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Pub Review: Dingo Pub

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Rodney splashed more chardonnay into the glass.

Moving about his bar with suppressed nervous energy, he now declared, “As I’ve filled it above the line I’m obliged by Queensland law to inform you of this because you mightn’t want the extra wine.”

Unsurprisingly for a Kapunda girl, Claire dismissed that idea with a, “No, thanks, that’ll be fine.”

It was around 2pm on a Tuesday in Dingo Beach. We were in the Whitsundays. We had explored the beach- the tide was out- but did not swim because of stingers and Irukandji jellyfish. I had read that Irukandji jellyfish actively hunt their prey. I had little interest in becoming prey to a tiny, blobby marine killer, especially as Glenelg had just won the SANFL premiership.

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Rodney has four beers on tap: XXXX, XXXX Gold and two types of Great Northern.

Generally, I have limited truck with these, and might’ve opted for a stubby of Coopers, but surely the traveller’s obligation is to be brave and try to experience life as a local.

So, I took a deep breath, steeled myself and heard these words fall, haltingly, from my quivering gob, “I’ll have a pint of Great Northern, thanks.”

I felt unsteady on my thonged feet. To offer her support in this difficult circumstances, Claire rubbed my forearm kindly.

The kitchen had shut so we had an impromptu lunch of cheese and dips and olives at our beer garden table. Rodney did not mind.

A few other Tuesday patrons drifted in and mostly headed to the smoking section. There were older men with orange shirts and ghostly goatees. On the tree between us and the beach a riot of kookaburras took up brief residency, announcing their arrival with brash, Motown song. Then they flew off, possibly seeking Coopers on tap.

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Our Mersey cheese was tremendous. It really is the Allan Border of cheeses: predictable, attacking when required; defensive if needed. I stuck another piece on my Jatz (traditional not pepper).

On Sunday we’d bought some supplies in Mackay and seemingly both possessed by one of lesser demons in The Exorcist, stuck some rosemary and gin olives in our trolley. In appropriate contexts all three are excellent, but put together and Father Karras can’t save you or Regan, despite the power of Christ.

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The tub was swiftly despatched to Rodney’s beer garden bin. Apologies to the bin. Apologies to Rodney. Bins deserve better.

We spoke of the town, its wide beach and family-friendly foreshore with playgrounds and barbeques and endless picnic tables. We were both taken by the islands dotted about the ocean. Coming from South Australia our experience with off-shore land masses is largely informed by Granite Island. Switzerland is better served by islands than us.

Keen to swim Claire asked Rodney of this and he began his repetitive, circular discourse: ”Well, me and my kids go swimming all the time without stinger suits. But I don’t want to tell you what to do. You might get stung and come back and sue me.”

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Claire nodded.

Easing into his work, like Keating and the Redfern speech Rodney continued, “Me and my kids go swimming all the time without stinger suits. But I don’t want to tell you what to do. You might get stung and come back and sue me.”

Claire excused herself, having developed a sudden taste for gin and rosemary olives (albeit in the bin).

And my pint of Great Northern?

It was cold and flavoursome and the head was creamy and inviting. In its proper context at the Dingo pub it commanded the stage with quiet confidence.

It was utterly delicious and, of course, now back in a shoe-wearing state, I’m unlikely to ever have another.

About half an hour from Airlie Beach, the Dingo pub is a must when in the Whitsundays.

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Beer Review: Coopers Sparkling Ale- It’s just a shot away

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When I think of Coopers Sparkling Ale (and this probably happens way too often) many metaphors present themselves concerning kings and empires and black and white cricket footage, and the launch of exquisite super-yachts, but the Rolling Stones feature prominently in my vivid imaginings, and more particularly the opening track of their heralded 1969 release Let It Bleed.

I speak of “Gimme Shelter” which opens with Keef’s ominous, storm clouds-a-gathering, open-tuned guitar, and one of the most iconic, menacing riffs recorded.

Sparking Ale and “Gimme Shelter” are both instantly recognisable, demanding of your attention and have rightly earnt a place in popular culture. If I drew a Venn diagram of these two joys, I’d colour the overlap with a thick, red 4B pencil.

There’s a story that Keef played an Australian-built guitar while recording the song and so vigorous had the sessions been that on the final note, the entire neck fell off, onto the studio floor.

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This brings me nicely to Coopers Sparkling Ale long necks. For this correspondent, it’s the finest way to enjoy this fruity, zesty ale, and one of the few beers that isn’t superior out of a keg. A frosty 750ml bottle and a large glass and if you peer into the middle distance you can hear God. Or maybe Keef: mountain craggy and skinny and puffing endlessly on a dart, conjuring the devil with his rhythm axe.

