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Pub Review: the Magpie and Stump, Clare Valley

 

front of pub
Geometrically, I think the lawn’s a trapezium but I might be wrong.

Either way, it’s a Clare Valley garden, which just happens to come with its own pub!

There’s slate tables on the grass; umbrellas on bases- although the spring breeze means these are tethered lest they launch toward an unsuspecting vineyard or throbbing Harley; and two fire buckets embedded in imposing circular structures as if they’ve come from a 1970’s playground, or a Texan mechanic’s barbeque.

fire bucket

We’re at one of my favourite places on the planet: the Magpie and Stump.

Last year we sulked pub-ward suffering afresh from the Crows’ grand final defeat, hoping schnitzel might sooth our spirits. Spooked, Mozz uttered, “It’s quiet. Too quiet.”

The pub was shut.

And had been for some months.

But in 2018 new owners have flung open the doors- this sudden change in fortune is called peripeteia by the Greeks- and I’m thrilled. Shaking mine host Paul’s hand, he explains he’s expecting seventy for lunch. He adds that, “We did 700 meals over the June long weekend.” I peek in the kitchen en route to the bar and see four chefs: all busier than a one-legged man in an arse-kicking competition.

Our entourage takes up residence at a generous garden table. Having consulted the pub’s website, I know $15 jugs of Coopers Session Ale are waiting. At my urgings Bazz and Mozz enlist. “Go on,” I say, “it’ll be funny.”

lawn

The bar-keep seems unimpressed by my digital espionage but honours the offer. There’s wine and cider for the others and raspberry for the young fellas so we sit in the sun and speak of many people and places.

It’s perfect.

Most opt for the Stump burger, a challenging treat with meaty patties the size of small, beefy UFOs. The chips are crisp and tasty- this isn’t always a given- and come in those miniature wire baskets that could’ve been hocked from a Lilliputian fish shop.

Kath has salt ‘n’ pepper squid but it needs additional NaCl dusting. Flopping about with their iPods and assorted devices our male progeny orders nuggets. These are breathed in, instantly.

table 2

Post-lunch, the entertainment’s on under the veranda: a guitar and keyboard duo. Looking like an older Jack White the vocalist announces, “I’m Paul and this is Andy. Together, we’re known as Paul and Andy.”

They provide an afternoon of agreeable covers including our request for “Sweet Caroline.” Given the comprehensive demographic of the audience they ignore our plea for Frank Zappa and his 25-minute magnus opus, “Billy the Mountain.”

The pub staff are also congenial, even when one of our crew, Bazz attempting to assist, drops five glasses onto the table’s unforgiving slate. Disappointingly, only four break but the employee with upturned trouser cuffs laughs throughout his dustpan deed.

table 1

As the sun dips in the western sky we each get out three coins to engage in a few rounds of spoofy- known by my old mate Whitey as, “the free beer game.” Your correspondent enjoys complimentary cups.

We leave with some newly-minted stubby holders. However, these look better on display behind the bar as rolling them about in our mits, they’re, as Ian Chappell used to say, a bit thin. The cover of an old National Geographic would provide similar beverage insulation.

But it’d been a terrific Sunday on this fetching lawn and despite intermittent outages over the decades, the Magpie and Stump again powers on.

I urge you to enjoy its lawn soon.

stubby holder

 

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Ten Terrific Films- Part Two

lantana

5. Lantana
Great line- What are you doing here? Most of the guys in this place aren’t much older than our son.

This is a mesmerising, sumptuous mix of sex and death with a stellar cast including Barbara Hershey, Geoffrey Rush, Anthony La Paglia and Russell Coight Glenn Robbins. Written by South Australian resident Andrew Bovell it’s mysterious and gripping and sad. Paul Kelly provides the suitably atmospheric score.

