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24 Hours in Kapunda

Sleeping, dusty streets. Saturday afternoon like a still creek.

Kapunda.

Memories, rushed and gentle on every corner. Footy, cricket. Bikes.

A pasty each up by the high school lawns. Awash with grey Midford shirts. Roman sandals. Unfinished essays. The poetry of Gerard Manly Hopkins. Year 12 Biology and a vegetation transect on Banksias.

A cricket match shout from the oval. Share a beer and chat in the pub later with my cousin, Froggy. The captain. Rolled for bugger-all.

Visit our history teacher, Macca and his wife, Kerry. Discuss 1983 and everywhere since. Feel seventeen again.

Dinner around a big kitchen table with old friends, Woodsy and Sue. Happy collision of past, present and future. Not enough time to see others. Next time.

Sunday morning. Out to scan the golf club. Admire the lush fairways and nod at the greens which replaced the scrapes of my youth. Recall the handful of 21sts. White HQ Holdens lined up like butchers of West End. Hoodoo Gurus blasting into the cold night.

Drive back across the River Light bridge towards the city.

Back soon.

The footy club is a vast ark of memory. Always nice to see RW Randall on the board too.
No visit to the Duck Pond is complete without seeing (but not eating) a local duck.
Kapunda High School has a croquet lawn although some would prefer a croquette.
In 1980 we slept at The Pines on a bush-walking camp. Today, for the first time we returned, together.
Some call this a Pump House, but, of course, it’s The Turncock House. Don’t ask.
As law-abiding citizens we know a visit to the Prince of Wales pub is compulsory.
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48 Hours in Glenelg

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

4.27pm.

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

*

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

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

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

*

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

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

Name something a spider might think about?

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

Name a calorie-burning exercise?

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

Name a calorie-burning exercise?

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

*

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

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

It had been a glorious 48 hours in Glenelg.

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Pub Review: The Greenock, Barossa Valley

greenock pub

Located on the north-west edge of the Barossa, Greenock was a town I typically ignored in my youth.

Coming from Kapunda for footy or cricket we’d drive through it in a minute on route to Nuri, Tanunda or Angaston. Sometimes, after a hot afternoon in the field you’d swing by the Greenock pub, five of you in an old Holden furnace (six in a HQ if it had a bench seat in the front), and each get a longneck in a brown paper bag for the meandering trip home.

Now, Greenock is a destination. There’s a handful of bright cellar-doors and the excellent Greenock Brewers, run by Chris and Lisa Higgins. Also chief among the attractions is the pub and on my annual June sabbatical I meet old school mate Nick there for lunch.

brewers

The local cricket club is nicknamed the Schlungers and their teams comprised an assortment of blokes usually called Nitschke. Playing at their home ground was often memorable, and one distant day my friend Bob’s bowling career came to a tragicomic and delayed death with an eighteen ball over (which only contained seven legal deliveries). Despite being an opponent he brought curious relevance to the GCC’s official prayer: Blessed are we who are cracked, for we shall let in the light.

Walking into the pub you instantly feel a sense of earthy relaxation with the curved wooden bar, fireplaces and dining rooms both spacious and snug. Given our reverent understanding of history Nick and I order Norton burgers, named for former mine host Norton Schulter who ran it for many years along with his son Mick. The Schulters have owned the pub for 150 years. Norton recently turned ninety.

norton

Norton (on left) a publican’s publican

We each nurse a Trafalgar Pale Ale and chat about times old and new; local footy and the AFL; Tarantino and the Stuttgart beer festival; Vampire Weekend and boys and utes and misbehaviour; family and love. Winemakers and farmers drift in. Outside, the world spins with blind delirium.

Decades ago Kapunda fielded an indoor cricket team on Thursday nights in Tanunda. Despite having some decent cricketers we were no match for the side filled with Schlungers and other Barossa notables like Horrie Moore who were so cocky they took to fancy dress. Once they whipped us while wearing rubber boots. Another time, in dresses. Humbled, we’d break up the despondent quarter-hour drive home by pausing at the Greenock for a healing cup and Fats would press C6 on the jukebox which was, “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis. Back then we were all caught in a trap.

schlungers

The Schlungers

For a while some pubs engaged in a pissing contest to see who could serve the biggest schnitzel and you’d often get one flopping off your plate the size of grandma’s best tea-towel. Now, the competition has moved from acreage to height and burgers and it’s all culinary architecture and perilous scaffolding and intimidating the diner into meekly deconstructing their meal in an act of surrender. Happily, no shallow displays of Freudian compensation in the Greenock today and we find our Norton burgers approachable, just like their eponymous inspiration.

