0

At 5pm we drive around Lake Bonney and guess how many cars we’ll pass

My thong presses the accelerator as we pass the Bluebird Café and steer along Queen Elizabeth Drive with the lake on our left and a row of beige residences on our right. We see the besser block holiday unit I stayed in with Mum, Dad and my sister Jill when I was thirteen.

In that hot bedroom I played Hotel California over and over on my little cassette player when I wasn’t walking to and from Barwell Avenue and gazing in shops or drifting by the jetty just across from the town oval, home to the Barmera Roos.

We’ve decided upon the guessing order for the week and each must declare their prediction before we leave the town limits.

Max goes with his traditional low number. He’s already a student of the form, and gets us away with a crisp, ‘Three.’

Alex quickly declares, ‘Four’ and Claire participates with an optimistic, ‘Six.’

I then finish the formalities with what history tells us is an unlikely seven. All moving vehicles count, but we must pass them on the road itself before we get to the finish line. We call it the Lake Lap and it’s now in its third big season.

It’s a January afternoon and time for our daily tradition. Just before 5pm we coax the boys into the car from the jetty or the caravan park pool or their cabin chairs in front of the Test and alight in the pub drive-through where we negotiate our refreshments. A soft drink for the boys and a can of something serious for Claire. I get a Sparkling Ale. Alex says, “Dad, can we have some jerky too?”

‘No’ is my automatic reply, ‘you won’t eat your dinner.’ The protests begin. I then say to the drive-through attendant, ‘Can I leave the boys here with you for an hour?’

‘No’ comes his automatic reply. He’s a wizened, laconic type who looks like this job is to get him out of the house. ‘I should be immune to the noise. I’ve got eleven grand-kids.’

Easing through Barmera’s empty streets I note the bowls club and recall my first long-distance journey as a learner driver. It was 1983 and Dad had a tournament up here. In the green Ford Falcon I was legally limited to 80 kph, irritating a trailing and snarling V8. After a lengthy period he growled past me with horn blaring and outrage billowing from his twin exhausts. A mile or so later I saw a flashing blue light and the grumpy driver taking roadside receipt of a speeding fine. How I itched to honk my horn back at him, but this wouldn’t have done for a L-Plater with his Mum and Dad.

Lake Bonney’s shore is defended by dozens of dead gum trees and with the open road ahead we gather speed, but I keep to an unhurried ninety so we can better enjoy our circuit. Lonely caravans squat on the bank with their deck chairs and murmuring AM radio and late-afternoon mugs of strong tea. Above us is a soaring azure sky, and save for the mighty river and this lake we’re in a desert of scrub and sheep stations. There’s few vehicles on this section of the lap.

The radio’s on Triple J and the boys’ musical world is expanding along with their limbs so I introduce them to Tame Impala’s best album Innerspeaker and they enjoy the swirling psychedelic guitars. Is one of the selfish joys of parenthood inflicting your culture upon your offspring? Our other aural routine is Ben Folds’ Rocking the Suburbs on the way to Barmera, once we leave the Truro bakery and descend Accommodation Hill.

Drifting by the ruins at the Morgan Road intersection we then see Chambers Creek which feeds the lake’s 1700 hectares. To our right the road goes to the Overland Corner Hotel and it’s again changed hands, but is without a license until February and, of course, this is unbeknown to us on our Slim Dusty visit. Like many Murray landmarks it boasts a sign indicating the eye-widening 1956 flood level. No-one went thirsty back then.

More traffic is likely now and the current sedan score is only two so I tease with Dad comments like, “I can see a convoy of cars coming!” or “What if we pass the Hell’s Angels?” We pass the ubiquitous Pelican Point and its advertised Nudist Resort, but don’t call in as we’re overdressed. Along a fence there’s a teapot atop each of the strainer posts. With the bitumen curving about, vehicles might suddenly emerge as they make their way around the glittering lake.

After the ceaseless slog of parenting the boys as babies and toddlers they’re blossoming and rewarding company, and now choosing shared rather than solitary fun. Our daily Lake Lap represents this happy change, and I hope in years to come it’ll remain a keenly anticipated holiday routine and one they’ll discuss with affection and gentle mockery of their Dad.

