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Round 7- Adelaide v North Melbourne: Four quarters, four pubs, four points (pints)

death mobile.png

Inspired by seminal film-noir offering Animal House and the road trip taken by Otter, Boon, Flounder, and Pinto I realise I need a robust plan. How was I going to watch the footy on Saturday?

With Bass Strait likely to be beyond our modest 4WD, a road trip wasn’t possible, so I contemplated my options, and late one night the answer burst upon me like the Gospel chorus of “Shout” as performed mid-toga party by Otis Day and the Knights. I could hear Eric “Otter” Stratton saying, “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture.”

Pub crawl.

And so, a Glenelg walking and refreshment tour happened.

First quarter: Holdfast Hotel

The Holdy reinvents itself often. It was once a brew-pub and now it’s trying to get down with the kids, as its website has an Instagram gallery. A couple months’ ago, I took our boys there for a bite to eat. Despite thousands of punters going through the inn in the interim, Lucy, the young bar server, remembered our boys. Probably because having brought a footy, they enjoyed some spirited end-to-end kicking in the bar. No, an outside bar. Yes, during an engagement party.

The game’s dominant themes emerge early: North first to the ball and constructive, and Adelaide’s chasing Roos like some misfits in Wake in Fright. The early goals then became regular scores and worry changes to disbelief and ultimately laughter at the absurdity of the events unfolding. I was reminded of Macbeth who remarks upon seeing the seemingly endless dynasty begat by Banquo: What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?

Our first quarter score matches exactly Bluto’s grade point average in Animal House as declared by Dean Wurmer: Zero POINT zero.

Second quarter: Broadway Hotel

The Broady is high-vis and TAB tickets, but it’s been renovated; the side wall’s been knocked through, and now there’s a cheerful beer garden. How great would this actually be? A garden which grows beer. But, I do wonder if the new hole was deliberate and not caused by an energetic brawl, all whirls of orange and flying Blundstones*, or a stolen WW2 tank.

Eddie Betts registers his 500th goal and then courtesy of ill-discipline, his 501st. But Jarrad Waite dominates for the Roos, while for the Crows Tex Walker may as well have sat in the Ricky Ponting Stand and had a few jars, given his uncustomary invisibility.

Third quarter: The Jetty Bar

Attractively located on Moseley Square, the Jetty is a fantastic boozer for nursing a beer and people-watching, but I’ve always thought it was a pub. And an exotic, earthy one at that. It formerly advertised “Half-price Brandavino” at Happy Hour. Apparently, it’s now a bar and is sometimes known as the “J Bar.” Stop it, you man-bunned assistant manager, you’re fooling no-one. It’s a pub. Apparently, it opens at 8am for those mornings when tea and toast just won’t cut it.

It’s a grim afternoon when among the second half highlights is a patch when North kicks the ball out on the full three times as the comically blustery wind blows across Belerive and the bay. Adelaide surges occasionally, but the Roos are easily able to withstand and then counter these attacks.

I note that just up the road from the arena is The Lost Sock Laundrette, and wonder if the afternoon may have been more productively spent in there, watching a stranger’s second hand sheets tumbling and tumbling while outside in the murk and swirl an uncaring football universe rushes by.

Fourth quarter: The Grand Hotel

The Internets say that the Grand Bar is “smartly casual” and welcomes hotel guests and Adelaidians alike. All true, but I’d argue it’s actually “casually smart” which means your thongs must roughly match, or they won’t let you in. Their website (it could be an Instagram gallery, I’m unsure) includes photos of a surprisingly inert metal bucket with Corona beers (sic) and a jaunty yoof sporting a backwards cap.

Standing by the bar my Volleys are instantly glued to the floor. Ahh, The Grand, where the tiles are eternally sticky, and the beer’s not pouring well. This is the first thing all new staff are taught. “Repeat after me. That tap’s not pouring well. Can I interest you in a rare Japanese ice beer? They’re only $15.”

The last quarter plods away to its sure conclusion. Not many Crows players will want a DVD of this match for their CV while the Roos are led by Waite and Cunnington. We’ve been flogged at the ruck contests and North gets the ball inside their fifty nearly 80 times! The mathematical weight of this alone ensures that we were in trouble.