And the chips are great too.

In this complex, unknowable time the Greenock pub is a sanctuary within the sanctuary of the Barossa within South Australia’s sanctuary. An easy amble from Adelaide, the pub and its unpretentious charms make this hamlet a terrific destination.

oval

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Bongo, Crackshot, Fats, Lukey, Pete, Rocket, Swanny, Whitey, Woodsy and me

holdy

“I’m Dale Kerrigan and this is my story.”

An undeniably great movie line as there’s a simplicity and a plain beauty in it. With this Australian cinematic classic in mind I begin today’s entry: I’m Michael Randall, and this is my pub story.

Among the first and most notable casualties of 2020 and its other-worldliness was the King’s Head pub in Adelaide on King William Street. It’s been our Kapunda catch-up venue for a few years now, but has succumbed to viruses both airborne and fiscal.

A temporary hosting hostlery has been found in the Holdy, a Glenelg pub formerly owned by the Chappells although I’m unsure if third sibling Trevor was involved. If he was I imagine he spent much time in the cellar as ordered by older brother Greg.

trevor

After introductory cups and opening remarks there were lamb shanks (much better than Armitage Shanks and more easily digested) and schnitzels and nostalgia and laughter and medicinal refreshment. The wintry sun streamed in and caught our noggins, variously hirsute or not.

A late omission was old mucker Matey who had an excuse (sport shooting out north) and O’s, who did not (couch-bound). Still, we had an effervescent quorum and invested a diverting afternoon and some disposable income.

Regrettably, our luncheon coincided with the Crows game from Brisbane. Circumstance and fierce indifference meant I’d not seen a second of their already bleak season and that morning I’d vowed to not see any of it, preferring instead to wash my hair or scrub toilets.

kapunda

However, above my head like a drive-in movie screen (most memorably the Barossa Line near Tanunda) was an unavoidable TV and my eyes were drawn to it and the silent disaster unfolding.

But this was of only minor distress for we spoke of the sale of Puffa’s pub in Kapunda and the imminent local footy season (Bombers v Freeling up late July) and absent friends and ridiculous ephemera. And I’m sure, at some point of HQ Holdens, crashed and otherwise.

holdy 2

When we began departing I shook the hand of Fats’ son Blake who was about to escort his dad home, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Lovely to see you. I blame your father for anything bad that’s ever happened to me.” Much giggling followed and I’m sure Fats will one day say something similar to my boys.

We tumbled out into the Sunday light and headed off by foot and car to our suburbs and homes and even Kapunda. We will do this again soon, likely at Christmas. The stories will not change.

I hope so.

dale

2

24 Hours in Carrackalinga

When Claire, Trish and I were in Year 12 at Kapunda SA-FM had Triple Track weekends and these were organised by artist or theme.

I’m sure irony or satire were never playlist drivers at the fledgling radio station, as I don’t recall a ridiculous mid-70’s theme, but late Friday night in the upstairs lounge at Carrackalinga – after charades was done (with Claire in Eddie McGuire mode as both compare and a team captain), and the boys downstairs with Perchy the blue heeler being boys – for us there was dancing (OK, not all) and wine and nostalgia and laughter, and these three were played on Trisha’s phone-

S-S-Single Bed by Fox

The Way That You Do It by Pussyfoot

Jeans On by (Lord) David Dundas.

It was a moment of shared history and evoked a joyous time from our childhoods and cloaked the room in safety and deep privilege. Inside, it was warm and for a few hours just before midnight the outside world of lashing rain and lurking adult responsibilities ceased to matter.

I thought of the comfort of old friends and our forgiveness and acceptance, quiet encouragement and unspoken gifts to each other, given freely and often.

