare rain-free Sydney Test. Puffa took down my coaster and I enjoyed his cash briefly, before donating it in yet another spoofy final. This was representative of the abundant life in the Prince of Wales.
One Sunday afternoon I was introduced to the English public-school tradition of spoofy. It only requires three coins. But, if you lose, it results in significantly more fiscal investment, especially if there are six or seven of you in a roaring circle. How terrific would it be if they struck some commemorative spoofy coins? With Whitey on one side and Goose on the other? The world spoofy championships should be held in Puffa’s and I can hear the voices now: Good call. Eight! Thank you very much. And in the grand final telecast to a global audience of three billion a voice shrieks: Yes! Your buy, dickhead!
It’s a cosy pub like you might stumble across in the English countryside. It functions as an extension of your lounge room and this is how we are expected to behave. About the bar are nine black-topped stools. How tremendous is the beautiful, old pub fridge with timber doors and those ancient door handles?
Chief among its attractions is a clear-minded rejection of pokies, thumping music, and other distractions. The Prince is dedicated to conversation and companionship. Puffa advocated for these, and much more. His generous, fun and always unforgettable legacy means this pub, his pub, remains one of my favourite places on the planet.
One notable afternoon in Puffa’s we watched the unparalleled 1989 Grand Final between Geelong and Hawthorn. It was packed. Over by the fireplace was a boxy old Rank Arena tele, and we willed on Ablett the Elder before the clock ran out for the Cats.
And now, dear friends, the clock has run out on a most magnificent era.
It’s been 38 years. We thank Linda, Puffa, Tolly and everyone who’s ever poured a beer in the Prince of Wales. Enjoy your evening.
The engine’s both idling and roaring in the passive/aggressive way I associate with a Greyhound bus. Closing in, and the sight of it is evocative.
For me an interstate bus often prompts cinematic images of youthful dreams but also broken hearts. Making my way into the Coober Pedy morning I wonder about the passengers and their reasons for travel.
Above the windshield the destination says Alice Springs.
Minutes earlier I clicked the door of my Mud Hut motel room, eased onto St Nicholas Street and then veered north. Hutchinson Street is the main thoroughfare. I’m keen to explore.
It’s raining, and the day is lightening quickly. I’m almost a thousand kilometres nearer to the equator so the sun dashes up and down the sky more urgently, and with less languid theatre. Long, slanting solar routines belong in the sentimental south.
A sign directs worshippers towards the Underground Catholic Church of St Peter and St Paul. Its subterranean neighbours are an opal buyer and a backpackers’ hostel. I guess religious visitors pray for glistening gems to come to them before diving into a musty bunk.
John’s Pizza Bar then appears under the showering sky. My daybreak run is also initial research for Wednesday evening’s dinner. The building’s a low, forgettable rectangle and scurrying past I decide to seek a more distinctive local experience.
Above the red and blue Ampol servo a nightclub called Red Sands occupies the second story. I suspect the swingin’ hotspot’s no more, but I’m happy to be astonished. Playing cricket at Wudinna a frequent joke while fielding was, ‘What time’s the Minnipa disco start?’ The reply: What time can you get there?
With water already pooling by the pavement The Desert Cave materializes in the west. Above ground, it’s self-pleased and swaggering. I speculate if tourists are seduced into submission by its machismo. But the optimistic architectural view is that it’s illustrative of continuing faith in the community, a symbol declaring this town will endure, and we challenge you to discover why.
Lurching along by the kangaroo orphanage, the rain beats a pulsing tattoo on the tin roofs. Puddles and mud now smear the good earth. The desert isn’t as thirsty as I would’ve thought and like a surly child the ground almost seems to refuse the water.
Suddenly, a drive-in theatre! The huge steely screen hangs over the lunar landscape. Initially noting the absence of the iconic speaker poles I remember that cars now tune their radio to a low-powered FM signal. Shutting for a decade from the mid-80s, funds were then raised to digitise. An utter triumph, it’s the state’s only surviving example, and runs every Saturday from 8.30 until summer pushes everyone and their nostalgia back underground. I’d love to see Jaws there.
Turning back up the main road I pass a garage with its iron doors flung up. A couple of cars have already nosed into their respective bays. I hear a radio. Overhead lights press out into the lifting murk. There’s a mound of discarded tyres, and gluggy smells of oil and diesel cling thick.
Trotting homeward, a ute slides by me, its window down. I catch a glimpse of a goatee and lime-green vest as a miner teases me, ‘If you’ve got that much energy, then come and dig a hole!’