Still, we remain top, and it’s been a fun afternoon out and about in Glenelg. Next time I’ll also invite Otter, Boon, Flounder, and Pinto.

otis.png

 

 

 

2

Observations from a Pair of Moving Legs

esplanade

This story is from the change of millennium when old mate Bob and I used to run early mornings along the Glenelg South esplanade. There’s surprising stuff happening by the beach at dawn.

*

It is like facing up to an appointment with the dentist. You know that it is going to hurt, that you will make some alarming gurgling sounds and that when it is finished, you will try, with ample humiliation, to spit.

Friday. Dawn. Moseley Square. I twist and fold in a feeble attempt to prepare. Peering into the dark space of the Grand’s Pier and Pines bar, I see a lone cleaner vacuuming away the last scraps of yesterday’s conversation. “Let’s do this,” urges Bob- my accomplice.

With a beep my stopwatch is blinking and running and so are we!

At 6am the Esplanade is two babbling streams of people and dogs: one flowing toward Brighton and the other; lazily at the Patawalonga. We surge southward and a dribbling hound lumbers into my lane and then across to a yawning pine. He autographs it with the shamelessness of a footballer on an end-of-season trip.

On the horizon a tanker drags itself noiselessly toward the refinery. The breeze is crisp. A lanky teenager shuffles plastic tables outside the Broadway café, his black beanie pulled so low that some could suspect him of arranging a bank robbery for mid-morning. I spot a Chupa-chup poking jauntily from his jaw and relax, pleased that he is unlikely to feature on tonight’s TV news. He nods, “G’day boys.” We nod back.

Knots of chatty walkers drink up the seaside zest and provide welcome entertainment. It’s like spinning a radio dial across endless talkback stations- and not without intrigue. A Reality-TV producer (still in plague numbers) could comfortably fashion a dozen gripping episodes from the random snippets we steal each morning. Ambling into Somerton Park I catch:

“…but you’ll never guess,” (an elderly gent to his grandson) “he made the putt!”

“I told Doreen that there-is-NO-WAY-I’m-going.”

“So, do you think his wife knows?”

And a boisterous woman in a pink tracksuit gives her arteries some extra traffic by broadcasting, “and that bloody plumber still wanted to charge me!”

My stopwatch offers no quirky grabs. It only rudely demands acceleration. The yacht club sails toward us. Finally halfway, we anchor and embrace our minute’s rest. “A visit to the dentist’s is less painful,” I splutter, hands on hips- hungry for air.

Bob wheezes, “At least you get plenty of oxygen in the chair.” His hair is stuck firm to his head. We devour the sixty seconds, then turn, resolved, homeward bound. The wind, previously an ally, is now aggressive. I immediately feel I’m towing an old wooden bar fridge. An old wooden bar fridge bulging with brown rows of Coopers Stout.

The Esplanade’s skyline changes constantly. Majestic villas bravely protest the spread of Tuscan packing crates. A developer’s billboard stands loud among the concrete and the mesh of a building site. “Hurry! Only ONE left,” it screams impatiently.

“Now that’s optimism,” snorts Bob. This anorexic block is apparently destined to feature all of two yellow townhouses.

A cheery clot of ruddy sixty-somethings is caught by their chain of cars on a rise. T-shirts cling and drip and they chat brightly in the golden light of the sunrise as only the retired can. A champagne cork, sorry- Australian Sparkling Wine cork cuts an arc across the footpath like a failed firework. Each gent tips a crystal flute into which the hissing fizz is energetically spilled. “What’s the occasion boys?” I ask.

“Friday,” celebrates one of this chirpy clan as he hoists his breakfast drink. A gesture of sweaty fellowship.

“Amen,” I return.

“That will be us in thirty years Mickey,” puffs Bob.

“The cheapest champagne will be a hundred bucks a bottle by then.”

“Plus twenty five per cent GST.” But Bob is given to political alarm.

Pushing on towards the Broadway, we abandon our role models to their refreshments and their broad, leisurely days.

The stopwatch sternly announces that a scant two minutes stand between us and our best time of the summer. The Grand’s sandcastle shapes loom and I try to push myself quicker. “No,” my legs scream. I know deep in my soul that a root canal treatment is better than this.

