Here’s a bad joke:
What happens when a Chinese person spends too long in the sun?
They turn into a Chinese peasant!
I came back from a whole day out at Wimbledon 2 weeks ago to have Nasty tell me, “Wow! You look all ‘peasanty’!”
I know, we aren’t the most PC type of people…
Wimbledon was amazing and I rank it as one of the top ten experiences in life (well, in my life at least…).
(And no, I don’t know what the other nine are.)
My intention was to get up at 4:30am to try to make the first tube (5:40am) to Wimbledon.
But of course, like all early morning plans, that didn’t happen, but I still made it to the tube by 7am on the Saturday of the first week of the tournament and arrived at Wimbledon Park at 8am to join the queue.
There was already a mass of people forming a huge line criss-crossing the park. I was handed a queue card – I was number 09381.
I heard from the ladies next to me that the All England Lawn Tennis and Crochet Club has a capacity of 6000, so after the initial rush to get in when the gates open at 10.30am, once the venue is full, the rest of us have to wait until, somehow, more space is available. *sigh* I KNEW I should’ve made at least the 6am train!
Perhaps because of the festive atmosphere, the fact that we can all sit down and lounge about in the grass, that everything is very organised and everyone is well-behaved with a multitude of Wimbledon stewards looking after us, with burger stands and lemonade and people coming by to sell newspapers and hand out stickers, it felt less like queuing and more like a very hot morning in the park.
In fact, queuing is such an institution at Wimbledon that they’ve issued a guide to it:
After sitting in the sun for 4-5 hours with no food, just a bottle of water and a copy of the Guardian I bought on the spot, it was finally time to move!
After such a long time starving and thirsting (I had water, but was also desperate to pee and had no one to save my place if I go), it was one of those moments in life where you wish if only there was someone there with you. Anyone. It was such a nice day and everyone else was in groups and having such a good time hanging out, I desperately wanted to send a postcard to everyone I’ve ever known, writing “Wish you were here.”
Imagine my horror when, after bringing my hot, sweaty and sticky body through a marathon pee-holding session, queue card checks, security scans and the ticket turnstiles, I stepped onto the tennis grounds to the following sight:
It was horrifying and marvelous at the same time. I was finally in the grounds! This event that I saw most years staying up late (time difference) in the living room with my father! One of the few events that even my mom would talk about! I never even thought that I’ll ever be here. It was such a great feeling I called my dad right then. If there is anyone who would appreciate the experience as much as I did, it has to be him. I wish he was there.
I jostled amongst the crowd and took several close up snaps of the order of play for the day (because they don’t give handouts of them) so I can plan where to go to see what.
I had a Grounds Ticket. Which means I pay £20 for the privilege of unlimited unreserved seating and standing for Courts No. 3 – 19. Undoubtedly, tickets for Centre Court and Nos. 1 and 2 Courts cost a fortune, and for which you have to queue at least 48 hours.
Centre Court is both magnificent…
…and posh. As the end of the day draws near, masses of fans crowd outside these doors, hoping to catch a glimsp of…I don’t know who. Royals? Tennis stars?
The shear size of the exclusive Club is amazing, with 19 tennis courts in all, including 2 stadiums and some courts with smaller stands, shops, restaurants, media centres, private rooms, and other facilities under one roof.
In the background, crowds peer over into Court No. 3. The lower the court number, the higher ranked the players, the better quality of play. (Although, controversially, it could also be just player popularity and not skills that determine the court they play in.)
Score boards abound projecting live scores of matches of interest.
Those of us lay people who do not have tickets to the high-profile matches in the big courts, we crowd around the unofficially named Henman Hill (now called the Murray Mound), a hill at the back of the No. 1 Court, to watch them on the big screen.
From the bottom of the hill, this is what the crowd looked like. I was amongst them, starvingly shoving down an extortionately over-priced box of soggy chicken breast strips and fries for £6.
Nevertheless, it was amazing to have world-class tennis played just a few steps from you.
I felt like touching the grass just because I could…
Being there, you get the sense that the Wimbledon Championships is a very carefully orchestrated event. The umpires, linesmen and ball boys and girls work to meticulous robotic detail, with every movement precise and coordinated. All staff encountered on the grounds are probably the friendliess people I’ve ever met in London. All are big smiles, friendly and helpful.
I suppose, for the money they make, and the prestige of the organisation, they better be presentable!
As matches end and the day winds down, the weather suddenly took a turn for the cold and the grounds slowly emptied.
Considering I left home at about 6:30am, with only soggy chicken and fries, and a slice of pizza to fuel my excitement, imagine how exhausted I was when I finally joined the throngs of people making their way home at 9pm. The Wimbledon tube station was so overrun with tennis fans that they didn’t even bother charging us for our rides.
I got home past 10pm multiple shades darker than when I set off that morning.
It was briliant, it was exhausting, and it was worth it. I would do it all over again in a heart-beat.