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Mystery Pub: The Guardsman

Trainspotters such as your good self will be intimate with the LMS Royal Scot Class 6115 Guardsman.

This celebrated British steam locomotive was built by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) in Glasgow and has innumerable global fans.

However, if I’m honest my sole interest is it giving its name to the boozer in the Adelaide railway station. Although it could be argued that it’s actually resident in the casino, it opened in 2020, just in time for the bonkers pandemic.

Ever-observant and alert to Mystery Pub possibilities, Claire noted my curiosity in one day visiting The Guardsman as on New Year’s Eve we cut through the station on our way to the cricket at Adelaide Oval.

And, of course, the prime function of a marriage is to constantly monitor the environment for new and compelling pub experiences which might interest your spouse.

Thank you, wife.

Railway stations are frequently exciting places, that are grand and dignified and once inside, regal and startlingly vast. I love airports for their utility, but train terminals are romantic repositories of hope and boundless promise. In April we’ll visit stations in Milan, Florence and Pisa among others. Doubtless, these will be intoxicating and buzzing and Italian.

Rogue casino operators, SkyCity, invested about six million in The Guardsman so we were pleased to hop into subsidised $4 beer and wine. I’m vaguely confident that the last chance I had for this was in 1992 at the Buckleboo Club. My colleague also had a double gin for $8, because she could and largely as the bar staff urged her so to do.

Claire asked, ‘Shall we sit inside or out?’ It’s an eternally good question and giving this profound life matter the requisite introspection, like a modern-day René Descartes I said, ‘Let’s do both.’

While inside architecture is our focus and then later outside it’s people, and this is always a neat principal. The interior is spacious and intimate.

My previous pub experience in the railway station was in 1983, during Year 12. Pre-Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Festival Theatre saw Chrisso, Davo, Stephen and I rushed to get to the theatre on time, but with country boy enthusiasms, somehow managed to slip into the Overland Tavern for a brisk jug of West End Draught before the curtain went up.

While some may have found the kitchen aromas suggestive of exotic Asian destinations and the Orient Express and tropical evenings beneath slowly turning ceiling fans while monkeys and tigers provide a fascinating if faintly troubling soundtrack, we took a table on the far side as we just found it stinky.

Our second, and as tradition now dictates, final refreshment was enjoyed overlooking the station concourse. We could now hear music and Supertramp was received well by your correspondent, as was a tune by The Beach Boys. Claire said, ‘We must remember to watch the movie about the Beach Boys.’ I replied with uncommon expansiveness in saying, ‘Yes.’

Scurrying folk on their way to Womma or Noarlunga or Belair or North Haven made for enlivening viewing as we sipped our Sauvignon Blanc (Claire) and Pirate Life (me). Between 5 and 6pm on a Friday is the captivating time to park oneself in a railway station and speculate on the inner lives of anonymous commuters.

And we had garlic bread! What a time to be alive.

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Mystery Pub: The Sailmaster

Turning right off Port Road just west of my work in Hindmarsh we’re immediately whizzed along by the vast volume of traffic on the bland if instructively named Northern Expressway.

We’d completed twenty-six instalments of Mystery Pub but not previously used this motorway and Claire was captivated. ‘I wonder where we’re going?’ she asked, not unfairly. ‘Surely, not the Hamley Bridge pub?’ I’d recently learnt that this old country boozer had reopened, and this might’ve caught her attention too. ‘No,’ I reassured Claire, kindly, if monosyllabically.

It’s always good when Mystery Pub generates a sense of mystery.

We drive on.

*

The Lefevre Peninsula is Adelaide’s most intriguing locality.

A narrow sand-spit in the city’s north, there’s abundant charm and fascination. Just as the good folk of the Lone Star State are Texans first and Americans second, I imagine Peninsula people are also ferociously loyal.

The Sailmaster, North Haven’s stylish and airy pub, sits by and over the marina. After a dismal, constantly windy and cold spring, our bright and warm afternoon is glorious. It’s a big tavern with generous spaces, and the breeze moves through it like the East Egg mansion of Tom and Daisy Buchanan, as featured in The Great Gatsby.

On the deck we claim a table and the marina’s a festive sight with yachts and their denuded masts, bobbing in the exquisite, wafting day. I’m not a boatie but like sometimes to be proximate to watercraft, to feel their unhurried symbolism while carefree gulls wheel above.

The effervescent bar-keep counsels me into changing Claire’s wine to a Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc. I consent, as Friday afternoon’s no time for petty squabbles, and his priestly guidance is compelling.

