So, today seven of us, who have deep connections to Kapunda, visited the pub for lunch.
Here’s the answers to the quiz. The winner was Mrs. G. Cross of Gepps Cross.
Seven. Attendees were Crackshot, Swanny, Fats, Lukey, Woodsy, Stef, Mickey.
Yes, lunch began at 12.30.
No, incorrect. Everyone in attendance ordered a schnitzel.
False. Nobody ordered the Diane sauce.
No, incorrect. Everyone ordered salad with their meal despite the ‘no salad, extra chips option.’
True. Apparently, Fats ate most of his salad to the surprise of not just his lunchmates but all in the pub.
Three minutes. A new record time. That’s how long it took to disparage another Kapunda chap who wasn’t at the lunch but should have been. Sorry, Whitey.
Inexcusably home on his couch. See Question 7.
A goat. Lukey was elsewhere.
Four. The number of former and current Kapunda publicans mentioned over lunch. For bonus points in order these were: Nugget (Clare Castle Hotel), Puffa (Prince of Wales), Alan Meaney (Prince of Wales) and Unknown Queenslanders (Prince of Wales).
Four. Number of lunch attendees eager to play for Kapunda Cricket Club in the new year. This was announced after two beers and part way through the schnitzels.
One. Number of lunch attendees who will likely play for Kapunda Cricket Club in the new year (Woodsy: current A5’s captain).
Three. Number of attendees who went to the recent Adelaide Test.
Six. Number of second inning South African Test wickets to fall during our lunch.
One. Australian Test victories witnessed.
None. Number of D. Warner fans in attendance at lunch.
Three. Nostalgic and somewhat wistful mentions of cricket at Adelaide Oval during the 1980’s.
One. Discussion of Greenock Schlungers (for those following at home this is the affectionate name for their local cricketers and not a German smallgood).
None. Bikies spotted. Whew. If you don’t count avid amateur motorcyclists Fats and Swanny.
72.7 kilometres. Distance from Gepps Cross Alehouse to Kapunda.
One. Beers needed for trip from Gepps Cross Alehouse to Kapunda.
14.7 kilometres. Distance from Greenock to Kapunda.
Two. Beers needed from Greenock to Kapunda.
Three. Number of attendees who drove up the river yesterday to look at the flood.
A goat. Schnitzels are incapable of deliberate physical movement.
I remember Eringa; majestic, homely, inspirational Eringa; our Eringa.
I remember English in the library and Geography in a bedroom and History in the maids’ chambers and Ag with Mr. Stephen Booth in a cellar.
I remember individual school photos in the foyer and given we were teenagers, everybody, absolutely everybody looked ghastly because we had inescapably horrific haircuts.
I remember the lone palm tree on the front lawn by the basketball court and thinking how glamorous and evocative it was of a tropical paradise.
I remember not getting out much as a kid.
Hello, I’m Michael Randall and I’m proud to have attended Kapunda High School from which I matriculated in 1983.
I remember there was no canteen and students dashed after the Masters’ bakery lunch van by the changerooms and before it screeched to a halt fought like crows on a carcass to grab the rear door handles and be first in line.
I remember then wondering what was the greater danger for these van chasers: getting run over, or devouring two pies with sauce, a coke, and a Kitchener bun?
I remember the Year 9 bushwalking camp which finished with two nights at the Pines but eating all of my scroggin before we left the school gates. Okay, just the chocolate. Thanks Mum.
I remember each term finishing with a social at the Parish Hall on Crase Street where we played spin the bottle, heard ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ way too often, did the Military Two-Step to ‘Eight Days a Week’ by the Beatles, and always, always had the last dance to ‘Hotel California.’ Indeed, as the Eagles said, you can check out of Kapunda High any time you like, but you can never leave.
I remember in Year 12 our infinitely lovely English teacher Mrs Mary Schultz chaperoning us through the novels of John Steinbeck and the poetry of GMH – no, not An Ode to a Clapped-Out Commodore – but the Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manly Hopkins.
I remember an annual staff versus students footy match when in the middle of a pack a sharp yet widely noticed punch landed on a student’s jaw. Of course, the nameless umpire – who could have been a Ryan – yelled an ironic, ‘Play on!’ If a tribunal now met, the defendant might be allowed to lace up his boots in 2025, decades after his retirement from teaching.
I remember our Year 11 Careers trip and staying at the Goodwood Orphanage. At 4am one morning under Mr. Paul McCarthy’s watchful eye we went to the East End Markets to learn about zucchinis. After, it was time for breakfast. Being led through the front bar of the Producers Hotel towards the dining room we saw all sorts of supernatural faces who either hadn’t quite left the previous night or who’d caught the early bus in to make a start on their dawn Hock. But we’d gone on an official school excursion to the pub! Before sunrise! How great was this?
I remember innovations like vertical homegroups in which Years 8, 9, 10 and 11 were banded together as a happy family or depending on the students, like Yatala inmates.
I remember the PE teacher Mr. Geoff Schell leading the daily fitness revolution starring the Health Hustle which means if I now hear ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’ or Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ I involuntarily slide on a pair of Adidas Mexico shorts and launch into some dreadfully uncoordinated star jumps. Of course, this is especially tricky if I’m driving.
I remember the compulsory wearing of a tie and needing to be careful with it in Tech Studies and over the stove in Home Ec. so you didn’t end up in hospital or worse: on the front page of both the Herald and the Leader, doubtless with your name misspelt in exotic and embarrassing ways.
I remember the Moreton Bay Figs by the oval which remain among my favourite trees.
I remember the yearly tradition of Charities Week when classes were suspended, and it was all about fun and fund-raising with go-carts on the tennis court and the Animal House-inspired Toga Tavern and emerging all dusty and dirty of face from the Ghost Tunnel which ran under Eringa and so, so many jars of guess the number of jellybeans.
I remember swimming carnivals and the awesome sight of our History teacher Mr. Michael Krips annihilating everybody in the staff and students race by doing a length of the pool in about six relaxed but massive strokes of freestyle.
I remember at the end of the day getting a ride to the primary school on Rexy Draper’s Hamilton bus to save me a longer walk home.
I remember the anticipation for school magazines and getting these signed during the last week of the year by classmates and teachers. Here’s an extract from the 1981 edition: Kapunda competed in Division 2 of the Interschool Swimming competition against Eudunda and Burra. Kapunda was not very successful at all. The Juniors and Seniors came third. We only had two first places for the night, Leanne Noack in butterfly and backstroke. On behalf of everyone here, thank you Leanne.
I remember a Freeling student baking a cake in Home Ec and being told by Mrs. Wendy Trinne that he’d forgotten to include an egg, so what did our pupil do? He flung down the oven door and just on top of the nearly done sponge cracked open one large bum nut.
I remember staff and students cricket matches, when batting at the Gundry’s Hill end, the occasion would finally arrive, and a certain teacher would flick it off middle stump, over the spotty fielders, over the boundary, over the school fence, over West Terrace, over the dusty footpath, over a neighbour’s front yard, and onto the roof of a white-washed cottage. Like a depth charge in a submarine movie. We all waited for it. He always delivered.
I remember PE classes doing archery on the oval.
I remember sitting in the Art Room and the roof rattling with arrows from a PE class doing archery on the oval.
