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Running up that Carrackalinga Hill

Claire and I trudged through the soft sand of the beach and nursed a coffee at the village green. How daggily cool when from the barista’s van burst, ‘The Pina Colada Song?’ Of course, I’m not into yoga but may have half a brain.

We’re in Carrackalinga with old friends. It’s Saturday morning and our day reaches out with electric possibility.

Planned equally with science and enthusiasm, my run’s to the Forktree Brewery and back to our accommodation. It’s my daily four kilometres. But up a hill. How tough can it be?

Round, emerald knolls watch over Carrackalinga and making my way up the road a herd of sheep encourages my ambling by bleating in charitable ways. Last night’s pizza is now unwelcome ballast.

On the outskirts of town, a council election poster urges participation in this democratic event. Texas-sized utes and rattling 4WDs pass and some swerve away from me in vehicular acknowledgement of my ascent. Or not wishing to bloody their bull bars.

There’s several twists and the road’s undulating. Accustomed to the flat esplanade of Glenelg North, my thighs protest this topographical change to their jogging routine.

Finally, the brown tourist sign I’ve been seeking for excruciating minutes: Forktree Brewery. I’ve never been so pleased to arrive at a brewery, despite being presently incapable of having a beer.

I’m soaked. My ears popped on the way up and my legs are so convinced of an alpine elevation that they expect a few twirling snowflakes.

A woman and her dog survey the beer garden. We exchange a few only-one-of-us-is-in-a-brewery words. With her hound marching her tree-ward she asks, ‘Where have you run from?’

Still in the carpark and puffing I reply, ‘Our holiday house back down the hill.’

She replies, ‘Awesome! Great job!’ Her husband appears with two pints. She’s an American but they live on Kangaroo Island. They both take a sip.

‘How’s the beer?’

‘Pretty good,’ they nod.

‘Lovely,’ I say, ‘We’re heading to Myponga later. Might go to the Smiling Samoyed Brewery.’ They both offer a glowing critique.

The brewery’s 151 metres above sea level. This might seem numerically unimpressive but having extracted a personal toll each of those demanding centimetres now generates a handsome reward.

Hands on hips, I drink in the wide, wide vista up and down the Fleurieu coast. Gentle, green ranges. Sprawling white homes hugging the shore. A seaweedy tan smears the shallows and then the gulf deepens into a marine blue.

Tumbling down the hill. It’s almost controlled falling. Again, the vehicles are generous, and the sheep are softly supportive. A couple rotund blokes nod at me from a front lawn.

The cottonwool clouds appear as if they’re daubed on a God-sized canvas and although it’s mid-winter these pledge imminent awakening. Spring could almost be ready to say, ‘Boo!’

Our double story digs swim into sight and I wonder what’s happening inside with Claire, my friends, and the boys. Toast, hairdryers, and teenagers still in bunks.

I crunch up the gravel driveway.

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Mystery Date: Magarey Medals and Magill Road

Claire and I share a monthly tradition in which one takes the other to a secret pub for a Friday hour. But Mystery Pub has a less frequent and more leisurely sibling we call Mystery Date.

Saturday was my turn to be indulged.

Some loathe surprise but I love to bask in the underlying kindness. Parking the car at Light Square I’m then on foot and chaperoned through our handsome city. The clouds made a low, grey ceiling and the streets were emptyish. Claire wondered if the subdued, barren landscape were still plagued by the pandemic.

North Terrace is an elegant boulevard befitting Paris or Madrid and as we scurried past the casino, art gallery and assorted statues of older men, less-old men and dead men on horseback I was curious about our first stop.

Our Footy, Our People, Our Stories was an invitation to drift back gently to my childhood. The SANFL exhibition features photos and sound archives and film footage. We watched the highlights of Glenelg’s 1986 triumph and then saw Port Adelaide win the 1988 flag, the first of nine premierships in about a decade. I understood Macbeth’s despondency upon seeing that Banquo’s offspring would reign forever when he mutters in disgust, ‘Will the line stretch out until the crack of doom?’

How great to then pause in the Library Café and peer out across the wet courtyard and admire the museum and meditate upon the joyous escapism these majestic buildings provided us when we were kids. They still do.

After some sneaky misdirection and circuitous driving to preserve the mystery Claire pulled up on Magill Road. Drifting east and in and out of some antiques stores we also gazed in the windows of boutiques and restaurants and speculated upon their offerings. We chatted constantly and made connections to our surroundings, and each other.

Wolfie’s Records occupies an entire cottage and sells vinyl, vintage clothing and used turntables. In a small room Claire and I flicked through the racks of albums and here’s a snippet of our conversation-

C- Rod Stewart. Yuk.

M- Here’s a Jackson Browne record I’ve been after.

C- Great. I like him too.

M- Phil Collins. One word- why?

C- Oh, God. Dr. Hook!

M- No, we already have the Sherbet Collection.

C- Ripper ’77?

M- Has the entire country flogged off their LRB collection?

