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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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Fifteen (happy) notes from our Melbourne weekend

1- Our party is the beneficiary of an unsolicited upgrade to business class on the pre-dawn flight from Adelaide to Melbourne with Rex. The spinach and chorizo are particularly attractive at 28,000 feet and Trev says, “Simon, Tahiti looks nice.”

2- Arriving midmorning at our CBD apartment we’re gifted an early check-in and prepare for the day’s goings-on by changing the TV from channel 7’s Morning Show (a dismal Larry Emdur vehicle) to Double J radio. We hear My Bloody Valentine.

3- There’s splendid autumnal weather for the amble to the North Fitzroy Arms, and en route we note Percy Street, its verges carpeted by brown and yellow leaves. Making our way past the terrace houses we speak of men’s mental health and this weekend as a preemptive strategy and it’s an affirming chat.

4- All at our table agree that the NFA is Australia’s best soup pub with the spicy pumpkin remarkably good.

5- The lunch is hosted by Tony Wilson and the guest, journalist Ashley Browne, is insightful and generous in speaking with us after. He writes a sympathetic dedication in his book (2020: A Season Like No Other) which Chris buys from him. Like all good lunches here it’s dark when we push out onto Rae Street.

6- Saturday’s breakfast at The Quarter in Degraves Street is also a treat and sets an expectant tone.

7- It would’ve been churlish for me to not take our party to make their debut at the Napier in Fitzroy, so I do. We admire the lead-light windows and the bar’s dark atmospherics. Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend is playing as we sip our Hargreaves Hill ESB.

8- Late afternoon we’re at the WT Peterson Oval for Fitzroy’s first-ever home twilight fixture. Dramatically situated with the city twinkling in the middle distance we witness an exquisite finish as the locals get up with a (beyond fifty) goal after the siren.

9- Tracking across to Lygon Street the AFL app tells us the Crows have snuck home against Melbourne by a point.

10- Sunday and an old school friend (and 1984 Kapunda Footy Club Senior Colts premiership alumnus along with Trev and Chris, but not me as I was too old to play by two weeks and a premature birth: not that I’m still hostile and embittered) joins us at the All Nations Hotel for a quick beer and highlights tour of his last thirty years. He’s done well and is an early signing for a 2022 Footy Almanac lunch.

11- My fellow travellers enjoy their fish (John Dory) and chips while I am taken by the potato sibling (mash) accompanied by pork and fennel bangers, peas and onion gravy. We talk of the song “Anthony McDonald- Tipungwuti” by the Picket Palace.

12- We again enjoy the year’s best (complimentary) bus ride from the pub to the MCG with Richmond a handsome canvas as we make our jaunty way.

13- As neutrals we love the Collingwood and Power fixture (Olympic Stand, Bay M53) but in a rare Adelaide-teams-getting-up-by-a-single-point-double Port fall in, unconvincingly like Hawkey over Keating in the initial 1991 spill.

14- Catching a SBS replay of Eurovision the UK again suffers nul points, although given the contemporary geopolitics it’s likely the Beatles wouldn’t break the duck either.

15- Due to a happy technicality we’re again upgraded to business class for our return to Adelaide. The in-flight lamb and rosemary pie is hearty fare but it’s great to get home.