1

Mystery Pub: The Beer Smells Like A Microphone in John Doe’s Local Bar

The bookshelf’s stocked with crime novels and old Lonely Planets. I’m an incurable bibliophile so have a quick squizz. There’s also a stack of board games including, to my surprise, Twister. This is a tiny bar and I reckon if the plastic, colour-dotted mat is rolled out the writhing tangle of arms and legs might give some sizzle to the meaning of Happy Hour.

John Doe’s Local Bar is a welcome addition to the grog-scape in this southwestern nook of the CBD. It’s home to some great pubs such as The Duke of Brunswick and the Gilbert Street Hotel but provides an appealing contrast for passers-by and residents. I continue to struggle however, with the notion of “local.” Can a bar or pub be anything but local? A remote or distant bar might really squeeze on the drinking handbrake.

On the surrounding footpaths are wine barrels converted to tables with a sprinkling of brave punters bunched about. It’s a frigid spring afternoon so Claire and I sprint inside and secure a spot. Like the Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey when the astronaut Dave Bowman hurtles through a psychedelic rush of things galactic and trippy, there’s much visual stimuli in this cosy boozer.

A quick scan reveals walls of beer coasters; a footy tipping chart; an old technicolor juke box; posters advertising the meat tray raffle on Fridays, live music, comedy nights and above the bar a small TV is set to Sky Racing with the gallopers in the dusk at Scone and Coleraine. My vista could also be a deleted dream scene from the Big Lebowski or an exhibit in the Tate Modern or Hobart’s MONA.

Approaching the bar there’s a man leaning dangerously into his drink and I wonder if he’s, “Makin’ love to his tonic and gin.” He might be making unwise preparations for Twister Night and mumbles something about buying some shots to which I can minister no helpful advice other than, “Good luck with that.”

I order a Prancing Pony Session Ale for me and a white for Claire and then spy a large wine rack under the big TV. All upright, there’s dozens of bottles shoulder-to-shoulder as if they’re ready for some grim but vague battle. It’s a phalanx of Cabernet Franc. At the end of one shelf is that most celebrated vintage: Coopers Sparkling Ale (750ml). Close inspection reveals these are the highly drinkable 2021.

Claire is most smitten because dotted throughout and in the centre of our table are lit candles. These contribute significantly to the bonhomie. The atmosphere is welcoming lounge room and surely, this must be the aspiration of every small bar. Pubs in Melbourne’s Fitzroy do this well but it’s rare in Adelaide.

On the TV screen next to the orangey, dancing fireplace a cricket match flickers green and gold. It’s Australia v India from Mackay and bowling with O’Reilly briskness is Kapunda’s own Darcie Brown. A couple of days’ ago she took 4/33 and became the youngest Australian female or male to grab four wickets in an ODI. Claire and I comment that Darcie looks like her Uncle Paul and grandfather, Bernie.

Three portly chaps have dropped anchor at the bar and appear as if they might be moored in the marina against an approaching storm. The bar does seem to attract folks from neighbouring homes. They could be here for the BBQ that’s soon to a-sizzle on the footpath or maybe there’ll be karaoke later. It’s a busy, ambitious place. I wonder if they have Macrame Mondays or if I’ve missed Sonnet- Writing September. Minimalism isn’t part of the strategic plan here.

Glancing again at these chaps I’m sure one is Paul and a real estate novelist. And his friend is Davy, who’s still in the navy. He probably will be for life.

Or maybe they’re all professional Twister players.

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Sunday lunch review: J & F Pizza at 58 Cellar Door and Gallery, Port Elliot

For me life’s biggest dilemma remains: is Friday or Sunday the best day for a long lunch? Saturday is often hijacked by sport, shopping, and lawn-mowing but makes up the trifecta. I’m also a fan of strapping on my boots for a Friday lunch marathon that concludes dangerously close to the first appearance of twinkling stars.

But let me tell you about last Sunday’s lunch.

It was set by a leafy vineyard. There were families with kids on the balcony enjoying the mottled sun and a boisterous, happy group was gathered inside for a 60th birthday. We were close to the woodfired pizza oven, and a great vocalist and guitarist in Pat Ramm accompanied our meal and conversation.

We were guests of 58 Cellar Door and Gallery and particularly J & F Pizza run by two local mates, Josh and Frazer.

