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The Wedding of Nugg and Loz

Last October the Kimba crew were in a Yorke Peninsula winery but it was closing early because of a wedding reception. The rustic setting was decorated in bright colours and a large sign announced the nuptials of Nugg and Loz. We speculated on the nature of the father of the bride speech over shiraz and a charcuterie , Chaka Chan platter. It was a funny lunch.

Any resemblance to persons living or otherwise is tremendous.

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Good evening, everyone, and welcome to Nugg and Loz’s wedding. I’m proud to be giving this father of the bride speech. Don’t you agree that what we saw earlier was a moving and beautiful ceremony?  

I want to start by thanking everyone for coming here to the reception tonight at the Currabunga/Nungeedowner/St Frumentius Cricket Club. Even though the windows were all stolen yesterday I don’t think it’s too cold in here at all. I just heard that Fred’ll be back soon with two blankets so that’ll help. It’s lovely here, though, isn’t it? Well, at least it is now that the blizzard is over.

A big thanks as well to everyone who’s assisted with the catering. I’m confident when I say that these are the finest egg and brussel sprout sandwiches that’ve ever been served at a wedding.

Today, December 15, is also Sam the butcher’s birthday. Sam grew up a long, long way from here in Cairns and we learnt ukulele together as kids. Although he’s never visited here and as near as I can tell none of you has heard of him, I thought it important to mark this date.

As you can see, Loz or Lauren as her mother and me and Uncle Dennis named her, inherited her stunning looks from her mother, definitely not me.

You’ve become a strong, independent woman. We’re all so proud of you Loz and especially your decision to start your own plumbing business. It’s the finest plumbing business in Currabunga. It might be the only plumbing business in Currabunga, but I’ll stand by these words.

We also know that deciding to run your own plumbing business without a vehicle is challenging. We’ve all seen you out on your bicycle riding around town, carrying broken toilets and washing machines and kitchen sinks under your right arm as you steer your wobbling bike with your left. This is surely a sign of your determination, Loz.

Now to Jayden or Nugg as everyone here knows you. Loz’s mother Beryl and I have long had our eye on you as a very talented young man. Once I first noticed you as a twelve-year-old when you came 5th in the fielding trophy for the Currabunga/Nungeedowner/St Frumentius Cricket Club Under 10’s, I knew you’d be a leader in our town. Maybe one day you’ll tell me your secret. I was never much of a cricketer. I guess it doesn’t help that I didn’t learn to swim.

I’m not a man of endless words; honestly, I’m more comfortable playing a ukulele to my pet goats around the woodshed, but I do want to say that Jane, sorry, Loz, has been the light of my life.

Now, a little birdie told me that these two newlyweds have planned a very exciting honeymoon. Tomorrow Nugg and Loz are leaving the Currabunga/Nungeedowner/St Frumentius Cricket Club and cycling forty minutes east to achieve their life-long dream. And do I hear you ask where are they going? Yes, you guessed it! To Jones Valley and its world-famous Dishwasher Museum.

And now, as I end this father of the bride speech, I’d like to raise a toast to my daughter and son-in-law. I wish the two of you the very best in the years ahead.

To Nugg and Loz and a beautiful future.

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To Alex and Max, on our Melbourne Trip

Hello there boys

There’s endless excitement in the alarm buzzing at 4.15, when dawn is hours away, and with surprise and shared adventure, a holiday stretches out before us. This trip was special. It was our first time on a plane for years and we’d planned it together.

By mid-morning when we sat down to a late breakfast on Degraves Street we’d taken an Uber, caught a plane, hopped on the express Skybus, and with luggage dragging behind, had ambled from Southern Cross Station to our apartment. Perhaps to complete the set we should’ve each ridden a unicycle to the footy.

Much of this now appears in my mind like a private film screening. In distinct scenes I can see you both walking by the Yarra and through Carlton Gardens to the museum and along Jolimont Road to the MCG. You’re chatting constantly about everything and anything. As brothers you’re robust and occasionally fierce, but this is what I’d long hoped for and imagined. These pictures are already precious and timeless.

At Australia’s museum of screen culture, ACMI, many of the displays dated from before you were born but you both entered this historical world with enthusiasm. I love your interest in culture and when you jumped in the box dedicated to the music show Countdown Alex immediately yelled, ‘Take a photo, take a photo!’ You knew this was important and so made a bid to me.

Just after lunch on Saturday we were on Swan Street in Richmond gawping through salesrooms at the luxury cars. We saw Lamborghinis, Ferraris and finally, a Rolls Royce Ghost. Its price tag featured, in smallish black print: $1,100,000. We were startled. Max provided a running commentary on all the makes and models while around us, puffer-jacketed men sipped lattes and signed on the dotted line. It was fun.

I loved zipping through the Sunday brunch crowd in the Queen Victoria Markets as you both ate a chocolate croissant (the breakfast of champions). Outside it teemed down in typically Melbourne style as our nostrils were overpowered by fresh mullet and Coffin Bay oysters.

After examining clothes and books we explored a movie poster stall and flicking through the Coen brothers and Wes Anderson sections you both said, ‘How about this one, Dad?’ or ‘You like this one, don’t you?’ I still can’t believe there was no Lebowski.

A highlight was the IMAX cinema at the museum. We’d not all been together at a film for ages – the last time was probably something from the Marvel universe. We were right at the front and the screen was the size of a couple megalodons. It was the 3D documentary, Antarctica and we had on our funny black glasses. It was narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, which Max found amusing to say repeatedly and as the film began, he reached out his hand and grabbed at the air while whispering, ‘Dad I can touch the words of the credits.’

