Golfing In The Comfort Zone

comfortzone

To change anything, or to learn anything (which is essentially change anyway) is uncomfortable. There are a number of well-worn phrases that people trot out to remind you of this – “Growth demands a temporary surrender of security”, “If you’re not churning, you’re not learning.”  I know this. It doesn’t make is much easier.

A useful tool I came across with this one is the Comfort Zone model. On the inside is the Comfort Zone. The doughnut next ring is the Discomfort Zone and the Learning Zone is around the outside. It does reinforce that it’s uncomfortable to learn anything new. It means that to get to the Learning Zone you have to get through the Discomfort Zone. There are no short cuts or tunnels. However, it does give you hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

So, I took my trip into the ‘Discomfort Zone’. I booked for some lessons. It was uncomfortable. I turned up alongside the fearless youngsters and brand new starters and felt very out of place. I’d been trapped in that comfort zone for too long. My grip was comfortable. My stance was comfortable yet they were so wrong. I knew if I held the club this way I could more or less guarantee it would be straight – not very long but straight. Now I’m being told to discard all those comfortable feelings and start again. It really did feel uncomfortable and very, very tempting to go back to the old way.

I learnt that there are no short cuts or secret passages across the discomfort zone. We all know that. We know that all the teaching aids, special balls, magic golf clubs don’t work – or at least they don’t work on their own. We’ve all seen (or bought) that expensive set of aluminium, alloy, enhanced, cavity-backed, nickel platted, NASA designed golf set and stood next to a twelve years old with basically a long metal stick and seen them hit their tee shot thirty yards further than us.

What did help me though was some wise words I had picked up from a colleague a long time ago about this stress and anxiety. “Anxiety isn’t pain” he assured me,” It’s the anticipation of pain.”

True enough. The most anxious and stressful times for me has been the waiting for something to start – the dentists, the job interview, waiting by the first tee. Once the event kicks off the stress diminishes a great deal.

“The trick”, he continued, “is to live in the here and now” (he was a bit of an old hippie), but very true. If you concentrate on what you’re doing before a stressful event – eating, preparing, practising, and try to concentrate fully on that you’ll save yourself a fair amount of stress.

So I’m taking the lessons. I’m staying in the ‘here and now’ and things are starting to improve. Not as quickly as I’d like, of course and I do feel that I’m living most of my life in the discomfort zone but… in a perverse way I’m starting to enjoy it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Golf Writing - disparate

Muirfield Golf Club / Peter Alliss -Really?

In the light of the recent Muirfield Golf Club decision to not allow women to join, and Peter Alliss’ helpful suggestions, I have revived this article from almost exactly 4 years ago. How times have changed.

bushinjeans

You wouldn’t get in my club with those jeans Mr Bush

DRESS SENSE – A ONE WORD QUESTION

Look through the lists blow (not drawn from a remote, Southern United States Country Club, an English Home Counties club, nor a Colonial backwater from the Victorian era) and if anyone can give me a satisfactory, sensible, non-sexist, non-offensive, non-elitist, answer to one question I’ll eat my large, indiscrete Nike-logoed, backward-worn baseball cap.

Ready….… the one-word question is ‘Why?’

“ Dress Code:
Women (all ages)
Conservative, tailored slacks, golf skirts, shorts
Socks should be knee high or no more than two inches above the ankle

Men (all ages)
Tailored slacks or Bermuda shorts
Shirts with both a collar and sleeves and tucked in at all times
Socks should be knee high or no more than two inches above the ankle

Prohibited dress;
Denim apparel in all colours,
Racer backs, tank tops or halters,
Front of shirt must not descend below the collar bone,
Bare midriffs in standing position,
Large or indiscrete logos are not acceptable,
Cargo pants with buckles and ties,
Stirrup pants,
Warm-up suits,
Pull-on drawstring shorts/slacks,
Skirts / shorts that are more than five inches above the knee or less than 18 inches when measured from the bottom of the waistband,
Hats worn backwards.“

I love the sport of golf. However, I detest the nonsense that goes on around it. I don’t think I’m on my own.

