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Observations from a Pair of Moving Legs

esplanade

This story is from the change of millennium when old mate Bob and I used to run early mornings along the Glenelg South esplanade. There’s surprising stuff happening by the beach at dawn.

*

It is like facing up to an appointment with the dentist. You know that it is going to hurt, that you will make some alarming gurgling sounds and that when it is finished, you will try, with ample humiliation, to spit.

Friday. Dawn. Moseley Square. I twist and fold in a feeble attempt to prepare. Peering into the dark space of the Grand’s Pier and Pines bar, I see a lone cleaner vacuuming away the last scraps of yesterday’s conversation. “Let’s do this,” urges Bob- my accomplice.

With a beep my stopwatch is blinking and running and so are we!

At 6am the Esplanade is two babbling streams of people and dogs: one flowing toward Brighton and the other; lazily at the Patawalonga. We surge southward and a dribbling hound lumbers into my lane and then across to a yawning pine. He autographs it with the shamelessness of a footballer on an end-of-season trip.

On the horizon a tanker drags itself noiselessly toward the refinery. The breeze is crisp. A lanky teenager shuffles plastic tables outside the Broadway café, his black beanie pulled so low that some could suspect him of arranging a bank robbery for mid-morning. I spot a Chupa-chup poking jauntily from his jaw and relax, pleased that he is unlikely to feature on tonight’s TV news. He nods, “G’day boys.” We nod back.

Knots of chatty walkers drink up the seaside zest and provide welcome entertainment. It’s like spinning a radio dial across endless talkback stations- and not without intrigue. A Reality-TV producer (still in plague numbers) could comfortably fashion a dozen gripping episodes from the random snippets we steal each morning. Ambling into Somerton Park I catch:

“…but you’ll never guess,” (an elderly gent to his grandson) “he made the putt!”

“I told Doreen that there-is-NO-WAY-I’m-going.”

“So, do you think his wife knows?”

And a boisterous woman in a pink tracksuit gives her arteries some extra traffic by broadcasting, “and that bloody plumber still wanted to charge me!”

My stopwatch offers no quirky grabs. It only rudely demands acceleration. The yacht club sails toward us. Finally halfway, we anchor and embrace our minute’s rest. “A visit to the dentist’s is less painful,” I splutter, hands on hips- hungry for air.

Bob wheezes, “At least you get plenty of oxygen in the chair.” His hair is stuck firm to his head. We devour the sixty seconds, then turn, resolved, homeward bound. The wind, previously an ally, is now aggressive. I immediately feel I’m towing an old wooden bar fridge. An old wooden bar fridge bulging with brown rows of Coopers Stout.

The Esplanade’s skyline changes constantly. Majestic villas bravely protest the spread of Tuscan packing crates. A developer’s billboard stands loud among the concrete and the mesh of a building site. “Hurry! Only ONE left,” it screams impatiently.

“Now that’s optimism,” snorts Bob. This anorexic block is apparently destined to feature all of two yellow townhouses.

A cheery clot of ruddy sixty-somethings is caught by their chain of cars on a rise. T-shirts cling and drip and they chat brightly in the golden light of the sunrise as only the retired can. A champagne cork, sorry- Australian Sparkling Wine cork cuts an arc across the footpath like a failed firework. Each gent tips a crystal flute into which the hissing fizz is energetically spilled. “What’s the occasion boys?” I ask.

“Friday,” celebrates one of this chirpy clan as he hoists his breakfast drink. A gesture of sweaty fellowship.

“Amen,” I return.

“That will be us in thirty years Mickey,” puffs Bob.

“The cheapest champagne will be a hundred bucks a bottle by then.”

“Plus twenty five per cent GST.” But Bob is given to political alarm.

Pushing on towards the Broadway, we abandon our role models to their refreshments and their broad, leisurely days.

The stopwatch sternly announces that a scant two minutes stand between us and our best time of the summer. The Grand’s sandcastle shapes loom and I try to push myself quicker. “No,” my legs scream. I know deep in my soul that a root canal treatment is better than this.

“Listen legs,” I assert, “do as you are told. And stop talking. You can’t speak. This is not a Douglas Adams’ novel!”

Our finishing line (in many senses of the phrase) swims into happy view. I glance at my now completely despised watch. The Town Hall clock frowns down at us like a disappointed Senior Colts football coach. Again I spy the wandering hound, eagerly leaving his name on a sullen lamppost.

Swerving around some swaying walkers gobbles critical seconds.