With champagne, two Meechi Pale Ales (brewed in nearby Langhorne Creek) and a bottle of Thunderbird Cabernet Sauvignon the refreshments were sorted, and our formidable batting lineup was set.

Frazer and Josh are always looking to keep their pizza menu dynamic and so offered us a Four Cheeses pizza as entrée. It was zesty and subtle, and I hope it finds a long-term place for it was an excellent start to our lazy afternoon.

Throughout, we spoke of footy and family and friends and art.

After a digestive interval the main event was upon us: Prawn pizza and one that was half Hot Salami and half Margherita.  At this point there might’ve been mutual food envy. All looked and smelt appealing, and the Hot Salami was especially delicious with the olives and pickled chilli working with and not against the salami.

The acoustic music continued with covers of Neil Young and The Eagles providing a relaxing soundtrack while over at the birthday gathering those good folks were settling into a rhythm too.

Back in my foggy uni days there was a local joint that did a dessert pizza, and I was once tempted although like many student culinary experiences it was horrible.

However, J & F Pizza do a Lemon Curd pizza which with its delicate blend of curd and basil is a fantastic way to round off a lunch at 58 Cellar Door and Gallery.

Moving toward summer and balmy holidays, when you’re next down around Port Elliot on the Southern Fleurieu, I urge you to sample the fine work of J & F Pizza. Find them on (08) 8554 3149 or at no58pizza@gmail.com.

It’s Sunday lunch (and afternoon), done right.

*disclaimer: we luncheoned with Frazer’s parents, Chris and Letitia

6

Sausage Roll Review: The Port Elliot Bakery

It’s a curious and startling world that offers up the first Abba songs in four decades.

And, of course, both tunes feature immaculate vocal melodies, a pretty piano line, and lyrics that are at once sad and grimly triumphant.

But are they really any good? Or do we cut them extra slack just ‘cause they’re Abba?

What if they were a fresh Scandinavian pop outfit, trying to break into the moo-sic business? Would they make it?

Imagine driving to work with the radio tuned to your local Wacky Crew on 99.9 FM. You know the recipe- two guys and a girl all laughing way too heartily at their own jokes and endless torrent of stories about their goofy spouse and madcap kids. Alongside the city’s widest mix of old and new musical slop. Our Wacky Host announces-

“And that was our sixth song this hour by Pink. Up next is a new track by a group from Sweden called Abba.”

I wondered about all of this as I drove to the Port Elliot Bakery and speculated on the connection between Abba and sausage rolls, as I often do.

In the world of South Australian regional bakeries its reputation is colossal, and I imagine, unrivalled. But is it justified? I’d never been in there but just like the Famous Five on Kirrin Island, I was about to find out.

Departing the Southern Expressway, I was suddenly stricken with that ancient fear. What if I arrived and the warmer was devoid of sausage rolls? In forsaken earthly bakeries, no-one can hear you scream. A phone order and all was sorted.

I put on my favourite sausage rolls are a-comin’ playlist (actually a CD of Tame Impala’s Inner Speaker) and stepped on the gas, as they say down south. Doubtless, there’d be gas a-plenty by mid-afternoon if my baked goods form held up.

My Korean kar pulled in across the road from the Port Elliot bakery. Actually, it was outside the Royal Family Hotel. I peered in the window and couldn’t see Charles or Liz or Phil (in an urn above the fireplace). However, I bet Harry was out in the beer garden in a boisterous shout of Sparkling Ale with some old rugger types and soon to request, “Eagle Rock” to his grandmother’s limitless horror.

My sausage roll was huge and if frozen solid, could be used to rob a servo. The pastry was suitably flaky (like Port Power in a home preliminary final as folks other than me might suggest) but not sweaty. Sweaty Sausage Roll Syndrome (SSRS) remains one of this province’s biggest killers of the over 30’s.

I glanced up and saw their sandwich board on the footpath. It self-confidently declared, “Freshly Baked Daily on the premises.” This seemed a minimal achievement to me and should probably be a given in the bakery caper. But how would you react to a sign saying, “All Goods Baked last July in a Distant Anonymous Country”? I thought so.

And while we’re applying some critical thinking to country bakeries, can anyone tell me if there’s a one that’s not award-winning for pies or lamingtons or vegetarian pasties? Yes, they all are because each has signage festooned on the window telling you. It’s like the egg-and-spoon race at a church picnic. Everyone wins a prize even if it’s Best Mushroom and Goat Meat Pie- Barossa District, C Grade, 1994.

