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BARBICAN LIFE


way. As you grow older you get competitive about age… just like when you were a kid and it mattered, I suppose, the age pecking order. Shouldn’t matter now, but it does. Bob’s sixty-five. Work it out, that’s very nearly a decade my junior. It’s not what people think when they see us together, they have us down as practically twins, though the idea of Bob and me sharing parents is pretty ludicrous.


So, yes, I’m what they call ‘spry’. I quite like that word. Comes up a lot in the crosswords.


But on Saturday morning I’m feeling anything but spry. I am feeling, you might say, my age. Not that I can detect anything physically wrong with me, so it must be in my head. Panic, yes, I’m afraid that must be the cause of this… malaise. I’d never played on a real golf course before. I couldn’t admit this to Bob. He might never have challenged me to a game, for one thing, and really, I have to confess, I was happy to take him on. David against Goliath. Bloody stupid it seems now.


Saturday breakfast was horrible. I had to go to the loo three times. Then I lost my way in the lanes so I was ten minutes late for our meeting in the clubhouse, and Bob hates anyone being late. Then I had to hire clubs, and they were old ones with scuffed irons and a putter like a croquet mallet. I put on my new golf shoes in the changing room and they hurt – you don’t need special shoes for Urban Golf. Then it started to rain.


“Ready, Jim?” Bob shouted from the changing room door as I sat pulling at a silly pair of tasselled laces, hoping against hope that the rain would come down in such buckets we would have to call the whole thing off. No such luck. It was, as I discovered when we slithered down to the first tee, no more than a miserable April drizzle.


Urban Golf is perennially dry and warm. We teed off. Bob insisted on taking the ‘honour’, which is to


say going first, because it was his home territory. He plonked down his tee, put a brand new ball on top of it, then whacked it two hundred yards into a thicket of brambles. It was all I could do to stop myself laughing, which of course would not have helped my stroke.


So while Bob was still muttering oaths under his breath, I teed up my ball (one they’d sold me in the professional’s shop very cheaply, as they’d obviously fished it out of a lake or a patch of reedy marsh), lined it up for my driver, making sure I put my left foot in line with the tee, swung the club back straight and slowly, then swivelled my foot as I swung it forwards, my hands following through in the direction of the distant flag… and, no, I didn’t miss, I hit it rather true actually and the ball flew off and up and down again, maybe not quite two hundred yards, but straight at the pin, as the commentators say. Honestly, by the fifth hole I was ahead of Bob by five strokes. But why was Bob so unconcerned? By all rights he should have been panicking by now, furious with himself… or me. That’s the male way, and nobody is more male than “Tich”.


Sure enough my luck did begin to turn, but not for any reason I could have anticipated. It began on the eighth hole, after we’d halved (that is to say equalled each other’s score) on the sixth and seventh.


What happened was this. Bob suddenly started talking about our wives. For the first few holes it had been all, “Bad luck, Tich, old man!” from my side and “I think I see your ball over there behind the green” and “A sand wedge should get you out of the bunker.” But when Bob asked me if Marjorie played golf and I replied that she could never stand it, he said as we walked off the seventh green, “Jean, you know, Jean was just the opposite,” he said. “Loved the bloody game. In fact she was so keen she used to beat the crap out of me every time we played. I really hated losing to


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her. I just can’t stand losing. In fact…” he said, pausing and extracting a club from his bag, “that’s why I killed her.”


Of course that stopped me in my tracks. I started to ask what he meant, but Bob was striding away towards his ball and I had to stop to play mine, because it was further away from the green than his.


When I played I really wasn’t concentrating, in fact I was quivering all over, and I hit my ball about fifty yards into a gorse bush that lay in ambush just off the fairway.


“Bad luck, Jim,” Bob shouted over his shoulder. “Me to play.” And he whacked what was probably a seven iron over the dogleg and straight into the heart of the green.


I took nine to get down on a par four hole.


I never recovered. Bob won by about ten strokes in the end. I went round in a total of a hundred and twelve.


He never cleared it up, though, never explained his remark, even though I kept trying. It wasn’t until the fabled nineteenth hole, at the bar, that he finally began to tell me the story. “You never knew Jean, did you?”


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