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.
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.
At 4,170 feet above Hobart there’s an apparent temperature of two degrees. I’m an incurable under-dresser so am in shorts. It’s crisp. It’s Saturday.
We’re on Pinnacle Road, which has (predictably) taken us to the top of Mount Wellington. The city is below the cloudy curtain. Claire and I have come up in a bus.
As is widely known as soon as a bus driver has a functioning microphone and fondness for narrative, they become a coach captain (not always but often). This occurs.
Our hire e-bikes are onboard too. We are riding down the mountain.
Stepping out in the gusty cold being blown off the mountain seems most probable. Forever lost in a Tasmanian gully. Later discovered like an antipodean version of the Tolland Man. I later learn that winds have been clocked up here at 200 kilometres per hour.
On the way up we passed the Fern Tree Tavern which describes itself as, ‘your loungeroom on the mountain.’ This seems a long time ago. We could be in there now with something warm and affirming while we laugh about the mad types in the deathly outdoors.
Halfway down we pause at the Lost Freight Café. It is a shipping container. On chairs in the welcome sun Claire and I have lunch and then coffee and cake. A cluster of cyclists goes by.
Neither of us pedal. Our fingers and wrists throb as the brakes are squeezed continuously as a life-support strategy. It’s not cycling but loosely controlled falling. Last June we braved the Riesling Trail, and it was shared and peaceful and leisurely. This is a private hell of cold, roadkill, and metaphysical fear. Our descent is indecent. Our trip is twenty-six kilometres.
Like much in life such as exercise, work, and parenting this is only appreciated in retrospect, when the sense of achievement emerges, bruised, from the difficulty of the undertaking. I’m glad we did it.
Down on the flat we whizz about the CBD and out to Sandy Bay and chain up our bikes outside the Hope and Anchor only to lean on the door and learn that the pub is shut for Easter.
Returning our wheels, we debrief in The Whaler on Salamanca Place. It’s snug inside and a golden light bathes us and the ancient, maritime bar.
From our wooden deck on Police Point we look east. I see a bumpy lawn, a rivulet, a tide endlessly drifting in and out. In the distance is Kangaroo Bay.
Between grass and sand is a fireplace. It is all rickety concrete bricks and rusty iron.
Nightly we feed it pine logs and these are swiftly devoured. These are not like the red gum and mallee roots we burn at home. We gaze out over the dusky sea and enjoy the quiet.
Our conversation mingles with water, sand, sky, fire. We look at the twinkling sweep of the Milky Way and speak of the print on our wall back home which features the entire poem, ‘Suburban Lovers’ by Bruce Dawe. It opens with one of my favourite lines, ‘stars now have flown up out of the east.’
Claire is keen to use the kayak. Because of the strong wind a lunchtime attempt is abandoned. The canoe stays on the grassy bank.
On Saturday we saunter about Geeveston and make an unsuccessful quest to spot a platypus. We have a drink outside at the café called The Bear Went Over The Mountain before returning, for the final time, to our seaside abode.
There’s a quick frenzy of activity as I build the fire and sort a few things for our barbeque. I wonder where Claire is and call out. Her phone remains on the lounge.
I am lugging pine logs and then dispersing firelighters when shadowy movement on the still bay catches my eye.
A kayak swims into shot. It’s Claire.
The snaking kayak pushes into the rivulet by our fireplace. It’s a lovely and charming moment.
She stays in the canoe. The fire crackles and smoke phantoms about me. I stand on the bank. We chat.
Claire eases away into the glassy, darkening beyond.
Sunlight dapples onto the paths. Ferns are abundant and calming. Moss spreads over logs and rocks.
Wildlife is invisible (I assume) despite the voluminous incidence of roadkill. We see no living creatures by or on the road as we drive 800 kilometres across our holiday.
Claire and I enjoy Russell Falls and Junnee Forest. Autumn means the falls are a trickle. These will gush and tumble in winter. The canopy is arresting and invites gratitude. Wood scents exaggerate our healthiness and reinforce the idea that being in nature is therapeutic.
The early forecast suggests snow flurries and a top of six but it’s mild and fine and prettily cloudy, not Northern European gloomy.
Toadstools dot about, hiding in undergrowth. Massive fallen trees punctuate our progress and remind us that this is not a static museum but often a theatre of sudden and colossal action.
