I was heckled the other day. Walking two abreast with my girlfriend in a Covid climate that has driven the country mad, we were put in our place by an older gentleman waving wildly and screaming “single file” like we were prisoners queuing for evening supper. I wouldn’t mind but it was a wide path, and we’re the most conscientious of walkers, forever giving way where we can.
Compare us to some of the people man-spreading their way from A to B and we’re practically non-existent. And don’t get me started on how they treat us when we’re jogging – like second class citizens – and there’s me having the courtesy to hold my breath as I pass them, risking my dainty ankles in unpredictable piles of leaves, when really they should be the ones making way for me, a slimy carcass on the move, lungs rupturing, picking gaps like Brian O’Driscoll to preserve the momentum of a tired stride.
I shouldn’t complain. We’re lucky enough to live at the gates of the Phoenix Park, the largest walled park in Europe don’t you know, but if you’ve found yourself there during this latest lockdown, especially on weekends, it doesn’t feel that big. Between the cars, the bikes and the footfall, the deer barely have room to move, which is no surprise given the government’s response to this virus has been to close the door in its face with lockdowns and hope it’s gone when they open it, but try telling the deer that.
My hope is that we’ll be playing golf again next week, and that those funnelling into green spaces with nowhere else to go will be given a few more options. Then again, opening the vast lands of Ireland’s golf courses would be common sense, and there are few cases of that in Dáil Éireann. I was all for golf joining the nation’s fight against this virus during the first lockdown. We’re all in this together after all, but with restaurants, pubs, shops and sports clubs among the outlets closed, we’re all everywhere together, vying for breathing room in over-populated public spaces because so few remain open.
I miss family gatherings. I miss pints with friends. I miss booking holidays. I miss having things to look forward to. I miss the freedom. I miss spontaneity and I bloody miss golf. Funnily enough, I also miss my interactions with strangers. For the most part they cross the road to get away from you now – it’s socially acceptable to avoid someone like the plague – but every so often I connect with someone from a distance, whether they sense my presence or not. Even when golf is closed, the game can bring people together.
I spotted a golfer in the wild the other day. If you didn’t know any better you’d think they were damaged. A right arm veering mechanically outwards as they walk. Subtle to the eye, a six inch takeaway, the left shoulder in pursuit and before you know it he’s stopped in his tracks, the dog looking sideways at him having completed a full turn, wrists cocked at the top, body coiled like a spring and you know what he sees as the deer look on bewildered, the eyes panning from his mark on the ground to a point in space where he’d send it, and then he unloads from the floor up – knees, hips, shoulders – it all thrusts rhythmically, one after the other, the momentum taking the arms with it, choking the dog with the swing speed, but worthy of the held finish – the hands parting for the club twirl perhaps a tad much but I could see what he saw – the purest of strikes, the ball sent soaring over the Papal Cross, a soft draw folding over into the sunset, just as he intended.
No doubt he suspected nobody had noticed as himself and the dog started up again, still friends, but I let a smile at him as I passed to let him know. A little nod to his Galvin Green top. A wee wink at mine. Our great walk, spoiled, without a club or ball between us. Just the want in our golf ridden hearts to do it all again.