I knew we would have to end it sooner or later. We could not keep up the clandestine meetings. One day one of us would have to walk away. I did not want to be that person. I put the blame squarely in the court of the Golf Police. He needed to call the shots.
Rain brought an end to the sunny days of summer, when blue skies and sun block seemed the right of fairway walkers. When the mighty oaks offered welcome shade and broom seeds popped in the heat of the mid day sun. And then the barometer dropped and the weather forecast showed low fronts and prolonged precipitation.
The fairways, long parched, bare and brown slowly returned to their natural colour. Green was back. Bounce was eliminated from the game, fairways held and the greens were receptive to the high ball attacking the pin. Green keepers took their eye off the water meter and turned it back to bunkers and general maintenance.
“So no golf then?” said Daughter No. One, over the breakfast table. I checked out the knuckles and neck. She was right on both counts.
“Lots of things to be done” said the Golf Police, reeling off a list of long neglected chores.
But I had my own agenda. My own list of chores. I turned my back on the fairways and went to the shopping mall. Bought some new studs for the golf shoes. Replaced the Ipod and danced the undamaged fingertips over the key board of the sparkly lap top.
“Can I help you?” said the sharp suited salesman. I looked at his shiny shoes, pink tie and brown eyes. And then I looked back at the lap top. Exquisite. Divine. Shiny. Maybe the Salesman could lend me the grand it said on the price tag. Maybe he could drive the get away car for a bank job to raise the funds. Maybe he could knock one of the digits off. But life, like golf, is full of unanswered ‘maybes’ and ‘what ifs’.
“Just looking” I said and headed off to the bed department. The hooker was in his usual place, hovering between the memory mattresses and the medium to firm.
“Good to see you back” he said.
“It has been a week” I said plonking my bag and body on the nearest bed.
We went over the merits of springs. Again.
I could cover his shifts on his days off.
Mattresses. Soft, firm and medium. We lay on the bed together and talked about the chances of the All Blacks winning the world cup and how the Boks performed in the Tri –Nations.
We moved methodically through the beds. I read Shakespeare’s sonnets on the medium to firm while the hooker went off for his coffee break. And then we took off were we left off. Bounce, springs and divans.
And far away the Swindle threw the balls in the air and took on the fairways. Sid was still slicing and Big Rich pulling into the trees. Pancake liked the soft fairways and his ball homed into the stick and the putts rattled into the cup. Ruggy played a mixed bag of good and bad and they shared the winnings out over a bowl of chips and a beer. The Sheriff played a thirty six holer on a parkland heather course. He tangled with the heather and saved his wrists but not his score. Or his pride. Their fairways. My shopping mall. When the feet were weary from the pacing the stores, it was time to head for home.
“Good day?” said the Golf Police, looking for evidence. The socks were still odd and the shirts still creased. The mop had yet to hit the floor and the polish was still in the cupboard. The remote was back in its place and the golf channel switched off.
I ladled the beef casserole onto the plate. Served with cabbage and carrots. The meat had simmered for three hours. The onions were chunky and the gravy thick. Followed by apple crumble and custard.
“There are some compensations from not playing golf” said Daughter No. One. “No carbonized supper. No smoke alarm gastronomy”.
“Enjoy it” I said. “The knuckles will heal soon”. Outside the rain hammered on the window pane. We spoke of beds and hookers. Springs and divans.
“So how much were the beds?” said the Golf Police. Between the hooker, sonnets, and balls oval and dimpled, the price had been overlooked.
“ What price would you put on a night’s sleep and anyway, the hooker says he wants you to lie on it before reaching a decision”. Outside it still rained.
At the weekend we had a date by the seaside. A family lunch overlooking a long pebble beach and distant views of France. A gathering of loved ones whose souls were soaked in sea spray and cliff tops. Boats and sails. Port and starboard, bow and aft. Rigging, reefing and racing. But the boats and kayaks were kept on their moorings and stored by the log shed.
“Force six” said one of the sailors, watching the waves crash onto the pebbly shore. So we wrapped in fleeces, ate the sumptuous fare and played deck quoits.
