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Fish and Chips Review: Sotos of Semaphore

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A massive cold front lashed the Adelaide coast as we placed our order. As required by the new regime, we moved outside to the footpath and the rain blasted in, piggybacking or, maybe, rodeo-riding on the howling wind. It was not an archetypal evening for fish and chips by the seaside. No picnic rug accompanied by carousel music as a blue sky stretched above us.

Late May and all week I’ve screamed at TV news anchors as they’ve crossed to the weather reporter with variations upon, “So Amanda/Jane/Kate, how’s the last week of autumn looking?” With the winter solstice weeks away, it seems season change denial remains as incurable as climate change denial.

Semaphore is Adelaide’s most idiosyncratic beach suburb. There’s a range of compelling shops and eateries and attractions. The jetty is quaint and the wide lawns attract families and all types. While other strips such as Jetty Road in Glenelg and Norwood’s The Parade might present as tired, Semaphore is a vibrant and diverse village.

On this elemental evening, Claire and I order fish and chips from Sotos Fish Shop, established in 1949 and occupying a grandfatherly position in Adelaide’s seafood scene.

There’s a sturdy torrent of customers and, once I’ve got our food, we head to the foreshore where the diabolical conditions dictate that we eat in the car. I suspect the seagulls have clocked off for the day. Already the dark has closed in and the broiling ocean is hidden.

We’ve a medium chips and it’s a most generous pillow. The front seat of a mid-sized car is not an ideal dining venue and I’m worried that the floor may become a chip graveyard. Chips deserve better.

But casualties are minimal and the chips are excellent: crisp and golden and soft in the middle, and not too big. Pleasingly, they are far beyond the french fry’s absurd, Lilliputian dimensions which are a design and gastronomic parody. Who actually likes them? With its addiction to the huge and the excessive, I can’t believe these haven’t been outlawed in the US. Additionally, I recall seeing this online (not Sotos) and am still struggling with its paradox-

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I’ve a piece of battered hake and it’s a treat too. Belonging to Iceland’s favourite family, the cod, I devour it as insulation against the peninsula’s cold. The staff at Sotos are also a deft hand with the salt shaker, achieving a balance between taste and imminent heart surgery.

Given the beverage restrictions, Claire has packed a thermos of hot chocolate. Is there a word as suggestive of huddled winter gatherings as thermos? Fish and chips followed by hot chocolate is a unique pairing, but Semaphore is a unique destination. Outside, the storm passes, on transit to the Adelaide Hills.

On the way home I listen to Triple J which, in a break with their usual brief, has been playing requests all week. Yesterday I heard Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 5 in C minor’ and the Mamas and Papas’ ‘California Dreaming’. Happily, I missed Axel F’s ‘Crazy Frog’, and the Antiques Roadshow theme song but, navigating through Henley Beach, I hear ELO offer up ‘Mr Blue Sky’ with its magnificent coda.

It’s been a day of welcome peculiarities – culinary, musical and meteorological.

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The 12.12 to Osborne, stopping all stations

Trains are our favourite way to travel so the boys and I took an afternoon to venture to Lefevre Peninsula, fifteen kilometres west of Adelaide.

First, we strolled through Rundle Mall, the pedestrian precinct that is quietly engaging on a Sunday.

We had not taken this trip before, and it was excellent to slide through the inner suburbs, past many handsome villas and ghostly factories and over the river near Port Adelaide.

We had lunch and journeyed back.

We plan to see more of where we live by train.

 

Max and pigs

I wish my brother George was here

 

Alex and balls

Alex in homage to Ben Folds

 

Bowden

Stop 1, outbound

 

Osborne

What? No Ozzy!

 

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This train is bound for glory

 

station

You don’t get no golden light like this in a bus station!

 

 

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Six Photographs: Old Gum Tree Barbeque

A simple joy is just around the corner. It’s a place in which I celebrate our remarkable fortune over a sausage. More than a park it’s a community and the hub of our suburb.

I’ve just been handed a sheet. It’s a list of statistics reflecting our achievements.

