I am extraordinarily crap at tennis. I have played it only once. But I remember the terror of the ball flying towards me at the speed of light having no idea where from, nor any idea of how to swing the racquet – far heavier than I had been expecting – missing it completely and flailing my arms around like a blind orangutan. So that one occasion (I must have been lured onto a court with someone against my better sense) was my last, even if compared to the majority of sports, I still think that tennis is relatively exciting. Rather than the utter misery of Match Of The Day, which seemed to take over the entire rainy weekends of childhood stuck at home with the dreary hooligans baying in the stands, the football relentless, so boring it blew my mind (D has exactly the same memories: maybe it is a standard gay boy thing – it would hang over you, like a dense, miserable fog of utter tedium). The one time I was taken to a match in an actual stadium, I sat huffily reading a novel, desperate to get home. In PE I ran away from the ball, ‘punished’ by being made to go jogging around the park (yey!), where I could take in the trees and the air and escape from the hell that was the dreaded Wednesday afternoon, when you might also – in shorts and a vest – stand shivering next to freezing, muddy ice puddles; ordered – but refusing – to join a ‘scrum’ in the even more loathed ‘game’ that was rugby. Oh the memories.
But I was talking about tennis. Though thoroughly useless at it myself, I do have fond memories of summers spent sat round the tv at my grandparents’ house watching Wimbledon; something exhilarating about the clash of the titans of the time; somehow I also like to keep up with what is happening with the Federer/Nadal/Djokovic ‘who is the best player of time’ continuing melodrama. There is a real stamina involved; the mind games; the resoluteness of technique.
When it came to racquets in my school days, I myself was much better at playing badminton. I liked the airy tautness as the shuttlecock bounced on the strings of the racquet; there was a balletic athleticism to it I could manage in terms of my imperfect spatial awareness (tennis is just too fast); I was able to gauge the speed of the falling and ascending; tell where to hit. Of all the sports – I played it once or twice a week in Sixth Form College – this was the least loathsome.
Penhaligon’s latest refreshing perfume – ‘would you fancy a game of lemon?‘ is an ode to the rigorous pleasures of Wimbledon and the sunny pleasures of a weather-behaving English summer, though in fragrance terms it would work equally well as a year rounder. Smelling this for the first time the other day, my first, spontaneous thought was :’ooh, a potential birthday perfume’ as I love really revitalizing citrus perfumes that just lift you with their immedicay,and this one took me back to other easy to wear scents I am fond of such as Agua Fresca by Adolfo Rodriguez and Armani : I thrilled to the opening accord, which was zestful but not aggressive with an aerated underthrow that is rather dignifed, restrained, yet simultaneously ‘sporty’ in an appealing and open-hearted way. As time went on, the ‘leatherwood’ ambroxan/ guaiac took over too much for my personal tastes ( I will be scanning my brain for other birthday options), but I still rather like this in any case for its casual, but knowing, simplicity; a spray or two on any wrist and one on the chest bone – and you are definitely talking a real office crowdpleaser.