dreaming of byron bay
Border-dwellers and Queenslanders, ruminated Athol over his eighth dark rum and coke of the evening, are a race apart and without doubt bottom-feeders of the lowest order of all men who stand upright.
Tonight for instance, as Athol surveyed the drinking community in Byron’s top pub.
What a collection of dysfunctional and sunstruck oafs gathered together in one place, with little to save them from drowning in a shower of rain other than the desire to smack a Sydney head at the Pier Astor on a Saturday night.
This is 1964.
Fifteen tables in the big room adjacent to the public bar, a quintet of insufficient musicians on stage being dominated by thumping percussion and a two chord bass following some spindly kid doing riffs on an ‘ electric ‘ guitar.
Two table waiters blind to the thirst and want of the clientel wander about, both of them closley related to the proprietor who hasn’t been seen since the North Coast Licensing squad rented three rooms and four Casino girls for a conference two days ago.
Five local trawlermen in the public bar are circling a carload of beach fishermen down from the Tweed, men who had just scored a pound for a pound for a large school of blurters dragged in off Clarkes. None of them pretty ( – the fishermen )
Eleven of the other tables are fully manned by drunken and roaring Queenslanders, none of whom have any degree of surfing skill but all of which rate highly in mob violence and predatory behaviour.
Three more tables off to the side are staffed by stone-faced Islanders drinking ginger wine and double vodka and who are accompanied by all the girls from Lismore, who themselves are seducing everyone in eyesight with their unavailable beauty and their ability to drink brandy lime and sodas all night long without losing a shoe.
One table of visiting Sydney surfers pretending to be Nat’s best mates and who only go to the toilet in pairs. All of them pretty.
Table 8, Queenslander. Head like a split coconut and arms like Mal Meninga and he leers over the top of his twenty-ninth schooner of the evening and thickly addresses our man Athol in the convivial fashion so beloved in a Q’lander of the time.
‘ What are you lookin’ at arsehole ? ‘
Athol disdains to reply. He rises above the tumult.
‘ HEY! Shit for brains .. , I’m talking to you you fucken bundle of sticks.’
Athol weakens upon hearing this rejoinder and unfortunately forgets the basic rule of avoiding a brawl with a drunk (if you don’t look at them then they are not there) as he gazes benignly at the enraged gentleman, whilst not noticing the glittering interest of his wolverine mates sitting only yards away.
Already they are taking off their watches and emptying their glasses.*
‘ Talking to me? ‘ Athold responds politely , completely oblivious to the immediate vacationist actions of his lifelong friends who until an instant ago were sitting close beside him.
Smack (fist hits head )
Bang ( head hits table )
Thud ( body hits floor)
Six months later Athol and eight Byron locals, including three slaughtermen and two shit-carters down from Roma on annual leave, do a slow and bloody Saturday night wade through heads arms and legs and all to the tune of some Beach Boy jingle playing at the time and by crikey revenge is a sweet young thing and it’s a pity that the old Astra is now just another pub full of posers and old men spinning fabulous lies and lowly mistruths.
* – for those who have led sheltered lives it is wise to know that a seasoned pub brawler habitually takes care of two priorities before wading in –
(1) He removes his wristwatch and places it in a safe place (a window ledge, or the back of a pot plant)
(2) He finishes his drink