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Pub Review: The Prince of Wales, Kapunda

prince

I’d driven non-stop for over four hours, dodging kangaroos, AM radio (up next the latest from Danni Minogue!) and berserk truckies like the one in Spielberg’s Duel, and Friday-exhausted, fell into the front bar around 8pm. It was a hike from Kimba.

“Hello West Coast smack-head,” greeted mine host. “Christ you’re getting fat, Mickey.” He continued. “Are you still driving that dopey sports car?”

Welcome to Kapunda’s Prince of Wales hotel, run with gruff affection by lumbering iconoclast Peter “Puffa” Jansen.

The blunt cranial and corporeal references are like warm handshakes. These are Puffa’s way of welcoming me into his cosy pub. His is an inclusive environment: no-one is spared his jibes, and these are all part of the boisterous charm. To not be abused would be offensive.

But to understand the publican we need to know more of his curiosities. He was fond of a mid-week luncheon and these sometimes included local identities such as Norton Schluter. Norton ran the Greenock Creek Tavern: a Barossan boozer with such similar atmospherics it could be a sister pub to the Prince.

Legend has it that Puffa and some captive chaps once when out to lunch. When traversing the state Puffa preferred to sip cans. He reckoned they “travelled better.” Post-dessert they inexplicably then drove to Broken Hill in the big publican’s even bigger Falcon and returned four days later.

The Prince of Wales is a snug pub with a front bar like a lounge room. It’s this spatial dynamic which assists the natural intimacy.  The decor is spartan and the space is dominated by the beautiful, antique pub fridge with timber doors and those ancient chrome door handles. About the bar are maybe ten black-topped stools.

bar

Often, early in the afternoon, there’d be but a single conversation with the tethered denizens such as Roger and Matesy, and the quips would shuttlecock about the bar and there’d be volleys of chirping from in their cups.

Retrospectively, I can see that chief among its attractions was a clear-minded absence of TAB, thumping music, big-screen TVs and dining options. The Prince was solely dedicated to conversation and cups although I recall watching the 1989 Grand Final in there on, I imagine, a boxy old Rank Arena, and willing on Ablett the Elder before the clock ran out.

It was a venue for personal firsts. On a lazy Sunday afternoon I was introduced to the English public school tradition of spoofy which initially only required three coins but, if you lost, it resulted in significantly more fiscal investment, especially if there were six or seven of you in a roaring circle. And the pain of loosing to Goose or Whitey went far beyond the mere monetary.

spoofy

Also in 1989 some mates and I hired a VN Commodore wagon and headed to Brisbane for about three weeks. Of course, we set off from the Prince. Ever the social benefactor Puffa said, “Here you yo-yo’s take my radar detector. I’ve seen how you blokes drive. It might save you a few bucks. Just bring me back a carton of that new Powers beer from Queensland.” And the detector did ping numerous times across New South Wales. We delivered Puffa his slab.

I also remember old mate Trev and his band ‘Imelda’s Shoes’ playing one Sunday afternoon in the bottle-o drive way. I stood by the war memorial as the drums and guitar blasted down Mildred Street.

Puffa loved a bet. Up on the wall behind his bar, next to the clocks, was a row of coasters on which the wagers had been scribbled. It was like a silent bookie. Puffa once said to me just after Christmas, “Don’t worry about the Sydney Test, smack head. It’ll be a draw. It’ll be rained out.”

I’d seen the forecast, so retorted, “I reckon it’ll stay dry.”

Puffa then barked, “I’ll give you 4 to 1 that it’ll rain. Easy money for me, you yo-yo!”

Of course, Fanie de Villiers bowled South Africa to victory in a rare, entirely rain-free Test. After I returned from New Zealand in late January Puffa took down the coaster and I enjoyed his cash momentarily, before donating it in yet another ill-conceived spoofy final. I had a skill for that.

Although it now offers a broader range of tap beers I’m sure we only drank West End Draught in either schooners or butchers. My A3s cricket captain Kym Ryan took his lager in a handled mug, and this seemed sophisticated. In 1986, it probably was.

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Early one morning during our last year in Singapore my cousin Puggy- called a “smack head” by Puffa as often as anyone- sent me a message to say that the iconic publican had passed away.

Trev and I called in a while back when in Kapunda for Woodsy’s birthday. We invested a vigorous hour as the pale sunlight bent through the windows, and I expected Puffa to burst behind his bar and bark, “Hello smack head!”

When next in Kapunda I urge you to visit and enjoy a butcher of West End Draught! But not a game of spoofy.

