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Port Adelaide v Collingwood: a Messerschmitt up your arse or free bird seed

free bird seed

During the second quarter, on the fifty-metre arc, at the Punt Road end was, to paraphrase Hunter S Thompson, when the stories and the beer began to take hold.

Six of us are in Row S, connected by the time we spent together at Kapunda High School, and variously on the Barossa’s cricket and footy ovals.

Much of our conversation is our old cars and coaches and mates and publicans and parents and maverick teachers who shaped us.

It’d been a ripping trip so far: early flights, the North Fitzroy Arms for the Footy Almanac lunch which concluded with the final siren at the SCG, the obligatory Young and Jackson nightcaps, and a Saturday laneway breakfast.

With the Uber app showing cars descending like black Pacmen three of us ride in a Caprice, and I’m reminded of the great Dave Graney and his song “Feelin’ Kinda Sporty” which opens with the magnificent

A black Statesman “73

Caprice.

Leaded.

At high noon, and accompanied with ample yarns, we entered the All Nations Hotel to confer with the ghost of Bill Hunter, and then white pub-vanned to the MCG as the match commenced. Each of us is merrily apathetic about the result.

I love footy, but occasionally its lone function is to provide a panoramic context across which we can splash our stories. Rocket would love to be watching his beloved Sturt while Nick, the Hayward boys (not Kapunda’s Gatlin boys) and Lukey are Norwood men, but as neither is scheduled at the MCG today we get along to Collingwood and Port.

With the match chugging along Nick and I discuss contemporary AFL footballers and old players from home, in particular one Mail Medallist and local publican who loved scrapping at the bottom of a pack, like a nuggetty 1970’s Selwood.

“You know what he used to do in the sheds before a game?”

“No. Tell me.”

“He’d smear heaps of Vaseline on his eyebrows so the elbows would slide off.”

I giggle.

Needing to refresh their refreshments the Haywards return with their shouts: Bundy for them, and mid-strength beers for us. For a moment, I fear we’ll need petroleum jelly too, but happily there’s no fight in the forward pocket.

We move onto that most vital of topics: Which Test Cricketer would you most like to have a beer with? (until very recently in pre-production at Network Ten)

“Warney?”

“There’s nothing to discover. Nothing.”

“Yeah, and I can’t have a beer with someone who calls their book, ‘My Autobiography.’”

“That’d have been a funny meeting at the publishers.”

I take a difficult sip of my mid-strength. “Waugh twins?”

“No. Steve’d bore you to death.”

“The worst kind of mental disintegration.”

Ultimately our choice is clear. One of the most stylish middle-order bats we’ve seen, and still a bloke about whom little is really known. An anti-Warney. The one who quit the night of the famous 2006 Ashes victory in Adelaide. Damien Martyn.

On the ground, Port is doing well with Robbie Gray slotting a few while Unley Jets alumnus Brodie Grundy is holding his own for the Magpies.

We wonder if the Chappell brothers still own the Leg Trap Hotel, and if David Warner is less likeable than a curved television and if it’s possible to make Boonie more Australian. It isn’t.

This brings us to the best quotation ever, the one which places sport and our little, self-tortured world into perfect context. Nick remembers his Dad giving him Australian allrounder and WWII pilot Keith Miller’s book. “Pressure,” Keith said. “I’ll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse. Playing cricket is not.”

Still laughing at the magnificence of this, Rocket heads off to a cavern and emerges with some appropriate beers. Normal transmission is resumed. Pendlebury is smooth and constructive, as usual. We note that Ollie Wines has thighs like Californian redwood.

The conversation then tends, as it must, towards other nostalgia and juvenalia. We’re now at Stalag 13. The verdant field of the MCG recedes and we’re all in front of a black and white TV, sliding our paws into packets of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs.

“Burkhalter and Hochstetter.”

Much giggling, given to misty eyes.

“Captain Hoganhoffer?”

“No prisoner has ever escaped from Stalag 13.”

More giggling.

“I’d like to hear this on the BBC World Service: Munich Messerschmitts 2, Stalag 13, 3.”

Someone slides next to me with a pie. A message comes through that another Kapunda High contemporary is on the second deck behind the Port cheer squad. We wave at Maria, who waves towards our bay.

Looking back now it makes sense, and indeed there’s a happy inevitability in the childhood image that would become our weekend’s talisman. The footy is now on mute as we moved towards the creature that Mark Twain described as “a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton.” The coyote, but of course for us, Wily E Coyote.

I don’t know how we came to this, and I don’t want to know, but as the shadows lengthened across Melbourne, Lukey, with his talent for the comic and the absurd mentioned it and we were off.

“Easily the greatest cartoons ever.”  

The coyote hanging in mid-air until he realizes that he is about to plummet into a chasm!”

“Yeah, and he’d hold up a sign like ‘Goodbye cruel world.’”

“Or ‘Help me.’”

