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Beer Review: Prancing Pony and Smiling Samoyed at the Normanville pub

Perhaps we should’ve been in Shit Creek.

For on the table were not one but two paddles. Brett had one and I had the other, and both wooden planks were holding six glasses of craft beer. We’d soon be rowing at the Olympics.

I love a weekend away with a big group and down in Carrackalinga we had seven adults and seven kids. I like how some things are done together, but other excursions occur with just one or two. Earlier Max and I had swung by the Yankalilla bakery for a Cornish pasty and sausage roll before pulling in at the oval and watching the local B grade cricket for half a dozen overs. We saw one wicket and some decidedly exotic swatting. The boundaries were long and the outfield, lush. Runs were scarce.

Following a walk down the beach it was suddenly late afternoon and six of us gathered in the Normanville pub’s beer garden. Having it to ourselves invested the episode with enhanced novelty and occasion.

The first craft beer was an XPA from the Prancing Pony Brewery. While we agreed that it included citrus, melon and berry flavours the tasting notes’ proposal that passionfruit was present became controversial.

Claire tried it and said, “But there’s no actual passionfruit!” Someone retorted that it was only redolent of it, that it might simply be a metaphor, or point of sensory reference. Claire was insistent, if not incensed.

A few impassioned minutes on passionfruit followed.

Built in 1851 the Normy is among the state’s oldest pubs and there by the veranda we all admired the beautiful tiling while inside each dining room was magnificent lead lighting.

Next up was the Germanic Kolsch which may have suffered from poor sequencing as someone, possibly Leonard, described it as having, “dreadful nanna fruit.” I found it sharp. Its bitterness was like one of our group (Claire) missing out on being Dux of Year 12 by one point out of 500: lingering and irreconcilable.

However, Claire liked the mango beer that was a New England India Pale Ale. It had the fruitiness of a Carry On movie, but I found it undrinkable. If it illustrated the best of Boston then maybe we should’ve retrieved the tea (c.1773) from the harbour floor and had our own party. A voice from another chair pleaded that it had the generic characteristic of, “orchard fruits.” I sipped again, my face deforming like I was on the rocket sled of a 1950’s NASA experiment.

JB then told us of how, minutes before arriving at the pub, she’d been dumped by a large and uncaring wave. Happily her son, Oliver, showed an appropriate level of human concern while some of us nodded with nebulous sympathy, but quickly returned our attention to the paddles.

The 12 Paws Pale Ale was met with ambiguity. In an obvious attempt to make it into this blog, Brett described the beer as being, “indistinguishable from most other pale ales” regardless of the number of paws quantified in its name.

The afternoon galloped on and we’d a barbeque to ignite and charades to punctuate our evening so we adhered to the equine theme of this paragraph and tried the Prancing Pony Brewery’s India Red Ale which clocks in at a Phar Lap-sized 7.9%. The notes promised, “caramel characters” but Claire was firm: no likey. Brett voted it champion beer of our session. I could see its appeal, but for me it mostly represented a disagreeable chore, like compulsory attendance at a death metal music festival.

A couple of punters joined us in the beer garden. In the front bar somebody laughed. A distant mobile phone buzzed: we need milk.

Our final refreshment was a dark ale from the Smiling Samoyed Brewery just up the hill in Myponga. It whispered of roasted dark chocolate and black Arctic nights and a plaintive, strummed mandolin, or maybe just beer.

Our convoy then stretched up the hill towards our holiday house.

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Sentimentality and alienation in Adelaide pub architecture

I’ve just discovered my new favourite place in my old favourite place.

Now in its third year the Broady beer garden is always a delight. Week’s end; a brisk hour; Saturday and Sunday stretching out with languid promise.

Claire and I took up residence last Friday around 5pm and found ourselves at a wooden bench by the back wall. With the noise washing over and about us and the throng surging we were in a captivating little nook. The effect of the foliage was to secret us and intensify our isolation and we became distant witnesses to the garden’s spectacle, and the muffled, if deafening drama and comedy.

I was reminded of Jordan, the glamorous, but golf-cheat character from The Great Gatsby who whispers: And I like large parties. They’re so intimate.

A beer garden should enable theatre and connection and sometimes even privacy. The Broady’s does this. The space allows gregarious but also discreet moments.

The Hahndorf Old Mill Hotel is a big pub on the main street of this lovely old Germanic town in the Adelaide Hills.

Alex and I were up there last Saturday. He’s just turned thirteen and to mark this we drove up for the afternoon and evening. We wandered about and made our compulsory visit to the Fruchoc Shop and I said, “Where would you like lunch?”

