4

The West End Brewery and me

To this country kid life often appeared binary. Lillee or Thommo, Holden or Ford, Port or any other team, and my Dad, no, all dads, drank West End Draught or Southwark beer.

I remember our back lawn, the old Buffalo grass with microscopic leaf barbs that’d make your legs itch. Summer and the sprinkler would be on, with that comforting hiss that was anything but reptilian. By the swing was an ancient lemon tree and down from this I’d play backyard cricket with my sister even though she’d insist she was not out caught behind by the automatic wickie if in her crease. Every time. She was persistent and Mum having refereed the argument, I’d then race in to bowl as fast as my pool-cue legs would allow.

Late afternoons wandering about the garden, watering his tomatoes, Dad would sometimes open a Southwark echo. The green of the label was intriguing; almost emerald, almost regal, vaguely Germanic with the stylised stein and almost many different evocations that were beyond my mind’s innocent migrations.

*

Nowadays, at the Broady in Glenelg South, with fifteen beers on tap, I always scan the offerings before getting the usual, and for that brief moment the cluster of choice is faintly paralysing, in a hugely privileged, first-world way. But from my late teens I recall that there was no real choice. I just ambled into the golf club bar or the pub and, like everyone else, had Draught.

My only decision was glass size and the Kapunda Golf Club was a butcher (200ml) venue while after cricket each of the six pubs- The Prince of Wales, Sir John Franklin, Clare Castle, North Kapunda, Railway and Allendale- was schooners or mugs with handles (285ml) and only with West End Draught. All of this was barely considered. I may as well have wished for the sky to be another colour.

We’d get up in the dark for the Adelaide Oval one-dayers on the Australian Day long weekend. It was the triangular series era so Saturday might be New Zealand against the West Indies and then on the Sunday and holiday Monday they’d play Australia from 10am.

Three or four cars- maybe Woodsy’s 180B, Bobby’s Torana and my HQ Holden- would go from Kapunda to Gawler in the gloom, and we’d train from there (through Womma), walk down King William Street, and line up at the Victor Richardson Gates as the heat was climbing from the bitumen.

Once in we’d scramble to the southern mound about half-way up, and down from the Duck Pond. This was a marquee erected annually just inside the mesh fence at long-on, and it signalled that along with our foam eskies loaded with vodka-infused watermelon (we are all fruitarians, Officer), greasy bottles of Reef Oil and Adidas Mexico shorts all was right at Adelaide Oval for another summer.

Adelaide Oval during the summer of 1985

Although we didn’t frequent that part of the ground, from the Scoreboard Bar there’d be the day’s first factory whistle as the stem was eased out of a barrel. First keg done! This was always by 8.05am and there’d be a bigger roar than a Roo Yardley screamer at point, or Rodney Hogg trapping David Gower plumb. And this’d continue, every few minutes, sounding like Proud Mary steaming down the Mississippi. Every eighteen-gallon drum was West End Draught.

In 1992 I flirted with Southwark. It was a nostalgic, almost ironic phase, but a nod to my past. The bottle had been rebadged with a dark blue motif replacing the green death label, and each carton came with a (free) glass mug. I still have two of these and they’re the best beer tumblers I never bought. On hot afternoons I sometimes fetch one out of the freezer while I’m on the tongs. Southwark has never been poured into one.

Then one day in a pub, maybe in Kimba or Kapunda, other beer taps appeared. Suddenly, they were just there. Foreign lagers like XXXX and VB (Queensland and Victoria are different beer countries) and extra-terrestrial beers like Boags and Cascade. It was also when Coopers first entered my world. Suddenly, the old dichotomy had collapsed just like Skyhooks v Sherbet. I didn’t glance back. West End Draught was now a black and white tele with a coat hanger antenna next to the Jumbotron of Sparkling Ale.

*

Recently at the Glenelg Footy Club I ventured to the bar during half time on a sunny April afternoon. It’s a Lion Nathan premises (unlike Norwood Oval which is Coopers) and standing behind a beanied Centrals supporter I noted a specials poster

West End Draught cans $5.

It’d been decades so feeling sentimental I bought one, returned to my spot on the grass just down from the scoreboard and flipped the top. Can we locate meaning in beer? Some would argue not. I’d suggest that the answer is unquestionably.

