It was a week when money changed hands. Bets were won and bets were lost. Matches on the fairway fought to the last putt on the last green. And green was the colour. Of the team and the dream.
Daughter No. One came back poorer, wiser and winnerless from Cheltenham and the race track where silk shirted jockeys galloped across the finishing line. Not all of them made it to the finish. . Others came second and someone had to come last.
“I picked a great horse for the first race. Shame its jockey fell off” said Daughter No. One.
I had chosen my horse with great care before sending a text.
All the money you owe me on Imperial Commander xx
I had studied the odds and the weather forecast. Knew about the jockey and his mount. Knew his track record. Past champion. The Gold Cup was almost in his stable. It came to nothing, the bookies pocketed the money and booked another holiday. Long Run stole the dream and the Cup.
‘A fool and his money’ as my Grandma would have said, had she witnessed the transaction.
The Irish returned to the Emerald Isle with their winnings and horses and a St. Patrick’s Day hang over.
There only remained the date in the diary. The match in Dublin between the Boys in Green and the Red Rose of England. Fifteen versus fifteen. The oval ball. Two scrums. Set Piece. Open play. The try line. One dream.
“So fancy a bet then?” I said to Pancake after another bruising encounter on the fairways.
He shook hands.
“Should be a good omen playing the week of St. Patrick’s Day”.
“If we lose” I said, “the bet will be honoured, the money paid, but don’t ask me to play in your four ball or speak to you. For a long time”.
“It’s only a game” said Pancake.
But we knew it was more than a game.
“Can’t believe you didn’t take those tickets to Dublin” he said. “Like gold dust”
“I know” I said. “but some things are even more precious than gold dust”.
We agreed to differ and that only left Big Rich and the software for handicaps.
“I will email you” said Big Rich ominously.
“You can’t cut me again. I got cut three shots last week”.
“Leave it to me” said Big Rich. “Leave it to me”.
The winnings were shared out and we left the peace of the club house and became part of the traffic fighting its way homeward.
Supper was cooked and a recipe followed. It was a steep learning curve and improvision was called for when the store cupboard was found wanting certain ingredients. Paprika became turmeric and basil became thyme. It looked pretty.
“I thought you bought the things you needed before you started following a recipe” said Daughter No. One.
I made a note to replenish the cupboard. Supper was eaten and the plates cleared. Improvisation had won the day.
“That was ok” said the Golf Police. “You should try following a recipe more often”.
Bowie was singing on the radio as the dish washer was loaded.
‘We could be heroes, just for one day”. Maybe it was an omen. Maybe the bet with Pancake should be doubled.
I sent the text.
Double the Dublin bet x
Your call. Pancake
Big Rich sent his email before he went to bed. The software had calculated the cuts for the Swindle. Brutual. Cruel. Unforgiving. And Big Rich enjoyed sending the attachment.
It gives me much pleasure to forward the attachment with the handicaps for the swindle. Look forward to seeing you play to it.
I sent one by return.
You do not seriously expect me to play to single figures? Why not just take the money on the first tee. My swing has gone awol. I only score because I scramble and you keep stealing my shots.
Yours, Not amused.
Between the golf the following week there remained the weekend and the chasing of the dream in Dublin.
We travelled down to the seaside and filled the time before the match walking on the sun swept cliff tops and paying quiet homage to The Few who fought in the Battle of Britain.
Gold lettering picked out the names on the black granite slabs.A spitfire and hurricane stood sentry and France could clearly be seen in the distance across the calm water.
“You can see the forests of Hardelot when its very clear” said my brother.
“I know them well. Played in a Pro Am. Lost a few balls there, almost got a hole in one and the Pro nearly self harmed on the last day when his putts wouldn’t drop”.
Above the sky was blue. No vapour trails. No dog fights. No planes heading for a watery grave. Silence. Sacrifice. Memories.
It was a quiet walk back along the cliff top. Nodding daffodils, children meandered, dog walkers smiled in the sunshine
The beers were chilled and the anthems played in Dublin. Only one team could hold fast to the dream.
Pancake sent a text in the second quarter.
My boys are looking good. Bejazzus
We both knew the writing was on the wall and the money as good as in the hands of Pancake. We knew from the first shove of the Irish scrum. From the score board and the yellow card.
We drank our beers in silence and tried not to mind.
The Irish took the honours and delighted their nation.
I looked across to the figures on the sofa wearing their white shirts.
They were not the English Paul O’Connell spoke of when he rallied the boys in green before kick- off. They were not the corporate Hooray Henries with their debentures, bonuses and Bentleys. They were not mythical English monsters of media imagination. Just solid, honest Englishmen. Men who would stand their watch and stand by their family. Who would take their turn in the life boat and be counted. Men who loved the oval ball and the dimpled ball. Men I knew and loved.
“Triumph and disaster, sis. It is only a game and we didn’t show up”.
“I’m going to buy an Irish shirt” said Daughter No. One.
Pancake sent another text and the Welsh were put to the sword by the French.
Later that night, when the embers of the fire were glowing orange we discussed the match and put it to bed. The moon was shining on the still sea and on the nodding daffodils.
We stood in the garden in the dark and looked out at the silver sea and the bright moon. Some distance along the cliff top the names on the memorial would have turned from gold to silver. The little planes still keeping their lonely sentry above the white chalk cliffs. Across the water, the sound of the monstrous guns stilled and the skies empty of pilots and their Spitfires and hurricanes.
“It’s been a good day, Bruv. Have always wanted to see the memorial on the cliff top and the moonlight on your bit of the sea.”
“Well your wish came true then” he said and smiled and squeezed my hand.
We spoke of the front row and line out. The prop who scored the only try for the white shirts and the Irish who fought with pride and passion. We spoke of the dimpled ball. Of swing planes and fairways walked. We spoke of family and memories. Of smugglers and pirates and suppers cooked inside sea weed clad caves and I knew I had made the right call. Best friend. Buddy. Fairway walker. Englishman. The Dublin dream could wait for another time, another year. Pancake could keep his win and his gold dust.
We said our farewells and drove home by moonlight. Bowie was singing his hero song again. I turned it off.
On the Monday the money was handed over to Pancake. With good grace.
“We got played off the park. Out gunned. Out smarted. Out played. By your Green God Driscoll and the team. Even the scrum got hammered. So here are your winnings. Just don’t ask me to play in your four ball” I said. The Golfing Gods were kind. We played in different groups.
“Don’t forget your new handicap” said Big Rich.
“And mind you don’t swing flat. Remember hinge those wrists and turn them shoulders till the pip squeak” said the man from Corke.
The fairways beckoned and we headed out to our golfing destiny.