The following morning near the Opal Inn Salon Bar the same ute slows and the same miner hollers, ‘If you grab a shovel you won’t have to bother running!’
I laugh and encourage him. ‘Check with me again tomorrow!’
Obviously, professional basketball appeals to teenage boys.
Ridiculously over-sized men doing ridiculously physical things with a ball and to each other. This all happens on a ridiculously under-sized court which appears to be the dimensions of a suburban shower cubicle.
How could this not appeal?
When I was seventeen some mates and I were all obsessed with basketball and more particularly the NBA, the professional American competition.
A match was televised on Sunday mornings and we’d all watch and discuss it that afternoon and at school during the week. It was my first real experience with sport that wasn’t Australian. Magic Johnson, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving were the big names and being adolescent I was seduced by their skill and their seemingly exotic names.
The teams and their locations were also mesmerising: Boston and the Celtics, Philadelphia and the 76ers, and Los Angeles and the Lakers. Given their rivalry, LA and Boston games were always the highlight.
So, I’m pleased and entirely unsurprised that Max, now gangly and twelve and curious about his expanding world, is besotted by the NBA. In his room he has about six basketballs, all arranged at the foot of his bed in a brown-orange pyramid. If he’s not playing the game during or after school, he’s in his room watching it online or talking about it to his brother Alex or me.
He loves the Brooklyn Nets.
With their New York City hipster-borough aesthetic this is probably the team I’d support if I were his age. Indigenous star Patty Mills plays for them as do some of Max’s favourites in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Australian export Ben Simmons is also on the roster but is currently spending much time on the bench, fouling out frequently.
Brooklyn’s a bit far to go during term time so I offered to take Max to the Adelaide 36ers and New Zealand Breakers match. He accepted.
It was my first time at a professional basketball match too. I’d been to footy, soccer, rugby league, golf, and cricket but not the hoops.
It was great.
We sat midcourt (not far from where Alex and I were at the Tame Impala concert a few nights’ previous) and it was engrossing, ridiculous fun. In his attempts to encourage our ownership, the courtside announcer often insisted, ‘Your Sixers.’ Max and I spoke of the implied ownership in the second person pronoun, ‘your.’ He gets it. As always, we’re being sold stuff.
Cricket’s Big Bash League has borrowed extensively from basketball’s entertainment formula. Merciless noise, music, lights, quick gimmicks and silly crowd participation. The curmudgeon in me tried to resist but couldn’t. It was harmless, sugary distraction.
And why not on a Friday night?
Max commentated throughout. He has the language and the technical insight. His vocabulary even seemed taken from Brooklyn with its streetwise, vaguely combative terminology.
An odd rite then occurred. Whenever the Breakers would earn shots from the free-throw line a mysterious ritual took place. Resulting, I imagine, from a weird sponsorship deal, the kids in the crowd began chanting.
‘Hungry Jacks! Hungry Jacks!’
Now, I wasn’t sure if hearing this was supposed to inspire or distract or scare the opponents with the thought that they might be force-fed a whopper, or, heaven forbid, a yumbo?
‘Hungry Jacks! Hungry Jacks!’
Maybe, I wondered, if they missed, the kid who yelled loudest would receive their (meagre) body weight in cheeseburgers or Baconators? This, of course, would likely condemn them to a life without any hope of being a professional basketballer.
But still they chanted.
Half-time at the merchandise stall I offered Max a hat or singlet but at his request bought him yet another basketball. Can you have too many? I’m probably guilty of having an excess of checked shirts in my wardrobe.
Using his surname as inspiration we adopted Craig Randall as a home team favourite while Antonius Cleveland also found our affection. The seven-foot Korean centre, Kai Sotto, impressed us with his dunking and gentle athleticism.
Despite the fuzzy etymology of The Breakers, they whopped us by thirty points. We turned the ball over too often and our Kiwi competitors made the most of their three-pointers, but it mattered little to us.
On our way home Max talked excitedly. I reckon we both won.
It was among the multiple victims of the pandemic but finally happened last Wednesday and was wholly exhilarating.
A reliable personal measure of the deep impact of an art experience is if it remains with me days later, and this occurred with my first viewing of Pulp Fiction and when I read Jonathan Franzen’s tour de force, The Corrections.
It has certainly been true for Tame Impala’s Rushium concert. It’s dominated my thoughts since, and I’ve had the Spotify concert list on repeat all weekend.
