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Pub Review: Sir John Franklin, Kapunda

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Noted navy man and Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin contributes his name to this Kapunda boozer which is neither especially naval nor Arctic given the town’s dusty location in the driest state in the driest continent. I doubt this old mucker ever enjoyed a Cooper Sparkling Ale. But let’s not quibble over these minor details.

Franklin had a distinguished career before he untimely extinguished in remote Canada from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning, and scurvy. And, I suspect, from an overly long and grim death certificate.

This should have come as no surprise to him given that his 1819 expedition ended with most of his party expiring following unpleasant cannibalism, or a shoddy diet of lichen and their own footwear. This gained Franklin the nickname of, “the man who ate his boots” which must have been somewhat embarrassing for him at barbeques and footy club progressive dinners.

sir john

Sir John Franklin, in happier times

Happily, neither fellow diners nor Blundstones are on the menu today at this grand old pub. Although on a recent post-cricket visit (I was probably there long enough to have been described for tax purposes as a lodger) I chose not to dine (I was afraid of getting parmigiana on my new cricket whites) while fellow guests Matt Ryan and Fergie Higgins spoke well of the meals and, as grandma would have liked, left nothing on their plates.

To provide some entirely unnecessary, indulgent context the balcony of the Sir John Franklin was the first place I saw and heard that most distinctive 1980’s artefact: the ghetto blaster. A ridiculously enormous silver affair, it was owned by one of the Hutton brothers, whose father George was the publican when I was in high school.

As various HQ Holdens and Valiants warbled up and down the Main Street we supplied the soundtrack which, of course, was the masterful 1980 compilation cassette Full Boar. My affections were torn between Mi Sex and their tune, “Computer Games” and Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”. I’m still not into yoga and I have half a brain.

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The front bar features Sky Channel and a TAB, both of which were splendidly embraced on our recent visit by esteemed former local Chris Hayward while he waited patiently for his similarly veteran-statused cricket colleagues. Of course, his investments were accompanied by a schooner of West End Draught, although tragically this didn’t enhance his returns.

I’m thrilled to report that this space within the pub is more than adequate for the compulsory spoofy tournament, or two. The bar stools are ergonomically perfect for this, and for competitors who use the Paul White stand as you play technique, the carpet is forgiving and offers suitable support for those tense moments when you’re in a final against Goose Mickan and you’re holding none, but have called five.

mine host

Built in 1849, the pub has a social club and my research staff tells me that among the office-bearers are former Kapunda Football Club trainer Peter Wenke (no-one ran the magic towel out to the half-back flank with more grace) who in a surprise to your correspondent, was in this very bar late Saturday morning. I continue to love the notion of the pub social club that affords its members a sense of ownership and decidedly human investment. But that’s enough reflection upon the role of social capital in contemporary Australian watering-holes.

Finally, on a personal note I must mention the superb bag-minding service run by the pub. If, like me, you left a small Auskick backpack (borrowed from your son Max) by the bar prior to rambling home late Saturday evening to the Clare Road digs of your mate Woodsy, then the most excellent staff will take care of it until you collect it, sheepishly, Sunday morning. My cricketing colleague Stef can also vouch for this wonderful facility.

So, next time you’re in Kapunda, there’s much to enjoy in my favourite pub named for a British explorer who perished in Canada from a greedy, rather excessive mix of starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning and scurvy.

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Kapunda Cricket Club: the Comeback

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A bumpy guess says it’s been 10,629 days since I last fronted for the Kapunda Cricket Club.

Moreover, 90+ years, collectively for Tommy, Puggy and I. With Hollis and Stef also donning the drawstring creams we average over fifty. Years, not runs. My cousin Froggy is our captain. He’s played cricket continuously for nearly four decades.

Nuriootpa’s number 2 oval is scandalously slow, and the eastern side caravan park will come into dreadful context later. If I bowl, I fear for the Millards and the elderly gents in white singlets shuffling with their toiletries bags to the amenities block.

Winning the toss, we bat and make a bright opening. Coming in at three and four, Tommy and Puggy (another cousin) bat together. They’re watchfully cautious, but the scoreboard is glacial. From our gazebo an informative voice (possibly mine) inquires, “You chaps know it’s a forty-over innings and not a five-day match?”

