5

When Too Much Football Is Barely Enough

SS

The best Barry Humphries’ character Sandy Stone would describe it as a “nice afternoon’s entertainment.”

With a gorgeous autumnal forecast in the mid-twenties here’s the plan for Saturday.

1. Stroll down to Glenelg Oval just after lunch for the Round 3 fixture between the Tigers and the South Adelaide Panthers. I understand that in the Big Cat World a tiger would be expected to defeat a panther but in early season SANFL footy there are few certainties. The boys, their mates and I will set up shop on the sloping lawn in front of the scoreboard. While the football will be punctuated by four siren blasts finishing the action each quarter, Alex and Max will eat incessantly and in keeping with the theme of the event, carnivorously.

oval

2. At 2.30 (interestingly I had a dental appointment during the week, which I think I’m pleased to say hurt my wallet more than my mouth) we’ll scamper into the bar and watch Winx make her final start in the (time-honoured) Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick.

winx

If Prince Charles had a horse race named after him (not his wife?) would it be known as the Chuck Cup? Before, during and after Max will compare the iconic mare and Black Caviar (he has a salmon pink and black spotted cap with her name on it). “Who would win out of the two, Dad?” and, tragi-comically, “How would Waikikamukau go against those two horses?”

chuck

3. During the second half of the Glenelg game the boys will climb one of the trees (as you do at the footy) bordering the ground’s eastern side, leaving me to drink beer in peace guard their snacks, and check the progress of my assorted trifectas and bets personal investment portfolio. Once the game is over we’ll make our way home beneath the golden sunlight, when in a most fortunate twist it will be time to finally watch some football. Port Adelaide play Richmond and this’ll be on TV. At the continued, if expected risk of upsetting the Port fans the match will open with the rather one-sided clash of each club’s theme songs. The Richmond song, “Oh We’re From Tigerland” is, to linger with the racing motif, the best of the pair by the length of the Flemington straight (450 metres, thanks for asking). It’s a rousing, joyous ditty. However, the Power tune, I’m afraid to report, suffers in many regards such as this significant lyric

We’ll never stop, stop, stop
Til we’re top, top, top.

Even casual fans of the Power (is this really a thing?) will know that they did, indeed, finish top in 2004, but unfortunately, they’ve adhered to their own promise since then, in terms of premiership aspirations, and they’ve well and truly stopped. Of this there can be no doubt. They’re good for their word.

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4. By the time the Crows verse (as everyone under 21 says) the Kangaroos at the Docklands Stadium I’ll have celebrated each of my horses having saluted. Referencing the Docklands venue, I prefer to only use its generic label for it has, I’d argue, suffered more nomenclature change than the American singer John Mellencamp who has been known variously as John Cougar, Johnny Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp, Johnny Mellencamp, Cougar John, John Mellen-head, Old Mellencamp John, and the decidedly unhelpful and confusing mononym John. Anyway, by the time this match ends I may well have had sufficient football for this April Saturday, but we’ll see.

JC

Even if the Crows win, I doubt I’ll watch the replay. There’s a surprise, but I reckon it’s what Sandy Stone would chose.

It might, instead, be time for bed.

BC

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2

Adelaide Oval in the Eighties: Rodney Hogg, Adidas Romes and Mondo Rock

Davo, Rocket, Stephen, Trish, obscured Kapunda youth likely Kate, Trish and your correspondent

I remember the sweet, coconut aroma of tanning oil. It made us glisten like boxers or glamorous full-forwards and accelerated our baked so we were flapping roast chooks on the sloping grass. Applied upon arrival to our skinny selves it was a blessing if we forgot to re-drench our arms and backs during the second innings. Best let the sun inflict its damage without encouragement. Today, detecting its distinctive smell I’m instantly at Adelaide Oval during the summers of my youth.

With headlights peering into the warm dark our convoy of HQ’s and 180B’s would make its way about Kapunda’s streets and then steer south to Gawler. We’d load eskies and bags of food and a couple of our Mums’ blankets onto the train carriage ready for the roughly hour-long ride.

I recall Rocket and Chrisso and Woodsy and Nick and Claire and Trish and Crackshot and Lukey and Kate and Gert and Stephen and Jamie and Tommy and Boogly and Davo and Bobby and Brendan.

old oval

On the red hen sliding past Womma station there’d be a sudden fizz as someone like Davo opened a Southwark stubby, while secretly hoping the guard wouldn’t appear. Meanwhile, our parents would yawn and empty some cereal into their bowls.

