Saturday 6 November 2010

Where the grass is greener

Back at the end of June we were lucky enough to have tickets for the tennis at Wimbledon. I have applied for tickets in the Wimbledon ballot for years and when we lived down in Surrey, where we were about 40 minutes drive from Wimbledon, we were never allocated tickets. Since moving to Cheshire, seven years ago, we have now been allocated tickets twice. I am not complaining, but to enjoy just one day of tennis it means three days away from home and two overnight stays.

When the offer of tickets arrived on a very cold day in February, the thought that the UK would be having a heatwave during Wimbledon Fortnight was the last thing on my mind. As we prepared for our trip south I began to ponder the sagacity of driving 200miles in a hot car and spending three nights in stuffy hotel rooms. Fortunately husband's car is air conditioned so the journey was not a problem. We made good time and managed to stop for a long walk around RHS Wisley finding some peace, quiet and cool where the garden backs onto the River Wey, before heading to our hotel.

I need  not have worried about the bedroom being stuffy as a fan had thoughtfully been provided to cool the room, which was just as well as the windows only opened a few inches - for our safety so that we didn't fall out!

We had decided to stay in the hotel on the outskirts of the village that we used to live in. That brought back a few memories. The village is as idyllic in its' own way as where we currently live, but it is more of a suburban location than our current country location. The village has always had a slightly dated conservative affluent charm of neat leafy lanes with well maintained houses set back from the road. I was interested to see if it had changed much since we had moved north to Chester, especially as Chelsea Football Club now have their training ground in the next village of Cobham. Many of their footballers live in lavish houses in the surrounding villages.Villages such as Cobham and Esher have always been upmarket and trendy with pavement cafes and expensive shops ideal for the WAGs. This post has been in my draft folder for some time but by chance The Times recently published an article about the prosperity of the area. I had hoped that our old village with its simple shops and absence of cafes would  be seen as too dull for the footballers and their WAGs. After seven years away it was inevitable that there would be some changes. However, I was very pleased to see that the changes were limited to a few new shops and some newly built houses and that much of the village remains as it always was. Time has almost stood still in this corner of Surrey. Someone once described it to me as a magical place to live. They were so right. It was. It still is and I hope that it will continue to be a magical place to live. I shall always have a soft spot for that village. So why did we move? Because we had to. Husband had been offered a job 200 miles away in Chester and we had been trying to move anyway, because of problems with our neighbours. Otherwise I would not have been prepared to move from a house and village where we had once been so happy.

To get up to Wimbledon we parked the car at the village railway station which looked cleaner and tidier than I remembered it to be, but maybe that is what seven years away does to the memory. We caught the Guildford to Waterloo train. (Yesterday's accident involving a cement mixer and a train happened just three stops down the line.) At Wimbledon we changed onto the District underground line which runs above ground between Wimbledon and Southfields, the nearest station to the All England Lawn Tennis Club. From Southfields to the tennis is about a twenty minute walk. Once through the gates our bags were searched and we felt that we had arrived. We brought a programme then had a wander around the grounds before buying ourselves a cold drink and making our way to Henman Hill to eat our lunch.

I had thought that we might be getting a bit old for going to Wimbledon but there were plenty of spectators considerably older than us. Just before 1pm, when play was scheduled to start, we took our seats on the No 1 Court. We had seats with a good view and plenty of space around. The present No 1 Court is modern and comfortable and has only been in use since 1997 when Tim Henman played the first competitive match on it. Wimbledon Fortnight is not the same since he retired. Our seats were in the front row of the second tier. Between the first and second tier is the wheel chair seating area. In front of us were two elderly couples who were enjoying a picnic as well as the tennis. Although I do wonder how much tennis they saw, as they munched their way through the afternoon. If you would like to apply for tickets to Wimbledon 2011 now is the time to do so. Details of how to apply can be found here.

The following day we treated ourselves to another visit to Christopher Lloyd's garden at Great Dixter, on the Sussex/Kent border. Our previous visit had been in May 2009 and we were both interested to see it in high summer. Sadly we were disappointed. Some areas were overgrown and untidy and there was no shortage of weeds. It is still impressive but I think that a garden, which the public pay for the privilege of seeing, should be better maintained. Maybe the grass is not always as green as we  remember it to be. That night was spent in a hotel in Sussex. No fan provided but we were able to open the windows as wide as we wanted and we didn't fall out!