We hike inside our cocoon and the walking itself dissolves as the people and places of our conversation loom and disappear. I think this is how it should go.
I encourage Claire up the final wooden steps of our six-kilometre hike and we return to our MG hire car. MG originally stood for Morris Garages (in Oxford) but this debut experience would instead suggest that driving one is Mostly Grim.
On the drive home we buy strawberries.
To the north of Rosehaven-lookalike, Geeveston, we tread the paths around the park and admire the Huon pine trees.
I find myself accompanying my wife along the 619 metre-length of the Airwalk. How did this happen? It’s fifty metres above the Huon River. The website suggests-
‘The full return journey takes about 50 minutes – more if you stop for photographs, spot birdlife, or pause to enjoy the clean, fresh scents of the forest.’ For you I now editorialise this- ‘Or about ten minutes if you’re rushing in terror with eyes frozen on your clumsy feet, too petrified to look out, lest you fly off the bridge to your messy doom.’
As we near completion of the elevated circuit Claire ventures onto the cantilever section. I don’t.
We see a clueless couple with a dog. The dog is also motionless with terror. I think it cruel. Dogs like being in the sky as much as the emu.
On our way around the adventure park, we talk of the pioneers and their lonely wives, the indigenous lives, the brutal and entitled English colonisation. We then talk about hot chips.
We finish with the swinging bridges and these span one hundred metres across the Huon and sixty wobbling metres over the Picton. For once I’m less scared than Claire. It’s still a height issue but I’d prefer to plummet into icy water than onto the merciless, unforgiving ground.
We constantly wrestle with the car radio. Hobart is home to some untreatably dreadful pop stations and Triple J appears to be especially combative, so we go with Classic FM, and this offers the sedative strings of Vivaldi.
Meandering drive down to Australia’s southernmost point. It’s always exciting to be geographically extreme.
We venture past the unspoilt beaches of Recherche Bay. In Tassie, there is no hurtling along. The winding roads make driving a demanding science and not a leisurely art.
Claire visits the Cockle Creek Cemetery (happily not permanently) while I sit on a large stone and the sun washes over me.
A gaggle of loud, euphoric youth finish their week-long hike. I don’t share their exuberance and announce to Claire over our lunch that, ‘their sense of accomplishment and vitality are nauseating.’ I’m not entirely joking. We munch our sandwiches.
The Fishers Point trail (trial) is two hours return, and a four-kilometre return trip, allegedly. As advised by the small sign, we, ‘consider tides and coastal conditions before undertaking this walk, as sections of beach may be restricted during high tides.’
We then read this: From the whale sculpture carpark, it’s an easy (I call bullshit) coastal walk through heathland and offers spectacular views to distant Adamsons Peak, Southern Ranges, Bruny Island, and the Southern Ocean.
Along the way cruelly camouflaged signage means we scramble over endless rocky stretches, scaring and scarring lizards and our ankles.
Throughout, the sky is a cathedral with variety of cloud shapes and hues painting the friendly blue canvas. The beaches are decorated with driftwood and beautiful shells. Claire pockets a couple of these.
As South Australians we’re unaccustomed to trees growing right on the beach unless these are stinky mangroves. These seem to belong in the tropics and not the bottom of our world.
At Fishers Point, we explore the ruins of the 1843 pilot station and lighthouse.
A simple wooden cross at the point. Dedicated to Chris Reid. There’s also a smashed TV. Probably because the owner couldn’t watch footy on the beach due to a fatal if predictable lack of electricity.
Claire places a rock on the cairn.
On our return the directional signage, previously hidden, is now like Vegas neon. We can see exactly how to cut through the bush and when to tramp along the sand.
A few years’ back Triple J erected an ironic billboard just south of Dover and it’s still there. It perfectly captures the stereotype of their uni-student listenership.
Strolling home to St Ives after submerging ourselves in sex, death, and repulsion at MONA we went up hilly Montpelier Retreat where some tempting music swam into earshot. Not a recognisable song but a tune curious and indicative of youth and a vibrant pub.
And it was!
The beer garden is set on a typical Hobart tilt and is jammed with tables and stools and a bus. Yes, a bus that serves as a playground for the kids and dining snug for the bigger kids. There’s a beanie on most heads and most heads have a burger and chips in front of them.
I get a glass of red for Claire and the barman persuades me out of a lager and into a local ale. Again, the wisdom of strangers has prevailed, and back outside and supping on my cup, I say a silent prayer to the beardy youth who served me. It’s a fine ale.