I glanced around to make sure no-one was watching. A sip and it was 1986. Metallic, coarse, antagonizing. I remembered the words of my old mate Nick: “Some of our best times have been on West End Draught.” I tried to taste it as a country boy or my Uncle Des or as that dreadful default, a patriot. But my evaluation was clear. The can of beer, the inescapable Red Tin, was muck.

With the news of the brewery’s 2021 closure I thought of squinting farmers and dusty golfers and young fellas in utes and B-grade footballers in distant change rooms after a scrappy match, all tipping it in. But Adelaide’s a powerless town and the world now cares little for Holdens or Thommo or West End Draught.

Then, I think of Dad and our Kapunda backyard and a dawn train to watch a January one-dayer, and those simple, secluded times.

Glenelg North, later today
2

Pub Review: The Exeter, Semaphore

While it would be an exaggeration to say it’s a hot August night it’s at least a delightfully mild August evening in Semaphore when I pull into the Exeter’s carpark.

Pie and wine night for C

Inside I gaze about and think it’s a pub that straddles the fuzzy line between olden working men’s boozer and a more inclusive family venue. Maybe it’s both, or neither.

I’m early and in this situation would usually take a wander about the salad bar and form a plan of attack. Potato salad? Possibly. Coleslaw? Nup, not enough carrot and too much cabbage. Pea and corn? Arrh, now here’s a treat. Takes me back to the Kimba Cricket Club barbecues after training on Thursdays when there’d be seven blue ice-cream containers, each complete with a tin of peas and a tin of corn, lovingly upended by seven bachelors as they rushed (or not) to the town nets by the oval.

No, not nearly as nice as this

But, of course, the pandemic means salad bars are barred, possibly even at country cricket clubs.

I have a Session Ale and Claire settles upon a house red. It comes from a large, stainless steel dispenser that could’ve once smothered sticky-fingered and faced toddlers with soft-serve ice-cream in a Pizza Hut. The bar staff member simply pushes a button and deep red plonk eases into Claire’s glass! Sadly, the spectacle outstrips the shiraz, but still, it was a diverting eight seconds.

Subconsciously designating tonight a Neil Diamond tribute I think about the Greek Theatre and so order the seafood duo which comes with calamari, so beloved on Santorini if not in Croydon.

Claire decides upon the pie, mash and peas, noting that pies are notoriously difficult to destroy. And, of course, she’s right. Serve up a steak and everybody’s got a view. Too tough! Too stringy! Should only be eaten medium-rare! Take the same meat and stick it under the comforting cloak of pastry and there’s only happy, munching silence.

We eat on the lower floor not far from the indoor playground which has attracted running, boisterous kids. That’s the problem with having an indoor playground in a pub: the kids treat it like an indoor playground. I know. My boys bloodied themselves here a few years’ ago.

seafood: yes, I hope you can
LNP operative

The upper floor has sport on screens everywhere, but there’s only one near us and it’s showing an A-League final. Remember back in April when sport across the entire planet stopped apart from the Belarus Premier League? Now, to my shame I couldn’t tell you how Torpedo Zhodino FC is travelling.

Claire’s pie is a treat and my seafood duo is excellent. My salad comes with cherry tomatoes. Sometimes these can be a watery disappointment, like a Backstreet Boys song, but mine are zesty little bombs.

Pubs around the land are showing the Horn v Tszyu fight from Townsville, but I head home to watch Micallef with the childish hope that Darius Horsham will call the host, “an economic girlie-man.”

The Exeter’s lower dining deck
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).

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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.

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

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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

3

Club Review: The Cobdogla Club

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I need to apologise to the wonderful Kimba Area School Year 9 class of 1992 whom I took on a week-long camp to Burra, Barmera, Renmark and Clare.

Planning the event I booked some aquatics at Lake Bonney and struggled to find another activity when I stumbled across the Cobdogla Steam and Irrigation Museum. It somehow seemed reasonable. Recently in the car my youngest Max said to his brother Alex, “Why would you ask Dad a big-brained question when we know he’s a small-brained man?” and dwelling now upon that early- 90’s afternoon, I see this as a terrible pattern on my behalf.