And then in another cottage crowded with audiophiles we repeated the process a few doors up at Big Star Records. It was a lovely, diverting hour and I was keen to play my new/used $10 copy of Running on Empty. Over a warming shiraz later that night it would teleport me back to Kapunda and Year 11 when I understood little of it but tried to imagine its palm-treed Californian world.

Having gifted me an afternoon of footy and music, with her unparalleled kindness my wife then drove me through Stepney’s narrow streets to the Little Bang Brewery at which she’d made a reservation for two.

It was bursting with good fortune and a thrumming din. A sign announced a party that had assembled for ‘Mitch’s 30th.’ With Pinto Gris and IPA refreshments aboard we decamped to our cosy balcony space and surveyed the steel beer vats.

Suitable menu items were selected and we dissected our excursion and considered the evening. Identifying Mitch we note that his wife appeared to be about 8 and 3/4 months pregnant so we silently wished them joy and patience from our lofty location.

The fare was fine and as always I enjoyed my beery excursion into novelty. Steering through the mid-winter dusk and thrilling despairing at the radio’s description of Port losing, I contemplated the spring edition of Mystery Date which I’d curate for Claire.

It would soon be upon us.

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On Being Gentle

Over the Adelaide Hills an orange pinkness stretches out into our sky. It bursts as a cathedral across the city.

Here, on the tiny yellow ribbon of sand we’re rotating deathlessly towards the sun and a Thursday dawn is upon us. The beach is ours alone and in coats and scarves and beanies we tramp north. Heading along by the regularly crashing waves, and into our promising days, we exchange ideas both small and transformational.

Are these vivid almost hallucinogenic sunrises and sunsets still caused by the Tongan volcanic eruption? Or given our seemingly heightened human catastrophe, is this nature’s reassurance that our problems are petty and of cosmic inconsequence?

On the sand there’s a scramble of human and dog prints like kid’s scribble. In the gathering light we wonder if these are the earthy reminders of those who’ve come before us this morning, or these fleeting impressions survived the night by escaping the high tide’s indifference.

It’s a great spot to visit as a dog. Some parade abound, heads proudly aloft with dribbly tennis balls wedged in mouth while others greet the water and each other. On the King Street bridge we later spy the much loved trio of Golden Retrievers. Their happiness is instructive. But today, the beach is quiet and we’re bathed in gentleness.

I can’t name a single Charlotte Church song but glancing at an article recently noted that her best advice is, ‘be gentle.’ It’s something I’ve heard over the years and it’s curious that saying this to myself in a Welsh lilt (she’s from Cardiff) I’ve finally vowed to allow it deeper governance. Unlike the mock-heroic inner forearm inscriptions of ‘Brayden’, ‘Jayden’ or ‘No Regerts’ I think ‘be gentle’ would make a good tattoo. Maybe not on your bum.

A Friday or two back my wife Claire and I went to the Gov to see Josh Pyke. It was a triumph and sitting by the open fire it was lounge room intimate. Paul Kelly is our finest storyteller, but there’s an argument that JP is our most accomplished and affecting musical poet.

He took us on a kindly tour of his celebrated catalogue and these songs are often fragile prayers. They promote gentleness. ‘The Lighthouse Song’ is an ode to the joyous notions of sacrifice to the other and mindfulness-

So we are moving to a lighthouse, you and I
While seas drown sailors, we’ll be locked up safe and dry
And we are moving to a lighthouse, you and I
Our beams will burn the clouds to beacons in the sky
And though our doors may knock and rattle in the wind
I’ll just hold you tight and we’ll not let those others in.

But at dawn with my wife Claire on our sweep of beach I thought of his new tune called, ‘A Town You’ve Never Been To.’ It’s a hymn of gratitude for his musical and poetic gifts, and a wish for his various personal and artistic loves to remain unbroken. It’s a quest for adventure and truth.

I think it’s also about wishing to be gentle.

So find a street that you’ve never been down
In a town that you’ve been to
And sing a song that you love for me

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Mystery Pub: El Cheeky Flamingo

‘As your attorney I advise you to have a beer,’ said Claire.

No she didn’t, but I just wanted to insert a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference given that I’m re-reading Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalism classic. Gonzo denotes an exaggerated and crazy and proudly subjective style. But you knew this already.

It’s a text that celebrates excess and ridiculousness and decadence which, of course, is entirely unrepresentative of the ideals we hold dear regarding the monthly excursion of Mystery Pub.

Parking at Claire’s CBD worksite we then galloped a mile or so to the East End. I had no insight into our destination and arriving at Vardon Street there were tables and chairs and fire pits all stocked and awaiting ignition. It was another episode in their Winter Weekends event.

Having secured a chardonnay and a draught beer we sat by a gas heater as event staff set the redgum ablaze. Microphones and amps were connected under a marquee.

Meanwhile music played and the acoustics meant we could only hear the bass. The vocals were terribly muddy. We thought one song the Shawn Mullins’ tune ‘Lullaby.’ You know the one that begins with an almost spoken-word style that’s a bit Jack Nicholson in tenor-

She grew up with the children of the stars
In the Hollywood hills and the boulevards.
Her parents threw big parties. Everyone was there.
They hung out with folks like Dennis Hopper and Bob Seger and
Sonny and Cher.

