1

Mindfulness on Mystery Date

Having met your gorgeous, smiling self at the gate we strolled through the Botanic Gardens, under enthralling arches, and along a winding path by which we happened across a wedding and this drew our sighing attention. Suddenly and not a little sadly, the day after would be our six-month anniversary. I love being hand-in-hand with you and the garden’s mysterious and magical qualities added to this soaring joy.

We arrived at the National Wine Centre. I had not been there ever and so was glad to be chaperoned in by you. Our blind wine-tasting was urgent and funny. We guessed none of the wines but sharing the tastings and swapping the glasses back and forward was an almost secretive endeavour, deep in the hull of that marooned viticultural ship. I watched you scribble your notes and thought of how I’d first been captivated by your quick, confident cursive many years ago, possibly in Year 9 or maybe year 10 homegroup.

Being led by you along the North Terrace was cocooned perfection. Peering east from the Luna10 sky bar we identified landmarks: Norwood Oval, Mount Lofty, and then we spied a hardware store. Again, we were trying to make sense of our world and connect to its shared locations, which sits among a marriage’s prime demands. It was an activity of such warmth and optimism. The buildings and the trees became mere context for our bigger story; sets for the private play in which we are both starring.

During the film we’d whisper thoughts to each other as we wrestled with its thorny notions. While we’d been to the cinema together over the decades from An American Werewolf in London to now, I’m not sure we engaged each other during a screening with such intimacy. I would’ve liked to but doubt I’d have had the requisite bravery.

As Nine Days was an essay on mindfulness and the towering, tremendous gift that is life, you were deeply moved by it. How great that we could explore it after in The Austral. Like most of our beautiful day, we were in the midst of a busy city but mostly seemed to be in secluded spaces. That part of the pub was ours alone too. Where were all the kids? It was 9pm so they were at home and would arrive in the CBD in a couple hours when their parents were snoring.

Finally, home at our table, we concluded our amazing afternoon with some lines from Walt Whitman whose poetry from Leaves of Grass had featured at the film’s climax. Walt’s book had been waiting patiently on our shelf for just this moment. He and the film’s director urge awareness of the links between self, others, and our environment.

Do you see, O my brothers and sisters. / It is not chaos or death, it is form, union, plan, it is eternal life, it is happiness. / The past and present wilt, I have fill’d them, emptied them, and proceed to fill my next fold of the future

And that’s exactly the day you lovingly arranged for us.

2

Burgers and Bear Night

I love a good tradition such as watching the first over of the Boxing Day Test. I also hotly anticipate walking annually from the Melbourne CBD to the North Fitzroy Arms for a Footy Almanac lunch. I even love a bad tradition such as believing the Glenelg Footy Club will win grand finals! They’re now five from 19 appearances.

Tuesday is Burgers and Bear night. Like most traditions it simply became the repetition of a comfortable idea. When he was about eight Alex was a big Bear Grylls fan and had a collection of Man v Wild DVDs and water canteens and a pocketknife but like his dream of opening an Egyptian museum in his bedroom this, too, faded.

One Tuesday night a few years’ ago we saw on TV an episode from Bear Grylls’ adventure and survival vehicle, Man v Wild and Max was interested too so we watched again the following week and when the series finished airing, we dragged out Alex’s DVDs. Quickly, this became a weekly expectation. It also gave structure and when Bear was rescued the boys knew it was bedtime.

While enjoying the physical exploits of our protagonist we also discuss issues of media literacy such as how real or contrived the scenarios are- “Dad, do you think those goat-herders just happened to be there?” and “I think the cameraman is braver because he’s climbing the cliff with Bear while actually filming at the same time!”

In an affectionate way, the boys would also critique Bear’s habit of drinking his own pee (or worse still that of an animal), eating live snakes (beheaded, of course) and sleeping inside the dead carcass of a camel to protect against Saharan sandstorms (it’s what I always do).

I’m sure Bear views these as personal traditions. (*adopts Bond villain voice) See, we’re not so different, you and I, Mr. Bear.

