A few lone swimmers bobbed in the shallows. It was well after 10am, the hour deemed as cut-off for unleashed hounds, but a few dogs bounded along the sand ahead of their owners unbothered by any petty council bylaws. A boat or two scattered atop the shimmering gulf.
Heading north the first one was an elderly woman on a bench. She was alone. She was immersed and had a coffee beside her. She was reading a romance novel. I was instantly buoyed and felt the associated glow of life lived well by the beach.
Nearly a kilometre later I reached the esplanade shelter we call the Mormon Hut. We know it as such because occasionally on the weekend it hosts a group from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who set up displays and stands of pamphlets. I’m unsure if their honeyed ways have netted many flies, but I do admire their optimism and enterprise in setting up churchly shop right by the sea where there’s plenty of pedestrian traffic. If not theological interest.
As I arrived at the MH this morning on the near bench was an aged man also by himself, deep in a book about Greece. It may have been in Greek. He seemed relaxed and at profound peace and was enjoying his Saturday morning of leisure.
With my hands on my hips I puffed and sweated and drew in some air and looked at the other bench. There’s only two tables in the MH. On the northern side was an elderly woman with an iced tea by her elbow. She was reading a large novel. In the minute I was there she didn’t look up.
Opposite her was a man who seemed to be well into his eighties. A walking stick leaned against his seat, diagonally. He had a white beard and was hunched over an equally huge novel. By his elbow was another iced tea. Like his wife he didn’t look up nor speak.
I was pleased to be in their company, momentarily.
Continuing to huff I gazed at the elderly readers, there by the calming ocean, on a mid-summer morning, living exquisitely and with singular application.
Four people by the beach on benches. All engaged by the written word. It was poetically simple. It was as if I, too, had spent a languid hour with a book. It gave me hope and reassurance.
When I got home all drenched and ridiculous I said to Claire, “I’ve just got another idea for our retirement…”
You are about to have your last week at primary school. So, now’s a good time to think on what you’ve done and all that’s happened.
I recall your first Celebration Night at St Leonard’s. You were in Dennis’s class and with the sun slanting in above the gum trees you danced with your friends in the back row. What was the song called? Can you remember? It seems such a long time ago, but also as if it’d occurred just a few days back. You’ll find that time is weird like this and then it’ll start to accelerate like a Koenigsegg Agera RS (which we know is the world’s fastest production car).
I hope you enjoy Celebration Night and take a moment to think about this farewell and the many teachers who’ve helped you and the friends who’ve left and the friends who’ve stayed.
I’m also reflecting on Saturday mornings and soccer matches at school, in the Adelaide Hills and everywhere in between. It was sometimes freezing when everyone’s legs went blue through to torrential rain but we also had those cloudless, pale sun days. I loved your eagerness on the pitch with your team-mates and how you listened to the coaches and were keen to impress them. Every goal you scored was a life highlight for me but I particularly loved the one at Mitcham in 2020!
Tee-ball was summery fun and I lost count of the number of homeruns you whacked and how when fielding you sprinted like a leopard for struck balls across the crunchy grass. As the coach it was a challenge to get your team to sit in the batting line-up! Were you naughty then? Just a bit.
I’ve such special memories of the camp to Narnu Farm on Hindmarsh Island and especially the horse ride around the paddocks. I reckon you were on the old one named Pudding. Do you remember playing tennis? You were such a good sport and kept the game going with your kind leadership ensuring everyone had fun.
There were fifty kids on that trip and because you’d done everything with such unstoppable enthusiasm by 10pm you were the first asleep! Sitting in the kitchen with our coffee I remember Barry the Deputy Principal saying how he wasn’t shocked as you, “ran pretty hard most days” and I was delighted by this. I trust you’ll continue to live this way.
Next morning one of your friends said at breakfast that you were the first awake and with all the kids still in their sleeping bags you told everyone funny stories. This also made me smile.
My favourite achievement is your recent poem and debate on racism in footy. It was a task you took seriously and you worked so hard on this assignment. It was probably the most important piece of school work you’ve done and it showed your deep and growing skill with language. I reckon English and critical thinking will be at the centre of your success at Brighton and beyond school it’ll remain a big part of your life.
