The Wild Golf Podcast

This image was taken on the beach by my dad – probably Bournemouth, with the family box Brownie. Like my memories from the time, it is aptly out of focus. I remember the feel of the jersey bib shorts, the bucket which was soft rubber and a vague sense of my mother’s touch. It is probably 1954.

The relationship was not always close, especially in my teenage years. Prone to be judgemental, I wonder what my mother would have made of my elevation to ‘celebrity’, the star of a podcast. He/she has got too big for his/her own boots; it is sure to end in tears; he/she likes the sound of his/her own voice. Well, actually mum, I am not sure I do – there is too much the hint of nowhere man and middle England. It betrays a sense of not really belonging anywhere and it doesn’t go down well in all quarters. All that apart, I am also not sure she would have entirely seen the funny side of publicising our strained relationship. I am sad she is no longer around to pass judgement – we are not amused, or just maybe, we are.

Wild Golf
Welcome to the Wild Golf Podcast with Michael McDonald. We will inspire you to join a community of adventure golfers who step outside the conventional golf box and experience the beauty of the game, and life, in profound ways.
 
 

 

 

Bike miles …

Nearly 300 this week, so spring must be around the corner. Mileage was more or less evenly spread between the BMW GS and the Triumph Scrambler, the former clocking up 131 in one trip to get serviced at Carlisle and then home via Hawick – by no means the quickest route, but the diversion into the Scottish Borders includes the near empty sweeping bends of the A7.

In among the images of my own bikes there is the enormous BMW R18 and a new BMW GS, made ugly by too many splashes of yellow – both taken at the BMW showroom while waiting for my bike to be serviced and shod with some new Metzelers. Well, you have to fill the time somehow …

The Scrambler north of Brown Rigg

The Road from Sundaysight

The GS with Rubers Law in the distance

BMW R1250 GS – the 2022 version of my bike spoiled buy the yellow touches (looks better in mono;-))

The BMW R18 – magnificent but not my style of bike

Under threatening skies to Bellingham, but stayed dry.

The Scrambler at Hesleyside

Rain and wind …

And nothing much else this week. Some days I was reduced to photographing the neighbours i.e. the sheep. It was so bad today, they deserted the higher ground and have probably found shelter near the trees. Other days, I was either in Hexham or walking near Fourstones. Golf and motorcycling seem a distant prospect. On a positive note, the first 100 books (Golf in the Wild – Going Home) have been sold or shipped to retailers.

The lovers at Hexham Pant on Valentine’sDay

Parallel lines – the crossings near Fourstones Papermill Co. Ltd.

In spate – the Tyne at Haydon Bridge.

After the storm – a thorough wash and blow dry.

Nun shall pass – Hexham Abbey.

Bulrushes – between Warden and Fourstones.

An awful day (today, Sunday 20/2) – the field is saturated, the sheep are in hiding and I have not ventured beyond the front door.

The rains came …

It has been a quiet week at Beaufront Woodhead. A mixed weather pattern, but regardless of sunshine or rain there was always a bitter wind. The good news is that the rain was sufficiently heavy that by the time I took the Scrambler out on Friday, the roads were so mud free the bike didn’t really need a clean – regardless, I did – it’s an affliction.

For much of the last seven days I have been reminded of the downside of self-publishing books – the seemingly endless PR tasks and the distribution. Fortunately or otherwise, order volumes have never become overwhelming. Currently the dining room tables hides a multitude of boxes now containing slightly less than the original 1000 books. I look forward to the day when the stored books can be counted in tens rather than hundreds, by which time I may have dreamt up another book. It’s another affliction.

The highlight of the week was attending the Liberal Golf Society AGM and dinner and collecting the magnificent 1902 Rowe Trophy and Silver Salver. Much of last year’s golfing success must be attributed to the new World Handicap System and the generous rating applied to Allendale golfers. I will not bore non-golfers with the explanation but golfers will understand. Somebody in England Golf thought Allendale is easy – a relatively short, 9-hole course, what can be hard about that. Just try it and you will find out.

Straight on to Plashetts, right to Bavington.
Another Monday ride out where the roads were mostly dry, but icy where they were not.

Near the entrance to The Shield – Kirkwhelpington

To Allenheads on a dreich day – spot the owl, then spot the duck.

At Baddox between Warden and Fourstones on the south side of the Tyne

Mud and a bitter wind – sufficient to keep me off the bikes.