“‘Mother.’”

By now the laughter and the memories and the beer and our good fortune at being in this fun space meant, for some of us, there were tears of childish abandonment.

“What of the Giant Kite Kit?”

“The roller skates and the fan blowing the coyote along?”

“From the Acme company.”

Bombs, detonators, nitroglycerin. Not so funny in 2017, but when you’re seventeen and watching Looney Tunes…

We talk of the Road Runner’s ability to enter the painted image of a cave, while the coyote cannot, which showed us that the existentialists are correct: it is an unknowable and absurd universe. Cartoons teach us this.

And then as the Paah (sic) delivered their knockout blow to Collingwood, Lukey delivered his knockout blow to us. A childhood picture that captures the fun, the innocence of the endless battle between the Roadrunner and the Coyote.

“Free bird seed.”

And there it was. Only three words. But a beautiful mantra of the past, a pulsing refrain, and the best televisual picture of a little bird nibbling at food in the desert, likely just outside Albuquerque.

coyote 

 

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December 5 2006 in Adelaide

SK

Beyond the family home Adelaide Oval is among my favourite places. Previously, it was uncluttered and open and big country-townish; more like the St. Lawrence Ground in Canterbury than a modern Australian stadium. Its boundless space and light have been replaced by vertiginous, curved shapes.

It’s the final day of Adelaide’s 2006 Ashes Test. Earlier, in the twilight of my teaching year, between tortuous enrichment activities, I’d watched the cricket in the staff room with some chaps, leaning in towards the screen, increasingly enticed by the grip of the action. Across our city in offices, shops and factories folks were getting itchy. Some mates and I volleyed texts at each other. Let’s get in there. Sorted.

I’d gone on Day 2. Like most I went home assured of an inconclusive match as Paul Collingwood accumulated a double century, while SK Warne struggled to 1/167, in an analysis cheerlessly reminiscent of his 1992 debut at the SCG. Then, after our first innings, the draw appeared more certain.

Indeed, the first four days suggested nothing else.

My most recent Test match experience had been September 2005 during the Ashes at The Oval. Down from Hertfordshire on a sodden Saturday we watched as rain repeatedly forced Langer and Hayden back to the sheds. The urn we’d held since 1989 was slipping away. The Barmy Army’s affectionate Shane Warne back catalogue offered musical entertainment when the sport provided little.

I love speculating about cricket’s fascinating relationships. The Waugh twins. The Chappell brothers, educated at the primary school our boys attend. And SK Warne and pretty much everyone he encountered on the pitch, and off. Like many of exceptional talent he was attracted to those with approximate, but ultimately different cricketing arsenal.

With his infuriating confidence and bird-poop splattered hair, Kevin Pieterson had a curious affinity with our leg-spinner. Shuffling forward and attempting a sweep, he swatted crudely at one outside leg stump. Lobbing in the rough, it stole behind his limb like a spy, and his feebly listing front pad, before spitting poisonously. In yet another wholly engrossing single-act production, the Kookaburra finally, fatally bit his off peg. It had spun several feet. It was the summer’s most compelling moment. KP had been schooled by his elder, and England was in trouble.

By now, each delivery from SK Warne was Vegas show business, but pure in its fizzing, hypnotic joy. And then Ashley Giles registered a duck to a monstrous delivery, while the supporters continued to splatter the ground, as if populating a Monet.

I contemplated my friend BJ O’Sullivan at home in Harrow. Barry identifies as Irish, and had significant quid invested in Australia triumphing in the series 5-0.  At mammoth odds, too, so he’s enthusiastic from afar. Incidentally, I once hosted a party in England, and among the guests were the same Barry of Norf London, Jimmy from Glasgow and Paddy from Ireland. True.

England is skittled in the penultimate session. Australia bowls cleverly in pairs with the blonde one taking 4/49; not spectacular in the seismic sweep of his career, but within this Test, and this series, it’s contextually huge.

From our members’ bench, we look eastwards towards the low, brown Adelaide Hills, noting how these continue the topographic theme established by the squat stands of this cricket ground. With school holidays, Christmas and a languid summer approaching, our mood is brash and buoyant.

The intrigues and narrative complexities gone, Australia is presented with a simple plotline: 167 from 36 overs. Langer clubs the first ball through mid-wicket for four. Vivid as ever, Bill Lawry bursts, “He goes bang. Four. It’s a one-day game.” As should happen the match is to be decided late, in its fifteenth session.

When Hayden goes it’s 2/33, and there’s some frisson. Questions murmur beneath the fig trees, and we bristle, momentarily. But, Michael Hussey is authoritative with 61no, and declares in an interview that he, “Bloody enjoyed it!”

oval

As the winning run is clipped through midwicket Bill yaps, “Look at the seagulls flying about. They’re saluting the Australians!” Beside a second Ashes victory it’s the locals’ ninth consecutive Adelaide Oval victory. The players rush down the steps next to us in a celebration as demonstrative as a football festivity.

