Bob Hawke, Brutalism and Banana Bread: Melbourne Trip 2019

Who doesn’t love an existential question just after dawn, on a festive Friday? Our flight had entered Victorian airspace (the state, not the historical era) and breakfast (adhering to Spartan and not Southern American culinary tradition) was dumped onto our tray tables.


Propelling eastwards, several kilometres above the awakening and expectant earth, Chris asked, “So, what’s the difference between banana bread and banana cake?”


“Extremely good question, old mate,” I replied staring at the brownish block of mashed fruit, all unanimated and morose.


Trev observed. “I reckon the difference is about three dollars. “


“Yep,” I confirmed, my linguistic prism primed. “Given the alliterative appeal, banana bread is more expensive.”




In part the North Fitzroy Arms appeals because it presents as a country pub. Pushing open the front door at 12.01 is all frisson and happy expectation. The décor and the memorabilia are as I remember. Unlike some soulless modern venues there’s no seductive chrome or glass. The taps offer familiar brews. I comment, “Good to see Pentridge Pale Ale is available.” Gough and Percy are on the back wall, in black and white, forever frozen in the early 1970s.


It’s great to see everyone, and the lunch is a beauty with the Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup with Mascarpone & Basil Oil scoring well. This weekend, everyone is a Eurovision judge.


Today’s guest speaker, George Megalogenis, is compelling and his book, The Football Solution: how Richmond’s premiership can save Australia, underpins the conversation with John Harms courtesy of a magnificent mix of history, politics, inner-Melbourne geography, sports psychology and Bob Hawke memoir.


The post-lunch exchanges are always splendid and I especially enjoy meeting Footy Almanac editor Colin Ritchie and hearing of his most recent trip to New Orleans. We yak of jazz icons Dr. John and Trombone Shorty, and the legendary venue Preservation Hall which with a wave of his hand Col suggests is the same size as the pub’s dining room.




Saturday morning we’re strolling north. Chris asks, “What time is it?” Of course, breakfast television motifs litter our weekend, so I channel former NBC Today host Bryant Gumbel and reply, “There’s breaking news overnight, but firstly let’s see what’s happening in your part of the world. It’s thirty-seven minutes after the hour.”


Mere moments later we pass Barrie Cassidy, in the midst of a Very Big Week, given the passing of Bob Hawke and the election. “We should’ve asked Barrie to join us in the All Nations Hotel for a quick beer,” laments Trev. “I reckon he might be on the hop for the next day or two, but otherwise I’m sure he would’ve been in,” I reassure the boys, based on zero personal insight.


Trev stops suddenly and points across at a concrete structure. “See that architecture. That’s Brutalism and inspired some of the buildings and spacecraft in Star Wars.” And indeed, looking at the stark, overbearing façade I see his point. If Trev went on Hard Quiz or Mastermind he’d pick Star Wars as his topic. That, or The Kapunda Tennis Club in the early 1980s, or Shoegazing: Indie Rock’s Most Alluring Sub-genre. Same as all of us, I reckon.


Chris had spotted on Friday that Coopers Brewery launched a new XPA ale in Melbourne. Suitably inspired, and trusting the Internet, we arrived at the suggested pub, but were told it was closed for cleaning, hadn’t heard of Coopers XPA and that we might simply bugger off. Our disappointment could only have been lessened if the pub was instead a Frank Walker’s National Tiles outlet.


Surging into the All Nations Hotel at thirteen minutes after the hour we note that our regular stools (of the furniture variety) are waiting. Instantly, there’s an ornithological theme: geese. On tap is a craft beer called Goose Session IPA. We then spy the Grey Goose vodka on the shelf. Naturally, we text Kapunda identity Greg “Goose” Mickan whose prolonged digital silence indicates he’s delighted to hear from us. Googling him we find an introductory video on his business website. He boasts of there being, “720 degree views on his property. Provided you turn around twice.” We dedicate the following game of spoofy to him.


Safely at the Punt Road End (or Free Bird Seed End) of the MCG having invested (badly as it turns out) in Adelaide’s premier sprint, the Goodwood Handicap and Brisbane’s Doomben Cup, we locate our seats, and SANFL memorabilia enthusiast and champion bloke, Swish Schwerdt.


We yak about our respective Adelaide teams, Centrals and Glenelg, who are playing at the Ponderosa (the Tigers prevail for the first time out there since accidental leg spinner John Winston Howard was in power although as near as I can tell there’s no deep connection). We also recall the fabulous days on local radio when, at an urgent juncture a voice’d announce: “Let’s go round the grounds. Nipper Christie down at Alberton.” Much giggling follows.


During all of this, sixty thousand people completely ignore our charming dialogue and instead watch a match between Collingwood and St Kilda. The half-time Four N Twenty pies are at least equal to the footballing Pies, and the fixture finished, we move with clear-eyed purpose towards the Duke of Wellington cup-house.