The sausage roll innards were peppery and delicious while hinting at delicate spice. It was a most excellent late lunch for a Wednesday. I actually bought two so Claire could sample one later, and that my research could be peer-reviewed. But she’s only coming down on Friday and It’s unlikely to survive until then.

So, you’ll just have to take my word for it. I’m off to listen to “Chiquitita” and the rest of Abba Gold.

0

An Alberton Afternoon

In the dining room there’s an upright piano.

This declares much about the Alberton Hotel: traditional values, a vibrant history, a suggestion of simpler, better times when live music was the entertainment.

Of course, there’s also a sign forbidding anyone to touch it. It’s a truth widely acknowledged that nobody wants their salt and pepper squid sound-tracked by a kid or drunk uncle banging out ‘Chopsticks.’

Still, there’s nostalgic delight in a pub piano.

The front bar bursts with football memorabilia. Framed premiership photos, ancient posters, murals. Both the Magpies and the Power. Which one is it? No, sorry, it doesn’t seem like one club. Drop Igor from Siberia in here and ask him how many clubs he can see. Igor will reply, “Is two.”

But it’s a traditional front bar and promoted on the website as one, ‘enjoyed by all the family’ and there’s kids in here with dad and granddad all around a table, in their Power tops. The atmosphere is pre-match, festive, Saturday.

Velour coats, black cans and fags are in vogue out in the sports garden. There’s a gigantic TV screen showing the early spring races. My Coopers pint is well-priced at $7 and while nursing this, Nature Strip, one of the country’s best sprinters, wins at Randwick.

A brisk shower squalls over as my beef parmigiana arrives, hearty and tasty, with a decent tangle of golden chips (mercifully not buried beneath the schnitzel). My salad includes pickled purple cabbage, and it’s an unexpected treat.

*

Today I’m also making my Alberton Oval debut. How can this be? Unlike Glenelg Oval, parking’s easy and there’s no 2-hour limit. I see no sneering knots of yoof in Everlast tops, and the lawns all look clipped. It’s a handsome suburb with splendid villas and bungalows. I enjoy the walk.

Coming through the Bob McLean Gate, the cheer squad is going off-chops. And we’re still a few minutes before the bounce. I’ve not seen (or heard) a real SANFL cheer squad for years so congratulations Port.

I survey the ground. It’s long and broad and the turf is immaculate. Like the best sporting complexes, it’s a measured mix of the historic and the modern. The old grandstands are low and cosy while the Allan Scott Power Headquarters is sleek but not daunting.

I locate the imagery I was anticipating. The Dry Zone is empty. There’s an octogenarian in knee-high ugg boots. Near me is a skull completely covered in a curious tattoo and then, of course, I see his hairstyle opposite, Greg Anderson, whose locks, I suspect, will forever be 1990. While he was a fine footballer, his Vanilla Ice mullet should also enter various halls of fame.

A bar offers Point Nine beer by Pirate Life. It’s a ‘hop forward ultra-light.’ I ask for a 2007 grand final commemorative lager, the One Hundred and Nineteen, but they’ve sold out.

Unlike Glenelg home matches there’s no shrill, unrelenting music between quarters. Just a welcome chance to chat. Ducking into the Social Club it’s festooned in celebrated iconography. Ebert, the Williams family, Ginever. Unforgivably, no Bomber Clifford. This is a unified crowd, a mob who love their preacher, a bunch happy with their evangelism. Ambling about the ground the sense of community is indisputable.

Port’s in front all game courtesy of a five-goal opening stanza. The swirling breeze makes for scrappy footy punctuated by lightning bursts when one side gets clear. Glenelg’s not been in great form over the past month but has scrambled some last quarter escapes. While the Magpies get good service from some of their AFL types in Hartlett, Mayes and Woodcock they’re not the difference.

After seventeen consecutive wins, with all this significant history looming, Glenelg’s final minor round match is a loss at Alberton. But I’ve enjoyed an afternoon plunged in football culture.

However, and this really disappoints: I don’t spot a single duffle coat.