Reaching the Sturt Highway today’s game concludes with Max again victorious. We’ll drive back to the cabin for a barbecue or to the Cobby Club for schnitzel night or maybe a swim in the parched, motionless evening.

2

Novel Review: Lament (a Ned Kelly story)

When Muhammed Ali opened the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta a commentator remarked that the former boxer was, ‘the most famous man in the world’, and safely on my beanbag in front of the box I scoffed at the notion before later deciding it was likely true. His deeds, both noble and otherwise, continue to generate their own global momentum, and with a mythic, omnipresent station in Australian life Ned Kelly makes a similar, albeit local, impact.

While I’m not a Kelly obsessive some contextual experiences include Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series which I first encountered at high school. These were intriguing and disturbing, and I knew there must be substantial reasons for the artist to complete 27 paintings on this subject although at seventeen I was naïve to their deeper reverberations. Around the turn of the millennium I read Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang and found it hypnotic, and I’m a huge admirer of Midnight Oil’s, ‘If Ned Kelly Was King’ (from their superb Place Without a Postcard) with its speculation on how our most iconic bushranger would handle modern multinationals.

With this literary and artistic baggage in hand I read Nicole Kelly’s Lament in this luxurious week between Christmas and New Year (this year’s ham intake has been down, oddly but healthily), and given the holiday freedom from tyrannical bosses that some of us are enjoying I’m sure Ned would’ve approved of my recreation. ‘Lament’ is a compelling text and the plot races along with the thrill and constant danger of an escaping bushranger’s stallion. The novel’s a balance of exterior action and, as a first person narrative, Ned’s acutely human interior. He’s also a charismatic leader of his gang

‘Pistols out, lads. Be ready for any bolters. We can’t have work out yet.’ I carry one in each hand. ‘We’re takin’ no prisoners. So give ‘em a warning and if there’s any movement, ye cut ‘em down, ye hear me?’ (Page 79)

The central purpose of ‘Lament’ is to wonder what might’ve happened if the Kelly Gang escaped Glenrowan, and this speculative fiction imagines how they hope to live once their bushranging days are done. So sympathetically, so abundantly does Nicole Kelly chaperone us into the private world of the central character that despite his inexcusable violence I found myself cheering for Ned, and his gang’s escape into happy, anonymous lives. As our narrator he observes carefully and with a native, attractive intellect

I warm to the two of them and it is her nickname, affectionately called, that confirms the great luck of my acquaintance with the couple. She’s another beautiful and formidable Kate within my life now. I think of my sister, who has always had my back. These people, so familiar and yet so strange, circling in my life. Surely, if I rely on a Kate, I am in good hands. (Page 146)

In this reimagining the character of Ettie gives symbolic and real agency to those frequently marginalised in this story of the marginalised. While it remains Ned’s version of events Ettie and other females like Anne Jones, the Glenrowan Inn proprietor, are given due prominence in this retelling and this is a strength of the writing.

Ned Kelly looms over our collective consciousness because, rightly or wrongly, he’s become the national embodiment of the themes of injustice and inevitable doom, but also love for family which have found forceful expression in this publication. With our sense of what it means to be Australian under heightened and probing scrutiny, this novel is most timely. I enjoyed my excursion into this historical domain of dark and light, and the chance to reflect upon a man who remains emblematic of much of our national identity.

Simultaneously of its time, but also distinctly modern in authorial attitude and style, Nicole Kelly has given us a new and welcome perspective on this infamous life.

Lament can be  purchased by contacting www.hawkeyebooks.com.au/lament/  or you can visit www.hawkeyebooks.com.au/nicole-kelly to contact her.

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Pub Review: The Windmill

A great man once said that every time you walk into a pub, there’s a story. As Dale Kerrigan would’ve narrated if he were me, “I’m Mickey Randall and this is my story.”

Suburbs like Port Adelaide, Norwood and North Adelaide are home to many pubs and geographers and historians and pissheads will happily bend your ear with a truckload of reasons for this. Prospect, just to the north of the city, is not one of these blessed locales.

However, fear not for it hosts the Windmill Hotel.

