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Honourable Service

July 2nd 2018
Britain's foremost tennis event also forces some of its most ardent fans towards another very British pass time: queuing. Here's what 30 years of waiting in line has taught one Wimbledon regular, Ben Chatfield, about fair play.

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.

To see how you can get close to the tennis action at Wimbledon this year, contact your Lifestyle Manager. Interested in becoming a member? Request more information

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