The Championships, Wimbledon 2017

For the past two weeks, the 2017 Wimbledon Championships have been underway, and they’ve provided lots of ups and downs, highlights and disappointments, the usual Grand Slam tournament soap opera. This year was different for me, though, because I was there on day one. I was one of those attendees in the grounds of the All-England Club. I never really thought I’d get to Wimbledon in person. It was a vague desire, but the complexity of getting tickets alongside the fact that coverage at home only ever gets more comprehensive and engaging meant I thought I’d be an armchair fan for the foreseeable future.

However, I was lucky enough to get a ticket for Court 1, Day 1, (thanks Helen!) and thus I was there to see the opening matches kick off. I could talk you step by step through my day, how I saw Kim Clijsters on the press balcony, how I saw James Ward taking a picture with a fan whilst simultaneously continuing his conversation with his friend, how I marvelled at Venus Williams from a seat with an incredible view, how I opted not to indulge in the over-priced strawberries.

I could do all that but why bother? You know how cool Wimbledon is.

Instead, here are five things I noticed that you probably don’t get in your average Wimbo review.

  1. The gate staff were exceptionally vigilant.
    Everyone I encountered that day that was helping out, either as volunteer, or paid staff, was supremely kind and courteous, helpful, knowledgable. It left me with a really good impression of the organisation of the event. The gate staff were checking bags, naturally, and it was a thorough but very polite search. I thought it interesting that they were on high alert for guerrilla marketing – on the walk up to the grounds, some had been handed freebie bags, these were taken off them at the gate so as not to provide excessive marketing to the companies behind it. Intriguing.
  2. The Aorangi hill is really uncomfortable.
    I’m sure there are a few prime spots, on the curve of the ridge with the screen straight ahead, but I perched on a steep incline to enjoy a snack and gained nothing but a bad back and a cricked neck. The people that sit there in the rain, or stick out five set thrillers are to be applauded indeed.
  3. The difference in power and speed that is so much clearer in reality than on TV.
    I experienced this briefly when I was at Eastbourne a few years ago, but it was never more obvious than at Wimbledon. Obviously, these tennis players are tremendously fit and hitting the balls very hard, but on TV that can almost seem glossy and less impressive. In reality, you can see the effort going into every single point, and the reactions are so much more intense when you’re looking directly at someone rather than through a TV screen. That being said, I did miss the commentary, the different angles, and the reminders of break point/set point/match point.
  4. The ball boys and girls are incredibly earnest.
    I’ve always loved the ball kids at Wimbledon, they’re very good at their work and you can see the hours of training that have gone into making the fortnight’s games run smoothly. Up close and personal, you can see how much it means to them. Their arms are ramrod straight, they dash this way and that and never leave a stray ball behind. Straight backs, barely blinking, ever-ready, it’s really a proud sight to see. As a quick aside – has anyone seen any ball girls doing the kneel-at-the-net role? Is that boys only?
  5. I know this is silly, but it’s really annoying that Centre Court is in the middle.
    You just have to walk around it to get anywhere, and it’s huge.

I found the Wimbledon experience a brilliant one, slightly overwhelming in places, but for the most part a fantastic day out. I can’t say I feel it justifies queuing from 5am in the morning in the hopes of getting a ticket but it’s certainly worth a punt on the ballot. I saw some great players, excellent matches, and wore myself out walking round and round the grounds. It only rained for a brief moment, the covers only came on for a few minutes, and the rest of the day was gorgeous – as it has been for the most of the two weeks.

Thanks Wimbledon 2017, for a fab day, an exciting tournament, and another item ticked off the bucket list.

Around the world in sixteen Extraordinary Homes

I’ve been catching up with BBC Two’s The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes – a programme hosted by Caroline Quentin and Piers Taylor that is kind of like Grand Designs, but the houses are already built and no one gets pregnant before the end of each episode.

My dad first highlighted the show to me, because there was an entire programme dedicated to underground houses. The dynamic duo visit four locations in each episode, sometimes staying overnight to get a really good feel of the dramatic, the exotic, the downright crazy of each domicile. Piers gives the insight of the architect, whilst Caroline gives a wonderfully optimistic more down-to-earth opinion.

And it’s in the relationship between these two that the show really shines. Yes, the houses are incredible and it’s always brilliant to look at grand designs and see what you like, what you’d have done differently, and of course, start planning your own incredible build for a very long time in the future.

But Piers and Caroline give the show its human edge: they get on together like a long-married couple, not quite bickering, but certainly knowing enough about each other’s flaws to make comfortable jokes at their own expense. And with Piers “banging on” about architecture in a knowledgeable fashion, whilst Caroline bounces around with less insightful but more useful notes (“so pretty”, “can’t open the door!”), it reminded me of something.

I realised what it reminded me of was Sidepodcast. Mr C’s carefully thought out opinions, research into topics and general stubbornness blend perfectly with my slightly air-headed but passionate three-part rages and driver crushes. The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes is like us but in a parallel universe.

Anyway, the show has been repeated and is on iPlayer at the moment, so watch if you can. The underground episode in particular was fascinating, and I’ve made lots of notes for our future bunker.

Playing favourites at Wimbledon

Usually when I watch sports, I am looking for a good game/match/race, and may have a favourite in the mix but as long as it’s a good battle or an impressive display, then I’m happy. Over the last six months or so, I’ve been investing myself into the WTA tournaments so that now I have a handful of favourites, for a variety of different reasons.

Somehow, I’ve escaped without any of them meeting each other when it really matters, but now, on the second Tuesday of Wimbledon, the inevitable has happened.

Halep vs Konta. What’s a girl to do?