There was always a queue, but at 8am we’d burst into the ground, and rush the open space on the south-eastern corner’s hill. Here the blankets became important as they were thrown out like magic carpets and we claimed our territory half-way up the mound.

Although the world wobbled on a different axis back then I was always astonished when at precisely 8.05am I’d hear the first industrial whistle from under the scoreboard. Accompanied by a satisfied roar, it was the spear being pulled from breakfast’s first empty keg. Across the day these would punctuate the air as a gassy summery score.

scoreboard

Many wore those blue shearers’ singlets which were an oddly ironic uniform, even among those of us who’d never wrestled a sheep. Our hats were barely functional rather than chic. Most didn’t bother. Our hair was unfashionable in the cruel way that only teenaged hair can be. The perms could be especially devastating, and high school yearbooks confirm these vicious facts. There were double-plugger rubber thongs and Adidas Romes and youthful enthusiasms.

I’d see a neat sign on the back fence declaring that under its small tarp was the “Duck Pond.” Pleasingly, I never knew the etymology for this. Nor did I bother for some mysteries are best unsolved. The equivalent of permanent residents at a country caravan park, this was a comforting citizenry whose annual presence was as welcoming as the first sighting of a beer snake being paraded about the crowd as if it had been transported from an Asian street festival.

beer snake

There was an innocent charm in the catering. I suspect the total combined menu was pies, pasties, chips and hot dogs. I fear that sausage rolls were a culinary omission, and don’t think chicken salt had yet been discovered in the pans of Adelaide’s barren north. Tacos or stir fry? Scarcely conceived.

The only vaguely healthy option was fruit although this was largely confined to a whole watermelon, injected with Smirnoff the night before, behind someone’s Dad’s shed.

I recall that Brendan always smuggled in drink. At the forefront of innovation for clandestine imbibing were his bar-noculars, which appeared to security guards, parents and the constabulary as a set of binoculars doubtless used by a cricket tragic. Happily, these were optically useless but alcoholically tremendous as each black tube held a neat quantity of neat spirit. It was perhaps the sole technological marvel of that decade.

At 9.30 the teams appeared on the heritage scoreboard. Which bustling Rodney would open the bowling: Hogg or McCurdy? Would Roo Yardley deliver some offies with his high, tidy action? Which Kim Hughes would turn up? The swashbuckler or the drunkenly swinging? Surely David Hookes would finally get a run on his home ground?

As part of their sports science-free warm-up the players might slow jog a lap, and I recall the crowd commentary on IVA Richards. “Check out the shoulders on him! He looks like a middle-weight!” And, I can still see Clive Lloyd, all hunch-backed and huge, laconic and cat-lazy.

roo

The late Bruce “Roo” Yardley

Back then 220 was a handy score, and the Windies and England often had us covered. Lillee and Thomson and Marsh were near the end while AB was bracing himself for the torrid decade ahead. I also remember Sod O’Donnell and Henry Lawson and Kepler.

After the match we’d play cricket in the Creswell Gardens or head to the SA-FM Sky Show by the Torrens or maybe take refuge in the Cathedral Hotel or venture down to Glenelg for a swim.

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Your correspondent and Trish about to line dance in the Creswell Gardens

On the train, we’d rattle homewards and then pile into our cars with their Pioneer cassette decks and Mondo Rock blasting through the open windows into the still dark. We were worriless for tomorrow was Monday and the Australia Day long weekend. School and uni were weeks away.

Our world was still wonderfully small, and for a few days every summer Adelaide Oval was at its centre.

deck

0

Nine

 

Max in shades
Max Benjamin Randall, this Saturday, after the longest time and the shortest of years you’ll be nine. These days have flowed over us, like rain. They stretch on and on, and this makes me glad.

I love how you see our dogs Buddy (Chubby Kid) and Angel (Angela Merkel) as your siblings. Some mornings you emerge from the bedroom: stiff-legged, sleepy-eyed and with your beautiful hair bouncing in a wild, sunny animation, and go straight outside to the puppies, give them a hug and see how they’re going. It’s a sign of your boundless affection, and says many cool things about you.

Your bed is the top bunk above Alex, and near your pillow is a teetering stack of books. Like your dad you tackle multiple titles at once and sleeping, enjoy the proximity of these paper joys.

boys 2

Good luck with that lovely Road Dahl box-set Nanna and Poppa bought you for Christmas. I think you’ll like it, and have a life-long relationship with stories as both a reader and a teller. I reckon you just might.