I remember having a lunchtime disagreement on the croquet lawn with a Year 12 classmate when at the height of our quarrel, to her delight and my dismay, onto the slender shoulder of my grey Midford school shirt a passing bird dropped a warm, yoghurt-like blob.
I remember losing that argument to my dear friend Trisha Helbers.
But I remember my joy in April of last year when on that very same croquet lawn I married my wife Claire.
I remember being scared on my first day in Year 8 and in Year 12 being sad on my last.
I remember hearing a teacher interviewed on the radio years ago and the announcer saying thank you because you create lives.
And I remember thinking how very true this is for those of us fortunate enough to attend Kapunda High School.
Word quickly escaped that a fire had ravaged our beloved Kapunda High on a Tuesday night in late March. It was awful and yet bought many together. As published in the local paper here’s my story.
On Wednesday there was a pilgrimage to Kapunda High School, and its centrepiece, the mansion known as Eringa. People stared and shook their heads and became teary at the sight of the burned ruins.
One former student said to me that, ‘it was like someone has died.’ Indeed, the stunning structure around which the school has grown is like a much-loved old friend and main character in the town’s story. We embrace it dearly.
In our Kapunda group-chat my cousin Froggy praised the school saying, ‘Its aura and rich history have played a big part in many people’s lives.’ We all agreed.
When I began Year 8 it had less than a couple hundred students but was always at the town’s heart. It seemed snug. Even as gawky teenagers I think we realised it was special and would shape our lives for the best.
It still does.
Not purpose-built as a school, it was the residence of Sir Sidney Kidman, his wife, and children, and just like a family home, remains a source of deep pride for Kapunda. We had classes in what were servants’ quarters, high-ceiling bedrooms, and grand reception rooms with stained glass windows. It was wonderfully unique.
Every year, the prefects ran a week of lunchtime fundraising activities. A key attraction was a ghost experience in the tunnels running under the mansion. Can you imagine this happening now? Nobody was spooked but there was mischief and laughter in the darkness, and we’d emerge caked in thick dust and blinking at the sun, ready for more mayhem with Bunsen burners or hockey sticks.
My wife and I met in Year 8 and were only ever going to be married at our beloved school. The affection we hold for it, and the teachers and students with whom we shared the beautiful building and grounds meant we had to return to where it all began for us.
Our choice of wedding venue surprised some city guests who’d not ever visited Kapunda but then saw it’s no drab school. It’s a welcoming estate flanked by Moreton Bay Figs, rose gardens and a fetching sweep of lawn.
On our day last April, the setting was moving and picturesque, and this made Tuesday’s fire more devastating.
For those like me who moved away, a trip home always meant a slow lap of the town. You’d ease past the duck pond, Dutton Park (home of the Bombers), the Prince of Wales pub (there might be a car you recognise out the front) and Gundry’s Hill.
But you’d also drive to the high school, pause by the fence and smile at the view. I’m not sure other towns can make this claim. Even for those who went there our school is a tourist attraction.
Driving up up late Wednesday afternoon, we wanted not to merely witness the awful smouldering ruins, but to see friends and to grieve. This was never only about the building.
At the school we saw our treasured history teacher Paul McCarthy and his wife Kerry. There were handshakes and hugs. These were precisely the people we needed to see.
Later in the pub local icon Tolly remarked that it was, ‘like a wake.’ How terrible that Eringa, the showpiece of not only the school, but Kapunda itself, has suffered this? But those who’d come and congregated weren’t really at a wake. There’s already a rugged resolve that this dreadful event not be a final chapter. Following the equally devastating fire of 1902, Sidney and Isabel Kidman rebuilt their home.
For the thousands touched by Kapunda High, we’re hopeful that this happier side of history can be repeated.
Is there much better than a simple lunch on the patio with old friends, and a retro record player?
Claire and I went to Kapunda High with Stephen who’s lived by the river in Brisbane for decades. He and his wife Eleni were in town having visited family and Kangaroo Island.
With an unforced and graceful joy our conversation moved across our extensive history.
Over at the record player I cue up Side 2 of mid- 1970’s compilation Whopper which is glitter-ball, flared-pants glee. It’s irresistible while Side 1 is mostly turgid country ballads. We all giggle at both the name and wild-haired evocations of Disco Tex and his Sex-O-Lettes and their hit, ‘Get Dancin’.
But this is mere entrée for we then play Ripper 76. Everyone has a story about Ripper 76. It’s the finest compilation album in the catalogue of compilation albums.
Eleni tells us how as a young girl she won a copy in a Brisbane radio station phone-in and this persists as immeasurably superior to winning an icy cold can of Coke from a Black Thunder. She talks of the excitement of her mum driving her into the city to collect her vinyl.
Our focus shifted to the global marriage of music and geography. Stephen spoke. “I had ‘Autobahn’ by Kraftwerk ready to go as soon as we hit the autobahn. Next thing a BMW went past us like we were standing still. Must have been doing 200k.”
I then offered. “When I was in California in 1992, we hired a convertible and driving around Santa Monica, heard The Doors’ ‘LA Woman.’ The sun was shining, and it was such a moment.”
Stephen continued the American theme. “As Eleni and I drove into Nevada we played, ‘Viva Las Vegas’ and now, whenever I hear that song I’m immediately back there. We’ve done similar things in the Black Forest and New York.”
Claire asked a question. “Can you do this in Australia?”
My first memory was instant. “Walking through Treasury Gardens to the MCG I was listening to Triple R and Paul Kelly’s ‘Leaps and Bounds’ came on just as the stadium swam into view. It was early in the footy season so the “clock on the silo” said more than eleven degrees but it was still fantastic.”
Our lively topic concluded in Europe when I mentioned Claire and I driving across Sweden and hearing the radio announcer say something like, “Just nu är det riktigt kallt här på landsbygden i Sverige och jag hoppas att du har tätt upp Volvos rutor för det kan komma snö. Hur som helst, det var Billy Joel.”
As lovers of both song and travel what wonderful, remindful privilege we shared. How amazing to enjoy those synchronised soundtracks?
People, place, and musical portraiture.
Stephen and I also reminisce on collecting albums together as teenagers. We didn’t buy ones we knew like 10, 9, 8 by Midnight Oil for these were already in circulation but instead sought records that represented new, slightly dangerous terrain.
With Layla and Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominoes and a Yardbirds double album (on transparent vinyl) we edged into the world of blues. However, we also bought the Animal House soundtrack featuring ‘Shout!’ by Otis Day and the Knights, from surely one of the finest toga party scenes in modern cinematography. Before we were adults (clearly) many of us saw this film dozens of times.
As adolescents we also frequently mocked Astral Weeks by Van Morrison and then one night in someone’s wintry loungeroom as we finally listened to it properly, we came slowly to a realisation. Van’s jazz, blues, folk mysticism was brilliant. This was a humbling moment and I think we were all too embarrassed to confess. For many of us this album’s remained an intriguing, lovable companion.
Back on the summery patio I eased myself out of my chair and put on The Best of the Bee Gees- Volume 1 and pondering my wife and our dear old friends I thought of the divergent yet entangled paths we’d taken since leaving Kapunda.
Much had changed, and in some delightful, fundamental ways, nothing had.
