Follow one crying eye on

Glam up and carry on

And so finishes another week of highs and lows. True to my onecryingeye form, there has been brilliantly sharp-focused excitement on the one side, and tear-stained snotty sadness on the other. This week I truly have not needed to try to shoehorn my lived experience into the conceit of this blog. It has formed its very own ‘tears to the right of me, laughter to the left’ narrative.

I’ve alluded to the need to clean up after our cat in more than one of my recent drivellings, and the beginning of this week was most certainly underpinned by that continued theme. It had become the norm to brace ourselves before entering the part of the house into which our elderly feline had largely confined himself and we had become experts (or thought that we had) in spotting the latest faecal or chunderous offerings to be cleared before breakfast. We knew we did not have much longer with the poor little chap, whose body was seemingly rejecting all that he (and we) tried to put into it. In a rare gesture of soft-heartedness, I was even grilling him a nice fish whilst preparing my porridge each morning – apparently to no lasting avail, despite his clear delight at the eating stage.

So it was against this backdrop and after a rather fraught weekend that we left the house on Monday – plastered as it was with clean newspaper sheets, strategic litter-trays and bowls of kitty snacks – to venture up the railway tracks to SW19 and experience our first-ever Lawn Tennis Championship. It seems faintly ridiculous that we had attained such great ages and passed more than thirty years living no further than 4.5 miles from the All England Club without ever attempting to enter those hallowed grounds. Both offspring have experienced the event more than once with their friends, but we had somehow never got round to it.

Mr J had been offered tickets and we thought, ‘Well, why not?’ I think Mr J would watch almost any sport, and I grew up with parents who followed Wimbledon avidly each year, so have also sporadically been quite a fan. In the past 10 years though, I’m not sure either of us had given tennis a great deal of thought, seeing little more than the headlines on the news, or patriotically watching an Andy Murray game on TV.

It was therefore quite exciting finally to go and see what all the fuss was about for ourselves. I had donned my brilliant-white jeans in honour of the occasion. I later noticed that in fact only the line judges seemed to be wearing such attire and every other woman was in floaty dress and sunnies. Ah well.

Initially, a long and slow-moving queue to get into the grounds was a little dispiriting. It is probably not the best idea to visit on the first morning of the championship when they are using an entirely App-based entry system for the first time – and, note to self, especially not to choose a queue behind elderly ladies with prehistoric phones. But once inside, we raced around all the famous sights – the ivy-clad buildings, Henman Hill (or whatever it is we are supposed to call it now) and importantly the Tea Lawn, where we resisted strawberries and cream in favour of sarnies and a veggie pasty which later proved to have been an excellent choice to sustain us through the excitement, even if they were on the pricey side.

Strange green bouncy castles appeared on the outside courts

It rained for a while, so we scuttled around some of the outer courts and marvelled at the bouncy-castles which had seemingly been installed – perhaps as a distraction for nervous competitors, or to facilitate a pneumatic form of warm-up exercise?  But then it was time to take our seats in Court No 1. Mercifully, this court has a retractable roof, and the powers that be had decided not to open it today due to the unsettled nature of the forecast. Good call – the heavens opened spectacularly half-way through the afternoon and this would have caused considerable disruption.

Our seats were in the second row back from the edge of the Court, at the baseline. Amazing! (It turns out Mr J’s friend’s husband is someone important at Wimbledon – and these were wonderful complimentary seats. Our usually non-effusive tendencies were quite rightly ignored in our fulsome thank-yous on our return home.)

Struff – the underdog

Even at these close quarters, the grass was such a perfect shade of green and so manicured that it didn’t look real; much better, in fact, than it looks on TV. Everything was new and exciting. I had not expected to find it so interesting and absorbing when sitting at such close quarters. I will admit that I had never heard of any of the players we watched, even though two of them were seeded, (Mirjam Bjorklund v Ons Jabeur; Jan-Lennard Struff v Carlos Alcaraz – still in the competition as I write this on Sunday morning) but of course I have educated myself now. Mr J, in true British style, decided he would cheer for the underdog in the Men’s singles match and while there were several cries of ‘Vamos Carlos!’ for Señor Alcaraz, including from a properly cute young Spanish boy seated in front of us, Mr J’s occasional lone but fortissimo ‘Come on Jan!’ resounded strangely around the court. Someone has to do it I suppose.

Ons Jabeur serves right in front of us

Of course, being a slave to social media, I put up an over-excited Facebook post within minutes of taking our seats and later added some action shot photos to prove it was real. In fact, later in the week one of our friends mentioned that they had been relieved to see my Fb post because they had spotted Mr J on the live TV coverage and thought he was with some new ‘blonde’ – clearly this friend has not clapped eyes on me in the three years since I transformed myself into a bombshell *.

We didn’t move from our seats for more than four hours. I was genuinely thrilled to be there and enjoyed every minute. Who knew? Plus, my Fitbit registered thousands of steps, as of course we were applauding almost every point played and this causes confusion with wrist-born devices. A small triumph against the tyranny of the fitness trackers. Ha! Pass the chocolates immediately.

