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Kapunda captures King’s Head cup-house

pub photo

It’s fair to suggest that nostalgia can often interfere with the truth. This might be why I convinced myself that our destination had a certain mystique, a mythology all of its own that would reveal itself through a grand, weaving story.

Christmas a couple years’ back Chrisso texted from near New Orleans that he’d tell me the reason for this venue when he returned.

I could hardly wait, and some months later when we caught up I asked, in a rather formal, yet compact sentence, “So, why is the Kapunda boys biannual reunion held at the King’s Head pub on King William Street?”

I was looking forward to his complex and engaging narrative.

“Because it’s on the tram line.”

“That’s it?”

“Yep.”

Oh.

*

Last Friday on yet another unseasonably warm evening not quite twenty of us descended upon this ripping old-school boozer to share tales and to laugh and to stir and, above all, to connect.

boys 3

We gathered in the cosy front bar at a large wooden table. It seemed that there were travel yarns to tell. Where you been, somebody asked.

Crackshot replied, “An eight-week odyssey through Western Australia.” Anecdotes followed.

Chris offered, “I had a week at various resorts in Fiji.” Crisp yarns were shared.

“And what of you Mickey?” somebody, possibly Puggy, asked.

“Mannum.”

Oh.

*

We prefer the King’s Head as it’s fiercely South Australian. Some would say, the KG of the pub scene. There’s only local drinks and food available. Not a Carlton Draught or Moreton Bay Bug in sight. It’s a point of difference.

As is the complete absence of TAB, and wide screens with footy, racing and darts glaring out across the punters. It’s a refreshing change and means you must immerse yourself in the company and conversation.

It could be described as a place where you can enjoy a pub holiday.

We do.

There’s a sparkling galaxy of beers on tap including brash youngsters Pirate Life, Mismatch and equine Hills star, Prancing Pony. A volley of correspondence earlier in the week created a bubbling anticipation for Kapunda chap, Chris Higgins’ Greenock Brewers Victorville Ale. An app confirms this.

But we’re a week too early. The Greenock beer is not on. It’s a disappointment but doesn’t seem to decelerate our eagerness.

Around seven a grinning group of old muckers rolls through the doors like oranges. Whitey, Woodsy, O’s and Dames present themselves. Our ensemble is complete with beers and handshakes and schnitzel and warmth and reminisces; some keenly remembered and some forgotten.

boys4

So, there’s Lukey, Puggy, Crackshot, Matey, Rus, Bongo, Schultzy, Bobby, Nick, Whitey, Woodsy, O’s, Dames, Fats, Swanny, Chrisso, and Mickey.

Happily, just about everyone has a nickname. It’d be a shame for somebody to miss out.

Shortly after Nick tells us one of his favourite stories. By then, we’ve already dealt with the famous night at the West Torrens Cricket Club in 1986. Former Torrens opening bowler Rocket is an apology tonight given he’s in New Zealand, bro.

Nick continues, “Years ago at a U2 concert, Bono started clapping, slowly and deliberately.” He clapped too, to emphasise his point. Nick likes a story.

“Bono said, ‘Every time I clap, an African child dies.’”

“Somebody in the crowd then yelled out, ‘Well, stop fcuking clapping then.’”

*

Without being previously aware we’d also lobbed into the King’s Head on the night when a DJ was playing 1980’s electro/ synthesiser/ new wave music.

boys 1

Normally this would make me change the radio station quicker than an Ali jab, and reach for the sick bag but the combination of Coopers and friendship and ridiculous memories makes it fun. I recall

Blancmange’s “Living on the Ceiling”
Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?”
Flock of Seagull’s “I Ran”
Pete Shelley’s “Homosapien”
Visage’s “Fade to Gray” and the gold medallist
Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.”

Maybe that we were all at school for some part of the eighties invests this music with involuntary affection for our shared past.

Or maybe it’s the beer.

*

It’s another terrific evening and a great chance to connect and strengthen our community. It’s also a tradition. I do like a tradition.

