Your Woman in Wimbledon: Day Ten

4 Jul

Do you ever wake up to days when you can’t even stand the smell of your own skin? No reason, just blaaaaaah.

When that happens the only way I know to fix it is with good music and movement. Both have been scarce lately. My choice of course but it’s been three and a half months since I’ve danced. Too long….

Stu’s at the doc’s, lunching with Catharine, tea with university friend Mary, and shopping for his suit for son Cameron’s wedding. Something cool and understated is his brief. We’ll meet at the pub with Michele and Charles before seeing ‘Private Lives’ at the Geilgud Theatre. Duckface is starring so sure to be good.

I take myself to the common and walk the length of Wimbledon golf course with music therapy cranked up. Ange Takats’ ‘Arva’, Jordie Lane’s ‘Blood Thinner’ and Miranda Lambert’s ‘Four the Record’ work their magic. Here no one cares if I’m singing out loud. Miranda’s lyrics in ‘All kinds of kinds’ echo wise words I first heard age 20 from the adorable Molly Piper. Marion and I stayed at Molly and Cyril’s country cottage after part one of our Euro adventure and Molly became surrogate Mum to both of us. Molly regularly said in her Berkshire accent when someone did something odd, ‘Takes all sorts!’.

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I mentioned previously that we’d gone looking for Real Tennis. Well, we found it. We’ve been to Hampton Court before but this magnificent hybrid Tudor-Baroque palace is worth revisiting every few years. I recently read Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring up the bodies’ which chronicle the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell. That’s a man who didn’t have time for tennis.

Hilary’s wonderful books brought Thomas, his benefactor Cardinal Wolsey, and Tudor England to life for me and I wanted to go back to the place where so much of the action happened. Hampton Court was Wolsey’s before he was compelled to give it to Henry VIII.

The weather cooperated, Sunday was the hottest day of the summer so far. Armed with a picnic and comfortable shoes we explored every room and garden accessible. There are still two private apartments in the Palace, grace and favour accommodation for very elderly female former royal staff.

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In the gardens staff were preparing for the Hampton Court Flower Show to be held this weekend.

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We spent a long time in the gallery beside the Royal Tennis Court watching two young players hitting up and trying to make sense of the game. Henry V brought the French game of tennis into the English royal court but it was Wolsey who constructed this particular court (it was finished for Henry VIII in 1530) and Henry VIII who played and popularised the game. Henry and his consorts, especially Anne Boleyn, bet heavily on matches.

Lawn tennis, squash and racquetball superceded real tennis from the 18th century but real tennis never went away, it has the longest history of world champions of any sport. Today the game is played on 47 courts around the world, one is in Melbourne, Australia.

London’s Lord Mayor, Boris Johnson, is a keen player. You too can have a game. The Hampton Court Club offers ten people a once a year opportunity. A half day of tennis lesson, game and lunch. Price £125. Equipment included.

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Henry the VIII I am.

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B for Boleyn.

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The racquet took over from hand ball.

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The special handmade ball.

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Real Tennis has had its share of colourful characters.

Back inside I enjoyed the theatre of seeing ‘Henry VIII’ chasing a petulant ‘Anne Boleyn’ through the Great Hall and later Anne confiding in her cousin that she was finding Henry hard to handle. Didn’t they all?

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Wandering minstrels played the hurdy gurdy, drums and a kind of bag pipe, and we found the source of the wood smoke smell that permeates the rooms. An oak fire still burns every day in the huge Tudor kitchen fireplace.

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Sunday morning service in the Chapel Royal had just finished, incense hung in the air. We were ushered in as two red robed priests were leaving.

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No photography allowed in the chapel but I found my subject in the grounds.

The current special exhibition is ‘Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber’ in Mary II’s Apartments. Six state beds and loaned artifacts (many from the current Queen) dating from 1660-1760, when monarchs conducted much of the affairs of state from their bed, are displayed along with interesting facts, gossip and conjecture.

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The royal commode.

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And nightwear.

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Libertine and royal confidante, the second Earl of Rochester.

I was chastised for taking photos by one guard (I honestly didn’t know the exhibition rooms are out of bounds as they reckon thieves snap the displays to plan what they’re going to pinch) who promptly went on lunch break. His mate felt so bad for me he entertained us with a host of lurid, true stories about the Syphillis-riddled royal court and the spurious remedies they used.

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Exquisite tapestries.

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Henry VIII shown with Jane Seymour and his son by her. Jane had died two weeks after Edward VI’s birth.

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I was pretty pleased, I got some sneaky snaps plus a few good yarns.

Time for tennis. Women’s semifinals. Bartoli V Flipkens and Lisicki V Radwanska. My picks are Bartoli and Lisicki. Ta ta!

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