The Golfer and the Burning Ball

woodyThe Golf Police was not happy. The incident with the coal bucket and golf ball was the final straw.

“I’m ordering a skip tomorrow” he said .

I need to get to my tools without breaking my neck on your golf gear.  I want my garage back”.

“More tea?”

I put the kettle on.

“Shall we do it at the weekend?”

It was a bitter January day. The bins were on the drive, waiting to be recycled.  Plastic, glass and tins and yesterday’s papers with yesterday’s headlines.

Friday” he said.  “I have got the day off. Be good if you were around to help”.

We traded looks over the breakfast table. Half eaten bacon, egg and grilled tomato. Toast, marmalade and tea. A breakfast which had slipped past the New Year Resolutions and unforgiving scales.

Annie Lennox was singing on the radio. ‘Pattern of My Life’. Outside it had started to rain.

I had been ambushed. There would be other battles ahead.    I sent the text.

Can’t make golf on Friday.  Family stuff x

The reply was sympathetic.

Where is your loyalty? We are casting you out into the outer darkness. Big Rich

The skip arrived three days later. Just after a gold sunrise which tinged the sky pink. The pink became grey, streaked with mauve.

The Skip man was built like Shrek, with stubble and cigarette.

“OK here, Guv?” he said.  The massive chains clanged, as he pressed a lever and dropped the orange skip onto the drive.

“Perfect” said the Golf Police, looking for cracks in the drive.

I watched from the bathroom window as he tapped his watch. The tap which said:

“Where are you?”

“Why are you always late?”

“We have work to do”.

I waved and hung the towels on the hot radiator.  The bathroom smelt of aloe vera and rain forest. A warm, steamy sanctuary.

I threw on my jeans. Two sweatshirts and old work boots.  It was time to face the Battle of the Garage.

Skip-Shrek Man finished his cigarette, secured the swinging chains, pocketed his tip and headed off to his next job.

It did not start well.

“Why did you tip someone who nearly ruined the drive?”

“We wouldn’t need a skip if you didn’t use the garage as a dumping ground”.

I found the old radio.  It smelt of stables and hay and pony nuts.   It blared out from its corner and filled the cracks of silence.

We started at the beginning.  The gardening stuff was easy.  Plastics pots, ceramic pots and cracked pots.  Empty compost bags and old bottle of weed killer.  Broken rakes, twisted forks and a discarded leaf blower.  Old wellingtons, odd wellingtons and forlorn gardening gloves, always searching for their other half.

And then it came to the bag of compost. It had long since been full of nutrients for the plants.  Strong and durable.  It served as an overflow for the golf balls. I knew when the Golf Police grabbed it from the shelf, he was not expecting incoming fire. Of white dimpled balls.

Some found a direct hit.  Others bounced off the fleece and clattered to the concrete floor. Hid in pots and under shelves.

“Time for tea” I said, making a swift retreat.

Two cups of tea with custard creams later, the DIY section had been tackled. Dust sheets and rainbow tins of paint.  Greens and creams and hues of blue.  Duck egg, sky and wedgewood.  Sample pots of yellow.  From sunrise to egg yolk, primrose to pale gold.

Bottles of white spirit, paint brushes stiff in their jam jars, remnants of long forgotten carpet.  They all made their way to the orange painted skip.

The little handmade dolls’ houses, rocking horse and pirate’s galleon all earned a reprieve and stay of execution. Some bits were too sad.  Photos and books  relocated to the loft for a rainy day.  Wine from vineyards all over the world.  Grown on sun drenched slopes in Italy, France, Spain and the New World.  Destined for bistros, hotels and dinner tables with sparkly glasses and crisp napkins. Not a dusty musty garage next to the hammers, screws and nails.

And then came the big bit.  The section between the gardening and tools.  The Golf Section.  Once neatly stacked on shelves and divided into sections. Shoes, balls,bags. Clubs more clubs and  training aids. Waterproofs, gloves and socks. Trolleys. Electric, pull and broken.  All the big boys were represented. Taylormade vied with Callaway, Ping and Mizuno. Ecco took on Footjoy and Addidas. Powercaddy, Sun Mountain. Nike.  A warehouse.  An outpost. A collection.

Somehow it had spread like lava from Mount Etna.  Spread into all the other sections, the gaps and crevices. It encroached on the entrance and exit to the garage.   It had swallowed up the tumble drier, overwhelmed the freezer.

“Maintain your egress” said the Golf Police.

