Mystery Pub: Brickmakers Arms

Mine host lent over and set the candle aflame. A small vase of fresh flowers smiled up at us from the table too.

Claire said to the proprietor, ‘Thanks for that. It’s rare to see candles in Adelaide pubs.’

‘Yes,’ I agreed thinking of Fitzroy, Carlton and Collingwood. ‘Melbourne does this well. We could learn a thing or two.’

The innkeeper then hoiked some blue gum into the fire, and we shared our approval of this with him too. What a sunny relationship we were forming with the proximate staff of the former Gaslight Tavern. Each of us now looked our glowing best in the candlelight.

Out on the footpath, the autumn leaves swirled along Chief Street. A couple punters sat in the fading day, nursing their beers. The working week was done for many. We were among this fortunate set.

One of life’s tiny joys is scanning the Friday beer taps, deliberating and finally choosing.

Mystery Pub silently demands some bravery, so I order beyond my usual home lagers. Claire selects an Alpha Box and Dice white from Mclaren Vale. I go local with a hazy ale from Findon’s Shapeshifter Brewery. It’s called Party Shirt. At 5pm on a Friday, I have no beer enemies. I save my disagreeability for the worksite.

The renovations are thoughtful. There’s considered use of timber to offset the white walls and a Scandi theme is clear. Happily, for us, no blonde, steely blue-eyed serial killers are in the house. The candles are burning brightly now.

In a quiet Mystery Pub revolution, I leap up to get us our second and final drink. Claire declares, ‘I’ll get these.’

Immediately, I retort, ‘No. As Mystery Pub host tonight, I think I should sort them.’ In June when I’m the guest I’ll just sit in my chair for the duration. Like Chuck at his coronation but with smaller ears, a reassuring ale, and fewer billions.

I return moments later with bounty. Another Alpha Box and Dice wine for Claire. This time a red while I escort a glass of Tiny Fish Pale Ale to our secluded spot. Both are adequate but not nearly as impressive as the candlelight about which during writing I seem to have developed a curious, unprecedented fascination.

In the Brickmakers (sic) Arms we continue to decant our week.

Leaving, we discuss how lovely it is to visit a pub where you wouldn’t expect to find one. Chief Street is sinking into the dark now.


Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and the Delight of Context

On an ordinary street Claire and I went to a mostly forgettable Milanese church.

We’ve been to many spectacular places of worship in Europe but this one’s façade had less charisma than a suburban supermarket. Italy has a chain of these called Pam. I think this is funny.

Our visit wasn’t even really about the church, Santa Maria delle Grazie, but the nearby refectory.

The Mona Lisa is the star of the Louvre art museum, and the Queen Sofía National Museum Art Centre in Madrid is famed for Picasso’s anti-war satire, Guernica. But these are dedicated galleries, and within them we expect masterpieces.

Increasingly, I’m interested in the context of experiences, and the more unlikely the circumstances, the more compelling. One of the world’s great paintings, Da Vinci’s The Last Supper is on the dining room wall.

These unremarkable circumstances are remarkable.

The story of this magnum opus is as distinctive as the painting itself. Located next door to a medieval kitchen, Da Vinci finished it in about two years. The thinking behind it being on a refectory wall is that the monks would feel a divine connection with this painting of Christ at supper while they, in turn, gobbled their bread and stew. Unsurprisingly, The Last Supper suffered extensively from steam, smoke, and soot. And probably, if truth be told, cabbage odour.

Where the feet of Jesus should be in the painting is now a door, knocked through a few centuries’ ago because, you won’t be surprised to hear, the monks wanted better access to the kitchen. Later, Napoleon used it as a stable. It recently endured a twenty-year restoration.

As he was mastering the use of a single vanishing point our expert guide (she was terrific) told us that Da Vinci hammered a nail into Christ’s temple (ouch, irony!) and radiated string to assist with the perspective.

Apparently, the table at the centre of the painting wouldn’t have actually fitted in the portrayed room at Mount Zion, but there’s significant captivation as Jesus announces his looming betrayal. Da Vinci shows this with each disciple’s face and action a psychological revelation.

Despite the intolerable yelling from fellow visitors, it was extraordinary, and I felt privileged to see it. It speaks to my ignorance, but I was unaware that on the opposite wall is another painting, called the Crucifixion. We weren’t encouraged to view it.

