In the driver’s seat and turning the key I notice the windshield is dusty. It’s nearly a month since my car went anywhere. It’s been in quarantine too.
Having reversed out the garage I change gears. Crunch. Like a dawn golfer on the opening tee-block I’m easing into my routines.
Up the end of our street I see a girl, bent down in the driveway, admiring her chalk drawings of pink and blue on the grubby concrete. Home-schooled, her Art lesson’s done.
I’ve not been outside in Australia since early March. April 1st is a fitting date to tiptoe out. Over the past fourteen days the mostly imagined, newsfeed horror of supermarket fights, deserted malls and shut playgrounds has battered me. A girl drawing out the front of her home is a welcoming image; at once pristine and sweetly unknowing.
Heading towards the city Anzac Highway is quiet although a bus cuts me off. I almost applaud. The ancient annoyances are now likely to comfort. I see an old man at a bus-stop. Squatting next to him is his terrier. Both appear calm. There’s a patience about them. What choice do we have?
Triple J is playing something antagonising. Maybe now, I’m finally too old. I push the radio button for Triple M. Some dire 1980’s song. Maybe not.
I pass the monolithic and charmless Highway Inn, all shut except for its drive through. It’s mid-morning, but a couple utes are in there. Taking opportunities when they can. Never have I so acutely felt the tension between self and family and community.
Up near South Road a new petrol station is being built. Half a dozen tradies are in the forecourt, on the canopy, putting in windows. Previously, I’d connect this to cars, fossil fuels, climate change. But today it’s a reluctant symbol of growth and hope.
I then see an old BP. Fuel is 84 cents. This seems more 1991 and not 2020. I rub the back of my neck. No. No mullet there. The day before we flew to Sweden fuel was $1.40.
On our final night in isolation I shaved off the first-ever beard I’d grown. Confinement offered opportunity too. The patio pavers enjoyed their first pressure clean in a decade. Claire got stuck into the cupboards. I rang family and friends. Sat in the sun.
Arriving at work to collect a camera for the globally-compulsory Zoom meetings, I pulled into the barren carpark.
I was also there for my flu shot.
In our world of heightened immuno-consciousness, this seemed an urgent idea. I fumbled for my security tag.
Apologies to Triple J, those entrusted with preparing gravy, Billie Eilish, fans of the long barbeque lunch, Humphrey B. Flaubert, Jock Cheese, Eugene de la Hot Croix Bun and Ron Hitler-Barassi.
In a very particular order, and with no editorialising, here they are. Judges votes are final etc.
10. And Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) goes to the Cobdogla and District Club (est.1958).
9. And Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) goes to the Kapunda Footy Club. Congratulations. Your prize will be sent by carrier pigeon.
8. And Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) comes to you live today from the Kimba Golf Club where, in a curious twist, the winner is the Kimba Golf Club.
7. And the winner of Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) is the Footy Almanac. Congratulations to all involved.
6. And Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) is the one Allan Border signed when I met him at the Holdy. Yes, it is a XXXX Gold holder (don’t show your kids).
5. And the winner of Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) is the Sharks FC, one of Singapore’s finest Australian Rules footy clubs. Your prize will be posted shortly.
4. And the winner of Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) is Coopers Session Ale. Obviously, no actual beer was harmed during the taking of this photo.
3. Congratulations to former Adelaide resident and Le Cornu shopper Ben Folds on receiving Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW).
2. And the winner of Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) is Crows’ icon Darren Jarman- Around the body, that will do. That. Will. Do. Congratulations Darren, your prize will be mailed to you.
1. And Stubby Holder of the Week (SHOTW) goes to Adam and Caitlyn. I bloody love youse. I have never met you.
Of the bounteous opportunities we have here clinging to the southern coast of this wide land, circumnavigating Granite Island is, for mine, among the best for our occasionally battered souls.
Beautifully situated an hour from Adelaide and connected umbilically to Victor Harbor (note the inexplicable American spelling) by a causeway, Alex, Max and I set out enthusiastically in the gap between Easter and Anzac Day (depending on your view, either two grim or celebratory holidays) as the affirming autumnal sun drenched us with healthy effervescence.
