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Our Swedish kitchen

Our first Swedish breakfast.

On the table is a carton of milk, a bag of muesli, a punnet of berries. Two coffee cups form a conspiracy of caffeine, almost nodding at each other like we might’ve done at a party decades ago.

You’ve set a candle flickering and guiding its oblique gold throughout the kitchen. Among the lessons you’ve given me is the joy of a wax light, at any time, and I thank you for this glow on a very Swedish day. Somehow, only now am I awake to a candle’s therapy. The best gifts are often invested with gentle unfussiness. 

The table’s dressed in a red-checked tablecloth. A symbol of ease and understated exhilaration, it isn’t classic Italian bistro, but still evokes Roman cobblestones.

I think of our dinner in Copenhagen a few days’ ago, just across from Jorcks Passage, on the edge of this holiday, when time stretched out exquisitely. We were blissfully alone, in that restaurant-cocoon with wine and pasta, as all about us the late afternoon diners pressed in to happily punctuate their Saturdays. That now distant table grew in enchantment as, finally, we found ourselves together in Northern Europe.

In Ljungbyhed the front door features a window too. Out beyond the cold glass are the forest, lake, and our brisk-air days. We’ll hike and talk and quietly interrogate the town and earth and sky. Later, upon that drifting pontoon I’ll dwell upon you: curious, compelling, divine in that elongated dusk and how, as the geese skid on the water, we breathe our words to and fro.

The kitchen is a tiny, expansive space.

You’re on a chair at our wooden table, ostensibly for four but perfect for us two. This is our morning and evening altar, and here we share the day’s fresh promise and sink into night’s snug entwining. We’ve conversation both affirming and prodding, while playing music somehow close and remote, first commanding and then detached. Our soundtrack.

The light bends in and falls across you like soft piano notes. I consider the following and with surprised gratitude am their happy hostage: Sweden; late winter; you; me; us. An obedient satellite blinking at your earthly beauty, I’m in your orbit.

Lost in thought, you’ve been reading and planning so we can wring the most from our Nordic surroundings; your mind untiringly devoted to others. Your glasses lay there, an emblem of industry while your eyes are on the middle distance or maybe a world away.

Soon you’ll return or I’ll collect you, but it matters not for I’m waiting. With gorgeous hair tumbling like a misty waterfall, and black shirt you’re astonishing; at once modest and shudderingly thrilling.

The cottage is a meniscus, and like migratory atoms, we are within, and then, without. Tomorrow morning the sun will again slant into our Swedish kitchen.

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A Nissan Exa, Eagle Super Beer and The Farrell Flat pub

In 2007 the UN announced that our world population was now more urban than rural.

The migration had been happening for centuries and like many global trends it only travels from the abstract to confronting reality when viewed up close, and late on a Sunday I saw it in Farrell Flat.

I’d never been there, but it’s only a short drive from Polish Hill so off we went through Mintaro where the fire bucket was ablaze in the Magpie and Stump beer garden, and past the paddocks, tinting towards green under the winter sky.

With wide streets and snug old homes Farrell Flat is appealing. The primary school is the focal part of town, as schools should be, and the main drag’s inviting with rows of tidy shops sitting under gum trees.

Driving east there’s the tennis courts and golf course. While the fairways need rain, the black scrape of the 18th looks well-used and I peer into the clubhouse window for that wizened knot of golfers clunking their beers together before settling into their post-round ribbing of each other.

However, the school’s shut, permanently. As are the tennis and golf clubs. Every shop in town is empty. On the way in we spot the park where the once-celebrated dog trials were held, but the last of these was in 1996.

We stop to take a photo of a white Nissan Exa. It sits rusting in a yard. Two dogs bark at us. This Exa is missing several panels. I owned one from 1991 until 2003 and at the end my odometer was frozen on 297,000 kilometres.  

