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Mystery Pub: The Guardsman

Trainspotters such as your good self will be intimate with the LMS Royal Scot Class 6115 Guardsman.

This celebrated British steam locomotive was built by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) in Glasgow and has innumerable global fans.

However, if I’m honest my sole interest is it giving its name to the boozer in the Adelaide railway station. Although it could be argued that it’s actually resident in the casino, it opened in 2020, just in time for the bonkers pandemic.

Ever-observant and alert to Mystery Pub possibilities, Claire noted my curiosity in one day visiting The Guardsman as on New Year’s Eve we cut through the station on our way to the cricket at Adelaide Oval.

And, of course, the prime function of a marriage is to constantly monitor the environment for new and compelling pub experiences which might interest your spouse.

Thank you, wife.

Railway stations are frequently exciting places, that are grand and dignified and once inside, regal and startlingly vast. I love airports for their utility, but train terminals are romantic repositories of hope and boundless promise. In April we’ll visit stations in Milan, Florence and Pisa among others. Doubtless, these will be intoxicating and buzzing and Italian.

Rogue casino operators, SkyCity, invested about six million in The Guardsman so we were pleased to hop into subsidised $4 beer and wine. I’m vaguely confident that the last chance I had for this was in 1992 at the Buckleboo Club. My colleague also had a double gin for $8, because she could and largely as the bar staff urged her so to do.

Claire asked, ‘Shall we sit inside or out?’ It’s an eternally good question and giving this profound life matter the requisite introspection, like a modern-day René Descartes I said, ‘Let’s do both.’

While inside architecture is our focus and then later outside it’s people, and this is always a neat principal. The interior is spacious and intimate.

My previous pub experience in the railway station was in 1983, during Year 12. Pre-Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Festival Theatre saw Chrisso, Davo, Stephen and I rushed to get to the theatre on time, but with country boy enthusiasms, somehow managed to slip into the Overland Tavern for a brisk jug of West End Draught before the curtain went up.

While some may have found the kitchen aromas suggestive of exotic Asian destinations and the Orient Express and tropical evenings beneath slowly turning ceiling fans while monkeys and tigers provide a fascinating if faintly troubling soundtrack, we took a table on the far side as we just found it stinky.

Our second, and as tradition now dictates, final refreshment was enjoyed overlooking the station concourse. We could now hear music and Supertramp was received well by your correspondent, as was a tune by The Beach Boys. Claire said, ‘We must remember to watch the movie about the Beach Boys.’ I replied with uncommon expansiveness in saying, ‘Yes.’

Scurrying folk on their way to Womma or Noarlunga or Belair or North Haven made for enlivening viewing as we sipped our Sauvignon Blanc (Claire) and Pirate Life (me). Between 5 and 6pm on a Friday is the captivating time to park oneself in a railway station and speculate on the inner lives of anonymous commuters.

And we had garlic bread! What a time to be alive.

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Patawalonga River parkrun

The race director stands on a chair beneath a gum tree. Speaking into her microphone she itemises the logistics: safety, prams, dogs, coffee, the defibrillator.

Wait. A defibrillator? Oh.

I’m here for the 79th edition of the Patawalonga River parkrun. It’s my debut.

There are knots of folks in the shade. I meet Rohan. He lives just down the road from us and is a veteran of about seventy parkruns. He’s encouraging and affable in his San Francisco Giant cap. I’ve got on my Denver Broncos hat.

At 8am on the dot we’re away! Within moments the young ones and the lithe old ones have scampered. I keep left, as instructed by the race director.

It’s mercifully flat (running by a river helps with this), and vested volunteers take photos and offer quiet encouragement.

We push on past the treatment works (what a treat typing this noun group is) and towards Glenelg. Blokes pushing prams motor by me. In one pram the baby grasps a pear. I had a pear yesterday at work. It was a highlight.

A Jetstar plane approaches the runway, and I can already hear the silent screams of those passengers whose luggage is instead going to Broome or Wagga or Alice.

I pass Rohan and nod at him, ‘Keep going!’ He replies, ‘Good work, Mickey.’ When you’re new, you only need one friend.

It’s quiet and still on the river. Hardly any kayaks. Overhead, no seagulls. I am often surprised by this, especially on the beach. Maybe it’s the absence of nearby hot chip retailers. Attenborough could tell us why.

A big fella with industrial braces on both knees strides past. I’m reminded of Shaun Rehn in the 1997 preliminary final against the Bulldogs when he ripped off his supports and inspired the Crows to victory. I give him space.

Approaching the King Street bridge, I reflect on this moment, and hope it’s an expression of love for Claire, the boys, our shared future, myself. It’s an investment in a better me and a brightening horizon and unfolding joy. I then think about today’s Gawler races and the time-honoured Bung Fritz Cup. The race that stops a smallgoods-loving nation.

Our finish line at the baseball club swims into fuzzy view. I’ve been tailing a wiry, little bloke. He reminds me of Tommy Haffey but in a black shirt. I want to catch him. I dig in.

He powers on and gets there by a cricket pitch.

But I’m happy. I’ve finished the five kilometres in 28:34 and come 45th out of 110 runners.

I’d prepared a paragraph in which I described winning the Kapunda-born, left-arm decidedly pedestrian medium pace bowling, English teacher category for my age group. However, the record shows that I simply won my age group. I thank the other participants in the 55–59-year-old section. Both of you.

The parkrun is brilliant, and I’ll return.

Some of the participants go to a coffee shop but we’ve passport photos to sort. Italy beckons.

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Five Summery Delights

Beach House Café

A two-minute squirt towards Victor Harbor from our digs at the Bluff. This rickety eatery on the esplanade was bursting last Thursday with folks like us keen for the wood oven pizza or its slightly surprising culinary cousin, North Indian curry. The service was brisk yet relaxed and we inhaled our pizza.

It was fun dining.

