This week the planets really did align…
On Monday in England, we were finally allowed by our masters to play sports again – the clocks went forward, thereby extending our evenings and daylight hours – and then the sun (which thankfully is not controlled by our masters and politicians) decided to play ball also by making Monday 29th April 2021 a lovely warm day and so timely as the first day of British summertime.
You know how it is, when something is denied to us, that we yearn for it even more and then finally it arrives and it can even be something of an anti-climax.
I play golf and I have written before that it is the hardest game of all. A small hard ball over long distances and short, taking in lakes, bunkers, trees… not to mention a plethora mental frailties by people silly enough to take it up and very much including me.
On Monday, I worked all day writing my new novel in the warm knowledge that I had a tee-time booked for the early evening of my newly extended day.
Like a child on Christmas eve, I was excited all day until on the first tee, my brand new golf ball buried itself deep in to trees. Lost. £3 down. There are cheaper sports, but it’s good to be out, I told myself. The sun is shining…
2nd hole – my ball clears the trees guarding the green but continues its flight and heads out of the golf course. £6 down….
My playing partner is having an equally rusty outing. A 75 year Irishman called John but he doesn’t seem to do stress and he explains his secret. He tells me about his time arriving in London from Ireland in the 1960’s as a ‘navvie’ (his word, not mine) – he was actually a hod carrier – (the guy who humps bricks up ladders to the brickies above). With his brother, they dug the sewage trenches in Guildford, a town on the outskirts of London.
“….with transport from London, it was a 14 hour day. You’d bring your lunch, set it on the floor next to the trench and drag it backwards with you as you dug. Only toilet breaks allowed if you needed a shit. We’d pee in the trench…”
I didn’t tell him about toiling over my novel.
He was sanguine about how he and his countrymen were treated. That the Irish could only live in certain parts of the city and that they were barred from restaurants and pubs.
“…I went in to a pub for the first time on the Fulham Road with a mate and as soon as they heard our accents, two doorman heaved us outside and gave us a good kicking…”
I’d heard of these sorts of things. That there were signs hung on pub doors.
No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs
This was before my time but not my mum’s. She arrived from Tipperary in this era but she never recounted any such tales. My catholic school was full of Irish kids and they too never spoke of what was metered out to their parents.
I’m sad to imagine that my city had been so cruel to anyone coming here to improve their lot. My mum’s Irish accent and red hair would have made her very apparent. Her nursing career, her marriage, four kids and ten grandkids suggests that she should have been very welcome indeed.
John explained that many Irish people (like my mum, perhaps) didn’t talk of what happened to them.
“We got our heads down and got on with it.”
Lots to admire here then: stoicism, guts, dignity, forgiveness and magnanimity…
But John had the last laugh.
The best conclusion to this is that he and his brother are both multi-millionaires in the multi-cultural world city that is London.
This denouement cheers me and is a good fillip to my abject golf. It is good that I am only playing ten holes as I might suffer the ignominy of running out of balls.
I try a bit of John’s therapy to raise my spirits…
I have never dug a trench in my life. The sun is still shining and golf is a tough game, I remind myself. Plus I haven’t played for a good while, so I’m out of practise. And its just a game and not like I am dependent on it for my living. I don’t need golf to eat.
But then I panic all over again.
Because stand-up comedy is difficult also and it is how I make my living.
And I haven’t done stand-up for more than a year, so logically, when gigs come back, then I am going to be absolutely….
Happy Easter to all my readers.