Alex and I had seats to the left of stage, and we could see over the crowded mosh pit. This attracted him. I then told him how a mate missed a large chunk of a Big Day Out as he was getting stitched up at hospital following a flying elbow in the Wayville mosh. Deciding to stay with me he saw my point which is good. I always have a point.
Kevin Parker’s music is inspired by the psychedelia of the sixties and seventies with its swirling, cosmic guitars and keyboards while there’s also a distinctive science fiction angle. Despite these key elements it’s timeless and seemingly autobiographical.
Like many of my age I was disappointed when on the 2015 album Currents he exchanged the guitar for the keyboard as his major instrument of expression. However, Parker’s sense of melody is peerless, and he builds songs which at once are simple and complex but always compelling.
There were many highlights and ‘Elephant’ was one when the confetti canons burst into dazzling, mesmerising life. I remember first hearing this song at my desk in Singapore and streaming Seattle’s KEXP (local radio remains untreatably dreadful). I was sure John Lennon was singing but the music seemed too modern. I was delighted to hear it back-announced as Tame Impala.
Sharing our excitement during the eighteen-song set I reflected on how music is now truly intergenerational. How great that my fourteen-year-old and I could genuinely enjoy this together and it not be something than one or the other must simply tolerate?
In the 1950’s rock belonged exclusively to the kids with the unrelenting despair of their parents and now music is accessible to all. It’d be easy to attribute this solely to the Internet, but I think it’s probably knottier than this. Either way it’s excellent and I’m also pleased that Alex plays jazz icon Miles Davis when taking his (ridiculously lengthy) showers.
Our night was not just about the music. It was a complete show and a massive lighting rig, like the spacecraft from Close Encounters of The Third Kind was suspended above the band. It was lowered and set spinning in a way that was thrilling and almost menacing too. The scale of the effects with video screen and laser show made the event colossal and cinematic. Alex captured much of it on his phone.
The setlist was sequenced magnificently with tracks from The Slow Rush dominating. I would’ve loved for Innerspeaker to have featured beyond the solitary tune, ‘Runway, Houses, City, Clouds’ with its soaring and extended guitar solo, but I understand that the bulk of the audience were there for the recent releases. The kids can’t be ignored! I especially loved two songs from Lonerism in “Mind Mischief’ and ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ with their spacey vocals and rising rhythms.
It was a great night and I was so jubilant that I bought Alex a t-shirt although I wasn’t sufficiently euphoric to consent to $90 Tame Impala tracky dacks.
I remember Eringa; majestic, homely, inspirational Eringa; our Eringa.
I remember English in the library and Geography in a bedroom and History in the maids’ chambers and Ag with Mr. Stephen Booth in a cellar.
I remember individual school photos in the foyer and given we were teenagers, everybody, absolutely everybody looked ghastly because we had inescapably horrific haircuts.
I remember the lone palm tree on the front lawn by the basketball court and thinking how glamorous and evocative it was of a tropical paradise.
I remember not getting out much as a kid.
Hello, I’m Michael Randall and I’m proud to have attended Kapunda High School from which I matriculated in 1983.
I remember there was no canteen and students dashed after the Masters’ bakery lunch van by the changerooms and before it screeched to a halt fought like crows on a carcass to grab the rear door handles and be first in line.
I remember then wondering what was the greater danger for these van chasers: getting run over, or devouring two pies with sauce, a coke, and a Kitchener bun?
I remember the Year 9 bushwalking camp which finished with two nights at the Pines but eating all of my scroggin before we left the school gates. Okay, just the chocolate. Thanks Mum.
I remember each term finishing with a social at the Parish Hall on Crase Street where we played spin the bottle, heard ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ way too often, did the Military Two-Step to ‘Eight Days a Week’ by the Beatles, and always, always had the last dance to ‘Hotel California.’ Indeed, as the Eagles said, you can check out of Kapunda High any time you like, but you can never leave.
I remember in Year 12 our infinitely lovely English teacher Mrs Mary Schultz chaperoning us through the novels of John Steinbeck and the poetry of GMH – no, not An Ode to a Clapped-Out Commodore – but the Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manly Hopkins.
I remember an annual staff versus students footy match when in the middle of a pack a sharp yet widely noticed punch landed on a student’s jaw. Of course, the nameless umpire – who could have been a Ryan – yelled an ironic, ‘Play on!’ If a tribunal now met, the defendant might be allowed to lace up his boots in 2025, decades after his retirement from teaching.
