Adelaide’s Lament

My arrival in Adelaide, in August 1997, after the train journey from Alice Springs was inauspicious.  After dry. crisp weather in the desert, it was dreary and wet when I emerged from the railway station in the early morning.  And, as taxis were scarce and hard to find, for the fist time on the trip, I had to properly test whether or not I really could carry my luggage by myself.  I could, but it didn’t stop me feeling rather damp and miserable.

Based on recommendations from the tourist information, I went to a place called the Brecknock Hotel, the first time I experienced the Australian tendency to call pubs ‘hotels’. It was so unprepossessing and the landlord so spectacularly grumpy and bad tempered that I decided to stay, if only to gather some good stories; and it was cheap.

It was very Irish too, featuring a surfeit of amplified fiddle music late into the night.  I wasn’t that fussed about the breakfast either: self service where it was impossible to simultaneously obtain both boiling water  and make toast without tripping the fuse.  My fellow guests were uniformly rather ugly middle aged men, but fortunately I had taken a book with me, so I didn’t have to look at any of them.

Each day of my journal during my stay in the city begins with ‘not that great a day today‘.  I toured the city and went out to the beach, but it was all too much like trying to find something to do at the English seaside on a rainy Wednesday, fighting the wind and wiping condensation from any windows.

I went book shopping, and inspired by a flyer the shop put in the carrier bag, I saw a play ‘Gulls’ at the Playhouse Theatre at the Festival Centre.  I noted its similarity to the National Theatre in London, in that it wasn’t immediately obvious where the door was.  The only thing I recorded about the evening was: Play not good.  One idea stretched too thin.  One note performances.  I think the lead might be in a Soap I’ve never seen.  Now, I remember the theatre, but sadly, not the play.

It was during this period that I started noting the programmes that I was catching on television; mostly British made things which because of my time in Moscow, I’d not actually heard of.  My memory is that I started following something which was on of a Sunday evening, and then made attempts to stay in places with a TV on Sundays!

I toured the Barossa valley in a small group, on the basis that if I didn’t have to drive, then I wouldn’t have to worry about how much wine I drank along the way.  Subsequently, when I had picked up another hire car, I visited place in the Clare and McLaren valleys on my own, having a chat, tasting what was available and, to be polite, buying a bottle, which I threw in the back of the car.  As the days progressed, the more clattering noises came from the back seat when I went over bumps in the road.

Things picked up as soon as I left Adelaide.  My first overnight stop was in Burra, where I rented a converted miner’s cottage, 20, Paxton Square, for a couple of nights.  My journal records my current delight; I am disproportionately pleased that I have the facilities to cook my own supper, sit in front of a fire and a private bathroom, all for A$25 per night.

I discovered a hitherto unknown interest in industrial history, which is very close to the surface in that part of South Australia.  Burra was a   town built by the miners who were encouraged to emigrate from mining areas in the UK.  Cornish men built their cottages in the style with which they were familiar, as did those from Wales, so there are little bits of home in the otherwise remote and alien place.

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