In the Cargo Bar a big screen shows the Adelaide Test catapulting towards its unavoidable conclusion. Again, I don’t need to be there, but it reassures me that if I wanted to, I could. It’s a privilege to be met with abundant choice in our modest, isolated city.

The beer menu is daring and encouraging. Beyond the robust stalwarts, there’s some craft brews from emerging producers, and I settle upon a Barossa Blonde from Lyndoch’s Ministry of Beer.

Every country town in our nation will one day host both a distillery and a craft brewer. How fantastic to be in the steel vat business? Could you keep up with demand? Should I get one for my shed?

*

The central concept driving Mystery Pub, you might be surprised to read, is not just a monthly Friday during which we drop our snouts in the trough. No, really.

It’s a shared enterprise and an unbroken series of bids from one to the significant other. It’s an invitation to be immersed. Hopefully, the pub deck doesn’t give way and we are suddenly immersed in the Gulf St Vincent.

But this is about locating a novel nook among new-found and engaging surrounds, alongside the person with whom, on the weekend’s cusp, you most want to invest a lazy, nautical hour.

So much of life should be about conversation, and Mystery Pub is an occasion for this. It’s a twinkling hour to dissect the immediate past and anticipate our joyous onward march. Either way I love surrendering to my wife’s delightful orbit, when the context of the pub vanishes, and we could be anywhere across our elongated capital.

*

Steering south from The Sailmaster, the maritime suburbs materialise and then dissolve, their flat contentment a merry vista.

Osbourne, Taperoo. Largs. Semaphore.

Military Road moves us along and the blue light slants in through the windows. Peering at townhouses and bluestone villas, we ask each other if we could live here or there and ponder the possibilities while projecting our looming selves into these communities. All have their attendant attractions and distractions.

There’s a heartening intimacy in the speculation, an enlightening probing of each other’s thinking, and some of Claire’s responses surprise me, and some don’t but this, of course, is a towering triumph. How lucky are we to be right here, right now driving along this prosperous esplanade? The moments are both stretched like a slow dawn and as difficult to snare as mosquitos.  

And then West Beach becomes Glenelg North, and our garage door climbs up, so we finish off Friday and wave in the weekend.

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Mystery Pub: The Hilton

The bar was empty.

No, there were three bar staff in there.

This was a worry. Can I help you? asked one of the three.

Claire patiently explained that we were here for a drink (possibly predictable for a bar) to which another of the three replied that they were closed for a private law firm function. My heart was gladdened. Law firms need a leg up.

Claire further explained that she had phoned the day before and was told that our brief and good-natured visit would be fine. Be great to see you, they said.

With that we all decided it would be best if Claire and I departed. So, we left the Treasury  bar that will remain nameless. Afterall, in there they know lawyers.

*

The Hilton Hotel has sat by Victoria Square for forty years. Last I checked its bar was called Charlie’s, but the name seems to have disappeared.

The bar is not so much a dedicated room within the hotel but rather a commandeered chunk of the lobby. It’s spacious and host to big and low chairs and a large light fitting that, like all large light fittings, wants to be interesting and a conversation piece. Sadly, for it, it’s only functional and dull (in aesthetic heft, not wattage).

One of the beer taps is labelled 1837 which is a pale ale from Tanunda’s Rehn Bier. Being permanently beer-curious, I order one. Veering across the brown carpet (a tragic phrase, even in 1977) we claim a spot.

I then learn that at this precise moment friends are at the Rehn Brewery in Tanunda and Mozz is also sampling the 1837. I announce to Claire that this is surely another Pina Colada moment. Of course, it’s not but I’m addicted to the song and applying this malapropism whenever there’s a vague coincidence.

Tellingly, I’m not into yoga and I have half a brain.

We then spend time, as we often do, speculating upon the backstory of Kath Day-Knight. Did she ever have a job? If her first husband Gary Poole was such a rogue, how did she end up with a house? What is it with the speed reading?

I have a second 1837 (does this make 3674?) and Claire has a glass of red. We speak of other matters, not including: Japanese constitutional law, Schrödinger’s cat, the discography of Pink.

The year’s penultimate Mystery Pub clocks in under an hour, but is a vibrant affair, what with the estimable atmosphere of the CBD.

At no point do we wonder how the legal firm private function is going just up the road at the Treasury.

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Mystery Pub: Silver Brewing

Claire indicated (always the preferred option) and swung our car into a narrow park next to that most generic of suburban motors, the Barina. We were on Gouger Street but on the western side of that boisterous, gastronomically-celebrated thoroughfare.

