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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

What Wimbledon means to me

I can't remember a time when Wimbledon Fortnight did not feature in my life. Mum who was a housewife for 50 weeks of the year used to down tools in the last week of June. No cleaning, no cooking, no nothing apart from watching as many tennis matches as possible and cheering on her favourites. Looking back, Mum was probably like many stay at home mums (even today) quite lonely and frustrated. She got through her weeks on the promise of Dad delivering Woman and Women's Own magazines every Wednesday. She got through the year by anticipating and then revelling in Wimbledon.
Mum used to embarrass me a little when I was younger as she did love to watch Men's tennis in particular and especially if it was a strapping blonde Swede with good legs. She adored Borg and later Edberg. She thought John McEnroe was a disgrace but also told me I was very like him in character. Mothers and daughters eh? Later she told me that she had meant that I had a strong sense of fairness and insisted on justice. She said Nastase was "a bugger" but adored him all the same and she idolized the fun character that was Jimmy Connors complete with his infamous grunts and play-acting on court.
The whole family liked tennis. You had to really as you would have had a miserable June and July if you didn't. Thank goodness there was no Sky Sports in those days or we would have watched tennis 24 7. My brother played tennis for fun in his younger days. I played on the street with Mum buying me expensive racquets so I was popular for at least two weeks of the year! I remember a lad I liked playing with my racquet and being pathetic and thinking how wonderful it was that he had touched my equipment (in the nicest possible sense lol). I still felt this when he broke the strings in one.
Mum never went to Wimbledon and I would ask her if she would like to go every year. She had a stock response, "You can see more of it on the telly". I wish she had experienced it at least once.
Once I left home, I did not bother that much with Wimbledon apart from one year when I found myself nannying for a family in Kent. It took me a couple of weeks to work out that I was there for the Summer not so much to care for the children but to keep the mum company during the school holidays. So Jennie would encourage me to lounge around with her watching Wimbledon. She also took a huge delight in introducing me to Jilly Cooper novels. Considering that I was well-paid and live-in and did little, it's probably the best job I ever had! It is interesting to reflect how my working-class Northern mum needed Wimbledon for sanity and my employer, a multi-millionnaire wife of a stockbroker felt the same.
Guess what? As a stay at home mum who has to admit she is looking forward to her final child going to school in a matter of weeks, I too relish Wimbledon. Something to engage the brain. Something to remind me of my late mum. Something very English. Something to rely on in a world that is changing fast.


  1. My Mum and I used to watch Wimbledon religiously and I would occasionally skip school to go and beg for tickets there. I Loved it. Don't really watch it now. Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed reading it!

  2. Love this post, Love Wimbledon too! Only here in Canada we don't get lovely English voices commentating to nap to - I miss that!

  3. I have to agree with so much of that. Being a SAHM I too 'waste' a lot of time watching it. It takes me back to my childhood, where family meals were rearranged around matches (or, if we were really lucky, eaten in front of the TV).
    And Stefan Edberg ... well, there's no-one like him now! Cheered up my teenage years!

  4. Oh I am so like your mother but I have done some housework this last fortnight, and cooked a few meals. Annoyingly (and bad mother alert here!) my children's hectic schedule has got in the blooming way a lot, plus the World Cup on at the same time hasn't helped.

    Another bad mother alert here - my daughter is 4 on Monday and I have booked her party for 10am Sunday so that I can be sure of being home for the Men's Final regardless. This is one way of ensuring Andy Murray doesn't make it there!!

    I am a bit of a freak in my family - my mother really never watches sport, and my Dad was really only into motorsport but would watch major sporting events. I remember him watching the 1974 World Cup final (oh yes, for I AM that old!) with my uncle.

    I really would love to go to Wimbledon and am forever entering comps to win tickets but so far, no luck on that front.

    Final story for you on what is a vaguely rambling comment, as I took my 3yo to nursery the other day, she sat in the back of the car and said, "Mummy, when you have finished watching the tennis, can you put Sky Sports News on for 5yo (my son) as he hasn't got to see it much lately!". She too has felt the loss of Playhouse Disney other than early mornings this past fortnight but I keep telling them normal service will be resumed on Monday.

    Great post anyway. :)

  5. Don't have many memories of my Mum from my childhood but I do remember her loving 'The Wimbledon Fortnight'. She tried to explain the rules to me but I didn't get it! Now I'm a grown-up I understand and love it myself. x