Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Saturday, 19 September 2009
We played two sets between six and seven pm. Not perhaps our finest tennis - Guy and Gus prevailed! It was good to play to a full dedans as many guests soon arrived.
Following the game it was a lovely surprise to be presented by David Weston with "The Hardwick Round Britain Chase Salver", a trophy to mark our tour and for and Hardwick members to compete for in the future. Thereafter a jolly party ensued in the dedans until the late hours. Many thanks to Julian Brind for supplying the wine, Phyllie and Beth for organising the food, and to all Hardwick members and other guests who came to support us and to all our sponsors.
Gordon's intimate knowledge of the court works in his favour as he and Gus pull off a comeback.
Tom Huelin kindly donated the refreshments.
Friday, 18 September 2009
Angus sitting in the back talking to German television producers who would like to make a documentary on living on a boat in London, working out how he will break the news that his boat is actually an MTB that sank a German destroyer in WWII!
Chris Ronaldson had the kettle on for our arrival. Real coffee for real tennis players - thanks Chris. We discussed Chris's record when if and Lachie Deuchars played all the courts in the early 1990s. we really liked the court with it's even bounce and bright blue colours. Guy changed his racket and tom had to replace another grip. James Walton kindly came to support us and Toddy Hoare, another supporter from Hardwick. Thanks to Chris and Jo for their encouragement and line donation. Now on the bus into Oxford.
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Although totally shattered, the intrepid four played on and managed two sets before championship showers underneath the penthouse. Many thanks to Kevin King, the pro for staying on and looking after us.
Gordon left his tennis shoes at the Hyde tennis club and so had to borrow a pair of shoes three sizes too big from Kevin!
We are now on the M4 racing east for some home cooking with Phyllie and Beth to recharge our batteries for the final push tomorrow.
The court fell into disuse for much of the 20th century and was used as a cowshed and by the /american army to store tanks. For the second time today we made the mistake of playing three sets instead of two. The standard of play refelected this!
Windy roads north to the M5 for the final court of the day. Now travelling up the M5 towards Bristol with the sun setting...
We inspected the court before play, noting the raquet graveyard in the grating below the net, the quirky chase 8 at the service end instead of a yard worse than the last gallery, at which point Guy discovered he had left his raquet at Petworth House tow games previously and was uncertain which raquet he had used this morning at Seaccourt. Steve ROnaldson, the engaging and entertaining resident real professional kindly supplied a school raquet for the game and later leant Guy one of his own "left handed" raquets whith which to continue the tour - which which to continue the tour. Another lovely Bickley court with a true flagstone floor. The match was filmed by Paul Conley of VJ West, who had kindly driven over from Sherbourne to film the game, risking his life and camera folming from the net!
We found it difficult to tear ourselves away as a group of sixth form girls came on court for a lesson!
After a light vegetarian lunch we set off in convoy with Paul for Bridport with little time to spare.
Play commenced promptly to a full dedans and kindly marked by Richard Williams, owner of Holyport. Many donations to the MS Society were collected on the night for which we are very grateful.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Another court in impeccable condition and we were charmed by the sitting room and dining room and tennis court garden in which we had drinks afterwards.
Security was tight but Dr Robertson's party made it through all the locked doors. Players have to lock themselves on court, to stop wandering tourists being hit on the head! This did not stop Henry VIII being hit on the head - a protrait of him adorns the grille! The grille is one of the winning targets. Gus now fears for his head!
This was our first exhibition match to an invited audience, which included one of our major sponsors - Sandra Keenan Kamen. Also watching were Missy Hyams, Nick Wood and Jenny Trevor, Angus's godmother. We played on the west court - close contest and we all retired for an eagerly anticipated lunch back on the terrace.
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
A thorough repacking of the car and we head off cross country towards rural Essex after briefly meeting the resident professional Andrew Knibbs.
Monday, 14 September 2009
A quirk of Moreton is a wooden squash-tennis court - a hybrid game that Garland invented with his mates...
We all felt at home on the Moreton court - built by the same architect as our home court at Hardwick (Joseph Bickley) it played similarly and we had a tight three set match.
Thanks to the pro Tom for regripping Tom Rob's racket - on the road repairs! And also thanks to Tom for looking after Antony - the stags head/antlers, Gordon's trophy from the Gruinard which was stinking out the car...
Also many thanks to the Moreton members their hospitality.
Nestled in the heart of the town, the club is a bastion of the old school - women have only been permitted in this Gentleman's club since September last year...
Kevin Sheldon, the club professional, greets us warmly at the front door and we embark upon a tour of this the grandest of courts we have seen so far. To the right lies the bridge room; ahead, the dining room with its equestrian prints adorning the walls... But the centrepiece lies to the left, the bar, resplendent with its small armoury of awards and ephemera. Amongst them there's the world champion Rob Fahey's racket, an over 65s trophy in the form of two silver zimmerframes mounted with real tennis rackets, and another trophy that tells the story of a 100 yard race between a sprinter and a Porsche - the latter apparently came in a close second!
Elsewhere, a long narrow box with holes in it affords members the opportunity to 'blackball' potential new members - an ancient vetting process to ensure harmony within the club! On one of the walls hangs a vast picture called 'The Dinner Match' depicting the club's major players either on court or watching the game from the galleries. The bar itself offers the club's very own Claret and 'Slaughterhouse' ale!
