Yesterday my daughter and boyfriend travelled to the coast in order to join me for lunch. They live sufficiently far away that I don’t go to visit them that often, but then that’s a product of my old age. I regard spending a total of seven hours in a car for a four-hour visit somewhere as a waste of my valuable (but diminishing) time left on this earth. They plainly think nothing of it because they’re comparatively young.
I should perhaps mention at this point that there’s an old, under-maintained, tennis court in the corner of the property.
After our lunch of salad, Pimm’s and Sainburys’ finest quarter pound hamburgers, we went in and watched the second set of the Ladies’ Final at Wimbledon on television, in which (by beating the 21 year-old Spaniard – well, also Venezuelan – Garbine Muguruza by a 6-4, 6-4 margin) Serena Williams deservedly won her sixth Singles title at the All-England club. All power to her.
My daughter and boyfriend then revealed that they’d brought their tennis rackets with them and fancied having a knock. I warned them that, although I hadn’t taken a look at the tennis court recently, I’d heard rumours that it was in need of a serious makeover before it would be in anything like a playable state.
“No matter” they said and so we walked over to the court, carrying with us a large hoe contraption and a hard outdoor brush.
For once the tales about the tennis court were true. There were large weeds growing through at several points on the surface and a dead crow lying beside where, on Centre Court at Wimbledon, the ball girls would have retrieved the Robinson’s Barley Water from behind the umpire’s chair to give Virginia Wade a refreshing glass at the end of a first set.
My first reaction was to suggest we all went back inside and lay down until the desire to play tennis passed but the kids were having none of it – “In half an hour we’ll be ready to go …” said my daughter.
It was a little longer than that. With my iffy back and dodgy hip, I wasn’t able to assist as quite I might have liked, but on my ‘exercise monitor’ wristband I was notching up record levels of calorie-burning.
We had no decent tennis balls (the dog had bitten through them over time) and so earlier in the day, when buying my newspapers, I had bought 12 apparently standard yellow balls.
I was assured they were fine for serious action.
Arguably, the sales pitch had been correct.
Technically, you could hit the balls with a tennis racket on a tennis court, but de facto they lasted only two or three hits before they lost their ‘ooomph’ and began bouncing on the surface like water-filled balloons.
Nevertheless, a knock-up of sorts followed. I watched from the side-lines and took photographs as my daughter and her partner hit a few balls for about a quarter of an hour. The latter then offered me his racket and motioned me to take over from him.
Even wearing normal loafer shoes and beset (as I was) by stiffness, a hip awaiting a replacement and my seniority, I could feel the sap rising as I trod gingerly through the half-inch tall moss, twigs – nay branches – and sundry other detritus towards the baseline at the far end.
You cannot keep a good man down (or is it “Form is temporary, class is permanent”? Or should that phrase be the other way around?).
True, the backhand had gone a bit AWOL, I kept mistiming my shots and it was only on my eighth attempt that one of my serves finally landed in the intended service court, but gradually – for a moment – the years rolled away and I was back on Centre Court … once again wearing my painfully-tight shorts, my bronzed lithe legs glistening with sweaty effort, the long hair reaching down to my shoulders being kept out of my eyes by my white headband … taking just four sets to defeat John McEnroe in the Men’s Final … and having to be escorted away by security guards afterwards from the hordes of hormone-fuelled teenage girls fighting to have their way with me.
It was about five minutes later that, stretching to reach a scorcher whistling past me towards the tramlines, I felt something ‘go’ in my right calf … and retired, temporarily hurt, as a precaution.
Back inside the house, we watched the last set of Jamie Murray losing the Men’s Doubles Final over a cup of tea and then my daughter and boyfriend said their goodbyes and set off back to the Midlands.
After watching the BBC News, I then had another pint of Pimm’s, two small Melton Mowbray pies and a scotch egg for my evening meal and went to upstairs to bed at 7.55pm, dog-tired but very content.