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Adelaide v Greater Western Sydney: Junior and the Meat Tray

 

happy hour.png

In this increasingly fractious world of dilemma and doubt, is there anything better for the soul than winning a meat tray?

Of course not.

About a month back some dear friends moved house. They’re in the same suburb but now are but a tranquil walk to the pub so for the previous three Fridays have invested a lazy hour to finish their week.

This experience is augmented by that lustrous concept: The Happy Hour. Their tavern runs a ripper with cheap drinks, free barbeque and a variety of prizes including that most enigmatic of trophies- the meat tray.

Around 7pm for the last three weeks our phones have pinged that they’ve won a meat tray. Last week they won two. They must be the only family in Australia to go to the pub and come home in an improved financial position. Astonishing. They’re butchering the local butcher.

I spoke with Paul last night before they headed off to their beef-themed El Dorado, to offer some pre-emptive support for that inconceivable day, when they promenade homeward, empty-handed. I’m well qualified.

Rushing out his door Paul added, “I saw young Crow Wayne Milera Junior there last week.”

*

Beyond loin chops, this got me thinking about a team of Juniors. Here we go-

 

Junior Wells                Clint Eastwood, Jr      Junior Murray[1]

Robert Downey, Jr      Junior Murvin[2]             Marlon Brando, Jr

Robert De Niro, Jr[3]     Martin Luther King, Jr Dale Earnhardt, Jr

Floyd Mayweather, Jr Sammy Davis, Jr[4]       Hayden Button, Jr

Harry Connick, Jr        JR Ewing, Jr               Teddy Witten, Jr

Rucks

JFK, Jr                         Mark Waugh[5]              Junior Seau

Interchange

Ray Parker, Jr[6]           Mickey Rourke, Jr      (only two on the bench, as it should be)

meat tray

I’m in our meat tray-less home ready for the Crows and Giants. Still, I could be in Canberra, bedecked in singlet and thongs.

Josh Jenkins, the Crow who’s more maligned than a mushroom schnitzel, hoofs one and goals, but the Giants respond immediately. It’s a breeze-less, crisp evening in the capital and with the apparent temperature already at -1 the Crows’ hamstrings are nervous.

Both sides trade majors. There seems to be a good crowd in tonight. I guess Lucky Grills isn’t playing Mooseheads Bar this evening. Alliterative forward Harry Himmelberg sets up another score for the locals. So far, the contest is strangely subdued and even hyperventilating commentator Luke Darcy is struggling for hyperbole.

We take the lead but in the shadows of the quarter time post, to mix an arena of sporting metaphors, Tex and Eddie have amassed one possession between them. This is expressive of our season which, somehow, is arithmetically alive.

Having been curiously if welcomely invisible Razor Ray moves himself to centre stage and calls a ludicrous score review. His twitter followers count goes from six to four. During the break I let the dogs out and the Siberian blast makes me delighted I’m not at Manuka where I guess Zooper Dooper sales are slow.

The greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world dream matchup of Keath on Keeffe is yet to eventuate and the second term coasts on until Betts grabs an errant spoil and doofs it through. Before they call the police, I let the dogs back in who show their appreciation by promptly falling asleep.

As Crow Lachy Murphy glides another home I think of our meat tray friends who, I imagine, are recreating a Mongol victory feast. The Giants are bogged and lacking their brisk movement. The ball seems to be slicing prodigiously through the frosty air but then it pings out and Cameron soccers it to the good and the game remains tight.

At half-time I reflect that the match has been subdued and devoid of spectacle. But it’s close and I expect an animated finish. I wander outside and instantly detect barbecue smoke and aroma. Although half a city away, I know exactly the source of this meat tray indulgence. It’s cruel and I console myself with some more tepid eggplant dip.

Razor opens the action with an unplumbed deliberate call against Brodie Smith. As an Irish nun I once knew said, “He’s difficult to love, that Razor.” The Himmelberg disaster gets one and the Giants reclaim the advantage.

ray

They put on three, briskly and I consider muting the telecast and turning on Sammy Davis, Jr.

In a moment that must’ve been orchestrated by a bug-eyed alien, GWS register a clear behind which is then reviewed despite it being a postcode away from the point post. Brain-freeze, methinks.

After an exuberant tackle that’s likely to allow Tex to get to Kuta early, the Crows peg one back. And then Bryce Gibbs steers it through the frozen poles to make it less than a kick. But, Hopper bursts clear and goals and it’s the locals by a couple.

