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Sports Day

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The past month in our quiet corner of this blue planet has been Sports Day season, and last Thursday it was the turn of St Leonards Primary School.

Striding past the playground equipment, all the swings and ropes stationary above their crimped carpet of pine chips, the principal, I hear Mr HS is making his opening remarks. There’s the compulsory coffee van, heaving cake stall, curved sweep of parents and grandparents, school staff and finally the kids all sitting on the edge of the oval, in their houses, splashed and smeared in colour: Patawalonga (green), Buffalo (yellow), Holdfast (blue) and the boys’ team, Saints (red).

It’s a painterly scene with the waving gum trees and grey but innocuous clouds down south and to the east, over those low-slung hills. Mr HS also mentions that for the first time there’ll be a Spirit Shield. I like this as it places value on fairness, humility and being a good sport, whatever this means in 2018. I reckon the kids will be able to show us through their innocent investment and unbroken quest to have fun. There’ll be no ball tampering today.

The healthy sense of theatre continues. Some of the students are bursting to move, to get up and tumble about with their mates like Labrador pups, but they remain in place. This, of course, is rehearsal for adult life and its various endurance tests such as waiting in a doctor’s surgery when you’ve exhausted the grotty stack of magazines and you glimpse the rising dark outside beyond the car park.

Advance Australia Fair begins and I’m pleased that it’s the modern, inclusive version complete with didgeridoo and clapsticks. Everyone stands, staring into the middle distance, the kids singing while the adults mouth the words in a way that would challenge the most skilled of lip-readers.

Having reminded ourselves that we’re in the most curious and amusing of arcane states: girt by sea, we then move to the second, difficult verse. I know I’m outing myself as an incurable bogan but just as The William Tell Overture instantly connotates The Lone Ranger I hear our anthem and it’s instantly the AFL grand final.

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The final act in this preamble is each house performing their chant, in turn. There’s vigorous competition, community and connection in this. I look over at Alex who shouts the cutely warmongering words to the warm sky while Max is reserved in his recitation. He’s probably thinking of funny, alternate lyrics.

It’s been an excellent fifteen minutes in which the shared venture has contributed to the endless series of signals that is school tone. Having sat in many assemblies and public gatherings I’m warmed and proud that the climate here is eager and respectful. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

There’s a strong sense of inclusion to the athletic program too. Egg and spoon races, lawn bowls, tug of war, and a STEM challenge as well as the traditional pursuits. Alex first heads to the sprints, a track of about sixty metres. He lopes like a baby giraffe but covers the patchy grass surprisingly well. He wins.

This is a good opening but there’s an entire timeslot available so he strolls back to the start and a few minutes later he races again. And again. I can feel the parents’ collective approval as they scan ahead to the post-dinner, post-bath evening and the likelihood of exhausted kids, fully cooked, and in bed early.

I then watch Max tackle an obstacle course that brilliantly combines sack race, hurdles, running and crawling, commando-style, beneath a large tarp which has been pegged to the ground, deep in the forward pocket. Bear Grylls time. Jumping into his sack, Max is characteristically unhurried in getting comfortable and balanced before bounding off, a blonde joey in the distant scrub.

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The tarp has had a long and productive life but now features a couple of long tears across its middle. Some kids exit at the first hole, others at the second. None seem to crawl the intended stretch, and I wonder if there’s a secretive psychologist on campus, taking notes for a longitudinal study on how these choices might predict future moral lives.

But, I doubt it. They’re just kids, having fun on a bright autumnal morning, and learning more about each other and themselves, while their loved ones enjoy these fleeting, fragile moments.

Suddenly, my time has vanished. Still immersed in a proud glow, I drive away, towards the city.

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Round 3 – Adelaide v St Kilda: The Noel’s Caravans/ Jock Cheese Cup

BREAKING-

Malcolm Blight to replace Neil Kerley as face of Noel’s Caravans

Green Fields, Adelaide, April 2018

In a jolt to the chummy SANFL-football-icons-turned-caravan-promoters-community Neil Kerley has quit his post as a spokesperson for the quality but affordable leisure vehicles that are available at Noel’s.