0

August and Everything After

Quick! There’s only 113 shopping days until Christmas. Let’s make a list. Let’s all watch Love Actually every day between now and then! Let’s eat some rambutans. Let’s write a letter to every winner of Eurovision. Let’s write a poem as if we were a cat. Let’s pretend P!nk is good.

Here’s some photos I took in August.

We love Onkaparinga and ventured down into the gorge.
This West Beach sand graffiti is both innocent and menacing. It’s a symbol of modern life. Or just a picture done one Sunday morning by someone with a stick.
Mystery Pub was at the Historian. How curious that the wall-art depicts people in a pub. Post-modernism, dudes.
Remember that episode of Bear Grylls’ Man v Wild when he makes camp in the Barossa and survives only on mettwurst and big Shiraz?
At the Broady Claire silently recreated her favourite mime. More post-modernism.
Edging the lawn is an endless and futile attempt to control one’s inner and outer worlds.

Happy with our city car park. Number 157 would’ve been a psychological and logistical nightmare.

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Pub Review: Charlie Watts and the Ramsgate

Freshly painted like a Cunard ocean liner, the Ramsgate is a big, majestic seaside pub.

It puts me in mind of similarly white-washed beach-front boozers in Brighton, England and St Kilda in Melbourne. It’s Friday evening and Claire and I are about to dine with Nick and his wife, Chris.

Someone once observed that Glenelg’s Moseley Square is for kids and that you graduate to Henley Square as an adult. I’m not sure the demographics are quite this dichotomous, but it’s a curious thought. I feel lucky that we can enjoy both.

The barkeep speaks my language (a local dialect- Friday Night Thirsty), “We’ve imperial pints for $7.” This was welcome news indeed, but it troubles me that in our tiny colony we differentiate between pints (425ml) and imperial pints (568ml). Surely, a pint is a pint. And I, governor, vote for the big one. It’s like we’ve a South Australian minute that only runs for 45 seconds.

We’re shepherded to our table.

Port and the Bulldogs are playing on multiple screens. A few Januarys’ back Nick and I and some chaps booked lunch in the Ramsgate beer garden to watch the Sydney Test, only to discover that it was showing endless UFC fights. Unable to quickly get some neck tatts we slinked off to the front bar and the gentler magnetisms of cricket.

Nick and I’ve been mates since our Kapunda High days when we bonded over Skyhooks and the Stones’ 1981 album Tattoo You (predating UFC). Later came Midnight Oil and Dylan (for his 21st we gave him a book with the entire collected lyrics of his Bobness) and Nick Cave.

There’s sharing of family histories with ships departing from Hamburg mid-1800’s and Polish Hill and the Victorian goldrush. It’s a compelling privilege to hear the remarkable yarns tracing how you all came to be sitting at the same pub table on an August night. The waiter pays us three patient visits before we’ve decided on our tucker, such is the gusto of our yak. It’s a positive metric.

Claire and Chris finish their bubbles, so Nick asks for a Running with the Bulls Grenache, made in the Barossa. The wine’s Spanish narrative, I’m sure, is designed as a point of difference from the largely German motifs of the valley. Initially, it’s a little sharp but then softens, like a 1950’s hospital matron.

Nick and I have the first of our compulsory conversations about the Rolling Stones and again agree that “Gimme Shelter” is their finest song. I mention reading once of its opening being characterised by “apocalyptic dread” while Nick speaks in awe of Merry Clayton’s backing vocals, probably the most revered in music history.

War, children
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Given Charlie Watts’ passing days after our discussion this chat now seems a little haunted.

Claire enjoys her butter chicken while Chris and I each settle upon the lime-infused squid. There’s no audible complaining. Nick’s steak is delayed due to human error, which philosophically, I’d argue, is the only real type of error. Ultimately, he’s pleased with it.

There would seem to be Teal-flavoured human error aplenty on the big screens for at half-time in the footy Port’s only managed a solitary goal. The pub’s front door is shut so we can’t hear the yelping from Alberton.

It’s a prosperous and lively place, this Ramsgate and our night’s replete with conversation, cups and respectable nosh.

Tomorrow night’s a full moon. We stroll up the balmy, windless esplanade for a nightcap.

0

Macbeth marks strongly but misses to the near side

How evocative to attend the Goodwood Theatre for a performance of Macbeth.