Iconoclastic Kapunda publican Peter “Puffa” Jansen was a single-minded advocate for beer in cans as he reckoned, “they travel better” particularly on his spontaneous and legendary lunch trips, which could stretch over half a week. But I’m unconvinced and with all of this pretext and subtext in mind bought a six pack of these newly launched, hipster-friendly red cans earlier in the week.

So, what is my considered and probing view?

I’ve enjoyed Sparkling Ale in London, Edinburgh, Singapore and New York, and despite the often eye-watering frequent flier points these beers may have earnt jetting about our blue-green planet, I found these to always be a treat. Along with my twangy accent, I saw them as a foamy badge of Croweater honour.

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I resisted all urges to tip the can into a trusty Southward mug, not because of the seemingly warlike combination (like wearing a Crows scarf and Power beanie at the same time), but as I imagine this is how these will generally be consumed. I slurped away at my metal tube.

I found the trademark Sparkling Ale aroma and bold, arresting citrus notes were largely absent, as though they’d been shut down by the can, like a curmudgeonly deputy principal. Like a Boggo Road inmate who’d been in solitary for a month there was blinking uncertainty and confusion at its place in the world. It seemed muffled, as though I was hearing “Gimme Shelter” on a Goldstar tape player through an uncooperative bedroom wall.

It was a big Coopers beer, but I mourned the lack of visual delight: the rich, soupy hue in a front bar pint or backyard cup. Instead, a dullish, bashful red tin, which was apologetic rather than assertive, unlike a Andy Warhol long neck on a laminated kitchen table.

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Doubtless, our bearded craft beer cousins will love ’em, but I’m unlikely to buy more tins. In this highly competitive market of targeted demographics and business plans, where boutique brewers have sprung up like boy bands, I’m sure these will be a commercial success, and they’ll march out the door of your local boozer.

However, I’ll be the old bull at the counter with a couple long necks in paper bags, heading home to my back patio, a large glass and with Keef in majestic, gnarly delight, Let It Bleed, snarling at volume.

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Bob Hawke, Brutalism and Banana Bread: Melbourne Trip 2019

 

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Who doesn’t love an existential question just after dawn, on a festive Friday? Our flight had entered Victorian airspace (the state, not the historical era) and breakfast (adhering to Spartan and not Southern American culinary tradition) was dumped onto our tray tables.

Propelling eastwards, several kilometres above the awakening and expectant earth, Chris asked, “So, what’s the difference between banana bread and banana cake?”

“Extremely good question, old mate,” I replied staring at the brownish block of mashed fruit, all unanimated and morose.

Trev observed. “I reckon the difference is about three dollars. “

“Yep,” I confirmed, my linguistic prism primed. “Given the alliterative appeal, banana bread is more expensive.”

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In part the North Fitzroy Arms appeals because it presents as a country pub. Pushing open the front door at 12.01 is all frisson and happy expectation. The décor and the memorabilia are as I remember. Unlike some soulless modern venues there’s no seductive chrome or glass. The taps offer familiar brews. I comment, “Good to see Pentridge Pale Ale is available.” Gough and Percy are on the back wall, in black and white, forever frozen in the early 1970’s.

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It’s great to see everyone, and the lunch is a beauty with the Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup with Mascarpone & Basil Oil scoring well. This weekend, everyone is a Eurovision judge.

Today’s guest speaker, George Megalogenis, is compelling and his book, The Football Solution: how Richmond’s premiership can save Australia, underpins the conversation with John Harms courtesy of a magnificent mix of history, politics, inner-Melbourne geography, sports psychology and Bob Hawke memoir.

The post-lunch exchanges are always splendid and I especially enjoy meeting Footy Almanac editor Colin Ritchie and hearing of his most recent trip to New Orleans. We yak of jazz icons Dr. John and Trombone Shorty, and the legendary venue Preservation Hall which with a wave of his hand Col suggests is the same size as the pub’s dining room.

*

Saturday morning we’re strolling north. Chris asks, “What time is it?” Of course, breakfast television motifs litter our weekend, so I channel former NBC Today host Bryant Gumbel and reply, “There’s breaking news overnight, but firstly let’s see what’s happening in your part of the world. It’s thirty-seven minutes after the hour.”

Mere moments later we pass Barrie Cassidy, in the midst of a Very Big Week, given the passing of Bob Hawke and the election. “We should’ve asked Barrie to join us in the All Nations Hotel for a quick beer,” laments Trev. “I reckon he might be on the hop for the next day or two, but otherwise I’m sure he would’ve been in,” I reassure the boys, based on zero personal insight.