Our Kapunda group was slightly diminished in number, largely due, I suspect, to some not knowing the date. The week between Christmas and New Year can interrupt one’s sense of time, what with all the couch, all the cricket, all the Coopers.

We dine inside and not in the beer garden and this seems an accurate choice given that the garden is wholly cement and fake grass, and two of our party are drinking cider as if they’re elderly extras miscast in a Welsh coming-of-age movie. But, far be it for me to editorialise upon the refreshments of old friends.

I can report that the Windmill has a daily schnitzel special, offering these for only $10, as if it’s September, 2007 and Port is a very good chance against Geelong in the AFL grand final. While toppings such as gravy or parmi are extra this still represents tremendous value.

The meals are great and punctuated by talk of the cricket and local boy Travis Head who, we agree, has poor foot work and seems to make too many very handsome thirties. Discussion then moves to cars and more particularly four-wheel driving across various outback settings, and after a fashion I deftly move the subject to a topic with which I’m more familiar: neurosurgery and specifically neurosurgery as it pertains to the cerebrovascular system.

As Crackshot has recently moved to Prospect and indeed, lives around the corner, he suggests adjourning there for a mid-afternoon coffee. Once we’re there and enjoying our post-lunch lattes, Fats comments that, if he thinks about it deeply, this really is a disastrous state of affairs. “Coffee, Bah!” he almost spits across the immaculate stone bench-top. “Never mind”, I comfort him, “It’s OK.”

And it is for in early 2021 we have planned to go to Puffa’s, one of Kapunda’s iconic pubs, for a Saturday barbeque on the balcony.

There’ll be no coffee.*

Chip suffocation is the biggest killer of over-40s in this country

*No, we actually enjoyed our coffee and being hosted by Crackshot

0

The Bung Fritz Appreciation Society Handicap

As a fan of horse racing I love the mysteriously monikered Group 1 events such as the CF Orr Stakes, the LKS Mackinnon Stakes and of course, Eagle Farm’s JJ Atkins. These names evoke grainy Depression-era footage of black hats and long coats on heaving racetrack concourses, however contemporary classics are also of interest.

Summer hosts my favourite equine event, the soon to be time-honoured Members of Bung Fritz Appreciation Society Benchmark 60 Handicap over 1100 metres at the Gawler and Barossa Jockey Club. The track benefitted from a recent $15 million revamp and holds midweek and occasional weekend meetings.

Let’s be clear: fritz is not devon, strasburger, Belgium or polony. Named for the sheep intestine or bung this elite version comes in fetching orange skin although its qualities are far beyond Trumpian. With the continent of Australia now effectively eight independent nations these cultural and gastronomic divisions are set to broaden. Luncheon meats remain our key differentiator.

The Bung Fritz Appreciation Society formed back in the murky late-Howard era around 2006. Their patron is Denis ‘Father’ O’Malley and over the phone club stalwart Ian Millen explained that they assemble bi-monthly at local boozers such as the Lyndoch, the Greenock and the Freeling. When he told me the names of those from Kapunda who were members I was not surprised. The society has fielded requests to start local chapters in Alice Springs and Cairns. All have been denied. I understand that at their meetings they critique fritz and vote for the best in the annual Bung Off. This year Gumeracha Butchers triumphed. At the Christmas summit members sing, ‘Jingle Fritz’ which is based upon the lesser known and musically inferior, ‘Jingle Bells.’

First run in 2012 this fritzophiles sprint saw smallgoods fans gathered in a marquee with guest speaker and colourful former hoop Johnny Letts. Most wore the traditional bung fritz uniform which, of course, includes a Hawaiian shirt. Now, they enjoy the races in the new Wolf Blass Pavilion although I am unsure if Wolf himself made the journey trackside in his modest Rolls Royce. Mysticano won last year’s edition while maddening underachiever Two Odd Sox ran just outside the placegetters. The trifecta paid $510.

On Saturday January 23 if you’re camped in a front bar mid-afternoon and the screens shift to the next at Gawler keep an eye out as I’ll be there shouting and slapping the form guide into my bruised palm as in the Members of Bung Fritz Appreciation Society Benchmark 60 Handicap over 1100 metres my horse runs fourth.

