It is funny how the sounds of the summer evoke feelings from times past.
Wimbledon being on the telly definitely does that for me. Growing up in the 1970s in Dublin might seem entirely disconnected to the London privilege of Wimbledon but it marked the beginning of summer and seemed to be on for an eternity.
My mother loved Bjorn Borg. I didn’t understand it when I was 7. I thought he looked cross eyed. I get it now though! She had all of the BBC coverage on in the background while she whizzed around the house getting the cleaning done and the dinner ready early so she could watch Borg playing Connors or of course McEnroe.
Meanwhile me and my brother would wander in and out seeing bits and bobs of it, going out the front pretending we were playing tennis against the front door with pink and blue plastic rackets and an old far too fluffy tennis ball whose rubber had been picked at too much.
When I hear the grunts and the groans and the sound of the tennis balls boinging off tennis rackets today it is like being whizzed back to those hot summer afternoons.
While my mother watched with complete absorbtion, particularly if it was one of those epic tie break games, we were allowed to raid the freezer for cool pops. The brother would always get the cola flavoured ones and I would be left with orange. I knew not to go mad at him because silence was the key to these moments of freedom from oversight. We were all in our little summery worlds.
When the game was over the mood would be dictated by who won. Borg’s winning would have the mother floating about putting out the summer day dinner. Lettuce (before ice berg lettuces were ever heard of), sliced tomato (before cherry tomatoes had ever been seen), sliced cucumber (thank God something remains constant), two pickled onions, half a slice of ham, a slice of bread and butter and a big dollop of salad cream (Mayonaise was something Americans ate). And it was gorgeous.
When McEnroe won the mood changed. My mother never swore but she used language that afternoon I had only ever heard my father use. And let’s just say the bread and butter was tore up and all was eaten in stony silence.
I haven’t watched Wimbledon in years. It seems all very glamourous now, with lots and lots of money attached. And it probably was then too. But with three channels on the telly back then, it was a tournament that could not be ignored and was the talk of every adult conversation you heard.
Now my summers begin and end with the GAA. The sound track is the James Last band – Da Da Da… Despite my father having played for the Dublin minors (something I only found out at his funeral), mine being a matriarchal family, the GAA hadn’t the place then it has now in my life.
And even still as I am going about my busy life, dictated by camogie, hurling and football fixtures with St John’s or the Dubs matches, I can be transported back to the South Circular Road on a sunny weekday afternoon, sucking orange cool pops, with a single boing of a tennis ball.