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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.

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Sausage Roll Review: The Goolwa Bakery

It’s a snaking and demanding ribbon of tar from Glenelg to Goolwa along and across the Hills and between the vines until the great arc of the Southern Ocean appears like a pale blue relief.

It was supposed to pour down but instead just spat with appalled apathy on my Korean car’s bonnet. I’ve the best part of three days overlooking Knight’s Beach to write and think and read for which I’m enormously grateful.

But I need to open my holiday with a sausage roll, as one should.

My now annual writing retreat is largely predicated on nostalgia and other investigations of the past so exiting the Southern Expressway and ignoring the radio I push in a CD on my hugely old-school car stereo.

The Eagles accompany me on my trip down to the gushing, green Fleurieu. Although my tiny brain is prejudiced happily to the past, I reckon they stand up well. It’d be easy to mock them as symbols of 70’s American excess but the songs and the musicianship are peerless. Eagles Live was enormous in my youth, and it might’ve had the be-jesus overdubbed out of it, but ‘Seven Bridges Road’ and its climbing harmonies still arrest me.

The Goolwa Bakery is located on a side street, and I was instantly smitten by the cosy interior. Some modern bakeries tend towards supermarket dimensions, to their consequent detriment. The atmosphere was also buoyed by a fishbowl in TV, sitting on a table near the door, as it always is in a rural baked goods emporium.

Ordering my $5 sausage roll my thoughts meandered towards Pulp Fiction’s Mia Wallace and her famous $5 shake, a speciality at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. Initially expressing disbelief Vincent Vega then takes a socially inappropriate sip and exclaims that it’s a ‘pretty expletive good milkshake!’

And so it was with my sausage roll.

Claiming a chair on the early afternoon footpath and withdrawing (careful now) the lunch from its brown bag it appeared as a freshly busted hunk of axe handle in both girth and approximation.

My first bite met with peppery whiffs and pleasantry. There was flaky, tasty pastry and it wasn’t sweaty which the medically alert among you will know is the biggest killer of over 55’s in this antipodean country.

Looking about my environs I note that the bakery shares premises with the Goolwa Health Centre and hope that all the kiddies reading now grasp the attendant irony.

The woman serving the baked grub was effervescent if somewhat resigned; I wondered about her life but not for long.

Munching on I was acutely aware of my enormous privilege as I was soon to drive to my beach accommodation. I’d be on a balcony with long, glorious hours in front of me.

Five quick minutes later I’d finished my lunch, scanned the surroundings, and pointed my motor west.

The Goolwa Bakery is over a century old. They know how to craft a sausage roll.

I’m unsure but they might even serve them (sauce if required) with ‘pink champagne on ice’ in the Hotel California.

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New Year’s Eve, 2021

New Year’s Eve’s a funny old day. During daylight it’s one of my favourite days but once the sun’s down I lose interest.

As a teenager in Kapunda I remember regularly waking early on the last day of the year- often before anyone else at home- and in the still dawn riding my bike around town and evaluating everything through my decidedly adolescent eyes. The Main Street was quiet- there was not a HQ Holden to be seen or heard- and I’d feel something probably akin to gratitude for the place- my place- and wonder about the year ahead, due to get underway in a few, brief hours.

It was always a solitary exercise but I’d experience connectedness to my hot, dusty hometown.

Claire and I and the dogs have just returned from the beach where the loose streams of walkers along the wide, flat sand suggest many others have resisted a sleep-in and are also extracting what they can from 2021 before it’s too late.

Happy new year to you!

Early January the boys and I (and later Claire too) headed to Barmera on our traditional trip. Here’s the last known photograph of our yabby nets prior to them being hooked by some miserable Collingwood supporting sod.
With Alex turning thirteen he and I spent a night up in Hahndorf to mark his official ascent (or is it descent) into teenagerhood. It would be churlish to mention that I narrowly won the mini-golf, so I won’t.
Max had his birthday at the Beach House (it remains an effort not to call it Magic Mountain). It was a fun morning and my hearing, the audiologist tells me, will soon have recovered.
Late afternoon at the Kapunda Mine Chimney on our wedding day this selfie captured our photographers too. How often is a photo taken of the photographers? Not often enough so thank you both.
Here we are, mid-April, on our honeymoon in the Flinders having just had a picnic lunch. If you listen carefully to this photo you can hear the lonesome call of the crows.
At the annual Footy Almanac lunch at Australia’s best soup pub, the North Fitzroy Arms, the spicy pumpkin was, as Rick Stein himself might’ve enthusiastically said, tasty.
We e-cycled the Riesling Trail one June Saturday and Claire enlisted a stick to correct our host town’s spelling.
In early spring I spent two days writing while overlooking the beach at Port Elliot before Claire joined me and we went for a dawn walk to begin our weekend.
Alex received a retro record player for Christmas. In between him dropping the needle on some hippity-hop vinyl I ushered him into the sacred world of Ripper 76.