Tag Archives: golf

it’s not easy being green

(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia –April 2021)

It was May 1975, I had just turned 17 and finished my highers and I couldn’t get out of school quick enough. It was time to make my way in the world…………… and become vegetarian (the reason why has escaped me over the ensuing years). I did have a paperback “1000 Vegetarian Meals” and I was up for a challenge.

My mother knew the lady round the corner whose husband Old Malky (or Callum as his wife called him) was the head greenkeeper at the Bearsden Golf Club and before you could prize the sheets off a surly teenager at noon, I had a job as assistant to the assistant greenkeeper.

Now why Old Malky should be Old Malky to us and Callum to his wife remains a mystery as Old Malky only spoke in monosyllables on alternate days. Come to think of it, I have been known by both ‘Snookums’ and ‘Hey Fat Arse’ on differing occasions by my wife.

The job was very task orientated which suited me fine. My first job at sparrow’s fart was to ‘switch’ the greens. Switching involved a large bamboo pole with a tapering fibre class rod attached which, when moved in a sideways motion, flicked off dew, leaves and other detritus such as beer cans and smouldering cars bodies. (I’m not being judgemental but Drumchapel was just through the woods !) I took to the task like a Zen Buddhist monk often standing on one leg and muttering to myself in a fake oriental accent like David Carridine (Aah, Grass Lopper – get it?

I quickly adapted to the routine. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I would mow the greens. Getting the straight striped effect is trickier than it looks. I tried to convince Old Malky my first attempt was my interpretation of a Rennie Mackintosh design but he wasn’t buying it.

Tuesdays and Thursday was time to trim the tees. If a player came on, we were supposed to move to the back of the tee and idle the lawnmower until they had tee-ed off but many a time we just carried on, hastening a panicked swing as spinning blades came perilously close to shaving the tassels off many a two tone golf shoe.

Friday was hole changing day. There was a special spade device for puncturing and removing turf and soil and woe betide anyone with the temerity to chip and put onto our green until the job was completed and the last bit of stubborn grass was expertly trimmed from around the new hole with the designated scissors. Strict quality control was then adhered to. A bucket full of balls and 3 putters were distributed to each greenkeeper and intense putting from all angles ensued. Then and only then could the club member follow through. Any disregard to this unwritten rule meant your ball was hosed off the green. I seem to remember this important ritual was accompanied by several bottles of beer and pay packets were collected. Friday was a good day.

The only thing I took umbrage to was the toileting arrangements. Greenkeeper HQ was a large corrugated hanger which housed all the tractors, mowers and sundry equipment. I don’t even think it had power. The toilet consisted of an old gallon oil container with the top crudely removed. Not only did you have to pee in full view of your fellow workers you had to hold a rusty jagged tin close enough to circumcise yourself with one wayward shake. As for other bodily functions, the only time I got caught short I juked through some gardens and trotted adroitly home to the luxury of plumbed in sanitation. Does a Bear(sden boy) shit in the woods ? Not this one !

So this was the balmy summer of  ’75. I had a healthy outdoor working life and a healthy meat free diet. NB Take it from me. Tofu is only there to bulk up your plate. It doesn’t taste or smell of anything and the texture is a bit disconcerting too. It’s only there so that when people see your meagre plate of vegetables and bean sprouts they don’t say “Is that all you’re having”. Polystyrene would have much the same effect.

Unfortunately, summer changed to late autumn. Crisp summer dawns turned into dark foggy morns. Although I had waterproofs, they were not a match for the torrents of rain constantly soaking into my bones as I went about my daily chores.

Some days when the course was waterlogged I would have to stay in the shelter of the icy cold hanger and ‘riddle’. For reasons I could not comprehend, there was a large pile of dirt in one corner of the shed. My job was to scoop shovels of it into a large sieve and create a pile of finer dirt hour after sodding hour. I never ever saw what the purpose of my handiwork was as it just remained a bigger pile of finer dirt. Yesterday’s nut rissoles weren’t giving me the sustenance that I needed either. That and my mother talking about a turkey roast with all the trimmings for Xmas, I was beginning to crack.