I was thrilled and not at all surprised when you earned an A+ for this task. No, you didn’t get or receive an A+, you deserved it.
Here’s some other writing you’ve done that I love. These are from your long “list of activities” which is still up on the kitchen cupboard-
1. Ride (anywhere)
8. Eat (food).
And in accordance with the tradition you began about once a month you announce on the fridge whiteboard
The cordial is pre-made.
This is one of our great literary rituals and of social service too!
There’re many things I’ll miss as you finish at St Leonard’s but high on my list is driving past at lunch or recess when the playground is a surging sea of green shirts and hats and suddenly, just like that, I see you dashing about, your unmissable blonde locks bouncing along as you chase your friends or climb that tree just outside the front office or kick a footy.
So, primary school is over. I hope you’ll always look back upon this with deep affection and satisfaction. Enjoy your holidays.
“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.
Coopers Brewery regularly releases new beers, and having just returned from our honeymoon, I learnt the latest is now with us, although like its predecessor, the Hazy IPA, it might vanish before spring arrives.
Given this ephemeral commercial habit I popped down the local last night to secure some and stuck them in the garage fridge with an exaggerated sense of expectation and bonhomie despite it being a Saturday.
To be fair both the Hazy and the Australian IPA are described as limited editions, just as the Session Ale was a few summers’ ago, and it sold well so Coopers added it to the permanent roster before changing its handle to the slightly inelegant and vocally challenging Pacific Pale Ale. This is my beer of choice when at the Broady, but I ask for a Session because the extra time taken to say its name in full is drinking/ chatting/ beer garden time wasted. And life is short.
Like all beers from the house of Coopers it looks great in my Southwark mug on the patio despite the ridiculous context of an early afternoon football match featuring the Adelaide Crows during which they kicked fifteen goals straight in just over a half and then couldn’t register a solitary major in the final quarter meaning, of course, they lost to the Evil Empire that is Hawthorn whom I’m informed, don’t even like ale.
The beer is cloudy and a fetching straw hue which speaks of autumnal sun and Vampire Weekend and lighting a Sunday night fire under the verandah. At time of writing I’m confident all of these joys will happen today!
Hops remain a matter of poetic mystery for your correspondent, and the Australian IPA uses Eclipse and Vic Secret, and I’d like to volunteer to name a few types of hops. Old mate Fats long insisted that if he ever bought an eighteen wheeler, he’d call it Sandy’s Desire, not that he knew any particular Sandy, or even wished to, he just thought it suited the image his trucking empire may have needed in its genesis. I wonder if Slim Dusty ever recorded a song called Sandy’s Desire. I hope so.
Early 1990’s horror movie Black Crow aside, I don’t think Coopers has offered up a bad beer, and my first sips of this young ‘un continue the trend. It’s arresting, and has pleasant, but not aggressive citrus notes as expected of an IPA. At 6.5% it’s not one to get overly excited with at a long BBQ with members of your wife’s esteemed family (editor: take careful note mine author).
As this Anzac Day drifts towards evening I found it a fun and lively drink although like the ancient Romans and Byzantines I prefer the Coopers triumvirate of Sparkling Ale, Pale Ale, and on the odd wintry occasion, when in most excellent company, a Best Extra Stout.
So while Coopers of Adelaide has released an Australian India Pale Ale, I wonder if, say, in Dharamshala, a local brewer is about to set boisterous sail with an Indian Australia Pale Ale? In this era when cultural and gastronomic boundaries have effectively disappeared, and new blends are expanding like gaseous galaxies I reckon I could be right.
But here by the cooling beach it’s a gentle Sunday and this is a complex hypothetical, so I’ll think about it tomorrow.
Thrice weekly I cross the river at the King Street Bridge, but today I turn left and jog along the Patawalonga’s bank past the boat haven. It’s already escalating from warm to hot, and the sky is cloudless with that autumn-in-Adelaide vibrancy and healthfulness. Sun-smart, I’m wearing my Glenelg 2019 Premiers cap, and this sets an expectant tone given the Tigers’ season opener later against Westies. The boys and I are walking down for the opening bounce.