I remember our Year 11 Careers trip and staying at the Goodwood Orphanage. At 4am one morning under Mr. Paul McCarthy’s watchful eye we went to the East End Markets to learn about zucchinis. After, it was time for breakfast. Being led through the front bar of the Producers Hotel towards the dining room we saw all sorts of supernatural faces who either hadn’t quite left the previous night or who’d caught the early bus in to make a start on their dawn Hock. But we’d gone on an official school excursion to the pub! Before sunrise! How great was this?
I remember innovations like vertical homegroups in which Years 8, 9, 10 and 11 were banded together as a happy family or depending on the students, like Yatala inmates.
I remember the PE teacher Mr. Geoff Schell leading the daily fitness revolution starring the Health Hustle which means if I now hear ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’ or Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ I involuntarily slide on a pair of Adidas Mexico shorts and launch into some dreadfully uncoordinated star jumps. Of course, this is especially tricky if I’m driving.
I remember the compulsory wearing of a tie and needing to be careful with it in Tech Studies and over the stove in Home Ec. so you didn’t end up in hospital or worse: on the front page of both the Herald and the Leader, doubtless with your name misspelt in exotic and embarrassing ways.
I remember the Moreton Bay Figs by the oval which remain among my favourite trees.
I remember the yearly tradition of Charities Week when classes were suspended, and it was all about fun and fund-raising with go-carts on the tennis court and the Animal House-inspired Toga Tavern and emerging all dusty and dirty of face from the Ghost Tunnel which ran under Eringa and so, so many jars of guess the number of jellybeans.
I remember swimming carnivals and the awesome sight of our History teacher Mr. Michael Krips annihilating everybody in the staff and students race by doing a length of the pool in about six relaxed but massive strokes of freestyle.
I remember at the end of the day getting a ride to the primary school on Rexy Draper’s Hamilton bus to save me a longer walk home.
I remember the anticipation for school magazines and getting these signed during the last week of the year by classmates and teachers. Here’s an extract from the 1981 edition: Kapunda competed in Division 2 of the Interschool Swimming competition against Eudunda and Burra. Kapunda was not very successful at all. The Juniors and Seniors came third. We only had two first places for the night, Leanne Noack in butterfly and backstroke. On behalf of everyone here, thank you Leanne.
I remember a Freeling student baking a cake in Home Ec and being told by Mrs. Wendy Trinne that he’d forgotten to include an egg, so what did our pupil do? He flung down the oven door and just on top of the nearly done sponge cracked open one large bum nut.
I remember staff and students cricket matches, when batting at the Gundry’s Hill end, the occasion would finally arrive, and a certain teacher would flick it off middle stump, over the spotty fielders, over the boundary, over the school fence, over West Terrace, over the dusty footpath, over a neighbour’s front yard, and onto the roof of a white-washed cottage. Like a depth charge in a submarine movie. We all waited for it. He always delivered.
I remember PE classes doing archery on the oval.
I remember sitting in the Art Room and the roof rattling with arrows from a PE class doing archery on the oval.
I remember having a lunchtime disagreement on the croquet lawn with a Year 12 classmate when at the height of our quarrel, to her delight and my dismay, onto the slender shoulder of my grey Midford school shirt a passing bird dropped a warm, yoghurt-like blob.
I remember losing that argument to my dear friend Trisha Helbers.
But I remember my joy in April of last year when on that very same croquet lawn I married my wife Claire.
I remember being scared on my first day in Year 8 and in Year 12 being sad on my last.
I remember hearing a teacher interviewed on the radio years ago and the announcer saying thank you because you create lives.
And I remember thinking how very true this is for those of us fortunate enough to attend Kapunda High School.
Setting off in Kurralta Park, six kilometres from the Colley Reserve rotunda gave me ample opportunity to dwell on my joyous present and varied and wide past.
Ambling towards Glenelg over the following 36 minutes I did just that.
I was paid up for my first City Bay fun run since 1994, and this alone represented a triumph. Although I was only entered in the six-kilometre event and not the full twelve I was keen to participate and prove things to myself. But a week out I suffered an avulsion fracture in my foot which is when a flake of bone attached to a ligament is pulled away from the joint.
I was disappointed and that this happened at our Port Elliot townhouse on my annual writing retreat dampened the celebratory mood. Slipping on the bottom rung of the darkened staircase following three generous glasses of shiraz, I knew I should’ve gone the merlot.
Shiraz can be shameless.
So, ever supportive and kind, Claire suggested I do the City Bay fun run when I’d recovered. Five weeks later, this morning at 11.50 by Anzac Highway, and across from Australia’s best K Mart (no, really) my lovely wife said, ‘3, 2, 1, go!’