There were funny moments across the weekend, and these then bobbed up and were giggled at again and again. On Friday night at the Docklands match three Bulldogs defenders all flew for a mark and all three touched it before the umpire blew his whistle and awarded it. I said, ‘I don’t think marking should be a group assignment’ and you laughed.

Then there was the guy at Saturday’s MCG game in the row in front of us who liked to chat and chat and chat about Richmond and Geelong and North Melbourne and then North Melbourne. And after the final siren in the 60,000-throng pressing along Daniher Way, he eyed me again and promptly took up where he’d left. After Alex said, ‘Dad, did you enjoy that convo?’ I’m quite surprised that he’s not rung.

Throughout our days there was unrelenting action and playfighting and laughter. It was enchanted. On each morning, I’d come up the elevator all sweaty from my run along the Yarra, gently turn the key and creep inside. Edging open your bedroom door, I’d glimpse in.

You were both still asleep.

Thanks.

Dad

xx

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Tramping through Tanunda

David Franz Winery

My fifty-second consecutive day of jogging four kilometres begins at our Valley Hotel apartment. I cut through the beers garden (note plural: who has just one beer?) and consider how often I’ve run to, but never away from a pub.

Tanunda’s Murray Street is Barossa vine-zero and already enjoying pedestrian traffic with tourists and locals shuffling in and out of the coffee shops and bakeries. A community market’s on and the sun catches the golden varnished pine of trucks and steamrollers and assorted wooden toys.

Scurrying along Bilyara Road I recall that Wolf Blass has a shiraz named Bilyara. Us Kapunda folk used to frequent his winery and I wonder if Claire and I should invest a nostalgic hour but given that the Barossa now hosts one hundred and fifty cellar doors perhaps we should keep our visits to novel vinous venues.

It’s downhill past the Tanunda Oval which is being widened to accommodate (hopefully) SANFL footy and first-class cricket. A second, smaller oval for the kids is under development although the skyline’s disarmingly clear because many ancient trees were felled for this progress.

It’s just after eight on the Queen’s Birthday holiday so it’s effectively Sunday. A ute rumbles past with a dog hanging out the window.

Glancing over towards the wicket area I remember a Colts cricket game when I was fielding at very short leg as in thundered my mate Rocket. Already scary quick, in a few brisk years he’d be selected to play Sheffield Shield. The only helmets within the postcode were, I suspect, on the bonces of a bikie gang as they made their philanthropical way towards the pub.

The Tanunda batsman and I were shaking in equal measure, but it was worse for him as with trembling mitts he was attempting to keep hold of some dreadfully narrow willow. As the Kookaburra collected his head the crack was awful, preternaturally percussive, and he dropped to the concrete pitch, a flannelled tangle. Deeply concerned (well, as concerned as boys become regarding matters of physical safety), we rushed to his splayed self, and knew he was fine when he announced weakly, ‘You bastards.’

Now on Langmeil Road and pushing towards my halfway mark I’m taken by the wide, tree-lined boulevard and its handsome homes.

It’s crisp and mercifully still as the ferocious front of the previous week has absconded. According to Mum and Dad it plonked nearly five inches at their place on the Greenock side of Nuriootpa.

Approaching the brashly-monikered and tucked-away cellar door Riesling Freak, I vow to visit prior to the first Test against the Windies given that cricket and white wine seasons conflate. As the gleaming folk of HR might say, some useful synergies may then be generated.

I pull up puffing at Langmeil Wines where my wife marked a significant birthday. We all then traipsed, with purpled glasses in hand, to Peter Lehmann’s and the now defunct Richmond Grove wineries.

But today we’ll explore the Barossa Valley Estates and David Franz cellar doors. Given the affection with which we know the earthy and personal contours of this valley, I’m hoping for both wistful memory and shared discovery.

Barossa Valley Estates

I turn back towards the town centre.

On Fechner Drive (highly Barossan nomenclature) there’s a single vine on an empty block. It’s still smeared with shrivelled black dots and I wonder what happens with its annual fruit yield. Birds, possums, furtive backyard vignerons?

Across the road is a lemon tree bursting with confident blobs, already tennis ball-sized and auditioning for Van Gogh’s yellow period. Then there’s a pastoral counterpoint: an olden stone barn with rusting implements scattered about with the entire mise en scène evoking the original German settlement.

I notice a succession of peppercorn trees and recall the one a nine iron from my childhood home, where under its secretive branches was an enchanted space of games and invention. These, I decide, are the trees of innocence while surging, aspirational gums are for adults.

Nicking through the Tanunda Oval I recollect a rare win in my first year of senior footy for the Bombers. I wonder at the pronounced south to north slope of the ground. As a kid this escaped me.

On the canteen wall, the chalk on the Magpie menu blackboard shows hotdogs are $5 and this seems about right. In the clubrooms under the grandstand, I assume mettwurst and port remain available for the stalwarts.

I skirt the white terrace benches by the southern goal and remember dark, wintry afternoons as a kid scampering around in my footy boots. These silent symbols have been there forever and are redolent of all that’s nurturing and treasured about long past Saturdays.

My fourth and final kilometre concludes as I burst back through the Valley Hotel’s beer garden.

Random granite blocks (and man) at Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park
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A Butcher of Victorville Pale Ale at the Greenock Brewers

It was a perfect half hour.