Sunday’s breakfast television is the PGA golf and we decide that having to skool every time we heard, “In the HOLE!” would be dangerous; then bemoan the absence of David Marr on Insiders, but enjoy Barrie Cassidy’s fine work; and finally, on Eurovision, we decide that having to skool every time there’s geopolitical and not musical merit voting – “Hello Tel Aviv! Thanks for a great show. Greece gives twelve points to Cyrus!” – would also be dangerous, but not as dangerous as repeated listening to any of the songs.


Returning to the CBD after our Lygon Street brunch during which Trev confronts a colossal veal scallopini we pause respectfully at Carlton’s John Curtin Hotel with a Coopers beer to toast Bob Hawke; a venue in which Bob Hawke himself often toasted Bob Hawke (with ample cause).


Our penultimate pub is the Exford (surely a sister hotel to Rundle Street’s Exeter) and we watch the Port and Gold Coast game from a sodden Adelaide Oval. The big screen shows that the locals have turned up in their dozens (forget Winter is Coming, I think the tarps are coming), and with the Filth the Power claiming control we scarper.


It’s forty-six after the hour, we’ve a plane to catch and banana bread to battle.


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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. John Butler says

    Geez Mickey, you blokes know how to cover a bit of ground.

    Good to have a yarn. Not that it did the Blues much good on the weekend. I hope Perc didn’t watch.


  2. Rulebook says

    Great stuff,Mickey love the Port sledge brilliant ! ( never trust the internet )

  3. Great to chat with you JB. The Carlton Football Club seems to be a complex place and becoming more so.

    Rulebook- I rarely intend to mention our cross-town rivals, but sense disappointment if I don’t! The form of both teams continues to be murky.


  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Great to catch up in the flesh as always Mickey (and Chris and Trev).

    Your earlier imbibing at the All Nations probably explains the overly generous guffawing at my mention of Nipper. We probably would have been calling for the paramedics if I’d reminded you of Jim Slaven or Horrie Nelson instead.

    It looks like you gave the Docklands goalfest a miss, possibly a mistake given what was unfolding on our TV screens at the same time.

  5. Mickey – good to see you are staying one step ahead of the Truant Officer.
    I recall a mate opening the door to Jehova’s Witnesses in his Y Front with the elastic gone and a Green Death long neck at 11.03 on a Sunday with the Angle Park dogs replays about to start and advising “we are all beyond redemption in here”.
    You are among friends.

  6. Sounds like the weekend was a belter, Mickey

  7. Bowled Shane.

  8. Dave Brown says

    A couple of subjects well avoided there Mickey in addition to a few well covered. Hoping the XPA turns out to be a cracker. Worthwhile noting, too, that the Adelaide Oval crowd was supplemented by the recipients of free family passes to the admittedly difficult timeslot. Our U11s ended up with 16 fit players on the field on our trek out to Angle Vale due to two players’ families taking up the pass instead (less than impressed).

  9. Roger Lowrey says

    Great yarn Mickey. I now know who to ask if I ever take a group to Kapunda – or even Oakbank or Morphetville – and environs and need a weekend agenda.

  10. Swish – Yes. Should’ve embraced seeing the Dockers excitement machine playing in the flesh as much as we usually enjoy Antony Green and his big, interactive screen.

    PB- Green Death. Such an evocative label. You’ve sorted my Thursday evening! “We are all beyond redemption in here” applies to many places I’ve found myself! Thanks.

    Smokie- next time!

    Thanks JTH. Excellent lunch, as always. I’m back in Melbourne in mid-July for work and will be sure to push through the front door of the NFA at some point, or points.

    Dave- I understand the XPA comes online, as it were, in early June. We’ll see how it is and how it goes. The list of fallen beers is a long one with Coopers no exception- Black Crow, Coopers 62, Dr Tims etc.

    Great to meet you Roger. Am always an enthusiastic contributor to a weekend agenda!

    Thanks to everyone.

  11. Colin Ritchie says

    Good onya Mickey! Fab read, and fab meeting up with you last Friday, enjoyed our chat. Obviously you had a cracking weekend with your mates, it’s always beaut to break loose every once in a while. Mine was New Orleans! Go well!

  12. Thanks Colin. I’d love to read a piece on your New Orleans experiences, especially jazz and blues.

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    Great to see you on Friday Mickey, and wholeheartedly agree with you on the merits of the Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup.
    George Megalogenis was a fantastic, thoroughly entertaining speaker who blended footy and politics on the day beautifully.
    I too am eagerly awaiting a taste of the new Coopers XPA.

  14. Thanks Luke. Was a brilliant afternoon. At yesterday’s rather wintry Glenelg V Port Adelaide match in which the good guys had a win and moved well clear on top of the table, among the best for the locals was a Luke Reynolds, who continues his strong form.

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