Somewhere between the moon and the blue grey dawn, something was realized in the long watches of the night. Something which could not be shared with the Golf Police. Not yet and maybe never. There was no going back. I stole quietly out of bed, crept downstairs and made a note in the diary. In code.
Outside it was still dark. The temperature had dropped and the rooftops were frosted white. The sky was clear and a cat stalked its prey in the undergrowth. A solitary spider spun its web between the rhubarb stalks and the owl listened to the silence. The kitchen floor was cold and it seeped through my toes. Sleep and the pillow beckoned and I returned to bed.
The Golf Police stirred, turned over and continued with his dream of slabs of medium to rare beef, served with horseradish sauce and golden Yorkshires. Followed by trifle.
Halloween fell at the weekend. The little goblins, ghosts and witches did not know about the origins of Halloween. Its roots long lost in the mists of time. A festival celebrated by the Celts to mark the dark winter which followed the light summer months. The little witches did not know about the lost soul of Jack. Who carved a cross on a tree and tricked the Devil. Pancake knew about Jack.
“Me granny told me” he said. “Jack got trapped between two worlds. In Ireland they carved turnips and lit them with a candle. To guide Jack’s lost spirit home.”
“So why the pumpkins?” said Big Rich.
“Easier to carve than a turnip” said Pancake. And thus another nugget of wisdom was shared on the fairways, between the front nine and the back nine.
And on the eve of Halloween, witches, goblins and ghosts knocked on dark doors, lit by lanterns and carved pumpkins. They dipped into the cauldron of goodies and ran back down the drive, with their fists full of sugary delights. Another knock. Another witch. Another treat from the black cauldron. And then it was time to batten down the hatches. Blow out the candles and put away the sweets. Another sort of Halloween spirit was abroad. Six foot hoodies, armed with eggs, flour and attitude.
Monday dawned bright and sunny after a sharp frost. The leaves were coated sugar white and in the silence of the morning, they could be heard dropping from the trees. Falling frosted leaves.
The sun rose, low in the sky and caught the dew on cobwebs and the upright blades of grass. Sun rays lingered on the trees and set Nature’s palette alight. The reds, golds and browns of Autumn.
The house hold swung into action after the weekend. Showers, straighteners and shirts. The Thespian took her script and the remaining Halloween booty to share with Romeo, Juliet and Mercutio. The loyal nurse and the Capulet Gang.
Daughter No One was running late. Fresh from fluffy towels , she left for her train.
“Don’t forget you are coming to watch hockey on Saturday”.
The door slammed. I had other plans for Saturday. Something which could not wait nor be put on the back burner.
The swindle took to the fairways. Drove from tree lined tees to receptive greens. The balls dodged the dancing wind blown leaves which had fallen on the fairway from the oaks. Nutmeg brown leaves and falling acorns. A few balls were left beneath the leaves to be found by other golfers. Zipped in their golf bags and hit with a push, a pull or a slice. Until they too lost their way amongst the fallen leaves and waited to be found by another dimpled ball addict.
After golf and before supper, the call was made. Another squiggle in the diary. A squiggle which told about hope. And Will. Not The Bard Will with his winter of discontent and once more unto the breach rallying call of King Henry. A different Will.
The Golf Police showered and headed west. He left early before Daughter No. One drained the tank of hot water. Before anyone attempted to engage him in conversation. He preferred the solitary silence of the early morning. Just a bowl of porridge and quiet contemplation.
He left before the thespian draped towels on the flooded bathroom floor. The thespian who had returned from the boards of Stratford and home of the Bard. Packed up her room in the house overlooking the ferry and the swans. The house of parties and hangovers. Bikes in the hall and tea towels on the line. Scripts on the table and beer cans by the door. Press night. Previews. Reviews and last night. A house of memories. Of thespians and the white swans of Stratford.
The porridge bowl was near the sink. Milk spilt on the work top and a hastily scribbled note.
Have a good day. Don’t forget to sort out the chimney sweep and the computer.
I made the call.
The chimney sweep was busy.
“It’s my wife’s birthday” he said. He was friendly, chatty, busy. By the time I knew what present he had bought and the name of the restaurant, it was too late to try another sweep.
