It turned out that Ruggy was right.
The festive season was coming in a variety of shades and colours.
Snowy. Starlit. Joyful. Sad.
Green Trees. Gold Trees. Black Trees.
Turkey. Goose. Nut Roast.
Candles. Cards and carols.
Christingle. Nativity and Midnight Mass.
Stockings, sleighs and snowflakes.
Cranberry, chestnuts and crackers.
The Golf Police and City Girl had full diaries. Christmas lunches. Christmas drinks. Christmas parties. Clients. Customers. Friends.
I checked the diary in the kitchen. Just one Christmas lunch. A round of golf, followed by prize giving, roast turkey and crackers.
I shopped, wrapped and slept. Wrapped, slept, shopped. Stayed ahead of the game, the gridlock and shopping mall queues. And always there was the light on the Christmas tree. The bright star. The Swindle Christmas lunch.
The date grew closer. Prizes were bought and teams drawn out of a hat.
“I’m ready for Christmas” said Rich. “I’ve even made my Christmas list”.
“It’s not all about the presents you know” Ruggy said
“I know” he said. “It’s about roast parsnips and sprouts”.
“It’s about giving” said Ruggy.
Rich didn’t look convinced.
Christmas came as a surprise to the Golf Police. Every year. A mysterious celebration which managed to creep up on him every year. Less forward planning. More crisis management.
“So what do you want for Christmas?” he said.
Clues had been left. Mentioned in conversations.
“Surprise me” I said.
He sighed. Wrote a card. And sighed.
Between lunches, City Girl sent him a text.
We need to go shopping xx
He read the text, made a note in his diary and went back to his reports. Blackberry. Deadlines and phones.
I cleaned the clubs and laid out the hand warmers and thick socks for the Swindle Christmas Bash. Prizes. Lunch and mince pies. The chef was on board and the turkey had been ordered with the Christmas pudding and mince pies. The crackers were red, the wine chilled.
“Looking forward to it” said Gus.
“Should be good” said The Sheriff. “Teams are well balanced”.
No one knew one team would be one man down.
Busy vicars laid out their vestments to celebrate the birth of the Baby in the Manger. Ahead lay the carol service, Christingle and Midnight Mass. Mince pies and mulled wine.
Churches aisles were decked with holly. The figures of the shepherds and three Wise Men dusted down and placed in the Navitity Scene by the font. In shopping malls, customers fought for the last parking space. Queued for the last turkey, to the strains of Peace on earth, goodwill to all men.
Soon Mary and Joseph would learn that the inn was fully booked. They were not the only ones to be in for a shock.
Temperatures plummeted, pavements glittered with overnight frosts.
Cards posted, presents wrapped. The house was tidy, decorated with red and gold and a big tree twinkled. Christmas was in the bag. Peace on earth.
And then the boiler broke.
“It will have to be fixed before Christmas” said the Golf Police. We threw extra duvets on the bed and scrapped the ice off the windows.
I made the call. They were busy.
I told them we were desperate and cold.
“Fit you in when we can” they said.
We threw another log on the fire and huddled round the flames. Scraped the ice off the windows.
Went to bed in hats and thick socks.
“I can’t live like this” said City Girl, heading out the door to a cold platform and warm office.
The Golf Police slithered on the ice. I was home alone. With thick socks and the fire for comfort.
The Gas man rang.
“I have had a cancellation” he said.
“A couple are getting divorced. Decided not to have the boiler replaced. You can have their slot”.
There was only ever one date in was going to be. I rang The Golf Police.
“Can’t do that date”.
I scrapped the ice off the window, opened another hand warmer, then sent the text.
Sorry can’t make the golf. Will be there for lunch
Rich texted back.
Boiler being fixed.
What about our team?
The team played one man down. It rained. The Swindle put their heads down, their brollies up and went out to do battle.
The boiler was finished at 15.30 hours. I made the Christmas lunch.
Five courses. Crackers and prizes.
The course had played hard, the points were low. Fingers frozen in the bleak mid winter.
“So how was it?”
The faces round the table told the story. Wind blasted by the rain.
“We would have won with you” said Gus. “Hard being a man down”.
“Next year. We’ll get them next year. What does everyone want for Christmas” I said.
We went round the table. A Golfer’s Santa Special.
Big Rich wanted a lower handicap.
The Sheriff wanted to drive straight and have a new car.
Sid wanted to get rid of his slice and have a hair transplant.
Gus wanted to play to low single figures and be five inches taller.
Michael wanted his handicap to go up.
“Too hard” he said. “Playing off 3”.
Ruggy wanted to find some nice golf shoes and get down to 11.
“Maybe you could practice?” suggested Gus.
“And what about you?” said Sid. “What do you want for Christmas?”
“I’ll get back to you on that” I said
We left the clubhouse with its frosted fairways and travelled our different ways in the dark.
When I got home, the house was warm and the tree twinkled.
Last minute cards were posted. And then it snowed. Again.
Silent flakes dropped from the snow laden sky. The fairways hid under the flakes. Along with roads and run ways. Passengers camped at airports as planes remained in bays. Commuters slept in trains, motorways silent.
Supper was eaten to the sound of carols. Shepherds’ pie and peas. Blackberry and apple crumble. With ice cream.
“So what do you want for Christmas?” said the Golf Police.
I thought about the question which Sid had asked earlier. I thought about the Christmas list with all the golf bits. The new driver and the waterproof bag. The new shoes and the golf lessons. Tickets to The Open and Paul McGinley’s Putter. A trip to Ireland and another to Gleneagles, where thick creamy porridge is served in silver platters. Where golfers seldom conquer the courses of James Braid.
I thought of a swing which repeats, putts which never miss. A Scotty Cameron putter. Limited edition.
I thought about the sparkly lap top and the bed of dreams.
And then I thought of those who never made it home for Christmas. And I knew Ruggy was right. Between the sprouts, the presents and the Baby in the Manager, the message of Christmas sometimes gets lost.
I thought about our thespian coming home for Christmas and a lady who loved us and made lemon drizzle cake.
I thought of the Swindle and the camaraderie on the fairways.
Outside it was silent. It softly snowed. Inside, the boiler hummed quietly and logs crackled on the fire.
I looked at the tree, decked with red and gold. With its gold pasta heart and battered Robin, sitting on a branch by a bright red bauble.
The cards on the mantlepiece, while on the radio, the much loved carol “In the Bleak Mid-winter” played in the background.
I thought of friends, loved ones, snow bound strangers far from home.
“I have what I need” I said to my Golf Police and in the corner the lights twinkled on the tree.
Nollag Sona (Irish)
Feliz Navidad (Spanish)
Buon Natale (Italian)
Gluckliches Weihnachten (German)
Joyeux Noel (French)
Onnellinen Joula (Finnish)