The entire site was nearly destroyed by Allied bombing during WW2 and The Last Supper is conservatively valued at half a billion dollars.


On another Italian back street is an art gallery and the beige walls suggest a warehouse. There are fresh smatterings of graffiti by the entrance. We’re in Florence.

Claire booked our Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze tickets months ago and these were so tight that we could only get separate entrance times. Getting lost on our way, we clarified directions with a local and ran, backpacks a-jiggling, to make our 8.45 timeslot.

Got there. Seconds to spare!

Just like the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan we went through airport-style security at the door and then rushed to the famed exhibit.

The first glimpse is arresting.

Among many ironies is that this version of David is indeed a Goliath. I’m confident that Michelangelo was entirely aware of this when sculpting his subject. Standing over five metres tall it’s inside a roped fence and so it’s impossible to stop beneath the marble colossus and feel fully shadowed.   

Immediately, I’m drawn to the massive hands and feet. David’s head is also immense and each of these, I’d suggest, indicates Michelangelo’s faith in human gifts. Communicated with Renaissance calm and intellect, the artist presents his subject with optimism and awe while reminding us of our potential for creating good.

Of note is the small genitalia which I reckon is emblematic of a modern, evolved masculinity. This is predicated on enlightened thoughtfulness that is freed from narrow constraints of sexual prowess. Michelangelo might be saying that regardless of David’s physical heroics we should look deeper for inspiration and ideals.

Most agree that David is presented in a theatrical moment: just as the youthful warrior has reached a momentous decision to go into battle against his larger foe. The statue weighs over six tonnes but emits a sense of almost celestial light, youthful beauty, and weightlessness.

Claire and I returned later to gaze again upon this mesmerising sculpture before continuing with our Florentine day.


Three Italian Beers


It’s late afternoon in Lake Como.

Claire and I are sitting on our second-floor balcony and in the cool twilight, we help ourselves to dreamy snatches of the water. As the mist settles, snowy mountain peaks fade into the bluish light of Switzerland.

We listen to our scenery, the breeze, and the folks below.

Birra Moretti’s mustachioed mascot makes my beer instantly recognizable. He’s patriarchal, encouraging in that European way, and timeless. He’s urging me to be my best beer-consuming self. Luigi Moretti launched the brewery in 1857.

Our initial Italian meal was a belated lunch at a bistro on Piazza San Giorgio. We both had variations upon lasagna as, wide-eyed, and happy, we gazed at the cobblestones, the church, and the black scooters, lined up like fast, rebellious smears.

Given this postcardy context how was the beer? Moretti’s a fruity lager; energetic and offering of infectious excitements. Mine is in a cooperative tumbler.

Of course, it was great. How could it not be?


Arriving by train in the Cinque Terre we had to yank our luggage up a cliff around sunset. It was nearly three-hundred uneven and ancient steps, clinging to the rock face.

We struggled past two (American) couples, securely dining and wining in a café, and these both remarked helpfully on how our physical chore appeared as if it, ‘Sucked.’

My philosophical question remains: Is it good to warrant a holiday beer? Are they to be earnt while travelling?

Either way, sitting on our lofty terrace I had a Peroni Red. I can’t recall an unwelcome coastal beer and this one certainly wasn’t.

We also drank in the view of the rolling Mediterranean where to the north the blinking lights were the Cinque Terre’s first village in Monterosso. We’d explore it in a day or so.

The ale is slightly darker than its more famous stablemate, Nastro Azzurro, but is flavoursome and feisty. The brewery was established in 1846 in Vigevano, just south of Milan. Its aroma and palate are fetching.

As we sipped and chatted, we heard the bells ring out from Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church.

Glenelg North

Back home and it’s the Sunday before work. I’ve a near-fatal case of post-holiday dreads.

Dr. Dan prescribes a medicinal excursion to his liquor emporium. A variation on our Mystery Pubs and Mystery Days, I come home with Mystery Drinks. I get beer and on occasion, something tentative and spiritual (alcoholic not holy) for Claire. It’s an opportune distraction.

Pirate Life’s Italiana lager catches my mourning eye. It’s brewed down at the Port, the Napoli of Adelaide, or not.