Ask potential golfers that can’t afford the extortionate rates to join a club. This is assuming their face fits and they are allowed to part with their money.
We should be grateful, I suppose, that this isn’t as bad as it used to be. There used to be a time when you needed a 5 year wait, a thousand pound joining fee and a Masonic handshake to get into a golf club. We’ve moved on from that.

This is true. However, I’d like to believe the reason we’ve moved on is due to an enlightened attitude in the Committee room. I suspect though that it’s more to do with the recession and the current economic climate.

Ask women or juniors who frequently get shoved to an odd afternoon in the middle of the week or a few unsociable hours on the weekend when the men have finished their rounds and are in the bar.

However, all is not doom and gloom. There are exceptions. Not too many, but there are exceptions. The Celtic Manor 2010 Club, as I understand it has no different times for men, women or juniors on the 2010 course. Membership is the same for all and there is no discrimination of any sort. Fantastic and a role model to other clubs. Unfortunately, you need to pay £6,000 to buy fair treatment. Why wouldn’t all golf clubs do this? Answer on a postcard to the usual address.

I can hear some of you whingeing from here. Yes, I know many clubs don’t have specific times for anyone – men, women or juniors – but really. Ask any junior who tries to get on the course on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Ask any woman who tries to get on the course at any time. Even if they manage to get on the course they are subject to mild, ‘playful’ harassment about how long they take, etc. etc..

Let’s go back to the nonsense that is symbolic of the attitude of golf clubs – the dress code. Now I believe there are occasions where you need a dress code – deep sea diving for instance, working in a nuclear power plant or being a catalogue model. These professions will require a certain standard of clothing and rightly so. I get that.

What I can’t quite grasp is the fact that I pay thousands of pounds, well hundreds, to spend my sparse and valuable leisure time being told what to wear. I’m not sure I’m keen on that. I don’t have this down the pub, in my lounge or in my garden. So what is it all about?

The dress code is so, so nonsensical. It’s a trip to an older, happier time when men dressed properly, there was respect, good manners, child poverty, a life expectancy of twenty-eight and women knew their place. For instance – Why can’t you wear a comfortable tee-shirt? Why can’t you wear jeans to play golf?

Let’s look at the argument-
Denim / tee-shirts / etc.. look scruffy.

On at least 2 levels this argument is nonsense –

  1. to most people under the age of 80 they don’t look scruffy and
    2. so what?

Let’s not even get into the argument of jeans being more expensive that trousers and whilst a £300 pair of True Religion jeans are deemed unacceptable, a twenty years old pair of scruffy, worn-out trousers is somehow perfectly acceptable. Let’s go straight for the ‘so what?’

Why on earth does it matter is someone’s shirt isn’t tucked in, or the shorts aren’t tailored, or the jeans are scruffy. You aren’t going to have tea with the Queen (although I’ve a few thoughts on that one). You’re playing a game. A game involving grass, mud, water, rain, etc… It’s supposed to be fun. Which does not mean everyone must wear jeans. I don’t want to tell you what to wear. It’s supposed to be pleasure.

In my own, personal, golf club the dress code would say; ‘Be Comfortable. Keep Warm. Don’t wear anything that could upset anyone else.’  I would not be bothered if your shorts were 6 inches above the knee or your socks were three inches above your ankle (what is that one all about?). It’s a game – enjoy yourself.

I suspect the reason undlying the dress code is a wealth of old twaddle concerning class, Victorian values and often just plain prejudice and elitism around golf clubs (or tradition as some would deem it). Why do we take our hats off and shake hands on the eighteenth? It’s tradition. Why do golf courses have eighteen holes? It’s tradition. Why don’t we have any women or juniors on our committees to make decisions unless they’re in a ‘secretarial’ capacity or are there basically as observers with no real voting power? It’s tradition.

Now I’m not an anti-traditionalist myself. I quite like the ‘hats off and hand shaking’ thing but I can’t really say I’m a fan of any institution where a handful of like-minded, similarly educated, similarly dressed sixty – seventy year old middle-class, professional men make all the decisions on when I can play, who I can play with and what I’m allowed to wear based on an archaic set of values that are deemed ‘proper’.