The cafe hosts live music and there’s a history lesson as the walls are busy with mounted posters for the iconic acts that have played across the previous two decades, such as Mental As Anything and Ol 55.

Get in there soon to enjoy a Rogan Josh while listening to the Countdown classic, ‘Looking for an Echo.’ It’d be fantastic on a wintry Sunday.

Willowman

Why aren’t there more novels about cricket?

With Test matches allotted five days there’s rich and natural narrative possibilities. I’ve read novels that mention the sport so was thrilled to learn of Willowman which promised a singular attention to the great game.

Inga Simpson’s recent paperback was on my holiday menu and while the plot and characterisation aren’t especially original, the poetic meditations upon batting, music and the patient craft of fashioning beauty are exquisite. Like this section on the main character and Test cricketer

Harrow was using the old Reader bat for the occasion, a deep divot worn in its face…It was yellowed, a few fine cracks in the face, but still beautiful. Some kind of magic at work that it didn’t really age. In the soft English sun, the bat was golden, containing all the hope and possibilities of the game.

I loved reading a chapter or two mid-afternoon, and then napping!

Soul Music

Since the turn of the century this British series has been offering its simple genius.

The producers at BBC Radio 4 take a piece of music and weave together the stories of about five people. The connection: how a particular song features in their lives and became the soundtrack for personal change. There’s the everyday, the tragic and the wryly comedic centred on the transformative power of music. It’s compelling storytelling and gives insight into some remarkable art.

Last Saturday night Claire and I dragged the beanbags out onto the back lawn and listened to episodes on Nick Cave’s ‘Into My Arms’, U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ and following a stroll around the block, John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads.’

I was inspired to play the live version from Rattle and Hum which features the Voices of Freedom choir and late in the song Bono and U2 allow them to take over. It’s spinetingling.

The Banshees of Inisherin

Darkly comedic, this is an essay on male friendship and the complex consequences of its failure. Set against the Irish Civil War we, like the main characters, Pádraic and Colm, are vulnerable to their island’s claustrophobia and agoraphobia. It’s a beautiful, terrible place.

It was unsettling and like all great cinema remained with me for the following days as I tried to reconcile its themes. Not for the squeamish, it also has much to say about mortality and art and sacrifice.

After we saw it Claire and I enjoyed exploring it at Patritti wines.

Pirate Life South Coast Pale Ale

Seeing this on tap I invariably feel a pulse of ale frisson. It occupies that select space I call occasion beers. Fresh and redolent of beachside beers gardens (deliberate plural for who only has one beer?) and gentle swimming bays, it’s an afternoon treat.

Once at Alberton watching Glenelg lose to Port the bar was serving a Pirate Life light beer called 0.9 (based on the alcoholic value). I instead wanted the 2007 grand final commemorative beer, Pirate Life 119 but none was available.

And with an incandescent appearance, the Pale Ale looks painterly in a glass as if Monet had captured it by a French field. Not a regular Friday cup, but one to mark a moment, like a festive luncheon.

4

2023: Yet more things I like

a lunch invitation

the soaring opening to the Beatles’ ‘Lovely Rita’

coming in the back door and the aromatic delight of the slow cooker I’d forgotten about

The Queen pronouncing ‘happy’ as ‘heppy’ on The Crown

dawn when the family’s asleep

strolling into Adelaide Oval for the first time of the summer

gravy

the best ever one-hit wonder, ‘You Get What You Give’ by the New Radicals

that first glimpse of Kapunda High

coffee with Claire at the Broadway kiosk on a wintry afternoon

Jarman again. Around the body. That’ll do. That. Will. Do.

the boundless lawns of Peter Lehmann’s winery

Saturday morning errands, concluding at the Glenelg North TAB

‘I guess the brothers are driving down from Queensland and Stella’s flying in from the coast’

at a cricket club barbeque, pea and corn salad in a blue ice-cream container

the immediate bliss of ‘September’ by Earth, Wind and Fire

Bugs Bunny in drag

on the phone with Mum

‘In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars’ from The Great Gatsby

my annual writing retreat overlooking Knight’s Beach in Port Elliot

an Op Shop shirt

getting through airport security and with a holiday beginning, that sudden excitement

Ripper ‘76

the annual walk with old Kapunda mates up Rae Street to the North Fitzroy Arms

Jesus was born on Christmas Day and died at Easter. What’s the odds on that?

The Australian band TISM’s most probing lyric: So who is your favourite genius/James Hird or James Joyce?

Langhorne Creek cabernet sauvignon

having turned danger into grace, Andrew McLeod streaming forward across the MCG

dropping the needle on side one of Hot August Night

fruchocs

as she drives away hearing Claire toot her car horn

calm murmurings in the front bar of Hobart’s Shipwright Arms pub

a painting job, well concluded

The Members of Bung Fritz Appreciation Society Benchmark 60 Handicap over 1100 metres at the Gawler and Barossa Jockey Club

a pub schnitzel with chips on the side, not buried beneath in an ungodly insult

Grey Midford school shirts

Alex wearing my Greg Chappell hat

The festive season’s first playing of A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector

cowbells

being in the Prince of Wales in Kapunda, and not losing a spoofy final

at three Max telling me he was, ‘cooler than a robot, older than the wolf’

my wife eating her breakfast in the car

Harry saying to Sally, ‘I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night’

the sight and smell of a freshly-edged lawn

the reassuring piano on Gang of Youths’ ‘Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane’

shaking Dad’s hand

The Gambling Bug on the cartoon Early to Bet and the penalty wheel, number 14: The Gesundheit

hearing Supertramp and it instantly being 1982

Claire taking me to Mickey’s Beach on Randall Bay in Tasmania

The Country Cricketers’ Bar at Adelaide Oval

a late-morning sausage roll

convinced it was dead but one morning spying a green shoot on one of our trees

Tame Impala at the Entertainment Centre with Alex

The Adelaide 36ers at the Entertainment Centre with Max

Autumn leaves in the Barossa

Golden Retrievers on the beach, Sunday morning

the full and flowing 11.2 kilometres of Military Road from Taperoo to Henley Beach with its sole traffic light at West Lakes Boulevard

Manhattan’s most emblematic skyscraper, the Chrysler Building

Fisk

2

The Gepps Cross Alehouse

So, today seven of us, who have deep connections to Kapunda, visited the pub for lunch.

