Shitville Pub, by Ross Renwick
a hot blue blue day and weakness prowls my soul.
think of a long cold swim but turn magnetic north,
called by siren images of cold beer and swinging breasts.
Magnetic north leads to the pub, called the Shitville
Pub, copying the nick-name of the village and living
as a rickety presence on the other side of a high
and grassy dune. I trudge up the dune towards the
Shitville Pub, flinching from noises in the dry grass
thought to be infested by red bellied black snakes.
approaching the Shitville Pub the traveller has two
choices. The least dangerous choice, but not guaranteed,
is the Thinkers¹ Bar which lives inside the rickety
building. In the Thinkers¹ Bar they sometimes
have thoughts. The Fighters¹ Bar is in the garden.
They sometimes have fights.
walk into the Thinkers¹ Bar where they are discussing
Socrates. Socrates is the goal keeper in the local
football team. He has a shocking temper and has been
suspended for five years for kicking a linesman.
general consensus is that Kevin Socrates has been
hard done by as was his ancestor in 399BC, and that
the linesman is a prick anyway.
argument has rapidly turned towards the application
of indigenous justice where Socrates could be speared
in the thigh and then allowed to play the following
Saturday all¹s forgiven enough is enough.
walk into the garden, the Fighters¹ Bar, and
order a beer. The usual rough crowd is present with
a few loud girls on the outskirts. I sit at a table
as far away from the noise as l can get.
l get an old fashioned look. It s the l¹m-going-to-beat-the-shit-out-of-you-in-a-minute-look.
The old fashioned look and it¹s owner are standing
in the crowd. He¹s a tough sonofabitch, not tall
but solid as a plank with a low forehead and a large
prognathous jaw. It¹s the face of a man who doesn¹t
a thing or two to know about street fighting.
you win the fight easily, and your face and nose are
intact, and nothing¹s happened to your eyes or
testicles, you may wake the next morning with only
searing pain that will keep you company every dy and
night for a month. Your broken knuckle, of course,
may never be the same again.
when you win.
try not to think too much about how it feels when
you lose. But I¹m very good at the two major
skills of fighting.
first skill is getting out of the fight completely,
at which I am world class. The second is winning,
which I¹m good at because of my accidentally
learned to wrestle in a pleasant Protestant hall in
a nearby suburb and the old trainers who had seen
everything were impressed by my speed and strength,
and particularly by my calm ferocity at the age of
nine. I had promise they said.
is a perfect base for street fighting because it¹s
a very fine way of avoiding hurt if you muffle the
attack and wait for the moment when your opponent
is completely buggered. At that moment you run swiftly
up the dune and down the dune. Where you hide in the
long grass. And forget all those curious Asian fighting
movies with funny clothes and lots of yelling. You
only need to learn wrestling and running fast.
glance towards the mob in the Fighting Bar and hear
one of his ugly friends call him Kevin. He turns and
smiles at me in a manner meant to be intimidating.
after the pleasant Protestant hall l boxed with a
man who had once been the sixth rated middleweight
in the world. He¹s no longer rated in the top
twenty because his eyes bleed when the school bell
rings. Among the local middle class fundamentalists
he¹s still a formidable local terror, but he¹s
long past it really and is starting early training
and wants to dance around and spar lightly for about
a month and l have nothing going on so l agree.
lightly means that he¹ll do his best not to kill
me. Six rounds twice a day and then a run. I hate
running so when he goes running l go swimming. I like
that was his name, teaches me to throw a good left
hook as part of his own training because the man he
is about to fight in another country has a left hook
that is dreaded throughout the world of the broken
nose. After a few weeks l can left hook George once
out of three. The perfect left hook begins low and
as the elbow rises to create power it turns the fist
so it has a glorious opportunity to connect with the
cheek bone, or temple, at right angles to the face.
l manage to hit George I stay in close where he can¹t
hunt me too easily apart from some mild head butting
and a lot of sniffing. Truth is, l am terrified by
his massive punching power despite the fact that we
are only dancing boxing.
