Thursday, May 13, 2010

Golfing With the BOGGS and Lawn Bowling with Basil and Izzy

This week's immersion into British culture begins with my golf days with the BOGGS, British Old Gentleman Golfing Society. After a couple of rounds of golf with Adrian, he asked me if I would like to fill in for a couple of games with a group that he belonged to. "A chap had to drop out of the Highland Tour because he could not get back from Portugal because of the volcano. Quite dreadful, really." Because I am a golf whore and this included rounds at Nairn, a former Walker Cup course, and Royal Dornoch I most certainly accepted.

Adrian added, "Oh Staaan, of course a coat and tie are required for lunch." But of course. You mean we weren't going to have a plate of nachos to go with our beer out of the can? This should be different. Luckily I had packed a coat and tie for the Captain's Gala, but that will be another story.

It turns out that the BOGGS are a group of well heeled gents who roam around the country playing arranged matches with local clubs. These are guys whose houses have names, like the Smithingtons of Manse Upon Tyne or Nigel Haddington of View O'er the Cotswalds or Gavin of Rolls Royce in the Garage.

I turned up at Nairn and went inside, coat and tie are not required for coffee and bacon rolls before golf. I sat down with a coffee and listened to Lord and Lady Haversham speak of the skiing in France versus the skiing in Italy. I discreetly did not chime in about the inner tubing at Big Bear.

After my bacon roll with brown sauce I went to the first tee to meet my partner. I was paired with Roderick the III of Yorkshire Upon Pudding. We were playing foursomes, which meant you basically hit every other shot. "Staaaan, you take the odds and I'll take the evens," said Roderick as he marched off down the first fairway. This game was a bit like speed golf and leap frog. You whacked the ball and then went ahead to where your partner's shot would end up and then to the green where the 2nd putt was usually conceded and the next tee ball was in the air before the flag stick was put back in the hole. We buzzed around the course in less than 3 hours. I kept wondering what was the hurry?

The hurry was to get back inside to take a proper shower and don coat and tie for cocktail hours, (plural intended) and a massive lunch. Note the two British multi use adjectives, proper and massive. At this time everyone had donned their club tie and notes were compared. "Oh nice tie, James, is that Royal Liverpool and St. Annes? And yours Gavin, is that is Royal Birkdale and Ainsley of Southport? Stan, I don't recognize yours." My reply, "Oh that is Jerry Garcia of Haight and Ashbury." We had a beer and relived the round, it happened so fast that I don't remember much, due to the speed of the golf or the speed with which the lager was being consumed. "Gavin, you hit a massive shot on #3, well done old boy" or "Nigel that was a proper pitch shot you played into the 14th, jolly good chap." After a cocktail or three, a proper hostess escorted us the 10 feet to the tables where we would dine. When we were seated the waitress brought out the wines (again plural intended). Great, red wine at 12:30 before lunch. Being the conversationalsit I am I thought I would join in some pre lunch chatting. Where can I fit in? To my left, "Reginald, did you see the cricket yesterday, Cambridge was 248 with 6 overs before tea." Nah. To my right, "Well Colin old boy, I can't support the Tories, Labor is rubbish, I may just cast my ballot for the Lib Dems." Try again. Across from me, "Wilson, I just bought Lady Boggleton a new JagUar and I find it far superior to the Bentley." Did anybody watch the Giants game last night? Lincecum was nails. Oh well, where is that red wine?

Now this is when I felt like I got transported into a British movie from the 50's. The speeches. It is not a proper golf outing unless massive speeches are delivered. The home team's captain thanked us for coming and for the competition and gave a brief explanation of the history of Nairn Golf Club, staring with the founding in 1702 by Lord Cumberbun and ending with the vote last week that allowed women and dogs equal rights on the golf course and in the clubhouse, which caused massive resignations. Dogs have had clubhouse privileges for years! Whew! Now is it time to eat? No! The Captain of the BOGGS had the floor. Lt Col Percival Reginald Smythe IV, retired, of Cashmere Upon Tweed, raised his glass of red wine and said, "Would the BOGGS all rise and salute our hosts?" Then the Vice Captain began a rousing, I kid you not, Hip Hip Hooray, Hip Hip Hooray, Hip Hip Hooray. Where am I, an extra in Bridge Over the River Kwai?

