Your Woman in Wimbledon: Day Eleven

6 Jul

Summer in England is rife with opportunities to wear outlandish clothes: huge hats, frothy dresses, boaters, pink pants and striped blazers. Ascot, Wimbledon, the Polo and this week the Royal Henley Regatta at Henley-On-Thames. And that’s before summer weddings.

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The tricky part is arranging a sunny day to enjoy it. The BBC confidently predicted blue skies so we ventured down early for day three of the five-day Henley Regatta well prepared with hats, picnic blanket, sandwiches and bubbles. The event is free for folks like us happy to sit on the grassy riverbank to watch.

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For a more comfortable perch picnic tables and benches rent for £20, or a double car park sized patch of grass for your sunshade and picnic table and chairs will set you back £100. I know this because Sarah and her nine pals setting up for the day told us. Sorry we couldn’t get back for that drink Sarah, we had to go to the pub to watch the Wimbledon Men’s Semi-finals.

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Sarah and Co.

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Lovely ladies and their car.

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And then there are options that come with dress codes for men and women (hats please and frocks only ladies, don’t try to sneak in wearing those palazzo pants). A members and guests only stewards’ enclosure, a paid entry regatta enclosure, and corporate hospitality marquees are crammed with expensively and eccentrically dressed individuals. My favourite was the woman who wore her platinum hair styled like a hat, complete with hat pins.

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Here she is.

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I was tempted to ask Avis/Budget if they’d let us into their spread to sip free champagne and listen to the jazz band on the strength of the number of cars we’d rented from them this past year, but in fact we were content with our spot and the company either side. To our left a retired tennis pro from Sydney and his Oxford host. To our right a lovely young thing from Exeter supporting her rower fiance. Sadly he lost.

The Regatta predates Wimbledon by decades. The first race day was held in 1839 and the event came under royal patronage in 1851. Two boats race a straight course of one mile 550 yeards.

With approximately 64 races a day (around one race every five minutes) organisers achieve a mindboggling feat of logistics. Our sons rowed competitively in highschool so we know what it takes to get eight rowers and their gear onto the water and ready to race.

When we last went to the Henley Regatta there were no public toilets, coffee stalls and certainly no paid catering options like The Codfather. Today there’s a champagne and oyster bar, The Barn bar and several food and merchandise outlets. Portaloos a plenty too for £1.50 a pop.

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We left for the Catherine Wheel pub to catch the 1pm start of the tennis. People were still pouring onto the riverbank. I wonder how many tipsy people are accidentally bumped off the tow path and into the water every day?

What to say about the marathon men’s semi-final between Del Potro and Djokovic? How Del Potro sustained such high level play for five long sets with his dodgy knee I do not understand. And then the shoot out between Murray and Janowicz. This has been a thrilling Wimbledon and it’s not over yet!

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