Bonar grabs yet another but this time converts and there’s a canyon opening up in front of the Crows. Cameron and Keath engage in some Greco-Roman wrestling which naturally is paid against the visitor. Luke Darcy reminds us for the nineteenth time that GWS have won their last eight at this ground.

Northern Adelaide meat tray aficionado Wayne Milera Junior is again lively and evasive and this final quarter’s compelling. In what could be season-concluding Adelaide gets a trio of gettable minor scores and Shaw is taken off in the golf buggy.

Milera is then taken without the ball in a way that’s illegal even in Alabama but Razor’s pea is untroubled. Another Crow behind. The clock and our campaign are ticking away. Hopper’s score confirms what we’ve all known.

Adelaide’s (well) done and GWS are a (prime) cut above most.

SDJ

 

[1] Love a Windies ‘keeper

[2] On the strength of “How to Make Gravy”, of course

[3] Could bring some Rhys-Jones unpredictability

[4] I’m assured he could also play tall

[5] sorry

[6] He ain’t afraid of no ghost

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I’ve not left the house in four days

m and r

In May, 1991 I collected the ball on the half-forward flank at Cleve Oval, lifted my eyes goalward and ran.

Or, attempted to run, as an opponent tackled me and stomped on my right foot, accidently. A man of bellowing mirth, and ample girth, he was not inaccurately nicknamed Gut.

I’m unsure of the physics, but am certain mass, force, and pressure all rushed together unthinkingly and briefly as elemental energies do and broke my metatarsal and phalange.

I stopped like the coyote hitting a painted-on tunnel the roadrunner has just disappeared down.

My internal headline was

Gut mashes foot

In my new job I had to take a bunch of kids to Adelaide in about a month and needed to upgrade my licence, so later that night, hobbling about my weatherboard home, I rang my dear friend Gareth to say Sunday’s bus-driving lesson about the noiseless, wide streets of Kimba was off.

Crutches came and went, I got my bus licence for the surprisingly agile, if boxy Toyota Coaster, the Adelaide trip happened and I played footy a month or so later.

I forgot about my foot.

*

Not long after Max was born in 2010 I jogged through Moseley Square one afternoon and returning home my foot had a secret, invisible steam iron pressed to it, as if it was a GAZMAN shirt on job interview morning. It was searing and burning and as tender as expensive mince.

A few weeks later sitting in a medical clinic the doctor peered at the x-ray and asked, “Have you ever broken your foot?”

“Yeah. In 1991. Playing footy. A big bloke stepped on it.” I supplied extra detail. The doctor looked interested. “His name was Gut.”

Comparing my extremity to a formerly wayward chook, she then commented, “I’m afraid your foot’s now coming home to roost.”

*

Last Friday just after seven Kerry took me to Noarlunga Hospital. It’s a low, flat building that seems like it belongs in the Riverland, or on the Sunshine Coast near a surf club.

In a small office I met with the anaesthesiologist. He suggested a local would be fine but offered a general too.

On Family Feud a team captain will sometimes blurt, “Play!” before Grant Denyer has closed his overly tiny mouth.

With even quicker speed I yapped, “General.” I didn’t even glance at my family.

crutch

Subconsciously informed by my previous Australian operating theatre experience this decision was supersonic. Alex was born by emergency Caesarean section at Flinders Hospital and I was there, sat and chaperoned on a stool by Kerry’s head.

A blue sheet shielded me from the birthing action, but on the ceiling a large mirror reflected everything. I didn’t want to faint, so I didn’t look at that mirror, that all-seeing mirror, like Indiana Jones when the face-melting evil spirits fly about after the Ark of the Covenant is opened by the galactically stupid Nazis.

So, yes, I didn’t wish to unintentionally catch a glimpse of my filleted toe, or an electric saw, or a mallet.

I had no wish to spectate.

And yes, I’m comparing a Caesarean section with minor foot surgery.

I’m sorry.

*

I’ve not left the house in four days.

I thought I’d spend time watching old DVDs like Goodfellas or The Royal Tenenbaums but I’ve barely turned on the TV. Daytime viewing is beyond grim with the exception of Judge Judy who cuts through the nonsense quicker than a salt-and-pepper deputy principal, or a New Jersey detective.

Instead, I’ve had my foot elevated over the couch-arm like a languid teenager (with a decidedly unyouthful hoof) while I’ve re-read the Lay of the Land from the Frank Bascombe series by Richard Ford and luxuriated in its finely-observed narration.

