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Hotel Hell

Dear Brad

Don’t you agree that one of life’s little thrills is turning the key to your brand new motel room? There’s all that expectation and excitement, then – click – the door swings, and you make your cheerful way in.

Now, I’m sorry to say this, Brad, but my experience at your motel didn’t live up to this promise.

The first sensory shock was the smell. Yours is a handsome city, stuffed with natural and cultural charms so I’m curious as to how you recreated what I can only guess is the pong of a plague-stricken medieval village. Of course, I instantly leapt at the window to let in some air, but it had been painted shut. Can you believe it? Like a feudal serf, the stink was going nowhere.

That very evening, a combination of fatigue and accommodation-driven disappointment meant I was exhausted. I needed a decent night’s sleep. You know those days, Brad, when you fall into bed and flop into the gorgeous, unbroken slumber of a babe? This, I’m troubled to report, was not me.

How horrid must it have been to lug the mattress up the stairs, given that it’s made of concrete? It put me in mind of an inner-city heli-pad. Or a road, a magnificently – engineered road, somewhere in, say, Germany, where Formula 1 race-cars are tested. Have you ever tried sleeping on a road, Brad? I now have.

Remember I mentioned the window was painted shut? I then hoped this might suggest my room would be quiet for when I was, you know, attempting to slumber. During the day I had the impression that your motel was located in a picturesque part of town, populated by charming yet respectful artisans. Wrong, Brad.

After sundown the laneway directly beneath my window (eternally closed), became a movie set. No, movie sets for as near as I could tell the following blockbusters were being filmed, simultaneously: a spy thriller; the latest instalment in a teen horror franchise; an especially energetic gangster epic, and in a genuine surprise, something with sharks! Even though we’re an hour from the beach.

I love the movies, Brad, I really do. But when I’ve had a taxing day of challenge and disillusionment, I don’t want to sleep on a movie set. Not even one that’ll lead to multiple awards and break box-office records. When dawn arrived like an otherworldly ogre I felt as though I was in my own zombie flick. And because of my unsleeping evening I required no make-up.

As a motel manager, I’m sure that you’re a reasonable and sympathetic person, Brad. So much so that I trust, after hearing of my misery, you’ll provide a full refund.

I look forward to receiving this from your company.

Regards

W. Hume

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Beer Review: Coopers Hazy IPA

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Coopers were like AC/DC.

Just doing what they’d always done, and their version of playing the same three chords over and over presented as reliance upon the red, green and yellow beers also known as sparkling ale, pale ale and stout. The fans loved it and thirsts were quenched and all were merry.

But the emergence of craft beers and brewers has forced Coopers into reinvention. In recent years they’ve launched a Session Ale and an XPA. Today, a Hazy IPA hit the market, sort of.

We were promised, courtesy of a moderate advertising and marketing campaign, that it’d be available on tap and in cans. No pub in Glenelg has it yet and neither does any local stockist.

I drove to a large beer and liquor emporium whose name sounds like Dan Murphy’s and found cartons of it on the floor. Yippee!

But there was none in their fridge so I asked, “Any cold Hazy IPA?” The young employee blinked at me and said, “We only got these about midday.” Being someone who could grump for his country I questioned, to nobody in particular, “So in the seven hours since no-one thought to put any in the fridge?”

It was as if I had dropped the needle onto Back in Black and could only hear radio silence.

So, what’s it like?

The hue is Coopers: murky and mysterious and promising mischief with its dark citrus presentation. This continues with the nose that has necessarily departed from the yeasty hoppiness that sung Coopers down the generations.

Angus Young’s amp has been turned off and instead a weedy boy is on the decks. The black t-shirt brigade won’t be thrilled, but then again, they probably don’t care as they’re kicking back in the shed with a long neck of sparkling ale.

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At 6.2% the Hazy IPA is more Highway to Hell than Best of the Backstreet Boys so no chainsaw chores after a couple. Unlike the one-armed drummer in Def Leppard you might struggle to play the Stratocaster minus a limb.

But, as such it’s surprisingly easy to drink, even more so than the acclaimed Vintage Ale which I confess I find difficult to love. It’s too big and cumbersome for me and is work, not fun. Something beer should never be.

I do wonder if Coopers are self-cannibalising as their beers are competing with each other. The name Hazy IPA is a nod to the East Coast beers of Massachusetts and perhaps a desperate sign as Coopers beers are historically hazy.