It’s a play I’ve been spellbound by since I was at school and studied it in Mrs Maloney’s class. When she was a teenager this small theatre is also where my wife Claire made her theatrical debut in Lola Montez but, Your Honour, to my continuing shame I have no recollection of this.

While I’d read and taught the Scottish play countless times, the recent realisation that I’d never seen it on stage startled me. The Goodwood stage was raked towards the audience at an alarming angle and was diamond-shaped. It made me concerned that the artistes might tumble onto the spectators and make us unwitting, additional victims of the supernatural bloodletting.

Our state premier Mr Steven Marshall took his seat just in front of us. Looking like a Kelvinator draped in shapeless black shade cloth, his personal security chap sat next to him. I decided to behave myself. Given the play is about civil mayhem and assassination it is surely tax deductible for all aspiring and upright politicians. I trust Mr Marshall kept his ticket stub. Regicide’s always in vogue.

The production was arresting and visceral and I since discovered an article which argued that in this most sinister of Shakespearean texts made notorious by words such as dagger, cauldron and weird the most unsettling word is the.

Best illustrated by this famous section as lady Macbeth urges her husband-

Your hand, your tongue. Look like th’ innocent flower,

But be the serpent under ’t.”

Academics argue that instead of using the generic a, the definite article the as in the serpent rather than a serpent implies an underlying idea, a lurking agency and invests it with greater menace and unknown symbolism.

*

Friday afternoon in the city and Claire led me by the hand along the harried streets as we evaded the suits and clots of yoof and e-scooters. I felt warm anticipation and the joy of unveiling surprise for it was the monthly moment of personally curated escape that is Mystery Pub.

Tucked away in an almost secreted nook The Historian is like a summery London boozer as the punters were a-throng outside and in. Squeezed in around a pillar on our stools there was pub clamour and buzzing bustle. I was reminded of Jordan in the Great Gatsby who remarked that she loved big parties because, “they’re so intimate.” Our conversation took on a conspiratorial quality and we could’ve been Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in isolated Dunsinane castle, save for the murderous scheming and horrific descent into lonely madness.

*

I took Alex and Max and their mates to the Glenelg v Centrals game Saturday and can report that the five of them saw upwards of five minutes of footy, collectively. This healthy apathy transported me back to Kapunda games as a kid when the match was often just a loose backdrop, a vague context that gave shape to the afternoon. What a marvellous fortune to be able to take in this beachside frivolity in the late winter. And kids under 18, are admitted free!

During the A grade when I was about ten I ran after my footy among the pine trees behind Freeling Oval and almost stepped on a snake catching some winter warmth. Heart a-pumpin’ I stopped and then like a lorry took a wide arc to snatch my Lyrebird footy. Again, Macbeth and its reptilian imagery comes to mind-

We have scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it.

She’ll close and be herself, whilst our poor malice

Remains in danger of her former tooth.

*

Our Sunday morning pattern is to take the dogs Buddy and Angel (Buddy and Angel does sound like a dreadful movie in which two unlikely LA cops solve a previously impenetrable crime and win grudging praise from the grumpy Chief of Police) down the beach for a scamper among other hounds and humans.

The winter storms have dumped giant mounds of seaweed over the sand. On the grey, swirling days I could almost sense the hideous witches from Macbeth huddled over a bubbling pot, described thus

By each at once her choppy finger laying

Upon her skinny lips: you should be women,

And yet your beards forbid me to interpret

That you are so.

It’s an invigorating and elemental way to begin a Sunday and the brisk air does us good and Angel, such a timid, delicate puppy, yelps with delight and leaps like a hare. She’s a beach dog, more Enid Blyton than The Bard.

*

My old school friend Chris, now splitting his time between Angaston (Ango) and Adelaide texted asking me of my Wednesday night plans. I replied, “What have you in mind?”

My phone buzzed with his clear wish- “Meat and three veg.”

So we took our meat and (limited to potato) veg at the Duke of Brunswick. Unlike the charmless beer barns of the anonymous suburbs this pub’s an inner-city delight. Warm, snug and with glowing lighting it invites talk of hometown mates and ancient bonds.

In my week of diverse gratefulness, this is another luminous episode.

While the Duke of Brunswick is well-named there’s other British pubs like the Ape and Apple, The Cat and Custard Pot Inn and The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn (try the ploughman’s lunch).

But I’d opt for the title given Macbeth just before he slays King Duncan-

              The Thane of Cawdor.

