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Pub Review: The Lighthouse Wharf, Port Adelaide

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Lighthouses have significant symbolic power as they represent saving innocent lives, but also those lost to the infinite power of waves. Tributes to consuming love and optimistic simplicity, lighthouses are also emblematic of aspirational elegance.

Besides, who hasn’t entertained the thought of a month in one, with the person of your dreams?

According to them internets Australia’s lighthouses are variously classified as: active, deactivated, destroyed, automated, solar-powered, survived cyclone Tracy, abandoned, struck by lightning, and my favourite, kerosene-driven. Is kerosene still available? I hope so, and might later pop down my local servo with a rusty tin and get some, just to keep in my shed.

With its suggestions of whale-boned corsetry Lady Bay Lower Lighthouse in Victoria is an evocative example while Malcolm Point on Lake Alexandrina features the country’s only inland lighthouse built to support River Murray trade. I can picture Sigrid Thornton frowning beneath its towering majesty in a big frock and bonnet. It was turned off in 1931.

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South Australia has 27 lighthouses and there’s one on the Port River following its relocation in 1986. Red and white, cast iron skeletal and hexagonal, it stands 82 feet tall and is adjacent to the Lighthouse Wharf Hotel.

Drifting in around 5 bells as part of my now annual visit to this part of town I’m impressed by the light and breeze and welcoming mis en scene, all exposed brickwork and craft beer taps. I mention Greg Phillips the former publican, Port Magpie powerhouse and sire of Erin Phillips, herself an icon, but the bar staff reply

“I’m only new.”
“Check with Nick. I’ve only been here a month.”
“Greg who?”

Waiting for my $5 happy hour pint of Coopers Pale Ale (delicious and inexpensive) I note a poster advertising the pub’s Trivia Quiz Nights. I can only conclude that these include questions like

What is the most common form of trivia?
Did Shakespeare use the word trivia in any of his comedies?
What are the top five topics for trivia in Moldova?
Should pubs avoid tautology in their marketing and have either trivia nights or quiz nights?

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Old mate Bob and his lad Jack join me out the front and we take in the Customs House, sailing ships and knots of punters (maritime metaphors are compulsory down here) who are also in their Thursday, Adelaide Test eve, chirpy cups. Jack has a Coke and a bag of chips, which is surely all that an eight-year-old needs after basketball training and with a mere month until Christmas.

Nautical suburbs are inescapably compelling and Port Adelaide, with its tangle of narrow streets and grand architecture, is wonderful. However, its promised rejuvenation seems a way off. Bob and I agree that a key strategy must be to increase the local population with affordable housing.

The Hilltop Hoods are playing in the background and urging us in myriad ways, to myriad unforeseen destinations. We have another beer.

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Lighthouses feature in music too. British prog-rock pioneers Van der Graaf Generator have a song in their sludgy catalogue called, “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers,” a ten-part, 23-minute concept piece ruminating on the complexities of lighthouse keeping, what with all those storms and ships smashing upon jagged rocks and sailors perishing. But it’s not blasting over the speakers in this beer garden today.

I prefer Sydney troubadour Josh Pyke’s paean to these beacons called, rather unconfusingly, “The Lighthouse Song.” It’s about the beauty of binary and the need to flee a crushing planet.

So we are moving to a lighthouse, you and I
While seas drown sailors, we’ll be locked up safe and dry
And though our doors may knock and rattle in the wind
I’ll just hold you tight and we’ll not let those fuckers in

We vow to return soon. There’s much left to experience such as a meal hopefully not featuring a schnitzel inexcusably crushing its desperate bed of hot chips, live music, and that most potent symbol of great hostelry, the giant connect four game in the beer garden.

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Beer Review: Bitburger 0.0%

Imagine the worst beer in the history of our bluish green planet.

Horrible, isn’t it? Ghastly, offensive, and a reminder of all that troubles you. You shiver, involuntarily at the memory.

Now, imagine it again, but make it twice as bad.

Ladies and gentlemen, Bitburger, Alkoholfrei 0.0%.

