Thursday, June 25, 2009

The only good thing about tennis is the strawberries

Can you ever get sick of strawberries? This is probably the wrong time of the year to ask, given that we’re about halfway through “How far can a Brit get at Wimbledon?” fortnight, and that the most popular pastime for the spectators in SW19 is schnarfing down as many as they can in as short a time as possible.
And chez Dixon is also the wrong place to come out with a dislike of the shiny scarlet berries, because Mrs D’s allotment is in full fruit and they’ve been coming home, if not by the bucketful then at least by the large plastic boxful.
So far, no complaints, and some members of the family have even overcome their vegetable-
avoiding tendencies to the extent that they’ve started eating freshly shucked peas. Wonders will never cease: it’ll be curly kale next.
Tennis, though, is another matter. The relationship we Brits have with the game isn’t so much love-hate as love-ignore.
For two weeks in June and July we fret and fuss about why Great Britain can’t produce a Wimbledon champion of any gender or age. We race home early from work and slump in front of the Centre Court action on telly rather than getting out into the garden and enjoying the sunshine.
We wonder why half the women in this year’s first-round draw were from eastern Europe. There must be something in the air in the Balkans or the Urals, because even one of the few Brits to get through the first round, Elena Baltacha, has Ukrainian parents. Perhaps it’s the same stuff that helps them win all those Eurovision Song Contests.
But for the rest of the year we don’t really think much about tennis, except in its more surrogate forms. Chez Dixon, for example, we are strangers to the proper game, instead investing our energies either in the Wii Sports version or in swingball.
Wii Sports, you may or may not be interested to know, is the best-selling video game of all time. As well as tennis you can play virtual versions of bowling, boxing, baseball and golf.
The tennis element is the most dangerous, involving as it does swinging the motion-sensing Wii Remote around manically, hitting your lovely wife round the back of the legs, smashing a standard lamp to smithereens and volleying the cat through the sitting room window.
It is then decided that only people who can demonstrate a basic level of skill at it (the kids) are allowed to play. Game over.
Swingball isn’t much more successful or satisfying. The first challenge here is to drive the metal pole deep enough into the compacted clay in the back garden to stop it falling over as soon as you smite the ball. The next is to find the bats (calling them rackets would give rackets a bad name) in the DIY disaster zone of the garage. And the final challenge is to engage in a rally of more than three returns without tangling the string so inextricably round the pole that further play is impossible without a large pair of scissors. Andy Murray we are not.
One place they certainly won’t be playing tennis any time soon, though, is Beauford Square by the Theatre Royal. Here the lawn has been taken over by the Bath-Argentina Twinning Association and is being developed as a home from home for lonely gauchos pining for the pampas. Residents prone to hay fever are not so happy.
New balls, please.

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