Oh, and sometime soon the argument will crop us, “Well what would happen if everybody behaved like you and wore what they liked and didn’t take their hats off when they walked into the bar?” I have a well-thought out succinct argument for that too, “Nothing would happen. Let people keep their hats on in the club if they wanted to. Why on earth would it matter?”

It’s tradition. So on that basis let’s keep a gang of small children around the back of the clubhouse and wheel a few out to carry our golf clubs and tee up for us for a few pence each round. Also let’s keep women out of the bar or stop blacks and other minorities playing golf altogether. These have been some of the traditions of golf clubs in the (not too distant) past.

Most members are glad some of these traditions have disappeared but seem to have trouble fighting the subtler nuances of discrimination and personal freedom………
Or is it that somewhere deep down many men still want to cling to those Victorian values where they were obeyed?

So perhaps the recession has been a good thing in this one respect. Golf clubs are becoming more open about membership. It’s often a matter of survival these days – hopefully this will survive even if there’s a financial upturn. Perhaps not. For the sake of fairness and equality let’s hope this recession is here to stay

Note – The dress code list comes from ‘The Ladies Golf Club of Toronto’ which describes itself as ‘A Classic Club for Contemporary Women’.

Leave a comment

Filed under Golf Writing - disparate

School Reunion – I’m sorry I can’t be with you tonight…

reunion

….. but I’m afraid I’ve still got the teeniest, tiniest part of self-esteem and self-respect left. I’ve also realised, albeit belatedly, that I have limited time left on this planet. No, no I’m not terminally ill or anything – just getting older, practically by the minute.

But a reunion – really? I know that, for some people, it’s fun to see what’s happened to people they knew forty years ago. Some people love to listen to the heartaches and the tears, the joy of children brought into the world and sadly those who didn’t make it. They love to compare where you go on holiday, why you left your last job, how you ended up in Guantanamo Bay on a misunderstanding. But honestly – it’s not for me. I’m fifty-nine years old now and if there’s one thing life has taught me in those fifty-nine years is that I do not want to be stranded like some Robinson Crusoe / Victor Meldrew character on an island for several hours (which seems like several lifetimes) with people I have chosen, yes chosen, not to contact for a very, very good reason, for two thirds of my life. I really, really don’t need to be shown photos or videos of holidays, wives, husbands, cleaners, gardeners, children, homes, second homes, holiday homes, ‘the nice yurt we spent three months in when we ‘found ourselves’ in Turkmenistan’, cars, caravans, mid-life crisis motor bikes, pot-bellied pigs, cats or dogs – on the latest ipad, iphone 7 or Huawei P9 (Max).

I’m too old and too stubborn to willingly submit to that “hello, you haven’t changed at all” handshake. The thought of staring at someone trying desperately to think of an answer to an interrogation on the values of your life that begins with questions such as “So, what do you do now?”, “Are you married?”, “How did you find the food in prison?”,”Didn’t you used to be Byron Kalies?” or “Shit, what happened to your hair?” feels me with fifty shades of dismay.

I would like to say I’m too busy. I would like to say that I’m busy that evening on a bender with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jack Nicholson and Woody Allen drinking, doing drugs and chasing women in a downtown bar in Port Talbot. I would like to say that, but that couldn’t possibly be true – I’m not allowed back in Port Talbot after the incident involving Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the summer of 1986.

No, I’ll be at home – watching Coronation Street with the best company I could ever imagine – myself. Yes, you were right all along – “He was an egotistical, self-centred bastard forty years ago and he’s an egotistical self-centred bastard today.”

To be completely honest I do have one regret. I would have happily turned up if I could be assured that you are all fatter, more miserable, unluckier and poorer than me. If it could be guaranteed that at least half of you have only been released from prison for the day, and the rest of you have had to borrow the money for bus fare from your current probation officer. Alas, I know that it would be practically impossible for any of you to be on a lower social standing than myself.  My dream was to be a writer. I am a prolific writer who last book sold fewer copies than Linda Wright’s ‘Toilet Paper Origami’ and Brugemmeier, Cioc and Zeller’s seminal work ,’How Green Were the Nazi’s’ combined.