With the reggae-kitsch and ear-wormish jingle playing over the lot’s PA system Kerls barked “I’m cooked,” to the mob gathered among the Millards. The gnarled legend then elaborated, “From now on you’ll only catch me by the yabby-rich yet cotton-theft-ravaged waters of Walker Flat. Flogging caravans is a young man’s game.”

noels

Heir presumptive Malcolm Blight then took an Island Star twenty-one-footer for a spin about Noel’s substantial block, and upon returning frowned at the narrow corridor into which he had to back the van. He was heard to mutter, “I can’t get this in here,” and despite The Messiah and his towed entourage being eighty metres away, another, likely interior voice breathed, “Yes, I can. I’m Malcolm Blight!”

Onlookers attest that the ex-Woodville Woodpeckers star then neatly reversed the caravan to a parking space by the front office, just like a wizened Jim’s Mowing franchisee.

After decades away from Adelaide, we welcome him home and await his work with Noel’s. And Malcolm, watch those bunkers on the 18th at Glenelg, an emu couldn’t escape them.

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Like the charismatic connection between Adelaide oval’s hot chips and the ever-newsworthy chicken salt, or early period Miles Davis and the popularisation of modal jazz’s harmonic rhythms, I can’t think of St Kilda without seeing Melbourne band TISM and their music video, “Greg! The Stop Sign!!”

Who can forget the footage of Saints (and Kimba) chap Shane Wakelin, alongside Justin Peckett and those anonymous others, pedaling their gym bikes? That this is accompanied by Beach Boys-styled vocals augments the sumptuousness, and as modern TAC satire’s most illustrious shot the camera then pans past various motivational signages festooned on the walls, including my eternal favourite: “Your (sic) a professional. Keep it simple.”

Screenshot (1)

*
Saturday night and with Blight, Kerley and TISM alumni, Humphrey B. Flaubert, Jock Cheese, Eugene de la Hot Croix Bun, and Ron Hitler-Barassi doubtlessly peering at the box (although probably not together) this fixture is underway.

Crow-for-life Mitch McGovern grabs and goals to get us underway but such is my remove from yoof that I can’t read his Anchorman moustache. Is it authentic, ironic or post-ironic? PM me if you can help.

For the Saints the aspirational housing developer’s dream Blake Acres (You’ll love coming home to Blake Acres) bends it too far at the other end. He’s lively early. While the Crows finished fluently last week they’re stuttering tonihgt.

Meanwhile the wife is watching The Bridges of Madison County. I trust Clint’s getting a few touches. Young Saint Jimmy Webster (was he in Goodfellas?) is also strong in attack, but the home side isn’t capitalising on their possession. Cam Ellis-Yolmen looks impressive around the ball, and his big body adds some grunt in this Crouchless knickers onball division. Meanwhile, Acres continues to be given too much space.

TISM

With daylight savings ended it’s dark at six, but still appealingly warm. I’m watching the game on a device on our patio, but somehow there’s more flies now than there were in January. I should light a mossie candle. I’d also have thought the Docklands seagull curfew to have passed but apparently not.

885 saints have been canonized by Pope Francis (2013–) during his pontificate and most of them (ignoring the five years after their death detail) have turned up to watch their eponymous side. There’s plenty of empty seats across the Docklands stadium so the miracle verification can continue apace.

Tom Lynch again shows his crystal vision and quick kicking which results in a major. He must be in the first six picked, every week. What if next year there’s two Tom Lynches in one side? Speaking of such, how lucky are we to have had so many Nathan Browns play AFL in the last decade?

Eddie finally opens his season’s account with a signature sequence of side-stepping and Sherrin-curling. With the earlier birth today of twin girls he’s had a surreal day in which life and footy have intersected in beautiful and complex ways.

