2

Round 7- Adelaide v Carlton: Come, Come Mr Bond

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We have radio wars in our car when the boys, wife and I travel together, and I’m annihilated, acoustically.

Despite my best attempts to provide a robust musical education, as the Subaru backs out of the garage, voices from the back seat holler, “Mum, can you put it on NOVA?”

Or, “Change it over to MIX.”

To which I respond, “What do you say?”

From behind me a reluctant, “Please” then chirps across.

MIX self-describes as, “Adelaide’s widest variety of music” but if there’s any truth in radio station slogans it’d be, “Adelaide’s widest variety of Pink.”

Saturday night viewing is providing similar conflict, at least for me. The footy is winning the battle, but only just as 9 GEM is showing all the Bond films, having started a month ago with Dr No which, given our youngest’s current oppositional defiance, is a domestic theme.

However in a rare nocturnal excursion, for the first time this season, I found myself on the bottom deck of the Chappell Stand, taking in the Crows and Blues. To alleviate any clash concerns The Blues are wearing their John Howard-inspired gray guernseys. Really? You’d find greater similarity in the vocal stylings of Taylor Swift and Taylor Walker.

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It’s a glorious autumnal evening by the mighty River Torrens – warm, still and clear. Both sides are missing many of their big names and given how many have moved between these clubs, out on the turf it must be like the first hour of a school reunion, you know, before the Brandivino works its liquid magic.

Carlton find space early and vital big rooster Kreuzer snaps to give the Blues their first, and only lead for the encounter. Adelaide then settles and slots the subsequent six with alliterative forwards Josh Jenkins and Mitch McGovern each scoring an appropriate two goals.

On TVs across the ‘burbs Thunderball is also away and SPECTRE has stolen some NATO bombs, and is threatening to destroy a US or UK city, later revealed as Miami which seems a little unambitious, given they’re working in the Bahamas. Why not be lofty in your aims and lob one at Luton, although, to be fair, it’d be difficult to tell.

In his first match against his former mob B. Gibbs (Bryce, not Barry) has continued his silky form and is accumulating possessions across the ground like MI6’s finest collects casino chips. During the break I get out my Texas Instruments calculator and start punching in cricket scores to see how far up the table the Crows will be by midnight. This arrogance guarantees the Blues (Grays) fightback is on.

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Skill execution errors, even from diminutive half-back assassin Rory Laird means the visitors enjoy a dominant quarter with some clever work from Levi Casboult whose hulking presence could be handy in Thunderball as things get desperate in the Aston Martin. The game is poised at the half and I get approval from our bank to undertake some Goldfinger action of my own: I buy a beer and some hot chips.

Any lingering tension quickly evaporates into the May sky as Adelaide registers a pair of majors in the opening minutes. Eddie Betts is involved, but his form and his season are simmering, not Bond-movie-speedboat-explosions, just yet. Footy itself has been strangely subdued thus far in 2018.

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Mitch McGovern doesn’t so much mark the Sherrin as pluck it from atop the pack in a way that startles everyone. He elevates himself onto Liam Jones’ shoulders and completes the catch as if Q had lent him the famous jetpack. It provides some frisson on a night when the narrative arc is as predictable as a commercial radio playlist (Up next we’ve got some Captain Beefheart).

Cam Ellis-Yolmen continues his steady progress and is stringing together games in his much-interrupted career which began way back in 2011, when you could sneak your track-suited self into a Blockbuster and borrow Kung Fu Panda 2 for a fiver.

I admit it’s been a minor treat to see Carlton’s Cripps and Curnow in action. They’ll drive the Blues bus for the next decade, or half a dozen coaches, whichever comes first. Their win/ draw/ loss tally now reads:

007.

Despite another obligatory hamstring injury Adelaide moves confidently to the next instalment of the Showdown franchise next Saturday in the twilight.

There should be no televisual conflict with Casino Royale beginning just on the final siren. I best iron my new tracky-daks.

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6

Jetty Jumping

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Just as that shopper in front of you is oddly surprised when the supermarket cashier asks them to pay, and they go, “Oh,” spend an epoch finding their purse, and then finally pay the $42.75 with only ten-cent coins, I find it equally bewildering that folk in South Australia are astonished annually that autumn is our best season. Although TS Eliot was considering the northern hemisphere in The Waste Land when he wrote, “April is the cruelest month” down here I reckon it’s the best time of the year.

On the border of Innes National Park, Marion Bay is a new favourite. Thursday was a gold medal day with the sun lower in the sky, but still deliciously warm, and the fierce, forbidding wind gone.