The weather presented us a story that will, doubtless, enjoy regular airings over the decades. Standing alone on the croquet lawn as yet another squally shower progressed from mist to rain, I wrestled with what to do: brave it or ring the Kapunda boys to put up some marquees? Shelter might be functional, but it’d ruin the aesthetic and checking the BOM radar for the dozenth time that hour I could see more dark clouds racing our way.
Yet again I changed my mind. As family arrived a hundred chairs were dried off and with the last row done the rain slashed across the school again. Crippled by indecision I reluctantly rang you, interrupting your preparations and feminine fun. But your voice was calming in its reassurance.
Mere minutes before our ceremony the clouds fled and while it was gusty and bracing the April sun shone upon us and that lavish lawn as if it had sisu, the Finnish concept of resilience and determination.
After hours, months, years of anticipation an occasion can suddenly rush upon you and despite all the expectation and longing it shocks with its realness now that you’re finally living it and are right in the magical moment. I was initially a little anxious when I saw the first guests’ cars pull up outside Kapunda High on dusty West Terrace and felt blissfully powerless as our time finally arrived.
Then Lisa Mitchell’s “Providence” soared across the afternoon and launched our narrative, while you made your graceful way, and I decided to wait and not strain or move onto tippy-toes. Our guests stood and some lurched into the grassy aisle. Camera, heads, hair. I could not see you. I remained on our rug between the plinths.
Then you emerge as if in a cascading, serene dream. Smiling, singular, focussed. Hair tousled and tumbling, cheekbones perfectly formed, eyes flashing.
Your dress is shimmering, shapely and a vision of painterly elegance. I surrender to this, and to you.
It was as if the town and each citizen we encountered had been bewitched and a golden hour descended, just for us. There could have been a clandestine operation and Kapunda was now our private movie set. As the photographers captured us in our intermingling blue attire we moved about from Dutton Park where we danced by the iron gates to the Main Street murals to the mine chimney and above us and about us the late afternoon light was enchanted and invested with unhurried kindness.
Hand-in-hand and entering through the Dutton Park doors was a triumph. You imagined it flawlessly and then realised it with cinematic style. The candles, the balloons, the rustic beauty. Our friends and family were assembled for the evening in an event that was firstly about us but also allowed for old connections to be remade and renewed. The sound was raw and welcoming, a rush of affirmation and liquid joy. It was a twilight sea of warmth.
And finally in the midnight stillness, we walked back to our accommodation at the School of Mines through Dutton Park’s lingering jubilance, under the gates, past the dark homes, over the disused railway line near the Duck Pond, across from the playground and swimming pool, next to the Institute and museum, around the quiet library corner, under the Rawady’s veranda and to our front door.
The geography and place are so unremarkable, and so familiar but now re-contextualise as a private paradise, and as we stroll and reflect upon our perfect day, these bear hushed witness to our love.
Here we are at the scene of the crime – the place where I first met Claire and Michael.
It all began on a blisteringly hot day in February 1981, the first morning of the school year – the start of Year 10.
Now, I know what you’re all thinking: 1981?! Surely these good looking, youthful, vital people weren’t even BORN in 1981, let alone starting Year 10 at high school! I can assure you, that I can’t understand it either. It remains one of the Great Cosmic Mathematical Conundrums. Nevertheless…
On that fateful February day, I walked through the school gates in considerable culture shock. I had moved with my family from the city only the day before to our half-built house in a paddock behind Mount Allen – about 10 minutes north of Kapunda. Our electricity was not yet connected. There were sheep, a cow and a horse in our front yard and our house had a moat. And the vintage yellow school bus had just taken me on a 50-minute dirt-road trip to Marrabel-and-back in a cloud of dust you could see from Gundry’s Hill.
Thank goodness I had the good sense to approach Mrs Maloney, the first teacher I saw, and ask her to introduce me to some Year 10 girls. Thank goodness Mrs Maloney introduced me to a group including Claire Louise Morrison.
Starting a new school where the friendship groups have already formed and settled can be tough, but starting a new school in the country, where the kids have all known each other since pre-school, can be especially rugged.
Claire had experienced this, firsthand, the year before, and had magnanimously decided that she would make the transition much easier for any future new girls, should she encounter any. (What a generous and kind decision to have made, Claire. You are a brick.)
Presented with the opportunity on that bright February morning, Claire took the leading role as a one-girl welcoming committee. I remember her smiling at me, stepping forward, shaking my hand and enthusiastically introducing me to Lisa Trotta, Sandra Bell, Cate Dermody, Wendy Fechner and possibly Our-Pam-the-Pastor’s-Daughter. She asked me all about myself, gave me a bit of a run-down on herself and everyone else, and told me where I could meet up with everyone at recess and lunch.
That alone says a lot about Claire and the person she is. But it only hints at the dynamic and direct energy that radiates out of her – her charisma, her sense of humour, the animated way she moves. Well, I knew within two minutes that Claire was lively, generous, outgoing and fun – and an innate leader – and I hoped we would become friends.
Shortly after – possibly that same day – I met Michael Randall. While there was no stepping forward and effusive hand-shaking, I do remember him being one of the only boys who might volunteer helpful information. Aloof. Maybe a little gruff, but at least vaguely sympathetic. I think he saw me going in the wrong direction to find a classroom, and muttered something like, “No, it’s over there.”
Now Mick had met Claire the year before. And, as time has revealed and the Weekend Australian Review can testify, he pretty much fell for Claire on the spot.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: he listened intently to everything Claire said; he laughed at all of her jokes; and, although he did his best to hide it, he pretty much gazed adoringly at her all day.
AND, when he saw that Claire and I were becoming besties, he started talking to me a whole lot more. In fact, as time progressed, I started getting long phone calls from the public phone box outside the Kapunda Post Office.
Why the public phone? Because in The Olden Days, there was only one telephone per house. This one telephone was attached to a wall socket, and the curly cord from the phone to the handset would only stretch so far. If you were lucky, you might be able to pull it tight around the corner of a doorframe to gain a bit of privacy, but, generally, your whole family could listen in on your phone conversation, and – worse – call out embarrassing things.
Your parents would regularly tell you to hurry up and get off – because if you hogged the phone for hours, giggling and theorising over who liked who, and what it might have meant when he said this or she said that – no-one else could make or receive a call. And, get this: there was no SMS, no texting, no SnapChat or memes or gifs or social media of any kind. Not even Email!
These were all good reasons for Michael Randall to put 30 cents in his shorts pocket, bid farewell to Lois, Bob, Jill and Sam-the-Tough-Cat, and ride his bike to the Post Office.
His calls to me were long, hilarious and entertaining, and our own friendship grew as he made his thinly veiled attempts to find out more about Claire.
Of course, I spent even more hours giggling and theorising with Claire – on the phone, on our walks with Bonnie by the duckpond, or scoffing mixed lollies from Rawady’s deli in the Morrison’s sunroom. There was no doubt whatsoever, even back then, that she ‘loved’ Michael Randall – but would she ever ‘lerve-love’ him?
In Kapunda at that time, there grew a mighty Love Triangle. Possibly even a Love Dodecahedron. Between the beginning of Year 10 and well beyond the end of Year 12, the Class of ’83 negotiated the grave situation where everybody loved somebody sometime, but they didn’t love you back because they loved somebody who loved somebody else. All those hopeful hormones with nowhere to go!
