Sporting Events and Holidays
Sport is not only about playing – it is also about watching the particular sport played at the very best level, and I was lucky enough to be able to do this on many occasions.
During the ’80s and ’90s one of the perks on offer as a recognition for business from my Insurance Brokerage involved tickets and VIP treatment for top sporting events, which included Cricket, Tennis, Formula One, Six Nations Rugby and Horse Racing at Ascot and Sansdowne.
Wimbledon and the Queen’s Club
Wimbledon hosts the one annual Grand Slam event on Grass Courts, and the main Tournament is usually in July. I have been lucky enough several times to be in the “Tented Village” marquees enjoying strawberries and champagne, as well as being one of the many queuing for hours before occupying stall seats on Centre Court or Nos 1 and 2 Courts. As true tennis lovers will confirm, the point of being there is to get involved in the matches, and to try and get a seat which is behind the players rather than mid-court.
Queen’s was only a few miles away from home, and hosts a Grass Court Tournament every year before the main event at Wimbledon. Many of the top tennis players take part as preparation for Wimbledon, and tickets are much easier to obtain and the facilities for both players and spectators are excellent, and so some of my fellow tennis club members would organise a “day out”. Some were also members of the Queen’s club, and I remember on another occasion playing on one of the main courts as a guest with Richard Furber.
The F1 British Grand Prix is held at Silverstone at about the same time of year as the main Wimbledon event. Silverstone is situated in Northamptonshire, and so getting there from London requires some planning. On Race Day, the roads near the circuit are jammed with traffic. Because of this, it is preferable to have transport organised, and to be able to arrive by bus or coach, which I was lucky enough to do courtesy of the sponsors. Once there, the VIP package included private marquees lunch and of course, TV coverage. In truth, the noise and atmosphere of “live” F1 can only be fully experienced by being close to the Pit Lane and Paddock, and obtaining a vantage point which allows you to see as much of the circuit as possible. Otherwise, in my opinion, TV coverage provides a much better idea of what is actually happening in the race.
Lord’s, The Oval and Antigua Test Match Cricket
In London. we are fortunate enough to have two grounds for Test Match cricket, Lord’s and The Oval: The Oval was a few stops on the train from my home in Chiswick. Lord’s on the other hand is in St John’s Wood and when a Test Match is in progress, can take an hour or more to reach. I have been to both London venues on several occasions – both sponsored as a VIP and privately – to watch the England Team in action.
The best experience at Lord’s was as a guest of Charles Sayers father, who was a full member of the MCC which meant that we had lunch in the Members Dining Hall and other privileges.
The Oval is the ground for the Surrey Cricket Club and has Test Match status. Although it does not have the same history as Lord’s – which is also the ground for Middlesex Cricket – it was more convenient for me to attend and had all the amenities necessary.
Antigua – On one of my holidays which was in Antigua, I heard that there was a Test Match in progress at the Recreation Ground where the West Indies team were playing another nation (not England!) and so I spent one day there: the WIndies team was in the field and Courtney Walsh was the main “strike” bowler. The noise and atmosphere generated from the Caribbean crowd was quite unlike anything else I have experienced from watching a cricket match!
Twickenham and Six Nations Rugby
Twickenham Stadium is the Home ground for the English Rugby team, and was 15 minutes drive from Chiswick. I attended two or three international rugby matches played there, again with tickets and lunch provided by the sponsors although I cannot remember who the opponents were on those occasions. The facilities at Twickenham were comparable to those at Lord’s and the Oval, and I do remember attending one other event at Twickenham. when it hosted an Eagles reunion concert – one of my all-time favourite bands or groups.
During the ’80s and ’90s, I went on several holidays which were primarily with the intention to play sport better – and take some exercise!
These included several tennis oriented trips within the UK – to Norfolk and Surrey – and one to Malaga in Spain, organised by the Riverside Club.
There were also a few holidays which featured windsurfing as the major attraction for me – amongst those were trips to Crete (Greece), Eilat (Israel) Bodrum (Turkey) and Antigua (in the West Indies). In Crete, Michele and I stayed many times at the Dolphin Bay Hotel, where conditions for windsurfing were good for beginners and intermediate levels, and my resident Windsurfer Instructor was a charming Greek called Stavros.