Saturday, 19 September 2009

Final Scores

Final scores - no money won or lost! Games won: Angus 247; Guy 236; Tom 214; Gordon 181. Stableford (WLD): Angus 52; Tom 48; Guy 42; Gordon 32. A close finish with all to play for on the last two courts.

Friends of Hardwick Tennis Club

We drove through the gates of Hardwick House our home court to the chorus of Carmina Burana for the final game. We were met by Phyllie and Beth who had been beavering away preparing the dedans for our homecoming. Eric Walker, our first reserve, arrived on his motorbike soon after, Sam Outram who swept the court in his city suit and David Weston who was to kindly mark our game.
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.

Hardwick House - Gus and Guy won 6-2 6-2

Oratory School Real Tennis Club

Hypoglycaemia kicked in after the first set. Thomas becomes confused, Gus goes white. We stop for refreshments.
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

Oratory Gus and Gordon won 6-5 6-3

Holyport Real Tennis Club

After trying feebly to avoid the Belgian Arms we arrived at Holyport RTC to meet again (Petworth) Richard Williams and briefly watch professional Andy Chinneck and Richard's son Angus play. Two close sets latterly marked by Andy found us still discussing how lovely Andy's balls were at 3.20pm, 40mins before court time at Oratory. At present in prayer on the M4!

The Holyport Real Tennis CLub - Gus and Tom won 6-3 6-3

Merton College Reat Tennis Club, Oxford

A short walk through Christchurch brought us to Merton College Real Tennis COurt built in 1798. The smallest real tennis court in Britain with its unforgiving tambour and great advantage to the servers. Andrew Davies made us feel welcome and kindly swept the court before play. We were watched by Anna Haxworth who stoically cycled to watch us from north Oxford despire her nasty cold. Now in the car heading down the A40 to Holyport. Losses so far include shoes (? left at Hyde - GAR), racket (left at Petworth - located GR), camera (? also left at Petworth - GR). Not to mention loss of sleep and the odd chase!
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!

Merton College Tennis Club - Gus and Guy won 6-4 6-2

Radley College Real Tennis Club

Bacon and eggs at home, a great start. Thanks Phyllie, and for dinner last night!
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.

Radley College - a draw 6-2 1-6

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Scores before the final chase...

At the conclusion of the penultimate day the scores are: in games - Gordon 146; Tom 176; Guy 187; Gus 192. In stableford (WDL) Gordon 24; Guy 34; Gus 38; Tom 40. Still all to play for!

The Bristol and Bath Tennis Club

Bristol was next on the menu. Bristol and Hardwick have a special connection - the Bristol and Bath TC played all their home matches at Hardwick before building their own court in the 1990s. The court is characteristicaly quiet and has a fire escape either side of the net so the club can hold social functions on court!
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 Bristol and Bath Tennis Club - Tom and Gus won 6-5 6-2

Thy Hyde, near Bridport

A lovely journey through Hardy country along the Jurassic coast saw us arrive at the Hyde tennis court near Bridport, meeting resident professional Ben, son of Chris Ronaldson and Hardwick member David Marchwood who was just finishing a game of singles.
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...

The Hyde Tennis Club - Guy and Gus won 6-1 6-4 6-3

Canford School Real Tennis Court

Arrived at Canford School - only three of us having CRB clearance we braved the CCTV cameras and toured the grounds for a view of the 19th C school buildings. Gordon knew the grounds intimately having spent a week in the headmaster's house doing some extra physics revision for 1st MB with the head's son Danny Wallace 35 years ago.
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.

Canford School Real Tennis Court - Guy and Tom won 6-2 6-0 4-6

Seacourt Tennis Club

Arriving on Hayling Island we caught the tail of Ben Mathews and Riccardo Smith's game on court having seen these two professionals the day before at Hampton Court! The court is situated on the southern coast of the island and is perhaps the only club in the world that offers all five raquets sports. Another beautiful Bickley court. A shaky start this morning with each player finding peaks and troughs before a close deciding third set. Dan Jones the professional showed us around and thanks to him for his hospitality. We move on to Canford and the sun is shining.

Seacourt - Gus and Tom won 2-6 6-0 6-5

Early risers...