Here’s the answers to the quiz. The winner was Mrs. G. Cross of Gepps Cross.

  1. Seven. Attendees were Crackshot, Swanny, Fats, Lukey, Woodsy, Stef, Mickey.
  2. Yes, lunch began at 12.30.
  3. No, incorrect. Everyone in attendance ordered a schnitzel.
  4. False. Nobody ordered the Diane sauce.
  5. No, incorrect. Everyone ordered salad with their meal despite the ‘no salad, extra chips option.’
  6. True. Apparently, Fats ate most of his salad to the surprise of not just his lunchmates but all in the pub.
  7. Three minutes. A new record time. That’s how long it took to disparage another Kapunda chap who wasn’t at the lunch but should have been. Sorry, Whitey.
  8. Inexcusably home on his couch. See Question 7.
  9. A goat. Lukey was elsewhere.
  10. Four. The number of former and current Kapunda publicans mentioned over lunch. For bonus points in order these were: Nugget (Clare Castle Hotel), Puffa (Prince of Wales), Alan Meaney (Prince of Wales) and Unknown Queenslanders (Prince of Wales).
  11. Four. Number of lunch attendees eager to play for Kapunda Cricket Club in the new year. This was announced after two beers and part way through the schnitzels.
  12. One. Number of lunch attendees who will likely play for Kapunda Cricket Club in the new year (Woodsy: current A5’s captain).
  13. Three. Number of attendees who went to the recent Adelaide Test.
  14. Six. Number of second inning South African Test wickets to fall during our lunch.
  15. One. Australian Test victories witnessed.
  16. None. Number of D. Warner fans in attendance at lunch.
  17. Three. Nostalgic and somewhat wistful mentions of cricket at Adelaide Oval during the 1980’s.
  18. Eight.
  19. One. Discussion of Greenock Schlungers (for those following at home this is the affectionate name for their local cricketers and not a German smallgood).
  20. None. Bikies spotted. Whew. If you don’t count avid amateur motorcyclists Fats and Swanny.
  21. 72.7 kilometres. Distance from Gepps Cross Alehouse to Kapunda.
  22. One. Beers needed for trip from Gepps Cross Alehouse to Kapunda.
  23. 14.7 kilometres. Distance from Greenock to Kapunda.
  24. Two. Beers needed from Greenock to Kapunda.
  25. Three. Number of attendees who drove up the river yesterday to look at the flood.
  26. A goat. Schnitzels are incapable of deliberate physical movement.

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To Alex and Max, on 2022

Dear Alex and Max

So you’ve now had a year back together at the same school. I was excited about how you’d go and hopeful that you’d look after each other as needed. I’m confident you’ll remain protective of each other.

I know it’s sometimes boring but am glad that most days you both head off to school willingly, and once there, generally try your hardest. Of course, I’m impressed that you seem to enjoy and do well in English! Reading and writing are, as I keep telling you, the keys to every subject. You are fine users of language. I’m also pleased by your achievements in Company Bright Alex and by yours in HASS, Max.

In addition to this I’m thrilled that you show excellent humour, and this great skill applies to school, home and life in general. You also understand the power of story.

I’ve been rapt by your approach to your new job at Caruso’s Alex. Thriving in part-time work is important and gives you many wonderful opportunities and life skills. I’m sure you’ll also get a job when you’re able Max, and will find it of huge personal benefit. I look forward to this too. What if you got a job at Caruso’s too?

Another year highpoint was our Melbourne adventure. I enjoyed exploring the city with you and going to the footy. I also look forward to our New Year trip, this time to Victor, and swimming, playing beach cricket and American football. We must decide on a Lake Lap equivalent for each afternoon around 5pm. It’s a vital tradition!

I’m happy how both of you show commitment to exercise. Hoops and biking are your passions Max and it pleases me when I say, ‘How about you go down to the school and play basketball’ and you usually accept the challenge, and do it!

Alex, I’m delighted with your regular sessions at the gym. I’m glad we made this happen for you. I was pleased too, when you went for a run to the beach and back before school earlier this week. I hope you’ll both continue to appreciate that Glenelg North and the beach are a wonderful place to live. Another highlight of our year has been the Onkaparinga hikes, which are great as they give us a chance to enjoy nature too.

I’m happy that we’re going to the Strikers this season and hopefully, we’ll be regulars in the members at Adelaide Oval for a long time! As you demonstrated at the first match, one of the attractions of watching cricket is the chance it offers to have good conversations, and I liked how you both chatted the other night about all sorts of stuff like the NBA and school.

So, well done on your years and I’m proud of your achievements. I’m excited to see what 2023 brings for you both.

Love Dad.

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Mystery Pub: The Sailmaster

Turning right off Port Road just west of my work in Hindmarsh we’re immediately whizzed along by the vast volume of traffic on the bland if instructively named Northern Expressway.

We’d completed twenty-six instalments of Mystery Pub but not previously used this motorway and Claire was captivated. ‘I wonder where we’re going?’ she asked, not unfairly. ‘Surely, not the Hamley Bridge pub?’ I’d recently learnt that this old country boozer had reopened, and this might’ve caught her attention too. ‘No,’ I reassured Claire, kindly, if monosyllabically.

It’s always good when Mystery Pub generates a sense of mystery.

We drive on.

*

The Lefevre Peninsula is Adelaide’s most intriguing locality.

A narrow sand-spit in the city’s north, there’s abundant charm and fascination. Just as the good folk of the Lone Star State are Texans first and Americans second, I imagine Peninsula people are also ferociously loyal.