And then the chorus goes-

Everything’s gonna be all right.
Rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye.
Everything’s gonna be all right.
Rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye.

A one-hit wonder from 1998, we agree that it’s a good song.

But it wasn’t the one we heard. I don’t know what it was. Something with a similar bass guitar line. Good for the mystery to continue on Mystery Pub night.

Meanwhile a man cooked meat with Spanish aromas. None of that for us as we had some equally evil charcuterie treats home in the Frigidaire. Is there anything better than Friday night cheese?

I had a Balter XPA and Claire had an approachable merlot blend. All wine should be approachable. I’ve no truck with haughty plonk.

We made our way back to the car via the Illuminate Festival on North Terrace. A giant queue of kids and parents stretched outside the museum. Like blackheads on a teenager there were inky puffer jackets everywhere.

Inside was a Lego event. A gonzo occasion of tremendous proportions. We left them to it.

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Running along the Yarra

It’s breakfast time in Melbourne.

Traversing Flinders Street, I jog by the Sea Life Aquarium and make my way through Enterprize Park. I later learn it’s where the first European settlers arrived in 1835. My boys, Alex and Max, are asleep upstairs in our apartment. We’re here for a weekend of footy and exploration.

It’s still and crisp. A cloudless winter morning in this elegant city.

I cut across an empty Queens Bridge Street and step cautiously over the bumpy cobblestones of Banana Alley. I imagine the Yarra was once vital to the economic life of Melbourne. I guess its value today is mostly ornamental. Some rowers are stretching out on the coffee-coloured surface.

There’s buried, industrial rumblings from Flinders Street Station. I press on.

Under the Princes Bridge an Asian man is fishing. Two lines are dancing on the drink. I wonder what he might be after. If the concrete boots aren’t too heavy, he could land a Ganglands War victim.

Progressing along Flinders Walk I pass a gin bar, Junipalooza, which confirms that ‘looza’ is an overused suffix. Has our planet reached peak gin yet? Will Bundy ever be world dominant? No, I don’t think so.

Melbourne’s cityscape is a marvel. Yesterday, as we headed to the MCG for our midday tour Alex remarked to Max that he found the metropolis, ‘architecturally interesting.’ This became a discussion and I’m pleased they express curiosity about these things.

Entering the space of Birrarung Marr I’m struck by birdsong and the accompanying aural surprise in what’s otherwise a vast built environment. It’s refreshing. And now there’s a bicycle repair station between me and the river! What a simple yet generous gesture and I hope the vandals respect it. It’s symbolic of the petit accommodations ubiquitously afforded by Melbourne.

Rod Laver and John Cain Arenas swim into view. In 1988 some Kapunda boys and I left the MCG after a day-nighter. I wanted to watch Allan Border bat but was at the loo in the stadium’s bowels when he came and went for a first-ball duck. Like a scene from a Russian documentary, we later saw hundreds of workers toiling away under floodlights to finish the Tennis Centre in time for the Australian Open.

My half-way point is the Swan Street Bridge, so I nudge along it and head home on the other bank.

Boathouse Drive is quietly industrious with relaxed, flush-looking folk carrying out their oars and boats. They seem to be enjoying the leisurely rhythms of their exercise routine. A barbecue sizzles away on a rowing club balcony.

Wearing a New York marathon t-shirt, a jogger is alongside me. I smile and vow to also buy a similar souvenir from eBay. He then propels past me as if I’m a statue. Disappearing like the roadrunner, I note that he has an athletes’ calves. I reconsider. Perhaps the shirt is authentic.

Southbank is tranquil apart from scattered patrons hunched over lattes and the (now dismembered) Age. Late yesterday when I ran along the river the restaurants were all busy with enthusiastic punters. The emerging trend for Friday nuptials continuing, a large wedding party promenaded past me, with knots of impossibly prosperous-looking couples off to the reception. There were also some boisterous lunches ambling into what sounded distinctly like hour number four. I doubt that I’ve seen any of the participants at this bright, embryonic stage of morning.

Near home I by-pass two mature women waiting for a taxi. Even at my distance I catch a gust of their perfume. It’s from the Chemist Warehouse and surely named Ski Field (for Seniors).

The apartment elevator takes me upstairs.

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Beer Review: The Rancid, Amoral Horror of Great Northern

It was almost there and then it was gone.

The faintest suggestion of a promise of a possible future hint of tiny taste and then it disappeared.

Great Northern Original Lager is representative of all that is evil in late-period capitalism.

It was clearly developed around a table by some untreatably dreadful marketing types. Wearing dangerously pointy boots and strategic stubble, I’ll bet it was workshopped (these shameless ones can often be caught turning innocent nouns into vapid verbs) on butcher’s paper, or the slick e-equivalent.

Their website declares that the beer was, ‘brewed with an outdoor lifestyle in mind’ and I remain curious as to what this might look like given the beverage nightmare. ‘Outdoors’ might mean attack from a marauding numbat or vaguely agitated moth, and you could pelt one of these (unopened) beer bottles at them. If you didn’t hit them, at least they’d be terminally offended by your unspeakable taste in lager.

