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The 11.21 to Seaford, stopping all stations

With winter having fled north leaving sun and windless days behind Alex, Max and I ventured out for our third rail journey. The Seaford line heads from the city to the coast and then continues south over the dunes and through rolling foothills. It’s nearly forty kilometres long.

Beginning at the city’s new station, the vaguely subterranean Oaklands, we arrived at the terminus and stepped out into Sunday morning and circumnavigated a shopping centre with quite possibly the continent’s best Big W. Or worst, it’s difficult to analyse.

Homeward, we alighted at Brighton and strolled to Jetty Road and located an outside table at the Beach Pit. Our meals were well-priced, prompt and tasty. Mine came with a compulsory Sparkling Ale.

Three hours after departure we returned to Oaklands with talk of completing our series by taking the Gawler train in a few Saturdays’ time.

Yes, I thought to myself, the boys are now old enough to experience Womma.

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Oaklands Station

tree

Hallett Cove

windmill

Windmill attempting to make shopping centre less brutal

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Cute mosaic attempting to make shopping centre less brutal

pizza

Beach Pit

walking

To the station! For tomorrow we ride.

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Brighton Station

view

lazy Sunday afternoon

2

A Pretty Possessive Apostrophe

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What a joy this apostrophe is: so inclusive, so quietly assured

On this July afternoon when the sun has the pale sky to itself and warms our faces in that uplifting, a South Australian-winter’s-not-so-bad way, the boys and I were about to leave the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and make our boisterous path along the River Torrens to the North Terrace holiday apartment.

We’d had a fantastic morning in the 51-hectare public garden at the city’s north-east corner and I saw it, just by the Plane Tree Drive exit. Beyond the vertical and ascending letters I was struck by its many expressions of beauty.

It was the Friends’ Gate sign.

It’s named for the volunteer organisation, Friends of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide, who has supported the Adelaide, Mt Lofty, and Wittunga gardens since 1977. Community and enterprise of this scope are worth commemorating with a gate and declarative sign and my heart was gladdened.

My second reading of the sign was that it’s not only for this society, but also for all friends visiting the Botanic Gardens. It’s an expansive symbol for those past, present and future who have happened by this gate. To meet someone by the Friends’ Gate surely provides a welcoming and opportune reminder of the relationship you share.

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Botanic Gardens

What better way to begin an hour or so in a beloved’s company than with a smile and hug by this cosy sign?

I’m neither grammarian nor linguist, but simply love locating joy in words and the worlds they create, and so my subsequent reading of the sign focussed on the possessive apostrophe. I noted how visually diminutive it is but was alerted to its terrier conviction.

The apostrophe was instantly affirming and seemed to suggest everything enchanting about the time and place. As the sun hung in the midday heavens I found abundant delight in this gentle space in our mostly gentle city. It was almost a Russian doll effect: state; city; garden; sign. Although an artificial construct, there was punctuative beauty in this natural if manicured garden. I was spellbound.

Like most moments this apostrophe existed in a personal context. Telling Claire of it later she wondered if it might be exclusive and indicating a club for the privileged few. I suggested that I didn’t find it aggressive, but rather inclusive and quietly proud.

I later speculated if Mr John Richards, the 96-year-old founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society, might have also enjoyed the Friends’ Gate so much that it inspired him to reverse his recent decision to close down his very British organisation.

I also thought about the ‘greengrocer’s apostrophe’ – a phrase referring to the mistaken use of an apostrophe, in a plural noun such as ‘Cauliflower’s – two for a dollar!’ Of equal horror for some is the clanging absence of one, the prickly omission when confronted with a line like, ‘Tigers car window broken with 9-iron.’

The Friends’ Gate sign was certain and unhurried – if a punctuation mark can connote movement. I imagined it inspiring an acoustic Belle and Sebastian song with a sweetly soaring chorus, or a Bruce Dawe poem, all festive and tender awe and penned in a distant decade.

This possessive apostrophe stayed with me as we hiked behind the zoo and Adelaide Oval then grew in the west.

