Wimbledon and the goat
Many summers ago I watched Wimbledon with a goat. I was on a camping holiday in Cornwall. The rustic place where we were staying had various animals wandering around the place…including the outhouse type room that housed the television. The goat didn’t seem to be house trained or interested in the tennis superstars whacking balls around the place. It rained quite a lot that summer so perhaps he/she just wanted to be indoors. Unlike Rosie the pig in my novel ‘Ordinary Miracles’ he didn’t sit down and take an interest in the tv goings on (Rosie likes ‘Coronation Street’).
I lived near The All England Lawn Tennis Club for some years though I only visited Centre Court once…a friend and I went there one evening during the first week of the tournament and got cheap resold tickets. (The people who had been using the seats had left.) It was a huge thrill to actually be in the place I had seen on telly…the place where sporting legends almost seemed to inhabit their own special Wimbledon world.
When I lived in a rectory in rural Ireland Wimbledon had been a black and white place (we didn’t have a colour telly). This did not lessen its magnificence in any way. Wimbledon made me far more interested in tennis for a few weeks. I’d go out with my tennis racket and hit balls against a wall for a while spurred on by memories of gorgeously dexterous men in short shorts (the longer shorts are more flattering somehow) and the agility of female stars such as Evonne Goolagong (such a wonderful name). I saw Evonne and Billie Jean King playing when my dear Dad and I went to an impressive tennis gathering in Dublin many years ago. It was wonderful and a long drive from County Limerick. I think there was ice cream too.
I am not that great at tennis. Haven’t played it for ages. And when I did I spent a lot of time saying “I’ll get it” before I went of to try to find the ball. There were some matches where this happened less often and they were very gratifying. There is something very nice about sending a white ball sailing over a net with a sonorous ‘thud’.
The first articles I wrote for The Irish Times were about tennis and its competitive status in Ireland (this was a long time ago). I wrote two articles about this and got to interview a couple of hunky men who were very good at tennis and some other experts I also had a pleasant chat with John McEnroe’s brother.
And now this exhilarating sport is back on our screens. Wimbledon! For a while it seems extraordinarily glamorous. And hard work of course. Anyone who even manages to participate in the event has played a huge amount of tennis from an early age and sometimes when they didn’t want to. They didn’t get that sleek and toned watching it on the telly. Many of us love watching their agility, apart from the goat of course. He just didn’t seem that into it.