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Men in a bed... er, in the news
Cabinet minister William Hague received much adverse publicity recently for doing something that many years ago was commonplace for a touring golfer

Over the past few weeks, two events in particular made me sit up and take notice, albeit for very different reasons.

The first concerned William Hague, a politician who has held some of the highest offices in the land. The story in question was the fact that he had been naive or foolish enough to have shared a bedroom with one of his staff, a (dare I say) physically attractive young man of relatively immature years. This created the most tremendous furore. For a period, Hague was virtually demonised.

That set my mind awandering to when I first started out on my golfing life, before my brother and I became joint professionals at Parkstone Golf Club. It was then the 'done thing' to have a travelling companion and since we didn’t spend all that much time on the golf course, twin-bedded rooms were the order of the day. In most modest hotels the bathroom was down the corridor, so you travelled with a dressing gown, pyjamas, a little plastic box containing a bar of soap and a decent towel. You tried to get to the bathroom first, and hoped the person who had been in before you had left it relatively neat. If not, you would spend ten minutes tidying it up, just in case someone was standing outside the door and thought what a disgusting person you were for leaving things in such a mess.

No one thought anything about such arrangements. I only once had a poor night’s sleep, which was when David Thomas and I shared a bed in some modest establishment in South Wales on a hot night in August. We had been competing in a tournament at the splendid Hollinwell Golf Club in Nottinghamshire. The tournament finished on the Friday, that weekend was a bank holiday and two exhibition matches had been arranged for us, one in South Wales and the other at Trevose on the North Cornwall coast, both in aid of the Lord Roberts Workshops and the Forces Help Society.

In those far-off days there were hardly any good roads between Nottingham and South Wales. We eventually reached our destination at about 11 o’clock at night, only to find the hotel was battened down tight, not a light showing. We banged and banged on the door and eventually a head appeared from an upstairs window.

“Hello, we’re here – Alliss and Thomas.”

“Oh, come in, come in!”

Thank God he played golf and wasn’t too put out but, after all, it was only just gone 11. He took us to our room and there, lo and behold, was one three-quarter size bed. Now, at the time, David was relatively slim, but he still checked in at about 16½ stones. I was some three stones less. What to do, what to do? Well, as neither of us fancied the other, we thought it was safe to climb in. I remember facing outwards, perched on the very edge of the bed and terrified of any physical contact.

His night attire consisted of a lightweight jacket and shorts, rather reminiscent of the French knickers that ladies wore in the 1930s. Mine was a good, solid blue and white striped winceyette number. I don’t think either of us slept for more than 35 minutes and at one stage our rear ends ‘bumped’ and we both leapt out of bed as if we’d been electrocuted. The next morning we saw the funny side of it, had a huge breakfast, got in our cars, arrived at the club and both of us proceeded to break the then course record. So my view, essentially, is poor Mr Hague. Haven’t we all done it? Goodness, even Morecambe and Wise did! On television!

The second story was the ‘controversial’ appointment of Bob Diamond as head of Barclays Bank worldwide. I have known him for eight years or so and in all my modest dealings he has been an absolute delight. Of course, he loves the game of golf and it was mostly at sporting occasions that we met, but I like to think I’m a good observer of people and the Bob Diamond portrayed unfavourably in the newspapers in September bore no resemblance to the man I have got to know reasonably well. In fact, I even know of a few occasions he feels, indeed knows, that he was lucky in some transactions which, if they had gone the other way, might have made things very different, but they didn't and that’s the story of life. But then if you don't go to the Himalayas, you’ll never climb (or fall off) Mount Everest.

November 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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