With everyone’s favourite Sco...Englishman Andy Murray finally getting to the Wimbledon Final (the first since Major Humprey Winstanley lost to domesticated chimpanzee Herculius in 1559), and wildcard Jonathan Marray defying the odds and winning the Doubles it is perhaps fitting that as someone who has been lucky enough to be granted entry into hallowed grounds of the All England Tennis Club for the past 3 years, I give you the inside scope on this creamiest of English institutions.
If Michael Jackson was to rise from the grave and perform a one night only concert playing the Thriller album from start to finish, dressed appropriately as a zombie, it would be easier to snag at ticket then it would for Wimbledon. The ticketing system so archaic you would think it may have started life in Khruschev-era Russia.
If you happen to be pond scum like myself and don't have a million quid or a knighthood you will have endure the vagaries of the public ballot system. To be fair to the LTA at least there is still a system where Average Joe's can get hold of a ticket but boy do you have to jump through a few hoops to get one.
Firstly you have to send a stamped address envelope to the ticketing committee in order to receive an application form. A STAMPED ADDRESSED ENVELOPE FOR GOD SAKE? This isn't Why Don't You? or The Open University.
Then once you get the form you have to take extreme care to fill it out carefully in the blood of your first born. Woe betide anyone who forgets to fill in the form in the correct font lest they be struck down with the plague and their application banished to the fires of hell.
Interested parties will then face an anxious wait to find out if their name has been successfully pulled out of the top hat. You can't ask for a certain court though. You will get what they give you and like it. Then you have a window of about 23 mins between the receipt of the letter and your chance to pay. Miss this and you miss the tournament or as I did be forced to write a grovelling letter to the LTA telling them I missed the deadline because I was bed ridden on account of a nasty viper bite.
Of course you can just get take your chances on the limited release day tickets by getting there three days early and camping on Wimbledon Common like some fucking climate change protestor but who really is desperate enough to do that?
Coincidentally Wimbledon is held in the borough of Wimbledon (what are the chances of that?), the leafiest of London suburbs where tramps are routinely hosed into gutters and the poor are routinely ground down to make attractive roof tiles for the extremely sought after properties in the area.
It's just a 20min walk up the hill from Wimbledon Underground (10mins by gilded carriage) to the well appointed grounds. Fans of airport customs will be in for a treat when they enter the gates as your bags will be checked in order to check for machetes and RPG missiles. If you are particularly swarthy you will get a good old fashioned pat down. I love a pat down.
Once through formalities newcomers may be forgiven for thinking they have entered Nirvana. Everything is decked out in the traditional dark green and purple livery, the fountains spew Bollinger and the umpires chairs are made of purest gold. Seriously the place is immaculate. If you look carefully you will see an army of oompa loompas picking up Pimms cups between points.
If you have a grounds ticket you can jump on any court minus Court Two, One and Centre. On the outside courts you are literally within a few feet of the players, perfect for the stalkers amongst you. The young ball boys will provide no match for a determined fan who wants to get that little bit closer to their obsession.
Then of course there is Henman Hill or Murray Mound (if you are a shameful turncoat) where you can drink overpriced Pimms (£9 I don't fucking think so) and eat strawberries and cream whilst watching your heroes on the big screen. It’s almost like watching it in your front room!
The first day of play normally takes place during the height of British summer so you can absolutely guarantee it is going to fucking rain. Luckily in a remarkable break from fusty tradition the All England Club opted to put a retractable roof on Centre Court to the tune of £80 million ensuring play even in the wettest of conditions. Of course poor people don't get to go on Centre Court and have to sit it in the rain and go slightly demented listening to tits like Cliff Richard singing We're All Going On A Summer Holiday.
I say demenented as Wimbledon does strange things to people. This year I was on Court 2 and the crowd felt compelled to clap every anodyne stadium announcement like God was speaking to them directly. They even clapped ground staff running on with the covers when it started raining. Then they clapped them off again. If the umpire had decided to sacrifice one of the ball boys in the name of Tlaloc I would not have been surprised if he got a warm round of applause.
Wimbledon is so middle class it isn't even funny. You are just as likely to see a singlet or a tattoo as you are a black person. Oohh that was a bit controversial wasn't it? Controversial but sadly true. Whilst unfortunate it does mean that the atmosphere is somewhat unique. Firstly, everyone is massively happy just to be there. "Its a special club and I'm in" is what we're all thinking. Add the royal patronage, the reverential BBC coverage and the sprinkling of celebrities (Kylie, John Hurt, Ryan Giggs, Dustin Hoffman amongst others this year) and you begin to understand the lengths people go to to get in.
A place to see and be seen then. The Calistas and Hugos that you can hear burbling about the place would certainly be mortified if they couldn't attend. Mix that in with the pleasant housewives waving Union Jacks, the well brought up children on school trips, the regimented ball boys and I imagine this is what Britain was like in the 50's. All the rules and regulations have kept out most of the modern day riff-raff and have created a very British time capsule.
So next year if you are lucky enough to get in you can see what all the fuss is about for yourself. If it rains all day you will have a shit time but even on a cloudy day it can be glorious at Wimbledon.