Of course, he’d also strip off in subzero temperature to cross a freezing river whether it was required or not. If the icy river’s there it must be entered! As the Russian playwright Chekhov was always banging on about, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise, don’t put it there.” Bear’d be on the tundra and to build suspense he’d say, “In 2004 a group of hikers got lost out here, survived for a week and then went dog-paddling in a stream. Their bodies were found a year later.”

With our star was turning blue and doing star-jumps to maintain a pulse, he’d peel off the remainder of his clothes. It was always the bleakest of Siberian days and in post-production they’d fuzz out his genitalia and I once said to the boys, “Oh dear. Bear’s got out his John Thomas again” and the boys giggled. Attempting to recall this a few weeks’ later Alex asked, “Dad, do you think Bear will get out his Tom Johnson tonight?”

And, just like that, another family tradition began.

Each week Bear would eat tarantulas and extraterrestrial-looking bugs and horrific non-food things that’d inevitably led to yellow goo spurting from his grimacing mouth and running down his chin like crunchy snot, so I determined that in Glenelg North the accompanying culinary challenge would be minimised. Our dining experience would contrast completely with the on-screen revulsion. After-all, my favourite, yet to be broadcast episode of Man v Wild is when he makes camp in the Barossa on the lawns of Peter Lehman’s winery and survives only on mettwurst and emboldened Shiraz.

Therefore, we have burgers on Tuesdays which, even in winter, gives me a happy chance to ignite the barbecue and there’s a deep psychological reassurance in this ritual, at least for me. Max handles the salad, and his brother (with prompting) toasts the bread.

In recent weeks Alex began complaining about the eggs being prepared outside (really?) so now insists on doing these inside on the stove. While I love his rising independence, is there a more terrifying prospect than a teenage boy set loose in the kitchen with a spatula and frying pan?

But like many traditions, Burgers and Bear Night might run its race with the boys outgrowing it, or us simply exhausting episodes of Man v Wild.

Then one distant day, when working or at uni, I hope Alex or Max might cheerfully say, “Hey Dad, let’s watch an episode of Bear, you know, one when he swims in a freezing river with his Tom Johnson out!”

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September

In our spot on the globe September means footy finals, spring racing, and vaguely improving, if wildly temperamental weather. It also marks when the lawns need more frequent mowing and attention as well as a chance to give the barbeque more love. I may begin a barbeque lobby group. I once read a book featuring a grumpy character who had a bumper sticker on his car.

The sticker said: Eat more beef, you bastards!

We took an Onkaparinga holiday and instead ventured to Belair. Until this happened I worried that it could be a stick-free hike.
I prefer my butterfly with soy sauce. Yes, they do taste like chicken.
After months with seemingly no beach one Sunday we could’ve hosted the World Beach Cricket tournament.
John Does’ Local Bar hosted (unbeknownst to them) Mystery Pub. It was the first MP to feature candles since the Lady Burra in July. I understand this worries many of you.
Dawn on a Saturday morning is, apparently, a real thing and we experienced it at Port Elliot. Might even do this again, one day.

So, Claire, who are you wearing? Answer to red carpet host: Beanie by husband.

After a long day of solitary relaxation and quiet introspection I rewarded myself with a $5 beer at Port Elliot’s Royal Family Hotel. It was the least I could do.
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Sunday lunch review: J & F Pizza at 58 Cellar Door and Gallery, Port Elliot

For me life’s biggest dilemma remains: is Friday or Sunday the best day for a long lunch? Saturday is often hijacked by sport, shopping, and lawn-mowing but makes up the trifecta. I’m also a fan of strapping on my boots for a Friday lunch marathon that concludes dangerously close to the first appearance of twinkling stars.

But let me tell you about last Sunday’s lunch.

It was set by a leafy vineyard. There were families with kids on the balcony enjoying the mottled sun and a boisterous, happy group was gathered inside for a 60th birthday. We were close to the woodfired pizza oven, and a great vocalist and guitarist in Pat Ramm accompanied our meal and conversation.

We were guests of 58 Cellar Door and Gallery and particularly J & F Pizza run by two local mates, Josh and Frazer.

With champagne, two Meechi Pale Ales (brewed in nearby Langhorne Creek) and a bottle of Thunderbird Cabernet Sauvignon the refreshments were sorted, and our formidable batting lineup was set.

