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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.

1

Another Good Friday in Glenelg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4

The West End Brewery and me

To this country kid life often appeared binary. Lillee or Thommo, Holden or Ford, Port or any other team, and my Dad, no, all dads, drank West End Draught or Southwark beer.

I remember our back lawn, the old Buffalo grass with microscopic leaf barbs that’d make your legs itch. Summer and the sprinkler would be on, with that comforting hiss that was anything but reptilian. By the swing was an ancient lemon tree and down from this I’d play backyard cricket with my sister even though she’d insist she was not out caught behind by the automatic wickie if in her crease. Every time. She was persistent and Mum having refereed the argument, I’d then race in to bowl as fast as my pool-cue legs would allow.

Late afternoons wandering about the garden, watering his tomatoes, Dad would sometimes open a Southwark echo. The green of the label was intriguing; almost emerald, almost regal, vaguely Germanic with the stylised stein and almost many different evocations that were beyond my mind’s innocent migrations.

*

Nowadays, at the Broady in Glenelg South, with fifteen beers on tap, I always scan the offerings before getting the usual, and for that brief moment the cluster of choice is faintly paralysing, in a hugely privileged, first-world way. But from my late teens I recall that there was no real choice. I just ambled into the golf club bar or the pub and, like everyone else, had Draught.

My only decision was glass size and the Kapunda Golf Club was a butcher (200ml) venue while after cricket each of the six pubs- The Prince of Wales, Sir John Franklin, Clare Castle, North Kapunda, Railway and Allendale- was schooners or mugs with handles (285ml) and only with West End Draught. All of this was barely considered. I may as well have wished for the sky to be another colour.

We’d get up in the dark for the Adelaide Oval one-dayers on the Australian Day long weekend. It was the triangular series era so Saturday might be New Zealand against the West Indies and then on the Sunday and holiday Monday they’d play Australia from 10am.

Three or four cars- maybe Woodsy’s 180B, Bobby’s Torana and my HQ Holden- would go from Kapunda to Gawler in the gloom, and we’d train from there (through Womma), walk down King William Street, and line up at the Victor Richardson Gates as the heat was climbing from the bitumen.

Once in we’d scramble to the southern mound about half-way up, and down from the Duck Pond. This was a marquee erected annually just inside the mesh fence at long-on, and it signalled that along with our foam eskies loaded with vodka-infused watermelon (we are all fruitarians, Officer), greasy bottles of Reef Oil and Adidas Mexico shorts all was right at Adelaide Oval for another summer.

Adelaide Oval during the summer of 1985

Although we didn’t frequent that part of the ground, from the Scoreboard Bar there’d be the day’s first factory whistle as the stem was eased out of a barrel. First keg done! This was always by 8.05am and there’d be a bigger roar than a Roo Yardley screamer at point, or Rodney Hogg trapping David Gower plumb. And this’d continue, every few minutes, sounding like Proud Mary steaming down the Mississippi. Every eighteen-gallon drum was West End Draught.

In 1992 I flirted with Southwark. It was a nostalgic, almost ironic phase, but a nod to my past. The bottle had been rebadged with a dark blue motif replacing the green death label, and each carton came with a (free) glass mug. I still have two of these and they’re the best beer tumblers I never bought. On hot afternoons I sometimes fetch one out of the freezer while I’m on the tongs. Southwark has never been poured into one.

Then one day in a pub, maybe in Kimba or Kapunda, other beer taps appeared. Suddenly, they were just there. Foreign lagers like XXXX and VB (Queensland and Victoria are different beer countries) and extra-terrestrial beers like Boags and Cascade. It was also when Coopers first entered my world. Suddenly, the old dichotomy had collapsed just like Skyhooks v Sherbet. I didn’t glance back. West End Draught was now a black and white tele with a coat hanger antenna next to the Jumbotron of Sparkling Ale.

*

Recently at the Glenelg Footy Club I ventured to the bar during half time on a sunny April afternoon. It’s a Lion Nathan premises (unlike Norwood Oval which is Coopers) and standing behind a beanied Centrals supporter I noted a specials poster

West End Draught cans $5.

