3

Six Photographs: Old Gum Tree Barbeque

A simple joy is just around the corner. It’s a place in which I celebrate our remarkable fortune over a sausage. More than a park it’s a community and the hub of our suburb.

I’ve just been handed a sheet. It’s a list of statistics reflecting our achievements.

Total sausages cooked: 174

Litres of sauce used (red): 17

Litres of sauce used (brown): 8

Loaves of bread: 23

Beers drank: 3.5

 

2 oct 2019

Late of an afternoon Alex and Max and the dogs, Buddy and Angel, and I would head down the park for an hour or so

 

10 jan 19

Late of an afternoon Alex and Max and the dogs, Buddy and Angel, and I would head down the park for an hour or so

 

16 dec 2016

Late of an afternoon Alex and Max and the dogs, Buddy and Angel, and I would head down the park for an hour or so

 

16 feb 2017

Late of an afternoon Alex and Max and the dogs, Buddy and Angel, and I would head down the park for an hour or so

 

18 aug 2018

Late of an afternoon Alex and Max and the dogs, Buddy and Angel, and I would head down the park for an hour or so

 

aug 19

Late of an afternoon Alex and Max and the dogs, Buddy and Angel, and I would head down the park for an hour or so

 

 

2

A Good Friday in Glenelg North

Shuffling past the Old Gum Tree Reserve at lunchtime my boys are playing golf.

They’ve designed a course and while each hole is unique they share one green, located near the back fence and made with a disposable drink cup. Both carry various irons and woods and they’ve the park to themselves, but I hope the putters don’t suddenly become light sabres or Samurai swords.

Continuing west I mourn that in 2020 we’ve not yet had a BBQ in the park as circumstances haven’t allowed the simple joy of snags in a public place. This now belongs to a distant, almost unknowable era but one day…

empty BBQ

Every Proclamation Day the park hosts formalities and a morning tea to mark the province’s beginning. A few years’ ago a friend, Sarah, took a selfie with Julia Gillard, who was in town for Christmas.

Bounding up to the then PM as she made her way through the scone-loving crowd, Sarah asked the question and so they both paused, smiled and click. Just like that. No burly black suits panicking into their lapel microphones and leaping like bears onto a salmon. I love that this could happen, just down the road.

It’s a kilometre from home to the beach and then another along the waterfront so my round trip’s about four kilometres. While I once ran, to now call it a jog might be hopeful. I could time myself with a sundial.

Over Tapleys Hill Road, I pass the MacFarlane Street reserve with its playground guarded by orange bunting. Alex learnt to ride a bike here. Palm trees patrol the perimeter and on spring mornings magpies swoop me. One once pecked my skull but I was clearly under-cooked as he didn’t come for a second bite. I wouldn’t eat my head either.

pat

Waiting for me is the unhurried Patawalonga River. It’s only seven kilometres in length, but this is decidedly Mississippian compared to Kuokanjoki, the shortest river in Finland which connects lakes Sumiainen and Keitele. It’s three and a half metres long.

The King Street Bridge conquered I reach the esplanade and the sea swims into happy view. To my left is the sand castle-like Marina Pier with its now ghostly restaurants and apartment balconies. Turning right the pavers follow the beach and bounce along the dune line. There’s an energetic torrent of walkers and cyclists.

Glenelg North’s beach is wide and dotted by dogs, and with a gentle sky above it’s easy to momentarily ignore the cataclysm. People appear joyful. There’s communicable resilience.

Rip-rap rocks armour the shoreline against erosion. I recall how in 1983 during a Year 12 Geography excursion with our teacher Ali Bogle we visited this very spot on a balmy Thursday prior to our penultimate Kapunda High School social. I was astonished when Ali told us that it costs a million dollars a kilometre to build this protection.

riprap

The esplanade rises gently as I go, but on a rough day with a headwind it seems Himalayan. The eastern side is flanked by houses, all glass and chrome and dazzlingly white. Soon all will be modern, when the sixties-build apartments are bulldozed.

I often smirk at Number 20 with its outsized silver numerals on the front wall, and remember Shrek seeing the size of Lord Farquaad’s castle, and asking Donkey, “Do you think maybe he’s compensating for something?”

castle

A sunshiny addition to this landscape is Audrey’s coffee caravan. It’s homemade with wooden window frames and pop-riveted aluminium and a chalkboard menu out the front. There’s always a punter or two waiting and drinking in the aroma.