I had no idea where we were heading for winter’s final instalment (spring commences on September 22 as per the astronomical seasons) of Mystery Pub which, of course, is central to the concept. There was more puzzlement than an episode of Scooby Doo, set in an abandoned amusement park.

The bar/brewery/distillery/restaurant etc is located in a former warehouse with multiple rooms and an outdoor area. Despite the cavernous interior there was a cosiness. Adjacent to the bar is a Millard caravan and Claire and I spoke of this being Glenn McGrath’s first and best nickname, given to him when he lived in one as an aspiring young cricketer, down from the bush. The caravan was clearly a successful conversation starter and I anticipated circumnavigating the continent in our retirement and every single night for two years setting up our van in say, Wollongong, and without fail, telling Claire this cricketing factoid.

Claire had a pinot noir served in the now compulsory giant glass. If these continue to expand in volume Friday’s plonk will need to come with a yellow-shirted lifeguard. I had the pilsner and being five o’clock on a Friday, my enthusiasm compensated for its lack of crispness. A kindly man gave us his chair so we moved camp away from the door and the pesky (like the kids of the aforementioned Scooby Doo and especially Velma) late afternoon sun.

A generous crowd was assembling and they appeared to be in buoyant attitude. They matched our demographic and I wondered where the young folk were. And almost immediately, I didn’t care.

We dissected our days and spoke of our weekend. I was eager to get home and play my new (old) Jose Feliciano vinyl featuring the greatest cover of all time (alright, top 43) in ‘Light My Fire.’

Claire ordered another pinot noir and purchased me a pale ale, made on premises and cooked in one of the copper vats I saw near the caravan. Although there was initial disappointment that there were no chips (crisps for those playing along in the UK) we knew this was actually a good thing. The menu advertised ‘Viking Burgers’ but a recent blood test and medical discussion suggested I needed to reduce my consumption of Scandinavian seafaring warriors, so we declined.

A window behind us revealed a large room with DJ decks out the front. I imagined a late-night rave with impossibly youthful types dancing their evenings (and mornings) away whilst temporarily forgetting the global housing crisis.

Back at our car on Gouger Street the Barina had fled.

We did too.

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Mystery Pub: The Largs Pier

‘After an afternoon on Brighton Pier they’d all race off for a feed of scampi,’ I remarked to my wife. We were discussing Brighton, the East Sussex version. Not the Adelaide or even the Melbourne suburb.

‘What is scampi?’ she asked, not unreasonably.

I paused and considered. ‘Fishy stuff. Crumbed.’ Piscatorial insights have never been in my (fishing boat) wheelhouse.

Claire was not about to accept such an enfeebled reply. ‘Right, but what is it exactly?’

‘Err,’ I mumbled. ‘Dunno. Scampi is just scampi.’

I gave up and opened my phone. Dublin Bay Prawn or Norway Lobster. Not only these but it’s also a ‘seafood delicacy,’ I volunteered.

The Largs Pier is a place to ponder big questions such as this. Even non-gastronomic ones. My wife, Claire and I were here for our monthly Mystery Pub excursion. It was my choice. I had an aged Sparkling Ale in front of me and Claire had a brandy.

We had wandered through the pub. It’s regal and opulent with high ceilings and views out into the flat gulf. There’s a restaurant and another bar named Dixon’s (being the middle name of Jimmy Barnes, the main screamer for Cold Chisel). It’s a popular wedding venue too.

Big question #2 then emerged as contemplating our current context I took my turn to quiz Claire. ‘What’s the difference between a jetty and a pier?’ Our relaxing hour in the pub was transmogrifying into an episode of It’s Academic. We should’ve worn our Kapunda High School blazers. That may have prompted comment from strangers.

I explored the question. ‘So, why isn’t this the Largs Jetty Hotel? And why isn’t the Glenelg pub called the Pier?’

Claire had an answer. ‘I think a pier has entertainments on it like rides and stalls and assorted amusements.’ I’m unsure why she responded in a grammatical style reminiscent of a Wikipedia entry.

‘Right,’ I nodded. Who knew that going to the pub could be so instructive? I vowed to do this again soon. Perhaps I should keep the drinks receipts and use them at tax time as a self-education deduction.

The wintry sunset slanted in across our table and outside under the wide veranda, some young tradies were making an enthusiastic start to their weekend. Dotted about the pub, faux 1920’s artworks gave the place an appropriately jaunty, seaside atmosphere.