Trev stops suddenly and points across at a concrete structure. “See that architecture. That’s Brutalism and inspired some of the buildings and spacecraft in Star Wars.” And indeed, looking at the stark, overbearing façade I see his point. If Trev went on Hard Quiz or Mastermind he’d pick Star Wars as his topic. That, or The Kapunda Tennis Club in the early 1980’s, or Shoegazing: Indie Rock’s Most Alluring Sub-genre. Same as all of us, I reckon.
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Chris had spotted on Friday that Coopers Brewery launched a new XPA ale in Melbourne. Suitably inspired, and trusting the Internet, we arrived at the suggested pub, but were told it was closed for cleaning, hadn’t heard of Coopers XPA and that we might simply bugger off. Our disappointment could only have been lessened if the pub was instead a Frank Walker’s National Tiles outlet.

Surging into the All Nations Hotel at thirteen minutes after the hour we note that our regular stools (of the furniture variety) are waiting. Instantly, there’s an ornithological theme: geese. On tap is a craft beer called Goose Session IPA. We then spy the Grey Goose vodka on the shelf. Naturally, we text Kapunda identity Greg “Goose” Mickan whose prolonged digital silence indicates he’s delighted to hear from us. Googling him we find an introductory video on his business website. He boasts of there being, “720 degree views on his property. Provided you turn around twice.” We dedicate the following game of spoofy to him.

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Safely at the Punt Road End (or Free Bird Seed End) of the MCG having invested (badly as it turns out) in Adelaide’s premier sprint, the Goodwood Handicap and Brisbane’s Doomben Cup, we locate our seats, and SANFL memorabilia enthusiast and champion bloke, Swish Schwerdt.

We yak about our respective Adelaide teams, Centrals and Glenelg, who are playing at the Ponderosa (the Tigers prevail for the first time out there since accidental leg spinner John Winston Howard was in power although as near as I can tell there’s no deep connection). We also recall the fabulous days on local radio when, at an urgent juncture a voice’d announce: “Let’s go round the grounds. Nipper Christie down at Alberton.” Much giggling follows.

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During all of this, sixty thousand people completely ignore our charming dialogue and instead watch a match between Collingwood and St Kilda. The half-time Four N Twenty pies are at least equal to the footballing Pies, and the fixture finished, we move with clear-eyed purpose towards the Duke of Wellington cup-house.

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Sunday’s breakfast television is the PGA golf and we decide that having to skool every time we heard, “In the HOLE!” would be dangerous; then bemoan the absence of David Marr on Insiders, but enjoy Barrie Cassidy’s fine work; and finally, on Eurovision, we decide that having to skool every time there’s geopolitical and not musical merit voting – “Hello Tel Aviv! Thanks for a great show. Greece gives twelve points to Cyrus!” – would also be dangerous, but not as dangerous as repeated listening to any of the songs.

Returning to the CBD after our Lygon Street brunch during which Trev confronts a colossal veal scallopini we pause respectfully at Carlton’s John Curtin Hotel with a Coopers beer to toast Bob Hawke; a venue in which Bob Hawke himself often toasted Bob Hawke (with ample cause).

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Our penultimate pub is the Exford (surely a sister hotel to Rundle Street’s Exeter) and we watch the Port and Gold Coast game from a sodden Adelaide Oval. The big screen shows that the locals have turned up in their dozens (forget Winter is Coming, I think the tarps are coming), and with the Filth the Power claiming control we scarper.

It’s forty-six after the hour, we’ve a plane to catch and banana bread to battle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The late Bruce “Roo” Yardley

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

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

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

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

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

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Pub Review: Sir John Franklin, Kapunda

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Noted navy man and Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin contributes his name to this Kapunda boozer which is neither especially naval nor Arctic given the town’s dusty location in the driest state in the driest continent. I doubt this old mucker ever enjoyed a Cooper Sparkling Ale. But let’s not quibble over these minor details.

Franklin had a distinguished career before he untimely extinguished in remote Canada from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning, and scurvy. And, I suspect, from an overly long and grim death certificate.

This should have come as no surprise to him given that his 1819 expedition ended with most of his party expiring following unpleasant cannibalism, or a shoddy diet of lichen and their own footwear. This gained Franklin the nickname of, “the man who ate his boots” which must have been somewhat embarrassing for him at barbeques and footy club progressive dinners.

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Sir John Franklin, in happier times

Happily, neither fellow diners nor Blundstones are on the menu today at this grand old pub. Although on a recent post-cricket visit (I was probably there long enough to have been described for tax purposes as a lodger) I chose not to dine (I was afraid of getting parmigiana on my new cricket whites) while fellow guests Matt Ryan and Fergie Higgins spoke well of the meals and, as grandma would have liked, left nothing on their plates.