The Sailmaster, North Haven’s stylish and airy pub, sits by and over the marina. After a dismal, constantly windy and cold spring, our bright and warm afternoon is glorious. It’s a big tavern with generous spaces, and the breeze moves through it like the East Egg mansion of Tom and Daisy Buchanan, as featured in The Great Gatsby.

On the deck we claim a table and the marina’s a festive sight with yachts and their denuded masts, bobbing in the exquisite, wafting day. I’m not a boatie but like sometimes to be proximate to watercraft, to feel their unhurried symbolism while carefree gulls wheel above.

The effervescent bar-keep counsels me into changing Claire’s wine to a Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc. I consent, as Friday afternoon’s no time for petty squabbles, and his priestly guidance is compelling.

In the Cargo Bar a big screen shows the Adelaide Test catapulting towards its unavoidable conclusion. Again, I don’t need to be there, but it reassures me that if I wanted to, I could. It’s a privilege to be met with abundant choice in our modest, isolated city.

The beer menu is daring and encouraging. Beyond the robust stalwarts, there’s some craft brews from emerging producers, and I settle upon a Barossa Blonde from Lyndoch’s Ministry of Beer.

Every country town in our nation will one day host both a distillery and a craft brewer. How fantastic to be in the steel vat business? Could you keep up with demand? Should I get one for my shed?

*

The central concept driving Mystery Pub, you might be surprised to read, is not just a monthly Friday during which we drop our snouts in the trough. No, really.

It’s a shared enterprise and an unbroken series of bids from one to the significant other. It’s an invitation to be immersed. Hopefully, the pub deck doesn’t give way and we are suddenly immersed in the Gulf St Vincent.

But this is about locating a novel nook among new-found and engaging surrounds, alongside the person with whom, on the weekend’s cusp, you most want to invest a lazy, nautical hour.

So much of life should be about conversation, and Mystery Pub is an occasion for this. It’s a twinkling hour to dissect the immediate past and anticipate our joyous onward march. Either way I love surrendering to my wife’s delightful orbit, when the context of the pub vanishes, and we could be anywhere across our elongated capital.

*

Steering south from The Sailmaster, the maritime suburbs materialise and then dissolve, their flat contentment a merry vista.

Osbourne, Taperoo. Largs. Semaphore.

Military Road moves us along and the blue light slants in through the windows. Peering at townhouses and bluestone villas, we ask each other if we could live here or there and ponder the possibilities while projecting our looming selves into these communities. All have their attendant attractions and distractions.

There’s a heartening intimacy in the speculation, an enlightening probing of each other’s thinking, and some of Claire’s responses surprise me, and some don’t but this, of course, is a towering triumph. How lucky are we to be right here, right now driving along this prosperous esplanade? The moments are both stretched like a slow dawn and as difficult to snare as mosquitos.  

And then West Beach becomes Glenelg North, and our garage door climbs up, so we finish off Friday and wave in the weekend.

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Why I Love When Harry Met Sally

Chicago to New York is a lengthy drive and mere minutes in Harry grabs his grapes, eats one, and with alarming vigour, spits the seed out of Sally’s car window.

Only problem: the window’s up. 

Leaving the glass splattered in grape-spit, Harry isn’t bothered. He continues to eat and expectorate like a hunter attempting to fell a beast with a blow-dart. The sound design of this is geared to maximise our irritation and unlike many films set in NYC When Harry Met Sally rarely looks overly sumptuous and alluring. It’s really a series of theatrical conversations.

Prior to the grape-eating episode as Harry and his girlfriend exchange their sloppy farewells, Sally honks her car horn to tell him she’s eager to leave. This shows us she’s also a little cantankerous and that the central conflict’s going to be tantalising. Knowing the conclusion, this awkward start heightens our curiosity.

How will the romance between Harry and Sally unfold?

Each is flawed, but charismatic and after a decade of brief, seemingly inconsequential encounters, their friendship finally blossoms.

And what a tremendous friendship it is.

*

Central to the film’s celebrated status is the use of extracts from interviews with older Italian couples. Inspired by actual conversations, the screenwriter Nora Ephron crafted these six scenes so they’re earnest, funny, and emblematic of enduring love.

MAN: I was sitting with my friend Arthur Cornrom in a restaurant. It was a cafeteria and this beautiful girl walked in and I turned to Arthur and I said, “Arthur, you see that girl? I’m going to marry her, and two weeks later we were married and it’s over fifty years later and we are still married.

These segments Illuminate our perceptions of Harry and Sally and function collectively as both a prologue to their love story, but also a euphoric epilogue. They help to enlist our hope. We want our central characters to tell a similar story.

*

Playing Pictionary on a Saturday evening years ago with friends (including my now wife, Claire) and one pair was trying to identify a grumpy-animal blob. Of course the game’s dark goal is to cruelly enjoy the other participants’ frustrations. Their attempts went like this:

              Koala! Koala!

Partner shakes head. Waves pencil at ambiguous drawing.

              Sad animal! Sad animal!

Partner again shakes head. Stabs at picture which is now representative of violence towards the partner.

              Bear! Bear! Frown bear!

Frown bear?

Decades on, we still talk about frown bear. We’ve all known a frown bear. When Harry Met Sally is also a celebration of friendship, and an illustrative moment is the Pictionary episode-

Harry: Rosemary’s Baby’s mouth! Won’t you come home Bill baby!

Woman: Babababy…kiss the baby!

Harry: Melancholy baby’s mouth!

Jess: Baba…baby fish mouth, baby fish mouth!

The deft, heartening bond between Harry and Jess is a counterpoint to the pronounced pessimism that Harry often shows Sally. During a football game the two men talk unreservedly. Meanwhile, a Mexican wave circles the stadium and their mindless participation in it as Harry delves into his marital woes is comical and poignant. He speaks of his estranged wife

Harry: “I don’t know if I’ve ever loved you.”