Check in the boot for bodies

In the middle of the pub’s front bar is a Harley. On a wall is a sign advertising Eagle Super which was last brewed in the 1990’s. Across from this there’s a montage of old photos featuring 1950’s Hollywood sirens like Marilyn Monroe.

Behind the bar is Chef, the publican. He is a chef by trade and is from Darwin. He owns the Harley, and tells us, “The pub gives me somewhere to live and pays for my food and fuel.” He adds that, “I can go for three or four days and not have a customer.”

I want to offer my sympathy, but more than the wide wooden bar separates us from Chef.

There’s a TV high in a corner however the screen is blank. There’s no music. I order a beer which is a Coopers stubby from the fridge. Kegs are long gone. Claire orders a brandy. It comes in a large tumbler.

Publican and customer high-five goes badly

At Chef’s suggestion we tour the pub and various silent sitting rooms as well as the guest bedrooms. Pausing in the large dining room I imagine a far-flung Saturday night with farmers, footballers and young families, all buzzing with laughter and talk of rainfall and the school fête and upcoming weddings. Late on this Sunday it’s dark and still. The fireplaces are cold.

There’s plenty of room for a beer garden too, but I see only weeds and dirt.

Back at the bar another couple is there. We chat about their day in the surrounding wineries like Pikes and Paulettes and where they’re from in Adelaide. Taking advantage of Farrell Flat’s free camping they’ve escaped with the caravan and left their teenage boys at home (one recovering from his private school formal).

Claire buys a bag of chips. Like the town and pub itself Chef seems as if his past was more optimistic than the present. He has a low opinion of the community’s future and its aged citizens.

No, the pub’s not haunted

Mintaro’s Magpie and Stump pub was closed for about a year before the current owners took over and reinvigorated it with spectacular success. Its publican told me that their first June long weekend they did over six hundred meals. It’s now a destination pub.

Drinks done we say our farewells to the campers and to Chef.

Outside in the twilight we take in the Farrell Flat silo art. It depicts a train under full steam as it hurtles along by a wheat crop and under an effervescent, purple sky.

The vitality and hope are striking, and I’d like to think that in this handsome hamlet life might imitate art, but just as with the relentless march of urbanisation, greater forces may have already spoken.

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Riesling Trail Ramblings

Recycling an abandoned railway line, The Riesling Trail runs from north of Clare out at Stanley Flat to Auburn in the south. It makes its good-natured way past wineries, over bridges and through hamlets.

Flashing along on our e-bikes between the Mr Mick and Tim Adams wineries we overtake ambling families and dogs straining at their leashes, feel sombre by the Sevenhill cemetery, and gush at the former Penwortham station. Sometimes the trail takes a commanding view over the vines and moderate hills, and then with close rows of trees leaning in it becomes a leafy tunnel, all secret green and Famous Five thrilling.

The Watervale pub inspires contemplation of our deeply advantaged situation. Claire and I discuss our charmed lot, uncommon safety, and this opportunity to indulge in food, wine and wonder. It’s a high point during an afternoon of discovery. Last time I was here was decades ago on a Sunday watching the SANFL footy grand final (No, not a Centrals’ victory) on TV with a crew from Kimba. While the front bar’s skeleton is unchanged all around has been converted into a succession of remarkable spaces and the pub’s now a prettily realised expression of quietly engaging light and warmth and luxury.

Its menu is modern, and I suspect, of initial concern to many, a schnitzel-free zone. I have lamb cigars (who knew that sheep smoked?) and roast potatoes while Claire has a toasty which is elevated to artform. Sitting outside by a bespoke fire bucket, we receive table service from the owner, Warrick Duthy, and then two staff, both sporting French accents. I wander wide-eyed and open-mouthed about the boozer with its stylish rooms and nooks and Chesterfields, and the pub manages to suggest both the Clare Valley and Chipping Norton.