Frazer and Josh are always looking to keep their pizza menu dynamic and so offered us a Four Cheeses pizza as entrée. It was zesty and subtle, and I hope it finds a long-term place for it was an excellent start to our lazy afternoon.

Throughout, we spoke of footy and family and friends and art.

After a digestive interval the main event was upon us: Prawn pizza and one that was half Hot Salami and half Margherita.  At this point there might’ve been mutual food envy. All looked and smelt appealing, and the Hot Salami was especially delicious with the olives and pickled chilli working with and not against the salami.

The acoustic music continued with covers of Neil Young and The Eagles providing a relaxing soundtrack while over at the birthday gathering those good folks were settling into a rhythm too.

Back in my foggy uni days there was a local joint that did a dessert pizza, and I was once tempted although like many student culinary experiences it was horrible.

However, J & F Pizza do a Lemon Curd pizza which with its delicate blend of curd and basil is a fantastic way to round off a lunch at 58 Cellar Door and Gallery.

Moving toward summer and balmy holidays, when you’re next down around Port Elliot on the Southern Fleurieu, I urge you to sample the fine work of J & F Pizza. Find them on (08) 8554 3149 or at no58pizza@gmail.com.

It’s Sunday lunch (and afternoon), done right.

*disclaimer: we luncheoned with Frazer’s parents, Chris and Letitia

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An Alberton Afternoon

In the dining room there’s an upright piano.

This declares much about the Alberton Hotel: traditional values, a vibrant history, a suggestion of simpler, better times when live music was the entertainment.

Of course, there’s also a sign forbidding anyone to touch it. It’s a truth widely acknowledged that nobody wants their salt and pepper squid sound-tracked by a kid or drunk uncle banging out ‘Chopsticks.’

Still, there’s nostalgic delight in a pub piano.

The front bar bursts with football memorabilia. Framed premiership photos, ancient posters, murals. Both the Magpies and the Power. Which one is it? No, sorry, it doesn’t seem like one club. Drop Igor from Siberia in here and ask him how many clubs he can see. Igor will reply, “Is two.”

But it’s a traditional front bar and promoted on the website as one, ‘enjoyed by all the family’ and there’s kids in here with dad and granddad all around a table, in their Power tops. The atmosphere is pre-match, festive, Saturday.

Velour coats, black cans and fags are in vogue out in the sports garden. There’s a gigantic TV screen showing the early spring races. My Coopers pint is well-priced at $7 and while nursing this, Nature Strip, one of the country’s best sprinters, wins at Randwick.

A brisk shower squalls over as my beef parmigiana arrives, hearty and tasty, with a decent tangle of golden chips (mercifully not buried beneath the schnitzel). My salad includes pickled purple cabbage, and it’s an unexpected treat.

*

Today I’m also making my Alberton Oval debut. How can this be? Unlike Glenelg Oval, parking’s easy and there’s no 2-hour limit. I see no sneering knots of yoof in Everlast tops, and the lawns all look clipped. It’s a handsome suburb with splendid villas and bungalows. I enjoy the walk.

Coming through the Bob McLean Gate, the cheer squad is going off-chops. And we’re still a few minutes before the bounce. I’ve not seen (or heard) a real SANFL cheer squad for years so congratulations Port.

I survey the ground. It’s long and broad and the turf is immaculate. Like the best sporting complexes, it’s a measured mix of the historic and the modern. The old grandstands are low and cosy while the Allan Scott Power Headquarters is sleek but not daunting.

I locate the imagery I was anticipating. The Dry Zone is empty. There’s an octogenarian in knee-high ugg boots. Near me is a skull completely covered in a curious tattoo and then, of course, I see his hairstyle opposite, Greg Anderson, whose locks, I suspect, will forever be 1990. While he was a fine footballer, his Vanilla Ice mullet should also enter various halls of fame.

A bar offers Point Nine beer by Pirate Life. It’s a ‘hop forward ultra-light.’ I ask for a 2007 grand final commemorative lager, the One Hundred and Nineteen, but they’ve sold out.