I took another reluctant sip and peered again at the (dis)information on my screen. With a bold face it stated that the ale was, ‘Light golden in colour with a fruity aroma, subtle bitterness and light palate.’ The following then occurred to me: Adelaide water, that universally maligned liquid, has superior aroma, bitterness and palate.

The bottle label also tells me that the Cairns brewery was established in 1927 which might’ve been fortunate for the then good folk of FNQ. Just play around with F and Q and it’s almost onomatopoeic of their attitude towards us, the customers. Happily, the Great Depression struck in 1929 and the local public may have found themselves unable to afford this depraved slop.

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My inattention then turned towards the Great Northern Super Crisp Lager which comes in at a non-descript 3.5%. 3.5 is widely acknowledged as the most bland of all numerals. Italian mathematician (and slashing middle-order bat) Fibonacci hated it.

This lager is also allegedly brewed with, ‘an outdoor lifestyle in mind.’ Is there something offensive to these people about drinking a beer indoors? In fact, I reckon this might be for the best. I’d go one step further, just in case someone you knew was walking past and saw what you were voluntarily doing, and pull down all the blinds.

I’m now thinking about the ‘Super Crisp’ qualifiers. I think this might be a fair claim, but only if you’re comparing this sorry muck to week-old lettuce. And given the price of lettuce I’d gobble that up as soon as you left the supermarket checkout, before a Leaf Vegetable Gang mugs you in the carpark.

Further investigation uncovers that our marketing funsters refer to this as the, ‘ultimate refreshment for the Great Northern conditions.’ Remember that scene in Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne convinces Captain Hadley to buy beer for him and his co-workers? They then drink it on the roof and Andy is celebrated as a hero. If it had been Great Northern Super Crisp Lager that scene might’ve been unmatchably gruesome. Andy would never have peeled back the Raquel Welsh poster and dug his way out of prison. They’d have hoicked him off that roof.

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The Wedding of Nugg and Loz

Last October the Kimba crew were in a Yorke Peninsula winery but it was closing early because of a wedding reception. The rustic setting was decorated in bright colours and a large sign announced the nuptials of Nugg and Loz. We speculated on the nature of the father of the bride speech over shiraz and a charcuterie , Chaka Chan platter. It was a funny lunch.

Any resemblance to persons living or otherwise is tremendous.

*

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to Nugg and Loz’s wedding. I’m proud to be giving this father of the bride speech. Don’t you agree that what we saw earlier was a moving and beautiful ceremony?  

I want to start by thanking everyone for coming here to the reception tonight at the Currabunga/Nungeedowner/St Frumentius Cricket Club. Even though the windows were all stolen yesterday I don’t think it’s too cold in here at all. I just heard that Fred’ll be back soon with two blankets so that’ll help. It’s lovely here, though, isn’t it? Well, at least it is now that the blizzard is over.

A big thanks as well to everyone who’s assisted with the catering. I’m confident when I say that these are the finest egg and brussel sprout sandwiches that’ve ever been served at a wedding.

Today, December 15, is also Sam the butcher’s birthday. Sam grew up a long, long way from here in Cairns and we learnt ukulele together as kids. Although he’s never visited here and as near as I can tell none of you has heard of him, I thought it important to mark this date.

As you can see, Loz or Lauren as her mother and me and Uncle Dennis named her, inherited her stunning looks from her mother, definitely not me.

You’ve become a strong, independent woman. We’re all so proud of you Loz and especially your decision to start your own plumbing business. It’s the finest plumbing business in Currabunga. It might be the only plumbing business in Currabunga, but I’ll stand by these words.

We also know that deciding to run your own plumbing business without a vehicle is challenging. We’ve all seen you out on your bicycle riding around town, carrying broken toilets and washing machines and kitchen sinks under your right arm as you steer your wobbling bike with your left. This is surely a sign of your determination, Loz.

Now to Jayden or Nugg as everyone here knows you. Loz’s mother Beryl and I have long had our eye on you as a very talented young man. Once I first noticed you as a twelve-year-old when you came 5th in the fielding trophy for the Currabunga/Nungeedowner/St Frumentius Cricket Club Under 10’s, I knew you’d be a leader in our town. Maybe one day you’ll tell me your secret. I was never much of a cricketer. I guess it doesn’t help that I didn’t learn to swim.

I’m not a man of endless words; honestly, I’m more comfortable playing a ukulele to my pet goats around the woodshed, but I do want to say that Jane, sorry, Loz, has been the light of my life.

Now, a little birdie told me that these two newlyweds have planned a very exciting honeymoon. Tomorrow Nugg and Loz are leaving the Currabunga/Nungeedowner/St Frumentius Cricket Club and cycling forty minutes east to achieve their life-long dream. And do I hear you ask where are they going? Yes, you guessed it! To Jones Valley and its world-famous Dishwasher Museum.

And now, as I end this father of the bride speech, I’d like to raise a toast to my daughter and son-in-law. I wish the two of you the very best in the years ahead.

To Nugg and Loz and a beautiful future.

