It’s About a Murder, Cariad – Ch. 1. Funeral

mary

Aunty Mary

1 Funeral

 The heavens had opened. It was a black day. Cold. Wet. Thundery. Black. Harsh. Welsh November rain. Clichéd dark black sky.

It was the funeral of Cai Tywysog, twenty three year old golf professional of Mynydd Eimon Golf Club. He had been accidentally shot by Aunty Mary in a freak, premeditated accident involving an army revolver. She had admitted this and everyone believed her. Aunty Mary would never lie.

‘Nice crowd’, my uncle Daniel muttered to me as we stood cold and sodden at the graveside. I looked at him in bewilderment. ‘No!’ it wasn’t a nice crowd in any sense. There were barely a dozen people present even if you included my dead best friend, the gravediggers and the priest. I checked my watch again. We had been here twenty minutes already waiting for the priest to show up. He had disappeared somewhere between the church and the graveyard.

I looked around, again. It wasn’t a particularly nice, or happy, crowd. We were lined up along the side of the grave in the cold, wet rain with not one umbrella between us. For some reason no-one like kids at a school dance – males to the right, females to the left. On the right hand side the four male mourners were staring at the ground looking like a bad marketing idea of reuniting the original film cast of Reservoir Dogs forty years later. Our black suits were, well, disparate. Mine was new and fitted the occasion with style and a certain elegance, if I say so myself. The others looked like they had been dragged out from the back of three ancient wardrobes the previous evening and shoved under the mattress to press last night. The new identical black ties were just… well too new. They were as obvious as something new on an old thing.

The men were arranged in weight order in front of me. First and weighing in at around 10 stone was the headmaster, Dr Pedwar Penn. Pedwar remarked, quite cheerfully, ‘Mae hi’n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn.’ I looked sharply at him as I had a decent understand of the Welsh language but had never been that wonderful at it in school, ironically taught by him. ‘It’s raining old ladies and sticks, so it is.’ I forced a painful pretend smile then looked around. The other sodden faces hadn’t even made that much effort. Next to Pedwar, stood the doctor – Dr Amos Caddoc. Then came Uncle Daniel and finally yours truly. Not that I was the heaviest. I meant the men’s weight leading up to me. I would probably fit somewhere between Pedwar and Amos. I like things to be correct.

I looked up at the bizarre reflective image standing across from us, across the coffin. It was like two teams waiting in a tunnel to run out at Cardiff Arms Park to do mortalish rugby combat. Or, if I looked more kindly it seemed nothing more than the school hall at the first school dance. However, on reflection, I felt the best version would be that if we were on the dexter side of the coffin, the sinister side looked, well, even more ‘from the pen of Charles Addams’. This femina side contained, from the head of the deceased to his shoes; my sister, Seren; my receptionist, Lily, although she preferred the title secretary; Dr Amos’ receptionist, Rose; and the murderer herself, Auntie Mary.

It seemed that from the head end to the toe end of the crate the women had been arranged in age and height order. My sister, Seren was the tallest, and youngest. She looked like the young actress Carolyn Jones in her early days, playing the original Morticia Adams. Next came Lily, who managed to look under dressed and overdressed at the same time in a short black number. Rose looked exactly what she was – an aggressive doctor’s receptionist. Although I gathered, she preferred to be known as a secretary also. Which left the smallest and oldest – Aunty Mary. Aunty Mary was as old as the grave, which was appropriate at this time and withered like an old apple-john. She had always looked this old though. I had known her ever since I was a baby, and she looked ready to pop her clogs then.

Lily was the odd one out of these four sirens, or harpies depending on your perspective. She showed flashes of real emotion. She was sad and sniffing and actually holding back a few tears. This struck me as unusual. In the ten days she had been my unpaid, unasked for receptionist she had been solid and dependable and as emotion-free as the other mourners. Rose held her hand tightly and whispered ‘shh’ a good many times. Seren looked totally pissed off and glared at the sky and the rain. She also glared at the coffin and at Lily every time she breathed. Aunty Mary, well she was just Aunty Mary. She was emotionless, unfathomable, soaking wet and as empty as Satan’s heart.

Two other shapes dressed in Reservoir Dogs attire appeared pathetically holding their collars against the rain. These were two characters I had been forced to attend Balaclava Road School (mixed) with for just over a decade. They were brothers. They were twins. They were twin brothers. They were Dai Proper, the eldest and Dai Copy, the next eldest. I went to Balaclava Road School (mixed) with them for the best part of sixteen years. They looked nothing like each other. They were of similar disposition though – both filled with that traditional Welsh miserablist outlook on life. The outlook where poets write of, ‘Dead man naked being one with the man in the wind and the west moon’. They were both, as my sister, Seren described them, in less poetic terms, ‘as thicker than pig shit and twice as loathsome.’ They worked for my Uncle, Daniel, and ‘helped out’. I dreaded to think what that entailed. But, they seemed to like it. Well, as much as they appeared to enjoy anything in their strange, curious entwined, little lives. They moved together toward the coffin in that oddly affected Liam Gallagher walk they have been practising since they were twelve. Then they separated and locomoted to either side of the coffin. Dai Copy plonked himself between Amos and Uncle Daniel whilst Dai Proper shrugged and elbow a gap between the set of secretaries. They took up the ropes that lay under the coffin and gently, gently, breathtakingly gently they astonishingly, almost scarily, lowered the box skilfully into the hole. The only sound, apart from Lily’s intermittent sobbing, and the quietest of squeaks from the ropes, was the fitful grumbling and cursing of Dai Proper as he worked. With the tiniest bump it was over, the eagle had landed, and they moved away.

