December is a month for reminiscing; what we've done during the year, what we've enjoyed, what we may....
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Eaton Bray Lawn Tennis Club

Posted on December 7, 2011

This article was published in December 2011. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

Eaton Bray Lawn Tennis ClubDecember is a month for reminiscing; what we've done during the year, what we've enjoyed, what we may have done differently, and who we should have beaten at tennis when we actually lost 6-0, 6-0.

So it was that before sojourning to my laptop to pen this small offering, I decided to turn back the years for inspiration purposes, by looking back at the last 15 years of EBLTC Focus articles. There was good reason for this, which I shall come on to later...

That's when the trouble started. Apart from reading 150 editions of Focus, which meant not talking to my wife for over a week (every cloud etc....!) how do you pick your favourite moments?

I particularly enjoyed the story of our efforts to transform our courts into the new home of British tennis by extending out towards School Lane, turning the school into a multi-storey car-park, and making School Lane itself a dual carriageway with a Hemel Hempstead style funny roundabout at the junction with the High Street. It was all going so well until our Vietnamese financier, Phut Pholt, ran off with all our money.

And then there was the plan to ground-share our courts with Tottenham Hotspur, following their failed bid for the Olympic Stadium, with club training facilities to be based at committee member Glenn Wigley's house, but it then transpired that 'Arry their manager had a taste for Orange sauce, and with the Wigley's keeping ducks, well that was that.

But the true stories are the best, and nothing, but nothing can match that famous committee meeting held in March 2000, almost 12 years ago, when our 'International Liaison Officer' John Palmer (who only got the job because he had an old 'Letts' guide book) announced that he had scoured the internet - which in itself should have set alarm bells ringing - and successfully twinned our little club with one in Boulogne, France. He'd already arranged via e-mail for us to visit them and play a weekend tournament! This would comprise of a Saturday morning ferry over, a few games of tennis followed by some good food and wine, a hotel in St Omer, then a late ferry back on the Sunday after a spot of shopping at Tesco's beer shop in Calais. This very evening, we were to call their Chairman to finalise the arrangements. How exciting! What could go wrong?

We made the call all huddled around the speakerphone, used our best French pleasantries, and all was going swimmingly well until about three minutes in, when it became apparent that there were some crossed wires somewhere. Our French counterpart could not comprehend why we were reserving accommodation in St Omer, near Boulogne-Sur-Mer? As uncertainty grew into confusion, it slowly dawned on John that there were two Boulognes in France. One on the North coast, where he thought he'd arranged this tournament, and another Boulogne, a very small village 870 miles south of Calais, 10,000 feet up in the Pyrenees near the Spanish border, and the one from where our French colleague was now asking 'allo.... allo.... are you steel zere'? down the phone. Yes, the one where John had actually arranged the tournament. I should have mentioned that his guide book was on Persia.

Once we had regained our composure – and John had come round – I spent the next 20 minutes trying to explain in my best pidgin French to this very excited gentleman from a miniscule village that had never seen an outsider since the Romans came calling, (during which I apparently ordered seventeen beers), that it was simply not a good use of time or resources to drive 870 miles for a game of tennis, and back again the next day. He was crestfallen; the Mayor had laid on a civic reception, all police leave had been cancelled for both of them, and the eight schoolchildren had been given Union Jacks to wave along the Boulevard de Pyrenees as we arrived. Nonetheless, we eventually extracted ourselves from this delicate situation, assuring our new friend that, at some date in the future, we would try to visit him and his small but high and remote village. When John gets a new guidebook, probably!

So endeth the reminiscing, and also so endeth my monthly scribbles in Focus for EBLTC. After 15 years (with a couple of short respites!) it's time to hand the reins over to someone who talks sense. We're hoping that he or she will come forward at our AGM in January, so if you're interested, please let me know! In the meantime, to misquote some popular phrases, it's Goodbye from me, but not Goodbye from them. So long readers, and thanks for all the fish. It's been real. Was Nice to see you, to see you Nice!!

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, you can visit our website at

Source: Focus, December 2011

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