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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.

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Another Good Friday in Glenelg

Thrice weekly I cross the river at the King Street Bridge, but today I turn left and jog along the Patawalonga’s bank past the boat haven. It’s already escalating from warm to hot, and the sky is cloudless with that autumn-in-Adelaide vibrancy and healthfulness. Sun-smart, I’m wearing my Glenelg 2019 Premiers cap, and this sets an expectant tone given the Tigers’ season opener later against Westies. The boys and I are walking down for the opening bounce.

Passing the former Buffalo site, home for decades to a full-sized replica of the ship that brought free settlers to the colony, it was also a family restaurant and in its nautical dining room I once heard a kid say, “This is the best buffalo restaurant I’ve ever been to.” The ship is now gone and makes the location less cluttered, replaced by welcome light and space and hope.

Exiting Wigley Reserve I pick my way along to Holdfast Promenade and the ocean which always surprises me by being right there, sparkling and benevolent this morning and, for a kid from parched Kapunda, a repository of awe.

There’s a fluid, manic blanket of kids at the Glenelg Foreshore Playspace, climbing and jumping and yelling while their caffeinated parents watch, judging when to intervene and get the offspring home before the final set of tears abbreviates the excursion and taints everyone’s morning. Peering into Moseley Square, all palm trees and swirling pavers, it presents as the village centrepiece, drenched in Californian hues and optimism.

The old jetty sits quietly, this truncated version (215 metres compared to the original’s 381) built in 1969, and somewhat utilitarian with its asphalt surface. It’s unlike the creaking, kindly wooden piers of coastal towns, but as my former colleague/ poet John Malone once wrote, jetties are an umbilical cord to the vast ocean.

Pushing my way through the South Esplanade there’s a paddle boarder seemingly becalmed in the shallows, contemplating a recommencement of her moderate early-Easter movement across the polished water-top. About me are streams of young mums with prams, and octogenarians on sea-facing benches trading fuzzy names, aiming to make and remake connections among their ever-closing circles.

Just before the Broadway kiosk the green park narrows into a gentle headland. I hear the cool room buzzing with vague menace, but the breakfasters’ chat hovers above it, and the cafe is bursting with our shared fortune and eggs Florentine and holiday cheer and pancakes with berry coulis and ice-cream.

Leaving the beach I now turn left up Broadway past the silent homes and a freshly-cleared block, mounds of sand waiting to again become submerged beneath concrete foundations. The foot traffic instantly eases and my ambling way is mostly unimpeded by dogs and bright clots of purposeful, aged ramblers.

There’s a prosperous row of businesses (florist, organic store etc) at the start of my final block. I glance in the butcher shop window and think of Dennis, the sociable proprietor who began as an apprentice, and later headed up a Melbourne franchise with a string of fitness centres before returning to his first love. Reflecting upon gyms compared to butchery he once told me, “The difference was the meat twitched instead of staying still.”

Yesterday afternoon to mark the beginning of many enchanted things, Claire and I went to the Broady beer garden for two happy hour drinks each- pints of Coopers’ Pacific Pale Ale (habit and brevity mean I still call it Session Ale) and crisp glasses of house white, and elected to leave the car overnight on Hastings Street.

I see it waiting for me now in the gilded sunlight.

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“Wind-blown and rosy, my little March girl”

March is when the year finds its rhythm and the days are warm and still, and new and old joys present themselves like simple gifts.

Claire and I ventured into the West Beach Surf Club one Sunday and a man (not Ziggy) played guitar
Old Mucker Trev took me for a spin to Strathalbyn in his 1971 Alfa Romeo
I saw this in our 99 year-old neighbour’s home, and then one accidentally fell…
One Saturday evening Claire and I hung out with Christie (she’s really hot)
Max turned eleven and had a party at the Beachouse and all played well
Visiting Steingarten Lookout in the southern Barossa we found these two glasses of wine!
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Sausage Roll Review: Skala, West Beach

“I’m going to that bakery in West Beach to get a sausage roll. I’ve been ignoring eating and writing about sausage rolls for too long,” I said over the phone to Claire, “And that’s a sad sentence, right there.”