However, when Nick and Fats and I wander out of the neighbouring La Trattoria, post-pizza and red wine, the trams had stopped for the night. Ubers were urgently beckoned.

Time for nighty-night.

Maybe I’ll jump on a tram after our Christmas cups, at the King’s Head.

pub photo 2

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A letter to myself at thirteen about a story I wrote

KHS

Hello young Michael

I hope this finds you well. Although of all people I should know how you’re travelling.

Gee, look at you! Your hair is nut-brown, having turned darker since you were a little blonde boy. I won’t send through a photo because the silver, err, fox you are now might scare you a little.

What a scrawny thing you are too. If I can give you a tip or two, play footy and cricket as long as you can. Giving both away when you’re around thirty seems too young. After this you’re a spectator forever.

To the story you wrote in Mrs Warry’s Year 9 English class at Kapunda High. I reckon it was in Room 42, that transportable out the back. You loved that class and the space itself was inviting and safe, but this was a function of the teacher. It always is.

story 1.jpg

Nowadays it’s strange, but I reckon we went the entire year without a computer or watching a film. I don’t think we even had to get up in front of our friends and give a talk.

We simply read and wrote and learned.

Your story, “The Courtroom of the World” begins with the protagonist, young Barney, opening his eyes, having fallen. That you withhold the details surrounding this is excellent. It simply doesn’t matter. The intrigue only makes us more curious. Without your knowing it, dropping the reader into the middle of the action is an exalted technique that the Classicists called in medias res. Well done.

I must also congratulate you on your careful, earnest handwriting. It’s a credit to your sense of application although you must prepare yourself for the shock of what happens later. Now you write like a shiraz-soaked spider has wobbled through a saucer of ink…

story 2.jpg

You admirably attempt a metaphor with, “rivers of blood” to describe Barney’s leg injury although some would classify it as passé. But, then again, you’re not quite fourteen, so they should be kinder. Encouragement is always the very best option. Stick with metaphors as they make stories gold-plated. Ha!

While I’m at it, why Barney? Did you know a Barney? The only Barney I recall is Rubble, and you weren’t a huge Flintstones fan, but I reckon you found Betty cute although she was no Josie of the Pussycats. Could be another mystery of adolescence.

I do like how you maintain the tension. At one point, Barney becomes agitated, “gasping in fright” for he has to be home at six and it’s already five-thirty. That Catholic compliance (guilt) can pop up in all sorts of surprising places.

In the next plot development our main character sets off with no clear plan only to descend into what, “was a cave. Being an adventurous boy, he decided to explore.” Recent history says no to this. Snooping about in a cave is not suggested. Here in 2018 I’m sure of this.

story 3.jpg

I can forgive that, but then to shamelessly write, “Up ahead in the distance he saw a shimmering light” is disappointing. Under no circumstances should you plagiarise the Eagles and their 1976 song, “Hotel California.” Sorry, but despite how many school socials you slow-danced to it before those stark community hall lights came on, this is wrong, morally and aesthetically. I don’t care how captivating you found the final guitar solo.

I’m curious that “The Courtroom of the World” is presided over by a frog, but I guess our amphibian friends would be as suited as any beast to pass robust global judgments. Good job avoiding the obvious call of making a lion, tiger or wombat king of the planet.

The jury in your tale consists of, “The Alligator, the Snake, the Monkey, and the Seagull.” Let me ask why you thought that a seagull could offer lofty wisdom and analytical thinking? They’re really just hot-chip vultures.

Just as The Honorable Justice Frog is about to hand down his terrible, doubtless appropriate verdict, Barney’s mother awakes him! I wonder if there’s not a rite of passage about this, a compulsion that all offspring must write a narrative that concludes with a dreadful jolt from slumber.

story 4.jpg

I look back across the increasingly fluffy decades to that classroom and consider its legacy. Even when we didn’t deserve it Mrs Warry would smile and peer at us warmly from above her glasses. She was kind, patient and offered that most luminous of gifts, considered praise.