The horse-drawn tram was also on holiday (possibly still partying in honour of the equine heroine Winx) so, gun-barrel straight, we galloped across to the island with the boys chatting ceaselessly and in that lovely, unconscious, yet stream-of-conscious way only the young and excited can.
Their old man was buoyant too so for reasons I still can’t quite unpack we found ourselves at the kiosk prior to and not following our moderate exercise. Like a pickpocketed Dickensian character, before I knew it the boys had persuaded me into a pair of chocolate milkshakes.
Such is the passage of time and the unrelenting effects of inflation that the $5 milkshake Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega shared in Pulp Fiction had long since lost its shock value and Alex and Max briskly slurped their $6 refreshments, completely unaware of any cultural and fiscal dissonance with the iconic filmography of Quentin Tarantino.
We trekked in an anticlockwise fashion and shared the gravel path with folk from across the seas and across the road. It was one of those utterly self-contained moments in which we were constantly in the company of others, yet felt no need to interact, or to broaden our world beyond our complete, little bubble. Some days, we is all we need.
Happily, however, the boys were unrelenting in interrogating the island. They rushed constantly along the path, before like an old sea dog, or Quint from Jaws, I reeled them in. They scrambled up and over the smoothed and the ragged outcrops while paying attention to my startled wishes that they not endanger either themselves or the part of me that suffers from incurable and eternal risk assessment.
On the island’s southern edge Alex declared, “The ocean here is normally cold as there’s nothing between us and Antarctica.” I felt gratitude for his global insight as I reflected upon my own worldview at his age which was, “Gee, Angaston Oval is a muddy poop-heap in August.”
The town-side of Granite Island hosts a distinctive ancient tree with stripped limbs enticing young climbers. Each branch appears as a blonde vaulting horse and indeed, upon our last visit Alex was riding its sturdy frame until, like a character in a deleted scene from Blazing Saddles, he slipped several feet directly onto another blonde bough in a way that I could tell, caused considerable shock to both his face and his groin. I could almost hear a fast-plucked banjo. I may have yelped.
On Wednesday’s lap Max spied this friendly foe and yelled, “Alex! Alex! Here’s the nut-breaker. Here’s the nut-breaker!” With this public declaration I expected either a rush of Asian tourists seeking autographs, or a rush of Asian tourists desperately seeking higher ground, but neither eventuated.
Rounding the gentle final curve we took in the long sweep of Encounter Bay and The Bluff, and bemoaned the old, dry hills. A week or so back Alex had declared that when he was older he’d live in Victor Harbor because it was “really cool.” Max then countered how he was going to dwell in the viticultural gem that is South Australia’s Clare Valley.
Of course, he added in what really should be a surprise to no-one, “And Utah.”
We then eased onto the sparkling causeway and the boys, like tightrope walkers, tried to travel the entire distance balancing on a single rail-track before we reached the car, sitting patiently by The Crown Hotel.
A few minutes later we were barbequing our lunch just behind the clean, dappled beach.
The Grand Canyon is mightily impressive. So is the Eiffel Tower. The best beach I’ve seen is Ko Lanta in Thailand, where the sand is soft and the water is azure blue and clear as glass.
I’ve been lucky to go on some amazing holidays and see some amazing sites.
I’ve just returned from a quick holiday to Kimba, on the state’s west coast, where the most captivating site wasn’t the Big Galah, but a succession of tables.
Yes, tables. Tables loaded with stories and laughter. Tables with old friends around them. Perfect.
And around these tables the best stories are the familiar ones; the ones you know as well as the back of your hands; the stories that make you smile instantly because you can recite the details and the dialogue like an old song, and you know how they finish and like a kid at Christmas you can hardly wait for the punchline, and then, when you hear it you roar, like a drain, but probably louder than you did the last time you sat at this table with these old friends.
Thanks to the tables I enjoyed in Kimba, Coffin Bay and Buckleboo. Golf club tables, pub tables, front deck tables, kitchen tables, coffee tables.