At 5.2% take caution after a few so you don’t get lippy with Nonna. If you did, I wouldn’t want to be you.

A zesty beer, I found Dean Martin in my glass, and it made me think of zig-zagging home after the opera at La Scala; birdsong by a Lake Como church; scampering along the platform to make our train to Pisa.


An Italian Arrival

I am shaving while characters rush in and out. It’s seven in the morning, and I have spent over thirty hours travelling.

Here I am in Milan Airport. In the men’s bathroom/restroom/toilet/euphemism.

Since disembarking all is going well. Through a large window I’ve already seen the jagged and snowy Alps.

A sludgy sea of shuffling people at passport control. I hear someone say, ‘Australians come this way.’ My eyes dart towards the voice and about three minutes later I exit via the non-EU, or third countries lane and charge the world’s biggest baggage carousel. It’s the size and shape of the Monza formula one circuit.

Luggage is dropping onto the belt and shortly after, thud. My bag! And it’s not damaged.

I now brush my teeth, and this feels fantastic too. Rinse, spit, go!

As always, early morning is the best time to land in a new country so the day and your adventure can begin together. While airports can be viewed merely as venues for transition, right now all about me is invested with wonder. Stretching out with golden expectation, our Italian trip’s in front of us.

I remain alert to the terminal’s minor dangers but my surging notion is that strangers are kind. My fears submerge. With the rush of passengers, I sense the richness of universal narratives. How many stories have compelled them to this airport?

I’m enjoying the exhilaration of arrival.

Later tonight, in our Lake Como apartment, the toll for my voyage will be extracted, brutally. When I collapse at dusk, the violence of modern travel will come for me with little mercy. Waking abruptly at 3am I’ll find myself in the bathroom checking the weather back home, just stopping before I open my work email.

But in the terminal my mind buzzes, and I compare everything: the Italian and English languages, the café menu, the manufacturer of the cistern. Look, there’s a bidet! These are enchanted curios in a bold, bright world.

Claire suggested our reunion for Exit 5 of Terminal 2. Given my first hour in Italy had gone well, I’m now over-confident as I tow my case to the meeting spot. See! Easy!

Outside’s brisk in Milano. There’s a stream of pedestrian traffic, and my eye’s especially caught by a white-suited man. He also wears white shoes. I think of Dean Martin. Carrying himself past the forecourt with relaxed confidence I wonder if he’s meeting someone here, too?

To my west is a bus stop and a constant line of vehicles siphons through it. The success of my morning makes me certain that from here Claire will emerge. A dot at first. Then her familiar brisk gait followed by her hair and face, and finally the smile I know so very well. I haven’t seen her since Friday evening. I’m sure she’s on the bus that’s just paused. I peer across the traffic. Where is she?

And then suddenly, Claire’s sunny voice is behind me, coming from the terminal.

‘Hey, you!’


Milano parkrun

I was an island in a lake of hugging and hollering and happy chaos, and the energy was catching.

I didn’t hear it, but Claire later told me a grab from, ‘The Final Countdown’ was blasted as we gathered. Given I was about to undertake the Milano parkrun its 1980’s bombast was probably a welcome supplement to the mise-en-scène.

By the start line was an Italian flag, and I joined the run briefing in English during which laminated maps were shared around. Unlike home there would be no defibrillator.

With a crescendo of noise, we were away! Fittingly, the initial dash was on cobblestones and these then trended to dirt with a high chance of puddles.

European parkrun time is 9am as opposed to the Australian start of 8am, largely I guess because during the northern winter it’s then still dark. Today’s idyllic with an invigorating air. Milano is famed for its windlessness; it’s the anti-Chicago. This pleases me.

Dominating the north of Lombardy’s central city, Park Nord extends over four municipalities. Our Uber out here was a Mercedes Benz Vito; it’s imposing black finish befitting this fashion capital. Milan seems a wealthy place with smartly dressed folks, stylish attractions, and high-end eateries. I’m yet to spy a K-Mart.

Around the back of my first circuit, I see that most Italian of sporting landmarks: a velodrome. It’s all whizzing blurs of lyrca and metal. I’ve seen very few cyclists in the city, probably given the narrow streets are bunged up with buses, cars, and trams. Being collected by an errant Fiat Panda can be nobody’s aspiration.

