Behind the scenes

Friday 21st October 2011

GOLF, it seems to me, is an honest pastime. Like snooker and darts, it relies almost entirely upon the skill of the player, not the whim or instant judgment of a match official. The ball is either in the hole or it isn’t… or, during my brief career, as like as not in the bunker, stream or deep rough.

Having said that, aged seventeen, on the Hull Municipal course’s short 7th – about 150 yards – I once struck a topped 5-iron tee-shot which bounced several times along the fairway before disappearing from view. Two friends and I assumed the ball had gone over the back of the green. We found it in the hole.

Poor A-level results nearly led to my becoming a professional caddy. I did re-sits and sneaked a university place instead.

At last week’s Cheltenham Literature Festival, I failed to make it to any events other than those in which I was taking part, preferring to stroll around the site chatting to those working there: ushers, caterers, festival volunteers, crew and organisers.

A couple of days later I was in prison, running a writing workshop, and head for London tomorrow to join the Occupy movement outside St Paul’s Cathedral. I’ve had a lifelong fascination with what happens behind the scenes.

Yes, it has been a privilege, walking Michael Palin to his hotel; chatting to Tim Rice on our way to the Playhouse; making Mo Mowlam a cup of tea; sharing an ash-tray with Alex Salmond… but no more heart-warming or essential than those conversations with Tom behind the bar, David on the door, or Karen in the box office.

I think it’s to do with what they call the ‘comfort zone’. Ordinary folk are safer.

Not many people know this, but for years I was a tense individual who bit his nails and worried about… well… being found out. An apparent extrovert, I was really quite shy. Still am. Perhaps that’s why I’d rather have been a caddy than a famous golfer. Only once did something remarkable happen as a result of my swinging a club.

It was a fluke. Please don’t tell anybody else.

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