“Eleven dollars for O-Rings! What’s the hell is an O-Ring?”

It’s the pink tracksuit, still expounding on the Secret Horrors of Dishwasher Repairs.

We make a desperate, final lunge- and are outside our target time. It was, however, another vigorous run and my pounding pulse is electric and exhilarating. We savour our slow cool down on the bumpy lawn that separates the Norfolk Island Pines from the sloping sands. After, easing along the veranda of the Grand, Bob inquires, “See you and Kerry in here for a beer tonight?”

“Magnificent idea,” I agree.

Yes, it is the weekend. The glorious escape. Promise and anticipation.

Our next dental appointment is not until Monday.

 

running

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Jonesy

car

We met in the Orwellian year of 1984 at the Salisbury SACAE and studied English together. It then turned into UniSA, and is now, perhaps poignantly given tonight’s splendid occasion, a retirement village where on Thursdays, I believe, they do a wicked two fruits and ice cream. But it was tremendous fun when we were there in the ridiculous and pastel 1980’s. Among many, many memories of my friend Jonesy, here’s just a few-

Joneso, do you remember how we’d plod off to fourth year English, heartlessly scheduled on Mondays from 4 – 8pm? Having survived, at 8.01pm I’d point my 1973 HQ Holden Kingswood southward, you’d beg me to crank up the cassette player with some mid-period Bob Dylan, and we’d navigate speedily if not unlawfully to the Botanic Hotel. Safely there, we’d review the lecture’s major themes, or not.

Back in those days pubs had to serve food to stay open late and the Botanic often offered spaghetti bolognaise, which was slopped out of a large steel pot, just like in a prison movie. And indeed the food was criminal. But, on more than one occasion, as uni students, we ate it.

One of my favourite Jonesy moments was on a Friday at uni when she performed a monologue by Barry Humphries’ best character; not Dame Edna or Sir Les Paterson, but the decent man of the suburbs, Sandy Stone. Jonesy’s performance was fantastic. I laughed like a drain. It was funny and poignant. That monologue is called Sandy Claus, and as I share an extract from it, imagine I’m a doddering, lisping old man, which’ll be impossible for I’m not the actor that she is. So, picture Jonesy in a dressing gown and slippers, with her hair gray

On top of the pudding Beryl had made a delicious fruit salad which she’d put in the big cut-crystal bowl she keeps for best. She’s had it for years now but it’s still got the Dunklings sticker on it. However, everyone was full up to dolly’s wax and I was absolutely stonkered, so unfortunately it was hardly touched and Beryl said it was a wicked shame after all the fag she’d gone to. With the exception of the banana which goes brown overnight, she’d preserved every bit of that fruit herself in her Fowlers Vacola and I can vouch for it personally; Beryl’s been bottling all her married life.

Is this the best reference to the Fowlers Vacola you’ve ever heard? Is this the only reference to the Fowlers Vacola you’ve ever heard?

Teaching at leafy and prestigious Marryatville High Kerry suffered or rather I suspect, enjoyed, a wardrobe malfunction. Yes, at school. Yes, in front of her students, like a shameless Kardashian. Many would’ve blushed and ran screaming from the room, but not our Jonesy, who confronted the issue with her students, saying,” Yes, I know it’s funny, have a good look, I’m sure this has happened to some of you too. Yes class, you’re correct, I am wearing odd shoes.”

Like a puppy I’ve followed her around professionally. Decades ago, early in our working lives, she went to Cleve and I went just up the road, to Wudinna (Woo-dina for those of you from Oxford). I then followed her to Marryatville, after she’d wisely left, and recently the exam and assessment authority called the SACE Board, after she’d wisely left, but at which we might work together in a few months.

If you return, we could sneak off early on Mondays, and yet again, regularly journey to the Botanic Hotel. I could hire a Kingswood. You could drive. I’ll bring the Bob Dylan tapes.

Happy birthday, loyal, funny, dear friend.

dylan

 

 

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AFL Round 13- Adelaide v North Melbourne: Western Democracy and the Wally Grout Snack Bar

nick

Is there a better-named wine than Jim Barry’s Cover Drive?

A classy cabernet sauvignon, it’s been a highlight since we arrived in Adelaide from Singapore. Earlier in the week, some old school friends said, “Let’s go to the Prince Albert.” I’m happy they didn’t say, “Let’s get a Prince Albert” as that would’ve been excruciating and brash.

