6

Round a Table with Old Friends

galah

The Grand Canyon is mightily impressive. So is the Eiffel Tower. The best beach I’ve seen is Ko Lanta in Thailand, where the sand is soft and the water is azure blue and clear as glass.

I’ve been lucky to go on some amazing holidays and see some amazing sites.

I’ve just returned from a quick holiday to Kimba, on the state’s west coast, where the most captivating site wasn’t the Big Galah, but a succession of tables.

Yes, tables. Tables loaded with stories and laughter. Tables with old friends around them. Perfect.

And around these tables the best stories are the familiar ones; the ones you know as well as the back of your hands; the stories that make you smile instantly because you can recite the details and the dialogue like an old song, and you know how they finish and like a kid at Christmas you can hardly wait for the punchline, and then, when you hear it you roar, like a drain, but probably louder than you did the last time you sat at this table with these old friends.

Thanks to the tables I enjoyed in Kimba, Coffin Bay and Buckleboo. Golf club tables, pub tables, front deck tables, kitchen tables, coffee tables.

Breakfast tables, lunchtime tables, first beer of the day tables, BBQ tables, Saturday night and folks are getting rowdy tables.

The Crows are playing, but leave the tele off tables. The go on, text Mozz and check how old he is tables. The remember when Hen sprayed his opening drive at Port Augusta and went straight back to bed tables?

I love a table.

So, now I’m out the back at home, writing this, sitting at a table. The rain has stopped and above the vague traffic there’s birdsong and laughter from the kids in the house behind us.

I’m already thinking about the next time I sit round a table with old friends. Sometimes you don’t need a Thai beach, but just a welcoming table.

 

 

table

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0

A Day on the Green: Nostalgia by the North Para

 

plw

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

c. Marsh b. Lillee

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

fcuk coriander

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

Sunshine on my window

Makes me happy

Like I should be

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

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

Hast Du etwas Zeit für mich

Dann singe ich ein Lied für Dich

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

 

99-red-balloons

 

 

4

Round 6- Adelaide v Fremantle: Sea Monkeys

sea monkeys

If talking about the weather is Britain’s obsession, then I’d argue that Australia’s national hobby is yabbying. A crustacean El Dorado, trifling physical labour, kids, and refreshments. Generally yielding inedible miscellany. I love it.

After five long years we’re back in Kimba, and Friday lunchtime the ute of my old mate Bazz clunks towards a dam on the Ballumbah Hill Road.

An exploratory net is thrown in, my boys leap about, and between sips of beer, Bazz and I slap at the late April flies. Out here flies never holiday, never bugger off up north for winter. I remember wearily waving them away at nearby Buckleboo during footy season as I rested in the forward pocket, while some spectators insulated themselves with stout.

Dragging the net onto the bank Alex and Max skip and shriek.

Bazz declares, “No yabbies, sorry boys.”

Pointing at the wriggling aquaculture Alex says, “Are these tadpoles?”

“Yep. Big ones. They’ll soon be frogs.”

Max asks, “What’s that funny one?”

I instantly see my teenaged-self staring at whole-page advertisements within the horror comics I enjoyed briefly. I blurt, “Sea monkey. It looks like a sea monkey.” With exotic smiles and bewitching humanoid figures, sea monkeys belonged in Lost in Space, inspiring Dr Smith to more mission-threatening selfishness.

Sea monkeys taught me a lesson about the cruel gap between advertising promise, and consumer reality.

Thirty yabby-free minutes later, rattling to the Kimba Golf Club, the boys are singing the song they’re inventing, bemused by their own pulsing imaginations,

“Sea monkey, sea monkey, sea monkey….”

*

In opening the breezy afternoon Adelaide’s Tom Lynch forgets physics, which demands a drop punt, and instead sends a tragi-comedic dribbler across the face. It’s inexplicably ridiculous.

