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An Alberton Afternoon

In the dining room there’s an upright piano.

This declares much about the Alberton Hotel: traditional values, a vibrant history, a suggestion of simpler, better times when live music was the entertainment.

Of course, there’s also a sign forbidding anyone to touch it. It’s a truth widely acknowledged that nobody wants their salt and pepper squid sound-tracked by a kid or drunk uncle banging out ‘Chopsticks.’

Still, there’s nostalgic delight in a pub piano.

The front bar bursts with football memorabilia. Framed premiership photos, ancient posters, murals. Both the Magpies and the Power. Which one is it? No, sorry, it doesn’t seem like one club. Drop Igor from Siberia in here and ask him how many clubs he can see. Igor will reply, “Is two.”

But it’s a traditional front bar and promoted on the website as one, ‘enjoyed by all the family’ and there’s kids in here with dad and granddad all around a table, in their Power tops. The atmosphere is pre-match, festive, Saturday.

Velour coats, black cans and fags are in vogue out in the sports garden. There’s a gigantic TV screen showing the early spring races. My Coopers pint is well-priced at $7 and while nursing this, Nature Strip, one of the country’s best sprinters, wins at Randwick.

A brisk shower squalls over as my beef parmigiana arrives, hearty and tasty, with a decent tangle of golden chips (mercifully not buried beneath the schnitzel). My salad includes pickled purple cabbage, and it’s an unexpected treat.

*

Today I’m also making my Alberton Oval debut. How can this be? Unlike Glenelg Oval, parking’s easy and there’s no 2-hour limit. I see no sneering knots of yoof in Everlast tops, and the lawns all look clipped. It’s a handsome suburb with splendid villas and bungalows. I enjoy the walk.

Coming through the Bob McLean Gate, the cheer squad is going off-chops. And we’re still a few minutes before the bounce. I’ve not seen (or heard) a real SANFL cheer squad for years so congratulations Port.

I survey the ground. It’s long and broad and the turf is immaculate. Like the best sporting complexes, it’s a measured mix of the historic and the modern. The old grandstands are low and cosy while the Allan Scott Power Headquarters is sleek but not daunting.

I locate the imagery I was anticipating. The Dry Zone is empty. There’s an octogenarian in knee-high ugg boots. Near me is a skull completely covered in a curious tattoo and then, of course, I see his hairstyle opposite, Greg Anderson, whose locks, I suspect, will forever be 1990. While he was a fine footballer, his Vanilla Ice mullet should also enter various halls of fame.

A bar offers Point Nine beer by Pirate Life. It’s a ‘hop forward ultra-light.’ I ask for a 2007 grand final commemorative lager, the One Hundred and Nineteen, but they’ve sold out.

Unlike Glenelg home matches there’s no shrill, unrelenting music between quarters. Just a welcome chance to chat. Ducking into the Social Club it’s festooned in celebrated iconography. Ebert, the Williams family, Ginever. Unforgivably, no Bomber Clifford. This is a unified crowd, a mob who love their preacher, a bunch happy with their evangelism. Ambling about the ground the sense of community is indisputable.

Port’s in front all game courtesy of a five-goal opening stanza. The swirling breeze makes for scrappy footy punctuated by lightning bursts when one side gets clear. Glenelg’s not been in great form over the past month but has scrambled some last quarter escapes. While the Magpies get good service from some of their AFL types in Hartlett, Mayes and Woodcock they’re not the difference.

After seventeen consecutive wins, with all this significant history looming, Glenelg’s final minor round match is a loss at Alberton. But I’ve enjoyed an afternoon plunged in football culture.

However, and this really disappoints: I don’t spot a single duffle coat.

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Macbeth marks strongly but misses to the near side

How evocative to attend the Goodwood Theatre for a performance of Macbeth.

It’s a play I’ve been spellbound by since I was at school and studied it in Mrs Maloney’s class. When she was a teenager this small theatre is also where my wife Claire made her theatrical debut in Lola Montez but, Your Honour, to my continuing shame I have no recollection of this.