I’m sure I have some hilarious stories and happy memories of school somewhere. There is a place deep, deep in my subconscious where  memories exist of midnight feasts, Defence against the Dark Arts lessons, Olly asking for ‘more’ and jolly pranks throwing first years off the roof. However, I’m struggling desperately to remember the difference between Pontllanfraith Grammar Technical School, Greyfriars and Hogwarts. I do remember all the boys at school being taller than me, more handsome than me and having better haircuts than me. I also remember every one of the girls scaring the shit out of me. I assume none of that has changed. I certainly haven’t.

So it is with great reluctance that I really, truly, deeply, honestly, genuinely and sincerely can’t be arsed to travel the three and a quarter miles from my house to the pub to wallow in glorious memories of dorm raids, tuck shops, six of the best, quidditch and picking up the ball, running with it and inventing the game of rugby. Honestly, I remember practically nothing of my time at school. I remember vaguely there being teachers, walls, windows, bells ringing, floors, shoes, people with heads, chairs, unhappiness and frustration. Nowadays at the best of times I have a memory like a … oh you know, what do you call it. I barely remember my cat’s name now so the thought of trying to guess, give up, ask and then remember the names of people from four fifths of a century ago just seems like too much bloody hard work. I don’t do hard work anymore.

All the best and I do hope you have fantastic evening on this very important n (insert number here) th year of some memorable event. I won’t be able to make it this year, and probably next year, and quite possibly the year after, and so on and so on. However, please feel free to contact me for the oak anniversary.

Grumpily yours

Byron

1 Comment

Filed under On writing

Machynys / Tees / West Mon

Leave a comment

May 8, 2016 · 7:56 am

Tees

tees1

Leave a comment

May 7, 2016 · 3:54 pm

Great Welsh Golf Courses – Cradoc

cradoc-golf-course-hill-backdrop

Off The Beaten Track – Cradoc Golf Club

It was sunny. It was hot and it was long and it was hilly. We’re in south-mid Wales. In Cradoc to be precise. Cradoc is a few miles north- west of Brecon and remote. Even for a golf course it’s remote. The drive from Bargoed was spectacular and slightly frightening with speedster John driving and Pensioner Dave keeping up a rally-like commentary.

The golf course at Cradoc, however, is well worth the anxiety attacks. It is a really, really nice golf course. It seems a little up-market for the likes of us. But we love it. ‘Us’ being myself, my brother, John, my cousin Andy and Pensioner Dave. At Cradoc they hold regular open days where the likes of us valley’s golfers can mingle and see how the other ninety nine percent of proper golfers live. Out of respect for the club we even changed our shoes in the changing rooms rather than the car park – we like it that much. The staff are friendly and courteous. This is also a novelty to us. We tend to frequent clubs where the pro. pockets our money and indicates the general direction of the first tee with a grunt and a wave of his hand as he disappears with our cash into the bar.

We stroll through the clubhouse to the putting green and the course. It looks like golf looks on the tele. However, it’s starting to feel a little strange for Pensioner Steve. I can see him twitching as he walks into the players’ lounge with helpful staff, immaculate decoration and plate glass windows that give a great view of the course. A far cry from some of the players’ lounges we’re accustomed to. We sit on the veranda outside the clubhouse with a drink, watching golfers drive off at the first. Pensioner Steve keeps looking around him, waiting for someone to throw us out.

One the tee we see – a starter. Yes, a starter. I had to explain it to Pensioner Steve that a starter is not only a prawn cocktail.  A starter is an elderly man, I’m not being ageist or sexist here, in my experience it is always an elderly man, whose sole purpose is to chat to anticipatory golfers and tell them they’re next to go, or they’re early and should get a cup of coffee. It’s a person who smiles. Constantly.

“He’s a bit like Jimmy Two Shoes, up the club,” says Pensioner Dave.

“Well no, not really,” says John, “He doesn’t follow you around talking about his dogs and goldfish.” He indicated the starter, “He’s a professional talker.”

We are up next.  It’s surprisingly nerve wracking. The starter calls us up and bashes through the rules for the hundredth time with a seemingly sincere smile.  “It’s a Texas Scramble today”, he smiles, “each person has to record four tee shots each. You must drop your ball after it has been appropriately marked, within two club lengths,” and on and on and on, I’m amazed there are so many rules in golf. I’ve sort of lived with three – hit it, find it, hit it again.