Moving past the fields of wild grass into the home straight, I jog through a grove of trees. Glancing at my old Swatch, I’m making reasonable time given we’ve both been crook with colds and I’m still shaking off jetlag. Being in Europe during our footy season I’m always a little surprised upon a weekend awakening that it’s half-time at the MCG. That’s an arresting symbol of our planet’s vastness.

One lap done and from the volunteers I hear lively Italian urgings and I’m electrified for these anonymous gestures. And there’s Claire waving, taking photos and calling out, ‘Go, Mickey Randall!’ How great to be unreservedly supported in this Saturday pursuit.

It’s both a blessing and a curse that I know what to expect on my second trip around.

I push on.

Although I’m about as competitive as lettuce there’s a healthy sense of rivalry in parkrun. I try to keep close to a guy in orange but can’t. The Patawalonga run in Glenelg appears to attract a wider variety of participants. Here, they’re all athletic and coolly confident.  

T-shirts are instructive texts and there’s a few about today. I spot a couple geezers in garb advertising Sussex’s Run Wednesdays and a white-bearded fellow with one announcing he competed in a 100k event (or at least paid his entry fee). As it’s bright yellow and obviously declares my Australian citizenship, I’m in my Singapore Sharks footy shirt. Did you know the Sharks host the world’s biggest Auskick programme?

Exhausted, I cross the line and find Claire. I’ve extended myself and am pleased. I’ve really enjoyed the various enthusiasms of the morning, and how these exist beyond language. I remain embarrassingly monolingual.

Fellow competitors help themselves to a complimentary drink that looks like cola. Curiosity urges me to claim one. It’s boiling and black and I wonder if it’s coffee which isn’t what I’d generally take after hard exercise. Sipping hesitantly, I discover it’s a sweet tea. Nearby is a plate of pastries.

Ahh, Italy.

During my run Claire spoke with a volunteer and of course he has a friend running a bar in Adelaide and I love this universal desire to locate connections.

Despite feeling lousy it’s the fifth best time of my brief parkrun career. Today, Milano hosts a compact but classy field with nearly two dozen runners getting around the five-kilometer course in under twenty minutes. I finish mid-field.

We head south through the park to the Metro and the lilac line. Duomo, mid-afternoon gelato, and the Last Supper await.


Reasons to be Cheerful

Old Noarlunga Hike

Immersion in nature. It’s profoundly important as both prevention and cure. Late on a recent Sunday Alex and Max accompanied me down to Old Noarlunga where following some detective work we located the hiking trail. A narrow path took us along the river by some ancient gum trees. All during the hike there was a stream of natter. School, basketball, friends, basketball, stuff. With dappled light drenching us we worked hard to climb the steep rise by the pipeline and were rewarded to our west with the silently glistening sea.

Kitchen Confidential

Although I’m not a foodie (my greatest passion is getting my schnitzel off the poor chips) I’ve long been a fan of Anthony Bourdain’s storytelling and crisp, assured language use. Drawing me to his cinematic travelogues his skill in locating the story within the story was always a joy. So, I finally got my hands on his celebrated memoir and will attack it over the next week.

Glenelg Scoreboard

Professional sport increasingly seeks to cannibalise its competition and footy is no exception with the AFL beyond shameless in this. I reckon winter sport should begin in April, and it was Good Friday when I ambled down for the Tigers’ first home game. The sun set just before half-time. The new scoreboard grabbed my focus with its dazzling imagery and was a lighthouse in the oceanic dark. Old scoreboards sometimes attract more affection than deserved and Glenelg’s new screen is a bold addition, especially when we’re spanking the Filth in front.

Winery Picnic

Cheese, olives, chutney, crusty bread. Evil, magnificent, cured meats. A secluded table. Sheltering trees. A frisky cabernet sauvignon. Sunday lunch at Golding.

Lana Del Ray

Just released, (I won’t say dropped like the kids) the ninth album from the New York-born but West Coast resident continues her lush arrangements, engaging vocals and deepening, Hollywood-noir mythology on Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd. Among many highlights is ‘Let The Light In’ featuring harmonies from Father John Misty and this is a pairing of two terrifically matched voices, equal parts honey, murky sultriness and soaring elegance. It’s a Leonard Cohen nod to forbidden love and as always, the lyrics leave plenty of space for the listener to wander the landscape of broken dreams.