We all exhaled as one. I looked up and Father Barry had appeared and was speaking. Father Barry was tall and skinny. He looked like a very tall, angry praying mantis with rain dripping off his nose. He was dressed all in off-white priest garb and had the three day stubble of a tramp, or a reunion tour rock star. He mumbled and looked down, always down. I was mesmerised – not in a good way. He was another Mynydd Eimon person who looked any age between seventy and three hundred and seventy. I was close enough to smell him. He smelt of whiskey, incense and the bible.

He slurred and stuttered and spoke, not loudly nor quietly. He spoke in an apologetic conversational voice that people could hear, but needed to strain themselves to separate one word from the next. If anyone not from the village were listened, which would never, ever happen, they would just hear a drone, a hum of soporific white noise.

The first sentence I picked out was, ‘Man is full of misery.’ With that bombshell he stopped. He looked down at a battered, bach, black indeterminate book. He paused. He looked up expeditiously then back down. He continued, ‘He cometh up and is cut down like a flower.’ He paused again. He put his hand into his pocket and blindly sprinkled dirt onto the coffin. ‘In the midst of life they are in death.’ Another pause. ‘Deliver them not into the bitter pains of eternal death.’ A longer pause as he looked at his book for inspiration. ‘Oh man, thou wert dust and hast returned to dust today.’ He stopped. He looked exhausted.

I recognised that I was irritated and getting more and more and more annoyed. I was wet, not that much of a surprise for someone born in a South Wales valley village, and annoyed, irritated and pissed off. I was annoyed at the fact that I had had to wear a new suit and shiny black tie. I was irritated that Father Barry had taken a long, long time to turn up for the ceremony – thirty three minutes.  I was pissed off with my best friend Cai for dying. Still, I couldn’t blame him really. He was dead. And well it wasn’t entirely his fault. He didn’t ask to be shot.

Father Barry continued, ‘Happy from now on.’ Another pause. ‘Sweat of thy shiny face. Bread.’ He stopped. He looked at the eight miserable, wet faces around the coffin and shrugged apologetically to us. He charged on, ‘We commit the body of Cai Twswygog to the ground.’ He stopped one more time, took a deep breath and charged at the finishing line, ‘earth to earth, dust to dust, eternal to life. Mercy. Bless him. Amen.’

There was a general mumbling, grumbling, rumbling chorus of ‘Amens’ from the mourners. Then a rather too loud ‘A fucking men.’ from Seren.

I needed a cigarette.

 

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Breakfast Tweets

breakfast-in-bed-funny-quotes

Ate 5 cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Don’t care.

Ate breakfast out of a red Solo cup this morning #YesImThatClassy

I don’t know how I ever ate cereal for breakfast, cereal is a snack

Lol I haven’t ate breakfast, lunch, or dinner today. All I’ve had were some fuckin crackers

I jus ate my breakfast for tomorrow

All i ate today was breakfast and cookies bro I’m hungry

3 good things today: kept my food in my stomach, properly ate breakfast, ran for the bus

I ate Pizza for breakfast once, I have no regrets and I’m pretty happy bout it

I ate breakfast at 3:30 and now dinner is ready so…what to do? What to do?

Kenzie and I ate pizza for breakfast and somehow convinced ourselves it was a salad

It’s 1:35 and I haven’t ate breakfast… Now would be a good time to get drunk

I ate breakfast outside today and half the people who walked by said to me “aren’t you cold?”

I just ate breakfast and my dad is already eating lunch wtf lol

update: accidentally ate spam and waffles for breakfast

I ate so many Oreos for breakfast and now I have late onset shame

I was gonna take a picture of my breakfast but i got too excited and ate it all and forgot about the picture

Just ate six cookies for breakfast. The last six cookies. My family hates me

My 11 year old sister got herself up at half six this morning for school, ate her breakfast and then remembered it’s the Xmas hols. Hahahaha

a man on the plane brought 2 sandwiches, one for breakfast and lunch. he ate them both. the flight was 50 minutes. 2 meals in ONE HOUR.

I once ate breakfast twenty feet from Pierce Brosnan.

Emma and Becky keep calling me mom/mum. I slept until 1pm today and ate crisps for “breakfast“. What kinda mother am I???

I can’t tell if I have a heavy heart due to recent life events or the fact I ate like 7 crumpets for breakfast today. Probably the latter.