I thank her for helping to shape me.

I recall little of the previous or following year in English. Year 9 has always enjoyed a certain mythology: an unforgettable, sharp quality. Yours, it would seem, was like this.

You’ll be saddened to learn that Mrs Warry passed away this last year.

So, young Michael, keep with it as I like what you’re doing. While I’m pretty sure you don’t have a novel or a film lurking in your bonce, there’s a couple of boys called Alex and Max who just might. They seem to enjoy a yarn and as you know, we need storytellers.

Keep encouraging them, just like Mrs Warry would’ve.

See you soon.

xxxgates

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Pub Review: Five Cups in Fremantle

Indian

To visit Fremantle is to understand that this earth is essentially good and bright and joyous. I’ve had a remarkable afternoon.

I guess it’s an emblem of country-boy faith that not for the first time, hotel concierge staff consider it appropriate to swear at me, in cheerful, inoffensive and welcoming ways. Perhaps I’ve an inviting face, for when I ask about public transport, the smiley front-desk person said, “Don’t use a travel card, for they’re shit.” Oh.

I spoke. “Where’s the city station?”

The well-groomed, nicely-vowelled girl then replied, ” Oh, you’ll know it’s Perth station because there’ll be people pissing out of it.”

I blinked. “Thanks.”

On this Sunday the sun splashed on my face all afternoon. It had the redemptive power of Mykonos or Napoli. I asked some locals if it was extraordinary and most nodded in a dismissive way. I imagine this is typical in Fremantle.

On the train down I glance up at the network and note the Mandurah line stops at Murdoch and then Bull Creek. I suspect, given the deplorable mass media of this country that this is ironic. The sun is wholly magical, for a July day. So, I went to five pubs.

Surprising, I know.

pub

 

National Hotel – it’s bustling, and a fierce footy locale when I stroll in to Sandy Roberts chirping about North and the Gold Coast Suns, who I am told, are an AFL team. I ask for a Panhead Extra Pale Ale from NZ. It’s satisfactory, and I’ve got down here on a train trip for only $4.80. As I walk up to the balcony bar there’s a 2013 Grand Final Freo jumper and rock concert posters such as Hendrix, Woodstock, and of course, the iconic, groundbreaking Leo Sayer. The red brick, the exposed brick is lovely. As the Roos v Suns progress a Harley eases past the open doors. I talk with an old mate, who’s a Dockers bloke. He’s unmoved by the deplorable state of Tassie footy. Exiting, I see Monday’s industry night with an Old Skool arcade machine that I trust is Frogger.

Sail and Anchor– I remember our old friend Shelly urging us to look up! Look Up! And there’s a beautiful pressed tin ceiling. The air is high and effervescent, with a blue light. I order a Nail Brewing Pilsner but it’s circumspect; stand-offish; spikally brash beyond what a modest chap might ask of a pilsner. If a pilsner won’t behave, then where do we actually stand, in 2018? For the most isolated city on our tiny planet, there’s people everywhere, all in rude health; their kids behaving; nostalgic music a comfy bed as all attack the schnitzel and chip with a rare gusto. I then remember that it’s mid-winter but observe every second bugger is slopping about in thongs. Gee, I love this place.

Ball and Chains- Immediately, I mistrust this boozer. There’s an artifice and confection that’s worrying. I nervously order a Minimum Chips lager, and then order, as an incestuous accompaniment, a minimum chips. There’s a pensive mood about it all. I gulp my beer, so I can leave. However, the sunlight here is ridiculous. Big blokes wolf Emu Export. I avoid eye contact. I sit at a big timber outdoor table on the impossibly fetching esplanade. A Morton Bay Fig is among the Norfolk Island Pines. I’m drenched in sun, and instantly drunk on light. But, I scarper.

rope chandelier

Bathers Beach is right on the beach and beyond ridiculous. I’m with a Cheeky Monkey Pale Ale, on a sun lounger right on the sand, by a post with the waves crashing and the sun washing over me in a deeply medicinal way. A gull yarps while flapping above my head. By me are two English girls who surely can’t comprehend their enormous luck. It doesn’t matter, but the beer is pure muck; a modern nonsense that is profoundly difficult to love, even by a leviathan such as Sir Les or Thommo. I’ve rarely spent a better fifteen minutes, in the heart of winter, anywhere, including Luton, despite the toxic lager.

