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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 A3’s 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.

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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.

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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.

2

Finally, a pub review: The Broadway

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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.

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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

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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!”

 

plus one

 

10

Holiday!

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There is no question.

This is the best photo I’ve ever taken. Nothing in Iceland. Forget the Grand Canyon. Rule out Iron Knob.

Every compositional element is within. Summer in that magical time between Christmas and New Year. Holiday park. Our boys. Big screen Test cricket. If you move the camera slightly to the right. There, that’s it. Yes, that’s a cup of crisp pale ale. Perfect.

We’ve been on a short getaway. A holiday. A self-contained location with all the amenities. It’s brilliant, and after three separate visits in 2017 it’s a favourite. We’re getting to really know the terrain.

When I was a young, numpty/teenaged type, with all the attendant boof-headedness this implies I found considerable mirth in someone I know once knocking on the door of a school-mate, saying, “Is Billy home?” His mum gave a sincere, nodding reply, announcing, “No. He’s gone on holiday, to Greenock.”

From this, the closed ancestral home of Kapunda to Greenock was a steady ten minutes in the family Valiant. Roar! How we laughed! How could this be a holiday? I’d ridden my (sister’s) bike there and back!

But, tonight, to you, with sincerity and delayed wisdom I confess that we’ve spent our Yuletide break about eight kilometres down the road. Not nearly as far as Greenock.

Why? Because it’s terrific, we can slip home and feed the dogs, and pick up some essentials like eggs, a torch and some extra-cold Sparkling Ale.

I also reckon it’s because I now know that a holiday is not about the distance travelled, but locating a fitting headset, and finding a place that works.

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Here’s the other key attraction. Our boys, Alex and Max stay there in the compact camper-trailer with one of us, while the other, eases into the car, and DRIVES HOME TO AN EMPTY HOUSE (APART FROM THE DOGS) FOR THE EVENING.

For those of you who’ve forgotten, this means the non-holiday park parent gets, in the morning, with its luxurious new light, to wake up without provocation, and avoid the existential horror of being WOKEN UP.

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Developing a functioning relationship with a holiday park includes locating a barbeque who’ll love you back. One who’ll respect you, and also not give you any nonsense.

This one is gentle on a sausage, appropriately robust with a chicken patty, and massages a steak like it should. It’s also by a creek and some friendly trees. I like it.

But this bugger, yeah, this one here-

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It looks sleek and cooperative, but it’s benign appearance is deceptive. It doesn’t cook, which, if my dictionary serves, is the job of a barbeque. It’s Yorkshire on Boxing Day. I may give it a kicking.

You may as well line up six of the park’s dopey yet kindly ducks, point their arses at your chops, and light their farts.

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A modern holiday park offers entertainment for the kiddies and this one has a huge games room, complete with multiple distractions, including Space Invaders and its crazy derivatives, and shoot ’em up adventures. In a symbol that captures the regard with which we hold this fantastic space there’s also a Skill Tester/ Grabber.

And for the first two days it was free!

This morning after a tremendous sleep-in Max stumbled out of our tent, nodded vaguely at me, and marched straight to the games room, such is the hypnotic power of the Grabber. I yelled “Fried fritz?” at him but he shuffled onward.

When a boy refuses fried fritz, we all know life is a-changin’. I’m not sure of how many chocolates our boys extracted from this contraption, but it was, as my old boss would say, a goodly number.

Since we visited in March a beer garden has been added. How can this space get any better, I hear you ask? Next to the pool, there’s a giant TV screen, grassed (fake) expanse, assorted beanbags, under-cover booths and agreeable bar and kitchen.

Yes, it is one of our tiny world’s best spaces. If I were a ghost you wouldn’t see me here, on a chair.

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I’m happy to say the Marion Holiday Park is great value and provides a wonderful, surprising escape.

Find it here-

https://marionhp.com.au/

 

0

A Week Before Our Wedding We Went To The Races

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Here at Mickeytales Towers November Nostalgia continues with much spectacle and sparkling ale. But, you somehow already knew this.

We decided to have a joint pre-wedding party at the now demolished Victoria Park racecourse on Caulfield Cup day way back in 2002. It was a glorious spring afternoon- still, sunny and the good earth itself was bursting with rude health and robust conversation. We set up afternoon camp on the sloping lawns that fell away from the old grandstand.

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Here’s the bride with her mum, Joan and grandparents who’d driven down from Queensland for a few weeks. Griff liked a punt, and for many a year after would talk about this day, especially the bewildering fact that we hadn’t invested nearly enough on the Cup winner, a handy horse named Northerly.

We’d be up in Gympie with the cricket wandering along on their boxy, old TV, when, in complete contrast to the topic at hand he’d announce wryly, “You know what? We should’ve had more money on that bloody Northerly.” He’d then cackle at his own belated wisdom, and drum his fingers in that special way he had.

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Ali Hennessy has ample respect for authority, and of course, there’s no greater authority in Australia than Major Les Hiddins (retired). No, that’s not him on the right as that’s Paul, a Kapunda boy. Les is a devotee of VB, and he used to say, “In the army we’ve a saying. Two cans, per man (or woman), per day. Perhaps.” See what I mean by respect? Of course, it’s possible that Ali’s holding the can for her husband, Hen, who may have ducked across to the betting ring to invest in Waikikamukau, only to be briskly told that the horse was retired, or that he was even less likely to run a place, as he was deceased.

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Here’s Dad. Loves a red wine, loves a chat. Loved a punt. I reckon he had a pretty good day out. I reckon we all did.

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Bronwyn and Jonesy. My dear old friends from Mount Gambier, or the Mount. Of course, when at the races if someone asks where you’re from, and you reply, “The Mount” they could glance towards a nearby gelding and wonder if there’s an equine connection, so be careful. Just sayin’. Social confusion is best avoided.