Our second and final round of drinks included a Pirate Life South Coast Pale Ale or PLSCPA, as nobody abbreviates it. It was crisp and confident, while Claire had a white wine of indeterminant variety and style but she didn’t seem to mind. We didn’t want our visit to suffer from too much information.

The Largs Pier (Jetty) Hotel is an arresting, grand old esplanade boozer. It has mobs of beers on tap and offers a wide menu.

There’s no immediate plans to serve scampi.

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Mystery Pub: El Cheeky Flamingo

‘As your attorney I advise you to have a beer,’ said Claire.

No she didn’t, but I just wanted to insert a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference given that I’m re-reading Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalism classic. Gonzo denotes an exaggerated and crazy and proudly subjective style. But you knew this already.

It’s a text that celebrates excess and ridiculousness and decadence which, of course, is entirely unrepresentative of the ideals we hold dear regarding the monthly excursion of Mystery Pub.

Parking at Claire’s CBD worksite we then galloped a mile or so to the East End. I had no insight into our destination and arriving at Vardon Street there were tables and chairs and fire pits all stocked and awaiting ignition. It was another episode in their Winter Weekends event.

Having secured a chardonnay and a draught beer we sat by a gas heater as event staff set the redgum ablaze. Microphones and amps were connected under a marquee.

Meanwhile music played and the acoustics meant we could only hear the bass. The vocals were terribly muddy. We thought one song the Shawn Mullins’ tune ‘Lullaby.’ You know the one that begins with an almost spoken-word style that’s a bit Jack Nicholson in tenor-

She grew up with the children of the stars
In the Hollywood hills and the boulevards.
Her parents threw big parties. Everyone was there.
They hung out with folks like Dennis Hopper and Bob Seger and
Sonny and Cher.

And then the chorus goes-

Everything’s gonna be all right.
Rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye.
Everything’s gonna be all right.
Rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye.

A one-hit wonder from 1998, we agree that it’s a good song.

But it wasn’t the one we heard. I don’t know what it was. Something with a similar bass guitar line. Good for the mystery to continue on Mystery Pub night.

Meanwhile a man cooked meat with Spanish aromas. None of that for us as we had some equally evil charcuterie treats home in the Frigidaire. Is there anything better than Friday night cheese?

I had a Balter XPA and Claire had an approachable merlot blend. All wine should be approachable. I’ve no truck with haughty plonk.

We made our way back to the car via the Illuminate Festival on North Terrace. A giant queue of kids and parents stretched outside the museum. Like blackheads on a teenager there were inky puffer jackets everywhere.

Inside was a Lego event. A gonzo occasion of tremendous proportions. We left them to it.

4

Mystery Pub: The Earl of Leicester

Puffer jackets.

We loathe them. I’m sure these are highly functional and sensibly priced. But to my poisoned eye they (and their owners) carry with them a sense of entitlement and an accompanying superiority complex. Yes, it’s an irrational hatred, and I suspect it’s incurable. But a pub review is surely a place for honesty regarding issues sartorial.

At the bar there’s two middle-aged men. Trim. Clean shaven. Quietly spoken. Enjoying a Friday afternoon wine. And they’re wearing navy blue puffer jackets.

The Earl of Leicester is dark and snug. We take our seats by the fire. It’s blazing away and the effect is instantly comforting. Australian pubs suffer often from too much light and white space. Think modern suburban taverns with a bland sensibility and fatal lack of intimacy. No such troubles here this afternoon. The pub’s timbers are warm of hue and homely and this is especially enhanced as it’s decidedly Arctic outside. Winter is icumen in. We could be in the Cotswolds or by the Thames.

A table or two along a task-oriented couple is attacking their early pizza dinner (it’s before 5pm so they could be holidaying Queensland pensioners) and bottle of red. They’re sharing a comfortable, loud-munching silence. Eating here seems like a good choice for the dining area is big and visually charmless, as is sometimes the way. I pop my head into the beer garden and it’s more obligation than destination. Folks expect one and this one presents as a concrete afterthought. But the front of the pub is excellent.

It’s Claire’s turn to order and I opt for an XPA. Like the tomato and me, we share a complex relationship for I often find it disappointing in the application but continue to subscribe to the concept. Today the Balter XPA is sharp and spiky, and I approve. Claire has an Angove’s red and finds it agreeable. Late Friday afternoon is always an agreeable time, and The Earl of Leicester reminds me of what King Duncan said (ironically) of Macbeth’s home

This castle hath a pleasant seat. The air

Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself

Unto our gentle senses.

