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Pub Review: the Magpie and Stump, Clare Valley

 

front of pub
Geometrically, I think the lawn’s a trapezium but I might be wrong.

Either way, it’s a Clare Valley garden, which just happens to come with its own pub!

There’s slate tables on the grass; umbrellas on bases- although the spring breeze means these are tethered lest they launch toward an unsuspecting vineyard or throbbing Harley; and two fire buckets embedded in imposing circular structures as if they’ve come from a 1970’s playground, or a Texan mechanic’s barbeque.

fire bucket

We’re at one of my favourite places on the planet: the Magpie and Stump.

Last year we sulked pub-ward suffering afresh from the Crows’ grand final defeat, hoping schnitzel might sooth our spirits. Spooked, Mozz uttered, “It’s quiet. Too quiet.”

The pub was shut.

And had been for some months.

But in 2018 new owners have flung open the doors- this sudden change in fortune is called peripeteia by the Greeks- and I’m thrilled. Shaking mine host Paul’s hand, he explains he’s expecting seventy for lunch. He adds that, “We did 700 meals over the June long weekend.” I peek in the kitchen en route to the bar and see four chefs: all busier than a one-legged man in an arse-kicking competition.

Our entourage takes up residence at a generous garden table. Having consulted the pub’s website, I know $15 jugs of Coopers Session Ale are waiting. At my urgings Bazz and Mozz enlist. “Go on,” I say, “it’ll be funny.”

lawn

The bar-keep seems unimpressed by my digital espionage but honours the offer. There’s wine and cider for the others and raspberry for the young fellas so we sit in the sun and speak of many people and places.

It’s perfect.

Most opt for the Stump burger, a challenging treat with meaty patties the size of small, beefy UFOs. The chips are crisp and tasty- this isn’t always a given- and come in those miniature wire baskets that could’ve been hocked from a Lilliputian fish shop.

Kath has salt ‘n’ pepper squid but it needs additional NaCl dusting. Flopping about with their iPods and assorted devices our male progeny orders nuggets. These are breathed in, instantly.

table 2

Post-lunch, the entertainment’s on under the veranda: a guitar and keyboard duo. Looking like an older Jack White the vocalist announces, “I’m Paul and this is Andy. Together, we’re known as Paul and Andy.”

They provide an afternoon of agreeable covers including our request for “Sweet Caroline.” Given the comprehensive demographic of the audience they ignore our plea for Frank Zappa and his 25-minute magnus opus, “Billy the Mountain.”

The pub staff are also congenial, even when one of our crew, Bazz attempting to assist, drops five glasses onto the table’s unforgiving slate. Disappointingly, only four break but the employee with upturned trouser cuffs laughs throughout his dustpan deed.

table 1

As the sun dips in the western sky we each get out three coins to engage in a few rounds of spoofy- known by my old mate Whitey as, “the free beer game.” Your correspondent enjoys complimentary cups.

We leave with some newly-minted stubby holders. However, these look better on display behind the bar as rolling them about in our mits, they’re, as Ian Chappell used to say, a bit thin. The cover of an old National Geographic would provide similar beverage insulation.

But it’d been a terrific Sunday on this fetching lawn and despite intermittent outages over the decades, the Magpie and Stump again powers on.

I urge you to enjoy its lawn soon.

stubby holder

 

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Pub Review: The Prince of Wales, Kapunda

prince

I’d driven non-stop for over four hours, dodging kangaroos, AM radio (up next the latest from Danni Minogue!) and berserk truckies like the one in Spielberg’s Duel, and Friday-exhausted, fell into the front bar around 8pm. It was a hike from Kimba.

“Hello West Coast smack-head,” greeted mine host. “Christ you’re getting fat, Mickey.” He continued. “Are you still driving that dopey sports car?”

Welcome to Kapunda’s Prince of Wales hotel, run with gruff affection by lumbering iconoclast Peter “Puffa” Jansen.

The blunt cranial and corporeal references are like warm handshakes. These are Puffa’s way of welcoming me into his cosy pub. His is an inclusive environment: no-one is spared his jibes, and these are all part of the boisterous charm. To not be abused would be offensive.

But to understand the publican we need to know more of his curiosities. He was fond of a mid-week luncheon and these sometimes included local identities such as Norton Schluter. Norton ran the Greenock Creek Tavern: a Barossan boozer with such similar atmospherics it could be a sister pub to the Prince.

Legend has it that Puffa and some captive chaps once when out to lunch. When traversing the state Puffa preferred to sip cans. He reckoned they “travelled better.” Post-dessert they inexplicably then drove to Broken Hill in the big publican’s even bigger Falcon and returned four days later.

