2

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.

2

Viral Stories

 

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The Footy Almanac is a magnificent community for reading and writing, and occasionally it runs competitions. It recently held a microfiction event in which twitter stories with a maximum of 280 characters on the theme of the current virus were sought.

It was terrific and the entries were varied and offered compelling insights into the challenges and human responses to our circumstances.

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The stories are collected here-

https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/almanac-writing-competition-almanac280-covid-19/

Claire and I were in Europe when this contagion accelerated. In chronological order here’s my three stories.

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post-Sweden isolation

 

At the outbreak of the outbreak in a Swedish cottage. Beyond the cold glass are the forest, lake, brisk air, and our sublime late afternoons. We breathe our words to and fro. The cottage is a meniscus, and like migratory atoms, we are within, and then, without.

 

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Our languid breakfast is done. On the table: a carton of milk, muesli, a punnet of berries. Two coffee cups, almost nodding at each other like we might’ve done at a party decades ago, a conspiracy of caffeine. The day stretches its arms. Isolation begins.

 

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The light bends in and falls across us like soft piano notes. A tiny expansive space. This is our morning and evening altar, and here we share the day’s fresh promise and sink into night’s snug entwining. Outside, an earth spins. Inside, it’s our second week.

 

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0

Best go through puberty on a Tuesday

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As Wordsworth lamented, doubtless about Mondays, “the world is too much with us” and on the first day of the week he’s right. Thursday and Friday are too frivolous for these matters, and Wednesday, at least in my house, belongs to Micallef and Mad as Hell.

After deep introspection I choose Tuesday night, and Tuesday night it is.

Formerly, if somewhat brazenly called Sex Ed, the evening session of Growth and Development for children and parents begins at our primary school.

Looking about from the back row I see Max’s soccer coach and his son, our neighbour and his lad, and other slightly uncomfortable children and their significantly more uncomfortable mums and dads. Alex tells me he helped put out the chairs. We’re in the school gym. While it’s a place of fun and games I wonder about the kids for whom sport means humiliation and tears.

As such tonight’s about puberty.

The presenter is sunny and welcoming and she has a PowerPoint with amusing cartoons including the compulsory picture of a boy at his local pool on the diving board. It’s obvious to the world that he finds particular physical pleasure in wearing Tony Abbott swimwear.

We discuss a diagram of the female genitalia and use a glossary to identify what’s what. Working through the list our leader says, “Can anyone tell me another word for labia?”

One eager boy blurts, “Pecker!”

We then had the legislated vulva and Swedish car joke which always goes down well, especially on a warm Tuesday night in a beachside suburb.

Moving to the male anatomy chart the cheerful host pauses at scrotum, as we all do, and asks for alternate names.

“Ball sack,” yells a small boy up the front of the gym.

A disembodied, pre-pubescent voice squeaks, “Nut sack.”

“Good, good,” replies our expert and then in a synonymic surprise she chirps, “Now does anyone here call it a Santa sack?”

There’s much roaring from the floor. Alex and Max jump and dance in their chairs. Your correspondent guffaws.

I then find myself contemplating Vas Deferens, and wondering if as well as starring in the Male Reproductive League (MRL) he was a footballer in the 1970s. I can hear Rex Hunt calling, “Vas Deferens collects the air conveyance, breaks a tackle and goes looooong!”

What characterised his career? Impressive clearances (of course) and dour defence, but he couldn’t lock down a spot with Carlton, so moved to South Adelaide in the SANFL, played one hundred serviceable games and now runs a pizza bar at Port Noarlunga where among older footy fans he enjoys a cult following. To this day not even his closest mates call him “VD.”

Our host subsequently speaks of each male producing 30 to 250 million sperm per millilitre of semen and I feel proudly productive, if suddenly tired.

The PowerPoint then shows a teenager mid-wet dream and I’m sure the dads in the gym become distantly nostalgic although no knowing nods are exchanged among us in the back row.

Our final topic is on being kind to yourself through the challenges of puberty. We’re reminded that being a loyal friend is far more important than any temporary looks, and how we should think of the things we’re good at like caring for others or reading or helping at home.

She then asks us to be glad for other blessings, and I lean in to Alex, newly twelve and veering between young man and innocent boy and whisper, “I know you and Max are grateful for Dad’s tremendous comedy” and he punches me on the thigh with affection and I feel pleased for this tiny moment.

Walking home I’m keen to talk about our evening, but excited and with pent-up energy, the boys run and wrestle and bounce along the footpath like an enthused epididymis and I don’t mind. They’re busy being kids.

We’ll speak of sperm and scrotums in the morning. Or not.

There’ll be time next Monday.