Passing the former Buffalo site, home for decades to a full-sized replica of the ship that brought free settlers to the colony, it was also a family restaurant and in its nautical dining room I once heard a kid say, “This is the best buffalo restaurant I’ve ever been to.” The ship is now gone and makes the location less cluttered, replaced by welcome light and space and hope.
Exiting Wigley Reserve I pick my way along to Holdfast Promenade and the ocean which always surprises me by being right there, sparkling and benevolent this morning and, for a kid from parched Kapunda, a repository of awe.
There’s a fluid, manic blanket of kids at the Glenelg Foreshore Playspace, climbing and jumping and yelling while their caffeinated parents watch, judging when to intervene and get the offspring home before the final set of tears abbreviates the excursion and taints everyone’s morning. Peering into Moseley Square, all palm trees and swirling pavers, it presents as the village centrepiece, drenched in Californian hues and optimism.
The old jetty sits quietly, this truncated version (215 metres compared to the original’s 381) built in 1969, and somewhat utilitarian with its asphalt surface. It’s unlike the creaking, kindly wooden piers of coastal towns, but as my former colleague/ poet John Malone once wrote, jetties are an umbilical cord to the vast ocean.
Pushing my way through the South Esplanade there’s a paddle boarder seemingly becalmed in the shallows, contemplating a recommencement of her moderate early-Easter movement across the polished water-top. About me are streams of young mums with prams, and octogenarians on sea-facing benches trading fuzzy names, aiming to make and remake connections among their ever-closing circles.
Just before the Broadway kiosk the green park narrows into a gentle headland. I hear the cool room buzzing with vague menace, but the breakfasters’ chat hovers above it, and the cafe is bursting with our shared fortune and eggs Florentine and holiday cheer and pancakes with berry coulis and ice-cream.
Leaving the beach I now turn left up Broadway past the silent homes and a freshly-cleared block, mounds of sand waiting to again become submerged beneath concrete foundations. The foot traffic instantly eases and my ambling way is mostly unimpeded by dogs and bright clots of purposeful, aged ramblers.
There’s a prosperous row of businesses (florist, organic store etc) at the start of my final block. I glance in the butcher shop window and think of Dennis, the sociable proprietor who began as an apprentice, and later headed up a Melbourne franchise with a string of fitness centres before returning to his first love. Reflecting upon gyms compared to butchery he once told me, “The difference was the meat twitched instead of staying still.”
Yesterday afternoon to mark the beginning of many enchanted things, Claire and I went to the Broady beer garden for two happy hour drinks each- pints of Coopers’ Pacific Pale Ale (habit and brevity mean I still call it Session Ale) and crisp glasses of house white, and elected to leave the car overnight on Hastings Street.
I see it waiting for me now in the gilded sunlight.
“I’m going to that bakery in West Beach to get a sausage roll. I’ve been ignoring eating and writing about sausage rolls for too long,” I said over the phone to Claire, “And that’s a sad sentence, right there.”
Hyperbolic exclamations aside, it was time for a sausage roll, and so I drove northward turning as the airport, or rather, the great, dry plains surrounding it drifted into view. I went past Beau’s Pet Hotel, or as I call it Beau’s Hideously Expensive Kennels for Aspirational Types and their Designer Accessories. Pulling in at the bakery I could see a sliver of sea next to the surf club.
Inside was busy with a range of punters. The wall behind the counter was gleaming and chrome. Shuffling forwards to place my order I peered in the warmer. This is always a moment of muted excitement when I glance in at the racks of baked goods although I don’t know what I expect to see beyond what I’ve seen hundreds of times before. Maybe some hybrid, Frankenstein’s monster in which the delirious, or merely creative baker has made a pasty/pizza/quiche/hot dog horror story that’ll end up in The Modern Museum of Odd Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota should it ever be built.
I pause at the section labelled “Meat Pies” or “Pies” as I call them. You should too. But I return to my original decision and get a sausage roll.
At the sole red table outside I note how heavy my lunch is. It reminds me of former South African cricketer Lance Klusener and his monstrosity of a bat, both nicknamed SS Zulu. My sausage roll must be of equal size and weight to the handle of SS Zulu.
