Although some may not recognise it as such, I played what I insist on calling tennis yesterday, largely for the exercise, since these days the glory is more of a distant memory than a realistic aspiration.
It wasn’t always thus. I’ll have you know that my name features prominently on the back of the Invitation Mixed Doubles shield at a Very Small Tennis Club in suburban England, proving that, in my day, I was quite adept at inviting the right mixed doubles partner. But I digress.
I played yesterday on an indoor court somewhere in deepest London, and everything was going swimmingly – in that I was floundering – until half way through the set, when I smacked a particularly fearsome forehand, limbs flailing like a gibbon in a disco, and something in my lower back went ‘twang’. Being a man of more fortitude than brain, and not wishing to lose by default, I carried on until I had lost by my preferred method of not being good enough to win.
Then I started to cool down, and my back muscles – clearly irritated at having their complaints ignored for twenty minutes – took their opportunity to tighten like a drunken drum. And today … You know Andy Serkis? The guy who plays Caesar in the recent Planet of the Apes films, and who is so adept at moving like a chimpanzee that they are talking about giving him an Oscar? Well I reckon I’d give him a run for his money, except I can’t simply straighten up when someone yells ‘Cut!’, and I certainly can’t run. I am shuffling about, swaying from side to side, with bent knees, bowed back, and arms swinging, so that the bones take the weight instead of the cramping muscles.
A friend of mine – oh yes I have – suggested that both my predicament and response are throwbacks to when the changing habitat forced our ancestors down from the trees in which they used happily to clamber and resulted in us walking on two feet, something for which we are very poorly designed. I think that’s putting it a bit strong, because it seems to me that most people get about on two feet without any trouble. And Roger Federer has played a lot more tennis than I do, and he doesn’t seem to have been visited by any ailments which cause him to cross a room with his knuckles dragging on the floor. On the other hand I’ve watched Planet of the Apes, and plenty of David Attenborough documentaries, and I’ve never seen chimpanzees playing tennis. There might be a discarded scene on the cutting room floor, but I seriously doubt it. Perhaps they know what’s good for them. Though I suspect that if a chimpanzee ever did play tennis, he’d probably just stand in the middle of the court, repeatedly thrashing his racket on the ground and screaming. Hmm. Come to think of it; that’s pretty much like me.