I should’ve taken the Year 9’s to Lake Bonney and demanded they jetty-jump for six or seven hours. Provided they had their swimming jeans.

We had a tour guide: an aged man of terrifying, non-infectious passion and an ability to lecture at length matched only by his ability to not sense the crushing boredom he was inflicting upon his audience. If teenaged violence had erupted that day in Cobby, no judge would’ve convicted anyone.

pump

He spoke to us for 45 excruciating minutes on the world’s only working Humphrey pump with charcoal-fired gas producers. During his unbroken monologue I found myself wondering if I’d turned off the iron, how the Nicaraguan soccer team was travelling and what Allan Border might’ve had for breakfast that very morning. I’m sure the actual inventor of that wretched pump would’ve nodded off himself.

So, again I’m sorry. I owe you a drink.

However, just up the road is the Cobdogla Club which is one of my favourite places. We were there last Thursday and this happened to be Schnitzel Night. If you live in this part of the world the pubs and clubs have it neatly organised so that every night of the week is Schnitzel Night, although this could be both a dietary blessing and a curse.

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On the front door is a friendly sign asking the patrons to not swear, and in 2020 when the casualisation of this is rampant, I like it and get the boys to read it.

Inside is spacious and rustic. The boys rush to the free iPads which is fair enough as they’ve endured a horrific ten-minute car ride from the holiday park without a device.

The drinks menu is broad and the wine prices seem frozen at 1995. A glass of white (no, not Hock) is $4.70, and the lack of Coopers on tap is disappointing, but XPA cans are a fiver.

The salad and veggie bar is always a treat. Brussel sprouts are what Max calls, “balls of leaves” and I inhale six. There’s corn, carrots, and cauliflower and broccoli bake. It’s terrific.

We talk of the coleslaw. It can’t be easy being coleslaw, especially if you’re mostly cabbage and therefore overly pale and grim. Next to the rich colours of the beetroot and the Asian noodles you, poor coleslaw, look more ghostly than the long-gone inventor of the Humphrey pump, sitting quietly across the fields, in its dusky horror.

The schnitzels arrive quickly and are a generous size. They’re tasty, perfectly cooked and in another demonstration of the Cobby Club’s timelessness, the meat isn’t on top of the poor fecking chips, making them squashed and sweaty as happens in too many places forcing diners to go through the mindless ritual of rescuing their fried potato friends.

scnitty

No, dickhead. Not like this.

Who started this nonsense? Bring them to me, and I will scold them for 45 excruciating minutes, in an unbroken monologue, about the profound annoyance of this, and how in a world crying out for simple, uncluttered joy we must keep our schnitzel and our chips separate.

But, of course, this doesn’t happen at The Cobby Club. And that’s one reason we’ll be back next year.

club

 

2

A Love Letter to the Clare Golf Course

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In the world of cinema it’s known as mise-en-scène and refers to the poetic arrangement within a camera shot. This embraces composition, sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting and is designed to evoke certain audience reactions.

Indeed, golf and film might share this idea, if not the term, and the seventh hole at Clare in South Australia’s mid-north valley is beautifully-constructed visual art. Set among fetching hills and riesling vineyards on the town’s outskirts, the course speaks of the joys of nature, our extraordinary privilege, and the enduring value of connection.

Last Saturday dawned brisk as it does approaching 1300 feet above sea-level, but after breakfast the sun was breathing balminess into the earth and onto our faces. It was wispy-cloudy and the kindest of breezes moved about the trees. The AFL grand final would commence mid-afternoon and we’d claim our spot by an open window in the Taminga pub.

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If a golf course presents a narrative then the fifth is a memorable scene. With driver or three-wood from the tee care must be taken to not drift right as an out of bounds vineyard awaits patiently growing fruit. For some these grapes represent golf’s truest occupation: a long walk before a crisp cup; a healthy delay until Bacchus takes considerable charge.

Never mind that it has been deceased for decades, but the ghostly eucalyptus guarding the fairway fringe is a mighty reminder that perhaps golf should be of only minor consequence during a round. If there’s painterly beauty and awe in death, then this tree could be it, all cryogenic limbs and leafless silence.

