0

A brisk lunchtime in the Cathedral Hotel

hoggy

The satirical polemicist Voltaire once asked, “Is there anything better than a brisk lunchtime session in the Cathedral Hotel, on the first morning of an Ashes Test?”

In all matters philosophical and cricketing our French friend is accurate so I presented myself at the revitalised old boozer. It’s a Keith Stackpole jaunt from Adelaide Oval; our tremendous, alluring oval.

Friday night at the Adelaide Lutheran Christmas function (Catholics now admitted) Harmsey said, “Meet you at the Cathedral pub. 11.15.” I was enthralled and curious that the declared time wasn’t 11 or 11.30, but 11.15. This promised things exciting or dimly dangerous or both.

Whilst grateful I cling to a heady dream in which my ear is bent by this thrilling invitation: Meet you tomorrow in the _____ Hotel. Front lounge. 4.37 pm.

4.37. How good would this be? Who could resist such an exotic offer?

Strolling in from the misty wet the ancient Barossan adage swirled overhead, as it must for those with a connection to its verdant valley: One at eleven, or eleven at one. The Cathedral was bellowing; part matinée circus, part West End production. The Barmy Army merchandise card-table in situ, its custodians in throaty, summery cheer. Only 11.15? It was as if the pub had been throttling along for hours. Perhaps it had.

For me, an unsurpassed way to invest an energetic hour or two is to stand about a tavern’s table, by an open window, with a loose knot of like-mindeds, and trade cricket yarns: personal, public and apocryphal.

And so we did.

 

pub.png

Outside, a curiously impotent army of Warwick Capper number 39’s had mobilised, while inside, PJ Flynn and company attacked their fare (2016 Burgers of the Year, no less. No word yet on the 2017 winners- I’ll keep you posted) and the stories impatiently assembled.

Of course, after the obligatory SK Warne and IM Chappell anecdotes, we migrated to RM Hogg. When he played for Australia I was a kid who loved his ferocious bowling, and the hostility with which he steamed to the wicket; all Serengeti chesting, and scowl. He presented as one you’d have on your side, in a fight (Do cricketers have scraps and footballers have barneys?). Even his blonde locks flounced with anger.

Flynnie’s story went thus:

After his international career concluded Rodney played in Willowfest: the Australian amateur cricket championships, up in Mildura and Wentworth. Hoggy remained properly livid and fast. One afternoon his captain threw him the ball.

As he paced out his run-up a mischievous scorer, grasping the demon quick’s permanent volatility, yelled out towards the 123 Test-wicket veteran with faux ignorance, “Bowler’s name?”

From over my Coopers Session Ale in the Cathedral I could envision Hoggy’s lips tightening in a snarl. He didn’t bother to respond. But his captain did. “Hogg” came the reply.

Not done yet, the scorer chirped again, “One ‘g’ or two?”

As the yarns volleyed across our ales, a film-crew strode in and captured one of the Barmy Army, in staccato, bursting voice. By now the Wiz and his post-modern disciples had either departed, or been moved on by management. Perhaps Dr G Edelsten had invoked an injunction.

The Don DeLillo of cricket authors, Gideon Haigh, shared some probing insights on Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and the outlandish turf wickets he’d encountered recently in Melbourne. As lunchtime pub entertainment and education, it was unparalleled.

I was asked of my earliest Adelaide oval cricket memory. It was the 1974/75 Ashes with Dad. On the scoreboard hill among fractured foam esky lids like Canadian ice-floe, and floppy towelling hats reminiscent of those draped upon Arthur Dunger, I recalled an over each from DK Lillee and JR Thompson. This closed the day’s play.

To my eight-year old ears the noise was a pyroclastic event. I was exhilarated by the vivid and escalating possibilities as they splashed across my bow.

My next Adelaide Oval experience, I recounted to Flynny, was one Sunday during a match against Tasmania in the 1982 Sheffield Shield season. Some Kapunda contemporaries and I had wandered in and taken our seats in the former Sir Edwin Smith stand. The crowd was dotted about like inmates in a TB sanatorium.

 

MH
I only recollect the spell of Michael Holding.

As accepted fast bowlers are athletes until they reach the crease, and Holding was supreme in his gliding beauty. Pace men such as Craig McDermott and Mitchell Johnson are menace and violence as they tear in. But the West Indian was noiseless and painterly.

With the Taswegian keeper back halfway to the Cathedral End fence, it seemed that at the moment of release the ball, instantly forty yards away, was being scooped across to second slip.