Indeed, it’s expected.

Maybe, like AC/DC they’re just trying to keep up with the kids.

ACDC

2

Fourteen Notes on the Fed on Semaphore

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  1. The Alfresco Bistro is undercover.
  2. Our bartender is from Mt Isa where she suggests there are 36-degree winter days. This is better than Mt Iso where life is decidedly grim.
  3. When Claire orders our meals the bartender displays excellent up-selling skills asking, “Shall I add another red on your bill for later?”
  4. It’s Happy Hour with all beers $6.50. However, XXXX Gold is $6.60 which is more than the necessary disincentive.
  5. Two beardy lads are playing pool. A pool table is rare in my pub travels.
  6. Claire asks for a house red and the bartender brings three bottles for her to choose from – a Coonawarra, a Langhorne Creek and a Barossa Valley.
  7. We meet our dear friend Chris (also Kapunda High class of 1983) who works at the Osborne Naval Shipyard.
  8. Chris has been to Spain for work many times. Once in the south of Spain he asked a local, “What’s that big island over there?” The local replied, “Africa.”
  9. His trip to the UK’s Goodwood Festival of Speed has been cancelled. With his refund Chris will buy a beer-making kit so he can brew ESB.
  10. Two guitars hang on the wall. No labels identify these so I assume they were lost property.
  11. Chris and I both order the fish and the fillets are most generous.
  12. Claire takes much of her (vegetarian) pizza home and finishes it for lunch on Thursday.
  13. Our meals come with petite bread rolls. Pleasingly, these are warm and not, as many I have had, fresh from the fridge and colder than the beer.
  14. The Happy Hour blackboard advertises an Alien Brain Annihilation. This seems optimistic. I have never seen an alien, not even in Semaphore.

bar

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Pub Review: The Palais, Semaphore

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The police officer was uninterested.

“It’s likely no-one will claim it. You might as well keep it. Buy your kids something.” I imagined people I know- my parents, old bosses, footy coaches- nodding at my choice so I disagreed and said, “I think I’d prefer to bring it in.”

Earlier I’d found some money on the footpath by Semaphore’s Palais pub, and on my way home I rang to get advice.

With my local beach-side police station closed on the weekend (most convenient that crime and problems only occur during business hours) I called in a few days’ later, and this constable also urged me to keep the cash. The paperwork’s clearly a menace.

I wondered what might’ve happened when I was a boy, and I prefer this old world when the gruff, local copper would’ve taken the money from across a big desk and said, “Why did you take so long to bring this in? The person who lost it is probably worried sick.” I’d have been sent scurrying with no thanks or praise, but a clip under my ear.

Surely, we need our police to be the most moral members of society.

Palais

I was last at the Palais during the previous millennium, and now the interior’s all light and white and Gatsby-like in style. Claire and I meet in the Beach Bar and there’s cheery clusters of punters about.

I see a sign promising happy hour pints from $5, but my pulse stabilises glumly when I learn this only applies to XXXX Gold. Still, my pale ale and Claire’s red are agreeable and we find our table.

My fish ‘n’ chips arrive all boy-scout proud and substantial. The salad is coleslaw although it’s labelled as red cabbage slaw, and I’m reminded of when my childhood idols Sherbet changed their name to The Sherbs. I cared not for this and only wanted to hear Ripper ’76 and its opening song, “Howzat” blasting on the Pye 3-in-1.

Happily, The Slaw was zesty while my chips were golden and crunchy. I initially left about ten on my plate for reasons of personal health, but Shaun of the Dead-like ate them all with little awareness of my autonomous hand shovelling them into my yawning gob. This happens to me often. The CCTV video footage would be incriminatory.

Dwelling more upon coleslaw I pondered if it weren’t the CD player of the salad world, neither sexily retro nor fashionable among hipsters, with potato salad the resurgent vinyl record, and quinoa and feta the trendy streaming service.

Let’s not leave cabbage out in the cold.

On yet another cloudless winter’s day we saw the sky grow pink and orange across the gulf and discussed how this is both a delight and a worry.

Courtesy of the $14 daily special Claire’s burger was impressive in size and flavour despite the accompanying river of mayo. She also found her mound of chips a midweek treat. It’d been an excellent visit.

