Today is a HUGE day on the sporting calendar and it’s one I’ve been looking forward to for ages now.
Tennis is passion of mine and has been since I was a toddler. So, so many memories of watching the Men’s Singles Final and relishing all the history associated with it at both public and personal level. Today, just seeing a clip of Fred Perry had me thinking of how my late mother used to be glued to the radio listening to the crackly commentary of his matches when she was young.
I hope, hope, hope that Andy Murray can win today. He’s one of my big sporting heroes.
The final of EURO 2016 Soccer between France and Portugal awaits tonight. That should be a great match and I feel the whole tournament has been brilliant in terms of how it has shown that national passions can be played out in sporting stadiums rather than killing fields of war.
My Waterford blood is pumping hard today too as our hurlers take on Tipperary (hubby’s county) in the Munster Final in Semple Stadium.
February 6th has a strong echo in my life as it was the day in 1967 that our family moved from Castleblayney in Co. Monaghan to Drogheda in Co. Louth. I was nine then and that was one of five moves that we made from when I was 3 to 18 years old. ( I also moved away from home when I was seventeen to go to College but that’s a different kind of moving.)
These moves were all within Ireland and were part of father’s job in the bank. Both he and mother had been in the bank from the early 1940s and had moved numerous times in their single days ~ their paths crossing when they were both based in Kilkenny City for a while.
As a kid, I found moving from place to place rather exciting and remember being full of excitement as I bade everyone in Castleblayney goodbye and watched all our belongings, which were packed in tea chests, being loaded into a huge big removal van.
There’s no doubt that all the moves brought us very close together as a family ~ we only had each other until we made new friends. Going to new schools was daunting, especially landing there in the middle of term and having to get to grips with new teachers, new sets of rules and and, of course, all the existing pupils who tended to be curious about any newcomer.
Apart from family, tennis was the other anchor that made moving manageable. Tennis courts are the same size no matter where you go and the rules of the game are the same. It was always such a relief to get sorted in a tennis club and be able to feel at home hitting forehands and backhands like always!
We never knew how long we’d be staying in any one place ~ it ranged from 10 months to 8 years ~ but it was pretty certain that a transfer was never too far off. This never stopped me from putting down roots and getting incredibly attached to places but there was always that feeling of being a little bit on the sidelines.
St. Patrick’s Day always made me feel this ‘outsidedness’ more than any other. I can vividly remember watching St. Patrick’s Days Parades from our Bank House window in the middle of Drogheda and feeling that I simply didn’t belong in the town. To this day, I’ve never be a part of a St. Patrick’s Day Parade! Perhaps, this year I’ll get stuck into our local one here in Tramore, which is the place I was born and the place to which I eventually returned full-time in 1991.
More than anything, all the moving as a child, brought it home to me how every single place has lots and lots to offer; new people, new landscape, a depth of local history. Much of this can be taken for granted by people who have always lived in the same place but through new eyes it can be a whole new adventure.
It certainly doesn’t surprise me, after all this, that it is very often people who are ‘blow ins’ who blog or write about the wonders of places.
Are you a person who moved around as a child or did you spend your childhood in the one place?
The importance of being a good loser was something that was drilled into me as a child ~ whether it was playing tiddly winks, tennis or … and my parents were undoubtedly prouder of me if they saw me losing with a smile than winning with arrogance.
It’s something that has stayed with me all the years and I tend to look for it in sportsmen, women and children all the time. This weekend, I saw it in both Serena Williams and Andy Murray at the Australian Open Tennis Championships.
When you think about it, though, being a good loser, is a bit more complicated than might at first appear ~ especially when broadened out from sport.
The term loser is a very derogatory one, here in Ireland anyway, and tends to be applied to people who have fallen by the wayside. The stereotypical loser is a person who squandered opportunities and is now a homeless, friendless, drunken lout who shouts abuse at passers-by. Little attention is given to the stories behind the losing and generally speaking there are back stories that would break your heart.
At another level, there is the matter of viewing death as losing a battle against some illness or other. I squirm when I think of this because there was a time in the years after the death of my boyfriend from cancer in 1981 that I came to view people who had survived cancer as people I admired most and I remember thinking of the wonderful Bob Champion and Jonjo O’Neill from the world of horse-racing in this context. I can see clearly now that my boyfriend wasn’t a loser (good or bad) because he died.
It seems to me to be time that we moved away from talking about disease in war terms. Interestingly, we don’t hear about people fighting Alzheimer’s Disease or losing the battle with it. I guess that’s because we don’t see this as something that anyone can overcome. That in itself puts such diseases into a category where those who have them can be written off as hopeless cases, when, in fact, they are very much unique human beings who deserve our love and every effort at maintaining connection by whatever means ~ touch, music …..