Like Forrest Gump, I was RUNNING! It was no leisurely jog to the beach and back. It was my own private event with the attendant excitement and exhilarating occasion.
Heading down the Anzac Highway footpath past the homes and shops and pubs I felt deep gratitude (especially when I didn’t go in the execrable Highway Inn). I wondered about the groups of lads I passed ambling down to the Morphettville racecourse. An Indian man was then easing local council how to vote pamphlets into letterboxes outside a big block of cream units. He cheerfully ignored me.
A biker roared through the traffic, his chopper adorned with ghastly yet tremendous wood-panelling, and with his stereo blasting. Speakers installed on motorbikes is always noteworthy and just a little bit funny. I couldn’t identify the music due to the car noise but the funky, yet laconic bass suggested Talking Heads. Puffing along, I inwardly nodded approval.
I was making pretty good time. In 1994 during my last City Bay, when I was non-grey and non-chubby, I had on the Swatch watch I’d bought duty-free on the way to New Zealand’s Contiki Tour the previous summer. Being on the youthful side of thirty and boosted by adrenalin I ran my first six kilometres in 24 minutes! In 2022, I knew this was beyond me however I remembered to be kind to myself. As the Dalai Lama says, ‘Kindness is my religion.’ He knows a few things, our Dalai.
Today my pace was more leisurely, but I had much more for which to be grateful. There was a cooling breeze and cloudy sky as friendly company. Just by the racecourse I felt a wave of nostalgia for the faded, sometimes vexed previous decades and renewed appreciation for where I was at this exact moment.
Indeed, I have the three ingredients for happiness: something to do, something to look forward to, and most vitally, someone to love. Arriving at the next intersection I again got the run of the lights and scampering across (this might be a generous description) was now in Glenelg East.
It was going well, and my sense of joy was percolating nicely. He’s deeply flawed but as American Beauty‘s Lester Burnham says when he’s on the verge of physical reinvention: ‘But you know what? It’s never too late to get it back.’
With the grass of Colley Terrace beneath my Brooks running shoes I peered anxiously ahead at the rotunda. It appeared deserted and my bespoke City Bay fun run was nearly done.
All about me people were easing into their Saturday afternoons by the beach and for the first time in decades I’d easily run a reasonable distance. I hoped this would be a symbol of capacity, of happy future surprise and of the rich possibilities of life, well-contemplated and favourably executed.
My run complete I effected the rotunda stairs (mercifully this time without incident) and Claire was waving some fizzing sparklers, just for me.
Weather permitting I take my workday lunch on a bench. It’s a chance for some fresh air and sunlight but is devoid of ceremony and any broader meaning. It’s entirely functional and that’s fine. Across the calendar other meals are invested with ritual and expectation.
Lunch at the pub on the October long weekend is one of those. It’s among my favourite occasions of the year. It’s about tradition and nostalgia with people who knew you when you were young and ridiculous.
Mozz and Kath had organised a small bus and driven it from Pinnaroo. Named the ‘Okey Chokey’ payment takes the form of whisky. Rattling into the pub carpark at noon there were already eight or ten vehicles, almost all large, lumbering 4WD.
The pub is the oldest in the Riverland (est. 1858) and is close and low of ceiling which gives it an intimate, historical atmosphere, completely unlike modern, suburban taverns that possess less charisma than a K Mart. Whitewashed walls add to this ambience. None of our party had been to the pub previously and this was a rare first.
Our table was on the expansive front deck and this was also hosting a 50th party. Just as our meals arrived so did the guest of honour and the cheers and her reaction made it clear that it was all a surprise. I hope they enjoyed their celebration.
Mozz and I each assembled a personal betting portfolio for the day courtesy of the in-pub TAB and I must report that both of these were wildly, spectacularly unsuccessful. But even this, given the afternoon’s deeper magic, was a triumph. A horse I’d selected is called ‘The Astrologist’ and it ran fourth. Surely, if it was any type of fortune-teller, it would’ve seen this coming and scratched itself that morning, saving both equine animal and sad human some heartache.
Claire had a local red from Burk Salter and as a cabernet merlot it was acceptable if not spectacular. The beers were cold and fresh and that’s as simple and complicated as they should really be.
Our meals were mixed with the boys having meat-lovers’ pizza that was pretty good and my beef schnitzel was excellent and although I was initially disappointed with the portion of chips a quick phone call to my heart surgeon confirmed that this was not, indeed, a bad thing.
