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Skyhooks and me

ego

Urgency. I reckon this is the best word. For they were always urgent. Midnight Oil was aggressive, and Sherbet was summery. But even when they were brooding, Skyhooks was urgent.

Learning of their 1991 reunification tour, some mates and I instantly booked our tickets. However, on the day of their Adelaide concert I awoke 565 kilometres away on the West Coast as I had to pack up my Ucontitchie Road farmhouse for the move to Kimba.

With my earthly goods flung through the front door of my new house, we leapt into my mate’s SS Commodore, pointed the 4.9 litre beast eastward, and rumbled the five hours, through a January thunderstorm, to North Adelaide’s Old Lion Hotel. We arrived with moments to spare. The pub already stinging in its smoky, hot fug. There were but three beers on tap. Red Symons was at his belligerent Red Faces best. It was a night of huge fun.

I love crowd singing on a live album. It amplifies the sense of being there, when in all likelihood, you weren’t. Great examples include “Army” from Ben Folds Live and,” Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis, but supreme for me is “All My Friends Are Getting Married” from Skyhooks’ Live in the Eighties. When Shirl invites the crowd to sing the chorus they do in such an adoring fashion. Back at the Old Lion this, too, was a highlight of that summer night.

*

Sophomore albums often rate highly. Think Nevermind, The Bends and Astral Weeks. Buoyed by the acclaim of their debut offering, there’s often a young band or artist, teamed up with a noted producer. Their confidence is unparalleled. An equivalent could be, again from 1991, when Mark Waugh made an elegant hundred on debut at Adelaide Oval. However, a friend observed, “It’s not such a surprise. After all, you only get picked for your country because you’re in fantastic form.”

Bearing this in mind, Ego Is Not a Dirty Word is their finest album. I know that Living in the Seventies is the much-loved debut, selling over 300,000 copies, and enjoying the infamy of six of its offerings being banned. But, on this second release, there’s an increased breadth in the songs, with “Love’s Not Good Enough” musing on suburban loneliness, “Smartarse Songwriters” featuring Greg Macainsh’s meta-cognitive explorations, and the title track, pushing the patience of many (I can’t imagine Sir Joh was a fan) with its brazen reference to the triumvirate of Richard Nixon, Leonard Cohen, and in an Australian music first, Jesus.

My favourite is side 2, track 2. I know it’s a hundred types of wrong but I recently played it in the car for our boys on the way home from karate. On the first note of “Mercedes Ladies” they both giggled at the larrikinism of bass line, the cheeky guitars and Freddie’s comical tom-tom drumming. It rollicks along with the musical highlight the double hi-hat chick at the end of each line. It’s a great way to spend three minutes, and encapsulates the band, their time, and their legacy. In this, as in much of their material, Skyhooks satirise the suburbs while also rejoicing in them.

Of course, we’re all apprehended by our creative context. Even here in smug 2016, history will eventually scold us. 1975 imprisoned many with multiple charges: sexism, homophobia, stereotyping. But despite this Skyhooks also pioneered themes concerning the suburban and the local. It was music of the largely untold other; it was not of NYC or London.

Such is the significance of Skyhooks for me that the mention of Carlton evokes the song first, and the footy team second. The band’s collected lyrics still generate a google map of Melbourne, and a reference to Toorak or Balwyn returns me to my original conceptions of the city by the Yarra. If the Beatles are Liverpool, and the Rolling Stones are London, then Skyhooks are Melbourne. Their music has always presented the geography of a highly human environment, as there’s colourful pictures of grimy pubs, menacing streetscapes, and widescreen vistas too.

It was in my school mate Lumpy Nixon’s lounge room (I’m sure there were ceramic ducks flying up the wall) that I first saw, and heard Straight in a Gay, Gay World. I was mesmerised by the guitars on the title track, and the sonic trickery of a swarm of insects hovering overhead on the outro, moving from the left speaker to the right. I was fourteen and this was beyond cool.

The album’s artwork gripped me equally with its triptych of a solitary black sheep, butcher shop and lamb dinner. It was the first humorous cover I’d seen. The art often functioned as a portal to an album’s narrative. I was especially intrigued by Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, and tried to decipher the cover photo of the two business men, one calmly ablaze, shaking hands on a Californian backlot. However, I couldn’t unlock its mystical meanings. In our age of Spotify and digital downloads, these happy distractions have largely disappeared. But vinyl’s fighting back.