I’m not sure what being a good loser in the world of work and business means. Imagine going to an interview and stating that being a good loser is among one’s positive attributes? Should we be measuring people by success all the time ~ even if that success comes at the expense of walking over others? I don’t think so.
And, finally, I have to examine my conscience about writing of ‘Losing’ Elderly Parents on this very blog. As I look at that whole issue now after the deaths of my parents in 2009 and 2010 respectively, I’m not sure that losing is the best word. It felt like that from the other side ~ when they were frail and dying ~ but now I realise how much they are still with me in my everyday life through memories and genes.
In grief terms, there are certainly perceptions of being a good loser and oftentimes, these are about ‘moving on’ and sparing other people from one’s sadness and upset. Such perceptions can put huge pressure on people who are grieving and are most unhelpful.
So, I suppose I would conclude that those urgings to be a good loser are really urgings to be a person who is humane.
It’s two years today that I came to live here in Tramore. I was only 9 weeks old and Jean and Harry came allllll the way to the heart of Co. Wexford (that makes me a Yellow Belly) to get me. Well, they didn’t know it was me they were getting ‘cos there were five of us pups still waiting for homes.
We were all ‘love’ puppies. Our mama was a a golden cocker spaniel and our dada was a liver and white springer spaniel. Our mama was very, very pretty and was a champion show dog and often had puppies with other cocker spaniels. But she was in love with my dada who lived on the same farm and they decided that they wanted to have a family of their very own.
Funny enough, none of us looked like our parents. The others were all black and white and I was the only all black puppy. I knew I had a good chance of being picked by Jean because I heard the boss talking to her on the phone and saying that there was only one totally black pup in the litter.
It was dark when they arrived and I was all nervous. The boss brought them out to our shed and shone a torch down at us. I didn’t know what to do so I stood a bit back from the others and pricked my spaniel ears.
Harry immediately said: ‘Him, he’s lovely.’ He picked me up and petted me and then handed me to Jean. I clung onto her coat and tried to melt her eyes. I could feel her heart beating very fast and then I saw a little tear trickle down her cheek. (I didn’t know then that she was totally heartbroken and missing her precious Sophie who had died only 10 days before. Getting me had been all Harry’s idea ‘cos he couldn’t bear to see her so upset.) I knew I had won her over when she stroked my ears with as much love as any puppy could ever want.
And puppies do want love; everyone wants love and that way the world can spin around in a twirl of happiness like a puppy running after his tail.
You hear about ‘a fly on the wall.’ Well, I’m a ‘puppy under the table’ and I see and hear everything that’s going on. BUT, I don’t ‘love and tell.’ That’s one tip my dada gave me when I was saying goodbye to him that night.
I was kinda surprised to be called Stan ~ but now I know the whole story. I’m called after Stan Wawrinka, the tennis player who had just won the Australian Open in 2014.
If I’d been got today, I’d definitely have been called Leighton, after Leighton Hewitt who played his last match today after a great career. Poor Jean was sobbing when he gave his farewell speech. I don’t think ‘Leighton’ would be a great name for me, though. It’s a bit of a mouthful and very grown-up sounding.
Two years has flown by ~ I often wonder about my brothers and sisters and how they’re doing and, of course, I miss my mama and dada. I hope they are still as madly in love as ever.
But, I wouldn’t change anything for the world, except maybe running up to the very top of the cliffs in Kilfarrasy the other week. I’m not the better of that yet and have nightmares about never being able to get back safe. I knew Jean loved me long before that day but I saw absolute love in her eyes when I eventually found a way back to the car. She didn’t even give out to me but just cuddled me like no other cuddle I’ve ever got and I was soaking and covered in rubble from the cliff face. We haven’t been back there since.
So, I’d best go and see if she’ll take me for a celebration walk, even though it’s raining. I’ve a feeling she will!
Night all and Sweetest Dreams!
P.S. I love you, Jean, and I’m the lucky one, not you!
P.P.S. Good luck in The Austrialian Open, Stan W. You can do it!!!
There’s always a story behind how couples get together and I took this photo as it reminded me of this day in 1982 as it was the day that hubby captured my heart.
We had known each other through tennis for a good few years but a few weeks before the Tramore Open Tennis Championships that year I discovered that my brother with whom I normally played mixed doubles wasn’t going to be around so I boldly asked Adrian if he would partner me.
We didn’t hit it off on the tennis court; in fact we were a disastrous combination as our temperaments are totally different. Thankfully, we were beaten very early on in the week but I managed to scramble into the final of the singles.
I was up against a very tough opponent and said to Adrian that if I lost I’d be delighted if he would come for a swim in the sea after the match to cool me down.
I was absolutely annihilated and turned to him after the defeat and said: How about that swim?
