One In The Eye For Me and Middlesex, Lord’s & Wantage Road, 9 August 2016

Having played at least 40 hours of real tennis, I decided that I need a couple more lessons now just to try and come to terms with some basics such as playing off the back wall and volleying from the back of the court.

I arranged one of those lessons for 12:00 on this day. The weekend before, Chris Swallow phoned me and asked if I minded staying on to make up the numbers for the “senior doubles” hour, after my lesson. This seemed to me to be a good way of consolidating my learning.

I planned, therefore, to get all my work out of the way early and head straight from Lord’s to Wantage Road for the T20 quarter final between Northamptonshire and Middlesex.

Real Tennis

The real tennis lesson with Chris went fine. We concentrated on playing off the back wall, which I think I can now do with more confidence.

After the lesson, Chris went off to find one of the senior gentlemen for the doubles while two of us knocked up and then started playing some singles while we waited. The senior gentleman was nearly half an hour late due to some traffic problems. We played the senior doubles until 14:00, then Chris said that he needed to stop but that the court was free for a further 30 minutes if we wanted to play on.

So, as the clock ticked into the start of a third continuous hour on court (I realise in retrospect that this is not a good idea), the three of us who remained started playing a form of rotating (Australian) Canadian Doubles, which works quite well for real tennis. On one occasion, I served a sitter to the more senior gentleman who sent the ball back towards the far (forehand) corner.

Keen to show off my new “off the back wall” skills, I hurtled towards the ball and then realised (a little too late) that the ball would land far too close to the corner for me to do anything other than break myself and/or my racket. On pulling out of the shot in a muddle, I caught my own face with the racket between my eyebrow and my eye.

The senior gentleman in question seemed far more concerned to ascertain whether he had won the point or laid a chase before finding out whether I was OK. Quite a lot of blood, but in truth a small wound. We soldiered on until the next match arrived at half-past.

Mercifully for you, dear reader, I didn’t take a selfie of my injury, neither at the time nor the next day when the bruise/shiner went through a particularly vivid multi-coloured set of hues.

After my 150 minutes on court, I decompressed for a few minutes and ascertained that the swelling was so slight and far enough away from the eye as to leave my vision entirely unimpeded. I therefore soldiered on as planned to Northampton for the cricket match.

T20 Cricket – Northamptonshire v Middlesex Quarter-Final

I found myself in the appropriate hospitality suite well before the match, after navigating the Northamptonshire CCC stewards. Most of them seemed temporary and unable to help much/at all, whereas the regular ones (if you could find them) were incredibly helpful. Sadly the regulars were indiscernible from the temporary ones, unless you knew who to look for.

Quite a few of the Middlesex regulars were there, of course. I learnt that this was to be the first ever T20 match between our two counties. I met a few really pleasant and  interesting people. Northamptonshire put on a very tasty spread for us all. Much of the time I sat next to Keith Mein (Middlesex Committee) and Roy Virgin (former Northamptonshire player).

Middlesex seemed to be coming second for most of the evening and so the match turned out in the end – see scorecard here.

I was hoping for an easy drive home, but that wasn’t to be. Unscheduled roadworks between a couple of the junctions near Luton/Dunstable (aren’t there nearly always unscheduled roadworks there?) timed perfectly to maximise my discomfort, led to a tailback and diversions that the sat nav could only warn me about in retrospect. More than two-and-a-half hours after setting off from Northampton I got home.

It was a day for 150 minute marathons. Not my best day of the summer.

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