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Pub Review: The Cumberland, Glanville

Plenty of room for you and yours in the beer garden

I had one final chance to visit a pub down the Port. I was offered plenty of advice.

“The Largs Pier is a beautiful old building.”

“The British is nicely renovated.”

“The Port Dock Brewery is good fun.”

But, for the moment, no to all of these.

A colleague said, “I reckon you’d find the Cumberland interesting.”

And so last Tuesday afternoon we ventured over the bridge, with Cruickshank’s Beach among the pylons, along Semaphore Road and then towards Glanville Railway Station which eases past the window.

There it was. The Cumberland, or as all such pubs must be known, The Cumby.

Australia is a vast country with many modern and featureless suburbs bigger than European cities. This is why the Port is terrific. Jump in your jalopy and in five minutes you can drive through Port Adelaide, Birkenhead, Semaphore, Exeter and Glanville where the geography is intricate and brutal, welcoming and rich.

Oh dear

Certainly in Britain there’s a whole realm of interest in pubs located by railway stations. Oodles of websites are dedicated to this genre alone.

Sauntering into the front bar the six patrons all ceased their conversations and took us in. If a honky tonk pianist had been banging the ivories he, too, would’ve stopped suddenly.

The publican, Michael Parker, or The Rev as most call him, was friendly and helpful, especially when chaperoning my friend, JB, through the forest of cider choices.

We ventured out the back to the beer garden’s large lawn and sheltered benches, but it was barren, save for a Port Power flag hanging flaccidly in an upstairs window. Sometimes, having too much space to yourselves is unappealing so on we explored.

Next we came across the live music room with its blackened stage. In recent months it has hosted the legendary Kevin Borich Express, and while I must confess to a personal connection, the magnificently-monikered Don Morrison’s Raging Thirst (I’m friends with Don’s sister Claire). I reckon Tim Rogers and Tex Perkins would both go well in the Raging Thirst.

Punters can watch the world go by

Sitting on our stools out the front of the Cumby the mis en scene of sky, battered earth and noiseless trains sliding in and out of the railyard was a compelling palette. It was natural, industrial and human.

The triangular patch had formerly been a carpark for the Holdens, Fords and Valiants. Now in the newish, glass-walled space there was a luckless incident involving a wonky table, JB’s elbow, Bob’s pint and his cream trousers. But in the maritime atmosphere his strides dried quickly. Perhaps they’re from Fletcher Jones.

And as friends for over thirty years we all moved on, although it gave rise to the ancient philosophical question: What’s worse than someone spilling a drink on you? Answer: Someone spilling your own drink on you. This aside, we enjoyed a lively interval in the bright afternoon, and then scarpered.

Such is the dynamic psycho-geography of the Port that last week’s destination, the Lord Exmouth, while technically a compact suburb away, is only 220 metres to the west. But the Cumby’s atmosphere is different, and in our often homogenised world, this diversity is to be celebrated.

So, if you’ve a raging thirst, or you want to hear one, then this pub is right there. And, should you wish, you can catch a train.  

And be there too.

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Pub Review: Lord Exmouth Hotel, Exeter

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Among the minor benefits of my brief stint working nearly an hour from home at an architecturally-barren university campus is that my commute takes me through the rich and diverse pub destination of Port Adelaide and surrounds.

The Lord Exmouth is a corner pub just to the south of bustling and charismatic Semaphore Road where it sits on a suburban street. Its crooked front veranda, suggestive of the curious experiences promised within. For inside is a 1970’s museum.

Old mate Bob has a slender window between work and baseball commitments so agrees to meet for a brisk cup. It’s happy hour at this boozer, also known as the Monkey House, so-named as there’s dozens of toy monkeys crammed into the shelves above the bar. Of course it doesn’t matter why these are there, only that they are.

Bob gets a West End Draught and it’s only $3.50. This sets a happily nostalgic tone. My personal bravery has always been in question so I avoid his example and order a Coopers. The front bar is narrow and unlikely to have enjoyed any form of renovation since Gough strolled about Parliament House.

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There’s six or eight chaps in there too, and I’m sure this is exactly as they prefer it. They engage in banter about those who are here, and those who aren’t, with the easy familiarity of men who’ve invested many a regular hour, or three, in here.

