Sunday, December 18, 2011
Lynn & Wes Morgan at Wimbledon.
June 22-29, 2010
It’s more than 4,000 miles from St. Louis to London; yet anticipation, a cancelled connecting flight and a six-hour time differential makes is seem more like a million light-years away. Lynn and I have been planning this vacation for a year. Weather conditions cause our trip to be delayed by a full eight hours. This is the year in which we celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of our marriage. We’re going to Wimbledon to see some tennis and the fashionable Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London is our headquarters for the duration of our stay.
Our accommodations at the Chelsea Cloisters luxury serviced studio efficiency apartment is a modest flat arranged for us by Chi Chi Travel Services in St. Louis. This is home-base from June 22 through June 29, 2010. Lynn and I remember the last time we spent this much time living in such close quarters was when began our life together and lived in a garage apartment in Miami.
Nothing like airport delays at the top of a journey to bring all sorts of anxiety, frustration and general disappointment to mind and ruin the mood. Needless to say, the beginning of our get-away vacation was having the exact opposite of the intended effect on both of us, Lynn especially. But our travel nightmare finally came to a close as we checked in and settled into our London flat mid-day June 22. We soak in a little local color (colour) and look forward to our seats at Centre Court at Wimbledon the very next day.
An English breakfast on Kinds Road, a short walk to the Sloane Square underground station, and a ride on the Underground Tube (subway) to Southfields Station and we are on our way to Wimbledon. The weather was fantastic and unlike what you might expect this time of year. The entire week was in the 70’s and the skies were blue to partly cloudy and no rain. Before we knew it we were in our seats at Centre Court. We were impressed at the intimacy of the venue we’ve seen on TV for so many years. We saw the American Andy Roddick win. We saw American Venus Williams win easily. We absorb the atmosphere and know that we will always remember being here.
Of course, Strawberries and Cream are in season and delicious. The whole first day made the travel endurance test worthwhile. We got everything we bargained for at Day One of our trip, The rest was “sugar on top.” We returned to Wimbledon again on June 24th with tickets to Court One just in time to greet the Queen of England! Elizabeth II arrived via small motorcade and we had the unique and rare pleasure of seeing the Queen in her stunning soft sky-blue dress and matching hat exit her car and be escorted on her way to the Royal Box. This was her first visit to Wimbledon in 33 years. We just happened to be in the right place to catch her arrival. What a thrill. A moment in history. She was there to see the English favorite, Andy Murray.
We went on to watch Maria Sharapova beat her opponent on Court One. But the buzz of the day was the historic match between John Isner (American) and the gutsy Nicolas Mahut (French) on Court 18. The match was postponed due to darkness and was to resume this afternoon. Since you could not get near Court 18, we joined thousands of other tennis fans at Henman Hill to watch the amazing match finally come to a close in favor of Isner. (Aorangi Terrace, colloquially known as Henman Hill is an area in the grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club where, during the annual Wimbledon tennis championship, crowds of people can watch the tennis matches live on a giant television screen.) The match ran11 hours and 5 minutes. It would be in all of the papers and all over the news. (183 games, 112 aces by Isner at speeds up to 138 MPH) Another bit of history. We were just about 100 yards away when they presented a special award to both players and the umpire. Incredible and so much fun to be a part of it.
We were able to join Dr. John Lewington, his wife Barbara and Dr. Mary Albrecht for dinner. John and Mary are with a group of students on a study abroad trip and as luck would have it John and his wife were staying just down the block from the Chelsea Cloisters at the Nell Glynn Hotel on Sloane Avenue. Dinner was full of amusing travel stories and the joy of just being there. We sat outside as the night fell and the temperature cooled. A lovely evening. Nothing fancy, just a simple meal and good company, a highlight of which was Mary’s shower door story. Everyone laughed with her as she painted the picture of panic at being trapped behind a glass door in her hotel bathroom in London before she was able to maneuver the door open. She was thankful that she didn’t have to scream for help and suffer the embarrassment of a hotel rescue. She’s used the shower again but is now careful to leave the glass door ajar instead of fully closed.
As residents of London, albeit for just eight nights, we are compelled to visit the National Gallery and Tate Modern. We bought discount tickets in Theatreland (London’s Theater District). We saw an Australian production called Tap Dogs (a wall-to-wall tap dance exposition with six performers supported by two woman percussionists). We also saw a revival of Hair, the soundtrack of which Lynn and I both remember so very well from our teenage years. (The play originally debuted in 1968 and is full of references to a time when the Viet Nam conflict and anti-war protests were a part of the nation’s consciousness in the United States. The simplicity and bitter sweetness of the show moved us both.)
World Cup news was everywhere too. Sadly, England fell to Germany and USA was defeated by Ghana in the Quarterfinals. (The English took this defeat as a mandate for the dismissal of the Team Manager, Fabio Capello, and the discussion could be overheard all over town). South Africa is proud to host the event and the BBC is broadcasting all games and much commentary. Fans are everywhere wearing national colors and carrying flags. The finals of Wimbledon and The World Cup will be broadcast around the world. We’ll be able to see them on our own Television in St. Louis. London will too soon be a memory and we’ll return to our daily routines.