Under-11 cricket, Hansen Reserve, West Footscray
Hound Dog’s Bop Shop, 313 Victoria St, West Melbourne. Phone: 9329 5362
Sushi Kissaten, Shop 26-27, F Shed, Queen Victoria Market , Melbourne. Phone: 9328 8809
As a parent, I’d love to be able to say – with a straight, sincere face – that the sacrifices and time spent fostering my son’s growth, development and happiness are nothing but a matter of sheer joy.
That, however, would be an outright lie.
It is, therefore, with some wonderment that I can say that time spent attending the Saturday morning cricket matches, supporting him and his team and watching their skills develop has very quickly become a sublime pleasure.
The start is early enough to leave room for other activities – and we have a few planned for today.
The previous week we’d been at ground adjacent Altona Beach, upon which I had a nice mid-game walk/paddle.
Today we’re at Hansen Reserve in West Footscray.
There’s shade trees and a nice breeze.
In the corner, wedged between two different industrial and/or commerce properties, I find a beaut picnic table and two attached bench seats that will surely come in handy in the forthcoming holiday break.
The park bench I choose manages to contrive shade coverage for most of the morning and the cooling breeze takes care of the rest.
Although not an ardent cricket fan, I’ve been around more than long enough to be able to effortlessly switch into the rhythm of reading but looking up just a ball is about to be bowled.
In this case, the subject of my attention is the latest tome by Stephen King.
As with cricket, I am no diehard King fan, but have read many of his books with pleasure and more.
Enough, in fact, to rate him as a master storyteller – and perhaps the greatest living American author.
A few months previously I was surprised when friend, learning of my King fandom, pronounced: “But he’s just a horror writer!”
Well, it’s been a long time since I considered King merely that.
In this case, I tumble right in, breaching the 100th page as the match progresses.
After the game, we head straight to Hound Dog’s Bop Shop in West Melbourne.
Denys Williams has been running this glorious emporium for something like 30 years, but will be closing up shop on December 24.
I think he’s had enough, although I suspect the ease of online buying has something to do with his decision, too.
That’ll leave a mighty big hole in the lives of several generations of roots music fans in Melbourne and around Australia for whom Hound Dog’s has long been a magnet stuffed with all sorts of rockabilly, country, western swing, bluegrass, doo wop, soul, pop, gospel, R&B and blues goodies and much, much more.
I remember when I first entered Hound Dog’s upon my arrival in Melbourne in the mid-1980s.
I looked around for a few minutes and then hastily departed. Spending any time at all in a place brimming with such musical riches while being flat broke was just too painful.
In subsequent years, indeed decades, Hound Dog’s became a focal point, a place of good friends made, a gazillions beers drunk and countless records – vinyl and CD – purchased and discussed.
For a while there, my life and musical interests took me elsewhere, but recent years have seen me once again become a regular.
The Hound Dog’s farewells have begun, overseen today by the continuation of a long and venerable tradition – a gig out front.
In this case, it is the mighty Dancehall Racketeers doing the business, laying down some fine western swing.
For most long-time customers and friends of Hound Dog’s it’s been a while since the joint was a social magnet, so it’s good to catch up with old friends not seen, in most cases, for many years.
It’s especially nifty to catch with my old mate Peter Bruce.
Now a retired taxi driver, Peter – from what I can tell – has become something of a man about town. Or, perhaps more accurately, a man about the country.
Moreover, I am delighted to find that he, too, has become a blogger.
I Was A Teenage Rail Fan details at glorious length his railways fandom, he being one of quite a few Hound Dog’s regulars who have always had a thing about trains.
“Trainspotters” has never been a term that fits for these folks!
It’s time for lunch, so Bennie and I head up and down Victoria St towards Victoria Market.
We are amazed at the number of eating places that are closed on a Saturday just before Christmas.
We’d love to hang for a while at Dolcetti but move on after confirming our fears that it’s sweeties only.
Thus it is rather by accident that we end up at Sushi Kissaten, which is part of a foodie laneway at the market but which has a street frontage not too far from the Spanish donut operation.
Apart from sushi rolls, the menu is pretty basic – various don dishes for $9.50 and three bento offerings – curry chicken, teriyaki chicken and beef – for $11.50.
Chicken teriyaki for him, beef for me, please.
Our bentos are identical, even if the protein components are different.
This is not like teriyaki like we have been served before elsewhere – like my beef, it’s more of stew with sweet onion strands.
In both cases, OK-to-good but nothing really notable.
The rest of our bentos are better – very good, in fact, especially for the price.
Rice with pickle; two excellent pieces of roe-crusted sushi; two hot, fresh but rather anonymous spring rolls; two deep-fried and very tasty dumplings encasing cellophane noodles and prawn; an elongated crumbed offering of what could be fish but may be, ahem, seafood stick; salad bits and pieces.
It’s good and we’re happy, especially considering our rather haphazard lunch hunt in an area all hustle and bustle with pre-Christmas activity.
As I say to Bennie: “With a bit more effort we may’ve done better – but we could also have done a whole lot worse around here!”
We wouldn’t go out of our way to get to Sushi Kissaten, but it works for us on the day.
Back at Hound Dog’s, we catch a few tunes by second band of the day, the Starliners, before saying our goodbyes and heading home.
Back in Yarraville, it’s serious chill time.
Into the old iron pot go a pound of red beans soaked overnight, hambone trimmings, celery, onion, green capsicum, garlic, sugar, vinegar, bay leaves, thyme, ground allspice and ground cloves – it’s red beans and rice New Orleans-style for dinner tonight!