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Here’s my sister Jill and her husband Barry. They were married earlier in 2002 at Partridge House in Glenelg before the reception, which was at Ayers House. I was their MC (sadly no DVDs available for purchase at time of writing).

Back then people drank Crown Lager as it possessed a rarefied, almost posh image that meant it was an “occasion” beer. Now, it holds the charm of a solitary night in a deserted pokies tavern, complete with stale biscuits and cups of tepid tea.

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A bottle of water? Whose is it? Whew, nobody in our group! Had me worried for a minute.

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From left to right: my father-in-law Darryll, my grandmother-in-law, Jean and my mum, Lois. Note that Jean is holding an ancient parchment called a form guide. It’s not an app, or on a phone or even on the TV with some baritone idiot barking, “The Curse!” or “Happy Puntmas” every nine seconds. Kiddies, ask your elders.

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Dad’s chatting here with his brother John and his wife, Liz, who in a curious twist also happen to be my Uncle John and Aunt Liz. What a crazy life! The coincidences!

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I miss the Victoria Park races, located as they were on the edge of the city. I recall heading in there one July afternoon with Hen (far right) but leaving early to cab down to Adelaide Oval to watch the Dogs play a SANFL fixture. After the match we snuck into the CDFC rooms.

The next day we flew to Brisbane with fellow Kimba-folk, Bazz and Annie, on a mystery flight. While in Queensland, Bazz bought a child’s toy called a “cat in a bag.” With his own money. I often wonder about that cat.

*

This was the last time we went to the races there. It’s now an open park although the old, heritage grandstand maintains vigil over the sweeping grass and waving gum trees. Thanks to everyone who shared the afternoon. Now, and then, it reminds me of the many and varied things for which I should be thankful.

I do wish I’d stuck more coin on Northerly though.

 

4

21st birthdays- good old Eagle Rock’s here to stay

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How great was that procession of 21st parties? Footy clubs, town institutes, trotting tracks, backyards and in my case, a cosy golf club. It was a time of fuzzy optimism and innocence and skinny leather ties. It was the eighties.

*

One lunch-time in the Kapunda Golf Club when we were nineteen Davo and I learnt a key life skill. An elder statesman of both the club and the community Gus Higgins lined up some glasses and began.

“Now boys, you want to keep it tilted. That’s it. Don’t panic, but snap it off quickly.”

Gus was teaching us how to pour a beer. We were excellent students. We wanted to acquire this universally-admired expertise so we could take our place among the men of the world, or at least those of Kapunda. His gentle tuition continued.

“Don’t over-fill it. You want to leave a nice head on the glass.” As Davo eased the West End amber into a butcher, Gus uttered his final, terrifying command, “Make sure you don’t choke it.”

This was a rite of passage. Happily, we passed. My 21st was another.

For my party, I recorded four TDK cassettes of music. Six hours’ worth. Much like Rob Fleming making a mixtape in High Fidelity I saw myself as an artist who was curating an artefact of considerable beauty. If this is possible with The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian.”

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The tapes are long gone, but I remember the Hoodoo Gurus featuring prominently, especially “Like Wow – Wipeout” with its urgent rhythms and connotations of Sydney beaches and oddball Australian off-spinner Greg Matthews. Johnny and June Carter’s “Jackson” was on there too, as I loved, “We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout.” When Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” played there’s a youthful, exaggerated drawl as we sang along- “How does it feeeel?” And we didn’t really know, for we were twenty-one.

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I was also a fan of sixties music, mostly British bands like the Beatles, the Stones, and the Kinks, so this became the dress theme. My dear friend Trish designed the hand-drawn invitations. On the night, much paisley and purple swirled about the brown timbers of the club house. Wide ties flapped. Nick came as a blonde Mick Jagger, complete with Union Jack flag flowing behind him as he strutted about the bar and dance-floor, most notably when “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” blasted the room.

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Woodsy made a VHS video of the night including the speeches. Mick Dermody told a joke with the punch-line concerning train passengers pooping in each other’s shoes, but said some lovely, touching things too. I made exactly the speech an unworldly country boy would make.

Woodsy and CAae

In the photo album there’s happiness and smiles, but sadness too for some of these people are gone, and some have drifted away. I think of the Australian writer Tim Winton who views life as a series of corridors of time and space. And then we or they move through a door.

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But what a fun corridor this was. Not a school kid anymore, but not really yet an adult either. At uni and on the cusp (cups). A honeyed place in which you’re finding your way, and the world’s opening up, beyond the dusty town you call home.

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“Eagle Rock” was a preposterous badge of this confidence, this unarticulated need to separate ourselves from the generation that came before. There’s a belief that this tradition originated at the University of Queensland and migrated to South Australia. My first recollections of it were from 1985, at a St Anne’s College toga party with Rocket and Stolly and Harmesy and others.

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This Daddy Cool classic saw you instantly crowding in a circle, dropping your trousers and then swaying along to the song with your Levi’s bunched down over your Adidas Romes and dragging onto the brandy-sticky carpet.

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 Of course, it doesn’t stand up to modern scrutiny. It does, however, have an undeniable tribalism, even an evangelism that functions as a crude declaration of independence. But these broad churches held no salvation for some of the older adults who departed soon after, grim-faced and steering their Holdens north.

Around breakfast on Sunday the cold sun bent through the windows and the captain came in. Some of us had slept on the floor. I was near the honour board, as near as I would ever get, under one of those brown, laminated tables that’s compulsory in country golf clubs. Watto simply announced, “You’ve got an hour to clean up before the first group tees off.”

I stood up and adjusted my tan velour tie. I started picking up beer glasses.