Gritting my teeth, I sat down to begin my work. Tried to unscrew the cap. No. Bitburger, like computer, says no.

I needed an opener. Or as my old mate Dick used to call them a Bill Lawry.

Why would they make drinking these beer-free beers difficult? Maybe, I’m thinking, there’s deeper magic at play here. The brewers realise how dreadful they are, and are trying to save you from the horror. In a weird way, they actually care for you and your well-being.

No, they don’t.

The aroma is distinctly Bitburger: sharp, aggressive and confronting like the stocky, pimply Year 10 boy who tries to intimidate you on your first day of high school. All snot and snarl. But, unlike Bitburger, there’s a chance that once you get to know the boy and perhaps play footy with him and listen to some Supertramp records together, you’ll become friends.

Once, years ago, up in Clare for the October long weekend, old mate Bazz asked me to buy us some beer. Looking back, I must’ve been suffering undiagnosed concussion because I returned with a box of Bitburger.

With pure hearts and expectant smiles, we cracked a couple open and taking a sip, Bazz then remarked, “Buy any of this ever again, and our friendship is over.”

He meant it.

I glanced downward in shame. I then looked over at the beer. Mmm. Only twenty-two were left. A sullen pall settled down on us. In time we recovered, and earlier this afternoon, and without adult supervision, I bought one for scientific purposes.

And dear reader, to spare you the awfulness.

At this point in the review I’m tempted to insert a string of metaphors to describe the taste of Bitburger 0.0%. I could write about it being like making love in a canoe (again as Dick says) or that it’s for bathing in and not drinking (as Andrew says) or I could invoke German high culture with reference to Bach and Wagner, and Mozart and sauerkraut and then speak of the global disgrace that this beer is, but I won’t.

It’s simply terrible.

So, I spent the curious sum of $3.09 on this, and now my social responsibility in warning you of this is done. Taking the bottle to the recyclers will net me ten cents and when the young man hoicks the bottle into the crate the sound of smashing glass will be akin to sighting the Brandenburg Gate on a summer’s day or hearing Ride of the Valkyries.

Don’t. Do. It.

Excuse me now and thank you for reading. I need a Coopers Sparkling Ale.

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Sausage Roll Review: Banjo’s, Moseley Square, Glenelg

Approaching the bloodthirsty climax of Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War tour de force Apocalypse Now there’s a scene in which Colonel Kurtz: bloated, monstrous, world-weary, insane, hidden in the jungle dark, murmurs to his would-be assassin Captain Willard, “Get me a sausage roll.”

Sadly for film aficionados this didn’t make the final edit, but the idea translates into contemporary living.

With thoughts of luncheon foodstuffs swimming before me like the haze of the Mekong River delta I ventured to Moseley Square, which hosts a new bakery, named Banjo’s. Like fruit bats or swine flu South Australia is the final challenge in their plan to colonise our country.

It’s a bright and spacious retailer with swarms of tables and chairs and a large menu board. The first problem occurred as I peered into a glass display case, otherwise warm and oddly exciting.

A cheery, young thing hovered behind the counter.

“Someone chopped all your sausage rolls in half,” I noted.

“This is how we make them,” she retorted rather obviously, I thought. A bit like saying, “Ouch, that hurt,” when a white pointer makes off with your favourite leg.

“Oh.” I wasn’t keen on an argument, just a full-sized sausage roll. They were all squat and abbreviated. What fresh madness is this I moaned inwardly.

“We have an offer,” she continued eagerly, entirely unlike Bill Murray’s character Phil in Groundhog Day. “You can buy three for $5.60.”

This seemed better than a half sausage roll for $2.70, so me and my gizzard signed up.

Francis Ford Coppola himself would’ve enjoyed the mis en scene of my outside table, two happy dogs and Glenelg’s seaside square, on a spring afternoon.

I sat with my trio of sausage rolls which might’ve been described by a minor character in Apocalypse Now as trio de petits pains aux saucisses.

I began modestly, with the traditional version. It was appropriately hot and the pastry was flaky and sweet, but not sweaty as it can often be at times. Taking a bite I examined the innards. It was alarmingly pink and pale, and I must report, tasted just this way. If I ran a photocopying franchise, I’d analyse it as being a crappy copy of what must be an insulted, once illustrious original.