To provide some entirely unnecessary, indulgent context the balcony of the Sir John Franklin was the first place I saw and heard that most distinctive 1980’s artefact: the ghetto blaster. A ridiculously enormous silver affair, it was owned by one of the Hutton brothers, whose father George was the publican when I was in high school.

As various HQ Holdens and Valiants warbled up and down the Main Street we supplied the soundtrack which, of course, was the masterful 1980 compilation cassette Full Boar. My affections were torn between Mi Sex and their tune, “Computer Games” and Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”. I’m still not into yoga and I have half a brain.

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The front bar features Sky Channel and a TAB, both of which were splendidly embraced on our recent visit by esteemed former local Chris Hayward while he waited patiently for his similarly veteran-statused cricket colleagues. Of course, his investments were accompanied by a schooner of West End Draught, although tragically this didn’t enhance his returns.

I’m thrilled to report that this space within the pub is more than adequate for the compulsory spoofy tournament, or two. The bar stools are ergonomically perfect for this, and for competitors who use the Paul White stand as you play technique, the carpet is forgiving and offers suitable support for those tense moments when you’re in a final against Goose Mickan and you’re holding none, but have called five.

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Built in 1849, the pub has a social club and my research staff tells me that among the office-bearers are former Kapunda Football Club trainer Peter Wenke (no-one ran the magic towel out to the half-back flank with more grace) who in a surprise to your correspondent, was in this very bar late Saturday morning. I continue to love the notion of the pub social club that affords its members a sense of ownership and decidedly human investment. But that’s enough reflection upon the role of social capital in contemporary Australian watering-holes.

Finally, on a personal note I must mention the superb bag-minding service run by the pub. If, like me, you left a small Auskick backpack (borrowed from your son Max) by the bar prior to rambling home late Saturday evening to the Clare Road digs of your mate Woodsy, then the most excellent staff will take care of it until you collect it, sheepishly, Sunday morning. My cricketing colleague Stef can also vouch for this wonderful facility.

So, next time you’re in Kapunda, there’s much to enjoy in my favourite pub named for a British explorer who perished in Canada from a greedy, rather excessive mix of starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning and scurvy.

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Kapunda Cricket Club: the Comeback

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A bumpy guess says it’s been 10,629 days since I last fronted for the Kapunda Cricket Club.

Moreover, 90+ years, collectively for Tommy, Puggy and I. With Hollis and Stef also donning the drawstring creams we average over fifty. Years, not runs. My cousin Froggy is our captain. He’s played cricket continuously for nearly four decades.

Nuriootpa’s number 2 oval is scandalously slow, and the eastern side caravan park will come into dreadful context later. If I bowl, I fear for the Millards and the elderly gents in white singlets shuffling with their toiletries bags to the amenities block.

Winning the toss, we bat and make a bright opening. Coming in at three and four, Tommy and Puggy (another cousin) bat together. They’re watchfully cautious, but the scoreboard is glacial. From our gazebo an informative voice (possibly mine) inquires, “You chaps know it’s a forty-over innings and not a five-day match?”

Across the afternoon there’s marginal opportunity to sledge the opposition for we’re too busy sledging each other.

I bat for a few overs with Stef.

For many of our teenaged years we spent a summery week down at Port Willunga. There was relentless, fierce backyard cricket with his cousins Nick and Adam. Despite the therapeutic presence of a taped tennis ball this often disintegrated into a physical fight.

Once this tumbled onto the street. Of course, the brothers were at it like a mobile MMA bout, and Stef, spectating bemusedly with me in the January dusk said, “Should we start throwing a few punches at each other, just to fit in?”

Batting is about partnerships. Stef and I do this by scrambling some byes and keeping the scoreboard, as IM Chappell would recommend, ticking over. We turn some easy twos into panicked singles. We urge Kapunda’s score toward the century. It’s great fun to spend time in the middle after many, many years.

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We have a mid-pitch chat. With widening eyes, Stef says, “I’m going to start swinging.” I like his thinking. The ancient leggy tosses one up. On this hard wicket, he extracts ridiculous bounce. I get after him. Like an Adam Scott lob wedge the ball is instantly vertical.

I’m caught mid-pitch by the keeper. For a duck. Can you believe it? A beautifully-compiled duck. Like the slaughtered buffalo in Apocalypse Now, I stagger towards the non-striker’s end, and know, preternaturally, that I should’ve paused inexplicably, allowed him to pass, dropped my shoulder and then decked him, accidently.