At Wark (rhymes with dark) – a short ride to the Post Office on the Scrambler – easier to park than in Hexham – and the roads were bone-dry and clean!

Hexham, on another cold and blustery February Saturday.

The Rowe Trophy dating from 1902, it stands 21 inches on its plinth. Presented by the Liberal Golf Society at the dinner and AGM on Friday, I am mighty pleased it now bears my name.

Stanhope Common

On Friday I rode down to Darlington.  At this time of year, getting any bike out over any distance is a bonus.  Nearly all 97 miles of tarmac were filthy, the low sun shone permanently in my eyes riding south and it took nearly two hours to clean the bike when I got home.  It was all worth it.  Having taken the quick route when outward bound, on return I took the scenic roads through Wolsingham, Frosterley, Stanhope and Blanchland.  Riding across Stanhope Common, I was treated to these wonderful sights.  All taken within a few minutes of each other, the light was changing fast.  A few miles further on, I descended into the mist and damp of a very foggy afternoon – the price was worth paying:

Towards Burn Hope

A very muddy GS

Moon central with Sandyford quarry building in the distance

Towards Blanchland

More of the same

Le Macabre

The jukebox had an appropriate playlist: Chopin’s Funeral March, Drac’s Back by Billy DeMarco & Count Dracula, Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, but we always played Cat Stevens’ – Lady D’Arbanville:

Your lips feel like winter
Your skin has turned to white

Le Macabre Coffee House was at the western end of Meard Street, near the junction with Wardour Street, in London’s Soho.  Just around the corner was Hammer House, home to the horror film specialists, Hammer Films.

“You could always tell you were in Meard Street, because ladies’ legs tended to dangle out of the windows. With vocal commentary”Russell Davies.  In 1970 they had either moved on or I was unaware – in those far-off  days, there was only the one girl in my universe.

The interior was witch-dark, the tables were in the shape of coffins, the ashtrays were Bakelite skulls and skeletons adorned the walls.  It was a delight to a pair of teenagers with an unhealthy interest in Dennis Wheatley – The Devil Rides Out, To the Devil a Daughter, The Satanist – they were nothing if not obvious. I guess we were early goth. 

I don’t remember the quality of the coffee, but Starbucks would do well to emulate the atmosphere. 

She lived in Sydenham and I worked in Manchester.  Until I contrived to move south, I travelled between the two, often hitch-hiking.  Setting off early evening meant the motorway slip roads were less populated with like-minded travellers.  There was an etiquette loosely based on first come first served, although lone girls and couples were more likely to be singled out by the eagle-eyed driver.  The late departure meant arrival into London in the early hours – breakfast was free milk from the doorstep and heat from the Euston Station concourse, until moved on. Police searches were common but never threatening – my limited baggage space might include some freshly laundered underwear, sent south by my girlfriend’s mother.  No great deal except when searched – it seemed to amuse the constabulary.  No officer, they are not mine – do they look as though they would fit?Each to his own, laddie.

The lack of sleep lent those long weekends a dream-like quality.  Le Macabre was the perfect place to maintain a chimerical state of mind.

(This post inspired by a tweet from Rob Baker – author of two excellent books about London: Beautiful Idiots and Brilliant Lunatics and High Buildings, Low Morals)

More about …

… the weather.  On Monday night we had the first serious snow of winter – unannounced, it took us sufficiently by surprise that the Good Wife had to abandon her car and walk home, about a mile up the hill to Beaufront Woodhead.  The car was retrieved the following day, but the snow and and ice hung around for another couple of days.  Later in the week, the BBC/Met Office website was finally issuing Yellow Weather Warnings for severe snow in the northeast.  In the event, nothing arrived.  The same website contains hourly forecasts for the following fourteen days – generally speaking, they turn out to be nonsense.  Why the pretence – rant over – have a happy week, everyone, regardless of the weather.

Monday afternoon

Tuesday morning – the same scene – a world changed

Hexham golf course – closed – Wednesday

Thursday morning – firebird heading for warmer climes

Friday morning – fire in the woods

Christmas week …

The weather has been bleak. Our James, Louise and Little Evie arrived Monday and within 12 hours we had all gone down with a stomach bug – on the plus side, they got to stay another day. James is the our youngest boy of three and the the first produce a grandchild. For various reasons, it seems unlikely that the others will follow suit. So, on this branch of the family tree, it seems likely the Down name will die out. My dad would have been disappointed – no longer a name to go down in history.