Neither the batsman, nor I, were optically able to track the fig. I became aware of a remarkable connection between mechanics and biology. This became metaphysical majesty. I was slack-jawed. We all were. I don’t know if Holding took a wicket during our short sojourn. And, in many ways, an edge or explosion at the castle would have spoiled this most bewitching of sporting vistas.

Time had passed, and all by that window had an engagement, so we left the pub. Across the road, an Ashes Test was waiting.

 

Wiz

Advertisements
0

Fritz and fog: Twitter tales

 

My beloved Footy Almanac is running a series of writing competitions in which entries must be no more than Twitter’s new 280-character limit. There’s been some rippers. This week’s topic is Adelaide. More here

http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/almanac-writing-competition-almanac280-adelaide/

and on twitter using this hashtag

#Almanac280

 

fritz

 

The MCG has hosted happiness and towering achievement, and also catastrophe like 1997’s Iran match and 1982’s nearly last wicket heroics. But, 2011 saw unforgivable horror as Craig Willis said, “Ladies and gentlemen…Meatloaf.”

*

 -This morning we’re finding Adelaide’s best fritz. Alan from Alberton’s on line 3.

– Hello. It’s Alan from Alberton here. John the butcher does a very tasty bung. Top quality sawdust. Nice.

– How does it fry?

– Good. But that late free against Port on the weekend!

*

Having luncheoned on a pie-floater and butcher of West End draught at the Chappell brothers’ Leg Trap Hotel the HQ Kingswood now barges down Tapleys Hill Road with KG and static spitting on 5DN. Happy Proclamation Day!

*

fog

 

Anaesthetized Blundstones on the torpid terrace. North London football under Dickensian fog. Throaty shouts and roast beef. Wembley arch from the homeward train. An afternoon.

*

This unbounded sky is a cathedral. Low, promiseless hills guard the plains, and there’s the idyllic drone of the cricket as we move through an empty afternoon. Screen-doors flail. Home, with our Coopers and chops and distinctive vowels.

*

Ghosts phantom about the curved stands: the Ricciuto, the Chappell, the Bradman. Echoes of roaring; grainy footage; men in hats. Frozen champions orbit the oval. Past and present embrace, but wounds can’t heal without rubbing: the chicken salt hoarding is gone.

 

 

radio

 

 

 

1

To Alex, our cricketer

alex 1

Dearest Alex

You wander back besides the pitch, and pass the stumps. I like that you’re relaxed, although now and then, you break into a little jog as if you’re keen to get on with it. You arrive at the top of your mark, and I bend forward as if being closer to you will help. It’s a symbolic hug, or a pat on your shoulder.

Your mum and I are on our chairs in the Sunday shade. There’s other parents and grandparents sprinkled about beside the school gym. Max is either hurling himself about at the playground, or having a snack. While he shows fleeting interest in the on-field action, we know he wants you to do well when he asks, “How many runs did you make?” or “Did you win, Alex?”

In our frantic and unavoidably scrappy lives, this time in our week is when Mum and I can sit under the immaculate pre-lunch sky, and chat about school and work, you two boys and our Christmas holidays. Without your knowing it you’ve yet again given us a gift, and this Sunday morning sacrament cloaks us in monastic calm.

In each game, you’ve bowled either twelve or eighteen deliveries with tremendous success. And having flipped the ball from one hand to the other with that instinctive confidence, that emerging ease with the red leather, you now clasp it in your fingers and palm, and pick out a point on the pitch.

Here we go.

Turning towards the batsman, your run-up begins, and Mum and I concentrate all our love onto you. Our hope and our pride are funnelled to the demanding biomechanics of what you’ll do in the next seconds. The expectation makes me squirm and spasm. It’s anguish and delight. What will happen? C’mon, Alex!

From beyond the boundary we gaze at you, leaning forward as you accelerate, and your long frame foreshadows the fast bowler’s menace. I remember someone saying, “Until they hit their delivery stride all fast bowlers are athletes.” How true this is! All at once I can see you in this moment, but also the wide-eyed boy you were and the remarkable man who’s coming too quickly.

Other boys display the poise of a collapsing water-buffalo, but there’s a singularity in your action, especially for a nine-year old. In cricket, as in so much of life, the best techniques are often those with an elegant simplicity; a marriage of aesthetics to mechanical minimalism. The ultimate example of this is Glen McGrath although your blonde hair is more Nick Riewoldt than Brett Lee!

Your Mum and I have long invested in cricket, and subscribed to its broad community, its teachings and its charismatic company. It speaks to us as it preaches to your grandparents, and we love how you also hear its sweet call.

Now coiled in your delivery stride, you release the Kookaburra at impressive pace and it travels the twenty-two yards to its fate. This crimson orb carries our aspirations. You’re making your way in the world, by cultivating your skills, making connections and embracing the offers and the challenges that fly in your direction.