Jess: Ooo that’s harsh.

(They partake in the Mexican wave)

Jess: You don’t bounce back from that right away.

Harry: Thanks Jess.

*

A tightly crafted monologue is always a cinematic treat, and having arrived at his epiphany, Harry runs across Manhattan (there’s always someone running during the climax of a rom-com) and delivers this to Sally

I love that you get cold when it’s seventy-one degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend a day with you I can still smell your perfume on my clothes, and I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of the life to start as soon as possible.

Harry’s speech has an appealing rhythm and the repetition of key ideas like love and you add to its enveloping intimacy. A joyous soliloquy, ‘and I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night’ is a great, starry-eyed desire that holds very true for me.

*

So, before Christmas devours the calendar, Claire and I enjoy an early December tradition, when on a Sunday night with wine and chocolate, we arrive in the kind-hearted, affirming world of When Harry Met Sally.

0

Mystery Pub: The Hilton

The bar was empty.

No, there were three bar staff in there.

This was a worry. Can I help you? asked one of the three.

Claire patiently explained that we were here for a drink (possibly predictable for a bar) to which another of the three replied that they were closed for a private law firm function. My heart was gladdened. Law firms need a leg up.

Claire further explained that she had phoned the day before and was told that our brief and good-natured visit would be fine. Be great to see you, they said.

With that we all decided it would be best if Claire and I departed. So, we left the Treasury  bar that will remain nameless. Afterall, in there they know lawyers.

*

The Hilton Hotel has sat by Victoria Square for forty years. Last I checked its bar was called Charlie’s, but the name seems to have disappeared.

The bar is not so much a dedicated room within the hotel but rather a commandeered chunk of the lobby. It’s spacious and host to big and low chairs and a large light fitting that, like all large light fittings, wants to be interesting and a conversation piece. Sadly, for it, it’s only functional and dull (in aesthetic heft, not wattage).

One of the beer taps is labelled 1837 which is a pale ale from Tanunda’s Rehn Bier. Being permanently beer-curious, I order one. Veering across the brown carpet (a tragic phrase, even in 1977) we claim a spot.

I then learn that at this precise moment friends are at the Rehn Brewery in Tanunda and Mozz is also sampling the 1837. I announce to Claire that this is surely another Pina Colada moment. Of course, it’s not but I’m addicted to the song and applying this malapropism whenever there’s a vague coincidence.

Tellingly, I’m not into yoga and I have half a brain.

We then spend time, as we often do, speculating upon the backstory of Kath Day-Knight. Did she ever have a job? If her first husband Gary Poole was such a rogue, how did she end up with a house? What is it with the speed reading?

I have a second 1837 (does this make 3674?) and Claire has a glass of red. We speak of other matters, not including: Japanese constitutional law, Schrödinger’s cat, the discography of Pink.

The year’s penultimate Mystery Pub clocks in under an hour, but is a vibrant affair, what with the estimable atmosphere of the CBD.

At no point do we wonder how the legal firm private function is going just up the road at the Treasury.

0

Annie and Bazz, upon retirement

Annie and Bazz came to Kimba in 1993. Back then the school’s principal was a man called Whitington. The kids, and I think it was Blue Woolford’s idea, nicknamed him King George.

I remember the musicals Annie pioneered and the huge contribution of these to both the students and the community. I fondly recall No Ill Feeling and Grease and we thank her for every production. That a small school could stage these regularly is representative of Annie’s vision and passion.

At Kimba no.2 for cricket, I first met Bazz. Later that day I made 100, or maybe it was 3. I can’t quite remember. Bazz introduced himself by saying, ‘I prefer Vivaldi’s String Concertos in C Major. How about you?’ I replied, ‘On these matters I’m an E Major man.’ Here’s what actually happened: Bazz offered me a beer. Being a dedicated athlete, I declined. And with that we established the fundamental loving dynamic of our relationship.

The homes of Annie and Bazz are warm, fun and places of immense generosity, and these times are among my favourite memories. For countless people you made their Kimba lives rewarding and joyous.

Your retirement to Moonta is richly deserved, and for you we’re tremendously excited. We know you’ll enjoy it. My advice is to always think of this parable. A young boy asks, “Dad, can you tell me what’s an eclipse?’ The father replies, ‘No sun.’

To Annie and Bazz and friendship!

0

Puffa and the Prince

Driving for over four hours, dodging roos and road-trains, I fell into a schooner at 8pm. A hike from Kimba where I was living, it’s always great to come home to Kapunda for a weekend. Of course, I’d driven straight to the pub.

There was a warm reception.

“Hello, West Coast smack-head,” said mine host. It’d been a couple months since I’d popped my head in the door. He continued. “Are you still driving that dopey sports car?” And finally, “Gee, you’re getting fat, Mickey.”

Welcome to the Prince of Wales hotel, run with affection by our gruff publican Peter “Puffa” Jansen.

But the curt comments were really like warm handshakes. This was Puffa’s way. His was an inclusive environment: no-one was spared and barbs were part of the boisterous charm. To not be insulted would’ve been offensive.

In 1989 Mikey Swann, Paul Hansberry (son of Roger who was a regular in here), Bobby Bowden, Greg Mennie and I hired a VN Commodore wagon and drove, sometimes legally, to Brisbane for three weeks. We set off from the Prince of Wales. Ever the benefactor Puffa said, “I’ve seen you blokes drive. Here you yo-yo’s, take my radar detector. It’ll save you a few bucks. Just bring me back a carton of that new Powers beer.” On our way across New South Wales the detector beeped frequently. When it did those who were awake or sober or driving or maybe even all three would chorus, ‘Thank you Puffa!’

Puffa loved a bet. It was but one way he nurtured the pub’s community. Behind his bar, up on the wall, next to the clock, was a bunch of beer coasters on which the wagers were scribbled. He once said to me just after Christmas, “Don’t worry about the Sydney Test. It’ll be a draw. It’ll be rained out.”

