Sunday, 3 July 2011
Mouth London ended up posting this. You can read the tinkered version here.
Everyone on the underground was going to Wimbledon. Perhaps it would have been wiser to take the over ground. Or to have wombled free. The District Line sagged with our collective weight, but rattled in a self-satisfied sort of way. Now was its time to shine, viridescent, casting the other lines into shadow.
Outside Southfields station there were cabs ferrying people to the grounds. I hopped in one and noticed three people were following me in. I tend not to share cars with strangers, but it seemed the done thing today. We exchanged a few bons mots re the weather and the order of play before settling into silence (companionable or awkward, I forget which), gazing out at the hundreds of others convening on the Club.
I fell out of the taxi (one must arrive in style to these occasions) and through the gates. There was the usual rigmarole of bag checks for exploding bananas and the quick look up and down to get a sense of whether you were the sort of man to lunge wildly at Pippa Middleton and then I was allowed in. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club stretched out before me.
I spent the first couple of hours taking in some of the smaller matches. Even in the early stages, vixen mating calls were erupting from the women’s games. I saw Feliciano Lopez square up to Michael Berrer. Some girls have since told me it ought to be Deliciano. His athleticism is unquestionable, he has that jaw line I suppose and he is somewhat callipygian as professional sportspeople are wont to be. I overcame the urge to seek out a copy of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and moved away. The time had come to collect my centre court tickets.
I meandered through the crowds, deciding who had come to see the tennis and who had come to be seen. There was an interminable amount of brown suede loafers and interminable brown suede loafing. The pallid, the tanned, the sock-and-sandaled, the unprepared with skin burnt or white, alternately strawberry and cream. The odd Louboutin flashed saucily on stairs up to the show courts hoping to be caught on camera. I saw Noel Fielding looking smashing, Panama at a rakish angle.
Tickets collected and Pimm’s in the veins, I entered centre court. Having missed the beginning of the match, I joined a small group of people at one of the gangways, poised to enter at a break between games. The moment arrived and we dashed to take our seats. It’s amazing what banked seating does for the atmosphere. Matches suddenly become gladiatorial. I watched Nadal doing what he generally does in circumstances such as these.
The lineswomen about the periphery of the court were all rather formidable, reminiscent of French resistance fighters. The kind of women that would knead bread with hands that had strangled a Nazi two hours before. By the by, all the line and court judges have been in that smart outfit since 2006. If you’d like a Wimbledon blazer in doeskin flannel, get yourself down to Ralph Lauren with £870. Or become a French resistance fighter.
Later, rain threatened and the roof unfurled over the court. It seems to be working rather well. Cliff hasn’t felt it necessary to give a repeat performance. When the roof is extended, the court becomes slightly alien. Cheering, ball thwacking, judgement calling all take on a different resonance. Suddenly grass is indoors, like some space age hydroponics bay. Appropriately, Murray played after the roof closed with all the cold determination of Borg (Star Trek not Björn). He won and a lucky audience member got a sweaty wristband in the face. He needs to shave and smile more.
Being at Wimbledon was a treat. I have since had to follow the tournament on television. This is not without its advantages. I can still throw on a dressing gown, but I don’t get the odd looks.