Despite an excellent exception in Pikes at Polish Hill River all the wineries only offer paid samplings with which I’d have no quibble however we’re mostly herded to a corner and asked to unromantically tick some boxes on a form (not unlike completing a breakfast order the night before in a country motel) before a paddle of five mean-spirited glasses is plonked in front of us while the winery staff otherwise unblinkingly ignore us.

This McDonaldsisation appears unstoppable. If I was attracted only to the product it might be fine, but I like to natter with the folk behind the counter, make some connections, and hear some stories. The narrative richness has been poured down the sink (or spat into a spittoon). If I’ve enjoyed myself, I’m likely to buy some slurp.

Our day would’ve been incomplete without learning (no, not learnings) about the trail, each other, and the wine. I’m not especially open to culinary adventure but had this instructive chat at Crabtree Wines on its hill overlooking Watervale:

Viticultural Host: Can I interest you both in a muscat?

Me: No thanks. I don’t like dessert wines.

Viticultural Host: Ours is great. It’s liquid Christmas pudding.

Me: Christmas pudding? I might try a splash.

And with a sip it was mid-afternoon on December 25. Belly-full adults like bears on the warm cusp of hibernation stretched in their chairs as regular blurs of kids dashed about and an album of yuletide standards (Frank Sinatra captaining his team here) drifted above our paper party-hatted heads. This evocative power is chief among the charms of wine and not a gift I often find in the generally global and utilitarian beer. I may try muscat again.

With its name a homage to Rome, Sevenhill is not simply a winery but a village founded by the Jesuit order around 1850. Among the striking church, former seminary and college, and majestic setting one notable detail grabbed us. On the narrow veranda as we pushed inside to the tastings room sits an untidy box bursting with sporting goods. Folks are welcome to help themselves and leap about on the large lawn while dodging the picnickers with a few dobs of a footy or a game of cricket (Dad’s hammy at persistent risk).

I love these heartening offers of civic glee.

Weaving our late-afternoon, bicyclic way back to the trail, we pass the Stations of the Cross, distributed among the scrub and beneath the gum trees. For Claire Sevenhill is evocative so we speak of and remember our Catholic pasts and family and childhoods and distant lives. Shutting my eyes (not typically recommended when riding) I could be frocking up at St Roses in Kapunda for Saturday night altar boy duty.

Minutes later my e-bike battery gives way and with a final blink is dead (days later in an Angaston pub my mate Chris asks if this could’ve been due to the extra load) and in an image of despair I’m cruelly forced to pedal. Claire finds this somewhat amusing and fizzes past with high voltage as I start to huff and puff. Effortlessly vanishing into the darkening distance, I’m unsure but hearing, “Climb every mountain/Ford every stream” she might have been singing (her lungs unchallenged) a taunting tune from Sound of Music.

While it’s been windless and cloudless dusk now closes in, and after thirty-four mostly delightful kilometres our bikes are wheeled down a sloping driveway to the hire company shed.

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The Monthly Photo Essay: May

It’s time again to complete my monthly photo essay and this month’s photo essay is for the month of May although I’m completing it in the month of June, which is probably the wrong month for those who care about months.

We love the Onkaparinga National Park and again undertook the Punchbowl link trail. Next time we might take the Sundews Ridge Hike. While hiking we found a full and unopened can of whisky and cola. Please contact me if you think you know the owner.
Spotted this on the annual Melbourne cultural, spiritual and literary retreat.
Doughballs? No, it’s not the little known sequel to Animal House but a pizza place on Moseley Square and was a Wednesday night surprise.
Had a Mother’s Day lunch at Uleybury wines which went well. Worth a look if you’re in the vicinity.
Meanwhile at the North Fitzroy Arms they’ve moved the Gough and Percy photo from the dining room to the front bar. We’re still recovering, and should eventually be fine.
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Fifteen (happy) notes from our Melbourne weekend

1- Our party is the beneficiary of an unsolicited upgrade to business class on the pre-dawn flight from Adelaide to Melbourne with Rex. The spinach and chorizo are particularly attractive at 28,000 feet and Trev says, “Simon, Tahiti looks nice.”