It was a gorgeous sunny day and we drove down to the beach and ran into the waves. I took it that he was a water baby like me as he seemed perfectly at home in the ocean.
After the swim, we passed a little seaside shop that had a kiddies’ machine outside with sweets and beaded bracelets in it. I’ve always had a thing about beaded bracelets so being the gentleman he is, he handed me the coin for the machine and lo and behold a brightly coloured bracelet fell into the slot.
We headed back to the tennis club for the presentation and there was a definite sense of romance in the air.
We saw little of each other for for quite a few months after that and I went to America for three months at the beginning of 1983. I sent him what I thought was a well-chosen postcard.
Soon after I got back from the States, I met him down town in his car one lunchtime. I sat in and asked him if he’d got my postcard. He gave me a disgruntled look and showed me the torn up shreds of the postcard which were in the side pocket of the car door. He said something like: ‘I thought you would have done better than three lines on a postcard.’
We’re still chalk and cheese but will be married 24 years next month. Yes, I still have the bracelet; and, no, he’s certainly not the water baby I thought he was. In fact, I don’t think he’s been for a swim in the sea since this day 33 years ago.
I’d like to thank Willow for nominating me for the Five Photos Five Stories Challenge.
Here are the rules for the “Five Photos Five Stories” challenge: “Post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph and each day nominate another blogger for the challenge.
My first nomination for the challenge is Lauren over at Baydreamer
July 12, 2015 is winding to a close here in Ireland and it’s tinged with a sadness which I feel every year as Wimbledon ends. It has been a brilliant two weeks ~ and already I’m dreaming of next year.
I was hoping to see Andy Murray win and when he was out, then Roger Federer was my next hope but alas ….. Brings me back to years I sobbed over Billie Jean King, when son Harry was inconsolable over Lindsay Davenport.
And while Roger was losing, the Waterford hurling team were being edged out by Tipperary. My heart bled as the team played their hearts out and we now have to face the famous ‘back door’ and meet Dublin in the knock-outs instead of sitting pretty in the semi-finals. This is serious stuff for me, as you can see, and it will take a while to deal with it.
Sport is a great teacher; always has been. It’s all about highs and lows, winning and losing. Most of all, it’s character-forming and shows the importance of talent, dedication, teamwork, physical fitness, mental agility, strategic thinking and passion.
So, as always, I return to Rudyard Kipling’s great poem, If, as it never fails to bring calm and perspective about both sport and life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘confidence’ over the last while ~ really since this bag was given to me and became the bag for my swimming gear.
Every time I look at it, and that’s about ten times a day, I ponder more and more about the relationship between confidence and money.
I would like to believe that confidence has nothing to do with money but I simply can’t and it’s all because of a little boy with immense talent for tennis from a very poor area whom I sort of ‘adopted’ many years ago.
I got to know him when he was about seven. He had beautiful blue eyes and a head of tousled blonde curls. He was waif-like but his hand-eye co-ordination was amazing and he was incredibly speedy around the court.
I knew that he had oodles more ability than the vast majority of kids his age but was also aware that his background was going to militate against him when it came to competing in tournaments.
He came on in leaps and bounds with practice and loved the racket that had once belonged to my brother.
Every time I look at the ‘confidence’ bag, I think of the day I brought him to a tournament in Dublin to give him a run against some of tennis kids of his age.
Before he even got to the court, I could see that he was intimidated by the posh surroundings and the cliques of players who were dressed in great style. He played his little heart out and lost about 6-2 6-3 to a highly ranked player.
The awful part was that no one talked to him or made him feel remotely at home. In fact, he felt so totally uncomfortable and overwhelmed that he said he couldn’t face playing in any more tournaments like that one.
He was one of many highly talented kids I’ve known who fell by the tennis wayside. Perhaps, I was overly innocent in thinking that he could overcome the obstacles and grind his way through, even though was like a fish out of water.
Or perhaps, he was was just too sensitive and wasn’t able to ‘Act as if it were impossible to fail,’ as Dorothea Brande suggests.
I often wonder what became of him and hope against hope that he remembers those childhood tennising years with a sense of happiness and that he learned lessons from them that enabled him to realise his potential in life.
What do YOU think about confidence and its relationship to socio-economic circumstances?
I’ve been giddy with excitement over the last while waiting for Wimbledon to start and certainly haven’t been disappointed today with lots of great matches and, of course, the perfect excuse to indulge in scrumptious strawberries and cream.
I simply can’t imagine living in a house that wasn’t tennis mad. Hubby and I met through our love of tennis and son, Harry, is a total addict as well.
This is the fortnight of the year when there are no issues whatsoever about the remote control, which can be such a pain in the butt for the other 50 weeks!
So, don’t be surprised if I’m a little giddy over the next two weeks!