I’m scared to answer my mother when she asks me what I ate for breakfast

I have to go meet w lawyers all afternoon and im so upset that I just ate a second breakfast

i ate breakfast with an old man and he was eating frosted flakes

I ate breakfast and lunch 10 minutes apart. Never again.

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MYNYDD EIMON – PRIVATE HELL – opening chapter of new book

DAY 1

Sky-red – blood red – falling – hit ground hard – not too hard – office – golf club – red carpet – books and books and books – grey safe – easy money – alone – Cai presence outside – falling – vultures – watching – goading – sneering – flying and falling – flying and falling – “destroy the ungodly” – 6 stars – 6 daggers – 1 angel – 3 sticks, vertical like stumps –  mother – Mary – stick – gopher wood – battered old goose-necked putter – Bobby – Mary – Molly – Malone – cockles and muscles alive alive-o – her ghost wheels her barrow through the streets – “Sam” – “Wake up “ – Run Sam run – “Who built the ark, no-one, no-one. Who built the ark, brother? No-one built the ark”– “Wake up” – Bob – Mary – Sam

 1. the lady confesses

It started with a dame. It always started with a dame. Well sometimes it does. This dame was different and unique – like they all were. She was older, a lot older. She was the treasurer, the golf club treasurer. She was respectable, church-going and old. How old? Very old.

It was an ordinary morning, as they all are until something happens. I was walking along grey and grim Malakoff Street and although I didn’t know it I was about to be asked to investigate the possible murder of Cai Tywysog.

What was particularly unusual about this possible murder was that I had dreamt that Cai was dead. I had also dreamt that the sky was on fire. I was looking out of the window when I saw someone fall from the roof. It was Cai and his face cracked as he hit the ground. I wasn’t sure if the fall had killed him or something had happened before. Neither option mattered too much to him at that particular moment.  I also dreamt about an empty safe. Apparently this could signify loss, lack of security or a secret getting out. Or even an empty safe.

Unsurprisingly I felt a little tense this morning.

I knew that Cai wasn’t dead as I had seen him just five minutes ago. I had been in the corner shop talking to Mrs Evans’ when he had walked in. I picked up my packet of Lucky Strikes and a pint of milk from the counter, gave an assertive nod in Cai’s general direction and walked out of the shop. He looked a little pale, but definitely not dead. I walked to the end of Malakoff Street and turned left onto Alma Road.

Alma Road was quiet. Mynydd Eimon was quiet. Not just because it was a Friday morning, but because Mynydd Eimon was quiet. It was boring. It was dull. Mynydd Eimon was a typical Welsh valley village. It looked exactly the same as any other Welsh valley village at any time since the early Victorian Age. It was grey, cold, dull, quiet – calcified in an indeterminate age. It was home. My home.

I walked slowly toward my office. Perhaps office was a little grand in that it was two small rooms on the ground floor of my house. It didn’t look much like an office but it was. It was the office of Sam Watcher, private investigator. That’s me. I was a bone fide ‘ditectif preifat’. I had a business card and everything.

I smiled at the exquisite lettering on the door of the office, “Samael K. Watcher … Investigations”. I didn’t have a middle name but thought the K added a touch of class. I went to unlock the door to the outer office, formerly a coalhouse knocked through, but found it had already been opened. I stepped inside and looked at my little universe. The room contained an old black Davenport, two old, old, grey chairs, a bit of carpet and two doors – one to the outside, real world and the other to my inner sanctum. Everything was neat and tidy just as I needed it. There was the light grey carpet and dark grey walls. I had designed the room myself based on films I had seen.

What the room didn’t contain was my secretary who I had assumed had unlocked the door. I moved carefully toward my private office and opened the door slowly expecting an intruder. I was correct.

My office and refuge being invaded me nervous. I liked things to be where they should be.  My visitor was a dame. She had moved a chair. I looked around to see if anything else had been disturbed. Her coat and bonnet were hanging on the coat stand. I looked around slowly, carefully.  I didn’t notice anything else. I breathed. The room had a similar colour scheme to the outer office with a larger desk, a fireplace, a Reliable wall safe and a little state of the art, Prestcold fridge, a violated coat stand and a moved chair.

I looked hard at the dame in the chair. She was a frail old woman dressed in a long black dress, grey shawl, and tight bun with a lethal looking hair slide.    From the back she seemed very peaceful as she stared into the empty fireplace.  Her coat and bonnet were hanging up on the oak coat stand near the door and she had made herself completely at home. I walked across the room in a business-like manner and placed myself in my chair behind my desk. I turned my chair to face her. I reached in my pocket to get a cigarette, looked at the dame and thought better of it. I picked up a pen from my desk and started twirling it in my fingers.

I breathed. “Aunty Mary.” I said a little too loudly, “What are you doing here?”

“It’s about a murder, cariad, I’m ashamed to say. It’s about the murder of young Cai, my nephew.”

“Cai!” I feigned astonishment for some reason, “but I’ve seen him just now in Mrs Evans’.”

