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A brisk lunchtime in the Cathedral Hotel

hoggy

The satirical polemicist Voltaire once asked, “Is there anything better than a brisk lunchtime session in the Cathedral Hotel, on the first morning of an Ashes Test?”

In all matters philosophical and cricketing our French friend is accurate so I presented myself at the revitalised old boozer. It’s a Keith Stackpole jaunt from Adelaide Oval; our tremendous, alluring oval.

Friday night at the Adelaide Lutheran Christmas function (Catholics now admitted) Harmsey said, “Meet you at the Cathedral pub. 11.15.” I was enthralled and curious that the declared time wasn’t 11 or 11.30, but 11.15. This promised things exciting or dimly dangerous or both.

Whilst grateful I cling to a heady dream in which my ear is bent by this thrilling invitation: Meet you tomorrow in the _____ Hotel. Front lounge. 4.37 pm.

4.37. How good would this be? Who could resist such an exotic offer?

Strolling in from the misty wet the ancient Barossan adage swirled overhead, as it must for those with a connection to its verdant valley: One at eleven, or eleven at one. The Cathedral was bellowing; part matinée circus, part West End production. The Barmy Army merchandise card-table in situ, its custodians in throaty, summery cheer. Only 11.15? It was as if the pub had been throttling along for hours. Perhaps it had.

For me, an unsurpassed way to invest an energetic hour or two is to stand about a tavern’s table, by an open window, with a loose knot of like-mindeds, and trade cricket yarns: personal, public and apocryphal.

And so we did.

 

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Outside, a curiously impotent army of Warwick Capper number 39’s had mobilised, while inside, PJ Flynn and company attacked their fare (2016 Burgers of the Year, no less. No word yet on the 2017 winners- I’ll keep you posted) and the stories impatiently assembled.

Of course, after the obligatory SK Warne and IM Chappell anecdotes, we migrated to RM Hogg. When he played for Australia I was a kid who loved his ferocious bowling, and the hostility with which he steamed to the wicket; all Serengeti chesting, and scowl. He presented as one you’d have on your side, in a fight (Do cricketers have scraps and footballers have barneys?). Even his blonde locks flounced with anger.

Flynnie’s story went thus:

After his international career concluded Rodney played in Willowfest: the Australian amateur cricket championships, up in Mildura and Wentworth. Hoggy remained properly livid and fast. One afternoon his captain threw him the ball.

As he paced out his run-up a mischievous scorer, grasping the demon quick’s permanent volatility, yelled out towards the 123 Test-wicket veteran with faux ignorance, “Bowler’s name?”

From over my Coopers Session Ale in the Cathedral I could envision Hoggy’s lips tightening in a snarl. He didn’t bother to respond. But his captain did. “Hogg” came the reply.

Not done yet, the scorer chirped again, “One ‘g’ or two?”

As the yarns volleyed across our ales, a film-crew strode in and captured one of the Barmy Army, in staccato, bursting voice. By now the Wiz and his post-modern disciples had either departed, or been moved on by management. Perhaps Dr G Edelsten had invoked an injunction.

The Don DeLillo of cricket authors, Gideon Haigh, shared some probing insights on Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and the outlandish turf wickets he’d encountered recently in Melbourne. As lunchtime pub entertainment and education, it was unparalleled.

I was asked of my earliest Adelaide oval cricket memory. It was the 1974/75 Ashes with Dad. On the scoreboard hill among fractured foam esky lids like Canadian ice-floe, and floppy towelling hats reminiscent of those draped upon Arthur Dunger, I recalled an over each from DK Lillee and JR Thompson. This closed the day’s play.

To my eight-year old ears the noise was a pyroclastic event. I was exhilarated by the vivid and escalating possibilities as they splashed across my bow.

My next Adelaide Oval experience, I recounted to Flynny, was one Sunday during a match against Tasmania in the 1982 Sheffield Shield season. Some Kapunda contemporaries and I had wandered in and taken our seats in the former Sir Edwin Smith stand. The crowd was dotted about like inmates in a TB sanatorium.

 

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I only recollect the spell of Michael Holding.

As accepted fast bowlers are athletes until they reach the crease, and Holding was supreme in his gliding beauty. Pace men such as Craig McDermott and Mitchell Johnson are menace and violence as they tear in. But the West Indian was noiseless and painterly.

With the Taswegian keeper back halfway to the Cathedral End fence, it seemed that at the moment of release the ball, instantly forty yards away, was being scooped across to second slip.

Neither the batsman, nor I, were optically able to track the fig. I became aware of a remarkable connection between mechanics and biology. This became metaphysical majesty. I was slack-jawed. We all were. I don’t know if Holding took a wicket during our short sojourn. And, in many ways, an edge or explosion at the castle would have spoiled this most bewitching of sporting vistas.