The leaden sky of the previous London summer has vanished somewhat, and with lingering sentimentality, I feel at home, in this, my tiny, flat city, which clings to an inconsequential gulf. Transitions, especially the ones back to familiar places, can be angular and troublesome.

Later, among the eddying ecstasy, Damien Martyn, surely our most picturesque bat since Mark Waugh, clarified his feelings about his spot within this coterie. Richie Benaud had noted that at some stage everyone looks in the mirror, and on this most magnificent of Australian cricketing days, Martyn retires instantly, but with a stylish absence of extended tabloid explanation.

At this time my wife, some of my cricketing colleagues and many thousand others rushed towards Robbie Williams, pop singer of Stoke-On-Trent, who was to perform at Football Park. Curiously, Robbie was often referred to on BBC Radio 2 by Jonathan Ross as the “bug-eyed yelper.” Those at West Lakes enjoy the former Take That troubadour, and his most magnificent show.

Football Park is now abandoned and Adelaide Oval has been vividly reshaped. December 2006 was the last time I would see McGrath, Langer and SK Warne play Test cricket.

Nonetheless, December 5, 2006 was a really good Tuesday.

 

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The Kapunda Cricket Club: Long Necks in Brown Paper Bags and the Patron Saint of Spoofy

kcc-derro-and-spoofy

In 1880 the Australian Test side played a match in Kapunda against a local team. The shops shut at noon and thousands gathered. The national captain, Billy Murdoch, congratulated the club on the Dutton Park pitch. It was coconut matting.

The national side made 401 with opening bat AC Bannerman registering a century. The local side accumulated eighty, despite there being a batting line-up of twenty-two chaps. Only one fellow, TR Bright, got to double-figures with twenty-seven. Ten made ducks. Can you imagine a Wade/ Maxwell conversation happening back then?

“Hey Skip, got a minute?”

“Sure. What’s the problem?”

“I see you’ve got Bennett coming in at eighteen. And I’m batting at nineteen.”

“That’s right. He’s actually made a run this year.”

*

Saturday night saw the celebration of Kapunda Cricket Club’s sesquicentenary, and it was held at Dutton Park. Arriving late afternoon Woodsy, Bobby Bowden and I wandered down to catch the closing stages of the A grade fixture against Freeling. On the grass and under the shade we had a yarn with Tolly, Bart, Whitey, Goose and Rexy who were taking refreshment as preparation for the evening. Kapunda took four wickets to secure second place.

*

Away games still mean meeting at Rawady’s deli in the Main Street, just next door to the Sir John Franklin hotel. Thirty years ago, we’d head off to Eudunda or Angaston or Truro in a car with no air-conditioning. FM radio barely existed. Bench seats like those in HQ Holdens allowed six so only two cars might be needed. Toranas and 180Bs were rightly seen as selfish.

You’d be squeezed in and somewhere like Riverton was only about twenty minutes away, but with cramping calves and eyes stinging with the smoke of a dozen Winny Reds you’d slide from the seat with a soaking back like you were being born.

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

In a change room at Dutton Park some memorabilia is on display. I wander through. Old bats- GN Scoops and Fielkes, and boxes- such as the one made famous by Froggy are there, as are old score books. One from 1987 is on a bench and Bobby Bowden finds the match against Greenock, the one cruelly documenting his eighteen ball over. I’d forgotten that he and I opened the batting, but then when this happened, why would we?

Sudden by international standards, the demise of England’s G Swann was glacial compared to Bobby’s. At the start of his final ever over for the Kapunda Cricket Club he was a reliable medium pacer. Eleven agonising minutes later his bowling career was dead.

It began with a couple of wides, progressed to a malignant lack of confidence and culminated with Bob, broken, walking to the wicket like it was the gallows, and trying to complete a legitimate delivery. It often ended up at slip, or skidding forlornly, ashamedly, down to fine leg. His mental self-disintegration was total.

Subsequent pub analysis confirms that Bob’s eighteen-ball over only contained seven legal deliveries, and therefore nearly thirty years on, remains incomplete. I was at mid-off, and lobbed the ball to him, fifteen times. I felt increasingly like I was throwing him a box jellyfish. Or a can of XXXX.

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

Cricket clubs provide much. Social instruction. Gentle exercise. Weekend structure. But mostly they generate memories. Eagle Rock with whites around ankles, slopping up beer and Bundy in a Tarlee disco. Tony Clarke spinning the black vinyl of “Walk Like An Egyptian.” A fella like Flab who, in astonishing dedication, wore his cricket whites until Tuesday. Yeah, Tuesday. Twice. Did these have to be burnt? If we had a nuclear waste storage facility (no doubt on the site of the former Railway Hotel) they probably should have gone in there.