AM

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Adelaide’s North Terrace

It’s always excellent to explore your own city and so we booked into an apartment on North Terrace and scampered about for three days.

Day trips are fun, but staying overnight in the CBD invests the holiday with heightened excitement, and cloaks the cityscape with enchantment.

It was a trip of constant curiosity and we discussed the confronting Art Gallery exhibits and the giant squid in the Museum and ventured about the Botanic Gardens’ Conservatory. Claire took us on an impromptu tour of TAFE and the boys were quite taken with the enormous white-board pens (for use with the vision-impaired).

We speculated about the coins embedded in Rundle Street’s footpath and saw the bat colonies by the zoo and even watched 1980’s World Series cricket in our room.

Alex and Max increasingly embrace tradition so hopefully this can become an annual investigation.

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Botanic Gardens

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Absence Embodied: installation in the Art Gallery

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brotherly love

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balcony o’clock

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what a joy this apostrophe is: so inclusive, so quietly assured

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Pancake Kitchen

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my first visit since 1984

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looking south

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this painting enjoyed our scrutiny, if not admiration

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early morning

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arrival (not the ABBA album)

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North Terrace

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tour guide Max at the Botanic Gardens

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successful parenting

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Pub Review: The Greenock, Barossa Valley

greenock pub

Located on the north-west edge of the Barossa, Greenock was a town I typically ignored in my youth.

Coming from Kapunda for footy or cricket we’d drive through it in a minute on route to Nuri, Tanunda or Angaston. Sometimes, after a hot afternoon in the field you’d swing by the Greenock pub, five of you in an old Holden furnace (six in a HQ if it had a bench seat in the front), and each get a longneck in a brown paper bag for the meandering trip home.

Now, Greenock is a destination. There’s a handful of bright cellar-doors and the excellent Greenock Brewers, run by Chris and Lisa Higgins. Also chief among the attractions is the pub and on my annual June sabbatical I meet old school mate Nick there for lunch.

brewers

The local cricket club is nicknamed the Schlungers and their teams comprised an assortment of blokes usually called Nitschke. Playing at their home ground was often memorable, and one distant day my friend Bob’s bowling career came to a tragicomic and delayed death with an eighteen ball over (which only contained seven legal deliveries). Despite being an opponent he brought curious relevance to the GCC’s official prayer: Blessed are we who are cracked, for we shall let in the light.

Walking into the pub you instantly feel a sense of earthy relaxation with the curved wooden bar, fireplaces and dining rooms both spacious and snug. Given our reverent understanding of history Nick and I order Norton burgers, named for former mine host Norton Schulter who ran it for many years along with his son Mick. The Schulters have owned the pub for 150 years. Norton recently turned ninety.

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Norton (on left) a publican’s publican

We each nurse a Trafalgar Pale Ale and chat about times old and new; local footy and the AFL; Tarantino and the Stuttgart beer festival; Vampire Weekend and boys and utes and misbehaviour; family and love. Winemakers and farmers drift in. Outside, the world spins with blind delirium.

Decades ago Kapunda fielded an indoor cricket team on Thursday nights in Tanunda. Despite having some decent cricketers we were no match for the side filled with Schlungers and other Barossa notables like Horrie Moore who were so cocky they took to fancy dress. Once they whipped us while wearing rubber boots. Another time, in dresses. Humbled, we’d break up the despondent quarter-hour drive home by pausing at the Greenock for a healing cup and Fats would press C6 on the jukebox which was, “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis. Back then we were all caught in a trap.

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The Schlungers

For a while some pubs engaged in a pissing contest to see who could serve the biggest schnitzel and you’d often get one flopping off your plate the size of grandma’s best tea-towel. Now, the competition has moved from acreage to height and burgers and it’s all culinary architecture and perilous scaffolding and intimidating the diner into meekly deconstructing their meal in an act of surrender. Happily, no shallow displays of Freudian compensation in the Greenock today and we find our Norton burgers approachable, just like their eponymous inspiration.

And the chips are great too.

In this complex, unknowable time the Greenock pub is a sanctuary within the sanctuary of the Barossa within South Australia’s sanctuary. An easy amble from Adelaide, the pub and its unpretentious charms make this hamlet a terrific destination.