Across the afternoon there’s marginal opportunity to sledge the opposition for we’re too busy sledging each other.

I bat for a few overs with Stef.

For many of our teenaged years we spent a summery week down at Port Willunga. There was relentless, fierce backyard cricket with his cousins Nick and Adam. Despite the therapeutic presence of a taped tennis ball this often disintegrated into a physical fight.

Once this tumbled onto the street. Of course, the brothers were at it like a mobile MMA bout, and Stef, spectating bemusedly with me in the January dusk said, “Should we start throwing a few punches at each other, just to fit in?”

Batting is about partnerships. Stef and I do this by scrambling some byes and keeping the scoreboard, as IM Chappell would recommend, ticking over. We turn some easy twos into panicked singles. We urge Kapunda’s score toward the century. It’s great fun to spend time in the middle after many, many years.

perfect

We have a mid-pitch chat. With widening eyes, Stef says, “I’m going to start swinging.” I like his thinking. The ancient leggy tosses one up. On this hard wicket, he extracts ridiculous bounce. I get after him. Like an Adam Scott lob wedge the ball is instantly vertical.

I’m caught mid-pitch by the keeper. For a duck. Can you believe it? A beautifully-compiled duck. Like the slaughtered buffalo in Apocalypse Now, I stagger towards the non-striker’s end, and know, preternaturally, that I should’ve paused inexplicably, allowed him to pass, dropped my shoulder and then decked him, accidently.

Having made just over a hundred, we take the field. Our tally is Invincibles-like given that a few weeks’ back we were rolled for 21 after being 7/7. And that was with the captain and oldest player, Dr Max, making 18. If he’d made zero point zero it might’ve been truly, profoundly hideous.

The next two hours are fabulous fun.

We spend it laughing, largely at each other. There’s a Grand Canyon between my cricketing memories and the rotund, slow-motion parodies trundling, and on this warm Barossan afternoon, listing about in the outfield like matinee ghouls.

Tradition dictates that we establish a Schooner School. In this a dropped catch equals buying everyone a beer while claiming one earns a cup from each participant. Tommy and Puggy argue that I owe all a beverage for my undeserved duck. Froggy shakes his head and says no; the rules must be as they were in 1987. Blood is thicker than beer. Six of us sign the verbal contract.

We take a solitary wicket, dropping three catches which, of course, is great for the Schooner School but not our cricket. After one grassed Kookaburra I giggle rhetorically, “Do you blokes want wickets or free beer? What’s wrong with you?” Today is a celebration of contemporary failure and not just a nostalgic reunion with our sunny past.

Greenock

I bowl from the northern end, which is acknowledged rightfully as the difficult, or as I call it, the heroes’ end. After one exotic and ragged nut, Froggy completes a decidedly athletic and unthematic manoeuvre on the mid-wicket fence to save a certain four, heaves the ball back in to me, and yells at the batsman, “Don’t try to hit my cousin for six, pal!”

The day is going magnificently. Towards the end of my third over I’m cooked. Stef hollers, “You’ll be good for fifty overs, Mickey!” I reply, “Well, yes, but maybe over three seasons.”

As a team, we strangely only sustain one injury, if embarrassment, humiliation and self-satire are ignored. Having been forcibly, if not brutally removed from first slip, Puggy is banished to short mid-wicket when one of my deliveries is punched in his vague vicinity, and with the elegance of a land-locked sea mammal he flops belatedly at the ball, and in an alarming gesticulation which will forever haunt those who saw it, rises ashen-faced, grabs inexactly at his groin and cries, “I’ve done my groin.”

At Nuriootpa number 2 most of us read this as a clear medical sign that he had, in fact, done his groin, at least in a musculature sense. Puggy subsequently spends the rest of the match, evening and financial year hobbling like a knee-capped, low-level gangster in a C-grade mafia movie.

The net result of this groinal misfortune is that he can’t replace me as scheduled at the heroes’ end. Froggy asks, “Can you keep going, Mickey?” I nod yep, assert that my groin is fine, and from cover point Hollis quips, “Heart of a lion, heart of a lion.” Much laughter. A little bit of wee nearly comes out.