Sail

Little Creatures Brewing: Interrogating the bar-keep as the hugely wonderous sun rolls in, I ask about the Session Ale. I repair to the balcony and watch the boats wade in. The beer is affectionate, but lacks the warmth of the Coopers equivalent. A seagull drifts across my vision. The water looks warm enough that I could swim. How could this be? Perth is more Mediterranean than Mykonos or Capri.

I’ve had an afternoon of astonishment and glee. It’s been a Beatles album; a Hyde Park concert; an opening wicket from your first-born on a crisp morning as the sun stretches across your face.

How can I not have been to Fremantle until now?

Creatures

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Pub Review: The Prince of Wales, Kapunda

prince

I’d driven non-stop for over four hours, dodging kangaroos, AM radio (up next the latest from Danni Minogue!) and berserk truckies like the one in Spielberg’s Duel, and Friday-exhausted, fell into the front bar around 8pm. It was a hike from Kimba.

“Hello West Coast smack-head,” greeted mine host. “Christ you’re getting fat, Mickey.” He continued. “Are you still driving that dopey sports car?”

Welcome to Kapunda’s Prince of Wales hotel, run with gruff affection by lumbering iconoclast Peter “Puffa” Jansen.

The blunt cranial and corporeal references are like warm handshakes. These are Puffa’s way of welcoming me into his cosy pub. His is an inclusive environment: no-one is spared his jibes, and these are all part of the boisterous charm. To not be abused would be offensive.

But to understand the publican we need to know more of his curiosities. He was fond of a mid-week luncheon and these sometimes included local identities such as Norton Schluter. Norton ran the Greenock Creek Tavern: a Barossan boozer with such similar atmospherics it could be a sister pub to the Prince.

Legend has it that Puffa and some captive chaps once when out to lunch. When traversing the state Puffa preferred to sip cans. He reckoned they “travelled better.” Post-dessert they inexplicably then drove to Broken Hill in the big publican’s even bigger Falcon and returned four days later.

The Prince of Wales is a snug pub with a front bar like a lounge room. It’s this spatial dynamic which assists the natural intimacy.  The decor is spartan and the space is dominated by the beautiful, antique pub fridge with timber doors and those ancient chrome door handles. About the bar are maybe ten black-topped stools.

bar

Often, early in the afternoon, there’d be but a single conversation with the tethered denizens such as Roger and Matesy, and the quips would shuttlecock about the bar and there’d be volleys of chirping from in their cups.

Retrospectively, I can see that chief among its attractions was a clear-minded absence of TAB, thumping music, big-screen TVs and dining options. The Prince was solely dedicated to conversation and cups although I recall watching the 1989 Grand Final in there on, I imagine, a boxy old Rank Arena, and willing on Ablett the Elder before the clock ran out.

It was a venue for personal firsts. On a lazy Sunday afternoon I was introduced to the English public school tradition of spoofy which initially only required three coins but, if you lost, it resulted in significantly more fiscal investment, especially if there were six or seven of you in a roaring circle. And the pain of loosing to Goose or Whitey went far beyond the mere monetary.

spoofy

Also in 1989 some mates and I hired a VN Commodore wagon and headed to Brisbane for about three weeks. Of course, we set off from the Prince. Ever the social benefactor Puffa said, “Here you yo-yo’s take my radar detector. I’ve seen how you blokes drive. It might save you a few bucks. Just bring me back a carton of that new Powers beer from Queensland.” And the detector did ping numerous times across New South Wales. We delivered Puffa his slab.