Set in Sydney the film engages us visually and aurally, and I can almost feel the uncomfortable humidity of both the setting and the relationships.

groundhog

4. Groundhog Day
Great line- Ned… Ryerson. “Needlenose Ned”? “Ned the Head”? C’mon, buddy. Case Western High. Ned Ryerson: I did the whistling belly-button trick at the high school talent show? Bing! Ned Ryerson: got the shingles real bad senior year, almost didn’t graduate? Bing, again. Ned Ryerson: I dated your sister Mary Pat a couple times until you told me not to anymore? Well?

With its themes of redemption and finding joy in every moment this is a favourite among Buddhists, and as cynical weatherman Phil Connors, arguably Bill Murray’s finest performance.

A magnificent comedy the film also appeals with its life-affirming messages although it’s impossible to now hear Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” without an involuntary twinge.

Not only is Groundhog Day- February 2- my wife’s birthday, but I recall legendary Australian sports-caster Bruce McAvaney struggling uncharacteristically to say the name of a race horse called Punxsutawney Phil (a gelding). It’s the only time I’ve heard Bruce frustrated. The horse had a mercifully short career.

It’s a film I like to see annually, just to luxuriate in the fun of a Pennsylvanian town called Punxsutawney. Last February 2 a British pay TV channel showed the movie. On a loop. All day. Genius.

goodfellas

3. GoodFellas
Great line- You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?

I know we’re all supposed to love The Godfather, and I do, but GoodFellas is my favourite mob movie. Again, it’s a film with a great, laconic narration, by the doomed protagonist Henry Hill, and based upon a true story, which concluded in witness protection as these things often do.

In a curious tribute one of The Sopranos producer called this movie his “Koran” and I love Scorsese’s soundtrack. His rule was if a scene was set, for example, in 1973 then it couldn’t feature a song from after then.

There’s a gruesome montage with bodies turning up in cars, garbage trucks and a meat freezer van set to the gorgeous slide guitar and piano coda from “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes. The disconnect between image and sound emphasises the absurdity and horror of this barbaric landscape.

With Aretha Franklin, The Who and The Rolling Stones the soundtrack evokes the broad historic sweep of this magnificent movie.

Now

2. Apocalypse Now
Great line- Kurtz: Are my methods unsound?
Willard: I don’t see any method at all, sir.

In many ways this is beyond a war movie as it’s a journey into the deep horror residing within our human condition. The physical action is set within Vietnam and Cambodia but the real conflict occurs within the psyches of the characters and us.

Among the questions it asks and demands we also ask is who has the moral supremacy? Kurtz? Willard? Kilgore? Dennis Hopper’s photojournalist? It also asks questions of American imperialism and war.

The mythology of making this film is a story in itself that nearly approaches Coppola’s epic. Hearts of Darkness documents the troubled production with the health issues of both Sheen and Brando; typhoons; financial blow-outs and more.

The Doors’ “The End” has been used in many films but none approach the impact it has here.

Years ago, before our boys arrived I went to our local cinema on a Sunday night to see the then newly-released Redux version. For a thrilling, brief interlude, I thought I would achieve that geeky nirvana: I’d have the entire theatre to myself and would take in the 180 minute spectacle in a private screening. Yeah, I know.

But, as the film finally opened two other punters came in, broke the spell and took their seats. Oh, well.

For the record this version is inferior. Coppola got it right first time as none of the additional scenes contribute to the original. It’s a film for a murky, wintry afternoon.

Pulp

1. Pulp Fiction
Great line-
Jules: Tell him, Vincent.
Vincent: Royale with cheese.
Jules: Royale with cheese. Do you know why they call it a Royale with cheese?
Brett: Because of the metric system?
Jules: Check out the big brain on Brett. You’re one smart motherfucker.

I’ve only ever seen one film three times in the cinema. Pulp Fiction. Upon seeing it in January 1995 it stayed with me for weeks and months. Key in this was the Elmore Leonard-inspired dialogue with its pop culture references that was at odds with the on-screen action of gangsters and violence. The film lived and thrived in this space and, to this day, colours many of my conversations.