Next season I hope you’ll play cricket. It’ll be fantastic if you can be in the same team as your brother. You love this game and enjoy some excellent competition in the backyard with Alex. I’m reassured the fights are typical and a predictor that neither of you will be unassertive types when older. This appears likely. It’s somehow comforting.

As it’s one of the sporting world’s most specialised skills, we must keep working on your leg-spin. In a decade or so, Australia might be ready for another blonde leggy.

Speaking of Alex, my favourite moments are when the two of you do something constructive together. Whether it’s building Lego or making a fort I love to see this. While these are punctuated with incidents that are, shall we say, less than constructive, I know as you both make your way through school and beyond you’ll be fierce supporters of each other. In the best possible ways you’ll be warrior-brothers.

cricket-1

Such is your shared competitiveness that only last week you were both riding home and of course, it immediately became a race along the mean streets of Glenelg North. Hurtling along Winx-like, it was superb until in what would’ve otherwise been a photo finish you clipped handlebars. Oh, no! Then it became horrific, but also if we could watch again in super-slow-motion, quite balletic, as you simultaneously somersaulted over your bikes.

Cue kilometres of bandage and gallons of hospital-strength antiseptic.

Pleasingly, neither of you is like me in that there were no tears. I’d be happy if this is the last of your stacks, but confidence is not especially high given your combined broken arm count in Singapore was four. In two years.

sports day

Another wonderful contrast to me is your encyclopaedic knowledge of cars from a crusty Corolla to, as you suggest, a lit super-car. We now take weekly excursions to various car-dealers to check out the McLarens, Bentleys and Lamborghinis, and just last night when in bed you said, “Dad, if you were a car you’d be a Ferrari.” I asked why and you replied, “Well, it seems like the sort of car an old Dad who had millions of dollars would want.” One of these is true.

So, have a great day. Saturday birthdays are always special.

boys

Last weekend cruising about Alex commented how he couldn’t wait until he was older and could live in Victor Harbor. In a sign that your world will surely open itself up you responded, “Yeah, I’m going to live in Clare.”

After a pause you added, “But also Utah.” You deserve so much, and to see and experience all of which you dream.

Happy, happy birthday dearest Max.

Max on beach

 

0

Eleven

alex 1

You and I were both up early on your birthday. I gave you a hug and a kiss and said, “Happy birthday Alex.”

You sang, “Dad, I’m so happy to be eleven!”

*

Of course, you’re embarrassed by Dad’s music. You don’t think much of Fleet Foxes or Vampire Weekend, but you like Lana Del Rey, and Ben Folds is our road trip soundtrack. Every time. We turn it up loud.

In the same way there’s days you love the Old Gum Tree Park, and other days, when not so much. You swing between being a little boy and an almost teenager who, some might say, can be a little demonic! I guess your emotional vocabulary is developing, and this isn’t always easy to spectate. But I mean this in a kindly way.

It’s what happens when a boy is eleven.

All you wanted for your birthday was a lunch at an all you can eat restaurant (term employed loosely here, I think) so off we went to Charlie’s Diner at the Brighton Metro. As I’d been at a conference Saturday morning I arrived late and you’d all eaten.

alex 2

Where Max had sat appeared as a site in Pompeii when the tables and houses were frozen forever as the lava struck. There were plates and drinks and bowls, all with just a sip or bite taken, as if Vesuvius had burst through. It wouldn’t take the archaeologists long to discover whose meal this was.

I loved that you and Max immediately took me on a tour about Charlie’s to the bains-marie as you both pointed out the endless offerings.

“Dad, here’s all the pizza! There’s the Asian food.”

“Look at all the chips. They’re pretty good.”

“Right now, come to the dessert bar. Around here. You can come back as many times as you want!”

*

You’re a beautiful big brother. As one of the people down the park said to me last week- “Alex is caring, and tries to look after his younger brother- I don’t think Max listens too well.” But you do laugh at and love him as we all do.

I become misty when I think of you both in fifteen years. I can see you at the Ashes cricket, or at a music festival (I think you’ll come around to Vampire Weekend), and I know you’ll be there for each other. There’ll be knowing nods and gruff exchanges and glances across the pub just to check on your best friend, your brother.

I know you love him with gentle ferocity.

boys

Your humour makes me happy. Just like an eleven-year-old should, you laugh at YouTube and those crazy physical dares and stunts that are all a bit Three Stooges, but I also love how you watched Frontline with me- and can quote the clueless current affairs show host Mike Moore, and at random times around the house you’d say, “Mmmm. Martin Di Stasio there with that disturbing report.”

