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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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Five Summery Delights

Beach House Café

A two-minute squirt towards Victor Harbor from our digs at the Bluff. This rickety eatery on the esplanade was bursting last Thursday with folks like us keen for the wood oven pizza or its slightly surprising culinary cousin, North Indian curry. The service was brisk yet relaxed and we inhaled our pizza.

It was fun dining.

The cafe hosts live music and there’s a history lesson as the walls are busy with mounted posters for the iconic acts that have played across the previous two decades, such as Mental As Anything and Ol 55.

Get in there soon to enjoy a Rogan Josh while listening to the Countdown classic, ‘Looking for an Echo.’ It’d be fantastic on a wintry Sunday.

Willowman

Why aren’t there more novels about cricket?

With Test matches allotted five days there’s rich and natural narrative possibilities. I’ve read novels that mention the sport so was thrilled to learn of Willowman which promised a singular attention to the great game.

Inga Simpson’s recent paperback was on my holiday menu and while the plot and characterisation aren’t especially original, the poetic meditations upon batting, music and the patient craft of fashioning beauty are exquisite. Like this section on the main character and Test cricketer

Harrow was using the old Reader bat for the occasion, a deep divot worn in its face…It was yellowed, a few fine cracks in the face, but still beautiful. Some kind of magic at work that it didn’t really age. In the soft English sun, the bat was golden, containing all the hope and possibilities of the game.

I loved reading a chapter or two mid-afternoon, and then napping!

Soul Music

Since the turn of the century this British series has been offering its simple genius.

The producers at BBC Radio 4 take a piece of music and weave together the stories of about five people. The connection: how a particular song features in their lives and became the soundtrack for personal change. There’s the everyday, the tragic and the wryly comedic centred on the transformative power of music. It’s compelling storytelling and gives insight into some remarkable art.

Last Saturday night Claire and I dragged the beanbags out onto the back lawn and listened to episodes on Nick Cave’s ‘Into My Arms’, U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ and following a stroll around the block, John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads.’

I was inspired to play the live version from Rattle and Hum which features the Voices of Freedom choir and late in the song Bono and U2 allow them to take over. It’s spinetingling.

The Banshees of Inisherin

Darkly comedic, this is an essay on male friendship and the complex consequences of its failure. Set against the Irish Civil War we, like the main characters, Pádraic and Colm, are vulnerable to their island’s claustrophobia and agoraphobia. It’s a beautiful, terrible place.

It was unsettling and like all great cinema remained with me for the following days as I tried to reconcile its themes. Not for the squeamish, it also has much to say about mortality and art and sacrifice.

After we saw it Claire and I enjoyed exploring it at Patritti wines.

Pirate Life South Coast Pale Ale

Seeing this on tap I invariably feel a pulse of ale frisson. It occupies that select space I call occasion beers. Fresh and redolent of beachside beers gardens (deliberate plural for who only has one beer?) and gentle swimming bays, it’s an afternoon treat.

Once at Alberton watching Glenelg lose to Port the bar was serving a Pirate Life light beer called 0.9 (based on the alcoholic value). I instead wanted the 2007 grand final commemorative beer, Pirate Life 119 but none was available.

And with an incandescent appearance, the Pale Ale looks painterly in a glass as if Monet had captured it by a French field. Not a regular Friday cup, but one to mark a moment, like a festive luncheon.

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Royal Family pub, Port Elliot

The year’s first Tuesday. Alex, Max and I are in one of my favourite beer gardens.

In each of the last two Septembers I’ve come down here to a townhouse overlooking Knight’s Beach for a writing retreat. After each big day of introspection and prose, I enjoy a late afternoon ale in this glorious pub.

The beer garden’s coastal and festive in that loosely shared sense, with ten or a dozen big wooden tables scattered on the lawns. Today, as a mark of familial solidarity we’ve all decided upon a chicken schnitzel but with varied toppings (parmigiana and Kilpatrick minus the sea boogas).

My ridiculous generosity continues as I treat myself to a Pirate Life South Coast Pale Ale which seems geographically appropriate down here on the south coast, masquerading as the Fleurieu Peninsula. Increasingly, it’s my occasion beer. Fruity and summery, these are fine qualities in a refreshment.

The boys are hugely grateful for their tumblers of room temperature tap water.

Strolling into the airy and light and old front bar we’d noticed opposite how the queue to the (doubtless award-winning) Port Elliot bakery stretches a decent drop punt along the footpath. Hopefully, the bakers have prepared well for the masses so that most accusatory of rhetorical questions need not be asked, ‘Who ate all the pies?’

Between claiming our booked furniture and ordering, some folks have mistakenly pinched our chairs so upon our return I merrily shoo them away. I’m sure they welcome my inserting them into their correct place in our messy universe. At least that’s how I interpret the audible absence of their cussin’ at me.

The boys and I plan our week.

Jetty-jumping. Ascending The Bluff. Exploring Goolwa and Hindmarsh Island. There’s also the Murray mouth, which I can reveal, for the hydrologically unexcitable like me, lacks a little star power. I had hoped for towering waves and deafening crashing and Niagara-like power. I wouldn’t invest any coin in a Murray Mouth theme park just yet. But it was important to view it during these times of biblical flooding.  

While waiting monk-like for our poultry Alex and Max pop next door to the surf shop while I peer at the racing form with Stony Creek and Maree gallops on the menu. Nothing takes my fancy, so I wander back outside.

As the late Victor Lewis-Smith often asked in his restaurant reviews, what made me pleased to be here?

The food was honest and tasty. My beer was great as is always the case with early-January-on-holidays-beers. The boys’ excitement at the beginning of our languid week with busy days and cricket nights ahead of us. Our tremendous fortune and the soft charms of this inviting pub.

Schnitzels inhaled; we drive back to Victor Harbor for our Granite Island pilgrimage. We’ll follow the horse-drawn tram out along the new causeway.

Our week is underway.