Tramway Hotel, 165 Rae St, Fitzroy North
Underground music. Likely a Melbournian band from the 1980’s. One punter inside, one outside at the row of three tables on Church Street near the roundabout. The young fella out at a table appears from my spot by the fireplace to have an Andalusian dancing horse tattooed on his skull. Opposite me is a macramé wall hanging, and I feel as if I’ve been taken hostage by the horrific 70’s. At the centre of the Tramway is its triangular bar.
I order a Young Henry’s Pale Ale which I find safe if unspectacular. It’s a mild afternoon so I move outside into darkening street. The Andalusian dancing horse has galloped off into his evening. Bikes outnumber cars on Rae Street and I find this reassuring. Most folk sport beanies. The upcoming gigs blackboard announces Acid Country broadcasting live this Thursday on PBS 106.7FM. Their website promises “an intimate afternoon of music, radio and community”.
Royal Oak Hotel, 442 Nicholson St, Fitzroy North
In the world of pub names is this the equivalent of John or Mary?
Here’s another fire and candles. There seems to be a distinctive inner-city intimacy at work in Fitzroy North. I can’t recall going into an Adelaide pub and finding lit candles. I like it. The Beatles are playing. My Hargreaves Hill Pale Ale is curious.
Apart from me (obviously) there are three blokes in the front bar talking footy. They speak of the Scott brothers. One chap is theorising that the Geelong coach, Chris Scott, might be lucky to keep his job. It seems unlikely given that his team is top by some distance.
I see an Escher print on the wall, murky books above my head and a tram zings past. A bowls scoreboard sits nearby. It’s quiz night and a staff member asks me if I’m here with a team. I shake my head. Scotland’s finest, The Proclaimers come on and I smile to myself. Indeed, Adelaide is 500 miles away. Having run The Tan earlier today (for the first time) which is a lap of Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens I think these lyrics true-
But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door
I look up and there’s an upturned wooden surf boat over pool table. I leave.
Suddenly, suburban floodlights. WT Peterson oval. Footy training over by the grandstand. Naked trees watching silently by me. Just in front on the forward flank: man, dog, tennis ball.
Lord Newry, 543 Brunswick St, Fitzroy North
First port of call in this boozer is the gents. There are astonishing quantities of graffiti on every surface. I rush. Don’t dry my hands.
I order a Four Pines Pale Ale. Some Glaswegians in the back bar are talking football. In the front bar’s a muted glow, like grandma’s lounge room if she loved orange light shades and early disco music.
I detect a nautical theme because of the turgid and, I suspect, ironic prints of British ships. I think of the postcolonial perspective and associated ideas about imperialism, but only briefly.
I look up at the ceiling which has been stained yelpy yellow by a million Ardath and Black and White darts. And then I think about Sir Walter Raleigh who introduced smoking to Britain and I’m back to postcolonialism, but only briefly.
I note that there’s only five items on the Specials menu board. I think this the maximum allowable number because any more and I’d question just how special those dishes might be. Wouldn’t you?
Royal Derby, 446 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
In the men’s the exhaust fan is whirling like the propeller of the Indianapolis but without Quint’s sharks. It’s so noisy I fear the whole building might take off.
The Kings of Leon are playing and I find them restorative at this point if not generally. I keep with my broad ale theme and buy a Stone and Wood Pacific Ale. There’s a table tennis table in a dedicated room although no-one’s using it, and it would be difficult for me to play by myself.
Over in the betting corner a man is having trouble with his eyes and these go from menacing and mean to glazed and then incapable of focus. He leaves. It’s the only pub in which I hear no footy talk.
The Rose, 406 Napier St, Fitzroy
Happily, I walk in and hear blokes talking footy around a central rectangular bar. There’s a big dog by a table. Warm chat everywhere. Exotic beers abound, but also Coopers.
With exposed bricks and beautiful and enveloping light this is suburban joy. It’s the standout on my brief tour. India and New Zealand begin the World Cup semi-final and I speak with an Englishman about this fixture and our upcoming clash. We agree that the bowlers might dictate the result and Mitchell Stark could be the difference.
I order a burger. It’s a treat. Some young lads near me talk of commercial airline seat configurations on flights into and out of the Western Australian mines. They appear knowledgeable. As I leave, they’ve turned to the bright prospects of the Brisbane Lions who, of course, used to be Fitzroy.