I think of Spoofy. I think of the front bar in Puffa’s late on summer afternoons. Boys drinking West End from handles. No TAB or big screens. No pumping music. Just three coins, clasped behind the back. Not trying to win, but trying not to lose. Goose Mickan. Someone chirping, “Good call.”

The final moment and someone- hopefully not yourself, trudging off to buy for everyone like GS Chappell after his fifth consecutive duck. This, of course, all belongs spiritually to Whitey, the patron saint of Spoofy, or as he now calls it, “The Free Beer Game.”

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

And then, late afternoon somehow squeezing back into the HQ Holden as Chris Hayward once said, “Like ten pounds of spuds in a five-pound bag” we’d drive through the dusty warmth back home. This often included calling through a pub like the Greenock Tavern to get a long neck in a brown paper bag. One each for the journey.

Just as the drive to cricket could seem eternally long, as a seventeen-year-old the trip back home with a derro could be horribly brief as now within Kapunda’s town-limits you tried to gulp down the last of the beer. The HQ would swing into a park outside the Clare Castle Hotel, and you’d stare down the neck of the bottle, looking for the fish bones you’re sure are swimming about in there, wondering how the older blokes actually drank the stuff. Safely inside, after three schooners of Nugget’s finest, you’d recovered and all was fine. You were set.

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

It was a great night. There were stories from JL Mosey and Sarge Johnston and laughs and life memberships. Wayne Phillips made a funny speech in which he referenced Fatcat and IVA Richards and the beginning of his relationship with his wife which, in part, began atop Gundry’s Hill overlooking Kapunda.

After midnight, everyone drifts outside to the veranda. It seems like it’s only nine o’clock. There’s a looming full moon and the skittish clouds race across the velvet. After a blistering week, the cool change is arriving.

I call back into the club next morning on my way home and ask what time the celebration wound up. Matt says, “I left at ten to four and there were still about sixty here.” Impressive.

Some nights the stories just won’t let you go to bed. There’s too much to say, too many hands to shake.

And, this is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

dp

 

 

KCC Rawadys Deli squashed into Holdens Jock McGregor six Craig Hutton hat trick Rocket Tanunda Light Pass tie Leo Carter trained at KHS Fergie and Phil Bob and Christmas Greg Chappell hat Greenock dozen runs Interest in Caulfield Cup Spoofy Long neck Old score books Flab in whites until Tuesday 298 Dean Waugh Flipper coach ASADA 29 NSW Fatcat can’t guarantee that After midnight migrate outside, looming moon and skittish clouds 4am sixty folk, stories stretch onKCC Rawadys Deli squashed into Holdens Jock McGregor six Craig Hutton hat trick Rocket Tanunda Light Pass tie Leo Carter trained at KHS Fergie and Phil Bob and Christmas Greg Chappell hat Greenock dozen runs Interest in Caulfield Cup Spoofy Long neck Old score books Flab in whites until Tuesday 298 Dean Waugh Flipper coach ASADA 29 NSW Fatcat can’t guarantee that After midnight migrate outside, looming moon and skittish clouds 4am sixty folk, stories stretch onKCC Rawadys Deli squashed into Holdens Jock McGregor six Craig Hutton hat trick Rocket Tanunda Light Pass tie Leo Carter trained at KHS Fergie and Phil Bob and Christmas Greg Chappell hat Greenock dozen runs Interest in Caulfield Cup Spoofy Long neck Old score books Flab in whites until Tuesday 298 Dean Waugh Flipper coach ASADA 29 NSW Fatcat can’t guarantee that After midnight migrate outside, looming moon and skittish clouds 4am sixty folk, stories stretch on

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NYE in Adelaide Oval’s Bay 134

zooper.png

Is there anything more disappointing than a soggy pie?

No, there’s not. The expectation of firm pastry and the meaty joy within was instantly ruined. No sooner in his seat and having slid his pie from its bag, it collapsed in our eldest’s lap like a Home and Away extra during a Summer Bay disaster.

Our members’ tickets are in Bay 134, at the bottom of the Fos Williams Stand, and about six rows from the fence. At about backward point it’s a top spot.

With noise and music and fireworks and the ceaselessly moronic countdown our innings begins courtesy of the hoopla-free off-spin of Johan Botha. He played for the Strikers and the Redbacks but is now with the Sixers. Every confected cricket event needs a villain, and Botha swishes his black cape for the crowd.

The civilised world’s favourite sporting Hodge opens briskly, as does his partner Jake Weatherald. We progress at a goodly clip, and when Dunk comes in he takes seventeen from one over of former wig salesman and current outlaw-bikie impersonator, Doug Bollinger.

*

Is it possible to drown the week between Christmas and New Year’s with too much cricket, both televisual and backyard? With Alex and Max receiving a cricket set and some Zing bails, we’ve gone close.