One Sunday when we lived in St Albans just out of London we were visiting friends. The boys Joey and Laurence, had had a big night out, and had just finished their midday breakfast. I asked them what they’d eaten.
“Burgers,” came the reply.
That was my cue. “Burgers. The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.”

While not invented by Tarantino the technique of chopping up the narrative so the story is delivered in a way that heightens our response to the characters and plot. So, instead of the film ending with Butch and his girlfriend riding off on Zed’s chopper just after killing Vincent Vega it concludes triumphantly after the coffee shop hold-up.

Like many I also bought the soundtrack and maintain that Dick Dale’s “Miserlou” splicing into Kool and the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” is the most exhilarating opening credits and frames the movie perfectly.

Thanks for reading.

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Ten Terrific Films- Part One

 

I was recently invited by Footy Almanacker Rick Kane to post ten of my favourite films. I enjoyed the challenge, and now offer some personal commentary on these.

toads

  1. Cane toads: An Unnatural History

Great line- Cane toads are comin’

Thirty years on, this documentary still ranks among the biggest grossing of those made in Australia. It’s a gonzo folktale on that beast of FNQ, the cane toad. The director Mark Lewis conjures sympathy for these amphibians with clever point of view camera angles and a weird contrast to the humans who find strange pride in their relationships with these repulsive creatures.

A triumph of editing is the scene where a local politician spruiks of a future statue to the cane toad which then cuts superbly to a grizzled farmer retorting that, “Surely, this bastard’s not in his right frame of mind.”

I love that the theme of the film is while we might find the toad an odd, peculiar animal, we humans are just as peculiar.

psycho

  1. Psycho

Great line- Norman Bates: A boy’s best friend is his mother.

I loved teaching this remarkable cultural phenomenon.

The class would invariably groan as one at the thought of a black and white film from 1960, but within the first hour all were drawn into its hypnotic embrace.

Most had never seen a movie in which the main character is dead half-way through, and how Hitchcock effects sympathy for a thief in the form of Marion, and then for Norman, a murderer, is a lesson in filmic art of the highest order.

Visiting Universal Studios in LA, a highlight for me was the presentation exploring how the week-long shoot of the shower scene was completed, with, of course, chocolate syrup standing in for blood.

Among the many taboos broken are the first instance in a Hollywood release of a flushing toilet.

koyaan

  1. Koyaanisqatsi

Great line- Near the day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky (Hopi Indian prophecy featured in the closing scene)

I had not long left teenage-hood when I saw this film in North Adelaide with my girlfriend’s sister. My tiny world was expanding and this documentary, with its majestic and terrifying vision of our planet, kicked off my passion for non-verbal cinema such as Microcosmos and Baraka. All make expert and haunting use of juxtaposition between the natural and constructed worlds.

A critic noted that the film is satirising how we don’t use technology, but we live it.

This visual poem compromised largely of slow motion and time lapse sequences features a mesmerising Phillip Glass score, as do the two sequels, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi. I once owned these on CD, and when I lived in Wudinna in a secluded farm house, played them quite obsessively, to the barren, uninterested paddocks.

To watch Koyaanisqatsi is to view our world afresh with wonder, but also fear.

big

  1. The Big Lebowski

Great line- Walter Sobchak: [shouting] Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules? Mark it zero!

Inspired by The Big Sleep, this shaggy dog story, with its meandering plot and eccentric characters is unyielding fun. I’ve realised that I love films with a voice-over narration, and Sam Elliot’s is a perfect baritone drawl.

A measure of its personal impact is how often it bobs up in my everyday life. From Maud’s ultimate reference: “A good man- and thorough” to Walter’s interior design critiques: “That rug really tied the room together” it has tremendous longevity.

