Match Ready

  
Participation in Wimbledon takes persistence, preparation and more than just a bit of luck. And not just for the players, or the groundspeople or ball boys/girls, but for the fans too. Without the support of nutritionists, masseurs and encouraging coaches I’ve struggled today after an exhilarating day watching the Centre Court action. It’s amazing how exhausting sitting on your bum for six hours can be. But what a day! We got to watch Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Andy Murray all smash their way to the quarter finals. It was a childhood ambition come true, a bucket list item well and truly ticked.  

But, as I’m neither mega-rich debenture-ticket holder nor British/Hollywood celebrity/minor royal worthy of a free hospitality pass, I had to go the route of normal proles and enter the ballot for a view shared with the pigeons in the roof. Here’s my guide to Wimbledon for other tennis-loving normal people:


1) Plan Early

Unless you want to queue (possibly overnight) in The Queue without the guarantee of scoring a ticket (surely the most British thing ever!)/you can’t afford a few thousand pounds to rent one of those debenture seats for the day, you’ll want to enter the ballot. For the price of a couple of stamps you get to wait anxiously from February to hear whether you’ve scored tickets. Nothing beats the sight of a Wimbledon offer landing on your doorstep!

2) Prepare for Ticket Envy

Last year I was amazed that I’d got tickets for Men’s Finals day…only they were tickets for Court 1. Still, Wimbledon is Wimbledon and I was buzzing. And then I called a friend. She’d been invited by another friend to the Men’s Semi-Finals on Centre Court. That took the wind out of my sails a bit.

This year I was luckier – Centre Court with three top-notch matches! When order of play was announced I was whooping round the house and spewing my excitement all over social media. On the shared cab ride from the tube though we shared with two women also with Centre Court seats…only theirs were just four rows from the front (ours were row Z – ie pigeon-stuck-in-the-roof height) and a woman with hospitality tickets. Grrrr.

As it happens, it doesn’t matter where you sit though. Even from the back you get a spectacular view. Well, unless you happen to sit behind a giant like I did! Luckily I’m ok at endurance neck-straining, so the view was fine.

  
And even if you haven’t got the big matches on the big days, make the most of whatever you have got. Play on the outside courts can throw up some early round surprises (who didn’t fall in love with Marcus Willis this year?). Make the most of the Hill if you can’t bear to miss a big match. The atmosphere is great.

  
3) Dress Appropriately

I don’t necessarily mean dress-code-ish (although it feels good to put on a nice dress). But dress for the conditions. This means keeping an avid eye on weather forecasts – last year’s week 1 was scorching; this year saw a rare middle Sunday due to a week of rain. Take layers. If you’re going to be utilising the Hill wear trousers – there’s no dignity to be had trying to convince officials you have both buttcheeks firmly on the grass when you’re also risking exposing your knickers to BBC Two viewers as their cameras pan the crowd.

If you’re going for practical over fancy-schmansy, let Kim Murray be your muse.

  
Regardless of your clothes, take what my friend and I refer to as a condom coat, ie a hideous plastic hoodie. Ours are our lucky talismans as they’re now on their second British Summer without being worn. Ok, Anna Wintour might scowl at you from the royal box, but if you’re exposed to the variable British weather it saves the hair should the cameras pick you out. (Although Sod’s law would be making it onto Wimbledon coverage during a rain break whilst wearing the sodding condom coat!!!)

Also, talking of variable weather, sunglasses are a MUST. Even if it’s overcast. Just because.

  
And shoes – unless you’re planning on spending the whole day at the bar (in which case, GET OUT AND STOP WASTING A TICKET!) ditch the heels. If you want to take it all in there’s a fair amount of walking involved, not to mention steps and the walk back to the tube. No one’s looking at your feet anyway.

4) Southfields is Closer Than Wimbledon

A tip for the Tube: Southfields station is a 15-minute walk from the grounds; Wimbledon is 20-minutes. When youre as excited as a newly homed puppy those 5 minutes mean a lot. When you’re amongst the throng and desperate to get home those 5 minutes mean even more!
Also, Gate 13 has a shorter queue than the main gates. There’s Pimms behind those gates – don’t wait unnecessarily!
5) Pack Supplies

  

Admittedly, carting a picnic across London isn’t the best fun ever. But neither is missing the on-court action because you’re queuing for pizza and strawberries. Plus, you have to do all those steps again. Instead, make yourself comfortable, settle in for the long haul and snack yourself silly. My M&S strawberries were every bit as delicious as the Wimbledon ones* and we got three times as many. My friend forked out £8.30 each for Pimms; I’d pre-packed two further pre-mixed cans at £2.00 each. And best of all (thanks to having a bladder of steel) I didn’t have to move for 6 hours of play!

  
(*You can get free strawberries if you bank with HSBC. They’ve given up the goodie bags, but free fruit and cream is not to be sniffed at.)