2

To Alex, on finishing primary school

Dearest Alex

All of a sudden you’re about to start your final week of primary school! Over these years you’ve grown and learnt so much about the world and yourself. I want to tell you how proud I am of you.

You’re interested in the things around you and this constant curiosity is, and will be, a great asset. I’m sure it’ll help as you move through high school, and I like that you’ve been inquisitive about the following: Egypt, Mad as Hell, climbing Mount Everest with your friend Jan, using your bare hands (along with Max) to catch imaginary catfish at the bottom of the Valley Park pool just like Teddy from Mudcats, our adventure heroes in Bear Grylls and Russell Coight, cricket, the layout of your bedroom, and let’s not forget your developing if secret love for Vampire Weekend.

I like how you try so many activities and give your best to these. It’s also encouraging that when things don’t go so well that you’re able to accept this and look ahead. This resilience will help you as you move through secondary school and its challenges.

I’m pleased that you’ve taken up volleyball. It’s a great game and I can see that it’s given you much. That you’re in the state special talent program makes me happy as this means you’ll learn more about the skills and yourself. I hope it’ll be a sport you’ll enjoy for many, many years.

As someone who loves traditions it pleases me how you value these too such as watching the AFL grand final in The Taminga, sitting in the same spot on the grass at Glenelg matches and playing the car guessing game every day at 4pm as we do a slow lap of Lake Bonney. These rituals tell me that you value people and experiences and fun.

I know that you’ll make the most of your last few days at St Leonards and the celebrations at school and the surf club. It gladdens me that you understand how important these times are and especially appreciate being with your friends. Knowing where you are at a particular moment in life is important. So, take some photos and take your time to be polite and enthusiastic and grateful.

You’ll soon be at Brighton and in Year 8 and I know you’re going to do very well. Before then enjoy yourself and the summer ahead. I’m so proud of you. Signing off I’m sure you want to read these words from our old friend

I gained most of my vast knowledge of the outback from my father Russell Coight Snr, who taught me everything I know before he died from a combination of a self-inflicted axe wound, sunstroke, and snake-bite.

Love Dad

Xx

December 2020

6

Things I Like

That first glimpse of Lake Bonney in early January

Richard Ford’s The Sportwriter

Barbeque ignition

Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala

Clare Valley Riesling

The beach and jetty ruins at Port Willunga

9.55am ACDT on Boxing Day

Pushing open the door of The North Fitzroy Arms

Cool McCool

Tim Winton’s ear for dialogue and eye for nature

Vampire Weekend

Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

Bruce Dawe’s Suburban Lovers

The shotgun crack of an Adam Gilchrist six

The Glenelg North esplanade

Coopers sparkling ale

EH Holdens

The Big Lebowski

Annie Proulx

The guitar and keyboard solo on Father John Misty’s So I’m Growing Old On Magic Mountain

Bill Bryson’s self-deprecation

Glenelg Football Club

Shaun Micallef’s eyebrow

The menace of Keef’s guitar

Lake Wazzapamani

The Magpie and Stump pub

Kapunda High School’s croquet lawn

Allen de Botton’s The Art of Travel

Lana Del Ray

Group 1 racehorse and super stallion Snitzel

Clare Golf Club’s seventh hole

The Broadway’s beer garden

Frank Zappa

The Footy Almanac

Greg Chappell cricket hats

Garfish

Wichita Lineman

Triple J

humour in Courtney Barnett’s music

The architecture of Santiago Calatrava

Gideon Haigh’s cricket writing

The pause at the top of Shane Warne’s run up

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Belle and Sebastian’s delicate nostalgia

1998 Group Three Canterbury Cup winner Waikikamukau

Unexpected snow

The suggested intimacy in Josh Pyke’s lyrics

Paul McCartney’s boyish optimism

Three Little Bops

Blundstone boots

The Trip

Possessive apostrophes

Sonic Youth’s beautiful guitar noise

The DK Lillee statue outside the MCG’s Gate 1

Three D radio

Beauty and dread in Radiohead’s OK Computer

Bitches Brew by Miles Davis

Sea monkeys

Kapunda’s Prince of Wales pub

Dunlop volleys

The 1976 SANFL grand final

Paul Kelly’s evocations of summer

The Hammersmith & City Line

Frogger

Rose of Cimmaron by Poco when the banjo and harmonica emerge ever so quietly and briefly

Sizzletown

Wes Anderson’s shot composition

The Group 1 LKS MacKinnon Stakes

Don DeLillo

Championship Vinyl

Tim Lane’s commentary

Ljungbyhed

The sound of a bag of ice being dropped near an esky

2

24 Hours in Carrackalinga

When Claire, Trish and I were in Year 12 at Kapunda SA-FM had Triple Track weekends and these were organised by artist or theme.