The Prince of Wales is a snug pub with a front bar like a lounge room. It’s this spatial dynamic which assists the natural intimacy.  The decor is spartan and the space is dominated by the beautiful, antique pub fridge with timber doors and those ancient chrome door handles. About the bar are maybe ten black-topped stools.

bar

Often, early in the afternoon, there’d be but a single conversation with the tethered denizens such as Roger and Matesy, and the quips would shuttlecock about the bar and there’d be volleys of chirping from in their cups.

Retrospectively, I can see that chief among its attractions was a clear-minded absence of TAB, thumping music, big-screen TVs and dining options. The Prince was solely dedicated to conversation and cups although I recall watching the 1989 Grand Final in there on, I imagine, a boxy old Rank Arena, and willing on Ablett the Elder before the clock ran out.

It was a venue for personal firsts. On a lazy Sunday afternoon I was introduced to the English public school tradition of spoofy which initially only required three coins but, if you lost, it resulted in significantly more fiscal investment, especially if there were six or seven of you in a roaring circle. And the pain of loosing to Goose or Whitey went far beyond the mere monetary.

spoofy

Also in 1989 some mates and I hired a VN Commodore wagon and headed to Brisbane for about three weeks. Of course, we set off from the Prince. Ever the social benefactor Puffa said, “Here you yo-yo’s take my radar detector. I’ve seen how you blokes drive. It might save you a few bucks. Just bring me back a carton of that new Powers beer from Queensland.” And the detector did ping numerous times across New South Wales. We delivered Puffa his slab.

I also remember old mate Trev and his band ‘Imelda’s Shoes’ playing one Sunday afternoon in the bottle-o drive way. I stood by the war memorial as the drums and guitar blasted down Mildred Street.

Puffa loved a bet. Up on the wall behind his bar, next to the clocks, was a row of coasters on which the wagers had been scribbled. It was like a silent bookie. Puffa once said to me just after Christmas, “Don’t worry about the Sydney Test, smack head. It’ll be a draw. It’ll be rained out.”

I’d seen the forecast, so retorted, “I reckon it’ll stay dry.”

Puffa then barked, “I’ll give you 4 to 1 that it’ll rain. Easy money for me, you yo-yo!”

Of course, Fanie de Villiers bowled South Africa to victory in a rare, entirely rain-free Test. After I returned from New Zealand in late January Puffa took down the coaster and I enjoyed his cash momentarily, before donating it in yet another ill-conceived spoofy final. I had a skill for that.

Although it now offers a broader range of tap beers I’m sure we only drank West End Draught in either schooners or butchers. My A3s cricket captain Kym Ryan took his lager in a handled mug, and this seemed sophisticated. In 1986, it probably was.

*

Early one morning during our last year in Singapore my cousin Puggy- called a “smack head” by Puffa as often as anyone- sent me a message to say that the iconic publican had passed away.

Trev and I called in a while back when in Kapunda for Woodsy’s birthday. We invested a vigorous hour as the pale sunlight bent through the windows, and I expected Puffa to burst behind his bar and bark, “Hello smack head!”

When next in Kapunda I urge you to visit and enjoy a butcher of West End Draught! But not a game of spoofy.

Puffa

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The Kapunda Cricket Club: Long Necks in Brown Paper Bags and the Patron Saint of Spoofy

kcc-derro-and-spoofy

In 1880 the Australian Test side played a match in Kapunda against a local team. The shops shut at noon and thousands gathered. The national captain, Billy Murdoch, congratulated the club on the Dutton Park pitch. It was coconut matting.

The national side made 401 with opening bat AC Bannerman registering a century. The local side accumulated eighty, despite there being a batting line-up of twenty-two chaps. Only one fellow, TR Bright, got to double-figures with twenty-seven. Ten made ducks. Can you imagine a Wade/ Maxwell conversation happening back then?

“Hey Skip, got a minute?”

“Sure. What’s the problem?”

“I see you’ve got Bennett coming in at eighteen. And I’m batting at nineteen.”

“That’s right. He’s actually made a run this year.”

*

Saturday night saw the celebration of Kapunda Cricket Club’s sesquicentenary, and it was held at Dutton Park. Arriving late afternoon Woodsy, Bobby Bowden and I wandered down to catch the closing stages of the A grade fixture against Freeling. On the grass and under the shade we had a yarn with Tolly, Bart, Whitey, Goose and Rexy who were taking refreshment as preparation for the evening. Kapunda took four wickets to secure second place.