Total sausages cooked: 174

Litres of sauce used (red): 17

Litres of sauce used (brown): 8

Loaves of bread: 23

Beers drank: 3.5

 

2 oct 2019

Late of an afternoon Alex and Max and the dogs, Buddy and Angel, and I would head down the park for an hour or so

 

10 jan 19

Late of an afternoon Alex and Max and the dogs, Buddy and Angel, and I would head down the park for an hour or so

 

16 dec 2016

Late of an afternoon Alex and Max and the dogs, Buddy and Angel, and I would head down the park for an hour or so

 

16 feb 2017

Late of an afternoon Alex and Max and the dogs, Buddy and Angel, and I would head down the park for an hour or so

 

18 aug 2018

Late of an afternoon Alex and Max and the dogs, Buddy and Angel, and I would head down the park for an hour or so

 

aug 19

Late of an afternoon Alex and Max and the dogs, Buddy and Angel, and I would head down the park for an hour or so

 

 

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Wichita Lineman: a 42-minute version

WL

Glen Campbell is waiting in the studio for a song. He has an album to finish. A courier rushes in with a cassette. The Wrecking Crew, a collective of session musicians, gets to work.

The song is ‘Wichita Lineman’ and the writer Jimmy Webb. Under pressure to finish it, he sent an incomplete version, but heard nothing back. Bumping into the singer weeks later Webb said, “I guess you guys didn’t like the song.”

Campbell replied, “Oh, we cut that.”

“It wasn’t done! I was just humming the last bit!”

‘Well, it’s done now!”

Yes, it was.

Indeed, Webb had scarcely completed two verses totalling a dozen lines. He’d intended to add a third if required. In this space Glen Campbell put his now famous and improvised solo.

I wonder if Jimmy Webb ever finished his lyrics. What might he have said? What else might he have taken from the lineman’s interior monologue? In the original he moves between the immense three of love, self and work. What else is there?

It’s a great unfinished artwork like Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon, and Gaudi’s Basílica de la Sagrada Família.

If Webb had now penned a third verse I’m unsure I want to read it. Would it be like painting a hat on the woman in the Mona Lisa?

The song’s superb just as it is.

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Lengthy songs have always fascinated me for their enhanced narrative possibility, and I enjoy entering these protracted sometimes strange worlds. I find The Doors’ ‘The End’ (11:43), ‘So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain’ by Father John Misty (9:58), ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival (11:04), and Frank Zappa’s ‘Billy the Mountain (24 minutes) are all, for me, enduringly absorbing.

Early in our post-Sweden isolation, I was scanning the alternate music website Pitchfork when I found a post on suggested music for these uncommon times. Seeing the song title ‘Wichita Lineman’, I leant closer to my screen. It was the famous song but a cover version by the Dick Slessig Combo. No, I hadn’t heard of them either.

WL book

There was a YouTube link and my search indicated that the song wasn’t on Spotify. Indeed, trawling the internet I’ve discovered that they’re from LA and formed after the demise of cult group Acetone with guitarist Mark Lightcap common to both. They pressed a few hundred CDs. That’s about it.

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Clicking the link I hear a slowed, almost eerily subdued set of notes. The iconic melody only arrives after seven minutes, and the entire piece – ‘song’ seems inadequate – drifts and hovers with guitars quietly climbing before falling away like an elderly priest. Over its 42-minute duration it’s entirely instrumental.

The soundscape conjures both the empty landscape of Kansas and the protagonist’s mindscape with graceful use of tremolo and reverb.

Vast and sprawling, it evokes Webb’s everyman “apparition.” It’s not sad or lonely but rather about aloneness. There’s deep beauty carried in the music and a compelling, respectful fragility. It probes and portrays.

Like the original, it’s inward-looking but also a meditation. Given the deep and universal thoughts of Webb’s character, the existentialism is expressed perfectly with the sound flowing like an ancient holy river.

The occasionally maligned Billy Joel once said “Wichita Lineman” is “a simple song about an ordinary man thinking extraordinary thoughts.”

The Dick Slessig Combo offers an exquisite tribute and exploration of the song’s haunting, singular image.

It’s transcendence.

 

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Viral Stories

 

FA

The Footy Almanac is a magnificent community for reading and writing, and occasionally it runs competitions. It recently held a microfiction event in which twitter stories with a maximum of 280 characters on the theme of the current virus were sought.