So there I was in the dining room of the Prince Albert Hotel, considering my glass of earthy red. Years ago a mate met Nick Cave following a gig at the Thebby. Instead of the usual, fawning fan stuff, he asked, “Who do you think was the better cover driver? David Gower or GS Chappell?” Cave replied promptly. Australia’s thirty-fifth Test captain.

While contemplating cricket, the Clare Valley and music NME once described as that of the “gothic psycho-sexual apocalypse” a text invited me to the Crows and Kangaroos fixture!

In our flat and featureless city, Adelaide Oval is a soaring basilica. Moving through the Saturday evening of our screen-doored suburbs, I’m struck by the darkness. In Singapore there are few shadowy spaces; it’s a casino, it’s drowning in loud light. As Nick Cave might note, there’s comfort in the gloom. He’s not a man of the tropics.

Its website brags, “Adelaide Oval will exceed Australian design standards for stadium toilet facilities by 30 percent.” My now equatorial bladder applaudes, but does this mean those instructive pissoir queue tête-à-têtes are cut by a third?

This is my first time at the new ground.

The redevelopment is striking, however the timeless features endure: Edwardian scoreboard, Hill, Moreton Bay Figs. Despite the half-billion dollar investment, the flora triumphs. Which other major stadium has trees?

We head to the new David Hookes Terrace Bar. Above the fridge, a glass case contains a poignant tableau: stumps, cap and Hookesy’s Gray-Nicolls double scoop bat. On tap there’s West End Draught, but there’s no mortal situation I can conceive in which I’d actually drink it. My James Squire Pale Ale is tasty, and I recall my 1989 visit to the Gabba’s now demolished Wally Grout Snack Bar.

The opening period is dour until Eddie Betts slots a boundary line snap from in front of the Gavin Wanganeen Stand. It’s a wonderful kick, and my friend, R. Bowden, notes that unlike those at Football Park, the pockets are shallow, so we could see more of these. It’ll be fascinating as the idiosyncrasies of this new/old venue emerge.

Podsiadly performs with energetic imagination. In the third quarter a huge moon hangs like a Monet above the Max Basheer Stand, while on the wing far below Pods takes an equally luminescent mark. I understand why Geelong released him, but unlike mature Crows recruits Ronnie Burns and Wayne Carey, he is a success. Vitally, he also kicks two rippers.

Beyond an early patch when they suddenly score three majors, the Kangaroos don’t threaten. Their forward line’s dysfunctional, and across the field North claim only nine contested marks. Petrie’s imperceptible, and extraterrestrial umpiring and absurdly generous teammates provide Thomas with four goals.

Dangerfield is thrillingly robust, but doesn’t dominate. This, I suggest, is heartening as the Crows can be a single-engine Cessna. Half-back Brodie Smith rebounds resourcefully with missile-like disposal. His third term conversion from fifty is telling.

The Roos’ premium player is Brent Harvey. Despite his autumnal age, he’s still quick and frequently finds space. Like King Lear, the time to relax has not yet arrived. Someone yells out, “Good work Harvey, but Joe Hockey needs you to play until you’re seventy!”

Taylor Walker demonstrates confidence. His vision and command is soldierly, and he takes five pack marks. But his kicking fluctuates bizarrely. R. Bowden says that he appears to have a wooden leg. However, with swaggering muscularity he asserts himself like a thirsty publican.

It’s the most fun I’ve had at Adelaide Oval since the 2006 Ashes Test. I was there on Day Five when with 4/49 in England’s second innings, SK Warne bowled us to a far-fetched, illustrious victory.

As my train rushes through the wintry velvet, I ponder Nick Cave, and the joy of different Cover Drives.

mbf

 

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AFL Round 9- Adelaide v Collingwood: Chernobyl FC still likely to host Crows’ entire 2015 pre-season

Image

Forking out a week’s salary to see Milli Vanilli at the Vienna Konzerthaus. In 2014, this is Adelaide Oval for the Crows fan.

Magnificent arena, miming charlatans.

Can anyone tell me if Adelaide has recently beaten Collingwood in a significant match?

No, I didn’t think so.

Connecting inside the centre square during the 2002 Crows and Magpies preliminary final at the MCG, Anthony Rocca’s third-quarter drop punt went straight through. The Sherrin had covered seventy ghastly metres.

It was an astonishing goal. It was a horrible goal. 88,960 people remember it. Although Rocca was down the City End, everyone around us at the Punt Road End knew as he kicked it.

How could Collingwood lose after that?