Against stiff competition like King Pin it’s the best bowling movie and for mine, Townes Van Zandt’s version of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Dead Flowers” is a peerless closing credit song. A laconic, cool ending to a laconic, cool film.

royal

  1. The Royal Tenenbaums

Great line- He started buying real estate in his early teens and seemed to have an almost preternatural understanding of international finance.

I’m a spoken word, auditory type of chap, with little native grasp of visual beauty, but Wes Anderson’s filmography is wonderful to look at. It’s sumptuous. I love his use of palette and the painterly nature of his shot composition in The Grand Hotel Budapest, for example. There’s also an exquisite use of symmetry in his work that renders it irresistible.

The opening sequence of The Royal Tenenbaums employs the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” to jubilant effect and establishes an uplifting tone to what could otherwise be dismal material. Alec Baldwin’s narration offers both a comic and sensitive tone, and throughout, the Tenenbaum family and its hangers-on bounce off each other with such joyous ridiculousness that despite all I’m left with a huge sense of fun and heart.

It’s a great ensemble performance.

Up next, my top five!

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Galveston and me

 

postcard

In New York City I thought about two novels. I was eager to explore Central Park and within its savannah we took in the summery games on Heckscher Ballfields and weaved around the picnickers sprawling in the sultry heat.

Of interest was The Pond given the fascination this held for Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. He was inquisitive as to where the ducks went during the frozen winter, and like many teenagers was troubled about his future and our shared vulnerabilities. I could picture Holden watching his sister Phoebe on a carousel, tears streaming at the happiness he’d finally found.

Nearby on 5th Avenue is The Plaza Hotel. Hosting the toxic quarrel between Gatsby and Tom in Scott Fitzgerald’s famous savaging of selfishness, The Plaza’s a grand building in this swirling city. Seeing it amplified the novel for me, and I could almost hear Daisy protest from up in one of the elegant suites, “You want too much!”

However, there’s an ignored American town in which I’d love to immerse myself while contemplating another significant work. My favourite intertextuality: locale and music.

Galveston.

The opening line is as euphoric as any sung. At, “Galveston, oh Galveston” we’re elevated by the combination of soaring string-section, guitar and Glen Campbell’s impossibly-honeyed voice. This proclamation is so joyous, so devout; it’s an irresistible invitation but also a prologue and an epilogue. Then, of course, there’s darkness to follow.

Galveston picture

Jimmy Webb’s genius presents as achingly exquisite simplicity. In three lines he engrosses us with evocative place, love and foreshadowed dread. And this is it: an entire story, captured haiku-like with all the fictive elements required for a comprehensive saga, or epic cinema.

I still hear your sea winds blowing
I still see her dark eyes glowing
She was twenty-one, when I left Galveston

The lyrics are almost deceptive with their innocent rhyme and sparse vocabulary. Here the repetition of the adverb still conveys the protagonist’s endless torture and hauntedness. We wonder if he’ll ever return. His torment is ours, too.

Galveston record

Debate centres on the historical context. Is Webb referencing the American Civil War, the Vietnam War, or the Spanish-American war?

while I watch the cannons flashin’

While of interest to those with a military bent, the superior reading is that it’s any war, and indeed, every war.

“Galveston” is an anti-war declaration, but there’s a deeper premise at play. Ultimately, it’s pro-love, pro-life and celebratory. Our main character is a soldier, so hopeful, so eager to re-embrace his former world’s vitality that this amplifies his terror. He misses his girl, home town and old life. As we all would. He wants to live well.

The sonic qualities intensify this triumph with strings by the Wrecking Crew that are majestic; stirring; elemental. These lift the song ever-skywards, investing it with golden light. Tellingly, they’re only silent in the instrumentation when Campbell sings, “I am so afraid of dying” and their omission here bequeaths the necessary desolation.

sea bird

Then there’s the remarkable vocal performance. With perfect phrasing it’s Sinatra-like, while displaying an enveloping, earthy warmth, and a weighty authenticity. Campbell is both the central figure and also each of us, and like a Sampras backhand, a Richard Ford sentence, or a Barossa Shiraz, there’s an outward effortlessness that leaves you sunny, but also gasping at the beauty within.

