Sport as such has never really done a lot for me. Maybe that's because I've never been much good at it and also I'm not what you'd call a competitive animal. Then on top of that there's always the endless talk about a sporting event after it's taken place, which for me is one big yawn. But there is one point in the sporting calendar which has me hooked. Hooked? I'd go even further and say it takes over my life hook, line and sinker, which is another way of saying 'utterly' and comes from a fishing expression. You may have heard of a town to the south of London, or to be precise to the south west of the capital, called Wimbledon. This is the home of the Lawn Tennis championships that started in 1877 and have been going strong ever since apart from a break during the Second World War.
The winner on that particular year was a Mr Spencer Gore. He wasn't much of a forward looking chap and predicted that it was such a boring game that it would never last! There have always been people like that, haven't there who get things terribly wrong? You wish sometimes that they could face up to their comments and you could say: 'Excuse me, Mr Gore. What was it you said would never catch on?' Things have changed a bit of course since then – take the clothes they wear today. If you look at some of the pictures of the past (particularly those of the women) it's difficult to imagine how they could possibly leap about at all. All players of course still have to wear white. The rules are pretty strict on that. In fact it wasn't until 1975 that chairs were allowed on to the tennis courts so that players could sit down and have a rest when they changed over from one end to the other.
And then it's worth remembering that, although the championship started in the UK, there haven't been many British champions. Well, there have only been two and they were rather a long time a go. The last British women's champion was in 1976 and the last men's single champion – wait for it – was in 1936! Fred Perry (such was his name) has virtually been immortalised and there's even a statue of him at the tennis courts in Wimbledon. Mind you, he did get the title three times in a row. We're very proud of our Fred. We've had one or two near misses in the last 70 years. You know, reaching the semi-finals on occasion but the title has eluded us. Nevertheless we keep trying but watching the championships for some isn't the same unless someone from your own country is bashing the ball about. But that's not the case for us addicts. The big fear is that the English weather will cause play to stop. The precious grass of the courts mustn't be damaged by rain, oh no! Umpires and other officials can be seen casting anxious glances skywards whenever dark clouds appear. Then as the first drops start to fall, an army of workers start to pull the covers over the tennis court, umbrellas sprout everywhere and the poor viewer is subject to endless film of past matches. Of course it can help some players who are trailing, to have this enforced break. Our last British hope some years back was struggling had to endure several rain stoppages and was on and off the court like a cuckoo on a Swiss clock. But he lost in the end and has now turned to commentating instead.
Mind you the main difference between then and now in tennis terms is the speed of delivery. For the armchair tennis fans society, of which I am a fully paid up member, it is necessary to watch the ball very closely. Whereas back in the old days a tennis ball moved across the screen so that you stood a chance of seeing it in its flight. Nowadays you daren't blink for fear you'll miss where it's gone. And when the ball isn't hit by the receiving player and hits the wall at the back of the court instead, the noise alone gives you some idea of the speed it was travelling. We're talking here of 100+ miles per hour. And of course isn't that the case with all sports?
In the recent Olympic Games in China athletes were winning gold medals because their nearest rival was hundredths of a second behind them. Blow me down you can't even say the word itself in that fraction of time! Not only sport has taken up the speed obsession. Journeys from one place to another are cut by half an hour, we are told, downloading stuff on to your computer is now faster by so many seconds, we learn and Internet suppliers inform you that your goods will be delivered the next day. Everyone's at it. On a road near where I live there are road works and temporary traffic lights have been installed to regulate the flow of traffic. Last week I was driving along this road in my illustrious motor car doing the correct 30 miles per hour when I was aware of a dark shadow enveloping the inside of the car. It was a mammoth in the shape of a 4 wheel drive the driver of which had seen that the light was green and he was determined to overtake this 'oh what a correct driver' and sail through the green light. He had no sooner overtaken when the light changed to red and a few seconds later I gracefully came to a halt behind him. That was when the title of my newsletter came to mind: More haste, less speed. In other words, by all means move quickly but not too fast.
At the same time there are those who always claim that they can do anything faster than anyone else. And that takes me to one of the fables (usually tales with a moral) composed by Aesop. I'll have to update it a bit. You see there was this hare – I should explain that all the animals in Aesop's stories speak English, with which accent I'm not sure – anyhow the hare true to character was always rushing around everywhere. He just didn't like to sit still for long. In fact his name is used for the verb 'hare' meaning just that – rushing around – but back to the story. The hare, oh let's call him Harry was also a bit of a show off and used to challenge others to a race. Invariably he won. A tortoise, known to his mates as Tommy, was always being ridiculed for being so slow by Harry. Even at school it had been the same.
Well, one fine summer morning Tommy decided to put his foot down. He had four to choose from and went for the front right. He was going to teach Harry a lesson and so he challenged him to a race. You can just imagine how the news leaked out. Everyone fell about laughing. But despite the hilarity, the race was arranged for the following day and when the starting flag went up, Harry was off like a shot in a cloud of dust. Tommy proceeded rather slowly afterwards. Now it was a very hot day and Harry decided, as there was no sign of Tommy, to take a rest under a large oak tree and possibly try out his new mobile phone After all he had huge ears that were ideal to absorb his new shiny gadget. The rest turned into a snooze and the snooze developed into a deep sleep, so deep that he didn't hear Tommy padding past him on the way to the end of the race... Eventually Harry woke up and just caught sight in the distance of the tortoise reaching the finishing line. Harry jumped up and desperately tried to overtake Tommy but he was too late. And the moral of the story is: it's better to plod on to reach your goal rather than rush along without thinking.
The question is: Whose side do you take in this race? And if you had to describe yourself, would you consider yourself more of a hare or a tortoise in temperament and behaviour? Now there's no rush for the answer. Take your time and just let me know what your answer is when it suits you... As usual, please post your answers on the forum here