Southpaw. Caggy-hander. Lefty. We go by many names, some of them more complimentary than others: the Latin is sinister, of course; the French give us maladroit, and in the peculiar world of Scots and Northern Irish religious bigotry, Catholics are referred to as ‘left-footers,’ or even more strangely, as ‘digging with the left foot.’ I’ve never had any idea why, or why being either Catholic or left-handed would be seen as a bad thing in itself.
Indeed, I was amused to read in a recent article about those of us who do, in a very real sense, dig with the left foot, the phrase ‘lefty superiority complex.’ Although I do jest with the Redoubtable Mrs F, who accuses me of doing things in a particularly left-handed sort of a way, I am, like, I suspect, a lot of southpaws, secretly pleased with my otherness. Of course I do belong to the generation that didn’t get writing with their left hand beaten out of them, so that’s probably a factor.
Then there’s the long list of lefties who’ve made it to the top of their field: the article mentions brainiacs like Plato, Einstein, and Carl Sagan, but I’m pretty sure Leonardo da Vinci was one of us, and my old house guest Bob Dylan certainly is. Like his Bobness, I play guitar the right-handed way. I never asked him for his reasoning, but mine was that all the clever stuff happens down the bottom end of the fretboard, so better to have your stronger hand there (although quite a lot of the clever stuff should be happening with the picking/strumming hand, so it’s a moot point).
In sport, leftyness can sometimes be a positive advantage, although I never found it so in football (soccer to our pals across the Pond) and I did note that the Scottish national men’s team finally broke their unbeaten run of results last weekend with a team comprised of 8 out of 11 players left-sided.
In tennis, people like McEnroe and Connors were famous lefties; in cricket, it definitely upsets a lot of bowlers if you bat left-handed. Not that my innings were ever long enough to create a statistically significant sample of anything. In golf, though, I am on the side of right, somewhat reluctantly.
When I was learning the game as a nipper, the first pro I went to persuaded me that it wasn’t worth playing left-handed, and that I should learn to play the right way round. The clubs were more expensive, he said, although I have a suspicion he just didn’t have any to hand, and wanted to get the lesson with such unpromising material over and done with. I’ve always wondered whether that was the correct option for me – the courses are set up, in terms of bunker placement and so on, to trap the common right-handed faults after all – but, short of going out and buying two sets of clubs, which my game so doesn’t warrant, I’ve never had the opportunity to test it out. Until now.
Lockdown and its close cousins, Restrictions and Levels, have been challenging for me fitness-wise, as for most folk. I don’t now have a pushbike; the swimming pool, my usual source of something resembling fitness, has a lane system that makes the M8 on a Friday night look uncongested (come to think of it, maybe it is right at the moment) and my interim solution, a brisk walk every day, only takes you so far, especially as we head deeper into the season of mists and mellow pissing rain. So I bought a second-hand Wii recently.
A Wii, for those of you who don’t know or have forgotten (it’s not exactly cutting edge, to be honest) is a games console you can plug into your telly. It’s made by Nintendo. The games are played with a handset that detects your physical movements: on table tennis, for example, it becomes your bat; and in swordfighting, your sword. The latter, by the way, is quite satisfying if you’ve had a hard day, although the only way I find to beat your digital opponent is wildly hacking and slashing them off the platform before they clatter you with a two-handed overhead smash.
Canoeing is probably best aerobic exercise-wise; wakeboarding (I nearly said waterboarding, but I don’t think they’re developed that one yet. Ditto wokeboarding for the millenials. haha) less so. Thing is, if you play the games more than once, the Wii tries to persuade you to create a little homunculus, a Mii, to act as your representative on Nintendo’s Earth and so that you progress in terms of scores and points. You get a range of physiognomical characteristics to choose from when you create them. So:
Meet Andy. Isn’t he great? He has green eyes, dark hair so luxuriant he can spunk it up into little spikes, and lovely dark skin that’s so much better than his Creator’s peely-wally Scottish original. He has a hopeful little smile, untrammelled by wasted years in middle management, editors’ rejection slips, and all the aches and pains that 58-year-old too, too, solid flesh is heir to. He swordfights and plays table tennis left-handed; but after a brief try with both arms, he and I agreed he’d play golf with the right. It seemed to give better results; and after a week or so of practice, Andy had become a steady golfer, hovering around par on most of the holes (apart from one absolute bastard of a par 5 where you have to hit to the green over what looks like the Atlantic).
Andy’s great. Andy has a hopeful little smile. Andy’s the future. Still, though, something was bothering me, if not Mii. So:
Meet mr hyde. Of course he’s called mr hyde: what else would a Stevenson nut like me call his left-handed alter ego? His hair’s a bit more raffish, his eyes a bit more cunning, and his scrubby little beard a bit more piratical than Andy. He looks like he’s seen a bit more of the dark side. Okay, so it’s not like I was unaware of how I was making those choices in his appearance, but still. He was my left-handed golfer, and he didn’t stand a chance, I reckoned, especially after a bit of a practice when he sliced everything like a banana. Or so I thought.
Reader, I have to report that mr hyde and Andy have played two three-hole challenges against each other, and the southpaw Mii has won both times. I’ve no idea how the crafty little bugger does it: Andy was his usual steady self, hitting his drive down the middle, sensibly moving up a club and underhitting the approach to the green, assessing the wind speed and playing the percentage shots.
On the other hand, literally, mr hyde was still slicing everything, fetching up short of Andy’s drive, even deliberately aiming for the rough to take account of his waywardness. But somehow, somehow, he would scrap and sclaff his way to the green in the same number of shots, and then putt like a champion, while Andy seemed to be developing early-stage yips. Was my subconscious at work? Well something was.
Tomorrow, I’m going to test the two of them out over 18 holes. Will right prevail, or the bend sinister? This time, it’s personal!
Me and Mii Andy have been secretly practising. Shhh. Don’t tell mr hyde….