The pastry is secondary to the innards and this is appropriate while the meat is subtly flavoursome. West Beach Road is divided by a strip on which stretch a laconic row of palm trees while I can see the neighbouring apartments are plastered with stucco, all summery and promising. Others are Spanish Mission in style and this gives the suburb a Southern California veneer. If Jeffrey Lebowski drove past in a 1973 Ford Gran Torino, we could be in Venice Beach.
What my lunch lacks in elegance it aggregates in substance, and of course, we’re talking about sausage rolls here. If you want fine dining you best swing by L’Enclume in Cartmel, Grange-over-Sands.
All of a sudden you’re about to start your final week of primary school! Over these years you’ve grown and learnt so much about the world and yourself. I want to tell you how proud I am of you.
You’re interested in the things around you and this constant curiosity is, and will be, a great asset. I’m sure it’ll help as you move through high school, and I like that you’ve been inquisitive about the following: Egypt, Mad as Hell, climbing Mount Everest with your friend Jan, using your bare hands (along with Max) to catch imaginary catfish at the bottom of the Valley Park pool just like Teddy from Mudcats, our adventure heroes in Bear Grylls and Russell Coight, cricket, the layout of your bedroom, and let’s not forget your developing if secret love for Vampire Weekend.
I like how you try so many activities and give your best to these. It’s also encouraging that when things don’t go so well that you’re able to accept this and look ahead. This resilience will help you as you move through secondary school and its challenges.
I’m pleased that you’ve taken up volleyball. It’s a great game and I can see that it’s given you much. That you’re in the state special talent program makes me happy as this means you’ll learn more about the skills and yourself. I hope it’ll be a sport you’ll enjoy for many, many years.
As someone who loves traditions it pleases me how you value these too such as watching the AFL grand final in The Taminga, sitting in the same spot on the grass at Glenelg matches and playing the car guessing game every day at 4pm as we do a slow lap of Lake Bonney. These rituals tell me that you value people and experiences and fun.
I know that you’ll make the most of your last few days at St Leonards and the celebrations at school and the surf club. It gladdens me that you understand how important these times are and especially appreciate being with your friends. Knowing where you are at a particular moment in life is important. So, take some photos and take your time to be polite and enthusiastic and grateful.
You’ll soon be at Brighton and in Year 8 and I know you’re going to do very well. Before then enjoy yourself and the summer ahead. I’m so proud of you. Signing off I’m sure you want to read these words from our old friend
I gained most of my vast knowledge of the outback from my father Russell Coight Snr, who taught me everything I know before he died from a combination of a self-inflicted axe wound, sunstroke, and snake-bite.
Spring’s swinging wildness has been more ridiculous this year. Rain, wind, crazed dips and leaps in temperature, and one Friday morning atop Mount Lofty, even snow. Yesterday the sun was ferocious and the boys and I steered for the beach late afternoon.
The season’s opening swim is like many other entrances: the theatre of the first ball of the Boxing Day Test, the joy of that initial barbeque (ed: do these ever actually stop?) and the elongated summery, “Howwwwwwwww” at the start of Sherbet’s “Howzat.”
All suggest much about what hopefully follows across the toasty, meandering months. Days which recline and school holidays which drift. Cricket on a big screen and then beyond the screen door, out the back, on the lawn, brown patches witness to brotherly bowling and batting.
Cooled by its Arctic origins, the water at once enlivens and connects us. We throw a ball about our bouncing triangle- Alex, me, Max, me, Alex, me, Max, me- and this repetition functions as worship.
Suddenly, a fin.
Curved, momentary, kindly.
It pushes up, again, and we peer at its periscope. Dolphin. It surfaces once more before disappearing for good, its submarine progress beneath the twinkling water.
Later at home a twilight storm of white sheets and rattles and dog-scaring booms and our towels flap like bright ghouls on the clothesline.
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 –
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.