A sausage roll should possess subtle spiciness.

Coming in after this golden ball duck, the next batsman was nervous. It was curry and chickpea. Yes, in a sausage roll. Does this strike you as being overly-ambitious for a common or garden sausage roll? It did me, but I found it pleasant enough to endure, although I’m unlikely to venture there again, which is what visitors say about the North Wagga Wagga RSL.

The dogs next to me continued to show interest while their female owners chatted. Apparently Corey had disappointed Kylie. And not for the first time either. In fact, he had been poorly behaved for a while. Move him on Kylie I thought. You’re better than that.

About my third sausage roll the bakery server (Hello, my name’s Siobhan and I’ll be your server today) said, “It looks like a sausage roll but tastes like a pasty as it has the same ingredients.” She smiled at me and I wept for the future.

Sweet Jesus I said to myself (if there’s kiddies watching flip the screen down now). What the actual fuck are these people doing?

Happily my inner monologue stayed just that.

I ate it outside in the warm sun, and you’ll be comforted to hear that it tasted just like a pasty although like a shape-shifter in a dreadful teen horror movie it was dressed up as a sausage roll.

Why?

Having set off earlier with pure intentions and a simplicity in my heart, my dream of a single, uncomplicated sausage roll had become overly complex. Banjo’s had not been in tune.

No wonder Colonel Kurtz went mad.

 

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The Uplifting and Unparalleled Uraidla & Summertown Show

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Entering the showgrounds Alex (A1) and his friend from up the road, Alexander (A2) commenced an eating marathon, or in truth, sustained the one started in the car.

First up were snow cones, a marketing triumph of crushed ice drenched with hallucinogenic Cottee’s (I hope so) cordial. Using eleven cents of ingredients it retails for $5. But, as they say in Brixton, the boys were well pleased.

It was an Adelaide Hills spring day with crisp air and clouds rushing. We kept our eyes skyward and there was a tree-climbing competition on a massive gum, whose sturdy girth meant it had a fair grip o’ the earth.

Our home town of Kapunda recently hosted an international climbing event at the duck pond sponsored by the Crimson Bovine energy drink which I imagine exactly zero of the competitors enjoyed before, during and after competition. However, Claire and I agreed it was excellent to see the difficult work of arborists codified and celebrated.

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Setting the boys adrift Claire and I took in the stalls run by passionate backyarders. With foodstuffs, handicrafts and all manner of rustic enticements The Onion Factor caught our eye (and nose) and its vendor loved her onions and encouraged these into relish, sauces and pickles. Recommended.

While Claire went to the toilet/restroom/bathroom/bogga (strike out those not applicable to your cultural context) I along with many others in a loose church of haybales listened to a woman giving a talk/quiz on vegetables.

It was disconcertingly compelling and displayed the conditions necessary for a cult. The leader stood on a stage clasping assorted produce as we gazed dead ahead, unblinking and transfixed, drool appearing on some.

“Who can tell me the difference between squash and zucchini?” Narelle’s hand shot up, like she’s four and a people-pleaser.

And then, “What’s the name for this odd-looking vegetable?” Immediately, Doreen, late fifties, eager, bleats out, “Pimply pumpkin.”

It was like an old science-fiction film, but without the primitive laser beams.

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Mercifully, Claire returned before I renounced my former life and surrendered my shoes and bank details.

With A1 and A2 back we made a slow lap of the oval, admiring the marquees, footy and netball club stands, book counters, and local church volunteers giving away cakes and biscuits.

By the cricket pitch (hard not turf) was a gazebo and under it a business was selling a dozen queen-size mattresses. Claire asked, “Who comes to a show to buy a bed?” I hoped at least a couple couples, but thought it unlikely. “Righto kids, let’s go to the show. You can have a toffee apple and go on some rides while mum and dad head to short mid-wicket on the town oval, and buy an ensemble. Later tonight, we’ll try to make you a sister.”

