2

Ladies and gentlemen, The Mount Mary pub!

Is there anything more lovely than being taken to a mystery location for lunch?

The investment another makes in you courtesy of this wish to treat you with singular affection elevates a shared meal into an act of kind-heartedness, and converts a lazy hour or so into a lush, cinematic episode.

We left Robertstown (population-248) and headed through Point Pass (population-110), Eudunda (population-828), Sutherlands (population-unsure as no available census data, but clearly very few) and suddenly, when I was most curious about our destination (surely, we’re not going to Morgan?) it appeared on our right.

As a Kapunda youth it enjoyed a particular mythical, even ironic status. Set beyond Goyder’s Line among the salt bush it’s a place mostly visited after a day up the river, skiing or fishing.

Bounded by a nightmarish plain there’s no mountain at Mount Mary, and despite its population recently doubling from 6 to 12, I’m unsure if there’s even a resident (non-deceased) Mary. The town features ten homes, the pub, and a (possibly working) telephone box. It’s a living pioneer museum.

Exiting the Thiele Highway (named for Eudunda author Colin) we took a town tour and saw the former general store which was run nearly a century ago by Claire’s grandparents. Passing multiple cars in the town we almost forge another lasting connection as outside one abandoned house we scarcely avoid an accident. In a town populated by only a dozen persons this might have been tricky on the insurance claim.

Strolling into the Mount Mary hotel there’s a sumptuous lawn out front and given the frequent Armageddon winds and rare rain this is to be applauded. It’s an emerald welcome carpet. Although it’s a tick before noon there’s in situ patrons anchored to the bar having settled into an it’s-Friday-so-why-not drinking and conversational rhythm.

Coopers on tap is another predictor of bonhomie. Every worthy beer is better on tap apart from Sparkling Ale which finds its lofty peak when enjoyed from a long neck, but as this is the last holiday excursion I relax my rule-book and the host pours me one. Central to her endless research, Claire orders a house red. We repair to a table by the turf and as front-line ambassadors, greet the stream of sunny visitors.

Social media offered insight into the pub’s raison d’etre just prior to the November lock-down when mine host Donna urged that there was, “still time to hitch up your goat and get your drink on.” As we all know life is better with goat.

Disastrously, most of our regional train lines were torn up decades ago, including the Kapunda to Morgan track. Sitting in our untroubled afternoon we imagined boarding, say, the 9.42 from our former hometown and alighting in Mount Mary to dine and take refreshment! How a-quiver we would’ve been with me wearing a top hat and Claire easing along the platform in a Sigrid Thornton big dress.

Sometimes in a suburban pub meals can be bought and then instantly appear as if they’d just been dinged in a microwave. Those with a rapacious appetite might welcome this swiftness, but it has the anticipatory allure of a KFC drive through. Our Mount Mary meals are delivered by the chef forty minutes later which allows time to chat with each other and the publican, Donna, during which we learn about the pub, her husband Craig’s earth-moving business, the local 86-year-old horse rustler and her commitment to the local fauna.

Claire’s deconstructed vegetable stack is tasty and the polenta chips are a treat although, as has been noted by many, the non-meat options can seem overpriced. Are these subsidising us carnivores? My beef schnitzel is exquisite. It’s sizeable but not of ridiculous pillow-case dimensions and the vegetables are a wonderful accompaniment; the Hutch to the schnitzel’s Starsky.

The pub’s on the Mad Max road to Morgan but is an emerging foodie destination, and we’re told folks visit regularly from places like the Barossa and Waikerie. Sadly, the trains have stopped, but out back, unpowered sites are $9 per person.

As always, goats camp free.

2

January: sick and tired you’ve been hanging on me

A photo essay noting some of this first month’s curios and ephemera.

2021 began with the demise of my old companion. Yes, a rubbish bin ate my dingo (shirt).