Fremantle commences its Behind-Fest as Mayne pushes it right. Then Mundy to the left. I’m sure Ross Lyon could watch a grim, sleet-soaked, third division Yorkshire derby that ended 0-0, and he’d say, “It were rubbish. Constant attack are useless. Too many goals.”

After nine and a half horrid minutes Jenkins gets Adelaide off the duck.

If we still had a VCR (Betamax) it would’ve been wasteful spending eight cents on electricity recording this quarter.

*

The tide’s turning at Coffin Bay. It’s just outside Port Lincoln, which produced Graham Johncock, Byron Pickett and brothers Peter and Shaun Burgoyne. All came from the Mallee Park Football Club.

We’re in the shallows of Long Beach. The boys, running and splashing, running and splashing. Their Mum then urges them to slow down, look and spot the details. Now they see them. Gazing down microscopically, their world inflates like a gaseous giant.

Sand crabs. Pale. Scuttling. Burrowing. Alex scoops some up. They escape, and tumble into the Southern Ocean. Like all younger brothers Max wants to follow, but is anxious as he’s not held a crab before. He jiggles and hesitates.

And then on his palm is a little crab. With curiosity and a pocketful of courage, a crustacean dances across his hand!

This is why we’ve driven seven hundred kilometres to a gentle, enlightening beach.

*

Second term opens with more of the same. To watch a match involving the Dockers is to observe two sloths; one willing and one captive, wrestling under a sodden army blanket.

Recent re-includee Cameron shows poise, and should still be at the club in a decade. Tom Lynch enjoys absolution by collecting plainly, pirouetting twice and snapping precisely. A Renoir in an abattoir.

Behind play Spurr flattens Betts and donates the Crows another. Meanwhile, The Dockers inch up to ten behinds.

Matthew Pavlich gets another minor score after the siren. He’s presented well today during a season in which many saw Pav not as Australia’s (New Zealand’s) favourite dessert, but month-old cheesecake.

*

So, our boys haven’t ever swung at a gold ball, but they’ve now driven a golf cart. Is this wrong? Ahead of tomorrow’s round Bazz wants a hit on Royal Kimba’s back nine.

I’m cart captain, but in turn and on my lap, Alex and Max steer and stomp the pedals. On the 12th Max accelerates up the fairway, but detours through a bush by the ladies’ tee. Crackling twigs and leaves shower us.

We’re only in Kimba three days, but the accomplishments accumulate like boy scout badges. They help in the garden, and Bazz takes them out on an electrical job, and a couple hours later they burst through the screen door. As apprentice sparkies, Alex has fifteen dollars, and Max juggles some toy trucks, bought with his earnings.

On the 16th Bazz pulls another drive left. “What’s going on?” I ask as the cart bounces along the rough. Not for the first time in the decades I’ve known him he self-analyses, “Bad golf made easy.”

We’re halfway across Australia, on a near-desert plateau, but this trip is a sea-change.

*

To commence the second half Betts is slung when not in possession, and then at the opposite end Ballantyne misses. His team-mates are secretly pleased.

Successively, Eddie provides a signature pocket-snap, and Brodie Smith delights with an equally emblematic missile from beyond fifty.

Halfway through the quarter Fremantle have kicked fourteen behinds, and only two majors. Goal scoring is as natural to the Dockers as it is to garfish (grilled).

Obviously using the Chicken Salt (yes, it’s now a proper noun) hoarding as a target, Tom Lynch guides through his second.

The Crows are in control. Rory Sloane continues to play footy the way Ringo drummed for The Beatles: possibly without constant finesse, but with a charismatic enthusiasm that kept things moving along.

In the final stanza the home side accelerates away early as if wishing to escape this dire opponent and direr affair. Adelaide produces some sunny moments, but it’s an oddly cheerless conclusion, and there’s a mechanical, Samuel Beckett-like inevitability. The last three goals go pointlessly to the Dockers, but few will mourn the passing of their season, and their turgid game plan.

