Magazine article The Spectator

Fighting Talk

Magazine article The Spectator

Fighting Talk

Article excerpt

The gym attendant is giving me private boxing lessons for ten quid an hour.

He used to box for the army. He candidly admits to having perfected one combination only during his short career: a left to the ribs followed by a right cross to the head. It was his secret weapon. It either worked or it didn't, he says. His squashed hooter testifies to the occasions when it didn't.

If he sees me in his gym, he comes out of his office and straps weights to my ankles.

I feel like a fool trudging around the place like a deep-sea diver on the ocean floor. But he's obdurate. If I'm going to learn how to deliver a combination, I'm going to need legs, which at the present moment, he says, giving mine a quizzical, sidelong glance, I ain't got. Afterwards, however, when I'm showered, and with the weights removed, I feel as if I am indeed floating like a butterfly.

And it was in this condition that last week I bumped into Trevor outside the Silver Grill fish and chip shop. He was in his labouring clothes scooping chips into his already full mouth.

Though entirely self-taught, Trev is well respected locally for his punching, even by those law-abiding citizens who abhor violence and are generally in bed by ten with the latest Ian McEwan, but none the less like to keep themselves informed about local grass-roots politics. There's a growing perception that he's mellowed lately:

a perception that Trev, his legendary status assured, likes to foster. No longer the harum-scarum two-fisted farmboy feared by everybody except his old Mum, he sees himself these days as a kind of unofficial town mayor who smashes in people's faces only to right wrongs.

I heard about Trev before I met him.

About five years ago I went out with this woman who talked endlessly about this violent bloke that she used to live with.

They'd lived together for years. He'd loved her. He'd never once hit her. She'd taught him to read. She'd liked it -- no, loved it -- that she lived with a man who could use his fists. He'd taught her everything she knew about life and about cars. He was a mechanic. Mechanics were real men.

Normally she wouldn't dream of sleeping with someone who wasn't mechanicallyminded. For me, however, she'd decided to make an exception. …

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