That’d be an apt boozer for a gloomy winter’s night.

0

Glenelg v Norwood: Quarter Time in Chernobyl

“If only people would label things,” announces Trev.

Instead of “Hello, how are you?” this is his customary greeting, and he lurches up to the table.

Pete also pulls out his chair in the Glenelg footy club bistro. We remove our masks. We have permission. We will be drinking and eating while seated. No vertical consumption. Just vigorous consumption. We all grew up in Kapunda.

Of course, straight away we speak of Chernobyl and Fukushima, both Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Afterall, we’re about to watch a battle between first and fifth on the SANFL ladder. Traditional rivals. Finals loom.

I mention an old friend who grew up in Poland and was at kindergarten during the Chernobyl incident in 1986. She remembers being told to not go out in the playground the week after the No.4 reactor went on the fritz. Trev wonders if they closed the kindy windows too. You know, as a precaution.

Lunch arrives and it’s excellent. The boys are on the Japanese beers. It may be a Fukushima tribute. I’m on Little Creatures pale ale. It’s not a Fremantle tribute. We’re all pleased we don’t have shares in the Pripyat pub, near the frozen Ferris wheel.

We claim our seats on the 50-metre arc, at the southern end, just in front of the Edward Rix Stand. Pete’s happy to be catching some Vitamin D. I’d never abbreviate this sentence to “catching some VD.” He and his family’s only just completed a fortnight of quarantine after his wife was caught in a “hotspot” at the Burnside hospital. When I was a boy Lennie’s, The Planet and Heaven on West Terrace were the only hotspots.

The footy’s underway. Norwood’s dominating and we’re chasing. Mercifully, the Kernahan End goals prove repellent and the quarter time score is like losing your Titanic boarding pass- a near disaster.

It’s cloudy over the hills, but sunny by the beach. We wonder if it’s hailing in Belair. Other Kapunda mates are at Williamstown in the Barossa as the Bombers try to sneak into the finals. Up there’s a very wet winter. Trev wonders if it’s more suited to submariners. I ask about folks eating a marinara sub. It’s probably bad news for all.

We speak about life with the virus like we’re in an Atwood novel. I mention that the night before we were supposed to go see the Whitlams at the Gov. A Sydney band, I maintain their best song’s titled “Melbourne” about a girl, “who calls her dog The Bear.” But the Eastern seaboard lockdown means they couldn’t come. Of course, if they were GWS, they could. We wonder about the injustice of this. Footy and live music are both in the bucket called entertainment.

There’s talk of Clare wineries such as Skillogalee which was just sold by our former PE teacher and footy coach.  Pete announces he’s embarking on a cabernet sauvignon self-education course. He’s become too comfortable with shiraz. Trev and I chorus, “Coonawarra.”

Pete mentions popular racehorse Morty, which shares a name with an identity back home in Kapunda. I check to see if it’s done well. It hasn’t. The Astrologist salutes at Flemington in race 8 for me. My horoscope told me it would.

It still looks dark and wet up in the Hills. We wonder how the footy’s going in Belair. Good day for back men we reckon. At half-time in Glenelg there’s kick and catch. There’s only been seven goals thus far and we wonder if the game’ll open up in the second half.

Trev played drums in some prominent Adelaide bands including Imelda’s Shoes. Still a great name, we agree. He was asked to audition for another band but declined as he was happy where he was. They were called The Superjesus.

A prodigious kick, Pete played full back for Kapunda in the 1987 grand final. They lost to Tanunda. The day started warm, but it was pouring by the final siren. I remember driving home from Freeling in a mate’s Torana. In the cassette deck was popular saxophonist Grover Washington’s Winelight and, “Just The Two Of Us” with Bill Withers on vocals. It features extensive use of steel drums, but we don’t mention this.

Inflicted with the same calamity as the AFL there’s loudspeaker music at the breaks and it’s too loud. A splash of plutonium in the footy club PA could be timely.

Then Pete talks of the trip he and his family made recently to Port Arthur and its tragic natural beauty and I speak of Arkaroola as a single-visit only destination to use a tourism term I just invented. Then we discuss the Prince of Wales pub back home going on the market for the first time in nearly forty years.

