The sun's shining brightly, there's a gentle breeze, the temperature's currently in the mid seventies....
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Eaton Bray Lawn Tennis Club

Posted on July 14, 2008

This article was published in July 2008. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

Eaton Bray Lawn Tennis ClubThe sun's shining brightly, there's a gentle breeze, the temperature's currently in the mid seventies (or mid twenties if you're one of those new fangled metric modernists), and being a Tuesday afternoon I've decided to head up to the courts to enjoy one of our regular weekly club sessions for an hour or two. I must admit I haven't played for a few weeks, but I've run out of excuses - there's only so many elderly relatives who can unexpectedly pop round at the last minute - and my waistband has subsequently expanded to a level whereby I'm having serious problems inside my shorts. I'm convinced that it's partly due to the move to metric when all the tennis trouser manufacturers messed up the inches to centimetres calculations, and so what I thought was a 38 inch pair of tennis shorts actually turned out to be a 34 inch, or something similar. Anyway with that and my slightly expanded midriff there's no way I can squeeze into these without giving my fellow players a very nasty shock, so it's up into the loft to find the 'fat boy' box into which I triumphantly threw all my larger clothes the last time I managed to lose a few pounds. Hmm, even the loft hatch has contracted since I was last up the stepladder; must be something to do with the central heating. And the ladder's developed a worrying creak too.

Right, ready to go. Nicely decked out in a pair of khaki shorts which spent a previous life as a circus tent, and an old grey t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan 'Glastonbury 1985' Fortunately I don't have any photographs of me from that era, mainly because no-one would risk breaking their cameras and take one. Imagine the big hairy guy from 'Lost' and you're getting near. Throw my racquet in my bag, chuck in a couple of cold cans of Stella for emergency refreshment, and head off.

It turns out perfectly; there are 12 of us, so three sets of doubles. We play the best of five games in each set before mixing ourselves up into different pairs and doing the same again. My partner and I stroll to a five-luv defeat in our opening set, which I was disappointed to find meant a lot of running around, mostly fetching balls that had whizzed past us. It's extremely hot still and I begin to regret leaving my favourite iron lung at home. Determined to put in a better performance in the second set, I find myself paired with one of the club's better players, who's very gracious and kind repeating phrases like 'oh bad luck', 'better luck next time' and 'what the blazes was that?' as he finds himself on the losing end of a set for the first time in several months. Still it was four-one so at least we got a game, I remind him - the one in which I don't think I touched the ball once - which doesn't seem to appease his steely stare towards me. By this time my powers of speech are suspended due to my urgent need to use what little energy I have left, just to breathe. According to my heart monitor I should be in resus. So imagine my delight when a 13th person appears wandering up the path from the car park! They wouldn't want to sit out, would they? No sooner does she pass the clubhouse, I have my racquet packed away, my bag over my shoulder and am dragging myself off court in the general direction of my car in a somewhat haphazard manner due to my legs refusing to go where my brain is pointing them. After all, I don't want anyone else getting any ideas about an early bath! And anyway I'd locked them all in when I shut the court door.

Of course I'll be back. We have a lot of fun both on and off the courts, and no-one minds at all if you're a beginner! You could even pair up with me and teach me a few things!

We have several social playing sessions every week plus coaching, competitions, league matches, and the most amazing ball-machine that has to be seen to be believed. It even has a remote control just like my telly, although my telly doesn't shoot tennis balls at me at 100 mph. Mind you, nor can the ball machine get BBC One, so each to their own. So do give us a call if you'd like to join us, even if just for one session to see if you like it. We'd love to see some new faces up there this summer.

For any further information about the club, including when we get together for our social tennis sessions up at the School Lane courts, or our various activities, please contact either Chairman Ross Bagni, Coach Nick Boys, or if they're all out and I'm not having a little rest in my iron lung, me, Andy Cross.

Source: Focus, July 2008

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