The chatter weaves around the music. A catchy song is playing. Claire says, ‘I like this one. Let’s find out what it is!’
Neither of us has Shazam or a music identification app so the race is on. With a traditional song structure, we’re heading towards the final chorus! Quick. The little wheel is spinning on my phone screen. Ding! Done.
I point it towards the speakers under the veranda. After a few moments, bingo! It’s an indie band from Florida called Flipturn and the tune is ‘Vanilla.’ It mightn’t be a song for the ages, but it’s certainly contextual and added to our playlist as a sonic souvenir will always evoke the lovely late afternoon visit we made to a fun Hobart pub called Preachers.
Collecting a hire car on Easter Sunday we drove to Richmond which seemed to be a petite version of touristy Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills and performing a similar role for Hobart. We explored it and two animal-themed Coal Valley wineries in Every Man and His Dog which was rustic, and Frogmore Creek all dazzling and stylish if maybe just a little too self-pleased.
Centrally located on Bathurst Street, the New Sydney is ancient and well-loved, like a couch from your childhood. There’s a thin beer garden that matches the pub’s grungy ambience.
Curious and dotty stuff lines the walls and shelves. There’s a collage of license plates, mostly from American states which was probably interesting once but is now somewhat cliched like a horse walking into the pub and the bartender saying, ‘Oh, why the long face?’ Of course, one license plate, probably from Alabama urges, ‘Run, Forrest, run!’
The light is fading and a young bloke gets the fire going. From the mantlepiece two hefty candles emit an orangey glow. He’s a skilled firestarter and heaves on an enormous log. The fireplace could double as a garage for a Smartcar. Down here in Tassie they know about wood.
Huddling about the crackling combustion, I scan the bar. It’s not a footy or a betting establishment. It’s just a pub that attracts folks who’ve decided on a late Sunday afternoon as the cold rises from the blackening streets that this is a perfect place for company and warmth.
Hope and Anchor
Following a drizzly afternoon in Port Arthur we push open the darkened door to a CBD pub claiming to be the country’s oldest continuously licensed boozer. The dining room is busy, and the fire’s ablaze in the front bar, so we plonk down in two old armchairs within comfy range of the flames.
As expected in an antique town the walls are festooned with memorabilia that speaks to its varied pasts and below the TV is a set of enormous, tatty bellows. British and brown hues dominate, and it doesn’t need Tony Robinson from Time Team to confirm it dates from 1807. I order an XPA while Claire’s request for a port is met with difficulty despite the town’s latitude of 42.8794° S which one might expect drives increased demand for fortified gargle.
I glance in the beer garden and it’s murky and barren, although it might appeal more in January. Back in I pause by the wood-panelling at a Moulin Rouge-like print with female posteriors which I’m sure was rousing for 1920’s Parisians. Above the fireplace a large deer head also disapproves. He’s not changing his mind.
Again, there’s no shiny or jangly entertainments on offer so people must make do with the company they bring or the company they find or introspection.
Disembarking at our St Ives apartment late on Easter Thursday I decide as I’ve now run 67 consecutive days that this should continue. It matters not that we’re now in another state. So, in the Good Friday morning stillness I jog south on the Sandy Bay Road.
There’s a trickle of traffic and I pass the Doctor Syntax pub: solemn and grey and vaguely medieval. I love that there’s a comic figure, British thoroughbred, play and rock album all named for this medical and grammatical character. Easing down the footpath I vow that we’ll invest an hour late one Easter afternoon. The roadside signage promises all manner of pubby treats. There’s a beer garden too.
Further along is the Sandy Bay bakery with thickening knots of folk on the street, all poised with lattes and brioche things. I pick my way past.
Then I turn off Sandy Bay Road and steer towards the water and Errol Flynn Reserve. Named for the celebrated 1930’s Hollywood star who was born in Hobart, the reserve is neither swashbuckling nor braggadocious. It’s surprisingly modest and utterly lacking in Freudian imagery.
The hushed streets and handsome weatherboard homes and benign, flat river remind me of the play for voices, Under Milkwood and I wonder, slogging along, about Captain Cat, Nogood Boyo and Mr. Mog Edwards, those most magnificent creations of Dylan Thomas. I recall the beginning-
It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea
With the Hobart atmosphere resting gently on the bay, I steal across the Royal Yacht club of Tasmania carpark towards the Derwent Sailing Squadron. Many 4WD’s have nosed their broad beaks into the spaces although I spot no sailors on the balcony. Dry-docked craft hang about like timber phantoms.