Petworth House Tennis Club

We arrived at Petworth in good time to meet Gus's godfather Nick Lahey-Bean his wife Judith, Honeysuckle Weeks and Tom Haxworth (the boy's cousin) at the Stonemason Arms (or was it the Gravediggers??) Honeysuckle ran three miles to the pub and had a quick change. We left in convoy for Petworth House where Alan Chalmers a member and illustrious tennis antiquarian bookseller had kindly arranged to meet us and open the court. Angela Pearson, a cousin of Phyllie's arrived, escorted by her gardener and her husband.
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.

Petworth House - Gordon and Tom won 3-6 6-4 1-0

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Half-way Scores

After 13 courts, the scores stand at: Number of games won - Tom: 116, Gus: 130, Guy: 125, Dad: 102. Matches score (WDL) - Tom: 27, Gus: 27, Guy: 25, Dad: 17.
All to play for! GAR thinking of changing his tactics!

The Royal Tennis Court at Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court, Henry VIII's palace and real tennis court lived up to all expectations. This was the second exhibition match of the day, it was great to see Guy's friends Cat, Fin and Becki and Gus's friends Maria, Cassie and Anna. Much explaining of rules followed and hopefully understanding!
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!

Hampton Court - Tom and Guy won 6-2 4-6

Queens Club

Queens Club, the home of Real Tennis and Raquets - fortunately the sun was out and we arrived in time for a coffee on the terrace overlooking the championship grass court. Guy replaced his trainers on which he had worn through the soles! Greeted by Andrew Lyons and David Johnson in the pro shop.
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.

Queens Club - Tom and Gus won 1-6 6-3 1-0


A flying cab ride through London's rush-hour traffic saw us arrive safely at MCC for 9am. After a photograph on the halloed turf and pain au chocolate in the famous changing rooms, the match began. At least eight double faults were served in the first two games! The competiiton picked up and the match ended with a worthy win for the Gordon-Tom team, now employing service end gallery tactics.

Marlybone Cricket Club - Gordon and Tom won 5-6 6-4 5-4

Parsons Green

We repaired forthwith for necessary sustenance at The White Horse in Parsons Green followed by a great supper at Joe's Brasserie and a welcome bed at Richard Corbet's pieds a tois!

Middlesex University Tennis Club

Middlesex University Tennis Club formerly called the Burroughs is one of the newest tennis courts. At present the professionals are Ged Eden and Matt Ronaldson who greeted us with great enthusiasm. Matt of course had kindly talked on Real Tennis at our fundraiser in at the 20th Century theatre in Notting Hill before the tour. The court has on-site video, underflorr heating and modern diffuse lighting, and plays very fast!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Middlesex University Tennis Club - Guy and Tom won 5-6 6-4 1-0

Hatfield House

Luckily the M25 presented no major problems. We were soon meeting Jon Dawes at Hatfield House. Sheliagh Owen from Hardwick had just finished playing and wished us luck. What a pleasure to play on this beautifully kept building and court and true floor. A nice quiet, if slightly camp court, with its pink and turquoise colour scheme! Extensive filming was going on at the house.

Hatfield - Gus and Tom won 6-4 6-5

Prested Hall

After a drive through the lovely Essex countryside we arrived at Prested Hall Raquets Club to be greeted by Mike Carter, the owner. The club is now a thriving sports club with two beautiful real tennis courts built in 1999. Mike had kindly arranged for us to play on both courts noted for their floor colouring - one court being glass backed. Mike also kindly provided lunch and it was good to meet Matt Potter, the professional who had recently moved from Canford.

Newmarket and Suffolk Real Tennis Club

An 8.30 start at Newmarket was not a problem! Successful navigation of Cambridge rush-hour and early morning jockeys on early morning rides at Newmarket found us on Hardwick's sister court. Another Bickley court and another court commissioned by Sir Charles Rose, owner of Hardwick., tO entertain him on his visits to the races at Newmarket. Another close contest played on a surface very muck akin to Hardwick.
A thorough repacking of the car and we head off cross country towards rural Essex after briefly meeting the resident professional Andrew Knibbs.