I look forward to seeing the Crows and Dogs at the Docklands next week. Can you get Chicken Salt there?

*

If you’re six you run from the holiday cottage to the Coffin Bay jetty in three languid seconds. Max does this each morning.

Late Anzac Day, we’re on the jetty. It attaches us to the glimmering water, welcoming contemplation and quiet gratitude.

Along the jetty there’s ladders, and Alex hovers above one. He wants to drive into the water. The deeper water. Most of his swimming has been in a Singaporean pool.

I can see the bottom, but it’s a scary step from the lower rung. A pause, then with a triumphant splash, he chests the water, dog-paddles about in innocent, furious circles, and scrambles up into the golden light.

At sunset of our final day on the West Coast I think of my old friend John Malone, and his poem, “Jetties” in which he notes that,

 

People lean

from jetties, dream from jetties

fishing for

tranquillity. They are

walkways into and out of

the mind. Umbilical

chords attaching us to the sea.

jetty

0

Cricket and the Country Member 

tarlee 2

Footy’s finished and I’m thinking about cricket. I love cricket stories.

I remember Fonz, from Kimba, telling me how his country carnival team was dismissed in Adelaide for two. Yes, the entire side.

Two.

I also recall Woodsy and Whitey in a grand final at Greenock. As the shadows spread, Kapunda needed a dozen with five wickets in hand. Rolled by four runs.

And, I think of Tarlee.

A farming settlement between the Barossa and Clare Valleys. Its oval is microscopic, utopian for batting, but a bowling Hades. Along one side wanders the Gilbert River, while just beyond, lies the rail line.

Saturday. Distant decades back, my first footy coach, Bruce Dermody, bashed the ball long, very long, and in a rare but happy junction between work and play, it plummeted into a moving train carriage. Bruce was a Station Master!

*

During the ’92 World Cup I remember Dean Jones hitting a six at Adelaide Oval against Sri Lanka. Not square at the Victor Richardson Gates or into the George Giffen Stand, but straight, towards the petty enclave of North Adelaide. The shot rose and journeyed past the seats and the path, and onto the grassy mound.

It landed among the folk under the Moreton Bay Figs. As Geoffrey Boycott might have said, “I don’t go that far for me holiday.”

*

Davo. We all need a mate called Davo. Tarlee had a fella called Jason. Davo was a sportsman; as a dashing centreman he’d won an underage association B & F. Where footy’s forgiving, the glaring nature of cricket can be cruel. He drops Jason on four. Simple catch.

Jason then bludgeons the ball repeatedly into the reeds along the Gilbert River. It drowns, often. He almost gets a triple century. But Davo responds by taking a hat-trick with his Thommo slingers. That’s a diverse afternoon. Like marrying a gorgeous girl. And then at your reception, she whispers, “ I’m pregnant. To your uncle.”

Stumps are drawn. Hours later, ghosts in cream dinner suits are haunting the streets, and pubs. No, look closer, these are not suits, but cricket attire! The same disembodied phantoms are then lured to the Tarlee Institute disco (cheaper drinks, but poorer skin care routines than the Ponds Institute).

The DJ is a farmer. The band is called Undercover. Of course, they include “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors. Their cricket whites survive the prickly outfield and muddy river, but the floorboarded infield of bundy and beer-slop is lethal; it has a Strontium-90 half-life.

*

Simon O’Donnell at the SCG in 1986. Flat-bats one into the top of the Brewongle Stand. Like Mooloolaba and Coonawarra, Brewongle is a comfortingly Australian word, murmuring of open roads, and backyards, and drifting eucalyptus. Now sirens to my equatorial ears, these are calling me home.

Brewongle, as is mostly thought, is not named after an Aboriginal term for camping ground, but rather for the former tea room run by two sisters within the old stand. Ah, myth and reality.

One Australian summer we’ll take our boys to Sydney. The Brewongle beckons.