Graham and Barbara Cox have run the place since the late 1970’s. It’s a family affair and their daughter is a flight attendant but can often be found behind the bar when she’s home. I wonder if she motions elegantly towards the doors, telling new patrons that, “In case of an emergency the exits are located here, and here.” And if she hands a punter a particularly astringent glass of, say, moselle, I also imagine she crisply urges that they, “Brace, brace.”

Our nostalgic theme continues when I mention to Bob that the pub was featured in the films Wolf Creek and Australian Rules. Taking in the interior with its authentic 1970’s decor and vaguely haunting mis en scene I can’t imagine either film’s art director had to do much in the way of preparation.

Graham lets us out the back to the cosy and welcoming beer garden. There’s a rectangle of lawn (dirt) and like Mick Taylor himself, some weathered tables are scattered about. Each table has multiple fliers advertising the pub’s Christmas Eve festivities and I suggest to Bob, “That’s you sorted then.” But he seems uncertain.

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Now both helplessly trapped in our 1970’s youth we speak of the Kapunda Cricket Club; currently keen to attract former players to its struggling third team. Our comebacks to this formative outfit are probably more imagined than real, but it’s victimless to dream. West End Draught can do this to unsuspecting men.

Our beers drained we wander back through the bar where Terry is being ribbed in his inexcusable absence and we move out into the Wednesday afternoon. We’ve spent the previous half an hour so deep in the past that I’m surprised there’s not a HQ Holden and a brown Torana awaiting us.

I’m also shocked that I’m not twenty pounds lighter and sporting a mullet.

The Lord Exmouth is another excellent pub discovery, down at the Port.

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Pub Review: The Birkenhead Tavern, Port Adelaide

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It sits alone.

At once alluring but also brazen like a Bond villain. Under twilight it could be in a Hitchcock movie, dominating the landscape as the Bates Motel does its Californian corner. Although if painted in pastel yellow and pink the façade’s symmetry might be reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film, provided Bill Murray was in laconic shot.

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The cinematic concept of mis en scene describes the artistic arrangement of the background, props, lighting etc on a film set, and is relevant here. Making a westward crossing of the eponymous bridge there’s no adjacent buildings, and the dusty car park surrounds it like a dry moat. I’m immediately struck by the frontier psychology at play.

Architecturally, the context is that the only pub on the Port River, the Birkenhead Tavern, is itself utterly decontextualized.

It’s a remarkable site (and sight).

In the Riverview bar I’m agog at the water and blue light. The panoramic sweep includes the river, red lighthouse, Dolphin Explorer cruising ferry (unfortunately not captained by Flipper), and idle sheds and docks.

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A fierce southerly rushes the river past at a decent clip. Occasionally, king tides flood the pub forcing it to stand amid the lapping waves like a rebellious Atlantis.

On this, my biennial visit, I’m at a table in the racing corner, but looking out. The bar’s busy with burly high-vis chaps and retirees and burly high-vis retiree chaps. It’s Happy Hour and I order a Pale Ale ($5.50).

Suddenly, there’s scattered outbursts as a roughie gets up in the last at Queanbeyan. A wizened, skinny bloke barks, “It’s won at $97!” This spurs further eruptions, but these are only monologues from embittered punters. There’s no conversation, just forlorn observation.

“I can’t bloody believe it,” a bearded fellow accuses his West End Draught stubby.

“You’re joking,” murmurs another to an uncaring, inattentive divinity.

Pubs can be solitary spaces, especially for the fiscally anguished.

In the Port’s narrative this boozer has been a compelling character, since the days when it was a local for workers who caught the ferry across the river after work, and also when the upstairs light was flicked on and off signalling that the constabulary should slip in the darkened door for their nocturnal beer.

Publicans and wallopers have long shared murky relationships, as at least locally, policing the Port and guarding against illegal trading is traditionally thirsty work. Beyond an arresting location and a clutch of exotic punters what does the Birkenhead Tavern offer?

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A poster tells me there’s live music with an endless line of Sunday strummers, many of whom, of course, are called Josh. On the front lawns eager anglers can seduce bream and mulloway but there’s no outdoor sink at the pub to gut your catch.

Meanwhile the pub’s website features multiple photos of Port Power footballers but as these are without a caption, I’m unsure if they’re on the menu with chips, coleslaw and complimentary garlic bread, or that you might simply enjoy one with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

Unsurprisingly, the cuisine is described as pub, and I also note steak and ale pie on the special’s (sic) board, reminding me of when our newlywedded friends Brett and Trish were in Dublin, and Steak and Guinness pie was on offer. Ever polite, Brett asked the bar staff, “So, what’s in the Steak and Guinness pie?”