“How am I meant to get in and out of the garage? Find my tools? Find the tumble drier”.

I smiled. This was a man not familiar with an ironing board. A man who guessed where to put the soap and hoped it was the washing machine and not the dish washer.

A man surrounded by the paraphernalia of the dimpled ball addict. Drowning in the lava of balls, bags and batteries.

“Suppose you go and read the paper. Leave this bit to me” I said.

It was not going to be that easy.

“How many golf bags do you need?”

The Golf Police looked at the trolley bag, summer bag, winter bag, half carry set, spare bag for spare clubs.  I was prepared to compromise.

“Four” I said.  We reached a deal on three. The fourth went in to the skip.

“Clubs. How many clubs in a set for God’s sake”.  This was dangerous territory.  The exact number had never been divulged.  The question never asked.

“Well, different courses need different clubs.  I might take a different putter depending on the speed of the greens. 

“But nobody NEEDS this many”.

Tracy Chapman was singing on the radio.  ‘Give me one Reason.

I went through the clubs. A set belonging to my mother.  Another from my brother when we walked the springy fairways and laughed, as the lighthouse  flashed and the skylarks sang.  Days when the white horses danced across the bay, blown on an easterly wind, and the life boat cut across the headland.

The day I ordered the six iron and the set to go with it. Clubs which no longer saw the sun or took divots from fairways.  Now coated in dust and yesterdays’ memories. These were so much more than clubs.

I found a driver, two wedges and a putter.  Bought in haste.  No history. No emotional attachment.  Sacrificial clubs for the skip and Golf Police.

“These can go to the charity shop” I said, handing them to the Executioner.

It was easier dealing with the shoes. Summer shoes, winter shoes, ill fitting shoes.  Worn down shoes and the wrong colour shoes. Spikeless shoes and mud crusted shoes.  Thrown into the skip with a mal functioning umbrella and broken trolley.

“Balls” said the Golf Police.

“There must be over a thousand golf balls” he said.

“Let me do this bit”.

I knew I could save some balls. I knew the difference between a range ball and  Taylor made. A ball which had rattled into the cup on the nineteenth to close out a match.  A ball which had been stiffed to the pin on the twentieth when we had been dormy three and could not buy a putt. A ball which was chipped in to win the Summer Knock Out.  A ball which had travelled to France, survived four rounds of golf and won the tournament. Scuffed but memory coated.  I put the discarded ones back in the compost bag. Special ones were tucked away on the bottom shelf.

The Golf Police’s Assistant came out to lend a hand.

“Are you allowed to bring back balls from the range?”

“There are only a few from when it was raining and I will take them back”.

“But are you allowed?”

“Why don’t you go and make the tea?” I suggested.

Tracy Chapman was on her Bang Bang Track. It had been a long day.

It was dark by the time the clutter and junk had been consigned to the skip.  The garage was in neat sections. Gardening. Golf. DIY.  Egress had been maintained and the tumble drier and freezer were standing proud.

“Looks a bit better” said the Golf Police.

“Now I can access my tools and gardening stuff”.

“And there will be no more balls in the coal bucket”.  

We both remembered the ball and the bucket. It had been a cold night. The fire needed another log.

I’ll throw on some more coal” said the Golf Police.  We both saw the little ball, hidden amongst the coal.  Saw it sail into the orange glowing embers. Heat and golf balls are not a good combination.

“How did that get in there?”

It was not a good idea to come clean.

I remembered the day I knocked something off one of the shelves and balls scattered around the garage. Bounced on the hard floor and one found its final resting place in with the coal.  Waiting for the flames.

Revenge and retribution had been exacted.

Three golf bags swung from the rafters. Two hundred balls had been donated to charity, along with a myriad of multi coloured tees.  But the battle was not totally lost. The vast interior of the de-cluttered garage offered opportunities for the dimpled ball addict.  Room for a full length mirror to check position, stance and posture. A mirror would fit snugly between the spare clubs and the gardening gear. Just.

“I’ll give the garage a final sweep” I said.

Alone, I swept the dust and cobwebs, the bits of wood, sawdust and nails.  And when the bathroom window steamed up and smelt of soap as the Golf Police washed away the dirt and grime, the driver, two wedges and putter were quietly put back with the other clubs.  I retrieved some of the charity shop balls, put them with the others and quietly closed the garage door.  The skip was nearly full. It was time for supper and on the radio in the kitchen, Annie Lennox was singing ‘Pattern of my Life’.