Time had passed, and all by that window had an engagement, so we left the pub. Across the road, an Ashes Test was waiting.

 

Wiz

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DK Lillee, the Jumbo Prince, and that Young Mum at the Checkout

abba

This boy bought some fried chicken. YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!

Share if you wear shoes!

Ten ways Internet cat videos are making you a zombie!

We know social media can be a torrent of infantile noise. But I recently found a quiet raindrop in the form of a story.

The author was at a supermarket checkout, harassed by shopping and kids. Suburban drudgery. The English poet Philip Larkin might’ve been right in “Dockery and Son”

Life is first boredom, then fear.
Whether or not we use it, it goes

An elderly woman saw her frustration, and offered support before saying, “You know what? I loved being a mother, and enjoyed every minute.”

Enjoyed every minute? Really? Utter rubbish, the writer barked. Dwelling upon her experiences, she knew, of course, that parenting could be dreadful. Excruciating. But, in those reflective moments after the kids were asleep, she loved having parented.

Is this the defining distillation of adulthood? That life becomes gratifying only in retrospect. That we find our satisfaction in the past tense, in having transacted, having accomplished? For kids life is mostly present tense, as it should be. But moving from present to past is hard.

I remind myself to splash about in the moment.

*

My first SANFL game. I was at a friend’s when Dad picked me up late morning, and we went to the 1976 Grand Final at Footy Park between hot fancy Port and Sturt. The attendance was 66,897, but anecdotally, closer to eighty.

I was among the hundreds sitting on the grass, between the fence and the boundary. It was three and four deep, and arguably like sticking your kids on the roof of the XY Falcon while you drove interstate. But it wasn’t frightening; it was a Match Day Experience.

Sturt ruckman Rick Davies hypnotised me. The Jumbo Prince. He defeated Port and his performance yielded statistics that, forty years on, in this era of high disposals, are astonishing

21 kicks, 21 handballs, 15 marks and 21 hitouts.

At the siren, I scampered onto the ground, and patted Davies, a gigantic double-blue fridge. It was an IMAX moment alongside the coat-hanger-as-antennae B&W footage of my childhood.

The afternoon gave me much: league football, a big event, and the irresistible rush of crowds. In taking me from our little home, it painted a vivid vista of possibility.

Thanks, Dad.

*

On a searing Singaporean day, we watched the 2014 AFL Grand Final, and our seven year-old Alex is now on the Hawks. The Crows have plummeted to number two, and are mostly forgotten like all those number two songs on Countdown when Abba’s “Fernando” was top of the pops for fourteen weeks.

Do you remember, in the latter epoch of its reign when Molly decided to not show the whole video clip because the entire country was ill of its Eurovision-inspired confectionary and communicable melodies? “Fernando” had, in a Sunday night televisual sense, finally faced its Waterloo.

If Tex’s Crows are good enough they’ll give him some moments, and win him back. While Hawthorn keeps winning flags, Alex might never return. Happy with the Happy Team, he could be an Abba fan forever.

As a young fella, the boys’ cousin Dylan changed the team he supported three times in three seasons, until with wardrobe space, cash and patience running out, his mum threatened that she’d never buy him another footy jumper. He’s finally a loyal supporter. Mums have this power. And now he has the Power.

*

We’re at the scoreboard end. Like an Arctic ice floe, there’s foam eskies everywhere. I doubt any sunscreen was applied. Those droopy white hats, worn by Arthur Dunger on the Paul Hogan Show, flopped all about on that sloping hill.

My first Adelaide Oval experience was with Dad at an Ashes Test. It was Australia Day, 1975, after the first day washout. Our captain, Ian Chappell, was caught behind for a third-ball duck. His brother scraped to five. But feisty swinging from Jenner, Walker, Lillee and Mallett got us to three hundred, just shy of stumps.

It was nearly six, and the ground announcer confirmed the English openers Amiss and Lloyd would face two overs.

The first from DK Lillee.

The second from JR Thompson.

A pyroclastic flow of noise instantly buried the outer and the ancient grandstands named for Sir Edwin Smith and George Giffen. I was happily pulverised, and it was apocalyptic and baptismal.

With only eight deliveries each, Chappell unleashed both. Lillee, with his Hellenistic menace, and then Thompson’s Wild West gun slinging. Majesty and volatility, both presenting as terror.

The crowd commotion was now medieval village riot, the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, and a rapidly unhinging Neapolitan wedding.

How could this not shape a small country boy? Thanks for this too, Dad.

That the batsmen survived mattered little. The next day Lillee took a wicket with the morning’s third ball, as he and Thompson seized seven victims. England was done.

*

These were my introductions to widescreen sport. How could I have had better? I can’t wait to offer Alex and Max this gift; this tormenting, ageless, rewarding gift.

It’s time for them to catch some moments of their own.

DK