It’d been decades so feeling sentimental I bought one, returned to my spot on the grass just down from the scoreboard and flipped the top. Can we locate meaning in beer? Some would argue not. I’d suggest that the answer is unquestionably.

I glanced around to make sure no-one was watching. A sip and it was 1986. Metallic, coarse, antagonizing. I remembered the words of my old mate Nick: “Some of our best times have been on West End Draught.” I tried to taste it as a country boy or my Uncle Des or as that dreadful default, a patriot. But my evaluation was clear. The can of beer, the inescapable Red Tin, was muck.

With the news of the brewery’s 2021 closure I thought of squinting farmers and dusty golfers and young fellas in utes and B-grade footballers in distant change rooms after a scrappy match, all tipping it in. But Adelaide’s a powerless town and the world now cares little for Holdens or Thommo or West End Draught.

Then, I think of Dad and our Kapunda backyard and a dawn train to watch a January one-dayer, and those simple, secluded times.

Glenelg North, later today
2

48 Hours in Glenelg

Pulling up at the Broadway pub on Friday afternoon Claire remarked on how atypically easy our drive had been from the city to the beach. So much so that the car’s clock displayed our triumphant arrival as –

4.27pm.

This, of course, scientists will gladly tell you is the optimal afternoon pub starting time, at least in the southern hemisphere. Locating a cosy table in the beer garden we let an hour drift away and all was providential in our world.

*

Saturday our local footy team the Glenelg Tigers were hosting a twilight match and the boys and I headed down. Sitting on the eastern side the late winter sun (now, we all acknowledge that spring only commences after the equinox on either September 21 or 22, don’t we?) poured honeyed light across the grass, the sky and us.

As is customary Alex, Max and their mates watched minimal minutes of the match, their attention taken by hot chips, each other and roaming about the oval.

Glenelg skipped away early and kept West Adelaide subservient throughout, and it was a spectacular afternoon. The fresh air and stroll did us all some good.

*

Once each winter month we set our fire bucket going with some red gum and spend a glowing evening on the patio. Claire struck a match as we made our way home from the footy and we enjoyed a few hours in the crackling warmth.

Games give the night some diverting structure and we engaged in Family Feud which is based upon the eponymous TV show. One night I flicked on the box and caught this question, just before the show was axed. This may have been the question that finished it off, but I still can’t decide if it’s towering genius or beyond moronic. We surveyed our studio audience and got their top 100 responses to this:

Name something a spider might think about?

Saturday night I read a question for Claire and Alex that went:

Name a calorie-burning exercise?

Claire and Alex called out running and cycling and others but couldn’t get the final reply which had seven responses. There was much guessing and frustration. Remember the question was:

Name a calorie-burning exercise?

Coming from the country that bought us Sco Mo and Warney’s autobiography called My Autobiography and XXXX Gold (at best a bronze product) the fourth reply was, you guessed it, exercise.

*

Sunday dawned as Father’s Day and we had Mum and Dad and my sister’s family over for a BBQ. It was sunny and warm and gentle. We ate lamb and chicken and beef. We had tossed salad and Thai noodle salad and red wine from McLaren Vale and the Barossa.

We spoke of renovations and footy and holidays. We then had Mum’s bread and butter pudding which may have had its origins in poverty but is now emblematic of comfort. The day was affirming and then it became late afternoon and with waving and tooting that was it.

It had been a glorious 48 hours in Glenelg.

3

Glenelg v Crows v Carlton v Crows

 

tigers

The combined and cowardly bullying of the AFL and Channel 7 is such that SANFL games don’t clash with Crows or Power fixtures. These are shunted about the weekend, even if it means avoiding the traditional Saturday afternoon timeslot. July 27 was an exception, and in an odd symmetry, the Crows were playing at the same time as the Crows.

The spluttering-like-a-wheezy-Grandpa-AFL Crows were having a rare MCG outing against the newly confident Carlton, while down at our sun-dappled bay the top of the table Glenelg Tigers were clashing with the SANFL Crows.

footy

Like a minor gangster in Goodfellas I had some temporary confusion regarding my loyalty. But, of course, I wanted the MCG Crows to win and for Glenelg Oval to witness a Tigers’ victory.