And as teenagers growing up in a small country town, this was tragic and torturous. There was school and sport and church and Lutheran Youth and Rural Youth and there was the Clare Castle Hotel and parties at friends’ houses. Once we could drive, there were also discos in the Angaston Town Hall, movies at the Tanunda Drive-in, spooky midnight trips to the Reformatory and early drives to Gawler to catch the train to the city for a day at the cricket. And we went to all of these places, on rotation, with PRETTY MUCH THE SAME PEOPLE ALL THE TIME. So there was no escaping the Mighty Love Dodecahedron.
The angst was real. But so was the friendship.
Even after Year 12, when we started making our way into the wider world, we clung together – a tight band of Kapundians. Claire and Mick and I stayed especially close.
After matriculating (another Olden Days word), and a wonderfully long, study-free summer, February 1984 saw the three of us embarking on studies to become teachers. We chose Salisbury Teacher’s College because it was close enough to drive to daily in Michael’s HQ Holden.
(Of course, it was necessary to tease each other mercilessly about our cars. Claire had dubbed Michael’s sensible white HQ sedan ‘the Parent’s Car’. My Hillman Imp was ‘The Wimp’, and Michael also liked to call it ‘The Shitbox’.
Claire’s Mini Minor didn’t have a nickname but was considered miraculous – mostly because Claire and her passengers continued to survive Claire’s death-defying driving – but also because, at one time it had reportedly transported all seven Morrison siblings, plus Fran’s luggage, home from the airport.)
In any case, the Mini and the Wimp were deemed unsuitable for the daily trips to college. Looking back, I wonder if Michael Randall volunteered The Parent’s Car, not because our cars were unroadworthy – which they were – but more because they both lacked something that proved vital over those long miles: a cassette deck.
I promised myself I would only say kind things about Michael today, on this Day of Days, but, during these trips he did force us, against our wills, to listen to the Animal House soundtrack and the Foul Sixties Music. And it was pre-meditated: he had taped these things on cassettes. (That’s another Olden Days thing.) What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and, through this experience, the bond between Michael, Claire and me grew ever more solid.
I think, even then, we all knew we’d be friends for life.
And here we are today, with decades of shared memories.
There have been annual winter pub dinners to co-celebrate our birthdays. Countless catch-ups for drinks and laughs and to share news of life’s triumphs and challenges. Endless discussions on career choices and child-raising and renovations and travel and world events and art and literature and the TV advertisements that Claire can’t stand. Lively debates about music: Michael make your peace with Pink. Weekends away. Picnics and beach walks and barbecues. Meals that Claire has generously finished for us. The yearly spate of heavy Fringe plays at the Holden Street Theatres. All those amateur musicals we made Michael watch us in – and that one time we actually got him up on stage for talent night at a Rural Youth Rally. There are the jokes only the three of us get. The crippling, weeping giggling fits. Speeches we’ve made for each other at milestone events. And the trips we’ve made together – and for each other – to attend a special event, or just be together – when one of us has experienced sadness, loss, loneliness or grief.
We’ve walked different paths with different people, sometimes even in different countries, but we’ve always made time and space to nurture this magical friendship.
We three made our own love triangle – of friendship love. One where the three sides provide unshakable strength and support.
Within this love triangle, we enjoy the insights we get from the male and female perspective, but I can say honestly that gendery things have never, ever divided us.
Claire and I have acknowledged again and again how important Mick’s friendship has been to us. He’s an extraordinary man. He is thoughtful, gentle, kind, deeply respectful, intelligent, fair, well-read – and so very funny. Mick is a true feminist – an equalist – and we both love him for that.
There are so many kinds of love – and love itself can swell or shrink. Love, even enduring love, can evolve and change.
I’ve spoken about Mick’s ongoing love for Claire, but I have also closely witnessed, over many years, Claire’s deep and abiding love and respect for Mick. As we’ve travelled along our own life paths, there have been times when the deep connection between them has almost broken to the surface. For a long, long time they were not free to acknowledge this, even to themselves, much less to each other. They each honoured the commitments they had made elsewhere and devoted their energies to raising their beautiful children.
But, as they say, true love will find a way.
As the other paths they were travelling came to an end, they turned towards each other, as they’ve always done, to offer strength and support. They found so much more. And I found myself, once again, on the end of long phone calls – from both of them. All the what-ifs, and could-bes and what-do-you-think-it-could-means were there again. And you didn’t have to be Nostradamus to know that, one day, we’d end up here, at a wedding. And given that these two are the most sentimental, nostalgic people in the Whole World, you could have placed bets on it taking place in Kapunda.
So, here we are, at the scene of the crime…
This wedding brings together two very dear friends, who, this time, have everything on their side. They have the foundation of a long friendship – all the jokes, all the memories, and all the understanding, compassion and trust that goes with that. They know, love, embrace and enfold each other’s children. They have life experience, past successes and mistakes to learn from and draw on to ensure that they face life’s challenges together with kindness, consideration and empathy. They face their future with optimism and excitement. They see the significance of this second chance. They truly treasure each other, and will do everything in their power to nurture each other and the love that binds them…
Lastly, and most importantly, they share a great love of pubs and all things alcoholic and snack-related. This, I know, will carry them through any dark times.
Claire and Michael – my best friends – I don’t need to wish you happiness together. Instead, I wish you long, healthy lives, so that you can wring every ounce of joy out of this enduring love.
I am so very happy to have been a part of your story to date, and feel honoured to have been invited to share it with your friends and family today. I know we all look forward to sharing in every good thing that is to come.
A few months ago, Michael and I wrote our will together.
My old will, written decades before, was on the table. Michael leaned over to take a peek, and cheekily asked if his name was there. I was excited to show him that indeed, it was. Right there in my will I’d written and signed more than twenty years ago were the words:
“to be left special mementos in the event of my death, my dear friend, Michael Craig Randall”.
It was a memorable moment for us both, for here was yet more evidence of the deep bond we’ve shared since we first met. In many ways, it’s hard for us to convey the continuity of our love, when, for so many years, we were apart. We hear about twins separated at birth, later to be reunited as adults. Finally, everything makes sense for them and their hearts find peace. Or maybe I can explain it as an undercurrent. Gentle, but constant, and despite our having climbed into different boats many years ago, it kept pace with us over time. Or as a shape shifter, our love taking on different forms and shapes over the years.
However it is best described, our story is one of patience, respect, hope and courage. One of grief, second chances, triumph and unforetold magic. One of ancient and enduring love on an enormous scale. Today, Michael and I have been telling you our story in many different forms; through the songs we’ve chosen, the ceremony we pieced together over shared bottles of wine, the speeches, our photos and of course the venues that we chose for our wedding. Our lives have been intertwined both inescapably and intentionally, since we first met in 1979 resulting in a shared history that spans six decades.
So let’s start there, with our first decade together, the 1970’s. We didn’t know it then, but in the dying part of this decade, our course was set in unstoppable motion. We were 13 year- old kids together, meeting for the very first time at your little disco at Kapunda primary school. There was us sitting on the floor of my room at our family home just down the road in Crase Street, where you told me that a book in my bookcase was “profound”. I had to wait until you had gone home to look up the meaning of “profound” in the dictionary. Already then you were a fine wordsmith.
