Annie bet that I wouldn’t be out of bed until midday on the morning after our night at Theebine Pub. It seemed a pretty safe bet – I had been sleeping until nine most mornings, inexplicably tired and dreaming heavy, complicated dreams.
The previous night had been full of excitement too: not only there been dancing and whiskey, but we’d gotten Phil’s van thoroughly bogged in the driveway on the way home. Jock got out the ute and the snatch strap but Dorothy was unfamiliar with the mechanism of ‘snatching’ a vehicle out of a bog, and stood behind the ute just as Jock floored it in reverse. I squealed helplessly from on top of a hummock, convinced that she would be squashed in the bushes, but she jumped out of the way and the day was saved.
So you can see why Annie wasn’t expecting an early appearance from me, but she’d forgotten that Jock had promised a morning motorbike ride through the hills. That’s how you get me out of bed.
Jock and I had breakfast with Four-String Phil and the fleet-footed Dorothy, then put on our boots and headed into the forest.
The ranges behind Kilkivan are thick with dirt roads and tracks, and riding with Jock was a delight; we were just putting along. It was nice to ride at a pace so conducive to landscape appreciation and wandering thoughts. Not all dirt riding needs to be a break-neck affair.
We did a circuit through the hills then stopped in at the Woolooga Hotel. This is a pub famously run by twin brothers, now in their eighties; the service is not sprightly and there’s not been a coat of paint, inside or out, for a good while now. However, Jock assured me that the Woolooga Hotel was not to be missed, because the beer is perfect. Nothing fancy – just Carlton Mid on tap – but the lines are clean and the temperature is, absolutely always, just right.
So we parked in front of the pub. There were three old men and one old dog sitting out the front. Jock turned to one of the old men and asked if we could trouble him for two pots of beer; I was glad of that, because although it was my shout, there were no clues as to which of the three might be the publican.
The barman shuffled inside and slowly poured me two pots, and Jock was right: it was perfect.
So we sat with the old men and watched the empty road; talked about whether it would rain and other times that it had rained. The beer was fresh and sparkling and my world, at that moment, was very very small and very very perfect.