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Wimbledon tennis was Fakenham Wensum columnist's childhood joy when living near to SW19 All England courts in Woking



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If tennis is not your thing then you may find what follows a little tedious. Of course, I hope not.

Anyway, my home town of Woking was not that far from SW19 and the famous All England courts. So whilst football was my passion, tennis ran it a close second.

During a time when not much live sport was shown on television, our little black and white set in the corner was constantly tuned in to Wimbledon during the last week of June and the first week of July. My Mum was enchanted by this sport, even if a British victory was something of a rarity.

Tennis ball on a tennis court.
Tennis ball on a tennis court.

There was something rather sacrosanct about the unvarying timing. It also just happened to coincide with the ripening of the dozen or so blackcurrant bushes in our back garden. So for my sisters, my brother and myself, this annual fortnight signified not just tennis but also blackcurrant picking.

Mum kept a store of jars and paid us threepence or so to fill them. Later they would be transformed into blackcurrant jam to see us through the winter.

In those freewheeling days I was able to travel by train up to Wimbledon as a young teenager, switching from the Waterloo line to the underground.

We were a railway family and I always felt comfortable going on my own.

My parents never held me back.

Wimbledon almost became my ‘go to’ sporting venue throughout those long summer days. From memory, it was not that expensive to get in and there was often room on the main courts to watch the world’s best players.

Did I have a favourite? Well, out of them all it had to be Rod Laver. He was very sleight of hand, covering the court with both grace and fluency. Many of his countrymen were also staking their claims at the time but for me, Laver was incomparable.

Nowadays it’s doubtful if anyone of such build could cope with the supermen lined up on the opposite side of the net. Woking had a lovely park in that era with its fair share of hard tennis courts which were fun to use if rarely the scene of anything noteworthy.

Strangely, I had to wait until coming to Fakenham in the 1980s to rediscover my enthusiasm for the game. A temporary appointment at the grammar school after returning from a couple of years teaching in Australia did the trick.

As I drove into the main entrance for my interview, a glance to my right revealed about four or five grass courts surrounded by wire netting.

The school, as I was to discover, had its share of annual traditions, one of which was to take off in a couple of coaches during the first week of Wimbledon for a day to remember.

How we ever counted the students out and counted them all back again I will never know but no-one was ever left behind.

Lots of staff liked to play tennis as well and every year we paid tribute to a Wimbledon feature by holding an after-school doubles tournament on our courts with strawberries and cream to follow.

Such delights fell away as the years rolled by and the grammar school was obliged to say farewell to its individuality. But those days will never be forgotten, at least not by me.



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