April 10. The deep and joyous value of our wedding anniversary is being rushed back to the time and place when the often-unknowable universe finally consented to my simplest, most profound dream. How great to experience this wonder every year.


Departing Adelaide, we’ll enjoy Lake Como. Cinque Terre. Pisa. Milan. Florence. The Last Supper. The Statue of David. West End Draught. Opera at La Scala.


Max and I hung out in Aldinga

Glenelg? Mykonos? Venice Beach?


Port Willunga’s my favourite beach on the planet.

Sizeable sets of late-March waves roll in and it’s chilly when the first of these curling walls topples against our legs. The weekend straightens out in front of us. Max and I quickly tolerate the cold but then a rip drags us along the coast. I’m alarmed.

Max says, ‘We’re going north up the beach, aren’t we?’

‘Yes, we are, that’s right Buddy,’ I reply. ‘You’ve got a good sense of direction.’

‘I just sort of knew which way it was.’

Drying off on the dazzlingly white sand, we then set off towards the famed jetty ruins. I wonder how long until these are finally claimed by the wind, the sand and the water.

On the cusp of his thirteenth birthday, I remind Max that we were last by these wooden relics with his brother Alex. It was a few years’ ago on our way back from a Victor Harbor holiday. He recollects.

Plucking our way beneath the chalky cliffs, across the rocks and through the seaweed, we delve into our past. There’s talk of Bear Grylls. We know his documentaries well, used to discuss the narrative formula. Every Tuesday we’d watch one and have a home-barbequed burger.

I feel a pang.

‘Alex likes the ones set in the snow and ice, but I prefer those in jungles,’ Max says.

I propose, ‘Maybe we should watch some again, you know, for old times’ sake?’

Our weekend is about offerings and gentle explorations of our past, and our futures. As suggested by Claire, it’s a rite of passage, and I want Max to feel relaxed and loved. So far, Year 8 has been rough. I’m worried but hope together we can command our boat through the storm.

At the headland we turn around.


In the Aldinga pub, we’re perched at a tall table on high stools. It’s teeming with families, but we’re cocooned in a corner. In tribute to Bear we have burgers. A significant occasion, it washes over me like rain.

Back at our apartment we chat in the Balinese hut, all bamboo and blonde light. Max is invested and appreciative. The sky is smeared with the white dashes of screeching cockatoos. The sun’s now sinking, and it’s been a terrific afternoon. I’m thrilled.

My world shrinks to Max while I again try to open up his like a flower, encourage him to see the adult opportunities for travel, for work, for life. It’s both a privilege and a fearsome burden.


Sunday morning and we drive onto the wide, flat beach at Silver Sands. A sign demands our speed must be at walking pace and this suits me. I ease down our windows, let in the salty breeze. Invite in the quietening, deep sea.

There’s many joggers and dogs. Cars are sprinkled along the beach. I pull up and turn off the engine. We talk of New York, Paris, Salt Lake City and basketball. Max loves the NBA. Speaks the language fluently. He asks me for my all-time top 5 basketballers.

‘Michael Jordan.’ I think back and rattle them off. ‘Larry Bird. Kareem Abdul- Jabbar. Magic Johnson. Dr. J.’

‘Dr. J,’ Max repeats. He smiles. I do too.

This extends to a moment, a sharing, and we both silently acknowledge the cool of his name. I remember him from when I was Max’s age. A keen student of basketball history, he knows him too. Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving, was a star for Philadelphia in the 70’s and 80’s.

It’s just a name, but it hangs warmly in the beachy air, and we connect.


Within the weekend the heavens present as a comforting character in our story. The gentle blue atmosphere of late summer affirms, and like a wise old priest, encourages our conversations. The beaches, the dark-green vineyards, the twinkling ocean, all seem to be attending to our confessionals.

Packing the car, I’m suddenly awash in a tumble of loss, fear, and happiness. I pause and take a slow breath. Aldinga has been an escape while also a glimpse into the next decade.

I tremble and trust it looks promising.