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Bongo, Crackshot, Fats, Lukey, Pete, Rocket, Swanny, Whitey, Woodsy and me

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“I’m Dale Kerrigan and this is my story.”

An undeniably great movie line as there’s a simplicity and a plain beauty in it. With this Australian cinematic classic in mind I begin today’s entry: I’m Michael Randall, and this is my pub story.

Among the first and most notable casualties of 2020 and its other-worldliness was the King’s Head pub in Adelaide on King William Street. It’s been our Kapunda catch-up venue for a few years now, but has succumbed to viruses both airborne and fiscal.

A temporary hosting hostlery has been found in the Holdy, a Glenelg pub formerly owned by the Chappells although I’m unsure if third sibling Trevor was involved. If he was I imagine he spent much time in the cellar as ordered by older brother Greg.

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After introductory cups and opening remarks there were lamb shanks (much better than Armitage Shanks and more easily digested) and schnitzels and nostalgia and laughter and medicinal refreshment. The wintry sun streamed in and caught our noggins, variously hirsute or not.

A late omission was old mucker Matey who had an excuse (sport shooting out north) and O’s, who did not (couch-bound). Still, we had an effervescent quorum and invested a diverting afternoon and some disposable income.

Regrettably, our luncheon coincided with the Crows game from Brisbane. Circumstance and fierce indifference meant I’d not seen a second of their already bleak season and that morning I’d vowed to not see any of it, preferring instead to wash my hair or scrub toilets.

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However, above my head like a drive-in movie screen (most memorably the Barossa Line near Tanunda) was an unavoidable TV and my eyes were drawn to it and the silent disaster unfolding.

But this was of only minor distress for we spoke of the sale of Puffa’s pub in Kapunda and the imminent local footy season (Bombers v Freeling up late July) and absent friends and ridiculous ephemera. And I’m sure, at some point of HQ Holdens, crashed and otherwise.

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When we began departing I shook the hand of Fats’ son Blake who was about to escort his dad home, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Lovely to see you. I blame your father for anything bad that’s ever happened to me.” Much giggling followed and I’m sure Fats will one day say something similar to my boys.

We tumbled out into the Sunday light and headed off by foot and car to our suburbs and homes and even Kapunda. We will do this again soon, likely at Christmas. The stories will not change.

I hope so.

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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.

 

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Myponga beach

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

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

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Brett about to do his Michael Caine impersonation

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Claire and Max mid-charade, doubtless something equine

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the triumphant charade team

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Saturday afternoon

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Max

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Saturday matinee: Muriel’s Wedding

sky

from the balcony looking south towards Yankalilla

3

48 Hours in Second Valley

With birthdays a week apart Claire and I take the intervening weekend to escape and the Fleurieu was the 2020 destination.

In the television series Travel Man host Richard Aoyade asks at the start of each episode after he and his guest arrive in a European city on a minibreak, “We’re here, but should we have come?”

Our accommodation at the Sea n Stars was modern, comfortable and boasting a singular beachy theme, complete with that most revered of local iconography, the seahorse.

Among the highlights were sitting outside the Willunga bakery in the affirming Friday sun; taking in the sunset over the ocean from our deck and as night took gentle hold discussing Bruce Dawe’s beautiful, “Suburban Lovers” and its line, “The stars now have flown up out of the east”; listening to Double J over our languid breakfast and newspapers, and Sunday morning’s historical walk about the old settlement.

So yes, Richard Aoyade, we should have come.

I give Second Valley 5 seahorses out of 5.

https://www.seanstars.com.au/

 

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A seaside cricket club is a joyous sight

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Looking out from our deck

house

blacksmith’s house

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Second Valley jetty

LL

the Fleurieu has long attracted romantics

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Rapid Bay, late Saturday

table

the Kalleske 2010 GSM a treat

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ever-vigilant local

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92 days

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On the kitchen wall is a calendar.