Congratulations, for you’re a cricketer, as well as a loyal friend, a protective brother and a gorgeous son. It’s early in the innings, but it’s begun brightly.

Love

Mum and Dad

alex 2

 

0

A Week Before Our Wedding We Went To The Races

IMAG0105

Here at Mickeytales Towers November Nostalgia continues with much spectacle and sparkling ale. But, you somehow already knew this.

We decided to have a joint pre-wedding party at the now demolished Victoria Park racecourse on Caulfield Cup day way back in 2002. It was a glorious spring afternoon- still, sunny and the good earth itself was bursting with rude health and robust conversation. We set up afternoon camp on the sloping lawns that fell away from the old grandstand.

IMAG0110

Here’s the bride with her mum, Joan and grandparents who’d driven down from Queensland for a few weeks. Griff liked a punt, and for many a year after would talk about this day, especially the bewildering fact that we hadn’t invested nearly enough on the Cup winner, a handy horse named Northerly.

We’d be up in Gympie with the cricket wandering along on their boxy, old TV, when, in complete contrast to the topic at hand he’d announce wryly, “You know what? We should’ve had more money on that bloody Northerly.” He’d then cackle at his own belated wisdom, and drum his fingers in that special way he had.

imag0104.jpg

Ali Hennessy has ample respect for authority, and of course, there’s no greater authority in Australia than Major Les Hiddins (retired). No, that’s not him on the right as that’s Paul, a Kapunda boy. Les is a devotee of VB, and he used to say, “In the army we’ve a saying. Two cans, per man (or woman), per day. Perhaps.” See what I mean by respect? Of course, it’s possible that Ali’s holding the can for her husband, Hen, who may have ducked across to the betting ring to invest in Waikikamukau, only to be briskly told that the horse was retired, or that he was even less likely to run a place, as he was deceased.

IMAG0111

Here’s Dad. Loves a red wine, loves a chat. Loved a punt. I reckon he had a pretty good day out. I reckon we all did.

imag0107.jpg

Bronwyn and Jonesy. My dear old friends from Mount Gambier, or the Mount. Of course, when at the races if someone asks where you’re from, and you reply, “The Mount” they could glance towards a nearby gelding and wonder if there’s an equine connection, so be careful. Just sayin’. Social confusion is best avoided.

imag0108.jpg

Here’s my sister Jill and her husband Barry. They were married earlier in 2002 at Partridge House in Glenelg before the reception, which was at Ayers House. I was their MC (sadly no DVDs available for purchase at time of writing).

Back then people drank Crown Lager as it possessed a rarefied, almost posh image that meant it was an “occasion” beer. Now, it holds the charm of a solitary night in a deserted pokies tavern, complete with stale biscuits and cups of tepid tea.

imag0112-e1510821285421.jpg

A bottle of water? Whose is it? Whew, nobody in our group! Had me worried for a minute.

imag0102.jpg

From left to right: my father-in-law Darryll, my grandmother-in-law, Jean and my mum, Lois. Note that Jean is holding an ancient parchment called a form guide. It’s not an app, or on a phone or even on the TV with some baritone idiot barking, “The Curse!” or “Happy Puntmas” every nine seconds. Kiddies, ask your elders.

imag0099.jpg

Dad’s chatting here with his brother John and his wife, Liz, who in a curious twist also happen to be my Uncle John and Aunt Liz. What a crazy life! The coincidences!

imag0109.jpg

I miss the Victoria Park races, located as they were on the edge of the city. I recall heading in there one July afternoon with Hen (far right) but leaving early to cab down to Adelaide Oval to watch the Dogs play a SANFL fixture. After the match we snuck into the CDFC rooms.

The next day we flew to Brisbane with fellow Kimba-folk, Bazz and Annie, on a mystery flight. While in Queensland, Bazz bought a child’s toy called a “cat in a bag.” With his own money. I often wonder about that cat.

*

This was the last time we went to the races there. It’s now an open park although the old, heritage grandstand maintains vigil over the sweeping grass and waving gum trees. Thanks to everyone who shared the afternoon. Now, and then, it reminds me of the many and varied things for which I should be thankful.

I do wish I’d stuck more coin on Northerly though.

 

4

21st birthdays- good old Eagle Rock’s here to stay

IMAG0092

How great was that procession of 21st parties? Footy clubs, town institutes, trotting tracks, backyards and in my case, a cosy golf club. It was a time of fuzzy optimism and innocence and skinny leather ties. It was the eighties.

