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.