*

Fifteen, brazen, bearded. Precocious in myriad ways. My teenage cousin Puggy played representative cricket with fellow Barossans Greg Blewett and Darren Lehmann. After mobs of runs against men, he made his A grade debut.

Nuriootpa’s opening bowler Horry Moore was broad, fierce, and scary-quick. A walloper from Nuriootpa, he’d sort this punk out. In competition, youthful self-confidence is always insulting. His red torrent began.

Crack! Puggy drove Horry’s third lightning bolt straight back over his head. Two bounces, under the fence, onto the road, with gravel scuffing the ripe Kookaburra. Who was this kid? He got 94 in slick time.

At season’s end he’d win the association batting aggregate. Puggy’s drive was a haughty declaration, an unworldly rebellion, and bluntly instructive of life being a string of little births and, for Horry that innings, little deaths.

*

Eudunda. As you drive across the last hill before descending into town, a bluish plain swims into view. This flat scrubbyness seems, on certain days, as a wintry ocean. As a kid I used to think, instead of this saltbush and mallee, it’d be wonderful if it was the sea. As it was, eons ago.

To the north, and by Burra Creek, is the unironic locality of World’s End. Snaking nearby we find Goyder’s Line, which shows where rain and soil might allow crops to be grown confidently. Goyder is still right.

A sleety, snowy gale there once forced footballers to scurry under the fence and huddle between the Kingswoods and Chargers. I was ten, and hadn’t seen such apocalyptic storms. World’s End seemed even closer.

Kapunda’s Bull Ant got some brisk runs one January at Eudunda (former club of mine Footy Almanac host, John Harms). He was a stylish left-hander, but, then again, ignoring Kepler Vessels, aren’t they all? Clipping one off his pads, it hurled high over the boundary, and clanged about on the clubroom roof like Glaswegian hail. It sat there.

In protest at the heat, ruthless flogging and distasteful realisation they were supposedly enduring this for fun, the locals all flopped on the grass. No-one moved to retrieve the ball. Mutiny. Finally, the bowler mumbled, “Well, I served up the poop, I better go fetch it.”

And he did.

sheep

0

Billy the Mountain

FZ

I sing best when by a washing machine.

Half way across Australia. The farming hamlet of Kimba. Late on a Tuesday. It often was. At that time, no night was safe. Bazz, Hen and I wedged into the laundry, and warbling along with Frank Zappa.

A mountain is something
You don’t wanna fuck with
You don’t wanna fuck with
Don’t fuck around

Stripping precious bushels from the wheat, our voices pranged out across the paddocks. The adult in charge was Coopers Sparkling Ale. Of course, Bazz, Hen and I have been mates ever since.

I first heard Zappa at Bushy Martin’s one summer down at Sellicks Beach. It was Joe’s Garage on vinyl, exhilarating and just a bit dangerous. Here was sophisticated, funny music coupled with contagious lyrics, especially on “Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?”

Much of my pop culture schooling came on Sunday nights through The Coodabeen Champions. During one episode the best Frank Zappa song was debated. They agreed.

I raced into Rundle Mall, and bought Just Another Band From LA. Inspecting the cartoonish cover, I see “Billy the Mountain” runs for roughly thirty minutes. Epic songs have always bewitched me with their wide landscapes. Empty roads, awaiting traffic.

The storytelling and amusing arrangements make it a masterpiece. Part travelogue and romantic comedy, it opens in Los Angeles, tumbles through Playa Del Rey, Santa Monica, and Canoga Park, before lurching across the Mojave Desert, to The Strip

It’s off to Las Vegas
To check out the lounges
Pull a few handles,
And drink a few beers.

It also functions as an opera and a radio play, with Zappa and cult vocal duo Flo and Eddie alternating as narrators. On a vacation paid for by postcard royalties, our mobile mountain Billy, and his wooden wife Ethell are heading, seismically, to New York.

