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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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!

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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

 

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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.

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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.

0

Road Trip- Kapunda cars and boys

 

Once upon a time we took photos by cars. Were vehicles more important when we were young? I suspect they were, and now we’re defined by other things: family, houses, work.

Here’s some old photos. Each tells a story.

 

Some friends- Chris, Stephen, Rodney and I bonded while at Kapunda High over a shared ownership, and then, love of the iconic Adidas shoe, the Rome. We became the Romers. There were four of us, and in this snap we’re heading off on a trip in Stephen’s Holden Gemini, but for reasons I can’t recall, Rod is absent.

Of course, we’re all blubbing and bellowing into our hankies, wondering how we’ll cope without Rod.

Yes, well spotted. I’m wearing a Kapunda Cricket Club cap.

Why did they stop painting cars in that particular green?

In 1988 Paul, Mikey, Chrisso and I ventured to Melbourne in Paul’s VK SS Commodore. It accelerated, as they say, like the clappers. We went to the MCG and saw Dean Jones up close, hitting a few in the net. I was keen to see the Australian captain, Alan Border, bat. After some refreshments I wandered down in the bowels of the stadium to use the facilities.

Coming out into daylight and blinking, I looked at the scoreboard. AB had made a duck. It was the last time full-strength beer would be served at the MCG for many a year.

Yes, well spotted. I’m wearing hideous, fluoro-coloured, hyper-coloured board shorts. No, I don’t know why.

In January of 1985 Woodsy, Chrisso, Trev and I drove to Sydney to stay with Stephen and Brendan in Drummoyne.

Yes, Woodsy and I are wearing Adidas Mexicos shorts, which for humanitarian and visual arts reasons are now banned.

On the way we stopped in West Wylong and met some local girls who, apparently because of our accents, thought we were British. In Sydney we played cricket, and went to the SCG and saw Simon O’Donnell make his debut while sitting on the Hill. We swam at Curl-Curl, Bondi and Manly. It was innocent fun. Then we went to Kings Cross where our country boys’ eyes were widened.

We also went to the Basement to take in some jazz. One afternoon in The Rocks we saw Kamahl and his Rolls Royce.

Ah, the days of the Road Trip!

19

Philip Road, Elizabeth- Holden cars and me

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There was still a post-Coronation glow across the Commonwealth when Holden started making cars in Elizabeth, just north of Adelaide. Indeed, our Queen had only been in Buckingham Palace for a few years, and with this respectfully in mind, those mapping the satellite city instead decided that the thoroughfare next to the car manufacturing plant should be named Philip Highway, Elizabeth. I guess Philip Road, Elizabeth was a bit horizontal in tone, especially in the 1950’s.

I’m not a petrol-head, but as a country boy, I was always going to buy a Holden for my first car. Purchased from solid farming folk near Greenock, it was a pale blue HR Holden complete with two-speed Powerglide. It had razor-blade thin tyres, which had the unfortunate habit of prolonged squealing as I gently rounded a corner, or accidently drove in circles at the intersection just up from the Kapunda Pizza Bar. Prior to buying an FM radio, for my driving pleasure I had a portable cassette player and a kazoo. The HR’s registration was REM-097.

Part way through my degree I upgraded to the model I’m confident was made in greater numbers than any other at the Elizabeth plant: a HQ Kingswood (white). In our little country town, there must’ve been twenty of these, and they were mostly driven by us young fellas. Sometimes there’d be three or more of these in a diagonal row, outside Nugget’s Clare Castle Hotel*, late on a Sunday. Owning one seemed almost compulsory, and it functioned as a type of vehicular uniform for our silly army. Its rego was UXA-100.

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For a few months, my friends commuted to uni and back with me. Claire and Trish* were Abba fans and musical theatre devotees, and I now confess that I took fiendish, even megalomaniacal delight in controlling our musical accompaniment. They’d holler, “Put on the radio” and “We want SA-FM.”