My destination is the Wrest Point casino, defined by its dire 70’s concrete tower reminiscent of Glenelg’s Revolving restaurant, itself for some time now an empty, hideous blob. If nothing else Hobart’s casino seems persistent. I nod at it. I’m rarely a casino patron but there used to be an excitement in visiting one. Now it seems to me that there’s a sharper sense of occasion popping down the servo Sunday evening for a block of fruit ‘n’ nut.
Completing a U-turn, I’m now on a dirt coastal path with a curmudgeonly sign forbidding dogs. Why escapes me and I then encounter a pair of happily defiant owners and their snouting hounds. People and Hounds- 1, Authorities- 0.
In a playground I pass a ruddy-cheeked couple with a toddler, all surging towards a stationary swing, their worlds necessarily shrunk. Puffa-jackets, flat whites, and singular smiles. They’re having a very good Friday.
Swinging into Napoleon Street and as promised by the motel receptionist I confront a hilly challenge. With nothing like it in pancake Glenelg, I tiptoe up its sharp tarmac, my calves pinging like a submarine radar. The sunlight bends in across me with kindly promise and assists my ascent.
Rumbling up the curiously named Trumpeter Street the sail-white and seafaring-blue façade of the Shipwright Arms gladdens me as I drift past. It’s inviting and stately but there’s an abandoned rum can by its front door. What should I expect at a nautical pub in this most nautical town? I promise an hour in its lounge-room like front bar by week’s end (gee, our week’s fast filling up).
Homeward bound through Battery Point, noted bakery Jackson and McRoss sits invitingly on the curb, all close and confident, like many Hobart frontages, as if they’ve been plonked there by the road, direct from London. It’s prosperous and caffeinated and sticky-bunned beneath its green sign. For these peoples it’s already a good Friday.
Drippy-browed and clingy-shirted in the motel foyer I poke the elevator button. Our MONA ferry departs in an hour.
In a ridiculous attempt to parody one of the greatest cartoons ever let me say, ‘Let’s give a cheer for March, let’s give a cheer for Mar’ which is ill-considered if pop-culturally tremendous. So, here we are in March, a month that’s always on the cusp of everything.
Word quickly escaped that a fire had ravaged our beloved Kapunda High on a Tuesday night in late March. It was awful and yet bought many together. As published in the local paper here’s my story.
On Wednesday there was a pilgrimage to Kapunda High School, and its centrepiece, the mansion known as Eringa. People stared and shook their heads and became teary at the sight of the burned ruins.
One former student said to me that, ‘it was like someone has died.’ Indeed, the stunning structure around which the school has grown is like a much-loved old friend and main character in the town’s story. We embrace it dearly.
In our Kapunda group-chat my cousin Froggy praised the school saying, ‘Its aura and rich history have played a big part in many people’s lives.’ We all agreed.
When I began Year 8 it had less than a couple hundred students but was always at the town’s heart. It seemed snug. Even as gawky teenagers I think we realised it was special and would shape our lives for the best.
It still does.
Not purpose-built as a school, it was the residence of Sir Sidney Kidman, his wife, and children, and just like a family home, remains a source of deep pride for Kapunda. We had classes in what were servants’ quarters, high-ceiling bedrooms, and grand reception rooms with stained glass windows. It was wonderfully unique.
Every year, the prefects ran a week of lunchtime fundraising activities. A key attraction was a ghost experience in the tunnels running under the mansion. Can you imagine this happening now? Nobody was spooked but there was mischief and laughter in the darkness, and we’d emerge caked in thick dust and blinking at the sun, ready for more mayhem with Bunsen burners or hockey sticks.
My wife and I met in Year 8 and were only ever going to be married at our beloved school. The affection we hold for it, and the teachers and students with whom we shared the beautiful building and grounds meant we had to return to where it all began for us.
Our choice of wedding venue surprised some city guests who’d not ever visited Kapunda but then saw it’s no drab school. It’s a welcoming estate flanked by Moreton Bay Figs, rose gardens and a fetching sweep of lawn.
On our day last April, the setting was moving and picturesque, and this made Tuesday’s fire more devastating.