Like Hawthorn for most of this century, Glenelg find a way, somehow with a seven-goal last term burst. Former Tiger cub Richard Douglas kicks a late major for the Redlegs and this irritates some in the boisterous crowd. The Bays are now 15 and zip. It’s still looks grim over Belair, but Chernobyl oval’s in the longest winter of all.

We’ll all watch the footy together again soon.

2

More Things I Like

Knowing that if Gough Whitlam had come over you’d, “play chess and drink claret”

Adelaide Oval’s Morton Bay Figs

Bringing in the bins Fridays after an hour in the pub

Helping our 99-year-old neighbour sort her Foxtel

Kapunda Footy Club being among the world’s oldest and playing under its original name

Garry McIntosh’s handball

Lamb cigars from The Broadway butcher shop

Degraves laneway in Melbourne

Hertfordshire’s Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub

Staring at the Grand Canyon from its Western Rim

DK Lillee’s delivery stride

Exile on Main Street’s dangerous sprawl

The surreal sadness of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Whyalla’s Bottle and Bird as a concept

Bung fritz

Onkaparinga National Park

Listening to Islands in the Stream with old friends

The Old Gum Tree’s barbeques being regularly cleaned by the local council

My wife leaving chocolate on the laptop keyboard

“Let’s Give a Cheer for Father” from the Looney Tunes cartoon, A Bear for Punishment

Glenelg Footy Club’s past players’ beer caravan

“I’ll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse. Playing cricket is not.”

Joni Mitchell’s guitar playing on Blue

Fleabag

Op Shop radios always being not quite tuned to a golden oldies AM station

Damien Martyn stroking one through the off-side

Listening to Skyhooks in a HQ Holden

Getting married on the lawn of our old high school

Having our wedding reception in our hometown footy club

The beauty and satire of “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)” by Father John Misty

Getting a giant pillow of chips from a fish shop

Being round a table with friends and all knowing the story someone’s about to tell

The 42-minute version of Wichita Lineman by the Dick Slessig Combo

Picking mint leaves from the garden for a gin

Changing my wife’s car radio to Triple J

When my boys finally said “thanks” without prompting

The Ned Ryerson scene in Groundhog Day- Bing!

Pubs with Friday night meat raffles

Scorsese’s use of the slide guitar and piano coda from “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes in Goodfellas

Sylvia’s Mother

Noel’s Caravans

Tex, Don and Charlie

Opening a Barossa shiraz to share with Dad

The bawdy humour and joy of Under Milkwood

Saying, “West Coast Eagles” in my head and it only being in Dennis Cometti’s voice

Julia Jacklin’s plaintive melodies

John Cusack’s character breaking the fourth wall in High Fidelity

Chook as a concept

Chook salt as a concept

Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections

My wife buying me an unexpected gift

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel

Kalamata olives

The Indianapolis Speech from Jaws

The Fish Tales pinball machine

Sid Waddell commentating, “There’s only one word for that: magic darts!”

0

My July

Like the chorus of The Knack’s solitary 1979 hit “My Sharona” July was a rollicking treat as the following photographic record will attempt to show.

It was cold, but if we’d Icelandic guests I’m sure I’d have gotten up in the mornings and found them on the back lawn, sunbathing and sipping a drink through a curly novelty straw while playing Bjork on an old ghetto-blaster they’d found in my shed next to the mower and by the skimming shovel I bought at the Cleve Field Days.

A poet once described jetties as being “umbilical cords” to our better selves. They’re also freezing in winter. Jetties, not the cords.
While on our bi-annual Carrackalinga escape we popped in at Forktree Brewery. One reviewer labelled it, “beery.”
On our annual city trip we went to the museum, home of the Giant Squid. Alas, no accompanying Giant Chips.
The city trip began at the Tree Climb and this involved climbing trees.
July’s Mystery Pub was the Lady Burra and there were candles. NB- Claire suggests the Apple Cider could drop a horse. Caution urged!
This shark swallow you whole!
Lockdown required a fire and a Southward mug (c. 1992) of Sparkling Ale (c. 2021)

2

Mystery Pub

“As we enter our autumn years, we’ll need other hobbies apart from going to the pub,” Claire said philosophically, if not medically.

“But we already do,” I replied, possibly a little sensitively, “We research pubs, talk about pubs, and I write about pubs,” I added self-consciously, if not metacognitively.