Mystery Pub: The Joiners Arms

Mystery Pub tonight saw the inclusion of four old friends Mozz and Kath, and Paul and Ali.

As such they’re special guest stars. Just like Jonathan Harris on Lost in Space when he played the outrageous villain Dr Smith. Pleasingly during our time at the pub, nobody is called a ‘bubble-headed booby.’ We all share an ancient Kimba connection. Claire, of course, was a star of the TV show Cartoon Connection.

Yet again, Claire has done a tremendous job in organising Mystery Pub. Here are some, but not all, of this episode’s key decision-making criteria:

  1. Close to my work given I was travelling back from the Barossa
  2. Accessible by public transport for Mozz and Kath who are staying on King William Street
  3. Proximate to the Northern Expressway for Paul and Ali
  4. Near the tram stop for Claire, who works by Light Square
  5. An open and trading pub, unlike the Land of Promise which given its current boarded-up status is particularly unpromising
  6. A front bar free of wandering livestock, given an undisclosed number of our entourage may suffer from capraphobia, or fear of goats
  7. Beer.

Paul is nervous that we might break a number of the rules governing Mystery Pub. He states, anxiously ‘Your one-hour limit rule could be ignored.’

Channelling Meatloaf, I reply, ‘I’ll do anything for love, but I won’t do that.’

Today’s our last opportunity to see Mozz and Kath as they’re going overseas for six months to visit New Jersey (lots of turnpike action), Canada, the UK, Scandinavia, and continental Europe (inexplicably not Wank Mountain in the Bavarian Alps) among other varied destinations. They’re only avoiding Abyssinia, Persia, and the Ottoman Empire as these all, sadly, no longer exist.

Upon arrival I duck out to check the beer garden. It’s a big and functional space entirely devoid of any living plant or vegetable which in my book makes it not a garden but an ode to cement. There is a group at a table and they’re overseen by an odd-shaped and silvery helium balloon and this screams, ‘Private function. Stay away.’

We do.

Inside the pub is warm and charismatic. Exposed bricks, beautiful stain-glassed windows, a range of curious craft beers on tap. A point of difference is their Happy Hour runs from 3 to 5. With mere seconds remaining, we sneak in a couple quick refreshments so as not to embarrass ourselves (spiritually and fiscally) and settle into our table’s compelling Friday rhythm.

Outside it’s Hindmarsh.

The pub appears to the world as modest, reserved, and almost a little shy. Across the road is the soccer stadium where Adelaide United play while it’s also a drama and music hub with the Entertainment Centre, live music mecca The Gov and the always fun Holden Street Theatres all nearby.  

We have known each other for decades but haven’t assembled since our dear, absent friends Annie and Bazz (currently perspiring profusely in Darwin) had their Adelaide retirement party at the Broady on a wintry November afternoon last year.

We used to share tales of footy and golf and cricket and associated late night exploits. Now we provide retirement visions and medical updates (executive summaries only).

Once upon a time this could evolve into a elongated evening. But Paul and Ali are off to a McLaren Vale wedding tomorrow, Mozz and Kath are heading home to sort things ahead of their vast international odyssey, and Claire and I have Escape to the Country obligations. Will that hugely self-pleased couple from Canary Wharf buy a six-bedroom property in Shropshire?

It’s been a lovely, affirming time with friends. We see the very best versions of each other.


After we left the pub

Easing the car to a stop in the garage I say, ‘Right, here we are. Let’s now just have a quick chore frenzy.’ Claire nods or smiles or laughs. Or all three.

We’ve enjoyed an hour at the pub, sometimes The Broady, sometimes not. My favourite time of the week is when we’re home and undertake the tasks necessary prior to relaxing. It’s the transition from workday to weekend.

There’s great comfort in the routine.

Is there a sweeter expression of civic and domestic pride than strolling to your curb, grabbing a red, green or yellow plastic handle, surveying up and down the street, nodding at a distant neighbour, and happily walking your bins into the garage? Does anything signal contentedness and community with such affirming simplicity?

No, of course not.

Setting an industrious and effervescent tone, this gets us off to a bright start. Meanwhile, in her office Claire is dropping off her work basket and dumping the day’s detritus. She’s also disengaging from her professional labour.