Hyperbolic exclamations aside, it was time for a sausage roll, and so I drove northward turning as the airport, or rather, the great, dry plains surrounding it drifted into view. I went past Beau’s Pet Hotel, or as I call it Beau’s Hideously Expensive Kennels for Aspirational Types and their Designer Accessories. Pulling in at the bakery I could see a sliver of sea next to the surf club.

Inside was busy with a range of punters. The wall behind the counter was gleaming and chrome. Shuffling forwards to place my order I peered in the warmer. This is always a moment of muted excitement when I glance in at the racks of baked goods although I don’t know what I expect to see beyond what I’ve seen hundreds of times before. Maybe some hybrid, Frankenstein’s monster in which the delirious, or merely creative baker has made a pasty/pizza/quiche/hot dog horror story that’ll end up in The Modern Museum of Odd Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota should it ever be built.

Is Skala a three-piece punk band? A 2yo filly with claims in the Golden Slipper?

I pause at the section labelled “Meat Pies” or “Pies” as I call them. You should too. But I return to my original decision and get a sausage roll.

At the sole red table outside I note how heavy my lunch is. It reminds me of former South African cricketer Lance Klusener and his monstrosity of a bat, both nicknamed SS Zulu. My sausage roll must be of equal size and weight to the handle of SS Zulu.

The pastry is secondary to the innards and this is appropriate while the meat is subtly flavoursome. West Beach Road is divided by a strip on which stretch a laconic row of palm trees while I can see the neighbouring apartments are plastered with stucco, all summery and promising. Others are Spanish Mission in style and this gives the suburb a Southern California veneer. If Jeffrey Lebowski drove past in a 1973 Ford Gran Torino, we could be in Venice Beach.

What my lunch lacks in elegance it aggregates in substance, and of course, we’re talking about sausage rolls here. If you want fine dining you best swing by L’Enclume in Cartmel, Grange-over-Sands.

Sausage Roll in White Bag on Red Wooden Table c.2021 (From the artist’s, oh shut up)

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Bottle and Bird

I was in Kensington, but I was thinking about Whyalla.

This rarely happens. I dropped Claire at an interpreting job just up from the Britannia Roundabout and had time on my hands, which can be dangerous at 4pm on a Friday, especially with the distinct lack of adult supervision.

Whyalla is home to one of the world’s great bespoke businesses, and I speak, of course, about the Bottle and Bird. It’s a drive-through liquor outlet located at the Westlands Hotel (by law it must be called the Wastelands) and this is tremendous for those in need, but the real dynamite here is that it comes with a take away food option too. I’ve never been through it but imagine the ordering goes like this-

Howdy mate. Yeah, well, I’ll have a six pack of Southwark cans. Nah, been a big week, you better make than Bundy and coke. And I’ll have a half chook ‘n’ minimum chips. No, not half a minimum chips, I’m pretty hungry, a full minimum chips. Quinoa salad? Don’t think so.

The Bottle and Bird speaks of the Australian need for laziness and not getting out of your car unless it’s on fire, or sinking. It’s surely one of our state’s premier tourist attractions. Does it have its own t-shirt range? Its own stubby holders? Its own souvenir tea-towels?

So on Friday I wandered down to the Britannia Hotel on the Britannia Roundabout to catch the last of the Port Lincoln races. Earlier my sister Jill and brother-in-law Bazz had a horse running which came a place, but a nag named Bottle and Bird was in the last. I jumped on. A mare, she’s based in Ceduna and is only five, but has already been in nearly forty races. They work them hard on the West Coast.

Having made my investment I grabbed a chair. The front bar was sparsely populated, but richly scented. I had no goatee. There were a few minutes until they jumped with hopefully Bottle and Bird screaming to a rare win. I grabbed the paper from a bench. Flicking through I realised the paper was over a week old.

The gate sprung open and they were away in Port Lincoln at the Ravendale racecourse! Bottle and Bird settled well, just behind the leaders. Her jockey put her to sleep down the back and she kept her position. Unsure what to call the horse I alternated in my mind between, “Go Bottle!” and “Come, on, Bird!”

In the Britannia front bar something malodorous slapped my nostrils. I glanced around. No-one seemed to care about me or Bottle and Bird and our new, likely temporary relationship. My eyes shot back to the wide screen. She arched her back and lengthened her stride and I’d like to say it was just like Black Caviar in the TJ Smith Stakes at Randwick in front of about 30,000 punters, but it wasn’t.

