The jungle is utterly convincing in its role as jungle: hot, damp, dense, sweaty. Monkeys gibber, something screeches, snakes slither. (The first two are definitely real, the third may be only in my imagination.) The jungle inspires an instinctive fear of the unknown, but it also has a literary reputation. In my youth I read Leslie Thomas’s The Virgin Soldiers and saw Willis Hall’s The Long and the Short and the Tall on stage. Just now I have read two of the novels of Tan Twan Eng and also military histories. The jungle of my mind is full of murderous enemies. If it isn’t the Japanese Imperial Army, it is the “CTs” – communist terrorists – of the 1948-60 “emergency”, so-called for insurance purposes. Two generations of young Englishmen sweated and trembled in this very jungle, in the Genting Highlands which form part of the spine of mountains running down the Malay Peninsula.
I am sweating, but I am only trembling slightly and that at the prospect of trying to drive a golf ball over a rather dense-looking thicket of bamboo. For, where young Englishmen once moved with trained stealth in fear of their lives, old Englishmen now play golf, travelling in mechanical buggies and serviced by sturdy young lady caddies. Above us looms the vastness of Le Chateau, a castle in the Alsatian style where cold beer and champagne await and where our WAGs are having the full spa treatment. What a lucky generation we are, those of us born after the Second World War.
In my youth I used to travel in search of authenticity. I wanted to find the real people and the real culture of foreign lands. But now I am playing a Scottish game in a Malay jungle beneath a supposedly French castle on land owned by the ethnically Chinese owner of Cardiff City Football Club, Vincent Tan. How gloriously authentic is the inauthenticity of this very minor global event?
Lincoln Allison April 2015