Less than an hour up the Lancashire coast from Royal Liverpool Golf Club
, where the 2014 British Open was held, is the village of Formby, which is the home of two terrific courses, Formby Golf Club
and Formby Ladies Golf Club
. (It's also the home of a forgettable Florida-style golf course called Formby Hall.) Formby Golf Club abuts the Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve, one whose attractions is a small plot on which farmers grow asparagus
, a once significant local crop.
A man I met during a trip to the region last year told me that banquets for area golf-club captains held at Formby Golf Club had once been "ordeals by asparagus," because diners had to be careful not to drip butter onto their red-silk tailcoats. I visited the Ainsdale dunes one afternoon between rounds, and, among other things, studied an informative historical display.
I also bought a cup of coffee at a mobile stand, which was operated by a middle-aged couple.
The man, whose name was Phil, noticed my golf cap and invited me to play golf with him and his son, Sean, at Southport & Ainsdale
, a few miles farther up the road, where he was a member. We played a day or two later. The course is one of my many favorites in the area.
Phil is a retired Merseyside policeman. At lunch after our round, I asked him what his toughest case as a cop had been, and he told me about a 43-year-old woman who had died under mysterious circumstances. “I attended her autopsy,” he said, “because she was from a tough neighborhood and there was a presumption of foul play.” The pathologist was baffled, but then, as he was finishing up, he noticed something odd in her throat and gripped it with a clamp -- like that scene in “Twin Peaks” in which Special Agent Dale Cooper finds a typed letter “R” under Laura Palmer’s fingernail. Phil said, “It was a piece of bacon rind, six or seven inches long. She had choked to death on a bacon sandwich” -- an unsettling thought, since that’s what I was having for lunch, and since bacon is pretty much the No. 1 nutrient of the Sunday Morning Group.
Incidentally, Formby has foxes in addition to asparagus.
And Southport & Ainsdale has rabbits.
And Formby also has the Formby Hippo -- about which I may have more to say later.