Friday 25 August 2023

Loada bollix

In the course of my very expensive education, I learned how to play golf: aka a good walk, spoiled as The Enniscorthy Guardian had it in 1901. My father and I went to a local junk-shop and acquired (for buttons) a 'short set' of golf-clubs in a canvas bag all of probably Edwardian vintage. A short-set included a "driving iron" a "mashie-iron", a "mashie-niblick", a putter, and a couple of wooden "drivers". The bag had a side pocket for golf-balls and a bit of bandolier-webbing for the all important golf-tees.

You can look up what the modern names are for these antient projectile launchers - hint it's all in the angle of the [striking] face of the club w.r.t. the shaft. But I can tell you that "mashie" was wrong-wrong-almost-right [= machete] for tween chaps looking for missing balls in shrubberies and briar-patches beyond the target hole. It didn't take me long to crack the shaft of the mashie-iron pretending I was making progress with Colonel Fawcett in the Amazonian Jungle. I bound up the crack with glue and twine and it worked okay. We always always found more golf-balls that we'd lost.

The other amusement to be had with golf-balls which had been hacked about a bit was to remove the outer shell and unravel the yards and yards to rubber string which formed the magma of the sphere. In the centre was a little bag of white lead 2PbCO3·Pb(OH)2 which is toxic but about which we were not especially careful. This is all by way of introduction to a mildly amusing hoax perpetrated on the world of mycology by the 'discovery' that golf-balls which had endured a brush-fire bore passing resemblance to he fruiting bodies of certain fungi. The story was published by Kew Gardens in London on All Fools' Day this year.

The first example was sent to Kew from Lancashire in 1952 asking that the experts help identify what species it represented. One of the ID tests carried out is to leave the fungus (gills down if any) on a sheet of clean white paper. The spores, if any, are diagnostic for species when looked at under a microscope by a sufficiently expert mycologist. The waggish taxonomists decided to play their game straight and the specimen was given a name Golfballia ambusta [i.e. golf-ball which has passed through the furnace] and accession number. In the intervening 70 years, two more examples of the species have been duly recorded and added to the collection. All good fun, till someone gets in the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment