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Incident at Mystery Pub/ Greenock Creek Shiraz

Once a month on a Friday we have Mystery Pub. Claire and I alternate researching a local cup-shop and with buzzing expectation and frisson swirling about the cabin drive the happily oblivious spouse to it.

Recently I took my wife to the Kentish in North Adelaide. Neither of us had been there for decades. Tucked in near Melbourne Street it enjoys a quiet, almost feudal location in a cul de sac and sitting out the front of the sandstone grog-dome on a mild afternoon we watched some locals strolling in after a tough day in commercial law or obstetrics.

With a staccato burst of click, click, click one of the zappy bar staff lit the gas heater which impressed Claire but didn’t concern me for I was in shorts (and a shirt too). August is normally the only shorts-free month for me.

It was then that a most dreadful event occurred. Claire asked for a second house red and it was decidedly acceptable, doubtless enhanced by the low chirping from the surrounding punters and our golden hour of honeyed light and gentle parachuting into the weekend.

But in a moment of retrospectively acknowledged delusion I heard myself say at the bar, “And I’ll try a Heineken 3.”

Returning to our table with the accompanying feeling of self-congratulatory triumph that one always experiences when successfully purchasing a round of drinks, I sat and took a sip.

The celebrated continental brewers describe their beer as being, “lower carb, lower calorie” but omit to say that it will also “lower” your sense of well-being, general life optimism, and faith in your otherwise excellent decision-making regarding refreshment choices.

It’s an unspeakably terrible beer. It’s as thin as a spider web and has less charisma than a bureaucrat’s corpse. The flavour seems made in a sterile European lab by faceless automatons who unblinkingly pour anonymous liquids from one test-tube to another, and I suspect I’m correct.

As many an old bloke in a quiet country pub has probably muttered to anyone and no-one, “I had two of those. My first and my last.”

*

Thursday was an excellent day and with late-afternoon cause to celebrate we swung by the Broady beer garden for a twinkling hour. At home with some gnocchi on the stove and our wedding playlist percolating about the kitchen (opening song- “Summer Love” by Sherbet) we extracted the cork from a bottle of red. Nowadays, of course, using a corkscrew is an event in itself and this too caused our epicurean hopes to simmer. We took out some special occasion wine glasses.

Friends and I had visited Greenock Creek wines in the nineties. It’s not in Greenock but on Seppeltsfield Road in Marananga. Their wines are delicious but hard to get so it’d been ages since I’d had one. The (Honorable) Paul J Keating was likely our Prime Minister when I last had this joy.

The 2016 Apricot Block Shiraz is remarkable. I’ve an unrefined palate and any initial slurp is sometimes like a slap on a cold morning to me before I settle into my work. This time it was velvety seduction. By candlelight the glass was all inky and dark and the plonk was complex and subtle and like a Bruce Dawe poem, I knew returning to it I’d locate fresh meaning and my world view would be buoyed.

Like Keef to Mick it made an elegant and synergistic partner to our pasta. As we eased through it our dining table conversation moved to the centre of our world and the wine, like all powerful forces acting for good, gently lowered herself silently into the background.

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Another Good Friday in Glenelg

Thrice weekly I cross the river at the King Street Bridge, but today I turn left and jog along the Patawalonga’s bank past the boat haven. It’s already escalating from warm to hot, and the sky is cloudless with that autumn-in-Adelaide vibrancy and healthfulness. Sun-smart, I’m wearing my Glenelg 2019 Premiers cap, and this sets an expectant tone given the Tigers’ season opener later against Westies. The boys and I are walking down for the opening bounce.

Passing the former Buffalo site, home for decades to a full-sized replica of the ship that brought free settlers to the colony, it was also a family restaurant and in its nautical dining room I once heard a kid say, “This is the best buffalo restaurant I’ve ever been to.” The ship is now gone and makes the location less cluttered, replaced by welcome light and space and hope.

Exiting Wigley Reserve I pick my way along to Holdfast Promenade and the ocean which always surprises me by being right there, sparkling and benevolent this morning and, for a kid from parched Kapunda, a repository of awe.

There’s a fluid, manic blanket of kids at the Glenelg Foreshore Playspace, climbing and jumping and yelling while their caffeinated parents watch, judging when to intervene and get the offspring home before the final set of tears abbreviates the excursion and taints everyone’s morning. Peering into Moseley Square, all palm trees and swirling pavers, it presents as the village centrepiece, drenched in Californian hues and optimism.

The old jetty sits quietly, this truncated version (215 metres compared to the original’s 381) built in 1969, and somewhat utilitarian with its asphalt surface. It’s unlike the creaking, kindly wooden piers of coastal towns, but as my former colleague/ poet John Malone once wrote, jetties are an umbilical cord to the vast ocean.

Pushing my way through the South Esplanade there’s a paddle boarder seemingly becalmed in the shallows, contemplating a recommencement of her moderate early-Easter movement across the polished water-top. About me are streams of young mums with prams, and octogenarians on sea-facing benches trading fuzzy names, aiming to make and remake connections among their ever-closing circles.

Just before the Broadway kiosk the green park narrows into a gentle headland. I hear the cool room buzzing with vague menace, but the breakfasters’ chat hovers above it, and the cafe is bursting with our shared fortune and eggs Florentine and holiday cheer and pancakes with berry coulis and ice-cream.

Leaving the beach I now turn left up Broadway past the silent homes and a freshly-cleared block, mounds of sand waiting to again become submerged beneath concrete foundations. The foot traffic instantly eases and my ambling way is mostly unimpeded by dogs and bright clots of purposeful, aged ramblers.

There’s a prosperous row of businesses (florist, organic store etc) at the start of my final block. I glance in the butcher shop window and think of Dennis, the sociable proprietor who began as an apprentice, and later headed up a Melbourne franchise with a string of fitness centres before returning to his first love. Reflecting upon gyms compared to butchery he once told me, “The difference was the meat twitched instead of staying still.”

Yesterday afternoon to mark the beginning of many enchanted things, Claire and I went to the Broady beer garden for two happy hour drinks each- pints of Coopers’ Pacific Pale Ale (habit and brevity mean I still call it Session Ale) and crisp glasses of house white, and elected to leave the car overnight on Hastings Street.

I see it waiting for me now in the gilded sunlight.

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Sentimentality and alienation in Adelaide pub architecture

I’ve just discovered my new favourite place in my old favourite place.

Now in its third year the Broady beer garden is always a delight. Week’s end; a brisk hour; Saturday and Sunday stretching out with languid promise.

Claire and I took up residence last Friday around 5pm and found ourselves at a wooden bench by the back wall. With the noise washing over and about us and the throng surging we were in a captivating little nook. The effect of the foliage was to secret us and intensify our isolation and we became distant witnesses to the garden’s spectacle, and the muffled, if deafening drama and comedy.

I was reminded of Jordan, the glamorous, but golf-cheat character from The Great Gatsby who whispers: And I like large parties. They’re so intimate.

A beer garden should enable theatre and connection and sometimes even privacy. The Broady’s does this. The space allows gregarious but also discreet moments.

The Hahndorf Old Mill Hotel is a big pub on the main street of this lovely old Germanic town in the Adelaide Hills.

Alex and I were up there last Saturday. He’s just turned thirteen and to mark this we drove up for the afternoon and evening. We wandered about and made our compulsory visit to the Fruchoc Shop and I said, “Where would you like lunch?”

Helpfully, he replied, “In there” as the Old Mill Hotel appeared.

Hahndorf is historic and there’s a constant architectural aesthetic across the main drag with charming evocations of Bavaria through dark timbers and inviting warm places and Hofbräu available in big steins.

But, I will never understand how the hideous glass and metal roof of this inn was ever allowed. It’s vaguely 1980’s in its visual impact or more likely inspired by the Jupiter 2 from cult sci-fi TV series Lost in Space.

What is it doing in this genteel, rustic village?

It can only have been designed by the evil Dr. Smith. Will Robinson and the robot (the real star of the programme) would look on in horror before we’d hear, “Warning! Warning” Judy would have (again) sought comfort in the arms of the gruff and unloveable pilot Don West, who openly hated Dr. Smith.

Gee, it was a complex social ecosystem on the Jupiter 2.

Even Penny’s chimpanzee-like alien pet named Debbie would have put its hands or long ears over its eyes at the sight of The Hahndorf Old Mill Hotel’s ugly roof.

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48 Hours in Glenelg

Pulling up at the Broadway pub on Friday afternoon Claire remarked on how atypically easy our drive had been from the city to the beach. So much so that the car’s clock displayed our triumphant arrival as –

4.27pm.

This, of course, scientists will gladly tell you is the optimal afternoon pub starting time, at least in the southern hemisphere. Locating a cosy table in the beer garden we let an hour drift away and all was providential in our world.