Helpfully, he replied, “In there” as the Old Mill Hotel appeared.

Hahndorf is historic and there’s a constant architectural aesthetic across the main drag with charming evocations of Bavaria through dark timbers and inviting warm places and Hofbräu available in big steins.

But, I will never understand how the hideous glass and metal roof of this inn was ever allowed. It’s vaguely 1980’s in its visual impact or more likely inspired by the Jupiter 2 from cult sci-fi TV series Lost in Space.

What is it doing in this genteel, rustic village?

It can only have been designed by the evil Dr. Smith. Will Robinson and the robot (the real star of the programme) would look on in horror before we’d hear, “Warning! Warning” Judy would have (again) sought comfort in the arms of the gruff and unloveable pilot Don West, who openly hated Dr. Smith.

Gee, it was a complex social ecosystem on the Jupiter 2.

Even Penny’s chimpanzee-like alien pet named Debbie would have put its hands or long ears over its eyes at the sight of The Hahndorf Old Mill Hotel’s ugly roof.

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Beer Review: Southwark Bitter

As we ambled along the grey beach this morning and the dogs scampered in the wet sand and we chatted about yesterday’s Cellar Door Fest I thought of many wonderful things for which I’m grateful.

Oddly, Southwark Bitter was absent from this gentle Sunday mindfulness, but now here I am on the patio with a distinctive green can. It’s time to revisit. Excursions into nostalgia should be occasionally inclusive and with the radio on, the lawn freshly mown, and the water feature bubbling along, I flip open the can. I expect it to be combative.

It smells more beery than beer. There’s nothing post-modern or aspirational present. It’s unapologetic, and I know that on Southwark’s playlist there’s just too many songs by The Angels. But, wait, perhaps the aromatics aren’t as boisterous as I remember. There’s a familiar charm, and it’s like the old cricketer who batted at ten, didn’t bowl and had to be hidden in the field. You and your team-mates loved him.

I take a few cautious sips and personal history makes me expect to be clobbered in the gob. But, I’m not. It’s not nearly as angular and cantankerous as my last venture into this beer-themed savannah. It’s smooth and almost subtle. Disbelieving, I check the can. Yep, Southwark. I replaced some lawn this morning and can now feel the effects of shovelling (yes, I used my skimming shovel) and wonder if I’m experiencing some sensory side-effects of this rare Sunday exertion.

A plane takes off from Adelaide airport and with a low scream climbs out across St Vincent’s Gulf. Buddy, the dog moves and Triple J plays a song I don’t know.

I keep two glass Southwark mugs in the freezer and sometimes bring these out on hot days when guests call in. It’s more theatrical than real but the frostiness adds a brief frisson to our shared enterprise. Given that I’ve bought a Southwark for the first time this millennium I decide it would be churlish not to marry beer and ancient mug. So I do.

This seems to exaggerate the trademark bitterness and now my 2021 experience starts to approach the one I recollect from those dusty Kapunda afternoons after cricket or by the Duck Pond with other misshapen youth or up at Gundry’s Hill with Fats blasting Mondo Rock out of his car boot. The universe settles back onto its known axis. It’s been a curiously rewarding event, and the beer has over-delivered. I’m strangely pleased.

With a determined swallow I finish my mug of beer and sit it down on the table. I wonder when I’ll next have a Southwark.

I look over at the dogs. They don’t seem to know either.

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January: sick and tired you’ve been hanging on me

A photo essay noting some of this first month’s curios and ephemera.

2021 began with the demise of my old companion. Yes, a rubbish bin ate my dingo (shirt).

Nothing magic about this possum and its visit.
Lake Bonney is home to many native meat products like lamb kofta.
Late morning on the first day of the year at West Beach. Look closely to see a pod of dolphins.
One of Hamley Bridge’s sunny and optimistic thoroughfares.
Home of the $14 Thursday night schnitzel. But you already knew this.
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At 5pm we drive around Lake Bonney and guess how many cars we’ll pass

My thong presses the accelerator as we pass the Bluebird Café and steer along Queen Elizabeth Drive with the lake on our left and a row of beige residences on our right. We see the besser block holiday unit I stayed in with Mum, Dad and my sister Jill when I was thirteen.

In that hot bedroom I played Hotel California over and over on my little cassette player when I wasn’t walking to and from Barwell Avenue and gazing in shops or drifting by the jetty just across from the town oval, home to the Barmera Roos.

We’ve decided upon the guessing order for the week and each must declare their prediction before we leave the town limits.

Max goes with his traditional low number. He’s already a student of the form, and gets us away with a crisp, ‘Three.’