Having made just over a hundred, we take the field. Our tally is Invincibles-like given that a few weeks’ back we were rolled for 21 after being 7/7. And that was with the captain and oldest player, Dr Max, making 18. If he’d made zero point zero it might’ve been truly, profoundly hideous.

The next two hours are fabulous fun.

We spend it laughing, largely at each other. There’s a Grand Canyon between my cricketing memories and the rotund, slow-motion parodies trundling, and on this warm Barossan afternoon, listing about in the outfield like matinee ghouls.

Tradition dictates that we establish a Schooner School. In this a dropped catch equals buying everyone a beer while claiming one earns a cup from each participant. Tommy and Puggy argue that I owe all a beverage for my undeserved duck. Froggy shakes his head and says no; the rules must be as they were in 1987. Blood is thicker than beer. Six of us sign the verbal contract.

We take a solitary wicket, dropping three catches which, of course, is great for the Schooner School but not our cricket. After one grassed Kookaburra I giggle rhetorically, “Do you blokes want wickets or free beer? What’s wrong with you?” Today is a celebration of contemporary failure and not just a nostalgic reunion with our sunny past.

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I bowl from the northern end, which is acknowledged rightfully as the difficult, or as I call it, the heroes’ end. After one exotic and ragged nut, Froggy completes a decidedly athletic and unthematic manoeuvre on the mid-wicket fence to save a certain four, heaves the ball back in to me, and yells at the batsman, “Don’t try to hit my cousin for six, pal!”

The day is going magnificently. Towards the end of my third over I’m cooked. Stef hollers, “You’ll be good for fifty overs, Mickey!” I reply, “Well, yes, but maybe over three seasons.”

As a team, we strangely only sustain one injury, if embarrassment, humiliation and self-satire are ignored. Having been forcibly, if not brutally removed from first slip, Puggy is banished to short mid-wicket when one of my deliveries is punched in his vague vicinity, and with the elegance of a land-locked sea mammal he flops belatedly at the ball, and in an alarming gesticulation which will forever haunt those who saw it, rises ashen-faced, grabs inexactly at his groin and cries, “I’ve done my groin.”

At Nuriootpa number 2 most of us read this as a clear medical sign that he had, in fact, done his groin, at least in a musculature sense. Puggy subsequently spends the rest of the match, evening and financial year hobbling like a knee-capped, low-level gangster in a C-grade mafia movie.

The net result of this groinal misfortune is that he can’t replace me as scheduled at the heroes’ end. Froggy asks, “Can you keep going, Mickey?” I nod yep, assert that my groin is fine, and from cover point Hollis quips, “Heart of a lion, heart of a lion.” Much laughter. A little bit of wee nearly comes out.

We share a post-game beer with our Nuriootpa opponents, including Horrie Moore who enjoyed sustained infamy as the Barossa’s premier fast bowler. As is often the case in sporting demonology he is a ripping bloke.

Stop-overing at old mate Chris Higgins’ Greenock Brewery, it’s bursting with happy Kapunda people who are there for a 50th. We invest an animated hour, and as ritual commands, each fetch a paper-bagged longneck for the arduous fifteen-kilometre expedition back to Kapunda.

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In Hollis’s Prado are five blokes who’ve triumphed with the stellar sum of six runs and so we endure the ruthless, unforgiving Greenock Road and Thiele (named for Colin) Highway before decamping, more or less permanently, to the historic Sir John Franklin Hotel, located on Kapunda’s main street, which is conveniently named with the Google-friendly nomenclature of Main Street.

At half-eight it is time for spoofy. With nine players it means the potential number of coins is twenty-seven. Given the fiscal incentive to cheat engineer the result (the loser buys everybody a beer, so there’s little change from $100) Dan is summonsed to record the live data: Goose- 12, Puggy- 16, Froggy- 17, Tommy- 22, Whitey- 9, Hollis- 20, Stef- 23, Mickey- 19, etc.

If you’re from Kapunda and haven’t suffered a spoofy final with Goose Mickan then local mythology suggests you’ve not lived, or felt existential pain. I sweat through two finals with my (read: everyone’s) old nemesis and we share the (dis)honours.

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There’s continuous handshaking and back-slapping and affirming cheer. My fellow veterans and I vow this to be an annual event. We conspire that a 2020 away fixture at Greenock would be ideal, and schedule a late-spring, high-altitude training camp in Denver.

I love being back home.

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Four pubs and a funeral

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

Bliss.

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

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

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

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

GV

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

Saddleworth

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

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

Marrabel

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

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

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

Allendale

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

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

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

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

Prince

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

And so homewards.

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

It is how we can honour the deceased and ourselves.

Vale Jeff.cemetery