2- Arriving midmorning at our CBD apartment we’re gifted an early check-in and prepare for the day’s goings-on by changing the TV from channel 7’s Morning Show (a dismal Larry Emdur vehicle) to Double J radio. We hear My Bloody Valentine.

3- There’s splendid autumnal weather for the amble to the North Fitzroy Arms, and en route we note Percy Street, its verges carpeted by brown and yellow leaves. Making our way past the terrace houses we speak of men’s mental health and this weekend as a preemptive strategy and it’s an affirming chat.

4- All at our table agree that the NFA is Australia’s best soup pub with the spicy pumpkin remarkably good.

5- The lunch is hosted by Tony Wilson and the guest, journalist Ashley Browne, is insightful and generous in speaking with us after. He writes a sympathetic dedication in his book (2020: A Season Like No Other) which Chris buys from him. Like all good lunches here it’s dark when we push out onto Rae Street.

6- Saturday’s breakfast at The Quarter in Degraves Street is also a treat and sets an expectant tone.

7- It would’ve been churlish for me to not take our party to make their debut at the Napier in Fitzroy, so I do. We admire the lead-light windows and the bar’s dark atmospherics. Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend is playing as we sip our Hargreaves Hill ESB.

8- Late afternoon we’re at the WT Peterson Oval for Fitzroy’s first-ever home twilight fixture. Dramatically situated with the city twinkling in the middle distance we witness an exquisite finish as the locals get up with a (beyond fifty) goal after the siren.

9- Tracking across to Lygon Street the AFL app tells us the Crows have snuck home against Melbourne by a point.

10- Sunday and an old school friend (and 1984 Kapunda Footy Club Senior Colts premiership alumnus along with Trev and Chris, but not me as I was too old to play by two weeks and a premature birth: not that I’m still hostile and embittered) joins us at the All Nations Hotel for a quick beer and highlights tour of his last thirty years. He’s done well and is an early signing for a 2022 Footy Almanac lunch.

11- My fellow travellers enjoy their fish (John Dory) and chips while I am taken by the potato sibling (mash) accompanied by pork and fennel bangers, peas and onion gravy. We talk of the song “Anthony McDonald- Tipungwuti” by the Picket Palace.

12- We again enjoy the year’s best (complimentary) bus ride from the pub to the MCG with Richmond a handsome canvas as we make our jaunty way.

13- As neutrals we love the Collingwood and Power fixture (Olympic Stand, Bay M53) but in a rare Adelaide-teams-getting-up-by-a-single-point-double Port fall in, unconvincingly like Hawkey over Keating in the initial 1991 spill.

14- Catching a SBS replay of Eurovision the UK again suffers nul points, although given the contemporary geopolitics it’s likely the Beatles wouldn’t break the duck either.

15- Due to a happy technicality we’re again upgraded to business class for our return to Adelaide. The in-flight lamb and rosemary pie is hearty fare but it’s great to get home.

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Incident at Mystery Pub/ Greenock Creek Shiraz

Once a month on a Friday we have Mystery Pub. Claire and I alternate researching a local cup-shop and with buzzing expectation and frisson swirling about the cabin drive the happily oblivious spouse to it.

Recently I took my wife to the Kentish in North Adelaide. Neither of us had been there for decades. Tucked in near Melbourne Street it enjoys a quiet, almost feudal location in a cul de sac and sitting out the front of the sandstone grog-dome on a mild afternoon we watched some locals strolling in after a tough day in commercial law or obstetrics.

With a staccato burst of click, click, click one of the zappy bar staff lit the gas heater which impressed Claire but didn’t concern me for I was in shorts (and a shirt too). August is normally the only shorts-free month for me.