The Palais is spectacularly located on the esplanade just north of the jetty, and climate and contagion permitting, would be worth a return fixture as spring slides into view.

CB

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The 11.21 to Seaford, stopping all stations

With winter having fled north leaving sun and windless days behind Alex, Max and I ventured out for our third rail journey. The Seaford line heads from the city to the coast and then continues south over the dunes and through rolling foothills. It’s nearly forty kilometres long.

Beginning at the city’s new station, the vaguely subterranean Oaklands, we arrived at the terminus and stepped out into Sunday morning and circumnavigated a shopping centre with quite possibly the continent’s best Big W. Or worst, it’s difficult to analyse.

Homeward, we alighted at Brighton and strolled to Jetty Road and located an outside table at the Beach Pit. Our meals were well-priced, prompt and tasty. Mine came with a compulsory Sparkling Ale.

Three hours after departure we returned to Oaklands with talk of completing our series by taking the Gawler train in a few Saturdays’ time.

Yes, I thought to myself, the boys are now old enough to experience Womma.

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Oaklands Station

tree

Hallett Cove

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Windmill attempting to make shopping centre less brutal

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Cute mosaic attempting to make shopping centre less brutal

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Beach Pit

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To the station! For tomorrow we ride.

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Brighton Station

view

lazy Sunday afternoon

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A Pretty Possessive Apostrophe

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What a joy this apostrophe is: so inclusive, so quietly assured

On this July afternoon when the sun has the pale sky to itself and warms our faces in that uplifting, a South Australian-winter’s-not-so-bad way, the boys and I were about to leave the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and make our boisterous path along the River Torrens to the North Terrace holiday apartment.

We’d had a fantastic morning in the 51-hectare public garden at the city’s north-east corner and I saw it, just by the Plane Tree Drive exit. Beyond the vertical and ascending letters I was struck by its many expressions of beauty.

It was the Friends’ Gate sign.

It’s named for the volunteer organisation, Friends of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide, who has supported the Adelaide, Mt Lofty, and Wittunga gardens since 1977. Community and enterprise of this scope are worth commemorating with a gate and declarative sign and my heart was gladdened.

My second reading of the sign was that it’s not only for this society, but also for all friends visiting the Botanic Gardens. It’s an expansive symbol for those past, present and future who have happened by this gate. To meet someone by the Friends’ Gate surely provides a welcoming and opportune reminder of the relationship you share.

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Botanic Gardens

What better way to begin an hour or so in a beloved’s company than with a smile and hug by this cosy sign?

I’m neither grammarian nor linguist, but simply love locating joy in words and the worlds they create, and so my subsequent reading of the sign focussed on the possessive apostrophe. I noted how visually diminutive it is but was alerted to its terrier conviction.

The apostrophe was instantly affirming and seemed to suggest everything enchanting about the time and place. As the sun hung in the midday heavens I found abundant delight in this gentle space in our mostly gentle city. It was almost a Russian doll effect: state; city; garden; sign. Although an artificial construct, there was punctuative beauty in this natural if manicured garden. I was spellbound.

Like most moments this apostrophe existed in a personal context. Telling Claire of it later she wondered if it might be exclusive and indicating a club for the privileged few. I suggested that I didn’t find it aggressive, but rather inclusive and quietly proud.

I later speculated if Mr John Richards, the 96-year-old founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society, might have also enjoyed the Friends’ Gate so much that it inspired him to reverse his recent decision to close down his very British organisation.

I also thought about the ‘greengrocer’s apostrophe’ – a phrase referring to the mistaken use of an apostrophe, in a plural noun such as ‘Cauliflower’s – two for a dollar!’ Of equal horror for some is the clanging absence of one, the prickly omission when confronted with a line like, ‘Tigers car window broken with 9-iron.’

The Friends’ Gate sign was certain and unhurried – if a punctuation mark can connote movement. I imagined it inspiring an acoustic Belle and Sebastian song with a sweetly soaring chorus, or a Bruce Dawe poem, all festive and tender awe and penned in a distant decade.

This possessive apostrophe stayed with me as we hiked behind the zoo and Adelaide Oval then grew in the west.

AM

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Adelaide’s North Terrace

It’s always excellent to explore your own city and so we booked into an apartment on North Terrace and scampered about for three days.

Day trips are fun, but staying overnight in the CBD invests the holiday with heightened excitement, and cloaks the cityscape with enchantment.