Our party of eight kids and eight adults assembled early at the Stenhouse Bay jetty. We had it to ourselves and one of the dads, Andy, suitably wet-suited, jumped in and then one of the mums, Karla, bravely sans wetsuit, followed to greet and safe-guard.

The water was a fetching Greek island-blue, flat as the Adelaide Oval pitch and as clear as a Paul Keating insult.

Meanwhile, Benny cast a line and jagged a squid within moments. Landing it on the jetty’s warm timbers, our circle of kids closed and peered on, as bewitched and curious as you’d hope, given that many of their parents are science teachers.

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Of course, I observed from a distance, trying to compose a haiku about squid on a jetty but failed, instead barking brashly about there being more ink than at a Port Power home game.

Our brave warrior Alex was first to leap into the Antarctic aqua. He splashed and yelped about and then hauled himself up the metal ladder. He’d go again half a dozen times.

With their eternal sibling rivalry sparking, Max was next in our family. Bravely, he went over the edge, and in, but paddled quickly back to the pylons, singular urgency on his damp dial. There’d be no treading water for him, but as is his compulsion he interrogated his world with physical and emotional strength. I beamed at both of the boys, and silently thanked their mother for this genetic detail.

In her shorts and Spiderbait t-shirt Kerry was up next, fiercely determined and commentating in her funny way. The boys looked upon their mum with awe and the frequent, inner confirmation that she’s cool. Once in the drink she laughed constantly, adrenalin and biting cold motoring her across the bay.

Other kids and their parents were casting fishing lines, and these whirled out into the tiny inlet, but the squids wouldn’t be dead for quids.

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I’m not especially happy about heights, but if there’s water beneath me I’m less worried. If you tumble off the Eiffel Tower onto the Parisian plaza below you’ll splat like a bag of cat food, but have a marginally better chance tumbling and a-hollerin’ into the ocean. Or something like this.

So, in I went. And many of you will nod at the news that I was wearing cut-off jeans.

Yes, swimming jeans.

As I fell towards the icy-ness I remembered the sea-lions I’d seen at Pier 39 in San Francisco, but doubted, somehow, that I shared their sleek, natural entry.

Flopping off that pylon Benny yelled after me, in acknowledgement of my Whyalla Norrie-inspired swimming jeans, “You’ll need a XXXX when you come up.”

“Yeah, and a Winny Blue,” my voice ascended, as I descended.

*

I love a jetty. Strolling along one is good for the soul as there’s something nourishing in the relationship between water and land, people and nature, and the crisp breeze and your open face.

I think again of my old friend John Malone and his poetic ode to these beautiful structures

People lean

from jetties, dream from jetties

fishing for

tranquillity. They are

walkways into and out of

the mind. Umbilical

chords attaching us to the sea.

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Birthday petanque and tropical tremors

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I hung over the side of my bed, and peered underneath. I expected to see a pair of blood-shot eyes and a pair of yellowing tusks, threatening to pierce my person. No, as near as I could tell, there was no razorback in my room.

More sudden movement as if something large was scurrying about on the tiled floor. It seemed to be trapped and decidedly unhappy. I thought briefly of the film, The Exorcist when young Regan’s bed starts bouncing about in downtown Washington. I wondered if Fathers Merrin and Karras could help me. Twenty-three stories up in a Darwin motel on a Monday, just before dawn, is as good a place as any for some demonic possession. Afterall, it was Holy Week.

Just as I was about to shout, “The power of Christ compels you!” I leapt from bed and rushed to the window to peer out across the harbour. It had only been a week since Darwin had somehow endured Cyclone Marcus, its worst storm since Tracy, in 1974. The palm fronds were still and the water was flat. What was happening?

I then did that most 2018 of things, I googled it. Earthquake. 6.6 on the Richter Scale and several hundred kilometers north in the Banda Sea adjacent to Indonesia. By now the clattering commotion had stopped. I’d been more curious than frightened. It lasted maybe fifteen seconds and had been unlike the Hollywood, Spielberg versions with swaying walls and rolling floors like an oceanic wave was pounding through.

It did seem more like a deranged beast than a seismic event, more satanic explosion than sudden release of stored energy from deep in the earth’s interior. Later I texted Kerry down in Adelaide and told her the earthquake had reminded me of the cult 1984 Australian film Razorback. Her reply pinged, Wakey wakey, hands off snakey!!

While the week begun with sudden violence upon the good earth it finished with a gentle afternoon of petanque on our own patch of the planet, the comforting rectangle of backyard lawn.