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0

Ten Footnotes from Vampire Weekend at Melbourne’s Forum

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I notice it early. The drummer, lashing and bombastic and then gentle, is wearing a Collingwood jumper. Chris Thomson is the stickman for Vampire Weekend and here in The Forum, in the heart of Melbourne, it’s a gesture emblematic of this band’s magnanimous outlook. I’m not a Magpie fan, but I smile. It’s an offering, a symbol of hopeful connection.

*

I instantly love The Forum. An arts venue must be evocative and not simply functional. It should also be an instructive text, and a participant in the unfurling theatre. Inside’s a blue night sky, kitsch yet confirming Roman busts, spaciousness, coolness, and a beguiling solidarity amongst the eclectic gathering, all there for the same connection. A generous security guard takes our photo, while the beardy Scottish one near the VIP section is chirpy denial when we ask to sneak in.

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*
Third song in is, “Unbelievers” from Modern Vampires of the City. It’s chugging, train-like rhythm and stubborn optimism, but I love the distillation, the there’s-a-life-right-there, gorgeous binary of

I know I love you

And you love the sea.

*
An Oxford comma is a controversial punctuation mark. It’s also the title of the first Vampire Weekend song I heard in which it’s a symbol to critique affectation and exclusivity. It references Dharamshala in India, site of the world’s most strikingly situated cricket ground with the snow-capped Himalayas creating a painterly mis-en-scene. Dharamshala is also home to the Dalai Lama. I hope Vampire Weekend write a song about the apostrophe. Gee, we need’s it.

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*
Fresh from lunch at Il Tempo on Degraves Street we amble up Flinders Street to investigate The Forum. The capitalised black font on the front’s white hoarding rouses a frizz of frisson. Next door Hosier Lane ribbons with its urban art while across the road is angular and aggressive Federation Square. Like the difficult, exciting world itself we’re at once confronted and comforted.

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*
That other 2020 Australian phenomenon, the power outage, quieted the band part way into “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and twenty minutes later they took up the song where it had collapsed before it plunged again and Ezra said that a third, and final attempt to fix the electrical issue would proceed, but we dreaded our night would suffer voltage interruptus and Claire and I would wing back to Adelaide, unrequited and hollow. Blissfully, the show then rollicked through 27 songs including an encore request for, “Ottoman” which shares lyrical intertextuality with, “Cape Cod” courtesy of the gently self-mocking

it feels so unnatural, Peter Gabriel too.

It could be a nod to the band’s supposed Afro-beats cultural appropriation.
*
To soar music needs space and silence. Within songs and across songs this transpires Tuesday night in The Forum. I like being invited to dart into the air and light by harmony. Colour and texture and welcoming lulls for my mind and ears. Art’s a conversation, a handshake, an invitation to make an investment. I can hear former band member Rostam Batmanglij’s legacy: bewilderingly pretty piano lines; unique guitar resonances; sonic and human fragility.

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*
Greta Morgan’s a multi-instrumentalist touring with Vampire Weekend and like everyone on stage, she contributes effervescently. We enjoy her 80’s dancing behind the keyboard during which she sways from side to side like she’s in a Human League tribute band. Brilliant. She plays a maraca too, and in a 7-piece outfit, in this age of drowning sounds and buffoon noise, we watch and concentrate and pick out its tiny sunny rattle. At once each band member is both within the ensemble and without, operating in a private territory and yet coupled to organic whole.
*
Of the songs I’ve anticipated across both hemispheres and many decades we especially want to hear Vampire Weekend’s “Hannah Hunt.” It’s a text of deep and shuddering significance. At 2.40 the music bursts, and the moment is perfectly formed with beauty and despair and somehow, despite it all, triumph. After the song, front man Ezra Koenig describes how the opening lines were inspired by dialogue from Picnic at Hanging Rock. It’s also an offering, a symbol of hopeful connection.

A gardener told me some plants move

But I could not believe it

Till me and Hannah Hunt

Saw crawling vines and weeping willows

As we made our way from Providence to Phoenix

*
Two giant blue and green globes are thrown among the mosh pit who bounce and tumble them about with joyous physics. It’s been a superb set and the realisation of a shared goal. The final song is “Ya Hey” and it’s introduced with an acknowledgment of the bushfire crisis and there’s poignancy in the lines

Through the fire and through the flames

You won’t even say your name.


It’s also an offering, a symbol of hopeful connection.

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0

This (first love) life

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2

This exquisite, unrepeatable moment

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Driving Alex and his mates to Adelaide Oval last Sunday I’m reminded of the final line from 1986’s coming-of-age film, Stand by Me, in which the narrator ponders his distant childhood with affection and melancholy:

I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?

We’re heading to see Glenelg contest its first SANFL final since these boys were toddlers. I’m keen for the Tigers to secure a spot in the grand final, but by sunset I’ll have learnt, all over again, that at best, football should only be a happy distraction.

