We cut our Saturday night hedonism off before it got out of hand, because we had plans for Sunday: namely, golf. Philip had decided that he needed some fresh air after the city pollution of his business trip to Bangkok and Beijing, and golf was his chosen solution; it so happened that a colleague of his was also playing golf with a friend at his club, so we all teamed up to make a foursome, Philip saying that it was his treat, and that I would owe him a round of golf if he ever made it back to England. We set off on the 8.30am ferry to Bintan Island, home to a resort and three golf courses for which the brochures looked not only professional, they positively glittered; I was about to experience a side of ex-pat life that was not just well beyond my budget, but well beyond my lifestyle even when I did have a job. Good old Philip.
Andy and Chris, the other two in our foursome, shone on the golf course. Philip held his own. I stank. Actually, my game did improve as we progressed, and Philip began to show his true colours with shots landing in the impenetrable rough and the copious lakes... between us we lost sixteen balls in eighteen holes, a fairly good record, especially as I have never experienced such anti-social rough. I have no idea what it was made of, but once it had your ball, it kept it. As per usual, if you looked for long enough you'd probably find someone else's ball – every time emblazoned with a company logo, making me wonder if employees didn't lose their balls on purpose as a sort of subtle advertising campaign – but once you hit the rough, your ball was lost, end of story. On one hole I casually mentioned that that piece of rough over there, on the cusp, was almost definitely going to get my ball, and funnily enough it did; henceforth the rough was known as 'the cusp' to all and sundry, a word on a par with 'Thatcher' for in-built phonetic venom. I hit the cusp a lot, and so, therefore, did my caddy, who helped with the search (we had two local lady caddies allocated to our foursome, who handed us clubs, polished the balls, raked the bunkers we kept landing in, and generally made us feel like royalty). She didn't find many of my wayward shots, but on one memorable occasion on the 14th hole she did find a snake lurking in the undergrowth. Indonesian rough really is a hazard.
But however the scoring went – and that's never the important part, especially when you don't mark down the scores, as Philip and I made sure we didn't – the setting was immaculate, with glittering seas, manicured greens, perfect sand-traps and blissful weather. I almost couldn't believe that Bintan is in Indonesia; when we landed on the island, we had to go through immigration and customs (or, rather, slick versions created to ease the golfing business) and I found myself the proud owner of another 60-day visa. Not surprisingly, I didn't opt to hang around in Indonesia any longer than the one day, but it felt rather good to be able to converse in Indonesian with the girls in the pro shop, the waiters at the bar, and the towel man at the pool; the others were most impressed.
After the game, the lap of luxury well and truly grabbed me and plonked me on its knee. We drank beer by the pool, we swam among high budget holidaymakers, we ate classy junk food in the hotel, and a little voice in my head reminded me that, not that long ago, this was the stuff of my life. I swatted it quicker than a mosquito on my thigh; given the insane work ethic of Singapore, you sometimes have to earn luxuries like golf clubs by sacrificing your freedom, and while it might be wonderful playing golf in the tropical sun, I'm not entirely sure it's worth burning yourself out for the pleasure.
Though ask me again after another of these ice-cold beers...