Alex quickly declares, ‘Four’ and Claire participates with an optimistic, ‘Six.’

I then finish the formalities with what history tells us is an unlikely seven. All moving vehicles count, but we must pass them on the road itself before we get to the finish line. We call it the Lake Lap and it’s now in its third big season.

It’s a January afternoon and time for our daily tradition. Just before 5pm we coax the boys into the car from the jetty or the caravan park pool or their cabin chairs in front of the Test and alight in the pub drive-through where we negotiate our refreshments. A soft drink for the boys and a can of something serious for Claire. I get a Sparkling Ale. Alex says, “Dad, can we have some jerky too?”

‘No’ is my automatic reply, ‘you won’t eat your dinner.’ The protests begin. I then say to the drive-through attendant, ‘Can I leave the boys here with you for an hour?’

‘No’ comes his automatic reply. He’s a wizened, laconic type who looks like this job is to get him out of the house. ‘I should be immune to the noise. I’ve got eleven grand-kids.’

Easing through Barmera’s empty streets I note the bowls club and recall my first long-distance journey as a learner driver. It was 1983 and Dad had a tournament up here. In the green Ford Falcon I was legally limited to 80 kph, irritating a trailing and snarling V8. After a lengthy period he growled past me with horn blaring and outrage billowing from his twin exhausts. A mile or so later I saw a flashing blue light and the grumpy driver taking roadside receipt of a speeding fine. How I itched to honk my horn back at him, but this wouldn’t have done for a L-Plater with his Mum and Dad.

Lake Bonney’s shore is defended by dozens of dead gum trees and with the open road ahead we gather speed, but I keep to an unhurried ninety so we can better enjoy our circuit. Lonely caravans squat on the bank with their deck chairs and murmuring AM radio and late-afternoon mugs of strong tea. Above us is a soaring azure sky, and save for the mighty river and this lake we’re in a desert of scrub and sheep stations. There’s few vehicles on this section of the lap.

The radio’s on Triple J and the boys’ musical world is expanding along with their limbs so I introduce them to Tame Impala’s best album Innerspeaker and they enjoy the swirling psychedelic guitars. Is one of the selfish joys of parenthood inflicting your culture upon your offspring? Our other aural routine is Ben Folds’ Rocking the Suburbs on the way to Barmera, once we leave the Truro bakery and descend Accommodation Hill.

Drifting by the ruins at the Morgan Road intersection we then see Chambers Creek which feeds the lake’s 1700 hectares. To our right the road goes to the Overland Corner Hotel and it’s again changed hands, but is without a license until February and, of course, this is unbeknown to us on our Slim Dusty visit. Like many Murray landmarks it boasts a sign indicating the eye-widening 1956 flood level. No-one went thirsty back then.

More traffic is likely now and the current sedan score is only two so I tease with Dad comments like, “I can see a convoy of cars coming!” or “What if we pass the Hell’s Angels?” We pass the ubiquitous Pelican Point and its advertised Nudist Resort, but don’t call in as we’re overdressed. Along a fence there’s a teapot atop each of the strainer posts. With the bitumen curving about, vehicles might suddenly emerge as they make their way around the glittering lake.

After the ceaseless slog of parenting the boys as babies and toddlers they’re blossoming and rewarding company, and now choosing shared rather than solitary fun. Our daily Lake Lap represents this happy change, and I hope in years to come it’ll remain a keenly anticipated holiday routine and one they’ll discuss with affection and gentle mockery of their Dad.

Reaching the Sturt Highway today’s game concludes with Max again victorious. We’ll drive back to the cabin for a barbecue or to the Cobby Club for schnitzel night or maybe a swim in the parched, motionless evening.

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Novel Review: Lament (a Ned Kelly story)

When Muhammed Ali opened the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta a commentator remarked that the former boxer was, ‘the most famous man in the world’, and safely on my beanbag in front of the box I scoffed at the notion before later deciding it was likely true. His deeds, both noble and otherwise, continue to generate their own global momentum, and with a mythic, omnipresent station in Australian life Ned Kelly makes a similar, albeit local, impact.

While I’m not a Kelly obsessive some contextual experiences include Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series which I first encountered at high school. These were intriguing and disturbing, and I knew there must be substantial reasons for the artist to complete 27 paintings on this subject although at seventeen I was naïve to their deeper reverberations. Around the turn of the millennium I read Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang and found it hypnotic, and I’m a huge admirer of Midnight Oil’s, ‘If Ned Kelly Was King’ (from their superb Place Without a Postcard) with its speculation on how our most iconic bushranger would handle modern multinationals.

