My two best mates from when I was a kid were both Greenkeepers. One at the course in Bridgnorth, and his younger brother was the first assistant at a rural course, sat atop a hill, three miles outside of town. They were looking for casual labourers to help prep the course for the summer and Jet asked if I'd like to do it. "It's shit when it rains, we have to be up fucking early but we have a laugh and the butchers down the road do ace sausage rolls, " he said. "Plus there's a couple of fit birds in the restaurant."
The first day was, as promised, a right laugh. It rained so hard that we played cricket in the machinery shed, smoked loads, drank as much tea as we could stomach and took the piss out of the new deputy greenkeeper, Lunch, for the harshness of his Black Country accent. Not only was it harsh, but it developed into a high pitched unintelligible squeal whenever he got excited, which was approximately every ten seconds.
In fact the first week was ace. The head greenkeeper was off so the Leopard was in charge and he put Jet and I on the paths. Essentially we had to go round, weed every path, replace any of the wooden borders that had become damaged and then go around with a flatbed filled with fine stone and shovel and spread it to create a nice new surface. The sun shone all week, I was glad to get a sweat on after 18 months in a car shop, we had radio and, apart from the odd run in with a member, it was bliss. Then Forksy came back.
A teenage golf prodigy, boozer and angry young man, Forksy looked like a hobbit, only one with the deranged perma-smile of someone who had found religion. Apparently, as the story goes, Forksy had been out boozing and scrapping on a Friday night and the next morning was fixing his motor outside his house. Standing up too quickly, he banged his head on the bonnet and knocked himself cold. Waking up, he found two Jehovah’s Witnesses standing over him and that, pretty much, was that. He stopped playing golf, knocled the booze and fisticuffs on the head and became one of the mist smilingly pious bastards you could ever meet. And, I should mention, a constant target for the Leopard.
I’d done my fair share of strimming on the council and had my face splattered with enough dogshit and dead frogs to last me a lifetime.
One of the biggest wind-up merchants I’ve ever met. I’d known the Leopard for years, had played football with him, been on holiday with him and knew he was fond of winding people up. But his enjoyment in annoying Forksy went beyond any enjoyment. It was his life’s work. While Forksy was the epitome of a ground worker, immaculately turned out, combed hair, always on time, The Leopard was the diametric opposite. In the six weeks I was there, possibly his best wind up was to take every clock apart in the Greenkeepers shed, paste pictures from Razzle onto the faces and superglue it all back together. “I’ll kill him, I’ll bloody kill him…” was Forksy’s refrain. He usually had to take a day off to redress his Karmic balance after a wind-up, but now he decided to work with me, the casual, as I had to feign respect.
The Paths (2)
If you want spend your spare time happy-clapping, door-knocking and slaughtering chickens in the name of God then fine. Just don’t ever tell me about it. Forksy thought I needed saving. “I was like you, Owen, a smoker, a roustabout, fond of sex with women (he said it exactly like that) and other carnal sins. It’s no good to you.” Every time I lit a fag, he’d shake his head and say ‘It’s no good to you.’ Where me and Jet had a radio, Forksy and I had Jehovah’s Witness tapes, played over and over again for a whole week. Anyone who has grafted for a job will know that the chatter is what gets you through. The vital conversations about music, all time football Xl’s, girls and laughing about the weekend make the job go quicker. That was impossible with Forksy, and I couldn’t even question his beliefs as I needed the job. After a week, he gave up, and he tried an even more ridiculous method. He bought in Dufresne.
The dictionary definition of a happy-clapper, we named Dufresne after Tim Robbins’ character in the Shawshank Redmption. Don’t ask me why, we just did. He was one of the Witnesses who had ‘saved’ Forksy, and he came into do a month. We all though him and Forksy would team up and we’d be left to work as two pairs, edging bunkers, cutting greens, doing the fairways and strimming. Except that didn’t happen, me and Dufresne were paired up. “The Dream Team,” said Forsky. ‘Kill me now,’ I thought, as Jet, Leopard and Lunch pissed themselves.
Although the sausage rolls from the local butchers were ace, whenever I now think of, or eat, a sausage roll, I think of Dufresne and his smiley face. He looked a bit like David ‘Ram Jam’ Rodigan, only without an ounce of the musical taste. We had the radio on the day we were finishing the paths. First song was ‘we built this city on rock and roll,’ to which Dufresne changed the lyrics to ‘we built this city on sausage rolls.’ Why? Why would you do that? He did it with loads of songs but that one sticks in my head more than any. Dufresne didn’t just try and kill me with kindness, he tried to drag my soul out and trample it into the dust. I folded and begged Forksy to work on my own.
In a roundabout way Dufresne finished it for me. After six weeks of laughs, spliffs in bunkers, some ace games of cricket and a good bit of graft I was so annoyed that I wanted out. Acquiescing to my request to work solo, Forksy told me I could strim around every tree base on the course. All 5,000 of them. Strimming is boring at the best of times, I’d done my fair share on the council and had had my face splattered with enough dogshit and dead frogs to last me a lifetime. But on a golf course the danger is all the more painful. Golf balls hurt, and I saw this as my escape. After ten days of constant strimming, I was out near in no man’s land between the 14th and 16th with a seismic hangover. My fingers were throbbing with the early stages of white finger and I’d had my fill. Checking nobody was around, I took my helmet off, and repeatedly bashed a part of the surface with a ball I’d found. Returning to the shed in a blaze of swearing and over the top gesticulation, I told Forksy what had happened. “Fucker hit me on the head, Forks,” I said.
Little did I know that the bastard Dufresne had been watching me. I got sacked at lunchtime.
Sausage rolls my arse.
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