The seaside house was wedged between two golf courses. One was tight to the shore line and the flags blew at the horizontal and only a few hardy souls had ventured out. They stood against the wind. Small silhouetted figures buffeted on the tee. The balls danced on the wind and few found the narrow fairways.
“Mad aren’t they?” said a voice in my ear. My brother. Kindred spirit. Fairway walker. Caddy, wingman beyond price.
“We won some good matches didn’t we?” I said softly and we traded smiles. And memories of walking in the sun, when the broom seeds popped and the sunk sank in the west. Taking on the opposition and never quitting or throwing in the towel. When failure was not an option and tenacity won the day. Every time. Except when the handicaps were an outrage.
“Remember Mr. And Mrs. Whinge who had ten points after three holes? And still whinged…”
“Remember it well, sis. Refused to buy them a drink after they refused to look for our ball”…
“Remember the day of the final when the Golf Police came to watch. Brought his mobile and some crisps”…….
“Remember the day we were level after sixteen and we upped the pace. Caused a bit of cardio vascular exertion for the Opposition”……
Remember the day it was a match against someone who resembled Hagrid out of Harry Potter? Could rip down forests before lunch? Could arm wrestle the whole of all All Black Front row”……
“I remember the day, sis. You couldn’t chip. She should have been toast by the sixteenth. “You just needed to get the ball near the flag”. I remembered his words.
“ Don’t quit on the shot”. I quit and the ball came up short. Every time. And the match went to the twenty second hole.
“All because you couldn’t chip”…..
We reminisced as the wind blew on the shore line and the waves crashed down on the pebbles. A line from the Bard’s sonnets – ‘like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore’ flitted across my mind’s eye.
“Remember when we finished our round in the dark one summer evening and got a letter from the Committee.
I regret to inform you that The Captain saw you incorrectly dressed on the eighteenth green. He and his guest were distressed to see your guest was incorrectly attired.
We trust this will not happen again.
I wrote back.
Sorry to learn of the distress caused both to yourself and your guest on the evening of……
You were quite correct in your assumption that my guest was incorrectly dressed.
There were, however, mitigating circumstances. It was an exceedingly balmy evening and upon removing his sweater, my guest realized his shirt was sans collar. As it was almost nightfall, we trusted the transgression would go unmissed.
However, we trust the opportunity of witnessing two well executed birdie putts soothed your furrowed brows.
The letter did not amuse.
And then there were the matches we loved the best. When we went head to head or just walked the soft fairways for a late evening game before the sun set. Sometimes just a practice before a big match. Dropping a few balls down and trying different shots.
“Remember when we were practising and I took a six iron on the 13th, to see if it was the right club”.
We watched the ball leave the clubface. It was sweetly struck. And we watched it drop onto the green and into the hole.
“That would be the right club then, sis”. We laughed and high fived.
Spring, summer, autumn winter. When others stayed at home, we took on the elements. Wind burnt or rain lashed. Sunburnt on the links. Our place between the margins of the grass and the clouds. Kindred spirits beneath the sky. Dimpled ball chasers. We chased birdies and heard pheasants call from the woods. Watched the timid deer nibbling grass on a blue streaked dawn. Walked by the heron, statue still amongst the misty reeds and the fox slink from the long grass. Saw brambles frosted white in winter, arcing like cathedral roofs.
Fairway walkers, who heard the broom seeds pop and saw rainbows arch across distant hills with their promise of pots of gold. The carefree days, before sorrow intervened and the fairways never called again.
We traded smiles. We had left our footprints on the fairways, between sunrise and sunset.
“You going to stop talking about golf?” said the sailors at the little seaside house, wedged between the golf courses and the English Channel. We were outnumbered and called it quits.
After lunch, the kite was taken onto the beach, instead of the kayaks. And the 4.9 metre kite flew high above the pebbles and the shore line. It rose above the waves and tangled with a rainbow and the clouds. And nearby, the wind wrapped figures on the fairways fought to keep their ball low and their putters on line.