We share a post-game beer with our Nuriootpa opponents, including Horrie Moore who enjoyed sustained infamy as the Barossa’s premier fast bowler. As is often the case in sporting demonology he is a ripping bloke.

Stop-overing at old mate Chris Higgins’ Greenock Brewery, it’s bursting with happy Kapunda people who are there for a 50th. We invest an animated hour, and as ritual commands, each fetch a paper-bagged longneck for the arduous fifteen-kilometre expedition back to Kapunda.

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In Hollis’s Prado are five blokes who’ve triumphed with the stellar sum of six runs and so we endure the ruthless, unforgiving Greenock Road and Thiele (named for Colin) Highway before decamping, more or less permanently, to the historic Sir John Franklin Hotel, located on Kapunda’s main street, which is conveniently named with the Google-friendly nomenclature of Main Street.

At half-eight it is time for spoofy. With nine players it means the potential number of coins is twenty-seven. Given the fiscal incentive to cheat engineer the result (the loser buys everybody a beer, so there’s little change from $100) Dan is summonsed to record the live data: Goose- 12, Puggy- 16, Froggy- 17, Tommy- 22, Whitey- 9, Hollis- 20, Stef- 23, Mickey- 19, etc.

If you’re from Kapunda and haven’t suffered a spoofy final with Goose Mickan then local mythology suggests you’ve not lived, or felt existential pain. I sweat through two finals with my (read: everyone’s) old nemesis and we share the (dis)honours.

spoofy

There’s continuous handshaking and back-slapping and affirming cheer. My fellow veterans and I vow this to be an annual event. We conspire that a 2020 away fixture at Greenock would be ideal, and schedule a late-spring, high-altitude training camp in Denver.

I love being back home.

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Four pubs and a funeral

I love the week between Christmas and New Year, and know I’ve achieved happy levels of festiveness when I forget what day it is. Someone like the wife will say, “Don’t forget we’re going to X and Y’s on Thursday.” Then I’ll feel a frisson of panic and reply, “Right. What day is it again?”

Bliss.

Yesterday I went to the funeral of my dear mate Bob’s brother Jeff. We all went to Kapunda High with Jeff. He’d passed away too soon. He left a young wife and two daughters. He was 48.

The service was in Gawler and closed when the casket was draped with a Hawthorn footy club flag and their team song was played on a loop. Training as a junior with Central District he’d idolised Johnny Platten.

Jeff was laid to rest in the church cemetery where a couple decades’ prior he’d married a local girl. Atop this hill just outside of Saddleworth, the wind roared from the north in that menacing, apocalyptic way, as the temperature screamed into the hundreds. Fahrenheit, as always, seems more appropriate for these timeless occasions.

In the interim we called into the Gilbert Valley pub. It’s one of those places that has the take-away drinks fridges in the bar itself. Puggy and I had a quick pint of Session Ale. In a corner below the tele two chaps wearing farming equipment hats were slumped. For some reason the screen was showing an old movie, and not the cricket. They were drinking West End Draught cans.

GV

There was a reception at the bowls club. While the party pies, sausage rolls and scones were all in attendance the sandwiches, of course, were uniformly excellent. For the first time in ten years I saw a girl I went to school with Gert*, and her husband Kempy* against whom I’d played footy and cricket. Again I was reminded of my unbreakable home bonds of school and growing up. On a day of mixed emotions this was a lovely moment.

Saddleworth

Mid-afternoon our convoy of two conveyances set forth towards Marrabel and its singular pub. I reckon I’d last been inside in 1986, and as near as I could tell all was as I’d left it. Most of us opted for a West End from the keg, largely on account of it being the only draught option.

Marrabel is a town known for its eponymous rodeo, and so we searched the pub wall photos for Kapunda’s champion bull rider and colourful identity, the late Les Cowan. One of the Hayward brothers, Hollis, and I reckon we spotted him clinging to a vertical beast, frozen but waiting for the eight-second horn. However, the memorbilia had no caption so we couldn’t be certain.

Marrabel

Among the flow of cricket stories, both recent and prehistoric, we then paused to toast Jeff, while Chris also hoped that 2019 could be funeral-free.