Along with “Wichita Lineman” and “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” Webb set these in decidedly unregarded parts of America, for he considered it best to lyrically escape the famed metropolises. The world agreed. While this particular tune uses an inconsequential resort town it speaks timelessly. The cycle’s other towns in Kansas and Arizona are now invested with an imaginative, cultural gravity. These owe Webb and Campbell.

Common across these is dislocation. They feature a man who’s someplace else; jettisoned and in disequilibrium. Briefly but profoundly, we’ve glimpsed the characters’ lives at a nexus. Do we dare guess at how they turned out? Did he get back to Galveston? Did he again experience those sea winds?

How is all this achieved in one hundred and eleven words? When the vocals are done in two minutes? It seems a bigger song: more Guernica than minimal art.

Our youngest, partly primed for his musical voyage by his Dad’s captaincy, has, in the bath and while getting dressed for school, started singing snippets of “Galveston.” In time, I reckon he’ll also want to come on our literary tour to this minor Texan town.

Locale and music.

We’ll stand on that windswept shore by the Gulf of Mexico and imagine lives other than our own.

Galveston music

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Our Christmas in Spain

 

olympics

Ringo World- Opening Soon

Season’s greetings to everyone. Can you believe it’s 2004?

Madrid has much to offer. It is located on a plateau some 800 metres above sea-level which results in great winter weather. The sky is blue, cloudless and sunny. No proud Queenslander would believe me but it could be Brisbane in June. It is gorgeously calm and whilst only about 10 degrees during the afternoon, is ideal for exploring the parks, plazas and handsome wide streets.

With its elevated position, central lake, and café, the Retiro is among the best of Spain’s parks. It is so well planned and relaxing that we visited twice including Christmas Day (along with a few thousand locals but not the Beckhams who, according to some girls I teach, were in Lapland). Kerry is adamant she had the best ever coffee there.

This glorious weather partly led to us avoiding Madrid’s famous museums in favour of the outdoors; no doubt also thinking of London’s grey sogginess. Near the palace we found a park hosting clusters of older men playing boules, sat on a bench and thoroughly enjoyed their banter (knowing no Catalyun isn’t a barrier), the vigorous competition and the small but powerful magnets dangling on string with which they picked up and carried their metal balls. A rustic and charming episode; which delayed our Sangria and Estrella beer whilst also proving the best entertainment is often free, local and random.

REtiro 2

We’re fans of hop-on, hop-off bus tours when orienting ourselves to new cities and can recommend these in Spain. Whilst undertaking the Madrid monument excursion I was a little surprised that the pre-recorded commentary was punctuated by music. Some flamenco maybe? Or tunes swarthy and Mediterranean to set one’s passion alight? As we drove past the Prado museum and then the 2,800 room Real Palace what were we listening to? My apologies if you willingly played this in the last month but I don’t think I can imagine a CD which contrasts more weirdly with Madrid’s architectural elegance and urban poise than the kitsch 70’s disco stink that is Boney M’s Christmas Album.

Our Spanish Christmas soundtrack reached its curious nadir in a café by the Plaza del Sol as we dined on Boxing Day. Maybe it’s just me but if you were going to record a version of everyone’s favourite, ‘Little Drummer Boy’, wouldn’t you ensure that the final edit featured, above everything else, a snare drum? Isn’t his drumming (pa-ra-pa-pum-pum) the gift he offers when he (poor little tyke) has nothing else to give? However the song we heard as we ate our pizza and salad totally lacked percussion. It was like hearing Duelling Banjos played solely on kazoos. Surely the banjo (hence the title!) is as connected to that song as the famous scene from Deliverance of gap-toothed Southerners licking their lips and eagerly loosening their trousers.