Breakfast tables, lunchtime tables, first beer of the day tables, BBQ tables, Saturday night and folks are getting rowdy tables.
The Crows are playing, but leave the tele off tables. The go on, text Mozz and check how old he is tables. The remember when Hen sprayed his opening drive at Port Augusta and went straight back to bed tables?
I love a table.
So, now I’m out the back at home, writing this, sitting at a table. The rain has stopped and above the vague traffic there’s birdsong and laughter from the kids in the house behind us.
I’m already thinking about the next time I sit round a table with old friends. Sometimes you don’t need a Thai beach, but just a welcoming table.
Friday 15 June 2001- Michael
Early start to go to the Hungarian Embassy. Twenty people also waiting to use their services. $350 later we had our visas.
Those present had a loose grasp of queueing. Stand roughly in line, but sneak up and let your friends in when possible.
Then wandered through the city centre. Bought a new Minolta camera- very snazzy and easy to use (pre-digital too- Editor). The museums, galleries, churches are all grand and attractive. We took lots of photos.
Got lost for the first time when meeting our group after lunch. Got there just in the nick of time.
Went for a tour of Schönbrunn (beautiful spring) the summer palace of the Hapsburgs. Very grand, very beautiful, very big: in total over 1,400 rooms. We saw just a few. The ball rooms and the room of mirrors were the best (as attested by Roy Slaven- Editor).
After we stopped at the Prater for a while. This big amusement park had lots of attractions, the main one being the wheel, an older version of the London Eye.
Time for some domestic chores upon our return to the motel- washing. Found a laundromat after asking reception then at the police station (Detergent Detectives- Editor) on the way. Figuring out how to use it was interesting but we got there in the end. We wasted 30 schillings on the way- the total cost was 160 schillings or $23.
By this time we were fairly hungry having missed breakfast and lunching at 11 so we decided to stop for some traditional fare on the way back to the motel. Schnitzel and Cordon Bleu and Salat. All of them were lovely but of course they were pork (the wife has since converted to all forms of pig- Editor) and washed down with a few beers and a red. YUM.
Saturday 16/6 Michael’s Birthday
Up early on our way to Budapest. Got a couple apricot-filled buns as Michael’s cake. Our first border crossing- thank god for those visas. There were ten other buses lined up but we got through in about an hour. We also had to get our receipt for our new camera stamped at customs so we can claim our tax back.
Drove through the country to the hills on the way to Lake Balaton. Was interested to hear that they intend to start an archaeological dig on the high plateau soon as they expect to find old Roman remains.
Lake Balaton is beautiful. We had to wait twice for a big procession of motorbikes to pass- some big international meet.
We stopped for lunch in a little town called Tihany on a small peninsula in the lake- itself featuring two volcanic lakes. Our meal at a hotel in the main street was superb! Michael had paprika chicken and potato coquettes and we shared a salad. Michael also had a big birthday beer- locally brewed and served in a big stein. He wanted another- several in fact but decided to have just a small one (my famous restraint- Editor).
Another interesting restaurant just up the road- Paprikahaus had zillions of dried chillies hanging from it. The lake area is a popular holiday spot and there were lots of people sailing, swimming and fishing. Curious tit bits- the water looks milky green and it is about three miles down in the deepest part. Next stop Budapest- with our regular afternoon bus snooze.
We were excited when we saw our motel and room- very nice compared to the one in Vienna! Dinner was included- another real treat- pork, mushrooms, peas, capsicum and to top it all off- LIVER! Apart from this I think Michael had an enjoyable 35th birthday.
Back to Michael-
Yes, he did. The Danube boat cruise was good although we couldn’t hear our tour guide: no microphone. The Danube is about as wide as the Murray but flows quickly. We saw some impressive historical and public buildings like castles, statues, parliament houses that I’m sure will be on tomorrow’s itinerary.
Finished off the day in fine style. It was a day when I was spoilt, ate great food, split the time between two countries, had some tender moments with the girl and gained some precious memories.