I also remember old mate Trev and his band ‘Imelda’s Shoes’ playing one Sunday afternoon in the bottle-o drive way. I stood by the war memorial as the drums and guitar blasted down Mildred Street.

Puffa loved a bet. Up on the wall behind his bar, next to the clocks, was a row of coasters on which the wagers had been scribbled. It was like a silent bookie. Puffa once said to me just after Christmas, “Don’t worry about the Sydney Test, smack head. It’ll be a draw. It’ll be rained out.”

I’d seen the forecast, so retorted, “I reckon it’ll stay dry.”

Puffa then barked, “I’ll give you 4 to 1 that it’ll rain. Easy money for me, you yo-yo!”

Of course, Fanie de Villiers bowled South Africa to victory in a rare, entirely rain-free Test. After I returned from New Zealand in late January Puffa took down the coaster and I enjoyed his cash momentarily, before donating it in yet another ill-conceived spoofy final. I had a skill for that.

Although it now offers a broader range of tap beers I’m sure we only drank West End Draught in either schooners or butchers. My A3s cricket captain Kym Ryan took his lager in a handled mug, and this seemed sophisticated. In 1986, it probably was.

*

Early one morning during our last year in Singapore my cousin Puggy- called a “smack head” by Puffa as often as anyone- sent me a message to say that the iconic publican had passed away.

Trev and I called in a while back when in Kapunda for Woodsy’s birthday. We invested a vigorous hour as the pale sunlight bent through the windows, and I expected Puffa to burst behind his bar and bark, “Hello smack head!”

When next in Kapunda I urge you to visit and enjoy a butcher of West End Draught! But not a game of spoofy.

Puffa

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Like music? Like beer? Read this!

hay plains

Hay Plain – Julia Jacklin

It’s a rite of passage for many of us. Going from South Australia to Sydney and driving across the Hay Plains.

In the summer of 1989 old Kapunda mates Bobby, Swanny, Puggy, Pinny (not actually his nickname but it seems a shame to exclude him) and I drove it in a hire car.

It was a Commodore wagon with a radar detector we’d borrowed from local publican and iconoclast Puffa. It went, as your Uncle would say, like the clappers.

I’m sure we had other cassettes but I remember the B52’s Cosmic Thing featuring, of course, “Love Shack.” It was a fun album, but twice a day for three weeks became, for me, audio water-boarding.

cosmic thing

Around Coffs Harbour the tape somehow ended up buried in my suitcase. Someone, I suspect it was Swanny, solved the mystery of the Missing Cassette and rescued the tragic tape. On it went! Yippee. “If you see a painted sign…”

Every night all five of us slept in the same big room. At least one would sleep in his clothes. I can only guess at the olfactory horror of those murky, blokish spaces.

I’m pretty sure we ate KFC every day for about three weeks. It was like that alarmist documentary Super Size Me. I blew up like an inflatable raft.

KFC

Julia Jacklin is a great alt-country singer songwriter and her debut album Don’t Let The Kids Win features beautifully-crafted songs. “Hay Plain” is an atmospheric, plaintive number in which she uses her charismatic voice to engaging affect.

In it she makes reference to that iconic Sydney road, the Western Distributor. In 1985 on my first trip to Sydney with Trev, Chrisso and Woodsy in his Datsun 180B we stayed with a mate in Drummonye and used this road daily.

Right by the exit was a huge billboard with a giant image of a funnel web spider baring its metre-long fangs, warning people to avoid these horrific fuckers.

One night we got home and our old school mate Brendan, now peeling prolifically because of Bondi sunburn, yelled out, “No! We’ve been robbed. Someone’s stolen my cup of skin.”

