Virginia Barton

7 July 2017: SW19


7 July 2017


The title of this Commonplace has been referred to as “the most famous postcode in the world.” Hands up those who know where it is and to what it refers?

Humph. As I thought, not that many. Certainly not enough for worldwide fame. And if you put it in your Sat Nav it won’t get you anywhere except in a general sort of way. You must add “5AE” in order to arrive at — Wimbledon, actually.

Now there’s a word that really is famous. Wimbledon. You can just hear the wallop of ball on racket and the roar from Henman Hill, or should it be “Murray Mound”?




No mean whacker of tennis balls in his day, BH likes to follow the game on television. He approves of the way that whites are obligatory and that it’s played on grass, and that bad behaviour is still boo’d.

Neither of us have been to a “live” match since the seventies – can that really be true? My last Wimbledon (this will date it) was when Charlie Pasarell played an interminable set against I’ve forgotten whom. Was it 24-22 in the third set? I believe it was after that match that they brought in the tie-break. *

If you are on Centre court and have the most expensive tickets you may qualify for cold salmon, strawberries and cream, and champagne, all of which are de rigeur at Wimbledon; dress code is smart casual. An All England Club tie is an enviable accessory for men, and perhaps a discreet crossed-rackets silver brooch picked out in purple and green for ladies. Comfortable shoes and no hats except sunhats – heaven forbid one should block the view of a stunning backhand. It’s also bad form to talk through matches: knowledgable silence followed by tremendous cheering at appropriate moments, especially for any British player who happens to win a game. It’s rather like going to a matinee at the opera.


Looking up the list of Men’s Singles winners (the first was in 1877) is very gratifying because they were all British in those early years, hurray. Same with the women, beginning in 1884. One has seen clips of players in their antique clothes and big hairdos – everything conspiring to make you feel hot. Beards, bustles, high necklines and full sleeves.

My Dad and his friends always wore long white flannels and that was in the late Fifties. At school we girls were bus’d to Queens Club twice a week in the summer term and wore white shorts that looked like skirts, pleated affairs down to the knee.

When I look at the women players now I’m filled with admiration for their skill and deep envy for their outfits. The only thing in common was the colour white.

Oh well, at least BH would approve.



* Memo to Virginia:
On 26 June 1969, Charlie Pasarell played Pancho Gonzales in what was, until 2010, the longest match in Wimbledon history in terms of the number of games played. The 41-year-old Gonzales finally defeated the 25-year-old Pasarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 after a battle that lasted 5 hours and 12 minutes.






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