On our way out to the dark car park I suggest to Claire, ‘For every puffer jacket I spot in the bar, I’ll buy myself a longneck of Sparkling Ale.’

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Mystery Pub: Brighton Metro

The sixteenth edition of Mystery Pub was underway.

Claire was this month’s pilot and we flew down Tapleys Hill Road and as always neither Tapley nor his/her hill were anywhere in sight. Still, the hill was alive with the sound of Friday afternoon. As always I had no idea where we might be destined. It’s an intoxicating concept.

Being within a particular demographic Escape to the Country holds a curious appeal and we’re often flopped on the couch on a Saturday evening taking in this perennial property porn. In each episode the couple are shown three houses in their county of choice (rarely Shropshire) and the final one is always described by the smug host as the ‘mystery house.’ And most weeks, I’m sure to Claire’s silent dismay, I holler at the screen, ‘Great. The mystery house. Aren’t they all mystery fecking houses?’

For the first time we welcomed guests to accompany us. Old friends and former Kimba residents, Mozz and Kath were in town and had long expressed an interest in the MP notion so we popped them in the back of the motor and before we knew it Claire had skidded to a balletic stop at the Brighton Metro alongside an old Jaguar.

Once we had conquered the maze involving the pokies room, Charlie’s diner, the Sports Bar, Tutankhamen’s tomb, and various other antechambers we burst out, blinking and bordering on dehydration, into the delicious sunlight of Adelaide’s latest beer garden. That it sits on what was once the northern part of the carpark matters not for it’s a big and inviting space and there was a thrilling hub-bub as we claimed a table. It was reserved at 6pm for Bev/Jody/Sue/Matilda or some such as the laminated sign on the table announced.

We had forty minutes. We set to work.

We chatted of folk we knew and as Mozz and Kath have been to the US of A a few times and spectated at pro-golf tournaments they shared stories of encounters with the sport’s elite such as Stuart Appleby and concluded that most were generous and receptive. As you’d hope.

This contrasted sharply with my experience of a former Australian cricket captain who I crossed paths with one morning at Adelaide Oval. It was only he and I and I simply nodded acknowledgement, as decency demands, when he ambled past. I only expected a nod or a quick smile in return. I asked not for an autograph or a tip in Dapto Dogs. Instead, he glared at me as if I’d just done something unspeakable in his shoe. I was aghast. His nickname may have rhymed with ‘Tubby.’

With Mozz sporting a more free-flowing, Woodstock-inspired hairdo and goatee-beard combo talk then moved to who his fashion inspiration might be. I confess it appeared a little unruly and foppish and Kath declared that she calls her husband, ‘Boris.’ Both enjoy a party. Subsequent suggestions included Billy Connelly and a superannuated Dude from The Big Lebowski.

The Happy Hour included beers and wines at $6 and assorted cocktails at reasonable prices. We noted with pleasure that dogs are welcome too and spotted a couple canines perched by the tables. This is emblematic of a pub keen to impress and if I had a choice of buying a Pale Ale for a Golden Retriever or our 39th Test captain, the beer would be poured into a bowl.

5

Spinning Records on our Patio

A while back Mum and Dad gave me all of their vinyl records including a couple Beatles’ singles from the early sixties. I tweeted this photo and explained that I’d inherited these because they’d downsized in the Barossa.

A mate replied saying, “Gee, it must be a small house.”

*

Following the year’s first edition of Mystery Pub which was at the Hilton (on South Road) and returned this verdict: spacious; bland; utilitarian; expensive Claire and I decamped to the patio and cranked up the new (retro) record player and enjoyed a dozen or so albums. Here’s our evening’s top three as voted by me alone (hmmm- selfish):

3. Shilo by Neil Diamond.

This is a magnificent compilation and the cover featured a “connect the dots” which Mum completed at the kitchen table. There were 200 dots and such is my still shaky numeracy that I remember being relieved I wasn’t entrusted with the black pen to bring Neil and his guitar neck to life.

Spence Berland of Record World supplied the cover notes and he wrote that Neil’s voice, “is filled with love, beauty and the type of human pain that everyone can identify with.” Yes, but mercifully for Claire I chose not to sing along for her auditory pain would’ve been profound and possibly, incurable. “Kentucky Woman”, “Cherry, Cherry” and “I’m A Believer” are magnificent and while it has a sublime melody the lyrics of “Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon” remain just a little bit creepy.