It was a trip of constant curiosity and we discussed the confronting Art Gallery exhibits and the giant squid in the Museum and ventured about the Botanic Gardens’ Conservatory. Claire took us on an impromptu tour of TAFE and the boys were quite taken with the enormous white-board pens (for use with the vision-impaired).

We speculated about the coins embedded in Rundle Street’s footpath and saw the bat colonies by the zoo and even watched 1980’s World Series cricket in our room.

Alex and Max increasingly embrace tradition so hopefully this can become an annual investigation.

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Botanic Gardens

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Absence Embodied: installation in the Art Gallery

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brotherly love

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balcony o’clock

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what a joy this apostrophe is: so inclusive, so quietly assured

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Pancake Kitchen

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my first visit since 1984

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looking south

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this painting enjoyed our scrutiny, if not admiration

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early morning

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arrival (not the ABBA album)

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North Terrace

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tour guide Max at the Botanic Gardens

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successful parenting

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Pub Review: The Greenock, Barossa Valley

greenock pub

Located on the north-west edge of the Barossa, Greenock was a town I typically ignored in my youth.

Coming from Kapunda for footy or cricket we’d drive through it in a minute on route to Nuri, Tanunda or Angaston. Sometimes, after a hot afternoon in the field you’d swing by the Greenock pub, five of you in an old Holden furnace (six in a HQ if it had a bench seat in the front), and each get a longneck in a brown paper bag for the meandering trip home.

Now, Greenock is a destination. There’s a handful of bright cellar-doors and the excellent Greenock Brewers, run by Chris and Lisa Higgins. Also chief among the attractions is the pub and on my annual June sabbatical I meet old school mate Nick there for lunch.

brewers

The local cricket club is nicknamed the Schlungers and their teams comprised an assortment of blokes usually called Nitschke. Playing at their home ground was often memorable, and one distant day my friend Bob’s bowling career came to a tragicomic and delayed death with an eighteen ball over (which only contained seven legal deliveries). Despite being an opponent he brought curious relevance to the GCC’s official prayer: Blessed are we who are cracked, for we shall let in the light.

Walking into the pub you instantly feel a sense of earthy relaxation with the curved wooden bar, fireplaces and dining rooms both spacious and snug. Given our reverent understanding of history Nick and I order Norton burgers, named for former mine host Norton Schulter who ran it for many years along with his son Mick. The Schulters have owned the pub for 150 years. Norton recently turned ninety.

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Norton (on left) a publican’s publican

We each nurse a Trafalgar Pale Ale and chat about times old and new; local footy and the AFL; Tarantino and the Stuttgart beer festival; Vampire Weekend and boys and utes and misbehaviour; family and love. Winemakers and farmers drift in. Outside, the world spins with blind delirium.

Decades ago Kapunda fielded an indoor cricket team on Thursday nights in Tanunda. Despite having some decent cricketers we were no match for the side filled with Schlungers and other Barossa notables like Horrie Moore who were so cocky they took to fancy dress. Once they whipped us while wearing rubber boots. Another time, in dresses. Humbled, we’d break up the despondent quarter-hour drive home by pausing at the Greenock for a healing cup and Fats would press C6 on the jukebox which was, “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis. Back then we were all caught in a trap.

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The Schlungers

For a while some pubs engaged in a pissing contest to see who could serve the biggest schnitzel and you’d often get one flopping off your plate the size of grandma’s best tea-towel. Now, the competition has moved from acreage to height and burgers and it’s all culinary architecture and perilous scaffolding and intimidating the diner into meekly deconstructing their meal in an act of surrender. Happily, no shallow displays of Freudian compensation in the Greenock today and we find our Norton burgers approachable, just like their eponymous inspiration.

And the chips are great too.

In this complex, unknowable time the Greenock pub is a sanctuary within the sanctuary of the Barossa within South Australia’s sanctuary. An easy amble from Adelaide, the pub and its unpretentious charms make this hamlet a terrific destination.

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Bongo, Crackshot, Fats, Lukey, Pete, Rocket, Swanny, Whitey, Woodsy and me

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“I’m Dale Kerrigan and this is my story.”

An undeniably great movie line as there’s a simplicity and a plain beauty in it. With this Australian cinematic classic in mind I begin today’s entry: I’m Michael Randall, and this is my pub story.