She thought for a minute. ”Well the murder may not be Cai and anyway it’s not today.”

“I see.” I clearly didn’t. I sucked hard on my pen in a way that I thought may convey serious thoughtfulness.

”So what is it you want from me?” I inquired.

“I need some information, some advice if you will.”

“Shoot”

“How am I looking if I were to murder someone?” she asked thoughtfully.

I sat down and continued working on my thoughtful expression, “I imagine you would be put in jail Aunty Mary.”

“Ah,” she paused, “I thought as much. But what about my soul?”

“Well.” I paused. “That would be one for you and the priest to negotiate.”

She looked disappointed.

“And the soul of the victim?”

“Again your priest would be the one to talk to there.”

“Not you?”

“Not me.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Pretty sure.”

“And I would definitely go to prison.”

I paused to consider the question, “Very, very likely.”

She sighed, “So how long would I get?”

“Probably 10 years or life.”

We both silently assessed who would win that particular race.

“I’d like you to investigate the murder, when it happens. Would you do that for me?”

I nodded professionally.

“Thank you Samael,” she continued as she stood up, “You’ve been very helpful. Now how much do I owe you?”

“Aunty Mary you know I couldn’t take money off you.”

“You’re a sweet boy.” she said as she ruffled my hair and handed me a shilling piece, “Now take it and let’s hear no more about it.”

I took it and helped Aunty Mary put on her ancient grey fur coat and black bonnet.  I shivered slightly then I walked Aunty Mary out.

You can get this book on Amazon and Kindle here (and it’s free through Kindle Owners Lending Library if you’re in that).

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Filed under Golf Writing - disparate, Golff Noir, mynydd eimon - private hell, The Story of Golf, Welsh Golf

“The Germans Wore Gray, you wore blue.”

casablancaHow do you get to be a genius and write lines like these? –

Rick: “Not an easy day to forget. I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.”

Ilsa: “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’. “

Rick: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

There’s a fair amount of dispute about who actually wrote what for Casablanca. It seems that Julius J Epstein, Philip G Epstein, Howard Koch and Casey Robinson were all involved. Even Humphrey Bogart is given the credit for  “Here’s looking at you, kid”. But how do you produce these genius perfect lines? I could never do it in a month of Sundays. Possibly because I use phrases like ‘a month of Sundays’.

How do you produce similes like –

“By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp.” Cormac McCarthy

“I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars.” Raymond Chandler

What about this one, by me – “He was tiny. As small as an underdeveloped baby dwarf ant who had been off his food for a week.”

Maybe not.

It’s context as well. Casablanca is set in …. well Casablanca. Transfer this to Risca and –

Ilsa says, “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By'” would change to –

Blodwen says, “Play it, Dai. Play ‘Guns Don’t Kill People Rappers Do'”.

Local Welsh similes and idioms are often quite harsh or simply baffling –

“She had a face like a robber’s horse.”

“He was as angry as ten bears.”

And some of the idioms are particularly strange –

“It’s raining old ladies and sticks.” (“Mae hi’n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn”)

“Don’t lift a petticoat after peeing.” (“Paid â chodi pais ar ôl piso” )

The English equivalent of “Don’t lift a petticoat…” is ” Don’t cry over spilt milk.” It does seem to lack the Welsh charm, though. Don’t you think?

 

  

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The Apprentice – “Which Of You Shall We Say Doth Love Us Most?”

sir-alan-sugar-pic

I detest the sycophantic series of the Apprentice. Yet I watched every episode. This is how I remember the final…..

 Joseph and Vana both sit opposite Lord Sugar and I’m reminded of the scene in King Lear, In the production I saw the 3 sisters sit opposite the rather vain old King and his trusted advisors as he has summoned them to be his business partner / heir to the kingdom. The winner being the one that can flatter the old fart best.

But pray thee hush… the King, he speaketh –

“Which of you shall we say doth love us most

That we our largest bounty may extend

Where nature doth with merit challenge?—Vana,

Our eldest born, speak first.”

 And Vana speaketh wisely and bounteous in his praise for her beloved Lord. It pleaseth the Lord for he nods sagely and looketh upon her with great kindness and murmurs ‘technology’. There is a murmour then the Lord looketh up and again he speaketh for the twiceth time –

“But now, our joy,

Although our last and least, to whose young love

The vines of Yaxley and milk of Peterborough

Strive to be interessed. What can you say to draw

A third more opulent than your sister? Speak.”

And the lovely Joseph speaketh – Oh no, he speaketh not  of ‘nothing’ as one may have expected – O, no, that way madness lies. He speaketh of the King. His hero. His paladin. His advocate. His eidolon. His Father figure. Of how his great words hath inspireth him –

Joseph speaketheth thus –

“I read a book once and it made by a better person. I was lost and now I’m found. I was blind but now I see. The name of the book was…(dramatic pause ) ‘What you See is what you Get’. It was penned by your fair hand m’lord. “

The King was pleasethed muchly and awardeth he him the keyseth of his almighty kingdom..eth.

And the people were pleased.

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Three Things About Rats

happyrat

I’m trying to write … so I’m getting distracted – here are the results of my latest distraction.

  • They laugh when they are tickled.
  • Group theory research shows that rats perform better, measured by running faster,  when they are watched by others – humans or rats.
  • Rats will help their other cage-mates if they are trapped even when there is no reward for doing so. ( http://www.livescience.com/17378-rats-show-empathy.html)

trapped-lab-rats

 

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Great Welsh Golf Courses – West Monmouthshire Golf Club

westmon990

Off The Beaten Track 

WEST MONMOUTHSHIRE GOLF CLUB

It was windy. Standing on the 9th tee I could feel the wind through my Primark backswing performance jacket, red, and I’m sure my brother in his Galvin Green Malone limited edition polo shirt (short sleeved) could feel it too. It was windy.

“How come the wind blows into your face on every hole?” John wondered. “Because it does” I replied enigmatically. I had played the course before and had gained this insight.

Pensioner Dave nodded and hit his tee shot. Short and straight. I hit my shot short and straight also. John was long and straight. We waited in anticipation. So far we had never all been on the fairway at the same time (well not the same fairway).

Andy hit his drive. It started straight then went left and left and left bounding over sheep, fairways, rough.

“I’m not looking for that,” came the sympathetic response from Pensioner Dave. John commiserated with Andy, “See you on the green”

I shrugged and went to help him look for it. We battled on.

I had driven from Newport where it was a glorious spring day – 22 miles, 22 years and 11 degrees ahead of Nantyglo. To be fair it was quite pleasant when we arrived at the car park and there was some debate about what to wear. I had played the course before. I opted to wear everything I had in the car.

The first two holes had been deceptive. They were fairly flat along the floor of the valley. The third was a long, long par five up the mountain. It was marked on the card as, ‘Long Pull’. This hole could be described as ‘challenging’. It was an almost vertical tee shot up the steep, steep slope of Mynydd Carn-y-Cefn, the mountain separating the Ebbw Fach valley from the Ebbw valley. Apparently the intense steepness is a result of the action of glacial ice in the Pleistocene era which started around two and a half million years ago.

“When Pensioner Dave was just a boy”, John remarked.

Monmouthshire County Champion 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925 V.H. Smith wrote an understated article describing each hole in the ‘Ebbw Vale Works Magazine’ a few years after the course was founded. He described the 3rd (Long Pull);

“Hole 3. Longest hole on the course. Requires a good tee shot which must clear ravine. Good second shot of 150 yards carry required to carry a hazard forty yards wide; all difficulties now being overcome a good iron shot will reach the green.”

Thirty minutes later we met on the green feeling like we had conquered Everest. We had each taken a variety of routes to the flag and no-one was likely to complete the hole in single figures without holing a twenty foot putt.

It was windy. We moved on.

West Mon is a course where the wind blows hard – always. It is rough, ragged and the fairways are sheep-lined. It’s a traditional valley’s course. It’s harsh, unforgiving and proud of it. There are a few still left in the South East ex-mining valleys. To the untrained eye the course looks like someone just went out one day with 18 brightly coloured flags and placed them around the mountain at random intervals. This isn’t entirely true.

The course was designed over a century ago by a remarkable Scottish professional golfer, Ben Sayers. Born in Leith, Scotland Ben had been an acrobat in his earlier life and took up golf aged 16. He was only 5 feet 3 inches and his life was taken up with his sport. He had every job you could imagine concerned with the sport. He was a golf ball maker, golf club maker, caddy, course architect, professional, and coach to royalty. He was second in the Open twice and unlucky not to win.

In 1906 he designed the West Mon course. The terrain must have been familiar to him brought up on the links courses of Scotland. West Mon has the feel of a traditional Scottish links course, without references to the sea. It’s windswept, sparse on vegetation and generally left to nature to manage. The only thing missing from a links course is the sea. The sea is a long way from the top of Mynydd Carn-y-Cefn.

Once we reached the 3rd green there were a few holes of relative flatness across the mountain top toward Ebbw Vale in the next valley. There a few excellent holes that can feel 600 yards long or 300 yards long depending on the wind direction. The greens are in amazing condition, true and green. For all the natural hazards of the course you can use as an excuse – you can never blame he greens.

The course is littered with sheep. Tough sheep. Sheep that own the course. On the par 5 eleventh hole John hooked a drive straight at the rear end of a grazing sheep. I thought the force of the stroke would have stunned a fairly bulky human being and killed many small cows. The sheep stopped grazing. He turned around and stared at John with a patronising look, “Is that the best you’ve got “, turned back around continued ruminating.

Walking across the mountain top with the greens and fairways subtly fashioned across and around the few features it is easy to imagine it a hundred years ago. It is an incredibly natural golf course. There aren’t too many modern day ‘features’ to ‘spice up’ the course – no ‘risk or reward’ holes, ‘signature holes’.