I’d seen the forecast, so saw my chance. I retorted, “I reckon it’ll stay dry.”

Puffa then growled, “I’ll give you 4 to 1 that it won’t rain. Easy money for me, you yo-yo!”

So early in the new year, Fanie de Villiers (and what a splendid name that is) bowled South Africa to victory in a rare rain-free Sydney Test. Puffa took down my coaster and I enjoyed his cash briefly, before donating it in yet another spoofy final. This was representative of the abundant life in the Prince of Wales.

One Sunday afternoon I was introduced to the English public-school tradition of spoofy. It only requires three coins. But, if you lose, it results in significantly more fiscal investment, especially if there are six or seven of you in a roaring circle. How terrific would it be if they struck some commemorative spoofy coins? With Whitey on one side and Goose on the other? The world spoofy championships should be held in Puffa’s and I can hear the voices now: Good call. Eight! Thank you very much. And in the grand final telecast to a global audience of three billion a voice shrieks: Yes! Your buy, dickhead!

It’s a cosy pub like you might stumble across in the English countryside. It functions as an extension of your lounge room and this is how we are expected to behave. About the bar are nine black-topped stools. How tremendous is the beautiful, old pub fridge with timber doors and those ancient door handles?

Chief among its attractions is a clear-minded rejection of pokies, thumping music, and other distractions. The Prince is dedicated to conversation and companionship. Puffa advocated for these, and much more. His generous, fun and always unforgettable legacy means this pub, his pub, remains one of my favourite places on the planet.

One notable afternoon in Puffa’s we watched the unparalleled 1989 Grand Final between Geelong and Hawthorn. It was packed. Over by the fireplace was a boxy old Rank Arena tele, and we willed on Ablett the Elder before the clock ran out for the Cats.

And now, dear friends, the clock has run out on a most magnificent era.

It’s been 38 years. We thank Linda, Puffa, Tolly and everyone who’s ever poured a beer in the Prince of Wales. Enjoy your evening.

0

Coober Pedy, at Dawn

Headlights like beacons in the leaden wet.

The engine’s both idling and roaring in the passive/aggressive way I associate with a Greyhound bus. Closing in, and the sight of it is evocative.

For me an interstate bus often prompts cinematic images of youthful dreams but also broken hearts. Making my way into the Coober Pedy morning I wonder about the passengers and their reasons for travel.

Above the windshield the destination says Alice Springs.

Minutes earlier I clicked the door of my Mud Hut motel room, eased onto St Nicholas Street and then veered north. Hutchinson Street is the main thoroughfare. I’m keen to explore.

It’s raining, and the day is lightening quickly. I’m almost a thousand kilometres nearer to the equator so the sun dashes up and down the sky more urgently, and with less languid theatre. Long, slanting solar routines belong in the sentimental south.

A sign directs worshippers towards the Underground Catholic Church of St Peter and St Paul. Its subterranean neighbours are an opal buyer and a backpackers’ hostel. I guess religious visitors pray for glistening gems to come to them before diving into a musty bunk.

John’s Pizza Bar then appears under the showering sky. My daybreak run is also initial research for Wednesday evening’s dinner. The building’s a low, forgettable rectangle and scurrying past I decide to seek a more distinctive local experience.

Above the red and blue Ampol servo a nightclub called Red Sands occupies the second story. I suspect the swingin’ hotspot’s no more, but I’m happy to be astonished. Playing cricket at Wudinna a frequent joke while fielding was, ‘What time’s the Minnipa disco start?’ The reply: What time can you get there?

With water already pooling by the pavement The Desert Cave materializes in the west. Above ground, it’s self-pleased and swaggering. I speculate if tourists are seduced into submission by its machismo. But the optimistic architectural view is that it’s illustrative of continuing faith in the community, a symbol declaring this town will endure, and we challenge you to discover why.

Lurching along by the kangaroo orphanage, the rain beats a pulsing tattoo on the tin roofs. Puddles and mud now smear the good earth. The desert isn’t as thirsty as I would’ve thought and like a surly child the ground almost seems to refuse the water.

Suddenly, a drive-in theatre! The huge steely screen hangs over the lunar landscape. Initially noting the absence of the iconic speaker poles I remember that cars now tune their radio to a low-powered FM signal. Shutting for a decade from the mid-80s, funds were then raised to digitise. An utter triumph, it’s the state’s only surviving example, and runs every Saturday from 8.30 until summer pushes everyone and their nostalgia back underground. I’d love to see Jaws there.

Turning back up the main road I pass a garage with its iron doors flung up. A couple of cars have already nosed into their respective bays. I hear a radio. Overhead lights press out into the lifting murk. There’s a mound of discarded tyres, and gluggy smells of oil and diesel cling thick.

Trotting homeward, a ute slides by me, its window down. I catch a glimpse of a goatee and lime-green vest as a miner teases me, ‘If you’ve got that much energy, then come and dig a hole!’

*

The following morning near the Opal Inn Salon Bar the same ute slows and the same miner hollers, ‘If you grab a shovel you won’t have to bother running!’

I laugh and encourage him. ‘Check with me again tomorrow!’

0

Boys and basketball

Obviously, professional basketball appeals to teenage boys.

Ridiculously over-sized men doing ridiculously physical things with a ball and to each other. This all happens on a ridiculously under-sized court which appears to be the dimensions of a suburban shower cubicle.

How could this not appeal?

When I was seventeen some mates and I were all obsessed with basketball and more particularly the NBA, the professional American competition.

A match was televised on Sunday mornings and we’d all watch and discuss it that afternoon and at school during the week. It was my first real experience with sport that wasn’t Australian. Magic Johnson, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving were the big names and being adolescent I was seduced by their skill and their seemingly exotic names.