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To Alex and Max, on our Melbourne Trip

Hello there boys

There’s endless excitement in the alarm buzzing at 4.15, when dawn is hours away, and with surprise and shared adventure, a holiday stretches out before us. This trip was special. It was our first time on a plane for years and we’d planned it together.

By mid-morning when we sat down to a late breakfast on Degraves Street we’d taken an Uber, caught a plane, hopped on the express Skybus, and with luggage dragging behind, had ambled from Southern Cross Station to our apartment. Perhaps to complete the set we should’ve each ridden a unicycle to the footy.

Much of this now appears in my mind like a private film screening. In distinct scenes I can see you both walking by the Yarra and through Carlton Gardens to the museum and along Jolimont Road to the MCG. You’re chatting constantly about everything and anything. As brothers you’re robust and occasionally fierce, but this is what I’d long hoped for and imagined. These pictures are already precious and timeless.

At Australia’s museum of screen culture, ACMI, many of the displays dated from before you were born but you both entered this historical world with enthusiasm. I love your interest in culture and when you jumped in the box dedicated to the music show Countdown Alex immediately yelled, ‘Take a photo, take a photo!’ You knew this was important and so made a bid to me.

Just after lunch on Saturday we were on Swan Street in Richmond gawping through salesrooms at the luxury cars. We saw Lamborghinis, Ferraris and finally, a Rolls Royce Ghost. Its price tag featured, in smallish black print: $1,100,000. We were startled. Max provided a running commentary on all the makes and models while around us, puffer-jacketed men sipped lattes and signed on the dotted line. It was fun.

I loved zipping through the Sunday brunch crowd in the Queen Victoria Markets as you both ate a chocolate croissant (the breakfast of champions). Outside it teemed down in typically Melbourne style as our nostrils were overpowered by fresh mullet and Coffin Bay oysters.

After examining clothes and books we explored a movie poster stall and flicking through the Coen brothers and Wes Anderson sections you both said, ‘How about this one, Dad?’ or ‘You like this one, don’t you?’ I still can’t believe there was no Lebowski.

A highlight was the IMAX cinema at the museum. We’d not all been together at a film for ages – the last time was probably something from the Marvel universe. We were right at the front and the screen was the size of a couple megalodons. It was the 3D documentary, Antarctica and we had on our funny black glasses. It was narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, which Max found amusing to say repeatedly and as the film began, he reached out his hand and grabbed at the air while whispering, ‘Dad I can touch the words of the credits.’

There were funny moments across the weekend, and these then bobbed up and were giggled at again and again. On Friday night at the Docklands match three Bulldogs defenders all flew for a mark and all three touched it before the umpire blew his whistle and awarded it. I said, ‘I don’t think marking should be a group assignment’ and you laughed.

Then there was the guy at Saturday’s MCG game in the row in front of us who liked to chat and chat and chat about Richmond and Geelong and North Melbourne and then North Melbourne. And after the final siren in the 60,000-throng pressing along Daniher Way, he eyed me again and promptly took up where he’d left. After Alex said, ‘Dad, did you enjoy that convo?’ I’m quite surprised that he’s not rung.

Throughout our days there was unrelenting action and playfighting and laughter. It was enchanted. On each morning, I’d come up the elevator all sweaty from my run along the Yarra, gently turn the key and creep inside. Edging open your bedroom door, I’d glimpse in.

You were both still asleep.

Thanks.

Dad

xx

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Tramping through Tanunda

David Franz Winery

My fifty-second consecutive day of jogging four kilometres begins at our Valley Hotel apartment. I cut through the beers garden (note plural: who has just one beer?) and consider how often I’ve run to, but never away from a pub.

Tanunda’s Murray Street is Barossa vine-zero and already enjoying pedestrian traffic with tourists and locals shuffling in and out of the coffee shops and bakeries. A community market’s on and the sun catches the golden varnished pine of trucks and steamrollers and assorted wooden toys.

Scurrying along Bilyara Road I recall that Wolf Blass has a shiraz named Bilyara. Us Kapunda folk used to frequent his winery and I wonder if Claire and I should invest a nostalgic hour but given that the Barossa now hosts one hundred and fifty cellar doors perhaps we should keep our visits to novel vinous venues.

It’s downhill past the Tanunda Oval which is being widened to accommodate (hopefully) SANFL footy and first-class cricket. A second, smaller oval for the kids is under development although the skyline’s disarmingly clear because many ancient trees were felled for this progress.

It’s just after eight on the Queen’s Birthday holiday so it’s effectively Sunday. A ute rumbles past with a dog hanging out the window.

Glancing over towards the wicket area I remember a Colts cricket game when I was fielding at very short leg as in thundered my mate Rocket. Already scary quick, in a few brisk years he’d be selected to play Sheffield Shield. The only helmets within the postcode were, I suspect, on the bonces of a bikie gang as they made their philanthropical way towards the pub.

The Tanunda batsman and I were shaking in equal measure, but it was worse for him as with trembling mitts he was attempting to keep hold of some dreadfully narrow willow. As the Kookaburra collected his head the crack was awful, preternaturally percussive, and he dropped to the concrete pitch, a flannelled tangle. Deeply concerned (well, as concerned as boys become regarding matters of physical safety), we rushed to his splayed self, and knew he was fine when he announced weakly, ‘You bastards.’