We strolled in, exchanged greetings with mine hosts and were offered a beer. It was then that we learnt the nostalgic truth.

At the Greenock Brewers Chris and Lisa Higgins sell tremendous beers in bottles and on tap. And, most wonderfully, they can offer you a butcher of beer too.

In a world where the blind madness of upsized consumption has held us to ransom by making us believe we need more and bigger serves of everything from homes to cars to buckets of popcorn at the cinema, being served a beer in a 200ml glass is of great comfort and wistful joy.

Urban myth suggests the Newmarket Hotel in Adelaide first served a butcher of beer to workers from nearby cattle yards, and so the term entered the local vernacular.

Garden-fresh from lunch at the Greenock pub, Nick, Chrisso and I wandered through the shadows of Laucke’s flour mills having decided upon a quick visit and concluding refreshment.

I’m confident it was the first butcher I’d had this millennium. Most pubs no longer stock schooner or butcher glasses and therefore it’s a pint or you’re spitting feathers.

It was instantly the mid-1980s and I was being taught to pull a beer (along with old mate Davo) at the Kapunda Golf Club by Gus Higgins (who was Chris’s uncle). Suddenly all of us were far skinnier but had fatter hair. Allan Border was Australian cricket captain. There were Kingswoods parked outside too.

The Victorville Pale Ale is fiendishly easy to consume. It’s zesty and agreeable and sparkles with citrus notes. I also purchased a six pack for medical and research purposes. If it’d been an hour later, we might’ve dropped anchor and cancelled our evening plans and had a second butcher.

With this nostalgic tone set we spoke of our past, most notably Kapunda icon Skeeta and shared stories of his footy exploits and his drinking exploits and his drinking at footy exploits. Many of us associate Skeeta instantly with the Holden Torana, more particularly his being driven and then not being driven, largely as it frequently ended up in exotic places where a Torana shouldn’t be.

With the golden Barossa light bending across the brewery and through the windows we shared more stories and then it was time for Nick, Chrisso and I to point our non-Torana cars homewards.

I’d enjoyed the beer, and the company enormously. I couldn’t wait until the next time I’d drink a butcher.

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Vinyl Records for Velociraptors

My quest for nostalgic albums continues and I swing between Mr V Music of Semaphore and The Record Store in Warradale. Here’s some recent purchases and my meanderings on how these are autobiographically illustrative. That’s surely the purpose of music: to allow for and encourage personal connection.

I had much Billy Joel in my diet when I was young. Mum and Dad’s collection included his album 52nd Street which I enjoyed but The Stranger is his best record and features his finest song, ‘Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.’ Inspired by side two of the Beatles’ Abbey Road and its unbroken suite of songs I love how Billy Joel structures this narrative of doomed lovers Brenda and Eddie within the framing story of the old school friends dining together. There’s nostalgia and romance and Dixieland jazz and a great piano solo. It was among the first long songs (7minutes, 37 seconds) I got to know as well as Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 11 minute, ‘I Heard it Through The Grapevine.’ These are wonderful for losing myself in and allowing the narrative possibilities to unfold.

Certain artists are forever associated with particular people growing up and The Beach Boys remind me of Davo, who was in my year at school and lived up the street. He also had the vinyl of Dream Police by Cheap Trick, and we’d play that at huge volume when his folks were out. Claire and I featured, ‘I Can Hear Music’ at out wedding ceremony and many would agree that ‘God Only Knows’ is among the greatest love songs despite it not actually using rhyme but repetition with the second and third verses both having ‘me’ to end each of the eight lines. If I was imprisoned and forced to listen to one of those Pink FM-type radio stations and some cow-eyed poppet came on and wailed eight verse lines in a row that ended with an identical word I’d screech back with unholy bug-eyed salivation but such is the symphonic beauty of Brian Wilson’s melody that we accommodate his lyrical curiosity.

This record evokes my hometown of Kapunda when I was in Year 11. It takes me back to that summer and teenaged parties and driving around town in our old cars. I think of that New Year’s Eve at Stephen’s which, of course, was much anticipated, unlike now when these nights are mostly to be endured and midnight comes as a relief and at 12.01 one dives enthusiastically into the cot from the bedroom door. ‘It’s Raining Again’ is a sweet song that conjures both sadness and happiness and memories of dear old friends while the record’s finest tune, ‘Bonnie’ is built around an uplifting melody despite the lyrics being about a man stalking a famous actress, so no harm there. I just need a copy of Crime of the Century to complete my Supertramp set along with Crisis. What Crisis, Breakfast in America, and Even in the Quietest Moments.

Paul McCartney is my favourite Beatle and a woman I worked with taught his kids in St John’s Wood at their local school. She was utterly mad but I like that Paul and Linda didn’t send their offspring to some fox hunting snootery. Again, this record features his boyishly optimistic love song, ‘Listen to What the Man Said’ and we included it our wedding ceremony. The soprano saxophone solo makes it soar with pure joy. It’s redolent of London’s Hyde Park on a cloudless summer day.

One of jazz’s most significant texts, this double album runs for 93 minutes and is at once demanding, beautiful, and dangerous. Urban myth suggests Davis recorded it after being inspired by Hendrix’s famous guitar-on-fire set at Woodstock. It’s not one I often play when Claire’s home but I have made it part of Alex’s education and happily, he wasn’t horrified by it. One night last week during his daily bathroom residency I heard another Miles Davis album drifting from under the door so it’s good to know my parenting is now complete. Whew! I’m keen to also buy 1959’s Kind of Blue and John Coltrane’s saxophonic hymn, A Love Supreme.