It is a surname people struggle with – when speaking it, particularly on the phone, I have a habit of saying “Down, D, O, W, N” – it’s short enough and helps reduce the number of misheard interpretations – they are many. Even people we have known for years will add an ‘e’ or an ‘s’ or both – Downe, Downs, Downes are the common variations. Oddly, the Good Wife, who inherited the name, gets more irritated by this than me.

Enough rambling – I trust everyone is having and will continue to have a great Christmas. Like I said, the weather has been bleak and this is reflected in the external images from the past seven days:

Sunday 19th December – The fog on the Tyne moved up the side of the valley.

Monday 20th December – Someone is looking sheepish

Tuesday 21st December – Little Evie and her two front teeth venture north

Wednesday 22nd December – More thoughtful than sheepish

Thursday 23rd December – More or less recovered from the stomach bug

Friday 24th December – the CCM Spitfire Blackout – another recent addition to the garage.

Saturday 25th December – A Christmas day walk to Beaufront Hill Head.

Yet another …

… week gone by.  After a dull and dreary weekend, the sun finally appeared late Sunday and from then on, the week mostly took a turn for the better.  Monday was cold, particularly across the moors, but fine enough to get the Scrambler out.  Tuesday felt a little like Christmas as I drove to Allendale Brewery to collect a hamper and crates of beer.  Bright skies and frost appeared on most mornings such that the camera has spent a lot of time pointing at the sky.  Thursday was even good enough to take the GS north, across filthy roads to Otterburn and then on single tracks to Sundaysight, Greenhaugh and Bellingham.  Nothing is quite as good as being alone on two wheels in wild, empty places.

Sunday 12th December – the sun finally made an appearance, late in the afternoon

Monday 13th December – On the Scrambler to Stanhope and Wolsingham. Still some snow on high ground and colder than expected, but grand to be out again. No low winter sun, which is good thing on the bike.

Tuesday 14th December – To the brewery at Allendale to collect Christmas presents. So much better than depending on a courier who might, or might not, deliver to the right address.

Wednesday 15th December – Sheep migrating north in a golden, morning light.

Thursday 16th December – traffic jam near Sundaysight.

On the same day, on high ground between Greenhaugh and Bellingham, looking towards Sundaysight. The GS is filthy thanks to the lorries emerging from Divethill Quarry on the B6342.

Friday 17th December – Egger from Oakwood, on a cold December morning.

Saturday 18th December – a hard frost on a bright December morning. Flying high on the left is Turkish Airlines, Boeing 787-9 from Istanbul to San Francisco.

On the same day – a different treatment of the same scene.

Another week gone by …

I don’t know how long I will keep this up, but there is an improved chance now that I once again have access to the classic editor.  For this I must thank https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/ who pointed me in the direction of Katherine Wikoff’s post on this subject.  Many thanks to both.

In the manner of Garrison Keillor, it has been a quiet week at Beaufront Woodhead.  Snow fell heavily last Saturday night such that Sunday dawned bright and very white.  Most had melted by Sunday night. Monday remained bright but cold and then the dismal weather set in for three days.  Astonishingly on Friday, my first round of golf since November 11th was played up the coast, at Warkworth, under clear blue skies.  Normal service was resumed on Saturday.  Yes, the English are obsessed by weather.

This is the collection of images posted daily on Blipfoto:

Sunday 5th December – A bright Sunday morning – the first snow of winter

Monday 6th December – Sunburst over Hexham on Monday evening

Tuesday 7th December – A dismal day outside I started playing around with Adobe Photoshop Camera. You see al this before you press the shutter on the smartphone.

Wednesday 8th December – On another thoroughly miserable day, our near neighbours in their very damp woolly jumpers.

Thursday 9th December – Out for Christmas lunch with friends, this is another smartphone + Photoshop Camera image using a reflections preset.

Friday 10th December – The Miracle that was the trip to Warkworth Golf Club.  The view from the edge of the 5th fairway.

Saturday 11th December – normal service is resumed – a very bleak day.

In other news, I finished another proof read of Golf in the Wild – Going Home – the third in as many weeks. It’s a slow process but worth the effort – I am still hopeful for publication before the end of January.