The cult of the Adelaide Hills wineries now draped its inescapable charisma over us, and we discovered ourselves on some stools sipping CRFT winery droplets. Situated in Carey Gully, I was taken by the Grüner Veltiner, an Austrian varietal that was snappish and elevating, suggestive of apple and autumnal breezes, perfect for hot afternoons down on the plains.

Detecting a yiros van on the half-forward flank fence we became fixated. But, taking a break from their eating Olympiad A1 and A2 later told us the yiros was gone. They scarpered off on their quest to leave penniless.

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Not wishing to queue with the BBQ van crowd we opted for the pasta truck. Reading the menu board Claire (a polymath) said, “Do you know what puttanesca means?”

I did not.

“It comes from the Italian for prostitute. It’s an appropriately frugal dish,” she continued.

Contemplating the Venetian vamp diet, we both ordered the carbonara. Claire had a kid’s serve ($7) while I went the adult ($12) although as near as we could tell for my extra coin I’d received three additional tubes of penne.

With local red wine in our stemless glasses (still unsure about this) we claimed our chairs by a wooden crate as on the back of a truck The Finns sang Irish songs. In a massive iron bucket, a fire was blazing, a nearby infant and his chin and his cheeks relished his spaghetti (sketti), close to us a dog slept, and off to the side a toddler was stumbling about with her dad in outstretched pursuit.

It was an idyllic location and reminiscent of a Zeffirelli mise en scene.

Accompanying our merlot and pasta were stirring renditions of “Dirty Old Town” and “Black Velvet Band”. One of the backup singers rarely even used a tambourine and was more interested in his Coopers Pale Ale than harmonising, which I could partly understand. Doubtless, he’ll be asked to leave the band by Christmas, due to musical differences. However, the girls on the double bass and banjo were excellent.

The Finns comprise nine folk and vocals are shared although one male chased but couldn’t catch the correct key. Claire noted he wasn’t quite Meatloaf at the grand final, but if he parachuted onto a cannibal island and started warbling, by the first chorus of, “We’re Bound for South Australia” they’d have the pot boiling.

But it was a splendid afternoon of food, wine, music and mattresses. It’s how they love it in Ireland, Italy and Uraidla.

 

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Pub Review: A Story from the Story Bridge Hotel

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The waitress plonked down two Beef and Guinness pies, but my food envy was immediate and crushing.

Like a grinning fool I had ordered mine with chips and coleslaw, but ever the better judge, Claire went with mash and green beans.

Bugger I thought.

It was strangely wintry Friday in Brisbane with the temperature pathetically marooned in the teens (some would suggest not unlike my psychology). Flying in from Mackay like characters in an old Paul Kelly song a tropical storm threatened.

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Appropriately, we were in the Shelter Bar of the Story Bridge Hotel with our dear friend Stephen. We all went to Kapunda High, but it had been years since we’d sat around a pub table. Working in aviation he’s lived in Queensland for many a decade.

Continuing my misappropriated maxim of act local, drink global I opted for a Balter XPA, brewed down the road in Currumbin, while Claire chose a house white. Mine was tasty and compelling, but it was late afternoon on a Friday; a time when I’ve been known to stick my bonce in a sheep trough and come up smiling.

At school and in those golden years immediately following we were close with Stephen. He owned a new lime green Gemini. It had that most miraculous automotive accessory of the late twentieth century: the sunroof. Which when coupled with a Midnight Oil or Australian Crawl cassette made for unparalleled exhilaration on, say, the straight stretch past Freeling in transit to Adelaide Oval.

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Dining and sipping Stephen reminded us of the old Story Bridge boozer. “It had low ceilings. Was always smoky and sweaty. I saw many bands in here. It’s one of a few iconic Brisbane pubs.” Looking about all was glass, polished timber and shafts of light. I wondered if the renovations had robbed it of its rough charisma, and imagined that I could be in Perth or London or Singapore.

Then I spotted a brush turkey pecking a chip in the beer garden. Perhaps not.

Our pies were magnificent.