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Mystery Pub: The Earl of Leicester

Puffer jackets.

We loathe them. I’m sure these are highly functional and sensibly priced. But to my poisoned eye they (and their owners) carry with them a sense of entitlement and an accompanying superiority complex. Yes, it’s an irrational hatred, and I suspect it’s incurable. But a pub review is surely a place for honesty regarding issues sartorial.

At the bar there’s two middle-aged men. Trim. Clean shaven. Quietly spoken. Enjoying a Friday afternoon wine. And they’re wearing navy blue puffer jackets.

The Earl of Leicester is dark and snug. We take our seats by the fire. It’s blazing away and the effect is instantly comforting. Australian pubs suffer often from too much light and white space. Think modern suburban taverns with a bland sensibility and fatal lack of intimacy. No such troubles here this afternoon. The pub’s timbers are warm of hue and homely and this is especially enhanced as it’s decidedly Arctic outside. Winter is icumen in. We could be in the Cotswolds or by the Thames.

A table or two along a task-oriented couple is attacking their early pizza dinner (it’s before 5pm so they could be holidaying Queensland pensioners) and bottle of red. They’re sharing a comfortable, loud-munching silence. Eating here seems like a good choice for the dining area is big and visually charmless, as is sometimes the way. I pop my head into the beer garden and it’s more obligation than destination. Folks expect one and this one presents as a concrete afterthought. But the front of the pub is excellent.

It’s Claire’s turn to order and I opt for an XPA. Like the tomato and me, we share a complex relationship for I often find it disappointing in the application but continue to subscribe to the concept. Today the Balter XPA is sharp and spiky, and I approve. Claire has an Angove’s red and finds it agreeable. Late Friday afternoon is always an agreeable time, and The Earl of Leicester reminds me of what King Duncan said (ironically) of Macbeth’s home

This castle hath a pleasant seat. The air

Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself

Unto our gentle senses.

On our way out to the dark car park I suggest to Claire, ‘For every puffer jacket I spot in the bar, I’ll buy myself a longneck of Sparkling Ale.’

2

Goodbye to a faithful friend

In the end it was deceptively quick.

As should always happen in these situations, mercy prevailed. With no witness and limited ceremony I simply nodded briefly and acted swiftly.

Appropriately, it was in the grey light of Wednesday’s unremarkable dawn. A dawn that would be forgotten as soon as it was complete.

The symptoms revealed themselves late last week: feverish temperature; ungainly sweats, internal functioning becoming increasingly laboured. I wished that a simple solution were available. Experts were consulted and their chorus was clear and while sympathetic it was unanimous: a terminal prognosis.

Our relationship had endured for over a decade, and to my shame I admit that I took far more than I gave. I offered rare gratitude but demanded constantly. I heard no complaints.

Of course, I became grief-stricken when faced with the grim inevitability of the pending loss. As the sun struggled up in the east that morning my despair hurtled towards me. Why is it only when the final hour descends that we pause and show the kindness we’ve failed to display previously?

Yes, dear reader, my beer fridge was dead.

I turned off the power. The Southwark mugs that for long years had been kept crisply chilled in the freezer were now thawing in the feeble June sun.

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Mystery Pub: Jimmy’s Bar and Grill

When I worked in the city I walked past it often but dismissed it.

The problem was that I have a stereotypical image of a bar in my head and it’s not entirely complimentary. A bar is pokey and dark and found in Brooklyn and this is great if you happen to be in New York but I’m predisposed to a pub. For me, Jimmy’s Bar and Grill isn’t a label that fills me with curiosity or optimism. So, imagine my joyous surprise when we wandered in last Friday.

There’s something incurably exciting about meeting your wife in the city and being led by the hand up Adelaide’s grand boulevards in the fading autumnal light. There’s a bustling energy and frisson as people wind up their working week and make their escape. There’s mystery and romance and promise to be had on every street corner.

The ground floor room is called Harry’s Bar and it is forgettable. We made our way up the stairs to the Tattersalls Room. It’s remarkable and I was instantly agog. The ceilings are high and ornate while the space is massive and cloaked with history and elegance. There’s blue curtains and big Chesterfields. If Harrison Ford sought hotels and not antiquities this instalment would be called Indiana Jones and the Opulent Pub.

Claire bought a glass of red and a pint of mid-strength for me as I was driving. Mid-strength beers are like hearing the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. but played entirely on kazoo. The melodies you love are there and it works at a fundamental level but ultimately it’s a parody, a mocking of the very thing it seeks to imitate.

We decamped to the balcony bar for our second and final beverage. Down on Grenfell Street the sounds of traffic floated up with an exhilaration that was irresistible while there were loose groups of young people exchanging lively quips and waving their hands about as can happen on the forth chardonnay.

Confronted with a decent walk to the car and then a taxing drive along a clogged arterial, we decided that a loo visit would be sensible, like an elderly aunt’s footwear. It was a comfort stop invested with occasion and theatre. The toilets, no these are not restrooms or bathrooms, were both intimidating and statesmanlike. It felt like I was carrying a terrible responsibility. I hoped I didn’t let anybody down.

As we exited onto the street, the air was already crisp.

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Shakespeare drinks at the Railway Hotel

Old mate Shakespeare once typed on a Friday just before knocking off for the week and heading to the Railway pub for Happy Hour that, ‘April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.’ It was a pretty lonely beer that night for Bill, largely as the railway was yet to be discovered by some Scottish git in the Industrial Revolution.