Despite phone reminders and pinging emails I like to write events and notes in its date boxes. Things like ‘Lunch with Mum and Dad’ or ‘electricity due’ or ‘flea powder’ (dogs not boys). In February I took my annual pleasure in adding all the Glenelg games and felt the frisson of the footy season stretching out like an endless holiday with its attendant joys and hopes.

But then, of course, it didn’t happen and now five of those home match-day reminders have been and gone, virtually crossed-off, and Saturdays have been soundless at Glenelg oval. No knots of punters making their way through the Cornes Gate and down to the Fred Phillis End or over to the grassy mound in front of the scoreboard, with the beer caravan staffed by past players nearby.

I’ve not really missed it for footy is a luxury. Happily for me other indulgences have moved into that space, like gas filling a vacuum. Like many I’m in a place without the traditional weekend markers and I’ve adapted.

This has been true of the pub too.

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The last time I was at the Broady was on Thursday, March 5 at 4.45. It was a calm autumnal afternoon when I met Mozz and Puggy in the beer garden and the sunlight slanted in through the frangipani tree to the glass-topped wine barrel by which we had our Coopers Session Ale.

Like many events of minor significance it was unidentified at time, and heading home I quickly dwelt upon the agreeable hour I’d had with two old mates. My thoughts were mostly of Sweden as Claire and I were flying there the next evening.

So, I’ve not really missed the pub either. Sure, I’m an enthusiast and promote the charms of my local with unwavering evangelism, but life has been full and fulfilling without it.

It’s been 92 days since my last visit and my sins have been multitudinous, if not luxurious. I look forward to a beer from a keg. With the curious exception of Coopers Sparkling Ale all beer is better this way. That’s at its best from a long neck.

Over the last week I’ve made a couple calls to the Broady to gauge how to construct a visit (there’ll be an app for this soon, no doubt). A casualty of our new world order is spontaneity. Swinging by the pub unannounced now belongs in a SBS history documentary (you know, after yet another on Hitler and his demise).

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Biomedical reasons require that our pub experience will be wholly at a table. Standing or getting a round at the bar are prohibited and my first-world, privileged self is pre-emptively mourning this.

Across the week Claire has repeatedly said, “But I’ve never seen you standing at the pub.”

“What if I want to? It’s my human right, like owning an iPhone. I stood at the pub only eight months ago.”

We’ll arrive around 4.27pm. We’re booked in.

I’m excited and strangely nervous.

pub 4

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The 10.21 to Belair, stopping all stations

It was eerily reminiscent of the 1980’s horror film When A Stranger Calls. The boys and I were at a sunny outside table finishing our pub lunch when with sharp urgency my phone rang.

We all jumped above our affordable and hearty plates and I looked at the screen: Belair Hotel.

Ashen-faced and putting my hand over the phone, I whispered to Alex and Max, “The call’s coming from inside the pub.” With quivering voice I answered and it was Lauren from the bistro wondering where we were. I explained that we were already at the pub, enjoying our lunch.

With wide, now watery eyes I wondered if I wasn’t having a Sixth Sense moment and that maybe we weren’t actually at the pub on a glorious Saturday. Maybe we weren’t anywhere.

Then Lauren from the bistro laughed it off maniacally, her voice chillingly distant, and saying that they were having troubles with their booking system in the first days after opening back up. But then she added in a barely audible murmur, “You are here, aren’t you?”

And then our cinematic episode concluded leaving the audience uneasy and wondering if my giant burger and the boys’ pizzas and my Uraidla Pale Ale pint was as agreeably refreshing and zesty as I’d thought.

Or if they even existed at all.

 

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While trees are inanimate boys are not

UP

Note the better class of graffiti

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On our way

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Built in the 1890’s for the huge recreational crowds

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Alex and Max improving their physical health, cognitive performance and psychological well-being by moving uncooperative branches

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After our 21 kilometre train trip our hike began

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Playford Lake

pub

 Adjacent to Glenalta train station the Belair pub offers paranormal family dining experiences

2

My Greg Chappell Hat

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“Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“Some hats can only be worn if you’re willing to be jaunty, to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a spring in your stride as if you’re only a step away from dancing. They demand a lot of you.”

Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

“You can never have too many good hats.”