Nothing magic about this possum and its visit.
Lake Bonney is home to many native meat products like lamb kofta.
Late morning on the first day of the year at West Beach. Look closely to see a pod of dolphins.
One of Hamley Bridge’s sunny and optimistic thoroughfares.
Home of the $14 Thursday night schnitzel. But you already knew this.
2

At 5pm we drive around Lake Bonney and guess how many cars we’ll pass

My thong presses the accelerator as we pass the Bluebird Café and steer along Queen Elizabeth Drive with the lake on our left and a row of beige residences on our right. We see the besser block holiday unit I stayed in with Mum, Dad and my sister Jill when I was thirteen.

In that hot bedroom I played Hotel California over and over on my little cassette player when I wasn’t walking to and from Barwell Avenue and gazing in shops or drifting by the jetty just across from the town oval, home to the Barmera Roos.

We’ve decided upon the guessing order for the week and each must declare their prediction before we leave the town limits.

Max goes with his traditional low number. He’s already a student of the form, and gets us away with a crisp, ‘Three.’

Alex quickly declares, ‘Four’ and Claire participates with an optimistic, ‘Six.’

I then finish the formalities with what history tells us is an unlikely seven. All moving vehicles count, but we must pass them on the road itself before we get to the finish line. We call it the Lake Lap and it’s now in its third big season.

It’s a January afternoon and time for our daily tradition. Just before 5pm we coax the boys into the car from the jetty or the caravan park pool or their cabin chairs in front of the Test and alight in the pub drive-through where we negotiate our refreshments. A soft drink for the boys and a can of something serious for Claire. I get a Sparkling Ale. Alex says, “Dad, can we have some jerky too?”

‘No’ is my automatic reply, ‘you won’t eat your dinner.’ The protests begin. I then say to the drive-through attendant, ‘Can I leave the boys here with you for an hour?’

‘No’ comes his automatic reply. He’s a wizened, laconic type who looks like this job is to get him out of the house. ‘I should be immune to the noise. I’ve got eleven grand-kids.’

Easing through Barmera’s empty streets I note the bowls club and recall my first long-distance journey as a learner driver. It was 1983 and Dad had a tournament up here. In the green Ford Falcon I was legally limited to 80 kph, irritating a trailing and snarling V8. After a lengthy period he growled past me with horn blaring and outrage billowing from his twin exhausts. A mile or so later I saw a flashing blue light and the grumpy driver taking roadside receipt of a speeding fine. How I itched to honk my horn back at him, but this wouldn’t have done for a L-Plater with his Mum and Dad.

Lake Bonney’s shore is defended by dozens of dead gum trees and with the open road ahead we gather speed, but I keep to an unhurried ninety so we can better enjoy our circuit. Lonely caravans squat on the bank with their deck chairs and murmuring AM radio and late-afternoon mugs of strong tea. Above us is a soaring azure sky, and save for the mighty river and this lake we’re in a desert of scrub and sheep stations. There’s few vehicles on this section of the lap.

The radio’s on Triple J and the boys’ musical world is expanding along with their limbs so I introduce them to Tame Impala’s best album Innerspeaker and they enjoy the swirling psychedelic guitars. Is one of the selfish joys of parenthood inflicting your culture upon your offspring? Our other aural routine is Ben Folds’ Rocking the Suburbs on the way to Barmera, once we leave the Truro bakery and descend Accommodation Hill.

Drifting by the ruins at the Morgan Road intersection we then see Chambers Creek which feeds the lake’s 1700 hectares. To our right the road goes to the Overland Corner Hotel and it’s again changed hands, but is without a license until February and, of course, this is unbeknown to us on our Slim Dusty visit. Like many Murray landmarks it boasts a sign indicating the eye-widening 1956 flood level. No-one went thirsty back then.

More traffic is likely now and the current sedan score is only two so I tease with Dad comments like, “I can see a convoy of cars coming!” or “What if we pass the Hell’s Angels?” We pass the ubiquitous Pelican Point and its advertised Nudist Resort, but don’t call in as we’re overdressed. Along a fence there’s a teapot atop each of the strainer posts. With the bitumen curving about, vehicles might suddenly emerge as they make their way around the glittering lake.