While I’d read and taught the Scottish play countless times, the recent realisation that I’d never seen it on stage startled me. The Goodwood stage was raked towards the audience at an alarming angle and was diamond-shaped. It made me concerned that the artistes might tumble onto the spectators and make us unwitting, additional victims of the supernatural bloodletting.

Our state premier Mr Steven Marshall took his seat just in front of us. Looking like a Kelvinator draped in shapeless black shade cloth, his personal security chap sat next to him. I decided to behave myself. Given the play is about civil mayhem and assassination it is surely tax deductible for all aspiring and upright politicians. I trust Mr Marshall kept his ticket stub. Regicide’s always in vogue.

The production was arresting and visceral and I since discovered an article which argued that in this most sinister of Shakespearean texts made notorious by words such as dagger, cauldron and weird the most unsettling word is the.

Best illustrated by this famous section as lady Macbeth urges her husband-

Your hand, your tongue. Look like th’ innocent flower,

But be the serpent under ’t.”

Academics argue that instead of using the generic a, the definite article the as in the serpent rather than a serpent implies an underlying idea, a lurking agency and invests it with greater menace and unknown symbolism.

*

Friday afternoon in the city and Claire led me by the hand along the harried streets as we evaded the suits and clots of yoof and e-scooters. I felt warm anticipation and the joy of unveiling surprise for it was the monthly moment of personally curated escape that is Mystery Pub.

Tucked away in an almost secreted nook The Historian is like a summery London boozer as the punters were a-throng outside and in. Squeezed in around a pillar on our stools there was pub clamour and buzzing bustle. I was reminded of Jordan in the Great Gatsby who remarked that she loved big parties because, “they’re so intimate.” Our conversation took on a conspiratorial quality and we could’ve been Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in isolated Dunsinane castle, save for the murderous scheming and horrific descent into lonely madness.

*

I took Alex and Max and their mates to the Glenelg v Centrals game Saturday and can report that the five of them saw upwards of five minutes of footy, collectively. This healthy apathy transported me back to Kapunda games as a kid when the match was often just a loose backdrop, a vague context that gave shape to the afternoon. What a marvellous fortune to be able to take in this beachside frivolity in the late winter. And kids under 18, are admitted free!

During the A grade when I was about ten I ran after my footy among the pine trees behind Freeling Oval and almost stepped on a snake catching some winter warmth. Heart a-pumpin’ I stopped and then like a lorry took a wide arc to snatch my Lyrebird footy. Again, Macbeth and its reptilian imagery comes to mind-

We have scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it.

She’ll close and be herself, whilst our poor malice

Remains in danger of her former tooth.

*

Our Sunday morning pattern is to take the dogs Buddy and Angel (Buddy and Angel does sound like a dreadful movie in which two unlikely LA cops solve a previously impenetrable crime and win grudging praise from the grumpy Chief of Police) down the beach for a scamper among other hounds and humans.

The winter storms have dumped giant mounds of seaweed over the sand. On the grey, swirling days I could almost sense the hideous witches from Macbeth huddled over a bubbling pot, described thus

By each at once her choppy finger laying

Upon her skinny lips: you should be women,

And yet your beards forbid me to interpret

That you are so.

It’s an invigorating and elemental way to begin a Sunday and the brisk air does us good and Angel, such a timid, delicate puppy, yelps with delight and leaps like a hare. She’s a beach dog, more Enid Blyton than The Bard.

*

My old school friend Chris, now splitting his time between Angaston (Ango) and Adelaide texted asking me of my Wednesday night plans. I replied, “What have you in mind?”

My phone buzzed with his clear wish- “Meat and three veg.”

So we took our meat and (limited to potato) veg at the Duke of Brunswick. Unlike the charmless beer barns of the anonymous suburbs this pub’s an inner-city delight. Warm, snug and with glowing lighting it invites talk of hometown mates and ancient bonds.

In my week of diverse gratefulness, this is another luminous episode.

While the Duke of Brunswick is well-named there’s other British pubs like the Ape and Apple, The Cat and Custard Pot Inn and The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn (try the ploughman’s lunch).

But I’d opt for the title given Macbeth just before he slays King Duncan-

              The Thane of Cawdor.

That’d be an apt boozer for a gloomy winter’s night.