*

And finally to Shirl. He’d a remarkably complex voice, blending a tradie’s building site swagger with the footballer’s front-bar cockiness. It was effortlessly confident, and also reassuring, saying, “Why would you live anywhere else?” as it slapped your back and shouted, “Forget about it, I’ll buy you a beer!” He sung to, and for, us. But, his vowels were knowingly crisp and aware of the telling subtext. He delivered his stories with affection, while also investing the songs, as appropriate, with a sneer. “Million Dollar Riff” could be his best performance. Shirl was the perfect front man.

I love that I can go years without listening to a band, and then one afternoon find myself dragging out a dusty CD, and with the opening chords, being teleported to a distant, thrilling place. With Skyhooks that place is removed and unreconstructed, but from time to time, I really enjoy going back there.

hooks

 

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Singapore Darts Masters: “There’s only one word for that – magic darts!”

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I’m horrified.

The Professional Darts Corporation’s Order of Merit lists a solitary player called Keith. Only one Keith? Like The Rolling Stones?

An AFL equivalent is one culled of every Jaryd, Jarrad, Jared, Jarryd, Jarrod, and Jarred.

With earnings of £1500, number 134 is Dick van Dijk of the Netherlands. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! One hundred and eighty! When he weighed 31 stone (197 kilograms, 434 lbs.) £1500 was former champion Andy “The Viking” Fordham’s pre-match bar tab.

I’m at The Singapore Darts Masters with a Scot, an Irishman, and another Australian. No, it’s not a joke. It doesn’t finish with, “That’s what she said!” or “I thought you were George Michael!” or “They’re all in the truck and one of them’s honking the horn.”

Ignoring visits to the Docklands, I’ve never laughed so heartily at a sporting event’s price structure:

$501 – First Tier Table Tickets including front row seats, player access, limited edition shirt, bottle of spirit plus mixers, goodie bag, 180 cards, fast food & freeflow beer

$301 – Second Tier Table Tickets including goodie bag, 180 cards, event shirt, fast food & freeflow beer

$180 – Third Tier Tickets including fast food & freeflow beer

$40 – Auditorium Seating, with 25% off for early bird booking (that’s us!)

I rarely play darts. At the pub eight ball and darts are distractions. The pub is the place to go after sport, or to watch sport. But not to play sport.

So, I’m at the arrows for the anthropological insights.

But darts is also a celebration of English pubs. Unlike Antipodean hotels, British boozers are thematic extensions of the living room. Board games, nooks for reading, delightfully dreadful wallpaper. Australian pubs position themselves as being the opposite of home; a place of aggressive escape.

Our local in England was The Goat. Built at the end of the 15th century, it has Chesterfields. There’s water bowls for your dog, and a beer garden with giant Jenga blocks. The landlord wants you in there, enjoying yourself. Collecting your coin is almost an afterthought.

In the Singapore Indoor Stadium’s opening stoush James Wade defeats Peter “Snakebite” Wright. Snakebite sports a technicolour Mohawk and painted skull, while Wade is the one from Finance. “The accountant wins,” I predict. Scottish Andy replies, “They always do. They always do.”

The darts is set in 1982. Like merchant sailors or long-haul truck drivers, some of the players are festooned with ancient tattoos, top of the forearm- no Chinese symbols or wanky Latin maxims here.

The combatants’ shirts are relaxed, except for the girth, where each seems to be smuggling an upturned Sunbeam® Mixmaster® bowl across the Russian border on a dark night.

A cracking soundtrack blasts the arena. The Communards, Style Council, The Church, Stealers Wheel, The Jam. It’s rollicking. The Unicorn darts board is miked up, and each projectile thuds in with a sonically satisfying basso tone like a depth charge in a speeded up submarine movie.

Russ “The Voice” Bray is the score announcer. We’re tickled by his raspy, theatrical style that makes Ray Winstone sound like Barry Gibb. In the UK he lends his larynx to Ladbrokes and Cash Converters. His “One hundred and eighty!” is Tom Waits-tearing-his-hamstring-while-off-the-long-run vocal mania. He and the two official scorers stand with black-shirted backs to us, slump shouldered like Norf London henchmen staring down into Barry’s fresh grave.

Up next is Stoke-on-Trent powerhouse, and former ceramic toilet roll handle maker, Phil Taylor. He and Dave Chisnell exchange 180’s through the middle legs (possibly illegal here).

And Chissy crushes The Power!

“I’m delighted, over the moon,” said Chisnall, fulfilling every British sports-star’s lunar cliché obligation. “I started quite well; my scoring was good at the beginning and I was hitting my finishes well.”