Yesterday our Max, our bright, challenging, playful Max turned eight and we had a family barbeque. He received some cash, a nerf gun and some Captain Underpants books which, of course, are all you need as you start moving through your ninth year.

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Late afternoon in the warming sun and from a dark corner of the shed we dragged out the petanque set I’d been given by Sylvie, the French exchange teacher I’d worked with many years ago.

Fresh off a week during which he’d won two Division 1 bowls grand finals up in the Barossa Dad was all over the kitty early. In one of these finals they’d beaten the affectionately described Tanunda Boxheads, and this is always a treat. He’s now played in nearly thirty bowls grand finals. I think this is remarkable.

I then subbed myself out, and handed my silver balls (sic) to Alex so I could tend the barbecuing over at Beefmaster Central. As I seared, flipped and poked I’d hear the occasional crack as the metal orbs clashed on the lawn and there’d be a burst of commentary from Dad or Barry or Mitchell.

It took me back to our Mediterranean travels and watching loose knots of older men playing similar games in parks or on the dirt in Italian seaside cities, and for me the past and the present came together for a happy moment.

Mum and my sister Jill took some photos, and this one is brilliant as it captures the scene so perfectly, it could’ve been constructed by a film director. There’s a singularity of focus and a shared application. It’s self-contained, and even Max, especially Max, the birthday boy, is a participant. He’s there, surrounded by his wider family, luxuriating in his petite gang, as they move up and down the lawn.

The mise-en-scène, the storytelling of this picture is grand, and personally compelling. It’s already a favourite photo.

After the destructive movement of Monday morning up in the tropics, back here on Good Friday, this photo freezes time and earth as it offers up a gift of stillness.

Motion and stillness. Motion and stillness.

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Like music? Like beer? Read this!

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Hay Plain – Julia Jacklin

It’s a rite of passage for many of us. Going from South Australia to Sydney and driving across the Hay Plains.

In the summer of 1989 old Kapunda mates Bobby, Swanny, Puggy, Pinny (not actually his nickname but it seems a shame to exclude him) and I drove it in a hire car.

It was a Commodore wagon with a radar detector we’d borrowed from local publican and iconoclast Puffa. It went, as your Uncle would say, like the clappers.

I’m sure we had other cassettes but I remember the B52’s Cosmic Thing featuring, of course, “Love Shack.” It was a fun album, but twice a day for three weeks became, for me, audio water-boarding.

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Around Coffs Harbour the tape somehow ended up buried in my suitcase. Someone, I suspect it was Swanny, solved the mystery of the Missing Cassette and rescued the tragic tape. On it went! Yippee. “If you see a painted sign…”

Every night all five of us slept in the same big room. At least one would sleep in his clothes. I can only guess at the olfactory horror of those murky, blokish spaces.

I’m pretty sure we ate KFC every day for about three weeks. It was like that alarmist documentary Super Size Me. I blew up like an inflatable raft.

KFC

Julia Jacklin is a great alt-country singer songwriter and her debut album Don’t Let The Kids Win features beautifully-crafted songs. “Hay Plain” is an atmospheric, plaintive number in which she uses her charismatic voice to engaging affect.

In it she makes reference to that iconic Sydney road, the Western Distributor. In 1985 on my first trip to Sydney with Trev, Chrisso and Woodsy in his Datsun 180B we stayed with a mate in Drummonye and used this road daily.

Right by the exit was a huge billboard with a giant image of a funnel web spider baring its metre-long fangs, warning people to avoid these horrific fuckers.

One night we got home and our old school mate Brendan, now peeling prolifically because of Bondi sunburn, yelled out, “No! We’ve been robbed. Someone’s stolen my cup of skin.”

Julia Jacklin’s on my list of acts to see and this clip from a show in Melbourne’s Northcote Social Club captures her warmth and talent-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf6YdmKIChU

Pleader- alt J

British indie darlings alt-J toured Australia late last year and old mate Brett and I went along to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on a Tuesday. Tuesday being the convenient and traditional night for major touring artists to play in our little city.

Having avoided incapacitation by a Coopers Clear – surely the Trevor Chappell of this distinguished beer family – we ventured into the barn-like room and I was delighted by the crisp and punchy sound quality. The band were amazing unlike their set at Singapore’s Laneway Festival in 2014 when, dogged by technical problems, they sulked off stage mid-song.

