A week that was supposed to be all about golf had some surprising twists and turns for David Philpott, not least when he crawled along the south circular. As his mind filled with nice thoughts about the good people of Swindon and boyhood misdemeanours, he blesses the SatNav that got it so badly wrong.

THE HEART OF THE MATTER

When I drank my first cup of coffee last Monday morning, I thought the week that stretched in front of me was going to be a golf week.  With charity fourballs in the diary for Wednesday and Thursday, I imagined that – as always at such times – I would turn up, meet some jolly nice people, and drive home wondering how I could have reached 53 years of age and not embraced the sport like so many of my colleagues have.

‘Do you play?’ asked Phil Cunningham of Brachers Solicitors – the first of many to pose the same question.

‘Nah’ said I.  ‘Where I grew up, our hobbies were football, scrumping and burglary. I’m just here to make a little speech,’ I had continued with a wink and a cheeky smile.

It was the IOD Variety Club Golf Day at The Nevill course in Tunbridge Wells, and I knew I had it all to do again the next evening at The John Salako Croydon Masters Gold Dinner.

As it happened, I never got there – for reasons that will become apparent – so now, at the end of the week, drinking my first cup of coffee – my mind is flooded not with memories of golf but of some rather exquisite people I met on Thursday in Swindon and the beautiful agony of the South Circular road.

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Caroline had set up the meeting at the Heart FM studios so that I could get to meet some of the key people.  My own dalliance with radio had ended over a decade ago, but I had kept in touch and spent a fair bit of marketing budget on air time.  My relationships however were all in the South East, so a big question mark had been hanging over the meeting.  Was this going to be a waste of time for me and for them?  Would they understand how we could help each other, I had wondered?

In life, sometimes things just fall into place.  The fact that Lisa, Helen and David had done their homework and knew more about my professional accomplishments than I did – on account I suspect of my own early-onset dementia – impressed me enormously.  They had taken the trouble to retrieve radio adverts that I had worked on going back years – campaigns that I had all but forgotten about.

Radio is a tough business.  You can come into work on a Monday morning and find out the company has been sold over the weekend and that you have got a new boss.  Such and environment toughens people up and can make them appear hard – even heartless.  As I drove away from Swindon later that day, it was not the meeting we had just had with the editorial team of a large newspaper organisation that I was thinking about, but three dynamic people who not only ‘got it’ – as I like to say – but who most definitely know what it is to Have a Heart.

 

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It was one of those moments when you know you should trust your instincts, but lacking confidence, you decide to trust the SatNav instead.  As I reached that point on the M4 where you should exit for the M25, every fibre in my being told me to ignore the SatNav and sweep left onto London’s orbital motorway and cut up to Croydon from the South.  Alas, I ignored my inner voice and let that damn woman convince me to “continue ahead for 4 miles” so that I entered London from the West and found myself eventually crossing Kew Bridge.

I had forgotten just had bad the traffic in London is – and I am not talking about inner London, what with its congestion charges.  This was suburbia but the traffic still only flowed at stupid-miles-per-hour.  As the clock ticked down and time ran out, I had to phone through my apologies and make my excuses.  Tonight, I had told them, I was not going to make it to the John Salako Croydon Master Golf Dinner.

Once the pressure had lifted I began to take in the scene and started to enjoy the journey, if not the driving.  This was all unfamiliar territory to me.  Places like Tooting Bec were names from travel reports on the radio, but ever-so-slower, the unknown bled into the familiar, as the South Circular weaved through Forest Hill, on to Catford, then out towards Sidcup where I joined the M20.  This had been my England when I was a child and it was perhaps the only England I knew.

With each and every mile, my mind was sated with boyhood memories of scrumping and nicking sweets and kicking footballs against the bike sheds in the school playground.  And not once, did I think about golf.