A morning email arrived from Lucy: “hi dad how are you?”
Roy was pleased: “I’m fine sweetheart. How are you?”
Lucy came back: “im fine i don’t think u are.”
Roy frowned. The Open was underway already. He had the radio on: speculation about Tiger Woods, the northern seaside skies overcast but hopes for no wind or rain. American David Duvall, who’d won at Royal Lytham in 2001, was one of the early starters. Since that triumph, Duvall’s game had fallen apart. Calcavecchia, who’d won at Royal Troon in ’89, was already over par. Sandy Lyle, winner at St George’s in ’85, the same. Golf could make you, it could break you. It seemed so often to do both.
Roy replied to Lucy’s email: “I feel OK. Do you know something I don’t?”
Lucy: “stop making jokes. i think youre in denial.”
Roy: “I deny everything!”
Lucy: “youre still making jokes, you can talk to me if youre lonely Lx.”
Roy paced around for a while: up the stairs, into each bedroom, the spare room, downstairs again, into the living room, stared at his heaps of archive, the evidence that he’d been alive. He switched the radio off and slumped onto the sofa. He was annoyed in several ways. And why wouldn’t Lucy write English properly?
He turned to the Panasonic just before nine: the familiar Open theme music, that coasting, thrumming soundtrack to a world of firm causal dress codes, strict etiquette and psychological ruin. The big guns were stepping on to the first tee: Clarke, the defending champion whose wife had died from cancer; Els, the “big easy” who had an autistic son; unorthodox Bubba Watson, the Masters champion, an active Christian with an adopted child, what was it with Americans and silly names? Then Woods, the golfing god who fell to Earth; incredible tales of infidelity with porn stars. Roy despised himself for reading them, every one of them, in fine detail.
Roy switched channels. The start of the cricket had been rain delayed by 15 minutes. This didn’t surprise Roy: the Purley air was damp again and Kennington Oval was just a few miles away. England won the toss, chose to bat, and captain Strauss was out for nought in the first over. The South Africans were buoyant, but not for long. Cook was joined by Trott, South Africa-born and raised, as so many England players were in the modern age, a grating point that Brian liked to make. The pair built a steady stand and flourished. Roy worked the remote: Open, Oval, Open, Oval, Open, Oval, lunch.
The thing was to start with the old photos, but who were some of the people featured in them, where had they been taken and when? One in particular caught Roy’s eye: a youthful Don and Gwen with another couple, same sort of age, standing in front of a terraced street front door. All smiles. No kids. Don wore a wide-lapelled jacket and Gwen a summer frock. Lambeth, after the war?
At Royal Lytham Australian Adam Scott equalled the course record with a 64. He led on six-under. The Scotsman Lawrie, another former winner, was second on five-under. Woods was on three-under, McIlroy too. At the Oval, Cook completed a century. Across the channel, Wiggins pulled further ahead. The Summer of Sport was heating up. Roy noticed that its initials were S.O.S.
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