It’s an archetypal early spring day: fluctuating between encouraging sun, blustery breeze, and quick showers. On our way to Hindley Street the car radio’s on. As it better matches where these boys are at I’ve changed stations from Triple J to commercial pop music. The songs seem immediate and disposable, but my passengers are more interested in rapid chat about teachers; food both healthy and not; exotic classmates; a recent school camp in the Adelaide Hills.

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We see the fourth quarter of the Norwood and Crows match. Despite a spirited finish by the Redlegs, the tricolour interlopers advance to the preliminary final. Sitting in front of the Sir Edwin Smith Stand, of course the boys spear straight down to the fence, so they can get as close as possible to the action, although for most of the afternoon they enthusiastically ignore the footy.

They eat. They chat. They laugh. They do whole mobs of stuff except watch the action.

For them footy is mere situational context; Aristotelian theatre of minor consequence; a fuzzy backdrop to their endless, summery banter.

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Glenelg and Port is pulsating. The Magpies are taller, bigger and dominate aerially, but the Bays appear to quicken as the shadows lengthen. The boys’ chat continues.

“Our grade five camp had way better food! Don’t you think Ty?”

“I met Steve Smith at the Cricket Warehouse when I was six. Mum let me have the day off school.”

“Jacob, are you going to do karate next year?”

I love the easy egalitarianism among them. Each takes his turn, enjoys his moments in the sun, is allowed his voice. There’s no clear pecking order or obvious Alpha male. There’s esprit de corps.

It’s gladdening.

At half time they dash behind the stand onto the lawns for some kick-to-kick while I watch their black backpacks, bursting with snacks as we arrived, and now mostly empty like deflated tyres.

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Stretching my legs too I wander down to the ornamental grass. There’s an irresistible puddle. The boys are bunched by the statue of Boof Lehmann while Alex skims his footy through the water and at them, again and again while they squirm and shriek. However, they’re wet and it’s fresh so I ask them to stop. They do. Maybe I should’ve left them to it. Boof is spared further drenching.

In the gathering gloom (literal and metaphorical; tending towards pathetic fallacy) Port win by four points over a fast-finishing Glenelg. The boys exclaim their vague despair, but it’s vaporised before we exit the Southern Plaza and their natural natter then pings about, as it should. We cross the footbridge.

With my headlights cutting through the murk I again steer along Anzac Highway and think of Stand by Me. Alex and these mates will have next year in their snug, neighbourhood primary school, and then move on. They’ll likely attend different high schools. Maybe their bond will endure, maybe not.

But, for the moment, this exquisite, unrepeatable moment, Alex and his eleven-year-old friends, bouncing between childhood and adolescence, are deep in the greatest of simple gifts: each other.

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2

September and everyone’s in love and flowers pick themselves

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It must be acknowledged that autumn is ridiculously good in Adelaide. The cloudless, immensely liveable days host a tremendous array of outdoor fun at the beach, at the Fringe Festival, in the backyard. It’s a spectacular time in this cosy city, clinging to the edge of our isolated island at 34.9285° S.

Every month has highpoints, but September is the one to which I pin most happy expectation. I love winter, and while here it’s brief, I’m mostly pleased to wave farewell to it, and smile at spring.

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So what is it about September?

Football finals.

From my home town of Kapunda, to Adelaide’s suburban competition and then to the immovable Australian Football league, it’s the best month to enjoy our unique game. I love that it must be the only sport in which competitors miss a goal but are rewarded with a point for being close. You know, for having a go. In this country we value laconic imprecision, of course.

With the Adelaide Crows yet again having September off for poor behaviour my attention now goes elsewhere. I still take a huge interest in the AFL finals, and my inner socialist dictates that my temporary affections are with the most deserving, and generally least successful team.

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I can offer no love towards Geelong, Collingwood, West Coast, Essendon or the confected opportunism that is the GWS Giants so I’m barracking for the Western Bulldogs. They’ve one flag in the last six decades.

Triumphing on the month’s last Saturday will provide associative hope to the Crows for 2020. Football fans, after all, must be optimists. Without this, we cease to be.

At the local level my team Glenelg qualified for the finals following a dark decade of absence. Indeed, they have a shot at the premiership cup; their first since the antediluvian era (1986, but you get my point). It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be surprising. Most vitally, it’s going to be memorable.

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Spring is a seductress, but a shameless tease too. With the days lengthening swiftly we end our hibernation and amble outdoors expecting bright, sunny skies. There’s a burst of cheerful warmth, and suddenly, barbeques sizzle, thongs flip-flop out of the wardrobe, and a few frenzied punters even splash down to the beach.