The teams and their locations were also mesmerising: Boston and the Celtics, Philadelphia and the 76ers, and Los Angeles and the Lakers. Given their rivalry, LA and Boston games were always the highlight.

So, I’m pleased and entirely unsurprised that Max, now gangly and twelve and curious about his expanding world, is besotted by the NBA. In his room he has about six basketballs, all arranged at the foot of his bed in a brown-orange pyramid. If he’s not playing the game during or after school, he’s in his room watching it online or talking about it to his brother Alex or me.

He loves the Brooklyn Nets.

With their New York City hipster-borough aesthetic this is probably the team I’d support if I were his age. Indigenous star Patty Mills plays for them as do some of Max’s favourites in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Australian export Ben Simmons is also on the roster but is currently spending much time on the bench, fouling out frequently.

Brooklyn’s a bit far to go during term time so I offered to take Max to the Adelaide 36ers and New Zealand Breakers match. He accepted.

It was my first time at a professional basketball match too. I’d been to footy, soccer, rugby league, golf, and cricket but not the hoops.

It was great.

We sat midcourt (not far from where Alex and I were at the Tame Impala concert a few nights’ previous) and it was engrossing, ridiculous fun. In his attempts to encourage our ownership, the courtside announcer often insisted, ‘Your Sixers.’ Max and I spoke of the implied ownership in the second person pronoun, ‘your.’ He gets it. As always, we’re being sold stuff.

Cricket’s Big Bash League has borrowed extensively from basketball’s entertainment formula. Merciless noise, music, lights, quick gimmicks and silly crowd participation. The curmudgeon in me tried to resist but couldn’t. It was harmless, sugary distraction.

And why not on a Friday night?

Max commentated throughout. He has the language and the technical insight. His vocabulary even seemed taken from Brooklyn with its streetwise, vaguely combative terminology.

An odd rite then occurred. Whenever the Breakers would earn shots from the free-throw line a mysterious ritual took place. Resulting, I imagine, from a weird sponsorship deal, the kids in the crowd began chanting.

‘Hungry Jacks! Hungry Jacks!’

Now, I wasn’t sure if hearing this was supposed to inspire or distract or scare the opponents with the thought that they might be force-fed a whopper, or, heaven forbid, a yumbo?

‘Hungry Jacks! Hungry Jacks!’

Maybe, I wondered, if they missed, the kid who yelled loudest would receive their (meagre) body weight in cheeseburgers or Baconators? This, of course, would likely condemn them to a life without any hope of being a professional basketballer.

But still they chanted.

Half-time at the merchandise stall I offered Max a hat or singlet but at his request bought him yet another basketball. Can you have too many? I’m probably guilty of having an excess of checked shirts in my wardrobe.

Using his surname as inspiration we adopted Craig Randall as a home team favourite while Antonius Cleveland also found our affection. The seven-foot Korean centre, Kai Sotto, impressed us with his dunking and gentle athleticism.

Despite the fuzzy etymology of The Breakers, they whopped us by thirty points. We turned the ball over too often and our Kiwi competitors made the most of their three-pointers, but it mattered little to us.

On our way home Max talked excitedly. I reckon we both won.

0

Tame Impala: A Superb Show

We had waited over 700 days.

It was among the multiple victims of the pandemic but finally happened last Wednesday and was wholly exhilarating.

A reliable personal measure of the deep impact of an art experience is if it remains with me days later, and this occurred with my first viewing of Pulp Fiction and when I read Jonathan Franzen’s tour de force, The Corrections.

It has certainly been true for Tame Impala’s Rushium concert. It’s dominated my thoughts since, and I’ve had the Spotify concert list on repeat all weekend.

Alex and I had seats to the left of stage, and we could see over the crowded mosh pit. This attracted him. I then told him how a mate missed a large chunk of a Big Day Out as he was getting stitched up at hospital following a flying elbow in the Wayville mosh. Deciding to stay with me he saw my point which is good. I always have a point.

Kevin Parker’s music is inspired by the psychedelia of the sixties and seventies with its swirling, cosmic guitars and keyboards while there’s also a distinctive science fiction angle. Despite these key elements it’s timeless and seemingly autobiographical.

Like many of my age I was disappointed when on the 2015 album Currents he exchanged the guitar for the keyboard as his major instrument of expression. However, Parker’s sense of melody is peerless, and he builds songs which at once are simple and complex but always compelling.

There were many highlights and ‘Elephant’ was one when the confetti canons burst into dazzling, mesmerising life. I remember first hearing this song at my desk in Singapore and streaming Seattle’s KEXP (local radio remains untreatably dreadful). I was sure John Lennon was singing but the music seemed too modern. I was delighted to hear it back-announced as Tame Impala.

Sharing our excitement during the eighteen-song set I reflected on how music is now truly intergenerational. How great that my fourteen-year-old and I could genuinely enjoy this together and it not be something than one or the other must simply tolerate?

In the 1950’s rock belonged exclusively to the kids with the unrelenting despair of their parents and now music is accessible to all. It’d be easy to attribute this solely to the Internet, but I think it’s probably knottier than this. Either way it’s excellent and I’m also pleased that Alex plays jazz icon Miles Davis when taking his (ridiculously lengthy) showers.

Our night was not just about the music. It was a complete show and a massive lighting rig, like the spacecraft from Close Encounters of The Third Kind was suspended above the band. It was lowered and set spinning in a way that was thrilling and almost menacing too. The scale of the effects with video screen and laser show made the event colossal and cinematic. Alex captured much of it on his phone.

The setlist was sequenced magnificently with tracks from The Slow Rush dominating. I would’ve loved for Innerspeaker to have featured beyond the solitary tune, ‘Runway, Houses, City, Clouds’ with its soaring and extended guitar solo, but I understand that the bulk of the audience were there for the recent releases. The kids can’t be ignored! I especially loved two songs from Lonerism in “Mind Mischief’ and ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ with their spacey vocals and rising rhythms.