*

Saturday our local footy team the Glenelg Tigers were hosting a twilight match and the boys and I headed down. Sitting on the eastern side the late winter sun (now, we all acknowledge that spring only commences after the equinox on either September 21 or 22, don’t we?) poured honeyed light across the grass, the sky and us.

As is customary Alex, Max and their mates watched minimal minutes of the match, their attention taken by hot chips, each other and roaming about the oval.

Glenelg skipped away early and kept West Adelaide subservient throughout, and it was a spectacular afternoon. The fresh air and stroll did us all some good.

*

Once each winter month we set our fire bucket going with some red gum and spend a glowing evening on the patio. Claire struck a match as we made our way home from the footy and we enjoyed a few hours in the crackling warmth.

Games give the night some diverting structure and we engaged in Family Feud which is based upon the eponymous TV show. One night I flicked on the box and caught this question, just before the show was axed. This may have been the question that finished it off, but I still can’t decide if it’s towering genius or beyond moronic. We surveyed our studio audience and got their top 100 responses to this:

Name something a spider might think about?

Saturday night I read a question for Claire and Alex that went:

Name a calorie-burning exercise?

Claire and Alex called out running and cycling and others but couldn’t get the final reply which had seven responses. There was much guessing and frustration. Remember the question was:

Name a calorie-burning exercise?

Coming from the country that bought us Sco Mo and Warney’s autobiography called My Autobiography and XXXX Gold (at best a bronze product) the fourth reply was, you guessed it, exercise.

*

Sunday dawned as Father’s Day and we had Mum and Dad and my sister’s family over for a BBQ. It was sunny and warm and gentle. We ate lamb and chicken and beef. We had tossed salad and Thai noodle salad and red wine from McLaren Vale and the Barossa.

We spoke of renovations and footy and holidays. We then had Mum’s bread and butter pudding which may have had its origins in poverty but is now emblematic of comfort. The day was affirming and then it became late afternoon and with waving and tooting that was it.

It had been a glorious 48 hours in Glenelg.

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92 days

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On the kitchen wall is a calendar.

Despite phone reminders and pinging emails I like to write events and notes in its date boxes. Things like ‘Lunch with Mum and Dad’ or ‘electricity due’ or ‘flea powder’ (dogs not boys). In February I took my annual pleasure in adding all the Glenelg games and felt the frisson of the footy season stretching out like an endless holiday with its attendant joys and hopes.

But then, of course, it didn’t happen and now five of those home match-day reminders have been and gone, virtually crossed-off, and Saturdays have been soundless at Glenelg oval. No knots of punters making their way through the Cornes Gate and down to the Fred Phillis End or over to the grassy mound in front of the scoreboard, with the beer caravan staffed by past players nearby.

I’ve not really missed it for footy is a luxury. Happily for me other indulgences have moved into that space, like gas filling a vacuum. Like many I’m in a place without the traditional weekend markers and I’ve adapted.

This has been true of the pub too.

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The last time I was at the Broady was on Thursday, March 5 at 4.45. It was a calm autumnal afternoon when I met Mozz and Puggy in the beer garden and the sunlight slanted in through the frangipani tree to the glass-topped wine barrel by which we had our Coopers Session Ale.

Like many events of minor significance it was unidentified at time, and heading home I quickly dwelt upon the agreeable hour I’d had with two old mates. My thoughts were mostly of Sweden as Claire and I were flying there the next evening.

So, I’ve not really missed the pub either. Sure, I’m an enthusiast and promote the charms of my local with unwavering evangelism, but life has been full and fulfilling without it.

It’s been 92 days since my last visit and my sins have been multitudinous, if not luxurious. I look forward to a beer from a keg. With the curious exception of Coopers Sparkling Ale all beer is better this way. That’s at its best from a long neck.

Over the last week I’ve made a couple calls to the Broady to gauge how to construct a visit (there’ll be an app for this soon, no doubt). A casualty of our new world order is spontaneity. Swinging by the pub unannounced now belongs in a SBS history documentary (you know, after yet another on Hitler and his demise).

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Biomedical reasons require that our pub experience will be wholly at a table. Standing or getting a round at the bar are prohibited and my first-world, privileged self is pre-emptively mourning this.

Across the week Claire has repeatedly said, “But I’ve never seen you standing at the pub.”

“What if I want to? It’s my human right, like owning an iPhone. I stood at the pub only eight months ago.”

We’ll arrive around 4.27pm. We’re booked in.

I’m excited and strangely nervous.

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