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Glenelg v Norwood: Quarter Time in Chernobyl

“If only people would label things,” announces Trev.

Instead of “Hello, how are you?” this is his customary greeting, and he lurches up to the table.

Pete also pulls out his chair in the Glenelg footy club bistro. We remove our masks. We have permission. We will be drinking and eating while seated. No vertical consumption. Just vigorous consumption. We all grew up in Kapunda.

Of course, straight away we speak of Chernobyl and Fukushima, both Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Afterall, we’re about to watch a battle between first and fifth on the SANFL ladder. Traditional rivals. Finals loom.

I mention an old friend who grew up in Poland and was at kindergarten during the Chernobyl incident in 1986. She remembers being told to not go out in the playground the week after the No.4 reactor went on the fritz. Trev wonders if they closed the kindy windows too. You know, as a precaution.

Lunch arrives and it’s excellent. The boys are on the Japanese beers. It may be a Fukushima tribute. I’m on Little Creatures pale ale. It’s not a Fremantle tribute. We’re all pleased we don’t have shares in the Pripyat pub, near the frozen Ferris wheel.

We claim our seats on the 50-metre arc, at the southern end, just in front of the Edward Rix Stand. Pete’s happy to be catching some Vitamin D. I’d never abbreviate this sentence to “catching some VD.” He and his family’s only just completed a fortnight of quarantine after his wife was caught in a “hotspot” at the Burnside hospital. When I was a boy Lennie’s, The Planet and Heaven on West Terrace were the only hotspots.

The footy’s underway. Norwood’s dominating and we’re chasing. Mercifully, the Kernahan End goals prove repellent and the quarter time score is like losing your Titanic boarding pass- a near disaster.

It’s cloudy over the hills, but sunny by the beach. We wonder if it’s hailing in Belair. Other Kapunda mates are at Williamstown in the Barossa as the Bombers try to sneak into the finals. Up there’s a very wet winter. Trev wonders if it’s more suited to submariners. I ask about folks eating a marinara sub. It’s probably bad news for all.

We speak about life with the virus like we’re in an Atwood novel. I mention that the night before we were supposed to go see the Whitlams at the Gov. A Sydney band, I maintain their best song’s titled “Melbourne” about a girl, “who calls her dog The Bear.” But the Eastern seaboard lockdown means they couldn’t come. Of course, if they were GWS, they could. We wonder about the injustice of this. Footy and live music are both in the bucket called entertainment.

There’s talk of Clare wineries such as Skillogalee which was just sold by our former PE teacher and footy coach.  Pete announces he’s embarking on a cabernet sauvignon self-education course. He’s become too comfortable with shiraz. Trev and I chorus, “Coonawarra.”

Pete mentions popular racehorse Morty, which shares a name with an identity back home in Kapunda. I check to see if it’s done well. It hasn’t. The Astrologist salutes at Flemington in race 8 for me. My horoscope told me it would.

It still looks dark and wet up in the Hills. We wonder how the footy’s going in Belair. Good day for back men we reckon. At half-time in Glenelg there’s kick and catch. There’s only been seven goals thus far and we wonder if the game’ll open up in the second half.

Trev played drums in some prominent Adelaide bands including Imelda’s Shoes. Still a great name, we agree. He was asked to audition for another band but declined as he was happy where he was. They were called The Superjesus.

A prodigious kick, Pete played full back for Kapunda in the 1987 grand final. They lost to Tanunda. The day started warm, but it was pouring by the final siren. I remember driving home from Freeling in a mate’s Torana. In the cassette deck was popular saxophonist Grover Washington’s Winelight and, “Just The Two Of Us” with Bill Withers on vocals. It features extensive use of steel drums, but we don’t mention this.

Inflicted with the same calamity as the AFL there’s loudspeaker music at the breaks and it’s too loud. A splash of plutonium in the footy club PA could be timely.

Then Pete talks of the trip he and his family made recently to Port Arthur and its tragic natural beauty and I speak of Arkaroola as a single-visit only destination to use a tourism term I just invented. Then we discuss the Prince of Wales pub back home going on the market for the first time in nearly forty years.

