Each year before Christmas, when I am dashing around buying presents for children - mine and other people's - and wondering whether we can accommodate all the people I seem inadvertently to have invited to stay over the festive season, I write on the blackboard wall in the downstairs loo things that I think my children might like to buy for me. The original idea behind this was that when they were little (rather than nearly all taller than me now!) they could chose something like a tea-towel or tennis balls and know that they had bought me just what I wanted.
Over the years, the blackboard list has evolved somewhat and as the children have got older (and some of them even off the domestic payroll), the Christmas suggestions have moved onto a larger scale. The blackboard list was the reason that child 3 and I have supported Newcastle Falcons for the last few years. The Christmas wish was to see Jonny Wilkinson play and child 2 got us tickets to see the Falcons at Kingston Park and we have been hooked ever since. The fact that it took us two and a half seasons to see the most famous No10 in the world (because he was always injured) and then he decided to move to Toulon (now there's an idea for next Christmas's list!) is neither here nor there. The sound of the crowd singing the Bladen Races when they score a try (so not actually that often) gladdens my heart.
For the last three years, amongst the list of 'Mummy's Christmas Wishes' was golf lessons. There are a number of reasons for this - child 3 plays golf, granny (yes, she of Coco fame) plays golf and one day my knees will finally refuse to career round a tennis court and I might want to take up something other than bowls. I freely admit that I was not really expecting to get golf lessons but the children decided to take me at my word and bought me a course of lessons.
The golf pro who is teaching me has the patience of a saint. I don't find ball games easy although I seem to have spent rather a lot of time playing them and it is sheer determination and stubbornness that makes me refuse to give up. Anyway he is a kind man and compared to the tennis coaches I have paid over the years, unbelievably tolerant. The tennis coach is an altogether different beast. From the churlish red-headed coach who taught me when I first took up the game in my early 30s and announced that coaching housewives was his idea of hell (thank you!) to the feisty, furry Frenchman who is the present incumbent, they are generally short on patience and long on putting you in your place; as in, "Why are you standing there on the court?" Actually the FFF usually suggests that if it is a nice day we could just forget the tennis and have a nice glass of rose and he does have a point!
Back to the golf: lesson 1 involved me learning to hold the club and I can do that now with all my fingers and thumbs in roughly the right places, and attempt to hit the ball. The first lesson also included a video of me next to (though only on screen) Ernie Els. The differences in our swing were pointed out but all I could think was 'when did my bum get that big!' Lesson 2 (golf pro was late and I thought he must have decided to pull a sickie rather than teach me - quite understandable in the circumstances) and I can now hit the ball about 75 yards, but only sometimes.
Each lesson is interspersed with me practising a lot in the garden. The bit of lawn at the front is now full of divots but I have inadvertently dug up a few dandelions in the process so it's a sort of golf/weeding multi-tasking. I hit balls from the front of the house towards the field gate and then back again in the certain knowledge that I can only hit the ball so far. .. until I managed to sky one over the house narrowly missing the conservatory... now that could have been very bad.
Lesson 3 was a marked improvement but of course, subsequent practice with the full swing allowed on some shots demonstrated that actually I was getting worse. So lesson 4 which should have been chipping (no idea what this means but nothing to do with potatoes, I am thinking) was putting right all the mistakes which I couldn't self-correct. Now he has told me that next time I have to come not wearing jeans and with a full golf bag (child 3's not mine) because we are going on the course. I am feeling out of my depth on all sorts of levels - the number of shots it will take me to get anywhere near a hole means we probably won't get on a green in lesson time, I don't know how to chip, putt, get out of a bunker or anything else, and I don't have anything to wear in the trouser department and I don't want to look like Ian Poulter... Help!
Anyway that's the current state of the stationary ball game and updates will be available as we go along - five more lessons booked. Incidentally, I have been tweeting about my golf and people as far away as Australia have felt the need to comment on my remarkable (!) progress. Thank you!