Well, the Christmas tree is up at last – not decorated just yet, but at least it’s up.  My purchasing power was a little curtailed this year as I had to buy one that I could womanhandle myself.  The hubby is just out of hospital, you see, having had an op to repair a previously failed hernia surgery and he is forbidden to raise anything heavier than a glass for at least four weeks.  You’ll be glad to know the glass lifting is going well.

As you can see from the above picture one bauble has indeed made it onto a branch.  That was presented to me last week by the indefatigable, high-energy, artist-whisperer that is Maxine English, general manager of the West End’s Savoy theatre.  Max is the daughter of dear, dear friends and I have known her since she was about twelve.  She has lived and worked all of her adult life in the Middle East, so it was a joy to reconnect now that she has been based in London for the last fifteen months.

Laughing like drains within seconds of reconnecting. With the irrepressible Maxine English. [Thanks to Annie White for the pic]

Three pals and I made the trip to the Big Smoke last Wednesday, successfully dodging the striking trains, and after a bit of shopping and lunch in Covent Garden we were ready for theatreland.  I was aware that our little group had been flagged up as “uber VIPs” by Max and she and her staff were there waiting to sweep us into a wonderful, fun-filled evening with first-class hospitality snuggled round a first-class production of Sunset Boulevard.

Nicole Scherzinger gave a wonderful performance in this edgy, rather dark production and look out in the future for Tom Francis, superb in this, his first big role.  At the interval we floated back into our own private little champagne-filled sidebar and then, in due course, we were escorted back to our seats (the best in the house, natch) for the second half.

The Uber VIPs. And before you ask – no, definitely NOT a girl band!  With Carol, Annie and Wendy. [Photo by Maxine]

We sat down to dinner afterwards at a time when normally I’ve been in bed for a good hour and a half and we finally parted company with Max well after midnight.  It was a real treat, joyous and joyful from beginning to end and highly emotional meeting up with Max again and being introduced into the wonderful world she inhabits and in which she excels.

That little Christmas decoration will remind me of that evening for the rest of my life.  Special, special, special.

Last weekend I decided to switch on the box and have a look at some golf – ho,hum.  I had no great expectations because, as most of you know, I’m going through a patch where I’m not very much in love with the game.  But, what a lovely surprise to come across the Grant Thornton Invitational, a 54-hole event that paired sixteen PGA Tour players with sixteen LPGA players.

The first round was a scramble, the second was foursomes and the third a modified fourball format where the players played their partner’s tee shot and completed the hole with that ball.  It was fun, interesting and different and the partnership between the two tours was obviously greatly enjoyed by all the players.

Sunny smiles against a cloudy background. Antipodean winners Lydia Ko and Jason Day. [Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images]

The worthy winners were New Zealander Lydia Ko and Aussie Jason Day, both former world No 1s but both coming off slightly disappointing seasons.  It was Lydia who stepped up on the final two holes hitting woods onto the last two greens and securing the birdie, par finish that saw them edge Canadians Brooke Henderson and Corey Connors by a shot.

Back in the day we used to play a mixed event with the men from the then European Tour and it was always a highlight of the year.  To my mind we need to see if we could involve this type of format into the Olympics in some way or another .  The Olympic test of choice – the usual diet of  individual 72-hole strokeplay competition – is not the most exciting watch when compared to the other Olympic sports.  It is perhaps only the avid golf fan whose interest is piqued before the final nine holes on Sunday.  The slow burn of this format does golf no favours in this arena and it shouldn’t be beyond the powers-that-be to come up with something a mite more engaging.  It’s a tough, commercial world out there and it behoves us to fight like mad to attract eyeballs to our own sport and to at least hold up our end in this world of seemingly limitless choice for the fans.

We need to make golf attractive and centre stage for the Olympics. [DP World Tour]

That is all for the future, however.

In closing I have to say how sorry I was to hear last month of the death of Ann Heskin, one of Ireland’s and Munster’s finest players and a great servant to Irish golf all her life.  Ann was successful at every level of the game, from club to international and, after her playing career was over, she brought her considerable influence to bear as an administrator, selecting for the Curtis Cup and then being elected as President of the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union.

Ann is here, third from the right above, in one of my very favourite team photos (provided by Mary McKenna.)  We all look a tad dishevelled – a result perhaps of the previous evening’s celebrations which was one of the best post-championship parties I ever enjoyed!  With Ann at the helm as captain and Gerry Costello as manager (holding the trophy with Ann) Ireland won the European Team Championships at Royal Waterloo Golf Club just outside Brussels.  The year was 1983 – blimey, FORTY years ago!!  What a week and what a privilege to have shared it all with Ann.  We had great times.

Right now the blog is about to embark on its annual holiday but first a huge thank you to all of you who faithfully follow us from week to week – the sister and I can never quite believe the numbers who log on to our offerings!

Good luck to you all on and off the golf course, have a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy 2024.

See you sometime next year!