It was then that a most dreadful event occurred. Claire asked for a second house red and it was decidedly acceptable, doubtless enhanced by the low chirping from the surrounding punters and our golden hour of honeyed light and gentle parachuting into the weekend.

But in a moment of retrospectively acknowledged delusion I heard myself say at the bar, “And I’ll try a Heineken 3.”

Returning to our table with the accompanying feeling of self-congratulatory triumph that one always experiences when successfully purchasing a round of drinks, I sat and took a sip.

The celebrated continental brewers describe their beer as being, “lower carb, lower calorie” but omit to say that it will also “lower” your sense of well-being, general life optimism, and faith in your otherwise excellent decision-making regarding refreshment choices.

It’s an unspeakably terrible beer. It’s as thin as a spider web and has less charisma than a bureaucrat’s corpse. The flavour seems made in a sterile European lab by faceless automatons who unblinkingly pour anonymous liquids from one test-tube to another, and I suspect I’m correct.

As many an old bloke in a quiet country pub has probably muttered to anyone and no-one, “I had two of those. My first and my last.”

*

Thursday was an excellent day and with late-afternoon cause to celebrate we swung by the Broady beer garden for a twinkling hour. At home with some gnocchi on the stove and our wedding playlist percolating about the kitchen (opening song- “Summer Love” by Sherbet) we extracted the cork from a bottle of red. Nowadays, of course, using a corkscrew is an event in itself and this too caused our epicurean hopes to simmer. We took out some special occasion wine glasses.

Friends and I had visited Greenock Creek wines in the nineties. It’s not in Greenock but on Seppeltsfield Road in Marananga. Their wines are delicious but hard to get so it’d been ages since I’d had one. The (Honorable) Paul J Keating was likely our Prime Minister when I last had this joy.

The 2016 Apricot Block Shiraz is remarkable. I’ve an unrefined palate and any initial slurp is sometimes like a slap on a cold morning to me before I settle into my work. This time it was velvety seduction. By candlelight the glass was all inky and dark and the plonk was complex and subtle and like a Bruce Dawe poem, I knew returning to it I’d locate fresh meaning and my world view would be buoyed.

Like Keef to Mick it made an elegant and synergistic partner to our pasta. As we eased through it our dining table conversation moved to the centre of our world and the wine, like all powerful forces acting for good, gently lowered herself silently into the background.

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Honeymoon in Arkaroola

Located 635 kilometres north of Glenelg’s Broadway Hotel, I imagine Arkaroola’s an infrequent honeymoon destination, but the pandemic’s made prickly and independent nations out of Australia’s states so with Hobart, Darwin and Cairns omitted we hired a 4WD and headed bush.

“Let’s go down there and have a look,” Claire said as we clattered along The Flinders Ranges Way. Turning right the guttering on the road instantly shook the car like we were on a shuddering, fillings-flying-out-of-your-gob ride at an Outback World theme park. A glance in my side mirror and there’s rubber like darting black birds. Shredded tyre.

Australia’s Vast Interior 1, Novice Driver 0.

On Sunday morning we joined the Ridgetop Tour. Bum-surfing in the back of an unrelenting old Toyota, this took us over the Gammon Ranges’ brutal granite and sedimentary peaks. However, geology is like baroque music to me: admirable, but largely beyond my appreciation. It was difficult terrain and our driver showed surgical skill and a cray boat skipper’s eye in getting the vehicle up, and down, the merciless tracks. Thankful for my seat-belt, I felt for the big man opposite who was forced to ride the tray sans harness like it was a Japanese-built version of the legendary bucking bull, Chainsaw (Australian Bull of the Year, 1987 to 1994). I questioned if we were all in an unauthorised Tourism as Violence experiment.

At Sillers’ Lookout, we stared out towards Lake Frome and Beverley uranium mine’s ribbon of airstrip, and I said to my wife, “After weeks of trudging across the desert how would those first explorers have reacted to this range? Relief at the change or despondency at how tough this place is?” We drank our complimentary (not really) coffee and ate slender fingers of lamington while others in our party took selfies.

