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A brief encounter

Never mind Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey or the MPs sex scandals – Ingolby has still got it!

Yesterday afternoon I waddled up the hill to my local gymnasium, situated at the back of a pair of rather upmarket hotels, intent upon nothing more than blowing a few cobwebs away and getting the blood circulating.

As I turned into the car park – as you might have expected, pretty full upon a Friday afternoon upon the eve of a weekend and all – my route to the gym was barred by a six or seven year old navy blue Porsche 911 Carrera at a diagonal angle.

Inside it were two ladies, one auburn-haired the other blonde-highlighted, aged [I would estimate – and being in my mid-sixties this is where I have to deploy the usual caveat that my skill at estimating people’s ages is somewhat dimmed from its former glory] – somewhere between their late thirties and early forties, and clearly of some substance and financial standing. Not super-expensive, you understand, but let us just say comfortable.

[I should perhaps also add at this point that, as per normal on a gym visit, to the world at large I was dressed in a lightweight tracksuit ensemble of navy blue trousers coupled with a light blue and black-edged top, together with an old navy blue golfing cap and a pair of trainers on my feet. Underneath, of course, I was wearing my chosen gym gear for the day].

Faced with the stationary Porsche, rather than stride past it, or indeed exhibit irritation at having to wait whilst the lady at the wheel attempted her task of reversing her car into what was a relatively tight parking space to her rear left, I made a deliberate decision to stand still (without putting any apparent pressure upon the driver).

I was in no particular hurry after all, but equally – mindful of the long-held but these days perhaps politically incorrect view that women as a sex are hopeless at reversing cars – as a matter of courtesy I didn’t wish to appear disrespectful.

Both ladies were aware of my presence and I made a conscious effort to appear relaxed and easy going.

The driver then went back and forth a couple of times in her quest without making much progress towards her intended final position. This was understandable because the rows of cars were parked quite close together and, doing this particular version of a three-point turn manoeuvre, even Lewis Hamilton or Paddy Hopkirk might have had their work cut out, albeit it would be fair to comment that yesterday’s driver was a little unsure of where the extremities of her vehicle were in relation to solid objects around it.

At this stage she had moved the Porsche backwards towards the space she was aiming at, but not yet at an angle at which she’d be able to enter it.

As she then prepared to change her gear from reverse to first (forward) I then strolled past the front of the car and stopped, indicating by my position and ‘helpful’-looking countenance that I was offering to assist as a ‘wing man’, i.e. when she was getting uncomfortably close to other vehicles on her future maneouvres, I would ‘signal’ that this was the case.

The ladies got my message. As the driver moved gently forwards, turning her wheel as hard as she could in order to gain a better angle next to reverse, her passenger wound down her window and half-smiled at me.

With my left hand I then motioned the driver forwards until – at the point where it would be unsafe to go further – I simultaneously changed my hand signal to halt and said “That’s enough”.

As the driver then stopped to switch to ‘reverse’ gear, I walked to the back of the car in order to continue my duties as she backed.

Together we then worked together on two more ‘forward and reverse’ movements, the second of which aligned the Porsche perfectly to go straight back into the vacant car park space.

As it did so, the lady passenger smiled again, thanked me and added “I believe Old Head is a very special course …

I have to be honest here.

At first I thought I had misheard her – in the sense that I could make neither head nor tail of what she had said. Then, cranking the old grey matter into overdrive, what she was getting at suddenly dawned upon me.

She had noticed that my somewhat ancient and battered blue golfing cap was sporting a little symbol and the words ‘Old Head’ beneath it.

This was a reference to the famous Old Head golf links course near Kinsale in Eire – in my experience of such things, one of the most spectacular courses I have ever set foot upon.

[One of the reasons that I have taken to wearing said cap on my gym expeditions is that I like to imagine that I am making an ironic comment on the fact that someone as ancient as myself is actually taking physical exercise at all: ‘Old Head’ – geddit?].

My appearance on the Old Head course in Ireland had taken place in 2004 after a good pal, the husband of one of my Canadian cousins, had emailed me of the blue one day.

He explained that he had gained permission from his spouse to go with three mates upon a ten-day golfing holiday in Ireland in celebration of his fiftieth birthday. Now, with barely a fortnight to the beginning of this epic, one of the party had been obliged to withdraw. Was there any chance that I might be free to take his place?

I jumped at the opportunity, never having played golf previously in Ireland. Dear reader, this expedition turned out to be one of the greatest golfing trip – and greatest holidays – of my entire life.

I had not met the other two tourists before but we gelled together like four brothers.

We toured in a large people-carrier/van, stayed at plush hotels, ate well, partied hard and played – this being all part of our tour leader’s meticulous planning – some of the finest (mostly links) courses in the Emerald Isle (Eire division), including Tralee, Waterville, Lahinch, Ballybunion … and the aforementioned Old Head.

[Fast-forward back to yesterday afternoon] …

Pulling my head together, I smiled back at the lady passenger.

… Not just a very special course, one of the greatest I have ever played …” I replied, bowing ostentatiously to them both, broad smiles breaking out all round.

Afterwards , even as I made my way to the locker room, I had begun reflecting upon the episode. It was just an instance of two ladies, intent upon parking in a hotel car park space, being briefly assisted by an elderly gentleman who had been walking by on his way to the gymnasium.

A little bit of courtesy, some team-work, a smile or two and finally an expression of thanks and the encounter ending with both parties unlikely (almost certainly) to ever meet again.

But from my end, at least, a brief exchange that left me feeling good about the world and glad to be alive. Hopefully it did the same for both of them. Not a hint of sexual harassment, or pressure, or a residual feeling of having been made to feel uncomfortable.

And you know what – I’m riffing here – just perhaps a hint of flirtation about it all. In a good, pleasant, ‘communal feel’ (spirit of togetherness) sort of a way.

I cannot disguise it, by yesterday evening I was hoping that there was … a hint of flirtation about it all, I mean, in a ‘both sexes feeling appreciated’ manner.

There was no intent whatsoever on my part of ‘future promise or hope’.  And, by the same token, I’m bloody certain there wasn’t aimed in my direction on the part of either lady either.

Not when I was about two and a half decades older than both of them and not exactly Clark Gable or Cary Grant (suave silver-fox)-like in appearance.

Yet none of that mattered. We were just three grown up strangers whose paths had crossed momentarily. And that’s a good thing.

[For sportsmen and golfers everywhere who perhaps have never heard of or seen Old Head, here’s a link to the course’s official website] – OLD HEAD

About Gerald Ingolby

Formerly a consumer journalist on radio and television, in 2002 Gerald published a thriller novel featuring a campaigning editor who was wrongly accused and jailed for fraud. He now runs a website devoted to consumer news. More Posts