Looking Up at the Sky

woody2Summer days slipped by, blue skies and long warm evenings.  The Royal Regatta at Henley had been a riot of silk and linen dresses and public school ties. Straw hats and riverside picnics.
Arcane rules and blazers ruled the day and the river, as the mercury rose with the midday sun.  Women and jackets were kept firmly in their place.  Rules, going back 171 years, were not easily broken. Unlike the hearts and spirit of Matt and Marcus, world cup winners, beaten hollow by the French in the double sculls. Americans, Kiwis and Brits slugged it out on the river. Honed- toned bodies, watched by ladies in floral dresses and men in boaters.
Picnic hampers, pimms and crustless cucumber sandwiches. And when the blankets and hampers were packed away, another Blazered Brigade prepared to take centre stage at St. Andrews for The British Open, 2010. The date was ring fenced in the diary.  Four days of uninterrupted golf.
It was time to work on a different aspect of the game. I searched the internet and found the e-book on Amazon. The words wouldn’t go on the Ipod. I tried clicking. Double clicking and dragging between in clicks.  In the end I cursed.
“Give it to me” said Big Rich.
He liked a challenge and knew his right and left clicks. The words were downloaded and the Ipod returned.
“I owe you a doughnut.  Or an eccles cake” I said.
“How about both?” said Big Rich.  The deal was sealed with cakes and a smile.
I played the tracks as I cooked supper. It was played before bed and in bed.
“What are you listening to?” said the Golf Police.  Now was not the time to come clean about the other man in my life.  I switched playlists.
“Kings of Leon”.
“Kings of who?” said the Golf Police
I played it an hour before The Bard’s sun ‘peered forth from the golden windows of the east’. I played it when I hung out the washing and when the wind and sunshine dried the sheets, I had it on replay.
“What’s that you’re listening to?” said Daughter No. One.  Some things are too difficult to explain.  I switched tracks.
“Kings of Leon.  Track Ten. Be Somebody”.
The same band which had discovered the delights of the dimpled ball and forsook the recording studio for the fairways.
“Did you know they like golf?”
“Don’t believe you” said Daughter No One.
I learnt the words by heart until the modulated tones and enunciated vowels of the other man in my life became part of me. Like a favourite song. Or nursery rhyme recalled from childhood.
They were my secret. My other man and his words.  A new weapon in the arsenal for the fairways. Two days and I could take them on the fairways with the clubs and ball marker.   I made a note in the diary to get to the practice ground before the Pro.
I lobbed some supper together and we ate outside, as the sun dropped in the west.  Dotted around the garden, geraniums were bright red splashes in burnt orange terra cotta pots. The hanging baskets Babylon- like with their trailing whites and apricots, splashed with lavender blues. In one of the flower beds, a golf ball lay half hidden beneath the foliage of the mock orange. It looked like a Taylor made which had seen better days.   I made a note to retrieve it before the squirrel buried it for the winter.  In the lawn.
“That was good” said the Golf Police, tucking into second helpings of the fruit.
Water melon, pineapple and mango slices, chilled in the fridge. And between mouthfuls of mango he dropped the first bombshell.
We were off to the Land of the Bard to see the thespian walk the boards.  To weep for the star crossed lovers of Verona. The balcony scene, as Juliet sought her Romeo and King. Lazy days on the river, a pint in The Dirty Duck, before taking our seats to watch King Arthur and his Queen with her crown of bluebells.
The Golf Police dropped the bombshell between the left overs of  mango and pineapple.
“Have had to bring the business trip forward” he said.
“We will have to leave on Wednesday”.
I knew the script and had played the part.  Too many scenes, abandoned in car parks, with only a book and bag of jelly babies for company.
I thought about the date in the diary. My other man and his words.  The practice ground with the Ipod.  I would not go down without a fight.
“Won’t do my back any good being in the car all day.  I’ll get the train up later” I said.
I took the dishes inside, slung them in the dishwasher and googled ‘train journeys’.  I found the train, clinched the deal and saved the day. The golf day. Then I clicked the Ipod back to its original play list and listened.  To the man who was not a King of Leon.
The Golf Police left the house very early. With his briefcase, Blackberry and black holdall. And my suitcase with its shoes and assortment of clothes.  Wash bag, gym gear and books. Jeans, tops,dresses and trainers.
“Can’t believe you need all that stuff just for a few days”.
The pillow and putter had escaped detection and were in the dark interior of the boot.
“See you up there and don’t forget to lock the house up and shut the windows”.
