Tuesday nights. There is something about them and the renewal of old connections. Last time it was Uncle Carl, this time it’s Lisa from Carwoola, and Greg from Kioloa (this is starting to sound like ABC talkback radio). In the dark distant past when the Stropette was still a poppet, and the Stropolina still far in the future, Strop and I rented an historic (run down) cottage on a farm outside Canberra. There were other cottages and other young couples and a few children, as well as chooks and lambs and tiger snakes. That was the year the drought broke, and Hawkey came to power. I remember watching the election results on the television in the living room of one of our new neighbours. When it became clear that labour had won someone shouted out, “Fantastic, I’m applying for an arts grant on Monday.” Aah, those were the days. Lisa and Andrew, her partner at the time, lived in the cottage near the shearing shed, we had the cottage in the front paddock, Jane and Jim were almost next door and Bill and Janette were in the next paddock. The owners of the property lived in the Big House and didn’t mix with the tenants much. We all drifted away eventually, moving into town or down the coast, lost touch, as you do. Heard sporadic news, as you do. And then some nerd became extremely rich by inventing Facebook. And people started finding each other again.
We haven’t seen Lisa since about 1984. She’s been living down the south coast, while we’ve moved to the smoke. Her current bloke, Greg, grew up at Kioloa, which is by way of being one of our favourite little coastal villages. He works for National Parks. Strop and I used to do consulting work for National Parks. Do you know so and so? Really? How is she/he? What are they up to? I worked with them on Biamanga. Or was it Gulaga? Did you know that thingy had moved to Byron? All that. So many connections. Specific ones as well as the general stage of life ones, involving things children do, grandchildren arrivals, and parental departures. We are now the generation that bonds over the shared experience of spreading our parents ashes upon the waters. “They’ve got these recycled cardboard containers now. You put the ashes in them and float them away. Eventually they sink and the cardboard dissolves.” I want one shaped like a viking long boat.
There was a lot to talk about, but we needed food. And drinks. The Union is one of those trendy pubs (I’m looking at you too, Forest Lodge) that has an awful lot of beer taps for beers you’ve never heard of. All with silly names that aren’t really that funny. Strop likes this sort of thing because she is Open To New Experiences, I don’t because I Can’t Stand The Tension, and all I really want is a nice sessional beer. They have a lot of whiskys too, all with names I’ve heard of, and all of which deserve my attention, but that will have wait for another time.
When the front bar was taken over by the Trivia hooligans, juiced up on the excitement of showing off how smart they are, like a bunch of five-year olds who’ve had too much food colouring, we toddled out the back to The Eatery. Unfortunately the heating system didn’t accompany us, so we had to wear our jackets as we squinted our aged eyes to read the big blackboard menu.
The Burger Wars were then reconvened. It has been a while – the last pub on the Quest was the Newtown Social Club, and I can’t remember a thing about that experience. Lisa and Greg decided that they would go the burger as well. However, when Lisa chose the the chickpea fritter burger I had my doubts about whether she was really entering into the spirit of the Burger Wars. I suppose her claim that the last time she had eaten a burger was in 1973, should have been a clue. Greg and I went the meat route. Beef burger with bacon for me, Chinese style BBQ pork for him. Strop turned her back on the Wars altogether and had the salmon. A very disappointing effort.
My burger came with more bacon than the bun could cope with, and the bits that were sticking out beyond their bready blanket were quite cold by the time my gnashers trimmed them off (just a quick tidying-up skirmish before the main confrontation). Generally, the burger was excellent but there were some structural issues with the bun. Greg found his pork burger “Very tasty.” And Lisa really liked the eggplant (I think there is a hipster gag there somewhere but I just can’t get hold of it). She really liked the chips too, “They’re up there with the ones those two Italian blokes make down on the flat there at Narooma.” I don’t think there can be any higher chip praise.
Did I mention that Strop ordered the salmon?
Afterwards we left Lisa and Greg with icecream cones clasped in their icy hands as they headed for the station, while we toddled down the hill towards home. Strop decided that she had met Greg before, in one of the many, many meetings with stakeholders, that working for a Government agency involves.