Go to Wimbledon – number 38

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The excitement begins!

Every year I’m glued to the television when Wimbledon is on and every year I lament the fact that I haven’t got tickets. So after Wimbledon 2015, I made sure that I would remember. I made a note in my calendar when the ballot opened so that I couldn’t miss the deadline. In September the reminder popped up and I duly sent off for the form and returned the completed form in double quick time.

I’ll be honest, I then forgot about it until one bleak day in February when a non descript white envelope arrived in the post. I rarely get post these days that isn’t trying to give me money (in the form of a loan or new credit card that is) or asking for money so didn’t really think anything of it. When I opened it though – the excitement began. I first noticed the Wimbledon logo and then the words ‘ballot successful’. And it just got better – Centre Court, pair of tickets….Friday 8th July 2016. At that point I started bouncing around the room – Friday 8th July is men’s semi final day, and I had Centre Court tickets! I’d get to see Djokovic and maybe Murray and Federer too! I had a few days in which to pay or the tickets would go back into the ballot. I didn’t need to think, I paid straight away.

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Gangway 114, on the right court side

The tickets themselves didn’t arrive until May and at that point I had no idea where we were sitting. I opened the envelope with the tickets and saw gangway 114. I had expected to be high up so this was no surprise. I googled the seating plan for Centre Court and imagine my surprise when I discovered gangway 114 was in fact court side and the tickets were for row C. Could this really be right – could I really be only three rows back on the best court in the world for the semi-finals of the best tennis tournament in the world? It seemed so and I was bouncing around the room with excitement again.

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Gordon Reid on his way to Wimbledon victory

Following much excitement in the lead up and, of course, avid watching of the tournament so far, the day finally dawned. My expectation to see Djokovic had been dashed but I was not perturbed. Still not quite believing I had such good tickets, I did half expect to get turned away at the gate. But that didn’t happen and here I was at Wimbledon drinking in the atmosphere and looking at all the familiar places. The first tennis we saw was the semi-finals of the men’s wheelchair singles. This is the first year that wheelchair singles has been played at Wimbledon, so much as it was great to see, it does feel somewhat sad that it has never been played here before. We watched about a set and the tennis was amazing. It’s very different as the players are much closer to the ground so the angles are completely different. This made it just as exciting as any other match and we had the privilege of seeing Gordon Reid who not only went on to win Wimbledon but also the Gold Medal at the Rio Olympics.  We left only because it was time to head to Centre Court, via the shop in which we spent a small fortune!

We had ordered a Wimbledon picnic which we picked up at the food court. A brass band was playing and as we rounded the corner to pick up our food they burst into a rendition of the theme tune used for the BBC coverage – perfect timing and perfect lead in to our walk out onto Centre Court.

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Sue Barker and chums!

Still not quite believing our tickets could possibly be so close to court side, we headed into Centre Court looking for gangway 114. There was no mistake, we found our seats which were perfect. Three rows back from court side, in line with the service line at the Royal Box end. I felt quite overwhelmed as I stood there gazing around me. And there on the other side of the court was Sue Barker chatting to John McEnroe, a chap whose back was to me and for a moment looked just like Donald Trump, but it was only Boris Becker. There was a third man and I couldn’t work out who he was from behind. It could be Tim Henman as this was just before a British player was aiming for a Wimbledon final spot but it just didn’t quite look like Tim. When they moved, and the mystery man turned round it was clear that it was Lleyton Hewitt.

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Roger Federer – what a Champion!

The first semi-final was between Roger Federer and Milos Raonic. The players came out onto the court and the atmosphere was amazing. Roger Federer came to the Royal Box end of the court to warm up – we were so close I could almost tickle his knees! I then turned around and the players’ box was just behind us and standing there was Mirka, Mrs Federer.

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Mirka standing just behind our seats!

The match was amazing – five sets of incredible tennis from both players. I was firmly on Roger’s side and cheered and shouted for him with the rest. Sadly it was not to be and Raonic took the match on the final set. He was a worthy winner and it was an incredibly exciting match. But the day was not over, there was another match to come and our very own Andy Murray. However, after 5 gruelling sets of tennis a comfort break was needed and the best time to go as we didn’t miss any of the tennis.

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Andy Murray in action

Andy Murray was in charge of his match from the first ball. It was a master class in tennis and Tomas Berdych really was never in it. So as fantastic as it was and great to see our home grown talent up close, the match was not as exciting as the first one.

What a day – we headed home giddy with the excitement vowing to apply for tickets for Wimbledon 2017, though I can’t believe we could ever be as lucky two years in a row, but you never know…

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What does 2017 hold for us?

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Go to see Tom Jones – number 45

This was a last minute addition before actually going to see Tom. In a lot of ways it was quite unplanned but when the opportunity arose, soon after missing Duran Duran by 24 hours, I seized it with both hands!

An old work colleague, who I hadn’t seen for 5 years, posted on Facebook that she had a spare ticket to see Tom Jones live at Westonbirt Arboretum, where she now works, on the very same weekend we were visiting the Cotswolds. It was the perfect opportunity to meet up with someone I hadn’t seen for a long while and go to a fun outdoor concert. So I messaged her to ask…have you still got the ticket? The answer was yes and I proceeded to get myself ready to see Tom. No, that didn’t mean raiding my knicker drawer!