I’m sure irony or satire were never playlist drivers at the fledgling radio station, as I don’t recall a ridiculous mid-70’s theme, but late Friday night in the upstairs lounge at Carrackalinga – after charades was done (with Claire in Eddie McGuire mode as both compare and a team captain), and the boys downstairs with Perchy the blue heeler being boys – for us there was dancing (OK, not all) and wine and nostalgia and laughter, and these three were played on Trisha’s phone-

S-S-Single Bed by Fox

The Way That You Do It by Pussyfoot

Jeans On by (Lord) David Dundas.

It was a moment of shared history and evoked a joyous time from our childhoods and cloaked the room in safety and deep privilege. Inside, it was warm and for a few hours just before midnight the outside world of lashing rain and lurking adult responsibilities ceased to matter.

I thought of the comfort of old friends and our forgiveness and acceptance, quiet encouragement and unspoken gifts to each other, given freely and often.

Saturday morning and we arose across a few languid hours and gently started our days, a bit like the characters in The Big Chill and as JB noted, each boy had cereal, slopped milk on the bench and table and then, of course, left the milk out. The fridge was too far away from them, an impossible bridge.

After Brett, Leonard, Alex, Riley, Oliver and I enjoyed a diverting quiz –

Who was the first Republican president?

Who performed “Waterloo Sunset?”

Where does port wine come from?

and then board games.

Some of us watched Muriel’s Wedding (Abba was a constant weekend companion) and then went to Myponga beach. It was invigorating and the tide swallowed much of the sand and just as we left the rain began. Riley and Max were in shorts and the apparent temperature was 4.9 degrees.

Thanks to JB, Leonard and Oliver for an excellent 24 hours in Carrackalinga.

On our way home it hailed as we drove through Sellicks Hill, but was warm in the car.

 

alex

Myponga beach

beach 2

boys mucking around on the beach and no-one gets wet!

beach

wintry beach a treat; as much seaweed as you can eat!

brett

Brett about to do his Michael Caine impersonation

charades 2

Claire and Max mid-charade, doubtless something equine

charades

the triumphant charade team

lounge

Saturday afternoon

max

Max

muriel

Saturday matinee: Muriel’s Wedding

sky

from the balcony looking south towards Yankalilla

0

Wednesday Schnitzel Club

If I really, really think about it Australians love schnitzels more than Germans.

This is a modern truth and the bitter border war between South Australia and Victoria over whether the cheese and tomato topping is parmi or parma shows the fierce affection in which this dish is held. Of course every linguist would tell you the abbreviated form of parmigiana is parmi.

Like the best traditions this one evolved without planning or strategy. One night Chrisso rang to see if I’d like to dine Wednesday evening at the Purple Parrot on Brighton Road (long gone) and it went from there as we asked other largely Kapunda High alumni to join us. Over four years we went to the pub 159 times and more often than not, had schnitzel.

We kept a 96 page exercise book (courtesy of Marryatville High) and took turns recording the details of these Wednesday nights. Here’s five entries from the diary.

7/5/97 Kensington Hotel Attendance- Nick, Mickey and Chris

  • a fantastic discovery. Somewhat secreted and little discussed but very good
  • Stout Season officially launched. Nick and Chris worked their way through a solid thicket of black n tans
  • impressive jukebox in the front bar- Dylam, Doors etc. No techno or dolphin-waxing shite
  • C and N had such a lovely time that they were unable to recollect next week’s venue

4/6/97 Brompton Park Attendance- Chris, Nick, Paul, Greg and Mickey

  • another gem
  • “no colours, patches, parrots or pirates”
  • good draught beer on tap
  • substantial schnitzels and Puggy’s frail, 98-pound weakling physique evoked considerable sympathy from the cook and so she force-fed him two schnitzels
  • local lads provided tunes via a jam session