“Consider it done”.
I waited until the car disappeared up the road and headed for the golf club.The Ipod was on the front seat. With the tracks learnt by heart. Analysis. Visualise. Execution.
I beat the Pro to the practice ground, switched the Ipod onto play and repeated the instructions with a club and ball. Things looked good. Everything was going to plan. But the best laid plans seldom pan out as expected.
The balls were put in the cap of Sid and we played as a three ball and a four ball.
“We won’t hold you up” said Ruggy.
“Good. I have a train to catch.  A date with a Queen”.
The three ball hit their tee shots and walked toward the first green.  They played skins and we waited.
When the green was clear, I teed up my ball and did exactly as the voice said on the tape.  I did it for every shot.  Every drive, every approach, every chip and every putt.
“Swing looks good” said Sid.  Only Big Rich knew about the other man in my life, but he didn’t  know about the words burnt onto my hard drive, which danced inside my head.
Analysis, visualize and execution.  The voice which said it was possible to do things as well as the Pros on the Big Tour. The ones who catch Lear Jets and stride the fairways of the world.
Today would be my day.  I would walk like the Pros inside the ropes.
The strike was good. There was a plan for every shot. I began to think like the Big Boys on Tour. Birdie. Par. Par.  But the devil was in the detail.  Between visualization and execution  lurked danger. Sometimes the ball did not play ball.  It missed the fairways. And the devil rode behind our four ball. In buggies.  The Buggy Brigade who pushed the pace of play and never took time to smell the roses or the pines.
I tried to pretend they were a mirage.  A bad dream to be banished into exile. I failed. I gave them a shot in anger and walked off the green with a six. We called them through and avoided eye contact.
And then I remembered the words on the Ipod.  I remembered exactly what the voice said, the bit which came after the visualization, alignment and execution.
“Look up to the sky” the voice had whispered, as I washed the dishes and brought in the washing.
“Look up to the sky” he said as I prepared the supper and stood over the balls on the practice ground.  And so I did.  I looked up to the sky.
I looked up to the fluffy cumulous clouds.  The criss crossing vapour trails of planes heading to their distant destinations.  A game of noughts and crosses played out in the sky by pilots in big planes.
Somewhere a blackbird was singing and the light airs ruffled the oak leaves. The buggies were lost in the distance and we continued our round.
Gus split the winnings with Pancake. Ruggy dashed off to practice her high ‘c’s and harmonies with the choir and I threw the clubs in the car.
I whizzed home.  Showered, changed and caught the train. With three minutes to spare.  The train which would take me to the home of Shakespeare.  The balcony of Juliet with her tears, heartache and death and the pre-Raphaelite Queen of King Arthur, with her bluebell crown. My sparkly star.
And as the train sped through the station and left behind the city, I replayed the track on the Ipod.  I ticked off the things remembered and the things forgotten. The crispness of the strike and the commitment to the shot.   And I knew the pre shot routine had been committed to memory.  It had become my pre-shot routine.  It did not belong to Harrington or Rose. Mickelson or McIlroy. It was mine, but it was the equal of the Big Boys on Tour who walked inside the ropes.
The text came through as the train travelled through the Chiltern Hills.  Before it reached the home of the Aylesbury ducks, with the dreaming spires of Oxford, bathed in the Bard’s ‘Saint seducing gold of the setting sun’.
Can’t wait to see you and hope you like the plays xx
See you soon sparkly star with your bluebell crown xx
The second text came through five minutes later.  As we passed buttercup meadows and sun shimmered streams.  It was from the Golf Police.
Did you remember to shut the windows and lock the door?
There was only one thing to do.
I looked up at the sky.

Looking Up at the Sky

2 Responses

  1. Fantastic piece of writing Sarah, but shouldn’t you be doing the dishes, ironing and housework! Only kidding! I think I know you better than that. Housebuilding well underway, so no time for lunging. St Andrews tomorrow so maybe I can learn to swing properly. I will wait for the next installment

    Russ Burgess July 12, 2010 at 10:10 pm #
  2. Thanks for the praise Russ – i have now become a dedicated cloud watcher on the fairways…. house work – what is that?! Good luck with the house build. Good to have a project! Enjoy your time at The Open. I have booked the best seat and become designated Controller of the Remote. Just for the four days. PS – Don’t let ANYONE see your swing……. Woody

    Woody July 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm #