I went to the Woodlands driving range at Staincross on Sunday. Its not that often I get up there; I generally go to the Sandhill range as it’s only a short drive (boom boom) from my house. But, with the foresight and catering to my own self-interests that Im famed for, I thought I’d head over the other side of town and skank a Sunday dinner at my Mum’s at the same time as drilling a few balls.
I quite like the Woodlands, primarily because the views not bad, falling away as it does towards the flatlands that spread out to the power stations of West Yorkshire. Miles of countryside and then Ferrybridge and Drax rising out of the landscape like relics to the lost industrial 20th Century. That said, I always think that the bays are laid a bit wobbly and seem to slope away from you. But thats the beauty of my game. My shank can adapt itself to accommodate any situation.
As I struggled through the door out to the range itself with my big basket of balls and my clubs, a father and son occupied a pair of neighbouring bays by the entrance. Nice, I thought. There’s Dad showing his offspring the ropes. Passing on to the next generation the intricacies of lining up and choosing a Vardon grip over an inter-locking. The arcane knowledge of weight transference and the need to be aware of the striking area of the club face. This would be a lesson that would bind them together for life and set the youngster firmly on the road to chronic sciatica and a general depression about a persistent fade that cropped up when it was least wanted. This is what it’s all about, I thought, smiling. Nice picture.
I stepped down the back of the bays and the first words I heard the woolly-haired, rather hirsute, Dad utter were: ‘Do you know, if I was at school with you I’d beat you up.’
I must admit this made me pause. Interesting, I thought. Thats different. Nothing about swing arc or trying to develop a draw. No. None of that. ‘Do you know, if I was at school with you I’d beat you up.’
Now, don’t get me wrong, he didn’t say this nastily. There was no gritted teeth or saliva flecking on his narrowed lips. No clenched fists or narrowing, contorted brow. He didnt raise his voice. He wasnt overtly angry Dad, there was no threat of violence. But rather, he said it with a bland element of speculation. As if he was sizing up his own son and thinking to himself, ‘Yep, at nine, I could have taken you. No problem. Pussy.’ Had I not overheard him, I wouldnt have noticed them. No one would. The dynamics of their relationship would have been hidden away.
I trotted on a few more bays, ditched my mobile phone etc on the rubber mat, and got to work warming up with an 8 iron. The weather was good. Notton Park fat and green in the elbow of the valley. And as I started banging balls down the track, I considered that in this one sentence the entire back catalogue of this thirty-something Dad was revealed.
I looked back down the bays. Obviously he was a bit of a cunt. But Id made that snap decision about him even before he spoke. His words simply confirmed the first impression he was radiating anyway. He was pappy. Soft at the edges. He had man boobs and fat arms. He wore a resort-branded t-shirt. Fatal. Wind back the years and you could see him building his own BBC Home Micro in 1987. And then programming some software using Cobal just to be even more of a cunt; creating a script that told him when to start revising for his GCSEs. For fun. He taped Star Trek: Next Generation. He found Lenny Henry hilarious. Later he preferred Blur to Oasis. Grade A cock, in other words.
Judging by his swing and the appalling flight trajectory of his ball, he was a sporting under-achiever. He looked like he was trying to use his driver to scythe some long grass. And there was something in his clean, slightly awkward movements that branded him a posh kid. You could tell that nine year olds apart he couldn’t fight. That he couldn’t come up with anything funny. Unless it was some hilarious gag related to Pi and the square root of a triangle. That he always did his homework on time. That he never had the fashionable gear. He lived in his school uniform. That he was bullied for being a cunt and has resented it ever since. Being a cunt and being recognized for being a cunt had pushed him into a job that would allow him to take his spite out on society and be even more of a cunt. Tax collector, something at the council that involved taking money off people for doing bugger all. So that they resented paying. So that he felt good about himself. And now he had a son and he was going to re-write his own life.
‘Do you know, if I was at school with you I’d beat you up.’
They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had and add some extra, just for you. And here was pappy Dad passing on a snap hook together with an over-compensating inferiority complex. The need of some parents to live vicariously through their kids is well-known. Soccer Dads. X-Factor Mums. The kids are a second chance for them. To be the golfer that they never were or could be. To become the pop star they always dreamed of becoming by proxy. And so pappy Dad was drilling his son relentlessly to play off scratch and not enjoy a single moment of it. He was gifting his son with his own fears and short-comings. He was bending his sons personality to the shape of his own needs. He was insidiously warping him. Perhaps pappy Dad and bendy son will refer back to this hidden moment in their relationship at some point in the future. Maybe son will remember this Sunday back in the summer of 2009 in a decade or so. ‘Do you know, if I was at school with you I’d beat you up.’ And at this point I hope son turns round to pappy Dad and leathers the absolute fucking shite out of him. And if he does he will have fulfilled the destiny that was handed to him. And, smiling through a mouth filled with blood and broken teeth, one hand clutched to a rack of split ribs, pappy Dad should be proud.