Saturday morning and we arose across a few languid hours and gently started our days, a bit like the characters in The Big Chill and as JB noted, each boy had cereal, slopped milk on the bench and table and then, of course, left the milk out. The fridge was too far away from them, an impossible bridge.

After Brett, Leonard, Alex, Riley, Oliver and I enjoyed a diverting quiz –

Who was the first Republican president?

Who performed “Waterloo Sunset?”

Where does port wine come from?

and then board games.

Some of us watched Muriel’s Wedding (Abba was a constant weekend companion) and then went to Myponga beach. It was invigorating and the tide swallowed much of the sand and just as we left the rain began. Riley and Max were in shorts and the apparent temperature was 4.9 degrees.

Thanks to JB, Leonard and Oliver for an excellent 24 hours in Carrackalinga.

On our way home it hailed as we drove through Sellicks Hill, but was warm in the car.

 

alex

Myponga beach

beach 2

boys mucking around on the beach and no-one gets wet!

beach

wintry beach a treat; as much seaweed as you can eat!

brett

Brett about to do his Michael Caine impersonation

charades 2

Claire and Max mid-charade, doubtless something equine

charades

the triumphant charade team

lounge

Saturday afternoon

max

Max

muriel

Saturday matinee: Muriel’s Wedding

sky

from the balcony looking south towards Yankalilla

2

My Greg Chappell Hat

hat

 

“Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“Some hats can only be worn if you’re willing to be jaunty, to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a spring in your stride as if you’re only a step away from dancing. They demand a lot of you.”

Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

“You can never have too many good hats.”

Phil Klingberg, Kimba Cricket Club (1993)

*

On this gusty afternoon I’m on our patio writing. I’m just up the road from where the Chappell brothers attended St Leonards Primary School in the palindromic suburb of Glenelg.

It’s sitting on the table quietly, but has a full and boisterous past. Faded and frayed, on its front an emblem; two golden stalks of wheat embrace the acronym KCC. Kapunda Cricket Club. Down one side; the crowded loops of a celebrated signature.

It’s in its fourth decade. Mothers, wives and girlfriends, everyone, please look away now for it’s never been caught within twenty-two yards of a twin-tub.

It’s my Greg Chappell cricket hat.

*

I was at high school when the Kapunda Cricket Club distributed these hats in 1982. Cold Chisel had released Circus Animals, the Violent Femmes erupted with their eponymous debut, and the Eagles presented their second greatest hits album, meaning there were only forty-three such offerings to come (thus far). On average each Australian household now contains six separate versions of “Desperado.”

My hat was there as I featured in four losing grand final sides on the West Coast (South Australia, not California). This doesn’t bother me as cricket was always more social than showdown, and provided a fun, often protracted afternoon and post-afternoon structure to my Saturdays. I enjoyed the temperate rhythms, wit and mateship because if you played cricket with a chap, then bumping into him at Adelaide Oval guaranteed a happily frothy conversation.

How’d you go if you could face your own bowling? Would your eyes light up? Or would you cringe at the crease? Like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn attending their own funerals it’s delicious to ponder, but unattainable. I’d endured a poor season when I made more runs than I took wickets. And my bowling wasn’t fearsome. More Les Paterson, than Lenny Pascoe.

I’d my cricket hat with me when old mate R. Bowden and I flew to New Zealand for that shamefully compulsory rite of passage, the Contiki Tour. On the South Island we visited Fox Glacier, where our tour guide advised us to take a hat. Yes, a fox hat.

It was summer, however in the photo we’re huddled on the bitter, elevated tundra. I’m petrified as I’ve climbed many icy steps to the frozen plateau, but know in that nagging way going up is easy; it’s the coming back down which gets unpleasant. I didn’t want my distorted limbs, innards and freshly bloodied cricket hat sent back across the Tasman in a chilly bin.

*

Like any commendable cap it’s versatile. An enthusiastic but fabulously incoherent golfer, on a par four I can go from Greg Norman to Norman Bates to General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf (I’m assured he’d a hideous slice) in seven shots. I like to wear my Greg Chappell hat up and down, but more often, across the fairways, and remember a coach telling me, “You’ve got it arse-about. You hit a cricket ball in the air, and a golf ball along the ground.”