2. Blow Your Cool by the Hoodoo Gurus

I’m fairly confident that this was bought for my 21st by old school friend Chrisso. He couldn’t confirm this but did share that Woodsy and I gifted him Astral Weeks by Van Morrison for his birthday that year. Of course. I’m quite sure that Woodsy is yet to hear this album.

Many of us curated the music for our own coming-of-age parties and I made four C-90 minute cassettes which were each played twice at the Kapunda Golf Club on that distant June night. I recall Chrisso saying that he sequenced “Good Times” from Blow Your Cool to finish his Kapunda Trotting Club event so people would hear it and agree that, yes, they had had a good time at his party. I’m sure we did. Most of The Bangles, including Susanna Hoffs, provided backup vocals on this track, having just returned from a pedestrian crossing in Cairo.

The hit single, “What’s My Scene” features these fantastic opening lines which take us straight into the middle of a lovers’ tiff-

And another thing I’ve been wondering lately / Oh, baby, tell me, where have you been? 

The evening raced by and Claire and I’d drained many cups of tea when we popped on what would be the night’s top selection.

1. Best of The Bee Gees

Another old school friend, Stephen, visited during the week and told us that there’s a statue of the brothers Gibb in Redcliffe, Brisbane where the young Mancunians found themselves in the 1950’s. The unveiling was a mighty affair and Stephen suggested the statue could well rank in the top ten attractions in Redcliffe.

Sadly, the Bee Gees are now The Bee Gee but the album is tremendous with soaring harmonies and superb pop sensibilities. “Massachusetts” might be difficult to spell but is probably a better title for the song than “Punxsutawney.” Other gems are, “I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You” and one of my all time favourites, “To Love Somebody” which I have mercilessly destroyed with shiraz-driven warblings across the decades.

All are excellent examples of pop music, but excuse me for I’m about to drop the needle on Ripper 76.

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August and Everything After

Quick! There’s only 113 shopping days until Christmas. Let’s make a list. Let’s all watch Love Actually every day between now and then! Let’s eat some rambutans. Let’s write a letter to every winner of Eurovision. Let’s write a poem as if we were a cat. Let’s pretend P!nk is good.

Here’s some photos I took in August.

We love Onkaparinga and ventured down into the gorge.
This West Beach sand graffiti is both innocent and menacing. It’s a symbol of modern life. Or just a picture done one Sunday morning by someone with a stick.
Mystery Pub was at the Historian. How curious that the wall-art depicts people in a pub. Post-modernism, dudes.
Remember that episode of Bear Grylls’ Man v Wild when he makes camp in the Barossa and survives only on mettwurst and big Shiraz?
At the Broady Claire silently recreated her favourite mime. More post-modernism.
Edging the lawn is an endless and futile attempt to control one’s inner and outer worlds.

Happy with our city car park. Number 157 would’ve been a psychological and logistical nightmare.

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Macbeth marks strongly but misses to the near side

How evocative to attend the Goodwood Theatre for a performance of Macbeth.

It’s a play I’ve been spellbound by since I was at school and studied it in Mrs Maloney’s class. When she was a teenager this small theatre is also where my wife Claire made her theatrical debut in Lola Montez but, Your Honour, to my continuing shame I have no recollection of this.

While I’d read and taught the Scottish play countless times, the recent realisation that I’d never seen it on stage startled me. The Goodwood stage was raked towards the audience at an alarming angle and was diamond-shaped. It made me concerned that the artistes might tumble onto the spectators and make us unwitting, additional victims of the supernatural bloodletting.

Our state premier Mr Steven Marshall took his seat just in front of us. Looking like a Kelvinator draped in shapeless black shade cloth, his personal security chap sat next to him. I decided to behave myself. Given the play is about civil mayhem and assassination it is surely tax deductible for all aspiring and upright politicians. I trust Mr Marshall kept his ticket stub. Regicide’s always in vogue.

The production was arresting and visceral and I since discovered an article which argued that in this most sinister of Shakespearean texts made notorious by words such as dagger, cauldron and weird the most unsettling word is the.

Best illustrated by this famous section as lady Macbeth urges her husband-

Your hand, your tongue. Look like th’ innocent flower,

But be the serpent under ’t.”

Academics argue that instead of using the generic a, the definite article the as in the serpent rather than a serpent implies an underlying idea, a lurking agency and invests it with greater menace and unknown symbolism.

*

Friday afternoon in the city and Claire led me by the hand along the harried streets as we evaded the suits and clots of yoof and e-scooters. I felt warm anticipation and the joy of unveiling surprise for it was the monthly moment of personally curated escape that is Mystery Pub.