Then came the 80’s. This was the decade of high school’s happy days. You were working after school at Boo Menzels’ butcher shop, cleaning up animal guts and I was working across the road at Rawady’s deli, bagging up mixed lollies. You’d often come in on Saturdays in your cricket whites, and, if you were lucky, I’d put extra ice cream in your milkshake. But most profoundly (see, I know how to use that word now!) there was our memorable Year 12 together (right where we were married just a few hours ago) where we would argue with our friend Trish, about Paul McCarthy, our beloved history teacher, and who he liked the best. (……………………………………)
The 80s continued with parties at the nearby duck pond, dunkings at the Kapunda swimming pool, hot vodka-infused days at Adelaide oval one dayers, and afternoons watching each other play netball and footy right here at Dutton Park. There were the commutes together to Salisbury teachers college, rural youth camps, and night time visits to the local St John’s Cemetery to find ghosts (although never one to mess with the paranormal, you refused to come out of the car!). Michael and I have always been proud that our birthdays are only one week apart and in this decade we celebrated our 18th birthdays together and, as the 80’s ended, our 21sts.
Along came the 90’s. Champagne on the salt pans of Lake Gilles in Kimba and a joyously happy summer together. But the universe had different ideas for us during this decade – our working lives began and the world beckoned. We both trod different paths but we stayed deeply bonded as friends and continued to share in each other’s joys and sorrows. There were dinners, coffees, movies and our 30th birthdays. Our bond of friendship remained strong while we travelled the world. There were letters, cards and phonecalls, whether they were from a pub in England, the Boomerang bar in Singapore, a hotel room in California or a phone box in Turkey.
The 2000’s brought a decade of significant life events for us. On that terrible day, September 11th 2001 we sought each other out to spend the afternoon together to try and make sense of that crazy moment in world history. During this decade we celebrated our 40th birthdays and the births of our wonderful children. You shed tears with me at the funerals of my mum, my dad and my eldest sister Fran.
The decade of the “twenty teens” saw countless pub dinners, shared laughter and fringe shows with Trish and our MC, Kerry. There were barbecues, drinks and significantly our 50th birthdays when Trish and I made you a world class video on the lawn of our high school, right where we were married today, that was premiered at your party.
And then…..finally, in the twilight part of the twenty teens, the world righted itself, the universe smiled upon us and decided it was time to offer us a new beginning – together.
And so now we come to this decade – the 2020’s, and our wedding day. A scarcely dared dream; when finally it’s our time to have a shared life, where we get to call each other from Aisle 7 in Bunnings to discuss the colour of shelving supports or push pins vs thumb tacks. So everyday, so ordinary yet for us, extraordinary. I know, I get that you will be surprised to learn that in this decade we get to celebrate our shared 60th birthday party, and our retirement together!
If mum and dad and Fran, my eldest sister, were here today, they would have been filled with happiness and be cheering us on. Mum and dad knew you so well. Dad would have loved sharing a beer with you, together bemoaning the AFL management, and singing the praises of the SANFL. Mum would have served you your own stash of homemade biscuits so you wouldn’t need to sneak them from the top of the fridge, like you used to. And Fran would have made us a wedding cake. How I wish they could experience our joy today and see the warm, engaging and quality person that you have become, and how proud of you I am.
There are four people we would like to single out to say thank you to: our four children – Francie, HP, Max and Alex. All four have embraced us, and our love and our marriage. I am ever so thankful for their loving support and am proud to say that Michael and I have children who are insightful, generous and open hearted. To Max, Alex, HP and Francie, my deeply heartfelt thanks.
And now Michael, of course to you….
Michael, I’ve known you at nearly every stage of your life. As a boy, as a teen, as a young man and now as an approaching senior! I’ve watched you blossom from an inarticulate and awkward boy to a self-crafted, clever and insightful man. I love you for your boyish charm, your ability to find beauty in the everyday, your tenderness, your mindfulness, your forgiveness. I love you for your wish to see the best in people. Your wit, comedic timing and playful smile. Your openness to learn from others. You are an inspirational, dedicated teacher, a keeper and writer of the finest literature and have the best Michael Caine and Arnie accents in Glenelg North. I love you for your expansive, unwavering and boundless love for me.
Michael Craig Randall, whether it was as young sweethearts, or as the best of friends, I have loved you. But we just had to wait. And we waited well. With faith, love and grace in our hearts.
And now, at last, I get to love you as my husband. You are every dream inside my soul and I love you completely.
Thanks to everyone for joining us at our beloved Kapunda High School, and here now, in this footy club which is one hundred years older than Claire and me. These places have such profound and affirming meaning for us, and across the ceremony and this reception we’ve wanted to tell our story; our long, sometimes maddening, always beautiful story. I thank Claire for making today the elegant event it’s been. Your dress, the candles, the delicate details you’ve created for this celebration – I love you.
We were still teenagers when Claire rang to tell me she’d won the job. I knew she would – such are her impressive talents and attractive, girl-next-door persona. She was to be a host on the kids’ TV show Cartoon Connection. Of course I was thrilled for her, but also secretly despairing…
I imagined Claire (and her shapely calves) at Channel 7 touring the facility and saying hello to Wheel of Fortune’s Adriana Xenides and the goofy Baby John Burgess. But she’d also encounter the weather presenter, Keith Martyn. According to some, a gruff and condescending figure, he also annually published his own South Australian almanac, the impressively entitled, Keith Martyn’s South Australian Almanac. Now Keith’s book included tide times and details about when to plant tomatoes. How could I compete with this glamour? I could see Claire stepping in and out of Italian sports cars, going to A-list events and having her photo in the Sunday Mail (and not just the Possums Pages). I was right to be concerned at the high stakes: early on in the show they gave away – I’m not making this up – a 14-inch Phillips portable colour television!
I feared that Claire might be swept away from us for there I was, working weekends in Kapunda at Rexy Draper’s service station. Datsun 180Bs returning from day visits to Cadell would limp in with hissing radiators and billowing smoke and the frowning drivers would plead, “Can you fix it?” and nineteen-year old me would reply, “No, sorry. I’m not a mechanic, I’m a historian”. But then, one afternoon, I saw you on Cartoon Connection. You’d taken your dog, Bonnie, to appear with you on the show, and got her to count to ten with her paws. During that segment, you were so engaged with, and proud of, Bonnie that I reckon you forgot you were on camera. In that moment, I knew it was all going to be alright. You wouldn’t forget us. You were still our Claire– and always would be.
But before you moved on from your TV career you were to be offered a job as a weather presenter. That would’ve been fantastic. “Let’s cross now to Claire who’s up in Kapunda outside the Clare Castle Hotel and she’s got your four day forecast (the seven day version had yet to be discovered). Oh, we seem to have lost Claire. No, wait, she’s actually inside the pub! Ordering a brandy and coke!”
In 1991 I was living in Kimba and that November, you and Trish came to visit one weekend. Our worlds were expanding and we were all being pulled on different paths, but a photo from that weekend captures the moment when you and I sat together at Lake Gilles on a wooden sign – looking out towards the horizon. Things shifted that weekend, and we turned towards each other and in the two months that followed, I thought our time had arrived. On Boxing Day I went to America for three weeks and with you as a constant, joyous reference point I visited San Francisco and Phoenix and Santa Barbara and I stood on the snowy rim of the Grand Canyon. I was at some of the most exciting places in the world but, most exciting was the thought that you were awaiting me, back home across the Pacific in Adelaide. But the world turned. You continued with your life and I, mine. I did the only thing I could: I went out to Buckleboo one February afternoon and for the Kimba Cricket Club took 5/15. Gee, I bowled well. My in-swinger was never better. Tragically, we were later rolled by Waddikee who went on to win the A grade grand final.