Only twenty-four, Michael van Gerwen is preternaturally talented. On the balcony a cluster of orange-attired girls holler as the Dutch prodigy strides out to The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.”

MVG’s already developing the darts physique, and with his shaven bonce, he’s a hybrid of Gary Ablett Junior and Little Britain’s Matt Lucas. A nine-dart finish is analogous to a hat trick or ten-pin bowling’s 300 game. He first did this on television when he was seventeen.

The boys and I provide our own analysis.

“Loose darts…”

“Tidy darts.”

“Quick darts!”

As our evening evolves we offer more colour.

“Angry darts!!!”

“Pensive darts?”

“Socially enlightened darts.”

“Post-modern darts¿”

Simon Whitlock’s walk on is “Down Under” by Men At Work. See, 1982! And he does look like Brett Lee. A Brett Lee with a sheet-metal worker goatee, clashing ink, and Willie Nelson ponytail. He strains perilously into the board, but flings like a surgeon. Richie Benaud might’ve observed that, “The slow-motion replay does not really show how fast the dart was travelling.”

Quarter-finals (read in your best BBC voice): Peter Wright 4, James Wade 10; Simon Whitlock 10, Raymond van Barneveld 6; Phil Taylor 6, Dave Chisnall 10; Michael van Gerwen 10, Andy Hamilton 4.

To compensate for the evening’s unspeakable lack of Keiths I listen to Exile On Main St as the MRT hurries under the harbour towards Orchard. And I think of Sid Waddell who once exclaimed, “You couldn’t get more excitement here if Elvis Presley walked in eating a chip sandwich!”

Simon Whitlock

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When The Sun Sets Over Carlton: Moments in Melbourne

DK

I am walking towards him.

And there is DK, those Puma bowling boots flying, in his magnificently menacing delivery stride, about to hurl it at me. Doubtless, pitching just outside off-stump, and jagging back sharply and unplayably onto a knee roll. Plumb.

With its classical vitality, and evocations of my summery, simple childhood, the Dennis Lillee statue outside the MCG’s Gate 1 is brilliant. Just brilliant.

*

The MCC library captivates me. A reading room within a colosseum! In other places and times this might be strange. But this is Melbourne. The complete Wisden’s Almanack (still using the archaic “k”) catches my eye, as does its predecessor, Lilywhites. As a built environment the MCG is superb, however it’s also a rich human location. It swirls with stories.

I look affectionately to the Nylex tower. It is colder than eleven degrees.

*

I take the Skybus from Tullamarine to the CBD in twenty minutes. No other city populated by 4.4 million permits such an easy transfer. This pleases me. The Skybus is blasting Triple M. I retrieve my phone, plug in the earphones, and tune into 3RRR’s Respect The Rock with Nicole TadPole.

Federation Square remains arresting, but is discordant, and utterly decontextualized. Is this the intention? It’s a serviceable public square, except, many would argue, a narrative of loss pollutes the pavers. I wonder if finally there’s a begrudging acceptance.

It’d be surly not to invest an hour in Young and Jackson. I imagine when I first visited, the taps poured VB, Fosters and, for the discerning, VB. Murray’s Angry Man Pale Ale is horrible. It possibly speaks of my naiveté concerning American styled beer, but in this case I see “complex character” as encoding for poop. However, Stone and Wood Pacific Ale is golden lusciousness. I drink a second.

My room doesn’t include NITV and The Marngrook Footy Show. Watching The Footy Show is like eating MacDonald’s; few admit to it. And it’s true, courtesy of my Singaporean address, I haven’t seen it for years.

Sam Newman is self-parodying. Does he care about his eponymous character anymore? Nevertheless, there’s a tribute to just-retired Jonathan Brown, and multiple mentions of “frothies.” Before they get to the games, I’m asleep.

*

I read The Odyssey on Mykonos. I heard “LA Woman” in Santa Monica, while driving down your freeway. As a boy, I enjoyed Sun on the Stubble by Eudunda’s favourite son, Colin Thiele. Staying on Flinders Street, I’m reading The Slap. Despite the dark plot, it also celebrates this city’s multicultural confidence. What fun to enjoy the art of a place while there! It informs the literary experience in an intimate, amplified way.

The vinicultural climax is a Murrindindi Shiraz at the Footy Almanac’s Waterside Hotel luncheon. Like the function, it is languid and companionable. The hours rush by. The hours glide by. There’s talk of musician Tim Rogers’ vulnerability within the context of modern masculinity, Dane Swan’s plucky unorthodoxy and Heritier Lumumba’s “I am a golden negro of mother Africa” tattoo.