Two days later, we got ourselves togged up for our annual visit to Henley Royal Regatta. One has to do the season dontcha know. Son Jillings also informed us that he was keeping up appearances by attending the Edgbaston Test Match this weekend. I’m not entirely sure that qualifies as the season, but it must be a contender.

This time, I was most definitely in a floaty dress, teamed with my old College coxing blazer which is more stained than any other item of clothing I have ever possessed, but has to remain this way for reasons of … well, I’m not quite sure what the reasons are and it may possibly not actually apply to women as much as their male boaty friends, but I’m afraid I’m a stickler for equality in these matters and I refuse to budge. The once rich cream fabric now has liberal streakings of Cam water, Abbot Ale, Pimms No 1 Cup, a few lurid spots where the purple piping has run from the lapels to the shoulders in the rain and several unidentified blemishes (one of which could in fact even be blood – mine – from a particularly unfortunate boat-based incident). Mr J’s black and white striped effort is much newer and positively pristine in comparison.

Hers and his: boating couture

We were meeting with old friends from my university days and each of them had dug out his own old College Boat Club blazer, proudly displaying the fact that he could still fit into it and even do it up (briefly, anyway). After a mutual review of our respective stains, we collected another dear friend who had flown over from the Netherlands just for the day and wandered up the tow-path to meet another pair who advised us they would see us in the Redgrave Bar. Now, this is not part of the main fabric of this ancient regatta, but something of an upstart location and – to make matters even less seemly – appeared to have bouncers on the gate. With old-fashioned Hooray bravado, we sought admission and were surprisingly readily ushered into the bustling enclosure – on the basis, as it turned out, that we were sporting such a range of particularly offensive outer wear. Almost as soon as we had spotted our friends, we also observed that most of the hubbub was being caused by large numbers of cameramen and boom operators, and black-clad young men with ponytails and clipboards approaching us from all angles to request our particulars. Hmm.

It seems that we had stumbled into an episode of Gordon Ramsay finds another excuse to be rude to wanna-be chefs and pretend to be Alan Sugar and we were being urged to taste some flavoured vodkas and ice-creams from three different teams. Also, to sign a waiver so that our images could be used on screen. Well, dahlings, I don’t just sign anything you know and I don’t believe they were planning to pay us anything – so I snuck round behind the clip-boards and persuaded one of the contestants to give me an ice-cream without any vodka, it being still quite early in the day for hard liquor for this particular lady. In the confusion that followed, we were herded onto a small mound behind Gordon himself and requested to just carry on chatting or drinking or, in my case, awkwardly and messily eating ice-cream. The director clearly needed some gaudy Henley colour as a backdrop, and we were the best he was going to get – waivers or not. One of us may have signed on the dotted line – certainly neither Mr J nor myself – possibly De Heer M. Muis? So, presumably when they broadcast the episode sometime in 2023 there will be a bunch of natty blazers in extra-soft-focus looming behind – unidentifiable apart from a few blurry stains and our dear Dutch friend whose body-language I would defy anyone not to recognise, soft focus or not. 

I can’t remember if the filming took place before or after I took off my underwear. I had been irritated at a minor wardrobe malfunction which meant that instead of a hint of cleavage, I was displaying a small but annoying piece of undergarment fabric. Mr J’s brave tit-tape suggestion – once I had stopped laughing – proved useless as neither of us had tape of any kind (an unusual occurrence for Mr J at which I have to say I was mildly disappointed – one would expect more of a sailing man) and the only remedy appeared to be to remove the offending article completely and soldier on without. It added to my general amusement as we passed through several bag search locations that I could have hidden all sorts of offensive paraphernalia in my handbag beneath that slip, as it seemed that a distant glance was sufficient to ensure I was hastily waved through. 

A lovely day ensued – chat, Pimms, chat, ice-cream, deckchair, chat, tea next to the bandstand, ice-cream, chat etc. This time my Fitbit was probably pretty accurate in telling me I had walked more than 17,000 steps. The soles of my feet agreed.

We had two more days at the Regatta with different groups of people – requiring two different frocks and the same old blazer. Despite a prolonged rain shower which left my right side soaked – the left side being under a shared umbrella as I foolishly thought I could sit tight before making a mad dash to the beer tent – we had a thoroughly nice time and ticked off all the ritual experiences such visits entail.

As the light was fading on Friday, we arrived home …

… to a still and empty (and clean) house.

The ‘missing’ day of the week described above was sadly the last day for our poor old cat. On Tuesday, after one last spectacular floor decoration and increasing unsteadiness, he made the short final trip to the vet with us. I won’t describe this any further, but suffice it to say I would be only too glad to grill a bit of fish right now.

Such is real life. The camera-attracting and Facebook-able glamour on the one hand, tempered by the underlying stains of grief (and other bodily fluids) on the other.

Glam up and carry on!

*For bombshell, read bomb site if before 9am.




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