Balls have lobbed over the northern, eastern and southern fences and into the neighbours’ like F- bombs in a Tarantino flick. Our house is on the western side of the modest backyard and balls: tennis, rubber and various assorted have cascaded down into the gutter like stones across a holiday-camp lake.

*

Brad Hodge (at 42, the competition’s second oldest Brad) holes out, and to the wicket sprints Travis Head, hero of last year’s corresponding fixture. But his lean tournament continues and he’s rapidly back in the sheds.

Looking like a participant in a slo-mo beer advertisement is Jake Lehmann and he then takes careful block and three balls later is bowled for zero. Perhaps next time they should strap a set of pads to his moustache and just send it out for a slog.

When his stumps are disturbed and the bails flash and dance, the hoardings and screens light up with animated Zooper Doopers and I’m suddenly aggrieved for the great loss of 2016. Bowie? Cohen? Prince? Bah. Hang your head for the demise of the great summery ice-treat, the Sunnyboy.

I know the between-balls musical stabs are highly orchestrated, like elevator muzak and shopping centre soundtracks, but tonight’s seems improved with Wilson Pickett’s “Land of a Thousand Dances,” and The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy.” A highlight is “Shout” by the Isley Brothers, although for me and many of my generation the iconic version of this 1959 classic is by Otis Day and the Knights, as performed during the toga party scene in Animal House.

The sun sets beyond the Chappell Stand and the Strikers go to sleep before Pollard and Jordan rescue the situation with some controlled bludgeoning. It’s a beautiful batting deck and I reckon we’re about twenty runs short. For the Sixers Sean Abbott is impressive taking a Michelle.

*

Human creativity is eternally astonishing, and our boys find limitless ways to argue on the backyard pitch. A couple times this last week some cricket has even broken out between them. Mates who’ve brothers tell me it’s common.

Over Christmas lunch I ask Mum about my childhood cricket. “You’d come home from primary school and play every afternoon with Brett.” Brett was two years older and lived down the road. “Did we argue?” I ventured. “Like cats and dogs,” Mum replied, “You never stopped.” I was instantly reassured. I was normal.

During the break, there’s a win $500 if you take a catch competition for those caught on camera with a KFC bucket on their bonce. It’s criminally inadequate compensation. However, the security guard/ cult hero from the Strikers’ first home game joins in, and with his final attempt completes a nice overhead grab. It’s no John Dyson on the SCG fence in 1982, but still, it’s tidily done. We loves it. If KFC was available at Adelaide Oval I’d buy thirty-eight pieces, inhale them and wipe the grease through the hair of my loved ones.

*

Hughes and Roy (Surrey import, not Slaven) get the visitors away brightly, but then the wickets fall regularly. Lanky Queenslander Billy Stanlake bowls with pace and penetration taking three, including that of Brad Haddin, who in stomping on his stumps, appears to have taken his midnight cups prematurely.

Test discard Maddinson arrives and departs limply. His year concludes bleakly, but with national selection logic proving impenetrable his two from eight deliveries may be sufficient to earn him a recall or a position on Turnbull’s front bench.

With O’Connor and Laughlin operating in tandem the Strikers are attacking with Anglicized forms of Gaelic, and this is effective as they snare four collectively. “Jump Around” by House of Pain, everyone’s beloved Irish hip hop collective (if LA’s a Belfast suburb) blasts out and O’Connor takes a sharp return catch from Abbott to make it seven for not-nearly-enough.

When the wickets aren’t tumbling, the bowling is so economical there’s more dots than a Morse Code Festival (email me for details). Like octogenarian Port Power fans clapping every single fecking disposal the crowd now applauds each maiden delivery. Our boys are really excited.

Sixer Sam Billings swots a couple into the western stand named for benefactor and KFC-devotee, Sir Edwin Thomas Smith, but with his departure the required run-rate accelerates like Zimbabwean inflation and the game is over.

Doug doesn’t even get to face.

*

A few years’ ago, during the Boxing Day Test our eldest began shrieking from the lounge. “Dad. Dad! Come quick!” I burst in. What was happening? What had I missed? “What is it?” Alex looked up at me, his toddler’s eyes wide. “Dad, Peter Siddle’s about to bowl!” Ah, the enthusiasms of the child. Not many could get excited by that.

Not even Mrs. Siddle.

*

In our car, we venture home and into the new year.

*

The following is fantastic. Voiced by Richie Benaud it captures what we love about cricket and summer.

 

2

By George said Ringo to Paul while sitting on the John

ar

June 9- Michael

Walked to St Johns Wood and to Lords. Elderly tour guide was cheeky and cockney. Long Room, museum and media centre. The playing surface drops eight feet from off to on-side. Whilst certainly attractive is not as naturally beautiful as Adelaide. Bought Dad a souvenir- not Phil Tufnell’s autobiography- and headed across to Abbey Road.