Unlike Glenelg home matches there’s no shrill, unrelenting music between quarters. Just a welcome chance to chat. Ducking into the Social Club it’s festooned in celebrated iconography. Ebert, the Williams family, Ginever. Unforgivably, no Bomber Clifford. This is a unified crowd, a mob who love their preacher, a bunch happy with their evangelism. Ambling about the ground the sense of community is indisputable.

Port’s in front all game courtesy of a five-goal opening stanza. The swirling breeze makes for scrappy footy punctuated by lightning bursts when one side gets clear. Glenelg’s not been in great form over the past month but has scrambled some last quarter escapes. While the Magpies get good service from some of their AFL types in Hartlett, Mayes and Woodcock they’re not the difference.

After seventeen consecutive wins, with all this significant history looming, Glenelg’s final minor round match is a loss at Alberton. But I’ve enjoyed an afternoon plunged in football culture.

However, and this really disappoints: I don’t spot a single duffle coat.

0

Macbeth marks strongly but misses to the near side

How evocative to attend the Goodwood Theatre for a performance of Macbeth.

It’s a play I’ve been spellbound by since I was at school and studied it in Mrs Maloney’s class. When she was a teenager this small theatre is also where my wife Claire made her theatrical debut in Lola Montez but, Your Honour, to my continuing shame I have no recollection of this.

While I’d read and taught the Scottish play countless times, the recent realisation that I’d never seen it on stage startled me. The Goodwood stage was raked towards the audience at an alarming angle and was diamond-shaped. It made me concerned that the artistes might tumble onto the spectators and make us unwitting, additional victims of the supernatural bloodletting.

Our state premier Mr Steven Marshall took his seat just in front of us. Looking like a Kelvinator draped in shapeless black shade cloth, his personal security chap sat next to him. I decided to behave myself. Given the play is about civil mayhem and assassination it is surely tax deductible for all aspiring and upright politicians. I trust Mr Marshall kept his ticket stub. Regicide’s always in vogue.

The production was arresting and visceral and I since discovered an article which argued that in this most sinister of Shakespearean texts made notorious by words such as dagger, cauldron and weird the most unsettling word is the.

Best illustrated by this famous section as lady Macbeth urges her husband-

Your hand, your tongue. Look like th’ innocent flower,

But be the serpent under ’t.”

Academics argue that instead of using the generic a, the definite article the as in the serpent rather than a serpent implies an underlying idea, a lurking agency and invests it with greater menace and unknown symbolism.

*

Friday afternoon in the city and Claire led me by the hand along the harried streets as we evaded the suits and clots of yoof and e-scooters. I felt warm anticipation and the joy of unveiling surprise for it was the monthly moment of personally curated escape that is Mystery Pub.

Tucked away in an almost secreted nook The Historian is like a summery London boozer as the punters were a-throng outside and in. Squeezed in around a pillar on our stools there was pub clamour and buzzing bustle. I was reminded of Jordan in the Great Gatsby who remarked that she loved big parties because, “they’re so intimate.” Our conversation took on a conspiratorial quality and we could’ve been Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in isolated Dunsinane castle, save for the murderous scheming and horrific descent into lonely madness.

*

I took Alex and Max and their mates to the Glenelg v Centrals game Saturday and can report that the five of them saw upwards of five minutes of footy, collectively. This healthy apathy transported me back to Kapunda games as a kid when the match was often just a loose backdrop, a vague context that gave shape to the afternoon. What a marvellous fortune to be able to take in this beachside frivolity in the late winter. And kids under 18, are admitted free!

During the A grade when I was about ten I ran after my footy among the pine trees behind Freeling Oval and almost stepped on a snake catching some winter warmth. Heart a-pumpin’ I stopped and then like a lorry took a wide arc to snatch my Lyrebird footy. Again, Macbeth and its reptilian imagery comes to mind-

We have scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it.

She’ll close and be herself, whilst our poor malice

Remains in danger of her former tooth.

*

Our Sunday morning pattern is to take the dogs Buddy and Angel (Buddy and Angel does sound like a dreadful movie in which two unlikely LA cops solve a previously impenetrable crime and win grudging praise from the grumpy Chief of Police) down the beach for a scamper among other hounds and humans.