We then pushed on through Hamilton where there were four churches and a now vacant shop. I wonder how many kids live there today and go to Kapunda High. There was once a dedicated school bus. The earth is desperately brown and scorched.

As always it is a treat to call into the Allendale pub. It is cosy, welcoming and inn-like in its charisma. Happily, Greenock Creek ales are on tap. Indeed, two of the four offerings are from our old school mate Chris Higgins and his thriving micro-brewery. A trip home, even amid awful circumstances such as those of today evoke much, both good and bad.

Allendale

It was time to continue our cricket reminisces. Of course we spoke of the Lyndoch Cricket Club which at tea breaks provided the most gentlemanly afternoon tea, all scones and egg sandwiches and pleasant conversation.

First experiencing this as an eighteen year old- the day Wocko took a hat trick- made a mark on my young self. Of course, once this culinary interlude concluded and the locals again stepped across the mythical white line psychopathic hostilities resumed. Both accompanying cousins, Froggy and Puggy understood.

I then dragged out the old chesnut concerning Rodney Hogg and his debut appearance at Mildura’s Willowfest. Handed the ball the recently retired Australian quick heard from the boundary, “Bowler’s name?” The captain answered only to hear, “One ‘g’ or two?”

Finally we adjorned to Kapunda’s Prince of Wales. It was the natural conclusion for our day. Although only six in physical number our party expanded courtesy of the anecdotes. Froggy and Hayward the Elder had a moment of faux disappointment concerning some confusion among the beverage orders.

Prince

Night was gathering when we then heard of the night at the Mickans when Paul E. White, having smoked the brothers in cards, starting counting the cash. One of the brothers Mickan admonished him saying, “You know it’s not etiquette to count your money while still at the table.” His voice rising its customary couple octaves, Whitey retorted, “I’m not counting my money d**khead, I’m counting yours!”

And so homewards.

The good that comes of funerals is community and connection and the silent vows we take from these to live well, to stride with purpose and to take care of each other.

It is how we can honour the deceased and ourselves.

Vale Jeff.cemetery

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The Kapunda Cricket Club: Long Necks in Brown Paper Bags and the Patron Saint of Spoofy

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In 1880 the Australian Test side played a match in Kapunda against a local team. The shops shut at noon and thousands gathered. The national captain, Billy Murdoch, congratulated the club on the Dutton Park pitch. It was coconut matting.

The national side made 401 with opening bat AC Bannerman registering a century. The local side accumulated eighty, despite there being a batting line-up of twenty-two chaps. Only one fellow, TR Bright, got to double-figures with twenty-seven. Ten made ducks. Can you imagine a Wade/ Maxwell conversation happening back then?

“Hey Skip, got a minute?”

“Sure. What’s the problem?”

“I see you’ve got Bennett coming in at eighteen. And I’m batting at nineteen.”

“That’s right. He’s actually made a run this year.”

*

Saturday night saw the celebration of Kapunda Cricket Club’s sesquicentenary, and it was held at Dutton Park. Arriving late afternoon Woodsy, Bobby Bowden and I wandered down to catch the closing stages of the A grade fixture against Freeling. On the grass and under the shade we had a yarn with Tolly, Bart, Whitey, Goose and Rexy who were taking refreshment as preparation for the evening. Kapunda took four wickets to secure second place.

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Away games still mean meeting at Rawady’s deli in the Main Street, just next door to the Sir John Franklin hotel. Thirty years ago, we’d head off to Eudunda or Angaston or Truro in a car with no air-conditioning. FM radio barely existed. Bench seats like those in HQ Holdens allowed six so only two cars might be needed. Toranas and 180Bs were rightly seen as selfish.

You’d be squeezed in and somewhere like Riverton was only about twenty minutes away, but with cramping calves and eyes stinging with the smoke of a dozen Winny Reds you’d slide from the seat with a soaking back like you were being born.

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

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In a change room at Dutton Park some memorabilia is on display. I wander through. Old bats- GN Scoops and Fielkes, and boxes- such as the one made famous by Froggy are there, as are old score books. One from 1987 is on a bench and Bobby Bowden finds the match against Greenock, the one cruelly documenting his eighteen ball over. I’d forgotten that he and I opened the batting, but then when this happened, why would we?