Humble white studio but the front fence is thick with graffiti. Much of it corny: “By George said Ringo to Paul while sitting on the John.” Photo taken at pedestrian crossing. Ambled along Regents Canal. Lots of canal boats which seemed to be houses.

Bought lunch at Pret a Manger- magnificent chocolate cake- and ate in Hyde Park near Marble Arch. Walked through the Park to the Serpentine and had coffee. Continued to Albert Monument and Albert Hall.

Natural History Museum for a few hours. Dinosaurs, animals, birds, great spider and web exhibit and the blue whale. Superb.

Onto Kensington Palace. Saw lots of squirrels. The first one was nearly taken by a swooping raven. The Round Pond was great and then we headed to Oxford Street and our internet café. Back to our hostel, and after a big day walking, to be about ten.

June 10- Michael

Coffee and hot chocolate in Trafalgar Square and then to Buckingham Palace. Enjoyed the changing of the guard: music, colour, ceremony. Entertained equally by French school kids.

Westminster Pier and down to St Katherine’s Wharf. Had lunch. By Christ, it was a poor chicken burger. Tower of London. Enormous crowds. Joined a guided tour with a yeoman warder who’d a superb presence, voice and humour. Learnt more about Anne Boleyn, three blind mice Henry VII and royal history.

Checked out the Crown Jewels, White Tower, wall walk, Cullinan Diamond display, Royal Chapel and The Common. Stood on the steps at Traitors Gate and marvelled at this place which has been palace, fort, prison and site of English history’s most poignant moments.

Called into a supermarket for some supplies and beer- wheat lager (shite) and Stella Artois. Caught parts of a TV show commemorating Prince William’s 18th birthday. (NB- the after-party starring Harry probably more entertaining- Editor)

June 11- Kerry

On the road again. Up early, packed and walking to a location near Euston Station at the Thistle Hotel. After a reasonable delay, it was on the bus and winding our way through London to Dover.

The countryside was lovely. Lots of beautiful scenery (Michael slept). Dover was great but things were a bit rushed as we were late. But the white cliffs were interesting and in all a quaint seaside village with a HUGE port. Our ferry, the Provence, was massive. We walked on and made our way to the deck to wave goodbye to jolly old England.

Went downstairs for an ale and a bit of a look around and before we knew it we had crossed the channel in just under two hours and were arriving at Calais. Met up with our tour manager whose name is Ute, and our driver Giro (if I was a bogan I’d suggest the roles should have been swapped- Editor).

Time was short so we were quickly on the road to our first stop- Brussels, Belgium. Ute talked to us about the tour and other general things and this helped while away a fair chunk of time- looking out the window and taking in the scenery is good- to a point. I did recall however a time travelling from the city to Gawler on the train and someone saying it was like France, and I have to agree.

Arrived at the Holiday Inn on the outskirts of towns across the road from a big stadium about 7pm after winding our clocks forward an hour. After a quick tidy up we were downstairs to get a map then on the train into the centre of town. The main square, Grand Place is cool- lots of very big, very old buildings and no cars.

We quickly found the fountain Mannekin Pis, took some photos then looked for food. Ate at a Greek café called Plaka- the food was superb- falafels and a plate of open lamb yiros. YUM.

Had a bit more of a look around the side streets including one full of seafood restaurants before catching the underground home. TIRED!

mp

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“And see which one of us can tell the biggest lies”

khs

I’m not sure why it was chosen. Maybe, because it’s convenient and the tram runs outside the front door. The Kings Head on King William Street prides itself on offering only local beers and wine and its food is also sourced entirely within the state. Brilliant.

So, last night about a dozen old mates congregated in the pub. Congregate’s a good verb for we function as a congregation which, of course, means people attending worship. We exchange the important details. Home. Kids. Schools. Work. And then we get to the evening’s real agenda: the past. The stories tumble like a waterfall.

*

There’s the footy grand finals, and Lukey’s screamer at Angaston oval. There’s Bongo’s unlikely major from inside the goal square. There’s the boys all getting a hat like Rexy Ryan’s.

There’s the cricket grand finals. Where is Jeff Charity?

There’s schooner schools and the afternoon when Stef dropped four and owed 28 beers and had to drive back to She-Oak Log to get more money.

And then there’s Tarlee discos with Tony Clarke spinning the records and the lads still in their cricket whites.

There’s the boys at Adelaide Oval late in the day after lots of niggle with some rough-nuts further up the hill and someone retorting, “If I want shit from you I’ll squeeze ya head” and then it was on, and as the toll climbed there’s Lukey advising, “If you just lie there, then they won’t hit you” and then with our Spidey senses tingling, knowing to all meet up in a pub an hour or so after scattering.

There’s Chris on the boundary at Angaston and “Gilesy, you dropped an expletive lemon” and the rest of that ragged evening doing laps of Quodlings’ farmhouse with his Dad hobbling after him.

There’s Sundays at the Railway and opening the blinds around mid-morning with Uncle Mick Dermody and raspberry in our butchers.

