I had one final chance to visit a pub down the Port. I was offered plenty of advice.
“The Largs Pier is a beautiful old building.”
“The British is nicely renovated.”
“The Port Dock Brewery is good fun.”
But, for the moment, no to all of these.
A colleague said, “I reckon you’d find the Cumberland interesting.”
And so last Tuesday afternoon we ventured over the bridge, with Cruickshank’s Beach among the pylons, along Semaphore Road and then towards Glanville Railway Station which eases past the window.
There it was. The Cumberland, or as all such pubs must be known, The Cumby.
Australia is a vast country with many modern and featureless suburbs bigger than European cities. This is why the Port is terrific. Jump in your jalopy and in five minutes you can drive through Port Adelaide, Birkenhead, Semaphore, Exeter and Glanville where the geography is intricate and brutal, welcoming and rich.
Certainly in Britain there’s a whole realm of interest in pubs located by railway stations. Oodles of websites are dedicated to this genre alone.
Sauntering into the front bar the six patrons all ceased their conversations and took us in. If a honky tonk pianist had been banging the ivories he, too, would’ve stopped suddenly.
The publican, Michael Parker, or The Rev as most call him, was friendly and helpful, especially when chaperoning my friend, JB, through the forest of cider choices.
We ventured out the back to the beer garden’s large lawn and sheltered benches, but it was barren, save for a Port Power flag hanging flaccidly in an upstairs window. Sometimes, having too much space to yourselves is unappealing so on we explored.
Next we came across the live music room with its blackened stage. In recent months it has hosted the legendary Kevin Borich Express, and while I must confess to a personal connection, the magnificently-monikered Don Morrison’s Raging Thirst (I’m married to Don’s sister Claire). I reckon Tim Rogers and Tex Perkins would both go well in the Raging Thirst.
Sitting on our stools out the front of the Cumby the mis en scene of sky, battered earth and noiseless trains sliding in and out of the railyard was a compelling palette. It was natural, industrial and human.
The triangular patch had formerly been a carpark for the Holdens, Fords and Valiants. Now in the newish, glass-walled space there was a luckless incident involving a wonky table, JB’s elbow, Bob’s pint and his cream trousers. But in the maritime atmosphere his strides dried quickly. Perhaps they’re from Fletcher Jones.
And as friends for over thirty years we all moved on, although it gave rise to the ancient philosophical question: What’s worse than someone spilling a drink on you? Answer: Someone spilling your own drink on you. This aside, we enjoyed a lively interval in the bright afternoon, and then scarpered.
Such is the dynamic psycho-geography of the Port that last week’s destination, the Lord Exmouth, while technically a compact suburb away, is only 220 metres to the west. But the Cumby’s atmosphere is different, and in our often homogenised world, this diversity is to be celebrated.
So, if you’ve a raging thirst, or you want to hear one, then this pub is right there. And, should you wish, you can catch a train.
And be there too.