I check the letterbox. No friendly cards, but no nasty windows either. Whew.

Our happy transmogrification demands a change of uniform to complete the purge, so I peel off my office attire and pop on a pair of shorts and a polo shirt. It’s what Buddha would do.

Work shoes are slid away, and I consider my thongs. No, instead I get out my volleys, each with the inescapable hole, just by the little toe. What if someone bought a pair of volleys and they didn’t develop these holes? The absence of holes would itself make a psychological hole. Could you bring legal action against Dunlop over their failure to provide this expected longitudinal failure?

Open doors and windows allow the beachy breeze to explore the house, and it’s now time to practise my modest bartending skills. A robust tumbler, an ice cube, brandy and coke. Tumbler is an evocative term conjuring coastal afternoons and picnic race meetings. With careful tuition, Claire has taught me how to prepare this most important beverage. In these matters, I’m a model student. Tink, tink, tink. I give it a stir, as tutored.

Heading to the patio, I light a candle. I’ve also learnt that regardless of weather or time of day, these can lend a gentle and welcoming light to a space. I switch on the water feature and enjoy its faint tintinnabulation as there’s a cascading down and across the pebbles.

Our evening is stretching out.

I then swing open the garage fridge, home to good beer (the real stuff), bad beer (light ale as urged by the authorities) and other assorted love songs. Like a babe grabbing a rattle I grasp a sparkling ale longneck and flip off the top with an ancient rusty opener or church key as called by my old friend Richard. The frosty bottle is delivered to the patio table with Michelin star restaurant aplomb.

Glassware is important here too. I often pick my Southwark mug, Tasmanian cider glass or an old English imperial pint. Variety is key in this although overthinking is avoided.

Both Claire’s brandy and my old-fashioned big bottle speak of a distant time. These seem like post-war drinks, or the tipples of our grandparents or props from the original set of Don’s Party. As Lafayette County, Mississippi’s finest writer William Faulkner claimed, ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

Our early evening soundtrack must be nostalgic. Something from the easy past that suggests innocence and unprickly escapism. It’s often Hot August Night and Claire’s favourite is the stirring instrumental that opens the album. We agree that ‘Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon’ has a beautiful melody but creepy lyrics. ‘Play Me’ is another romantic highlight. Inspired by a chat with a colleague, tonight we listen to the Bee Gees’ live record One Night Only.

Then, we sit and talk for an hour or so. It’s my favourite part of the week. Claire asks, ‘So, what are our plans for tomorrow?’

A lone Piping Shrike bobs about on our darkening lawn. Gazing out, I take a moment to consider the possibilities.


Mystery Pub: Getting Metaphysical at the Morphett Arms

Glen Campbell gave us ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ and failed contestants of the ancient quiz show Sale of the Century were gifted a diamond encrusted stick pin by host Glenn Ridge. So what jewel does Glengowrie offer us?

Why, of course, the muscular boozer that is the Morphett Arms.

It was an act of bravery but also necessity. The pub is large, aggressively functional and a shrine for disciples of the Friday Meat Tray. None of these generally hold much appeal for Claire, but it’s seven minutes from home, and it would be a snobbish oversight to not swing by at least once as curious locals. Mystery Pub, as you well know, is underpinned by egalitarian principals and a dedication to exploration, geopolitics and post-modern art.

It’s not just a shameless monthly excuse to get on the gargle for an escapist hour.

The courtyard is a fine place to nurse, or if required, attack an end of week refreshment. The sole maple tree offers shade, beauty and a certain conspiratorial atmosphere, enhanced by us having the space almost entirely to ourselves.

There’s a decent range of tap beer but my Coopers XPA lacks punch. I suspect I’m the first to have one for the afternoon and so the keg’s still asleep. On occasion, being a beer pioneer comes at significant personal cost and if I weren’t of a buoyant mood this might have represented an existential crisis. Fatigued ale claims many a hapless victim. Don’t be next.

Claire’s white wine is white and winey in her etched and apparently complimentary glass.

We debrief our week and anticipate the next which with the Fringe now underway includes many Auslan interpreting gigs for Claire at the Holden Street Theatre and in town for various comedians such as Lloyd Langford, our funniest Welsh import. He could read from a phone book (explain this to the kids) and it’d be amusing.