Julia Jacklin’s on my list of acts to see and this clip from a show in Melbourne’s Northcote Social Club captures her warmth and talent-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf6YdmKIChU

Pleader- alt J

British indie darlings alt-J toured Australia late last year and old mate Brett and I went along to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on a Tuesday. Tuesday being the convenient and traditional night for major touring artists to play in our little city.

Having avoided incapacitation by a Coopers Clear – surely the Trevor Chappell of this distinguished beer family – we ventured into the barn-like room and I was delighted by the crisp and punchy sound quality. The band were amazing unlike their set at Singapore’s Laneway Festival in 2014 when, dogged by technical problems, they sulked off stage mid-song.

singapore laneway

I texted Brett the day after the Adelaide concert and shared that I thought the final song of their most recent album was the highlight of our night. “Pleader” is a moody six minutes’ voyage with the opening three a foreboding instrumental before the last half of the track has a stunning choral outchorus, complete with agrarian imagery and biblical textures.

The accompanying video is inspired by the Welsh mining classic novel How Green Was My Valley? Among the unforgettable scenes is one with a landslide caused by the detonation of a WW2 German V2 bomb.

The vocals are distinctive and rarefied and the lush orchestration builds the sense of doom. Hugely impressive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrhSJzM8NLE

Coopers Session Ale

Released mere weeks after the apocalyptic 1993 preliminary final in which the Crows choked after half time, Coopers Black Crow came into the market. This marked a spectacularly dismal month for crows, everywhere.

black crow

A mid-strength lager, it was massively disappointing, especially for an enthusiast such as me. It was named by public competition among significant fanfare. A more accurate name would have been Dead Cat Piss.

Bursting into the world last October was Coopers Session Ale. It is everything its feathery, deceased predecessor was not.

Tropical, fruity, and with citrus complexity beyond big brother the celebrated Pale Ale, it speaks of a lazy afternoon on a Pacific island. Marrying Galaxy and Melba hop varieties with secondary fermentation, it’s animated in the glass, a triumph of golden straw colour and fetching aroma.

Each and every Friday around 4.27pm I pay wave $12 at Gavin, mine host at the Broady and receive two crisp pints in return as the murmuring and the post-working week shuffling builds in his front bar.

I must mention that the packaged version is inferior, and humbly submit that the colossal Sparkling Ale is the only Coopers beer which is better out of a bottle, a bloody big bottle.

Still the Session Ale is a ripper. Perfect.

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Finally, a pub review: The Broadway

pub front

I write today with shame in my heart.

As this modest blog moves into its fifth year I apologise to my small and disturbed audience.

I’m yet to pen a pub review.

In the heart of Singapore is a historic convent called Chijmes, largely because it began its impressive architectural life as Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Middle Education School. It’s now a maze of restaurants and grog-shops, and the wife and I liked going there occasionally, of an evening. It had a Hog’s Breath Café. We celebrated our anniversary there once; Chijmes, not Hoggy’s.

chijmes

Among Chijmes’ attractions was a bar in a sunken courtyard that has a name rhyming with Harry’s. One night this happened.

“Sir, the beer is now cheaper because it’s happy hour.”

“Great. How much is it?”

“Thirteen dollars.”

“But aren’t these normally fourteen?”

“Yes.”

I instantaneously vowed to never go to Harry’s during its utterly fecking miserable hour, which I think I’m suggesting is each of its fecking opening hours. You’d have more fun chasing John Howard and his track-suited self about Kirribilli through some July sleet whilst personally enduring a particularly vigorous bout of diarrhoea.

bar

No such problems at The Broadway in Glenelg South. Despite being a resident of the area on and off over the last couple decades I’m a recent convert to the collected charms of The Broadway enclave.

It’s parallel to the more celebrated Jetty Road, but superior in myriad ways. Named for the small town in Worcestershire in the Cotswolds- we ate lunch in one of its pubs one autumn Sunday, it may surprise you to read- it presents and functions as an English village but with generally better weather.