Now on Langmeil Road and pushing towards my halfway mark I’m taken by the wide, tree-lined boulevard and its handsome homes.

It’s crisp and mercifully still as the ferocious front of the previous week has absconded. According to Mum and Dad it plonked nearly five inches at their place on the Greenock side of Nuriootpa.

Approaching the brashly-monikered and tucked-away cellar door Riesling Freak, I vow to visit prior to the first Test against the Windies given that cricket and white wine seasons conflate. As the gleaming folk of HR might say, some useful synergies may then be generated.

I pull up puffing at Langmeil Wines where my wife marked a significant birthday. We all then traipsed, with purpled glasses in hand, to Peter Lehmann’s and the now defunct Richmond Grove wineries.

But today we’ll explore the Barossa Valley Estates and David Franz cellar doors. Given the affection with which we know the earthy and personal contours of this valley, I’m hoping for both wistful memory and shared discovery.

Barossa Valley Estates

I turn back towards the town centre.

On Fechner Drive (highly Barossan nomenclature) there’s a single vine on an empty block. It’s still smeared with shrivelled black dots and I wonder what happens with its annual fruit yield. Birds, possums, furtive backyard vignerons?

Across the road is a lemon tree bursting with confident blobs, already tennis ball-sized and auditioning for Van Gogh’s yellow period. Then there’s a pastoral counterpoint: an olden stone barn with rusting implements scattered about with the entire mise en scène evoking the original German settlement.

I notice a succession of peppercorn trees and recall the one a nine iron from my childhood home, where under its secretive branches was an enchanted space of games and invention. These, I decide, are the trees of innocence while surging, aspirational gums are for adults.

Nicking through the Tanunda Oval I recollect a rare win in my first year of senior footy for the Bombers. I wonder at the pronounced south to north slope of the ground. As a kid this escaped me.

On the canteen wall, the chalk on the Magpie menu blackboard shows hotdogs are $5 and this seems about right. In the clubrooms under the grandstand, I assume mettwurst and port remain available for the stalwarts.

I skirt the white terrace benches by the southern goal and remember dark, wintry afternoons as a kid scampering around in my footy boots. These silent symbols have been there forever and are redolent of all that’s nurturing and treasured about long past Saturdays.

My fourth and final kilometre concludes as I burst back through the Valley Hotel’s beer garden.

Random granite blocks (and man) at Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park
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A Butcher of Victorville Pale Ale at the Greenock Brewers

It was a perfect half hour.

We strolled in, exchanged greetings with mine hosts and were offered a beer. It was then that we learnt the nostalgic truth.

At the Greenock Brewers Chris and Lisa Higgins sell tremendous beers in bottles and on tap. And, most wonderfully, they can offer you a butcher of beer too.

In a world where the blind madness of upsized consumption has held us to ransom by making us believe we need more and bigger serves of everything from homes to cars to buckets of popcorn at the cinema, being served a beer in a 200ml glass is of great comfort and wistful joy.

Urban myth suggests the Newmarket Hotel in Adelaide first served a butcher of beer to workers from nearby cattle yards, and so the term entered the local vernacular.

Garden-fresh from lunch at the Greenock pub, Nick, Chrisso and I wandered through the shadows of Laucke’s flour mills having decided upon a quick visit and concluding refreshment.

I’m confident it was the first butcher I’d had this millennium. Most pubs no longer stock schooner or butcher glasses and therefore it’s a pint or you’re spitting feathers.

It was instantly the mid-1980s and I was being taught to pull a beer (along with old mate Davo) at the Kapunda Golf Club by Gus Higgins (who was Chris’s uncle). Suddenly all of us were far skinnier but had fatter hair. Allan Border was Australian cricket captain. There were Kingswoods parked outside too.

The Victorville Pale Ale is fiendishly easy to consume. It’s zesty and agreeable and sparkles with citrus notes. I also purchased a six pack for medical and research purposes. If it’d been an hour later, we might’ve dropped anchor and cancelled our evening plans and had a second butcher.

With this nostalgic tone set we spoke of our past, most notably Kapunda icon Skeeta and shared stories of his footy exploits and his drinking exploits and his drinking at footy exploits. Many of us associate Skeeta instantly with the Holden Torana, more particularly his being driven and then not being driven, largely as it frequently ended up in exotic places where a Torana shouldn’t be.

With the golden Barossa light bending across the brewery and through the windows we shared more stories and then it was time for Nick, Chrisso and I to point our non-Torana cars homewards.

I’d enjoyed the beer, and the company enormously. I couldn’t wait until the next time I’d drink a butcher.

0

Vinyl Records for Velociraptors

My quest for nostalgic albums continues and I swing between Mr V Music of Semaphore and The Record Store in Warradale. Here’s some recent purchases and my meanderings on how these are autobiographically illustrative. That’s surely the purpose of music: to allow for and encourage personal connection.

