I can’t even work out who joined me on the Friday; I think Janie came with me both days in the end. I can only find one e-mail, to Ian Theodoreson, quite late in the day, explaining that I had clean forgotten to sort out this match in all the excitement. He had to decline.
I recall arranging to meet Heinrich Groenewald and perhaps one or two others from his entourage during intervals, so I guess they had sorted themselves out with tickets way ahead. I know Janie was with me for those gatherings, which is one of the reasons I’m coming round to the idea that she joined me for both days that time.
I vaguely recall sitting in the Edrich Upper (or perhaps the Compton Upper) with Janie for this match. I think this might have been one of the occasions we had our ears bent by a pair of former Reuters journalists, who told us exactly the same old stories the second time as they had a couple of years earlier, without twigging that we had sat next to them and heard their stories before. But whether this match was the first time or the second time we endured that pair I cannot recall. I think the second time.
But what a match. Bitterly disappointing for England that they couldn’t quite turn things round and level the series, but on balance I think South Africa were the stronger side (just) at that time.
Yup, I blame the London 2012 Olympics for suppressing most of my memory of this one; unusually blank for me, this.
I don’t normally go for adaptations of my favourite novels, but something told me this would be well worth seeing and also that Janie would like it. I was right on both counts. It was probably down to the fact that Simon Stephens was adapting it and also the stellar-looking cast and creatives boasted.
It was a fabulous evening of theatre. This adaptation deserved the plaudits it received in the press and the many transfers and re-runs that have followed.
From our point of view, this was a cracking night at the theatre. It was also darned close to the 20th anniversary of our very first date, in August 1992, which happened to be at the Cottesloe. There’s cute for you.
Janie and I were fortunate (or skilled) enough to get three sets of tickets in our Olympic Games application; badminton, tennis and hockey. We were thrilled with that. Add to it a day at the Paralympic games a few weeks later and that makes four really memorable days.
Our day at the Olympic Park to see women’s hockey was our only opportunity to see the park itself, so we needed no further invitation than the suggestion in the spectator guide that we ensure we arrive at the park plenty early. We indeed wanted a good amount of time to take in the atmosphere and enjoy a whole day.
We timed our journey and arrival to be outside any rush hours (business or Olympic) but early enough for a good stroll around the park before our afternoon of hockey started (at lunchtime).
Security, the stewarding, the atmosphere around the park was all wonderful, as was widely reported at the time. We’d had great experiences at Wembley Arena (badminton) and Wimbledon (tennis) by then, so expected nothing less. But all of that character together with the sheer size and scale of the park was something to behold and remember.
It was the second match, between South Korea and Belgium, that was especially memorable. Directly behind us, between the matches, had arrived a large contingent of Korean Buddhist monks. Had this been a cricket match in, say, the Eric Hollies Stand at Edgbaston, I would be talking about a bunch of beer-swilling Brummies in fancy dress, looking vaguely like monks.
But this was a sizeable posse of real Buddhist monks, with South Korean flags and prayer drums. As the game commenced they started to chant, “Dae Han Min Guk” very slowly and then beat out this phrase as five beats on their prayer drums.
So, naturally, Janie and I started joining in with the monks. Soon lots of people were joining in. Even children waving Belgian flags started joining in, only to meet reproach from their parents and then, in some cases, to ignore the reproach and continue to join in anyway. You get the idea.
We strolled a little more after the matches – we didn’t really want our day to end, but it was purposeful strolling really towards the best exit for our journey home. As was the way for just those few weeks of that summer, there was a friendly atmosphere amongst strangers on the tube home.
This was a really super day. When we were applying for tickets, Janie and I debated long and hard about which tennis slot to attempt. I favoured No. 1 Court, as I thought it would improve our chance of success. But Janie’s theory was that she was only interested in Centre Court, as it is the only covered court and she wanted to be assured of play if we did secure tickets.
Thus we applied for quarter finals day on centre court – thus we were successful in our application.
Janie took responsibility for the sumptuous picnic and I planned the journey. We set off good and early to avoid the worst of the crowds and take in some atmosphere on arrival. I guess it was a strange mix of regular Wimbledon and London 2012 atmosphere for this tournament – but that’s “strange in a good way”.
A rather strange American man was sitting next to us, who kept saying “that’s amazing…that’s incredible” whenever one of the players won a point with a good shot or when there was a good rally…which really was quite often. It turned out that the man is a huge tennis fan and goes a lot, so he shouldn’t be quite so continuously astounded by good play in my view, but there you are.
Janie realised that she had a real taste for Wimbledon, so picked up instructions for applying for forms in the Wimbledon ballot, which she has done each year since 2012 with (at the time of writing, in 2016) remarkable success, getting good No. 1 Court tickets two years out of those four. A small but significant Olympic legacy for us.