As the on-court television broadcaster/interviewer said to Andy Murray yesterday, prior to introducing him to his post-victory audience, "We've been waiting 77 years for this". Indeed, not since 1936 has a Brit won the Wimbledon championship. Now the drought has ended for the U.K.
As Murray's opponent, Novak Djokovic graciously commented, "Andy deserved to win it." The Scottish native, so low-key in his off-court demeanor, treated us with at least one smile, but more than that, the honest and no-pretense vision of an athlete who has worked so very arduously for so many years to achieve "as good as it gets" at Wimbledon, and become a true champion. In my opinion, one of the many memorable after-match moments was when Andy suddenly, and last, remembered to embrace his mother, who introduced him to the sport of tennis. As overwhelmed by the victory as he was, the oversight only added to the magic of those moments for the U.K. and will remain as long as people play tennis.
As stated in my summary, I'm an unabashed Anglophile, and have been ever since I can remember. Who knows why any of us gravitate toward one preference or another? For me, there's always been a fascination for "The Mother Country" and its people. I've been blessed many times over to not only have very close British friends, but to have visited and worked there occasionally during my eclectic career, and as many who read these blogs may remember, even had a very special one-on-one moment with the former Queen "Mum".
Watching Andy Murray's win yesterday brought a flood of afterglow thoughts, remembering, among other things, my first one-on-one encounter with a Brit. His name was Roy Marsden, and was my second "pen pal" during my early high school years in the early 1950s. I had written to several British schools asking if anyone in my age bracket would like to begin a correspondence and share parts of the culture not easily available to us here in the U.S., in those days. (Had the Internet existed, this would all probably have been a moot point, instant global communication being what it currently is. Very sad, in my opinion, at least regarding the anticipation of something arriving from across the pond via snail mail.)
The only response I received was from the Headmaster of The Liverpool Institute, situated in Birkenhead, across the Mersey River from Liverpool, stating his son, Roy, would be happy to begin a pen pal relationship. I was ecstatic, and that joy was well-founded. For at least thrtee years, Roy and I exchanged popular magazines of the day (his, primarily Picture Post and mine, Life and Time) as well as "fun items" from our culture. I sent Roy a baseball and he sent me a Rugby football, which I still have, and treasure. Wow, are those Rugby foootballs THICK! :) I lost track of Roy in my late teens, but read in later years he had become a "Flying Officer" with the RAF and had settled with his wife and children in Southampton. While in London on business in the late 1990s, I was walking on Picadilly Road and noticed a building that housed RAF-related offices. I went in to look up Roy's name and found he was still living, but there was no other contact information available. He was one year older than I, thus, this year, if he's still living, which I hope is the case, he'd be 76. (Number 76 for me will be less than a month from now, i.e., August 5th.)
I bought my first English racing bike for five dollars from a British friend I'd met in New York's Central Park. During any free time in my mid-teens, I spent a lot of summer vacation hours hanging around with people in the park who became pals for at least three summers. One of them was named Ted (can't remember his last name). Ted was from the U.K.'s famed Isle of Wight, off England's south coast, and a great sailing mecca. Ted asked me if I wanted to have his racing bike. I said "Yes" and he sold it to me for the aforementioned five dollars. I remember it had a Sturmey-Archer gearshift. Cool! :) Whenever World War Two entered any conversations, and we "Yanks" gave credit to ourselves for liberating Europe and keeping the Nazis from overtaking England, Ted would always snap back with, "Yeah, but WE kept the Nazis off YOUR backs. We have the bullet-and-bomb-scarred bulldings to prove it!". In later years, I saw many of those buildings and sites and always remembered Ted's valid pronouncement.
I never expected when pen-paling with Roy, or speaking with Ted, I'd ever get to their homelands, but get there I did, to say the least. Times in Liverpool, London, Southampton, many towns and cities in Scotland and essentially all over the U.K. throughout the years simply proved to amplify and cement even more of my admiration and love for the U.K., its people, history and our country's continued strong ties with same. Hopefully, that umbilical cord will always remain.
Thanks, as always, for enduring my geezer thoughts and memories in these blogs. I hope you had a great 4th! (Sidebar, since the subject was England: Some longtime friends in Walton-On-Thames (a south-of-London suburb and Julie Andrews's birthplace) told me several years ago, they and their neighbors have a July 4th party every year, even though WE won our independence. Oh, those great Brits. Again, congrats to Andy Murray. 'til next time...