Glenelg has a salary cap of about $360,000 while a conservative estimate would value the Crows’ livestock warming up at the Bay at somewhere around four million. While I admire much of the Crows talent fronting for their Magoos such as Gibbs, Betts, Douglas, Jacobs and Greenwood (why on earth is he not in the AFL side?) my inner socialist (and Glenelg membership) means I want the locals to win.

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But, as I said from the safety of my sports psychologist’s couch, “It’s complicated.”

The bright afternoon and happy crowd on the grassy eastern mound invested the atmosphere with both privilege and picnic. By the southern goals a young girl waved a, “Go, Eddie, go” sign. There were kids and footies and beanies and sausages in bread. With the preternatural sun dangling over the gulf it was a marvellous place to be.

The skilled, fast game was enhanced by the exemplary ground condition. As both sides traded first-half goals I thought of the AFL and wondered at its similarity to the Catholic Church: neither pay taxes, or possess a whiff of social responsibility and while Jolimont and the Vatican have so many riches that their accountants can scarcely tally the gold; the distant parishioners question their faith, and increasingly don’t count their blessings.

Early in these simultaneous matches I remarked to my mate Bob that, “Wouldn’t it be a horrid afternoon if the Crows lost at the MCG but won here at Glenelg?” A glance at his phone showed Carlton skipping away and jubilant that instead of only being a feeder team for Adelaide they’d likely experience some matchday joy.

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Swinging by the beer caravan (is this model available from Noel’s?) there’s cheery banter from the past players serving the cups. The kind of rapport that embeds from playing lots of footy together, lots of years ago. I like that a spoon is used to flip open the cans.

Glenelg sets up their game and late season with a seven-goal third term. Despite none of the Tigers being alive for their club’s last flag in 1986, there’s a buzz and emerging belief in 5045 that the next two months might be special.

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And then I wonder about the Crows jagging a SANFL premiership. What, exactly would such a triumph represent? Who would celebrate it? After the season`s final siren would three octogenarians pull up in their Corolla outside the Checkside Tavern at West Lakes? Would they then ask security if they could please take in their thermos and fruit cake? Would anybody turn up at the West End chimney? Would they bring any paint?

It would be the most hollow of wins.

For Glenelg, Liam McBean continues his great form with four excellent goals and along with Hugh McCluggage from the Brisbane Lions, has one of football’s best names. If only Cool McCool had played as a dashing winger (doubtless standing Hurricane Harry).

Cool

With the Tigers up by two points veteran Crow Richard Douglas accepts a pass from Greenwood but is outside the fifty arc. He uses a Michael Holding run-up, strikes it well, but his kick is short and the Burley is consumed by the mauling pack. The siren sounds.

Strolling towards Anzac Highway and home, “Oh, we’re from Tigerland” drifts happily across our seaside hamlet. And again. And again.

I hope the AFL Crows can self-apply the defibrillator, and quickly, but think the extension cord likely too short for them.

Meanwhile, down at Glenelg they’re showing enormous heart and there’s electricity in the air.

goodfellas

 

0

Footy Traditions

footy

I love traditions, and footy rituals are special.

Tomorrow afternoon, an hour or so after lunch, the boys and I will walk down to Glenelg Oval. Backpacks, footy, coats. Alison Street, dash over Anzac Highway, cross the tram line, and then stroll along leafy Malcolm Street before entering the ground at the Rugless Street end.

We’ll then secure a spot on the sloping grassy mound in front of the scoreboard. Seconds later one of the boys, probably Max, needs a snack. From their backpacks these will be administered, drip-like across the day. Alex and Max only eat one meal a day. It starts around dawn and goes until after they’re in bed.

At half time, I get them a pie each from the stall adjacent to the Snout’s Louts bar. Sitting on the grass, these are eaten with joyous messiness. Sauce adds to the theatre and the washing machine.

During the third quarter at the Good Friday game they wanted to kick the footy so I sent them behind the southern goals- the Fred Phillis End (869 goals in 275 games from 1966-81 and the Magarey Medallist in 1969).