Then, a Richard Douglas goal is reviewed to a behind because, allegedly, a subatomic fingernail particle made contact with the ball for a zeptosecond. Clearly, the physics is beyond me, but I’m sure these decisions are made using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The second half starts and I wonder how Ron, Humphrey, Jock and co are. I wonder if Kerls is cooking some yabbies and how Blighty hit them today. Sweetly, I’m guessing.

Don’t let me down, Bruce, gets one for the locals and they seem primed. But then the game again descends to the mundane, despite the clear nihgt. Like the final hour of a bikie wedding reception this is untidy stuff, until Betts gets it out the back to break the tedium. JB is settling into his new commentating role. I’d argue he’s better than BT or KB or DK or SK or BJ or VB.

The Crows register three rapidly, and the complexion changes. Then, former Pie Seedsman applies an exquisite tackle and we’re five goals to the good. Tex, off a step…

I duck into the boys’ room and coax the youngest to put down his latest Captain Underpants book (No, it wasn’t based upon a Saints’ end of season trip). He’s had a big day.

During the denouement Eddie takes a hanger. The siren sounds. The kick’s skinny, and irrelevant.

MB

 

 

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Birthday petanque and tropical tremors

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I hung over the side of my bed, and peered underneath. I expected to see a pair of blood-shot eyes and another pair of yellowing tusks, threatening to pierce my person. No, as near as I could tell, there was no razorback in my room.

More sudden movement as if something large was scurrying about on the tiled floor. It seemed to be trapped and decidedly unhappy. I thought briefly of the film, The Exorcist when young Regan’s bed starts bouncing about in downtown Washington. I wondered if Fathers Merrin and Karras could help me. Twenty-three stories up in a Darwin motel on a Monday, just before dawn, is as good a place as any for some demonic possession. Afterall, it was Holy Week.

Just as I was about to shout, “The power of Christ compels you!” I leapt from bed and rushed to the window to peer out across the harbour. It had only been a week since Darwin had somehow endured Cyclone Marcus, its worst storm since Tracy, in 1974. The palm fronds were still and the water was flat. What was happening?

I then did that most 2018 of things, I googled it. Earthquake. 6.6 on the Richter Scale and several hundred kilometers north in the Banda Sea adjacent to Indonesia. By now the clattering commotion had stopped. I’d been more curious than frightened. It lasted maybe fifteen seconds and had been unlike the Hollywood, Spielberg versions with swaying walls and rolling floors like an oceanic wave was pounding through.

It did seem more like a deranged beast than a seismic event, more satanic explosion than sudden release of stored energy from deep in the earth’s interior. Later I texted Kerry down in Adelaide and told her the earthquake had reminded me of the cult 1984 Australian film Razorback. Her reply pinged, Wakey wakey, hands off snakey!!

While the week begun with sudden violence upon the good earth it finished with a gentle afternoon of petanque on our own patch of the planet, the comforting rectangle of backyard lawn.

Yesterday our Max, our bright, challenging, playful Max turned eight and we had a family barbeque. He received some cash, a nerf gun and some Captain Underpants books which, of course, are all you need as you start moving through your ninth year.

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Late afternoon in the warming sun and from a dark corner of the shed we dragged out the petanque set I’d been given by Sylvie, the French exchange teacher I’d worked with many years ago.

Fresh off a week during which he’d won two Division 1 bowls grand finals up in the Barossa Dad was all over the kitty early. In one of these finals they’d beaten the affectionately described Tanunda Boxheads, and this is always a treat. He’s now played in nearly thirty bowls grand finals. I think this is remarkable.

I then subbed myself out, and handed my silver balls (sic) to Alex so I could tend the barbecuing over at Beefmaster Central. As I seared, flipped and poked I’d hear the occasional crack as the metal orbs clashed on the lawn and there’d be a burst of commentary from Dad or Barry or Mitchell.

It took me back to our Mediterranean travels and watching loose knots of older men playing similar games in parks or on the dirt in Italian seaside cities, and for me the past and the present came together for a happy moment.

