aub laidlaw, bondi lawman
Aub never pissed around with boardriders.
Aub had all of Bondi for his turf; the genteel north with its families and picnic rugs, the protected middle beach, and the thoroughly unruly south end, where boardriders ran amok.
Aub found it hard to understand how a man who loved riding waves would never consider joining a surf club; and this lifelong personal disorder provided Bondi with some of its most memorable incidents.
Aub also had a very big problem with women in small two-piece swimming costumes – so much so that he took to measuring them when he was unsure of their legality, being a measurable requirement of municipal morality ordained by the local council at the time, and one that Aub prosecuted with the zeal of an Islamic Fundamentalist, albeit dressed in sluggos.
The big man disappointed here, as he seemed to enjoy the discomfort of the women he roused out, stood up, measured and summarily banished from the beach, as he did the feral tabloid publicity of his aged fixation, and the hyena quality of the crowds who followed him on his professional rounds.
Here he comes now, on his southerly patrol, alone and steadfast he treads a massive path to the outlaw southern end. Big Aub. Formidable even from a distance, with his wide-set shoulders and white hat, his purposeful gait.
His distempered grimace.
Aub had the all-seeing eyes of a prowling tiger as he scoped out the troublesome individuals from within the surging tide of miscreants on the downtown side of this most famous Australian beach.
Board over there without a current registration sticker.
Kid over there smoking.
Babe over there wearing coloured underwear.
Bloke over there drinking beer.
Blokes out there boardriding through the flags.
Blokes in the corner lighting fires, melting wax.
Lee Gordon’s ‘Les Girls’ troupe drinking wine and squealing.
Bea Miles swimming outside the flags with the all her clothes on.
Kid behind Aub, little bloke, a smart arse little bloke with a very big bloody mouth, giving The Boss aggravation enough to belt him if only no one was looking.
Bloke over there changing his sluggos under a towel.
Dero over there, raving and pissed and reeling from group to group, metho drinker, mad fucker.
Kids crawling through the blackwater drain, wogs swimming in the storm-water pond with all their clothes on, dogs fighting, people in rips waving; drowning.
Bloke over there perving.
So much to do, so little time.
Aub waded through all of this unmoved and stone-faced. He saved the lives that needed it, belted the kids that deserved it, arrested the idiots that warranted it, measured the bikinis that merited it, and he grandfathered Bondi through the interchange years after the war like it or not.
Fronting up to the man on the sand of his beach was to acknowledge that behind the sun cracked eyes and hard-burnt face, set solidly on those massively pitted up shoulders, was an abject lesson in physical humility first, and a challenge to outdo the hard old bastard second.
We knew him however, and he knew us, and there were those times when we would find all of us out there in the middle of that great bay, surfers all, and all but intoxicated by the vigour and strength of the great seas, playing the King’s game.
He grumbled out loud once when an early winter offshore westerly visited Bondi out of season, as he happily observed a bunch of us surfing in the wind and without protection, ‘ Those little bastards will die of kidney disease one day. ‘
Then there was yet another day when the beach was swept clean of visitors by the solid flow of a four-day southerly gale, and Aub wandered up to a group of us as we stood watching a giant carnivore fish burying itself in the carcass of an upended beast just yards offshore. Cloven hooves upright, and shuddering under the repeated feeding impact of the beast.
‘ Probably a white,’ he said quietly, ‘ best you young blokes take a little care for a while until things settle down, those big fellows have long memories of where they copped a good feed.’
Then he walked away alone, back up the deserted beach to the shelter of the empty surf club, his broad back to the onshore wind.
I would have him as my father, just so I could fight with him.
That’s what we did, and we were outmatched.