Champagne taste on a beer budget. And no madam, we are not Old Queens.

It could not have been any more romantic.

The sun, blazing a fiery orange, sinking into the Top End sea before us. On the table, a bucket, holding an icy bottle of champers, and two chilled glasses.

A woman of advanced years walked past us, and gave us a look. It wasn’t quite a smile. Just a look.

I was sitting with Big Nose. The two of us have been mates for years. Old coaching buddies. But this was a first. Normally, we would have shared a cold brew. Or eight. Not this time.

It took some explaining that I was now enjoying a champagne. He may have had one once, at a wedding a long time ago. Probably not his own.

This is a bloke more at home in the raucous front bar of a pub. It is fair to say he’s built for comfort rather than speed. Yes, he’s been in a decent paddock.

We would have looked .. different. Not that we cared. There is a reason for the shift to bubbles.

I had my first beer at the kitchen table, many moons ago. Dad shared a sip of his precious bottle. A brew from the time known as KB. It may or may not have been made in a vat of his old work socks.

Over the years, I developed a taste for the amber fluid. I have helped make shareholders in big breweries very rich indeed. A beer would be had most nights. Maybe two, on a warm weekend. But the Spanish Dancer changed all that.

After surgery, I found that my love affair with it had changed. These things happen. Those remaining organs expressed concern that they were not happy with the arrangement. So a replacement needed to be found.

As it would happen, I strayed into the world of champagne. And, to my great surprise, loved it. Who would have thought?

When the need for a cool drink beckons, I now more often than not head that way. And everyone is happy. Everyone, except Big Nose.

Back to our table for two in Darwin. As a great mate, he understands the change. A small price to pay, he reckons, for still being around. But such noble thoughts didn’t help much, when one of his workmates spied us.

At first, I’m sure he was just coming over to say g’day. A big bugger too. Covered in tough stickers. He was mid-greeting, when he saw the champers.

He looked at Big Nose, and at me, and at Big Nose again. The wheels were turning slowly. Surely not, he was thinking.

I believe it was our ordinary looks and complete lack of fashion sense that saved the day. Even old footy coaches, it seems, can enjoy a fizz together.

Don’t be put off if I knock back a stubby for a flute glass over Chrissy. It’s all about embracing change. Whether we like it or not. The Old Man would be shaking his head. If only his work socks had been a little sweeter.

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