Back in our cottage mid-afternoon we reflected that we were having ourselves a unique honeymoon. No pool-bar cocktails or reef-oil aromas for us. I could, however, have conceded to a club sandwich out on our verandah.

Griselda Hill looms over Arkaroola’s southern entrance and the advice is to climb it just before sunset. Our original aim was to take a bottle of wine and enjoy it at the summit as we bathed in the orange-pink wash of the surrendering sun. How quickly we became elevated. How still and quiet the dusky village below. Picking our careful way up the steep goat track we soon agreed this would’ve been ridiculous.

Earlier Claire mentioned seeing Shane Warne on I’m A Celebrity and his arctic terror when confronted by large, creeping arachnids. My response, I recollected, had bordered on mocking his fear, and now, mere hours later, I was on my hands and knees and utterly frozen on a sheer outcrop in what could’ve been a fatal blow to my vacillating sense of physical masculinity, if not Warney’s. I could not go up. I could not go down. Hours of virtual training with Alex and Max watching weekly episodes of Bear Grylls: Man v Wild had left me skill-less and with no actionable problem-solving.

If I’d been capable of thinking beyond my catastrophic context, I might’ve speculated bitterly upon the honeymoon sunset we could’ve experienced on a ferry returning smoothly to Hobart’s Constitution Dock (doubtless with a splash of the very same wine that was currently waiting unloved a few hundred metres below in our spartan room), following an aesthetically challenging, yet physically safe excursion to MONA. I might’ve also wondered about the alarmingly large number of grooms who expire just after their nuptials, and therefore get to star at two big family events within the same month.

With one of her first significant acts of marital love Claire coaxed me towards the summit. Like many moments in life our final ascent was rewarding – retrospectively. Peering over the edge she saw the ghoulish cliff-face so we remained on my recovery rock, and with a slowly stabilising heart rate I took in the broad, astral view.

Next morning, we arose in the desert dark and did the sunrise hike along Acacia Ridge. It was pleasantly crisp, and we had it to ourselves. We swapped the lead with unspoken intimacy but talked of weighty matters and trivia and each other and life a considerable distance to the lush south. Nearing the ridge’s summit and our ultimate viewing spot, another ridge would reveal its dreadful peak, and so on we’d ramble. Sunrise was at 6.36. The minutes began to gallop. The sky began to brighten. Yet another ridge.

When we reached our summit, the sun was already low in the sky. But it was only a technical disappointment for there we were, newly together in an ancient land. An Australian Raven offered acknowledgement. We talked some more, and we looked.

Sitting on a rock we shared our bottle of water. Married life was magnificent.

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A Hoppy Trinity of Outback Pubs: Cradock, Hawker and Blinman

From our hulking 4WD we could see the Cradock pub, but were stopped by a film crew. It was the first day of our honeymoon, and Claire asked about the plot, actors and release date while if I wasn’t ravenous for a beer I might’ve inquired about the impact of the golden, autumnal light on the cinematography.

Airy and uncluttered, the pub is both modern and historical, and presents with an eastern suburbs confidence. There’s substantial wooden tables out the front and in the dining room as well as an inviting ropes and climbing area out the back for the kids and, I imagine, adults wobbly with too much Bundy, an enthralled audience, and no regard for the nearest hospital being prohibitively distant.

Our publican is Dickie Anderson, and he’s laconically easing through his hours. Noting there’s no tap beer I say, “I’d love a Sparkling Ale stubby.” He scrambles about in the fridge and frowns, “Umm, sorry, we’ve none left. Someone drank it all. That’d be me!”

So, on the cusp of a glorious week in the ageless, still desert we sit and look. At the ornamental ute, the firepit, the quiet bush.

Is there much better than late on the first afternoon of a holiday?

*

With its wide, noiseless streets, and mix of handsome houses and pre-fab government dwellings, Hawker reminds me of both Kimba and Wudinna.

