Wimbledon opens the gentle English Summer with hopes for an abrasive young Scot

Alright, I will come in from the garden and write even though the sun is shining, the rose perfume is intoxicating and the many small spiders decided to tie me down into my chair with their tickly webs.

I felt like Gulliver when he was victim to the little Lilliputians except I was a willing prisoner not wanting to burst those delicate chains.

A lot of other English people will be coming in out of their gardens too this week but their reason is the beginning of that great national institution the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament.

If the weather stays as good as the forecasters are promising then I feel sorry for tennis supporters all over the country drawing their blinds against the sun so that they can see their heroes battle it out on Wimbledon’s grassy courts. It looks like we may not see the debut of the much celebrated new removable roof too. Now, I think I am fantasising – this is England, you know.

So as the tennis fortnight begins there will many uses of that word “English” because it is, let’s face it, one of those supremely English moments.

Strawberries, the best in the World, silly sun hats, the best in the World, sunny afternoons, when they happen , the best in the World, and then those tennis players…well, um…..English?

I am referring of course to the new possible champion of the World, the new idol of sun-blistered English women everywhere, yes the man with a nation following every flexed muscle on his newly improved physique, the strangely unlikeable, Andy Murray.


So England is hoping to have a new hero. Oh yes, don’t think I haven’t noticed my mistake. Mr. Murray comes from North of the Border. He shares his Scottish nationality with our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and many other qualities too including a certain charmlessness in public.

Scotland has now got its own Parliament, its own legal system and it’s own distinctive culture which has at its heart a healthy amount of anti-Englishness and it has also got a new sporting star.

Poor old England is trying desperately to like Mr. Murray, the best tennis talent these islands have produced since that equally charmless South African woman, Virginia Wade arrived on our shores to become Wimbledon Ladies Champion in 1977.


No Englishman has won since Fred Perry, you know, the man who invented those very sensible summer shirts, who became Gentleman’s Champion, for the third time, in 1936. Let’s hope that no one finds out that Fred Perry was really American, or, even worse, Swiss.


A few years ago the irritating Tim Henman became the great English hopeful. That band of English matrons who seem to find particular pleasure in watching weak young Englishmen being knocked all over the court by better players, worshiped Tim. What does that say about our nation?


So England is trying to forgive Andy Murray for his Scottishness. It is a difficult job because he doesn’t have the kind of manners that go down well at England’s middle class parties. He is abrasive, bad tempered and hungry to succeed. How very un-English.

England likes its tennis stars to be much less, well, masculine, I suppose.

I am reminded of that wonderful Rodgers and Hart song “My Funny Valentine” – Tim Henman would have been perfect casting:

“Is your figure less than Greek
Is your mouth a little weak
When you open it to speak
Are you smart?”

Well you see what I mean.

So why do our sporting heroes have to come from down our way? Personally I am sad that the charming and supreme Spanish player Rafael Nadal has had to withdraw from the championships even if it is only because anyone can win Wimbledon if all the good players are ill. If they all go down with Swine ‘Flu then, maybe even I could be Wimbledon Champion.


I am wishing Andy Murray well, of course, but mostly because he is a good player and, as a human being, he does seem to have tried to look at some of his more obvious faults in the eye. I have to say that I am really not interested in where he comes from though but if he does win next week, let’s stop pretending and admit that he is Scottish.

English football has, I think, shown the way in how we should regard our sporting heroes. No matter if there are arguments saying that it has become a sport where cheque books decide who gets the best teams, the influx of foreign players does mean that our football heroes tend to come from other shores. We have embraced as our own, such great players as the elegant Frenchman Thierry Henri who played for London’s Arsenal team to openly adoring crowds


and the more volatile Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo who has just left that supreme English football team Manchester United.


Japan and most of the rest of the World has embraced the English David Beckham too. Surely getting to understand foreigners has a beneficial effect on people everywhere.


OK, warring national teams like the Football World Cup or the Olympics are fun and good for national morale too, if you win, but identifying individual sportsmen so closely with their nationality can blind us to the finer points of the sport and encourage us to define people too superficially as national stereotypes.

Not all Englishmen are Tim Henmans, thank God! And anyway, you hero-worshipers out there, why not try loving an American or even a Swiss? It could be very liberating.

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