Among the first and most notable casualties of 2020 and its other-worldliness was the King’s Head pub in Adelaide on King William Street. It’s been our Kapunda catch-up venue for a few years now, but has succumbed to viruses both airborne and fiscal.

A temporary hosting hostlery has been found in the Holdy, a Glenelg pub formerly owned by the Chappells although I’m unsure if third sibling Trevor was involved. If he was I imagine he spent much time in the cellar as ordered by older brother Greg.

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After introductory cups and opening remarks there were lamb shanks (much better than Armitage Shanks and more easily digested) and schnitzels and nostalgia and laughter and medicinal refreshment. The wintry sun streamed in and caught our noggins, variously hirsute or not.

A late omission was old mucker Matey who had an excuse (sport shooting out north) and O’s, who did not (couch-bound). Still, we had an effervescent quorum and invested a diverting afternoon and some disposable income.

Regrettably, our luncheon coincided with the Crows game from Brisbane. Circumstance and fierce indifference meant I’d not seen a second of their already bleak season and that morning I’d vowed to not see any of it, preferring instead to wash my hair or scrub toilets.

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However, above my head like a drive-in movie screen (most memorably the Barossa Line near Tanunda) was an unavoidable TV and my eyes were drawn to it and the silent disaster unfolding.

But this was of only minor distress for we spoke of the sale of Puffa’s pub in Kapunda and the imminent local footy season (Bombers v Freeling up late July) and absent friends and ridiculous ephemera. And I’m sure, at some point of HQ Holdens, crashed and otherwise.

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When we began departing I shook the hand of Fats’ son Blake who was about to escort his dad home, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Lovely to see you. I blame your father for anything bad that’s ever happened to me.” Much giggling followed and I’m sure Fats will one day say something similar to my boys.

We tumbled out into the Sunday light and headed off by foot and car to our suburbs and homes and even Kapunda. We will do this again soon, likely at Christmas. The stories will not change.

I hope so.

dale

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24 Hours in Carrackalinga

When Claire, Trish and I were in Year 12 at Kapunda SA-FM had Triple Track weekends and these were organised by artist or theme.

I’m sure irony or satire were never playlist drivers at the fledgling radio station, as I don’t recall a ridiculous mid-70’s theme, but late Friday night in the upstairs lounge at Carrackalinga – after charades was done (with Claire in Eddie McGuire mode as both compare and a team captain), and the boys downstairs with Perchy the blue heeler being boys – for us there was dancing (OK, not all) and wine and nostalgia and laughter, and these three were played on Trisha’s phone-

S-S-Single Bed by Fox

The Way That You Do It by Pussyfoot

Jeans On by (Lord) David Dundas.

It was a moment of shared history and evoked a joyous time from our childhoods and cloaked the room in safety and deep privilege. Inside, it was warm and for a few hours just before midnight the outside world of lashing rain and lurking adult responsibilities ceased to matter.

I thought of the comfort of old friends and our forgiveness and acceptance, quiet encouragement and unspoken gifts to each other, given freely and often.

Saturday morning and we arose across a few languid hours and gently started our days, a bit like the characters in The Big Chill and as JB noted, each boy had cereal, slopped milk on the bench and table and then, of course, left the milk out. The fridge was too far away from them, an impossible bridge.

After Brett, Leonard, Alex, Riley, Oliver and I enjoyed a diverting quiz –

Who was the first Republican president?

Who performed “Waterloo Sunset?”

Where does port wine come from?

and then board games.

Some of us watched Muriel’s Wedding (Abba was a constant weekend companion) and then went to Myponga beach. It was invigorating and the tide swallowed much of the sand and just as we left the rain began. Riley and Max were in shorts and the apparent temperature was 4.9 degrees.

Thanks to JB, Leonard and Oliver for an excellent 24 hours in Carrackalinga.

On our way home it hailed as we drove through Sellicks Hill, but was warm in the car.

 

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Myponga beach

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boys mucking around on the beach and no-one gets wet!

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wintry beach a treat; as much seaweed as you can eat!

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Brett about to do his Michael Caine impersonation

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Claire and Max mid-charade, doubtless something equine

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the triumphant charade team

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Saturday afternoon

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Max

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Saturday matinee: Muriel’s Wedding

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from the balcony looking south towards Yankalilla