The conversation was short.
“But you promised” said Daughter No One.
I tried to explain about the weekend.
“Well just miss some”
I tried to say it was like missing a chapter in a book or an act in the play. The words fell on deaf ears. She brought in the heavy artillery.
“You did promise” said the Golf Police.
I rewound the conversation and tried to make the words come out differently. But it didn’t work. Until I remembered a different conversation. In mid summer on a place tucked away on the moors.
Cliff spoke softly and I listened. It was before the canoe incident and after the bed- in- the- cupboard incident. I had arrived first at the little place which time forgot and checked out the sleeping arrangements.
“How come you ended up with the bed in the cupboard?”
“Seemed the right thing to do” I said
The last chair, the last piece of chocolate, the last tea bag. He watched and one day quietly whispered in my ear.
“Ditch the conscience” he said. And he was right but that just left the problem of the promise.
Outside it was raining and the pavements glittered under the street lights. Spiders spun their webs and in the morning they would be decked with a thousand drops of rainwater and dew. They spun their gossamer threads on the rosemary, between the rows of carrots and the washing line.
The bright yellow begonias hung their heavy heads and the round onions lay on the brick wall, drying before being hung in the shed for the winter. The rain bounced off their thick skins and a bird sheltered under the crimson red rhubarb stalks. The sun ripened tomatoes still hung heavy on the vine. And on the radio David Gray was singing about drawing the line.
‘All our lives we dreamt about it, just to find it aint real.This aint no great Valhalla. Coming closer each turn of the wheel. I never saw it coming……’
I listened to the words. I knew about Vallhalla. The palace of mythology, where warriors feast and fight one another and the slain rise to live and fight another day. And the Vallhalla where we lost the last Ryder Cup. The surge of red on the leaderboard, the charge of the rookies and Bo Weekly riding his driver down the fairway. I thought about other weekends and other years. Sitting in a rowing boat between the willows. A candlelit chateau and a hotel full of dogs and that night I dreamt of promises and boats full barking hounds. And the words of Cliff.
The week had been planned with military precision. From dawn until dusk, each unforgiving minute of Kipling had been filled with allotted tasks. The dentist was slotted in between the service for the boiler.
“So are you watching the Ryder Cup?” said the dentist. I tried to answer between the bits of metal and the polishing drill.
“Good luck” he said as I paid the bill. A down payment for his next skiing trip.
The boiler man never turned up and the Golf Police had more chores on his list.
“Don’t forget to get the printer fixed”.
The printer had worked. Before a fight occurred between the back row forward, the paper feeder and the ink cartridges. It had not been pretty. A fight between man and machine. The spare one had sat on an armchair most of the summer. Waiting to visit the repair shop.
“Get them both fixed” said the Printer wrecker.
The first printer problem was more complex than a paper jam. There had been an altercation with the modem every time a print job was in the offing. The same message flashed up on the screen.
Cannot find the printer.
I left a message on the hard drive.
You won this battle. The printer has gone, with its friend. That is why you can’t see it but it will be back. I need a printer. It is not an option extra. Words are my currency and if you don’t agree on a policy of mutual harmony, you will be toast. The tip is only 1.8 miles away.
Ps Next time I will keep the Golf Police away from your desk.
The computer man said he would look at both printers. He played off nine. Three times a week. His wife did not share his passion of the dimpled ball. She preferred shopping malls to fairways. Shoes and credit card hits to birdies and Scotty Camerons.
“So are you watching the golf?” he asked.
“The remote is almost mine” I said. We smiled and spoke the same language. Par, fairway and standard scratch. Matchplay, foursomes and singles. The long weekend of the Ryder Cup.
“Good luck” I said. We both knew this was not about the printers.
The week passed in a blur of chores. From the first light of dawn. The dawn of Romeo and Juliet –‘ but soft what light through yonder window breaks?’ to the setting of the Bard’s saint seducing sun.
“What are you doing today?” said the Golf Police the day before the Ryder Cup.
“Alarm being fixed. He said between nine and thirteen hundred hours. Lawn mower delivered in the afternoon”. I didn’t mention about the call to the company. To make sure we were first on the hit list.
The Engineer rang the bell before nine o’clock. He knew my passion was the dimpled ball. I knew his was the bike and the open road. We spoke the same language. His mufflers and exhausts to my three wood and wedge. His disc rotors to my balata and backspin. My fairways to his road stretching to infinity.