Phil Klingberg, Kimba Cricket Club (1993)

*

On this gusty afternoon I’m on our patio writing. I’m just up the road from where the Chappell brothers attended St Leonards Primary School in the palindromic suburb of Glenelg.

It’s sitting on the table quietly, but has a full and boisterous past. Faded and frayed, on its front an emblem; two golden stalks of wheat embrace the acronym KCC. Kapunda Cricket Club. Down one side; the crowded loops of a celebrated signature.

It’s in its fourth decade. Mothers, wives and girlfriends, everyone, please look away now for it’s never been caught within twenty-two yards of a twin-tub.

It’s my Greg Chappell cricket hat.

*

I was at high school when the Kapunda Cricket Club distributed these hats in 1982. Cold Chisel had released Circus Animals, the Violent Femmes erupted with their eponymous debut, and the Eagles presented their second greatest hits album, meaning there were only forty-three such offerings to come (thus far). On average each Australian household now contains six separate versions of “Desperado.”

My hat was there as I featured in four losing grand final sides on the West Coast (South Australia, not California). This doesn’t bother me as cricket was always more social than showdown, and provided a fun, often protracted afternoon and post-afternoon structure to my Saturdays. I enjoyed the temperate rhythms, wit and mateship because if you played cricket with a chap, then bumping into him at Adelaide Oval guaranteed a happily frothy conversation.

How’d you go if you could face your own bowling? Would your eyes light up? Or would you cringe at the crease? Like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn attending their own funerals it’s delicious to ponder, but unattainable. I’d endured a poor season when I made more runs than I took wickets. And my bowling wasn’t fearsome. More Les Paterson, than Lenny Pascoe.

I’d my cricket hat with me when old mate R. Bowden and I flew to New Zealand for that shamefully compulsory rite of passage, the Contiki Tour. On the South Island we visited Fox Glacier, where our tour guide advised us to take a hat. Yes, a fox hat.

It was summer, however in the photo we’re huddled on the bitter, elevated tundra. I’m petrified as I’ve climbed many icy steps to the frozen plateau, but know in that nagging way going up is easy; it’s the coming back down which gets unpleasant. I didn’t want my distorted limbs, innards and freshly bloodied cricket hat sent back across the Tasman in a chilly bin.

*

Like any commendable cap it’s versatile. An enthusiastic but fabulously incoherent golfer, on a par four I can go from Greg Norman to Norman Bates to General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf (I’m assured he’d a hideous slice) in seven shots. I like to wear my Greg Chappell hat up and down, but more often, across the fairways, and remember a coach telling me, “You’ve got it arse-about. You hit a cricket ball in the air, and a golf ball along the ground.”

It was shielding my boofy face just before the change of millennium when, up the Riverland on the wonderful Waikerie golf course, I lipped out on the last. This would’ve given me a best-ever back nine of 39. The next morning at Renmark, sure I’d the sport sorted, I bludgeoned my way to, and swiftly beyond one hundred, like David Warner in a feisty frame of mind.

At Kimba playing Buckleboo during harvest an unspeakable northerly roared down the desert, blasting sand and flies and primordial horror. While umpiring in the reddish apocalypse a team-mate signed my hat with the names of West Indian cricketers Viv, Joel and Clive. He even spelt most of them adequately. But that was ages ago, and his ink is submerged beneath the yellowing cloth.

While we lived in Singapore my Greg Chappell hat spent three years in friendless and dark storage. How did I do this? Retrieving the hat from its tomb, I felt the antique brim, creased from its slumber, but still sturdy.

*

Now like a retiree forever doomed to two-fruit-and-ice-cream its solitary excursion is accompanying me and my Victa across our lawn. Given its unattractive capacity for making babies cry and dogs growl, my wife’s banished the hat from public appearances.

She’s right.

But on the backyard table it’s looking at me like Wilson the volleyball, from the Tom Hanks’ flick Cast Away. Later tonight with the wife and boys in bed I’ll continue to write and reflect over a Barossa shiraz, and when nobody’s peeking, I’ll stick it on my head.

I might even take a selfie.

 

Eagles