Becalmed by the fireplace a smiling chap said, “It’s great isn’t it?”
“It’s just like your living room. That’s how the owners want you to treat it.”
“Tell the Truth” by Derek and the Dominoes made its earthy, laconic way from the speakers to the ears of the punters. It had that warm, enveloping feel to it because it wasn’t coming from a juke box, CD player or streaming service.
Audiophiles agree that it remains the finest way to enjoy an album, and over by the pool table was that most uncommon yet esteemed of front bar furniture: an antique turntable and speakers.
“This is a very English idea,” I nodded. “Publicans over there want you to treat the pub like your own home. It’s rare here.”
Living on a West Coast farm I bought a second-hand turntable that had somehow lost its legs, so I used split squash balls to absorb the bumps and rumbles because as is established fact there’s nothing worse than the stylus bouncing across your most prized vinyl which of course is Ripper ’76.
With the volume screaming past eleven it kept the sheep away from the house. Digital music is omnipresent but real records provide us with the physical and the kinaesthetic. It’s a richer sensory experience.
Eric Clapton and Duane Allman were undertaking some acceptable fret work on this most perfect of Saturday afternoon pub soundtracks. Along the pub wall rest half a dozen rows of LPs. Blues masters, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, sixties and seventies gems. Pinned nearby is a brief set of rules for busy times- one side only per person etc.
With regular live gigs in the Heritage Bar and beer garden (Kasey Chambers’ dad Bill playing soon) it’s a musical nirvana and complements impeccably the pub across the road, The Macclesfield, which offers standard services like big screen footy, TAB, happy hours, pokies.
Is there a better balanced two-pub town?
Earlier we took in the Mary MacKillop Way which with paintings and text documents the saint’s local work. One station highlights the sisters’ efforts during a bushfire when Mary offered the volunteers, “drinks and light food.” Light food?
Happily, I’ve no experience in this but imagine after elongated hours of hot and dangerous labour battling a blaze, I’d be a little disappointed to be only given a cup of tea and a scone, and to hear the dreaded words, “Sorry love but we’re out of jam and cream.”
Originally known as the Goats Head Inn it’s visually engaging with memorabilia and photos, and curios like an upturned umbrella and wooden toy train dangling from the ceiling. There’s historic Guinness and stout signage too.
By the window we find a spot on a ruby Chesterfield couch, and in our nook’s an upright piano and a Hendrix (I’m claiming this as a collective noun) of acoustic and electric guitars.
The resident kelpie Ranger wanders about saying hello. I love dogs in pubs. In England this is routine and they’re welcomed with water bowls and spaces to stretch out. Hounds are so central to our way of life here yet rarely spotted in public buildings. Why? I’ve seldom seen an unkempt, drunk dog wobbling about picking fights in a pub, and know who I’d rather sit next to. One of the bar staff tells me that Ranger loves playdates and often has canine callers.
Well done, Three Brothers Arms.
With the fire crackling away, I attempt another beer. “I might try the Goats Head Lager. Who makes it?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you,” insists the young barkeep with a wink. Maybe it’s difficult following a Coopers Sparkling Ale, but although I get that it’s a tribute to the pub’s original name and neighbouring brewery, I find it somewhat bland.
Convivial knots of chaps are at the low tables and many of them sport tweed jackets. They look like minor characters in an Ian McEwen novel. With its uncomplicated sense of purpose and refined atmospherics it does feel decidedly English in here, and I reckon the pub would sit sympathetically in the Lakes District or by a brook in the Cotswolds.
Meanwhile, someone drops Bob Dylan onto the turntable and his endearing whine mingles warmly with the patrons’ wine. Underscoring the music is the staccato percussion from the pool table. It’s a jovial place.
Claire and I have dinner plans, but vow to return. The beer garden stretches down to the Angas River and is a summery must. We pat Ranger goodbye and head out into the afternoon’s fresh coolness.