0

Fifteen (happy) notes from our Melbourne weekend

1- Our party is the beneficiary of an unsolicited upgrade to business class on the pre-dawn flight from Adelaide to Melbourne with Rex. The spinach and chorizo are particularly attractive at 28,000 feet and Trev says, “Simon, Tahiti looks nice.”

2- Arriving midmorning at our CBD apartment we’re gifted an early check-in and prepare for the day’s goings-on by changing the TV from channel 7’s Morning Show (a dismal Larry Emdur vehicle) to Double J radio. We hear My Bloody Valentine.

3- There’s splendid autumnal weather for the amble to the North Fitzroy Arms, and en route we note Percy Street, its verges carpeted by brown and yellow leaves. Making our way past the terrace houses we speak of men’s mental health and this weekend as a preemptive strategy and it’s an affirming chat.

4- All at our table agree that the NFA is Australia’s best soup pub with the spicy pumpkin remarkably good.

5- The lunch is hosted by Tony Wilson and the guest, journalist Ashley Browne, is insightful and generous in speaking with us after. He writes a sympathetic dedication in his book (2020: A Season Like No Other) which Chris buys from him. Like all good lunches here it’s dark when we push out onto Rae Street.

6- Saturday’s breakfast at The Quarter in Degraves Street is also a treat and sets an expectant tone.

7- It would’ve been churlish for me to not take our party to make their debut at the Napier in Fitzroy, so I do. We admire the lead-light windows and the bar’s dark atmospherics. Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend is playing as we sip our Hargreaves Hill ESB.

8- Late afternoon we’re at the WT Peterson Oval for Fitzroy’s first-ever home twilight fixture. Dramatically situated with the city twinkling in the middle distance we witness an exquisite finish as the locals get up with a (beyond fifty) goal after the siren.

9- Tracking across to Lygon Street the AFL app tells us the Crows have snuck home against Melbourne by a point.

10- Sunday and an old school friend (and 1984 Kapunda Footy Club Senior Colts premiership alumnus along with Trev and Chris, but not me as I was too old to play by two weeks and a premature birth: not that I’m still hostile and embittered) joins us at the All Nations Hotel for a quick beer and highlights tour of his last thirty years. He’s done well and is an early signing for a 2022 Footy Almanac lunch.

11- My fellow travellers enjoy their fish (John Dory) and chips while I am taken by the potato sibling (mash) accompanied by pork and fennel bangers, peas and onion gravy. We talk of the song “Anthony McDonald- Tipungwuti” by the Picket Palace.

12- We again enjoy the year’s best (complimentary) bus ride from the pub to the MCG with Richmond a handsome canvas as we make our jaunty way.

13- As neutrals we love the Collingwood and Power fixture (Olympic Stand, Bay M53) but in a rare Adelaide-teams-getting-up-by-a-single-point-double Port fall in, unconvincingly like Hawkey over Keating in the initial 1991 spill.

14- Catching a SBS replay of Eurovision the UK again suffers nul points, although given the contemporary geopolitics it’s likely the Beatles wouldn’t break the duck either.

15- Due to a happy technicality we’re again upgraded to business class for our return to Adelaide. The in-flight lamb and rosemary pie is hearty fare but it’s great to get home.

0

Tuesday in Fitzroy

 

imag0123-2140058944.jpg

Tramway Hotel, 165 Rae St, Fitzroy North

Underground music. Likely a Melbournian band from the 1980’s. One punter inside, one outside at the row of three tables on Church Street near the roundabout. The young fella out at a table appears from my spot by the fireplace to have an Andalusian dancing horse tattooed on his skull. Opposite me is a macramé wall hanging, and I feel as if I’ve been taken hostage by the horrific 70’s. At the centre of the Tramway is its triangular bar.

imag0119-1356317543.jpg

I order a Young Henry’s Pale Ale which I find safe if unspectacular. It’s a mild afternoon so I move outside into darkening street. The Andalusian dancing horse has galloped off into his evening. Bikes outnumber cars on Rae Street and I find this reassuring. Most folk sport beanies. The upcoming gigs blackboard announces Acid Country broadcasting live this Thursday on PBS 106.7FM. Their website promises “an intimate afternoon of music, radio and community”.