*

At Docklands Stadium I take in Geelong and Essendon with some Footy Almanackers. I enjoy sitting in the Medallion Club at the Coventry End. The track is a FAST 1; a dry, hard track. The football is Muhammed Ali quick.

Being dispassionate about the result conjures Brecht, and Verfremdungseffekt, or the “alienation” effect. The purpose of this theatrical technique is to make the audience feel detached from the action of the play, and therefore better placed to appreciate it. Yep, as a neutral spectator, that’s me!

Heppell is terrific for the Bombers. As a left-legger he’d fit into Hawthorn’s side, but he’d have to trade his absurd hair to one of the Coasts: Gold or West.

*

Saturday afternoon, and the Docklands for Richmond and St Kilda. I’m at a TAB caravan on the concourse, tapping screens, and scanning the thoroughbred fields.

The wife and I went to Iceland one February. This was Hayman Island next to the frigid lasers of fecking wind slicing at that caravan. Bjork would’ve pulled her beanie of swan feathers down low, abandoned any thoughts of a Rosehill, Race 6 earn and scampered inside.

Good idea.

Having met fellow South Australian Mark “Swish” Schwerdt, we then sit up high in the affectionately labelled Level 3, and chat about our childhoods, Skyhooks, writing, and, of course, cult Crow, Eddie Hocking.

With six goals in the opening term, the Tigers create an irresistible lead. St Kilda provide their opponents Saharan space, allowing frequent invention from Trent Cotchin and Punt Road’s own son of anarchy, Dusty Martin. The Saints kick their only major through Nick Reiwoldt. He’s still as solid as a Chrysler Valiant.

After quarter time, both sides play spasmodic football. The kind that makes folks remark, “ I’m glad I’m not wasting fifty cents on electricity by recording this at home on the Betamax VCR.” Former captain Chris Newman is quiet, but after the half-time siren, threads a tidy goal.

St Kilda hang with them in a way which gives false hope, like the effortlessly beautiful girl you saw on a jetty when you were fifteen. When you were beyond deluded.

Meanwhile, Swish and I are diving into our conversations, and Richmond win by about three lengths.“Oh, we’re from Tigerland” is wonderful as they’re my second team, with the best song. What a shame it can’t be entered in the Eurovision competition. For the yellow and black it’s the first win in their famous nine-match streak. Today is the Saints’ ninth consecutive loss. 2010 must seem Paleolithic.

As we’re leaving I see a merchandise van called the “St Kilda Locker.” Bad eyes. Thought it said “St Kilda Lock Up.”

*

I dine at Il Tempo on Degraves Street.

Eating bruschetta, I reflect on my relationship with the tomato. I fancy tomato soup, but despise tomato sauce, specifically on fried eggs. Surely, among polite peoples, this is indefensible. I accommodate tomato in toasted sandwiches, but I avoid it in the New York underground train network restaurant. I sometimes eat a grilled tomato at breakfast or a BBQ lunch.

Being an adult can be awkward.

In the Sunday quiet I listen to The Whitlams’ “Melbourne.” It’s an enchanting song, and weekend coda.

In love with this girl

And with her town as well

Walking ’round the rainy city

What a pity there’s things to do at home

Y & J

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AFL Round 10- Adelaide v Carlton: The Pogues or Paul Kelly?

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Our eldest son lost his front tooth yesterday. Already dangling, the other is now lurching across his gum. He is six.

Smiling, he is a little like Shane MacGowan, the lead singer of The Pogues. You know, the one who somehow maintains a pulse. Despite his sustained dedication to not, over these last four decades.

With the annual, happy promise of snow, a big Norwegian spruce in Trafalgar Square, and BBC Radio 2 being obliged to play “Fairytale of New York” every fourteen minutes across December, England does Christmas better than Australia.

It just works better in the dark and the cold.

“Fairytale of New York” is a superbly bleak song. Marrying misery with a rousing melody, the doomed couple bicker and snarl, and of course, it ends badly for them.

Which connects to both Carlton and Adelaide, except that it is only May. For much of the first half, the football goes back and forth, perversely suggesting the call and response form of the duet between Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl

I could have been someone

Well so could anyone

You took my dreams from me

When I first found you

I kept them with me babe

I put them with my own

Can’t make it all alone

I’ve built my dreams around you

While this festive ode is euphoric, Sunday’s MCG fixture was dour, and for much of it, lacking music. There would be grander joy within an afternoon spent shopping in Luton. At least there’d be the chance that your umbrella might be picked up in the sleety gale and speared into a Bedfordshire oak tree.