*

One lunch-time in the Kapunda Golf Club when we were nineteen Davo and I learnt a key life skill. An elder statesman of both the club and the community Gus Higgins lined up some glasses and began.

“Now boys, you want to keep it tilted. That’s it. Don’t panic, but snap it off quickly.”

Gus was teaching us how to pour a beer. We were excellent students. We wanted to acquire this universally-admired expertise so we could take our place among the men of the world, or at least those of Kapunda. His gentle tuition continued.

“Don’t over-fill it. You want to leave a nice head on the glass.” As Davo eased the West End amber into a butcher, Gus uttered his final, terrifying command, “Make sure you don’t choke it.”

This was a rite of passage. Happily, we passed. My 21st was another.

For my party, I recorded four TDK cassettes of music. Six hours’ worth. Much like Rob Fleming making a mixtape in High Fidelity I saw myself as an artist who was curating an artefact of considerable beauty. If this is possible with The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian.”

IMAG0093

The tapes are long gone, but I remember the Hoodoo Gurus featuring prominently, especially “Like Wow – Wipeout” with its urgent rhythms and connotations of Sydney beaches and oddball Australian off-spinner Greg Matthews. Johnny and June Carter’s “Jackson” was on there too, as I loved, “We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout.” When Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” played there’s a youthful, exaggerated drawl as we sang along- “How does it feeeel?” And we didn’t really know, for we were twenty-one.

IMAG0085

I was also a fan of sixties music, mostly British bands like the Beatles, the Stones, and the Kinks, so this became the dress theme. My dear friend Trish designed the hand-drawn invitations. On the night, much paisley and purple swirled about the brown timbers of the club house. Wide ties flapped. Nick came as a blonde Mick Jagger, complete with Union Jack flag flowing behind him as he strutted about the bar and dance-floor, most notably when “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” blasted the room.

IMAG0082

Woodsy made a VHS video of the night including the speeches. Mick Dermody told a joke with the punch-line concerning train passengers pooping in each other’s shoes, but said some lovely, touching things too. I made exactly the speech an unworldly country boy would make.

Woodsy and CAae

In the photo album there’s happiness and smiles, but sadness too for some of these people are gone, and some have drifted away. I think of the Australian writer Tim Winton who views life as a series of corridors of time and space. And then we or they move through a door.

IMAG0089

But what a fun corridor this was. Not a school kid anymore, but not really yet an adult either. At uni and on the cusp (cups). A honeyed place in which you’re finding your way, and the world’s opening up, beyond the dusty town you call home.

IMAG0091

“Eagle Rock” was a preposterous badge of this confidence, this unarticulated need to separate ourselves from the generation that came before. There’s a belief that this tradition originated at the University of Queensland and migrated to South Australia. My first recollections of it were from 1985, at a St Anne’s College toga party with Rocket and Stolly and Harmesy and others.

IMAG0088

This Daddy Cool classic saw you instantly crowding in a circle, dropping your trousers and then swaying along to the song with your Levi’s bunched down over your Adidas Romes and dragging onto the brandy-sticky carpet.

IMAG0086

 Of course, it doesn’t stand up to modern scrutiny. It does, however, have an undeniable tribalism, even an evangelism that functions as a crude declaration of independence. But these broad churches held no salvation for some of the older adults who departed soon after, grim-faced and steering their Holdens north.

Around breakfast on Sunday the cold sun bent through the windows and the captain came in. Some of us had slept on the floor. I was near the honour board, as near as I would ever get, under one of those brown, laminated tables that’s compulsory in country golf clubs. Watto simply announced, “You’ve got an hour to clean up before the first group tees off.”

I stood up and adjusted my tan velour tie. I started picking up beer glasses.

0

Road Trip- Kapunda cars and boys

 

Once upon a time we took photos by cars. Were vehicles more important when we were young? I suspect they were, and now we’re defined by other things: family, houses, work.

Here’s some old photos. Each tells a story.

 

Some friends- Chris, Stephen, Rodney and I bonded while at Kapunda High over a shared ownership, and then, love of the iconic Adidas shoe, the Rome. We became the Romers. There were four of us, and in this snap we’re heading off on a trip in Stephen’s Holden Gemini, but for reasons I can’t recall, Rod is absent.

Of course, we’re all blubbing and bellowing into our hankies, wondering how we’ll cope without Rod.

Yes, well spotted. I’m wearing a Kapunda Cricket Club cap.

Why did they stop painting cars in that particular green?

In 1988 Paul, Mikey, Chrisso and I ventured to Melbourne in Paul’s VK SS Commodore. It accelerated, as they say, like the clappers. We went to the MCG and saw Dean Jones up close, hitting a few in the net. I was keen to see the Australian captain, Alan Border, bat. After some refreshments I wandered down in the bowels of the stadium to use the facilities.