The heroic pair travel west to east, annihilating various human environments, in a deviant Manifest Destiny. Edwards Air Force Base is an early, delicious target

TEST STAND #1 and THE ROCKET SLED ITSELF… (We have ignition!)… got LUNCHED! I said LUNCHED!

When I lived just north of London in the old Roman city of St Albans, it was a Zappa-free zone for two years. Mammoth in charisma and personal impact, I missed this song. So, in 2005 I had a mate home in Adelaide copy my CD, and send it to me.

Driving down to New Forest’s heathland, the wife and I listened to it one Friday. It provided happy escape from the cheerlessness of the M25 and M3. A universe distant from soggy Hampshire

He was born next to the beef pies,
Underneath Joni Mitchell’s autographed picture,
Right beside Elliot Roberts’ big Bank Book,
Next to the boat
Where Crosby flushed away all his stash.

Mentioning American emblems such as Jack-In-The-Box and Howard Johnsons, this magnum opus inspires me to drive an El Dorado Cadillac and shop at Ralph’s. Just like The Dude in the beginning sequence of The Big Lebowski. To a country boy from South Australia, it’s profoundly panoramic.

Remember the soaring coda of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes?” It’s parodied on “Billy the Mountain.” A key sonic motif is the stab from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and the structure reminds me of “Peter and the Wolf.”

It’s eclectic, as Toto (the dog, mercifully, and not the band) and the tornado from The Wizard of Oz, are juxtaposed with Jerry Lewis samples. Remarkably, all recorded live at UCLA!

Satirising the antihero, a blundering Studebacher Hoch, Zappa’s darts are sharpest on overzealousness, and fawning ignorance, especially in Hoch’s introductory monologue

and, ah, how’s your wife’s haemorrhoids? Oh, that’s too bad… Listen… so you’ve got a mountain, with a tree, listen, causing… oh, my! Well, let me write this down . . . sorta take a few notes here… yeah… ?

The song’s Dadaist, its anarchistic storyline urging anti-war sentiment during its elongated loopiness. But, it’s also debauched, ridiculous, and hilarious.

And, of course, it takes a brutal intellect to invent such fun.

We don’t live in a global village. Mostly, we reside in a culturally identical village, repeated globally. Zappa fought this, and “Billy the Mountain” is musical theatre of prodigious ambition, and equal achievement. It’s among the most engrossing, most weird half hours you can spend.

I often think of being by that washing machine, in its tiny laundry, when three friends squawked out into the undeserving Tuesday dark, with America’s wittiest commentator, Frank Zappa.

A mountain is something
You don’t wanna fuck with
You don’t wanna fuck with
Don’t fuck around

0

Boris, The Bunch of Cherries, and The Gatting Ball

AB and me

I can see it now. I’ve a horrifying habit. Too many times, I’ve accidentally chosen to work where the local pub is the worst in town.

St Albans is a fetching cathedral and market town, just north of London, in the glamorous greenery of the Home Counties. It boasted over eighty boozers when I lived there, and most prominent is the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in Verulamium Park, where once stood a Roman city.

An eleventh century building on an eighth century site, it’s the Guinness Book of Records holder of oldest pub in England. Our townhouse was an easy par 4 from the Cocks, but I worked on St Albans’ periphery near the untreatably dreadful Bunch of Cherries. I’d many a pint there with my workmates, although as an example of 1960’s Dismal Brick/Shithouse, it has less charisma than a Heathrow toilet.

I now work in Singapore, a languid 5 iron from Orchard Road. Apparently, Harry’s has our Friday refreshments conquered with

26 premium lifestyle bars targeted at the PMEBs (professionals, managers, executives and businessmen).

My closest Harry’s is set in a shopping mall, and the staff offers rancid lager as well as a merry hatred of the thirsty.

The smallest place I’ve lived is the exception to this cosmopolitan misery. Kimba is half way across Australia, and on a Friday its sole pub was rollicking and happy. Icy beer, roaring jukebox. The core of its community. My first weekend in town, I won the meat tray. How could I not love it?