Despite phone reminders and pinging emails I like to write events and notes in its date boxes. Things like ‘Lunch with Mum and Dad’ or ‘electricity due’ or ‘flea powder’ (dogs not boys). In February I took my annual pleasure in adding all the Glenelg games and felt the frisson of the footy season stretching out like an endless holiday with its attendant joys and hopes.
But then, of course, it didn’t happen and now five of those home match-day reminders have been and gone, virtually crossed-off, and Saturdays have been soundless at Glenelg oval. No knots of punters making their way through the Cornes Gate and down to the Fred Phillis End or over to the grassy mound in front of the scoreboard, with the beer caravan staffed by past players nearby.
I’ve not really missed it for footy is a luxury. Happily for me other indulgences have moved into that space, like gas filling a vacuum. Like many I’m in a place without the traditional weekend markers and I’ve adapted.
This has been true of the pub too.
The last time I was at the Broady was on Thursday, March 5 at 4.45. It was a calm autumnal afternoon when I met Mozz and Puggy in the beer garden and the sunlight slanted in through the frangipani tree to the glass-topped wine barrel by which we had our Coopers Session Ale.
Like many events of minor significance it was unidentified at time, and heading home I quickly dwelt upon the agreeable hour I’d had with two old mates. My thoughts were mostly of Sweden as Claire and I were flying there the next evening.
So, I’ve not really missed the pub either. Sure, I’m an enthusiast and promote the charms of my local with unwavering evangelism, but life has been full and fulfilling without it.
It’s been 92 days since my last visit and my sins have been multitudinous, if not luxurious. I look forward to a beer from a keg. With the curious exception of Coopers Sparkling Ale all beer is better this way. That’s at its best from a long neck.
Over the last week I’ve made a couple calls to the Broady to gauge how to construct a visit (there’ll be an app for this soon, no doubt). A casualty of our new world order is spontaneity. Swinging by the pub unannounced now belongs in a SBS history documentary (you know, after yet another on Hitler and his demise).
Biomedical reasons require that our pub experience will be wholly at a table. Standing or getting a round at the bar are prohibited and my first-world, privileged self is pre-emptively mourning this.
Across the week Claire has repeatedly said, “But I’ve never seen you standing at the pub.”
“What if I want to? It’s my human right, like owning an iPhone. I stood at the pub only eight months ago.”
Shuffling past the Old Gum Tree Reserve at lunchtime my boys are playing golf.
They’ve designed a course and while each hole is unique they share one green, located near the back fence and made with a disposable drink cup. Both carry various irons and woods and they’ve the park to themselves, but I hope the putters don’t suddenly become light sabres or Samurai swords.
Continuing west I mourn that in 2020 we’ve not yet had a BBQ in the park as circumstances haven’t allowed the simple joy of snags in a public place. This now belongs to a distant, almost unknowable era but one day…
Every Proclamation Day the park hosts formalities and a morning tea to mark the province’s beginning. A few years’ ago a friend, Sarah, took a selfie with Julia Gillard, who was in town for Christmas.
Bounding up to the then PM as she made her way through the scone-loving crowd, Sarah asked the question and so they both paused, smiled and click. Just like that. No burly black suits panicking into their lapel microphones and leaping like bears onto a salmon. I love that this could happen, just down the road.
It’s a kilometre from home to the beach and then another along the waterfront so my round trip’s about four kilometres. While I once ran, to now call it a jog might be hopeful. I could time myself with a sundial.
Over Tapleys Hill Road, I pass the MacFarlane Street reserve with its playground guarded by orange bunting. Alex learnt to ride a bike here. Palm trees patrol the perimeter and on spring mornings magpies swoop me. One once pecked my skull but I was clearly under-cooked as he didn’t come for a second bite. I wouldn’t eat my head either.
Waiting for me is the unhurried Patawalonga River. It’s only seven kilometres in length, but this is decidedly Mississippian compared to Kuokanjoki, the shortest river in Finland which connects lakes Sumiainen and Keitele. It’s three and a half metres long.
The King Street Bridge conquered I reach the esplanade and the sea swims into happy view. To my left is the sand castle-like Marina Pier with its now ghostly restaurants and apartment balconies. Turning right the pavers follow the beach and bounce along the dune line. There’s an energetic torrent of walkers and cyclists.