*

Away games still mean meeting at Rawady’s deli in the Main Street, just next door to the Sir John Franklin hotel. Thirty years ago, we’d head off to Eudunda or Angaston or Truro in a car with no air-conditioning. FM radio barely existed. Bench seats like those in HQ Holdens allowed six so only two cars might be needed. Toranas and 180Bs were rightly seen as selfish.

You’d be squeezed in and somewhere like Riverton was only about twenty minutes away, but with cramping calves and eyes stinging with the smoke of a dozen Winny Reds you’d slide from the seat with a soaking back like you were being born.

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

In a change room at Dutton Park some memorabilia is on display. I wander through. Old bats- GN Scoops and Fielkes, and boxes- such as the one made famous by Froggy are there, as are old score books. One from 1987 is on a bench and Bobby Bowden finds the match against Greenock, the one cruelly documenting his eighteen ball over. I’d forgotten that he and I opened the batting, but then when this happened, why would we?

Sudden by international standards, the demise of England’s G Swann was glacial compared to Bobby’s. At the start of his final ever over for the Kapunda Cricket Club he was a reliable medium pacer. Eleven agonising minutes later his bowling career was dead.

It began with a couple of wides, progressed to a malignant lack of confidence and culminated with Bob, broken, walking to the wicket like it was the gallows, and trying to complete a legitimate delivery. It often ended up at slip, or skidding forlornly, ashamedly, down to fine leg. His mental self-disintegration was total.

Subsequent pub analysis confirms that Bob’s eighteen-ball over only contained seven legal deliveries, and therefore nearly thirty years on, remains incomplete. I was at mid-off, and lobbed the ball to him, fifteen times. I felt increasingly like I was throwing him a box jellyfish. Or a can of XXXX.

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

Cricket clubs provide much. Social instruction. Gentle exercise. Weekend structure. But mostly they generate memories. Eagle Rock with whites around ankles, slopping up beer and Bundy in a Tarlee disco. Tony Clarke spinning the black vinyl of “Walk Like An Egyptian.” A fella like Flab who, in astonishing dedication, wore his cricket whites until Tuesday. Yeah, Tuesday. Twice. Did these have to be burnt? If we had a nuclear waste storage facility (no doubt on the site of the former Railway Hotel) they probably should have gone in there.

I think of Spoofy. I think of the front bar in Puffa’s late on summer afternoons. Boys drinking West End from handles. No TAB or big screens. No pumping music. Just three coins, clasped behind the back. Not trying to win, but trying not to lose. Goose Mickan. Someone chirping, “Good call.”

The final moment and someone- hopefully not yourself, trudging off to buy for everyone like GS Chappell after his fifth consecutive duck. This, of course, all belongs spiritually to Whitey, the patron saint of Spoofy, or as he now calls it, “The Free Beer Game.”

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

And then, late afternoon somehow squeezing back into the HQ Holden as Chris Hayward once said, “Like ten pounds of spuds in a five-pound bag” we’d drive through the dusty warmth back home. This often included calling through a pub like the Greenock Tavern to get a long neck in a brown paper bag. One each for the journey.

Just as the drive to cricket could seem eternally long, as a seventeen-year-old the trip back home with a derro could be horribly brief as now within Kapunda’s town-limits you tried to gulp down the last of the beer. The HQ would swing into a park outside the Clare Castle Hotel, and you’d stare down the neck of the bottle, looking for the fish bones you’re sure are swimming about in there, wondering how the older blokes actually drank the stuff. Safely inside, after three schooners of Nugget’s finest, you’d recovered and all was fine. You were set.

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

It was a great night. There were stories from JL Mosey and Sarge Johnston and laughs and life memberships. Wayne Phillips made a funny speech in which he referenced Fatcat and IVA Richards and the beginning of his relationship with his wife which, in part, began atop Gundry’s Hill overlooking Kapunda.

After midnight, everyone drifts outside to the veranda. It seems like it’s only nine o’clock. There’s a looming full moon and the skittish clouds race across the velvet. After a blistering week, the cool change is arriving.

I call back into the club next morning on my way home and ask what time the celebration wound up. Matt says, “I left at ten to four and there were still about sixty here.” Impressive.

Some nights the stories just won’t let you go to bed. There’s too much to say, too many hands to shake.