We had spoken around the kitchen table the night before of the cultural and social significance of pea and corn salad. At country cricket clubs across the country Thursday night, post-training barbeques would witness an oversupply of these, lovingly organised and presented in blue ice-cream containers by multiple late-order batting bachelors.
Imagine our shared joy when my lunch arrived with this green and gold nourishment. It was a culinary highlight. I doubt a salad has ever been received with such communal delight. I’m pleased I gave peas (and corn) a chance.
Claire and I popped back into the dining room to chat again with Kapunda folk R. Lewis and P and A. Schultz about their weekend at the shack and the forthcoming Kapunda High School celebration of one hundred years of Sir Sidney Kidman’s bequeathing of ‘Eringa’ to the education department.
Then it was time for ‘Okey Chokey’ to be steered back home via the agricultural, frequently pot-holed route through Morgan. We had a balcony and a riverbank and an obligation to commence some serious relaxing.
Early in the week I was thrilled to be invited to participate in the annual AFL grand final haiku event run by fellow Footy Almanacker Rob Scott from his Melbourne bunker.
Haiku is the Japanese poetry from which, translated into English, consists of three lines of five syllables, then seven and finishing with five. Traditionally, it centres on natural imagery often involving seasonal change.
As such it lends itself well to the theatre and agony of footy.
Across the week and then on Saturday dozens of poets contributed. It was fun to read and also write and offered structure and interest in what was otherwise a game devoid of appeal for me.
So, we had lunch during which I ran out of barbeque gas part way through cooking it. I love when people say, ‘I was part way through cooking the barbie and I ran outta gas.’ How else would this happen? Do folks turn on their barbeques, forget to pop some chops on the hotplate and just let it run until the gas splutters out?
As you know we love rituals such as attending the SANFL grand final, hiking in the Onkaparinga National Park, and when on our annual trip to Barmera completing a late-afternoon lap of Lake Bonney. Rituals celebrate our past and give excitement and shape to our future.
But among these there’s been Wednesday nights watching Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell.
I had long enjoyed it and reckon you were about ten when you first joined me on the lounge. As one of the show’s characters (probably played by Tosh Greenslade in a wig and glasses) may have said, ‘Shaun, you’re never too young (not even at fourteen like you) to be introduced to searing political satire and viciously sharp comedic writing and acting in this bumbling, endlessly self-parodying nation of ours.’
I loved how you’d laugh about the characters who’d feature in that week’s episode. You’d often do your own impersonation of them, such as the Daily Telegraph’s sub-editor Chris Lorax with his pathetic defence of his ‘lamentable puns’ when he feebly says, ‘It’s just a bit of fun’ or at the close of a sketch as the fantastic Sir Bobo Gargle would holler, ‘Release the Kraken!’ or the traffic reporter in the helicopter would say, ‘I’m Lois Price for Mad As Hell.’
All of this you got which pleases me hugely. I think a sense of humour and keen awareness of human frailty are vital and already you have these in ample proportion. I loved how we’d laugh at the same jokes, at the same absurdities such as Darius Horsham, chomping on his cigar and scalding the host by saying, ‘Shaun, don’t be an economic girly-man.’
In anticipating the next episode you’d wonder aloud if there’d be another caricature of a BBC nature documentary such as the Polyamorous Self Pleasuring Gastropods of Bolivia or this one-
We’d also look forward to the increasingly surreal and self-referential spoof of Enid Swink. Your appreciation of the ridiculous was obvious when we’d laugh uncontrollably as the characters would attack each other with the lightening that’d come from out of their fingers. Among our favourite moments was Swink: Origin with all that the title alone says about the shamelessness of the rubbish that Hollywood is trying to sell us.
But you’re alert to this.
It’s an indicator of how significant Mad As Hell is for us that watching the news or driving around and hearing mention of the current Opposition Leader you’d immediately go into character of the spokesperson Brion Pegmatite and mutter the name, ‘Peter’ in that sneering, villainous way that was his Voldemort-like signature. He and the man that inspired him really do find it difficult to show empathy, compassion, or joy.
So, beyond the thirty minutes of mutual fun this provided I can tell that the show has given you much as a thinker and writer, an emerging citizen, and a talented drama student. It’s been a joy to share it with you.
It’s sad that it’s finished but as we know one of Micallef’s exquisite skills is his sense of timing and this is probably another example.
I know there’ll be more rituals to come for us, and I look forward to seeing what these might be.
Thanks to the ABC for both the show and these images.
Claire indicated (always the preferred option) and swung our car into a narrow park next to that most generic of suburban motors, the Barina. We were on Gouger Street but on the western side of that boisterous, gastronomically-celebrated thoroughfare.
