In the aftermath of news that, thanks to Michael Gove, the six week summer holiday is having its bags packed and being unceremoniously ushered onto a government chartered flight to The Past, it is hard to avoid reminiscing about the yearly highlight of my childhood (other than Christmas, and birthdays, and pretty much any day which involved cake). Pouring rain outside; Tim Henman crumpling the hopes and dreams of a nation on the television screen inside: my childhood summer holidays couldn’t really have been any more stereotypically British if they’d been wrapped up in a pork pie and dunked in a nice cup of Earl Grey.
And they were magical. The rain? Magical. The sense of national unity in the oh-so-British combination of simultaneous optimism and resignation which lovely Tim provided: magical.
I went through a (now-bewildering) phase of finding the fortnight of tennis-based fun, well, not a lot of fun. At this point in my life I didn’t realise that being outside actually made me much happier than watching TV, and having the television tuned to a constant screen full of grass courts made me deeply sad in an angst-y teengager-y way because of the consequent lack of sitcoms.
For years I avoided tennis at all costs. I pretended I didn’t know of the existence of a tiebreak let alone the rules. But eventually I had to realise that I was in denial, because I am British, and strawberries and cream run through me like I’m a walking talking stick of Brighton rock. And because I love whimsy. And what could be more whimsical than Wimbledon? Cream teas, an all-white dress code, sunhats, umbrellas, Pimms – the whole affair is just magical to me. I love the humanising close ups of celebrities screaming “Curmonson!” complete with fist pumps and face scrunches. I love the way the crowd seems to hold its breath and then roar in unison at the end of each point. I love the sportsmanship of the majority of the players and the post-match smiles and handshakes. But mostly I love the fact that we, as a nation, love Wimbledon this much despite the fact that a British man hasn’t won for 77 years.
So forget the pressure that the press is putting on you and don’t panic if you don’t win on Sunday, Andy. We won’t love you or the tournament any less if you lose. We’ll carry on munching our scones and bounce back faster and with more grace than one of Federer’s backhands, and, ultimately, be just as spellbound by it all next year.