1 Feb 2009

Post 102: Being treated to dinner by the Tonbridge guys

OK, so I said Ihad a couple of things I could have yacked about last time so I chose the Pussycat Dolls because I'd seen them the night before but slightly lower key on Monday evening I was taken out very kindly to the Bear ( where else by a couple of my old schoolteachers,the master in charge of rackets John Gibbs, the rackets professional from school (er, what?, I hear you say) the master in charge of squash,John Maynard all organised by my old rackets partner James Pyemont (the guy in the cricket kit in post 88)
Let me try and explain. Between the ages of 13 and 18 I was one of the lucky few to have been put through a private school. To pay for it my dad eschewed early retirement and went back to work as an engineer and project director for the building of the new British LibraryThis was particularly heroic because it didn't sound all that pleasant, despite numerous costly and time-consuming blunders by the contractors and a few unhelpful words about the architecture from the spectacularly uneducated future king, all seem happy with the final product, particularly the people who have to use it, the readers. Anyway, I have digressed (again, sigh), the point was dad only did this so he could afford the exorbitant fees at Tonbridge School in Kent.Now, I could wax lyrical about what a great place it was, sure the academic stuff was great and I can attribute a great deal of my academic success to Tonbridge, but, and there was a big but , in order to be considered a big success by your peers academic ability counted for nought, it probably counted against you. In order to be considered a success you had to excel at a major sport, Rugby, Cricket or hockey and being a 5' loud arrogant squit (I grew too late) I didn't have the best start – I hated Rugby and contact sports. I excelled at hand/eye coordination sports like squash and Tennis. At Tonbridge these were minor sports, and didn't count for much with my peers. I took up this game called rackets, partly because I'd been inspired after seeing my mums godson ( a guy called Thorold Barker) play at a tournament at Queens Club in London and because rackets looked like fun. Rackets is an extraordinary sport, not many people in the world play it because there aren't many courts, a few dotted around North America with most in the UK at Public Schools, courts aren't really built these days because of the expense of building them and their sheer size, as a sport it's best described as squash on steroids, A huge black court (4 times the size of a squash court. Everyone has virtually the same wooden racket (still made only by Grays of Cambridge), extremely tightly sprung strings. It is probably the second fastest game in the world (after Pelota), with every game following the rules of squash scoring and it being the first to fifteen points, usually best of 7 games. If both players are pretty pony, rackets can be a pretty poor game but if both players are world class, as I often got to see and sometimes play with/against then it is one of the most amazing games in the world. Luckily, for public schoolboys who play it, it has long been a tradition that the schools with courts employ a rackets professional, Tonbridges, was a guy called Dave Makey, a character whose incredible chat was only matched by the incredibleness of his poodle Perm, what can I say about Dave? Incredibly, he has been the Pro at Tonbridge for 25 years! He has just recently won the world doubles title with a guy he taught how to play at Tonbridge, Rupert Owen-Browne, guy who hits the ball harder than anyone I have ever seen. This was my philosophy when I played, to try and hit it as hard as I could, this only worked sometimes because I neither possessed the size, talent or footwork but by the time I left Tonbridge, I was an above average player, a couple of years later getting into the Oxford teamto play Cambridge at Queens Club in London, yes thats me just to the left of centre in the photo! OK, so having done my best to explain rackets and some of my formative years being taken out and reiniscing with these guys was a very nice surprise, particulary because I'm sure I was an obnxious little bastard sometimes at school. Who knows,i'm probably an obnoxious wheelchair bound bastard now!


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