A cable-car journey across the Camp de Caso; one of Madrid’s biggest parks, was memorable. We’d avoided the park at night because our Lonely Planet told us it was quite seedy and possibly a little dangerous. So there we were Friday lunchtime when Kerry first spotted one down below. Toward one end of the park a thin road crawls through the hilly, scrubby wilderness. There they were. Long white boots, G-strings and skimpy tops. Dozens of hookers along the road making it a surreal, snaking, outdoorsy knocking shop.

guell

Many inquisitive cars quietly crept (do Goodyear make a tyre named the Brothel Creeper?) up the hill and some were parked near the trees; conceivably swaying, mid-transaction, Sandman Panel Van style. It was not many degrees above freezing and the girls were near naked so I just hoped their mums had included a thermos of hot soup in their packed lunches. Just to the north is a theme park complete with roller coasters and Tower of Terror so Camp de Caso caters for everyone’s entertainment needs. Amusement rides for the urchins and courtesy of the girls on the road, amusement rides for the office worker who has, as far as his colleagues are concerned, slipped out for a lonely lunch.

Our train ticket indicated that we would depart for Barcelona at 7:45 and in decidedly un-British fashion, that is exactly what it did. If I were to pass the rest of my days without drawing breath whilst on a bus I would be delighted. But train travel is an exciting, romantic affair. We had cosy, ample seats, headphones for the audio entertainment and a kindly attendant gave us sweets from his cane basket. TV monitors constantly updated our progress on a digital map and told the temperature and our speed which was a steady 200 k’s; quite leisurely for European trains but surprisingly quicker and smoother than a 1984 Nissan Exa. The ticket also suggested that we’d pull into the Barcelona Sants station at 1:05. We did. Splendid stuff.

Barcelona is a dynamic, invigorating city. From our motel room balcony we could see the Sagrada Familia; the astonishing church Anton Gaudi began building in the late 1800’s. He was still shaping his moderniste masterpiece in 1925 when he stepped under an accelerating tram. However the project continues with the temple’s 170-metre central steeple to be completed by 2020 (I wouldn’t book a room just yet). Therefore like much in Europe that we’ve wanted to enjoy, it is hidden behind scaffolding and green meshing. Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, Athens’ Pantheon, Budapest’s Heroes’ Square and the Watford KFC are just some iconic monuments that have annoyingly been under repair when we’ve visited.

Sagrada

Kerry and I rode the funicular (it sounds like a combination of fun and tubercular which is a fair description) up to Montjuic; the mountainous site of the 1992 Olympics where we walked around the main stadium. We also peered across the diving pool and towers that have Barcelona’s cityscape as a magnificent backdrop and offer a sporting vista only surpassed by the MCG scoreboard every time Collingwood is deservedly beaten.

Apart from Gaudi’s various organic sculptures, the highlight of Guell Park was a grungy Spanish busker. Her throaty interpretation of ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ was a cracker despite our confidence that, whilst she was singing in English, like Yoko, she undoubtedly spoke none. But she certainly earnt the couple of Euros (coins not kangaroos) we dropped into her hat. Our Spanish Christmas holiday was wonderful.

bobby

 

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Kapunda captures King’s Head cup-house

pub photo

It’s fair to suggest that nostalgia can often interfere with the truth. This might be why I convinced myself that our destination had a certain mystique, a mythology all of its own that would reveal itself through a grand, weaving story.

Christmas a couple years’ back Chrisso texted from near New Orleans that he’d tell me the reason for this venue when he returned.

I could hardly wait, and some months later when we caught up I asked, in a rather formal, yet compact sentence, “So, why is the Kapunda boys biannual reunion held at the King’s Head pub on King William Street?”

I was looking forward to his complex and engaging narrative.

“Because it’s on the tram line.”

“That’s it?”

“Yep.”

Oh.

*

Last Friday on yet another unseasonably warm evening not quite twenty of us descended upon this ripping old-school boozer to share tales and to laugh and to stir and, above all, to connect.

boys 3

We gathered in the cosy front bar at a large wooden table. It seemed that there were travel yarns to tell. Where you been, somebody asked.