And then, precious Claire, after almost thirty years, our paths changed and we found ourselves again sitting side-by-side, gazing at the horizon. In early 2020 we allowed ourselves the kind of indulgence only permitted those in love: we flew to Sweden for a week. We drove (not in a Volvo) across the bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo and then near Lyungbyhed to a secluded cabin. It was a remarkable, enchanted time. Some evenings we’d walk through the forest to a dark, still lake and climb onto a creaking pontoon. We’d sit at the table with a lighted candle, pull a rug over us, eat olives and talk of all we’d done that day, and of old friends, and things over the years that had made us laugh and things that made us cry, and of our children, and our hopes. And geese would skim across the lake and gather on its island and you’d smile at me in that heartening, exquisite way. Around us a peculiar, blue twilight would grow above the trees and my heart was singing for I knew, after all the desperately rushing decades and the long aching years, that finally, finally – kind, clever, funny, amazing Claire – we were together.
When Claire, Trish and I were in Year 12 at Kapunda SA-FM had Triple Track weekends and these were organised by artist or theme.
I’m sure irony or satire were never playlist drivers at the fledgling radio station, as I don’t recall a ridiculous mid-70’s theme, but late Friday night in the upstairs lounge at Carrackalinga – after charades was done (with Claire in Eddie McGuire mode as both compare and a team captain), and the boys downstairs with Perchy the blue heeler being boys – for us there was dancing (OK, not all) and wine and nostalgia and laughter, and these three were played on Trisha’s phone-
S-S-Single Bed by Fox
The Way That You Do It by Pussyfoot
Jeans On by (Lord) David Dundas.
It was a moment of shared history and evoked a joyous time from our childhoods and cloaked the room in safety and deep privilege. Inside, it was warm and for a few hours just before midnight the outside world of lashing rain and lurking adult responsibilities ceased to matter.
I thought of the comfort of old friends and our forgiveness and acceptance, quiet encouragement and unspoken gifts to each other, given freely and often.
Saturday morning and we arose across a few languid hours and gently started our days, a bit like the characters in The BigChill and as JB noted, each boy had cereal, slopped milk on the bench and table and then, of course, left the milk out. The fridge was too far away from them, an impossible bridge.
After Brett, Leonard, Alex, Riley, Oliver and I enjoyed a diverting quiz –
Who was the first Republican president?
Who performed “Waterloo Sunset?”
Where does port wine come from?
and then board games.
Some of us watched Muriel’s Wedding (Abba was a constant weekend companion) and then went to Myponga beach. It was invigorating and the tide swallowed much of the sand and just as we left the rain began. Riley and Max were in shorts and the apparent temperature was 4.9 degrees.
Thanks to JB, Leonard and Oliver for an excellent 24 hours in Carrackalinga.
On our way home it hailed as we drove through Sellicks Hill, but was warm in the car.
boys mucking around on the beach and no-one gets wet!
wintry beach a treat; as much seaweed as you can eat!
Brett about to do his Michael Caine impersonation
Claire and Max mid-charade, doubtless something equine
Sleeping, dusty streets. Saturday afternoon like a still creek.
Memories, rushed and gentle on every corner. Footy, cricket. Bikes.
A pasty each up by the high school lawns. Awash with grey Midford shirts. Roman sandals. Unfinished essays. The poetry of Gerard Manly Hopkins. Year 12 Biology and a vegetation transect on Banksias.
A cricket match shout from the oval. Share a beer and chat in the pub later with my cousin, Froggy. The captain. Rolled for bugger-all.
Visit our history teacher, Macca and his wife, Kerry. Discuss 1983 and everywhere since. Feel seventeen again.
Dinner around a big kitchen table with old friends, Woodsy and Sue. Happy collision of past, present and future. Not enough time to see others. Next time.
Sunday morning. Out to scan the golf club. Admire the lush fairways and nod at the greens which replaced the scrapes of my youth. Recall the handful of 21sts. White HQ Holdens lined up like butchers of West End. Hoodoo Gurus blasting into the cold night.
Drive back across the River Light bridge towards the city.
Yesterday I went to the funeral of my dear mate Bob’s brother Jeff. We all went to Kapunda High. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s fair to suggest that nostalgia can often interfere with the truth. This might be why I convinced myself that our destination had a certain mystique, a mythology all of its own that would reveal itself through a grand, weaving story.
Christmas a couple years’ back Chrisso texted from near New Orleans that he’d tell me the reason for this venue when he returned.
I could hardly wait, and some months later when we caught up I asked, in a rather formal, yet compact sentence, “So, why is the Kapunda boys biannual reunion held at the King’s Head pub on King William Street?”
I was looking forward to his complex and engaging narrative.
“Because it’s on the tram line.”
Last Friday on yet another unseasonably warm evening not quite twenty of us descended upon this ripping old-school boozer to share tales and to laugh and to stir and, above all, to connect.
We gathered in the cosy front bar at a large wooden table. It seemed that there were travel yarns to tell. Where you been, somebody asked.
Crackshot replied, “An eight-week odyssey through Western Australia.” Anecdotes followed.
Chris offered, “I had a week at various resorts in Fiji.” Crisp yarns were shared.
“And what of you Mickey?” somebody, possibly Puggy, asked.
We prefer the King’s Head as it’s fiercely South Australian. Some would say, the KG of the pub scene. There’s only local drinks and food available. Not a Carlton Draught or Moreton Bay Bug in sight. It’s a point of difference.
As is the complete absence of TAB, and wide screens with footy, racing and darts glaring out across the punters. It’s a refreshing change and means you must immerse yourself in the company and conversation.
It could be described as a place where you can enjoy a pub holiday.
There’s a sparkling galaxy of beers on tap including brash youngsters Pirate Life, Mismatch and equine Hills star, Prancing Pony. A volley of correspondence earlier in the week created a bubbling anticipation for Kapunda chap, Chris Higgins’ Greenock Brewers Victorville Ale. An app confirms this.
But we’re a week too early. The Greenock beer is not on. It’s a disappointment but doesn’t seem to decelerate our eagerness.
Around seven a grinning group of old muckers rolls through the doors like oranges. Whitey, Woodsy, O’s and Dames present themselves. Our ensemble is complete with beers and handshakes and schnitzel and warmth and reminisces; some keenly remembered and some forgotten.
So, there’s Lukey, Puggy, Crackshot, Matey, Rus, Bongo, Schultzy, Bobby, Nick, Whitey, Woodsy, O’s, Dames, Fats, Swanny, Chrisso, and Mickey.
Happily, just about everyone has a nickname. It’d be a shame for somebody to miss out.
Shortly after Nick tells us one of his favourite stories. By then, we’ve already dealt with the famous night at the West Torrens Cricket Club in 1986. Former Torrens opening bowler Rocket is an apology tonight given he’s in New Zealand, bro.
Nick continues, “Years ago at a U2 concert, Bono started clapping, slowly and deliberately.” He clapped too, to emphasise his point. Nick likes a story.
“Bono said, ‘Every time I clap, an African child dies.’”
“Somebody in the crowd then yelled out, ‘Well, stop fcuking clapping then.’”