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Like Mediterranean sailors and the sirens’ call most of our group’s Hot-Dots are lured to this solitary gum. On the green as Mozz lines up his long, curling putt I whisper to Claire, “Golf can be like being at war with yourself.” Mozz leaves it about ten foot short. I lean in again, “He might be losing.”

But, of course, we’re all winning.

If we continue our theatrical theme then the next hole is a climactic point.
The preceding holes have climbed quietly and the seventh tee is the natural and dramatic pinnacle, providing a vista over the course, Inchiquin Lake and the drowsy township. Sevenhill, Kybunga and Polish Hill hug the horizon.

However, looking down at the hole it’s astonishing how much it communicates. The original course architect must have smiled as he imagined the simple challenge; how he must have nodded at his good fortune to conceive this marriage of human invention and astounding nature.

It’s an unforgettable golf hole.

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130 feet below in the amphitheatrical apron a willow sits patiently by the wide green.
A nine iron only from off this cliff and the ball hangs frozen in today’s azure, before gravity escorts it back to earth.

One of our ensemble, Paul, fluffs his shot and lands in the rocky creek bed that twists like a reptilian. Amid the banter I’m aware that his tiny calamity is emblematic of our huge luck in being here, in the morning air with full bellies and endless ease.

Like the sport itself it’s a hole that invites optimism (surely the golf bags of the pessimists are dusty at the back of countless garages), but condemns arrogance and only one of our group, Bazz, finds the outwardly impossible-to-miss putting surface with a shot in this grand context that’s humble and reverential.

There’s nods, and staccato yelps of, “Nice” and “Yeah, done Bazz.”

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Our electric carts whirl down the goat-track through the scrub and bush, and the seventh green materialises as a verdant altar. Birdsong is both hymn and soundtrack. As we exit Clare’s golfing cathedral and go to the eighth, scores are confessed and then forgotten.

We press on through the laughter and the brief disappointments, and as it should, golf performs as a prop for poetic connection and conversation.

taminga

2

In 1994 Bobby Bowden and I did a Contiki tour of New Zealand

canterbury

In early 1994 old Kapunda mate, Bob Bowden and I went to New Zealand. Of course it was illegal back then to not undertake a Contiki tour so you could travel to exciting, distant lands, meet fellow Australians, and spend your evenings in exotic pubs arguing about footy, cricket and which state made the best pies.

In a shameless attempt to impress the locals I took a range of Canterbury clothing with me, including this, the timelessly stylish top known as an “Ugly.”

RFB in Auckland

Here’s Bob on a windy hill overlooking Auckland in his Kapunda Bombers- themed red and black outfit proving again that the 1990’s is not as hideous, fashionistically, as the 1980’s. If it were Brownlow night a reporter would ask Bob, “And who are you wearing?”

If you peer at the cricket ground in the middle distance you’ll see Sir Richard Hadlee, smirking up at us, for no good reason.

place name

Upon returning to Kimba my Year 9 English class was decidedly unimpressed when I included this Kiwi place name in their first spelling test for 1994.

glacier

A highlight was ascending and then descending, perilously, the South Island’s Fox Glacier. Although my GS Chappell floppy cricket hat came in useful that day, there is no truth that a sudden hail storm gave it its first and last wash in over thirty years.

This hat is now tragically banned from all overseas travel. It can not be issued a visa.

backyard

I’m forever indebted to David, the English bloke on the left, who pointed at the grim base of Fox Glacier and quoting a classic British comedy said to me, “See that freezing death trap over there? That’s your backyard in summer, that is.”

toga!

What trip to the hotspot of Queenstown is complete without a toga party? Toga! Toga!

As Doug Neidermeyer declares in Animal House, “And most recently of all, a “Roman Toga Party” was held from which we have received more than two dozen reports of individual acts of perversion SO profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here.”

NB- my boatshoes as worn in Rome 34BC.

sheep dog statue

While we didn’t see any sheep statues- no, seriously- we did spot this bronzed sheep dog who refused to fetch the stuck stick I threw.

spoofy

Our tour finished in Christchurch by which time Bob and I had introduced our travel mates to the ancient art of Spoofy. A game of chance using three coins the loser has to buy all the participants a beer. The UN should use it as a diplomatic strategy to resolve international tensions.