Crackshot replied, “An eight-week odyssey through Western Australia.” Anecdotes followed.

Chris offered, “I had a week at various resorts in Fiji.” Crisp yarns were shared.

“And what of you Mickey?” somebody, possibly Puggy, asked.

“Mannum.”

Oh.

*

We prefer the King’s Head as it’s fiercely South Australian. Some would say, the KG of the pub scene. There’s only local drinks and food available. Not a Carlton Draught or Moreton Bay Bug in sight. It’s a point of difference.

As is the complete absence of TAB, and wide screens with footy, racing and darts glaring out across the punters. It’s a refreshing change and means you must immerse yourself in the company and conversation.

It could be described as a place where you can enjoy a pub holiday.

We do.

There’s a sparkling galaxy of beers on tap including brash youngsters Pirate Life, Mismatch and equine Hills star, Prancing Pony. A volley of correspondence earlier in the week created a bubbling anticipation for Kapunda chap, Chris Higgins’ Greenock Brewers Victorville Ale. An app confirms this.

But we’re a week too early. The Greenock beer is not on. It’s a disappointment but doesn’t seem to decelerate our eagerness.

Around seven a grinning group of old muckers rolls through the doors like oranges. Whitey, Woodsy, O’s and Dames present themselves. Our ensemble is complete with beers and handshakes and schnitzel and warmth and reminisces; some keenly remembered and some forgotten.

boys4

So, there’s Lukey, Puggy, Crackshot, Matey, Rus, Bongo, Schultzy, Bobby, Nick, Whitey, Woodsy, O’s, Dames, Fats, Swanny, Chrisso, and Mickey.

Happily, just about everyone has a nickname. It’d be a shame for somebody to miss out.

Shortly after Nick tells us one of his favourite stories. By then, we’ve already dealt with the famous night at the West Torrens Cricket Club in 1986. Former Torrens opening bowler Rocket is an apology tonight given he’s in New Zealand, bro.

Nick continues, “Years ago at a U2 concert, Bono started clapping, slowly and deliberately.” He clapped too, to emphasise his point. Nick likes a story.

“Bono said, ‘Every time I clap, an African child dies.’”

“Somebody in the crowd then yelled out, ‘Well, stop fcuking clapping then.’”

*

Without being previously aware we’d also lobbed into the King’s Head on the night when a DJ was playing 1980’s electro/ synthesiser/ new wave music.

boys 1

Normally this would make me change the radio station quicker than an Ali jab, and reach for the sick bag but the combination of Coopers and friendship and ridiculous memories makes it fun. I recall

Blancmange’s “Living on the Ceiling”
Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?”
Flock of Seagull’s “I Ran”
Pete Shelley’s “Homosapien”
Visage’s “Fade to Gray” and the gold medallist
Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.”

Maybe that we were all at school for some part of the eighties invests this music with involuntary affection for our shared past.

Or maybe it’s the beer.

*

It’s another terrific evening and a great chance to connect and strengthen our community. It’s also a tradition. I do like a tradition.

However, when Nick and Fats and I wander out of the neighbouring La Trattoria, post-pizza and red wine, the trams had stopped for the night. Ubers were urgently beckoned.

Time for nighty-night.

Maybe I’ll jump on a tram after our Christmas cups, at the King’s Head.

pub photo 2

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Pub Review: Five Cups in Fremantle

Indian

To visit Fremantle is to understand that this earth is essentially good and bright and joyous. I’ve had a remarkable afternoon.

I guess it’s an emblem of country-boy faith that not for the first time, hotel concierge staff consider it appropriate to swear at me, in cheerful, inoffensive and welcoming ways. Perhaps I’ve an inviting face, for when I ask about public transport, the smiley front-desk person said, “Don’t use a travel card, for they’re shit.” Oh.