The starter has finished now and laughs appropriately at the nervous bad jokes and banter from John and Andy. We are good to go. Remember, this is not the first tee at Augusta where there are millions watching on TV. This is a tiny village in south-mid Wales with possibly four people looking up from their drinks and two more on the practice putting green. None of whom we will ever see again.

This is Cradoc golf club. Cradoc is civilised. It has a history that doesn’t just involve coal and steel, struggle and hardship. I was reading about the history, as I am wont to do, and educating my playing partners in the car on the trip up.

“In 1093 there was a battle a mile from the clubhouse.” I informed them.

“Really. I didn’t see any evidence the last time we were there.” replies Andy

John chips in, ‘Well that was nearly a thousand years ago, like. There won’t be too much evidence. Duh.”

“Ah but there is one clue that remains” I continue mystically, “the name of a village close by,”

“Aberyscir?” replies John.

“No.” I say, “Battle. The village of Battle.”

“Ah” replies Andy.

“I was going to say that, but I thought it would be too obvious.” says John.

“That’s a coincidence.” Says Pensioner Dave.

We look at him. He starts to explain.

John wisely interrupts, “No. no. Forget it. Let’s not go there.”  We drive on.

We tee off. The first few holes are long and straight and immaculate. One heading away from the clubhouse, the second coming back parallel. There’s the feeling of space here. It’s so different from the valleys’ golf courses we’re used to where the tees and greens are pushed back as far as possible using every possible inch of the available space. Here there’s room to breathe and stretch.

Cradoc is a nicely balanced course with two par 3s on the front nine and two on the back. The first short hole you encounter, the 3rd, is only 125 yards. There is however a pond in front of the green waiting for you. The hole is played from an elevated tee and it looks spectacular, and dangerous.

We hit 3 shots in the water then Andy hits one decent shot onto the green and Pensioner Dave makes a spectacular putt to give us a rare birdie.

“That was lucky,” said Andy, “how would anyone know if we had put the last one in the water and still put a 2 on the card?”

“Because that would be cheating. This is golf not football.” Says Pensioner Dave.

“Do you remember that guy from Pontnewydd that used to cheat?” I ask.

“Aye. Adjer.” Says Pensioner Dave.

“I went to school with him.” I reply.

“Adjer? Why was he called Adjer.” asks Andy.

“That was his name,” answers Dave. He continues, “He would always put his marker in front of his ball on the green and behind it when he wanted to putt.”

Andy thought, “Ah I see he was adjing nearer the hole every time. “

John, “Is he still playing at Pontnewydd?”

“No. Dai Snips sorted him out.” Said Pensioner Dave.

“ Big Snipsy? The barber?” asked John.

“Unisex hairdresser if you don’t mind.” I answered.

“How?” asked Andy.

Pensioner Dave explained, “Well Adjer marked his ball against Snipsy a few times in a competition. You know adjing and adjing and Snipsy is getting more and more wound up, you know, like he does. On the 16th he loses it. Adjer has cleaned and marked his ball a couple of times, getting nearer and nearer to the hole each time. Then Adjer picks the ball up again and starts cleaning it. He puts it down again and Snipsy looks at him hard. “Well,“ he says, “that’s close enough now for a gimme Adjer. So pick it up. Pick it up, put it in your pocket and if I see you in this club again I’ll stick the ball, your marker and your putter”…. Well he did tell him where he was going to put his putting equipment but I don’t want to upset a nice young man as you Andy. Anyway Adjer never played in Pontnewydd again.”

“Well what about him?” Andy asked me.

“Oh. I saw him in Cardiff last Friday.” I replied.

“What was he doing?”

“Same job. Oh but he’s Chief Inspector Adjer now.”

We move up and around as we wind our way up the mountain with the fourth green set in front of the mansion that once belonged to the owners here at Penoyre Park. As we gradually wind our way further up the mountain there are spectacular views of the Brecon Beacons National Park from the par 3 seventh and we go steadily further up.

At the top of the course we needed to wait as the 11th hole is blind and there is a danger of big hitting John hitting the group in front, “Only if they’re in the rough” remarks Andy. It’s been a pleasant few hours – sun, chat and some quite decent scoring.

