Dispatches From The North

Tania Kindersley lives in the North East of Scotland with two amiable lab collie crosses and one very grumpy Gloucester Old Spot pig. She co-wrote Backwards In High Heels: The Impossible Art of Being Female, with Sarah Vine.

Tennis, and absurdity

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 10 July 2013
It’s quite peculiar to become emotionally invested in a human you will never even meet. It certainly can’t make any evolutionary sense; complete waste of energy, in Darwinian terms. And yet I burst into noisy sobs when Andy Murray won a tennis match.

I admit it was not any old tennis match, but still. Throughout the whole Wimbledon final I yipped and yowled, paced the floor, turned my head away, all but hid behind the sofa. I spent a long time in the second set trying to persuade myself I did not care. I failed. Catching the tension in the room, Stanley the Dog began to howl.

Patriotism is really quite absurd when you think about it for more than two minutes. It is a complete random twist of fate that I was born in the land of Shakespeare and Milton, and may play with their language every day. It was on an absolute whim that I moved to Scotland, so I can cheer a proud Scottish victory from the rolling Deeside hills. It’s nothing to do with anything I did. It’s just a twist on the wheel of fortune. Tennis is mildly absurd too, as are all sports. You can deconstruct half of them to someone hitting a ball, which doesn’t sound like much.

And yet, humans are not really rational. And rationality in these cases can be a cold, poor thing. Sport, at its finest, is magnificent: a combination of athleticism and strength, of mental and physical power, of cleverness and tactics. Some of the shots Murray pulled off seemed to defy physics. He is also an aesthetically pleasing player. It’s not just boom boom boom; there is grace and finesse in his lovely strokes. And I do feel bizarrely proud of dear old Blighty, and amazingly fond of my beloved Scotland. When I drive home after time away, I get a little teary when I pass the Welcome to Scotland sign. The human heart may not be reduced to mere sense.

So it was a glorious day for a whole nation, apart from the few grouches who still hold out against collective rejoicing. It was a great day for one man, too, who had struggled and fought so long to climb this dizzying pinnacle. I’ve always liked Andy Murray. I liked his work ethic, his understated refusal to showboat, his profound attachment to his family. I felt intense admiration that he had gone through a horror which few people can imagine, and he never traded on it. He could have played the Dunblane card, and he never did. I liked the things about him in the early days which made people furious: the fact that he would get livid with himself when he played a poor shot, his refusal to polish himself up or vamp for the cameras.

I liked that he did not resort to easy, spurious charm, but saved all his energy for his great goal, which was to be the best in his sport. I loved that he wore his heart on his sleeve on court, but was intensely private and guarded off it. He was never going to sell his story for a little cheap attention; there is an authentic properness in that, in these days of celebrity culture and tell-all memoir. He did not litter the pages of Hello magazine; he lived a life, not a lifestyle.

I liked that he, in true British fashion, just got on with it.

The day after, just as there was a danger of crashing anti-climax, I went up to the HorseBack herd, where a new foal was born at five o’clock on Monday morning. The enchanting, delicate, questing new life gave me another moment of glory over which to smile, and I visit the little filly every day, and shall be able to watch her grow. And now there is the Ashes to look forward to, and I can get goofy all over again about men hitting a ball.
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