I love that you roar instantly with me at Mad As Hell when Micallef features one of his fake promos, for funny ABC shows like

The Rise of Hollywood’s Power Mice

The Depraved, Godless, Sicko Hedge Sparrows of Yorkshire.

*

You’re nearly finished at primary school and are in the senior unit where, in an innocent, unlikely symbol of your unstoppable progression, you can use a microwave or boil a kettle to have noodles for lunch. I can see you in there quietly leading your friends with your constant sense of justice.

Just as I can still see you in our Singaporean condo on your first ever school day as you headed out under the towering cityscape and into the hugging heat. My hot tears from that day are never far away.

alex 3

Tim Winton is my favourite Australian writer and one of his best lines for me is not found in Cloudstreet or The Riders or Dirt Music, but the Young Adult novel he published thirty years ago.

Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo.

At the end Lockie is talking to Vicki who, like some adolescent girls, wants to grow up too fast, and I’m so joyful that in this gorgeous character’s reply I can hear you, dearest Alex.

“I hate being a kid,” she said.

“See? I’m weird,” he murmured. “I love it”

LL

0

Backyard Cricket

cricket 1

During that beautiful hour or so before dark when the light is golden and the world’s rough edges disappear the boys and I played cricket in the backyard. It was warm and still and the kids next door were having a pool party. They had a great soundtrack and sang along to Gang of Youths and The Smith Street Band. They even played Eagle Rock.

Max likes to bowl leg spin, that most difficult of the cricketing crafts. But he has reasonable control and can get them to bite and spit. With his blonde locks he’s not unlike a certain SK Warne. I encourage him. “Don’t try to bowl fast like your dopey old Dad. There’s millions of very average medium pacers out there. Keep the leg spin going!”

Our home is in a constant state of tennis ball crisis. An already modest backyard, it will continue to shrink as the boys likely stretch into six footers. We share fences with five properties and all have endured our friendly fire.

A couple months back the people behind us had their yuccas removed. They ran the length of their back fence and were quite tall. I came home from work and suddenly could see the eastern sky as that vegetative wall was gone. And on our lawn were about ten tennis balls and a toy or two which had taken refuge in the trees. I was surprised there wasn’t also a Jetstar blanket, a German motorcycle and the Best of the Jackson Five. They were big trees.

yuccas

After a brisk delivery from Alex, Max edged one over the tree and into Mrs Hambour’s yard. Like Farmer Fred’s wethers we had no balls. Mrs Hambour is 97. She lives alone. She makes me laugh.

Earlier in the week when the temperature reached 46 degrees I rang her from work during the day just to check on her. She told me (again) of how she’d been recently hospitalised at the new Royal Adelaide following a fall during which she suffered two black eyes and hurt her nose.

“It was very nice Michael. They were good to me. I even saw one of those heart people- what are they called?”

“A cardiologist.”

“Yes, that’s it. And I said to him, ‘Don’t worry about my heart. It’s no good. Have I broken my nose?'”

The boys returned with two tennis balls and two chocolates each.

Having had a bat and a bowl I took up the prestigous position of umpire/ commentator/Dutch beer drinker in my chair under the patio at short extra cover. I channelled Australia’s finest all round broadcaster Tim Lane.

lanes

“Max comes in and tosses one up just outside off stump. Alex steps into it and punches it through mid off for four!”

The boys found it amusing, although, if truth be told, not as amusing as their Dad. I continued.

“With his characteristic loping approach Alex bowls and Max is defending this one back up the pitch. There’s no run.”

And then like all great commentators (real and backyard) I had to show the power of brevity.

“Edge. Gone!” I made myself giggle.

Being brothers there was frequent disagreement so I turned to more televisual theatre to help. Alex was sure Max was out LBW. It was irresolvable. So I made the TV rectangle with my fingers. We’d go to DRS (Decision Review System is a technology-based system used in cricket to assist the match officials with their decision-making). I began.

drs

“Can I have side-on vision of the bowler please?” For reasons unknown I adopted an English accent for my third umpire duties. There’s probably some interesting post-colonialism going on here. Alex and Max had stopped fighting and were watching me and my recreation. “Yes, that’s a legal delivery,” I said to no-one and everyone, putting my hand to my invisible ear-piece.

I continued. “Can we go to Hotspot please?” The boys eyes widened. “Can you rock ‘n’ roll it please?” A meaningful pause. “Again… Thank you. No edge showing.”