With this literary and artistic baggage in hand I read Nicole Kelly’s Lament in this luxurious week between Christmas and New Year (this year’s ham intake has been down, oddly but healthily), and given the holiday freedom from tyrannical bosses that some of us are enjoying I’m sure Ned would’ve approved of my recreation. ‘Lament’ is a compelling text and the plot races along with the thrill and constant danger of an escaping bushranger’s stallion. The novel’s a balance of exterior action and, as a first person narrative, Ned’s acutely human interior. He’s also a charismatic leader of his gang

‘Pistols out, lads. Be ready for any bolters. We can’t have work out yet.’ I carry one in each hand. ‘We’re takin’ no prisoners. So give ‘em a warning and if there’s any movement, ye cut ‘em down, ye hear me?’ (Page 79)

The central purpose of ‘Lament’ is to wonder what might’ve happened if the Kelly Gang escaped Glenrowan, and this speculative fiction imagines how they hope to live once their bushranging days are done. So sympathetically, so abundantly does Nicole Kelly chaperone us into the private world of the central character that despite his inexcusable violence I found myself cheering for Ned, and his gang’s escape into happy, anonymous lives. As our narrator he observes carefully and with a native, attractive intellect

I warm to the two of them and it is her nickname, affectionately called, that confirms the great luck of my acquaintance with the couple. She’s another beautiful and formidable Kate within my life now. I think of my sister, who has always had my back. These people, so familiar and yet so strange, circling in my life. Surely, if I rely on a Kate, I am in good hands. (Page 146)

In this reimagining the character of Ettie gives symbolic and real agency to those frequently marginalised in this story of the marginalised. While it remains Ned’s version of events Ettie and other females like Anne Jones, the Glenrowan Inn proprietor, are given due prominence in this retelling and this is a strength of the writing.

Ned Kelly looms over our collective consciousness because, rightly or wrongly, he’s become the national embodiment of the themes of injustice and inevitable doom, but also love for family which have found forceful expression in this publication. With our sense of what it means to be Australian under heightened and probing scrutiny, this novel is most timely. I enjoyed my excursion into this historical domain of dark and light, and the chance to reflect upon a man who remains emblematic of much of our national identity.

Simultaneously of its time, but also distinctly modern in authorial attitude and style, Nicole Kelly has given us a new and welcome perspective on this infamous life.

Lament can be  purchased by contacting www.hawkeyebooks.com.au/lament/  or you can visit www.hawkeyebooks.com.au/nicole-kelly to contact her.

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Pub Review: The Windmill

A great man once said that every time you walk into a pub, there’s a story. As Dale Kerrigan would’ve narrated if he were me, “I’m Mickey Randall and this is my story.”

Suburbs like Port Adelaide, Norwood and North Adelaide are home to many pubs and geographers and historians and pissheads will happily bend your ear with a truckload of reasons for this. Prospect, just to the north of the city, is not one of these blessed locales.

However, fear not for it hosts the Windmill Hotel.

Our Kapunda group was slightly diminished in number, largely due, I suspect, to some not knowing the date. The week between Christmas and New Year can interrupt one’s sense of time, what with all the couch, all the cricket, all the Coopers.

We dine inside and not in the beer garden and this seems an accurate choice given that the garden is wholly cement and fake grass, and two of our party are drinking cider as if they’re elderly extras miscast in a Welsh coming-of-age movie. But, far be it for me to editorialise upon the refreshments of old friends.

I can report that the Windmill has a daily schnitzel special, offering these for only $10, as if it’s September, 2007 and Port is a very good chance against Geelong in the AFL grand final. While toppings such as gravy or parmi are extra this still represents tremendous value.

The meals are great and punctuated by talk of the cricket and local boy Travis Head who, we agree, has poor foot work and seems to make too many very handsome thirties. Discussion then moves to cars and more particularly four-wheel driving across various outback settings, and after a fashion I deftly move the subject to a topic with which I’m more familiar: neurosurgery and specifically neurosurgery as it pertains to the cerebrovascular system.

As Crackshot has recently moved to Prospect and indeed, lives around the corner, he suggests adjourning there for a mid-afternoon coffee. Once we’re there and enjoying our post-lunch lattes, Fats comments that, if he thinks about it deeply, this really is a disastrous state of affairs. “Coffee, Bah!” he almost spits across the immaculate stone bench-top. “Never mind”, I comfort him, “It’s OK.”

And it is for in early 2021 we have planned to go to Puffa’s, one of Kapunda’s iconic pubs, for a Saturday barbeque on the balcony.