“I like it” announced Pensioner Dave, ever the traditionalist “hit it – find it – hit it again”. He’s a man of simple pleasures. It’s easy to imagine him and Ben Sayers having a ten second conversation on the design of the course.

The course is tough. The weather is tough. The ground is tough. The people were tough. What Ben Sayers achieved in 1905 was to carve eighteen unique golf holes out of a hostile environment. They have hardly changed since the course opened. He did a pretty decent job of it.

The course has a significant claim to fame in that it is the highest golf course in Great Britain. The tee to the fourteenth is the highest tee in Great Britain with a spectacular view of South Wales.

Before you reach this peak though you have to navigate the highest green in Great Britain – the 13th. This hole is truly amazing. It’s a vertical 484 yard par 4 up and across the mountain against the wind – “It’s always against the wind”, the locals informed me.

We staggering toward the green like 2 pair of Hilary and Tenzings. Low on food, oxygen and humour. We reached the green that had the temerity to have a series of subtle slopes and undulating borrows on it. It’s not enough to hit a perfect drive, two perfect woods and an immaculate wedge. You then have to relax, catch your breath and think.

Watching Pensioner Dave attempt to calm down after tacking his way up the mountain put me in mind of the biathlon where the competitors ski furiously for miles then have to stop and relax enough to fire five shots at a target.

We managed it somehow and remarkably everyone scored a point.

Then we had a walk up to the highest tee in Britain. The tee is 1500 feet above sea level. It feels higher. There are spectacular views of the Brecon Beacons to the north with the Sugarloaf mountain to the east. On the card it is called, ‘High Tee’. Really?

From this point it’s, literally, all downhill. The 16th hole is called ‘Round House’. This is a theme for the club. Nantyglo is famous, in Nantyglo at least, for its round towers. On the badge of the golf club there’s a yellow tower. The story of the towers illustrates the attitude of the people in the area better than anything else;

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Ironmasters brothers Crawshaw and Joseph Bailey constructed two round towers to protect themselves against the locals due to the unrest concerning high wheat prices. There was serious rioting in the village and the industrialists defended their property by building the last castle fortifications to be built in Britain.

“Ah, the struggles between rich and poor, haves and have nots”, I started to philosophise.

“We get it. Your shot.”

Reaching the end of the round it’s back to reality. Relatively flat final holes. Relatively less oxygen needed as we approach the short, squat, functional clubhouse. It’s been tough. It’s been fun.

The club is full of has function rooms, people and some history. There are framed minutes of the first meeting where a group of doctors and teachers established a golf course with a membership of 183 members. The entrance fees were half a guinea per member with subscriptions of one guinea for gentleman and half a guinea for ladies. There were 120 men, 54 women and 9 juniors intially.

“The prices haven’t gone up that much”, Pensioner Dave remarked to the secretary. The secretary pointed out that the current fees are probably the cheapest anywhere in Wales.

“Less than the cost of an 18 hole two ball at Royal Porthcawl”, he proudly announced.

We concurred.

“I asked once how much green fees were at Royal Porthcawl” he continued.

We waited eagerly.

“I was told that if you had to ask then you couldn’t afford it.”

In the past few decades the financial crisis has hit clubs like West Mon hard. The closure of the steel works and high unemployment in the area have put a strain on the economy of the locals and a subsequent drop in membership, Fortunately the members at West Mon are a hardy resourceful bunch and the club survives on initiative, hard work and a good social scene. There have been cutbacks and the club manages. There are few visitors and the number of golf societies visiting has declined across the whole of Wales.

“We don’t get much passing trade” one of the members wryly informed me.

The club carries on. There is a community there. The social events held in the clubhouse and function room help a great deal these days. It’s still about the golf though. The members are a tough breed out in most weathers braving the elements.

I’m sure we’ll be back there – When we’ve thawed out.

 

West Mon Golf Club

established 1906,

Golf Road,

Nantyglo,

Ebbw Vale,

Monmouthshire,

NP23 4QT

www. westmongolfclub.co.uk

From the comments book:

“It’s bleak.” – S. Morrissey

 “I creamed a driver, mullered 2 three woods and still ended up 20 yards short of the green.” – John Daly describing the 3rd hole.

 “It’s cold.” – Captain R. F. Scott

– first published Cymru Culture ( 1 / 9 / 15)

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A cogitation on the question – ‘Which Golf Ball Do You Use?’


golfballsheepWhich golf ball do you use?

An extract from an article I recently read described a particular golf ball as  ‘a three-piece, multi-component technology with a very soft compression ZG process core, ionomeric casing layer, softer thermoset urethane elastomer cover, and spherically-tiled 352 tetrahedral dimple design’

Describing it, with obvious passion and relish one of the team of 75 engineers and scientists said, “It’s important to remember that no single element of design can determine the performance of the golf ball. There needs to be a symbiotic relationship between all of the elements.”

I feel bad now about how badly and how frequently I kept hitting this particular brand.