I discuss going to Kapunda for work in a few days’ time and how this’ll be a euphoric treat despite the continuing sadness of the 2022 fire in Eringa. I love going home.

We sit happily at our elevated table and a few groups of post-work folk now drift in. Behind me on the large screen the cricket’s on in Delhi and local boy Travis Head comes and goes without me noticing. I’m probably more disappointed that the next Test has been moved from Dharamsala. It’s the most spectacular setting for a cricket ground with the snowy Himalayas looming just beyond the grandstands.

Our barkeep has a name badge with Rourke on it so when I return for round two of cuppage that’s what I call him. ‘Can I have a Pirate Life thanks, Rourke?’ His badge must be vaguely accurate as he replies, ‘Sure.’ My wife opts for a gin which is fair enough in mid-February. We have a funny conversation about Rourke, and the often-surprising helpfulness of a clearly visible nametag.

On our way to the motor, we duck into the front bar and the meat tray raffle’s away. Despite his microphone and a decent PA system, the spruiker’s a shouty chap and he barks, ‘That’s it for the pink tickets.’ I note a rise in the pub hub-bub, probably that of the singular discontent generated by the sudden pang of knowing you’re not going home with a pack of neck chops, chicken snags and lumpen rissoles.

Still, all blue ticketholders are alive and well. They might be in carnivorous luck yet.

Claire and I had also been in luck having just spent a lovely hour chatting beneath an unexpected maple tree. The tree is spectacular and although trees are not unknown in beer gardens, its green canopy made our occasion snug, and invested the visit with gratitude for our good fortune and mostly easy city and Glengowrie. At all of this I felt a tiny whiff of wonder.

This, my friends, is what Mystery Pub is really about.


Alex, now you are fifteen

Dearest Alex

Now, you are fifteen.

Moments ago you were a little kid. And before we realise what’s happened you’ll be an adult. In all your strapping, grinning, capable glory.

Working, studying, voting. Driving. Oh, no. Not driving!

Among the impressive parts of your life are you running to and along the beach and going to the gym (not so much the habitual pie beforehand though). I admire the discipline you show in these regular commitments and look forward to you joining me at the Patawalonga River parkrun soon on a Saturday morning.

I’m pleased that you had a great time at the Heaps Good music festival at Wayville (Peggy Gou your standout). Already music seems as if it’ll be your lifelong friend. One day you, or maybe even we, might get to Coachella or Glastonbury. This would be sensational. Imagine if we saw Radiohead there? I like that you often start a music conversation with me by saying things like

‘What’s your favourite Tame Impala album?’ (we know it’s Innerspeaker)


‘Do you know there might be a new Frank Ocean record this year?’


What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to? (for me it’s Tame Impala, Vampire Weekend, The Wiggles, in this order)

Of course, I especially like how this demonstrates critical thinking and textual appreciation. And you’re not even being assessed! It’s just what you like to do.

I also enjoy our chats about film and how you can discuss the similarities and differences between 2001: A Space Odyssey (featuring cinema’s greatest villain in in the computer HAL 9000) and Interstellar. These skills and language will carry you far in senior school and beyond. Make the most of them.

Our first season as Strikers members was fun, even the NYE game which we lost narrowly. I hope our new favourite cricketer, Matt Short, stays with us next year. Let’s not think about the looming retirement of your best-loved ever player: Peter Siddle!

So, now you’re a SACE student (for one subject) and this shows us how quickly time is rushing by. School will be done in a blink so slow down, breathe deeply and look around. Take time to appreciate what’s happening. Just this morning I read some great advice for you and all of us:

be kind to your heart.

It’ll be enjoyable, exciting, boring and bewildering but enjoy being fifteen.

Always keep in mind the following exchange in Jaws between Quint, the captain of the Orca, and Mr Hooper, the oceanographer, when on the bow of the boat they stood awestruck as Bruce (the name given to the mechanical shark by Spielberg and the film crew) glided past with his impossibly ute-like bulk and prehistoric menace,

‘That’s a twenty-footer.’

Quint replies in a low, authoritative voice, ‘Twenty-five.’




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. I’m sure this happened on New Year’s Eve as 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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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