It has Glenelg’s best butchers, fish ‘n’ chips, book shop/café, dental surgery, pizza – Pizza on Broadway although it’s actually on Partridge Street; I guess Pizza on Partridge may have led the munchers to think they were getting roasted spoggy on their Italian takeaway, and I’ll admit this is a niche category, the best restaurant/dry cleaners in a former petrol station/ garage.

The Broadway pub is great. Most Fridays I wheel in there around 4.27, depending on traffic and invest an energetic hour. I get there then because I have a medical condition which renders me physically (psychologically, spiritually, mentally etc) unable to remain at work beyond 4pm at week’s end. After this time it’s also not possible for me to guarantee the safety of my colleagues, and I’d rather not end up on A Current Affair.

For a brief, deluded period I frequented a boozer much closer to home, near the Buffalo, but it was also frequented by clots (I employ this metaphor advisedly) of high-vis chaps, who seemed to have been in the pub since mid-morning, as they were bleary-eyed and looking like they might thump some strangers. This idea has decreasing appeal for me so I decamped to the Broady.

The bar staff, led by Gavin, is attentive and anticipatory. There’s a flock of TV screens showing lots of sport, but these are turned down low and a Triple J- type playlist drifts across the pub-o-sphere. Last night I heard The Smiths and Queens of the Stoneage. I’ve never heard P!nk. On Saturdays there’s a warmer bursting with snags, and a loaf of bread nearby to keep the punters happy.

The house next door was recently bought and its front yard; turned into a beer garden (how good would this really be? A garden that grew beer!) from which you can watch folks exiting the neighbouring dentists; one hand nursing their numb jaw, the other nursing their bruised wallet.

garden

A while back I made a solemn promise to my old mate Bazz. I said I’d ring him every time I went to the pub. Not out of any deep human concern; I just thought it would be funny. And now, about a year in, when I ring every single Friday at 4.45pm I seem to go through to Bazz’s voicemail. It’s a mystery.

Yesterday old mucker Trev* joined me and we had a terrific hour. As old school mates we moved between the sunny nostalgia of old friends and old music and old times. We laughed, as Les Norton used to say, like drains. We dissected and discussed and were merrily diverted. Of course he immediately referenced this line from The Blues Brothers when Jake is talking with Bob from Bob’s Country Bunker

I’d better check up, see how he’s doing, see I have to sign it too. I usually sit in the car and write it out on the glove compartment lid.

And, courtesy of the Broadway’s excellent happy hour, we did it over six dollar beers which, of course, starts the weekend in an appropriately brisk and lively style. If a pub’s optimal function is to replicate your lounge room then this pub succeeds, easily.

Next time you’re in Glenelg South, give me a shout, and I’ll sneak in there with you, and let you buy me a beer.

*his real name

dudes

5

Three Little Bops

bops
These phone calls only happened between 5 and 5.30pm, and when they did the excitement was unequalled.

Childhood friendships are hatched over countless connections, both pure and mischievous: footy, pinball, pinching cars, but for Trev and me, our lifelong pact came through 6 minutes and 41 seconds of televisual delight.

The Bugs Bunny Show aired on weeknights and for us its highlight was even better than Happy Days when Pinky Tuscadero was injured and out of the demolition derby thanks to the Mallachi Crunch, but Fonz still wanted to marry her; was even better than Blankety Blanks and Ugly Dave Gray’s jokes about Dick (Did Dick? Dick did.) and was even better than Lizzie Birdsworth’s daggy Wentworth antics on Prisoner.

We’d a simple code, the equivalent of “London Bridge is down,” and because of our urgency the conversations were spy-thriller brief:

-Hello?

-It’s on!

-Yep.

(Rotary-dial phones simultaneously slam down, and two teenage boys, in country-town houses about a kilometre apart, rush at their boxy Pye TVs)

The first impressive aspect of Three Little Bops was that I’d hear the Bill Haley-like jauntiness of the intro before I’d see those distinctive title cards (Director: Friz Freleng), and then with electric anticipation I’d shriek out to Mum or my sister Jill or whoever was in earshot as I tucked into a plate of Saladas with their vegemite worms slithering out in their salty, alien blackness.

title card bops

With a rollicking melody penned by the celebrated trumpeter Shorty Rogers who’d later offer musical direction on The Monkees, The Partridge Family and that supremely orchestrated buddy-cop series, Starsky & Hutch, it’s a song with rich resonance.