Percy went on to detail the matches. Evidently Percy's partner, Lord Ascot Instead of Tie, had a dreadful day. After his 6th foozle in a row he moaned to Percy, "I am so dreadful I feel I should walk into the ocean and drown myself." Percy replied, "That is all well and good, Lord Ascot, but do you think you could keep your head down long enough to do a proper job." Which brought a clamor of table pounding and Hear! Hear!

At this time I happened to look up and survey the scene. Thirty two men sitting around the table and I wondered, why do these guys all have caterpillars stuck to their foreheads? Then I realized it was their eyebrows and with each Hear! Hear! the caterpillars danced. The Dance of the Caterpillars, one would think that with all the sheep around one guy would have used the shears to help him see what he was doing. But no, it must be like medals on a South American dicatator, the more the better.

Percy continued, "Without further ado it is now time for lunch." Hear! Hear! I have already had time to get drunk, have a hangover and get drunk again with a nap in between. Sorry Percy. Percy said, "We will got to the carvery in this order, Earls and Lords first, Sirs and MBE's next and Americans last." I walked to the buffet line and selected my Sirloin of Beef, Yorkshire pudding, neeps and tatties. Then a proper waitress carried my plate back the 10 feet to my chair. I told her right here, here. Which set of another chorus of Hear! Hear! and more table pounding and caterpillar dancing. I thought I had a seat in the House of Commons. Great, lunch at last and then I can go home and have a proper nap. No! It was time for dessert and more speeches. Another short nap and finally the day came to an end. We had 3 hours of golf and 4 hours of lunch. Now that is proper golf!

I rushed home from my golf game today because we were invited to The Bowls. Lawn Bowling, that is, white slacks and shirts, tea in the middle, unbalanced balls and you don't even get to knock anything over. Well, I met Barry golfing and as he is President of the Bowls this year, he invited Julie and I to play. We paid our 2 pounds and got the proper equipment, white deck shoes, lovely, and 4 balls. Where are the holes for my fingers? We were then placed on teams. In the interest of marital harmony Julie was on one team and I on another. I was paired with Basil, Margaret and Bradford. Julie played with Barry, Izzy and Jimmy. It is always fun to be the youngest in the crowd. By a long way, said Julie. Here we go.

I bowled with Izzy as my direct opponnet. Izzy is about 4'8" and weighs in at maybe 90 pounds. I am going to kick her ass. Bowling is a bit like golf in that everyone has a unique approach. Izzy winds up like Satchell Page and it takes all of her 90 pounds to propel the ball to the other end of the lawn. She lets fly with one and rolls it up quite snug against the jack. Oh the object is to get your balls as close to the jack, the white ball, the more balls close to the jack the more points. My turn. I let one go. I don't come near. In fact it was almost off the lawn. Izzy goes again, full wind up and a follow thru that almost sends her to the ground and another ball that curves gently around a cozies up to the jack. "Nice bowl Izzy" sings the chorus. I can do this. I take my time. I smoothly release one and it rolls the wrong way halfway to the jack. I'll get the hang of it. To make a short story even shorter, I did not get the hang of it. In fact, I was shite. But surely, I will be better than Julie!

Julie's turn. She rolls the ball and the ball curves around and narrowly misses being a "toucher." A scoring bowl. "Nice bowl Julie," sings the chorus. "Julie, you are a natural," says Izzy in that wonderful sing song Scottish accent. After 8 ends, we stop for tea and cake. The bowlers rave about Julie's skills. Julie picked up the game quickly and with every ball her team mates said "good bowl." I haven't heard "good bowl" so much since 1973 at Humboldt State.

And me. "Staan, could you wash up after tea." Surely, I can do this. I mean look at Basil. He is 85, if he's a day. He can't bend over to pick up the balls so he has a little scooper that picks up his balls for him. He is giving me tips. "Staan, try rooowlling it wid yor crancach like thees." What the hell did he say?

In the end Julie and Izzy kicked my ass. But with all the properness of the Scots Barry said, "Staaan you came in 2nd, not a close 2nd but 2nd none the less." There are only 2 teams. Julie is invited back to bowl next week. They said I could come and help serve the tea. We'll be back next week. After bowls we'll have fish and chips supper. I know I can do that.

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