I spoke. “Where’s the city station?”

The well-groomed, nicely-vowelled girl then replied, ” Oh, you’ll know it’s Perth station because there’ll be people pissing out of it.”

I blinked. “Thanks.”

On this Sunday the sun splashed on my face all afternoon. It had the redemptive power of Mykonos or Napoli. I asked some locals if it was extraordinary and most nodded in a dismissive way. I imagine this is typical in Fremantle.

On the train down I glance up at the network and note the Mandurah line stops at Murdoch and then Bull Creek. I suspect, given the deplorable mass media of this country that this is ironic. The sun is wholly magical, for a July day. So, I went to five pubs.

Surprising, I know.

pub

 

National Hotel – it’s bustling, and a fierce footy locale when I stroll in to Sandy Roberts chirping about North and the Gold Coast Suns, who I am told, are an AFL team. I ask for a Panhead Extra Pale Ale from NZ. It’s satisfactory, and I’ve got down here on a train trip for only $4.80. As I walk up to the balcony bar there’s a 2013 Grand Final Freo jumper and rock concert posters such as Hendrix, Woodstock, and of course, the iconic, groundbreaking Leo Sayer. The red brick, the exposed brick is lovely. As the Roos v Suns progress a Harley eases past the open doors. I talk with an old mate, who’s a Dockers bloke. He’s unmoved by the deplorable state of Tassie footy. Exiting, I see Monday’s industry night with an Old Skool arcade machine that I trust is Frogger.

Sail and Anchor– I remember our old friend Shelly urging us to look up! Look Up! And there’s a beautiful pressed tin ceiling. The air is high and effervescent, with a blue light. I order a Nail Brewing Pilsner but it’s circumspect; stand-offish; spikally brash beyond what a modest chap might ask of a pilsner. If a pilsner won’t behave, then where do we actually stand, in 2018? For the most isolated city on our tiny planet, there’s people everywhere, all in rude health; their kids behaving; nostalgic music a comfy bed as all attack the schnitzel and chip with a rare gusto. I then remember that it’s mid-winter but observe every second bugger is slopping about in thongs. Gee, I love this place.

Ball and Chains- Immediately, I mistrust this boozer. There’s an artifice and confection that’s worrying. I nervously order a Minimum Chips lager, and then order, as an incestuous accompaniment, a minimum chips. There’s a pensive mood about it all. I gulp my beer, so I can leave. However, the sunlight here is ridiculous. Big blokes wolf Emu Export. I avoid eye contact. I sit at a big timber outdoor table on the impossibly fetching esplanade. A Morton Bay Fig is among the Norfolk Island Pines. I’m drenched in sun, and instantly drunk on light. But, I scarper.

rope chandelier

Bathers Beach is right on the beach and beyond ridiculous. I’m with a Cheeky Monkey Pale Ale, on a sun lounger right on the sand, by a post with the waves crashing and the sun washing over me in a deeply medicinal way. A gull yarps while flapping above my head. By me are two English girls who surely can’t comprehend their enormous luck. It doesn’t matter, but the beer is pure muck; a modern nonsense that is profoundly difficult to love, even by a leviathan such as Sir Les or Thommo. I’ve rarely spent a better fifteen minutes, in the heart of winter, anywhere, including Luton, despite the toxic lager.

Sail

Little Creatures Brewing: Interrogating the bar-keep as the hugely wonderous sun rolls in, I ask about the Session Ale. I repair to the balcony and watch the boats wade in. The beer is affectionate, but lacks the warmth of the Coopers equivalent. A seagull drifts across my vision. The water looks warm enough that I could swim. How could this be? Perth is more Mediterranean than Mykonos or Capri.

I’ve had an afternoon of astonishment and glee. It’s been a Beatles album; a Hyde Park concert; an opening wicket from your first-born on a crisp morning as the sun stretches across your face.

How can I not have been to Fremantle until now?

Creatures