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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

Battery Point Boozers: Brave Journeys into Hobart’s Hotels

SA

Striding up Runnymede Street into the heart of Battery Point and the beginning of Friday night with the dark and the cold pressing down upon me, I take in my surroundings. I dichotomize Arthur Circus, Australia’s only circus, with its cottages built close to each other as if they’re all huddling together around a scrub campfire.

These are streets with houses and restaurants and stores all pushing for attention, right up on the footpath. There’s no sweeping front lawns and yawning gum trees, but cobblestones, and a distinctly London-like topography.

I’m in Hobart for a conference and tonight the Crows are hosting the Bulldogs back at Adelaide Oval. As there’s also a pub back in my hometown of Kapunda called the Prince of Wales I involuntarily step inside the Tassie version, and find my place at the side bar.

It’s a snug corner populated with eccentric locals and bohemians and ordinary folks and tourists who seem to possess some organic ownership over this space. One of the staff, Aaron, is the brother of Nathan with whom I worked in Singapore. Between his pouring and my emptying, we chat in a necessarily staccato way.

I then have a yarn with a raspberry farmer, Phil and his partner Mary, about Turkey. How do these conversations commence? Together, we roam through Kusadasi and its heady lanes of Irish bars, and on to Istanbul and the Bosphorus and the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque, and then, finally, to Gallipoli.

Phil offers me half of his burger. I buy his wife a Bacardi and Coke. Just like the Crows, we’re all winning. Later, they move to the front bar, to dance to a jazzy blues band.

After the siren, I again cut across Arthur Circus, and head down the hill.

*

Saturday, late afternoon and the dark is rising as I amble past the chippy and the curry house towards the Shipwrights Arms, all white and majestic like a billowing sail. Safely inside and perched like a parrot on a stool, I examine her stained-glass windows and nautical photos.

There’s Sydney to Hobart memorabilia including pictures of my favourite yacht, Brindabella, while across the wall is a black and white depiction of HMAS Vampire. By the door is a rack. Black coats hang as if deflated ghouls. The footy’s on a tele and Sydney’s again galloping towards the finals.

Suddenly, I realise the aural beauty. The commentary is muted, and there’s no music pounding down from ceiling speakers, and no jiggly death clatter from hidden pokies. There’s only the lowing conversations from happy knots of folks. No TAB and Sky racing insistence, just human voices like a heartbeat line, traced on an ECG, with laughter providing the graph’s healthy spikes.

It’s a pub in which chat is treasured. The business plan could be: encourage them to talk and relax, just like they would at home. I could be in Cornwell or Yorkshire.

The Shipwrights Arms has but five beers on tap, and around its lavish bar are scattered some older blokes who each buy a stubby, and pour it into a small glass. Although I wasn’t born, it seems very 1955. I recognise one fellow from last night at the Prince of Wales. He’s just retired, and is heading to Sicily next week for a few months. He’s pretty excited. I’m happy for him.

In another nook, by the fire, I see another television screen. The darts is on and Barney is in strife against Chisnel in the Shanghai Masters. By the bar, just next to me, Ted and Ron and Bruce are ribbing each other with the gentle affection of old mates. They drink pots, and talk of absent friends and golf and the daily driftwood of a quiet island life.

*

I know I should pop into a most marvellously named pub, Doctor Syntax, over in Sandy Bay, but time is against me. It’s branded after a famous nineteenth century British racehorse, and as I’m in town for a literacy convention the name should also be personally symbolic or hyperbolic, but maybe instead it’s a name for an editing franchise. Having trouble with apostrophes? Call Doctor Syntax on 1-800-COMMA.

When I walk into a pub I try to look at the floor for I reckon this can be informative. Polished concrete? Run for your life! The Whaler, in the heart of Salamanca Place, has old worn tiles that echo with Moby Dick and Ishmael and the swish of harpoons.

Inside is deep like an old friend’s hug and chocolate dark and above the bar timbers there’s stained glass that’s austere and haunted and vaguely Eastern European. In front of me a circle of young women, possibly tertiary students, are all in black coats. One, clearly the alpha, is setting a fierce Chardonnay pace, and she’s lapped her peers. I’ve seen this movie before. It could be lights out at eleven, for her.

Given it’s a uni pub there’s music. There’s 60’s soul and then songs featured on hip alternative films from the nineties. It makes me smile. A girl from the circle shuffles a few steps across the prehistoric tiles to Morphine’s “Buena” and its saxophone, all sultry and snaking and menacing, but when no one joins her, she flops onto her stool.

There’s an early evening ease, but then an agitated young guy and two barely clad girls burst in, and the spell is broken. There’s now a ménage a trois edge. Time to bolt. I tip down my ale and head home to the footy and Rockwiz.

whaler

 

 

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