When this middle-aged introspection was settling too heavy upon my solitary soul, I listened to a podcast featuring Merrick and Rosso, the former Triple J (and Nova) radio duo for whom there’s still enormous affection, twenty years on. They reminisced about Tight Arse Tuesday and Choice Bro TAFE, and I laughed like a pirate.

*

It’s been good to shut out the world a while. No work, No driving. The weather only glimpsed out the window in a second-hand, oddly-removed way.

Some quiet.

Tomorrow, I’m back to the hospital for a post-operative appointment.

My recovery’s going well, and I’ll soon be back, not on a half-forward flank, but out of the house, and in the world, with a foot that’s good for a few more decades of stroll and grunt and run.

gut.png

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Kapunda captures King’s Head cup-house

pub photo

It’s fair to suggest that nostalgia can often interfere with the truth. This might be why I convinced myself that our destination had a certain mystique, a mythology all of its own that would reveal itself through a grand, weaving story.

Christmas a couple years’ back Chrisso texted from near New Orleans that he’d tell me the reason for this venue when he returned.

I could hardly wait, and some months later when we caught up I asked, in a rather formal, yet compact sentence, “So, why is the Kapunda boys biannual reunion held at the King’s Head pub on King William Street?”

I was looking forward to his complex and engaging narrative.

“Because it’s on the tram line.”

“That’s it?”

“Yep.”

Oh.

*

Last Friday on yet another unseasonably warm evening not quite twenty of us descended upon this ripping old-school boozer to share tales and to laugh and to stir and, above all, to connect.

boys 3

We gathered in the cosy front bar at a large wooden table. It seemed that there were travel yarns to tell. Where you been, somebody asked.

Crackshot replied, “An eight-week odyssey through Western Australia.” Anecdotes followed.

Chris offered, “I had a week at various resorts in Fiji.” Crisp yarns were shared.

“And what of you Mickey?” somebody, possibly Puggy, asked.

“Mannum.”

Oh.

*

We prefer the King’s Head as it’s fiercely South Australian. Some would say, the KG of the pub scene. There’s only local drinks and food available. Not a Carlton Draught or Moreton Bay Bug in sight. It’s a point of difference.

As is the complete absence of TAB, and wide screens with footy, racing and darts glaring out across the punters. It’s a refreshing change and means you must immerse yourself in the company and conversation.

It could be described as a place where you can enjoy a pub holiday.

We do.

There’s a sparkling galaxy of beers on tap including brash youngsters Pirate Life, Mismatch and equine Hills star, Prancing Pony. A volley of correspondence earlier in the week created a bubbling anticipation for Kapunda chap, Chris Higgins’ Greenock Brewers Victorville Ale. An app confirms this.

But we’re a week too early. The Greenock beer is not on. It’s a disappointment but doesn’t seem to decelerate our eagerness.

Around seven a grinning group of old muckers rolls through the doors like oranges. Whitey, Woodsy, O’s and Dames present themselves. Our ensemble is complete with beers and handshakes and schnitzel and warmth and reminisces; some keenly remembered and some forgotten.

boys4

So, there’s Lukey, Puggy, Crackshot, Matey, Rus, Bongo, Schultzy, Bobby, Nick, Whitey, Woodsy, O’s, Dames, Fats, Swanny, Chrisso, and Mickey.

Happily, just about everyone has a nickname. It’d be a shame for somebody to miss out.

Shortly after Nick tells us one of his favourite stories. By then, we’ve already dealt with the famous night at the West Torrens Cricket Club in 1986. Former Torrens opening bowler Rocket is an apology tonight given he’s in New Zealand, bro.

Nick continues, “Years ago at a U2 concert, Bono started clapping, slowly and deliberately.” He clapped too, to emphasise his point. Nick likes a story.

“Bono said, ‘Every time I clap, an African child dies.’”

“Somebody in the crowd then yelled out, ‘Well, stop fcuking clapping then.’”

*

Without being previously aware we’d also lobbed into the King’s Head on the night when a DJ was playing 1980’s electro/ synthesiser/ new wave music.

boys 1

Normally this would make me change the radio station quicker than an Ali jab, and reach for the sick bag but the combination of Coopers and friendship and ridiculous memories makes it fun. I recall

Blancmange’s “Living on the Ceiling”
Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?”
Flock of Seagull’s “I Ran”
Pete Shelley’s “Homosapien”
Visage’s “Fade to Gray” and the gold medallist
Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.”

