#9 Dream

I love golf courses. I love everything about them. The raised tee positions that welcome you like launch pads, the fat promise of the fairways with the criss-cross roller markings, the strategic ponds and the lakes filled with huge fat carp the size of snorkelling Labradors, the artificially made babbling brooks and little humpback bridges that cross them, the huge swaying trees incorporated into the course from the original Georgian parkland and the glittering Treasure Island of the green which has mossy lime-coloured grass which is smoother and closer weaved than the carpet in your lounge, and the X marks the spot prize of the fluttering flag. Leaving aside the thrill of a perfectly smashed long iron shot, with the ballistic flight of the ball soaring over the landscape to fall in a steep dive and pitch two hundred yards away, or the joy of rolling in a thirty-footer to make Birdie or save par, one of the reasons I love golf courses so much is because they are a make believe world where I can hide myself away from reality. A golf course is a landscape that can be controlled and shaped to suit the imagination. To please the imagination. I love golf courses in the same way that I love serial fiction. The Sherlock Holmes stories, with the master sleuth’s cosy rooms and the snug feel of the fog wrapping around me as I walk with Holmes through the cobbled streets of Victorian England, Albert Campion and Magersfontein Lugg reappearing in novel after novel, familiar friends. Dalziel and Pascoe, Sexton Blake, Hercules Poirot, Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino, Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. They all present worlds that are familiar and safe. Regardless of the murders and the coshes over the head and the psychotic serial killers. And to step onto a golf course allows you to suspend the real world that surrounds you like the pages of a thick book. For four hours you are isolated from the bills, from anxiety, from worry, from the pressures of work, from the answer-phone message that you don’t want to listen to that brings you bad news or the email that you don’t want to read. Every course, from the local municipal up to the Augusta National should have the name Shangri la GC. You are walking through a never-neverland in spiked shoes and a Pringle jumper. And the Pringle jumper’s important. Don’t under estimate the Pringle jumper. The Pringle and the Lyle Scott polo shirt and the white Lacoste trousers and the Samuel L. Jackson Kangol flat cap, help make the event of playing a round of golf special. It creates a dividing line from your everyday life of t-shirt and jeans or drab shirt and tie and the cheap suit from Next and the dreamscape of the dog leg right and the par three with the kidney-shaped pond shielding the green. It’s a bit like a bobby putting on his uniform before he steps onto the street. The Pringle jumper is a statement of intent. A dividing line. Pull on that 100% pure wool Pringle sweater and the next four hours are going to be something different. The next four hours are yours.

 

Even the problems and gripes are part of this artificial world. Moaning about the badly seeded green on the par 5 15th, the poor drainage on the waterlogged apron of the par 3 6th. Arguing about a tricky ruling over an unplayable lie, or some infringement over a dropped ball. Grumbling about a bandit’s handicap when he scalps you. It gives your mind something to focus on. It’s better than arguing about the Irish problem or the Lebanon. It’s a trivial distraction that helps to soften the real world. This is why grown men get into Scaletrix or model railways. Building the track, having it weave under chairs or through papier-mâché models of Mount Snowdon. For the same reason men follow football teams passionately. The season fixture list gives a sense of certainty and security. Whatever else happens in life, they know that on Boxing Day they’ll be watching their team take on Manchester United or Worthington Rovers, a Pukka pie in hand chanting some racist homophobic song about the striker’s wife. Even if as they shiver on the terraces they’re moaning about the lack of spending by the chairman and the appalling first touch by the kid who’s on loan from Burnley as they take a drubbing. It doesn’t matter. And cricket. Pouring over Wisden, comparing batting averages and memorizing lists of bowlers who’ve taken the most wickets in Test matches. The attraction is the same will all hobbies, regardless of whether it’s stamp collecting, train-spotting, Sunday league football, body-building, rock climbing, surfing or making model airplanes. They all give a sense of control and escape. We should all have a hobby. Imagine if Hitler had been bitten by an obsessive love of crown green bowling and spent his time dreaming about curling a long one into the jack instead of a thousand year Reich. Or Lenin had started making ships in bottles. The world would have been a better place. The recent London riots might have been averted if a few more people took up pub quizzes or fell walking.

 

Now it’s time for me to get out in the September sunshine and let the big dog off the leash. To pull on the Lindeburg tank top with the Farah hopsacks and the Footjoy shoes and knock a long one down the park. It’s time to cast off the ropes that bind us to the mortgage and the endless grind and head to Treasure Island. Booshta!

Good times bad times

Gaddafi check in2

August 2011. And so another regime in crisis is brought to its knees by internet social networking. And with his country in tatters, the shamed leader was understood to have fled the capital and was seen enjoying fish and chips in St. Ives. He was later spotted sorting out an ice cream cornet.