At our B&B we met Nigel, who turns the key and we’re embraced by the smell of baking bread from one of those 90’s models that everyone had, and he’s excited to show us the TV dedicated to his DVD library of tourist videos. There’s even one demonstrating how to use the coffee machine. Nigel’s thought of everything.

The Hawker pub is cosy and seems happy to cater for its eclectic audience of locals. At the bar is a young mum with her double babies crawling about on the carpet unaware but building considerable immunity. A cheery chap takes the schnitzel orders.

On the wall is a footy tips chart with a solid list of names. I don’t check but know in capitalised black texta there’ll be Dogga, Blue, Young Kev, and Old Kev (possibly relatives, but maybe not).

Claire and I find a rickety table on the veranda, and the pub cat slinks by so we can give her the pats and tummy scratches she utterly deserves.

Across the road’s a park and a knot of kids tramps through. Claire takes a photo of the deepening sky. This sunset doesn’t simply close another Thursday but is one of reassurance and gratitude. Quietly triumphant, it seems intended just for us.

*

Cocooned on our honeymoon I’d forgotten it was school holidays until we arrive in Blinman and it’s swarming with pedestrians and cars. We spend time at the cemetery peering at the headstones and conjecturing about the kind of lives led, concluding they’d likely been hard and only dotted with fleeting sparks of joy.

At the North Blinman pub there’s an animated lunch group under the veranda. Whether aware or otherwise, they’re undoubtedly privileged to be meandering about in this safe and simple section of the world.

Claire is eager for a red. Our barkeep is an earnest woman and she promotes the house Cabernet (pronouncing it with an unironic emphasis on the t).

My sporadic wish to collect stubby holders might be the middle-aged male equivalent of buying souvenir teaspoons, but across our week there’s none on offer, so again, I ask only for a beer.

Lawn would be an inappropriate curio in this arid land, so the beer garden sits on designer dirt.  A series of James Squire umbrellas shades the punters and we plonk down among them chatting effortlessly about our day and our hectic, astonishing month.

The Blinman self-describes as the Pub in the Scrub, and I think of Buckleboo just north of Kimba which boasts the Club in the Scrub. I wonder if in a tiny hamlet beyond Goyder’s Line there’s an unlikely but locally loved massage parlour advertising as the Rub in the Scrub.

My wife and I then stroll about, glasses in hand, pausing along the walls covered with old sepia photos of pioneers and celebrated pub denizens and ponder their lives too.

What’s the narrative purpose of a honeymoon? Is it for a couple to luxuriously combine the past and the present, and then together paint a canvas that’s a landscape, but also a portrait of their deeply desired future? For our freshly intertwined lives, I’m very sure.

4

April Sun in Copley

April is always a great month, or as a student of mine once wrote, “a great moth.” Our wedding, honeymoon, some excellent hiking, and, of course, Glenelg is 4-0.

And Coopers released their Australian IPA to mild acclaim (from me).

In my 660 months on this planet, April 2021 is right up the top- like Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones.

It would’ve been thankless or at least un-2021 to have not taken a selfie with our wedding photographers

Given a debut flat tyre 250 metres into my 4WD career this sign is a vicious reminder
The Kapunda Footy Club on wedding eve
On a day of apocalytic wind and dust the boys and I braved the Hallett Cove boardwalk
Kapunda High’s soggy croquet lawn, wedding morn; didn’t stay forlorn; a wonderful event was born

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My wedding speech, to Claire

Thanks to everyone for joining us at our beloved Kapunda High School, and here now, in this footy club which is one hundred years older than Claire and me. These places have such profound and affirming meaning for us, and across the ceremony and this reception we’ve wanted to tell our story; our long, sometimes maddening, always beautiful story. I thank Claire for making today the elegant event it’s been. Your dress, the candles, the delicate details you’ve created for this celebration – I love you.