I think I lasted until about October when I turned my back on the noble craft of the keeper of greens (all 9 holes of them) and succumbed again to the flesh of farmed animals and foul.

“Turn up the central heating will you Mum and pass me the chipolatas please !”

shop ’til you drop

(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2021)

Every Friday evening between 5 and 6 pm for the last year a small truck emblazoned with the name of one of Australia’s fresh food duopolies trundles past our door to neighbours Simon and Kylie a quarter of a mile down to the cul-de-sac. Presumably that’s the weekly shop ordered on some phone app as they are a young busy couple with a toddler. As well as a time saver it means they are also not in contact with others in these times of pandemic.

I hear after a year of lock down, the UK is going to slowly lift it’s restrictions and hopefully get back to some degree of normality, i.e. shopping.

In the late 60s and early 70s, shopping was the domain of my mother and I.

Hilton Park Golf Club.

On Saturday mornings my father would thanklessly take the family car to Hilton Park Golf Club to spend the best part of the day begrudgingly traipsing over 18 holes in pursuit of an elusive small white ball, then forced to down two large gin and tonics with fellow weekend warriors in a warm club house. His afternoon would be spent snoozing to the soporific TV murmurings of Grandstand’s Frank Bough. We never really thanked him enough for his sacrifice.

This meant a bus trip into the big smoke for Mama et moi. My brothers, being teenagers, had outgrown their roles as bag carriers and sounding posts so that honour was bestowed on the third born.

When I say shopping, it wasn’t like a leisurely stroll around a vast and impersonal shopping centre, it was proper walking up and down streets dodging traffic and other pedestrians and proletariat.

There were good shiny tiled butchers with chatty, plump red faced men. One didn’t flinch at the sight of carcasses of dead cow, sheep or pig hanging in full view or poultry and game still with heads and feathers. It wasn’t a good butcher if it didn’t have such a macabre display.

“A pound of best mince ? No trouble love.”

A hand like a scarred bunch of bananas would scoop up the required amount and slam it down on a piece of greaseproof paper on the scales. Hands would be wiped on the front of the blooded apron. Mother would receive the perfectly folded paper parcel with elastic band snapped in position and I would then be given the coin change along with a small globule of gristle. This might have been some sort of test of my approaching manhood which I probably failed as I flicked my finger trying to remove the foreign object like a soggy nose pick.

Ironmonger’s shop

On to the ironmongers – does the word ‘monger’ even exist these days? And don’t get me started on haberdashery ! The ironmongers or hardware store always had a creaky wooden floor usually with duct tape holding down various electrical cables to make your route that little bit more perilous. It was staffed by obsequious people with neatly buttoned up brown coats. Human sat navs who could pinpoint half a dozen ‘1 Inch Hot Dipped Galvanised Cup Head Bolt And Nuts’ without even scratching their chin and looking skyward. Then expertly wrap said article in brown paper and string and fashioning a macrame carrying handle.

On some days the shops came to us. I have vague memories of a fruit and veg van but I certainly can remember the fish van probably for it’s Zen minimalism decor. Sloping shelves of trays of white filleted fish nestled on astro turf, a plastic lemon and a box of Ruskoline. Not a mollusc, crustacean or cephalopod to be seen. Not even a fish head or obvious bones just anaemic strips of fish flesh.

Then there were the ‘Onion Johnnies’, supposedly French men on bikes festooned with plaids of onions draped across their handlebars. They might have had berets and striped shirts, been smoking Gauloise and singing ‘Thank Heaven For Little Girls’ but the memory is a bit hazy on that.

To get that ‘Ye Olde Shoppe’ experience you have to visit theme parks or living museums these days – or do you. In a certain heritage listed West Australian rural town (see main image of Bridgetown, W.A.) the high street boasts many a shop from yesteryear.  It is rumoured in one boutique, ladies come from miles around to be accosted by a certain assistant (my dear wife) who in her best Kelvinside accent tells customers.

“Yes, you’re arse does look big in that !”

You just can’t get customer service like that these days.