6) Be Friendly
Talk to people. Offer to take others’ photos. Last year an incredibly tall American asked us to get a picture of him in front of the strawberries concession. We got chatting. It turned out his son, Reilly Opelka, was playing in the Boys’ Finals. We cheered extra loudly for him as we watched from our Court 1 seats and having talked to his dad it made it all the more special. Reilly went on to win. We couldn’t have felt more proud of him.

7) Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready.

  

Players can pop up at any moment. Almost as soon as we arrived last year Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker strode out from the smaller courts into Centre Court. I wasn’t ready and only got a shoddy, unflattering pic of Becker. Focused for the match ahead you won’t get much attention from the big names…and they have an annoying habit of casually using entourage as human shields against getting a decent snap. 

Also, know whose who. Everyone wants a piece of the big players, but it’s scarily easy to walk past a Women’s Fourth Round competitor without a second glance. Maybe if we knew who they were they’d be more welcoming of the attention.

8) Be Early

  

Henman Hill/Murray Mount is a lot smaller than it looks on TV. Although initially it’ll look pretty empty with just a few early birds or picnickers, by the time of a big match it’ll be rammed. Officials won’t let you stay unless they’re convinced no part of your body is encroaching on the path. Standing, even at the back, is forbidden. So pitch up early to get enough space to ensure deep-vein thrombosis won’t be an issue of it goes to five sets!

9) Know What You’re Talking About

Nothing worse than sitting next to someone who literally has no clue how the scoring works or thinks that there’s no point in watching any of the women’s matches. Don’t be insulting: apply because you love tennis, not because you just want to go to Wimbledon. And then make the most of it.

  
After yesterday, I literally can’t wait for the ballot to open again for next year. I may not be lucky again, but at least I’ve been. But it’s worth the cost of a few stamps to try. 

I should also like to point out that all views expressed in this post are purely my own. The AELTC had no input into my views and I have received nothing from them for me telling my niche set of readers about my experiences. However, if they’d like my views on court-side seats next year, then I’d happily accept any offers.

Advertisements

Move Over Miss Marple

20141005-234614.jpg

Move over, Miss Marple – there’s a new super-sleuth in town! Oh yes, (despite the over-consumption of alcohol) GSM managed to WIN the murder mystery tonight at Down Hall Country House Hotel.

Indy acted as my sidekick, but my lightbulb moment did it and we nailed it on every level! (Although I couldn’t possibly divulge the identity of the murderer…let’s just say I can identify with a disappointed wife when I see one – may that be a warning Teflon Man!)

20141005-235152.jpg
(Alcoholic consumption was evidenced by the undoing of my hair.)

My prize? An undisturbed sleep in an uber-comfy bed…and a journey home starting at 6am!

But we got certificates. #EasilyPleased

Working Girl

20140521-063950.jpg

Fake it til you make it. Fake it til you make it. Fake it til you make it.

Thank you, Aussa Lorens for those words of wisdom. The mantra that got me through my first day back at work.

Although perhaps I shouldn’t have declared it to my new boss. Rookie mistake.

In my defence, it had been a while since I’d had to interact with grown-ups. Two kids and a stint as an overgrown fairy/pre-school dance teacher in fact. I was going to introblurt somewhere along the line. Better to get it out the way early on and establish my status as office numpty.

(Better though than on my first day working in a primary school where I got bawled at by the headteacher for walking through assembly. Way to make a great first impression in front of all the staff and kids. Little did they know though that in years to come I would enact my revenge by vomiting all over his cream bathroom carpet.)

After that though I don’t think I breathed for the first 3 hours.

I did learn some very important things though:

My feet have got far too used to comfortable shoes.
Despite pre-empting the chance of blisters and judicially wrapping my feet in Compeed pads, I still have a mass of new sores where my new ‘I’ve got a new job’ shoes have decimated my feet. The shoes may be beautiful, but the pain after 6 hours was ugly.

Smartphones have killed my keyboard skills.
Without a laptop even, let alone a proper computer, my fingers have atrophied. My right-thumb is practically super-human (although without the help of his side-kicks, Spellcheck and Auto-correct, he’d be useless, defeated by his nemesis, Teeny Tiny Keypad). But my other digits were definitely out of practice.

I have a complete inability to remember anyone’s name.
Although, again, I did tell everyone that I would forget who they were. There’s Boss-Lady and Woman-With-The-Gorgeous-Dress and People-I-Can’t-Actually-See-Behind-The-Partition-Wall-So-Can’t-Be-Important-In-My-World-Right? and Others-Who-I-Won’t-See-On-A-Saturday. Plus a couple of people who I do remember. That one of them is my immediate boss is probably a beneficial thing.
I can Google the others. Although possibly not on the office computer.