So we sit and I tell my captive audience the history of the course.

“It was designed and build in 1967with the drive and commitment of local members especially John Morrell and Les Watkins.” I announce, “The  Scottish course architect CK Cotton has been responsible for designing and remodelling a number of amazing courses, amongst them Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s, Pennard near Swansea,  St Pierre in Chepstow as well as many in his native land. The courses all share similar characteristics; they all use the land effectively. At Cradoc he used the changes in elevation to form spectacular views and some challenging holes.  There are stunning views across the valley from many of the holes

John say he’s going to drive off if I don’t shut up saying he’d rather be banned for life  for hitting someone on the head than putting up with another of my stories. Fair enough. I stay quiet and we move down toward the valley floor.

At the final wait, on the spectacular straight par 5 14th I supply my final piece of information, “Rhys ap Tewdwr, born 1065, was a descendant of Capell ap Rhodri, King of Seisyllwg, son of Rhodri the Great. He lived a short but eventful life. He seized the throne of Deheubarth in 1078. It was not an easy time however as he had continual political unrest – alliances and battles with Caradog ap Gruffudd ap Rhydderch and Gruffydd ap Cynan. In 1088 he was forced into exile in Ireland but returned for more coalition and chaos with fellow Welsh princes and eventually the Normans.

Rhys was slain in the Battle of Brecon by Bernard de Neufmarche in April 1093. “

“Ah near the village of Battle” remembers Pensioner Dave.

I’m impressed at is memory.

The final holes are fairly flat as we play away from the clubhouse and sweep around to play the final few holes back to the clubhouse.

The final hole is perfect. It’s a nice par four finishing up alongside the clubhouse. There is added pressure as golfers drinking in the veranda can critique your final shots.  As it happened none of us made that final perfect approach shot. Pensioner Dave did chip in though and we ended up with an acceptable but unlikely to be winning score of 66.

We changed in the car park, had a drink, spoke to a few old sorts who were on the same ‘Open day circuit’ as us and headed home. A great day and waiting for the next day at Cradoc. As pensioner Dave said, “It’s not he winning that counts it’s the not coming last and making an idiot of yourself that matters.”

Cradoc Golf Club

Penoyre Park,

Cradoc

LD3 9LP

Brecon

01874 623658

http://www.cradoc.co.uk

Originally Published – Culture Cymru 1/3/16

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Off The Beaten Track, Welsh Golf

A Hamster Doesn’t Walk Into a Vet’s (apparently)

hamstercry

I phoned the vet.

“Good afternoon. Could I bring my pet in to see the vet please?”

“Of course. Can I take your details sir please?”

I supplied my details.

“And the name of your pet?”

“Rex.”

“What type of a dog is he?”

“A hamster.”

“I’ve never heard of that breed before.” (with no trace of irony)

“It’s a hamster.”

“Ah.”

“Ah?”

“I’m sorry but we don’t treat hamsters.”

“I‘m sorry. I’ve got the right number have I?.This is the vet isn’t it? It’s not the cake shop?”

“It is the vet, but we don’t treat small animals.”

“Really. You don’t treat small animals? You have a size discrimination policy?”

“You could say that.”

“Is this policy only for small animals? Or do you have an upper level?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Like elephants. Do you treat elephants? Or giraffes?”

“Probably not. We don’t get much call for giraffes in Cwm (no sense of irony here either). We mostly deal with cats or dogs.”

“Isn’t that a bit …… speciesish?”

“?”

“Look. It’s a hamster. I have money. You don’t charge on the height of an animal do you? I could perhaps understand if you didn’t treat baby ants as the stethoscope would be really, really difficult to hold, but a hamster, really?”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s quite a large hamster. It has had a bit of a growth spurt recently. Does that make a difference?”

“Now you’re being stupid.”

“Just following your lead. So, what do I do with my hamster?”

“I’m sorry sir but that’s not our business.ir.”

I wait.

She concludes with, “Is there anything else I could help you with today?”

“…………” (swear words omitted).

 

Leave a comment

Filed under On writing

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Golff Noir, It's About a Murder, Cariad

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under On writing

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).

1 Comment

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