Royal Oak Hotel, 442 Nicholson St, Fitzroy North

In the world of pub names is this the equivalent of John or Mary?

Here’s another fire and candles. There seems to be a distinctive inner-city intimacy at work in Fitzroy North. I can’t recall going into an Adelaide pub and finding lit candles. I like it. The Beatles are playing. My Hargreaves Hill Pale Ale is curious.

imag01281766703957.jpg

Apart from me (obviously) there are three blokes in the front bar talking footy. They speak of the Scott brothers. One chap is theorising that the Geelong coach, Chris Scott, might be lucky to keep his job. It seems unlikely given that his team is top by some distance.

imag0125-1334153094.jpg

I see an Escher print on the wall, murky books above my head and a tram zings past. A bowls scoreboard sits nearby. It’s quiz night and a staff member asks me if I’m here with a team. I shake my head. Scotland’s finest, The Proclaimers come on and I smile to myself. Indeed, Adelaide is 500 miles away. Having run The Tan earlier today (for the first time) which is a lap of Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens I think these lyrics true-

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door

I look up and there’s an upturned wooden surf boat over pool table. I leave.

imag0136-1146189413.jpg

Suddenly, suburban floodlights. WT Peterson oval. Footy training over by the grandstand. Naked trees watching silently by me. Just in front on the forward flank: man, dog, tennis ball.

Lord Newry, 543 Brunswick St, Fitzroy North

First port of call in this boozer is the gents. There are astonishing quantities of graffiti on every surface. I rush. Don’t dry my hands.
imag0139-2035748126.jpg

I order a Four Pines Pale Ale. Some Glaswegians in the back bar are talking football. In the front bar’s a muted glow, like grandma’s lounge room if she loved orange light shades and early disco music.

I detect a nautical theme because of the turgid and, I suspect, ironic prints of British ships. I think of the postcolonial perspective and associated ideas about imperialism, but only briefly.

I look up at the ceiling which has been stained yelpy yellow by a million Ardath and Black and White darts. And then I think about Sir Walter Raleigh who introduced smoking to Britain and I’m back to postcolonialism, but only briefly.

imag0145-196223219.jpg

I note that there’s only five items on the Specials menu board. I think this the maximum allowable number because any more and I’d question just how special those dishes might be. Wouldn’t you?

Royal Derby, 446 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

In the men’s the exhaust fan is whirling like the propeller of the Indianapolis but without Quint’s sharks. It’s so noisy I fear the whole building might take off.

imag0146989392521.jpg

The Kings of Leon are playing and I find them restorative at this point if not generally. I keep with my broad ale theme and buy a Stone and Wood Pacific Ale. There’s a table tennis table in a dedicated room although no-one’s using it, and it would be difficult for me to play by myself.

Over in the betting corner a man is having trouble with his eyes and these go from menacing and mean to glazed and then incapable of focus. He leaves. It’s the only pub in which I hear no footy talk.

The Rose, 406 Napier St, Fitzroy

Happily, I walk in and hear blokes talking footy around a central rectangular bar. There’s a big dog by a table. Warm chat everywhere. Exotic beers abound, but also Coopers.

imag0150557949026.jpg

With exposed bricks and beautiful and enveloping light this is suburban joy. It’s the standout on my brief tour. India and New Zealand begin the World Cup semi-final and I speak with an Englishman about this fixture and our upcoming clash. We agree that the bowlers might dictate the result and Mitchell Stark could be the difference.

I order a burger. It’s a treat. Some young lads near me talk of commercial airline seat configurations on flights into and out of the Western Australian mines. They appear knowledgeable. As I leave, they’ve turned to the bright prospects of the Brisbane Lions who, of course, used to be Fitzroy.

imag0138411957256.jpg