Monday, 21 June 2010

England Half Volley

“I used to want to plant bombs at the Last Night of the Proms”.

Billy Bragg said that. As apologies for no longer being a Marxist proto-revolutionary go, it’s quite a tender one. And while I still indulge in fantasies about stamping on George Osborne’s face, I admit that I’ve softened a little in my extreme views.

I’m still anti foxhunting. But these days it’s based more on my opposition to what other people consider sport rather than a kneejerk reaction to what posh people enjoy over the weekend. I can enjoy Last Night of the Proms, find myself touched by the ironic sight of Jerusalem being sung by people who own property portfolios rather than being merely convulsed in anger at the televised coverage of a roomful of young Conservatives waving Union Jacks.

So far, so mature.

However, Wimbledon still inspires something of the young would-be terrorist in me. Just the sight of Centre Court and all those braying wankers wants me to indulge in a spot of gentle machine-gunning. Wimbledon is one of those “blue-riband” events that we, the British public, apparently have to keep safe from Murdoch’s clutches. I’d swap it in a heartbeat for Premiership rugby or football. The people who go to Wimbledon are mainly middle-class wankers, people who have no interest in tennis the rest of the year.

Neither do I. But Wimbledon affords me the chance to indulge in one of my own favourite annual activities – the Cheering On of the British Hope Until The Semi-Final.

As soon as Tim Henman got to a semi-final, I would cheer his opponent. Nothing against Tim, who couldn’t help being born to a Retired Aircraft Carrier or some other such military man and his Laura Ashley automaton wife. I loved the annual strained anguish coming from Centre Court as Henman valiantly lost to someone better than him. Henman Hill was a delight to witness, a whole Golgotha of insufferable flag waving Young Conservatives, wallowing in the kind of misery that only watching someone posh playing badly at tennis can bring.

Millions of pounds are pumped into British tennis each year in the hope of producing our first Wimbledon champion since Princess Margaret won it in 1917 or something. The reason we’ll never win it is simple, OTHER COUNTRIES POSH PEOPLE ARE HUNGRIER FOR SPORTING SUCCESS THAN OUR POSH PEOPLE. Accept it.

Wimbledon is basically a Glastonbury of the Suburbs, a gathering of the privet-hedged, golf club member, stockbroker set. Their agonies have increased since the retirement of Tim Henman as British hopes lie mainly in the hands of a Scot, Andy Murray.

The discovery of Murray’s tennis skills as he deflected Thomas Hamilton’s bullets with a board rubber have passed into folklore, as has English tennis proficiency. There are no Englishmen in this year’s draw, an announcement which has upset the Express-reading colonels who make up most of the crowd.

But there hasn’t been an English male tennis player in any competition since the war. There have been lots of awfully decent Hugo’s, Guys and Nigels around but they weren’t tennis players. They were cannon fodder, the sporting equivalent of our brave young men sent out over the top in the final episode of Blackadder. But no tennis players. Tim Henman was ok but he never won the bloody thing. If you picked up a racquet for the first time tomorrow, you’d be as good as he ever was by the weekend.

In his excellent book England, Half English, Bragg bemoans the fact that it is the far right that are making the running in terms of celebrating Englishness. But it’s not all yobbos who spend their summer hurling European garden furniture at each other. It’s the Wimbledon set, it’s the BBC (who despite Cameron’s protestations that the BBC is some kind of Leninist kibbutz, still send squadrons of weathergirls to fucking Ascot each year), it’s the denizens of Henman Hill who sing God Save The Queen and tuck into strawberries, blissfully unaware that said fruit was probably picked by an underpaid Polish girl that very morning in Kent, the kind of person who they believe is ruining this country.

No, it’s time to paraphrase Betjeman. Come friendly bombs and fall on Wimbledon....

Come friendly bombs to Wimbledon!
It can't be won by Tim Henman
And Murray is no Englishman.
The World Cup's so much better.

Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those queuing in SW19,
And those who sell strawberries and cream,
For just under a tenner.

Mess up the mess of the LTA-
And the chief on quite ridiculous pay
Not a single champion since Virginia Wade
Nearly forty years.

And kill that man with double chin
Who'll always lose and never win,
The wild card ranked at 519 -
His best in years:

And smash the fans, sitting grinning
Who call his name out when he's winning
Like they've been there since the beginning
And not merely fickle fiends.

But spare the ballgirls and ballboys
Middle class angels in their poise;
Trying to ignore the orgasmic noise
Of the ladies second seed.

It's not their fault their parents dream
is to see their offspring on the screen
holding a towel for an Argentine
To mop his sponsored head

And talk of British hopes this year
Will once again be disappeared
Before the weekend rain appears
Like Fred Perry, the hopes are dead.

In straight sets filled with double faults
The Brits crash out on outer courts
And finally the nation's thoughts
Return to other things.

Come friendly bombs to Wimbledon!
Make Armageddon suburban
For if the covers come back on
Cliff Richard says he'll sing.

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