Thursday, 15 October 2009

Spontaneous Combustion

It was still dark when I woke, face down, on something hard. It only happens once a term, but it happens (in time) to us all; the dean pays a visit in the night, and under our tired torsos, slips a golf ball. There’s always a trace of lipstick on the ball, from where the Dean’s kissed it goodnight. But the kiss on the ball, it’s not just a sign of affection; it’s a call. It signals a day in the field. Obscured by the rouge kiss (rouge being the Dean’s preferred colour) is the name and location of a well established golf course (written in felt-tip, not lipstick). On receipt of one of these 'early morning balls', the procedure is always the same. You have to disguise yourself as a green-keeper and get to the said golf course without delay.

Upon arrival, I rendezvous with a specially assigned lip-reader (who’s also disguised as a green-keeper). Armed with a notebook, binoculars and some grass seed (purely cosmetic), we head off into the course. The aim of our mission is to spy on teams of golfers - observe, from a safe distance, the golfing animal  'at home' in his natural habitat. The lip-reader, with the aid of binoculars reports, word for word what the golfers are saying about the state of the golf course. Stuff like; is the rough, rough enough? Are the greens green enough? Is the sand in the bunkers the right consistency? And we are always on the lookout for useful suggestions concerning the toilet (or total lack of) debate. I take notes.

It’s late in the day, the course is all but deserted and we are hidden in the bracken, shadowing a couple, a man and woman - and you didn’t need to be able to lip-read to see they are in love. Both are playing with a poetic fluidity (both playing as if one), driving ball after ball, as straight as a die, towards the rising moon, in the Klein-blue sky. At this point I should say that the lip-readers are trained to stay silent if the golfers aren’t talking golf (business speak etc).

Now, we’ve been stalking this pair of lovers for the best part of an hour (over five holes) and the lip-reader hasn’t uttered a single word.  “Do you think we’ll get to see them mate?” I whispered. “Doubt it, there's more chance of us witnessing a spontaneous combustion,"said the lip-reader. "Go on, tell me what they are on about," I pleaded "They develop these fabulous plans, talk something fantastic into existence, only to let the idea spontaneously combust as they go off on another tangent of absurdity. There's some kind of neo-logic underpinning the topsy-turvy associations they are making though, but but don't ask me translate it." “You’ve lost me, what are they talking about right now for instance?” I demanded. “Well, a minute ago he asked her what she’s going to do with a tiny pink foot she found in the road. She said it might come in useful for her one-armed swimmer. Now they’ve jumped to discussing a ‘Memory Club’ in Switzerland. Hold on, he’s becoming obsessed about a roll of wallpaper on which he’d traced thousands of oars. He keeps coming back to the oars, accusing her of not keeping both oars together - of giving one away even. Now she’s suggesting they take all the clothes they own to Calais for a day. I can't keep up with their lips, they can't be married”

At this point the man plays his first bad shot of the afternoon. He slices the ball way off to the right of the fairway into some trees, he sets out alone to search for it. We take this opportunity to have a last scan for anything else that might be happening on the golf course. By the time we refocus on the tee where we’d last seen the couple, there’s only the man, on his own. In the time it took him to find his ball the woman has disappeared – just vanished. “What do you think happened, where has she gone,” I said. “It’s very strange, the man’s still talking, he’s talking to himself!” the lip-reader said. “What’s he saying, and why’s he alone all of a sudden?” I demanded. The lip-reader remained silent, binoculars held tightly to his eyes, so I looked to him for an explanation. But all I saw was a tear leaking down his face, smudging the green paint. “I can’t tell you, it’s too sad for words,” he said.  

No comments:

Post a Comment