We decided to call him Kev the Kiwi because he didn’t want to reveal his name. He didn’t want his picture taken either but grudgingly agreed to let me photograph his stand-out T-shirt. His henna-dyed hair was also a standout (above).
Kev was one of the interesting local patrons who turned up for a farewell drink at the final session at the Mandorah Beach Hotel, across the harbour from Darwin.
He didn’t want to talk to anyone or have anything to do with a camera. “I’m not in a good mood,” he yelled. “Damn the Yanks.” He grabbed his beer, headed for a table and brayed again “I hate the Yanks”.
I did a bit of quick thinking to try to coax him around. “Are you from New Zealand?”
Hours earlier, the Yanks had knocked off the Kiwis 9-8 in the Americas Cup after the NZers had been leading 8-1. It figured that our henna-haired beer drinker was sore about that.
Yes, he said warily, he used to be from NZ. He calmed down and let me take a couple of photos, revealing he had come from Eketahuna, a little town about Wellington.
What brought him to Australia in the late ’60s? “I was running away from Mt Crawford prison.”
Ever go back? “Yeah, and this cop who had it in for me was waiting at the airport. I don’t go back now.”
Oh. When he came back to Australia, what did he do? “Siphoned petrol,” came the deadpan reply. “Now go away. I need to be alone.”
Tony and I, with daughter Amber and her fiancé Dean, had caught the ferry across to Mandorah for the last lunch at the pub. We had met publican Nick di Candilo about 10 days earlier and decided it would be a good thing to return for the closing hours of the pub that is due to be pulled down because it is past its use-by date.
After all, it was the last hotel on the Darwin harbour. And it was the only Darwin hotel to survive Cyclone Tracey. And it had character in its open plan and grand views. And Nick was a great publican.
We had the last fact affirmed when we found beer prices were down to $4. Then they dropped further to $3 and we were in for the long haul.
The locals sauntered in to say goodbye. Among them was elegant retired vet Estelle Doran, who had been visiting Mandorah and nearby Waigat Beach since the 1960s. She bought land there in 1983 and has had a steady trail of injured wildlife coming to her doorstep ever since.
And there was Willie Nelson. Well, he looked like Willie and his surname was Nelson but like a lot of people in the area he wasn’t that keen to say too much about himself so we settled on Willie.
What a grand afternoon. And what a dumb idea to decide to see the drawn-out movie The Great Gatsby at the late session at the Deckchair Cinema that night. We needed someone like Kev there to keep us awake.