Without being previously aware we’d also lobbed into the King’s Head on the night when a DJ was playing 1980’s electro/ synthesiser/ new wave music.
Normally this would make me change the radio station quicker than an Ali jab, and reach for the sick bag but the combination of Coopers and friendship and ridiculous memories makes it fun. I recall
Blancmange’s “Living on the Ceiling”
Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?”
Flock of Seagull’s “I Ran”
Pete Shelley’s “Homosapien”
Visage’s “Fade to Gray” and the gold medallist
Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.”
Maybe that we were all at school for some part of the eighties invests this music with involuntary affection for our shared past.
Or maybe it’s the beer.
It’s another terrific evening and a great chance to connect and strengthen our community. It’s also a tradition. I do like a tradition.
However, when Nick and Fats and I wander out of the neighbouring La Trattoria, post-pizza and red wine, the trams had stopped for the night. Ubers were urgently beckoned.
Time for nighty-night.
Maybe I’ll jump on a tram after our Christmas cups, at the King’s Head.
I hope this finds you well. Although of all people I should know how you’re travelling.
Gee, look at you! Your hair is nut-brown, having turned darker since you were a little blonde boy. I won’t send through a photo because the silver, err, fox you are now might scare you a little.
What a scrawny thing you are too. If I can give you a tip or two, play footy and cricket as long as you can. Giving both away when you’re around thirty seems too young. After this you’re a spectator forever.
To the story you wrote in Mrs Warry’s Year 9 English class at Kapunda High. I reckon it was in Room 42, that transportable out the back. You loved that class and the space itself was inviting and safe, but this was a function of the teacher. It always is.
Nowadays it’s strange, but I reckon we went the entire year without a computer or watching a film. I don’t think we even had to get up in front of our friends and give a talk.
We simply read and wrote and learned.
Your story, “The Courtroom of the World” begins with the protagonist, young Barney, opening his eyes, having fallen. That you withhold the details surrounding this is excellent. It simply doesn’t matter. The intrigue only makes us more curious. Without your knowing it, dropping the reader into the middle of the action is an exalted technique that the Classicists called in medias res. Well done.
I must also congratulate you on your careful, earnest handwriting. It’s a credit to your sense of application although you must prepare yourself for the shock of what happens later. Now you write like a shiraz-soaked spider has wobbled through a saucer of ink…
You admirably attempt a metaphor with, “rivers of blood” to describe Barney’s leg injury although some would classify it as passé. But, then again, you’re not quite fourteen, so they should be kinder. Encouragement is always the very best option. Stick with metaphors as they make stories gold-plated. Ha!
While I’m at it, why Barney? Did you know a Barney? The only Barney I recall is Rubble, and you weren’t a huge Flintstones fan, but I reckon you found Betty cute although she was no Josie of the Pussycats. Could be another mystery of adolescence.
I do like how you maintain the tension. At one point, Barney becomes agitated, “gasping in fright” for he has to be home at six and it’s already five-thirty. That Catholic compliance (guilt) can pop up in all sorts of surprising places.
In the next plot development our main character sets off with no clear plan only to descend into what, “was a cave. Being an adventurous boy, he decided to explore.” Recent history says no to this. Snooping about in a cave is not suggested. Here in 2018 I’m sure of this.
I can forgive that, but then to shamelessly write, “Up ahead in the distance he saw a shimmering light” is disappointing. Under no circumstances should you plagiarise the Eagles and their 1976 song, “Hotel California.” Sorry, but despite how many school socials you slow-danced to it before those stark community hall lights came on, this is wrong, morally and aesthetically. I don’t care how captivating you found the final guitar solo.
I’m curious that “The Courtroom of the World” is presided over by a frog, but I guess our amphibian friends would be as suited as any beast to pass robust global judgments. Good job avoiding the obvious call of making a lion, tiger or wombat king of the planet.
The jury in your tale consists of, “The Alligator, the Snake, the Monkey, and the Seagull.” Let me ask why you thought that a seagull could offer lofty wisdom and analytical thinking? They’re really just hot-chip vultures.
Just as The Honorable Justice Frog is about to hand down his terrible, doubtless appropriate verdict, Barney’s mother awakes him! I wonder if there’s not a rite of passage about this, a compulsion that all offspring must write a narrative that concludes with a dreadful jolt from slumber.
I look back across the increasingly fluffy decades to that classroom and consider its legacy. Even when we didn’t deserve it Mrs Warry would smile and peer at us warmly from above her glasses. She was kind, patient and offered that most luminous of gifts, considered praise.
I thank her for helping to shape me.
I recall little of the previous or following year in English. Year 9 has always enjoyed a certain mythology: an unforgettable, sharp quality. Yours, it would seem, was like this.
You’ll be saddened to learn that Mrs Warry passed away this last year.
So, young Michael, keep with it as I like what you’re doing. While I’m pretty sure you don’t have a novel or a film lurking in your bonce, there’s a couple of boys called Alex and Max who just might. They seem to enjoy a yarn and as you know, we need storytellers.
Keep encouraging them, just like Mrs Warry would’ve.
There was still a post-Coronation glow across the Commonwealth when Holden started making cars in Elizabeth, just north of Adelaide. Indeed, our Queen had only been in Buckingham Palace for a few years, and with this respectfully in mind, those mapping the satellite city instead decided that the thoroughfare next to the car manufacturing plant should be named Philip Highway, Elizabeth. I guess Philip Road, Elizabeth was a bit horizontal in tone, especially in the 1950’s.
I’m not a petrol-head, but as a country boy, I was always going to buy a Holden for my first car. Purchased from solid farming folk near Greenock, it was a pale blue HR Holden complete with two-speed Powerglide. It had razor-blade thin tyres, which had the unfortunate habit of prolonged squealing as I gently rounded a corner, or accidently drove in circles at the intersection just up from the Kapunda Pizza Bar. Prior to buying an FM radio, for my driving pleasure I had a portable cassette player and a kazoo. The HR’s registration was REM-097.
Part way through my degree I upgraded to the model I’m confident was made in greater numbers than any other at the Elizabeth plant: a HQ Kingswood (white). In our little country town, there must’ve been twenty of these, and they were mostly driven by us young fellas. Sometimes there’d be three or more of these in a diagonal row, outside Nugget’s Clare Castle Hotel*, late on a Sunday. Owning one seemed almost compulsory, and it functioned as a type of vehicular uniform for our silly army. Its rego was UXA-100.
For a few months, my friends commuted to uni and back with me. Claire and Trish* were Abba fans and musical theatre devotees, and I now confess that I took fiendish, even megalomaniacal delight in controlling our musical accompaniment. They’d holler, “Put on the radio” and “We want SA-FM.”
Deaf to their words, I’d then lean over and pump up the volume on a ten-minute blues song like, “Key to the Highway.” Somehow, we’re still friends.
Nineteen. There may well be an age at which Australian males are more stupid, but I doubt it. With sudden and inexplicable urgency one Friday night, when I was barely nineteen, three friends and I decided that we needed to race down to one of the Kapunda main street’s four pubs (or possibly, all of them).
So, we left the home of the mate that for legal reasons I’ll refer to as Woodsy* and failing entirely to navigate the dirt road behind Kapunda High School, my left fender prised open about twenty feet of the corrugated fence like it was a tin of Whiskers*. The car came to an immediate halt. Our friend was studying electronic engineering at Adelaide uni, so I said, “Chris*, you’re smart, fix it!” He couldn’t.