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I texted Brett the day after the Adelaide concert and shared that I thought the final song of their most recent album was the highlight of our night. “Pleader” is a moody six minutes’ voyage with the opening three a foreboding instrumental before the last half of the track has a stunning choral outchorus, complete with agrarian imagery and biblical textures.

The accompanying video is inspired by the Welsh mining classic novel How Green Was My Valley? Among the unforgettable scenes is one with a landslide caused by the detonation of a WW2 German V2 bomb.

The vocals are distinctive and rarefied and the lush orchestration builds the sense of doom. Hugely impressive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrhSJzM8NLE

Coopers Session Ale

Released mere weeks after the apocalyptic 1993 preliminary final in which the Crows choked after half time, Coopers Black Crow came into the market. This marked a spectacularly dismal month for crows, everywhere.

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A mid-strength lager, it was massively disappointing, especially for an enthusiast such as me. It was named by public competition among significant fanfare. A more accurate name would have been Dead Cat Piss.

Bursting into the world last October was Coopers Session Ale. It is everything its feathery, deceased predecessor was not.

Tropical, fruity, and with citrus complexity beyond big brother the celebrated Pale Ale, it speaks of a lazy afternoon on a Pacific island. Marrying Galaxy and Melba hop varieties with secondary fermentation, it’s animated in the glass, a triumph of golden straw colour and fetching aroma.

Each and every Friday around 4.27pm I pay wave $12 at Gavin, mine host at the Broady and receive two crisp pints in return as the murmuring and the post-working week shuffling builds in his front bar.

I must mention that the packaged version is inferior, and humbly submit that the colossal Sparkling Ale is the only Coopers beer which is better out of a bottle, a bloody big bottle.

Still the Session Ale is a ripper. Perfect.

3

Qantas Schmantas: customer care feedback

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Dear Sir/Madam

I’ve played by the rules, but you haven’t, Qantas. Five weeks’ ago, I filled in one of your so-called customer care feedback forms. You suggested I’d get a reply quickly. I haven’t.

It’s almost as if you don’t, well, care. So I thought I’d try this.

We booked our recent flights to and from Brisbane with Qantas as we wanted a full-service experience. We were happy to pay extra as we travel with our sons who are seven and nine. Our experience was poor. It was, at best, a decidedly budget experience.

On our first flights, we had rear seat screens, which were great. On the return flights, we did not. It is a grim lottery with the winning ticket a personal screen and the losing ticket the offer of an entertainment app. We do not each have an iPad, and if an app is deemed a service then it’s one for which I’d rather not pay. I can load films, music and games on our devices if required. Yeah, crazy, I know! But, I’d like to know in advance.

It was a long and uncomfortable flight home.

The inflight meal was a bag of about six split chick-peas and some horrible eggplant dipping sauce. Of course, our boys love eggplant, as I’m sure you know, as do all young boys. Just kidding! This was rubbish, and in no way justified the extra money we had spent.

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To then be offered a beer or wine for six dollars was an additional insult. Seriously? Given the money we paid I reckon a free (not really) beer is the minimum offering. Even a crappy XXXX Gold. Full service? Not on my planet.

On this flight one of the rear, economy class toilets was not working so we sent our boys to the toilets at the front of the plane. The one working toilet at the rear was occupied. The male flight attendant immediately and ungraciously sent them back from the business class facility as if they were rabid dogs.

As we’re toiling proletariat this I can partly understand, but less than a minute later an adult passenger, also from economy, made his way to the business class toilets. He was not sent back, and this, quite frankly, pisses me off. If we’re having total segregation, then do it properly, please. In 2018, ageism is such an ugly look.

I must say that the female flight attendants were excellent in that they were friendly and helpful. My wife and I really appreciated their efforts.

However, this did not convince me that we should fly Qantas again.

I’d rather save my money and go with Virgin or Tiger. With these you get what you pay for. With Qantas, you pay extra and receive a very budget, very disappointing service.

This continues a rather poor run of experiences with your company.  One Christmas when we lived in Singapore we flew home to Adelaide. We were very excited. But we were sat by the toilets, on the overnight flight, which I can only suggest, quickly reminded me of a poorly-maintained abattoir during a heatwave.

But that is a story for another time.

Regards

 

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0

Thoughts from my Caloundra Balcony

FM radio is illegal in Op Shops

Going to the late Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo is a waste of money for in Queensland dangerous and toxicologically startling fauna comes to you, for free, every minute of the godless day

By 2020 “GPS signal lost” will be the biggest killer of over-fifties in this country

I love our boys, but to teach them about privilege and perspective I’m writing a series of books with titles such as, “The Boy Who Died Because He Had To Listen To Triple J In The Hire Car” and “The Boy Who Died Because He Ate His Pavlova Slowly”

What does it mean that the small town of Murgon boasts ten churches of different denominations?