Tucked away in an almost secreted nook The Historian is like a summery London boozer as the punters were a-throng outside and in. Squeezed in around a pillar on our stools there was pub clamour and buzzing bustle. I was reminded of Jordan in the Great Gatsby who remarked that she loved big parties because, “they’re so intimate.” Our conversation took on a conspiratorial quality and we could’ve been Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in isolated Dunsinane castle, save for the murderous scheming and horrific descent into lonely madness.

*

I took Alex and Max and their mates to the Glenelg v Centrals game Saturday and can report that the five of them saw upwards of five minutes of footy, collectively. This healthy apathy transported me back to Kapunda games as a kid when the match was often just a loose backdrop, a vague context that gave shape to the afternoon. What a marvellous fortune to be able to take in this beachside frivolity in the late winter. And kids under 18, are admitted free!

During the A grade when I was about ten I ran after my footy among the pine trees behind Freeling Oval and almost stepped on a snake catching some winter warmth. Heart a-pumpin’ I stopped and then like a lorry took a wide arc to snatch my Lyrebird footy. Again, Macbeth and its reptilian imagery comes to mind-

We have scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it.

She’ll close and be herself, whilst our poor malice

Remains in danger of her former tooth.

*

Our Sunday morning pattern is to take the dogs Buddy and Angel (Buddy and Angel does sound like a dreadful movie in which two unlikely LA cops solve a previously impenetrable crime and win grudging praise from the grumpy Chief of Police) down the beach for a scamper among other hounds and humans.

The winter storms have dumped giant mounds of seaweed over the sand. On the grey, swirling days I could almost sense the hideous witches from Macbeth huddled over a bubbling pot, described thus

By each at once her choppy finger laying

Upon her skinny lips: you should be women,

And yet your beards forbid me to interpret

That you are so.

It’s an invigorating and elemental way to begin a Sunday and the brisk air does us good and Angel, such a timid, delicate puppy, yelps with delight and leaps like a hare. She’s a beach dog, more Enid Blyton than The Bard.

*

My old school friend Chris, now splitting his time between Angaston (Ango) and Adelaide texted asking me of my Wednesday night plans. I replied, “What have you in mind?”

My phone buzzed with his clear wish- “Meat and three veg.”

So we took our meat and (limited to potato) veg at the Duke of Brunswick. Unlike the charmless beer barns of the anonymous suburbs this pub’s an inner-city delight. Warm, snug and with glowing lighting it invites talk of hometown mates and ancient bonds.

In my week of diverse gratefulness, this is another luminous episode.

While the Duke of Brunswick is well-named there’s other British pubs like the Ape and Apple, The Cat and Custard Pot Inn and The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn (try the ploughman’s lunch).

But I’d opt for the title given Macbeth just before he slays King Duncan-

              The Thane of Cawdor.

That’d be an apt boozer for a gloomy winter’s night.

2

Mystery Pub

“As we enter our autumn years, we’ll need other hobbies apart from going to the pub,” Claire said philosophically, if not medically.

“But we already do,” I replied, possibly a little sensitively, “We research pubs, talk about pubs, and I write about pubs,” I added self-consciously, if not metacognitively.

A well-being expert (not Tony Abbott) once said that there’s three ingredients for a good and happy life: something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. Mystery Pub neatly meets all three once a month for an hour. What a psychologically robust concept it is. So affirming.

Our wedding photographers said the best photos of couples are not when they’re kissing, but the moment just before, when there’s the briefest space and time. It invites the photo’s audience to imagine what next happens and engages them more actively. It’s delicious. Maybe Friday afternoons in a dappled beer garden are like this too. All expectation and simmering bliss. Or maybe that’s a silly stretch or an inappropriate analogy.

But I love the pub for an hour on Friday afternoons.

No more than sixty minutes. Watching strangers arrive, all animated and bustling. I wonder about their lives and private joys and terrors. Then the gradual uplift of buzzing chat punctuated by ruptures of laughter. A chance for Claire to try a new shiraz. I sample a craft ale. The promise dangling in front of a weekend. The transition between work and play.

Our shared, joyous cusp.

Here’s a retrospective of our Mystery Pubs. Some have been triumphant (Mount Mary) while others a little underwhelming (Forth) but still worthy of a visit. The architecture, the history, the mise en scene. Some are female (Lady Burra, Mount Mary, Grace Emily) and others are male (Duke, Benjamin) while some are geographic with Inglewood connoting LA and West Oak evoking medieval England (Meet me at the West Oak, not the East Oak and we shall duel to the death with our jousting sticks).