People have far more money to spend on property than me.
I took phone calls from cash buyers looking into places around £750,000. You could get five of my house for that and still have change to spare.
Or, to put it another way, I’d have to work 100,000 hours and save every penny to be able to cash buy at that price. Which, on my current contract hours, would take 12,500 months.

20140521-071342.jpg
‘I’ll take it. Cash ok?’ are words that will never come from my mouth. Sadly.

At least I managed to play it cool. Quarter of a mill? No biggie. Which was better than when I worked for a tour operator and was asked to quote a price for first class flights to New York. I literally choked on the phone, double-checked, triple-checked (because it’s not like the flight gets you there any faster, you just don’t have the same DVT risk or have a 3-year-old kick the back of your chair for 6 hours)…and then the client accepted the astronomical figure and paid up. That may have been the moment when I realised there really was another world out there, a lot glossier and more inaccessible than my own.

I have property envy.
I should have known I would suffer from this. I drool at Grand Designs, Pinterest and Livingetc. So, it was pretty much a given that after a day spent ‘researching’ (ie pretending to look incredibly busy whilst trying not to dribble over) the brochures I would go home wanting a pool, personal sauna, boot room, aga, snug, outbuildings and annexe.

Don’t buy sandwiches from the shop run by the woman with pink hair.
She’s rude and incredibly scary. She would definitely spit in your sub.

My phone battery has the capacity to last all day when not used.
In fact, it was still at 78% when I went to bed. Who knew that could happen?

Sitting behind a desk negotiating property deals is definitely less taxing than negotiating with a toddler over anything.
And they’re paying me to do easier stuff than I do for free? This world is crazy!
Hats off to Eve for looking after Noodles for the day too. He behaved far better for her than he ever does for me, only disappearing once at baby gym and giving her the fright of her life. (You never do appreciate how great it is to have a non-mobile baby until it’s too late and you realise that you really do need eyes in the back of your head).

Husband would clearly rather have a 1950s housewife.
When I worked before he established a deal: I should still do the cooking because I got home first. He seems to have forgotten these terms as I got in after him, then took Boo to her dance class and still did the shopping and cooking. And he was still in a strop having taken it upon himself to open my bank statements.
He’s not going to be happy when I tell him that I’m working the next three consecutive Saturdays.

20140521-074611.jpg
The only thing I’d like to keep from the 1950s are the clothes and the waistlines.

Ok, so I’ve hardly set the property world alight, but neither have I single-handedly caused the property market to crash in a single afternoon. But I survived. Yay, me!

Sold!

*** SOLD ***

Mid-1970s fixer-upper. Plenty of character, prime for modernising. Structurally sound, although exterior improvement would be desirable. In a convenient location, close to all amenities, particularly phone facilities and off-licence. Perfectly suited to family living, but adaptable for business purposes. No chain.

I got the job!!!
I start tomorrow. Eeek! Perhaps I should have pulled off the gracious acceptance as well as the loser face. I was a bit excited. But who cares? I got the job!

Living Up to the Fiction

20140513-202652.jpg

Help! Tomorrow I’m going to have to do something I haven’t really had to do for the past 6 years. I’m going to have to pretend to be a normal grown-up person. I have a job interview! Even in my last job I mostly pranced around with pre-schoolers, pretending to be a fairy, thus negating the need to be in any way mature or sensible, so it’s definitely been a while.

This scares the bejeezers out of me, not least of all because I have ZERO experience of the role I applied for as an estate agency negotiator, although in fairness I did explicitly point this out in my covering letter. But I’ve never even been on the other side of the estate agency table, having never had to properly BUY a house as I just stayed living in the family home and bought the house from my mum’s estate after she died.

Which sounds fancy, but actually just meant that my dad had been paying the mortgage, which was in my mum’s name, after she died. That is at least until the mortgage company phoned and, thinking they were just another cold caller, I told them that they’d need a pretty good phone line to get through to the afterlife. After which it was a scramble to find the least disreputable mortgage-provider willing to give my sister and I a mortgage. I think they pretty much looked like this:

20140513-202907.jpg

Moreover, the company is perhaps the most prestigious estate agency in town. It’s the window you walk by and pick which property you’d buy were you to win the lottery.

20140513-203917.jpg
Today, I’d choose this one. Sigh.

Not really the ideal employer of someone who doesn’t have a clue.

I only really applied because the hours were suitable to avoid daycare for Noodles, being purely at the weekend. (Actually only alternate Saturdays, which should piss Husband off less should i miraculously get it as he’d only have to care for the kids twice a month.) And it seemed a more interesting position than the usual family-friendlier jobs available. I’m a firm believe in going for an opportunity when it’s presented…but I didn’t actually believe I’d get anywhere. (Perhaps I’d best not tell them this tomorrow.)

