I have two “significant others” in my life.
The first is my son Ciaran, my firstborn child and now a grown man.
Last Friday, he was my chauffeur and chaperon for the day as I headed for Colchester Hospital and a date with a planned foot operation. At 07.30, we arrived on the ward, me nil by mouth and dying for a cup of decaf tea and Ciaran (that’s Kieran for those of you who are Anglicised) looking like it was the first sunrise he’d seen in his entire 32 years. I was in Colchester’s orthopaedic department and was seen first by the anaesthetist.
There are certain ways to ask a demanding question of anyone and the art is to ask it in such a manner that ensures it will rank well in the annals of social politeness. Being educated by the Sisters of What-Mercy!, you learn the subtleties of those approaches at a very young age. It was what Darwin meant when he talked about “survival of the fittest”. Those years of learning deserted me in one fell swoop as I cast my eyes on that consultant anaesthetist. He looked young enough to be my son and I wondered if he was suitably experienced to see my vital signs through an operation. I can only blame the leprechauns operating a no-holes-barred policy in my brain as I pole-axed him with a lancing gaze and asked him if he was actually old enough to take my airway. For the uninitiated: keeping an airway viable during the administration of an anaesthetic is vital to staying alive. When he stopped laughing, he assured me he’d been doing his job for thirty years and all would be well. I still don’t believe him.
The admitting nurse then came to review me and wanted to know if I’d ever been suspected of having CJD. In my book, there is only one way to answer that sort of daft question so I trotted out my standard reply. “I have often been called a mad cow but no one has ever considered me as full blown CJD yet”. I don’t know why her shoulders were shaking and she dropped her pen on the floor but she seemed to lose concentration after that and she couldn’t finish her routine set of questions. At this point I should report that my son did not know whether to die from laughter or embarrassment and kept his face buried in his hands. There are points in life when you know your children would like to disown you – I think this might have been one of them – for, on her departure, he reminded me that I was to keep silent and only answer the questions in a suitably contained and mature manner. As I consider my children among the best of my teachers, I took his words to heart and resolved to keep quiet.
That’s when I was seen by a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) prevention nurse who explained to me very nicely what a DVT, pulmonary embolism and cerebral vascular accident can do to the body and how to prevent it all happening – then she actually read my notes and realised what I did for a living. At that point, she crept away quite sheepishly. I still got in trouble with Ciaran even though I’d said not a word to this nurse but smiled and nodded as if I was interested throughout her spiel. There is no pleasing that son of mine.
All was now ready for me to go to theatres…
…and that’s when I was told my consultant had phoned in sick…
… which is how I came to be foot loose and fancy free at the back end of last weekend…
Instead of the required post-op pose of “toes above nose”, I found myself still on my feet with nothing planned to do. And those feet were itching to do something. That’s when I fell into the clutches of my other “significant other”.
He’s my grandson and I care not a hoot when I say in a totally biased fashion that he is drop-dead gorgeous. He is five and I get to be five, too, when we tag along together. I have worked very hard at being a grandmother and, after years of watching me interact with him, my children have labelled me well. In the family circle, I am referred to as “soft-touch Nanna”. I wear it well.
And so it came to pass that we found ourselves, me and little legs, on our way to The Grove, near Watford, in a sheets-of-rain deluge on Sunday morning for the final day of the British Masters tournament. My back seat driver was in fine fettle as we wended our way along the motorway and he was uber excited to be heading for his first-ever live tournament. Meanwhile, as driver, I was contemplating the horrendous drive and thinking: should have stayed at home and watched it from the comfort of my sofa.
The British Masters was founded in 1946 and was originally known as the Dunlop Masters, which, in turn, was a continuation of the Dunlop-Metropolitan Tournament that began life before World War II. It was designed as a seventy-two-hole end-of-season event with a restricted field and was held every year up to 2008. It has been held at many prestigious courses around the UK and, despite its numerous name changes, was one of the most lucrative events on the European Tour.
It disappeared for five years, making its comeback on the European Tour’s schedule in 2015, where it was hosted by Ian Poulter at Woburn from 8-11 October. I was privileged to be at that event and follow young Matt Fitzpatrick as he won his maiden professional title. This year, tournament ambassador and a former world number one, Luke Donald, chose The Grove to host the Sky-supported 2016 British Masters.
This is where we were headed and I had in my charge one excited little boy. “Will Rory be there?” was the first inquiry. When I responded in the negative, back came the next question “Are we going to see Justin Rose?” I explained why Justin would not be playing so the next question was “Well, I want to see Jordan Speiff. Will he be there?” Sorry, Jordan, but your surname is just a tad too much of a tongue-twister for my grandson. Finley was becoming dejected with my constant negative responses so I took charge of the flow of conversation and said, “You will see Andrew Johnston”. In the rear-view mirror, I watched the penny of dawning knowledge drop all the way from the top to the bottom of the well and saw his cherub face light up and eyes pop. We both shouted together “Beeeeeeef!”.
Suffice it to say it was a totally successful outing. I had one reservation going there. My grandson is the sort of child who asks a thousand piercing questions in a nanosecond and expects a thousand perceptive answers in the same time space. He keeps me young and my brain working. I love it but I wondered how he would cope with the respectful silence that should accompany each player’s shot. It never presented as a problem. He was so enthralled by the “live” action on the tee boxes, fairways and greens, the use of different clubs, and swing versus putting techniques, that he remained uncommonly silent for long periods.
At one point, Finley was poised so close to the passageway of Beef from one hole to the next that he could have reached out his hand and touched him but Finley was overawed by the moment and is just a tad reserved in the presence of someone who is not of his immediate circle of family and friends. I tweeted this reservation to Beef the next day and, as sure as night follows day, back came a wonderful “Hi Finley” greeting from Beef. He is the man! Finley and I respect this golfer.
As to my foot op…
…just don’t ask.