In fact , I think Bob Hawke once did.

This was a quarter of a century ago. Time to return methinks.

0

I’ve not left the house in four days

m and r

In May, 1991 I collected the ball on the half-forward flank at Cleve Oval, lifted my eyes goalward and ran.

Or, attempted to run, as an opponent tackled me and stomped on my right foot, accidently. A man of bellowing mirth, and ample girth, he was not inaccurately nicknamed Gut.

I’m unsure of the physics, but am certain mass, force, and pressure all rushed together unthinkingly and briefly as elemental energies do and broke my metatarsal and phalange.

I stopped like the coyote hitting a painted-on tunnel the roadrunner has just disappeared down.

My internal headline was

Gut mashes foot

In my new job I had to take a bunch of kids to Adelaide in about a month and needed to upgrade my licence, so later that night, hobbling about my weatherboard home, I rang my dear friend Gareth to say Sunday’s bus-driving lesson about the noiseless, wide streets of Kimba was off.

Crutches came and went, I got my bus licence for the surprisingly agile, if boxy Toyota Coaster, the Adelaide trip happened and I played footy a month or so later.

I forgot about my foot.

*

Not long after Max was born in 2010 I jogged through Moseley Square one afternoon and returning home my foot had a secret, invisible steam iron pressed to it, as if it was a GAZMAN shirt on job interview morning. It was searing and burning and as tender as expensive mince.

A few weeks later sitting in a medical clinic the doctor peered at the x-ray and asked, “Have you ever broken your foot?”

“Yeah. In 1991. Playing footy. A big bloke stepped on it.” I supplied extra detail. The doctor looked interested. “His name was Gut.”

Comparing my extremity to a formerly wayward chook, she then commented, “I’m afraid your foot’s now coming home to roost.”

*

Last Friday just after seven Kerry took me to Noarlunga Hospital. It’s a low, flat building that seems like it belongs in the Riverland, or on the Sunshine Coast near a surf club.

In a small office I met with the anaesthesiologist. He suggested a local would be fine but offered a general too.

On Family Feud a team captain will sometimes blurt, “Play!” before Grant Denyer has closed his overly tiny mouth.

With even quicker speed I yapped, “General.” I didn’t even glance at my family.

crutch

Subconsciously informed by my previous Australian operating theatre experience this decision was supersonic. Alex was born by emergency Caesarean section at Flinders Hospital and I was there, sat and chaperoned on a stool by Kerry’s head.

A blue sheet shielded me from the birthing action, but on the ceiling a large mirror reflected everything. I didn’t want to faint, so I didn’t look at that mirror, that all-seeing mirror, like Indiana Jones when the face-melting evil spirits fly about after the Ark of the Covenant is opened by the galactically stupid Nazis.

So, yes, I didn’t wish to unintentionally catch a glimpse of my filleted toe, or an electric saw, or a mallet.

I had no wish to spectate.

And yes, I’m comparing a Caesarean section with minor foot surgery.

I’m sorry.

*

I’ve not left the house in four days.

I thought I’d spend time watching old DVDs like Goodfellas or The Royal Tenenbaums but I’ve barely turned on the TV. Daytime viewing is beyond grim with the exception of Judge Judy who cuts through the nonsense quicker than a salt-and-pepper deputy principal, or a New Jersey detective.

Instead, I’ve had my foot elevated over the couch-arm like a languid teenager (with a decidedly unyouthful hoof) while I’ve re-read the Lay of the Land from the Frank Bascombe series by Richard Ford and luxuriated in its finely-observed narration.

When this middle-aged introspection was settling too heavy upon my solitary soul, I listened to a podcast featuring Merrick and Rosso, the former Triple J (and Nova) radio duo for whom there’s still enormous affection, twenty years on. They reminisced about Tight Arse Tuesday and Choice Bro TAFE, and I laughed like a pirate.

*

It’s been good to shut out the world a while. No work, No driving. The weather only glimpsed out the window in a second-hand, oddly-removed way.

Some quiet.

Tomorrow, I’m back to the hospital for a post-operative appointment.

My recovery’s going well, and I’ll soon be back, not on a half-forward flank, but out of the house, and in the world, with a foot that’s good for a few more decades of stroll and grunt and run.

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