I took a sip of beer. “Let’s go to ball tracking please.” We were getting close to the truth. “Yes, it’s pitching in line.” Another pause. “But the ball is going over the top of middle stump. Can you please reverse your on-field decision to not out?”

And do you know what? The boys nodded and returned to their positions. Dispute ended. I learnt something too.

And with this the game continued under the orange sky until we again exhausted our tennis ball supply and it became time for baths and then bed.

It had been a brilliant hour.

cricket 2

0

Four pubs and a funeral

I love the week between Christmas and New Year, and know I’ve achieved happy levels of festiveness when I forget what day it is. Someone like the wife will say, “Don’t forget we’re going to X and Y’s on Thursday.” Then I’ll feel a frisson of panic and reply, “Right. What day is it again?”

Bliss.

Yesterday I went to the funeral of my dear mate Bob’s brother Jeff. We all went to Kapunda High with Jeff. He’d passed away too soon. He left a young wife and two daughters. He was 48.

The service was in Gawler and closed when the casket was draped with a Hawthorn footy club flag and their team song was played on a loop. Training as a junior with Central District he’d idolised Johnny Platten.

Jeff was laid to rest in the church cemetery where a couple decades’ prior he’d married a local girl. Atop this hill just outside of Saddleworth, the wind roared from the north in that menacing, apocalyptic way, as the temperature screamed into the hundreds. Fahrenheit, as always, seems more appropriate for these timeless occasions.

In the interim we called into the Gilbert Valley pub. It’s one of those places that has the take-away drinks fridges in the bar itself. Puggy and I had a quick pint of Session Ale. In a corner below the tele two chaps wearing farming equipment hats were slumped. For some reason the screen was showing an old movie, and not the cricket. They were drinking West End Draught cans.

GV

There was a reception at the bowls club. While the party pies, sausage rolls and scones were all in attendance the sandwiches, of course, were uniformly excellent. For the first time in ten years I saw a girl I went to school with Gert*, and her husband Kempy* against whom I’d played footy and cricket. Again I was reminded of my unbreakable home bonds of school and growing up. On a day of mixed emotions this was a lovely moment.

Saddleworth

Mid-afternoon our convoy of two conveyances set forth towards Marrabel and its singular pub. I reckon I’d last been inside in 1986, and as near as I could tell all was as I’d left it. Most of us opted for a West End from the keg, largely on account of it being the only draught option.

Marrabel is a town known for its eponymous rodeo, and so we searched the pub wall photos for Kapunda’s champion bull rider and colourful identity, the late Les Cowan. One of the Hayward brothers, Hollis, and I reckon we spotted him clinging to a vertical beast, frozen but waiting for the eight-second horn. However, the memorbilia had no caption so we couldn’t be certain.

Marrabel

Among the flow of cricket stories, both recent and prehistoric, we then paused to toast Jeff, while Chris also hoped that 2019 could be funeral-free.

We then pushed on through Hamilton where there were four churches and a now vacant shop. I wonder how many kids live there today and go to Kapunda High. There was once a dedicated school bus. The earth is desperately brown and scorched.

As always it is a treat to call into the Allendale pub. It is cosy, welcoming and inn-like in its charisma. Happily, Greenock Creek ales are on tap. Indeed, two of the four offerings are from our old school mate Chris Higgins and his thriving micro-brewery. A trip home, even amid awful circumstances such as those of today evoke much, both good and bad.

Allendale

It was time to continue our cricket reminisces. Of course we spoke of the Lyndoch Cricket Club which at tea breaks provided the most gentlemanly afternoon tea, all scones and egg sandwiches and pleasant conversation.

First experiencing this as an eighteen year old- the day Wocko took a hat trick- made a mark on my young self. Of course, once this culinary interlude concluded and the locals again stepped across the mythical white line psychopathic hostilities resumed. Both accompanying cousins, Froggy and Puggy understood.

I then dragged out the old chesnut concerning Rodney Hogg and his debut appearance at Mildura’s Willowfest. Handed the ball the recently retired Australian quick heard from the boundary, “Bowler’s name?” The captain answered only to hear, “One ‘g’ or two?”

Finally we adjorned to Kapunda’s Prince of Wales. It was the natural conclusion for our day. Although only six in physical number our party expanded courtesy of the anecdotes. Froggy and Hayward the Elder had a moment of faux disappointment concerning some confusion among the beverage orders.