Anyway, August is Claire’s pick, and I look forward to ambling in for that idyllic hour of escape and discovery.

27/1/23- The Guardsman, Adelaide Railway Station

9/12/22- The Sailmaster, North Haven

18/11/22- Hilton Hotel, Victoria Square

21/10/22- Seven Stars

16/9/22- Silver Brewing

26/7/22- The Largs Pier

15/7/22- El Cheeky Flamingo (East End)

3/6/22- Earl of Leicester

13/5/22- Harry’s Bar on Grenfell

No Mystery Pub in April as we were in Tassie and there were mystery pubs aplenty!

25/3/22- Brightstar Brewing

11/2/22- Brighton Metro (with special guests Mozz and Kath)

14/1/22- The Hilton (on South Road)

10/12/21- The Golden Wattle

19/11/21- West Thebby Social Club

30/10/21- Bowden Brewing

24/9/21- John Doe’s Local Bar

13/8/21- The Historian

2/7/21- Lady Burra Brewhouse

4/6/21 – Grace Emily

7/5/21- The Kentish

4/4/21- Inglewood Inn

5/3/21- Parkside Hotel

6/2/21- West Oak

22/1/21- Mount Mary

12/12/20- Forth (Jetty Road, Glenelg)

20/11/20- Maylands

18/9/20- Duke of Brunswick

15/8/20- Benjamin on Franklin

4

Incident at Mystery Pub/ Greenock Creek Shiraz

Once a month on a Friday we have Mystery Pub. Claire and I alternate researching a local cup-shop and with buzzing expectation and frisson swirling about the cabin drive the happily oblivious spouse to it.

Recently I took my wife to the Kentish in North Adelaide. Neither of us had been there for decades. Tucked in near Melbourne Street it enjoys a quiet, almost feudal location in a cul de sac and sitting out the front of the sandstone grog-dome on a mild afternoon we watched some locals strolling in after a tough day in commercial law or obstetrics.

With a staccato burst of click, click, click one of the zappy bar staff lit the gas heater which impressed Claire but didn’t concern me for I was in shorts (and a shirt too). August is normally the only shorts-free month for me.

It was then that a most dreadful event occurred. Claire asked for a second house red and it was decidedly acceptable, doubtless enhanced by the low chirping from the surrounding punters and our golden hour of honeyed light and gentle parachuting into the weekend.

But in a moment of retrospectively acknowledged delusion I heard myself say at the bar, “And I’ll try a Heineken 3.”

Returning to our table with the accompanying feeling of self-congratulatory triumph that one always experiences when successfully purchasing a round of drinks, I sat and took a sip.

The celebrated continental brewers describe their beer as being, “lower carb, lower calorie” but omit to say that it will also “lower” your sense of well-being, general life optimism, and faith in your otherwise excellent decision-making regarding refreshment choices.

It’s an unspeakably terrible beer. It’s as thin as a spider web and has less charisma than a bureaucrat’s corpse. The flavour seems made in a sterile European lab by faceless automatons who unblinkingly pour anonymous liquids from one test-tube to another, and I suspect I’m correct.

As many an old bloke in a quiet country pub has probably muttered to anyone and no-one, “I had two of those. My first and my last.”

*

Thursday was an excellent day and with late-afternoon cause to celebrate we swung by the Broady beer garden for a twinkling hour. At home with some gnocchi on the stove and our wedding playlist percolating about the kitchen (opening song- “Summer Love” by Sherbet) we extracted the cork from a bottle of red. Nowadays, of course, using a corkscrew is an event in itself and this too caused our epicurean hopes to simmer. We took out some special occasion wine glasses.

Friends and I had visited Greenock Creek wines in the nineties. It’s not in Greenock but on Seppeltsfield Road in Marananga. Their wines are delicious but hard to get so it’d been ages since I’d had one. The (Honorable) Paul J Keating was likely our Prime Minister when I last had this joy.

The 2016 Apricot Block Shiraz is remarkable. I’ve an unrefined palate and any initial slurp is sometimes like a slap on a cold morning to me before I settle into my work. This time it was velvety seduction. By candlelight the glass was all inky and dark and the plonk was complex and subtle and like a Bruce Dawe poem, I knew returning to it I’d locate fresh meaning and my world view would be buoyed.

Like Keef to Mick it made an elegant and synergistic partner to our pasta. As we eased through it our dining table conversation moved to the centre of our world and the wine, like all powerful forces acting for good, gently lowered herself silently into the background.