I like Konta because she plays with a no-nonsense attitude, seems good at holding in the emotions until after the match is won or lost, and has been gradually improving her way to the top rather than leaping into the spotlight out of nowhere. The British coverage of her can be a bit trying, particularly when there are other stories to take note of, but her performance at Wimbledon this year is undeniably one of the big stories. First time she got past the second round, the third round, into the quarters. First British female since the 1980s. First time we had a male and female Brit in the quarters for since the 1970s. These are just interesting and feel good stories.

Plus I saw her play at Wimbledon last Monday, so.

Konta after winning her first round last Monday. Now into the quarter finals.

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On the other hand, I’ve been so intrigued by Halep lately. The relationship she has with her coach Darren Cahill (who I really would like to have coach me through just general day to day life), and the big fall out they had, the reconciliation, the way you can see she is improving and learning that tenacity and never-say-die attitude that is required to get to the finals and to take home the trophies. She’s never won a grand slam which is amazing because she’s been playing well for a long time. And now she has a chance, and there’s also the opportunity to take the number one spot in the world rankings. No pressure.

I want both of these women to win. I think they both play exceptionally well and have great stories to go with their games. What do you do? I’ve not been conflicted like this about a sporting endeavour for a long time. Still, at least the agony will be over in just a few short hours.

Unless Venus Williams also wins.

Because then she’ll play the winner of the Konta/Halep match.

And as we established on that Monday I was at Wimbledon, I think Williams is a goddess.

Venus Williams is incredible.

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Argh!

Review overview with Goodreads statistics

I was perusing the Goodreads site for a while early today when I noticed their stats page. I haven’t really delved into this side of things much, other than looking at the count of books I’ve read each year. What was I hyped up on in 2014 for goodness’ sake?

Today I spotted this graph of books by publication date by read date. Forgive me for this self indulgence, but what an interesting way to view reading habits!

The big gap to the left is just where I caught up a load of book reviews then went through a period where I wasn’t reading much and if I was, I wasn’t reviewing anything. Then things start to pick up again. I love that the top line is gradually moving forward with each year – I’m reading plenty of current stuff.

And you can see during the 2012-2014 period where I was working through my Big Read list and delving into lots of classics. Now I’m almost done with that list, there’s a lot less older material on my reading list.

I also really like the areas where you can see me catching up on series’, like the two I have highlighted: Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz.

I’d never really thought about my reading habits in terms of published era, and this is a great way to view those stats. Also, what a great combination of subjects: maths and books.

No treble

Oh hi, yea, I’m a bass player now.

Mrs Christine channeling some Este Haim with the Yousician app. Usual Friday evening in then

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It’s not like I need another hobby at the moment, but this is the end result of a Friday night when you watch Glastonbury on iPlayer catchup with a glass of wine, and there just happens to be a seriously gorgeous bass guitar lying around the house.

Of course after just a couple of days of this, I can’t feel my fingers anymore but hey, bass players are cooool.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – ‘I, like, can’t even with this place’

Oh my stars. Unlike Baywatch, where I had all the expectations in the world and was a bit disappointed by the trailer, for Jumanji, I had nothing. When I rewatched the original for Film Watch, it wasn’t as good as I remembered, so why would this be any better? Well, the first trailer was released today and already, I am loving the look of this remake.

I’m really hoping Karen Gillan’s character can keep up this level kick-ass (I mean, literally high-flying kicking someone off a motorcycle!) because I am clinging to the hope that the Rock gave me that we shouldn’t judge her skimpy jungle outfit on face value. It seems like the film does come out that way, but let’s see.

Aside from that, it looks like so much fun.

  • Ye olde console game
  • Ruby Roundhouse: Fighter – Killer of Men
  • The Rock’s famous arched eyebrow
  • The character realisations, “where’s the rest of me?”
  • The Rock trying not to cry
  • Beautiful Hawaii
  • Bonus Jonas flying a helicopter
  • The stampeding rhino!!
  • “You don’t get in the water with a backpack, everybody knows that?” (Uh…)

S.H.I.E.L.D.’s up!

This week, I just finished watching season four of Agents of Shield, and my word, it was an incredible ride. (Vague spoilers below, nothing major.) I’ve loved watching the trials and tribulations of these Shield agents since the show first began, but it has gradually been improving in quality to the point that this series was an absolute triumph.

My affection for the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been wearing thin recently, the novelty of so many inter-connected movies has long since worn off and now all that is left is a strong feeling of being overwhelmed and consistently unable to keep up. At least with a TV show, it is for the most part self-contained. The odd reference to the bigger universe is a bonus and easily ignored, although it’s fair to say the events of each season are affected by what happens in that big bad world.

Previous episodes have dealt with the aftermath of trying to keep a register of superhuman beings, but this series was all about something slightly more interesting – artificial intelligence and computer generated worlds. It was kind of like the Matrix, only with more interesting characters, great dialogue and pithy one-liners.

Our intrepid group of heroes have come a long way since the first series, where they were starting to uncover a dastardly plot whilst also dealing with monster-of-the-week type stories. Season four not only had an over-arching plot but it was also split into three distinct parts that all connected and disconnected and then looped back together again. It was cleverly done.

The stories are great, the acting fine, the characters are brilliant and I love the wit. On top of all that, there’s great entertainment expertly laid over the top of quite important, timely and serious ethical and moral questions. What happens when you create artificial intelligence – who is responsible for that when it goes rogue? Can you prefer a life that isn’t real over something you can’t quite remember? Should you use a higher and unknown intelligence to improve your own? Isn’t that what science is anyway, standing on the shoulders of giants?

I’ve really, really loved series four of this great show, and now, with a cliffhanger to keep us going to the series five, I’m eagerly awaiting what comes next.