I had much Billy Joel in my diet when I was young. Mum and Dad’s collection included his album 52nd Street which I enjoyed but The Stranger is his best record and features his finest song, ‘Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.’ Inspired by side two of the Beatles’ Abbey Road and its unbroken suite of songs I love how Billy Joel structures this narrative of doomed lovers Brenda and Eddie within the framing story of the old school friends dining together. There’s nostalgia and romance and Dixieland jazz and a great piano solo. It was among the first long songs (7minutes, 37 seconds) I got to know as well as Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 11 minute, ‘I Heard it Through The Grapevine.’ These are wonderful for losing myself in and allowing the narrative possibilities to unfold.

Certain artists are forever associated with particular people growing up and The Beach Boys remind me of Davo, who was in my year at school and lived up the street. He also had the vinyl of Dream Police by Cheap Trick, and we’d play that at huge volume when his folks were out. Claire and I featured, ‘I Can Hear Music’ at out wedding ceremony and many would agree that ‘God Only Knows’ is among the greatest love songs despite it not actually using rhyme but repetition with the second and third verses both having ‘me’ to end each of the eight lines. If I was imprisoned and forced to listen to one of those Pink FM-type radio stations and some cow-eyed poppet came on and wailed eight verse lines in a row that ended with an identical word I’d screech back with unholy bug-eyed salivation but such is the symphonic beauty of Brian Wilson’s melody that we accommodate his lyrical curiosity.

This record evokes my hometown of Kapunda when I was in Year 11. It takes me back to that summer and teenaged parties and driving around town in our old cars. I think of that New Year’s Eve at Stephen’s which, of course, was much anticipated, unlike now when these nights are mostly to be endured and midnight comes as a relief and at 12.01 one dives enthusiastically into the cot from the bedroom door. ‘It’s Raining Again’ is a sweet song that conjures both sadness and happiness and memories of dear old friends while the record’s finest tune, ‘Bonnie’ is built around an uplifting melody despite the lyrics being about a man stalking a famous actress, so no harm there. I just need a copy of Crime of the Century to complete my Supertramp set along with Crisis. What Crisis, Breakfast in America, and Even in the Quietest Moments.

Paul McCartney is my favourite Beatle and a woman I worked with taught his kids in St John’s Wood at their local school. She was utterly mad but I like that Paul and Linda didn’t send their offspring to some fox hunting snootery. Again, this record features his boyishly optimistic love song, ‘Listen to What the Man Said’ and we included it our wedding ceremony. The soprano saxophone solo makes it soar with pure joy. It’s redolent of London’s Hyde Park on a cloudless summer day.

One of jazz’s most significant texts, this double album runs for 93 minutes and is at once demanding, beautiful, and dangerous. Urban myth suggests Davis recorded it after being inspired by Hendrix’s famous guitar-on-fire set at Woodstock. It’s not one I often play when Claire’s home but I have made it part of Alex’s education and happily, he wasn’t horrified by it. One night last week during his daily bathroom residency I heard another Miles Davis album drifting from under the door so it’s good to know my parenting is now complete. Whew! I’m keen to also buy 1959’s Kind of Blue and John Coltrane’s saxophonic hymn, A Love Supreme.

4

Mystery Pub: The Earl of Leicester

Puffer jackets.

We loathe them. I’m sure these are highly functional and sensibly priced. But to my poisoned eye they (and their owners) carry with them a sense of entitlement and an accompanying superiority complex. Yes, it’s an irrational hatred, and I suspect it’s incurable. But a pub review is surely a place for honesty regarding issues sartorial.

At the bar there’s two middle-aged men. Trim. Clean shaven. Quietly spoken. Enjoying a Friday afternoon wine. And they’re wearing navy blue puffer jackets.

The Earl of Leicester is dark and snug. We take our seats by the fire. It’s blazing away and the effect is instantly comforting. Australian pubs suffer often from too much light and white space. Think modern suburban taverns with a bland sensibility and fatal lack of intimacy. No such troubles here this afternoon. The pub’s timbers are warm of hue and homely and this is especially enhanced as it’s decidedly Arctic outside. Winter is icumen in. We could be in the Cotswolds or by the Thames.

A table or two along a task-oriented couple is attacking their early pizza dinner (it’s before 5pm so they could be holidaying Queensland pensioners) and bottle of red. They’re sharing a comfortable, loud-munching silence. Eating here seems like a good choice for the dining area is big and visually charmless, as is sometimes the way. I pop my head into the beer garden and it’s more obligation than destination. Folks expect one and this one presents as a concrete afterthought. But the front of the pub is excellent.

It’s Claire’s turn to order and I opt for an XPA. Like the tomato and me, we share a complex relationship for I often find it disappointing in the application but continue to subscribe to the concept. Today the Balter XPA is sharp and spiky, and I approve. Claire has an Angove’s red and finds it agreeable. Late Friday afternoon is always an agreeable time, and The Earl of Leicester reminds me of what King Duncan said (ironically) of Macbeth’s home

This castle hath a pleasant seat. The air

Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself

Unto our gentle senses.

On our way out to the dark car park I suggest to Claire, ‘For every puffer jacket I spot in the bar, I’ll buy myself a longneck of Sparkling Ale.’