The favourite pulled away and won by a bit over a length.

But Bottle and Bird had run second. I’d doubled my cash.

If I was knocking off work in Whyalla I’d steer my ute to the Bottle and Bird and with my winnings, shout myself a schnitzel pack and a long neck of Coopers Sparkling Ale.

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February! Come back! We miss you!

Cellar Door Fest: In some circles tasting gin before noon is discouraged. No, of course I don’t see those people anymore.
Last month was spectacular for gentle swimming, and piffing a ball at each other in the shallows.
Alex turned thirteen. The mood swings, the defiance, the tantrums. And that’s just his Dad.
In Hahndorf we played minigolf. It’s everything Holey Moley isn’t: fun, bonding, devoid of moronic commentary.
A weekend at Carrackalinga with friends even gave some inanimate objects a chance to rest and enjoy the view with their non-existent eyes.
We discovered a nook in the Broady’s beer garden. Also note the healthy vegetation not often seen in a beer garden.
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Beer Review: Prancing Pony and Smiling Samoyed at the Normanville pub

Perhaps we should’ve been in Shit Creek.

For on the table were not one but two paddles. Brett had one and I had the other, and both wooden planks were holding six glasses of craft beer. We’d soon be rowing at the Olympics.

I love a weekend away with a big group and down in Carrackalinga we had seven adults and seven kids. I like how some things are done together, but other excursions occur with just one or two. Earlier Max and I had swung by the Yankalilla bakery for a Cornish pasty and sausage roll before pulling in at the oval and watching the local B grade cricket for half a dozen overs. We saw one wicket and some decidedly exotic swatting. The boundaries were long and the outfield, lush. Runs were scarce.

Following a walk down the beach it was suddenly late afternoon and six of us gathered in the Normanville pub’s beer garden. Having it to ourselves invested the episode with enhanced novelty and occasion.

The first craft beer was an XPA from the Prancing Pony Brewery. While we agreed that it included citrus, melon and berry flavours the tasting notes’ proposal that passionfruit was present became controversial.

Claire tried it and said, “But there’s no actual passionfruit!” Someone retorted that it was only redolent of it, that it might simply be a metaphor, or point of sensory reference. Claire was insistent, if not incensed.

A few impassioned minutes on passionfruit followed.

Built in 1851 the Normy is among the state’s oldest pubs and there by the veranda we all admired the beautiful tiling while inside each dining room was magnificent lead lighting.

Next up was the Germanic Kolsch which may have suffered from poor sequencing as someone, possibly Leonard, described it as having, “dreadful nanna fruit.” I found it sharp. Its bitterness was like one of our group (Claire) missing out on being Dux of Year 12 by one point out of 500: lingering and irreconcilable.

However, Claire liked the mango beer that was a New England India Pale Ale. It had the fruitiness of a Carry On movie, but I found it undrinkable. If it illustrated the best of Boston then maybe we should’ve retrieved the tea (c.1773) from the harbour floor and had our own party. A voice from another chair pleaded that it had the generic characteristic of, “orchard fruits.” I sipped again, my face deforming like I was on the rocket sled of a 1950’s NASA experiment.

JB then told us of how, minutes before arriving at the pub, she’d been dumped by a large and uncaring wave. Happily her son, Oliver, showed an appropriate level of human concern while some of us nodded with nebulous sympathy, but quickly returned our attention to the paddles.

The 12 Paws Pale Ale was met with ambiguity. In an obvious attempt to make it into this blog, Brett described the beer as being, “indistinguishable from most other pale ales” regardless of the number of paws quantified in its name.

The afternoon galloped on and we’d a barbeque to ignite and charades to punctuate our evening so we adhered to the equine theme of this paragraph and tried the Prancing Pony Brewery’s India Red Ale which clocks in at a Phar Lap-sized 7.9%. The notes promised, “caramel characters” but Claire was firm: no likey. Brett voted it champion beer of our session. I could see its appeal, but for me it mostly represented a disagreeable chore, like compulsory attendance at a death metal music festival.

A couple of punters joined us in the beer garden. In the front bar somebody laughed. A distant mobile phone buzzed: we need milk.

