I can now officially say I got sun-burnt in London. It sounds like a bad joke, but my arms and chest are lobster red after a day spent in a warm England sun.
It was supposed to be 23°C today – a great way to start Wimbledon. Ruan and I donned shorts, sunglasses and sandals. I rose early to pack our snack pack for the day and we headed off to the supposed “queue” to purchase tickets.
We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
“Push further down to car park 10, about half a mile, that’s where the queue starts,” a helpful steward advised. “Be prepared to wait a long time.”
As we walked down the road with Wimbledon resounding on our left and the queue on the right, we saw how far the line snaked. Upon reaching car park 10 we were shown to a field, where there were THOUSANDS of people seated, standing, picnicking, purchasing ice cream – all eager to get in. It was an absolute swarm.
“Here you are: number 10 017 and 10 018. Please sit down on the white line,” another steward advised.
Ruan and I just looked at each other in absolute shock. “We best make some friends,” he said, “we will be here for long enough.”
5:30 pm is the estimated time that we would get into the courts. The clock now stood at 9:46 am. We were not prepared for this.
Upon entry to the car park, we were actually handed booklets labelled “A Guide to Queueing”. It outlined rules and regulations and advice. I think it should have included survival techniques like ‘Zombieland’s‘ guide to surviving a zombie apocalypse. No doubt a sweltering day spent in a queue would be just as straining.
Tips for #theQueue:
Also – do not buy the soft serve ice cream. It’s actually a tub of slightly warm cream.
Luckily, #thequeue is well organised and the stewards are helpful and patient, despite the heat. The bathrooms were clean, and the queue was lined with cool fresh water drinking spots. I was very impressed.
I admit, at 11 ‘o clock I was dead set on leaving at 12:30. The 5:30 pm slot was not worth the wait. All I wanted to do was sit in a park and read my new book. But something came over me and I decided to stick it out. Totally worth it in the end. Our neighbours may have played a role in convincing me to stay, telling us about the delicious strawberries and cream, the bubbling champagne and the refreshing Pimm’s once we reached the ‘other side’.
Once we progressed from the field into the half mile standing line, it felt like we were almost there. Small TV’s were provided along the way to update us on the tennis. A few restaurants lined the way, beckoning us with its delicious smells and cool looking drinks set on the counter. We almost felt like we deserved a round of applause for making it this far when we had seen many of our comrades fall and leave #thequeue.
A little highlight of the queue was the mini tennis match we played with two of our neighbours. It was a doubles match: Scotland vs. South Africa. Sadly, we did not meet our match but good serves were dealt and great rallies were played. I am proud to say that our match was the only match that received a standing ovation from the crowd. Okay, they were standing because they were in the queue. But we can now say we played tennis at Wimbledon.
After we pass the security check and had to strategically manoeuvre ourselves to get the necessary amount needed to buy resale tickets. But once we were in, we were in. It was mesmerising. All around us crowds were cheering, people were joyful and drinks were spilling. People were dressed in a range of attires – from completely informal to suit and tie.
We checked the scoreboard and decided to head to Court 12 where our man Kevin Anderson was playing Lucas Pouille. From our podium, we could see the surrounding matches and kept a keen eye on the scores and players next door.
It was actually quite a surreal experience. I was busy chatting with my sister in South Africa over WhatsApp while she was watching the same Anderson match. It is so different to watch it in person. We sat quite close to the action too, enough to cringe when a 130mp/h ace was served. It was great to be part of the action, to feel how the whole crowd held their breath or to applaud with the crowd.
We were joined by several South African’s in that match and joined together in solidarity. My brother had pointed them out by saying that it was the only accent that didn’t sound weird. It did sound out of place here, and quite gruff. But it was comforting to hear the familiar sounds of Afrikaans wash over our ears.
As the shadows on the courts grew longer the games were coming to an end. We gave Anderson a standing ovation for his win against his French opponent and spent the rest of the evening wandering between the ground courts and watching other matches end. We even ventured to try a Pimm’s – which was definitely as refreshing as promised. In the end, the experience was well worth the wait.