Tag Archives: beer

There’s Life In the Old Horse Yet!

As you might know, I love delving deep into the old newspapers online and have found some fascinating snippets and stories along the way. That includes this fabulous story about Pete the retired racehorse reflecting on his glory days. We could’ve had a wonderful chat if only he could talk and wasn’t fiction.

Indeed, I enjoyed this story so much, I decided to share it with you. There are a few bits of text I couldn’t make out and as it as written in the 1940s, the language is a bit dated but it’s still a fabulous, fast-paced tale. I hope you enjoy it!

OLD PETE By FRED GARDINER

OLD PETE was a vegetarian by Nature’s laws ordained.

And the monotony of it, the— yes, the humility of it, even, never once roused complaint in his patient soul.

But what did cause resentment was the indubitable fact that his diet was restricted to the unfermented type of vegetation.

Chaff, for instance; chaff, chaff, chaff. Crunch, crunch, crunch. No snap, crackle, and pop; just plain, crunch, crunch, crunch.

There was an element in the daily life of Pete that disturbed the old warrior muchly.

An element? Hardly. Almost it was an aura.

Everywhere he went, he smelt it, that aura; for actually, though he did not know it, yeast was the very essence of his daily life for Pete. He smelt it at his work, at rest, in his dreams—for old horses do dream.

Yeast!

And yeast has engendered a thirst in many a good man, an unquenchable thirst for—yeast. An irritating, insinuating, invigorating, inspiriting—ah, that, was it, an inspiriting desire.

For Pete in his young days had been SOMETHING.

And in those halcyon days he had quaffed the nut-brown ale, gallons of it.

As Prince – Peter, the topweight, he had gracefully cavorted to the cheers of the multitude and scornfully ignored the scowls of vengeful “barvons.” Then the smell of the tan was his aura, and beer was the nectar of Mammon, a reward for services rendered.

Later, much later, forgotten by his many spouses of the seasons that had flown by, forgotten, almost, by those for whom he had won small fortunes, his memorial merely a hyphenated allusion in sundry race-books, he had yet held his own with the others on the bakery rounds.

But nowadays the fellows at the brewery over the road from the bakehouse had taken to casting aspersions and crusts of their lunch in his direction, and referred to him as “Old Pete, the Hat Rack.”

How were they to know that, as Prince Peter, he had helped to make their industry? He had trained on barrels of beer. It had been his inspiration.

But who would buy a bucket of beer for the old chap now? He was but a pan-handler among his kind!

At the thought, resentment welled in his vast gullet to quench his thirst.

But-his cup of bitterness was replete when he saw those mudgudgeon brewers’ horses served their eight buckets of beer each day at noon. Eight buckets each. Placed in a line; and the lazy, sleek, slobbery sloths would – swab six, stamp a hoof in the middle of the seventh, bury their muzzles in the eighth, and blow it to the sky in bubbles.

Disgusting! Not the manners, but the waste.

Eight buckets of beer; and he would win the Cunnamulla Cup—had won it, in fact.

But, who remembered? He neighed in disgust, and blew the chaff out of his nosebag. So the driver, taking this as a sign that Pete had had enough, removed the nosebag before he had half finished his meal.

“Just a plug; how would he know?” thought Pete. “Never mind, it was dry tack, anyhow!”

But Pete was wrong in one particular. Bill, the driver, was not “just a plug.” He had a heart for the old horse, and never hastened to put the bit of servitude back into his mouth.

Which was indiscreet, indeed, in view of the fact that, the stables being at the bakehouse, there was always that aura, that haunting, yeasty, aura.

Came the day when the brewer’s man was late on his run and Old Pete finished early.

The ostler had placed sixteen buckets of beer, in two rows of eight, on the footpath, awaiting the return of the waggon. On the other side of the street Bill had buried Old Pete’s head in -his nosebag, and left him to crunch, crunch, crunch! Which, he did.

The brewery waggon did not arrive. The beer was going flat in the buckets – over the way. , .