I had no idea where we were heading for winter’s final instalment (spring commences on September 22 as per the astronomical seasons) of Mystery Pub which, of course, is central to the concept. There was more puzzlement than an episode of Scooby Doo, set in an abandoned amusement park.
The bar/brewery/distillery/restaurant etc is located in a former warehouse with multiple rooms and an outdoor area. Despite the cavernous interior there was a cosiness. Adjacent to the bar is a Millard caravan and Claire and I spoke of this being Glenn McGrath’s first and best nickname, given to him when he lived in one as an aspiring young cricketer, down from the bush. The caravan was clearly a successful conversation starter and I anticipated circumnavigating the continent in our retirement and every single night for two years setting up our van in say, Wollongong, and without fail, telling Claire this cricketing factoid.
Claire had a pinot noir served in the now compulsory giant glass. If these continue to expand in volume Friday’s plonk will need to come with a yellow-shirted lifeguard. I had the pilsner and being five o’clock on a Friday, my enthusiasm compensated for its lack of crispness. A kindly man gave us his chair so we moved camp away from the door and the pesky (like the kids of the aforementioned Scooby Doo and especially Velma) late afternoon sun.
A generous crowd was assembling and they appeared to be in buoyant attitude. They matched our demographic and I wondered where the young folk were. And almost immediately, I didn’t care.
We dissected our days and spoke of our weekend. I was eager to get home and play my new (old) Jose Feliciano vinyl featuring the greatest cover of all time (alright, top 43) in ‘Light My Fire.’
Claire ordered another pinot noir and purchased me a pale ale, made on premises and cooked in one of the copper vats I saw near the caravan. Although there was initial disappointment that there were no chips (crisps for those playing along in the UK) we knew this was actually a good thing. The menu advertised ‘Viking Burgers’ but a recent blood test and medical discussion suggested I needed to reduce my consumption of Scandinavian seafaring warriors, so we declined.
A window behind us revealed a large room with DJ decks out the front. I imagined a late-night rave with impossibly youthful types dancing their evenings (and mornings) away whilst temporarily forgetting the global housing crisis.
Back at our car on Gouger Street the Barina had fled.
It’s a snaking and demanding ribbon of tar from Glenelg to Goolwa along and across the Hills and between the vines until the great arc of the Southern Ocean appears like a pale blue relief.
It was supposed to pour down but instead just spat with appalled apathy on my Korean car’s bonnet. I’ve the best part of three days overlooking Knight’s Beach to write and think and read for which I’m enormously grateful.
But I need to open my holiday with a sausage roll, as one should.
My now annual writing retreat is largely predicated on nostalgia and other investigations of the past so exiting the Southern Expressway and ignoring the radio I push in a CD on my hugely old-school car stereo.
The Eagles accompany me on my trip down to the gushing, green Fleurieu. Although my tiny brain is prejudiced happily to the past, I reckon they stand up well. It’d be easy to mock them as symbols of 70’s American excess but the songs and the musicianship are peerless. Eagles Live was enormous in my youth, and it might’ve had the be-jesus overdubbed out of it, but ‘Seven Bridges Road’ and its climbing harmonies still arrest me.
The Goolwa Bakery is located on a side street, and I was instantly smitten by the cosy interior. Some modern bakeries tend towards supermarket dimensions, to their consequent detriment. The atmosphere was also buoyed by a fishbowl in TV, sitting on a table near the door, as it always is in a rural baked goods emporium.
Ordering my $5 sausage roll my thoughts meandered towards Pulp Fiction’s Mia Wallace and her famous $5 shake, a speciality at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. Initially expressing disbelief Vincent Vega then takes a socially inappropriate sip and exclaims that it’s a ‘pretty expletive good milkshake!’
And so it was with my sausage roll.
Claiming a chair on the early afternoon footpath and withdrawing (careful now) the lunch from its brown bag it appeared as a freshly busted hunk of axe handle in both girth and approximation.
My first bite met with peppery whiffs and pleasantry. There was flaky, tasty pastry and it wasn’t sweaty which the medically alert among you will know is the biggest killer of over 55’s in this antipodean country.
Looking about my environs I note that the bakery shares premises with the Goolwa Health Centre and hope that all the kiddies reading now grasp the attendant irony.
The woman serving the baked grub was effervescent if somewhat resigned; I wondered about her life but not for long.
Munching on I was acutely aware of my enormous privilege as I was soon to drive to my beach accommodation. I’d be on a balcony with long, glorious hours in front of me.