Puffa

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A Day on the Green: Nostalgia by the North Para

 

plw

T-shirt slogans can capture a moment, and a couple summers’ ago, from an English website I bought one that featured no imagery or graphics, just plain text in a small black font

c. Marsh b. Lillee

Music festivals like Saturday’s Day on the Green are the preferred habitat of the hipster t-shirt, and I saw many, but this was the standout, catching the zeitgeist in this time of disenchantment: the alarming rise of herb rage

fcuk coriander

With band members Link, Ringo, Wally and Jaws Meanie, the Meanies opened our afternoon with their energetic brand of irony-infused punk, and each song is a brisk splash of droll turbulence. Lead singer Link Meanie sports a Chopper Reid ‘tache, a diesel mechanic’s physique, and a B-grade back pocket’s self-deprecation. As Link would attest, it takes enormous dedication to look like you don’t care one dot. “10% Weird” is a great song, and it’s a cracking set. We’re off to a flier.

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The Barossa Valley boasts Germanic villages and pastoral beauty. A most painterly aspect is Peter Lehmann’s winery on the edge of Tanunda, and it’s obligatory when we take visitors wine-tasting.

The blue-green Gatsby lawns have hosted friends’ birthdays and Mothers’ Days complete with games of cricket punctuated by adults juggling glasses of shiraz as they toss up feathery off-spinners to free-swinging kids. Today’s stage is adjacent to the North Para River while on the Nuriootpa side gum trees grasp at the azure sky. Between these are about seven thousand folks- and just a few toddlers.

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Decades ago in Kimba my foot was broken by a behemoth opponent called Gut, and unable to play footy, I spent an enthusiastic month in the pub on the punt. The small and eclectic ensemble of TAB aficionados became my Saturday friends. Although I was the youngest by about thirty years our bond was functional, and it presented a singular entertainment. Isn’t it fantastic to enjoy the elliptical orbits of different friends? Some relationships are founded on footy or golf or wine, and with Nick and Holmesy, they’re (among other things) my music mates.

From our grassy spot, and over cans of Fat Yak we trade reviews. “The new Nick Cave album’s a bit bleak. Warren Ellis is having too much say.” And later, “The Pixies’ latest is a mixed bag. Some good moments, but a few formulaic tracks as well.” Then as Jebediah diffused their sunny pop Holmesy editorialises, “On the new Metallica the pace and fury of the guitars is like they’re channelling Lemmy.”

We’re joined by Trev. He played drums with a few bands back in the 90’s, including one who enjoyed airtime on Triple J. Another was called Imelda’s Shoes, which still amuses me. He went to every single Big Day Out. He’s still in mourning.

Late afternoon and Spiderbait is on, led by hirsute drummer Kram who is energetic like a Labrador, or Rory Sloane. He alternates vocals with bassist Janet English, a Cate Blanchett lookalike wearing oversized glasses and blonde bobbed hairdo.

The band formed twenty-five years back, but she still sings as she did back then, and I’m reminded of how enduring and immutable is the human voice. It’s remarkable. Her singing is innocent, but also as bewitching as the sirens of Greece especially on “Calypso.”

Sunshine on my window

Makes me happy

Like I should be

During one of his uproarious solos the wife says that she has a “drummer crush on Kram,” which is reasonable as, at six o’clock on this particular Saturday, we all do.

With the Barossa having been settled by persecuted Prussians Janet’s acappella introduces “99 Red Balloons,”

Hast Du etwas Zeit für mich

Dann singe ich ein Lied für Dich

and the bilingual crowd ignites. On my top 100 one-hit wonders list, it’d go top 10 for sure, right next to “Slice of Heaven” and “Harper Valley PTA.”

You Am I is a favourite, but their approach is naive, and confused in application, like the Australian middle-order. Their blue lounge suits promise much, but instead there’s self-parody and simmering agitation, both on the lawns and on the stage. Timmy could chuck a wobbly. I’m unsure if he’s helped by the bottle of wine he’s necking like a Tom Waits sailor.

Around from the prehistoric scoreboard You Am I played a blistering set before last year’s SANFL grand final. At our Day on the Green they do sizzle on “Cathy’s Clown,” but this is swamped by baffling patches of novelty including the backup singers doing, “Nutbush City Limits.”

The last act is a band I always find clinical. Something For Kate’s “Monsters” is wonderful, but like Adelaide Zoo’s two giant pandas Wang Wang and Funi, their set fails to (re)productively connect. However, they cover REM’s “The One I Love,” and it reflects the gorgeous anxiety of the original.  

Our recent festival experience was the St Jerome’s Laneway event in Singapore, and this franchise is about the future, the next wave of artists, while Day on the Green looks unashamedly to the past in targetting middle Australia’s healthy hunger for nostalgia. The line-up could have been photocopied from the 1998 Big Day Out program, but this is why we’re here, in our eager dotage.

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With midnight ticking close we’re back at Nick’s farm in She-Oak Log. Our wives have retired, and we listen to old music and drink new wine. Outside the window his crops sway in the earthy dark, and we toast our good fortune.  

 

99-red-balloons