And, this is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

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KCC Rawadys Deli squashed into Holdens Jock McGregor six Craig Hutton hat trick Rocket Tanunda Light Pass tie Leo Carter trained at KHS Fergie and Phil Bob and Christmas Greg Chappell hat Greenock dozen runs Interest in Caulfield Cup Spoofy Long neck Old score books Flab in whites until Tuesday 298 Dean Waugh Flipper coach ASADA 29 NSW Fatcat can’t guarantee that After midnight migrate outside, looming moon and skittish clouds 4am sixty folk, stories stretch onKCC Rawadys Deli squashed into Holdens Jock McGregor six Craig Hutton hat trick Rocket Tanunda Light Pass tie Leo Carter trained at KHS Fergie and Phil Bob and Christmas Greg Chappell hat Greenock dozen runs Interest in Caulfield Cup Spoofy Long neck Old score books Flab in whites until Tuesday 298 Dean Waugh Flipper coach ASADA 29 NSW Fatcat can’t guarantee that After midnight migrate outside, looming moon and skittish clouds 4am sixty folk, stories stretch onKCC Rawadys Deli squashed into Holdens Jock McGregor six Craig Hutton hat trick Rocket Tanunda Light Pass tie Leo Carter trained at KHS Fergie and Phil Bob and Christmas Greg Chappell hat Greenock dozen runs Interest in Caulfield Cup Spoofy Long neck Old score books Flab in whites until Tuesday 298 Dean Waugh Flipper coach ASADA 29 NSW Fatcat can’t guarantee that After midnight migrate outside, looming moon and skittish clouds 4am sixty folk, stories stretch on

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“And see which one of us can tell the biggest lies”

khs

I’m not sure why it was chosen. Maybe, because it’s convenient and the tram runs outside the front door. The Kings Head on King William Street prides itself on offering only local beers and wine and its food is also sourced entirely within the state. Brilliant.

So, last night about a dozen old mates congregated in the pub. Congregate’s a good verb for we function as a congregation which, of course, means people attending worship. We exchange the important details. Home. Kids. Schools. Work. And then we get to the evening’s real agenda: the past. The stories tumble like a waterfall.

*

There’s the footy grand finals, and Lukey’s screamer at Angaston oval. There’s Bongo’s unlikely major from inside the goal square. There’s the boys all getting a hat like Rexy Ryan’s.

There’s the cricket grand finals. Where is Jeff Charity?

There’s schooner schools and the afternoon when Stef dropped four and owed 28 beers and had to drive back to She-Oak Log to get more money.

And then there’s Tarlee discos with Tony Clarke spinning the records and the lads still in their cricket whites.

There’s the boys at Adelaide Oval late in the day after lots of niggle with some rough-nuts further up the hill and someone retorting, “If I want shit from you I’ll squeeze ya head” and then it was on, and as the toll climbed there’s Lukey advising, “If you just lie there, then they won’t hit you” and then with our Spidey senses tingling, knowing to all meet up in a pub an hour or so after scattering.

There’s Chris on the boundary at Angaston and “Gilesy, you dropped an expletive lemon” and the rest of that ragged evening doing laps of Quodlings’ farmhouse with his Dad hobbling after him.

There’s Sundays at the Railway and opening the blinds around mid-morning with Uncle Mick Dermody and raspberry in our butchers.

There’s Mikey’s T-18 and Woodsy’s 180B and Crackshot’s ute and Lukey’s Alfa.

There’s Cathy Coppin’s sympathy when we didn’t have enough for a ‘goon ($2.20) and she said, “Here. Just take the bloody thing.”

There’s spoofy at Puffa’s and Whitey saying, “Good call.” And then he lost and had to shout anyhow. Again. But you already knew this.

There’s the Pines and the Duck Pond and Gundry’s Hill.

There’s Kapunda High and a HQ Holden opening up a rear gate and a Torana having strife out the front one Saturday after a cricket club show.

There’s a woolly-faced monkey (Puggy/Slide/Greg) buying more than one of us our first beer in the Clare Castle Hotel. When he was fifteen.

There’s the Kapunda Pizza Bar and Johnny Guzzo and getting kicked out from tilting his pinball machine. “Fungul! Out! Out!”

There’s Lumpy Nixon and Dobby and black duffel coats and black ripples.

There’s a bus trip to Coolangatta and all falling asleep in a nightclub watching Boom Crash Opera and missing “Onion Skin” after fifty cent Bundy’s.

There’s New Year’s Eve at Lukey’s and Dad saying, “You young lads won’t drink a keg” and replying “We’re already on our second.”

There’s Puffa saying, “Here you yo-yo’s take my radar detector. Buy me a beer when you get back!” And we drove all the way to Brisbane and returned.

There’s Whitey and the Lienert brothers and Beetle Teagle and Wally Moyle and Nugget Coppin and many others.

*

It’s a ripping night. There’s giggling and tears of laughter and stories. Just stories. No politics or work or superannuation. Just stories.

Christmas is off to a flier.

cch