Maybe that we were all at school for some part of the eighties invests this music with involuntary affection for our shared past.

Or maybe it’s the beer.

*

It’s another terrific evening and a great chance to connect and strengthen our community. It’s also a tradition. I do like a tradition.

However, when Nick and Fats and I wander out of the neighbouring La Trattoria, post-pizza and red wine, the trams had stopped for the night. Ubers were urgently beckoned.

Time for nighty-night.

Maybe I’ll jump on a tram after our Christmas cups, at the King’s Head.

pub photo 2

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Pub Review: The Pretoria, Mannum

boys
From my first classroom to the Wudinna Club was an Adam Saliba drop punt.

To get there and enjoy a crisp week’s end, West End Draught was a brisk, brief-case in hand, walk across the tennis courts. Despite its brevity it was a fabled journey because I had often heard about how it was conducted by the school’s former headmaster, Brian.

I didn’t meet him until years later, but he was a man of significant proportions and even broader mythology. My boss Richard had told me of the conversations that he’d have with Brian on Fridays at about four bells.

A man with a thirst you could photograph, Brian would say, “Right. Where shall we go? Pub or the club?” In Wudinna there were two options. Life there sometimes seemed to consist of simple binaries.

Brian would then often bark. “Club. There’s no phones. No-one can get at you. Let’s go.” He’d then instruct, “Cross the courts.”

Cross the courts.

School, tennis courts, gravel carpark by town oval and in the door of the club. About three minutes.

What an amusing phrase this is; a synecdoche representing my entire West Coast lifestyle. It was a code and an invitation and the motto of a rich, tiny society. Even now, decades on, if I bump into someone from that part of the world, we nod at each other and say gruffly, “Cross the courts.”

On my first ever visit to Mannum I was reminded of all this as the Club and the Pretoria Hotel are neighbours on the western bank of the Murray. Both are handsome holdings with balcony views over the broad, watery expanse. Here was the old choice: club or pub?

Earlier we’d gone over to Murray Bridge to see the Bunyip in Sturt Reserve. It’s a rite of passage and the boys enjoyed its crude charm and rustic theatre. I hadn’t been to Murray Bridge since my dear friend’s 21st (her nickname rhymes with “Doof”). The Bunyip used to cost twenty cents and is now free, so I may return before another thirty years have suddenly lapsed.

Given the late-afternoon velociraptor hunger of our boys we choose the Pretoria as its kitchen opens half an hour earlier than the club’s.

Happy Hour at the Pretoria is from 5 until 6pm so not wanting to appear overly eager we strolled in at 5.03. Juggling Pale Ale and lemonade we ventured outside. The warm July afternoon was more Maroochydore than Mannum.

Sitting on the back deck, a brisk five-minute walk from our digs at the caravan park, there is an immaculate lawn, ghostly gum trees and a Bali hut in an alluring space that would excite any of the current televisual plague of landscape designers.

Having spent much of the afternoon writing Ben Folds/ Wiggles/ Frank Zappa-esque songs in their exercise books (“Cabbage at Your Door” and my favourite, “Pig, No Chin”) the boys then commenced a WWE tournament on the blue grass. We then went inside and ate.

Surely an indicator of a successful meal is when it gives rise to not one, but two philosophical questions.

Firstly: we can all identify a bad schnitzel, but what, exactly, differentiates a great from a good one?

Secondly: how magnificent is unexpected beetroot?

Salad bars can be like Rolling Stones’ albums. You go into each one with high anticipation, but the results vary. With delicious rice salad, crunchy coleslaw, a jaunty pasta number, and the tour de force, beetroot in a bowl, the offerings were more Beggars Banquet than Dirty Work.

There’s few mornings during our lap of the sun when I awake and think, “Today, I will enjoy some beetroot.” But when it appears at a barbeque, in a burger (please, no pineapple) or sits seductively on the ice within an otherwise modest salad bar, my world is instantly much brighter.

And yes, whole is preferred over sliced.

We worked through our meals in the spacious and convivial bistro. Over towards the front bar a fireplace crackled while the flames leapt.

It had been an excellent hour or so.

My sole disappointment was learning upon pay-waving the bill that happy hour didn’t apply in the bistro. “Why not?” I asked.

“Because the happy hour is only in the front bar.”