We were still teenagers when Claire rang to tell me she’d won the job. I knew she would – such are her impressive talents and attractive, girl-next-door persona. She was to be a host on the kids’ TV show Cartoon Connection. Of course I was thrilled for her, but also secretly despairing…

I imagined Claire (and her shapely calves) at Channel 7 touring the facility and saying hello to Wheel of Fortune’s Adriana Xenides and the goofy Baby John Burgess. But she’d also encounter the weather presenter, Keith Martyn. According to some, a gruff and condescending figure, he also annually published his own South Australian almanac, the impressively entitled, Keith Martyn’s South Australian Almanac. Now Keith’s book included tide times and details about when to plant tomatoes. How could I compete with this glamour? I could see Claire stepping in and out of Italian sports cars, going to A-list events and having her photo in the Sunday Mail (and not just the Possums Pages). I was right to be concerned at the high stakes: early on in the show they gave away – I’m not making this up – a 14-inch Phillips portable colour television!

I feared that Claire might be swept away from us for there I was, working weekends in Kapunda at Rexy Draper’s service station. Datsun 180Bs returning from day visits to Cadell would limp in with hissing radiators and billowing smoke and the frowning drivers would plead, “Can you fix it?” and nineteen-year old me would reply, “No, sorry. I’m not a mechanic, I’m a historian”. But then, one afternoon, I saw you on Cartoon Connection. You’d taken your dog, Bonnie, to appear with you on the show, and got her to count to ten with her paws. During that segment, you were so engaged with, and proud of, Bonnie that I reckon you forgot you were on camera. In that moment, I knew it was all going to be alright. You wouldn’t forget us. You were still our Claire– and always would be.

But before you moved on from your TV career you were to be offered a job as a weather presenter. That would’ve been fantastic. “Let’s cross now to Claire who’s up in Kapunda outside the Clare Castle Hotel and she’s got your four day forecast (the seven day version had yet to be discovered). Oh, we seem to have lost Claire. No, wait, she’s actually inside the pub! Ordering a brandy and coke!”



In 1991 I was living in Kimba and that November, you and Trish came to visit one weekend. Our worlds were expanding and we were all being pulled on different paths, but a photo from that weekend captures the moment when you and I sat together at Lake Gilles on a wooden sign – looking out towards the horizon. Things shifted that weekend, and we turned towards each other and in the two months that followed, I thought our time had arrived. On Boxing Day I went to America for three weeks and with you as a constant, joyous reference point I visited San Francisco and Phoenix and Santa Barbara and I stood on the snowy rim of the Grand Canyon. I was at some of the most exciting places in the world but, most exciting was the thought that you were awaiting me, back home across the Pacific in Adelaide. But the world turned. You continued with your life and I, mine. I did the only thing I could: I went out to Buckleboo one February afternoon and for the Kimba Cricket Club took 5/15. Gee, I bowled well. My in-swinger was never better. Tragically, we were later rolled by Waddikee who went on to win the A grade grand final.

And then, precious Claire, after almost thirty years, our paths changed and we found ourselves again sitting side-by-side, gazing at the horizon. In early 2020 we allowed ourselves the kind of indulgence only permitted those in love: we flew to Sweden for a week. We drove (not in a Volvo) across the bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo and then near Lyungbyhed to a secluded cabin. It was a remarkable, enchanted time. Some evenings we’d walk through the forest to a dark, still lake and climb onto a creaking pontoon. We’d sit at the table with a lighted candle, pull a rug over us, eat olives and talk of all we’d done that day, and of old friends, and things over the years that had made us laugh and things that made us cry, and of our children, and our hopes. And geese would skim across the lake and gather on its island and you’d smile at me in that heartening, exquisite way. Around us a peculiar, blue twilight would grow above the trees and my heart was singing for I knew, after all the desperately rushing decades and the long aching years, that finally, finally – kind, clever, funny, amazing Claire – we were together.