Mum and my sister Jill took some photos, and this one is brilliant as it captures the scene so perfectly, it could’ve been constructed by a film director. There’s a singularity of focus and a shared application. It’s self-contained, and even Max, especially Max, the birthday boy, is a participant. He’s there, surrounded by his wider family, luxuriating in his petite gang, as they move up and down the lawn.

The mise-en-scène, the storytelling of this picture is grand, and personally compelling. It’s already a favourite photo.

After the destructive movement of Monday morning up in the tropics, back here on Good Friday, this photo freezes time and earth as it offers up a gift of stillness.

Motion and stillness. Motion and stillness.

Max glasses

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Like music? Like beer? Read this!

hay plains

Hay Plain – Julia Jacklin

It’s a rite of passage for many of us. Going from South Australia to Sydney and driving across the Hay Plains.

In the summer of 1989 old Kapunda mates Bobby, Swanny, Puggy, Pinny (not actually his nickname but it seems a shame to exclude him) and I drove it in a hire car.

It was a Commodore wagon with a radar detector we’d borrowed from local publican and iconoclast Puffa. It went, as your Uncle would say, like the clappers.

I’m sure we had other cassettes but I remember the B52’s Cosmic Thing featuring, of course, “Love Shack.” It was a fun album, but twice a day for three weeks became, for me, audio water-boarding.

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Around Coffs Harbour the tape somehow ended up buried in my suitcase. Someone, I suspect it was Swanny, solved the mystery of the Missing Cassette and rescued the tragic tape. On it went! Yippee. “If you see a painted sign…”

Every night all five of us slept in the same big room. At least one would sleep in his clothes. I can only guess at the olfactory horror of those murky, blokish spaces.

I’m pretty sure we ate KFC every day for about three weeks. It was like that alarmist documentary Super Size Me. I blew up like an inflatable raft.

KFC

Julia Jacklin is a great alt-country singer songwriter and her debut album Don’t Let The Kids Win features beautifully-crafted songs. “Hay Plain” is an atmospheric, plaintive number in which she uses her charismatic voice to engaging affect.

In it she makes reference to that iconic Sydney road, the Western Distributor. In 1985 on my first trip to Sydney with Trev, Chrisso and Woodsy in his Datsun 180B we stayed with a mate in Drummonye and used this road daily.

Right by the exit was a huge billboard with a giant image of a funnel web spider baring its metre-long fangs, warning people to avoid these horrific fuckers.

One night we got home and our old school mate Brendan, now peeling prolifically because of Bondi sunburn, yelled out, “No! We’ve been robbed. Someone’s stolen my cup of skin.”

Julia Jacklin’s on my list of acts to see and this clip from a show in Melbourne’s Northcote Social Club captures her warmth and talent-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf6YdmKIChU

Pleader- alt J

British indie darlings alt-J toured Australia late last year and old mate Brett and I went along to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on a Tuesday. Tuesday being the convenient and traditional night for major touring artists to play in our little city.

Having avoided incapacitation by a Coopers Clear – surely the Trevor Chappell of this distinguished beer family – we ventured into the barn-like room and I was delighted by the crisp and punchy sound quality. The band were amazing unlike their set at Singapore’s Laneway Festival in 2014 when, dogged by technical problems, they sulked off stage mid-song.

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I texted Brett the day after the Adelaide concert and shared that I thought the final song of their most recent album was the highlight of our night. “Pleader” is a moody six minutes’ voyage with the opening three a foreboding instrumental before the last half of the track has a stunning choral outchorus, complete with agrarian imagery and biblical textures.

The accompanying video is inspired by the Welsh mining classic novel How Green Was My Valley? Among the unforgettable scenes is one with a landslide caused by the detonation of a WW2 German V2 bomb.

The vocals are distinctive and rarefied and the lush orchestration builds the sense of doom. Hugely impressive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrhSJzM8NLE

Coopers Session Ale

Released mere weeks after the apocalyptic 1993 preliminary final in which the Crows choked after half time, Coopers Black Crow came into the market. This marked a spectacularly dismal month for crows, everywhere.

