A Day on the Green: Annie’s Lane

One of life’s unexpected joys is to chance across a game of cricket. Arriving in the Clare Valley we locate the bush camping ground ($10 a head) at the Watervale Oval. Setting up our camper trailer is like every couple assembling Ikea furniture together, but without the fun, laughter and argument-free marriage-building.

Indeed, a game of cricket is happening. The oval is shielded by an impressive stand of gums along its eastern side, while a handsome grandstand sits atop a gradient that makes Lord’s appear flat. A round robin Masters tournament is underway, and my lunch is a snag in bread ($3 a pop, sauce no extra) and a Rabbit & Spaghetti ‘The Fox’ Hop & Rye Lager ($5 per 500ml can, 4.8% ABV).

The boundary is in, and the boundary is breached, often. Very few singles are taken. None are run. One innings is opened by inaugural Crow and dual Margery Medallist, Andrew Newton Jarman, who makes, as you may suspect, an exotic and inevitably brief seven.

We stroll up to Annie’s Lane winery for A Day on the Green. Models began and are serviceable, but more cask white than perfumed Riesling, with “I Hear Motion” the highlight. There’s lots of darting and skipping infants here, and between sets the DJ spins Bowie’s “Suffragette City” and a boy of about ten immediately sings along. I’m impressed. He’s wearing a Coopers Brewery cap advertising Mild Ale, which at 3.5% is mid-strength. They’re obviously responsible parents.

NMFC fan and guitar-slinger Tim Rogers is next, and he announces that the Adelaide Crows have won the grand final. A mate and I discuss which Tim might perform. I say, “When I last saw him in November we got bad Tim. I hope good Tim’s here today.” Neil replies, “Oh, I don’t know. Bad Tim could make it interesting.”

I get a Fat Yak ($8, 355ml) and a local sparkling Shiraz for the wife ($35 a bottle, 13.7%, with “lifted aromas including black olives, figs and Christmas cake spices”). Good Tim does an up-tempo version of “Heavy Heart” which has this great lyric:

Been watching so much TV

I’m thinner than I should be

I’m like a waterlogged ball

That no-one wants to kick around anymore.

Stopping by various islands of friends I visit the merchandise stand and settle on a Day at the Green stubby-holder ($10, but bottomless) while the wife selects a Violent Femmes t-shirt ($40, the one featuring their eponymous album’s cover). There’s gorgeous autumnal light on this tropical afternoon, and it endows the valley with a McCubbin quality; even the curved line of rickety porta-loos ($0, minimal wait time).

The Whitlams are excellent and I’m struck by the agelessness of Tim Freedman’s voice. With their blend of wit, quirky sentimentality and piano-driven pop, they remind me of Ben Folds Five, North Carolina’s finest trio. Among their terrific lines are, from “Melbourne”

If I had three lives, I’d marry her in two

and from their signature song, “Gough”

Come over have dinner with me, we’ll play chess and drink claret

Walk slowly down my little street, can you bring Margaret?

They finish with “You Sound Like Louis Burdett”, which we rename to honour the iconic Adelaide Oval curator, Les Burdett. I get another Fat Yak (still $8, mercifully no variable pricing) and the wife and I pull apart and devour our savoury pull-apart ($6, you know the bakery chain, the one with the jangly jingle).

The next act is introduced as coming from Ohio, but the Violent Femmes are from Milwaukee. Is it a mistake, irony or an alternative fact? Is there an issue with what Colbert calls “truthiness?” Invigorated by winery produce and news of Hawthorn’s imminent loss the crowd is up and dancing as they zip through their country-twinged songs about adolescent desperation.

“Blister in the Sun,” “American Music” and “Old Mother Regan” are superb. It’s charming to also be in Clare with my dear old friend Clare and she films us, if this is the correct verb, singing “Country Death Song.” Clare promises to post it on social media, and I’m sure we’ll soon be celebrated as a contemporary Sonny and Cher. However, Sunday afternoon’s initial viewing exposes this as unlikely (probable recording contract value, $0).