However, my question – ‘Which golf ball do you use?’ does not mean, ‘Which golf ball is right for you?’  . This is another country altogether. This answer consists of you answering a series of questions on your attributes such as – handicap, swing, gender age, height, star sign and so on and so on and so on. A computer then analyses all these variables and produces your perfect match. Sounds like a personal ads column entry – ‘easygoing M seeks GB with similar interests. Likes sports, looking for a yang to my yin, a Hardy to my Laurel, an Ernie to my Bert, a Wise to my Morecambe, a Ball to my Cannon. I don’t expect the relationship to me a long one – they rarely are with me. Just some fun and a few laughs.  No strings attached.

I don’t mean this type of ‘Which golf ball do you use?’ question. I mean – ‘Which golf ball do you use on a day to day, ‘fancy a knock’ type basis?’. Or, ‘It’s the Ystrad Mynach Cup on Sunday (one of the key days in the Barged Golf Club calendar) which ball will you be losing in the trees on the third?’

Let’s go through the process – I suspect your golf bag is a little like mine. There are a number of pockets for golf balls. They all have a certain place and purpose. You cannot mix the balls up, although through wear and tear one ball may be relegated to another pocket.

The ultimate. The top level – it’s not even a pocket. It’s the brand new golf ball level. The pinnacle, but not the ‘Pinnacle’ levels are pristine balls in a box. These were perhaps prizes, or more likely, presents for Christmas or fathers’ day.  These are the balls I never use. The balls I’m keeping for some special occasion or ‘keeping them for best’ as my mother used to say. I’m not sure what ‘best’ would be. If I do ever have the luck, and develop the talent, to play at the Open at St Andrews, I suspect I may well be given a few free packs of Callaways.

Starting at the nadir. Somewhere in a forgotten part of my bag there is a pocket containing golf balls that I would be reluctant to open the zip of and put my hand into. Inside this golfing room 101 are balls that have been found, given to me by well-meaning people or somehow just apparated into my bag. These balls are weird and maybe not so wonderful. There are a few Donnay Pro Ones, some Penfold Commandoes (I could probably take them to the Antiques Roadshow next year), Dunlop Locos, a Pinnacle Gold distance and a Precept Laddie. Also in this tardis-like pocket I encounter the occasional ‘decent’ (Nike, Callaway, Mazuno) ball, but they all have a cut in them and I vaguely remember I’m keeping them for an occasion where I will use them. Maybe to give away to adoring fans when I win my first Major, or  perhaps if I’ve already put two balls in the lake and don’t want to lose another decent ball I’ll choose one of these?

In another pocket – the ‘halfway house, ‘Morrisons’ pocket (not Aldi or Lidl, not Waitrose or Ocado), are some proper balls with minor defect – some TaylorMades or Bridgestones I’ve used once, or found. Or some high-end Nikes with marker pen or horrid logos, or some mid-range Titleist with tiny nicks. These are probably the ones I’d use after work on a Friday to play nine holes before a quick drink.

Now I come to the toppish end. This is not quite the Dom Perignon equivalent, but it’s definitely not the ‘Tesco Finest Vintage Cru’. It’s more a fine Moet…… Stop it. Who am I kidding? It’s a Strongbow cider rather than a Diamond White.  These are my good balls – not quite new – not quite top of the range – they are Nike, Bridgestone, Srixon. They are called ‘Tour’ or ‘Preferred’ rather than ‘Distance’ or ‘Ultimate Distance’. These are good, decent, hard-working, working class golf balls. They are balls you wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen playing with. Maybe they’ve been used once or perhaps they are Pond balls that look new. There are a few Titleist here as well. These are not the Titleist balls you see on websites you have to click to see the price (What is that all about!). But they are Titleists with random names instead of letters – ‘Titeleist Solos’ or ‘Titelist Velocities’. These are the serious Sunday medal competition type balls……… usually.

Assuming my description matches your collection to some degree, the next step in choosing which ball to use would be to consider the occasion. Is it a Saturday morning ball school? Is it a Sunday afternoon monthly medal? A social game? Another vital, perhaps the most vital, consideration to take into account is – ‘Who is playing with you?’  If it’s someone you’ve played with since Noah was a boy then they are unlikely to be impressed, or bothered much whichever ball you choose. On the other hand, if it’s a client, a prospective father in law or a person you really don’t like but still need to be better than, this may elicit a quick trip to the pro shop to have the following embarrassing conversation,

“Good afternoon young golf professional. How old are you? Twelve. Sorry. I digress. Which golf ball would you consider to be a match for me?”

“I would heartily recommend Titelist Pro V1 X High Number, sir.”

“Certainly, young man. And how much would these cost?”

DELETED X RATED REPLY.

How much? Really. You’re having a ****** laugh. I wanted 3 balls not 3 ****** dozen!

“That’s the price… sir.”

