Janie and I have booked a series of wine tastings this spring, the first of which was due to be this evening, so I was disappointed when the Seaxe Club papers came through with 30 March as the AGM/panel date; I always look forward to this event.
Then a fortunate change to the schedule for the wine tastings; the 30 March one has had to be postponed. Equally fortunate was the opportunity to play real tennis that afternoon; originally a one hour gig which in fact turned into a double-header. I shall write more about my experience learning to play real tennis in the fullness of time.
On this occasion, the big thing I learnt about real (or indeed probably any form of) tennis was that two hours on the trot is an exertion too far for me nowadays. It didn’t help falling over on that hard slate floor half-an-hour into the session in a most inglorious fashion – while clearing balls from the net gully into the ball basket. Both knees and my left shoulder are still bruised 10 days later. But in any case, I’m no longer the lad who could play five-setters of modern tennis against the Great Yorkshire Pudding (for example) for hours on end with seemingly no adverse effects.
When I started my two-hour court session, England looked to be on the wrong-end of the ICC World Twenty20 semi-final, with the Kiwis only one down, with 60 or 70 on the board in about 8 overs. But when I emerged after two hours, England looked to be cruising on 100/1 or so off 10 with only 154 to chase. I resolved to change slowly and follow the end of the match on the wonderfully well-positioned TV in the changing room.
While following the end of England’s successful semi-final, I chatted briefly with a visiting squash player from the West Midlands and latterly with Paul Cattermull, a friend and colleague from many years gone by. I had no idea that Paul was a real tennis aficionado or even an MCC member until he entered that changing room. Paul and I had time both to catch up and for him to give me some useful tips about the game.
I also had time to watch Paul play real tennis for about 15 minutes before I needed to hobble round to the President’s Box for the Seaxe Club AGM.
The sun shone on that early evening meeting, making the field of play look an absolute picture and making that President’s Box the ideal setting for appetite-whetting for the new season.
Of course, the AGM bit of the evening is not the main draw for me; indeed I am slightly allergic to those sorts of meetings. There are two reasons why I really look forward to the Seaxe Club AGM evening.
Firstly, it is an early opportunity to see some of the lovely people who work tirelessly for Middlesex cricket in some of the less glamorous roles. Seaxe Club folk are a really nice bunch of people.
Secondly, the Seaxe Club always arranges a really interesting cricket panel for the second half of the evening. This second half should really be described as a symposium, as wine is available between the two sessions (and therefore during the panel) to help lubricate the discussions. I think of this Seaxe Club annual event as one of the best kept secrets in Middlesex, despite the fact that it is always well publicised. I have no idea why it isn’t better attended as it is always so interesting and enjoyable.
On this occasion, there was a slightly depleted panel, as the two younger players scheduled to attend with Angus Fraser were both a bit poorly that day. Gus had press-ganged Dawid Malan into attending in their place, which was a coup. I chatted with Dawid during the “drinks interval” before the panel. He had no idea that he was about to sit on a panel – he thought he had just been asked along to show his face and have a drink with us. I warned him that the Seaxe Club audience was the toughest gig in Middlesex and that he might get some really challenging questions. But just looking around the room, he knew I was kidding him.
The panel discussion, as always, was interesting. It is usually oriented towards the younger players, as one of the Seaxe Club’s key roles is to help develop the next generation of players. This year the discussion was less youth oriented but still it was interesting to hear Gus and Dawid’s take on the preparatory work the squad has done for the new season and some more general thoughts about county cricket.
Given my exertions earlier in the afternoon, my gammy knees and my bags of kit, I decided for once to tube-it home rather than my usual method, to walk-it.