I mentioned my occasional role as a last minute substitute in my real tennis reflections at the end of 2016:
…on the last two playing days of the 2017 year that role went into overdrive. I had booked to play at 11:00 on Friday 22nd, which was doubles – not what I would normally book but I think it was the only available slot on that last day of 2017 when I booked it.
In the end, though, I was asked if I could fill in at 16:00 on Thursday, then if I could play doubles for 90 minutes before that Thursday singles, then if I could stay on for an hour of “senior” doubles after my Friday booking, which had been switched from doubles back to singles.
In short, it isn’t just my clients who book up too much to do in the run up to Christmas and then cancel at the last minute. The real tennis community are masters at it.
Also, in short, that meant four-and-a-half hours of real tennis in 24 hours. That was a bit mad of me. But strangely it all went OK. In fact I improved my singles handicap by a good few notches during that 24 hours.
The 150 minute marathon on Thursday was a very exhausting idea, especially as the doubles as well as the singles was high grade, above my handicap stuff.
I drove home, then wandered round to the Ladbroke Arms to meet Kristof, whom I had met at Brian Eno’s economics shindig a few week’s earlier:
Kristof is a very interesting chap of Hungarian origin who is a fund manager by profession, yet reads books and had even read The Price Of Fish since we last met.
When he arrived at the Ladbroke Arms, Kristof immediately apologised for his appearance. He was wearing a leather jacket, jeans and a dark-coloured beanie hat. Kristof explained that he was going to a punk party after our drink. I explained that his appearance was not entirely dissimilar to mine, which I consider to be normal attire for meeting a friend in a local pub. Here is a reconstruction of the look, taken by Daisy a couple of days later in Victoria:
We talked about life, the universe and just about everything. Topics (beyond The Price Of Fish) ranged from Brexit to the writings of George Mikes to our life stories & therefore (naturally) Ogblog.
But, sadly, Kristof and I failed to solve the world’s most wicked problems over a couple of small glasses of wine before Kristof went off in his “costume”. Must have been that extra 90 minutes or so of real tennis doubles that dulled my thinking that evening. Hopefully we’ll try again some time soon.
Back to Lord’s the next morning for a couple of hours more tennis. Bizarrely, the MCC now live streams and saves the games some days, so if you want a quick (or slow) butchers hook at this stuff, here is the stream of my Friday marathon – just the two hours from c2:02 (warming up for singles) until c4:05. The “senior doubles” after our hour of singles (we both stayed on) is with gentlemen who are both just over or approaching 90 years of age.
Unfortunately, the sound stream wasn’t working that day. so you can’t hear all the moaning and groaning – mostly from my opponents, naturally:
As for reflections on my 2017 progress; numerically it all looks and feels a bit strange. I got my handicap down to 60.9 by June, then it flew back up again for three months and then I whittled it back down to that 60.9 figure by the end of the year.
Apparently this pendulum thing happens; partly natural volatility, partly (I suspect) a bit of a seasonal effect but mostly because performance actually does plateau or even go backwards while you try to progress to playing “proper” shots rather than simply getting the ball back.
More importantly, I’d had lots of fun and continue to really enjoy my real tennis. Ogblog highlights of the year include the following, the first two of which have some very short video clips with sound. If you persevere you’ll encounter some real stars, including Rob Fahey (real tennis’s equivalent of Rod Laver) and even Paul McCartney:
I am now in the 53rd percentile of all players worldwide who have ever been logged on the system (over 10,800 of them). More realistically, I am now in the 67th percentile of those who play regularly. That makes me about one standard deviation from the norm. Let’s hope no-one latches on to “Standard Deviation” as my nickname. I think I’d sooner be the Galloping Bard or the Flying Ferret.