*

It was a month before I got married. We decided to go after the Crows defeated Melbourne in the semi-final. Now, this was a game of graphic mood swings. Like K. Rudd in a midnight cabinet meeting. Apparently.

Some Kapunda schoolmates and I drove over from Adelaide. In microscopic Singapore a decade on, and squeezed into a condominium with two boisterous boys (and one wife), there’s an otherworldly quality to this idea. Time passes.

Sweeping road, conversation, music.

You Am I escorted us into Victoria with their superb album, Hourly, Daily. Evoking boyhood and backyards, Kangaroos supporter Tim Rogers moves us through the skimming bliss and little deaths of suburbia.

The loose narrative arc recalls Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, and the laconically pretty, “Please Don’t Ask Me To Smile” especially stirs memories of this weekend.

When I was in grade six

I used to hold open a door for a girl

And she called me a wimp

Said there’s just no need

To be so fcking polite

I politely agreed with her

I think she was right

Tradition urges a break at Horsham’s White Hart, before pushing on to our Carlton digs, and an animated slurp at the University Hotel.

Saturday. Preliminary final. Sluggish breakfast. Wander about the Docklands. Young & Jackson. Stroll to Jolimont. The footy. Disappointment.

*

Not being bucks and hens show types, we instead had an afternoon at the Victoria Park races in front of the heritage-listed grandstand. It was a sunny Caulfield Cup day, and Northerly saluted.

And the imposing gelding also collected the W.S. Cox Plate a week later, about three hours after we were married on the lawns at Cummins House, a couple furlongs from Morphettville racecourse.

*

Dane Swan is an ugly duckling. Despite years of resistance, he’s now among my favourite footballers. He presents as a dilettante. His expression is of joyless slogging on an assembly line. At any point, he could simply walk away. It is his unlikeliness, that is, well, likable.

It was Taylor Walker’s return following a serious knee injury. Last we saw, he sported a Broken Hill mullet, but now he models a Berlin coif and post-ironic hipster moustache. He could have launched into Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. Tex was rusty, kicking four behinds, but got the pill seventeen times.

Adelaide and Collingwood often play close, scrambling matches. On this balmy May night, both miss opportunities. Neither grasps the ascendency. It’s pulsating.

Travis Cloke checks himself into the cloakroom. An early fumbled chest mark sets a dismal tone for the black and white power forward, and he remains ineffectual. His opponent, wunderkind Daniel Talia, demonstrates how he’s overtaken former tricolour Phil Davis.

Showing us his protean composure in traffic yet again, Scott Pendlebury is the evening’s best Magpie. When next juggling crates of live chooks by a feverish intersection, in, say, Ho Chi Minh City, I want him to chaperone me across the road, between the cars, honking trucks, and zipping motorcycles. Surely, a Pendlebury Brownlow’s coming.

Although there’s only a solitary goal in the final term, it’s oddly magnetic football. At the Boomarang Bar we know the Crows are never certainties until they’re up by fifty points with fifty seconds left. Eddie Betts is the scorer, and we hold on.

Our season flickers.

2

Gambling is illegal at Bushwood sir, and I never slice: five yarns

 

Image

 

Noonan! D’Annunzio! Mitchell! You’re on the tee!

It was a sparkling, jaunty morning. The kind only had during university holidays. Thirty chaps in whispering knots, around the first tee of North Adelaide’s south course.

As casual golfers we’d no experience with a gallery. Rocket, Puggy and I watched Crackshot have a few swings. He’d get us underway.

Exhibiting an opening batsman’s concentration, his backswing was neat. A purposeful downswing. Sixty eyes followed it as it flew up and through the autumnal sky. Remaining patiently on the tee, however, was his Hot Dot.

Now like a crashing Black Hawk’s rotor, minus the Jesus nut, Crackshot’s driver was in whirling flight. Sounding like Rolf’s wobble board it propelled up the fairway, then skimmed across the Kikuyu before finally, as in a Samuel Beckett tableau, it lay motionless and forsaken.

“My palms were sweaty,” claimed Crackshot.

I’ve sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber.

Sadly demolished, Kapunda’s Railway Hotel experienced a fleeting infamy, among the ridiculous, by opening at 8am on Sundays, when, in situ, we’d get raspberry cordial splashed in our West End Draught butchers.

Angelin was the publicans’ son. In the hotel ballroom he played me Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Once. I recuperated. Everything about the Railway Hotel was ridiculous.

But Angelin could play footy. He was a thumping kick, and when he connected, he sometimes achieved the mythological quality known in country sport as “good purchase.”