“If I don’t get at least one hole in one I’m coming back here and I’m going to *******”

I once took part in a competition at Mountain Ash. Mountain Ash is a nice enough course tucked neatly into the Welsh valleys.  We had all qualified from our local club competitions and the top six of so from this competition would go forward to Royal Porthcawl. There were players from Tredegar and Rhymney, Blackwood, Aberdare, Maesteg, Pontypool – a range of exotic venues. These top six would be joined at Royal Porthcawl by players from the length and breadth of Wales – Pwhelli,  Cwmrhydneuadd, Rhosgoch and other unpronounceable locations. Then on to the Belfry. Then … ultimately Spain – (before you write in – I got no further than Mountain Ash). However, Mountain Ash was a big deal for me and the hundred odd other competitors from local courses.  The point of this story? Ah yes, on the first I hooked my tee shot over a row of trees. So did two others in my group. The group coming toward us on an adjoining fairway were playing a parallel hole and their drives ended up in similar spots. From the group playing the 18th another ball appeared. When I walked through the trees to find my ball I saw about seven or eight golf balls within twenty yards of each other. I also saw a perturbed chap picking each one up carefully, studying it, putting it back down again and saying,  ‘They’re all Titleist pro V1s’. It was a nightmare assigning the seven balls to us seven owners.

For non- golfers this all seems a bit ridiculous. To these strange people, a golf ball is a golf ball – white and hard, with dimples. For us double digit handicap golfers it’s probably not going to make a yard of difference if we lose a £5 brand new Titleist or a 50p used Srixon. In our heads we know this as surely as we know that range finders are useless. (I’ve rarely hit 2 shots the same distance with the same club in all the years I’ve been playing golf. Yet I hear 28 handicappers staring through a range finder, announcing that it’s 183.5 yards to the front of the green and then consulting a chart to see which club they are going to use to dribble it 20 yards down the fairway). But in our hearts we still believe it can be the final piece of the jigsaw. Using an expensive ball is all we need to turn a dodgy swing into a swing Rory McIlroy would watch and try to emulate.

In truth there is  surely no greater feeling than playing your first shot on the first tee with a brand new father’s day Titleist Pro V1x . The feeling only lasts a whole 2.8 seconds though. It is closely followed by a totally different feeling as you see your unsullied, unmuddied, uncaring ball take a left turn in mid-air and slowly fade over the trees toward the pond, never to be seen again. That hurts.

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Is Anyone on Twitter Actually Reading a Book?

sheepread

Is Anyone on Twitter Actually Reading a Book?

I ask this because, obviously, I’m not but I‘m also wondering who is going to have the time to read any books , and more importantly,  my book as everyone seems to be writing one.

Perhaps twitter isn’t the place for readers – only writers. It’s an active not a passive medium.

I will explore this later.

In the meantime would somebody actually stop writing about their writing and how hard their writing is and how much time theu spend on their writing. How they lack inspiration for their writing,  blah, blah. They could then get out there and recommend my book as a compulsory component of the English Language curriculum for all English, or potential English language students in the world. If someone would do please hurry up and do that  I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks. Not too much to ask is it?

The aforementioned book ‘It’s About A Murder, Cariad’ is available here.

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‘Farewell, My Lovely’ or ‘Laters, Love’

Interviewer – The title of your new, best-selling, critically-acclaimed, life-affirming, randomly-hyphenated novel is called ‘It’s About a Murder, Cariad?’ How did you arrive at that title?

Me – I’m glad you asked me that. The idea for the title came principally from a saying my nanna (grandmother, granny, grandma) used to say. Well, not exactly that sentence – more along the lines of –

‘ take your coat off when you come in or you won’t feel the benefit, cariad.’ or

‘…tamping I was, cariad.’ (very angry) or

‘I’ll see you now after, cariad.’ (sometime in the future).

The idea also came from another quarter. It is a mix of a favourite Raymond Chandler book -‘Farewell, My Lovely’ and a book from the top taff noir writer Malcolm Pryce – “Abertstwyth Mon Amour”.

Pretend interviewer – Thank you for that.  The title is a rare thing indeed. It is one of the few book to have two languages in the title. Or is it?

Me – Interesting question. I have investigated this fully for a year and a half and I did find a few. I warn you now – some are very tenuous –

‘Déjà vu, again?’ – Deborah Jones.

‘Ciao Bella: Sex, Dante and how to find your father in Italy’ – Helena Frith Powell.

‘Belle Du Jour’s Guide to Men’ – Belle Du Jour.

‘Spaghetti with the Yeti’- Charlotte Gullain and Adam Gullain.

‘Fahrenheit 451’ – Ray Bradbury.

‘The Last Samurai’ – Helen Dewitt.

‘This House is Haunted – The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist’ – Guy Lyon Playfair.

‘Sputnik Sweetheart’ – Haruki Murakami.

‘When giants walked the earth – A History of Led Zeppelin’ – Mick Wall.

 ‘The Last Tycoon’ – F Scott Fitzgerald.

 Sorry. But I did warn you.

Incidentally if ‘Farewell, My Lovely’ were to be translated into Welsh it could become ‘Hwyl, Cariad’.  It could then be retranslated as ‘Laters Love’.

The aforementioned book ‘It’s About A Murder, Cariad’ is available here.

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