For those like me who moved away, a trip home always meant a slow lap of the town. You’d ease past the duck pond, Dutton Park (home of the Bombers), the Prince of Wales pub (there might be a car you recognise out the front) and Gundry’s Hill.
But you’d also drive to the high school, pause by the fence and smile at the view. I’m not sure other towns can make this claim. Even for those who went there our school is a tourist attraction.
Driving up up late Wednesday afternoon, we wanted not to merely witness the awful smouldering ruins, but to see friends and to grieve. This was never only about the building.
At the school we saw our treasured history teacher Paul McCarthy and his wife Kerry. There were handshakes and hugs. These were precisely the people we needed to see.
Later in the pub local icon Tolly remarked that it was, ‘like a wake.’ How terrible that Eringa, the showpiece of not only the school, but Kapunda itself, has suffered this? But those who’d come and congregated weren’t really at a wake. There’s already a rugged resolve that this dreadful event not be a final chapter. Following the equally devastating fire of 1902, Sidney and Isabel Kidman rebuilt their home.
For the thousands touched by Kapunda High, we’re hopeful that this happier side of history can be repeated.
In the wonderful High Fidelity the protagonist Rob Gordon and his disturbed employees Barry and Dick trade musical top fives at the record store, Championship Vinyl. Since Alex and myself were gifted a turntable at Christmas I’ve bought a dozen or so second-hand albums and my personal top five follows (from the beginning of 2022).
Of course this is entirely an exercise in yoofy nostalgia so has been limited to music from my adolescence. I’ve decided that if an album’s from a time when I could vote, then I won’t buy it!
On state election day I went to a record fair and wandering about the tables and crates of vinyl I thought, gee what am I doing here? There’s only middle-aged and old blokes here, all nattering about rare B-sides and European pressings of obscure collectables. Then I thought, oh, hang on…
Honourable mentions- Late for the Sky by Jackson Browne, Glen Campbell’s Greatest Hits, and Beggars Banquet (NB- no possessive apostrophe) by the Rolling Stones.
Like a compulsory compensation within the water cycle it needed to happen in Thebarton. The recent closure of both Coke and the West End brewery meant the local refreshment industry required replenishment and last week it occurred with the opening of Brightstar Brewing.
Ahh, the water cycle. I knew being a Year 9 Geography alumnus/survivor would come in handy.
The gentrification of this compelling inner-west suburb continues apace as the old industrial landscape is transformed. Attractively set in the old University of Adelaide building the brewery’s red brick façade is simultaneously modern and emblematic of a sepia generation.
We claimed our booked table on the deck and began working on our beverages: a gin for Claire and a pilsner for me. My beer was fruity (no, not in that way) and approachable as one might expect for 4.45 on a balmy Friday.
Looking down towards the Torrens is a lush lawn functioning as a village green and the owners’ licence extends there. They’ve plans to host live music too and I can already hear a Sunday jazz quartet. A gaggle of high-vis enthusiasts was gathered under a marquee waiting for the nearby barbecue while a steady liquid stream was maintained between bar and grass. A staff member rolled out a couple of colourful picnic blankets by the ancient chimney.
Wine’s a curious omission from the grog menu but there’s beer-based cocktails for the suitably brash. Across this fetching scene they pump plenty of sixties British music and this adds appreciably to the festive feel. I hear two Rolling Stones’ songs and this always enhances my current cup.
Inside are more generous tables and a swanky bar that’s imposing and inviting. There’s fresh paint and energy and we’re told a chef will soon take charge of the kitchen. Of course, a rack of souvenir t-shirts and hoodies waits in the corner.
Later, in search of the euphemism we see that the building’s other spaces are ready for conferences and artisans and start-ups. It’s exciting. Oh, to be a twenty-something entrepreneur with pants rolled up well north of my ankles.
I also learn that those on the beer taps have completed the Cicerone Certification Program which ‘elevates the beer experience.’ I’m sure it does and my session ale is also zesty fun and straw of hue. Investigating the CCP I note that a point of instruction is defining a clean glass as being free from ‘soil and oil.’ This factoid is pleasing but a little voice tells me that regardless of international beverage pouring education, it should be a given. To my knowledge the pints down at the Broady have never housed any ‘Bay of Biscay’ or Castrol.
