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The Little Barbeque Who Could

We first saw it a year ago.

It stands on the edge of a park.

We’d been to a café (I was going to write “local café” but as Jack Nicholson’s character scowls in A Few Good Men, “Is there any other kind?”) and drifted through an op shop where Claire bought me a retro print.

Williamstown is set on the Barossa’s southern fringe among low, rolling hills and in spring is green and awakening. There’s creeks and dairy cows and vineyards too.

Despite these natural advantages and a handsome townscape it features the world’s most forlorn barbeque. Williamstown’s park comprises mighty gums, a tempting playground and a modern gazebo with splendid potential sites in the shade, or on the soft grass for a meat cooking machine.

No, our little barbeque finds itself cruelly exiled on a grimy concrete slab by a road and a carpark and some garbage bins. There’s no shade to protect against the summer sun and the brutal concrete and black road amplify the heat. It’s surely victim to a town-planner’s hoax, signed-off by an anti-snagger, or a medium-rare Scrooge.

It sits there in silence, a shrunken parody of the black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It could lend portent to a (deleted) scene in which man (sic), guided mysteriously, marks a key evolutionary moment for our ridiculous, slight species, and happens upon pine-nut and spinach chicken sausages.

So, after discussing this peculiar barbeque over the past year Claire and I decided to visit it last Sunday. I don’t think we were disaster tourists on a bus to Chernobyl, but were certainly motivated by a need to understand this oddity, forsaken in its bewildering mise-en-scène.

Planning a late breakfast we arrived at noon and the barbeque was available. With its winding, narrow roads Williamstown is a Harley riders’ destination and across our vista hordes of these bikes postured and crackled as the weekday lawyers kneaded their needy egos.

Ignition complete and hotplate warming I put down some bacon and bread and eggs while Claire poured thermos coffee.

There was laughter and roaring from behind the public conveniences. I was curious. Distinctly masculine, the bellowing was in concert and suggested a raucous performance. Claire investigated. “I couldn’t see in but it’s coming from the back of the pub.”

A couple of matching polo shirted lads crept through the carpark and sabotaged a tired-looking 4WD. They’d come from the pub. “Ahh, footy trip,” we concluded as the lads eased the wipers off the glass of their mate’s rusty wagon before continuing their mischief inside the cabin. I hoped the owner wasn’t a meek viticulturist who’d kitted up in a handful of B-grade games, and that by sundown he wasn’t guts-up in an amateur remake of Wake in Fright.

I flipped the eggs.

With the Barossa’s footy season over for most sides it might’ve been some Tanunda types or the local team. Within an hour or so, out the back of the pub a timid back-flanker would be dacked, or find something disturbing in his beer, or both.

I sipped my coffee.

A family and their dog walked past to the playground. A boy followed on his tricycle, entirely unlike Danny in The Shining. I checked my watch. The Crows match against Carlton started in a few minutes. I liked our chances.

This curious, heartlessly contextualised little public barbeque; pushed out by its own park; banished by the ancient, sullen gum trees; forever crouching; haunted but defiant by the road and carpark and garbage bins, had cooked our breakfast impeccably.

In the Sunday sun we sat and munched our bacon and egg sandwiches.

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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

ipa

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.

decks

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

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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.

oaklands

Oaklands Station

tree

Hallett Cove

windmill

Windmill attempting to make shopping centre less brutal

dog

Cute mosaic attempting to make shopping centre less brutal

pizza

Beach Pit

walking

To the station! For tomorrow we ride.

insect

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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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.

 

alex

Myponga beach

beach 2

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

beach

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

brett

Brett about to do his Michael Caine impersonation

charades 2

Claire and Max mid-charade, doubtless something equine

charades

the triumphant charade team

lounge

Saturday afternoon

max

Max

muriel

Saturday matinee: Muriel’s Wedding

sky

from the balcony looking south towards Yankalilla

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48 Hours in Second Valley

With birthdays a week apart Claire and I take the intervening weekend to escape and the Fleurieu was the 2020 destination.

In the television series Travel Man host Richard Aoyade asks at the start of each episode after he and his guest arrive in a European city on a minibreak, “We’re here, but should we have come?”

Our accommodation at the Sea n Stars was modern, comfortable and boasting a singular beachy theme, complete with that most revered of local iconography, the seahorse.

Among the highlights were sitting outside the Willunga bakery in the affirming Friday sun; taking in the sunset over the ocean from our deck and as night took gentle hold discussing Bruce Dawe’s beautiful, “Suburban Lovers” and its line, “The stars now have flown up out of the east”; listening to Double J over our languid breakfast and newspapers, and Sunday morning’s historical walk about the old settlement.

So yes, Richard Aoyade, we should have come.

I give Second Valley 5 seahorses out of 5.

https://www.seanstars.com.au/

 

cricket club

A seaside cricket club is a joyous sight

deck view

Looking out from our deck

house

blacksmith’s house

jetty

Second Valley jetty

LL

the Fleurieu has long attracted romantics

rapid bay

Rapid Bay, late Saturday

table

the Kalleske 2010 GSM a treat

volunteer

ever-vigilant local

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Fish and Chips Review: Sotos of Semaphore

semaphore picture

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-

minimum chips

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.

sotos

 

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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!

 

train

This train is bound for glory

 

station

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