The first earthworks were thrown up on top of Allenbury hill two and a half thousand years ago. Now, the only other mounds and dips surrounding the hill are recreational – an eighteen hole golf course, with fine views of the town if the sea frets that haunt the area get blown further inland.
No chance of that today. The spongy mist is flecked with rain; we may as well be climbing out of the ambulance in a car wash.
‘Bloody hell!’ says Frank, gathering his jacket more tightly around him. ‘What hole did they say?’
To make things worse, no one has thought to unlock the height restriction gate. We walk up to the club house, overtaking a couple of golfers like doomed explorers determined to play on despite the polar bears and floes.
‘Aye aye,’ says one, his face as mottled as a chorizo sausage. ‘Someone poorly then?’
‘Not for me, is it?’ chips his friend. ‘I thought I was a bit below par, but I’m not that bad, honest.’
‘You’re off your stroke, mate.’
‘You’re having a stroke, mate.’
We leave them to it and hurry on up to the clubhouse where a man in a pointy knitted hat is smoking a fag.
‘Fourth hole,’ he says, nodding off into the gloom, exhaling a lung’s volume of extra fog.
‘We need the key to open the gate,’ I say. ‘We can’t get in.’
He grinds out his fag and disappears into the clubhouse.
‘I’ll carry on over to the hole. Can you fetch us out some splints and a buggy to bring him back?’ says Frank.
The man reappears with a key on a giant fluorescent tab of plastic.
‘Don’t lose it,’ he says.
‘Maybe I can use it to guide the helicopter in,’ I say, waving it over my head.
He stares at me grimly. ‘Like I say. It’s our only copy.’
Once I’ve got the ambulance up to the clubhouse, I gather all the kit I think we’ll need and call Pointy Hat out again.
‘I’ll need a buggy,’ I say.
He stares at me. ‘A what?’
‘You know. One of those golf carts.’
He frowns. ‘I don’t know about that. They’re dangerous things, they are.’
‘Really? A buggy?’
‘I’m used to taking risks,’ I say, slapping my hands together. But it doesn’t warm my hands up any and it certainly doesn’t warm up Pointy Hat.
‘I’ll have to speak to the manager,’ he says, and disappears back inside.
A couple more golfers drag themselves past the clubhouse, toting such a bristling array of clubs I wouldn’t be surprised to see an RPG in there.
‘Lovely weather,’ I say as they pass. They wave and smile with the slightly deranged look of sports addicts everywhere.
‘Use the yellow balls.’ But the fog has already swallowed them up.
Pointy Hat comes back.
‘No,’ he says.
‘Well how do you suppose we’re going to fetch your man in? You know – dislocated knee? Hypothermia.’
‘Have a word yourself if you don’t believe me.’
‘Okay. I will.’
I go into the clubhouse, a haven of overstuffed chairs, shining optics, golfing supplies and Frank Sinatra, with the fog pressed close up against the window like nothing else exists in the world now.
‘Can I speak to the manager, please?’
The barman stops cleaning his glass and gives me a quarter gill look of disbelief.
‘Is she in?’
Unless Pointy Hat has been lying. A man in a hat like that could be capable of anything.
The barman backs away and disappears momentarily out through the bar door. After some hushed whispering he reappears behind an intense looking woman as friable as her hair. She has a sheet of paper in her hand.
‘Nobody told me about this,’ she says. ‘Why wasn’t I told?’
The barman quietly steps to the side and puts the glass down without a sound.
‘Tell me what’s happened,’ she says.
‘As far as I know, one of your golfers has dislocated his knee.’
‘Well how did he do that?’
‘I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to him yet. My colleague has gone on ahead to the fourth hole, but I need a buggy to bring the patient back.’
I picture Frank out in the awful weather. I imagine the language. I feel a surge of annoyance.
‘It’s up to you. The alternative is to drive the ambulance over there. I don’t mind.’
She straightens about a mile and puts the paper down flat on the bar.
‘Neil,’ she says. ‘Please take a buggy and drive this gentleman over to the fourth hole.’
He smiles at me and grabs his jacket.
The seat of the buggy is soaking wet so I put an inco pad on it before I sit down. The splints and blankets go in a carrier on the back and we’re set. He spins the buggy around with the flat of one hand on the wheel, and a second later we plunge off the patio and out across the green.
Neil puts the pedal flat to the floor. At one point he glances a wheel width across the lip of a bunker and almost topples us over. But I lean to counter balance and we rattle on through the mist, passing strange figures that coalesce and diminish in the grey.
‘I’ve never ridden in one of these before,’ I say. ‘It’s like a ghost train.’
‘Perk of the job,’ he says. ‘That and golf.’