But he was right in that April with its public holidays and autumnal glow is, as Richie Benaud may have said, a very fine month indeed.

April 10 is our anniversary (same day every year at it neatly turns out) and we celebrated with a Sunday picnic at Golding Wines near Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills. In this photo you can see how Gen X is largely yet to master the selfy.
An audio highlight was purchasing this vinyl gem, complete with dark vignettes of life on the Californian coast. On the title track they ask the question most of us have at one time asked, ‘Who is the gaucho, amigo?/Why is he standing in your spangled leather poncho/And your elevator shoes?’
On an infrequent Saturday when the air is still and the sky promises a spectacular sunset Claire and I will stroll down to the esplanade and spend a quiet hour and drink in the transition from day to twinkling velvety cloak. We then rush home to watch the smug twits on Escape to the Country.
Hobart’s MONA is confronting and demands you look at the world from a curious and often fractured perspective. This tunnel walk is accompanied by a weird soundtrack that plays tricks on your ears.
I’ve always wanted a photo of my left ear and the distant, fetching city of Hobart. Thanks to Claire, Mount Wellington and our somewhat cursed e-bike excursion, this small dream of a Kapunda boy came true.
And as a well-known ale aficionado Claire also had a dream in which she found a lager keg in the beer garden of a funky Tassie pub that was named after her family. Thanks to the New Sydney for coordinating this and providing hope and joy to one eager South Aussie.
I wonder if the Queen finds seeing her name all over the joint on buildings, cruise ships, airport terminals etc a bit tiresome? I now know it’s fun thanks to Claire’s impeccable research. In a ridiculous display of monstrous ego and ill-invested cash I’m going to return to this place in the south of Tassie five times a year.
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Three Tassie Experiences

Mount Wellington by bike

At 4,170 feet above Hobart there’s an apparent temperature of two degrees. I’m an incurable under-dresser so am in shorts. It’s crisp. It’s Saturday.

We’re on Pinnacle Road, which has (predictably) taken us to the top of Mount Wellington. The city is below the cloudy curtain. Claire and I have come up in a bus.

As is widely known as soon as a bus driver has a functioning microphone and fondness for narrative, they become a coach captain (not always but often). This occurs.

Our hire e-bikes are onboard too. We are riding down the mountain.

Stepping out in the gusty cold being blown off the mountain seems most probable. Forever lost in a Tasmanian gully. Later discovered like an antipodean version of the Tolland Man. I later learn that winds have been clocked up here at 200 kilometres per hour.

On the way up we passed the Fern Tree Tavern which describes itself as, ‘your loungeroom on the mountain.’ This seems a long time ago. We could be in there now with something warm and affirming while we laugh about the mad types in the deathly outdoors.

Halfway down we pause at the Lost Freight Café. It is a shipping container. On chairs in the welcome sun Claire and I have lunch and then coffee and cake. A cluster of cyclists goes by.

Neither of us pedal. Our fingers and wrists throb as the brakes are squeezed continuously as a life-support strategy. It’s not cycling but loosely controlled falling. Last June we braved the Riesling Trail, and it was shared and peaceful and leisurely. This is a private hell of cold, roadkill, and metaphysical fear. Our descent is indecent. Our trip is twenty-six kilometres.

Like much in life such as exercise, work, and parenting this is only appreciated in retrospect, when the sense of achievement emerges, bruised, from the difficulty of the undertaking. I’m glad we did it.

Down on the flat we whizz about the CBD and out to Sandy Bay and chain up our bikes outside the Hope and Anchor only to lean on the door and learn that the pub is shut for Easter.

Returning our wheels, we debrief in The Whaler on Salamanca Place. It’s snug inside and a golden light bathes us and the ancient, maritime bar.

Beach fire

From our wooden deck on Police Point we look east. I see a bumpy lawn, a rivulet, a tide endlessly drifting in and out. In the distance is Kangaroo Bay.

Between grass and sand is a fireplace. It is all rickety concrete bricks and rusty iron.

Nightly we feed it pine logs and these are swiftly devoured. These are not like the red gum and mallee roots we burn at home. We gaze out over the dusky sea and enjoy the quiet.

Our conversation mingles with water, sand, sky, fire. We look at the twinkling sweep of the Milky Way and speak of the print on our wall back home which features the entire poem, ‘Suburban Lovers’ by Bruce Dawe. It opens with one of my favourite lines, ‘stars now have flown up out of the east.’

Kayak

Claire is keen to use the kayak. Because of the strong wind a lunchtime attempt is abandoned. The canoe stays on the grassy bank.

On Saturday we saunter about Geeveston and make an unsuccessful quest to spot a platypus. We have a drink outside at the café called The Bear Went Over The Mountain before returning, for the final time, to our seaside abode.

There’s a quick frenzy of activity as I build the fire and sort a few things for our barbeque. I wonder where Claire is and call out. Her phone remains on the lounge.

I am lugging pine logs and then dispersing firelighters when shadowy movement on the still bay catches my eye.

A kayak swims into shot. It’s Claire.

The snaking kayak pushes into the rivulet by our fireplace. It’s a lovely and charming moment.

She stays in the canoe. The fire crackles and smoke phantoms about me. I stand on the bank. We chat.

Claire eases away into the glassy, darkening beyond.

2

Three Tassie Hikes

Mount Field

Sunlight dapples onto the paths. Ferns are abundant and calming. Moss spreads over logs and rocks.