Glenelg North’s beach is wide and dotted by dogs, and with a gentle sky above it’s easy to momentarily ignore the cataclysm. People appear joyful. There’s communicable resilience.
Rip-rap rocks armour the shoreline against erosion. I recall how in 1983 during a Year 12 Geography excursion with our teacher Ali Bogle we visited this very spot on a balmy Thursday prior to our penultimate Kapunda High School social. I was astonished when Ali told us that it costs a million dollars a kilometre to build this protection.
The esplanade rises gently as I go, but on a rough day with a headwind it seems Himalayan. The eastern side is flanked by houses, all glass and chrome and dazzlingly white. Soon all will be modern, when the sixties-build apartments are bulldozed.
I often smirk at Number 20 with its outsized silver numerals on the front wall, and remember Shrek seeing the size of Lord Farquaad’s castle, and asking Donkey, “Do you think maybe he’s compensating for something?”
A sunshiny addition to this landscape is Audrey’s coffee caravan. It’s homemade with wooden window frames and pop-riveted aluminium and a chalkboard menu out the front. There’s always a punter or two waiting and drinking in the aroma.
I’m nearly at West Beach and the enviably positioned Sewerage Treatment Works on Anderson Avenue. Gee, poo often enjoys an idyllic (temporary) coastal address. Just short of the dunes there’s a small shelter. Occasionally, a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses sets up a pamphlet display to conscript the dog-walking, beach-loving, track-suited clientele so affectionately referred to in the Old Testament.
Although they cheerfully ignore me I recall the words of Bill Bryson: I don’t know why religious zealots have this compulsion to try to convert everyone who passes before them – I don’t go around trying to make them into St Louis Cardinals fans, for Christ’s sake – and yet they never fail to try.
At noon I remember my quest: to eat this country’s finest sausage roll. The two proximate bakeries offer products of middling quality like Little River Band’s 1978 album Sleeper Catcher which after the hit single “Lady,” falls away dispiritingly.
The Dulwich bakery began in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs (yes, in Dulwich) and has since expanded like the belly of the man who ate all the pies and now there’s one in Glenelg South too.
Heading along Partridge Street I pass a school where it’s also lunchtime and I see all the straw-hatted girls, all eating entitled food, all named Charlotte.
Gliding through the roundabout near the Broadway pub and despite being a modest Korean model, my car issues a little automotive whimper as I cruelly ignore the lure of beer garden refreshment and carry on.
Outside the bakery are shiny nubs of metal tables and chairs while inside are wooden booths, and my sausage roll, having been, “plated up” as Gordon Ramsey might bark, I take a quiet corner.
I have a bite.
Food and memory are coupled. Fish and chips on the breezy foreshore; a bucket of undrinkable coffee in an airport dawn; the languid schnitzel in a wine valley pub.
Sausage rolls speak of the past. Even if you trot out after reading this and buy one, I reckon you’re time-travelling to your childhood. They live in a black and white era when you were small and the world was unthinkably big. Sausage rolls, home-made with fork marks sealing the pastry, at a primary school birthday, when the fun was unscripted and there was running, lots of aimless, skun-knees running.
Today, the pastry is tasty and of a welcoming texture. It avoids the twin evils of being greasy and soggy or dry and flaky. A bright opening like, “Help Is On Its Way” the first song on Diamantina Cocktail. 1978 was a great year for LRB and for sausage rolls.
The filling is a pleasure: warm, with a suggestion of spice and pepper and showing a brownish, beefy hue unlike the Barbie pink of other sausage rolls loitering within this postcode. Various lunch punters come and go; variously corporate, high-vis, matronly, harried parent.
If I applied the Pitchfork (an alternative music website) album review metric I’d give my sausage roll an 8.3.
And with my lunch now commencing its growling digestive journey I considered my good fortune on this autumnal afternoon. I had the three essentials for a happy existence: something to do; something to look forward to; someone to love.
If peak Little River Band is the full version of, “It’s A Long Way There” the first song from their eponymous album, then while the Dulwich bakery release is excellent, I’ve not yet located the sausage roll equivalent.