Bundaburg has the nation’s best Target, I think

How do I process the grief of buying my family a pepperoni pizza that achieved the astonishing, postmodern feat of being entirely free of pepperoni?

Country radio provides two truisms: David Bowie was boiled shite in the 1980’s and Neil Diamond was always great

Cricket conversations are fantastic: Is Peter Siddle one of your favourites? and, Dad, was it Lillee caught Dilley, bowled Willy?

At least every six months we should camp somewhere free of light-pollution, and sit about a fire, and stare up at the remarkable blanket of stars, and remind ourselves to live well, and to love fiercely

10

Holiday!

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There is no question.

This is the best photo I’ve ever taken. Nothing in Iceland. Forget the Grand Canyon. Rule out Iron Knob.

Every compositional element is within. Summer in that magical time between Christmas and New Year. Holiday park. Our boys. Big screen Test cricket. If you move the camera slightly to the right. There, that’s it. Yes, that’s a cup of crisp pale ale. Perfect.

We’ve been on a short getaway. A holiday. A self-contained location with all the amenities. It’s brilliant, and after three separate visits in 2017 it’s a favourite. We’re getting to really know the terrain.

When I was a young, numpty/teenaged type, with all the attendant boof-headedness this implies I found considerable mirth in someone I know once knocking on the door of a school-mate, saying, “Is Billy home?” His mum gave a sincere, nodding reply, announcing, “No. He’s gone on holiday, to Greenock.”

From this, the closed ancestral home of Kapunda to Greenock was a steady ten minutes in the family Valiant. Roar! How we laughed! How could this be a holiday? I’d ridden my (sister’s) bike there and back!

But, tonight, to you, with sincerity and delayed wisdom I confess that we’ve spent our Yuletide break about eight kilometres down the road. Not nearly as far as Greenock.

Why? Because it’s terrific, we can slip home and feed the dogs, and pick up some essentials like eggs, a torch and some extra-cold Sparkling Ale.

I also reckon it’s because I now know that a holiday is not about the distance travelled, but locating a fitting headset, and finding a place that works.

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Here’s the other key attraction. Our boys, Alex and Max stay there in the compact camper-trailer with one of us, while the other, eases into the car, and DRIVES HOME TO AN EMPTY HOUSE (APART FROM THE DOGS) FOR THE EVENING.

For those of you who’ve forgotten, this means the non-holiday park parent gets, in the morning, with its luxurious new light, to wake up without provocation, and avoid the existential horror of being WOKEN UP.

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Developing a functioning relationship with a holiday park includes locating a barbeque who’ll love you back. One who’ll respect you, and also not give you any nonsense.

This one is gentle on a sausage, appropriately robust with a chicken patty, and massages a steak like it should. It’s also by a creek and some friendly trees. I like it.

But this bugger, yeah, this one here-

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It looks sleek and cooperative, but it’s benign appearance is deceptive. It doesn’t cook, which, if my dictionary serves, is the job of a barbeque. It’s Yorkshire on Boxing Day. I may give it a kicking.

You may as well line up six of the park’s dopey yet kindly ducks, point their arses at your chops, and light their farts.

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A modern holiday park offers entertainment for the kiddies and this one has a huge games room, complete with multiple distractions, including Space Invaders and its crazy derivatives, and shoot ’em up adventures. In a symbol that captures the regard with which we hold this fantastic space there’s also a Skill Tester/ Grabber.

And for the first two days it was free!

This morning after a tremendous sleep-in Max stumbled out of our tent, nodded vaguely at me, and marched straight to the games room, such is the hypnotic power of the Grabber. I yelled “Fried fritz?” at him but he shuffled onward.

When a boy refuses fried fritz, we all know life is a-changin’. I’m not sure of how many chocolates our boys extracted from this contraption, but it was, as my old boss would say, a goodly number.

Since we visited in March a beer garden has been added. How can this space get any better, I hear you ask? Next to the pool, there’s a giant TV screen, grassed (fake) expanse, assorted beanbags, under-cover booths and agreeable bar and kitchen.

Yes, it is one of our tiny world’s best spaces. If I were a ghost you wouldn’t see me here, on a chair.

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I’m happy to say the Marion Holiday Park is great value and provides a wonderful, surprising escape.

Find it here-

https://marionhp.com.au/