On the deck Claire and I speculate on the future of this part of town and conclude that being proximate to the tram and CBD and with an array of eclectic architecture ripe for apartment conversion it’ll hold increasing appeal. Brightstar Brewing will exaggerate this.
And with our Year 9 Geography homework done (Claire- A+, me- C: it was always thus) we point our motor at South Road.
Beneath the trees I see a rickety wooden stand, and a row of old couches.
Pumping music floods across the lush outfield. It’s jazz/techno/funk/fusion with an accompanying saxophonist. He’s slight, sporting a pork pie hat and dwarfed by black speakers on tall tripods. Previously living next door, he returns annually to provide the soundtrack. It’s the strangest broadcast I’ve heard at a cricket match.
After a while my ears and eyes accept these peculiarly arranged nuptials and welcome the enhanced festivity.
Ladies Day at the Ashbourne Cricket Club is underway.
Thirty-odd women (the hyphen’s crucial here) are at six long tables on the long off boundary, affably ignoring the sporting action. Now, does Ladies Day carry a possessive apostrophe? Do they own it or is this adjectival? Which better illustrates their experience? My fear is that the women do most of the work for their own day, but then I’m assured the males began preparations in the kitchen around dawn.
Along with its pocket-sized community the oval’s nestled in an attractive valley at the confluence of Bull Creek and Finniss River. It’s just up from the church and the Greenman Inn. We’re between Strathalbyn and Willunga, and the Mount Lofty Ranges sits right there to our immediate west.
At the 2016 census this hamlet recorded a population of 261 yet fields two senior teams and a junior side. Adelaide Oval’s soil was originally sourced in Ashbourne, and further elevates the celebrated status of the club.
The cricket itself is almost apologetic with looping deliveries, batting which prods towards the cherry rather than bludgeons it and fielding that’s a tragi-comic mix of purposeful and accidental. The infield appears impenetrably spongy. It’s like underwater cricket. The scoring shots seem to be sixes and lofted fours but even these are like fluky pitching wedges from high handicappers. Instead of a Kookaburra they could be using foam bats and a nerf ball.
Just up from the lone saxophonist there’s an outdoor bar so I ask the chap in charge, ‘What’s the score?’
Fishing about in an esky he replies, ‘Langhorne Creek is 7/70 after 35 overs.’
‘40 overs a side? You shouldn’t have many to chase down.’
He laughs. ‘It’s B grade cricket. No guarantees.’
Indeed. I was in a Kapunda side that was rolled for about 35 against Riverton. But they only got the runs with nine down. Fonz, a team-mate in Kimba, played in a country carnival team that was knocked over for two.
By contrast I later learn that in October 1954 Ashbourne icon H.R. Meyer took 6/65 against Langhorne Creek.
He was 69 years old.
A late-innings six is skied into the foxy mid-wicket scrub and melancholy minutes follow. The musician continues, as U2 sang, to ‘breathe’ into his saxophone. Brows are furrowed and the fielders stomp about in the undergrowth. At the Ladies Day tables much wine is downed, obliviously, before the ball is hoiked back at the wicket, finally.
Lunch is then served with a handful of deliveries remaining in the visitors’ innings and the amassed ladies begin to file towards the clubrooms. I hope they enjoy their chicken and (tossed) salad.
Suddenly, a midwicket slog at us under the trees. The barman (and likely OHS&W officer) yells, ‘Watch out!’ But I can’t see for the canopy. The ladies remaining put their hands over their glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and not their heads in an impulsive display of their true personal priorities. On the rope a fielder snatches at the ball. He turfs it. Blokes behind the bar shake their capped bonces, with one suggesting he has the ‘best hands in the club.’ The ball dribbles over the boundary.
Ladies Day and the resident saxophonist continue. I know none of the players, spectators, or officials but there’s been rejuvenation in seeing their shared enterprise, even for twenty wistful and nostalgic minutes.
Often seen as a carved ornamentation on churches, the Green Man motif originated in Sumerian, Mesopotamian, and Byzantine cultures. Nowadays, there are countless British boozers named for The Green Man, and it’s the name of a tranquil Fleurieu pub snuggled between Willunga and Strathalbyn.
We’d never been, and lunch is at noon. Claire’s arranged this, as part of a magnificent day’s excursion.
A roomy bar. It drinks in the golden afternoon light. A moment passes but then the absences announce themselves: no screens, no music, no pokies a-janglin’, no incessant bed of horse-racing babble.