It was shielding my boofy face just before the change of millennium when, up the Riverland on the wonderful Waikerie golf course, I lipped out on the last. This would’ve given me a best-ever back nine of 39. The next morning at Renmark, sure I’d the sport sorted, I bludgeoned my way to, and swiftly beyond one hundred, like David Warner in a feisty frame of mind.

At Kimba playing Buckleboo during harvest an unspeakable northerly roared down the desert, blasting sand and flies and primordial horror. While umpiring in the reddish apocalypse a team-mate signed my hat with the names of West Indian cricketers Viv, Joel and Clive. He even spelt most of them adequately. But that was ages ago, and his ink is submerged beneath the yellowing cloth.

While we lived in Singapore my Greg Chappell hat spent three years in friendless and dark storage. How did I do this? Retrieving the hat from its tomb, I felt the antique brim, creased from its slumber, but still sturdy.

*

Now like a retiree forever doomed to two-fruit-and-ice-cream its solitary excursion is accompanying me and my Victa across our lawn. Given its unattractive capacity for making babies cry and dogs growl, my wife’s banished the hat from public appearances.

She’s right.

But on the backyard table it’s looking at me like Wilson the volleyball, from the Tom Hanks’ flick Cast Away. Later tonight with the wife and boys in bed I’ll continue to write and reflect over a Barossa shiraz, and when nobody’s peeking, I’ll stick it on my head.

I might even take a selfie.

 

Eagles

2

A Good Friday in Glenelg North

Shuffling past the Old Gum Tree Reserve at lunchtime my boys are playing golf.

They’ve designed a course and while each hole is unique they share one green, located near the back fence and made with a disposable drink cup. Both carry various irons and woods and they’ve the park to themselves, but I hope the putters don’t suddenly become light sabres or Samurai swords.

Continuing west I mourn that in 2020 we’ve not yet had a BBQ in the park as circumstances haven’t allowed the simple joy of snags in a public place. This now belongs to a distant, almost unknowable era but one day…

empty BBQ

Every Proclamation Day the park hosts formalities and a morning tea to mark the province’s beginning. A few years’ ago a friend, Sarah, took a selfie with Julia Gillard, who was in town for Christmas.

Bounding up to the then PM as she made her way through the scone-loving crowd, Sarah asked the question and so they both paused, smiled and click. Just like that. No burly black suits panicking into their lapel microphones and leaping like bears onto a salmon. I love that this could happen, just down the road.

It’s a kilometre from home to the beach and then another along the waterfront so my round trip’s about four kilometres. While I once ran, to now call it a jog might be hopeful. I could time myself with a sundial.

Over Tapleys Hill Road, I pass the MacFarlane Street reserve with its playground guarded by orange bunting. Alex learnt to ride a bike here. Palm trees patrol the perimeter and on spring mornings magpies swoop me. One once pecked my skull but I was clearly under-cooked as he didn’t come for a second bite. I wouldn’t eat my head either.

pat

Waiting for me is the unhurried Patawalonga River. It’s only seven kilometres in length, but this is decidedly Mississippian compared to Kuokanjoki, the shortest river in Finland which connects lakes Sumiainen and Keitele. It’s three and a half metres long.

The King Street Bridge conquered I reach the esplanade and the sea swims into happy view. To my left is the sand castle-like Marina Pier with its now ghostly restaurants and apartment balconies. Turning right the pavers follow the beach and bounce along the dune line. There’s an energetic torrent of walkers and cyclists.

Glenelg North’s beach is wide and dotted by dogs, and with a gentle sky above it’s easy to momentarily ignore the cataclysm. People appear joyful. There’s communicable resilience.

Rip-rap rocks armour the shoreline against erosion. I recall how in 1983 during a Year 12 Geography excursion with our teacher Ali Bogle we visited this very spot on a balmy Thursday prior to our penultimate Kapunda High School social. I was astonished when Ali told us that it costs a million dollars a kilometre to build this protection.

riprap

The esplanade rises gently as I go, but on a rough day with a headwind it seems Himalayan. The eastern side is flanked by houses, all glass and chrome and dazzlingly white. Soon all will be modern, when the sixties-build apartments are bulldozed.