“So, because we’re eating in the bistro and spending good money here, I’m penalised?” I asked.

The bar-keep blinked back.

Then I remembered I was in the Pretoria. A certain history of apartheid separation and inequality is not unexpected, even if only of the beverage variety.

However, it’s a terrific pub, on the nearly magnificently-named Randell Street, in a robust town offering good holiday diversions.

Next time though I reckon we should try out the club.

Pretoria

 

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A letter to myself at thirteen about a story I wrote

KHS

Hello young Michael

I hope this finds you well. Although of all people I should know how you’re travelling.

Gee, look at you! Your hair is nut-brown, having turned darker since you were a little blonde boy. I won’t send through a photo because the silver, err, fox you are now might scare you a little.

What a scrawny thing you are too. If I can give you a tip or two, play footy and cricket as long as you can. Giving both away when you’re around thirty seems too young. After this you’re a spectator forever.

To the story you wrote in Mrs Warry’s Year 9 English class at Kapunda High. I reckon it was in Room 42, that transportable out the back. You loved that class and the space itself was inviting and safe, but this was a function of the teacher. It always is.

story 1.jpg

Nowadays it’s strange, but I reckon we went the entire year without a computer or watching a film. I don’t think we even had to get up in front of our friends and give a talk.

We simply read and wrote and learned.

Your story, “The Courtroom of the World” begins with the protagonist, young Barney, opening his eyes, having fallen. That you withhold the details surrounding this is excellent. It simply doesn’t matter. The intrigue only makes us more curious. Without your knowing it, dropping the reader into the middle of the action is an exalted technique that the Classicists called in medias res. Well done.

I must also congratulate you on your careful, earnest handwriting. It’s a credit to your sense of application although you must prepare yourself for the shock of what happens later. Now you write like a shiraz-soaked spider has wobbled through a saucer of ink…

story 2.jpg

You admirably attempt a metaphor with, “rivers of blood” to describe Barney’s leg injury although some would classify it as passé. But, then again, you’re not quite fourteen, so they should be kinder. Encouragement is always the very best option. Stick with metaphors as they make stories gold-plated. Ha!

While I’m at it, why Barney? Did you know a Barney? The only Barney I recall is Rubble, and you weren’t a huge Flintstones fan, but I reckon you found Betty cute although she was no Josie of the Pussycats. Could be another mystery of adolescence.

I do like how you maintain the tension. At one point, Barney becomes agitated, “gasping in fright” for he has to be home at six and it’s already five-thirty. That Catholic compliance (guilt) can pop up in all sorts of surprising places.

In the next plot development our main character sets off with no clear plan only to descend into what, “was a cave. Being an adventurous boy, he decided to explore.” Recent history says no to this. Snooping about in a cave is not suggested. Here in 2018 I’m sure of this.

story 3.jpg

I can forgive that, but then to shamelessly write, “Up ahead in the distance he saw a shimmering light” is disappointing. Under no circumstances should you plagiarise the Eagles and their 1976 song, “Hotel California.” Sorry, but despite how many school socials you slow-danced to it before those stark community hall lights came on, this is wrong, morally and aesthetically. I don’t care how captivating you found the final guitar solo.

I’m curious that “The Courtroom of the World” is presided over by a frog, but I guess our amphibian friends would be as suited as any beast to pass robust global judgments. Good job avoiding the obvious call of making a lion, tiger or wombat king of the planet.

The jury in your tale consists of, “The Alligator, the Snake, the Monkey, and the Seagull.” Let me ask why you thought that a seagull could offer lofty wisdom and analytical thinking? They’re really just hot-chip vultures.

Just as The Honorable Justice Frog is about to hand down his terrible, doubtless appropriate verdict, Barney’s mother awakes him! I wonder if there’s not a rite of passage about this, a compulsion that all offspring must write a narrative that concludes with a dreadful jolt from slumber.

story 4.jpg

I look back across the increasingly fluffy decades to that classroom and consider its legacy. Even when we didn’t deserve it Mrs Warry would smile and peer at us warmly from above her glasses. She was kind, patient and offered that most luminous of gifts, considered praise.

I thank her for helping to shape me.

I recall little of the previous or following year in English. Year 9 has always enjoyed a certain mythology: an unforgettable, sharp quality. Yours, it would seem, was like this.

You’ll be saddened to learn that Mrs Warry passed away this last year.

