Whatever the results at these two venues, Steve and I were certainly winners in being able to be part of the atmosphere, excitement and matches this weekend. It was all so thrilling!
Steve managed to get us Court 1 seats at Wimbledon in a ballot and thanks to Alexandra's and Campbell's efforts, they were able to secure us tickets to Lords to watch England .v. New Zealand in the WCC2019 final.
Where to begin...
Wimbledon is really a very smart event in the London sporting calendar and there is a dress code for Centre Court and Court 1. You still must meet certain dress criteria for the other courts and also on Henman Hill/Murrays Mound* too. There’s no ripped jeans, sneakers or dirty ‘Ol t-shirts to be seen! Some of the dresses worn were just beautiful with lots of women in summery florals. A few women in heels but mostly in elegant flats. So many of the men were very tailored in suits and even those in the “smart casual” were so well groomed and elegant. There were lots like Steve, too, just in nice shorts and a collared shirt and that seemed to be OK.
First up on Court 1 was the Girls Singles Final and we witnessed some brilliant tennis between Daria Snigur (Ukraine) and Alex Noel (USA). Snigur pulled out all the stops after being down 4-1 in the first set, defeating Noel in two sets. During one of the last changes of ends the score for Centre Court came up and Serena Williams was down 0-4 to Simona Halep. There was a very audible and collective gasp of surprise from the crowd, such was the shock that Serena could fall that far behind.
No self-respecting woman can attend Wimbledon and not have a Pimms. The strawberries and cream looked nice but really, it was just six strawberries dropped into a shallow plastic bowl of liquid cream and to me, it wasn’t overly inviting.
With me clutching my delicious Pimms we made our way to the hill and the big screen. There wasn’t a blade of grass to be seen, it was so thronged with people. However, I managed to squeeze myself onto a tiny patch to watch the final demise of Serena. It was so nice to see her so gracious in her defeat. Steve had to wait at the bottom of the steps as crowd control was intense and he’d been moved down the staircase along with many others to keep it clear.
Back in our seats in the stand we got to witness the hilarious antics of Mansour Bahrami, along with others who were part of the invitation/exhibition team playing. He had the crowd in his hand with his clever tricks. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EChL-KhsMGc Steve likened it to the Haarlem Globe Trotters.
It was by now 5.45pm and having watched a set of Men’s Round Robin doubles we decided to head for home. Both of us were so impressed with the military precision-way Wimbledon is run. It is a very conservative place/event. There was no litter lying around and there must have been hundreds of people employed to keep the place looking so good and keeping people moving, in a firm but friendly manner. Minor queueing for drinks and food as there were plenty of outlets available but the women’s toilets had queues snaking around corners!
There had been a 50/50 chance that we would actually get tickets for Lords. The first option that came up was at a cost of £295 each and that was just a bit too steep for us and so Cam had very wisely said no, on our behalf. However, we awoke Sunday morning to an email from Cam saying “I’ve said yes to £75 each for you guys - you may have a limited view of part of the outfield”. Who cared! Not me. I leapt out of bed, so excited to be going to see our boys take on England in the final at Lords.
Hundreds of people were pouring out of the St Johns Wood train station with us, joining many more hundreds making their way to the hallowed ground of Lords. No pushing and shoving; everyone just excited at the prospect of a great match. Lots of people holding up “begging” posters - “I’m a New Zealander and I’m desperate for a ticket”. Others saying “I’ll do anything you want, even naughty things, if you’ll just get me a ticket”. Wonderful to hear so many New Zealand accents and lots of banter as we walked.
Once we had established ourselves I hopped out the back to grab us coffees. The van was manned totally by Kiwis and I have so say, it was the best coffee I have had in months. So good in fact, I sent Steve back for a second! We know how to make ‘em.....
Throughout the afternoon there was great camaraderie within the crowd. I had a delightful West Indian physio beside me who had helped Kane Williamson a few times - enough times for him to have Kane’s number in his phone. Without any prompting from me he declared Kane to be “a wonderful human being, humble and one of life’s gentlemen”. No man could asked to be described better than that.
Sitting behind us were a group of late 20s Indian men. We didn’t need to buy the earpiece to hear the cricket commentary. One of them gave us a blow-by-blow account of the game and I swear, he didn’t stop talking for the whole eight hours we were there. My darling West Indies physio turned to him at one point and suggested this young man audition to be an announcer but perhaps right now, he could just talk a little quieter. He complied, thank god, but didn’t stop!
As the afternoon progressed the chase intensified for England to beat NZ’s score. The tension and excitement in the crowd was palpable. The England singing was both outstanding and rousing. All the cheering left me with a roar in my ears at the end of the match. It was so nail-biting when it came down to a draw and we had to go on to the Super Over. I felt sick. Steve was hoarse from yelling and could hardly speak. People were clutching each other; some covering their eyes in disbelief. However, when Buttler hit the stumps and Guptill failed to make the crease, the crowd erupted! I have never witnessed a spectacle like it. The air was electric. It was incredible to be part of it and to feel all that emotion and passion; on both sides.
Some men were crying! Others were hugging us; shaking our hands. Friends were turning to each other, in absolute astonishment that England had come through and won.
Two incredible days that Steve and I will never forget. It feels such a privilege to be living here and being able to do some of these things.
If you are looking for me this week, you’ll find me lying on the sofa, recovering from so much excitement.
I’ll leave the last words to The Guardian newspaper:
“This was the most astonishing, fortuitous, preposterous climax to any cricket match I’ve witnessed, let alone a World Cup final. Only the Kiwis could have coped so graciously with the manner of their defeat in the most riveting final this tournament has ever witnessed. Somehow England could celebrate victory, yet no sane cricket fan in the ground could conclude that New Zealand deserved to lose. After this surreal hour they emerged with as much credit as England, maybe more, since the cricketing deities had been so cruel.”
*An interesting bit of history for us Kiwis re Henman Hill/Murrays Mound: The All England Club purchased 11 acres of land to the north of Centre Court in 1967 and leased it to the New Zealand Sport and Social Club, who named it Aorangi Terrace. 'Aorangi' means 'Cloud in the Sky', which is the Maori name for Mount Cook in New Zealand.
The Kiwis moved out in 1981 and spectators have flocked to the hill ever since, but Aorangi Terrace remains its formal name. But in the 1990s, as fans got used to enjoying/enduring Tim Henman's valiant attempts to win the grand slam, it soon earned the name Henman Hill. With the rise of Andy Murray and his two Wimbledon titles, the picturesque spot has reverted between that and Murray Mound.