Coming out into daylight and blinking, I looked at the scoreboard. AB had made a duck. It was the last time full-strength beer would be served at the MCG for many a year.

Yes, well spotted. I’m wearing hideous, fluoro-coloured, hyper-coloured board shorts. No, I don’t know why.

In January of 1985 Woodsy, Chrisso, Trev and I drove to Sydney to stay with Stephen and Brendan in Drummoyne.

Yes, Woodsy and I are wearing Adidas Mexicos shorts, which for humanitarian and visual arts reasons are now banned.

On the way we stopped in West Wylong and met some local girls who, apparently because of our accents, thought we were British. In Sydney we played cricket, and went to the SCG and saw Simon O’Donnell make his debut while sitting on the Hill. We swam at Curl-Curl, Bondi and Manly. It was innocent fun. Then we went to Kings Cross where our country boys’ eyes were widened.

We also went to the Basement to take in some jazz. One afternoon in The Rocks we saw Kamahl and his Rolls Royce.

Ah, the days of the Road Trip!

6

Winx is no Waikikamukau

winx

So, Saturdays now settle into a lovely rhythm.

Alex, Max and I go for our weekly run, just after breakfast. Down past the Gum Tree Reserve, and across Tapleys Hill Road. Where exactly is this eponymous hill? The entire boulevard is as flat as the Adelaide Oval pitch.

Then along the Patawalonga River and to the beach. Some big old dogs gallop about like big old dogs. We pause at the Buffalo Park where the boys rotate enthusiastically through a few of those outdoor exercise machines while I pant on a bench. Then, we turn for home.

Along the way we chat. Max says, “Dad, would you rather play for Chelsea or Tottenham?”

Alex questions too. “What’s your favourite car for driving in the snow?”

I love it.

Tee-ball then beckons. As this season’s supercoach* I haul the black coffin of gear across multiple baseball diamonds, and meet the team who are jumping about on the grass like big old dogs.

We work our way through a couple of batting and fielding innings. This morning all eleven kids turned up. The complete roster. Placing them on the park as the opposition swung and struck was a challenge. It was, as old mate Chris Hayward once remarked, like putting ten pounds of spuds in a six-pound bag. I wanted to put some of them in a slips cordon.

tee ball

But this morning one of the girls came good after she snared the ball in her flopping glove. It was a moment. It was her trigger. Previously anchored to a spot and pouting with sass well beyond her years she was now diving upon ground balls and rushing first base. Excellent stuff.

The twin evils of gardening (rampant Buffalo runners) and Ikea (No, no Björnholmen today) dispensed I slipped down to the Broadway Hotel to catch the Australasian (I love that word more than I should) racing championship that is the (time-honoured) WS Cox Plate.

Because I care about the cultural and sporting educations of Alex and Max, I took them with me. Having said this Max and I probably have too many conversations about Black Caviar even though he was a toddler when she was on her way to twenty-five on the trot (or burst, in her case). His curiosity is magnificent.

We’re still learning about the noble nomenclature of racing so instead of asking which horse I’ve had a bet on, Alex says, “Which horse are your voting for Dad?”

Indeed, if this were a democratic action I’d be tempted to reply, “Not that hopeless gelding Barnaby Joyce,” but that would be brash and inappropriate. Kiwis are our friends.

With chips and lemonade and Coopers brand new Session Ale (8/10: flavoursome) we’re each on a stool in the front bar when I tell them about my favourite ever horse (although it owes me money, and having departed this planet can never square my ledger). I love that they giggle when I tell them the name. This is the same reaction I had in 1993 when he ran third to Mahogany in the Victoria Derby on that great day at Flemington. I recall watching the race in the Cowell pub. Don’t know why.

session ale

Waikikamukau.

Even now I feel a little frisson when I say it. Why-kick-a-moo-cow. More giggles. I say it again. Waikikamukau.

Last week with the boys in tow I backed Snitty Kitty, who won at Caulfield. The Heath, I tell them. Could she be our family’s 2017 Waikikamukau?

But today we witness Winx winning her third Cox Plate. It’s also her twenty-second successive victory. There’s a rich, explosive wall of sound in The Broady as she punches on to salute by a half-length.

It’s probably a hundred types of wrong, but I want to immerse our boys in it. Because it’ll be fun.

That’s it.

On our way home, we slide past Pizza on Broadway and get a large pepperoni.

Waikikamukau would’ve expected no less.

*possibly not based upon fact

pizza