I often smirk at Number 20 with its outsized silver numerals on the front wall, and remember Shrek seeing the size of Lord Farquaad’s castle, and asking Donkey, “Do you think maybe he’s compensating for something?”

castle

A sunshiny addition to this landscape is Audrey’s coffee caravan. It’s homemade with wooden window frames and pop-riveted aluminium and a chalkboard menu out the front. There’s always a punter or two waiting and drinking in the aroma.

I’m nearly at West Beach and the enviably positioned Sewerage Treatment Works on Anderson Avenue. Gee, poo often enjoys an idyllic (temporary) coastal address. Just short of the dunes there’s a small shelter. Occasionally, a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses sets up a pamphlet display to conscript the dog-walking, beach-loving, track-suited clientele so affectionately referred to in the Old Testament.

JW

Although they cheerfully ignore me I recall the words of Bill Bryson: I don’t know why religious zealots have this compulsion to try to convert everyone who passes before them – I don’t go around trying to make them into St Louis Cardinals fans, for Christ’s sake – and yet they never fail to try.

I turn for home.

audrey

2

Hottest 100 (minus 90) Stubby Holders of the Week

Apologies to Triple J, those entrusted with preparing gravy, Billie Eilish, fans of the long barbeque lunch, Humphrey B. Flaubert, Jock Cheese, Eugene de la Hot Croix Bun and Ron Hitler-Barassi.

In a very particular order, and with no editorialising, here they are. Judges votes are final etc.

10. And Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) goes to the Cobdogla and District Club (est.1958).

cobby

9. And Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) goes to the Kapunda Footy Club. Congratulations. Your prize will be sent by carrier pigeon.

KFC

8. And Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) comes to you live today from the Kimba Golf Club where, in a curious twist, the winner is the Kimba Golf Club.

kimba

7. And the winner of Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) is the Footy Almanac. Congratulations to all involved.

almanac

6. And Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) is the one Allan Border signed when I met him at the Holdy. Yes, it is a XXXX Gold holder (don’t show your kids).

AB

5. And the winner of Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) is the Sharks FC, one of Singapore’s finest Australian Rules footy clubs. Your prize will be posted shortly.

sharks

4. And the winner of Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) is Coopers Session Ale. Obviously, no actual beer was harmed during the taking of this photo.

session

3. Congratulations to former Adelaide resident and Le Cornu shopper Ben Folds on receiving Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW).

folds

2. And the winner of Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) is Crows’ icon Darren Jarman- Around the body, that will do. That. Will. Do. Congratulations Darren, your prize will be mailed to you.

fudd

1. And Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) goes to Adam and Caitlyn. I bloody love youse. I have never met you.

airlie

2

A Superb Christmas Song

1963

The 22nd November, 1963 was a dark day in American history, but also one of the brightest too. Their president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, but A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector was released. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t perform well at the time, but is among the greatest festive records, and has now enjoyed both commercial and critical success.

The album has been on high rotation for me and running for just over half an hour, it features The Ronettes and The Crystals. Its songs are secular and mostly covers, but performed with wide-eyed innocence, speaking of mid-Western values, fresh snow and an idealised version of an American Christmas.

ps

They are uniformly effervescent. Produced by visionary record producer Phil Spector using his famous “wall of sound” methodology he described this as a Wagnerian approach and it’s akin to a musical collage. Often in mono, the instrumentation is layered and sumptuous, and influenced the Beach Boys, most notably on “God Only Knows.” Serving his second-degree murder sentence Spector has been in a Californian jail for a decade. He’s due for parole in 2025.

hair

Paul Kelly’s “How to Make Gravy” and “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues are central to my auditory experience of the year’s penultimate week, but not that nameless aspirant squawking at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in front of those sleeping babes during Carols by Candlelight. You know the one: she came seventh in season 6 of X Factor and is now upsetting Alf in Summer Bay. At time of writing I trust the cryogenic defrosting of serial baritone warbler Dennis Walter is on schedule.

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is the highpoint of A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector and rightly assumes an elevated position in popular culture. It’s performed by Darlene Love (a minister’s daughter) who like Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Marvin Gaye learnt to sing in church.