After the ceaseless slog of parenting the boys as babies and toddlers they’re blossoming and rewarding company, and now choosing shared rather than solitary fun. Our daily Lake Lap represents this happy change, and I hope in years to come it’ll remain a keenly anticipated holiday routine and one they’ll discuss with affection and gentle mockery of their Dad.

Reaching the Sturt Highway today’s game concludes with Max again victorious. We’ll drive back to the cabin for a barbecue or to the Cobby Club for schnitzel night or maybe a swim in the parched, motionless evening.

2

Novel Review: Lament (a Ned Kelly story)

When Muhammed Ali opened the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta a commentator remarked that the former boxer was, ‘the most famous man in the world’, and safely on my beanbag in front of the box I scoffed at the notion before later deciding it was likely true. His deeds, both noble and otherwise, continue to generate their own global momentum, and with a mythic, omnipresent station in Australian life Ned Kelly makes a similar, albeit local, impact.

While I’m not a Kelly obsessive some contextual experiences include Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series which I first encountered at high school. These were intriguing and disturbing, and I knew there must be substantial reasons for the artist to complete 27 paintings on this subject although at seventeen I was naïve to their deeper reverberations. Around the turn of the millennium I read Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang and found it hypnotic, and I’m a huge admirer of Midnight Oil’s, ‘If Ned Kelly Was King’ (from their superb Place Without a Postcard) with its speculation on how our most iconic bushranger would handle modern multinationals.

With this literary and artistic baggage in hand I read Nicole Kelly’s Lament in this luxurious week between Christmas and New Year (this year’s ham intake has been down, oddly but healthily), and given the holiday freedom from tyrannical bosses that some of us are enjoying I’m sure Ned would’ve approved of my recreation. ‘Lament’ is a compelling text and the plot races along with the thrill and constant danger of an escaping bushranger’s stallion. The novel’s a balance of exterior action and, as a first person narrative, Ned’s acutely human interior. He’s also a charismatic leader of his gang

‘Pistols out, lads. Be ready for any bolters. We can’t have work out yet.’ I carry one in each hand. ‘We’re takin’ no prisoners. So give ‘em a warning and if there’s any movement, ye cut ‘em down, ye hear me?’ (Page 79)

The central purpose of ‘Lament’ is to wonder what might’ve happened if the Kelly Gang escaped Glenrowan, and this speculative fiction imagines how they hope to live once their bushranging days are done. So sympathetically, so abundantly does Nicole Kelly chaperone us into the private world of the central character that despite his inexcusable violence I found myself cheering for Ned, and his gang’s escape into happy, anonymous lives. As our narrator he observes carefully and with a native, attractive intellect

I warm to the two of them and it is her nickname, affectionately called, that confirms the great luck of my acquaintance with the couple. She’s another beautiful and formidable Kate within my life now. I think of my sister, who has always had my back. These people, so familiar and yet so strange, circling in my life. Surely, if I rely on a Kate, I am in good hands. (Page 146)

In this reimagining the character of Ettie gives symbolic and real agency to those frequently marginalised in this story of the marginalised. While it remains Ned’s version of events Ettie and other females like Anne Jones, the Glenrowan Inn proprietor, are given due prominence in this retelling and this is a strength of the writing.

Ned Kelly looms over our collective consciousness because, rightly or wrongly, he’s become the national embodiment of the themes of injustice and inevitable doom, but also love for family which have found forceful expression in this publication. With our sense of what it means to be Australian under heightened and probing scrutiny, this novel is most timely. I enjoyed my excursion into this historical domain of dark and light, and the chance to reflect upon a man who remains emblematic of much of our national identity.

Simultaneously of its time, but also distinctly modern in authorial attitude and style, Nicole Kelly has given us a new and welcome perspective on this infamous life.