Wildlife is invisible (I assume) despite the voluminous incidence of roadkill. We see no living creatures by or on the road as we drive 800 kilometres across our holiday.

Claire and I enjoy Russell Falls and Junnee Forest. Autumn means the falls are a trickle. These will gush and tumble in winter. The canopy is arresting and invites gratitude. Wood scents exaggerate our healthiness and reinforce the idea that being in nature is therapeutic.

The early forecast suggests snow flurries and a top of six but it’s mild and fine and prettily cloudy, not Northern European gloomy.

Toadstools dot about, hiding in undergrowth. Massive fallen trees punctuate our progress and remind us that this is not a static museum but often a theatre of sudden and colossal action.

We hike inside our cocoon and the walking itself dissolves as the people and places of our conversation loom and disappear. I think this is how it should go.

I encourage Claire up the final wooden steps of our six-kilometre hike and we return to our MG hire car. MG originally stood for Morris Garages (in Oxford) but this debut experience would instead suggest that driving one is Mostly Grim.

*

On the drive home we buy strawberries.

Tuhane Adventures

To the north of Rosehaven-lookalike, Geeveston, we tread the paths around the park and admire the Huon pine trees.

I find myself accompanying my wife along the 619 metre-length of the Airwalk. How did this happen? It’s fifty metres above the Huon River. The website suggests-

‘The full return journey takes about 50 minutes – more if you stop for photographs, spot birdlife, or pause to enjoy the clean, fresh scents of the forest.’ For you I now editorialise this- ‘Or about ten minutes if you’re rushing in terror with eyes frozen on your clumsy feet, too petrified to look out, lest you fly off the bridge to your messy doom.’

As we near completion of the elevated circuit Claire ventures onto the cantilever section. I don’t.

We see a clueless couple with a dog. The dog is also motionless with terror. I think it cruel. Dogs like being in the sky as much as the emu.

On our way around the adventure park, we talk of the pioneers and their lonely wives, the indigenous lives, the brutal and entitled English colonisation. We then talk about hot chips.

We finish with the swinging bridges and these span one hundred metres across the Huon and sixty wobbling metres over the Picton. For once I’m less scared than Claire. It’s still a height issue but I’d prefer to plummet into icy water than onto the merciless, unforgiving ground.

*

We constantly wrestle with the car radio. Hobart is home to some untreatably dreadful pop stations and Triple J appears to be especially combative, so we go with Classic FM, and this offers the sedative strings of Vivaldi.

Cockle Creek

Meandering drive down to Australia’s southernmost point. It’s always exciting to be geographically extreme.

We venture past the unspoilt beaches of Recherche Bay. In Tassie, there is no hurtling along. The winding roads make driving a demanding science and not a leisurely art.

Claire visits the Cockle Creek Cemetery (happily not permanently) while I sit on a large stone and the sun washes over me.

A gaggle of loud, euphoric youth finish their week-long hike. I don’t share their exuberance and announce to Claire over our lunch that, ‘their sense of accomplishment and vitality are nauseating.’ I’m not entirely joking. We munch our sandwiches.

The Fishers Point trail (trial) is two hours return, and a four-kilometre return trip, allegedly. As advised by the small sign, we, ‘consider tides and coastal conditions before undertaking this walk, as sections of beach may be restric​ted during high tides.​’

We then read this: From the whale sculpture carpark, it’s an easy (I call bullshit) coastal walk through heathland and offers spectacular views to distant Adamsons Peak, Southern Ranges, Bruny Island, and the Southern Ocean.

Along the way cruelly camouflaged signage means we scramble over endless rocky stretches, scaring and scarring lizards and our ankles.

Throughout, the sky is a cathedral with variety of cloud shapes and hues painting the friendly blue canvas. The beaches are decorated with driftwood and beautiful shells. Claire pockets a couple of these.

As South Australians we’re unaccustomed to trees growing right on the beach unless these are stinky mangroves. These seem to belong in the tropics and not the bottom of our world.

At Fishers Point, we explore the ruins of the 1843 pilot station and lighthouse.

A simple wooden cross at the point. Dedicated to Chris Reid. There’s also a smashed TV. Probably because the owner couldn’t watch footy on the beach due to a fatal if predictable lack of electricity.

Claire places a rock on the cairn.

On our return the directional signage, previously hidden, is now like Vegas neon. We can see exactly how to cut through the bush and when to tramp along the sand.

*

A few years’ back Triple J erected an ironic billboard just south of Dover and it’s still there. It perfectly captures the stereotype of their uni-student listenership.

0

Three Hobart Pubs

Preachers

Strolling home to St Ives after submerging ourselves in sex, death, and repulsion at MONA we went up hilly Montpelier Retreat where some tempting music swam into earshot. Not a recognisable song but a tune curious and indicative of youth and a vibrant pub.

And it was!

The beer garden is set on a typical Hobart tilt and is jammed with tables and stools and a bus. Yes, a bus that serves as a playground for the kids and dining snug for the bigger kids. There’s a beanie on most heads and most heads have a burger and chips in front of them.

I get a glass of red for Claire and the barman persuades me out of a lager and into a local ale. Again, the wisdom of strangers has prevailed, and back outside and supping on my cup, I say a silent prayer to the beardy youth who served me. It’s a fine ale.

The chatter weaves around the music. A catchy song is playing. Claire says, ‘I like this one. Let’s find out what it is!’

Neither of us has Shazam or a music identification app so the race is on. With a traditional song structure, we’re heading towards the final chorus! Quick. The little wheel is spinning on my phone screen. Ding! Done.