The meat was tender, the pastry was suitably flaky and inviting to both fork and mouth, and the caramelised onions slumped over the lid were a zesty, brown treat. My coleslaw was a little bland; a result of over-reliance upon cabbage in the same way that if Prince Charles was a sole after-dinner speaker, then the entertainment might be wanting.

Claire’s mash was pinnacle potato. Of course.

Immediately upon collecting us at the airport I recalled why we’d been friends with Stephen. He was interesting, thoughtful, witty and generous. Although it’d been years, too many years, we chatted as if one had simply ducked into the loo and re-joined the circle in Kapunda’s Clare Castle Hotel.

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We spoke of the re-emergence of vinyl records and Stephen’s proud purchases including Daddy Cool and Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica which like Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks was an album that only revealed its curious but profound charms when our adolescence was safely in the rear-view mirror (of the Gemini).

We had another drink. I stayed with the Gold Coast’s own and Claire switched from house white to house red. This was catastrophic (in a decidedly first world way) with the wine undrinkable, even, I suspect, by alcoholic cats. I wondered about the marketing potential in travelling about our vast country, and cataloguing and reviewing house wines for a specific, perhaps, caravanning audience. As my old Wudinna mate Dick would say, “It’s a pissabolity.”

Having moved easily and happily between the present and the recent and not-so-recent past it was time for us to go. It had been a wonderful afternoon of nostalgia and news.

Kangaroo Point’s Story Bridge Hotel is a superb place for old friends. Especially those who shared many a moment in a lime green Gemini.

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Pub Review: Dingo Pub

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Rodney splashed more chardonnay into the glass.

Moving about his bar with suppressed nervous energy, he now declared, “As I’ve filled it above the line I’m obliged by Queensland law to inform you of this because you mightn’t want the extra wine.”

Unsurprisingly for a Kapunda girl, Claire dismissed that idea with a, “No, thanks, that’ll be fine.”

It was around 2pm on a Tuesday in Dingo Beach. We were in the Whitsundays. We had explored the beach- the tide was out- but did not swim because of stingers and Irukandji jellyfish. I had read that Irukandji jellyfish actively hunt their prey. I had little interest in becoming prey to a tiny, blobby marine killer, especially as Glenelg had just won the SANFL premiership.

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Rodney has four beers on tap: XXXX, XXXX Gold and two types of Great Northern.

Generally, I have limited truck with these, and might’ve opted for a stubby of Coopers, but surely the traveller’s obligation is to be brave and try to experience life as a local.

So, I took a deep breath, steeled myself and heard these words fall, haltingly, from my quivering gob, “I’ll have a pint of Great Northern, thanks.”

I felt unsteady on my thonged feet. To offer her support in this difficult circumstances, Claire rubbed my forearm kindly.

The kitchen had shut so we had an impromptu lunch of cheese and dips and olives at our beer garden table. Rodney did not mind.

A few other Tuesday patrons drifted in and mostly headed to the smoking section. There were older men with orange shirts and ghostly goatees. On the tree between us and the beach a riot of kookaburras took up brief residency, announcing their arrival with brash, Motown song. Then they flew off, possibly seeking Coopers on tap.

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Our Mersey cheese was tremendous. It really is the Allan Border of cheeses: predictable, attacking when required; defensive if needed. I stuck another piece on my Jatz (traditional not pepper).

On Sunday we’d bought some supplies in Mackay and seemingly both possessed by one of lesser demons in The Exorcist, stuck some rosemary and gin olives in our trolley. In appropriate contexts all three are excellent, but put together and Father Karras can’t save you or Regan, despite the power of Christ.

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The tub was swiftly despatched to Rodney’s beer garden bin. Apologies to the bin. Apologies to Rodney. Bins deserve better.

We spoke of the town, its wide beach and family-friendly foreshore with playgrounds and barbeques and endless picnic tables. We were both taken by the islands dotted about the ocean. Coming from South Australia our experience with off-shore land masses is largely informed by Granite Island. Switzerland is better served by islands than us.

Keen to swim Claire asked Rodney of this and he began his repetitive, circular discourse: ”Well, me and my kids go swimming all the time without stinger suits. But I don’t want to tell you what to do. You might get stung and come back and sue me.”