A well-being expert (not Tony Abbott) once said that there’s three ingredients for a good and happy life: something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. Mystery Pub neatly meets all three once a month for an hour. What a psychologically robust concept it is. So affirming.

Our wedding photographers said the best photos of couples are not when they’re kissing, but the moment just before, when there’s the briefest space and time. It invites the photo’s audience to imagine what next happens and engages them more actively. It’s delicious. Maybe Friday afternoons in a dappled beer garden are like this too. All expectation and simmering bliss. Or maybe that’s a silly stretch or an inappropriate analogy.

But I love the pub for an hour on Friday afternoons.

No more than sixty minutes. Watching strangers arrive, all animated and bustling. I wonder about their lives and private joys and terrors. Then the gradual uplift of buzzing chat punctuated by ruptures of laughter. A chance for Claire to try a new shiraz. I sample a craft ale. The promise dangling in front of a weekend. The transition between work and play.

Our shared, joyous cusp.

Here’s a retrospective of our Mystery Pubs. Some have been triumphant (Mount Mary) while others a little underwhelming (Forth) but still worthy of a visit. The architecture, the history, the mise en scene. Some are female (Lady Burra, Mount Mary, Grace Emily) and others are male (Duke, Benjamin) while some are geographic with Inglewood connoting LA and West Oak evoking medieval England (Meet me at the West Oak, not the East Oak and we shall duel to the death with our jousting sticks).

Anyway, August is Claire’s pick, and I look forward to ambling in for that idyllic hour of escape and discovery.

10/12- The Golden Wattle

19/11- West Thebby Social Club

30/10- Bowden Brewing

24/9- John Doe’s Local Bar

13/8/21- The Historian

2/7/21- Lady Burra Brewhouse

4/6/21 – Grace Emily

7/5/21- The Kentish

4/4/21- Inglewood Inn

5/3/21- Parkside Hotel

6/2/21- West Oak

22/1/21- Mount Mary

12/12/20- Forth (Jetty Road, Glenelg)

20/11/20- Maylands

18/9/20- Duke of Brunswick

15/8/20- Benjamin on Franklin

0

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.

4

Affection in Aisle 7

He paused in Aisle 7.

He usually found it difficult to become animated in hardware stores and this aisle was more mundane than most. It was late Saturday afternoon, and this was not a place he frequented at this point in the week, but he studied the shelving supports and thought about the choice he had to make.

The burden of his errand was lightened by the glow of a cocooned morning and the golden promise of their evening together on the darkening patio, on the lounge and then, finally, drifting into slumber. He spotted the bag of white shelving supports and considered these. He’d come for the transparent ones but was changing his mind.

He pulled out his phone and rang her and felt a frisson of love and shared investment as the ringing continued. She answered and their words were necessarily technical, but the subtext was soaring. As he drove back to their quiet street it already ranked among his favourite phone calls for the connection and the exquisite exchange gripped his heart.

Later, the subterranean intimacy and joy of their ninety second chat stayed with him like a film, and he would smile to himself over the following days when he remembered their triumphant little phone call.

0

Our passage through life

As his car skulked towards the lights, he scanned the intersection and then southward along the blurred footpath.

Sometimes he’d see all of her but often his eye would be caught by a detail: the sunlight bouncing on her tumbling hair, or the shapely elegance of her skirt, or the work basket, bursting with her cleverness.

He loved these arrangements. For some they’d be a burden, an interruption to a busy day but for him these sparkled with private joy. They represented a chance to connect in the mysterious city so he could make her passage through life easier.

These transactions were about much more than dropping off the car.

If these domestic details were shared with friends at the pub or over a coffee they’d quickly drift off into their own orbit, and the words would quietly flutter away like confetti. Who can truly know of the innermost machinery of strangers? Sustainable intimacy doesn’t happen only in a restaurant or in a tropical resort. He nodded with the thought that it happened on Friday mornings navigating the glacial traffic along a major arterial while plotting to relieve the knotty demands of each other’s responsibilities.

He eased into a car park and saw her more closely now. The always-generous smile, ever open to bright possibility. Her eyes alert and warm. He knew their history, and some of what they’d seen. Alongside those blue eyes he’d gaze later at the sunset over the sea when despite the waves and the gulls and the passing couples they’d sit alone.

Trying to invest the sound with his surprised fortune that she was about to enter the cabin, he tooted the car horn.

She looked up and was smiling.

0

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.