Old Pete flicked a fly from his haunches, merely a matter of habit, for he had no mind for the fly; his thoughts were elsewhere…over the road.

Sixteen buckets of beer and him munching chaff! No; he must; dispel the thought. Gone were the days.

It was about the time when Bill helped the baker draw the batch. As the ovens opened, the smell rushed forth like a spirit new-released from Hades.

That aura! What tunes it played in the memory box of Old Pete as it assailed his sensitive, quivering nostrils.

The old horse staggered in the face of temptation, actually staggered at the knees; his head fell mutely, the nosebag touched, the ground and slowly fell off. Then, he was over the road in a jiffy, the bit- jangling uselessly from his jaws. Over the road and into those buckets…one, two, three,., sharp-firing; four, five, six, quick time; seven, eight, nine, ten—not out and six to go. Eleven, he was slowing up. Then, deliberately, twelve; thirteen for bakers’ luck and fourteen, fif-t-e-e-n.’ Smack went his hoof through the bottom of the sixteenth bucket to show his independence.

They called him Old Pete! Him! His mane bristled with indignation, his withers itched, his sides quivered as though at the spur. Well, he’d show them, if burst he would!

As he whirled round the corner, hanged if he didn’t hear the old cry again: “Runaway, runaway!”

That’s what they used to shout out there at. Cunnamulla—”He’s run away with the field. Good old Prince Peter! Oh, you bonzer!”

Well, he’d give ’em a go for it.

Into Parramatta-road he swung, heading west, and a motor horn tooted. Motors? Sacrilege! “Get my dust!” he snorted, tossing his old head in contempt.

Peter left the body of the baker’s cart at Lawson, and the shafts fall away at Wentworth Falls.

With one ear well back and the other forward, he crammed oh. the heat; not hard, you – know,. but just hard enough to give that motor socks.

And the crowds along the great thoroughfare roared: “Runaway, runaway!” ‘

Encouragement.That was the spice of life to an old trouper like Pete.

At Burwood a bluebird shot out from a side street and joined in the chase. Vainly the cops tried to head him off. Pete threw his head high and snorted a frothy snort of sheer contempt. Then he clapped the heat full on.

“Gosh, that old cripple’s’ doing, fifty!” gasped Constable Boot in the bluebird.

“Shut up, or you’ll have me crash!” snapped the copper at the wheel.

They flashed through Granville…first the turnout, with Pete in full command: next the bluebird, x with two grim-faced, cops wondering whether they would see their wives or the hospital that night; and. after, them an assortment of vehicles that took up the chase for awhile, and fell out as their engines ran hot.

By sheer luck Pete took the turnoff to the Mountains at Parramatta—or it may have been instinct. The traffic cop there took the rest of the day off.

On the straight to Penrith the pace became too hot for the bluebird. When the needle wavered around seventy going through St. Marys the bluebird drew out and phoned to have the runaway headed off at Penrith.

At Kingswood the first wheel came off, and at Emu Plains the second.

The message to head Pete off at Penrith reached there as he was sailing past Lapstone. (He is heading up the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney)

Pete left the body of the baker’s cart at Lawson, and the shafts fell away at Wentworth Falls. He slipped the harness at Leura.

Hasty messages had been flashed to Katoomba, where Pete’s arrival was anticipated.

Both railway gates were shut and a goods train had been drawn up on the level crossing.

Pete saw this as he came round the turn near the hospital—so clapped on speed.

“Just a brush hurdle!” he snickered. Sparks flew from his shoes as he landed in front of the Carrington and stream of Are rose: from the tar as he skidded to the foot of Katoomba-street.

Both sides of the thoroughfare were lined with people, who roared their encouragement…”Runaway, runaway !”

The old fellow, tossed the foanr to left and right of his: gallant head in sheer enjoyment; What a race! And he had oceans to .spare.

But as he turned off around the falls and headed for Narrow Neck he began to fancy another drink. Fifteen buckets more he reckoned, and he would tackle Govett’s Leap, yes.Upwards!