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Claire nodded.

Easing into his work, like Keating and the Redfern speech Rodney continued, “Me and my kids go swimming all the time without stinger suits. But I don’t want to tell you what to do. You might get stung and come back and sue me.”

Claire excused herself, having developed a sudden taste for gin and rosemary olives (albeit in the bin).

And my pint of Great Northern?

It was cold and flavoursome and the head was creamy and inviting. In its proper context at the Dingo pub it commanded the stage with quiet confidence.

It was utterly delicious and, of course, now back in a shoe-wearing state, I’m unlikely to ever have another.

About half an hour from Airlie Beach, the Dingo pub is a must when in the Whitsundays.

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A Love Letter to the Clare Golf Course

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In the world of cinema it’s known as mise-en-scène and refers to the poetic arrangement within a camera shot. This embraces composition, sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting and is designed to evoke certain audience reactions.

Indeed, golf and film might share this idea, if not the term, and the seventh hole at Clare in South Australia’s mid-north valley is beautifully-constructed visual art. Set among fetching hills and riesling vineyards on the town’s outskirts, the course speaks of the joys of nature, our extraordinary privilege, and the enduring value of connection.

Last Saturday dawned brisk as it does approaching 1300 feet above sea-level, but after breakfast the sun was breathing balminess into the earth and onto our faces. It was wispy-cloudy and the kindest of breezes moved about the trees. The AFL grand final would commence mid-afternoon and we’d claim our spot by an open window in the Taminga pub.

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If a golf course presents a narrative then the fifth is a memorable scene. With driver or three-wood from the tee care must be taken to not drift right as an out of bounds vineyard awaits patiently growing fruit. For some these grapes represent golf’s truest occupation: a long walk before a crisp cup; a healthy delay until Bacchus takes considerable charge.

Never mind that it has been deceased for decades, but the ghostly eucalyptus guarding the fairway fringe is a mighty reminder that perhaps golf should be of only minor consequence during a round. If there’s painterly beauty and awe in death, then this tree could be it, all cryogenic limbs and leafless silence.

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Like Mediterranean sailors and the sirens’ call most of our group’s Hot-Dots are lured to this solitary gum. On the green as Mozz lines up his long, curling putt I whisper to Claire, “Golf can be like being at war with yourself.” Mozz leaves it about ten foot short. I lean in again, “He might be losing.”

But, of course, we’re all winning.

If we continue our theatrical theme then the next hole is a climactic point.
The preceding holes have climbed quietly and the seventh tee is the natural and dramatic pinnacle, providing a vista over the course, Inchiquin Lake and the drowsy township. Sevenhill, Kybunga and Polish Hill hug the horizon.

However, looking down at the hole it’s astonishing how much it communicates. The original course architect must have smiled as he imagined the simple challenge; how he must have nodded at his good fortune to conceive this marriage of human invention and astounding nature.

It’s an unforgettable golf hole.

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130 feet below in the amphitheatrical apron a willow sits patiently by the wide green.
A nine iron only from off this cliff and the ball hangs frozen in today’s azure, before gravity escorts it back to earth.

One of our ensemble, Paul, fluffs his shot and lands in the rocky creek bed that twists like a reptilian. Amid the banter I’m aware that his tiny calamity is emblematic of our huge luck in being here, in the morning air with full bellies and endless ease.

Like the sport itself it’s a hole that invites optimism (surely the golf bags of the pessimists are dusty at the back of countless garages), but condemns arrogance and only one of our group, Bazz, finds the outwardly impossible-to-miss putting surface with a shot in this grand context that’s humble and reverential.

There’s nods, and staccato yelps of, “Nice” and “Yeah, done Bazz.”

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Our electric carts whirl down the goat-track through the scrub and bush, and the seventh green materialises as a verdant altar. Birdsong is both hymn and soundtrack. As we exit Clare’s golfing cathedral and go to the eighth, scores are confessed and then forgotten.

We press on through the laughter and the brief disappointments, and as it should, golf performs as a prop for poetic connection and conversation.

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