Tuesday, 6 May 2008

The pub

Walked by the local today. The smell of stale beer lurched into the street like a sleazy drunk. The sweet yeasty aroma caught in the back of my throat causing my top lip to curl with discontent. It reminded me of my childhood; congregating in the pub after a long winters day at the local footy. My brother and I, along with any number of school friends who happened to be in the same boat, wandered like aliens amidst the tall oaks that were other adults. We small things clutched bags of salt and vinegar chips, and carefully weaved our way through a forest of denim swathed legs, mindful to steer clear of those with drinks in hand, so as to avoid a dousing of sticky beverage down the back of our shirt collars.

From the mere smell wafting from the local, I could imagine the decor inside: dart board on one wall, an orchestra of alto voices rumbling incoherently like a turbulent sea. The only recognisable word being an intermittently barked "FUCK", which always seems to beam out from a jumble of mixed voices like a search light onto unsuspecting thieves. In my mind's eye, I could see the bar: a Johnny Walker mirror gleaming in front of a terry towelling swathed counter top. The mirror reflects an organised line of glass bottles filled with the full spectrum of colourful tonics, and captures the movements of fellow patrons; those drinking, those queuing to buy the next round and those leaning on the bar with no other purpose than to be swallowed up by the transient crowd, in an effort to feel less lonely.

The carpet on the ground is dark, with an unsightly geometric pattern of the likes never seen in any domestic arena. It's pattern blares over creaking floor boards, and although ugly, is appreciated for its practicality and effectiveness in disguising peanut kernels, chip crumbs, dirt, spilled drink and vomit.

Like the expected cuckoo bird from a German clock, a scruffy bloke staggers through the heavy wooden pub door - the sign says "saloon". He flinches at the bright sunlight. He did not shave his beard this morning. The man's uniform suggests he has probably been on a construction site of some sort. He wears Rossi boots smeared with the remnants of dried clay, and navy Yakka work trousers that sag in the behind, due to the absence of an arse.

Thinking back to the pub in my memory, I half expect a similar crowd enjoying the sociable atmosphere inside the local - leathery, mulletted, and for more than a few, sparse of tooth. There was a friendly coarseness about these blokes- the epitome of rural masculinity. They were harmless enough though - laugh out loud type of blokes; "she'll be right ya old bastard" type of blokes; take it on the chin type of blokes, comrades; diggers, mates. I smile at the thought.

As the pub door swings to a close, a great gust of stale beer air hurtles in my direction. It is pungent, sickening, overwhelming; not unlike unwashed urinals in an all boys high school. I move along, considering it no mere coincidence that these two amber fluids should share the same euphemism.


jeanie said...

What a beautiful word picture, Strauss.

Good to see you back at the keyboard - you have been missed.

I lived behind a brewery once, and I am sure that the smell of the pub has a bit more than a splash of the secondary fluid in its aroma!

Funny how we associate S&V chips (and in some cases, Nobby's nuts) with our childhood memories of the pub.

Bush Babe (of Granite Glen) said...

Fabulous ... I was right there with you! And I hear you... although our pubs were slightly less course possibly and more welcoming for kids.

I also have strong memories of a similar, shockingly decorated venue in Rockhampton which was the scene of annual New Year's Eve warm-ups. Lots and lots of fun - just don't look down!

(and no, I am NOT a piss head!)

Kathleen said...

That was quite a picture...and reminded me why I'm not overly crazy about pubs, tho I've had some good times in them in my younger years. Under-agers aren't allowed in them in the US, so I can't relate to being a child and being there, but I can't think it would be a good atmosphere.
It is SO good to have you back posting. You've been missed!

Tracey said...

Boy did I miss you too, and wow, what an amazing piece. While as a kid I never got too close to pubs, I've often been taken aback by that overwhelming "aroma" as you walk by the older style pub - even in the mornings - that part used to amaze me.
But you've captured it in words just so amazingly...

Tori said...

What a descriptive post. I felt like I was there. It is amazing what details can do. the smell of beer is one of my least favorites becasue of emotions I have tied to it.

Catherine said...

Geez, this post was GORGEOUSLY WRITTEN. You need to be writing more than just a blog, woman! This writing deserves monetary compensation!

Tracey said...

Three months later, still keep checking up on you and missing you! Hope all is well.

Susie Clevenger said...

So descriptive...It brought to mind the hours I spent in a bar with my sisters...My mom would play shuffleboard while the bartender more or less acted as our babysitter...