Zone EskIsland, Musselburgh, located by the weir on the River Esk. I’d stopped to take the zone but had overshot and was forced to reverse the bike to get back into the zone area, tricky here as the path narrows to single file. The zone seemed to jump about a bit and I had to get off the bike and walk about for a while, eyes glued to the phone. A young couple were watching me from further along the path, pointing in my direction and looking amused. An elderly lady was approaching with her dog, also watching me, an obvious scowl on her face. Eventually, the zone was taken and I jumped back on the bike and pedalled away.
Later, I starting thinking about my antics at the zone, wondering how I would appear to non-turfers in the area, in other words, Joe and Jane Public. What were they thinking I was doing? Nobody said anything in this instance but I’ve been asked on various occasions if I had lost my way, needed any help or was I looking for something. This led me to thinking, how do you spot a turfer? What are the secret signs to look for? How do our antics appear to other people? Let’s start with a turfer on foot.
The foot turfer often appears like any normal member of the public, if a member of the public could ever be called normal, walking along with mobile phone in hand, staring intently at the screen, tripping over small dogs and almost getting run over at road crossings. The only difference is that of the turfers thumbs. They are not dancing rapidly across the keyboard sending text messages, well, at least not unusually. When approaching a zone, or actually in the zone, an observer might see the turfer wander to and fro, all the while eyes glued to the screen. They might also witness the turfer holding the mobile phone overhead or at arm’s length through a gap in the fence, wall or the like.
Anyone watching the foot turfer might also witness some very strange behaviour, more so when taking the zone is not going according to the divine plan. They might see the turfer violently shake their phone, mutter to themselves or even curse under their breath and storm off in a fit of rage. Of course, the reasons for this odd behaviour is the taking, or rather not taking of the zone. This being unknown to the observer.
A turfer might also employ the humble bicycle, as their means of transport. Turfers such as this are called bicycle turfers, though they may be called other things of a less kind nature in certain circumstances, usually by either Joe or Jane Public. Their behaviour when turfing is much akin to the foot turfer, though often at much greater speed. As they speed along, pedalling furiously, they can be seen to make quick glances at the mobile phone screen, often mounted on the handlebars. Some bicycle turfers have been seen to adopt a strange posture, nose pressed close to the phone screen with derriere raised high. This is due to the difficulty of actually reading the phone screen through the phone case, or the polythene bag that encases the phone in wet weather.
Through the eyes of Joe and Jane Public, bicycle turfers are usually courteous and will stop to give way to others they share the path with. Of course, some bicycle turfers are not so courteous and will blast their way through regardless, their thoughts solely on the taking of the zone and nothing else. They will scatter elderly grannies, cause their small dogs to cower in fear and thus suffer a string of obscenities’ from elderly grannies you would not believe capable of such foul language.
Identifying the foot turfer or the bicycle turfer is not always so easy, though a trained observer would perhaps spot a few clues. Clothing will usually reveal nothing from the norm, though the attire of bicycle turfers will often be very well-worn indeed, badly patched with duct-tape and rarely washed, being covered in dirt, leaves and oil thrown up by the bicycle wheels. The bicycle turfer might also be wearing not-so-waterproof waterproofs, despite it not having rained for some time, even for many days. They appear reluctant to waste time stopping to remove such clothing.
However, there are certain hours when turfers can be readily spotted. For example, should you find yourself in a churchyard, graveyard or similar holy places, and you come across someone holding a mobile phone around midnight, they will almost certainly be a turfer attempting something called the Ghost Minute. Similarly, anyone cycling at furious speed at night between the hours of 2.00 am and 3.00 am, and taking what appear random directions, may also be a turfer. In this instance, trying to become a much feared Darkest Ninja. If they appear tired, have bleary eyes, a glazed look and are incapable of coherent speech, they are certainly a turfer undertaking one of the more challenging medals the turf game has on offer, such as the Insomnia medal where they are required to take a zone each hour for 24 hours straight.
Turfers are also known to turf in packs, like wolves and wild hamsters might hunt their breakfast or lemmings might base jump over high cliffs without parachutes. When a group of turfers approach a zone, they will stop momentarily, there will be a short, sometimes heated, discussion, and one nominated turfer will enter the zone first, followed within a few seconds, by the other members of the group. This behaviour will be repeated at each zone. Another way to spot turfers is when they are hamster-wheeling. This is where a group of turfers, usually on bicycles, will follow a predetermined circuit, taking zone after zone after zone. Each circuit might last for 50 minutes or more and will be repeated all day long, or until the final turfer collapses through exhaustion from lack of chocolate cake, fruit scones or Earl Grey tea.
For anyone interested in spotting turfers there’s a handy little book on the subject, The Observer’s Book of Turfers, written by turf-blogger Gary Buckham with a forward by renowned turfer expert Leonne Hutchinson. This invaluable and exceedingly rare guide is available from all good book sellers, priced £100.00
Copyright ©2021 Gary Buckham. All rights reserved.