Like Hawthorn for most of this century, Glenelg find a way, somehow with a seven-goal last term burst. Former Tiger cub Richard Douglas kicks a late major for the Redlegs and this irritates some in the boisterous crowd. The Bays are now 15 and zip. It’s still looks grim over Belair, but Chernobyl oval’s in the longest winter of all.

We’ll all watch the footy together again soon.

2

48 Hours in Glenelg

Pulling up at the Broadway pub on Friday afternoon Claire remarked on how atypically easy our drive had been from the city to the beach. So much so that the car’s clock displayed our triumphant arrival as –

4.27pm.

This, of course, scientists will gladly tell you is the optimal afternoon pub starting time, at least in the southern hemisphere. Locating a cosy table in the beer garden we let an hour drift away and all was providential in our world.

*

Saturday our local footy team the Glenelg Tigers were hosting a twilight match and the boys and I headed down. Sitting on the eastern side the late winter sun (now, we all acknowledge that spring only commences after the equinox on either September 21 or 22, don’t we?) poured honeyed light across the grass, the sky and us.

As is customary Alex, Max and their mates watched minimal minutes of the match, their attention taken by hot chips, each other and roaming about the oval.

Glenelg skipped away early and kept West Adelaide subservient throughout, and it was a spectacular afternoon. The fresh air and stroll did us all some good.

*

Once each winter month we set our fire bucket going with some red gum and spend a glowing evening on the patio. Claire struck a match as we made our way home from the footy and we enjoyed a few hours in the crackling warmth.

Games give the night some diverting structure and we engaged in Family Feud which is based upon the eponymous TV show. One night I flicked on the box and caught this question, just before the show was axed. This may have been the question that finished it off, but I still can’t decide if it’s towering genius or beyond moronic. We surveyed our studio audience and got their top 100 responses to this:

Name something a spider might think about?

Saturday night I read a question for Claire and Alex that went:

Name a calorie-burning exercise?

Claire and Alex called out running and cycling and others but couldn’t get the final reply which had seven responses. There was much guessing and frustration. Remember the question was:

Name a calorie-burning exercise?

Coming from the country that bought us Sco Mo and Warney’s autobiography called My Autobiography and XXXX Gold (at best a bronze product) the fourth reply was, you guessed it, exercise.

*

Sunday dawned as Father’s Day and we had Mum and Dad and my sister’s family over for a BBQ. It was sunny and warm and gentle. We ate lamb and chicken and beef. We had tossed salad and Thai noodle salad and red wine from McLaren Vale and the Barossa.

We spoke of renovations and footy and holidays. We then had Mum’s bread and butter pudding which may have had its origins in poverty but is now emblematic of comfort. The day was affirming and then it became late afternoon and with waving and tooting that was it.

It had been a glorious 48 hours in Glenelg.

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Our Grand Final

ROAR

Less than a minute in the umpire blew his whistle to pay a holding free kick to Glenelg, and from a few rows behind us came the comforting, Pavlovian yelp, “He’s been doin’ it all bloody day, Ump!”

A convivial tone now set in the bottom deck of the Fos Williams Stand at Adelaide Oval our afternoon unfolded in exhilarating fashion. Even the subsequent Popcorn Chicken Incident served as a petit carnival of community and generosity.

Footy jumpers, scarves, caps and t-shirts in Port and Glenelg colours smeared across the outer like a monochrome Monet, and with the crowd split evenly the atmosphere was enthusiastically tribal, but also exhibited an unedited defiance of the AFL, in celebration of local footy as it was before we capitulated to national (Victorian) interests, and permitted our suburbs to be annexed.

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Admittedly, I’m also an Adelaide fan, but there’s a deeper, elemental quality about your footy team having its own discrete place and particular geography. Last Thursday I walked along Jetty Road and about Moseley Square, buoyed by the balloons and streamers and team posters in the windows. However, in this city the Crows are both everywhere and nowhere. They have no earthly claim; no Alberton, no Patawalonga.

The pre-game concert is another ritual, and I loved You Am I in 2015 with footy-mad Tim Rogers up front siphoning Pete Townsend and Ray Davies. Local outfit Bad/Dreems are energetically gruff and glug West End Draught as they romp through their set. The drummer sports the prison bars of a Magpies guernsey.