 

Who’d have thunk it? The #Twitter/Facebook revolution (‘The Tw’ook Uprising’) just shows how the internet’s evolved in the past decade. Dictators are toppled and governments brought down with a few tweets. Ten years ago you thought you’d re-invented the wheel if you got a woman in Arizona to get her top off on the webcam. But while Uncle Dave Cameron clings on to power in the UK, weathering the storm of petulant hoodies and aggressive bargain hunters tearing London, Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham apart, in North Africa the #Facebook revolution sweeps another megalomaniacal dictator from power. First Tunisia’s Ben Ali, then Mubarak in Egypt and now Libya’s ‘Mad Mullah’ of the Regan years, Colonel Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi. Look what technology can do. Not only can you can have mutual thrapping ‘facetime’ across continents, but a handful of people on Facebook or Blackberry messenger managed to do things that that CIA failed to achieve in thirty years and billions of tax dollars. With his forty year reign brought to an end, #Gaddafi has now un-friended six million people and left a petulant status update. Bad times. And experts monitoring #Facebook indicate #Gaddafi may have fled #Libya following his ‘Like’ of the group ‘Dictators 4 Diplomatic immunity’. Intelligence sources are confident that it’s only a matter of time before #Facebook addict #Gaddafi #checks-in and reveals his location. Woop! Woop!

 

As the revolution in Libya ebbed and flowed the Twitter-sphere and the rolling news went berserk. Shortly after the raid on Gaddafi’s Tripoli compound, Google updated their mapping system and changed Green Square to Martyr Square. Which made the Rebel victory in the messy conflict official. You can’t argue with Google. The Japanese signing their surrender on the USS Missouri? Sod that. Whack a one liner down on Twitter and have done with it. Watching the news on Sky, Alex Ferguson saw all the Man United shirts worn by the Rebels and appealed to the ref for ten more minutes extra time. Beyonce was posting some frantic stuff about the crisis. Keeping her billions of followers constantly updated, she posted that the African leg of her tour looked in doubt, but the gig in Pyongyang was still on. There was good news later; while the show in #Tripoli was definitely in doubt, an extra #Harare date was announced. VIP packages from $2m available. Mrs #Thatcher was said to be pleased about the demise of her 1980s nemesis and it was reported that she’d had an extra rusk to celebrate. She was later quoted as saying of Colonel #Gaddafi‘s impending demise: ‘Rhubarb rhubarb gravy custard.’ And in North Africa, rumours were rife in #Tripoli that Colonel Gaddafi would enter the #Big Brother house at any moment. And, be honest, would you have really been surprised? #Gaddafi‘s welcome to #BB was to have been organized by Kerry #Katona who said she couldn’t wait to join the other stars who’d played for the tyrant. With #Libya sewn up, David #Cameron was said to be celebrating the victory of democracy and the people of #Libya by buying a 9.6 litre, 750bhp petrol Hummer. And with one triumph for freedom and democracy and the downfall of a vicious dictator in the bag, #Cameron spoke to advisors regarding the situation in #Zimbabwe. He asked scientists if a Ford Focus could be run on bananas.

 

But what does all this mean information mean? Power to the people, maybe? William Caxton’s printing press changed the world in the fifteenth Century. Suddenly people (provided you had the massive amount of money available to buy a book and could read in the first place) suddenly had access to an enormous amount of information. The Bible in English, geography, history, fiction. From being slowly handwritten and full of beautiful calligraphy over months and years, books were being knocked out at an amazing rate. But what’s often forgotten about the printing revolution that followed Johannes Gutenberg and Caxton is the raft of vitriol and spite that spewed out of printing presses across Europe. For a start there was Anti-Catholic, Anti-Protestant bile by the tonne. Multiply that by every home in the country having access to its own personal printing press. That’s what the internet has done. In one way it offers the individual the opportunity to bypass the bean counters and political censors and exchange information, upload their music, stories, films, ideas, whatever. Good times. But you only have to go on a few forums to realize that there are some people logged on out there whose logic and notions are seriously bent out of shape. And while we might find the next great piece of music or a superb novel, there is no editorial control and we’re just as likely to encounter some illiterate Pro-Fascist homophobe racist who stalks school kids through Myspace. And regardless of the subject matter, no one monitors quality. No one says, ‘that’s shit, mate, go back and re-work it’. Web sites such as Amazon’s create space allows anyone to publish their book without any cost implication. Digital files are uploaded and technology means that one book can be printed at a time on demand. Regardless of punctuation, spelling or content. So while dictators are being dragged from power and oppressive regimes scrubbed from the political map, we are in danger of being swillowed up by unudited crape.