There are three Gs to avoid in life: golf, gardening and gonorrhoea. Until recently, apart from a scare in Bangkok, I'd managed to avoid all three. Sadly I fear that my battlements are about to be breached, allowing the mighty River G to flow through.
It all started innocently enough: a conversation in a pub with an acquaintance who, after a couple of drinks, made the move. Was I a golfer? Did I fancy a game sometime? "Just hacking around," I remember him saying. "Just a bit of fun."
Of course, I said "yes". I'm always looking for new experiences and what could go wrong?
The first couple of rounds were fun, innocent almost. I never dreamt that it might lead anywhere. I suppose you never do, until it's too late. After all, it wasn't exactly me: drinking tiny gins with accountants and middle-management men talking endlessly about non-existent women. Then one night I woke up in a cold sweat, adrenaline coursing round my veins and I realised that I'd just had a nightmare about missing a crucial putt on the 17th.
That's when it hits you. You're a golf addict. You're middle aged. You must buy a shiny sports car. Pringle suddenly makes sense. Buy an umbrella. White socks are acceptable on a man. Everything you know is wrong.
It's a genetic thing I'm sure. Somewhere deep in my shallow gene pool lurks something that knew that this is what I would become: a sort of Indie Tarbie figure. All my life these same genes have made me loathe exactly the type of man that I've become in the hope that it might serve as a warning to me of the dangers ahead.
Take this week for example: I went to Marrakech. Twenty years ago an observant bystander could have spotted me wandering through the Djemma el-Fna dressed as a kind of Hendrix-lite figure. As far as I can remember through the muddled opiate memories, I was barefoot most of the time (shoes, of course, covered the soul) sporting a dirty pair of crap-catchers and some multi-coloured Berber jacket. If my observant bystander had been so inclined, he could have followed me on my stoned trudge towards a little café just off the square where, hubble-bubble in hand, I would spend the afternoon haranguing passing groups of wealthy tourists about material... stuff and their lack of... stuff in their lives (I hadn't quite formulated my views but I knew that something... stuff... made me angry.)
Twenty years later, almost to the day, I found myself walking through that very same square, the very epitome of those whom I had mocked in the past. I could almost hear my younger self's laughter among the drifting fumes of hashish and incense that were floating up into a crescent-mooned sky behind the Koutoubia mosque.
And well might he laugh. Back in Blighty I now have the mid-life-crisis sports car that takes me with great speed and juddering discomfort to my secret golf fixes. I don't want to tell Stacey about it, I thought I could keep it under control, just once a week, no big deal. But things have started to show: the blister on my right hand, the comfy cashmere jumpers stashed in cupboards, the little secret nods to other secret golfers in the fruit and veg section of Waitrose. Where did it all go wrong? I was a Goth for Christ's sake.
It's not like I haven't suffered. I thought I'd done my time and then, just as all seemed fine, my life is dragged down into the gutter, Kate Moss-like, by this terrible shameful addiction. It's the game that dare not speak its name.
I have to at least keep it secret until Christmas otherwise the golf presents will start pouring in: the "Golf is Life" T-shirt, the novelty golf ball, the amusing tea-towel, dogs playing golf in a watercolour painting, executive putting tools, monogrammed polo shirts... aaaaarrrggghhh! Still, it beats gardening.Reuse content