Almanac Life: The Little Barbecue Who Could

We first saw it a year ago.


It stands on the edge of a park. We’d been to a café (I was going to write “local café” but as Jack Nicholson’s character scowls in A Few Good Men, “Is there any other kind?”) and drifted through an op shop where Claire bought me a retro print.





Williamstown is set on the Barossa’s southern fringe among low, rolling hills and in spring is green and awakening. There’s creeks and dairy cows and vineyards too.


Despite these natural advantages and a handsome townscape it features the world’s most forlorn barbecue. Williamstown’s park comprises mighty gums, a tempting playground and a modern gazebo with splendid potential sites in the shade, or on the soft grass for a meat cooking machine.


No, our little barbecue finds itself cruelly exiled on a grimy concrete slab by a road and a car park and some garbage bins. There’s no shade to protect against the summer sun and the brutal concrete and black road amplify the heat. It’s surely victim to a town-planner’s hoax, signed-off by an anti-snagger, or a medium-rare Scrooge.


It sits there in silence, a shrunken parody of the black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It could lend portent to a (deleted) scene in which man (sic), guided mysteriously, marks a key evolutionary moment for our ridiculous, slight species, and happens upon pine-nut and spinach chicken sausages.


So, after discussing this peculiar barbeque over the past year Claire and I decided to visit it last Sunday. I don’t think we were disaster tourists on a bus to Chernobyl, but were certainly motivated by a need to understand this oddity, forsaken in its bewildering mise-en-scène.





Planning a late breakfast we arrived at noon and the barbecue was available. With its winding, narrow roads Williamstown is a Harley riders’ destination and across our vista hordes of these bikes postured and crackled as the weekday lawyers kneaded their needy egos.


Ignition complete and hotplate warming I put down some bacon and bread and eggs while Claire poured thermos coffee.


There was laughter and roaring from behind the public conveniences. I was curious. Distinctly masculine, the bellowing was in concert and suggested a raucous performance. Claire investigated. “I couldn’t see in but it’s coming from the back of the pub.”





A couple of matching polo shirted lads crept through the car park and sabotaged a tired-looking 4WD. They’d come from the pub. “Ahh, footy trip,” we concluded as the lads eased the wipers off the glass of their mate’s rusty wagon before continuing their mischief inside the cabin. I hoped the owner wasn’t a meek viticulturist who’d kitted up in a handful of B-grade games, and that by sundown he wasn’t guts-up in an amateur remake of Wake in Fright.


I flipped the eggs.


With the Barossa’s footy season over for most sides it might’ve been some Tanunda types or the local team. Within an hour or so, out the back of the pub a timid back-flanker would be dacked, or find something disturbing in his beer, or both.


I sipped my coffee.


A family and their dog walked past to the playground. A boy followed on his tricycle, entirely unlike Danny in The Shining. I checked my watch. The Crows match against Carlton started in a few minutes. I liked our chances.


This curious, heartlessly contextualised little public barbecue; pushed out by its own park; banished by the ancient, sullen gum trees; forever crouching; haunted but defiant by the road and carpark and garbage bins, had cooked our breakfast impeccably.


In the Sunday sun we sat and munched our bacon and egg sandwiches.





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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. All you needed was some banana bread. (Or should that be cake?)

  2. Mickey,
    That is as sad a sight as one could hope to see.
    Maybe they ran out of money to extend the utility lines any further into the park? A medium-rare scrooge indeed.

  3. Banana bread /cake will remain forever indistinguishable for me, Someone.

    Smokie- it’s such an attractive town, in a beautiful region, that this eyesore is unfathomable. I remember reading Federation Square as being interpreted by some as promoting a “narrative of loss.” While I don’t agree with this, I think it has some minor application here. Thanks.

  4. The Battler’s Gourmet?

    The Peoples’ Snag?

    Surely the planner of this was an ex Soviet urban designer fallen on hard times. Or blind.

    PS: I shall not hear a word against banana bread. Or cake.

  5. JB – not sure that Brutalism extends to South Australian public barbeques but it might be relevant.

    Don’t worry about a blind tasting and struggling to pick Grange from Rawson’s Retreat. The real challenge is differentiating banana cake from banana bread.