There’ll be no coffee.*

Chip suffocation is the biggest killer of over-40s in this country

*No, we actually enjoyed our coffee and being hosted by Crackshot

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The Bung Fritz Appreciation Society Handicap

As a fan of horse racing I love the mysteriously monikered Group 1 events such as the CF Orr Stakes, the LKS Mackinnon Stakes and of course, Eagle Farm’s JJ Atkins. These names evoke grainy Depression-era footage of black hats and long coats on heaving racetrack concourses, however contemporary classics are also of interest.

Summer hosts my favourite equine event, the soon to be time-honoured Members of Bung Fritz Appreciation Society Benchmark 60 Handicap over 1100 metres at the Gawler and Barossa Jockey Club. The track benefitted from a recent $15 million revamp and holds midweek and occasional weekend meetings.

Let’s be clear: fritz is not devon, strasburger, Belgium or polony. Named for the sheep intestine or bung this elite version comes in fetching orange skin although its qualities are far beyond Trumpian. With the continent of Australia now effectively eight independent nations these cultural and gastronomic divisions are set to broaden. Luncheon meats remain our key differentiator.

The Bung Fritz Appreciation Society formed back in the murky late-Howard era around 2006. Their patron is Denis ‘Father’ O’Malley and over the phone club stalwart Ian Millen explained that they assemble bi-monthly at local boozers such as the Lyndoch, the Greenock and the Freeling. When he told me the names of those from Kapunda who were members I was not surprised. The society has fielded requests to start local chapters in Alice Springs and Cairns. All have been denied. I understand that at their meetings they critique fritz and vote for the best in the annual Bung Off. This year Gumeracha Butchers triumphed. At the Christmas summit members sing, ‘Jingle Fritz’ which is based upon the lesser known and musically inferior, ‘Jingle Bells.’

First run in 2012 this fritzophiles sprint saw smallgoods fans gathered in a marquee with guest speaker and colourful former hoop Johnny Letts. Most wore the traditional bung fritz uniform which, of course, includes a Hawaiian shirt. Now, they enjoy the races in the new Wolf Blass Pavilion although I am unsure if Wolf himself made the journey trackside in his modest Rolls Royce. Mysticano won last year’s edition while maddening underachiever Two Odd Sox ran just outside the placegetters. The trifecta paid $510.

On Saturday January 23 if you’re camped in a front bar mid-afternoon and the screens shift to the next at Gawler keep an eye out as I’ll be there shouting and slapping the form guide into my bruised palm as in the Members of Bung Fritz Appreciation Society Benchmark 60 Handicap over 1100 metres my horse runs fourth.

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To Alex, on finishing primary school

Dearest Alex

All of a sudden you’re about to start your final week of primary school! Over these years you’ve grown and learnt so much about the world and yourself. I want to tell you how proud I am of you.

You’re interested in the things around you and this constant curiosity is, and will be, a great asset. I’m sure it’ll help as you move through high school, and I like that you’ve been inquisitive about the following: Egypt, Mad as Hell, climbing Mount Everest with your friend Jan, using your bare hands (along with Max) to catch imaginary catfish at the bottom of the Valley Park pool just like Teddy from Mudcats, our adventure heroes in Bear Grylls and Russell Coight, cricket, the layout of your bedroom, and let’s not forget your developing if secret love for Vampire Weekend.

I like how you try so many activities and give your best to these. It’s also encouraging that when things don’t go so well that you’re able to accept this and look ahead. This resilience will help you as you move through secondary school and its challenges.

I’m pleased that you’ve taken up volleyball. It’s a great game and I can see that it’s given you much. That you’re in the state special talent program makes me happy as this means you’ll learn more about the skills and yourself. I hope it’ll be a sport you’ll enjoy for many, many years.

As someone who loves traditions it pleases me how you value these too such as watching the AFL grand final in The Taminga, sitting in the same spot on the grass at Glenelg matches and playing the car guessing game every day at 4pm as we do a slow lap of Lake Bonney. These rituals tell me that you value people and experiences and fun.

I know that you’ll make the most of your last few days at St Leonards and the celebrations at school and the surf club. It gladdens me that you understand how important these times are and especially appreciate being with your friends. Knowing where you are at a particular moment in life is important. So, take some photos and take your time to be polite and enthusiastic and grateful.

You’ll soon be at Brighton and in Year 8 and I know you’re going to do very well. Before then enjoy yourself and the summer ahead. I’m so proud of you. Signing off I’m sure you want to read these words from our old friend

I gained most of my vast knowledge of the outback from my father Russell Coight Snr, who taught me everything I know before he died from a combination of a self-inflicted axe wound, sunstroke, and snake-bite.

Love Dad

Xx

December 2020