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Tony Grist

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That Time Again [Jul. 3rd, 2018|09:35 am]
Tony Grist
I look forward to the Wimbledon fortnight and am sorry when it's over. I can't say I know much about tennis; I took lessons once because my mother thought joining a tennis club would be a way for me to meet nice gels- but I hated it and it wasn't. The only nice gel I met was the sister of one of my school chums- who looked exactly like him and was no more my type than he was. We're talking prepubescence here; had it happened a little later things might have been different- but I doubt it. I never got used to the weight of a tennis racket or how much heft you had to put into hitting the ball. We had a badminton set at home and that was a game I rather liked- and I wanted to play tennis the same way with tight little dragon-fly movements- and you can't. Compared to badminton tennis is a clop-hopping affair. It made me feel like I had a trunk and big flapping ears.

But Wimbledon isn't altogether about tennis. Wimbledon is an English midsummer ritual. It's to us as we are today what Stonehenge or Avebury was to our bronze and stone age ancestors. It has traditions- some of them absurd and some magnificent, it has hero legends, it has living heroes- some performing in the arena, others dispensing ancestral wisdom from the commentary box. And the ritual is all about Time; the sunlight and shadow wheeling across the courts, the tick-tock, tick-tock of rallies, the ageing player coming back for one last grasp at glory- and then doing it again a year later. The clock is constantly being consulted. How long was that match, that set, that rally? Has a record been broken? How long did it take Nadal to touch himself in all those special places before giving or receiving a serve? Far too long by the rules- but he gets away with it because he's a minor god and umpires aren't willing to confront him and stir up his wrath. Touch, touch, fiddle, fiddle, bounce, bounce- and suddenly it's all over- and so is our summer.

I spent the first few months of my life in Wimbledon. My parents had a flat there. I believe we moved out of it- down the road to Croydon- before I was one. But I don't suppose that has any bearing....

The first day had incidents that may blossom into legend. Serena Williams back from motherhood and knocking out a willowy opponent, Federer breezing though his first round match and responding to a child's written request for his head band by digging into his bag and handing it over. Later he said he was so happy to be back the fans could have anything they asked for- the racket, the watch, the car...
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2018-07-03 01:34 pm (UTC)

Wimbledon...yes, full of ritual and tradition. I have a very good friend here in Spain who lives here but each year she goes back to London to stay with her very elderly and frail mum during a Wimbledon weekend so she and mum can have a living room picnic with Pimms and little sandwiches while watching the tennis.
:)

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2018-07-03 04:33 pm (UTC)
How sweet.
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[User Picture]From: huskyteer
2018-07-03 05:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, you might like Julian Barnes's The Only Story, which I've just read. I mention this because it all starts at a tennis club...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2018-07-03 07:24 pm (UTC)
I might indeed.

I've read some of Barnes's stuff, but not that one.
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[User Picture]From: huskyteer
2018-07-04 07:09 am (UTC)
My mum and I are big fans; I especially like Staring at the Sun, which I got signed when I saw him speak in Dulwich recently.
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[User Picture]From: callmemadam
2018-07-03 06:05 pm (UTC)
an English midsummer ritual

So true! But for me, summer ends with another ritual: the last night of the Proms.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2018-07-03 07:31 pm (UTC)
The English summer is studded with secular rituals- the Boat Race, Royal Ascot, Wimbledon, the Proms. My mother was keen on all that sort of thing- and made sure we had the TV on when they were taking place.
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