The young Irish fellow gazed at, and perhaps beyond Brett, and tonelessly mumbled, “Steak,” and blinking once, added, “Guinness.”

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Dad’s 75th

Dear Dad

I think about the Christmas holidays we had as kids, often spent up the river. Invariably hot, we’d stay in parks and places like those around Lake Bonney. I still hold great affection for the Murray and we go there regularly with our boys. I thank you and Mum for this vital legacy.

But I do remember one time at Loxton when we came home to Kapunda early because Jill and I were fighting so much- not my fault mind you. Upon reflection this was especially disappointing as, by then, Jill and I were in our mid-thirties.

As always, it’s beautiful to be in the Barossa, thanks to everyone for coming here today.

Dad loves to talk footy. When I ring up or we’re around a table with a shiraz in hand there’s a pattern to our discussion. We start with the Crows. Who’s playing well, who’s not? Will we make the finals? How good is the Honorable Edward A. Betts?

We then touch on Port. Not for long though. Years ago, I told Dad of how Tony Morrison, a keen Norwood fan, and the father of an old school friend, Claire, called Port “the Filth.” Then for a while when we’d mention Port instead of calling them “the Filth” Dad would call them “the Slime.” No, it’s not funny, is it Jill, but it amuses me still. The Slime.

We then move onto the SANFL and talk of Glenelg and how they’re travelling. Not much joy in recent years, but we used to speak glowingly of Rory Kirby and former captain Ty Allen. If on the terraces at the Bay I’d seen Peter “Super” Carey or Graham “Studley” Cornes I’d update Dad about the adoring crowds flocking around Super, and then of course, about those crowds somehow not adoring Graham.

Finally, we move to the Barossa and Light and analyse the competition there. Who’s playing well for Tanunda and Nuri and, of course, Kapunda. Whenever I go to Dutton Park it makes me proud to see RW Randall on the life membership board. These chats remain important. Even when yakking about the Slime.

When Kerry and I lived in England Mum and Dad came to visit in 2004. We had a fantastic month or so travelling through England, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy. One night we saw a play called Blood Brothers at London’s Phoenix Theatre.

The story revolves around fraternal twins Mickey and Eddie, who were separated at birth, one subsequently being raised in a wealthy family, the other in a poor family. The different environments take the twins to opposite worlds, one becoming a councillor, and the other unemployed and in prison. They both fall in love with the same girl, causing a rift in their friendship and leading to the tragic loss of both.

We were in the front row and it was brilliant. See it if you can. At interval Mum and Kerry bought a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne. In second half everyone was crying again- Mum and Kerry at the tragedy of the story, Dad and I at how expensive the wine was.

We wish him and Mum well today, over the bowls season and for the future.

We love you. Now please raise your glasses.

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In 1994 Bobby Bowden and I did a Contiki tour of New Zealand

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In early 1994 old Kapunda mate, Bob Bowden and I went to New Zealand. Of course it was illegal back then to not undertake a Contiki tour so you could travel to exciting, distant lands, meet fellow Australians, and spend your evenings in exotic pubs arguing about footy, cricket and which state made the best pies.

In a shameless attempt to impress the locals I took a range of Canterbury clothing with me, including this, the timelessly stylish top known as an “Ugly.”

RFB in Auckland

Here’s Bob on a windy hill overlooking Auckland in his Kapunda Bombers- themed red and black outfit proving again that the 1990’s is not as hideous, fashionistically, as the 1980’s. If it were Brownlow night a reporter would ask Bob, “And who are you wearing?”

If you peer at the cricket ground in the middle distance you’ll see Sir Richard Hadlee, smirking up at us, for no good reason.

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Upon returning to Kimba my Year 9 English class was decidedly unimpressed when I included this Kiwi place name in their first spelling test for 1994.

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A highlight was ascending and then descending, perilously, the South Island’s Fox Glacier. Although my GS Chappell floppy cricket hat came in useful that day, there is no truth that a sudden hail storm gave it its first and last wash in over thirty years.

This hat is now tragically banned from all overseas travel. It can not be issued a visa.

