It had not been a good week on the fairways. A day’s golf was lost because of the washing machine. It refused to work and the washing remained soggy and full of soap. The machine fault coincided with the recession. Times were hard. Credit was tight. Debt had to be downsized.
I offered to do my bit. Cut back where I could and that included a malfunctioning washing machine. I ignored the problem and looked the other way. When everyone got detergent allergies, the problem needed a resolution.
“I’ve arranged for an engineer to call on Wednesday” said the Golf Police over porridge.
“Wednesday?” I said.
“Is there a problem? There’s nothing in the diary”.
Golfers don’t write things in diaries. The dates are etched on the hard drive. They are the carrot at the end of the rainbow, when stuck in gridlocked traffic or looking at spread sheets.
I play golf on Wednesday. I sometimes manage to play Monday and Friday. I was not going to give up. I rang the engineers and lied. I told them I had an important meeting and would need to leave the house at 11.45hrs. That would salvage time for a swift practice session and nine holes.
Wednesday. The sun shone, the engineers arrived late. They plonked their toolbox down on the floor and balanced their floodlight on the side of the units. The washing machine stood forlornly in the middle of the kitchen floor. Unused. Unloved and full of soap.
“This is it then?” asked the engineer, pointing at the washing machine.
“Correct” I said.
“So what’s the problem then?” asked the Tubby one.“It will assist us with our diagnosis”.
“Soap. It doesn’t get rid of the soap”.
“Have you tried watching it go through its cycle?”
I watch the golf channel. I watch the Open and The Masters.
“No” I said.
“Pity” said the smaller one.
“Where do you turn the water off?”
“Any chance of a cuppa?” asked Tubby.
“Strong and two sugars for me. He has his weak and no sugar”.
“Shine that light in there” said Tubby and crawled behind the washing machine.
“When did you last clean behind here? Pass us that torch from my tool kit” he said “and keep the big light still.”
Tiny obeyed Tubby.
I turned the radio up. Outside the sky was grey and the postman waved and dropped more bills through the letter box. Elbow were singing ‘The Loneliness of the Tower Crane Driver’. Tubby shouted over the radio as he shone his torch into the cobweb corner.
“Can’t believe what I am seeing. Who plumbed this in?”
For once the Golf Police was in the clear.
“Someone who called themselves an Engineer and charged a lot of money” I said.
After much noise and discussion, they crawled out from the back of the machine. Tubby leaned over the washing machine. Water leaked from the pipes onto the floor and the torch shone on the fluff and cobwebs in the recess. He took a slurp of tea, pointed his spanner in my direction and said:
“So do you believe in God or Darwin’s theory of evolution?”
I looked at the spanner and the clock on the wall. Lost for words. He knew his Old Testament from his New, and took his bible to bed every night. The machine waited as he spread The Word between slurps of tea. He went through the disciples, Moses, the Last Supper and the Second Coming. I looked at the clock and said a prayer. I prayed he didn’t tell me he was Jesus. I agreed to read the Proverbs. They finished their tea, fixed the machine, and I waved them off in their white van.
“Don’t you forget to read that book” Tubby shouted over the sound of the exhaust.
With a flourish of his greasy hand, he waved and roared off with his tool kit, lamp and Tiny in the passenger seat. I mopped the floor and disposed of the cobwebs. I grabbed my golf bag and shoes and as I locked the door, it began to rain. There was always Friday……..
I did four loads of washing on Thursday and it was dark before I realized the fridge was fairly minimalist.
“What’s for supper?” asked the Golf Police.
“Wait and see” I said.
He waited, he saw, he crunched. Bubble and squeak and beans by candlelight.
“So what are your plans for tomorrow?”
I crunched on the squeak and tried to buy time. It’s Friday. I play golf on Friday. He takes advantage of the silence and lands the killer blow.
“Can you deliver some files into the office and pop in to see Mum?”
‘Pop in’ is not strictly accurate. She lives on the coast. A return trip of one hundred and forty miles. I try to say no but inside there is a nugget of guilt. Golfer’s guilt.
I hear myself agree and the bubble and squeak tastes burnt.
I leave early next morning for the coast and en route throw the files at the receptionist in the office. Despite the concealed speed cameras and the ubiquitous cones on the motorway, I make good time and am greeted with a smile.
“Let’s have a cup of tea, love and a piece of lemon drizzle cake”.
Soon the kettle is boiling and the sun peeps through the kitchen window. The tray is laid with poppy strewn napkins and tiny silver cake forks.
We drink our tea and eat the lemon drizzle cake.
“Your favourite” she said softly and cuts me another slice.
I think about fitting into my Galvin Greens but give in to temptation. We chat about family and her bad leg. I promise to find her another warm cardigan and fix the mobile. She asks whether I know a plumber or someone who fixes washing machines. I ask if she has a Book of Proverbs.
Good time management allows a quick visit to the local golf club. It hugs the coastline and a lighthouse stands on the headland. I know it from childhood and can accurately count the thirty two second intervals before it flashes to the passing seafarers. Out to sea, the lifeboat cuts across the bay and the wind is laced with salt spray. The Pro at the golf club knows me well. He always lends me a club and gives me a bucket of balls to hit before I head back to the motorway. In return I make frequent transactions and add to my overflowing bag of golf clubs. Always a cash transaction. He is a good businessman and knows the rules. He understands about golf addicts and willingly feeds their craving and his bank account.
I head off with my balls and the practice range is a good place to be – just the cry of the gulls and the Lowry figures dotted around the course, bent against the cold Easterly wind. I find an easy rhythm and the ball finds the sweet spot and rides on the wind with draw. I forget about washing machines and motorways. The peace is shattered by the call of FORE and incoming fire. I ring the Pro and he tells me to stand somewhere else. I tell him I have fallen in love with the six iron. He replies it’s a demo and not for sale. I tell him I am taking it hostage and it’s going back up the motorway. We agree to a compromise. He will order me one. I ask him to get the 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and wedge to go with it. We agree a price and decide they will be delivered to my neighbour’s house. This is necessary because of the recent discussion with the Golf Police about the credit and debit and balancing the books.
I crush the little voice of conscience and dissent that is trying to make itself heard. I have kept my part of the bargain. I buy non branded tinned tomatoes and always use the last bit of tomato ketchup. I don’t recall discussing not buying any more golf clubs. The clubs duly arrived. My neighbour was out and the delivery man used his initiative and delivered them straight into the arms of the Golf Police.