Just got home from the last match of the softball season. It’s dark outside now, it rained today, and I’m beginning to wonder if summer is over already.
We didn’t win this evening, but it was close. 37-35. I didn’t intend to play when I left home this morning, but I’m glad that I did. I got out a couple of times; got home a couple of times. Overall, I still suck, but perhaps I sucked slightly less than usual. Continue to have issues with things like catching and not running into people.
We played in Hyde Park, Knightsbridge-side, in a strip of softball matches. Brightly coloured charity t-shirts. The Albert Memorial in the background. Plastic bags as bases, and calls that could’ve gone either way. Perhaps we should’ve won. Perhaps it doesn’t matter that much.
Caught the tube home. Stopped for a pasty. This is living in London, and yet I’m a tourist observing it still.No comments
So, we went to the football again yesterday. That’s twice in one year – and for me, that’s true sporting commitment.
Yesterday’s game was on a far more local scale than the Reading vs Ipswich Town match we went to earlier in the year. It was a bus ride away rather than several hours on the train, it was standing under an umbrella rather than having a seat in the away stand, it was AFC Wimbledon vs Hampton and Richmond, in the Blue Square South league (apparently about six ranks down from the Premiere League).
But Wimbledon still had it’s mascot – a uniformed Womble, who banged rubbish bin lids to stir up the crowds. And for supporters of both teams, there were hats and scarfs in club colours, and chants, and stewards and programmes and security guards. And there were hundreds of people there, watching teams that I’d never heard about before, in a league that I wouldn’t have previously considered worth following, and a sense of local suport, of dedication to watching, even in rain and cold, that I couldn’t help but admire.
So, football’s kind of big here. Not quite as big as the other kind of football, the one that takes up at least seven pages in Melbourne newspapers during it’s season. But the game that I grew up calling soccer and now call football definitely has it’s followers. Such as my darling husband, who ranked 64th in the world in last year’s fantasy league.
He chose our team almost two years ago, before we actually arrived in London. I agreed because the name matched my favourite bookish activity: Reading. Two years ago, Reading had just been promoted to the Premiere League, expectations were high. This season, they’ve been demoted again. A perfect time then, to try out our Reading membership cards, to wear our Reading shirt and scarf, and go see a match.
The match was in Ipswich, at Portland Road stadium and Reading was playing Ipswich town. We were assigned to the very small ‘away supporters’ section of the ground. Well, when I say ‘assigned’, I mean we had tickets. Matt’d booked them over the phone, and we’d picked them up when we arrived. It was just too bad that there were two men already sitting in our seats, who had exactly the same tickets as us. Same date, same block, same seats, totally identical. Luckily the section wasn’t sold out, so we didn’t have to move into one of the home team areas.
Going to the footy is memorable for the chanting. I can’t say I understood much of it, and perhaps I didn’t want to. The turnstile gates are tiny, and the seat rows are crammed in. People yell abuse at the referee. When there’s a goal, all that team’s supporters stand up to cheer. We didn’t get to stand up. Reading lost, two-nil.
When Ipswich Town scored that second goal, Reading supporters started to file out, while the Ipswich fans turned to the section and waved goodbye (in a less than friendly manner). Matt and I stayed to the end, but we didn’t change the result by doing so.
Ipswich itself was another English town, with the same shops on the highstreet. Beyond that, the lanes got narrower and the buildings older. We even saw a house with a sign commemorating the fact that it was near the house where Thomas Wolsey was born. The Bailey’s infused creme brulee from Tonic Bar and Lounge on Falcon Street was amazing.
So it’s Wimbledon time again, and the billboards and the newspapers and BBC2 in the evenings is all about the tennis. Matt and I actuatlly made it to the SW19 courts ourselves last Monday – in the evening of the first day of play. Matt had suggested that I dress up for the event, so there I was, in the queue that weaved its way through Wimbledon Park Golf Club for half an hour in a skirt and high heels.
Still, it was great to be there, to be given the official booklet (A Guide to Queueing for the Championships) and the stickers that confirmed we had. After 5pm, grounds passes are £14, which I thought was okay as at this time of year, there’s plenty of daylight (and thus tennis) left after 5.
Our grounds tickets didn’t let us into Centre Court, but we found seats around Court 18, where we watched the Australian Guccione lose to Bozoljac from Serbia and then the British Mel South lose to Alyona Bondarenko from the Ukraine. Even after one day of play, the grass on the court was beginning to show a bit of wear and tear.
After watching the two games, we found a picnic table and shared an expensive burger with a bottle of beer and a glass of wine, while watching Lleyton Hewitt (who won) on the big screen.
The weather’s been surprisingly good for Wimbledon this year – though it did suddenly pour down for half an hour on Friday afternoon, as if to remind us not to get complacent. This is England after all.