Wimbledon stands virtually alone in the pantheon of sporting shindigs in one simple way – you can turn up on virtually any day and get tickets on the door – if you're willing to wait. This wonderful fact has meant that I have been present at the All England Club in leafy SW19 on over 150 occasions since the early '80s. Here's what I've learnt:
- Tennis has an innate meritocratic magic on court, for in tennis the best player almost always wins. You can't really 'nick' a game of tennis, like you can score a last-minute winner in football, having been consummately outplayed for 90 minutes. There is a winner, and that winner is almost always the deserved one.
- Some people get freebie debenture tickets every day through some mad aunt who owns half of Gloucestershire, but I don't, and nor do most people; you really don't have to. Keeping with the meritocratic theme, if you are willing to spend the night in a tent in a park, you can have it all for half the price of a Premier League game – and that only lasts an hour and a half.
- When spending between eight and 24 hours in a queue, choose your spot carefully. A group of eight young graduates with three months' worth of revision energy to burn, and access to alcohol is possibly not a good choice.
- Use the left luggage facilities wisely – a well-prepared camper can look a million dollars in the morning. Poor preparation can make you look like you have slept in a park all night. As if.
- Attire is very important at Wimbledon. In the late '90s, it became worryingly apparent that the nation was following a dress code requiring that"spectators be dressed in suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely covered in union jacks". The addition of face paint only made it worse.
- There's more fun to be had for women on a day out at the tennis, as generally, the fairer sex looks less ridiculous when embracing fashion and "making an effort". But let's not get too carried away; avoid tennis ball earrings or headbands, plastic fruit and any overtly tennis-themed attire. If you are thinking about pulling out that old lacey, racy Teddy Tinling baby doll number you last wore in 1982, think again, we live in different times.
- Fashion flamboyance for men is a no-no and you should never indulge the desire to try too hard. Remember the old maxim: "Women in fashion, men in classics."
Ben Chatfield is the author of Standing In Line - 30 Years of Obsessive Queuing at Wimbledon, a memoir, illustrated by Zebedee Helm, which has been described as a pop cultural riot of stories and anecdotes - a love letter to Wimbledon, and to the wonder and eccentricity of the British summertime.
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