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History always hovers at the SANFL grand final. Former stars Peter Carey who I pass walking his dog on the esplanade most mornings and Greg Anderson, whose timeless locks are surely in the Mullet Hall of Fame (next to those of Billy Ray Cyrus) do a lap in a ute while clasping the premiership cup, and both relish the sunny applause.

Glenelg skips away early. Their tackling has jungle ferocity and as if channelling the glory days when footy was only on boxy black and white Pye TVs, they kick long into their forward line.

Port are flint-hard and the twenty years since they’ve won a flag must present as volcanic outrage. They harass and coerce, but the Tigers use crafty handball to dominate possession.

For Magpie fans the unknowable has arrived, and nineteen excruciating minutes elapse in the second quarter before Frampton comes alive and they register their afternoon’s first goal.

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Alex and Max and two of their primary school mates are as unrelenting in their eating as Glenelg is in their attack so I muster extra supplies. Juggling food worth the GDP of a small Pacific nation I shuffle back down aisle 133 as Marlon Motlop kicks a clever goal, and a rejoicing fan’s arms shoot out periscopically and clock me. Instantly, it’s raining popcorn chicken all over the concrete steps and my person. I’m a friendly-fire casualty.

The colonel can’t help me.

The Glenelg fan apologies saying, “Can I buy you another one of those?”

My automated response is a polite but stunned, “No, mate it’s fine.”

I surrender the surviving chook to the boys who are wholly unsympathetic to my fiscal, social and psychological loss, and inhale them. Old mate comes down and announces, “Mum feels badly so she’ll get you some more chicken.” Claire and I nod thanks. He’s about forty years old. Perhaps he’s already spent his pocket money.

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Another most kind witness to the Sudden Chicken Storm appears with a box of popcorn poultry, and says, “I felt very sorry when I saw what happened. Some Port fans started laughing.” She hands these over, and before she can reclaim her seat, the boys have slurped them up. So, the kindness of strangers gladdens our hearts, if not our arteries.

Claire is bemused that my only contributions to the stadium noise are the binary and monosyllabic, “BALL!” when a Magpie player has had too long and, “YEEEAAAHHH!” when we kick a goal. On advice of my singing coach I ration these, but come Monday morning my vocal stylings are still more Joe Cocker than Tiny Tim.

The clouds dart and race, and we alternately soak up the sun and then shiver. Glenelg controls the narrative from prelude to epilogue. At the siren the four boys are on their seats shrieking and waving their yellow and black flag. The Tigers club song loops about the arena.

We cross the pedestrian bridge over the Torrens, and then head for home and our premiership suburb, by the silvery sea.

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4

Glenelg fan hilariously heckles Himmelberg

hindenburg

It came from the Sir Edwin Smith Stand.

A booming baritone with a certain gruff, yet worldly quality, it was also evocative of the larrikin 1970’s. If I closed my eyes, I could see spectators in duffle coats with Ebert, Carey and Blight on their backs. Some were wearing black ripples, and eating Chiko rolls.

Its owner knew some theatrical principles and employed expert timing and escalating repetition and like a comedy festival veteran, held his Adelaide Oval audience in high estimation. We thought we were here for the SANFL preliminary final between the Glenelg Tigers and the Adelaide Crows.

himmelberg

A Glenelg fan, the Heckler’s target was Elliot Himmelberg: a stark blonde, tall and imposing Adelaide Crow. If there’s wisdom in going after the biggest enemy, then Himmelberg was it.

In his mockery was an arsenal of cultural and historical allusions.

He put me in mind of the celebrated Sydney Cricket Ground supporter Yabba who bellowed at an opposition batsman from his spot on the Hill, “Send ‘im down a piano, see if ‘e can play that!”

yabba

SCG’s Yabba statue

His opening shot utilised famous fictional wizard Harry Potter, Hogwart’s School, and one of its four Houses, ironically the one best known for hard work and fair play. Following a Himmelberg skill error and turnover the Tigers scored a goal. Shortly after and aimed sharply at number 34 this boomed around the arena:

“Thanks very much. That started with you, Hufflepuff.”