last Sunday before he goes overseas to do his real
training a big crowd has turned up at the surf club
to say goodbye to George. Lots of laughing and drinking
and old diggers and pretty girls but suddenly George
throws his hands in the air and yells, Silence.¹
George yells Silence, Silence is what he gets. Then
he speaks. To thank youse (the only plural pronoun
in the language) for coming here and wishing me well,
this bloke and me¹ll have our last six
rounds of training here just for youse.¹
am somewhat startled. This public appearance has not
previously been mentioned. As l climb into the ring
l remember thinking that four or five brown rums have
taken the edge off my fear and that is not a good
thing. If you¹re the gorilla feeder and you¹re
starting to think that the gorilla loves you, you
need to start taking extra care.
with the big padded sparring gloves has terrific sound
effects but very little real pain. The slap of leather
on flesh is profoundly disturbing for some. The audience
quickly becomes semi-hysterical. It looks and sounds
like an ugly punishing fight, but it isn¹t.
suddenly, to my great personal surprise, l set my
feet and throw two perfect left hooks into George¹s
face. As l step back to finish him off I see his eyes
change. I have never stepped back after hitting him
before. In that moment, with my third left hook cocked
and ready to go l realise that I have made a simple
but fundamental error and that nothing will ever be
the same again. I have given George the space to hurt
of those present tell me that George hits me with
a swinging left upper cut to the jaw and adds a right
hook as l fall. The right hook turns me over and l
fall straight onto my face. Witnesses cry at the sight,
and not only girls. I hear nothing of course.
the doctor who stitches my lips thinks that with a
bit of luck l might avoid a hair lip type scar. l
am incoherent for a week and deeply disturbed that
my knee joints seem to be working in the opposite
direction to the usual. I witness these emotions through
a bluish haze. After about six weeks sparring with
George l thought that l was pretty tough. Now I realise
how tough l¹m not.
America , six weeks later, George is brutally knocked
out in the seventh.
know the feeling.
who you may remember wants to smear me all over the
Fighters¹ Bar passes my table and knocks it with
his hip. My rum falls over. Stiff shit,¹
he says. Trouble is coming and all l want is peace.
this point I might tell you about something that happened
a few years before my apparent impending clash with
Kevin. I went into National Service in the Army.
the end of basic training my infantry platoon begins
learning unarmed combat. After a few weeks of unarmed
combat the Sergeant offers us the choice of joining
advanced unarmed combat or taking the option of other
duties is likely to be carrying huge rocks to mark
the edges of a rarely used road that goes two miles
into the bush and then stops. After about two thousand
rocks have been carried into the bush road
the rocks will have to be painted white. After that¹s
finished one of the NCO¹s will decide that the
rocks would be better around those huts over that
hill. As soon as other duties¹ is mentioned
everyone in the platoon volunteers for the unarmed
is moving back towards me now, slowly raising his
fists. He might be smiling.
is very close. l keep my eyes down and make them cold
and blank. After a few moments l slowly raise my eyes
and look into his. I see that my hard man look hasn¹t
worked. Kevin is still coming. He pushes my chest
with his right hand pointing upwards. It¹s not
a great approach to use on someone who¹s done
unarmed combat. I lock his hand against my chest with
my left forearm and snap downwards. He falls to his
knees but jumps up again. He doesn¹t look quite
l see his left fist beginning to rise from his hip,
arm straight, shoulder turning.
my surprise I throw two perfect left hooks before
his uppercut arrives and l step back ready to finish
him off. But I don¹t have to because he¹s
falling straight onto his face. While his friends
are turning him over I leave.
trudge up the dune away from the Shitville Pub, flinching
from noises in the dry grass thought to be infested
by red bellied black snakes.
say's, Greg, I don't want to bore you shitless but
the story The Shitville Pub is about the Newport pub
in the fifties, with a few geographic changes.
is based on George Barnes, a British Empire Champion
and rated 7th in the world at one time, monstering
me one Sunday at Bilgola Surf Club.
note: Riviting tales of a pub I once called home,
when me, Timmy and my Pittwater High group would rule
the roost at The Arms! A boxing - Bristow - Newport
Pub connection, what else could one want for!
Tim Bristow: A personal true tale of Australia's legendary
private investigator, by Greg Tingle