Coming back some time later they told me what had happened. Quickly abandoning their game Alex and Max completed a vital rite of passage. One that pleased me and their mum. They joined the unruly, scrambling throng of kids who race after the match ball when it sails over the fence after a goal or a behind. A tradition which dates back to the beginnings of the game itself. An instructive, robust custom.

“Dad, Dad. I touched the footy three times.” Alex declared.

“I nearly had the footy,” Max shouted. “But a big kid grabbed it from me. Then he dropped it. We were both on the ground, so I swam past him and got it.”

How cool I thought. What innocent fun. Get in there with a bunch of kids and try to touch a footy. Scramble about on a dusty hill to grab the Burley ball (probably the worst footy in the universe) and then attempt (often unsuccessfully) to heave it back over the tall mesh fence.

Resilience. Enterprise. Confidence.

It’s remarkable what can be got from impromptu games. Even against the Dogs.

footy kids

 

2

Now You Are Eight

Koh lanta

Suddenly and incredibly, you are eight! Alex, how our world changed when you were born on that bright Saturday afternoon, eight years ago.

Among my favourite things is spying on you. Isn’t this funny? You and Max love spy games, but Dad loves spying on you. What do I see when you’re not looking, but I am?

I see so much that makes me, and Mum proud. You’re funny and alert. Like a puppy, you play with creative energy. You love your friends, and they love you too. You like sharing stories, but listen when people tell you stuff too. For you, games and fun must be fair. You don’t like it if others are unkind to you, or those you care about. Because it’s important, you take a stand. This makes you a leader, and we love this about you.

I’ve so many memories.

We’re on Koh Lanta. It’s a fresh, clean morning and the sky’s holiday blue. I’m on a sun lounge out the front of the resort, looking across the sparkling sea towards the Strait of Malacca. You and Max are on the flawless, golden sand. Buckets, spades, toys. Boys and brothers. Do you remember this? I watched you; long-limbed like a giraffe, and miraculous, as if born of the tropical sun itself.

And later, on the same trip- our last while living in Singapore, we do a boat tour to five islands! In the marine warmth, snorkelling above the coral, Mum and Max are bobbing about on the azure ocean, while off on our own, and peering down through our masks, we see it. Silently, and like a whip cracking in slow-motion, is a sea-snake! It’s there for mere seconds, and only we saw it, together, in our private universe. Instantly we sit up, beaming

Did you see it Dad?

Sure did. What’d you think?

So cool.

A momentary sight, but for us, stronger than two electrons in perpetual orbit. For someone as curious about nature and dangerous creatures as you, it’s a thrilling highlight of our three years in Asia.

Last Friday, in the afternoon sunshine, you’re in your blue Strikers shirt and cricket cap. We’re at Glenelg Oval, and there’s plastic yellow stumps and kids, learning and playing, learning and playing. You’re batting. I’m on a bench by the boundary, spying on you. Again!

The bowler pitches it on a good length, but outside the wicket. In a fluid, looping motion, you step into it, and swing the bat. It’s an on-drive, and possibly having seen an Australian cricketer like David Warner do this, you go down onto one knee. It’s cute, but also shows me how carefully you take in the details of your world, how keen you are to do your best and display some robust mastery. You stay low and hold your position, watching until, just in front of me, the ball jumps the rope. Your first boundary! Certainly a treasured event in many years of loving cricket.

Now finally, back we travel, to 2008 when you’re only three months old. It’s May, Mothers’ Day; fetching and warm like a hug. We’re at Wattle Reserve, by the beach, with a picnic of olives, breads and dips, dolmades; unhurried food for a late autumn lunch. You’re there on the rug, in the breezy, timelessness. Smiling, blue eyes alert, enchanted. It’s a movie, a love song, our lifetime distilled. It’s a dreamlike afternoon.

So, as you begin your ninth year, I wanted to find a few moments among the guitars and the bikes, the barbeques and the blur of the cruelly rushing weeks to reminisce on how astonishing our world became on that bright Saturday. The day you arrived; the gorgeous, clever, amazing gift of you, arrived.

glenelg oval