Five quick minutes later I’d finished my lunch, scanned the surroundings, and pointed my motor west.
The Goolwa Bakery is over a century old. They know how to craft a sausage roll.
I’m unsure but they might even serve them (sauce if required) with ‘pink champagne on ice’ in the Hotel California.
In the dim belly of the Adelaide railway station a smiling, high vis attendant asked, ‘Are you good? Going to the show?’
The boys and I scurried past, en route to Platform 7. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘We’re off to Womma.’
I doubt he hears that often.
During winter of 2020 we completed the other three Adelaide rail journeys- Noarlunga, Outer Harbor and Belair. With the Gawler Rail Electrification Project (GREP) now done we had our final trip to make.
For train station aficionados this northerly line includes a maximum of 27 stops.
Along the soursobbing way we saw soccer near Kudla; a mattress factory; bemused sheep; Costco and we might’ve alighted if we’d suddenly required 47 kilos of chicken wings. The rail yards flashed by; long snakes of rolling stock paused outside the window.
I suspect the last time I went through Womma on the train was at 7 in the morning on the way to an Australia Day one-dayer in the 1980’s. We would’ve risen in the hot dark and en convoy of HQ Holdens, made our way to Gawler with chairs and eskies and towelling hats and gallons of Reef oil (skin cancer was yet to be discovered). Some in our unruly throng (you know who you are) likely had a couple discreet Southwarks in transit.
Lunch was in a shopping centre adjacent to the station. The boys all agreed that it was the best sushi they’d (or probably anybody’d) ever had in Gawler.
The return leg was express from Dry Creek and this is always welcome. We crawled through the lovely North Adelaide station which now houses a quiet cafe. We shared our carriage with people who seemed to be heading to the Show.
There were pylons; tall dormant chimneys; substations; eruptions of misplaced townhouses.
The project cost 842 million dollars although as near as I could sympathetically tell, Womma was still Womma.
‘After an afternoon on Brighton Pier they’d all race off for a feed of scampi,’ I remarked to my wife. We were discussing Brighton, the East Sussex version. Not the Adelaide or even the Melbourne suburb.
‘What is scampi?’ she asked, not unreasonably.
I paused and considered. ‘Fishy stuff. Crumbed.’ Piscatorial insights have never been in my (fishing boat) wheelhouse.
Claire was not about to accept such an enfeebled reply. ‘Right, but what is it exactly?’
‘Err,’ I mumbled. ‘Dunno. Scampi is just scampi.’
I gave up and opened my phone. Dublin Bay Prawn or Norway Lobster. Not only these but it’s also a ‘seafood delicacy,’ I volunteered.
The Largs Pier is a place to ponder big questions such as this. Even non-gastronomic ones. My wife, Claire and I were here for our monthly Mystery Pub excursion. It was my choice. I had an aged Sparkling Ale in front of me and Claire had a brandy.
We had wandered through the pub. It’s regal and opulent with high ceilings and views out into the flat gulf. There’s a restaurant and another bar named Dixon’s (being the middle name of Jimmy Barnes, the main screamer for Cold Chisel). It’s a popular wedding venue too.
Big question #2 then emerged as contemplating our current context I took my turn to quiz Claire. ‘What’s the difference between a jetty and a pier?’ Our relaxing hour in the pub was transmogrifying into an episode of It’s Academic. We should’ve worn our Kapunda High School blazers. That may have prompted comment from strangers.
I explored the question. ‘So, why isn’t this the Largs Jetty Hotel? And why isn’t the Glenelg pub called the Pier?’
Claire had an answer. ‘I think a pier has entertainments on it like rides and stalls and assorted amusements.’ I’m unsure why she responded in a grammatical style reminiscent of a Wikipedia entry.
‘Right,’ I nodded. Who knew that going to the pub could be so instructive? I vowed to do this again soon. Perhaps I should keep the drinks receipts and use them at tax time as a self-education deduction.
The wintry sunset slanted in across our table and outside under the wide veranda, some young tradies were making an enthusiastic start to their weekend. Dotted about the pub, faux 1920’s artworks gave the place an appropriately jaunty, seaside atmosphere.
Our second and final round of drinks included a Pirate Life South Coast Pale Ale or PLSCPA, as nobody abbreviates it. It was crisp and confident, while Claire had a white wine of indeterminant variety and style but she didn’t seem to mind. We didn’t want our visit to suffer from too much information.
The Largs Pier (Jetty) Hotel is an arresting, grand old esplanade boozer. It has mobs of beers on tap and offers a wide menu.