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.