There’s Mikey’s T-18 and Woodsy’s 180B and Crackshot’s ute and Lukey’s Alfa.

There’s Cathy Coppin’s sympathy when we didn’t have enough for a ‘goon ($2.20) and she said, “Here. Just take the bloody thing.”

There’s spoofy at Puffa’s and Whitey saying, “Good call.” And then he lost and had to shout anyhow. Again. But you already knew this.

There’s the Pines and the Duck Pond and Gundry’s Hill.

There’s Kapunda High and a HQ Holden opening up a rear gate and a Torana having strife out the front one Saturday after a cricket club show.

There’s a woolly-faced monkey (Puggy/Slide/Greg) buying more than one of us our first beer in the Clare Castle Hotel. When he was fifteen.

There’s the Kapunda Pizza Bar and Johnny Guzzo and getting kicked out from tilting his pinball machine. “Fungul! Out! Out!”

There’s Lumpy Nixon and Dobby and black duffel coats and black ripples.

There’s a bus trip to Coolangatta and all falling asleep in a nightclub watching Boom Crash Opera and missing “Onion Skin” after fifty cent Bundy’s.

There’s New Year’s Eve at Lukey’s and Dad saying, “You young lads won’t drink a keg” and replying “We’re already on our second.”

There’s Puffa saying, “Here you yo-yo’s take my radar detector. Buy me a beer when you get back!” And we drove all the way to Brisbane and returned.

There’s Whitey and the Lienert brothers and Beetle Teagle and Wally Moyle and Nugget Coppin and many others.

*

It’s a ripping night. There’s giggling and tears of laughter and stories. Just stories. No politics or work or superannuation. Just stories.

Christmas is off to a flier.

cch

 

 

 

1

Welcome to Bundaberg

 

The following essay is a discussion of what makes Queensland a unique state, as observed by an outsider, and using a recent Bundy rum TV advertisement. Here’s a link to the clip-

 

I took a sip.

“He’s trying to kill me,” I thought (politely) to myself.

I took another sip.

“Yep, he is.”

Late Brisbane afternoon with my wife’s extended family. Uncle Fred had poured me a homebrew beer. “It works out at eighty cents a bottle.”

Fred’s a businessman, and his millinery company sells hats to southerners for the Melbourne Cup Carnival. He also travels overseas. He’s been around.

“New York. Shanghai. London,” he scoffed as I stared at my muddy glass.

“Between the Gold Coast and Rockhampton, the Queensland coast’s the best place in the world. Why would you wanna live anywhere else?”

Raising my beer I thought, this bloke’s serious. I stifled a laugh and looked at him.

For Uncle Fred, Queenslander, this is no joking matter.

*

In the colourful history of Australian booze marketing, the iconic VB campaign is king. It features a gallant orchestral score, and John Meillon’s distinctive voice:

You can get it liftin’

You can get it shiftin’

You can get it working a plough

You can get it any old how

Matter of fact, I got it now.

Nodding to Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson, these poems continue to charm.

Meillon was vocally perfect. His recitations were not of the people, but to and for the people. Warm like a sunset and eager, he continued to promote the beer long after he’d downed his last lager; a ghostly advocate; the spirit of beer-drinking and of Australian life.

Yet VB ads often present a work ethic, the idea that clocking off after the day’s duties, a drink awaits: “For a hard-earned thirst, you need a big cold beer and the best cold beer is Vic.”

It’s what you deserve.

This contrasts with the Queensland dynamic. In this we’re often sold the notion that drudgery’s irrelevant. But, you’ve got to have the sense to live there.

Back when it called itself Castlemaine an advertisement in the “I can feel a XXXX comin’ on” series captured that thinking. Allan Border’s on a Great Keppell beach, and lying back in a deck chair, with a few tinnies while Jeff Thomson, Greg Ritchie and Ray Phillips are fishing. That work’s unwelcome in paradise comes through as James Blundell sings

I wish this lazy Sunday would never disappear

And I could hold back Monday for the rest of the year

As captain and saviour, AB’s exempt from dangling a line. Historically, it’s 1987 and he required all his energy to repeatedly resuscitate Australia’s miserable batting. It matters not that AB and Thommo are native Sydneysiders, Queensland is welcoming. Both had become as local as mangoes.

After a curious, homoerotic conga line across the sand, the batsman, bowler and wicketkeeper join the captain for a XXXX. Then like synchronised swimmers, the three fishing rods double over at once, dinner hooked. However, our sporting legends ignore them because, as we know, the beers won’t drink themselves.

The rest of Australia seemingly needs its collective thirst to be won, toil first, to legitimise the rEward of beer. But in Queensland relaxation is king. That’s the promise; life is better. You can forget work.

Things’ll take care of themselves.

*

What does the recent Bundy Rum campaign show us of the Sunshine State?