Newmarket: Guy and Tom won 6-3 3-6 1-0

Cambridge University Tennis Court

Greeted at Cambridge by John Burnett who is chairman of the Newmarket Club and with whom we are staying tonight and who kindly marked our match. After a close match on the Green Court and an extremely welcome shower, we rapidlye repaired to John's lovely house in Willingham. His wife Jane who later joined us had left us a fantastic cottage pie and hand-picked blackberry and apple pie, eagerly consumed along with a bottle of Leamington claret and followed by John's Highland Park malt whisky. Much discussion about Sir Charles Rose's association with the Newmarket court and the liklihood of him being Toad of Wind in the Willows. Our many thanks to John and Jane for welcoming us into their home and seeing us safely on our way.


Winning Gallery

Guy hits winning Gallery at Cambridge and has to buy a round of Cambridge University 1209 Ale!

Cambridge - a draw! 6-3 3-6

Monday, 14 September 2009

On to the fifth...

From Lemington Spa its a quick dash to Moreton Morrell - with time for a quick half of the aforementioned Lemingotn Real Tennis Ale in between... Moreton Morrell is a beautiful court built by a wealthy American, Charles Garland, in the grounds of his stately home in 1905... Mr Garland had originally wanted to join the Lemington Spa Club but - for undisclosed reeasons - was blackballed by the comittee (see previous post!), he retorted by building his own.

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.


Moreton Morrell: Guy and Gus won 6-1 3-6 6-3

The Gentleman's Club

And so we raced south from Manchester for a 1 o'clock appointment deep in The Bard's county at Leamington, which reputes to be the oldest existing tennis club in Britain, built in 1846.
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.


Leamington Guy and Tom won 6-5 3-4

Manchester - court 3!

7.50am saw a happy four, including a sleep deprived Angus (having spent the night with his father in a double bed!) knocking on the doors of the Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club.
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!


The Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club - Guy and Gus won 2-0

The North East

Arrived at Jesmond in plenty of time for the 6pm court, greeted by Andrew Douglas and Simon Harrisand watched a club doubles match for half an hour. Tom and Angus beat Gordon and Guy 6-3 4-3. This is another Bickley court and Jesmond intimated interest in being included in the Bickley bowl competition already instituted between the Bickley courts at Hardwick and Moreton Morrell. The court is leased from the town council, has the most wonderful rose windows and plays very similarly to Hardwick. It has the joy of a comfortable dedansand professional's quarters at the other end of the court. Paul Hetherington the professional dropped in to encourage us and tell us a little of the history of the court.
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

Jesmond Dene, Newcastle - Tom and Gus won 6-3 4-3

One down 22 to go

We arrived at the Falkland Palace court in good time - the oldest functioning tennis court in the world and the only open air Real Tennis court too! - situated on a National Trust property. This al fresco quirk of the court is a real charm and great for those wanting to push their Giraffe serves to the max - the sky is literally the limit... it does however casue some problems: mishit shots can lead to balls landing in the pond of the palace gardens... More quirks of the court include the absence of a tambour and penthouse and instead an Ais - a five ft by one ft upright pank of wood in the servers corner - and four Lunes open windows at the usual penthouse end: points are scored when shots hit or go through either of these,,,

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!

Falkland Palace 6-4 to Guy and Angus

Sunday morning, The Townhouse, Perth

A little worse for wear this morning after hitting the town last night - bad karaoke joint! Still, a breakfast of champions at the delightful B&B smoothes the edges and I dress for our highland game - white trews, beetlegus blazer, tamachanter and scarf...

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...


The four unite at Perth railway station

Sunday morning

Three of the four embark from Mungasdale Lodge on the west coast of Scotland at 715am through thick fog in two vehicles heading for Inverness. Occasional hinds spotted!
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!


Saturday 12th September 4.14pm

And so we close in on the chase...

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!



So the lowdown... Twenty-three Real Tennis courts remain in the UK. There's four Robertsons and just six days for them to play at least one set on every one of those courts in order to raise £5000 for MS Society...

Time is running out. Will they make it? It's up to you...

Please donate at 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 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

Manchester 8:00am
Leamington 1:00pm
Moreton Morrell 3:00pm
(green court) 8:00pm

Newmarket 8:30am
Prested 12 noon
Hatfield House 3:00pm
Burroughs 6:00pm

MCC 9:00am
Queens (West) 12 noon
Hampton Court 4:00pm
Petworth 8:15pm

Seacourt 9:00am
Canford 1:00pm
Hyde 4:30pm
Bristol 8:00pm

Radley 9:00am
Merton (Oxford) 11:15am
Holyport 2:00pm
Oratory 4:00pm
Hardwick 6:00pm