The court itself offers us new challenges with a steeper incline on the tambour and a smaller dedans than we have experienced so far. Our thanks to Kevin for his warm reception and to the club for their generosity towards the cause.
Steve Brockenshaw the professional welcomed us to the club and before the game kindly gave us a tour of the club. We first arrived into a hall surrounded by mounted stag heads and ancient tennis rackets. The club's panelled changing rooms, rows and rows of wonderful tennis pictures, beautiful members oak-panelled lounge, bar and dining room make this a very special (and comfortable) club.
The court has just been extensively refurbished with work recently being delayed which prohibited us playing a conventional game. However due to Steve's industry the court had been cleaned, a tape-net erected in place of the absent new net and a scaffold tower remined in front of the grille. Steve kindly marked an improvised best of three games, reminding us that we were the first to play on the refurbished court, whish we did so with new balls. Thank you to those members of the club who donated to the MS Society, we are very grateful.
We were fascinated by the amazing array of historical portraits recording the history of the club. We were lucky to meet Stella Heap who manages the club.
Gordon tried out his new racket having cracked his frame at Falkland and Angus struggled on despite his sleep deprivation.
Next stop Leamington!
after a swift beer with some of the members we departed for Manchester managing the cross the Tyne bridge on several occasions before being guided out to the motorway by a lively resident of Gateshead.
Serious traffic - roadworks punctuated by accidents meant a slow journey into Manchester followed by takeaway pizzas and a couple of bottles of Cab Sauv soon after midnight in the salubrious surroundings of the Salford Travelodge where double beds awaited the tired illustrious four.
Sunday, 13 September 2009
We would like to thank Simon and the other players at Falkland who greeted us at the court and made a generous dontion to the MS Society - we hope to see you again soon!
Now onto complete the four at Perth station. Word is the others are on schedule despite a late night and an early start... Grey skies but no rain as of yet. Here's hoping it holds...
land rover from last week's fishing and stalking trip an the gruinard estate in wester ross returned to Inverness with two guests heading even further north.
Weather is drizzly and misty, barbours and boots on court at Falkland may be necessary!
Still two extra passengers - Tom the chef and Guilia Guy's girlfriend who travel as far as Perth where the intrepid four will be united enroute for Falkland Palace. Not much space to breathe in car at present!
Tom sitting in front of car writing blog with an eight-pointer stag on his knee! Back row fast asleep.
Coffee required urgently after late night revelry!
The Robertson kin are now converging to "chase Britain".
All being well, come the strike of noon tomorrow, we will meet on court at Falkland Palace, in the lower reaches of the Scottish highlands, to start our epic journey across Great Britain, playign more Real Tennis than has ever before been known to man!
Falkland Palace is the world's oldest surviving Real Tennis court,
commissioned by James 1 and built without a roof - a truly esoteric and
entirely Scottish madness! Here at this the oldest court, the rules differ
from all other courts, the balls are harder and must be retrieved more often (as there is no roof to the court and four extra holes, like thorns, in the side of the court). Furthermore, the northern chill can make a mockery of even the hardiest of competitors, there being no escape from the elements!
From all corners of the Isle, the brave Robertson clan comes. From the Western reaches of Scotland comes the father of the clan, Gordon, along with his third son Guy. Having spent a week on the Groinyard, they bring with
them a boiled stag's head, a fine set of antlers and salmon fit for smoking. Tom, second son, joined them today off the overnight sleeper from London to
enjoy a fertive day's sport before battle. The road will be tough - tis wise to enjoy one's folly beforehand!
I, for my sins, have caught the 2 o'clock train from Kings Cross to dart
North through the countryside to Edinburgh, then beyond to my Perthian berth for the night.
No sooner had I laid my suitcase in the luggage rack than my old friend and sparring partner Nick Frew grinned at me from across the cabin... "You again?!" he exclaimed - we seem to have formed a habit of meeting midst ludicrous adventure and fortifying our spirits before heading on - always purely coincidental and yet somehow intergal to all that follows!
A bottle of Pinot Noir Rose, some sweet & sour Scottish raspberries, blazen radishes et al later, and we're merrily on our way in the wonderful company of the ravishing Pearl and a new train-buddy aquaintance Liz, a market
researching self-confessed drug-runner for the major drug companies of the land - we're set! I have to be held back from orchestrating a history lesson
on Real Tennis to all in the carriage, but generally everyone seems happy with their lot...
I feel sad to lose my travel friends at Peterborough when the journey had not yet half been won, but there's purpose... This mad mission remains, a ancient kingdom of times past - times when Kings were equally glad to meet one another across a Real Tennis net as to confront on the battlefield - and
to conquer on the tennis court, as a king, one had to display not only the
courage and skill of the hero of the battlefield, but also the guile o fthe
master of chess....
Let the games commence!
Time is running out. Will they make it? It's up to you...
Please donate at www.justgiving.com/chasingbritain and will the four
railroading troubadours into achieving their challenge! Time is short...
Follow our progress here on our live blog with regular courtside updates.
Do also come and see a game at any of the courts - please let us know before
hand by emailling firstname.lastname@example.org or calling one of the gang.
There will be a £10 donation direct to MS Society for each guest.
The current itinerary is as follows:
Falkland Palace 12 noon
Jesmond Dene 6:00pm
Moreton Morrell 3:00pm
(green court) 8:00pm
Prested 12 noon
Hatfield House 3:00pm
Queens (West) 12 noon
Hampton Court 4:00pm
Merton (Oxford) 11:15am