“Can we put it on the back burner?” he said. A date was agreed and he went off to Paris to celebrate the birthday of his wife.
The computer was more complex. The back room boys asked difficult questions.
“We can probably fix this problem and talk you through it”.
“Who is your ISP?”
“Internet service provider?”
“What’s the password for your Wifi?”
“Have I got one?”
“Has anyone moved a directory containing programme files?”
“What is a directory?”
They gave up. Admitted defeat and called the next day. They knew their stuff. They communed with the computer between cups of tea. Strong. Black and three sugars. When they weren’t speaking to machines, they were surf dudes who rode the waves and answered the call of the ocean. Tousled blond hair, golden tans and easy smiles. They worked to live and ride the surf.
“So you’re a golfer then?” they said looking at the fruit bowl. We spoke about fairways, tides and currents. Wind and weather. My four club wind to their big waves. They ate all the biscuits, smiled and went on their way. But I never told them about Will.
And when no one was around. I kept the appointment written in the diary. The man with humbug coloured eyes listened carefully. He waited until I finished and then we spoke. About Will.
The Golf Police returned with the blackberry and briefcase. He ate the carbonized bangers and mash. Served with thick onion gravy.
“Any pudding?” he said. It had been a long day. I gave him choices. A banana or an apple.
“When is the sweep coming?”
“Not for a while”.
I told him about the sweep and his wife’s birthday. In Paris. I told him about the present he had chosen and the restaurant recommended by a friend. I told him the sweep couldn’t make it for a while.
“So why not ring another one?” This was more than just about the sweep. This was about the black banana.
I threw the skin in the bin and put another load of washing in the machine. I caught up with some paper work. The Golf Police found the remote and the oval ball on the flat screen.
The thespian returned from rehearsals. The sweets had all been devoured by the Capulet Gang.
On the golf course it was dark and still. Trees the colour of fire by day. Bushes brighter than the burning bush of Moses, now silver in the moonlight. Balls lost by Sid on the third and sixth and thirteenth, still hidden under the leaves of russet reds and golds. The butter yellow and the nutmeg brown.
The chimney sweep had caught the train to Paris and found the hotel with its marble fireplace and marble stairs. Ornate mirrors and chic receptionist. He took the cases up to the room, tucked in the bottom of the case was the present for his wife. Wrapped in red and gold paper.
And I lay in bed and listened to the distant hum of the washing machine. I thought about the hockey match which clashed with the rugby. Northern hemisphere versus the southern hemisphere. The Rose against and the mighty All Blacks. The hakka versus Land of Hope and Glory. The tattooed centre pairing of the Kiwis and the legend of Carter wearing the Ten shirt. The hockey would have to be put on the back burner.
I thought about the pumpkins with their candles and wondered whether Jack’s lost spirit had made it back home. Lastly, I thought about the man with humbug eyes.
I had told him everything. I told him things I had not told the Golf Police. I told him about the last stableford. The nightmare in the middle of the round with missed fairways and putts. The card which meant going up .1 and going up a shot.
“I haven’t said anything at home. There never seemed to be the right moment. And it wouldn’t mean anything. So I thought you might be able to help”.
“It’s up to you” he said. I looked into his eyes and listened. He spoke about teaching. Standing on freezing cold days as pupils turned up for their lessons. Putting their swing on video and analysing the faults. Working out drills, trying to get them to feel for themselves. And the same people would return month in and month out. With the same faults and the same swing. The swing that went from the lesson to the golf course. To the next game. The next match. The next swindle. A universal truth known and understood by every teaching Pro up and down the land. The game of golf and a good swing was ultimately a two way street. A pact entered into by teacher and pupil. There were no quick fixes.
“Sometimes I feel bad taking the money” he said and looked along the driving range where golfers practiced their slices and hooks. With closed shoulders and weak grips. He sighed quietly.
“You can come here every week” he said. “We can work on things. But you have to go away and practice. Your call. Your choice. Your swing. It’s not down to lucky socks or a band round your wrist. It’s all about will.
And somewhere between the pillow and dawn, I knew he was right. I decided not to tell the Golf Police or Big Rich. I would hug the secret of golf to myself. My games of golf would be earned. The shot would be reclaimed. The swing trusted. The man with humbug eyes was right. It was all about will.