Sudden by international standards, the demise of England’s G Swann was glacial compared to Bobby’s. At the start of his final ever over for the Kapunda Cricket Club he was a reliable medium pacer. Eleven agonising minutes later his bowling career was dead.

It began with a couple of wides, progressed to a malignant lack of confidence and culminated with Bob, broken, walking to the wicket like it was the gallows, and trying to complete a legitimate delivery. It often ended up at slip, or skidding forlornly, ashamedly, down to fine leg. His mental self-disintegration was total.

Subsequent pub analysis confirms that Bob’s eighteen-ball over only contained seven legal deliveries, and therefore nearly thirty years on, remains incomplete. I was at mid-off, and lobbed the ball to him, fifteen times. I felt increasingly like I was throwing him a box jellyfish. Or a can of XXXX.

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

Cricket clubs provide much. Social instruction. Gentle exercise. Weekend structure. But mostly they generate memories. Eagle Rock with whites around ankles, slopping up beer and Bundy in a Tarlee disco. Tony Clarke spinning the black vinyl of “Walk Like An Egyptian.” A fella like Flab who, in astonishing dedication, wore his cricket whites until Tuesday. Yeah, Tuesday. Twice. Did these have to be burnt? If we had a nuclear waste storage facility (no doubt on the site of the former Railway Hotel) they probably should have gone in there.

I think of Spoofy. I think of the front bar in Puffa’s late on summer afternoons. Boys drinking West End from handles. No TAB or big screens. No pumping music. Just three coins, clasped behind the back. Not trying to win, but trying not to lose. Goose Mickan. Someone chirping, “Good call.”

The final moment and someone- hopefully not yourself, trudging off to buy for everyone like GS Chappell after his fifth consecutive duck. This, of course, all belongs spiritually to Whitey, the patron saint of Spoofy, or as he now calls it, “The Free Beer Game.”

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

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And then, late afternoon somehow squeezing back into the HQ Holden as Chris Hayward once said, “Like ten pounds of spuds in a five-pound bag” we’d drive through the dusty warmth back home. This often included calling through a pub like the Greenock Tavern to get a long neck in a brown paper bag. One each for the journey.

Just as the drive to cricket could seem eternally long, as a seventeen-year-old the trip back home with a derro could be horribly brief as now within Kapunda’s town-limits you tried to gulp down the last of the beer. The HQ would swing into a park outside the Clare Castle Hotel, and you’d stare down the neck of the bottle, looking for the fish bones you’re sure are swimming about in there, wondering how the older blokes actually drank the stuff. Safely inside, after three schooners of Nugget’s finest, you’d recovered and all was fine. You were set.

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

It was a great night. There were stories from JL Mosey and Sarge Johnston and laughs and life memberships. Wayne Phillips made a funny speech in which he referenced Fatcat and IVA Richards and the beginning of his relationship with his wife which, in part, began atop Gundry’s Hill overlooking Kapunda.

After midnight, everyone drifts outside to the veranda. It seems like it’s only nine o’clock. There’s a looming full moon and the skittish clouds race across the velvet. After a blistering week, the cool change is arriving.

I call back into the club next morning on my way home and ask what time the celebration wound up. Matt says, “I left at ten to four and there were still about sixty here.” Impressive.

Some nights the stories just won’t let you go to bed. There’s too much to say, too many hands to shake.

And, this is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

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KCC Rawadys Deli squashed into Holdens Jock McGregor six Craig Hutton hat trick Rocket Tanunda Light Pass tie Leo Carter trained at KHS Fergie and Phil Bob and Christmas Greg Chappell hat Greenock dozen runs Interest in Caulfield Cup Spoofy Long neck Old score books Flab in whites until Tuesday 298 Dean Waugh Flipper coach ASADA 29 NSW Fatcat can’t guarantee that After midnight migrate outside, looming moon and skittish clouds 4am sixty folk, stories stretch onKCC Rawadys Deli squashed into Holdens Jock McGregor six Craig Hutton hat trick Rocket Tanunda Light Pass tie Leo Carter trained at KHS Fergie and Phil Bob and Christmas Greg Chappell hat Greenock dozen runs Interest in Caulfield Cup Spoofy Long neck Old score books Flab in whites until Tuesday 298 Dean Waugh Flipper coach ASADA 29 NSW Fatcat can’t guarantee that After midnight migrate outside, looming moon and skittish clouds 4am sixty folk, stories stretch onKCC Rawadys Deli squashed into Holdens Jock McGregor six Craig Hutton hat trick Rocket Tanunda Light Pass tie Leo Carter trained at KHS Fergie and Phil Bob and Christmas Greg Chappell hat Greenock dozen runs Interest in Caulfield Cup Spoofy Long neck Old score books Flab in whites until Tuesday 298 Dean Waugh Flipper coach ASADA 29 NSW Fatcat can’t guarantee that After midnight migrate outside, looming moon and skittish clouds 4am sixty folk, stories stretch on