It’s the front bar as traditionally experienced: a place to talk and imbibe and be among others, and this communal quiet can be a rarity. The bombardment upon our ears now equals the manufactured and sustained assault on our eyes.
Outdoors is a verdant municipal park with lawns both broad and uncluttered. There are front, side, and rear verandas, then out the back a paved patio, and finally an elevated expanse next to the remaining wall of a ruin. We could claim any of these painterly places but find our table beneath a tree. At once it’s a private room and offering a panorama of the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges.
The Greenman’s an acoustic haven.
Pub lunch menu. Lovely. Here we go. Order burger. Easy. But it comes with both pineapple and beetroot.
And here’s my reaction to this.
In recent years I’ve increasing affection for beetroot and decreasing tolerance for pineapple. I think these are connected. Although, the latter is cultural not epicurean with a possible factor being the PM absconding to Hawaii that summer as his country burnt. Beetroot and pineapple can’t cohabitate, so I ask for the omission of Golden Circle’s finest (alleged) fruit ring.
Of course, everything’s a political determination, especially the purposeful denial of pineapple.
Behind us is a soccer pitch-sized carpark. In a triumph of gravelly multi-tasking, it’s shared by the pub and Eastern Fleurieu School (enrolment: 26 pupils). This utilitarian concept continues to the north where pine trees guard the community church. Nearby is a table tennis club (meeting most Tuesdays). Leather clad and genderless motorcyclists stop by the road-side stall which with quiet trust offers:
Our lunch is unhurried, as all lunches should be. Other diners drift by and smear our green palette with denim and cheesecloth. The fire truck roars past like a throaty, lumbering quadruped. A quarter hour later it returns. I wonder about the causative combustion, once errant, now extinguished.
While neither Claire nor I love our meals the context compensates. For me lunch is only ever vaguely concerned with food; it’s simply a pretext to conversation. A plate of high-end grub (read: microscopic morsels with daubed jus) reveals me as akin to a Eurovision-enthusiast studying musicology at Oxbridge.
With the necessity of a second beer, I move from birdsong to bar and the auditory momentum is unbroken. A component of any lunching encounter, today’s musical score is sublime, a marriage of nature and sympathetic human murmuring. Walking back to Claire and our table, I take in the garden scenery, pleased that my footfalls are silent upon the compliant grass.
A wealth of compulsions can take us to the pub and once there, assorted attractions might bewitch and keep us. At the Greenman Inn in Ashbourne it’s the aural sanctuary.
My favourite time of day as it’s when I’m best aware of my enormous fortune and the garden of wonder that’s you. But I’ve not had one like this before.
Generically, Dubai airport is familiar, and the air is warm and cocooned. There’s buzz and privilege as well as some thrilling strangeness. Just as there should be when travelling.
We saunter about this recognisable and vaguely indecipherable place before claiming a table in Costa Coffee. I feel the delirium of little sleep, and the gentle euphoria of life blissfully interrupted, blended with the expectation of what’s ahead in our week. It’s like when you stay up all night the first time as a teenager and see in the dawn.
There’re people everywhere and I love the secret intimacy of being with you in a crowded place.
As we waited for our coffee – I’m unsure if we ordered food; possibly a small cake – I remember feeling safe. I’m sure it was because of you and the psychological and emotional comfort you bring. I also felt distinctly still, despite hurtling 11,000 kilometres.
These were our first overseas moments together and they’d been an infinity coming. Having fled Australia, we now caught our breath.
It was a key scene in our movie and the camera was rolling.
I recall speaking low and conspiratorially with you. We shared confidences. As you spoke, I had a moment, born of responsibility and devotion. These moments are unexpected and seismic; I think they rush out of our long past and wash over me with a warmth and a love and a relief to which I can only surrender.
It was an episode that to a stranger might have seemed ordinary but was a sublime, quietly joyous hour. It continues to possess deep and subtle symbolic power for me.
Airports are hubs of promise where life can be amplified to magical dimensions. In that otherwise forgettable coffeeshop we were halfway to Europe and our fête, for two.
During Saturday’s breakfast on the patio, I popped the needle on Olivia Newton-John’s Greatest Hits.
Instantly, I was six years old and back home in Kapunda. Mum and Dad’s lounge room is again wallpapered, the TV’s black and white and the carpet is burnt orange. It’s winter, and I’ve got on my footy boots. They’ll be on all day.