Lament can be  purchased by contacting www.hawkeyebooks.com.au/lament/  or you can visit www.hawkeyebooks.com.au/nicole-kelly to contact her.

0

Pub Review: The Windmill

A great man once said that every time you walk into a pub, there’s a story. As Dale Kerrigan would’ve narrated if he were me, “I’m Mickey Randall and this is my story.”

Suburbs like Port Adelaide, Norwood and North Adelaide are home to many pubs and geographers and historians and pissheads will happily bend your ear with a truckload of reasons for this. Prospect, just to the north of the city, is not one of these blessed locales.

However, fear not for it hosts the Windmill Hotel.

Our Kapunda group was slightly diminished in number, largely due, I suspect, to some not knowing the date. The week between Christmas and New Year can interrupt one’s sense of time, what with all the couch, all the cricket, all the Coopers.

We dine inside and not in the beer garden and this seems an accurate choice given that the garden is wholly cement and fake grass, and two of our party are drinking cider as if they’re elderly extras miscast in a Welsh coming-of-age movie. But, far be it for me to editorialise upon the refreshments of old friends.

I can report that the Windmill has a daily schnitzel special, offering these for only $10, as if it’s September, 2007 and Port is a very good chance against Geelong in the AFL grand final. While toppings such as gravy or parmi are extra this still represents tremendous value.

The meals are great and punctuated by talk of the cricket and local boy Travis Head who, we agree, has poor foot work and seems to make too many very handsome thirties. Discussion then moves to cars and more particularly four-wheel driving across various outback settings, and after a fashion I deftly move the subject to a topic with which I’m more familiar: neurosurgery and specifically neurosurgery as it pertains to the cerebrovascular system.

As Crackshot has recently moved to Prospect and indeed, lives around the corner, he suggests adjourning there for a mid-afternoon coffee. Once we’re there and enjoying our post-lunch lattes, Fats comments that, if he thinks about it deeply, this really is a disastrous state of affairs. “Coffee, Bah!” he almost spits across the immaculate stone bench-top. “Never mind”, I comfort him, “It’s OK.”

And it is for in early 2021 we have planned to go to Puffa’s, one of Kapunda’s iconic pubs, for a Saturday barbeque on the balcony.

There’ll be no coffee.*

Chip suffocation is the biggest killer of over-40s in this country

*No, we actually enjoyed our coffee and being hosted by Crackshot

0

The Bung Fritz Appreciation Society Handicap

As a fan of horse racing I love the mysteriously monikered Group 1 events such as the CF Orr Stakes, the LKS Mackinnon Stakes and of course, Eagle Farm’s JJ Atkins. These names evoke grainy Depression-era footage of black hats and long coats on heaving racetrack concourses, however contemporary classics are also of interest.

Summer hosts my favourite equine event, the soon to be time-honoured Members of Bung Fritz Appreciation Society Benchmark 60 Handicap over 1100 metres at the Gawler and Barossa Jockey Club. The track benefitted from a recent $15 million revamp and holds midweek and occasional weekend meetings.

Let’s be clear: fritz is not devon, strasburger, Belgium or polony. Named for the sheep intestine or bung this elite version comes in fetching orange skin although its qualities are far beyond Trumpian. With the continent of Australia now effectively eight independent nations these cultural and gastronomic divisions are set to broaden. Luncheon meats remain our key differentiator.

The Bung Fritz Appreciation Society formed back in the murky late-Howard era around 2006. Their patron is Denis ‘Father’ O’Malley and over the phone club stalwart Ian Millen explained that they assemble bi-monthly at local boozers such as the Lyndoch, the Greenock and the Freeling. When he told me the names of those from Kapunda who were members I was not surprised. The society has fielded requests to start local chapters in Alice Springs and Cairns. All have been denied. I understand that at their meetings they critique fritz and vote for the best in the annual Bung Off. This year Gumeracha Butchers triumphed. At the Christmas summit members sing, ‘Jingle Fritz’ which is based upon the lesser known and musically inferior, ‘Jingle Bells.’

