I was sitting in the bar
I was sitting in the bar of the General Gordon, one wet and miserable Saturday evening, minding my own business and taking in the landscape. The hotel is a nice old pub down there on the road to Homebush up near Mackay. Rustic and shabby and badly in need of repair it attracts a rough cross section of country people and tourists alike.
A tall, young man, maybe thirtyish, came into the bar. He had the back collar of his shirt turned up, a sort of uniform for country lads, and was wearing the typical Queensland hat; the high crown with the wide brim pulled down over his eyes and face and showing the signs of wear. The brim also had a slight tear. The rim had a band of old sweat that had left a permanent reminder of working outside in the hot sun. And of course in this part of the world farmers do not take their hat’s off when they go inside. But he was skinny which is quite unusual for someone who works outdoors. He was not sporting the customary spread across his middle which is so prevalent amongst many of those who work the land. He spoke loudly. I think it must be the great outdoors that sets the tone, though you are standing within a few metres, country folk still seem to think you are in the next paddock.
Now Mark, as he introduced himself to be, ordered himself a beer and occupied the bar stool next to me and began to tell me this story.
The narrative revolves around a distinguished gentleman who was, by Mark’s recollections, the sixth generation of successful farming stock. The family was well-known in the district; yet no one ever had a bad word to say about any of them, which can be very unusual in a small community. He was not someone who talked faster than he could think. For few of us care too much for the motor-mouth salesman type with his quick wit and even quicker tongue but the person who sits there and nods his head and says nothing is very often considered the epitome of wisdom. It is true that our man was a man who spoke rarely but when he did, he spoke slowly and deliberately which also added to his air of wisdom, but then he seldom said a foolish thing. He rarely laughed but he did smile a lot even though it was usually in a very condescending manner. Conversation could be quite strained at times and more like a question and answer session with sizable pauses between each question. With all his reflective habits he never made up his mind on a subject. He considered every matter on so big a scale that he had no room left in his head to see both sides of any situation. He would put on a vague mysterious look and shake his capricious head, and exercise profound silence for a little while and then declare that he was quite unsure about the matter in question. This it seemed was a man who was not easily impressed. He had the reputation that any matter that required serious deliberation, because of its intricate detail, would have to be slept on overnight so that he would not be disturbed by external distractions. His face showed neither expression nor any personality whatsoever. He took his three designated meals always at the same time each day and had his morning and afternoon tea in their allotted time slots. He had regular social habits and he was never late for an appointment. He drank the same amount of beer each day and retired at the same time every evening. You could set your clock by his schedule. The cares and perplexities of this world were of no concern to him. He did not have the least amount of curiosity or concern for anything outside of his sphere. Such were the habits of this man. In his whole life there had never been a single instance of anyone being upset by him. It was because of such endearing qualities that he was asked to take over the running of the pub’s darts club.
The first evening after he had been installed in office he was sitting in his usual place at the bar having his usual happy hour drinks when he was interrupted by the senior vice president who was the first person that all complaints and disputes went to. A very important person in the darts world. Allen complained bitterly. He had found that one of the members was using non regulation darts that were not only heavier but longer and therefore gave a truer flight and subsequently more accuracy and an unfair advantage over his opponent. The president did not like his regular habits disturbed, particularly his drinking habits. But he listened attentively to what his vice president had to say, smiling condescendingly and nodding his head in agreement whilst continuing to sip on his beer. A sign that he understood the story. He then asked that the two disputing parties be brought to him with the darts in question. Both men came to the bar and each produced their respective sets of darts and their written formal complaints, which would have taken a High Court judge to work out. Our wise adjudicator took each set of darts along with the formal complaints and held one set with its complaint in the left hand and the other set of darts with its complaint in the right hand and then moved each hand up and down testing the weight of each. Then he put each set, with complaint, carefully on the bar. He then sat there for a full 30 minutes without saying a word, slowly sipping his beer. When he had finished drinking his schooner he slowly indicated to the barmaid that he would have another because he always had three. When Helen had placed his fresh beer on the bar and with all the gravity and solemnity that this matter before him deserved, he pronounced that having carefully weighed up both sides of the dispute along with the paperwork both parties were playing with their own darts and both sets of paperwork were in order and therefore it was the final opinion of the committee that the equipment was equally balanced therefore both players should continue as they are and to play with the darts of their own choosing. This well thought-out indecision once made known to the rest of the inhabitants of the pub, that night, gave rise to some raised eyebrows, shock, hands in the air and much amazement and even disbelief in what had happened. But the best thing to come from this indecision was that not another complaint was brought before the darts committee for the whole three years that this wise man was in charge and the office of senior vice president fell into such disuse that there was no longer any use for it and it was discarded. This transaction was deemed to be one of the most far-sighted judgements in living memory.
“What ever happened to our hero?
“Well” said my new friend Mark “what happened was that he went into politics and of course there he never has to make a decision, he never has to make sense and can stay there as long as he likes. So true to his form nothing ever happens here, nothing ever gets done here; no one knows we are here. This is why people travelling through can come to a small place in the middle of cane farms and sit at the bar of a rustic old pub badly in need of repair with no amenities, people flaunting political correctness and think it is charming and quaint and spend money in our town. If it would have been any other way we’d probably have one of those brand-new hotels with facilities and clean floors and nice rooms, proper showers, flushing toilets and all those fancy things that people in the cities have and we locals wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for the beer and much less afford to live here. Yes, he’s a great man.”