“Listen legs,” I assert, “do as you are told. And stop talking. You can’t speak. This is not a Douglas Adams’ novel!”

Our finishing line (in many senses of the phrase) swims into happy view. I glance at my now completely despised watch. The Town Hall clock frowns down at us like a disappointed Senior Colts football coach. Again I spy the wandering hound, eagerly leaving his name on a sullen lamppost.

Swerving around some swaying walkers gobbles critical seconds.

“Eleven dollars for O-Rings! What’s the hell is an O-Ring?”

It’s the pink tracksuit, still expounding on the Secret Horrors of Dishwasher Repairs.

We make a desperate, final lunge- and are outside our target time. It was, however, another vigorous run and my pounding pulse is electric and exhilarating. We savour our slow cool down on the bumpy lawn that separates the Norfolk Island Pines from the sloping sands. After, easing along the veranda of the Grand, Bob inquires, “See you and Kerry in here for a beer tonight?”

“Magnificent idea,” I agree.

Yes, it is the weekend. The glorious escape. Promise and anticipation.

Our next dental appointment is not until Monday.

 

running

0

crutches

 

swinging metallic crutches

and his narrow frame form

a pendulum as he

steps… stops…

steps… stops…

along jetty

to palm-tree square

 

empty trouser fabric pinned neatly

in a flat rectangle

his remaining leg suffers the weight

of this hollow world

 

a blast beyond nightmares

in a jungle

thousands of miles

and years

from this twinkling esplanade

 

refusing to rest

on a peeling bench

a solitary soldier

and his crutches funeral- march toward

a darkened room where

 

sleeping

he escapes the landmine’s orange anger

and wishes

he only

lost a leg

6

The Wedding Photo

beach wedding

In England on our first, second and third wedding anniversaries I would especially think of this photograph. It didn’t make the trip with us, and sat in a dusty box back home. Amongst other emotions, I felt homesick because the setting, people and home it evoked, were half a world away.

In St Albans I told friends about this photo, describing it as well as I could, but only receiving vague, empty nods in return. Reflecting on the many months that this photo and I were apart, I can see now, it was the relic, the symbol I most missed.

It is early morning when this picture was taken and the beach is fresh and gorgeous. The sky is innermost in this. Distinctly Australian; it is a soaring blue cathedral swept by wisps of cirrus. It is our private Sistine Chapel. These clouds release upward, their white curls; fragile, yet vast and unhurried.

Unlike those of Europe or other teeming and tired places, these kindly vapors are friendly, and promising. And they are painted across a blue; a majestic, profound blue, washing over us with colours not seen in the Mediterranean in centuries. How could we have abandoned this sky for England‘s leaden, crushing ceiling?

I’m standing opposite you on the beach, dried seaweed lying around me. The wedding suit black contrasts with our surroundings on this vivid October morning. Leaning forward, I’m poised, hands ready. My focus is entire, there’s nothing else in my world.

And now, of course, to you.

You are the picture within a picture. Beyond a Venetian sunset, the awesome splendor of Santorini, the bursting English spring; this is the most beautiful image. Matching the white drifts of cloud in its elegance, your wedding dress is becalmed by the camera, yet somehow moving like a breeze.

Your leg, extended jauntily, is parallel with the gulf’s horizon as the football floats skywards, set in motion by your deft kick. What does this suggest? Your passion for fun and readiness for life, impulsiveness and a boldness of spirit that bewitched me years ago, and bewitches me still.

Over a decade later, this photo remains a joyful song, an endless bottle of the finest wine, and a thrilling, rich story.

chapel

Enduring thanks to our wedding photographers, and dear friends Brett and Trish at http://www.bluerazoo.com/

2

Alex Thomas Randall

crocs

Our situation meant that we heard you before we saw you. It mattered not for we cried instantly and deeply at your little lungs screaming your arrival. In the crowded theatre, it was only your mother and you and I and our universe was complete. As the medical staff rushed you over to a table I looked at you and you were perfect- strong, handsome and magical. Whilst only being mildly aware of it before, at that moment I knew what had been missing from our lives.

When your mother told me she would be induced at lunchtime on that Friday I was transformed- excited, nervous and with an already fizzing brain. Dropped off at the hospital by Poppy and Nanny, we both laughed at the gruff sign hanging above an empty floor space in casualty, “Under no circumstances remove this chair.”  I remember vaguely the last time I was here, when my football career ended after clashing heads at Jet Park about a decade ago.