First run in 2012 this fritzophiles sprint saw smallgoods fans gathered in a marquee with guest speaker and colourful former hoop Johnny Letts. Most wore the traditional bung fritz uniform which, of course, includes a Hawaiian shirt. Now, they enjoy the races in the new Wolf Blass Pavilion although I am unsure if Wolf himself made the journey trackside in his modest Rolls Royce. Mysticano won last year’s edition while maddening underachiever Two Odd Sox ran just outside the placegetters. The trifecta paid $510.

On Saturday January 23 if you’re camped in a front bar mid-afternoon and the screens shift to the next at Gawler keep an eye out as I’ll be there shouting and slapping the form guide into my bruised palm as in the Members of Bung Fritz Appreciation Society Benchmark 60 Handicap over 1100 metres my horse runs fourth.

2

To Alex, on finishing primary school

Dearest Alex

All of a sudden you’re about to start your final week of primary school! Over these years you’ve grown and learnt so much about the world and yourself. I want to tell you how proud I am of you.

You’re interested in the things around you and this constant curiosity is, and will be, a great asset. I’m sure it’ll help as you move through high school, and I like that you’ve been inquisitive about the following: Egypt, Mad as Hell, climbing Mount Everest with your friend Jan, using your bare hands (along with Max) to catch imaginary catfish at the bottom of the Valley Park pool just like Teddy from Mudcats, our adventure heroes in Bear Grylls and Russell Coight, cricket, the layout of your bedroom, and let’s not forget your developing if secret love for Vampire Weekend.

I like how you try so many activities and give your best to these. It’s also encouraging that when things don’t go so well that you’re able to accept this and look ahead. This resilience will help you as you move through secondary school and its challenges.

I’m pleased that you’ve taken up volleyball. It’s a great game and I can see that it’s given you much. That you’re in the state special talent program makes me happy as this means you’ll learn more about the skills and yourself. I hope it’ll be a sport you’ll enjoy for many, many years.

As someone who loves traditions it pleases me how you value these too such as watching the AFL grand final in The Taminga, sitting in the same spot on the grass at Glenelg matches and playing the car guessing game every day at 4pm as we do a slow lap of Lake Bonney. These rituals tell me that you value people and experiences and fun.

I know that you’ll make the most of your last few days at St Leonards and the celebrations at school and the surf club. It gladdens me that you understand how important these times are and especially appreciate being with your friends. Knowing where you are at a particular moment in life is important. So, take some photos and take your time to be polite and enthusiastic and grateful.

You’ll soon be at Brighton and in Year 8 and I know you’re going to do very well. Before then enjoy yourself and the summer ahead. I’m so proud of you. Signing off I’m sure you want to read these words from our old friend

I gained most of my vast knowledge of the outback from my father Russell Coight Snr, who taught me everything I know before he died from a combination of a self-inflicted axe wound, sunstroke, and snake-bite.

Love Dad

Xx

December 2020

6

Things I Like

That first glimpse of Lake Bonney in early January

Richard Ford’s The Sportwriter

Barbeque ignition

Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala

Clare Valley Riesling

The beach and jetty ruins at Port Willunga

9.55am ACDT on Boxing Day

Pushing open the door of The North Fitzroy Arms

Cool McCool

Tim Winton’s ear for dialogue and eye for nature

Vampire Weekend

Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

Bruce Dawe’s Suburban Lovers

The shotgun crack of an Adam Gilchrist six

The Glenelg North esplanade

Coopers sparkling ale

EH Holdens

The Big Lebowski

Annie Proulx

The guitar and keyboard solo on Father John Misty’s So I’m Growing Old On Magic Mountain