The winter storms have dumped giant mounds of seaweed over the sand. On the grey, swirling days I could almost sense the hideous witches from Macbeth huddled over a bubbling pot, described thus

By each at once her choppy finger laying

Upon her skinny lips: you should be women,

And yet your beards forbid me to interpret

That you are so.

It’s an invigorating and elemental way to begin a Sunday and the brisk air does us good and Angel, such a timid, delicate puppy, yelps with delight and leaps like a hare. She’s a beach dog, more Enid Blyton than The Bard.

*

My old school friend Chris, now splitting his time between Angaston (Ango) and Adelaide texted asking me of my Wednesday night plans. I replied, “What have you in mind?”

My phone buzzed with his clear wish- “Meat and three veg.”

So we took our meat and (limited to potato) veg at the Duke of Brunswick. Unlike the charmless beer barns of the anonymous suburbs this pub’s an inner-city delight. Warm, snug and with glowing lighting it invites talk of hometown mates and ancient bonds.

In my week of diverse gratefulness, this is another luminous episode.

While the Duke of Brunswick is well-named there’s other British pubs like the Ape and Apple, The Cat and Custard Pot Inn and The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn (try the ploughman’s lunch).

But I’d opt for the title given Macbeth just before he slays King Duncan-

              The Thane of Cawdor.

That’d be an apt boozer for a gloomy winter’s night.

2

More Things I Like

Knowing that if Gough Whitlam had come over you’d, “play chess and drink claret”

Adelaide Oval’s Morton Bay Figs

Bringing in the bins Fridays after an hour in the pub

Helping our 99-year-old neighbour sort her Foxtel

Kapunda Footy Club being among the world’s oldest and playing under its original name

Garry McIntosh’s handball

Lamb cigars from The Broadway butcher shop

Degraves laneway in Melbourne

Hertfordshire’s Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub

Staring at the Grand Canyon from its Western Rim

DK Lillee’s delivery stride

Exile on Main Street’s dangerous sprawl

The surreal sadness of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Whyalla’s Bottle and Bird as a concept

Bung fritz

Onkaparinga National Park

Listening to Islands in the Stream with old friends

The Old Gum Tree’s barbeques being regularly cleaned by the local council

My wife leaving chocolate on the laptop keyboard

“Let’s Give a Cheer for Father” from the Looney Tunes cartoon, A Bear for Punishment

Glenelg Footy Club’s past players’ beer caravan

“I’ll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse. Playing cricket is not.”

Joni Mitchell’s guitar playing on Blue

Fleabag

Op Shop radios always being not quite tuned to a golden oldies AM station

Damien Martyn stroking one through the off-side

Listening to Skyhooks in a HQ Holden

Getting married on the lawn of our old high school

Having our wedding reception in our hometown footy club

The beauty and satire of “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)” by Father John Misty

Getting a giant pillow of chips from a fish shop

Being round a table with friends and all knowing the story someone’s about to tell

The 42-minute version of Wichita Lineman by the Dick Slessig Combo

Picking mint leaves from the garden for a gin

Changing my wife’s car radio to Triple J

When my boys finally said “thanks” without prompting

The Ned Ryerson scene in Groundhog Day- Bing!

Pubs with Friday night meat raffles

Scorsese’s use of the slide guitar and piano coda from “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes in Goodfellas

Sylvia’s Mother

Noel’s Caravans

Tex, Don and Charlie

Opening a Barossa shiraz to share with Dad

The bawdy humour and joy of Under Milkwood

Saying, “West Coast Eagles” in my head and it only being in Dennis Cometti’s voice

Julia Jacklin’s plaintive melodies

John Cusack’s character breaking the fourth wall in High Fidelity

Chook as a concept

Chook salt as a concept

Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections

My wife buying me an unexpected gift

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel

Kalamata olives

The Indianapolis Speech from Jaws

The Fish Tales pinball machine

Sid Waddell commentating, “There’s only one word for that: magic darts!”

0

My July

Like the chorus of The Knack’s solitary 1979 hit “My Sharona” July was a rollicking treat as the following photographic record will attempt to show.