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A mid-strength lager, it was massively disappointing, especially for an enthusiast such as me. It was named by public competition among significant fanfare. A more accurate name would have been Dead Cat Piss.

Bursting into the world last October was Coopers Session Ale. It is everything its feathery, deceased predecessor was not.

Tropical, fruity, and with citrus complexity beyond big brother the celebrated Pale Ale, it speaks of a lazy afternoon on a Pacific island. Marrying Galaxy and Melba hop varieties with secondary fermentation, it’s animated in the glass, a triumph of golden straw colour and fetching aroma.

Each and every Friday around 4.27pm I pay wave $12 at Gavin, mine host at the Broady and receive two crisp pints in return as the murmuring and the post-working week shuffling builds in his front bar.

I must mention that the packaged version is inferior, and humbly submit that the colossal Sparkling Ale is the only Coopers beer which is better out of a bottle, a bloody big bottle.

Still the Session Ale is a ripper. Perfect.

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A Day on the Green: Getting Shirty

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If the great Australian play, Don’s Party, and the often-maligned film, The Big Chill, both concern themselves with university graduates a decade or so into their careers and juggling work, family, and reconciling fading student idealism and with their tarnished realities, then the Day on the Green music festival is also populated by a specific demographic.

These are about us Gen X types. For many of us, music in the 1980’s was unspeakably horrific, and post-2000, a little spasmodic if not disappointing.

The 1990’s were it.

So yesterday on the outskirts of McLaren Vale, as American grunge outfit Veruca Salt worked through their excellent set, we were sitting back on our chairs and watching all the punters and all their different band shirts. It seemed to be an unspoken uniform.

Anyhow, the wife suggested I make a list of the band shirts I saw.

Midnight Oil – Head Injuries and Great Circle tour edition
Bad/Dreems – making expertise use of the West End design
Fat Boy Slim
Rise Against
Cold Chisel- Adelaide 500 edition; sadly no East album shirts

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Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes
The Living End – is it cool or even appropriate to wear a band shirt to their concert? Is it done ironically?
Ed Sheeran – this poor kid had obviously been dragged along by her parents!
Some band called Bintang – I think they’re big in Bali, specialising in Khe Sahn covers
AC/DC – For Those About To Rock
The Hard Ons – given the demographic, at future concerts they’ll be supported by rising punk stars, The Viagras
Tool – see above

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Motorhead
The Clash – London Calling shirts; impossibly cool
My Bloody Valentine
ZZ Top
Nirvana – the smiley face version
Joy Division
Pink Floyd
Guns ‘n’ Roses
Cosmic Psychos – nice day for some beetroot

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Adam Ant – What do we make of this?
DZ Deathrays
Boony Army – great band out of Tasmania, lead singer a stout moustachioed cult hero
Green Day
Screaming Jets
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

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Pennywise
INXS
NOFX
Foo Fighters
The Audreys
The Smith Street Band

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Old Day On The Green shirts – again is this cool, or sad? How would I know!
Sturt Football Club – I think they play the, wait for it, blues
Rage Against the Machine – male, middle-class and white
Pantera
Dropkick Murphys
Dandy Warhols
Metallica – not the Speed of Sound tour, as roadied by The Dude
Red Hot Chilli Peppers
The Darkness
Fred Pants and the Footy Pies – this one intrigued you didn’t it? I just made it up. But I’m going to get it printed before my next concert. I’ll be the coolest guy there.

clash

Quite a list.

Of course, I was sat there in a checked shirt, looking like an accountant searching for a water cooler. Maybe I could’ve worn my c. Marsh b. Lillee shirt.

Later, in the rain wandering through the crowd I had on a plastic poncho. A bloke yelled at me, “Nice poncho. You’ll never catch me wearing a condom!”

“Fair enough.” I replied, “But I’m trying to keep the stuff out, not the stuff in.”

Heading along the Southern Expressway (to home, not Yr Skull) I glanced at the dashboard clock, and said, “It seems like midnight! At this rate we’ll have to go to a Lunchtime on the Green in future.”

It was just after 9pm. “Or maybe Brunch on the Green,” replied the wife.