So, young Michael, keep with it as I like what you’re doing. While I’m pretty sure you don’t have a novel or a film lurking in your bonce, there’s a couple of boys called Alex and Max who just might. They seem to enjoy a yarn and as you know, we need storytellers.

Keep encouraging them, just like Mrs Warry would’ve.

See you soon.

xxxgates

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Pub Review: Five Cups in Fremantle

Indian

To visit Fremantle is to understand that this earth is essentially good and bright and joyous. I’ve had a remarkable afternoon.

I guess it’s an emblem of country-boy faith that not for the first time, hotel concierge staff consider it appropriate to swear at me, in cheerful, inoffensive and welcoming ways. Perhaps I’ve an inviting face, for when I ask about public transport, the smiley front-desk person said, “Don’t use a travel card, for they’re shit.” Oh.

I spoke. “Where’s the city station?”

The well-groomed, nicely-vowelled girl then replied, ” Oh, you’ll know it’s Perth station because there’ll be people pissing out of it.”

I blinked. “Thanks.”

On this Sunday the sun splashed on my face all afternoon. It had the redemptive power of Mykonos or Napoli. I asked some locals if it was extraordinary and most nodded in a dismissive way. I imagine this is typical in Fremantle.

On the train down I glance up at the network and note the Mandurah line stops at Murdoch and then Bull Creek. I suspect, given the deplorable mass media of this country that this is ironic. The sun is wholly magical, for a July day. So, I went to five pubs.

Surprising, I know.

pub

 

National Hotel – it’s bustling, and a fierce footy locale when I stroll in to Sandy Roberts chirping about North and the Gold Coast Suns, who I am told, are an AFL team. I ask for a Panhead Extra Pale Ale from NZ. It’s satisfactory, and I’ve got down here on a train trip for only $4.80. As I walk up to the balcony bar there’s a 2013 Grand Final Freo jumper and rock concert posters such as Hendrix, Woodstock, and of course, the iconic, groundbreaking Leo Sayer. The red brick, the exposed brick is lovely. As the Roos v Suns progress a Harley eases past the open doors. I talk with an old mate, who’s a Dockers bloke. He’s unmoved by the deplorable state of Tassie footy. Exiting, I see Monday’s industry night with an Old Skool arcade machine that I trust is Frogger.

Sail and Anchor– I remember our old friend Shelly urging us to look up! Look Up! And there’s a beautiful pressed tin ceiling. The air is high and effervescent, with a blue light. I order a Nail Brewing Pilsner but it’s circumspect; stand-offish; spikally brash beyond what a modest chap might ask of a pilsner. If a pilsner won’t behave, then where do we actually stand, in 2018? For the most isolated city on our tiny planet, there’s people everywhere, all in rude health; their kids behaving; nostalgic music a comfy bed as all attack the schnitzel and chip with a rare gusto. I then remember that it’s mid-winter but observe every second bugger is slopping about in thongs. Gee, I love this place.

Ball and Chains- Immediately, I mistrust this boozer. There’s an artifice and confection that’s worrying. I nervously order a Minimum Chips lager, and then order, as an incestuous accompaniment, a minimum chips. There’s a pensive mood about it all. I gulp my beer, so I can leave. However, the sunlight here is ridiculous. Big blokes wolf Emu Export. I avoid eye contact. I sit at a big timber outdoor table on the impossibly fetching esplanade. A Morton Bay Fig is among the Norfolk Island Pines. I’m drenched in sun, and instantly drunk on light. But, I scarper.

rope chandelier

Bathers Beach is right on the beach and beyond ridiculous. I’m with a Cheeky Monkey Pale Ale, on a sun lounger right on the sand, by a post with the waves crashing and the sun washing over me in a deeply medicinal way. A gull yarps while flapping above my head. By me are two English girls who surely can’t comprehend their enormous luck. It doesn’t matter, but the beer is pure muck; a modern nonsense that is profoundly difficult to love, even by a leviathan such as Sir Les or Thommo. I’ve rarely spent a better fifteen minutes, in the heart of winter, anywhere, including Luton, despite the toxic lager.

Sail

Little Creatures Brewing: Interrogating the bar-keep as the hugely wonderous sun rolls in, I ask about the Session Ale. I repair to the balcony and watch the boats wade in. The beer is affectionate, but lacks the warmth of the Coopers equivalent. A seagull drifts across my vision. The water looks warm enough that I could swim. How could this be? Perth is more Mediterranean than Mykonos or Capri.

