From our hulking 4WD we could see the Cradock pub, but were stopped by a film crew. It was the first day of our honeymoon, and Claire asked about the plot, actors and release date while if I wasn’t ravenous for a beer I might’ve inquired about the impact of the golden, autumnal light on the cinematography.
Airy and uncluttered, the pub is both modern and historical, and presents with an eastern suburbs confidence. There’s substantial wooden tables out the front and in the dining room as well as an inviting ropes and climbing area out the back for the kids and, I imagine, adults wobbly with too much Bundy, an enthralled audience, and no regard for the nearest hospital being prohibitively distant.
Our publican is Dickie Anderson, and he’s laconically easing through his hours. Noting there’s no tap beer I say, “I’d love a Sparkling Ale stubby.” He scrambles about in the fridge and frowns, “Umm, sorry, we’ve none left. Someone drank it all. That’d be me!”
So, on the cusp of a glorious week in the ageless, still desert we sit and look. At the ornamental ute, the firepit, the quiet bush.
Is there much better than late on the first afternoon of a holiday?
With its wide, noiseless streets, and mix of handsome houses and pre-fab government dwellings, Hawker reminds me of both Kimba and Wudinna.
At our B&B we met Nigel, who turns the key and we’re embraced by the smell of baking bread from one of those 90’s models that everyone had, and he’s excited to show us the TV dedicated to his DVD library of tourist videos. There’s even one demonstrating how to use the coffee machine. Nigel’s thought of everything.
The Hawker pub is cosy and seems happy to cater for its eclectic audience of locals. At the bar is a young mum with her double babies crawling about on the carpet unaware but building considerable immunity. A cheery chap takes the schnitzel orders.
On the wall is a footy tips chart with a solid list of names. I don’t check but know in capitalised black texta there’ll be Dogga, Blue, Young Kev, and Old Kev (possibly relatives, but maybe not).
Claire and I find a rickety table on the veranda, and the pub cat slinks by so we can give her the pats and tummy scratches she utterly deserves.
Across the road’s a park and a knot of kids tramps through. Claire takes a photo of the deepening sky. This sunset doesn’t simply close another Thursday but is one of reassurance and gratitude. Quietly triumphant, it seems intended just for us.
Cocooned on our honeymoon I’d forgotten it was school holidays until we arrive in Blinman and it’s swarming with pedestrians and cars. We spend time at the cemetery peering at the headstones and conjecturing about the kind of lives led, concluding they’d likely been hard and only dotted with fleeting sparks of joy.
At the North Blinman pub there’s an animated lunch group under the veranda. Whether aware or otherwise, they’re undoubtedly privileged to be meandering about in this safe and simple section of the world.
Claire is eager for a red. Our barkeep is an earnest woman and she promotes the house Cabernet (pronouncing it with an unironic emphasis on the t).
My sporadic wish to collect stubby holders might be the middle-aged male equivalent of buying souvenir teaspoons, but across our week there’s none on offer, so again, I ask only for a beer.
Lawn would be an inappropriate curio in this arid land, so the beer garden sits on designer dirt. A series of James Squire umbrellas shades the punters and we plonk down among them chatting effortlessly about our day and our hectic, astonishing month.
The Blinman self-describes as the Pub in the Scrub, and I think of Buckleboo just north of Kimba which boasts the Club in the Scrub. I wonder if in a tiny hamlet beyond Goyder’s Line there’s an unlikely but locally loved massage parlour advertising as the Rub in the Scrub.
My wife and I then stroll about, glasses in hand, pausing along the walls covered with old sepia photos of pioneers and celebrated pub denizens and ponder their lives too.
What’s the narrative purpose of a honeymoon? Is it for a couple to luxuriously combine the past and the present, and then together paint a canvas that’s a landscape, but also a portrait of their deeply desired future? For our freshly intertwined lives, I’m very sure.