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I’m forever indebted to David, the English bloke on the left, who pointed at the grim base of Fox Glacier and quoting a classic British comedy said to me, “See that freezing death trap over there? That’s your backyard in summer, that is.”

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What trip to the hotspot of Queenstown is complete without a toga party? Toga! Toga!

As Doug Neidermeyer declares in Animal House, “And most recently of all, a “Roman Toga Party” was held from which we have received more than two dozen reports of individual acts of perversion SO profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here.”

NB- my boatshoes as worn in Rome 34BC.

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While we didn’t see any sheep statues- no, seriously- we did spot this bronzed sheep dog who refused to fetch the stuck stick I threw.

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Our tour finished in Christchurch by which time Bob and I had introduced our travel mates to the ancient art of Spoofy. A game of chance using three coins the loser has to buy all the participants a beer. The UN should use it as a diplomatic strategy to resolve international tensions.

In fact , I think Bob Hawke once did.

This was a quarter of a century ago. Time to return methinks.

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The Summer of 1983: New Frontier

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Stephen’s harlequin green Gemini took us to Adelaide Oval one-day matches starring the Bruces (Laird and Yardley) and on other days to Kapunda’s Duck Pond lawn and memorably across the roo-infested plains preceding Blanchetown so we could rollick and crash at Crackshot’s family shack by the river.

It was a significant car. There was continuous music for we were teenagers with our windows down and the volume up.

We often played Donald Fagan’s The Nightfly.

The Gemini’s cassette player had a fast-forward feature that miraculously read the gaps in the tape and moved to the next song! If, say, a mixed tape was on, one moment we’d have track 3- perhaps a lesser tune from McCartney’s Tug of War, and then suddenly, track 4- probably “Smoke on the Water”- boomed from the Pioneer speakers (woofer, midrange and tweeter). I found it astonishing. How amazing would the future be?

My gateway to original music was Brendan. He’d moved to Kapunda from the Barossa and although the same age as us he was somehow older and viewed the tiresome planet through world-weary eyes.

In his darkened loungeroom I first heard Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and Midnight Oil’s 10,9,8. In 1983 it was a centre of cool. He also introduced me to The Smiths, U2, and one evening to Donald Fagan, who I learned was half of Steely Dan.

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Brendan had a Flock of Seagulls haircut before Flock of Seagulls existed.

“IGY (What A Beautiful World)” is The Nightfly’s opening song and first single, and my favourite ever tune referencing the International Geophysical Year (actually eighteen months in duration, going from July 1957 to December 1958) but it was “New Frontier” which grabbed me.

I’d like to declare that back then I was drawn to Fagen’s nostalgic depiction of young love in suburban America; that this energetic Bildungsroman or coming of age account spoke to me intensely; that the interplay between wide-eyed youth and our cynical selves was enticing.

But no, it was the cowbell.

When K-Tel ultimately releases 20 Cracking Cowbell Classics! with “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Drive My Car” among other percussive pearls I trust “New Frontier” will occupy a prominent (vinyl) place.

Concluding with a suitably slick, LA cool, instrumental guitar break, and with the Gemini hurtling down a country road I’d accompany the song on my own invisible cowbell (air cowbell remains my chief musical talent) and aim to stop wacking my invisible drumstick on my invisible idiophone hand percussion instrument when it suddenly yet predictably ceased on the cassette.

This synchronisation was tough but if I timed it right there’d be a nod from one of my fellow passengers like Chrisso or Claire or Trish. But not Stephen for he was driving. It’s still the pinnacle of my (invisible) musical career.

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I can now see that I’m wistful about the lyrics which convey a wistfulness of their own. I guess scholars call this meta-wistfulness. It’s a song of innocence. It’s about being on the magical cusp of your future, when your world is opening up, and this is curious given that, for the geeky semi-autobiographical narrator the action- real and anticipated- takes place one weekend in the family’s nuclear bomb shelter.

Yes we’re gonna have a wingding

A summer smoker underground

It’s just a dugout that my dad built

In case the reds decide to push the button down

We’ve got provisions and lots of beer

The key word is survival on the new frontier

My last high school summer was punctuated by New Year’s Eve. It was the first time I stayed up all night. We were at Stephen’s in his absent parents’ loungeroom. Around 4am, with my hometown sinking to sleep and the music muted, a couple of us decided to aim for the dawn. It was a new frontier.