I point it towards the speakers under the veranda. After a few moments, bingo! It’s an indie band from Florida called Flipturn and the tune is ‘Vanilla.’ It mightn’t be a song for the ages, but it’s certainly contextual and added to our playlist as a sonic souvenir will always evoke the lovely late afternoon visit we made to a fun Hobart pub called Preachers.

New Sydney

Collecting a hire car on Easter Sunday we drove to Richmond which seemed to be a petite version of touristy Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills and performing a similar role for Hobart. We explored it and two animal-themed Coal Valley wineries in Every Man and His Dog which was rustic, and Frogmore Creek all dazzling and stylish if maybe just a little too self-pleased.

Centrally located on Bathurst Street, the New Sydney is ancient and well-loved, like a couch from your childhood. There’s a thin beer garden that matches the pub’s grungy ambience.

Curious and dotty stuff lines the walls and shelves. There’s a collage of license plates, mostly from American states which was probably interesting once but is now somewhat cliched like a horse walking into the pub and the bartender saying, ‘Oh, why the long face?’ Of course, one license plate, probably from Alabama urges, ‘Run, Forrest, run!’

The light is fading and a young bloke gets the fire going. From the mantlepiece two hefty candles emit an orangey glow. He’s a skilled firestarter and heaves on an enormous log. The fireplace could double as a garage for a Smartcar. Down here in Tassie they know about wood.

Huddling about the crackling combustion, I scan the bar. It’s not a footy or a betting establishment. It’s just a pub that attracts folks who’ve decided on a late Sunday afternoon as the cold rises from the blackening streets that this is a perfect place for company and warmth.

Hope and Anchor

Following a drizzly afternoon in Port Arthur we push open the darkened door to a CBD pub claiming to be the country’s oldest continuously licensed boozer. The dining room is busy, and the fire’s ablaze in the front bar, so we plonk down in two old armchairs within comfy range of the flames.

As expected in an antique town the walls are festooned with memorabilia that speaks to its varied pasts and below the TV is a set of enormous, tatty bellows. British and brown hues dominate, and it doesn’t need Tony Robinson from Time Team to confirm it dates from 1807. I order an XPA while Claire’s request for a port is met with difficulty despite the town’s latitude of 42.8794° S which one might expect drives increased demand for fortified gargle.

I glance in the beer garden and it’s murky and barren, although it might appeal more in January. Back in I pause by the wood-panelling at a Moulin Rouge-like print with female posteriors which I’m sure was rousing for 1920’s Parisians. Above the fireplace a large deer head also disapproves. He’s not changing his mind.

Again, there’s no shiny or jangly entertainments on offer so people must make do with the company they bring or the company they find or introspection.

So we do.

2

Good Friday in Battery Point

Arthur Circus in the heart of Battery Point (no, that’s Claire; Arthur Circus is the location)

Disembarking at our St Ives apartment late on Easter Thursday I decide as I’ve now run 67 consecutive days that this should continue. It matters not that we’re now in another state. So, in the Good Friday morning stillness I jog south on the Sandy Bay Road.

There’s a trickle of traffic and I pass the Doctor Syntax pub: solemn and grey and vaguely medieval. I love that there’s a comic figure, British thoroughbred, play and rock album all named for this medical and grammatical character. Easing down the footpath I vow that we’ll invest an hour late one Easter afternoon. The roadside signage promises all manner of pubby treats. There’s a beer garden too.

Further along is the Sandy Bay bakery with thickening knots of folk on the street, all poised with lattes and brioche things. I pick my way past.

Then I turn off Sandy Bay Road and steer towards the water and Errol Flynn Reserve. Named for the celebrated 1930’s Hollywood star who was born in Hobart, the reserve is neither swashbuckling nor braggadocious. It’s surprisingly modest and utterly lacking in Freudian imagery.

A whale blubber pot in Salamanca Place; yum.

The hushed streets and handsome weatherboard homes and benign, flat river remind me of the play for voices, Under Milkwood and I wonder, slogging along, about Captain Cat, Nogood Boyo and Mr. Mog Edwards, those most magnificent creations of Dylan Thomas. I recall the beginning-

It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea

With the Hobart atmosphere resting gently on the bay, I steal across the Royal Yacht club of Tasmania carpark towards the Derwent Sailing Squadron. Many 4WD’s have nosed their broad beaks into the spaces although I spot no sailors on the balcony. Dry-docked craft hang about like timber phantoms.

My destination is the Wrest Point casino, defined by its dire 70’s concrete tower reminiscent of Glenelg’s Revolving restaurant, itself for some time now an empty, hideous blob. If nothing else Hobart’s casino seems persistent. I nod at it. I’m rarely a casino patron but there used to be an excitement in visiting one. Now it seems to me that there’s a sharper sense of occasion popping down the servo Sunday evening for a block of fruit ‘n’ nut.

Completing a U-turn, I’m now on a dirt coastal path with a curmudgeonly sign forbidding dogs. Why escapes me and I then encounter a pair of happily defiant owners and their snouting hounds. People and Hounds- 1, Authorities- 0.

In a playground I pass a ruddy-cheeked couple with a toddler, all surging towards a stationary swing, their worlds necessarily shrunk. Puffa-jackets, flat whites, and singular smiles. They’re having a very good Friday.

Kelly’s Steps leading into Salamanca Place

Swinging into Napoleon Street and as promised by the motel receptionist I confront a hilly challenge. With nothing like it in pancake Glenelg, I tiptoe up its sharp tarmac, my calves pinging like a submarine radar. The sunlight bends in across me with kindly promise and assists my ascent.