Deaf to their words, I’d then lean over and pump up the volume on a ten-minute blues song like, “Key to the Highway.” Somehow, we’re still friends.

Nineteen. There may well be an age at which Australian males are more stupid, but I doubt it. With sudden and inexplicable urgency one Friday night, when I was barely nineteen, three friends and I decided that we needed to race down to one of the Kapunda main street’s four pubs (or possibly, all of them).


So, we left the home of the mate that for legal reasons I’ll refer to as Woodsy* and failing entirely to navigate the dirt road behind Kapunda High School, my left fender prised open about twenty feet of the corrugated fence like it was a tin of Whiskers*. The car came to an immediate halt. Our friend was studying electronic engineering at Adelaide uni, so I said, “Chris*, you’re smart, fix it!” He couldn’t.

Subsequent crash analysis revealed a major cause being the HQ Holden’s front bench seat on which, for now obscure reasons, all four of us were, for want of an ergonomically accurate term, sitting. Apparently, this lack of physical space made it difficult for the driver (me) to successfully operate the steering wheel.

Later, another mate, Crackshot* remarked that despite it being only eighteen months since I’d somehow won Kapunda High’s Paul Giles Memorial Prize for Character and Leadership, I still clearly wanted to make a lasting mark on my former school. Under the cold light of Saturday morning, in grim conversation and looking at my Adidas Rome-d feet, neither the headmaster nor the town’s police officer, saw my yearning for scholastic legacy as a legally relevant issue.

The final Holden I owned was the most expensive of the three, and certainly the least likable. Heading off to the West Coast to teach I bought a VK Commodore from Hage’s in Tanunda. It drove well, if thirstily, but the stereo was terrible and the front speaker rattled like buggery whenever I’d turned up a tape, like Billy Joel*. Billy deserves better.

One evening after a prolonged cricket fixture and raffle-ticket selling duties in the Wudinna Club, the VK batted last and was dismissed, run-out by a Ford at a railway line on the road back to my farmhouse accommodation (I wasn’t driving). After extensive rehabilitation, during which I drove Jock* and Snook’s dune buggy, I sold it.

I didn’t know it, but my relationship with Holden’s was finished. I’m unsure whether I’m yet to have my mid-life crisis, or if I’ve been having one all my life, but I often think that one day, I’ll buy myself an EH Holden.

I might even take it on Sunday drives, and do a lap of Kapunda High.

Thanks, Holdens.

 

*names not changed

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0

To old mate Chris Hayward, on his 50th

 


About a month back six former Kapunda High scholars- Rocket Ellis, Nick Lienert, Trevor Lucas, Andrew and Chris Hayward and I were at the MCG taking in Port versus Collingwood: a truly post-apocalyptic and dentally-challenged fixture. Ours was a tidy collective.

During the second quarter Chris returned with his round, and this is instructive for he had not six, but two Bundies. One for his brother, and yes, one for himself. Now some of you are possibly thinking, that’s a bit selfish. Indeed, some of our ensemble in Row G may have thought this too- despite none of us liking Bundy. What do we make of this purchase? The meaning is, of course, that Chris values family deeply, and for this how can we but admire him?

And those in our group at the MCG not called Hayward were pampered by Chris with refreshments. Yes, light beer. No, one each. As the insipid lagers made their sorry way to the downcast recipients there was anger and a fight threatened, and partly because it was Port and Collingwood and we wanted to blend in, a fight threatened.

But this is to misunderstand the situation. Ever a visionary, Chris had foretold that we’d end up in an Irish bar at 3am, and plainly, he was looking after his mates. Our safety, and our health were, as always, his priorities. So, thanks for your human concern Chris. Indeed, leadership can be lonely.

Chris is a tremendous enthusiast, and as all of us know, this great gift is contagious. To spend time in his company is one of life’s joys for Chris finds happiness and fun everywhere. He loves laughter and people, and lives in robust and generous ways. And for this, we thank him.

So happy 50th Chris. To Chris!