Much as I love my job promoting all corners of the world, and take the chance to travel abroad whenever the opportunity arises, I am passionate about being British and would be hard-pushed to live anywhere else.
Okay, so the weather can be challenging, but there’s nothing more character-forming than an outdoor picnic in conditions that fluctuate from skin-scorching sun one moment to a torrential deluge the next. Throw in some heart-stopping sport and charming, blazered stewards that could have been lifted straight from a Bertie Wooster novel and you have the unforgettable, quintessentially British experience that is the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, and its annual Wimbledon Championships.
I was lucky enough to get tickets for the Gentlemens’ Final Day (Sunday 8 July) this year. Alas, these weren’t for Centre Court but they did at least allow me (plus one eternally grateful, tennis-loving chum) access to the hallowed grounds on a day when the world was watching. Our tickets gave us seats in the gods on Court One but, whilst not wanting to offend those competing in the Boys’ Doubles Final, there was far more fun to be had amid the throng on Murray Mound (née Henman Hill), watching the big boys thrash it out. On what other occasion would you willingly part with almost £30 for the chance to sit outside in the rain and watch what’s effectively a big TV screen, whilst being jostled by strangers? But that’s exactly what we did… and it was electrifying.
Like many in the nation, I suspect, it took Andy Murray’s passionate performance in this year’s Wimbledon to start acquiring an affinity for our nation’s best hope in many decades. Now, having experienced vicariously his every triumph and tragedy during the Mens’ Final against Federer, I’m a fully signed-up member of the fan club. Witnessing history (almost) being made, despite onslaughts of rain heavy enough to knock you sideways – closely followed by sun so strong that we were scrambling around for lotion – will go down as one of life’s personal highlights so far. And the camaraderie amongst soggy fellow picnickers (‘swap you some strawberries for a Jubilee cup cake?’) was a reassuring reminder that there’s little to match us Brits under fire… and rain.
I’ve yet to feel fully behind the Olympics but, if a day at Wimbledon’s anything to go by, we can be sure that Team GB (that’s all of us) will hold its head high irrespective of the final medal tally.