Our final refreshment was a dark ale from the Smiling Samoyed Brewery just up the hill in Myponga. It whispered of roasted dark chocolate and black Arctic nights and a plaintive, strummed mandolin, or maybe just beer.

Our convoy then stretched up the hill towards our holiday house.

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Sentimentality and alienation in Adelaide pub architecture

I’ve just discovered my new favourite place in my old favourite place.

Now in its third year the Broady beer garden is always a delight. Week’s end; a brisk hour; Saturday and Sunday stretching out with languid promise.

Claire and I took up residence last Friday around 5pm and found ourselves at a wooden bench by the back wall. With the noise washing over and about us and the throng surging we were in a captivating little nook. The effect of the foliage was to secret us and intensify our isolation and we became distant witnesses to the garden’s spectacle, and the muffled, if deafening drama and comedy.

I was reminded of Jordan, the glamorous, but golf-cheat character from The Great Gatsby who whispers: And I like large parties. They’re so intimate.

A beer garden should enable theatre and connection and sometimes even privacy. The Broady’s does this. The space allows gregarious but also discreet moments.

The Hahndorf Old Mill Hotel is a big pub on the main street of this lovely old Germanic town in the Adelaide Hills.

Alex and I were up there last Saturday. He’s just turned thirteen and to mark this we drove up for the afternoon and evening. We wandered about and made our compulsory visit to the Fruchoc Shop and I said, “Where would you like lunch?”

Helpfully, he replied, “In there” as the Old Mill Hotel appeared.

Hahndorf is historic and there’s a constant architectural aesthetic across the main drag with charming evocations of Bavaria through dark timbers and inviting warm places and Hofbräu available in big steins.

But, I will never understand how the hideous glass and metal roof of this inn was ever allowed. It’s vaguely 1980’s in its visual impact or more likely inspired by the Jupiter 2 from cult sci-fi TV series Lost in Space.

What is it doing in this genteel, rustic village?

It can only have been designed by the evil Dr. Smith. Will Robinson and the robot (the real star of the programme) would look on in horror before we’d hear, “Warning! Warning” Judy would have (again) sought comfort in the arms of the gruff and unloveable pilot Don West, who openly hated Dr. Smith.

Gee, it was a complex social ecosystem on the Jupiter 2.

Even Penny’s chimpanzee-like alien pet named Debbie would have put its hands or long ears over its eyes at the sight of The Hahndorf Old Mill Hotel’s ugly roof.

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Beer Review: Southwark Bitter

As we ambled along the grey beach this morning and the dogs scampered in the wet sand and we chatted about yesterday’s Cellar Door Fest I thought of many wonderful things for which I’m grateful.

Oddly, Southwark Bitter was absent from this gentle Sunday mindfulness, but now here I am on the patio with a distinctive green can. It’s time to revisit. Excursions into nostalgia should be occasionally inclusive and with the radio on, the lawn freshly mown, and the water feature bubbling along, I flip open the can. I expect it to be combative.

It smells more beery than beer. There’s nothing post-modern or aspirational present. It’s unapologetic, and I know that on Southwark’s playlist there’s just too many songs by The Angels. But, wait, perhaps the aromatics aren’t as boisterous as I remember. There’s a familiar charm, and it’s like the old cricketer who batted at ten, didn’t bowl and had to be hidden in the field. You and your team-mates loved him.

I take a few cautious sips and personal history makes me expect to be clobbered in the gob. But, I’m not. It’s not nearly as angular and cantankerous as my last venture into this beer-themed savannah. It’s smooth and almost subtle. Disbelieving, I check the can. Yep, Southwark. I replaced some lawn this morning and can now feel the effects of shovelling (yes, I used my skimming shovel) and wonder if I’m experiencing some sensory side-effects of this rare Sunday exertion.

A plane takes off from Adelaide airport and with a low scream climbs out across St Vincent’s Gulf. Buddy, the dog moves and Triple J plays a song I don’t know.

I keep two glass Southwark mugs in the freezer and sometimes bring these out on hot days when guests call in. It’s more theatrical than real but the frostiness adds a brief frisson to our shared enterprise. Given that I’ve bought a Southwark for the first time this millennium I decide it would be churlish not to marry beer and ancient mug. So I do.