What Pete did not know was that it was pay day at the mine.

So when he saw Paddy O’Flynn staggering along the bush track with the boys dye-gallon on his shoulders, who was Pete to recognise the ethics that imposed upon Pat a sacred trust to deliver the goods or be damned.

And who was Paddy to know that he stood in the path of a noble soul seeking sanctuary!

“Howly Mercy!” Paddy howled as the shock-maned; wall-eyed, foam-flecked apparition pounded after him. “Glory be, if it ain’t the Bull of Bashan his very self, the craytur!”

Paddy went off at a gallop, with old Pete hard behind.

When it looked as if he were to be crushed beneath the flailing hoofs, Pat

dropped the barrel to bless himself which .was his salvation. He scooted into the bush as Pete propped hard at the obstacle in his path.

Suspiciously he eyed it; then sniffed. That aura! For a fleeting second, a crushing homesickness seized him and he thought—what matter his thoughts?

So Pete spurned the thing – that was like to soften him, stamped on it in his anger— and ‘stove in the end: Glorious, sparkling amber ale, fresh from the wood. And Govett’s Leap was ahead.

The old fellow buried his muzzle right up to – his eyebrows, and drank, drank, drank until he licked the bottom. ”

What was that about Govett’s Leap? Well, maybe—tomorrow!

The sun was setting and his sight grew dim, so he sought a sheltered spot, there, to rest until…

The bakehouse whistle, blew, and Bill, the driver sauntered out to put the bit of’ servitude into the old prad’s mouth. He found Pete, dead in the shafts.

World’s News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 – 1955), Saturday 7 March 1942, page 16

 

 

 

 

The Snow…An Australian Story.

Before I launch into a grand account of our ski trip, I thought I’d better introduce my overseas guests to what we Australians call (please pause and wait for the drum roll)…

“The Snow!”

No doubt, it comes as no surprise that we get very little snow in Australia and snowing itself is a rare, very exciting and even memorable event. Indeed, each and every snowflake is precious… so very, very precious!!

 

Most of our snow, at least on the Australian mainland, is concentrated in the Snowy Mountains, which are part of the Great Dividing Range on Australia’s East coast south of Canberra. As most of our snow falls in this region, it is colloquially known as “The Snow”. You see, there isn’t much snow anywhere else apart from the odd freak dump and that usually isn’t skiable. It’s only good for snow fights and bragging rights. Yes, snow is so rare in Australia that being able to say you’ve touched or even seen real snow is something for kids to show off about.

This lack of snow also explains our comparatively poor performances at the Winter Olympics. Although we first competed in 1936, we didn’t receive our first medal until 1998. As a nation of sporting champions, that speaks volumes. We simply don’t have sufficient access to snow to participate en masse, let alone compete.

Mount Kosciuszko01Oct06.JPG

Mt Kosciuszko looking like a an innocuous garden-variety knoll. Should we enhance Australia’s tallest mountain or perhaps we should adopt a mountain some place else? I’m actually wondering whether the magic carpet is actually steeper than this old fellow…

The Snowies culminate in Australia’s tallest mountain, Mt Kosciusko, which is something of a national embarrassment as far as tallest mountains are concerned. Looking more like a pancake than a jagged mountain peak, Mt Kosciusko clocks in at 2,228 metres above sea level. Obviously, this makes “Kozzy” little more than a pimple on the side of Mt Everest, which stands at a towering 8,848 m.

Yet, despite being so vertically challenged, some bright spark has decided to re-brand the Snowies as “The Australian Alps”. As a marketing person myself with considerable imaginative flair, I can appreciate a bit of hyperbole. However, when it comes to describing the Snowies as “alps”, somebody seriously needs to get their eyesight checked. Although our alps do have snow in winter, they’re nothing more than big hills. Actually, dressing our Snowies up as “alps” reminds me of a pre-pubescent teen strutting around in an F-cup bra with sport’s socks shoved down their front. For better or worse (depending on how steep you actually like your mountains), it’s going to take a lot more than a pair of football socks to turn the “Australian Alps” into anything like the kind of mountains Heidi calls home. No, that would take serious earth-moving equipment and even more dirt than you’d find in a British tabloid.

Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I’m more than happy with our Snowies. As the saying goes, more than a handful is a waste and I certainly found even our relatively gentle ski slopes Everest enough. They are what they are. We don’t need to call them Alps just to attract tourists. After all, not every skier wants to fly before they can crawl!

Welcome to Perisher!

Welcome to Perisher!

While there are a number of different ski resorts to choose from in both New South Wales, Victoria and also Tasmania, we ski at Perisher resort, which has a huge mass of lifts and trails sprawling in between Guthega, Blue Cow, Smiggins and Perisher itself. Most of the time, I stuck to the Magic Carpet although I skied at Blue Cow about 12 years ago and absolutely loved it. I have also skied down Perisher’s Front and Happy Valleys. I have never skied in Thredbo but understand it has steeper slopes and hence doesn’t have quite so many young kids or rank beginners on the slopes. While I met a few people who flitted between Thredbo and Perisher, we find in easier to plant ourselves at Perisher. We save money buying 5 day lift passes in advance online and we get ourselves lockers for absolutely everything so we’re not lugging stuff to and from the car every day and can juggle things like cameras, snacks and walking shoes while we’re out on the slopes.

Geoff who is obviously a much better and more experienced skier than me, loves Perisher because there is so much variety and you can ski around the resort trying different runs and says there is so much to explore. There are also 47 lifts, which makes a huge difference in being able to access a real variety of different runs. I imagine that this would be very desirable to more advanced skiers who don’t share my love affair with the magic carpet down below and actually venture out.

Snow Gums at Mid-Station, Perisher.

Snow Gums at Mid-Station, Perisher.

What the Australian ski fields might lack in altitude, we more than compensate for in beauty and unique character. You see, our snowfields are home to the snow gum, a very tenacious yet beautiful tree which somehow manages to thrive in very adverse conditions and is so different to the firs you might experience overseas. I have to admit, however, that I didn’t take in much of the scenery while I was out skiing. I was too focused on my instructor’s skis and was deliberately not looking down. I didn’t want to freak myself out!

Close-up of the beautiful colours running through snow gum bark . What a beautiful palette!

Close-up of the beautiful colours running through snow gum bark . What a beautiful palette!

I don’t know if this is unique to our ski fields and we were also lucky with the weather but even in the very depths of winter, we can have deep azure blue skies and glorious warm sunshine. It is hard to believe but it was so hot and balmy we could have been at the beach. That is, as long as we had our ski gear on. Of course, it cooled down significantly after sunset but by day we had some truly glorious weather!!

Kangaroo eating a carrot, Jindabyne.

Kangaroo eating a carrot, Jindabyne.

If you are looking for skiing kangaroos, I haven’t come across any as yet but I have definitely seen critter prints in the snow which might suggest they head out after dark. There are certainly plenty of kangaroos around the ski fields. Where we usually stay in Jindabyne, there are resident mobs of kangaroos which we’ve hand fed before heading out for a day’s skiing. They’re a real treat.

Yet, although seriously outnumbered by just about every other sport in existence, Australia too has its mad, completely obsessed skiers. However, in Australia this obsession with skiing itself is almost superseded by a fixation with the snow reports and how many centimetres and hopefully metres have fallen. This is a very serious business and every skier tries to time their ski trip at precisely the right moment to experience optimum conditions. However, there seems to be no pattern from season to season. It’s all pot luck. This feels like a serious gamble when you have to fork out big money for accommodation months in advance and there are enough short seasons where you could easily blow your dough. Yet, these wrangles with the weather are no different to booking a summer beach holiday where there’s the usual threat of rain.

Even the Cheshire Cat was out there!

Even the Cheshire Cat was out there!