Bill Bryson’s self-deprecation

Glenelg Football Club

Shaun Micallef’s eyebrow

The menace of Keef’s guitar

Lake Wazzapamani

The Magpie and Stump pub

Kapunda High School’s croquet lawn

Allen de Botton’s The Art of Travel

Lana Del Ray

Group 1 racehorse and super stallion Snitzel

Clare Golf Club’s seventh hole

The Broadway’s beer garden

Frank Zappa

The Footy Almanac

Greg Chappell cricket hats

Garfish

Wichita Lineman

Triple J

humour in Courtney Barnett’s music

The architecture of Santiago Calatrava

Gideon Haigh’s cricket writing

The pause at the top of Shane Warne’s run up

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Belle and Sebastian’s delicate nostalgia

1998 Group Three Canterbury Cup winner Waikikamukau

Unexpected snow

The suggested intimacy in Josh Pyke’s lyrics

Paul McCartney’s boyish optimism

Three Little Bops

Blundstone boots

The Trip

Possessive apostrophes

Sonic Youth’s beautiful guitar noise

The DK Lillee statue outside the MCG’s Gate 1

Three D radio

Beauty and dread in Radiohead’s OK Computer

Bitches Brew by Miles Davis

Sea monkeys

Kapunda’s Prince of Wales pub

Dunlop volleys

The 1976 SANFL grand final

Paul Kelly’s evocations of summer

The Hammersmith & City Line

Frogger

Rose of Cimmaron by Poco when the banjo and harmonica emerge ever so quietly and briefly

Sizzletown

Wes Anderson’s shot composition

The Group 1 LKS MacKinnon Stakes

Don DeLillo

Championship Vinyl

Tim Lane’s commentary

Ljungbyhed

The sound of a bag of ice being dropped near an esky

2

24 Hours in Carrackalinga

When Claire, Trish and I were in Year 12 at Kapunda SA-FM had Triple Track weekends and these were organised by artist or theme.

I’m sure irony or satire were never playlist drivers at the fledgling radio station, as I don’t recall a ridiculous mid-70’s theme, but late Friday night in the upstairs lounge at Carrackalinga – after charades was done (with Claire in Eddie McGuire mode as both compare and a team captain), and the boys downstairs with Perchy the blue heeler being boys – for us there was dancing (OK, not all) and wine and nostalgia and laughter, and these three were played on Trisha’s phone-

S-S-Single Bed by Fox

The Way That You Do It by Pussyfoot

Jeans On by (Lord) David Dundas.

It was a moment of shared history and evoked a joyous time from our childhoods and cloaked the room in safety and deep privilege. Inside, it was warm and for a few hours just before midnight the outside world of lashing rain and lurking adult responsibilities ceased to matter.

I thought of the comfort of old friends and our forgiveness and acceptance, quiet encouragement and unspoken gifts to each other, given freely and often.

Saturday morning and we arose across a few languid hours and gently started our days, a bit like the characters in The Big Chill and as JB noted, each boy had cereal, slopped milk on the bench and table and then, of course, left the milk out. The fridge was too far away from them, an impossible bridge.

After Brett, Leonard, Alex, Riley, Oliver and I enjoyed a diverting quiz –

Who was the first Republican president?

Who performed “Waterloo Sunset?”

Where does port wine come from?

and then board games.

Some of us watched Muriel’s Wedding (Abba was a constant weekend companion) and then went to Myponga beach. It was invigorating and the tide swallowed much of the sand and just as we left the rain began. Riley and Max were in shorts and the apparent temperature was 4.9 degrees.

Thanks to JB, Leonard and Oliver for an excellent 24 hours in Carrackalinga.

On our way home it hailed as we drove through Sellicks Hill, but was warm in the car.

 

alex

Myponga beach

beach 2

boys mucking around on the beach and no-one gets wet!

beach

wintry beach a treat; as much seaweed as you can eat!

brett

Brett about to do his Michael Caine impersonation

charades 2

Claire and Max mid-charade, doubtless something equine

charades

the triumphant charade team

lounge

Saturday afternoon

max

Max

muriel

Saturday matinee: Muriel’s Wedding

sky

from the balcony looking south towards Yankalilla