27/5/98 Cumberland Arms, Waymouth Street Attendance- Stephen, Bobby, Nick, Mickey

  • Dean Jones has retired
  • Deano and cauliflower out; spinach and Potato Twins (chip + mash) in
  • crusty bread- played rodeo clown role- skilled, dangerous and highly valued but largely misunderstood and unappreciated
  • schnitzels were butchers’ gold- quite magnificent
  • innkeeper and stove staff were hospitable and jovial folk
  • Nick suggested a beer and video evening watching Slapshot

24/6/98 Producers Hotel Attendance- Bobby, Stephen, Nick, Mickey

  • false start as only breakfast and heroin for sale
  • moved to the Griffins Head
  • don’t touch it- couldn’t get a proper black n tan because inept management didn’t know how to handle the electronic cash register
  • 20 cents for tomato sauce
  • food average so adjourned to the Crown and Anchor to talk about Uncle Greg

21/8/98 British Hotel, North Adelaide Attendance- Bobby, Nick, Chrisso, Mickey, Woodsy, Lukey, RP, Crackshot, Stephen, Abba, GS Chappell

  • 100th pub visit
  • then went to the Exeter and PJ O’Briens
  • hint- pints of sparkling ale may be injurious to your health
  • adjourned to Club Dimora (Nick’s townhouse) for nightcaps, poopsticks, spa maintenance and a coma
  • called into the Austral at 11am for a quick beer (1 at 11, or 11 at 1)
  • retired hurt
2

Pub Review: Glorious in Excelsior, Today-o

In June I chronicled our first pub visit in 92 days, and now I describe our final pub experience for, well, dunno.

Back then it was at the Broady in Glenelg South, and on this occasion circumstances allowed us to swing by the Excelsior in the inner suburb of Brompton.

The government’s lunchtime press conference saw our lockdown outlined, and so, with a singular wish, we made a booking.

I’d last frequented the Excelsior about twenty years ago as part of a loose, but committed collective which attempted to visit every hotel in Adelaide under the cross of a Wednesday Schnitzel Club. Back then the pub’s interior design was Phantom-themed as in the ghost who walks, man who can not die. I’ve since discovered this connects to Marvel comics hero Stan Lee’s lifelong catchcry- excelsior.

Now, this motif has been retired and the pub is a little more anonymous with standard boozer carpet and taupe walls and a circa 1998 Triple M soundtrack. But, its location is trendy Coglin Street and the mise en scène as we alighted our cars was suggestive of Melbourne’s Fitzroy given the proximity to the CBD, and aspirational and artsy population.

The service was friendly and the staff were certainly approachable. There was no gloomy subtext which in their position would’ve been fair. Ordering a Big Shed American Ale the advice was, “It’s highly drinkable and quite fruity.”

Claire opted for an entrée of parmi (not parma) bread and this got our last supper underway in a fashion of which JC may have nodded his Neoplatonist approval. It was a warm evening, but C’s glass of red was both generous and pleasant in that luxurious, midweek way.

Despite the swirling uncertainty in our city-state the pub patrons appeared calm and accepting. Nearby, a family with three young girls coloured in their books in functional silence. Even their pigtails were cooperative, laying still on their narrow shoulders. Thinking of the boys at their age, I shuddered at the likely fiscal and psychological tolls of a similarly modest mealtime.

My beef burger was satisfactory although I’m constantly dismayed at the absence of beetroot in these. Surely, its inclusion is as Australian as pineapple on a Hawaiian pizza. My chips came in one of those petite wire baskets about which I have reservations. Still, they’re better than suffocating them beneath a schnitzel which must soon enjoy a Royal Commission.

Claire’s salad was plentiful and enjoyed. The roast capsicum, red onion, baby bocconcini, and bacon all played their roles like a young Meryl Streep, whatever this means.

Strolling out into the early evening a clot of lads was settling in for the night on their apartment balcony and judging by the hollering were each about five beers deep.

We were all on the cusp of lockdown, but I remember that excelsior means upward and I nodded to myself and glanced again at the balcony.

Their approach seemed impeccable.