I cackled in my chair. He now had my attention.

harry potter

About a quarter later The Heckler then took his pop references in a more 1970’s and 1980’s direction itemising everyone’s favourite Baywatch and Knight Rider star, and unfathomable German pop icon. With the scores tight he barked at the Crow:

“Try and get a kick, Hasselhoff.”

Students of our game will note that Hollywood’s David Hasselhoff and Port Power champion Justin Westhoff share a nickname, “The Hoff.”

This makes it an especially brutal barb, given that Westhoff has played 268 games and is regarded as one of the best and fairest ever in a Port Power jumper. Additionally, Himmelberg’s team and Port Power are fierce, if not bitter cross-town rivals. For the Crows’ AFL side Elliot’s played but eight games.

The Heckler had moved briskly into stinging satire.

tigers

Laughing to myself on my seat in the Sunday sun, it was excellent unofficial entertainment. Public witticisms always amuse me, especially when wholly unexpected.

I wondered if these were all studiously prepared, in a manner similar to that of the retired AFL commentator, Dennis Cometti, who once observed that Libba, a Western Bulldogs footballer, came out of a collision with a sore head by saying:

“He entered the pack optimistically and emerged misty optically.”

A polished performer The Heckler understood the Rule of Threes, and his finish was impeccable. In this he married a 1937 German passenger airship disaster to a fashionable phrase originating in World War 1 aerial dogfights.

In the last quarter as Glenelg surged towards the grand final his roaring jeer again riffed upon Himmelberg’s surname, and was delivered with sparkling confidence.

“Hey, Hindenburg! Crash and burn. Crash and burn!”

Laughing uncontrollably, I then had to explain to my eleven-year-old and his mates.

“Crash and burn” is a metaphor expressing spectacular personal failure, and the New Jersey zeppelin calamity has continuing global infamy.

H2

The Crows’ forward misses yet another mark

Was the heckling low and inappropriate? Perhaps. Is satirising another’s name poor form? Maybe. Was it different to the usual hollering mindlessness? Undoubtedly.

However, it was an originally funny sequence to hear at a SANFL football match. Having shared it with family, friends and colleagues, days later I’m still giggling.

I’ve not met you but well done, sir.

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2

This exquisite, unrepeatable moment

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Driving Alex and his mates to Adelaide Oval last Sunday I’m reminded of the final line from 1986’s coming-of-age film, Stand by Me, in which the narrator ponders his distant childhood with affection and melancholy:

I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?

We’re heading to see Glenelg contest its first SANFL final since these boys were toddlers. I’m keen for the Tigers to secure a spot in the grand final, but by sunset I’ll have learnt, all over again, that at best, football should only be a happy distraction.

It’s an archetypal early spring day: fluctuating between encouraging sun, blustery breeze, and quick showers. On our way to Hindley Street the car radio’s on. As it better matches where these boys are at I’ve changed stations from Triple J to commercial pop music. The songs seem immediate and disposable, but my passengers are more interested in rapid chat about teachers; food both healthy and not; exotic classmates; a recent school camp in the Adelaide Hills.

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We see the fourth quarter of the Norwood and Crows match. Despite a spirited finish by the Redlegs, the tricolour interlopers advance to the preliminary final. Sitting in front of the Sir Edwin Smith Stand, of course the boys spear straight down to the fence, so they can get as close as possible to the action, although for most of the afternoon they enthusiastically ignore the footy.

They eat. They chat. They laugh. They do whole mobs of stuff except watch the action.

For them footy is mere situational context; Aristotelian theatre of minor consequence; a fuzzy backdrop to their endless, summery banter.

MCG
Glenelg and Port is pulsating. The Magpies are taller, bigger and dominate aerially, but the Bays appear to quicken as the shadows lengthen. The boys’ chat continues.

“Our grade five camp had way better food! Don’t you think Ty?”

“I met Steve Smith at the Cricket Warehouse when I was six. Mum let me have the day off school.”

“Jacob, are you going to do karate next year?”