The day arrived and I drove what I thought would be the short distance from where we had been staying to my friend’s near Tetbury. It turns out the Cotswolds is bigger than I’d realised! It didn’t matter, I was going to see Tom! I arrived late afternoon to preparations for the picnic, decanting drink into plastic bottles (no glass allowed) and lots of food. I had taken my own contribution though it was starting to feel somewhat inadequate. As I had been taken in as guest and promised a bed for the night I offered to drive the short distance to the Arboretum.

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Westonbirt Arboretum but the sun was missing when we were there!

Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side. The rain started at about 5pm, by the time we arrived to set up our chairs and picnic there was a steady fall. Thankfully, one of the party had brought along rain proof ponchos and I gladly accepted the offer of one. I now had my coat and the poncho wrapped around my legs. This worked reasonably well, though occasionally a trickle of water made its way from on top of the poncho onto my seat and dampened my jeans. Oh I did hope Tom would be worth it…

The support act came on and she was great but quite folksy. On a wet Sunday evening we really needed something lively to get us going. As a result we stayed in our seats, saying how lovely this music would be if the sun was shining. What felt like an age later, it was finally time for Tom. Still raining, though I have to admit it was easing, our dedication was rewarded. Tom strolled onto the stage and started to sing. I had never seen Tom live before and, of course, he’s not as young as he used to be, so I was slightly wary. I need not have worried, if anything Tom’s voice has got better with age. Our seats were forgotten as we stood and danced (well, sort of moved in a sort of rhythmical way) and sang along with Tom. He was at times saucy, sexy and provocative (and yes the knickers did fly, but not mine!) and at others gospel like.

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Not a great photo, that is Tom honest! Check out those rain hoods…

Tom talked about his wife, so sad that she had passed away so recently, yet here he was performing, very much I understand as she wished. It was a lovely tribute and a great reaction from the crowd. There was a tangible feeling of love and support, and from the way Tom talked I’m sure he felt it too.

The encore was amazing. Tom and the band left the stage and we, the crowd, did what was expected of us to get them back. The band returned first and started to play the James Bond theme. Then Tom sauntered back on, not many people can get away with sauntering onto the stage to the James Bond theme, but if anyone can, then Tom Jones can! It was a great moment and, having already spent over an hour singing, he gave us the most amazing rendition of Thunderball.

Finally we had to go, trudge over the mud back to the car. Thankfully, we were parked where it was easy to exit so didn’t get caught up in long queues to get out. Returning to my temporary new home for the night, a glass of wine and dry underwear were the order of the day!

Who knows how many more live shows Tom Jones will do, I am amongst the privileged who can say I’ve seen him live.

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And I got to go!

Visit the Eden Project – number 33

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Those iconic biodomes

When we arranged out Jurassic walk I figured we were not far from the Eden Project and it would be a good opportunity to head down there. Well, I searched on Google maps and our final B&B was 111 miles from the Eden Project! Not exactly close but certainly closer than from where we live and I’d got the idea into my head by then…

So following our three days of walking we headed off to Cornwall for our next adventure. We visited the beautiful Cornish seaside town of Fowey (pronounced Foy to rhyme with Joy as it tells you in the car park). A great place to potter and wind through its narrow streets with quirky shops and places to eat. We had a very fine afternoon tea for our lunch. The climb back to the car park was quite steep which tested our already tired legs.

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Spike the tea cosy!

Our B&B for the next couple of nights was interesting. We had the ‘Blue room’ where true to its name everything was blue, down to the blue plastic roses on our pillows. The owner was a little eccentric but all the more delightful for it, especially when she presented us with a tea cosy called Spike for our morning cuppa. Suitably refreshed, we took the road to the Eden Project.

There is always a worry when you finally get to go to somewhere you’ve wanted to go for a long time that the reality doesn’t quite live up to your dreams. I was delighted to find that this was not the case with the Eden Project, it was everything I hoped it would be and more. In fact, I was a little emotional when we got there and saw those iconic biodomes on a such a beautifully sunny day. Inside was just as amazing, seeing these tropical plants so close, with leaves so enormous you could use them as blankets. But it was the outside which, to my surprise, really enchanted me. I had not expected the sculptures and novelties around.

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WEEE man

I particularly liked the WEEE man whose presence served to remind us all of the wasteful aspect of our lives. It seemed everywhere we turned a sculpture was hiding, all individual, made out of a variety of materials, including one made from old video tape.

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A random beautiful sculpture

Ice cream was a must to complete the day but the queues were enormous. So we settled for a slightly lesser ice cream purchased from the shop to avoid standing around for ages.

The down side….well there was one. We visited the Eden Project on Thursday, the very next day, Duran Duran were playing there live for the BBC Music Day. We were missing a fab group in an even more fab location by 24 little hours! Oh well, it had still been a day worth waiting for.

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We missed them by 24 hours!