Rodney splashed more chardonnay into the glass.
Moving about his bar with suppressed nervous energy, he now declared, “As I’ve filled it above the line I’m obliged by Queensland law to inform you of this because you mightn’t want the extra wine.”
Unsurprisingly for a Kapunda girl, Claire dismissed that idea with a, “No, thanks, that’ll be fine.”
It was around 2pm on a Tuesday in Dingo Beach. We were in the Whitsundays. We had explored the beach- the tide was out- but did not swim because of stingers and Irukandji jellyfish. I had read that Irukandji jellyfish actively hunt their prey. I had little interest in becoming prey to a tiny, blobby marine killer, especially as Glenelg had just won the SANFL premiership.
Rodney has four beers on tap: XXXX, XXXX Gold and two types of Great Northern.
Generally, I have limited truck with these, and might’ve opted for a stubby of Coopers, but surely the traveller’s obligation is to be brave and try to experience life as a local.
So, I took a deep breath, steeled myself and heard these words fall, haltingly, from my quivering gob, “I’ll have a pint of Great Northern, thanks.”
I felt unsteady on my thonged feet. To offer her support in this difficult circumstances, Claire rubbed my forearm kindly.
The kitchen had shut so we had an impromptu lunch of cheese and dips and olives at our beer garden table. Rodney did not mind.
A few other Tuesday patrons drifted in and mostly headed to the smoking section. There were older men with orange shirts and ghostly goatees. On the tree between us and the beach a riot of kookaburras took up brief residency, announcing their arrival with brash, Motown song. Then they flew off, possibly seeking Coopers on tap.
Our Mersey cheese was tremendous. It really is the Allan Border of cheeses: predictable, attacking when required; defensive if needed. I stuck another piece on my Jatz (traditional not pepper).
On Sunday we’d bought some supplies in Mackay and seemingly both possessed by one of lesser demons in The Exorcist, stuck some rosemary and gin olives in our trolley. In appropriate contexts all three are excellent, but put together and Father Karras can’t save you or Regan, despite the power of Christ.
The tub was swiftly despatched to Rodney’s beer garden bin. Apologies to the bin. Apologies to Rodney. Bins deserve better.
We spoke of the town, its wide beach and family-friendly foreshore with playgrounds and barbeques and endless picnic tables. We were both taken by the islands dotted about the ocean. Coming from South Australia our experience with off-shore land masses is largely informed by Granite Island. Switzerland is better served by islands than us.
Keen to swim Claire asked Rodney of this and he began his repetitive, circular discourse: ”Well, me and my kids go swimming all the time without stinger suits. But I don’t want to tell you what to do. You might get stung and come back and sue me.”
Easing into his work, like Keating and the Redfern speech Rodney continued, “Me and my kids go swimming all the time without stinger suits. But I don’t want to tell you what to do. You might get stung and come back and sue me.”
Claire excused herself, having developed a sudden taste for gin and rosemary olives (albeit in the bin).
And my pint of Great Northern?
It was cold and flavoursome and the head was creamy and inviting. In its proper context at the Dingo pub it commanded the stage with quiet confidence.
It was utterly delicious and, of course, now back in a shoe-wearing state, I’m unlikely to ever have another.
About half an hour from Airlie Beach, the Dingo pub is a must when in the Whitsundays.