I love the easy egalitarianism among them. Each takes his turn, enjoys his moments in the sun, is allowed his voice. There’s no clear pecking order or obvious Alpha male. There’s esprit de corps.

It’s gladdening.

At half time they dash behind the stand onto the lawns for some kick-to-kick while I watch their black backpacks, bursting with snacks as we arrived, and now mostly empty like deflated tyres.

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Stretching my legs too I wander down to the ornamental grass. There’s an irresistible puddle. The boys are bunched by the statue of Boof Lehmann while Alex skims his footy through the water and at them, again and again while they squirm and shriek. However, they’re wet and it’s fresh so I ask them to stop. They do. Maybe I should’ve left them to it. Boof is spared further drenching.

In the gathering gloom (literal and metaphorical; tending towards pathetic fallacy) Port win by four points over a fast-finishing Glenelg. The boys exclaim their vague despair, but it’s vaporised before we exit the Southern Plaza and their natural natter then pings about, as it should. We cross the footbridge.

With my headlights cutting through the murk I again steer along Anzac Highway and think of Stand by Me. Alex and these mates will have next year in their snug, neighbourhood primary school, and then move on. They’ll likely attend different high schools. Maybe their bond will endure, maybe not.

But, for the moment, this exquisite, unrepeatable moment, Alex and his eleven-year-old friends, bouncing between childhood and adolescence, are deep in the greatest of simple gifts: each other.

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2

September and everyone’s in love and flowers pick themselves

BC

It must be acknowledged that autumn is ridiculously good in Adelaide. The cloudless, immensely liveable days host a tremendous array of outdoor fun at the beach, at the Fringe Festival, in the backyard. It’s a spectacular time in this cosy city, clinging to the edge of our isolated island at 34.9285° S.

Every month has highpoints, but September is the one to which I pin most happy expectation. I love winter, and while here it’s brief, I’m mostly pleased to wave farewell to it, and smile at spring.

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So what is it about September?

Football finals.

From my home town of Kapunda, to Adelaide’s suburban competition and then to the immovable Australian Football league, it’s the best month to enjoy our unique game. I love that it must be the only sport in which competitors miss a goal but are rewarded with a point for being close. You know, for having a go. In this country we value laconic imprecision, of course.

With the Adelaide Crows yet again having September off for poor behaviour my attention now goes elsewhere. I still take a huge interest in the AFL finals, and my inner socialist dictates that my temporary affections are with the most deserving, and generally least successful team.

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I can offer no love towards Geelong, Collingwood, West Coast, Essendon or the confected opportunism that is the GWS Giants so I’m barracking for the Western Bulldogs. They’ve one flag in the last six decades.

Triumphing on the month’s last Saturday will provide associative hope to the Crows for 2020. Football fans, after all, must be optimists. Without this, we cease to be.

At the local level my team Glenelg qualified for the finals following a dark decade of absence. Indeed, they have a shot at the premiership cup; their first since the antediluvian era (1986, but you get my point). It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be surprising. Most vitally, it’s going to be memorable.

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Spring is a seductress, but a shameless tease too. With the days lengthening swiftly we end our hibernation and amble outdoors expecting bright, sunny skies. There’s a burst of cheerful warmth, and suddenly, barbeques sizzle, thongs flip-flop out of the wardrobe, and a few frenzied punters even splash down to the beach.

But, before you’ve pumped up the tyres on your cobwebby bike, or ironed your speedos, a gusty change lashes through, and again you need a beanie on just to stick out the bins. And this schizophrenic weather can go on endlessly. It’s like buying tickets to a Bob Dylan concert and worrying about who’ll turn up on the night. The good Bob, or the bad Bob?

The international cricket season is slow to get a rumblin’ so horse-racing enjoys some attention until mid-November. I love the Group 1 races such as the Makybe Diva Stakes, named after the Port Lincoln wonder mare who won three consecutive Melbourne Cups, and the Moir Stakes, which sadly isn’t the Moi Stakes and therefore named after Kath and Kim. The boys and I will invest the odd hour in the Broadway pub watching some of the turf action. Max might even wear his Black Caviar cap. It’ll be a raspberry and chips for all.