The burglar alarm was serviced. Zones checked and panic buttons set and reset. Spiders cleared from sensors and entrance and exit tests run and re-run.
“So watching the golf then, are you?” said the Engineer, working round the clubs and gently moving the putter and wedge from the sensor.
“Ask the family” I said. We spoke about his bikes. Two Daytonas and a ten fifty Triumph Spirit.
“Lucky you” I said.
“Got one for Christmas” he said. I knew it was like having three sets of golf clubs.
“Lucky you. I got a potato ricer and some candles”.
When the job was finished, he went off to pay for his bike parts and I went off to the golf club with my one set of clubs.
A fourball better ball stableford. The Sheriff and I took on the bad guys.Our own private Ryder Cup.
“We are the Europeans” I said on the first tee.
“No way” said Ruggy. “We are not going to be the Yanks”.
By the eighth we were four points down.
“We haven’t really done much wrong” I said to the Sheriff.
He tugged his approach shot left and it settled beneath the branches of a birch tree. The leaves were still green and the ball nestled in the grass. And then he spoke words which could have come from the script of Toy Story Three. Not Churchillian about fighting on the beaches, but words which went straight to the heart.
“I need you Woody” he said. Just like the terrified toys as they headed toward the heat of the incinerator and oblivion, watched by the evil crimson bear. I went into the zone. Visualized the shot and ignored the heather clad ravine with its old wooden bridge. The ball landed at the edge of the green.
“Thanks Woody” said the Sheriff. Just like the film.
We got two points back by the tenth. A birdie on the par three thirteenth and nearest the pin. In the end it went to the wire. Ruggy had a birdie putt on the eighteenth but it lipped out.
“So a win to the Europeans” I said. “A good omen for the weekend”.
“But we weren’t the Americans” said Ruggy. “And you kept doing that high five stuff. We were more reserved”.
“Someone had to be the bad guys” said the Sheriff
We divvied up the winnings and worked out strategies for the weekend as Big Rich wandered round the wet Welsh grass. We sent him a text.
Just played in glorious sunshine here in England. Hope you took the Galvins x
He pinged one back.
Have started to build the ark x
“Bet he’s found somewhere dry and the cake stall” said Ruggy.
“I will sky plus most of it” said Gus forlornly. “Watch it when the family are out”.
“Can’t believe it’s on Sky” said Ruggy. “I have no chance”.
“What about you” I said to The Sheriff.
“Working Friday and Saturday. Medal Sunday so will catch the last games in the afternoon. And you?”
I don’t intend to lose this battle” I said. “Working on it” and then I told them about the promise. The promise to go and watch the game of hockey on Saturday. The promise versus the conscience.
“Can’t believe I didn’t check the diary”.
That night I cooked bangers and mash with thick onion gravy and apple pie and cream.
“You do know it’s the Ryder Cup this weekend?” I said over the apple pie.
Even the Golf Police knew about the match.
“Might get called off due to bad weather” he said.
“No chance. They have waterproofs”.
“Fine” he said. “But don’t forget I will be watching the rugby on Sunday”.
Sunday. The last day. Singles. The Captains would have chewed their nails off. Putts would have been slotted. Matches lost, won and halved. Points on the leader board. Red versus blue. Bunkers beckoning, beers supped, hot dogs munched and a multi coloured sea of umbrellas. Soggy socks and rain swept caddies fighting to keep their Boss and clubs dry. Camera men fighting the elements for the perfect angle and perfect shot. Copy wired to Editors and pictures sent around the golfing world. A match to the wire. Triumph and disaster. Just as Samuel Ryder wished all those long years ago. The little cup with Abe Mitchell destined either for Europe or the Yanks. David Gray was right. This was no Valhalla. Celtic Manor instead.
“No problem” I said. “No problem”.
The equation of the conscience versus the promise had become a battle of oval ball versus the dimpled ball. This time the weight of the scrum would have to concede. Just once.
The beds were changed and the towels fresh from the tumble drier. The house sparkled and the fridge groaned with meals for the next three days. Then I tied up the final loose end.
I checked with the neighbour that the Golf Police could watch the Tigers take on the Harlequins on Sunday afternoon.
“Fine” she said. “I will have the kettle on and a nice slice of cake”.
The scene was set. The promise would be kept and the conscience ditched another day.