While I have been talking about skiing, I must admit that there is another creature on the slopes and I’m not talking about all the cows, giraffes and other onesies lolling about.

Wild Zebra Spotted on the slopes.

Wild Zebra Spotted on the slopes.

 

No. I’m talking about snowboarders or “boarders”. As a skier and a beginner skier at that, I’m unable to elaborate much about them except to say that I’ve spotted boarders parked under trees and even grazing in the middle of “ski” runs. There are significant “hostilities” between skiers and boarders on the slopes, which I haven’t bought into. I am too busy focusing on my own skis and checking up and down the slope for hazards to get into anything peripheral.

My main gripe is with the behaviour of doting parents on the magic carpet. The magic carpet is Perisher’s beginner ski run and you take the carpet up the top which is easier for beginners to manage than the t-bar or chair lift. The magic carpet is an area for all beginners, not just kids and certainly is not a reserved area for parents photographing their absolutely gorgeously cute beyond all measure little cherub with their state-of-the-art camera phones. I’m sure even royal photographers are less intrusive and don’t feel they have an ordained right to knock down learner skiers in their quest for the perfect shot. After ski school finishes, these parents gather at the bottom of the slope and I mean on the slope watching their little darlings and blocking other skiers from having a run. I was actually having a lesson during all this chaos and had three runs ruined by thoughtless parents and when you are paying potentially more than $3.00 a minute, you are understandably annoyed especially as some of these parents haven’t even paid for lift passes.

Last year, we even saw a father photographing his 1 year old toddler in the middle of the magic carpet. This was really dangerous because even beginners can pick up a bit of speed but we can really struggle to stop and have trouble controlling direction. When you see a small child in your path, your natural instincts tell you to stay away. Not to hit it. For an adult to run over a child feels really, really bad even on the snowfields and even when the child’s very own parents have put them at risk. Yet, so many parents don’t seem to share my concern about the inherent risks. For some reason they become so one-eyed about their child, that they can’t see anything else. As I said, that can be very dangerous on the ski fields and even more so in the beginner’s area. Remember this is where the rank beginners are learning and while we might be able to ski down the hill, there are no guarantees we are going to stop. Skiing is a risky and dangerous sport and as much as I love photography, you do need to question whether a shot is worth the risk. Such tunnel vision has no place on a ski slope.

There are also other activities peculiar to the “mountain”. While many might associate skiing with inhaling all that beautiful fresh mountain air and increasingly your physical fitness, smoking is an activity in its own right. I seriously struggled to breathe at times with the clouds of cigarette smoke looming in outdoor areas. Some smokers were courteous, but one bloke was pointing his cigarette away from his mates and practically stuck it in my mouth. I was young once myself and had the odd cigarette but these days I feel we all have a right to clean air.

In keeping with this healthy snowstyle, you also seem to be able to fill up on beer as early as 10.30AM which is otherwise known as “beer o’clock”. These early starts aren’t just restricted to beer drinkers either. An older guy well into his 60s or 70s sat opposite me and pulled out a hip flask of whiskey around a similar time much to his wife’s horror. If you are a wife or perhaps it’s even your own father who stubbornly refuses to tow the line, but I’m you’ll appreciate just how difficult it can be to manage a naughty husband!

My budget hot chocolate with a mountain of cream to rival Mt Kosciusko.

My budget hot chocolate with a mountain of cream to rival Mt Kosciusko.

While I might be sounding like some holier than thou prude, I wasn’t much better. Beer and cigarettes weren’t my thing but I had my own poison. No matter what, I always made it up to mid-station before 10.30AM for my budget $2.50 Hot Chocolate with its luscious swirl of thick, whipped cream and two molten marshmallows. It might not give you lung cancer but it could certainly block a few arteries. So you see, I’m not such a health freak after all!

With hedonism of all kinds alive and well halfway up the mountain, who has any energy left for the après-ski?

Sounds like a hot shower or even a long soak in the tub is in order along with an early night.

Oops! That’s right. It’s only 10.30AM and I haven’t even got started yet!