It was cold, but if we’d Icelandic guests I’m sure I’d have gotten up in the mornings and found them on the back lawn, sunbathing and sipping a drink through a curly novelty straw while playing Bjork on an old ghetto-blaster they’d found in my shed next to the mower and by the skimming shovel I bought at the Cleve Field Days.

A poet once described jetties as being “umbilical cords” to our better selves. They’re also freezing in winter. Jetties, not the cords.
While on our bi-annual Carrackalinga escape we popped in at Forktree Brewery. One reviewer labelled it, “beery.”
On our annual city trip we went to the museum, home of the Giant Squid. Alas, no accompanying Giant Chips.
The city trip began at the Tree Climb and this involved climbing trees.
July’s Mystery Pub was the Lady Burra and there were candles. NB- Claire suggests the Apple Cider could drop a horse. Caution urged!
This shark swallow you whole!
Lockdown required a fire and a Southward mug (c. 1992) of Sparkling Ale (c. 2021)

2

Mystery Pub

“As we enter our autumn years, we’ll need other hobbies apart from going to the pub,” Claire said philosophically, if not medically.

“But we already do,” I replied, possibly a little sensitively, “We research pubs, talk about pubs, and I write about pubs,” I added self-consciously, if not metacognitively.

A well-being expert (not Tony Abbott) once said that there’s three ingredients for a good and happy life: something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. Mystery Pub neatly meets all three once a month for an hour. What a psychologically robust concept it is. So affirming.

Our wedding photographers said the best photos of couples are not when they’re kissing, but the moment just before, when there’s the briefest space and time. It invites the photo’s audience to imagine what next happens and engages them more actively. It’s delicious. Maybe Friday afternoons in a dappled beer garden are like this too. All expectation and simmering bliss. Or maybe that’s a silly stretch or an inappropriate analogy.

But I love the pub for an hour on Friday afternoons.

No more than sixty minutes. Watching strangers arrive, all animated and bustling. I wonder about their lives and private joys and terrors. Then the gradual uplift of buzzing chat punctuated by ruptures of laughter. A chance for Claire to try a new shiraz. I sample a craft ale. The promise dangling in front of a weekend. The transition between work and play.

Our shared, joyous cusp.

Here’s a retrospective of our Mystery Pubs. Some have been triumphant (Mount Mary) while others a little underwhelming (Forth) but still worthy of a visit. The architecture, the history, the mise en scene. Some are female (Lady Burra, Mount Mary, Grace Emily) and others are male (Duke, Benjamin) while some are geographic with Inglewood connoting LA and West Oak evoking medieval England (Meet me at the West Oak, not the East Oak and we shall duel to the death with our jousting sticks).

Anyway, August is Claire’s pick, and I look forward to ambling in for that idyllic hour of escape and discovery.

24/9- John Doe’s Local Bar

13/8/21- The Historian

2/7/21- Lady Burra Brewhouse

4/6/21 – Grace Emily

7/5/21- The Kentish

4/4/21- Inglewood Inn

5/3/21- Parkside Hotel

6/2/21- West Oak

22/1/21- Mount Mary

12/12/20- Forth (Jetty Road, Glenelg)

20/11/20- Maylands

18/9/20- Duke of Brunswick

15/8/20- Benjamin on Franklin

4

Affection in Aisle 7

He paused in Aisle 7.

He usually found it difficult to become animated in hardware stores and this aisle was more mundane than most. It was late Saturday afternoon, and this was not a place he frequented at this point in the week, but he studied the shelving supports and thought about the choice he had to make.

The burden of his errand was lightened by the glow of a cocooned morning and the golden promise of their evening together on the darkening patio, on the lounge and then, finally, drifting into slumber. He spotted the bag of white shelving supports and considered these. He’d come for the transparent ones but was changing his mind.

He pulled out his phone and rang her and felt a frisson of love and shared investment as the ringing continued. She answered and their words were necessarily technical, but the subtext was soaring. As he drove back to their quiet street it already ranked among his favourite phone calls for the connection and the exquisite exchange gripped his heart.

Later, the subterranean intimacy and joy of their ninety second chat stayed with him like a film, and he would smile to himself over the following days when he remembered their triumphant little phone call.