Kath and KIm

September is rebirth and renaissance; promise and hope; a farewell to the murk and a cautious nod at the light. It’s when the year stomps down on the accelerator and tyres squealing, burns towards Christmas like a mad Monaro.

Let’s wind down the windows, and crank up the radio!

 

 

*the title comes from the celebrated American poet ee cummings

 

 

 

3

Glenelg v Crows v Carlton v Crows

 

tigers

The combined and cowardly bullying of the AFL and Channel 7 is such that SANFL games don’t clash with Crows or Power fixtures. These are shunted about the weekend, even if it means avoiding the traditional Saturday afternoon timeslot. July 27 was an exception, and in an odd symmetry, the Crows were playing at the same time as the Crows.

The spluttering-like-a-wheezy-Grandpa-AFL Crows were having a rare MCG outing against the newly confident Carlton, while down at our sun-dappled bay the top of the table Glenelg Tigers were clashing with the SANFL Crows.

footy

Like a minor gangster in Goodfellas I had some temporary confusion regarding my loyalty. But, of course, I wanted the MCG Crows to win and for Glenelg Oval to witness a Tigers’ victory.

Glenelg has a salary cap of about $360,000 while a conservative estimate would value the Crows’ livestock warming up at the Bay at somewhere around four million. While I admire much of the Crows talent fronting for their Magoos such as Gibbs, Betts, Douglas, Jacobs and Greenwood (why on earth is he not in the AFL side?) my inner socialist (and Glenelg membership) means I want the locals to win.

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But, as I said from the safety of my sports psychologist’s couch, “It’s complicated.”

The bright afternoon and happy crowd on the grassy eastern mound invested the atmosphere with both privilege and picnic. By the southern goals a young girl waved a, “Go, Eddie, go” sign. There were kids and footies and beanies and sausages in bread. With the preternatural sun dangling over the gulf it was a marvellous place to be.

The skilled, fast game was enhanced by the exemplary ground condition. As both sides traded first-half goals I thought of the AFL and wondered at its similarity to the Catholic Church: neither pay taxes, or possess a whiff of social responsibility and while Jolimont and the Vatican have so many riches that their accountants can scarcely tally the gold; the distant parishioners question their faith, and increasingly don’t count their blessings.

Early in these simultaneous matches I remarked to my mate Bob that, “Wouldn’t it be a horrid afternoon if the Crows lost at the MCG but won here at Glenelg?” A glance at his phone showed Carlton skipping away and jubilant that instead of only being a feeder team for Adelaide they’d likely experience some matchday joy.

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Swinging by the beer caravan (is this model available from Noel’s?) there’s cheery banter from the past players serving the cups. The kind of rapport that embeds from playing lots of footy together, lots of years ago. I like that a spoon is used to flip open the cans.

Glenelg sets up their game and late season with a seven-goal third term. Despite none of the Tigers being alive for their club’s last flag in 1986, there’s a buzz and emerging belief in 5045 that the next two months might be special.

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And then I wonder about the Crows jagging a SANFL premiership. What, exactly would such a triumph represent? Who would celebrate it? After the season`s final siren would three octogenarians pull up in their Corolla outside the Checkside Tavern at West Lakes? Would they then ask security if they could please take in their thermos and fruit cake? Would anybody turn up at the West End chimney? Would they bring any paint?

It would be the most hollow of wins.

For Glenelg, Liam McBean continues his great form with four excellent goals and along with Hugh McCluggage from the Brisbane Lions, has one of football’s best names. If only Cool McCool had played as a dashing winger (doubtless standing Hurricane Harry).

Cool

With the Tigers up by two points veteran Crow Richard Douglas accepts a pass from Greenwood but is outside the fifty arc. He uses a Michael Holding run-up, strikes it well, but his kick is short and the Burley is consumed by the mauling pack. The siren sounds.

Strolling towards Anzac Highway and home, “Oh, we’re from Tigerland” drifts happily across our seaside hamlet. And again. And again.

I hope the AFL Crows can self-apply the defibrillator, and quickly, but think the extension cord likely too short for them.

Meanwhile, down at Glenelg they’re showing enormous heart and there’s electricity in the air.

goodfellas