One aspect of real tennis at Lord’s that I omitted to mention in my piece last week – click here for that piece – is the propensity for one of the players to cancel at the last minute or even simply fail to turn up at the appointed hour. There is a strict rule that people must pay for such lapses, but some seem unconcerned about money. It almost always causes inconvenience to the staff (who then need to find a last minute opponent or in extremis play an unscheduled hour themselves) and sometimes disappointment to the other player(s), who had turned up expecting one thing and end up with another…or occasionally, if out of hours, with nothing.
However, the fairly regular scurrying around for a last-minute replacement does afford a fairly local newbie, such as myself, to benefit from quite a few free (i.e. funded by the offender) gigs.
On the evening of 1 August, for example, I had arranged to play at 19:00, after work: I had an excellent hour. One gentleman was waiting for his 20:00 match – his opponent didn’t turn up. Initially I offered to warm him up while he waited, but in the end we played a match. The handicapping system is a great help, up to a point, but he was a very sporty, experienced player – 30 handicap points ahead of me, which is out of range, really. It was great experience for me to play against such a player and I got better enough as the hour progressed for us to have some very good wrests (rallies in modern terms) in the end.
I was pretty worn out by the time I got home (I had also been to the gym that morning) and was wondering how I might get on playing again the next morning – a “pre-Edgbaston” idea. Actually, the body had calmed down by morning and I didn’t do too badly in my 10:00 hour. At the end of that hour, Chris Swallow asked if one of us could stay to help make up a doubles where one had dropped out at the last minute. My opponent couldn’t; I was in no rush, having demobilised the afternoon before, so did another two-hours-on-the-trot. Great fun, but 4 hours on court in the space of 17 hours is probably not ideal for an old git like me.
Half way to Edgbaston, when I stopped for comfort/petrol, I skimmed my e-mails and saw one from the MCC which read:
“you have caught the eyes of the selectors…would you be available to play real tennis for the MCC against the visiting Australians, The Wanderers, on 10 September?”
A very pleasing surprise. My reply:
The only criterion I can imagine might have caught the selectors’ eyes was my avoiding the need for a stretcher after two consecutive days of unexpected two hour slots.
Or perhaps it helps the handicapping to have a novice in the squad.
Still, I am flattered and absolutely delighted to accept the invitation to play that day.
I met up with Nigel at the Eaton Hotel and we went out for dinner quite early, both hungry and quite tired. We intended to go to Bengal Delight again, as we had enjoyed that place so much last year. We walked along the Hagley Road, got so far we realised we must have passed it or that it had gone. Checked on the smart phone and discovered that 207 Hagley Road is now a new Persian Kitchen and Bar, Colbeh (unrelated to the Bayswater Persian of that name).
I shall review the meal in full on TripAdvisor when I get home and add a link. Suffice it to say here that the food was really excellent; outstanding in fact. We were well looked after by a proud new proprietor and we really do wish him and the place well. In any case, it was great to catch up with Nigel over a meal again the night before the match.
So the headline is a little deceptive; it was a surprising, good meal because we set off for an Indian meal, which we expected to be good, but instead ended up enjoying Persian cuisine at that location, which was truly excellent. One of the joys of life.