I was standing on a little circle of lawn, triangulated between Bartholomew’s Hospital, Smithfield Market and the Haberdashers’s Hall. Scattered around me were various props – a little plastic house. A truck. A castle. A seesaw. A jump. Then three golf balls, three putters and a golfing umbrella. I was wearing a traditional golfing jumper and a little white sun visor. It was 3pm on a Wednesday. Keeping alert for groups of people coming around a certain corner, I spent most of my time looking like this:
Outside of the groups who were playing the game I was a part of, nobody directly interacted with me. A few people took a moment, wondering what I was doing, but mostly they just went about their business unfazed by the very serious miniature golf player in a public space. Apart from one twitbiscuit, who apparently thought it was necessary to call the police.
I blame London underground via the met police, piping “See it, say it, sorted” paranoia on a constant drip: “if it doesn’t feel right, we want to hear from you. Let us decide if what you have seen or what you know is important.” So some small-world twonk decides it’s worth calling in a bloke playing mini golf. Because there are only 12 people in the world and everything revolves round them.
Enter policeman Dave. Short and hard, he’s a ginger and he could give me a right good kicking even if he’s pocket sized. He comes swinging round the corner I’m watching for players and I know he’s after me because his eyes are on me immediately and they don’t leave. I stand and meet his eye contact, smiling and open bodied until he’s right up on me. He’s walking very fast. One hand is on his belt of tricks. It’s been a long summer and I’ve been working outdoors, so I’m in much more danger than usual.
He clocks the mini golf stuff, looks back at me. “I’ve had a report of potentially dangerous activity here. What’s going on?” RP accent to the ready. “I’m practicing my mini golf, officer. It’s for a treasure hunt. It’s all rather fun and silly actually. I’d offer you a go but you’re busy.” Dave defuses himself instantly. His weight moves to his heels. He then starts telling me about bloody mini golf. “There’s a proper course round here, you know. It’s privately owned. It’s really near. I won’t tell you where, but I stumbled upon it once. Unsecured property, you know how it is, I come round to check, 12 holes of mini golf, all sorts of obstacles.” I’m recruiting at him by now, making the right noises. He’s doing the same. We’re a pair of frauds. “Gah that’d be a lot better than this. It’s ridiculous the sort of stuff that’s hidden from sight in this area,” I reply. “I went to college round here.” (#Local!) “Went into a load of the guild halls because thy sponsored the place. Amazing. So much beauty. For so few people. Even that church over there.” I point, showing I know the area. It’s a beautiful hidden medieval church. St. Bartholomew the Great. He nods, he smiles and he doesn’t taser me even though I’m tanned and unusual. “Good. So long as nothing suspicious is going on.” He smiles, and so do I. “Haha” because we both know it isn’t quite a joke. And off he goes, still at high speed, to his next bit of business, a dangerous but friendly law-hobbit.
And I’m left wondering in what world it makes sense to call that me in the first place. “They came in the guise of mini-golfers. We never could’ve known.”
For the most part, we don’t need to be scared of the unusual. I find the ordinary more worrying by far. The biggest threats to our welfare are telling us what we should be frightened of.
“There are creatures beyond the campfire. They want your tasty juice. This charm will protect you. I’ll trade it for some tasty juice.” Surely things would be better with a bit less fear and a bit more open-mindedness? But we’d sell fewer newspapers.