“Add It Up” is all psychotic teenage anguish and the Gen X crowd is jumping to this last song. Gordon Gano’s voice has been perfect: at once sunny and whingy and smiling, leading us to happy places, while Tasmanian resident and MOMA curator Brian Ritchie monsters xylophone, jaw bone and bass with good humour.

Led by Flacco lookalike Dave Faulkner, I saw the Hoodoo Gurus in the late nineties on their break-up tour, which of course, was from the pre post-truth world, and never something anyone really believed. For the right fee, even the Ramones might again tour. So here we are in 2017 as they perform “Leilani” and “Bittersweet.” Along with Jackson Browne’s “The Load Out” and the Rolling Stones’ “Torn and Frayed”, the anthemic “1000 Miles Away” is among my favourite road songs.

Remember how “Like Wow, Wipeout” became the theme song of Brylcreemed, ear-ringed and punkish Australian off-spinner Greg Matthews? That was 1986. The song endures while Mo Matthews is now a radio commentator so I’m unsure if he still uses hair product from when Menzies was PM. It’s the final song of a fun day.

Prior to breaking camp and over a breakfast latte ($5.50, red van by the oval) I check the footy and cricket scores. I also see that Dad’s Nuriootpa Tigers Division 1 bowls team has jagged another flag, his twelfth.

All about the campsite, there’s deceased camping chairs (too many $$, the sausage sizzle hardware mega-store) in Salvador Daliesque tangles of disappointment and enthusiastic Sauvignon Blanc. Our twenty-year veteran chairs ($40, Port Pirie camping store, late lamented) are in the boot, ready to ride again.

The cricket begins. We drive south, into our muggy Sunday.

 

 

About Mickey Randall

Late afternoon beer, Exile on Main St playing. Sport like cricket, most types of football, golf, squash, horse racing. Travel, with Vancouver my favourite city, but there’s nowhere I’ve not happily been. Except Luton. Reading. Writing about family, sport, music, the stuff that amuses me. Conversation. Wit. Irony. McLaren Vale cabernet sauvignon, Barossa shiraz, Coopers Sparkling Ale. Jazz and especially Miles Davis. Lots and lots of music. I live in Adelaide with my wife Kerry-ann and our boys Alex and Max.

Comments

  1. The Whitlams, Clare Valley and sparkling shiraz are long time faves. SS is the only red wine the Avenging Eagle will drink. Opened a bottle for Flynn and Harms at an Italian restaurant in Perth a few years ago. Must have been rolling around in the boot for a while. They were most amused at my red shower. Still went down a treat.
    Saw bad TR and Hoodoos at a DOTG in Kings Park in Perth a couple of years ago. Pass. Never listened to the Violent Femmes. Sounds painful.

  2. PB- as one who spent much of his childhood in and around the Barossa, I’m finding increasing affection for the Clare Valley, which is less manicured and doesn’t wear its charms so obviously.

    There were two masters cricket competitions happening in parallel- the one I mentioned at Watervale and another at Sevenhill. Seven a side with 12 overs per team. The two winners meet late on Sunday in a Superbowl style play-off. Being bi-biennial, there’s plenty of time for recovery.

  3. Rick Kane says:

    Great stuff MR. Man I love your writing. It’s the little details and the generous heart and of course the humour. This is how much i enjoy your writing. I don’t even like The Whitlams let alone VF. But I’ll happily enjoy your big day out!

    Cheers

  4. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    Annie’s Lane was $14 down from $18 at the Marrickville Rd Liquorland the other night. Shared a bottle with my Cob. Neither of us are Sav Blanc types so Riesling’s always been our alternative.

    I love the boundaries and the breaching in this piece Mickey. If narratives have shapes this is a lovely wavy line.

  5. A very enjoyable read, Mickey.
    I’ve never been to the Clare Valley, but every keen to get there.
    Jim Barry is a personal favourite.

    “I’m like a waterlogged ball
    That no-one wants to kick around anymore.”
    Such a great line (and a great song).

  6. Rulebook says:

    Well played,Mickey and I am sure Les Burdett would appreciate you honouring him in that way !

  7. Thanks Rick. It was a great weekend. Super keen to see what’s on the Day on the Green menu next summer.

    Mathilde- there’s not much that’s out of bounds in our house in terms of white wine apart from chardonnay! It’s the one who bats at 9, doesn’t bowl and fields from fine leg to fine leg. Thanks for the comment.

    Smokie- it’s a fun destination with lots of great wineries, most of which are small and family owned; there’s also some ripping little pubs too. Clare’s golf course is fantastic, if unforgiving!

    Malcolm- Thanks for that. I’m guessing Les wasn’t invited to consult for the current series in India.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Saw Flacco and co a few weeks back. That’s a pretty fair back catalogue they’ve got. If only they’d married The Bangles like they threatened to do three decades ago.

  9. Don’t know if D. Faulkner had a throat issue, or if his voice is starting to struggle, but he lacked some vocal punch and energy in what was an otherwise fun set. We can say this about a few bands, but gee their first three albums were great.

    Ah, the Bangles.

  10. Luke Reynolds says:

    “I’m diggin a hole just staring at the floor”. My favourite line from ‘Heavy Heart’.

    I’ve only ever seen good TR live. Want to see what bad TR is like. Once only.

    Have seen the Hoodoos 3 times, twice at similar festivals. They were fantastic. While their first album is my favourite, their comeback albums, ‘Mach Schau’ (2004) and ‘Purity of Essence’ (2010) are superb and highly underrated.

    $5 for a 500ml can of ‘The Fox’ Hop and Rye Lager, great value if the taste is good!

  11. Thanks Luke. I reckon TR would be a great dinner party guest, but it might be best to tip him out before desert! I maintain that the thirty-minute set You Am I played near the Adelaide oval scoreboard prior to the 2015 SANFL grand final is one of the best I’ve seen.

    I’ve unsuccessfully tried to locate a local distributer for “The Fox.’ It was really good, especially against the other luncheon beverage options, you know, the one which rhymes with “barn.”

    Speaking of beer, with a successive Victorian Shield victory imminent, that’s another pint in Percy’s front bar I owe you.

  12. Dave Brown says:

    I do hope the Femmes were not Wisconsolate about the mistake, Mickey. Reckon I went to that Hoodoo Gurus farewell tour, too, at Heaven of all places. It actually worked quite well as a music venue – the tiered booths surrounding the stage and dancefloor gave plenty of vantage points. Great little oval that one at Watervale. Good stuff!

  13. John Butler says:

    Mickey, if bad TR showed up you’d be more likely to tip desert on him. But good TR makes it worth the trouble.

    The Violent Femmes were the soundtrack of the summer of 1983. No party was allowed to proceed without them. To think they’re still going around…

    What sort of shape is A Jarman in nowadays?

    Bit pessimistic re the Shield. You don’t reckon SA are a chance to chase down 464 in 47?

    Love your work.

  14. Dave- While undoubtedly lacking the charm of The Gov or The Thebby, Heaven (perhaps named with a degree of exaggeration) was a functioning and fun music venue. I recall that Hoodoo Gurus gig fondly, but also thought, oh well, what a shame I’ll never see them again.

    JB- A Jarman is a trimmer version that the 2016 model, I’m told. I mentioned that in the cricket I watched there was limited running between wickets, and there was an equal lack of animated movement by the fielders too. Not much selfless diving to cut off boundaries. Seven a side, and at the start of play five men all heading to first slip.

    T. Head batting with spirit and showing the selectors, should they be watching, that he’s available for the Ashes.

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