When Mum and Dad downsized, all the family vinyl came to me and since taking delivery of a retro record player at Christmas I’ve been happily swimming in nostalgia. Some of the albums had been untouched since 1988.
ONJ features prominently on the soundtrack of my childhood.
The second song on side 1 is, ‘Banks of Ohio’ and this transports me to a still, musty room on Hill Street in Kapunda. I’m still six and strumming a guitar during my weekly lesson, while the massively patient teacher, Deborah, helps my fingers to stretch across the chords. I love the idea of a guitar and singing, but the latter is galaxies beyond me and my gruesome tone deafness.
ONJ does the definitive version of this nineteenth century standard. Her voice and the melody are bouncy, and I always loved the basso backup of celebrated singer Mike Sammes who subterraneously echoes Livvy’s, ‘where the water flowed.’ Sammes also contributes on, ’Let Me Be There’ and ‘If You Love Me (Let Me Know).’
Trying to sing along with Deborah, I’m a little anxious about the lyrics. The narrator declaring that she, ‘held a knife against his breast’ is squirmingly grown-up and I vow to avoid this so-called Ohio River. Bad stuff happens on its distant, murky banks.
Nowadays the tune would come with attendant humourless warnings: adult themes, graphic violence, and persistent mention of a river that enjoys confluence with the Mississippi in Illinois.
The song’s a murder ballad.
Sipping coffee out the back and then emerges gently from our turntable the 1975 Grammy winner for Record of the Year. As it plays across the garden we discuss ‘I Honestly Love You’ with Claire suggesting it’s ‘depressing’. I counter that it is certainly pretty although I’d always viewed it as a disposable love song.
On it Livvy’s voice is beautifully warm and pure, but not drenched in palpable sadness. It bathes the listener in sunlight. But as with much music there’s a disconnect between the medium and the message.
Hearing it as Mum played it at home and on the car AM radio, my generation’s all logged many hours in its company. But following breakfast last Saturday we were moved by repeated listens and became profoundly aware of its narrative intensity.
As we learn both characters in the song are trapped by marriage, and unable to be together. The lyrics are by Peter Allen, who at the time of composition, was married to Liza Minelli but had fallen in love with a man who was similarly stuck.
I’m hesitant to see all texts as autobiographical because sometimes stories are just fictional. Not everything is inspired by real life. But there’s a good case here.
The opening verse is disarming: tender, vulnerable, brave. I imagine our main character talking in a café or a park.
Maybe I hang around here
A little more than I should
With this we’re instantly eavesdropping on a private confessional and there’s tension as ONJ sings, ‘I got somewhere else to go’.
While the chorus of, ‘I love you, I honestly love you’ is necessary, the verses and the bridge are superior because these are where she reveals the story. The characters remain ageless, genderless, and timeless.
In the second verse we hear, ‘Maybe it was better left unsaid’ and this second ‘maybe’ confirms our narrator’s nervousness. Her vulnerability is crushing, and we all know a bit about this. The repetition of ‘chance’ in the third verse shows how powerless they both are in this sometimes-cruel universe.
How can I have been unaware of all of this since I was a child?
The way the strings soar in the final verse is stirring while a harp is used sparingly but to great effect. It lifts a tender song to an enhanced fragility. The eternally imponderable is here too in
If we both were born in another place and time
This moment might be ending in a kiss
But there you are with yours and here I am with mine
So, I guess we’ll just be leaving it at this.
The last line is only superficially dismissive of their plight and given the emotional stakes of the story is also deeply ironic. If we view the song as a monologue, it’s dramatic and affecting.
I love rediscovering old music and reaching a new, heightened appreciation.
Of course, many of ONJ’s songs feature women who’ve relinquished or make no claim on their rightful power. These are females for whom life appears to happen rather than be controlled. ‘Sam’ and ‘Please Mr. Please’ are key examples. Claire suggested that maybe ‘Physical’ was in part ONJ actively promoting a feminist perspective.
Students of ‘I Honestly Love You’ will know that it features in Jaws just prior to Amityville’s second shark attack but I prefer to reference the 90’s indie singer Juliana Hatfield who, in 2018, produced an album of ONJ covers. She remarked that
‘I have never not loved Olivia Newton-John. Her music has bought me so much pure joy throughout my life.’
And I agree when she goes on to say, ‘Listening to her is an escape into a beautiful place.’