Released in 1957 within the broad context of Beat culture, the score is prototypical rock ‘n’ roll rather than jazz, and shares little with that year’s seminal album Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. Like so many memorable tunes its simplicity of purpose is genius while its execution is comic and engaging.

*

Beyond decades of personal bliss this cartoon once secured us (minor) fiscal reward. Late last millennium some mates launched a Schnitzel Club which met at a different pub every Wednesday, and among other vital mid-week pursuits, we ate schnitzel.

Once we descended upon the Arab Steed hotel in Adelaide’s east, and post-crumbed veal, lingered for the weekly quiz. Coincidently, this is my favourite question: Apart from AB who’s the only Australian Test cricketer to play in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s? Answer: Peter Sleep.

Our laddish dining collective was an eclectic ensemble, but scoring modestly until this Round 8 challenge: How many keys on a piano? Although we were music fans none had technical insight.

crowd

And then as we murmured and frowned about our table, suddenly emerging into my frontal lobe from a Coopers fog, these lyrics from Three Little Bops appeared as neuronic sign-writing

Well, the piano-playing pig was swinging like a gate
Doing Liberace on the eighty-eights.

Who says there’s no gain in an (occasionally) idle life of miscellany? With this ebony and ivory insight, we came second, by a schnitzel crumb. Sometimes the jetsam of youth washes up on your adult beach, and it’s grand.
*

Of course, I maintain a persistent, entirely ridiculous fantasy during which I take up the rooster-like position behind a charismatic pub bar as mine host. Among my first landlord chores is to rename my boozer the Dew Drop Inn, because there is no better label in all hostelry

The Dew Drop Inn did drop down!
The three little pigs crawled out of the rubble
This big bad wolf gives us nothing but trouble
So, we won’t be bothered by his windy tricks
The next place we play must be made of bricks

*

In this masterpiece what are my treasured moments? There’s so many! The galaxy of my youth was brightened by these comets

Be very quiet. I’m hunting wabbit.
and
I knew I should have made a left toin at Albukoykee”

But the following is unsurpassed in its goldenness, although I didn’t then connect it to Liberace. When you’re a kid, drenched in cartoonish fun, context is sometimes nothing.

I wish my brother George was here.

The script and the vocals were by cult comedian Stan Freberg who’s credited on this, the only Warner Brothers film to not feature Mel Blanc doing voice characterisations.

Sixty years on, his remains a magnetic vocal performance ringing with muscularity and irresistible confidence. In that post-war cultural repositioning, his phrasing and delivery heralds American brashness and Rat-Pack cool.

A transformed fable, its essential familiarity lends it much charm. With the power migrating from the recast outsider wolf to the pigs, our trio goes from victims to smug porcine hipsters. Universally, we’re barracking for the wolf as he’s turned from predator to loopily-grinning fanboy, and villain to tragic hero. This narrative inversion generates much of the comic energy, and as our aficionado blows his sleek horn while broiling in a Satanic pot the final lyrics provide a catharsis

The Big Bad Wolf, he learned the rule:
you gotta get hot to play real cool!

wolf hot

As a ubiquitous pebble, this cartoon rippled into so many of my childhood spaces: the arithmetically-unresponsive back row of Year 9 Maths; the cold Mid-North showers of under-age footy; the endless roasting sun of Kapunda swimming pool summers. Our affection for it has flowed down the decades, and I promise myself to again locate it on YouTube, and show our boys. I reckon it’ll grab them too.

And soon, on a languid afternoon just after 5pm, I’m going to ring Trev and shout, “It’s on!”

 

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