In the Junior Colts one Saturday at Dutton Park our ruckman, Rocket, got the tap from the centre bounce. Angelin seized the footy in that clean, untouchable way he had. Suddenly frozen as if in a sci-fi telemovie, the Tanunda boys were incapable of tackling him.

He surged towards the half forward line. Fifty-metre arcs were un-invented, but he was beyond that when he bombed it. Perhaps prog-rock had already pinched his conceptual clarity. It was a behind. To the Tanunda Magpies.

He’d kicked it the wrong way.

But, gee, it was impressive.

Hey Moose! Rocko! Help my buddy here find his wallet! 

The history of Spoof suggests English public schoolboys, darkened cupboards and loosened trousers. But for me it’s afternoons in Kapunda’s Prince of Wales, or Puffa’s, as it’s widely known.

Called ‘the ancient art of mathematical calculation as played by gentlemen,’ Spoof is a drinking game fabricated upon failure. It is a drinking game of cheerful cruelty, for it identifies no winners, only the loser.

Whitey loved Spoofy, and grabbing three coins, he’d jangle them at you with the same cacoëthes as the cat that was bitten by The Gambling Bug in the cartoon, Early to Bet. Whitey always found takers. Laughing, drinking, spoofing. In concert.

One afternoon Whitey lost. Many, many times. It remains a pub highlight even among the punters who weren’t there.

How can it have been so long since I played Spoofy?

Now I know why tigers eat their young.

It was a noble idea. Improve standards by running an evening clinic with Test umpire Tony Crafter. So we congregated in the Marlboro Red fug of the Kapunda clubrooms. Our guest officiated across the planet, but tonight, would field some exotic questions.

Angaston Muppet: Tony? May I call you Tony?

Tony Crafter: You may.

AM: Saturday in the A3’s I bowled a bouncer. And the batsman stuck up his hand and caught it. What do you think?

TC: If he had time to let go of the bat, raise a hand above his head and then catch it, it must have been a bloody slow bouncer.

AM: Well, yeah. But what should happen?

TC: You should give up bowling.

AM took charge massively. He changed topic.

AM: Once in the A3’s I appealed for a LBW.

TC: How did you go?

AM: Robbed! The umpire said he couldn’t make a decision. He reckoned I’d run down the pitch and blocked his view.

TC: Fair enough. That’s a reasonable response.

AM: OK, the umpire can’t make a LBW decision! Could I then appeal to the square leg umpire?

The Angaston Muppet, I’m assured, is currently a senior advisor within the federal government.

Be the ball, Danny.

Milan Faletic was a good average footballer. Turning out for West Torrens and Port Adelaide in over two hundred games, his nickname had pubescent, but lasting appeal. They called him Spoof.

At Port with Spoof was Rod Burton who became senior coach of the Kapunda Bombers when I was a boy. He was menacing. He had mad eyes. Replace shark with Burton and Quint’s still right

Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got… lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’

Crackshot, Rocket and I were on the wing by the timekeepers’ box when Burton had a boundary kick in. The box also housed the PA, and during the B Grade club stalwart Bruce Dermody pontificated

Ladies and gentleman. The canteen is selling pies, pasties and sausage rolls. Lollies for the kids. And the liquor bar will open at 2.30 for all your refreshment needs.

We were behind Burton. Deliberately, he pushed off the fence, and launched a mountainous screw punt. Spiralling instantly above the gum trees, the Ross Faulkner footy bisected the posts, and below the mound, down near the weedy trotting track, on the service road, it landed.

Blighty’s goal was but a stab pass.

As the Holden VC Commodores honked in praise, and duffel-coated kids hollered, Burton smiled. Just briefly.

 

 

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five visions of captains & cricket

five visions of captains & cricket

davo drops a catch at cover

the bespectacled batsman edges

to 8 & our oval shrinks like

grandma’s backyard

at dusk he’s dismissed

on 295 & davo is still shouting

a wicket or a run

barossa grand final   last delivery taunts

the nervous bat     keeper & slips yell & rush

as the ball (eyes shut)  magically squeezes

between middle & leg & escapes to the fence

we remain stumped

i’m a very handy cricketer

boasts the burly minnipa policeman     i can’t

bowl   bat   or   field   but

i live right behind the town oval

in the pub & around an autumn bbq

these worn yarns   treasured old mates

slap our backs & cackle

raw appeals startle the afternoon breeze

baggy caps dusty   prickled outfield brown

cricket     rich as a sepia photograph