Geelong-besotted Almanackers identify Kimba as the hometown of Corey Enright. As a young fella who was frequently upright, and possessing of a pulse, I became Boris’ PE teacher. All saw him as a gifted footballer, but I argued that he was a better leg spinner, and could go far. Bowling on concrete decks that bounced and bit like a taipan, he bamboozled men and boys alike.

June 4, 1993 is a Friday, and despite it being Eastern Eyre footy season, a blissful tangle of chaps is inhaling ale. The Kimba pub jukebox blasts Choir Boys, Meat Loaf, and the sing-along gem, “What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes.” Day Two of the First Ashes Test from Old Trafford is on, but it’s beyond a footballer’s curfew, particularly for us modest B-graders. And then, shortly before lunch, AB throws a tubby, naturally non-blonde the ball.

For all the where-were-you-when-you-heard about Lady Diana, 9/11, the Boxing Day tsunami, there are celebratory counterparts. Jezza’s legendary leap, Australia snatching the America’s Cup, and for many, the Ball of the Century.

Ritchie’s commentating. No Bill hyperbole. Mercifully, no screeching Michael Slater.

He’s done it. He’s started off with the most beautiful delivery. Gatting’s got no idea what’s happened to it. He still doesn’t know.

The batsman’s humbled reaction is apposite. What choice had he? Anger and disappointment could have had no useful function. There’s only Gatting’s acceptance something astounding had occurred, that he had not previously seen, nor would likely see again. In the booming beery frenzy, Robbie, Hendo, Klingy, and I know we’ve witnessed a remarkable episode.

Strolling off, Gatting preternaturally knew he’d stolen a cameo role in what would be regarded as cricket’s most illustrious single-act production. Not a tragic narrative, but one approaching the comedic in its enthralling unlikelihood. Shaking his head in bemusement corroborates our shared view.

Australia was then sponsored by XXXX and, much later, so was I when in the skirmish for beer supremacy a grassroots marketing strategy took me hostage. For twelve months I transmogrified into a XXXX Gold Ambassador. As a Coopers Sparkling and Pale Ale aficionado, I call it the year I barracked for Collingwood. I had not gone native. It was abundantly worse. I had gone Queensland.

Given entirely too much XXXX to inflict upon family and friends, I was also required to host a XXXX-infused BBQ and, finally, with my Kimba mate Bazz, sat in the sponsor’s marquee at the Adelaide Clipsal 500. This was telling given my relationship with motorsport is akin to that between Fev and Mensa.

My ambassadorial climax was a Sunday in Glenelg’s Holdfast Hotel with our most significant modern captain, Alan Border.

Me: I must tell you that you’re my Dad’s favourite cricketer. He describes you as being “pugnacious.”

AB: Well, everyone has their own personal style. I did what I did best.

I decline to say that Dad also once remarked if he had to be in a fight, AB is the first bloke he’d want on his side.

Me: Can I ask you about my best ever sporting moment? The Gatting Ball?

AB: Sure. It was a huge occasion.

Me: Where were you?

AB: At that point I often fielded at midwicket, so I didn’t really get a decent view of it.

Me: But you knew it was special?

AB: Yea. At the drinks break Heals said it was, “a pretty fair seed.”

Laconic understatement. Just what I wanted to hear. Sensational.

Me: What did Gatting say?

AB: He knew it was good too. He’s done really well out of it. The Gatt’s dined out on that story ever since. With all the speaking engagements, he’s very pleased.

Warne’s striking proclamation of his genius is leg spin’s enchanted temple. For cricket fans, it generated a global epiphany while the attendant symbolism makes this the most resounding of his 708 Test wickets.

And on that June afternoon I suspect even the desolate types in The Bunch of Cherries squinting at the screen over pints of tepid Tetleys knew SK Warne’s first Test delivery in England was to be cherished.

In Kimba we definitely did.

.bunch