I’m nearly at West Beach and the enviably positioned Sewerage Treatment Works on Anderson Avenue. Gee, poo often enjoys an idyllic (temporary) coastal address. Just short of the dunes there’s a small shelter. Occasionally, a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses sets up a pamphlet display to conscript the dog-walking, beach-loving, track-suited clientele so affectionately referred to in the Old Testament.

JW

Although they cheerfully ignore me I recall the words of Bill Bryson: I don’t know why religious zealots have this compulsion to try to convert everyone who passes before them – I don’t go around trying to make them into St Louis Cardinals fans, for Christ’s sake – and yet they never fail to try.

I turn for home.

audrey

12

Park life

cocks.png

Tell me about your perfect park.

Rambling, grassy expanses? Babbling brook? Ornamental lake? Roman ruins? Golf course? One of the planet’s oldest pubs? Yep, I hear you. Just over a decade ago this was our local park.

Verulamium Park is on the site of the Roman city in St Albans, north of London. We lived a short walk away, and most weekends we spent time there. We’d take our dog Roxy on a lap of the lake, and on summer Sundays we’d sometimes throw out the picnic rug and an hour or two would drift by.

Every now and then when we had visitors from Australia, I’d pump up my Sherrin and take them for a dob. This would telegraph our nationality, and more than once a passing voice would holler, “You boys from Australia. Melbourne?” We’d shake our heads and retort, “Adelaide.”

Around Christmas the lake would freeze over and tapping the glassy plane by the bank I’d marvel at the thickness of the ice. On Sunday mornings pub teams played soccer, and I’d wonder about how different life might be if I’d grown up in this compact, beautiful city.

And now five paragraphs in I turn to the pubs. On the western perimeter of the park is the village of St Michaels and the neighbouring inns: The Rose and Crown, provider excellence of club sandwiches, and The Six Bells into which we took Roxy one February afternoon as the Six Nations rugby flickered on the television. There, waiting was a bowl of water. She ignored it, and raised her leg instead.

The Ye Olde Fighting Cocks dates from 793AD. Bill Bryson once wrote of his expectant joy at turning the key to a new hotel room, and I always felt a similar frisson strolling into the Cocks. The huge fireplace and the tiny nooks in which to sit with a pint. Not only is it a pub, but it’s a museum, and a theme park. It’s my favourite real-estate.

*

And now back in Australia with two boys and two dogs? A half wedge from home? Newly renovated? Fully enclosed?

The Old Gum Tree Reserve is now, again, our local. During the three years we were in Singapore the former Catholic Church and long-empty school were purchased by the council, and half the land was added to the existing park while the rest now hosts six houses. I reckon this is terrific.

Among the inclusions is a flying fox, and Alex and Max love it. Of course, simply going up and back holds marginal appeal and they’ve devised methods of use which maximise personal danger. Did I mention that within a two year span they collectively broke their arm on four occasions? All in playgrounds- Bali, school, our condo and under the Singapore Flier. I could affix a google map, but won’t. Alex is especially proud of a manoeuvre he calls the “Fettuccine of Doom.”  No, he couldn’t explain it to me.

Probably inspired by a desire to escape our seemingly endless winter we had a BBQ in the park one recent Thursday. A simple affair, snags on the gleaming hotplate while the boys surged about, and the dogs Buddy and Angel raced around also learning how to interact with others. I supervised with tongs and beer in hands, like Arnie but without an Austrian accent.

Soon this evolved into a weekly event. Is it possible to have too much ritual? I doubt it. The first over on Boxing Day, Derby Day’s opening race, and the entire secular religion accompanying AFL grand final day. Our petite cycle can sit alongside these.

My wife Kerry celebrated a major birthday at the Old Gum Tree, and earlier this year Max turned six with a Sunday party. The seasons roll on and we move from cricket to footy to bikes. Alex and Max wait for the fruit to ripen on the mulberry tree, and steal a few berries before the birds vandalise the rest. More than any other space, private or public, I reckon parks instruct us to ignore the past and the future, and the heaving complex planet, and live only in the moment.

With summer stretching out before us, I’m sure we’ll be down there twice a week.

*

Saturday in the park,

I think it was the Fourth of July

Saturday in the park,

I think it was the Fourth of July

People dancing, people laughing

A man selling ice cream

Singing Italian songs

Everybody is another

Can you dig it (yes, I can)

And I’ve been waiting such a long time

For Saturday

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Mnw9uiYggU

 

 

vp