The Lake Lap

My thong presses the accelerator as we pass the Bluebird Café and steer along Queen Elizabeth Drive with the lake on our left and a row of beige residences on our right. We see the besser block holiday unit I stayed in with Mum, Dad and my sister Jill when I was thirteen.



In that hot bedroom I played Hotel California over and over on my little cassette player when I wasn’t walking to and from Barwell Avenue and gazing in shops or drifting by the jetty just across from the town oval, home to the Barmera Roos.



We’ve decided upon the guessing order for the week and each must declare their prediction before we leave the town limits.



Max goes with his traditional low number. He’s already a student of the form, and gets us away with a crisp, ‘Three.’



Alex quickly declares, ‘Four’ and Claire participates with an optimistic, ‘Six.’



I then finish the formalities with what history tells us is an unlikely seven. All moving vehicles count, but we must pass them on the road itself before we get to the finish line. We call it the Lake Lap and it’s now in its third big season.



It’s a January afternoon and time for our daily tradition. Just before 5pm we coax the boys into the car from the jetty or the caravan park pool or their cabin chairs in front of the Test and alight in the pub drive-through where we negotiate our refreshments. A soft drink for the boys and a can of something serious for Claire. I get a Sparkling Ale. Alex says, “Dad, can we have some jerky too?”



‘No’ is my automatic reply, ‘you won’t eat your dinner.’ The protests begin. I then say to the drive-through attendant, ‘Can I leave the boys here with you for an hour?’



‘No’ comes his automatic reply. He’s a wizened, laconic type who looks like this job is to get him out of the house. ‘I should be immune to the noise. I’ve got eleven grand-kids.’



Easing through Barmera’s empty streets I note the bowls club and recall my first long-distance journey as a learner driver. It was 1983 and Dad had a tournament up here. In the green Ford Falcon I was legally limited to 80 kph, irritating a trailing and snarling V8. After a lengthy period he growled past me with horn blaring and outrage billowing from his twin exhausts. A mile or so later I saw a flashing blue light and the grumpy driver taking roadside receipt of a speeding fine. How I itched to honk my horn back at him, but this wouldn’t have done for a L-Plater with his Mum and Dad.



Lake Bonney’s shore is defended by dozens of dead gum trees and with the open road ahead we gather speed, but I keep to an unhurried ninety so we can better enjoy our circuit. Lonely caravans squat on the bank with their deck chairs and murmuring AM radio and late-afternoon mugs of strong tea. Above us is a soaring azure sky, and save for the mighty river and this lake we’re in a desert of scrub and sheep stations. There’s few vehicles on this section of the lap.



The radio’s on Triple J and the boys’ musical world is expanding along with their limbs so I introduce them to Tame Impala’s best album Innerspeaker and they enjoy the swirling psychedelic guitars. Is one of the selfish joys of parenthood inflicting your culture upon your offspring? Our other aural routine is Ben Folds’ Rocking the Suburbs on the way to Barmera, once we leave the Truro bakery and descend Accommodation Hill.



Drifting by the ruins at the Morgan Road intersection we then see Chambers Creek which feeds the lake’s 1700 hectares. To our right the road goes to the Overland Corner Hotel and it’s has again changed hands, but is without a license until February and, of course, this is unbeknown to us on our Slim Dusty visit. Like many Murray landmarks it boasts a sign indicating the eye-widening 1956 flood level. No-one went thirsty back then.



More traffic is likely now and the current sedan score is only two so I tease with Dad comments like, “I can see a convoy of cars coming!” or “What if we pass the Hell’s Angels?” We pass the ubiquitous Pelican Point and its advertised Nudist Resort, but don’t call in as we’re overdressed. Along a fence there’s a teapot atop each of the strainer posts. With the bitumen curving about, vehicles might suddenly emerge as they make their way around the glittering lake.



After the ceaseless slog of parenting the boys as babies and toddlers they’re blossoming and rewarding company, and now choosing shared rather than solitary fun. Our daily Lake Lap represents this happy change, and I hope in years to come it’ll remain a keenly anticipated holiday routine and one they’ll discuss with affection and gentle mockery of their Dad.



Reaching the Sturt Highway today’s game concludes with Max again victorious. We’ll drive back to the cabin for a barbecue or to the Cobby Club for schnitzel night or maybe a swim in the parched, motionless evening.






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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. Very nice stuff as usual Mickey. I came for the Lake, stayed for the hazy Tame Impala vibes and Slim Dusty pub.

  2. Thanks Jarrod. Love the first two Tame Impala albums and while I reckon Kevin Parker’s got an amazing ear for melody the last two records with their synth-focus don’t work as well for me as the 60’s guitar sounds that characterised Innerspeaker and Lonerism.

  3. Thanks for the memories Mickey. Dad playing cricket for Renmark at Barmera Oval down by the lake circa 1966. Early finish with blokes throwing wickets away to get to the pub before 6 o’clock closing. Lemonades brought out to the car. How come it’s nearly 7 and they’ve still got beers lined up on the bar?
    Sir Donald Campbell trying for the Water Speed Record at Lake Bonney in 1964 after getting the Land Speed Record at Lake Eyre. As loyal Croweaters we tried to blow him over the line but Lake Bonney was too shallow and choppy to reach high speeds.
    Big Bob Francis and the Beatles on the balcony of the South Australian Hotel on North Terrace opposite Parliament House. We were their biggest ever crowd of fans. Not that mum would let me go.
    Sigh. When did the world get so small?

  4. Thanks PB. Reading about the Barmera (and Monash) footy club I learnt they lost their first nine grand final appearances and then won flags in 1921, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 2012. Of course, the Roos’ most celebrated player is Woodville icon ‘Buff’ Tyrrell who kicked 100+ goals for them in ’85 and ’86.

  5. Most enjoyable, Mickey. Thanks.

    There are few things worse than a pub with no beer – surely???

    Tame Impala is definitely not for me. Son #3 loves them/him, but I just can’t.

  6. Roger Lowrey says


    I read that first sentence and immediately felt like I should be in T shirt and shorts. As it happens I am anyway.

    And the “blossoming” bit with the kids, yeah it’s a terrific feeling when it comes isn’t it?!


  7. Thanks Smokie. No only was it a pub with no beer, but the new owners invited us in for a quick look and it had no fridges, no beer taps and no bar stools. I wish them well and remember that one of my favourite pubs, the Clare Valley’s Magpie and Stump was shut and owner-less for about six months recently. It’s now booming.

    RDL- greetings to you in Tassie. Yes, for years it feels like there’ll never be much return on the investments made as a parent and then one day when you get a sizable return…Travel well.

  8. I reckon they are two pretty lucky boys, Mickey Randall. I have no doubt they will speak with love and affection, and yes, gentle mockery of their Dad in years to come.

  9. Daryl Schramm says

    Hi Mickey. I read this when first published. Many memories came flooding back. My immediate thought when re-reading was when I initially read the first three words I was wondering where you were heading.

    When I was 8 in late ’63 we moved to a fruit block at Winkie. Barmera was ‘our town’ as one of dad’s brothers and his family lived there. Swimming, skiing and yachting on the lake were some of the many options we had. Alby Yeo was the captain/coach of the Bamera Monash footy club in red and yellow. They went to double blue in the 70s sometime I think. Umpired a game there in ’89 when Buff was still playing. Also remember Donald Campbell’s speed attempt. Around the east side of the lake there was the Barmera Gun Club where I also spent a bit of time following dad and others.

  10. Thanks very much Someone.

    Daryl- Using the word thong in my opening I knew that some might think of the undergarment and that’s how most of the world uses the word, but while other countries associate it with matters more erotic I love that here it is worn on the least attractive part of the body- well, for most. Thongs make us think of a barbie and not the boudoir. I imagine using your thong to press the accelerator is illegal in most parts of the world, even Idaho. Thanks Daryl.

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