But, before you’ve pumped up the tyres on your cobwebby bike, or ironed your speedos, a gusty change lashes through, and again you need a beanie on just to stick out the bins. And this schizophrenic weather can go on endlessly. It’s like buying tickets to a Bob Dylan concert and worrying about who’ll turn up on the night. The good Bob, or the bad Bob?

The international cricket season is slow to get a rumblin’ so horse-racing enjoys some attention until mid-November. I love the Group 1 races such as the Makybe Diva Stakes, named after the Port Lincoln wonder mare who won three consecutive Melbourne Cups, and the Moir Stakes, which sadly isn’t the Moi Stakes and therefore named after Kath and Kim. The boys and I will invest the odd hour in the Broadway pub watching some of the turf action. Max might even wear his Black Caviar cap. It’ll be a raspberry and chips for all.

Kath and KIm

September is rebirth and renaissance; promise and hope; a farewell to the murk and a cautious nod at the light. It’s when the year stomps down on the accelerator and tyres squealing, burns towards Christmas like a mad Monaro.

Let’s wind down the windows, and crank up the radio!

 

 

*the title comes from the celebrated American poet ee cummings

 

 

 

1

A Sunday in the Barossa

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A celebration of excellent weather, the gentle environment and our astonishing privilege: an autumn Sunday in the Barossa!

The trick (or life hack as the young ‘uns call these) with winery tours is to keep the itinerary simple: don’t fall for vaulting ambition, or an overly complex itinerary. With this in mind Claire said, “I reckon we should go along Krondorf Road.”

Beginning at Grant Burge Wines a highlight was the view down to and across the rolling valley floor with the trees all gilded and brunette and anticipating their winter drink. There was a lengthy list of wines to work through and these were uniformly adequate if somewhat devoid of charisma.

Noting the massive bottles on display we spoke of the biblical names ascribed to these: Methuselah, Balthazar and my favourite to say, often apropos of nothing, Nebuchadnezzar: holding 15 litres, an unholy receptacle with catastrophic hangovers for the extended family (perhaps not the kiddies).

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Rockfords is always a delight. The former stables host the tastings. All stone and pastoral calm; inside is warmly dark, and the punters drift and mingle, scuffling to and from the counter. Above our heads is a row of dusty, hoary bottles, the labels whispering of meeker times. With our dear friend Trish in mind we bought a bottle of Alicante Bouchet as voices murmured about us, all low and vaguely thrilling and festive.

The Basket Press Shiraz is Olympian, and I remembered I’d a bottle at home, a significant birthday gift from old friends Bob and Trish. As always with long-distance wine I’m torn: do I lay it down for years on the hazy promise of a milestone, or given life’s uncertainty, dash home on an otherwise unspectacular Tuesday, and turn the church key?

It was divine to then emerge from this intimate dusk and into the cobblestoned light of Rockford’s courtyard. Dust and pollen and laughter pirouetted about in the golden air, and I remarked to Claire how I found it difficult to believe there could be a happier place on the planet.

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Our clocks had chimed midday and so we drove westward. Our pace was like that of the horses and carts of centuries ago when stoic Lutherans slapped the reins, and crunching the carpark gravel at St. Halletts we both noted how it had been decades since either of us had visited.

The cellar door has a generous, handsome bar. Even the toilets are luxurious in their appointments. We discussed the received silliness of the various euphemisms for these: bathroom. Aside from the physical hopelessness of the cistern, who’d wish to take a bath in one? And restroom: these may have once offered welcome refuge, but with an unsophisticated world view shaped by my amenities experiences out the back of Adelaide Oval I reckon toilets are like proctologist visits; get in and out (as it were) as quickly as you can.

We chatted over our cups with the woman serving the drinks. She was Parisienne and pregnant. On a working holiday years ago she met her eventual husband in an aisle of the local hardware store, and now here she was. It was a natter in keeping with the day’s themes of warmth and gratefulness and she popped extra crackers on our cheeseboard.

With the Para River acting as a gentle guardian there’s an ample lawn punctuated by some silent gums and wooden tables, like those favoured in English country pubs. We had cheese and olives and sunshine and stillness. And a glass of wine each. My sparkling red was exquisite, delicate and with a haughty effervescence that contrasted ever so slightly with the surroundings.

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“Do you know what my favourite drink is when wine-tasting?” I asked, the sun slanting across the lawn.

“A shiraz?” Claire suggested.

“No, but good try.”

“Go on then.”

“After the last winery it’s the Pale Ale I have at a pub.”

So, our day ended with a first. We swung into the Sandy Creek pub, a boozer I must’ve passed a thousand times, but had never entered.

With the light collapsing beyond the low hills we sat out the front and watched the steady stream of cars and trucks and vintage jalopies roar along the highway as on the TV inside the Crows and Dockers began their unwatchable match.

It had been a sunlit day of space and conversation and bursting gratitude.sandy creek