It was a great night and I was so jubilant that I bought Alex a t-shirt although I wasn’t sufficiently euphoric to consent to $90 Tame Impala tracky dacks.

I look forward to our next musical adventure.

2

I Remember Kapunda High

I remember Eringa; majestic, homely, inspirational Eringa; our Eringa.

I remember English in the library and Geography in a bedroom and History in the maids’ chambers and Ag with Mr. Stephen Booth in a cellar.

I remember individual school photos in the foyer and given we were teenagers, everybody, absolutely everybody looked ghastly because we had inescapably horrific haircuts.

I remember the lone palm tree on the front lawn by the basketball court and thinking how glamorous and evocative it was of a tropical paradise.

I remember not getting out much as a kid.

Hello, I’m Michael Randall and I’m proud to have attended Kapunda High School from which I matriculated in 1983.

I remember there was no canteen and students dashed after the Masters’ bakery lunch van by the changerooms and before it screeched to a halt fought like crows on a carcass to grab the rear door handles and be first in line.

I remember then wondering what was the greater danger for these van chasers: getting run over, or devouring two pies with sauce, a coke, and a Kitchener bun?

I remember the Year 9 bushwalking camp which finished with two nights at the Pines but eating all of my scroggin before we left the school gates. Okay, just the chocolate. Thanks Mum.

I remember each term finishing with a social at the Parish Hall on Crase Street where we played spin the bottle, heard ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ way too often, did the Military Two-Step to ‘Eight Days a Week’ by the Beatles, and always, always had the last dance to ‘Hotel California.’ Indeed, as the Eagles said, you can check out of Kapunda High any time you like, but you can never leave.

I remember in Year 12 our infinitely lovely English teacher Mrs Mary Schultz chaperoning us through the novels of John Steinbeck and the poetry of GMH – no, not An Ode to a Clapped-Out Commodore – but the Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manly Hopkins.

I remember an annual staff versus students footy match when in the middle of a pack a sharp yet widely noticed punch landed on a student’s jaw. Of course, the nameless umpire – who could have been a Ryan – yelled an ironic, ‘Play on!’ If a tribunal now met, the defendant might be allowed to lace up his boots in 2025, decades after his retirement from teaching.

I remember our Year 11 Careers trip and staying at the Goodwood Orphanage. At 4am one morning under Mr. Paul McCarthy’s watchful eye we went to the East End Markets to learn about zucchinis. After, it was time for breakfast. Being led through the front bar of the Producers Hotel towards the dining room we saw all sorts of supernatural faces who either hadn’t quite left the previous night or who’d caught the early bus in to make a start on their dawn Hock. But we’d gone on an official school excursion to the pub! Before sunrise! How great was this?

I remember innovations like vertical homegroups in which Years 8, 9, 10 and 11 were banded together as a happy family or depending on the students, like Yatala inmates.

I remember the PE teacher Mr. Geoff Schell leading the daily fitness revolution starring the Health Hustle which means if I now hear ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’ or Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ I involuntarily slide on a pair of Adidas Mexico shorts and launch into some dreadfully uncoordinated star jumps. Of course, this is especially tricky if I’m driving.

I remember the compulsory wearing of a tie and needing to be careful with it in Tech Studies and over the stove in Home Ec. so you didn’t end up in hospital or worse: on the front page of both the Herald and the Leader, doubtless with your name misspelt in exotic and embarrassing ways.

I remember the Moreton Bay Figs by the oval which remain among my favourite trees.

I remember the yearly tradition of Charities Week when classes were suspended, and it was all about fun and fund-raising with go-carts on the tennis court and the Animal House-inspired Toga Tavern and emerging all dusty and dirty of face from the Ghost Tunnel which ran under Eringa and so, so many jars of guess the number of jellybeans.

I remember swimming carnivals and the awesome sight of our History teacher Mr. Michael Krips annihilating everybody in the staff and students race by doing a length of the pool in about six relaxed but massive strokes of freestyle.

I remember at the end of the day getting a ride to the primary school on Rexy Draper’s Hamilton bus to save me a longer walk home.

I remember the anticipation for school magazines and getting these signed during the last week of the year by classmates and teachers. Here’s an extract from the 1981 edition: Kapunda competed in Division 2 of the Interschool Swimming competition against Eudunda and Burra. Kapunda was not very successful at all. The Juniors and Seniors came third. We only had two first places for the night, Leanne Noack in butterfly and backstroke. On behalf of everyone here, thank you Leanne.

I remember a Freeling student baking a cake in Home Ec and being told by Mrs. Wendy Trinne that he’d forgotten to include an egg, so what did our pupil do? He flung down the oven door and just on top of the nearly done sponge cracked open one large bum nut.

I remember staff and students cricket matches, when batting at the Gundry’s Hill end, the occasion would finally arrive, and a certain teacher would flick it off middle stump, over the spotty fielders, over the boundary, over the school fence, over West Terrace, over the dusty footpath, over a neighbour’s front yard, and onto the roof of a white-washed cottage. Like a depth charge in a submarine movie. We all waited for it. He always delivered.

I remember PE classes doing archery on the oval.

I remember sitting in the Art Room and the roof rattling with arrows from a PE class doing archery on the oval.

I remember having a lunchtime disagreement on the croquet lawn with a Year 12 classmate when at the height of our quarrel, to her delight and my dismay, onto the slender shoulder of my grey Midford school shirt a passing bird dropped a warm, yoghurt-like blob.

I remember losing that argument to my dear friend Trisha Helbers.

But I remember my joy in April of last year when on that very same croquet lawn I married my wife Claire.

I remember being scared on my first day in Year 8 and in Year 12 being sad on my last.

I remember hearing a teacher interviewed on the radio years ago and the announcer saying thank you because you create lives.

And I remember thinking how very true this is for those of us fortunate enough to attend Kapunda High School.

Thank you.