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“And see which one of us can tell the biggest lies”

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I’m not sure why it was chosen. Maybe, because it’s convenient and the tram runs outside the front door. The Kings Head on King William Street prides itself on offering only local beers and wine and its food is also sourced entirely within the state. Brilliant.

So, last night about a dozen old mates congregated in the pub. Congregate’s a good verb for we function as a congregation which, of course, means people attending worship. We exchange the important details. Home. Kids. Schools. Work. And then we get to the evening’s real agenda: the past. The stories tumble like a waterfall.

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There’s the footy grand finals, and Lukey’s screamer at Angaston oval. There’s Bongo’s unlikely major from inside the goal square. There’s the boys all getting a hat like Rexy Ryan’s.

There’s the cricket grand finals. Where is Jeff Charity?

There’s schooner schools and the afternoon when Stef dropped four and owed 28 beers and had to drive back to She-Oak Log to get more money.

And then there’s Tarlee discos with Tony Clarke spinning the records and the lads still in their cricket whites.

There’s the boys at Adelaide Oval late in the day after lots of niggle with some rough-nuts further up the hill and someone retorting, “If I want shit from you I’ll squeeze ya head” and then it was on, and as the toll climbed there’s Lukey advising, “If you just lie there, then they won’t hit you” and then with our Spidey senses tingling, knowing to all meet up in a pub an hour or so after scattering.

There’s Chris on the boundary at Angaston and “Gilesy, you dropped an expletive lemon” and the rest of that ragged evening doing laps of Quodlings’ farmhouse with his Dad hobbling after him.

There’s Sundays at the Railway and opening the blinds around mid-morning with Uncle Mick Dermody and raspberry in our butchers.

There’s Mikey’s T-18 and Woodsy’s 180B and Crackshot’s ute and Lukey’s Alfa.

There’s Cathy Coppin’s sympathy when we didn’t have enough for a ‘goon ($2.20) and she said, “Here. Just take the bloody thing.”

There’s spoofy at Puffa’s and Whitey saying, “Good call.” And then he lost and had to shout anyhow. Again. But you already knew this.

There’s the Pines and the Duck Pond and Gundry’s Hill.

There’s Kapunda High and a HQ Holden opening up a rear gate and a Torana having strife out the front one Saturday after a cricket club show.

There’s a woolly-faced monkey (Puggy/Slide/Greg) buying more than one of us our first beer in the Clare Castle Hotel. When he was fifteen.

There’s the Kapunda Pizza Bar and Johnny Guzzo and getting kicked out from tilting his pinball machine. “Fungul! Out! Out!”

There’s Lumpy Nixon and Dobby and black duffel coats and black ripples.

There’s a bus trip to Coolangatta and all falling asleep in a nightclub watching Boom Crash Opera and missing “Onion Skin” after fifty cent Bundy’s.

There’s New Year’s Eve at Lukey’s and Dad saying, “You young lads won’t drink a keg” and replying “We’re already on our second.”

There’s Puffa saying, “Here you yo-yo’s take my radar detector. Buy me a beer when you get back!” And we drove all the way to Brisbane and returned.

There’s Whitey and the Lienert brothers and Beetle Teagle and Wally Moyle and Nugget Coppin and many others.

*

It’s a ripping night. There’s giggling and tears of laughter and stories. Just stories. No politics or work or superannuation. Just stories.

Christmas is off to a flier.

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My Greg Chappell Hat

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“Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“Some hats can only be worn if you’re willing to be jaunty, to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a spring in your stride as if you’re only a step away from dancing. They demand a lot of you.”

Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

“You can never have too many good hats.”

Phil Klingberg, Kimba Cricket Club (1993)

*

On this gusty afternoon I’m on our patio writing. I’m just up the road from where the Chappell brothers attended St Leonards Primary School in the palindromic suburb of Glenelg.

It’s sitting on the table quietly, but has a full and boisterous past. Faded and frayed, on its front an emblem; two golden stalks of wheat embrace the acronym KCC. Kapunda Cricket Club. Down one side; the crowded loops of a celebrated signature.

It’s in its fourth decade. Mothers, wives and girlfriends, everyone, please look away now for it’s never been caught within twenty-two yards of a twin-tub.

It’s my Greg Chappell cricket hat.

*

I was at high school when the Kapunda Cricket Club distributed these hats in 1982. Cold Chisel had released Circus Animals, the Violent Femmes erupted with their eponymous debut, and the Eagles presented their second greatest hits album, meaning there were only forty-three such offerings to come (thus far). On average each Australian household now contains six separate versions of “Desperado.”

My hat was there as I featured in four losing grand final sides on the West Coast (South Australia, not California). This doesn’t bother me as cricket was always more social than showdown, and provided a fun, often protracted afternoon and post-afternoon structure to my Saturdays. I enjoyed the temperate rhythms, wit and mateship because if you played cricket with a chap, then bumping into him at Adelaide Oval guaranteed a happily frothy conversation.

How’d you go if you could face your own bowling? Would your eyes light up? Or would you cringe at the crease? Like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn attending their own funerals it’s delicious to ponder, but unattainable. I’d endured a poor season when I made more runs than I took wickets. And my bowling wasn’t fearsome. More Les Paterson, than Lenny Pascoe.

I’d my cricket hat with me when old mate R. Bowden and I flew to New Zealand for that shamefully compulsory rite of passage, the Contiki Tour. On the South Island we visited Fox Glacier, where our tour guide advised us to take a hat. Yes, a fox hat.

It was summer, however in the photo we’re huddled on the bitter, elevated tundra. I’m petrified as I’ve climbed many icy steps to the frozen plateau, but know in that nagging way going up is easy; it’s the coming back down which gets unpleasant. I didn’t want my distorted limbs, innards and freshly bloodied cricket hat sent back across the Tasman in a chilly bin.

*

Like any commendable cap it’s versatile. An enthusiastic but fabulously incoherent golfer, on a par four I can go from Greg Norman to Norman Bates to General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf (I’m assured he’d a hideous slice) in seven shots. I like to wear my Greg Chappell hat up and down, but more often, across the fairways, and remember a coach telling me, “You’ve got it arse-about. You hit a cricket ball in the air, and a golf ball along the ground.”

It was shielding my boofy face just before the change of millennium when, up the Riverland on the wonderful Waikerie golf course, I lipped out on the last. This would’ve given me a best-ever back nine of 39. The next morning at Renmark, sure I’d the sport sorted, I bludgeoned my way to, and swiftly beyond one hundred, like David Warner in a feisty frame of mind.

At Kimba playing Buckleboo during harvest an unspeakable northerly roared down the desert, blasting sand and flies and primordial horror. While umpiring in the reddish apocalypse a team-mate signed my hat with the names of West Indian cricketers Viv, Joel and Clive. He even spelt most of them adequately. But that was ages ago, and his ink is submerged beneath the yellowing cloth.

While we lived in Singapore my Greg Chappell hat spent three years in friendless and dark storage. How did I do this? Retrieving the hat from its tomb, I felt the antique brim, creased from its slumber, but still sturdy.

*

Now like a retiree forever doomed to two-fruit-and-ice-cream its solitary excursion is accompanying me and my Victa across our lawn. Given its unattractive capacity for making babies cry and dogs growl, my wife’s banished the hat from public appearances.

She’s right.

But on the backyard table it’s looking at me like Wilson the volleyball, from the Tom Hanks’ flick Cast Away. Later tonight with the wife and boys in bed I’ll continue to write and reflect over a Barossa shiraz, and when nobody’s peeking, I’ll stick it on my head.

I might even take a selfie.

 

Eagles