Subsequent crash analysis revealed a major cause being the HQ Holden’s front bench seat on which, for now obscure reasons, all four of us were, for want of an ergonomically accurate term, sitting. Apparently, this lack of physical space made it difficult for the driver (me) to successfully operate the steering wheel.
Later, another mate, Crackshot* remarked that despite it being only eighteen months since I’d somehow won Kapunda High’s Paul Giles Memorial Prize for Character and Leadership, I still clearly wanted to make a lasting mark on my former school. Under the cold light of Saturday morning, in grim conversation and looking at my Adidas Rome-d feet, neither the headmaster nor the town’s police officer, saw my yearning for scholastic legacy as a legally relevant issue.
The final Holden I owned was the most expensive of the three, and certainly the least likable. Heading off to the West Coast to teach I bought a VK Commodore from Hage’s in Tanunda. It drove well, if thirstily, but the stereo was terrible and the front speaker rattled like buggery whenever I’d turned up a tape, like Billy Joel*. Billy deserves better.
One evening after a prolonged cricket fixture and raffle-ticket selling duties in the Wudinna Club, the VK batted last and was dismissed, run-out by a Ford at a railway line on the road back to my farmhouse accommodation (I wasn’t driving). After extensive rehabilitation, during which I drove Jock* and Snook’s dune buggy, I sold it.
I didn’t know it, but my relationship with Holden’s was finished. I’m unsure whether I’m yet to have my mid-life crisis, or if I’ve been having one all my life, but I often think that one day, I’ll buy myself an EH Holden.
I might even take it on Sunday drives, and do a lap of Kapunda High.
During the second quarter, on the fifty-metre arc, at the Punt Road end was, to paraphrase Hunter S Thompson, when the stories and the beer began to take hold.
Six of us are in Row S, connected by the time we spent together at Kapunda High School, and variously on the Barossa’s cricket and footy ovals.
Much of our conversation is our old cars and coaches and mates and publicans and parents and maverick teachers who shaped us.
It’d been a ripping trip so far: early flights, the North Fitzroy Arms for the Footy Almanac lunch which concluded with the final siren at the SCG, the obligatory Young and Jackson nightcaps, and a Saturday laneway breakfast.
With the Uber app showing cars descending like black Pacmen three of us ride in a Caprice, and I’m reminded of the great Dave Graney and his song “Feelin’ Kinda Sporty” which opens with the magnificent
A black Statesman “73
At high noon, and accompanied with ample yarns, we entered the All Nations Hotel to confer with the ghost of Bill Hunter, and then white pub-vanned to the MCG as the match commenced. Each of us is merrily apathetic about the result.
I love footy, but occasionally its lone function is to provide a panoramic context across which we can splash our stories. Rocket would love to be watching his beloved Sturt while Nick, the Hayward boys (not Kapunda’s Gatlin boys) and Lukey are Norwood men, but as neither is scheduled at the MCG today we get along to Collingwood and Port.
With the match chugging along Nick and I discuss contemporary AFL footballers and old players from home, in particular one Mail Medallist and local publican who loved scrapping at the bottom of a pack, like a nuggetty 1970’s Selwood.
“You know what he used to do in the sheds before a game?” “No. Tell me.” “He’d smear heaps of Vaseline on his eyebrows so the elbows would slide off.” I giggle.
Needing to refresh their refreshments the Haywards return with their shouts: Bundy for them, and mid-strength beers for us. For a moment, I fear we’ll need petroleum jelly too, but happily there’s no fight in the forward pocket.
We move onto that most vital of topics: Which Test Cricketer would you most like to have a beer with? (until very recently in pre-production at Network Ten)
“Warney?” “There’s nothing to discover. Nothing.” “Yeah, and I can’t have a beer with someone who calls their book, ‘My Autobiography.’” “That’d have been a funny meeting at the publishers.” I take a difficult sip of my mid-strength. “Waugh twins?” “No. Steve’d bore you to death.” “The worst kind of mental disintegration.”
Ultimately our choice is clear. One of the most stylish middle-order bats we’ve seen, and still a bloke about whom little is really known. An anti-Warney. The one who quit the night of the famous 2006 Ashes victory in Adelaide. Damien Martyn.
On the ground, Port is doing well with Robbie Gray slotting a few while Unley Jets alumnus Brodie Grundy is holding his own for the Magpies.
We wonder if the Chappell brothers still own the Leg Trap Hotel, and if David Warner is less likeable than a curved television and if it’s possible to make Boonie more Australian. It isn’t.
This brings us to the best quotation ever, the one which places sport and our little, self-tortured world into perfect context. Nick remembers his Dad giving him Australian allrounder and WWII pilot Keith Miller’s book. “Pressure,” Keith said. “I’ll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse. Playing cricket is not.”
Still laughing at the magnificence of this, Rocket heads off to a cavern and emerges with some appropriate beers. Normal transmission is resumed. Pendlebury is smooth and constructive, as usual. We note that Ollie Wines has thighs like Californian redwood.
The conversation then tends, as it must, towards other nostalgia and juvenalia. We’re now at Stalag 13. The verdant field of the MCG recedes and we’re all in front of a black and white TV, sliding our paws into packets of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs.
“Burkhalter and Hochstetter.” Much giggling, given to misty eyes. “Captain Hoganhoffer?” “No prisoner has ever escaped from Stalag 13.” More giggling.
“I’d like to hear this on the BBC World Service: Munich Messerschmitts 2, Stalag 13, 3.” Someone slides next to me with a pie. A message comes through that another Kapunda High contemporary is on the second deck behind the Port cheer squad. We wave at Maria, who waves towards our bay.
Looking back now it makes sense, and indeed there’s a happy inevitability in the childhood image that would become our weekend’s talisman. The footy is now on mute as we moved towards the creature that Mark Twain described as “a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton.” The coyote, but of course for us, Wily E Coyote.
I don’t know how we came to this, and I don’t want to know, but as the shadows lengthened across Melbourne, Lukey, with his talent for the comic and the absurd mentioned it and we were off.
“Easily the greatest cartoons ever.” “The coyote hanging in mid-air until he realizes that he is about to plummet into a chasm!” “Yeah, and he’d hold up a sign like ‘Goodbye cruel world.’” “Or ‘Help me.’” “‘Mother.’”
By now the laughter and the memories and the beer and our good fortune at being in this fun space meant, for some of us, there were tears of childish abandonment. “What of the Giant Kite Kit?” “The roller skates and the fan blowing the coyote along?” “From the Acme company.” Bombs, detonators, nitroglycerin. Not so funny in 2017, but when you’re seventeen and watching Looney Tunes…
We talk of the Road Runner’s ability to enter the painted image of a cave, while the coyote cannot, which showed us that the existentialists are correct: it is an unknowable and absurd universe. Cartoons teach us this.
And then as the Paah (sic) delivered their knockout blow to Collingwood, Lukey delivered his knockout blow to us. A childhood picture that captures the fun, the innocence of the endless battle between the Roadrunner and the Coyote.
“Free bird seed.”
And there it was. Only three words. But a beautiful mantra of the past, a pulsing refrain, and the best televisual picture of a little bird nibbling at food in the desert, likely just outside Albuquerque.