After nearly three hours of tennis featuring 4 matches and a semi-final, the unlikely duo of Diane Rennard and myself (Geoff Nette) had snatched victory over the pairing of Andrew Gould (Gouldy) and John Hearst who played against us under the onerous handicapping of the usual suspects, owe 30, receive 30, one serve, ban tambour and throw in chase restrictions - talk about the straw that breaks the camel's back! They were both gallant and generous in defeat.
And so, as we were about to take our place with the past winners of this rather eclectic and now slightly infamous real tennis tournament, and with the sound of "Farouk!" which had emanated from the north and south court throughout the day's competition now having receded into memory, the real fun, the tournament dinner, was about to begin.
Well Thomas (Dolan), that was my immediate take on the tournament, what about you? – what were your thoughts?
Well, Geoff, I must say that it was a great day of tennis - it seems that wearing costumes causes one to play at one’s best. Stepping into the club, one could almost imagine that one had entered a villa on the Nile (so long as one kept the torrential rain out of mind). The club was decorated to the nines, with streamers at the door, and paintings of the Saharan landscape on the wall. Dad (Hugh Dolan) and I partnered each other, and we had a series of enjoyable matches against Robert and Prue, Annie and Helen, Georgie and Henry and Howard and Suzanne. Laughter was a common aspect of each game - I myself will find it hard to forget Georgie and Henry walking around like goats in order to gain the mental upper-hoof. It was a good experience to play against (and be beaten by) Andrew and John, both of whom played with their characteristic (and almost textbook) returns.
And what about that dinner Thomas? Co-hosted as it was by Lizzie Brown and Jonathan Sear (whose dreaming and imagination had inspired the first tournament many years prior) it was an evening of capital ‘F’ fun and frivolity with the majority turning up in costumery and social distancing in mind. As the rain began to pour outside, inside some champagne was doing something similar and together with the first of several fabulous canapes, courtesy of the RMTC’s own resident chef Liza, we prepared ourselves for a sumptuous North African inspired dinner of slow cooked lamb, chickpea and zucchini tagine, roasted root vegetables and green beans, followed by cheese and Mediterranean inspired sweets.
Geoff, I must admit that the dinner was the highlight of the day. Costumes ranged from sun goddesses to shepherds to generals to Safari explorers - a most colourful sight. Jonathan led us in a rousing rendition of the North African Tennis anthem, which I sure hope will become an annual tradition. It was smiles all around, an evening I am sure that we will all be loath to forget.
After being cancelled completely last year due to the Covid menace, this year’s tournament barely made it to the starting line with another Covid inspired lockdown threatening to put a kybosh on another North African! Surely not two years in a row? However, with said lockdown lifted at the 11th hour, the Tournament was able to proceed as planned.
While many members at RMTC might have been disappointed at not being able to access the event, with the social distancing ‘Sword of Damocles’ hanging overhead, the competition and the dinner were reluctantly restricted this year to that of a quasi-invitation style.
So fingers are firmly crossed that this time next year the ravages of the Delta (variant of Covid that is) are behind us, everyone is vaccinated and the 2022 edition of the North African Real Tennis Tournament can go ahead unrestricted. Until then friends...
See you next year...
Play commences at 15:50 on the video below.