Brand Wimbledon knows no bounds
THE difference between Scotland and the rest of the world? The media have announced a breakthrough in that there is a chip that can be inserted into a paralysed hand to make it move. In Caledonia, doctors are trying to stop paralytic hands moving for a chip.
Made this reflection as I waited at lunchtime in the members’ lounge of the All England Club for my sweet.
“Are you sure you want your strawberries deep-fried?” I was asked. “Certain,” I replied.
“And how do you like your cream?” “Clotted, like my arteries.” The Scottish theme was continued with my host bemoaning the absence of his Auntie Muriel from Shettleston, a devoted devourer of mince – curiously including that served up by this column – who would surely have enjoyed the attractions of the All England Club and its environs. In this, of course, she is a typical Glaswegian.
Indeed, we once talked of little else but the nuances of lawn tennis on Old Shettleston Road when we visited mater’s mater and retired to the outside court, an ash surface formed by the residue of spilled bins from the middens. Rain would never stop play.
My granny – and most of her contemporaries – had a robust attitude to childcare. Children should not be seen or heard and, where possible, should be fed at a distance, in the manner of zookeepers giving tigers their tea. Thus matches could be punctuated with manna from heaven. Or, more accurately, slices of Milanda from the third floor, smeared with various forms of sugar. The bread, that is. Not the stairs.
The backyard was our Centre Court, though there was the odd, some would say peculiar, game on Killearn Street before we all reached the lush turf of Busby. The game we played may by unrecognised as tennis by the All England Club.
First, the implements were as crude as Frankie Boyle at a stag do. Second, said implements were used for more than just hitting balls. They could sometimes catch you on the knee.
Third, any opponents were so violent they would have laughed at the puerile belligerence of Luis Suarez. Owing to the lack of dental care at the time and aforementioned pieces, it would have been a gumsy smile. They may not have been able to bite yir shoulder but they could have given you a nasty sook.
Yet Wimbledon somehow had the ability to cast its spell over working-class Glesca. The point I am trying to make – and this column may just include it – is that Wimbledon travels well. It was the starting point for summer games all over the world and through all classes.
This innocent replaying of Centre Court moments in backyards has been replaced by kids playing computer games in bedrooms or travelling to a proper court in a proper centre. The temptation is to say I had more fun in my day. But I didn’t.
The Wimbledon brand has grown from something once viewed on a black-and-white telly by many of us to a green and purple monster that seduces punters and generates the sort of money that makes it the aristocrat of sporting marketing.
Wimbledon is seen as timeless, classy and the leading tournament in a global sport. Its appeal stretches beyond the miles for patient punters who camp out for three days for a chance to have a peek at its glory. Tickets are as rare as a Suarez gumshield.
But there is more. The corporate backers see its worth, the television channels vie to pay to broadcast it and the All England Club, curiously and mistakenly portrayed as incompetent buffers, have a grand vision to capitalise on all this. And not just in monetary terms.
Wimbledon has a masterplan, cleverly called the Wimbledon Masterplan. The details include tunnels to courts, moving some courts around, doing some landscaping, a redesigned entrance plaza, better facilities for competitors, and putting a roof on No.1 Court. And a deep-fat fryer for strawberries. Okay, I lied about that.
The truth is that there is a grand design for Wimbledon to grow and that may include an expansion in acreage; Wimbledon may creep outside its controlled borders.
Indeed, if it keeps making so much moolah and decides to invest it in land expansion, Auntie Muriel may just be able to see matches in outside courts from her bedroom window. And throw me a piece and sugar.
FLYING THE FLAG: A spectator at the Killearn Street Open celebrates the arrival of a piece and sugar from the third floor window.