Meanwhile, let me know if you spot a Fred Pants and the Footy Pies shirt.

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Finally, a pub review: The Broadway

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I write today with shame in my heart.

As this modest blog moves into its fifth year I apologise to my small and disturbed audience.

I’m yet to pen a pub review.

In the heart of Singapore is a historic convent called Chijmes, largely because it began its impressive architectural life as Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Middle Education School. It’s now a maze of restaurants and grog-shops, and the wife and I liked going there occasionally, of an evening. It had a Hog’s Breath Café. We celebrated our anniversary there once; Chijmes, not Hoggy’s.

chijmes

Among Chijmes’ attractions was a bar in a sunken courtyard that has a name rhyming with Harry’s. One night this happened.

“Sir, the beer is now cheaper because it’s happy hour.”

“Great. How much is it?”

“Thirteen dollars.”

“But aren’t these normally fourteen?”

“Yes.”

I instantaneously vowed to never go to Harry’s during its utterly fecking miserable hour, which I think I’m suggesting is each of its fecking opening hours. You’d have more fun chasing John Howard and his track-suited self about Kirribilli through some July sleet whilst personally enduring a particularly vigorous bout of diarrhoea.

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No such problems at The Broadway in Glenelg South. Despite being a resident of the area on and off over the last couple decades I’m a recent convert to the collected charms of The Broadway enclave.

It’s parallel to the more celebrated Jetty Road, but superior in myriad ways. Named for the small town in Worcestershire in the Cotswolds- we ate lunch in one of its pubs one autumn Sunday, it may surprise you to read- it presents and functions as an English village but with generally better weather.

It has Glenelg’s best butchers, fish ‘n’ chips, book shop/café, dental surgery, pizza – Pizza on Broadway although it’s actually on Partridge Street; I guess Pizza on Partridge may have led the munchers to think they were getting roasted spoggy on their Italian takeaway, and I’ll admit this is a niche category, the best restaurant/dry cleaners in a former petrol station/ garage.

The Broadway pub is great. Most Fridays I wheel in there around 4.27, depending on traffic and invest an energetic hour. I get there then because I have a medical condition which renders me physically (psychologically, spiritually, mentally etc) unable to remain at work beyond 4pm at week’s end. After this time it’s also not possible for me to guarantee the safety of my colleagues, and I’d rather not end up on A Current Affair.

For a brief, deluded period I frequented a boozer much closer to home, near the Buffalo, but it was also frequented by clots (I employ this metaphor advisedly) of high-vis chaps, who seemed to have been in the pub since mid-morning, as they were bleary-eyed and looking like they might thump some strangers. This idea has decreasing appeal for me so I decamped to the Broady.

The bar staff, led by Gavin, is attentive and anticipatory. There’s a flock of TV screens showing lots of sport, but these are turned down low and a Triple J- type playlist drifts across the pub-o-sphere. Last night I heard The Smiths and Queens of the Stoneage. I’ve never heard P!nk. On Saturdays there’s a warmer bursting with snags, and a loaf of bread nearby to keep the punters happy.

The house next door was recently bought and its front yard; turned into a beer garden (how good would this really be? A garden that grew beer!) from which you can watch folks exiting the neighbouring dentists; one hand nursing their numb jaw, the other nursing their bruised wallet.

garden

A while back I made a solemn promise to my old mate Bazz. I said I’d ring him every time I went to the pub. Not out of any deep human concern; I just thought it would be funny. And now, about a year in, when I ring every single Friday at 4.45pm I seem to go through to Bazz’s voicemail. It’s a mystery.

Yesterday old mucker Trev* joined me and we had a terrific hour. As old school mates we moved between the sunny nostalgia of old friends and old music and old times. We laughed, as Les Norton used to say, like drains. We dissected and discussed and were merrily diverted. Of course he immediately referenced this line from The Blues Brothers when Jake is talking with Bob from Bob’s Country Bunker

I’d better check up, see how he’s doing, see I have to sign it too. I usually sit in the car and write it out on the glove compartment lid.