In their peculiar tribute to “Fairytale of New York”, The Crows continue to set their watches to Christmas Island time, well behind that in Melbourne, chronologically and in humanitarian/football supporter terms. And so they only have two goals at the major break. Adelaide’s pre-season strategy of starting in an excruciating way persists into a tenth week. John Farnham has enjoyed shorter retirements.

Norwood boy and Crows fan Paul Kelly’s “How To Make Gravy” is our finest seasonal song. Like The Pogues’ tune, it is jubilant in its despair. Both are anchored in familial misfortune. Each begins with a gentle, welcoming melody, and then erupts into a torrent of regret.

Living in St Albans, just north of London, Paul Kelly’s tour de force was my umbilical cord to Australia. Its evocative power, and fraught, jailed brother were overwhelming. On many a Friday evening I played this song in our tiny townhouse, after beers at The Bunch of Cherries, The Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, or The Goat.

When Peter Luscombe’s drums kick in at

I guess the brothers are driving down

From Queensland and Stella’s flying in from the coast

They say it’s gonna be a hundred degrees

Even more maybe, but that won’t stop the roast

I’d be a goner. The heat, the ritual, the anguish. There I’d be, on our couch, blubbing away, wondering what the feck we were doing half a world from home, having, in a sense, voluntarily imprisoned ourselves. Both songs signify Christmas and the end of the year. Although winter has not begun, 2014 is already finished for The Blues and The Crows.

Yarran and Betts have some electric moments, while Thomas for Carlton and Laird for the vanquished, contribute meaningfully. Kade Simpson appears to roam about unchecked and collects a mammon of disposals. There are more clangers than a Chinese gong workshop, and Adelaide’s sixteen behinds is telling.

I’d like to say that the second half was artistic and masterful like Paul Kelly and The Pogues, but I can’t. The error and turnover rates fell. Each team kicked eight goals. It was close.

Within a few weeks, our son will have a new front tooth, and his smile will again be complete.

Adelaide needs to stop its decay, and stop it urgently.

pk

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

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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

 

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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.

 

 

2

St Albans and her pubs: a love story

 

six-bells

 

The blacksmiths arms

bold & jetlagged after Heathrow

your lunch arrived with scampi, chip and beans (baked not green)

The goat

in its tiny garden during those terrifying, thrilling weeks

we designed our new life.

The subsequent summer; Monopoly with Jayne and Karina and actually finishing!

The lower red lion

Cheese Club in quaint progress; we watch like anthropologists.

drinking in the lush, bustling beer festival

with Emma and George late that May

The six bells

Roxy’s first pub drink (bowl of water; mostly ignored)

after she dashed across Verulamium Park

in the icy, Six Nations Rugby afternoon

The rose and crown

the sandwich pub & her tranquil fire.

we muse over our hopes and remote home, at a squat table

Ye olde fighting cocks

On a bench by the gushing, gargling Ver.

Astonishing, on every visit, at its impossibly low ceiling.

The spotted bull

A jubilant call from Classic Sovereign- The Brambles was ours-

so we were moving from Mrs. Thomas’ B&B

& Damo & his awesome weetbix teeth.

Suddenly caring for that sport on rugby world cup morning

& our last lunch in England; Christmas day.

The king harry

Fruli for you on Fridays and over Hoegarden

Father Manus spitting about Nicholas Breakspear, England’s only Pope, da bleedin’ fooker

The white hart tap

in hazy September sunshine, both wide-eyed over cheese steaks

The vintry

Once proud home of the nine sausage lunch, assembled on a mashy gravy pillow (what a country)

The bunch of cherries

chattering, after school ales (just another half for Fiona) then

cycling home, into the weekend, along the ghostly Alban Way

The white hart

One Friday as we sip, an ambulance crashes on Holywell Hill (second that week!)

& our unsettling and wonderful, last few nights & freak-out days

The hare and hounds

a pint with my cricket-mad father-in-law and cricket-mad Matt,

a 20/20 match on Sky TV and the Ashes agony begins…

The three hammers

after a brisk autumnal ramble out to Chiswell Green

we and Sunday roast and Yorkshire pudding and just the two of us.

The cross keys

curry and naan on metal plates and my mixed grill surprise.

Kathleen, Paddy and Louise-

snowy Hertfordshire schools: shut that bright and crisp afternoon.

The white lion

the petanqued beer garden

& how, vanishing summers ago, on their first day, mum and dad

recounted stories of our life in that other world; far, far away.

 

goat