Beyond seeing that year’s first light, there was no other incentive. Standing on the concreted driveway we peered out over the chaff mills towards the unremarkable hills and I recall my exhilaration as the sun’s easterly rays filtered down to dusty, slumbering Kapunda.

Shortly after I fell asleep on the floor. Later, Boogly and Bongo and the others woke and soon music began – probably Australian Crawl’s Boys Light Up- from the imposing boom-box. Someone then made a cup of pineapple cordial.

Over my next twelve months there was footy and cricket; weekend work at the Esso service station; Year 12’s unforgettable anguish and ecstasy.

1983 was here, and The Nightfly would become part of the soundtrack.

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The Gorgeous Garden Wedding of Jasmine and Rich

 

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I do love a garden wedding.

This one was special as it was set in a stunning Adelaide Hills garden complete with various rooms of ponds and hidden tables and stools and towering natives and ornamental scrubs. The ceremony took place in an amphitheatre just behind the house with the wooded hills and Gorge Wildlife Park presenting as painterly backdrops.
Occasionally, emu and deer would wander up to the fence like silent but welcome wedding-crashers.

It was also special for it was the wedding of my wife’s youngest brother, Rich and Jasmine.

The week beforehand had been typical of spring- berserk temperature fluctuations, insane wind gusts and weather patterns as fickle and daft as a Trump tweet.

Saturday was warm and gentle and affirming; ideal for late afternoon matrimony. We were in Cudlee Creek by both name and nature.

For Alex and Max it was their first family wedding.

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They’d chosen suits to wear and Max picked out an orange tie. I later showed him how the tie matched both my glasses and Coopers Mild Ale label and he enjoyed this new symmetry. I’m sure that if he’d been offered a cravat, he’d have happily donned it instead. He enjoys being a provocateur, even in a fashion context.

Alex had on a slick grey suit, something Arthur Daley from Minder would’ve called a “nice drop of cloth.” He also wore a red-checked shirt, one like those preferred by his Dad, and a pair of Converse sneakers that suggested a young fella on the cusp of teenage hood.

I was in the black suit that I had worn nearly sixteen years ago at my own wedding – on the day Northerly won his second W.S. Cox Plate- although I dared not do it up in case a button pinged off into someone’s eye like a pebble catapulted from a slingshot and an ambulance was required. I didn’t need the bother.

The ceremony was compact and elegant with vows and photos and tears and laughter and applause. At its conclusion I found myself on the blub. There was no specific trigger; just generalised gratitude and goodwill at the event and its assembled, happy meaning.

A highlight was when the bride, Jasmine arrived and her beautiful dog, Simba was trotting alongside too. Who can resist a dog at a wedding? It’s a twin threat. Max told me Sunday night that Simba was now, “his third favourite dog, behind (our two) Buddy and Angel.” I agreed.

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There was a cubbyhouse for the kids as well as a roundabout, sandpit, and slippery slide, and I happily sat in the sun on a chair and watched the colour and movement and innocence.

Over near the grand home was a marquee for the reception. Early on in the evening, I sat for a while next to my other brother-in-law’s partner, Robyn. Along with my Uncle Des and Aunty Claire she’s one of the few people who calls me Mickle. Having dispensed with talk of footy and work and our boys she said, “So what do you think love is, Mickle?”

I offered her a list including shared hope and forgiveness and admiration and awe and respect. I then moved to the idea that George Clooney’s character, Matt King, suggests in one of my favourite films, The Descendants: “You try to make your partner’s passage through life easier.”

The speeches were excellent. Both the parents of the bride and groom were generous and optimistic in their observations and all in the marquee nodded and smiled too, as if a tuning fork had been struck and we were in harmony with this splendid song.

The groom, Rich, spoke with sincerity and thankfulness at how, seemingly, the universe had allowed all these terrific things to happen at just the right time, to him. Being astute in these matters, and of course, his big brother, my wife remarked that she could tell half a minute out, the point at which he’d become choked up.

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Music and singing and dancing followed and the father of bride, David and father of the groom, Darryll concluded the celebration at midnight with a port each and I went down the hill to our sleeping campervan.

Sunday awoke to fog and mist but cleared to a sunny morning, and the promise of bacon and eggs and chat, and then late lunch and wine with our Queensland relatives.

It was a wonderful wedding.

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