And what benefits her religious upbringing has brought us! Sadly for your correspondent, a sustained childhood in Kapunda’s St Rose’s Church, with a suitably pious stint as an altar boy, provided me with no vocal assistance as my ungodly atonality attests.

DL

In addition to Darlene Love performing it for thirty consecutive years on Letterman it’s used as a dramatic counterpoint in Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed gangster film Goodfellas. Robert De Niro’s character Jimmy (of course) has just pulled off the country’s biggest ever robbery at JFK airport, the so-called Lufthansa heist, and at their Christmas party various mobsters are bragging about what they’ve bought. Jimmy is upset. They need to keep low.

What did you say? You being a wiseguy with me? What did I tell you? What did I tell you? You don’t buy anything, you hear me? Don’t buy ANYTHING!

Despite all its sweetness and joy the song generates jukebox menace as we know there’ll be ugly consequences. It might be Christmas, but someone’ll get wacked! After all, De Niro’s involved.

heist

This aside, it’s a gorgeous, uplifting track; rollicking along in an irresistible, up-tempo way that evokes connection and fireplace closeness. I reckon if you listen carefully you can also hear seventeen-year-old Cher singing backup vocals. It was among her first jobs.

But in 1963, back when our planet was alive with youthful promises of the space age and small town purity and neighbourly generosity, Darlene Love gives an almighty musical performance.

Go on, play it as you enjoy Christmas lunch. The pudding will never have tasted better.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exSDgA9eMtU

 

 

0

This (first love) life

typewriter

She appeared at the doorway, and said hello.

Like most boys at thirteen, his youth and inexperience in the world rendered him essentially inarticulate, but within him something profound spoke, as it would every time he saw her across the next four decades.

She was summery: pretty swirling dress, tennis shoes, hair in pigtails. She was cute, unaffected, curious. Fresh cheekbones, wide smile, bright eyes. She came from the city she said. Magill. He’d heard of it, but couldn’t place it on a map.

He found her electric, but smartly aware of her surroundings. She had a compelling voice. It was melodic, confident and engaged him as if he were an infant. In his universe it would ultimately occupy an exalted place. Its warmth blanketed him in previously unidentified ways, and made the space around him melt so that all else vanished. It was a voice from which he’d happily never recover.

It was the first quality about her that he loved.

A cloudless November day, the little primary school room was empty. His former art teacher invited him to run a disco at the annual fete, so he’d brought his cassette player and it moved along with songs from Grease, Saturday Night Fever and other tunes of the day.

cassette player

Involuntarily committing this moment to memory, his higher-self took charge and the infinite, twinkling stars comprehended more than he, as we need stars to do. Over the years he’d return to that enchanted sliver of time and space, and strain to recall the detail.

But he had no cinematic vision, no snippets of dialogue to replay in his mind. Just a knowing sensation below the crust, the lithosphere, the mesosphere, in his now-surrendered inner core.

With the trajectory of a distant comet, prodigious events were at that point set in silent motion. He couldn’t see them, and of course this knowledge would have been both comforting and terrible in its certainty.

Cosmology intervened and before she left, he had subscribed to her orbit. How remarkable that his short life had been a rehearsal for this dream role. He was unaware that he’d already been cast.

She was with him in that wooden room for eleven minutes.

kilimanjaro

His molecularity, his neurology, and his fledgling heart now had a brief meeting. At its conclusion they all nodded towards each other. Let the record show, they chorused, that this would be the defining moment.

Later reflecting that he could scarcely list the actual beginnings of any key relationships, this one would stand above all others like Kilimanjaro above the savannah.

He was thirteen.

Although it wasn’t an urgent and consuming affection, he knew it was a significant encounter, unlike a meteorite which collapses to earth, and is forgotten, for it was more substantial than that.

They were to be classmates and friends and inescapably connected. High school’s happy days extended out beyond their immaculate horizon. Then would follow university, other loves, travel, kids, sadness and the wider planet.

She skipped back out through that doorway, and he was happy he’d see her again soon.

And so, he fell in love with her.

Their story had begun.

comet