  6. Love the forlorn Bbq …they never seem hot enough for a good steak though, unless you like it stewed.

    As for the loneliness of the BBQ I think the rest stops that used to dot the Hume hwy were lonelier than lonely; the ones with the pebble mix benches and concrete table surfaces…. hot, dusty and dangerous; perfect for a cup of tea and an Anzac bikkie..way back,

  7. I think we’re pretty fortunate with our public barbeques over here Kate. Most are conveniently located and the settings are generally attractive. Not so long ago many required a twenty cent coin for ignition and about twenty minutes of cooking. In my travels these are now mostly free- I guess so there’s no incentive to vandalise and rob them. We get down to my local park regularly and the boys and dogs scamper about while I frighten a few snags- it’s a diverting way to invest an hour.

    Rest stops are another matter in that these appear to be functional rather than appealing. And there’s always a swarm of flies to welcome you and your fellow travellers. Ahh, the pebble mix benches.

    Thanks Kate.

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Those pesky anti-snaggers. Did I read somewhere Novak Djokovic was one? Or something similar?

  9. Anti-snaggers are hiding under our beds Luke.

  10. Kevin Densley says

    Enjoyable and clever piece, Mickey, full of fine moments – the film bits were incorporated very effectively, too.

  11. Thanks Kevin. Appreciate it. Of course, there’s a key scene in Jindabyne set at a barbeque!

  12. Kevin Densley says

    Yes, Mickey. Must see that film again. It was pretty special.

  13. Nicole Kelly says

    Great piece. A man and his BBQ – it is a special bond. I love that you’ve adopted this little Williamstown one. Great print too. What a find at the op shop!

  14. Thanks Nicole. I love poking about in an op shop every now and then as there’s always something of interest to be uncovered. Not sure we’ve adopted the Williamstown barbeque but pleased to have visited and spent an hour there. Just like my solitary visit to Luton, I’m happy to have gone once, but am unsure about my return!

  15. A Mickey Randall post without alcohol??!! Or at least alcohol only vicariously observed. Say it isn’t so. Hoping that normal Coopers and sparkling shiraz service resumes soon.

  16. PB – next weekend we’re off to Strathalbyn (confession: never been!) where there’s four pubs and it’s a quick drive over to Langhorne Creek, where (I’m sure you know) there’s remarkably good Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Normal transmission will resume shortly!

  17. roger lowrey says


    Whatever the BBQ lacks in presentation give it full marks for hitting its most important KPI. It seems to have cooked your breakfast to your liking. BTW, very encouraging to see you expanding your food range beyond sausage rolls too. Keep up the good work.

    Like you, I have never been to Strathalbyn either. The only local advice I can provide is about the local track where your horse needs to be in the first few by the 400 metre point. There is a sharp punishing uphill rise from there to the home turn followed by a shortish home straight a bit like Moonee Valley.

    If you are coming from behind you have to burn far too much petrol chasing those in front of you up that hill so they then have the drop on you in the run home. Thought you needed to know.


  18. Thanks Roger. They’re racing at Strathalbyn tomorrow. I like The Publikin in race 5, Hi Smokey in the 3rd, Mug’s Game in the 2nd (for PB), Back Pocket in race 6 and in the Get Out of Jail Stakes the coin is on The Blues Brother!

  19. roger lowrey says

    What a coincidence. Have a close look at the pattern of racing. You’ll soon see what I mean.

    Great to hear from you again mate. Look forward to catching up over a sausage roll and some fav LRB memories at Oakbank next Easter – if they ever let me out of here.


  20. Jamie Simmons says

    I suspect it was always there Mickey and it was just easier to build Williamstown around it. Love the film references. Forgive the tardy reply. Two weeks behind on my Almanac reading is quite progressive for me.

  21. Hi Mickey,
    Love it.
    Are you able to shed any light on the life and/or times of D A Christie of Dromana?

  22. RDL- of course you paid no mind to my mid-week Strathalbyn tips, and a good thing too. No collect.

    Jamie- with Brisbane likely to go deep into the finals your reading may understandably slip further behind! I hope so.

    E.regnans- in my travels DA Christie has the public barbeque market covered. Our local park, the Old Gum Tree, has these installed- the double cooktop, triple bench model. Ease of use, reasonable heating time, decent duration. I love this from their website- “the only dedicated public barbecue manufacturer in the world.” DA Christie certainly has a story worth telling.

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