Rumbling up the curiously named Trumpeter Street the sail-white and seafaring-blue façade of the Shipwright Arms gladdens me as I drift past. It’s inviting and stately but there’s an abandoned rum can by its front door. What should I expect at a nautical pub in this most nautical town? I promise an hour in its lounge-room like front bar by week’s end (gee, our week’s fast filling up).

Homeward bound through Battery Point, noted bakery Jackson and McRoss sits invitingly on the curb, all close and confident, like many Hobart frontages, as if they’ve been plonked there by the road, direct from London. It’s prosperous and caffeinated and sticky-bunned beneath its green sign. For these peoples it’s already a good Friday.

Drippy-browed and clingy-shirted in the motel foyer I poke the elevator button. Our MONA ferry departs in an hour.

Your correspondent’s beer in the Shipwrights Arms
0

The March 2022 Photo Essay

In a ridiculous attempt to parody one of the greatest cartoons ever let me say, ‘Let’s give a cheer for March, let’s give a cheer for Mar’ which is ill-considered if pop-culturally tremendous. So, here we are in March, a month that’s always on the cusp of everything.

March was when we made our annual pub visit. The pub in question was the Duke of York and it serves excellent things, just for you. We might go there again, in 2023.
If nostalgia is the ultimate in pointless selfishness then count me in. Surely, we’re all permitted a minor form of indulgence and for me, Skyhooks is emblematic of youthful innocence and a country that was grappling with its suburban identity. This is post-Gough confidence bursting from the pre-dawn streets of Carlton.
Rank Arena. Not only a TV brand but probably Football Park which was cold and hostile, even if you supported a local team, what with the concrete and the Alcatraz carparks and the polar winds. However, this tele sits in the Lady Daly pub on Port Road. It’s a fun, retro spot with sixties- styled lounge chairs.
My dear friend JB launched her public speaking book at West Beach. It was great and here’s Trish and Bromby in shot too. You can get the book at https://completecommunicationcoach.com.au/. Ask me how.
Brightstar Brewery opened within galloping distance of my work and this is tremendous even though I sold my horse. As you can see it’s a space that will evolve as a village green and of this surely we all approve. Even if a modern folk band takes root on the undeserving, difficult grass one mild Sunday I’d still urge your participation. Thank you.
0

Our beloved school, Kapunda High

Word quickly escaped that a fire had ravaged our beloved Kapunda High on a Tuesday night in late March. It was awful and yet bought many together. As published in the local paper here’s my story.

*

On Wednesday there was a pilgrimage to Kapunda High School, and its centrepiece, the mansion known as Eringa. People stared and shook their heads and became teary at the sight of the burned ruins.

One former student said to me that, ‘it was like someone has died.’ Indeed, the stunning structure around which the school has grown is like a much-loved old friend and main character in the town’s story. We embrace it dearly.

In our Kapunda group-chat my cousin Froggy praised the school saying, ‘Its aura and rich history have played a big part in many people’s lives.’ We all agreed.

When I began Year 8 it had less than a couple hundred students but was always at the town’s heart. It seemed snug. Even as gawky teenagers I think we realised it was special and would shape our lives for the best.

It still does.

Not purpose-built as a school, it was the residence of Sir Sidney Kidman, his wife, and children, and just like a family home, remains a source of deep pride for Kapunda. We had classes in what were servants’ quarters, high-ceiling bedrooms, and grand reception rooms with stained glass windows. It was wonderfully unique.

Every year, the prefects ran a week of lunchtime fundraising activities. A key attraction was a ghost experience in the tunnels running under the mansion. Can you imagine this happening now? Nobody was spooked but there was mischief and laughter in the darkness, and we’d emerge caked in thick dust and blinking at the sun, ready for more mayhem with Bunsen burners or hockey sticks.

My wife and I met in Year 8 and were only ever going to be married at our beloved school. The affection we hold for it, and the teachers and students with whom we shared the beautiful building and grounds meant we had to return to where it all began for us.

Our choice of wedding venue surprised some city guests who’d not ever visited Kapunda but then saw it’s no drab school. It’s a welcoming estate flanked by Moreton Bay Figs, rose gardens and a fetching sweep of lawn.

On our day last April, the setting was moving and picturesque, and this made Tuesday’s fire more devastating.

For those like me who moved away, a trip home always meant a slow lap of the town. You’d ease past the duck pond, Dutton Park (home of the Bombers), the Prince of Wales pub (there might be a car you recognise out the front) and Gundry’s Hill.

But you’d also drive to the high school, pause by the fence and smile at the view. I’m not sure other towns can make this claim. Even for those who went there our school is a tourist attraction.

Driving up up late Wednesday afternoon, we wanted not to merely witness the awful smouldering ruins, but to see friends and to grieve. This was never only about the building.

At the school we saw our treasured history teacher Paul McCarthy and his wife Kerry. There were handshakes and hugs. These were precisely the people we needed to see.

Later in the pub local icon Tolly remarked that it was, ‘like a wake.’ How terrible that Eringa, the showpiece of not only the school, but Kapunda itself, has suffered this? But those who’d come and congregated weren’t really at a wake. There’s already a rugged resolve that this dreadful event not be a final chapter. Following the equally devastating fire of 1902, Sidney and Isabel Kidman rebuilt their home.

For the thousands touched by Kapunda High, we’re hopeful that this happier side of history can be repeated.