I’ve had an afternoon of astonishment and glee. It’s been a Beatles album; a Hyde Park concert; an opening wicket from your first-born on a crisp morning as the sun stretches across your face.

How can I not have been to Fremantle until now?

Creatures

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Melbourne Footy Trip- Cream of Cauliflower Soup and the No Repeat Workday

CG

My work colleague was aghast.

“You get up just after four to go to a lunch?”

I nodded. “It’s my favourite lunch of the year. There’s significant tradition attached. I look forward to it like a bear does a nap.”

The flight from Adelaide to Melbourne means we’re in the city early with a big day of ritual and rigour ahead. At the Princess Theatre’s Federici Bistro we have a coffee and hot breakfast to open proceedings. The table service is a treat and sets an amicable tone.

For the third year running the weather is bright and sunny although it’s Colorado crisp. We then set off on a much-loved walk past Carlton Gardens, and along Nicholson Street. We pause at a fetching terrace house whose for sale sign and engaging photos catch our eye.

“Righto. Let’s see who can guess the asking price,” suggests Trev.

“Eight hundred,” offers Andrew, a Port Lincoln resident where the real estate agents are often more aggressive than Boston Bay’s great white sharks.

“1.2,” I murmur without confidence.

“1.4,” Trev bids.

I check my phone. “1.6,” I announce. We walk on.

NFA

We swerve eastwards onto Rae Street. It’s technically afternoon when we push open the front door of the North Fitzroy Arms, but only just. Perce is sitting at his table with what appears to be a thimble of lager in his hand.

With a galaxy of stars on deck the Footy Almanac lunch is soon underway. Jack Hawkins is generous and humble. Gastronomically, three votes go to the Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Toasted Hazelnuts and Truffle Oil.

It’s a typically terrific afternoon of conversation and cups. Our old school mate and new recruit Andrew is related to half the planet. Of course, he and JTH are second cousins. As I’d expect for a footy community, I enjoy chatting over lunch and then in the bar about Tim Rogers, building schools in Uganda, Battery Point’s Prince of Wales hotel and Paul McCartney, among other topics.

*

Saturday, we take an Uber to Richmond’s All Nations pub. It’s the first in an endless stream of Toyota Camrys. I think it’s the law. Three votes go to the bangers and mash. It’s perfect pre-game tucker.

We then take my favourite annual bus journey in the All Nation’s slightly battered white van around the surrounding streets to the MCG. And before we can chorus, “complimentary shuttle” we’re on the 50-metre arc for Port and Carlton.

van

It’s a decent game with the conclusion in doubt until late in the narrative, but despite the affixed occasion of Kade Simpson’s 300th there’s a certitude about Port and their superior weaponry. Absent friend Chrisso’s nephew Justin Westhoff continues his evergreen form while Robbie Gray’s rubbery evasion allows the teal tribe to triumph. Ouch, it hurt my fingers to type this.

We’re then contractually obliged to adjourn to the Young and Jackson pub for the Crows and Eagles. It’s mostly a dispiriting affair and just as the season threatens to scarper to Bali on a cheap Jetstar flight we kick six goals to sneak home. We ring old friend and my cousin, Boogly for his birthday.

*

Sunday is yet another bright, wintry day and we venture by Uber’s ubiquitous Toyota Camry to Lygon Street for lunch. We get that it’s highly competitive and times are tough, but vow to walk past any restaurant touting for our custom. Complimentary garlic bread fails to win us over. Call us stubborn.

italian

We then find ourselves in the sun at a red-check tablecloth with a glass of Peroni. Our hosts are playing acid-jazz funk while the neighbouring diner has what sounds like Cannonball Adderley tinkling away. Somehow, this mash-up works and we munch our pizza and enjoy a languid hour.

Our weekend traditionally concludes at South Wharf’s General Assembly and in the Toyota Camry on the way there our Uber driver has the radio on Gold 104.3. He talks of its 10k No Repeat Workday as if it’s a triumph of modern marketing- “Just last week Narelle from Nunawading won the 10k!” Perhaps it is.

In the bar we’re sleepy and winding down like clocks. There’s an acoustic guitar duo playing in the corner and they have the rare skill of making every song, including some of rock’s finest tunes, sound like a Matchbox Twenty out-take. It seems sonically impossible.

Still, it’s been yet another fun weekend of footy and giggles, and we look forward to the 2019 edition.

guitar