And, courtesy of the Broadway’s excellent happy hour, we did it over six dollar beers which, of course, starts the weekend in an appropriately brisk and lively style. If a pub’s optimal function is to replicate your lounge room then this pub succeeds, easily.

Next time you’re in Glenelg South, give me a shout, and I’ll sneak in there with you, and let you buy me a beer.

*his real name

dudes

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The Ragged and Clumsy Beauty of Cricket Clubs

club

Psst. Come over here. Lend me your shell-like ear for I’ve a confession.

I learnt more at cricket clubs than I did when undertaking my degree.

Now, this isn’t a criticism of my alma mater, or untoward praise of the gents with whom I shared a summery oval and a clammy protector, just a reflection from my current viewpoint.

And why shouldn’t it be?

Yesterday, the Plympton Bulldogs Cricket Club had its Under 12’s Presentation Night (Presso), and after twenty-odd years it was great to again be in a cricket community.

The wood-panelling was festooned with premiership pennants, and the dates on these were sufficiently regular and recent to confirm that we’d made a wise choice for our boys.

If their last flag had been in, say, 1953, it might have spoken of the club’s resilience and bright optimism in slogging away over fruitless decades, but as any mug punter will tell you, if I can mix speculative and seafaring metaphors, it’s necessary to have an earn or two along the journey, to keep the scurvy at bay.

Happy in their undisputed real estate at the corner of the bar were a couple chaps in red and black Bulldogs polo shirts. On the back, triumphantly listed, were their team-mates: Dogga, Perky, Kev, BK etc. In the roster were universal names, and a few quirky inclusions that also suggest a healthy and robust culture.

Glancing up at the TV to check the score from South Africa I see that everyone’s fourth favourite Test-playing, West Australian Marsh: the elongated Mitch (behind Rod, Geoff and Shaun) was assembling a tidy innings. He seems in danger of becoming a useful cricketer.

The family in front of me struggles to finalise their meal order as the kids are compulsorily indecisive. “But you said you wanted gravy. Are you sure? Once it’s on the schnitzel we can’t take it off. Lemonade or squash? You might just have to have water.”

If this was a pub there could be an impatient urgency, born of a commercial subtext, but this is a community, and the matronly manager runs both her till and club with the reassuring and unhurried calm of a pilot’s pre-flight announcement.

Each coach presents a trophy to all his players, and makes a considered, careful, encouraging, inclusive speech. The words are promises and handshakes. Most refer to their stapled pages, and these hand-scrawled notes are emblems of investment, beacons forward for a modest, suburban cricket club.

alex 2

About an hour in, Alex’s coach cycles around to the bowling trophy. The audience has been respectful and attentive, only occasionally requiring a shrill whistle from an elder to refocus the boisterous pups by the bar.

The coach continued. “This lad’s only just turned ten. And after playing the first game in the Under 10’s he came up to our team.” I speculated silently on the recipient. “He always bowled a really good line and length, and across the season had over a hundred dot balls (each player only gets two or three overs a game).”

“The winner is Alex Randall.” And up from his plastic chair in the fifth row he went, boyish and shyly pleased, as his Mum and I both got a bit of dust in our eyes, simultaneously. We found each other’s hand, and after an exhausting week had a moment that suddenly reminded us again of the worth in those often hideous Sunday starts, the washing of grassy whites, and the nagging to pack away the sprawling cricket coffin.

Wandering back to the car along the balmy, twilight oval past assorted kids running and hollering and launching balls skyward I thought, not for the first time these past weeks, about the trajectory from childhood across the adult decades.

Situated along this arc there’s many gorgeous people competing for our loyalty and love – wives; husbands; kids; parents; friends. But in trying to best shape ourselves I’ve decided there’s another who I’ve forgotten, and who I now really want to impress: a golden-haired, perfectly-conceived boy who sees you exactly as you want to be seen.

My ten year-old self.

Meanwhile go and hug a cricket club, in all its ragged, clumsy beauty.

alex 1