“Men Like Us Like Bundaberg Rum” delivers many ideas. It’s 2015, but we’re not talking to women.

The second concept is found in the title’s assertion, “Men Like Us.” Meaning, we the blokes from Up North. Not just geographically, but attitudinally. You’re either a Queenslander or should wish you were. The delicious dichotomy.

A beach. Some fellows (one wearing a fez) are cluelessly building a Viking boat. Its anchor’s blacksmithed from cheese graters and saucepans. Upon premature ejection it sinks; all head to the pub, and toast with swirling mugs of Bundy.

There’s rustic defiance in this. An outlook which (again) decries work. Over-achievement? Not us. Technology and modernity? How would these help up here in God’s own?

As a South Australian I envy the confidence, the sense of self-containment. The advertisement’s moderately mocking, but underpinned by a subtextual boast: This is Queensland, this is Queensland, this is Queensland.

Another link to the past is the ship’s Bundy Bear figurehead. Now pretty much absent (where has he gone?), the Bear was Bundy rum. He was everyone’s mate. He had a deep voice. He was the smartest bear (bloke?) in the room.

In one vignette Bundy Bear takes a pre-party bath, into which a housemate deviously drops a red sock. Modishly late, the now pink bear arrives at the gathering, and is ribbed by the boys.

A gorgeous girl admires that he’s, “brave enough to wear pink” and invites him over to meet her girlfriends. Bundy’s more attractive to women than his forlorn, human mates. He’s outplayed them; for he is Bundy, hear him roar!

*

The Bundy ad imagines us as sea explorers. Save for draft ineligibility, we’d surely have got up in a shoot-out with the Portuguese! But, here we are with only imported South Australian half-back flanker Dougie Mawson getting umpires’ votes. Rather than heroically sending boats out; we’re now infamous as a nation, for not letting boats in.

Borrowing from a pirate narrative tradition, we’re also invited us to see ourselves as buccaneers. Again, here’s a scorning of traditional work. Caribbean swashbucklers? No, less glamorously, we’re the world’s best video pirates.

*

My encounter with Bundy was brief. Advertiser drinks columnist Philip White once considered Nelson’s Blood, and I was idiotically inspired. It was first made with rum from the very barrel which stored Lord Nelson’s body following his death on the Victory, at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Modern interpretations of Nelson’s Blood exist, but White reckons the Adelaide variety’s a tankard of Coopers Best Extra Stout, drowned by an unholy baptism of Bundy. No, it doesn’t taste nearly as good as it sounds.

Like the witches around their bubbling cauldron in Macbeth, a friend and I made some at a party. He’s from Wales. The next morning he was driving six hundred kilometres, across the desert. It was truly, ferociously, colossally grog.

*

Itself a type of work song, the sea shanty’s used ironically, with geographical alertness rewarded by

We sail from here to Bogota.

It’s a fun line given the Columbian capital’s landlocked position up on an Andean plateau.

Having launched, the good ship Bundy sinks like a delightfully feeble entry in a 1970’s birdman rally.

Our sails are filled with wind and pride,

Explore the world – well at least we tried.

The pirates survive, and rush to the pub. Their shoddy shipbuilding reinforces the low status of work. Not landing in Bogota? The outside world’s cruel, and treacherous. Stay in Queensland, and get on the rum.

The shanty’s sustained last note reminds me of the opening page (I’ve got no further) of Finnegans Wake on which Joyce included a 101-letter word, evoking the fall of Adam and Eve

bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!

Our sailors are euphoric. But caution. A bar full of men full of hijinks full of Bundy? Fast forward a fierce hour. We’ve all seen how this film finishes. You’d usher gran out to the Cortina before she’d finished her shandy. Just relax. This is Queensland, nothing nasty’ll happen.

*

The slogan is Welcome to Bundaberg. So, it’s not only a city in regional Queensland, but an aspiration, a sultry nirvana, especially alluring to those of the cold wowserish south.

What can you expect upon arrival? A place in which you’d don a fez, and sink Viking ships. An idyll of cattle and cane, where the living is easy-going. A parish in which work is enthusiastically ignored.

The Lone Star and Sunshine states share much. Tellingly, for his 1940 recording, “Beautiful Queensland” country music pioneer Tex Morton adapted, “Beautiful Texas.” On airless Brisbane evenings Uncle Fred puts the needle on the vinyl, nods at the prudence of his life choices, and sings along

There are some folk who still like to travel

To see what they have over there

But when they go look, it’s not like the book

And they find there is none to compare

This may go some way to explaining the passion for Queensland in State of Origin football.

This essay was originally commissioned for  Long Bombs To Snake, the magazine of the Footy Almanac community. It is 68 pages of quality feature-length writing on numerous sports by twelve of the talented Footy Almanac contributors. My thanks to John Harms for the opportunity. Long Bombs To Snake is available for purchase here-

Almanac Shop

 

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