Now, obviously either a) they’re completely desperate or b) I’ve been invited along to provide some light relief amongst the proper applicants, like the loser auditionees on Britain’s Got Talent, but either way they want to talk to me. Eek!

What are my chances of learning property law overnight?

Clearly, my CV didn’t reflect the real me. It used terms like ‘hard-working’ and ‘aspire to exceed expectation’. In truth I’m very good at looking busy whilst actually just feeling like a fraud and I can exceed expectation when it comes to eating an entire packet of biscuits, but I’m not sure that’s really what they’re looking for. Perhaps I should have told the truth, but ‘extensive knowledge of all Disney films’ and ‘capacity to be completely obsessed with checking my WordPress reader whilst keeping a toddler entertained’ wouldn’t have got me any further than having my CV ‘executively filed’ (ie put in the waste paper basket).

The only negotiating I do in my day-to-day life is talking Noodles out of eating an entire extra large bag of chocolate buttons in one go or getting Boo to go to bed in exchange for the chance to watch a DVD. Oh my God, what have I done? They’re going to ask me questions and I won’t have a single non-ridiculous answer.

Perhaps just making myself look more polished than normal will at least stop total and utter humiliation. What’s the betting it will rain tomorrow and Noodles will leave a chocolate smudge on my dress that I won’t be aware of until mid-interview. Hardly the ideal way to prove either my ‘professional attitude to work’ or how I pay ‘close attention to detail.’

Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!

I suppose on the upside I’ll get a nice coffee in the fancy hotel in town. And without a toddler in tow, climbing over the furniture and disturbing the other customers. That will make a nice change to normal.

Now, where do you think I can get a reference from? I don’t suppose it’s ok to ask Boo is it? What a shame. At least she would write something nice (in exchange for sweets).

Parallel Universe

20140428-172423.jpg

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but George Clooney and I got engaged this weekend. Look how happy he is. I haven’t stopped smiling either, although my left arm is starting to ache from the size of the diamond I’m now carrying it around. But still, no pain no gain.

Obviously this didn’t happen in this universe, which is why the jealousy focus is much more on Amal Alamuddin right now. But in some parallel universe many light years away (or maybe just in my head) there we are, holing up whilst the ‘world’ goes crazy and women everywhere sob into their pillows.

I know he said he would never marry again, but my acerbic wit and ability to swear like a trooper in Italian to the paparazzi won him over. Plus, there will be no interest whatsoever in anyone taking my photo in a bikini whilst I languish on the deck of his luxury yacht. Those telescopic lenses are expensive – no pap wants theirs broken by the sheer hell of the images they’re trying to photo (ie my backside) and no one wants to be put off their breakfast with grotesque pap snaps.

I’m never likely to be confused as his daughter/niece either. His carer in years to come, maybe, but I can cope with that.

Obviously this wedding business is going to require a lot of work. I mean, who wants Angelina Jolie as a maid of honour?! In going to have to become a fan of the liquid diet for the next few months (and I don’t just mean of the alcoholic variety – maybe Gwyneth can offer me advice on macrobiotic juicing, if not marriages).

Obviously in this parallel universe you, my blogging friends, are real-life bosom buddies, so you will all be invited to the wedding. We’re thinking Italy, so make sure your passports are valid. Top secret invites will be in the post/delivered by dove shortly. Please keep all details top secret, otherwise we will have to have you shot you may be involved in an accident.

Anyway, I shan’t go on…at least until Hello! ask me for further details and an exclusive photoshoot. Ah, the hardships of a Hollywood life.

(Now, I don’t suppose anyone knows the way to whatever particular parallel universe it is that I need? In the meantime I’m off for some soggy alone time with my pillow.)

Mums’ Night Out

I’m writing this from the floor of my bathroom. Thank heavens for auto-correct. If I happen to have hit Publish I apologise. If it makes any coherent sense at all, that is a small miracle.

Of all the TV characters out there, right at the minute, I would least like to be Doctor Who. To be able to revisit your past, but to be a different person – it’s not necessarily pretty. Especially in a small town, the ghosts of drunken nights past lurk around every corner.

It’s also too much responsibility to be one of the last people standing and in charge of your newly-single friend now that I’m actually a grown-up. (I do remember leaving a friend in a nightclub securely fastened in the bouncer’s handcuffs in more carefree days. So much easier. She bears no grudges, I hasten to add – she was amongst our number tonight.) I advised Rae, my gorgeous dance mum friend, whose husband ran off with her best friend, on her next manoeuvre with sweater-man and made sure she made it safely to the taxi rank. Any accountability for her subsequent actions aren’t mine. And to be honest, my bedtime had been hours before.

Suffering from hideous hiccups and in desperate need to remove the Spanx before all circulation is cut off I think it best I bid you adieu.

Sleep well. Xx