The Shitville Pub

The Shitville Pub, by Ross Renwick

It¹s a hot blue blue day and weakness prowls my soul.

I 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.

When 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.

I 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.

The 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.

The 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.

l 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.

Then l get an old fashioned look. It Œs 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 mind pain.

There¹s a thing or two to know about street fighting.

If 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.

That¹s when you win.

I try not to think too much about how it feels when you lose. But I¹m very good at the two major skills of fighting.

The 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 violent training.

l 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.

Wrestling 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.

I 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. It is.

Long 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.

Sparring 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 swimming.

George, 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.

When 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.

The 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, ŒSilence.¹

When George yells Silence, Silence is what he gets. Then he speaks. ŒTo 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

I 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.

Fighting 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.

Then 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 me.

Some 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.

Later, 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.

In America , six weeks later, George is brutally knocked out in the seventh.

I know the feeling.

Kevin, 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. ŒStiff shit,¹ he says. Trouble is coming and all l want is peace.

At 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.

Towards 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 Œother duties.¹

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 Œother duties¹ is mentioned everyone in the platoon volunteers for the unarmed combat.

Kevin is moving back towards me now, slowly raising his fists. He might be smiling.

He 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 so happy.

Then l see his left fist beginning to rise from his hip, arm straight, shoulder turning.

To 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.


I 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.

*Ross 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.

This 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.

Best Wishes
Ross Renwick

Editors 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!


"Big" Tim Bristow: A personal true tale of Australia's legendary private investigator, by Greg Tingle