It was terrific and the entries were varied and offered compelling insights into the challenges and human responses to our circumstances.

little

The stories are collected here-

https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/almanac-writing-competition-almanac280-covid-19/

Claire and I were in Europe when this contagion accelerated. In chronological order here’s my three stories.

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post-Sweden isolation

 

At the outbreak of the outbreak in a Swedish cottage. Beyond the cold glass are the forest, lake, brisk air, and our sublime late afternoons. We breathe our words to and fro. The cottage is a meniscus, and like migratory atoms, we are within, and then, without.

 

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Our languid breakfast is done. On the table: a carton of milk, muesli, a punnet of berries. Two coffee cups, almost nodding at each other like we might’ve done at a party decades ago, a conspiracy of caffeine. The day stretches its arms. Isolation begins.

 

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The light bends in and falls across us like soft piano notes. A tiny expansive space. This is our morning and evening altar, and here we share the day’s fresh promise and sink into night’s snug entwining. Outside, an earth spins. Inside, it’s our second week.

 

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Sausage Roll Review: (not quite) Hurling on Hurtle Square

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Colonel William Light’s vision for Adelaide included five public squares: Hindmarsh, Light, Victoria, Whitmore and Hurtle. Each has a distinct appearance and mise en scène and despite driving through it for decades I’d not enjoyed the latter’s leafy space.

Claire and I bought a late lunch from this state’s dominant petrol retailer and biggest private company: an On The Run (OTR) service station. Of course, its customers are rarely running anywhere as they’re in vehicles and as such are necessarily sedentary, and most outlets of this type haven’t provided any traditional service for epochs. Simply fill the car and then scoop up hideously overpriced drink and food and go to the cashier. The only service offered is a chirpily redundant, “Would you like your receipt?”

Hurtle Square is in the south-eastern corner of the city and mostly surrounded by low-rise apartments whose balconies look out over the greenery. Arboriculturally, this park is diverse with magnolia and thin pine trees and other trees in seemingly random arrangement. But I remember that like a late-period Steely Dan album, it’s possible to over-engineer.

I’ve a cheese and bacon sausage roll. It makes a positive optical impression with agreeable pastry that’s neither flaky nor oily, but my context is reminiscent of the soon-to-be-regecided King Duncan gazing upon Macbeth’s home when he remarks: this castle hath a pleasant seat.

hs

Unsurprisingly, this pastry’s sinister mission is to protect an inferior filling, like a heavy-set Secret Service agent from a 1980s film starring Brian Dennehy. While it’s admirable, camouflage and strategic distraction are evident and I note that yet again subterfuge lurks in my simple foodstuff.

Its texture is uncertain and mushy, and I understand that sausage rolls don’t contain real sausages, but if this were encased and sizzling away on my barbeque in front of people both dear or of mere acquaintance, I’d have an acute case of Sausage Shame (SS). Knocking sullenly on the office door of my superior, I’d hand in my tongs and apron and barbequing badge (a scene from a different Brian Dennehy film).

The cheese I was promised is barely present. Instead it’s like the elusive memory of cheese from, say, my middle past, and in the manner of a Wordsworth conceit it’s both troubling but also hopeful in that one day I may again enjoy cheese, possibly in a sausage roll advertising such. In 2020, even cheese is complicated.

hs2

My longing deepens when I gaze over at the Coopers Alehouse. It began as the Earl of Aberdeen before Dame Edna Everage reopened it with a new name in 1987 (wouldn’t Sir Les Paterson been better placed to handle this?). Like many pubs it has a forlorn canvas advertising pick up only meals from 5-8pm.

Still, it’s a breezeless, mild May in our mostly safe and opportunely isolated state. SA’s had no new cases for twelve days and Audrey’s vintage coffee van was doing a lively trade this morning on the Glenelg North esplanade as I ambled through.

While my sausage roll was of motley quality Claire and I now turn to the next course of our alfresco eating: an unapologetically decadent vanilla slice with a calorific count probably beyond a K-Mart abacus.

As the Two Fat Ladies’ Clarissa and Jennifer used to rejoice, “Munch on, munch on, what a lovely luncheon!”

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