The plan was for the induction to commence at 7pm but it was nearly 4am when your mother’s waters were broken and then the contractions which would bring you to us began their rhythmic and undeniable movement. As your mother worked selflessly and focussed her love on you, my feelings for her expanded to dimensions I had not previously imagined.

The sun rose brightly on the gum trees outside our window and we continued. There’s a strange, almost surreal pause in your labour after breakfast and I go for a quiet walk; the early light is soft and clear and the day is crisp. Back in our room, the monitor told us of your heart’s urgency and as it accelerated, black thoughts lurked at the periphery of my mind.

Lunchtime approached on that Saturday and a playful wind rushed about the foothills and gullies surrounding the hospital. Your mother remained unshakeably determined and we anticipated the final stage of your labour. As she toiled and toiled, my helplessness and admiration for her were vast. I applied a cool flannel to her exhausted face and silently wished for your speedy delivery. Looking back, I can see that Leonie the midwife tried to divert us from the problem she alone could see developing by talking. How she talked! We could only listen and instantly forget everything about her family and its broad and gnarled tree. You seemed so close and we became hotly anxious.

Suddenly our room was crowded with unfamiliar but furrowed faces. What had seemed a natural progression was, it seemed, being wrenched from us. We were to go to the operating theatre and if a last examination suggested that you were unlikely to emerge, then a Caesarean section would occur. The rush of doctors and midwives is menacing and the irresistibility of their anonymous hurrying scares me.

Your mother’s bed is wheeled away urgently. I’m ordered into scrubs and then sitting like a child on the corridor floor, fumble desperately to put on my blue shoe covers. I can’t remember the last time I was in a medical theatre but I do recall Humphrey B. Bear on a fire truck along the road below, waving, I hoped, up at me. In our operating room I notice the bulky electronic monitors, a sombre black and white clock and procedural posters on the walls and windows. A gentle bonhomie murmurs about the dozen staff and this reassures me.

A nurse teases the anaesthesiologist about being too short to adjust the elastic cord tied to the top of the monitor- the same cord which is presumably holding your mother’s tummy for the Caesarean. The primitiveness of which strikes me but these, I remind myself, are expert professionals who perform these tasks often. A few wear Crocs- gaudy plastic shoes- some Kermit green- and I think that this would probably not occur in an English hospital and, again, am happy for Australia’s isolated informality.

I’m sat down on a chair by your mother’s head. A nurse clears the tangle of electrical cords and cable which feed your progress to the screens behind us. “You’ll be surprised how many dads hit the floor,” she quips. Hoping I’m not one, I resolve to be strong. Still more delays. Some of the staff sit and chat quietly. The epidural is no longer functioning because the protracted ordeal has loosened it and we’re informed that a general anaesthetic is likely. How cruel, I think, that your mother has laboured so long and hard- it’s closing in on a whole day now- to be denied the miracle of your arrival.

It’s a relief when the spinal tap becomes effective and surgery begins. I know that it is almost time for us to meet you. A nurse helpfully told me to take in our camera and that she will let me know when to be ready. Another asks if I’d like to cut your cord. I’m panicked and worry that competing tasks could mean that none are achieved and the moment will not be captured. In this state of agitation, I have a rare moment of clarity and decide what my role should be.

Lisa, the midwifery student, agrees to take the camera and I’m relieved. Our situation meant that we heard you before we saw you. It mattered not for we cried instantly and deeply at your little lungs screaming your arrival. In the crowded theatre, it was only your mother and you and I and our universe was complete. It’s important to me that I symbolically usher you into our family. A nurse hands me some scissors and suggests that umbilical cords are like fresh calamari! I heed her advice and am firm in my action.

Gazing at you, I feel as if I’ve known you forever. It’s astonishing. You are long and lively and new, so amazingly new. You’ve inherited your features from both of us but importantly, you are yourself. I’m thankful that your mother is awake for this and that the blind conspiracies of the last day have dissolved and allowed her this moment of devotion and awe. My senses tingle and collide in previously unknowable ways. We stare and beam at each other and love you.

Dearest Alex, you are here.

kite