This seems to exaggerate the trademark bitterness and now my 2021 experience starts to approach the one I recollect from those dusty Kapunda afternoons after cricket or by the Duck Pond with other misshapen youth or up at Gundry’s Hill with Fats blasting Mondo Rock out of his car boot. The universe settles back onto its known axis. It’s been a curiously rewarding event, and the beer has over-delivered. I’m strangely pleased.

With a determined swallow I finish my mug of beer and sit it down on the table. I wonder when I’ll next have a Southwark.

I look over at the dogs. They don’t seem to know either.

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Ladies and gentlemen, The Mt Mary pub!

Is there anything more lovely than being taken to a mystery location for lunch?

The investment another makes in you courtesy of this wish to treat you with singular affection elevates a shared meal into an act of kind-heartedness, and converts a lazy hour or so into a lush, cinematic episode.

We left Robertstown (population-248) and headed through Point Pass (population-110), Eudunda (population-828), Sutherlands (population-unsure as no available census data, but clearly very few) and suddenly, when I was most curious about our destination (surely, we’re not going to Morgan?) it appeared on our right.

As a Kapunda youth it enjoyed a particular mythical, even ironic status. Set beyond Goyder’s Line among the salt bush it’s a place mostly visited after a day up the river, skiing or fishing.

Bounded by a nightmarish plain there’s no mountain at Mt Mary, and despite its population recently doubling from 6 to 12, I’m unsure if there’s even a resident (non-deceased) Mary. The town features ten homes, the pub, and a (possibly working) telephone box. It’s a living pioneer museum.

Exiting the Thiele Highway (named for Eudunda author Colin) we took a town tour and saw the former general store which was run nearly a century ago by Claire’s grandparents. Passing multiple cars in the town we almost forge another lasting connection as outside one abandoned house we scarcely avoid an accident. In a town populated by only a dozen persons this might have been tricky on the insurance claim.

Strolling into the Mt Mary hotel there’s a sumptuous lawn out front and given the frequent Armageddon winds and rare rain this is to be applauded. It’s an emerald welcome carpet. Although it’s a tick before noon there’s in situ patrons anchored to the bar having settled into an it’s-Friday-so-why-not drinking and conversational rhythm.

Coopers on tap is another predictor of bonhomie. Every worthy beer is better on tap apart from Sparkling Ale which finds its lofty peak when enjoyed from a long neck, but as this is the last holiday excursion I relax my rule-book and the host pours me one. Central to her endless research, Claire orders a house red. We repair to a table by the turf and as front-line ambassadors, greet the stream of sunny visitors.

Social media offered insight into the pub’s raison d’etre just prior to the November lock-down when mine host Donna urged that there was, “still time to hitch up your goat and get your drink on.” As we all know life is better with goat.

Disastrously, most of our regional train lines were torn up decades ago, including the Kapunda to Morgan track. Sitting in our untroubled afternoon we imagined boarding, say, the 9.42 from our former hometown and alighting in Mt Mary to dine and take refreshment! How a-quiver we would’ve been with me wearing a top hat and Claire easing along the platform in a Sigrid Thornton big dress.

Sometimes in a suburban pub meals can be bought and then instantly appear as if they’d just been dinged in a microwave. Those with a rapacious appetite might welcome this swiftness, but it has the anticipatory allure of a KFC drive through. Our Mt Mary meals are delivered by the chef forty minutes later which allows time to chat with each other and the publican, Donna, during which we learn about the pub, her husband Craig’s earth-moving business, the local 86-year-old horse rustler and her commitment to the local fauna.

Claire’s deconstructed vegetable stack is tasty and the polenta chips are a treat although, as has been noted by many, the non-meat options can seem overpriced. Are these subsidising us carnivores? My beef schnitzel is exquisite. It’s sizeable but not of ridiculous pillow-case dimensions and the vegetables are a wonderful accompaniment; the Hutch to the schnitzel’s Starsky.

The pub’s on the Mad Max road to Morgan but is an emerging foodie destination, and we’re told folks visit regularly from places like the Barossa and Waikerie. Sadly, the trains have stopped, but out back, unpowered sites are $9 per person.

As always, goats camp free.