It was a busy weekend. Family from the other side of the world, heroes and golf. The Golf Police maintained he knew nothing about one and little about the other. But he was wrong.
“It’s in the diary” I said.
In all its glory, the four letter word ‘Golf’ and in brackets ‘For Heroes’. And on the following day – The Kiwi Kid.
“So who are you playing with?”
Some questions are tricky to answer. Time for the summer vacation. The swindle were blown like matchstick ships on the rolling seas. All points of the compass.
Ruggy had been busy inspecting the chefs and cellars at Buckingham Palace before heading off to the South of France. Gus was lounging on a sun bed with the Spaniards and sun block and Big Rich had gone west for fine wines and winding rivers. Lazy sun drenched days. The Sheriff was on sick leave. That left Sid, with his bad knees and The Busman with his sore foot, holding the fairways. Pancake dipped in and out when the family went back to Ireland.
“Just made up the numbers for a team who were short”.
The names had been scribbled on the list. Undecipherable scrawl.
The charity day had come hard on the heels of The Open. Four days of armchair viewing, with the remote taken prisoner. But not even the household of the Golf Police was prepared to argue with heroes.
“I don’t see how you are going to fit everything in”.
The dilemma of the dimpled ball addict. Filling the unforgiving minute. Deadlines. Lists. Projects. It was a close run thing and the heroes nearly got stood down.
Another week of blue skies and summer sport. Ascot, Wimbledon, cricket and golf were consigned to the history books. Oostheizun still went to bed and relived the dream of the Claret Jug at the home of golf. Russ never got the message to Tiger at The Open. I had warned the family.
“If someone called Tiger rings, it’s for me”.
I could have told him about the ‘quiet eye technique’ and why his putts never dropped. Maybe he rang and the Golf Police told him I was busy. Burning the supper.
The Australian cricket team, thrashed by Pakistan at Lord’s, returned home for some extra coaching in the nets and a pounding in print from the press and public.
The Kiwis headed to the Guards Polo Club. A different sort of All Black. One with a pony. The pomp of the regimental bands met the haka head on at Windsor. Fierce chukkas, flying divots and Formula One Polo ponies. Rock bands, clipped vowels, Pimms and the treading down of divots. The war dance was not enough to win the day and they lost in the final to England 9-7. The Coronation Cup would not be on the plane. The Kiwis rubbed down their polo ponies and prepared for the long flight home, leaving behind memories of their haka on the divot strewn grass of Windsor Great Park.
Between sport, I filled the unforgiving minute. The house sparkled,the glasses gleamed. The fridge was crammed with baked tarts, cold meats, strawberries and cream. The sun shone. Presents were wrapped and pirates and galleons awaited the arrival of the visitors from the long white cloud. One day of golf and another of family, sun and strawberries.
Bed beckoned early.
“I need to be up at 06.00hrs” I said, setting the alarm.
The clothes were laid out in the spare room, the golf gear stowed in the car. Lucky ball, marker and socks. The plan was watertight.
The moon was riding high in the sky when the first part of the plan went awol. The peace of the night was fractured by a freight train. Inside my head. I crawled to the bathroom, took some drugs and lay on the bed.
Across the road the security lights played out their nightly performance of a son et luminaire, as the fox criss- crossed the garden on its nightly prowl. The sensors switched the light on and off and it bounced off the bedroom wall. Like the beam of a lighthouse on the ocean. I looked at the clock. 03.00hrs. Three hours before the alarm would scream. I turned my back on the wall and put my head under the pillow.
Three hours later, I crawled from the bed and lay under the shower.
“You are nuts” said the Golf Police.
“You look like a ghost”.
It was probably harsh on the nightly apparitions which flitted around graveyards and haunted castles, whose walls were stained with secret terrors. The dungeons of the Tower of London might have ghosts who could boast more colour in their cheeks. Except for the headless ones.
“You can’t let a hero down” I said and made my way down stairs via the walls and wearing shades.
I declined the bacon butties and caffeine and hid in a dark corner until the clock hands moved nearer the start time. It was a good turn-out for the heroes. A full house for a shot gun start. I took some more drugs and met the team. Sports fanatics who wrote like medics. Men who were as big as door frames. Oval ball chasers. City men with big hearts. An Irish hurler, who knew about Trevalian’s corn and the ship which took Michael away to Botany Bay. They didn’t mind playing with a ghost who took drugs and wore shades. And played off the red tees.
We made our way over to the third hole. A par three. Stroke index seven. Two hundred and ten yards off the whites. Bunkered to the right and undulations to the left. The green was one of heartache and self harm. It was a green which witnessed its share of three plus putts. It was not a hole to start a round. Not when we needed two best scores to count.
“We should have bribed them in the Pro’s shop” said the Oval Ball Chaser.
The shot gun sounded and echoed around my head. Along with the freight train. The strike was good and the pain temporary. There was only one place for the head and that was down and behind the shot.
We walked off with two fours. Four points.
Clubs up and down the land teed up for the heroes. The sun shone and the shades stayed on. The big guys smoked their drives and sunk some putts. And missed some. Not every fairway was found. Not every ball made it to the green in regulation. We never got the hole in one or the trip to South Africa. Or the set of golf clubs. We never won nearest the pin or nearest the pin in two, but somewhere on the parched fairways, the sand of the bunkers and the lost balls, we became a team. A team who played for heroes, who fight a different battle. Dust and sun. Bullets and bombs. Cameraderie and sorrow. Far from home. For us.
We came third. The Big Banker smoked his drive down eighteen and took longest drive. The Irish man lost a few balls but walked away from the red mist. And the Oval Ball chaser, back from Boston and jet lag, found his touch around the greens and sunk his putts. The ghost ditched the shades and made some new fairway friends.
“So how did it go?” said the Golf Police.
Sometimes you just have to be there. In the heat of battle and the midday sun, with a migraine. The big fellas and the Irishman who knew about hurling, lost balls and heroes.
The next day the migraine had gone and the Kiwi Kid arrived with his Auckland vowels and knee high haka. He knew his All Balcks and that Dan Carter wore number ten. Only he called it ‘tin’.
He played with the pirates and found hidden treasure among the trees. He made pancakes and chased bubbles, balls and butterflies. And when he flew back to the land of the low white cloud with his treasure, he left the echo of his laughter and took a piece of my heart. Just for safe keeping. Until the rugby world cup.