Prince

Night was gathering when we then heard of the night at the Mickans when Paul E. White, having smoked the brothers in cards, starting counting the cash. One of the brothers Mickan admonished him saying, “You know it’s not etiquette to count your money while still at the table.” His voice rising its customary couple octaves, Whitey retorted, “I’m not counting my money d**khead, I’m counting yours!”

And so homewards.

The good that comes of funerals is community and connection and the silent vows we take from these to live well, to stride with purpose and to take care of each other.

It is how we can honour the deceased and ourselves.

Vale Jeff.cemetery

3

Paul Kelly’s “How to Make Gravy” and me

 

songs from the south

My favourite Christmas song is twenty-two. But it seems as though it’s been around forever. Like Love Actually, which premiered in 2003, they’re both part of the festive furniture, and signal the season’s arrival.

It’s the 21st of December and our protagonist Joe, freshly imprisoned and hotly anxious, reaches out to his brother. But is “How to Make Gravy” a letter or a phone call? Initially, the form seems spoken- “Hello Dan, it’s Joe here,” but then moves to a written mode- “I hope you’re keeping well.” Which is it? I don’t know.

Over four and a half minutes, this mystery of the medium continues while we meet the brothers; Angus; parents Frank and Dolly; Joe’s wife Rita; his kids; sisters Stella and Mary; Mary’s former boyfriend, the olfactorily-offensive one (just a little too much cologne) and, of course, the almost missable Roger.

Although most are only mentioned once they’re Australia’s first family of Christmas song. We feel like we know them. Despite these skeletal sketches, they’re writ large. Dolly’s the uncrossable matriarch. I can imagine having a beer with Angus, and if he were alive surely Bill Hunter would play Frank in the film version, all gruff wisdom and barbeque tongs.

‘How to Make Gravy’ begins with opening chords similar to Thunderclap Newman’s ‘Something in the Air’ but its guitar riff by the recently-departed Spencer P. Jones almost nods in homage to the British band’s late-sixties hit song. This might be partly why Kelly’s tour de force seems like it’s been around longer than 1996. It’s deep in our musical tectonics.

Willunga

Across the top and also underneath is that doleful slide guitar, foreshadowing the anguish to come. Exhilarating, it’s suggestive of outback space and tropical heat and melancholic veranda conversations.

The next surge is when Peter “Lucky” Luscombe’s drums kick in with an electrifying jolt at, “I guess the brothers are driving down from Queensland and Stella’s flying in from the coast”. Although I was drawn to the song upon its release, and taught it (and Radiohead’s “Karma Police”) to year 10 classes, it was our move to England early this century when it took a profounder hold.

Kerry and I each took ten CD’s with us and Paul Kelly’s Greatest Hits- Songs from the South was the first I packed along with Jeff Buckley’s Grace and The Beatles’ Revolver. Settling happily into a village rhythm I’d cycle home on Fridays post-pub, and put it on in our townhouse after the dark had already stolen through our patio windows.

At this moment I’d then fly homeward, down across the land and ocean. Its melodic panorama contrasted with the claustrophobic British winter and the unforgivable 4pm nightfall. We spent a first European Christmas in Madrid, freezing under a pale sun far, far from Australia’s burnt dirt.

I’d only considered it as a stand-alone song until I read this from the singer: “I’m sort of aware where certain songs are written a few years apart from each other – ‘To Her Door,’ then ‘Love Never Runs on Time’ and ‘How to Make Gravy’ – I’ve got a feeling it’s the same guy. He keeps coming back.”

Here Kelly’s created a fictional universe, or at least some intertextuality, especially as the line, “Tell ’em all I’m sorry, I screwed up this time” indicates a wider backstory, an extended narrative, featuring our central character and his wife Rita.

Hay Plains

And what of that famous recipe for gravy?

“It’s a real recipe of my first father in law, which he used and which I still use. When I make gravy for my family, that’s the recipe that I use, and now they always make me, make the gravy. It’s my job now (laughs). When I made up the song it wasn’t my job but it is now. Sometimes art influences life or the other way around.”

I love how the song’s acknowledged with today, December 21, declared national Gravy Day. There’s even a hashtag- #GravyDay.

A portrait of timeless Australia, it’s as evocative as the timber pylons of the Port Willunga jetty; a backyard cricket match; the ribbon of road unrolling across the Hay Plains.

As our boys splash about in the twinkling pool on Christmas morning, and I sneak my first piece of ham I anticipate that plaintive strumming and forlorn slide guitar and hearing, yet again, Joe’s confessional.