A local tennis club that became an international icon, Wimbledon is all about getting into the community spirit……
Wimbledon is not what you might imagine. It’s not built to cater for the train loads of tourists and tennis snobs that descend here every summer. The town itself feels more like a suburban village than a world-class athletics destination. It’s like when you turn up at Grandma’s house with the entire family in tow. She may have a big brave smile on her face, but you know that, deep down, she’s terrified and entirely ill equipped to deal with what follows.
The tiny residential streets are alive with blacked-out Mercedes and Range Rovers; either transporting the tennis stars themselves, or the select few that are lucky enough to get their little mitts on tickets. They treat themselves to a new flowery summer dress, or perhaps a new pair of chinos which must be worn with combed back hair and a pair of gold Ray-Bans, or so it seems. Adding to the community vibe are kids at garden gates, selling strawberries and cream for £1.50, and home-made lemonade – these are no doubt the offspring of some of London’s rich and powerful. They must be, how else could they afford the £3,500,000 price tags I clocked at the local estate agents? What the deuce? But then again, if you can demand up to £10k a night to rent your home out during Wimbledon, I guess money becomes irrelevant.
And as you get to the end of what appears to be nothing more than a typical wealthy neighbourhood, the road dips into a land of television crews and London Bobbies, all employed to keep out the riff-raff and keep the dream alive. Lines of people flood the pavements, queuing up for as long as it takes to get in. I wasn’t sure I cared enough to stand inline, so I asked one of the honorary stewards how long it would take to get onto the grounds. He was about 17 years old with tangerine-orange hair and a luminescent waistcoat. “It’s gunna take y’about six to eight hours. Djokovic’s playing at the end of the day so I doubt you’ll get in before six this evening.”
“I see,” I said, realising it was a one-in-one-out type entry system. “So, what would you do if you were in our position?”
“Honestly? Truthfully?” he said, looking for eye contact.
“Yes, really,” I replied.
“I’d go down’a’pub!” he gleamed, without a moment’s hesitation.
We discovered the Dog and Fox, a grand but typical British pub situated in the heart of Wimbledon Village. We drank jugs of Pimms with chunks of orange and strawberries, and snacked on plates of French fries whilst watching the tennis on a big screen tv. It was yet another reminder that the people who enjoy Wimbledon most are in fact the local community – swooping beers, summer sun and all!