Eaton Bray Lawn Tennis Club
Posted on October 6, 2008
Of all the events in all the towns in all the countries, the one that is most anticipated by those fortunate enough to be fully paid up members of Eaton Bray Tennis Club is the annual Chairman's barbecue. This year, as last year (and possibly the one before, I've really lost count of how long Ross has been Chairman) it was held at chez Bagni. A more delightful setting would be hard to imagine; tall yew trees swinging gently in the light breeze sheltering vibrantly colourful fauna borders, pitched against a beautifully manicured lawn (well it was when we arrived...) all in a sizeable L-shaped garden with an enchanting vine-covered pagoda providing a welcome sanctuary for the drinks bar from the sun. I tell you, there's more money in hats than you can imagine. Either that or he disappeared once in a canoe.
So there we all gathered at 2pm one sunny mid-July Saturday afternoon, 28 of us eager to obtain maximum value for money from our £12 ticket, entitling us to a choice of thick steak, succulent chicken or generous vegetarian lunch, a veritable feast of salads, potatoes, pastas and delectable desserts, and 'as much as you can drink' before dusk creeps in and we're all sent home. Everyone was responsible for barbecuing their own food, which caused a little confusion during peak cooking times over whose steak was whose, but most disagreements were settled amicably without resorting to threatening behaviour with a pair of tongs. The highlight, of course, was the liquid refreshment situation, where six different types of lagers and beers languished invitingly submerged in ice in cool boxes; French red and white wine was laid on abundantly, and if you popped inside when Ross and Shelagh were otherwise engaged cleaning up the spilt sherry trifle you'd cleverly arranged as a diversionary tactic, you could help yourself to as much of his malt Laphroig whisky as you liked. Plus there was an extremely smooth vintage brandy, which he kept hidden away for special occasions. If this wasn't a special occasion I don't know what was, so clearly it had to be sampled.
As you'll appreciate, dusk in July comes quite late, so by 8pm several of us had enjoyed more than our fair share of the Chairman's beverage benevolence, and weighing up the options of either staying until it got quite dark and probably falling over on the lawn (with subsequent further damage to said lawn's previously superior appearance), or calling a taxi for the short hop back home, we chose the latter. Some locals stumbled back to their homes with the aid of their satellite navigation systems (that's their wives), but even I was able to calculate that walking back to Dunstable was not really an option, based on the previous trouble some club members had put Dunstable Downs Mountain Rescue to some years before. So bidding our fond farewells to friends old and newfound, we found ourselves sharing a taxi with those very same club members who once spent the night wandering the wildernesses that are the Downs, and we all mutually congratulated ourselves on how sober and sensible we'd been to remember to call a taxi. Or maybe that was our wives too....
Needless to say, the Sunday morning social tennis session was not too well attended that weekend, most members preferring a little lie in and a leisurely breakfast of black coffee and dry toast. I panicked when, whilst pouring a third strong coffee, I glanced out of the kitchen window and noticed with much alarm that someone had stolen my car during the night. It's amazing how quickly you sober up when you realise you have to call the police. Fortunately my wife was able to grab the receiver from my hand before I further embarrassed myself, and quietly reminded me that I'd left it at the Treasurer's house in Eaton Bray when we drove down to the barbecue the previous afternoon. Sure enough, some considerable time later that day, there she was patiently awaiting my return to once more be admired and pampered in the manner to which she had become accustomed. So was the car.
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 replacing divots in the chairman's lawn, me, Andy Cross.
Source: Focus, October 2008
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