2

Goodbye to a faithful friend

In the end it was deceptively quick.

As should always happen in these situations, mercy prevailed. With no witness and limited ceremony I simply nodded briefly and acted swiftly.

Appropriately, it was in the grey light of Wednesday’s unremarkable dawn. A dawn that would be forgotten as soon as it was complete.

The symptoms revealed themselves late last week: feverish temperature; ungainly sweats, internal functioning becoming increasingly laboured. I wished that a simple solution were available. Experts were consulted and their chorus was clear and while sympathetic it was unanimous: a terminal prognosis.

Our relationship had endured for over a decade, and to my shame I admit that I took far more than I gave. I offered rare gratitude but demanded constantly. I heard no complaints.

Of course, I became grief-stricken when faced with the grim inevitability of the pending loss. As the sun struggled up in the east that morning my despair hurtled towards me. Why is it only when the final hour descends that we pause and show the kindness we’ve failed to display previously?

Yes, dear reader, my beer fridge was dead.

I turned off the power. The Southwark mugs that for long years had been kept crisply chilled in the freezer were now thawing in the feeble June sun.

0

Mystery Pub: Jimmy’s Bar and Grill

When I worked in the city I walked past it often but dismissed it.

The problem was that I have a stereotypical image of a bar in my head and it’s not entirely complimentary. A bar is pokey and dark and found in Brooklyn and this is great if you happen to be in New York but I’m predisposed to a pub. For me, Jimmy’s Bar and Grill isn’t a label that fills me with curiosity or optimism. So, imagine my joyous surprise when we wandered in last Friday.

There’s something incurably exciting about meeting your wife in the city and being led by the hand up Adelaide’s grand boulevards in the fading autumnal light. There’s a bustling energy and frisson as people wind up their working week and make their escape. There’s mystery and romance and promise to be had on every street corner.

The ground floor room is called Harry’s Bar and it is forgettable. We made our way up the stairs to the Tattersalls Room. It’s remarkable and I was instantly agog. The ceilings are high and ornate while the space is massive and cloaked with history and elegance. There’s blue curtains and big Chesterfields. If Harrison Ford sought hotels and not antiquities this instalment would be called Indiana Jones and the Opulent Pub.

Claire bought a glass of red and a pint of mid-strength for me as I was driving. Mid-strength beers are like hearing the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. but played entirely on kazoo. The melodies you love are there and it works at a fundamental level but ultimately it’s a parody, a mocking of the very thing it seeks to imitate.

We decamped to the balcony bar for our second and final beverage. Down on Grenfell Street the sounds of traffic floated up with an exhilaration that was irresistible while there were loose groups of young people exchanging lively quips and waving their hands about as can happen on the forth chardonnay.

Confronted with a decent walk to the car and then a taxing drive along a clogged arterial, we decided that a loo visit would be sensible, like an elderly aunt’s footwear. It was a comfort stop invested with occasion and theatre. The toilets, no these are not restrooms or bathrooms, were both intimidating and statesmanlike. It felt like I was carrying a terrible responsibility. I hoped I didn’t let anybody down.

As we exited onto the street, the air was already crisp.

0

Shakespeare drinks at the Railway Hotel

Old mate Shakespeare once typed on a Friday just before knocking off for the week and heading to the Railway pub for Happy Hour that, ‘April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.’ It was a pretty lonely beer that night for Bill, largely as the railway was yet to be discovered by some Scottish git in the Industrial Revolution.

But he was right in that April with its public holidays and autumnal glow is, as Richie Benaud may have said, a very fine month indeed.

April 10 is our anniversary (same day every year at it neatly turns out) and we celebrated with a Sunday picnic at Golding Wines near Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills. In this photo you can see how Gen X is largely yet to master the selfy.
An audio highlight was purchasing this vinyl gem, complete with dark vignettes of life on the Californian coast. On the title track they ask the question most of us have at one time asked, ‘Who is the gaucho, amigo?/Why is he standing in your spangled leather poncho/And your elevator shoes?’
On an infrequent Saturday when the air is still and the sky promises a spectacular sunset Claire and I will stroll down to the esplanade and spend a quiet hour and drink in the transition from day to twinkling velvety cloak. We then rush home to watch the smug twits on Escape to the Country.
Hobart’s MONA is confronting and demands you look at the world from a curious and often fractured perspective. This tunnel walk is accompanied by a weird soundtrack that plays tricks on your ears.
I’ve always wanted a photo of my left ear and the distant, fetching city of Hobart. Thanks to Claire, Mount Wellington and our somewhat cursed e-bike excursion, this small dream of a Kapunda boy came true.
And as a well-known ale aficionado Claire also had a dream in which she found a lager keg in the beer garden of a funky Tassie pub that was named after her family. Thanks to the New Sydney for coordinating this and providing hope and joy to one eager South Aussie.
I wonder if the Queen finds seeing her name all over the joint on buildings, cruise ships, airport terminals etc a bit tiresome? I now know it’s fun thanks to Claire’s impeccable research. In a ridiculous display of monstrous ego and ill-invested cash I’m going to return to this place in the south of Tassie five times a year.