Luckily, the topic of golf has never come up between Alice and my father: I fear that the fact that she once, as a teenager, played the - the what? - game? sport? - might well disqualify her instantly from family membership. My father brought me up loathing and despising people who played golf - I think this had a great deal to do with him disliking the wheeling and business dealing, the snobbery and pretentiousness that, for him, involved the mixing of golf and business. My inherited suspicions of the ritual - maybe that's the best word - were consolidated by the dangers of riding ponies on Wimbledon Common when there could, on occasion, be stray golf balls hurtling through the air (before this time, however, there was always the thrill of finding a lost ball, and unravelling its skeins of unstable rubber string until one found its glutinous, gluey center - rather like an inedible Cadbury's creme egg).
I feel sorry for these clubs, however, sitting at the bottom of the stairway to our attic like some sporting relicts in a Scottish baronial mansion. They are survivors: three sets of golf clubs were, we thought, loaded onto the movers' vans when we left Los Angeles, but only one bag arrived: the antique sets that once belonged to Alice's parents fell foul, somewhere, of Allied, the Careful Movers. We were more than suspicious, in retrospect, of the apparently efficient and charming mover who told us, in LA, that he had a friend who had a good business in resuscitating elderly clubs and selling them on at a vast profit. But how can one proved any evil doing of this sort? To be sure, a claim was filed, and compensation proffered, but the presence of these remaining objects, oddly looking like stringed musical instruments, is a daily nudge of sadness about the ever-lurking possibility of unpredictable loss.