Friday, 7 April 2017

Hey Teacher, Leave Those Hands Alone

Our dear friend of humanity, Donald Trump, and myself have two things in common.  We both sport ill-advised hair for our age and we are both the less-than-proud owners of fucked hands.  One hopes that is where the similarities end - we both have twitter accounts but I don't conduct important state business via mine.

I suffer from an aggressive case of Dupuytren's Contracture in my hands which causes a number of long term problems.  It is also known colloquially as Vikings Disease.  I prefer to ally myself with the latter as it conjures up images of Nordics in cool helmets gripping axes and swinging their way to Valhalla.  The official medical designation sounds more like an 18th Century French Calligrapher's wet dream.  Unfortunately as the lumps appear and the fingers curl up I'm starting to experience discomfort when playing tennis which may soon start forcing compromises (I'm already experimenting with a smaller grip). 

This prompted a visit to the consultant earlier this week with the recommendation being to "use moisturiser".  I guess if you are going to end up with a hand like a claw it may as well be a soft, benign one that doesn't cause injury to children.  The crux of the matter is it's best to put up with the pain and delay the surgery route for as long as possible - advice that the surgery on my left hand (four so far) attests to.  Unfortunately I also have a lump in my foot too now - not being able to play tennis is one thing, not being able to queue up at Gregg's for a bacon roll another entirely.

It took nearly 6 months to arrive at this appointment (I knew a shortcut) and even then there was a huge fuss when it turned out I'd been booked into a hip and knee clinic (not yet, but maybe soon).  Quite a long time really but that's a pitfall of free healthcare.  I'm not sure what the answer is apart from to tolerate such delays as a fact of British life - certainly I wouldn't argue that the solution lies in devoting an ever increasing % of GDP to the problem.  Anyway, I dare not take on the NHS brigade, preferring to leave political observations to the US military.  Tomahawk cruise missiles and MQ-9 Reapers being a far safer target than breast-feeding nurses with razor-sharp placards and testicle-seeking stilettos.

While I have recently been amusing myself at the dismal approval ratings of Trump it was dismaying to read of yesterday's Syrian missile attack.  Are we living the scripts of Wag The Dog and The House of Cards in real life?  An interesting but disturbing method of diverting attention from the mess at home - it worked for Maggie I suppose.  The Western world can contribute to and tolerate mass starvation and death - but you cross the line when the delivery method of death is disagreeable.  Not surprising in a place where it's accepted toddlers will kill parents with guns - just as long as they aren't wearing a hijab.

This is a worrying development.  I dread to think what will happen when approval ratings reach the low 10s.  California may find itself under the dangerous shadow of Enola Gay 2 - the latter part of the name dropping an ironic bombshell given that state's reputation.  My hands may be fucked and under the direction of a flawed mind that needs improving - but at least they aren't pawing at a bright red button whose brightness catches a small child's eye in the White House.

Monday, 3 April 2017

"Much Better Than These"

One would expect senior competitors to have accumulated a wealth of experience in both tennis and life.  Particularly the 'finer wines' on the circuit who have previously reached the dizzying heights of a top 5 world ranking.  This thinking would in fact be na├»ve because tennis players as a group are the poster boys for emotional retardation in adults.  Mid-way through the second set as I was about to serve a passing spectator declared out of the blue in a loud voice "my Dutch friend just won the 45s at the World Championships, much better than these players".  Despite his spellbinding powers of deductive reasoning and enviable observational skills who thinks that is an appropriate remark at that moment?  It's like having sex with someone and then declaring in an authoritative manner between thrusts:  "that feels good, but the girl I shagged last week had a much tighter vagina".  It may be factually correct but is best left unsaid.

After audibly articulating an accurate riposte to said person (inevitably rhyming with runt) I saw the funny side.  Inevitably on the very next point I double-faulted, an event significantly less amusing and no doubt prompting some nodding in self-justification on his part.  After all, if I could serve I'd be in South Africa at the World Championships getting spanked by his mate rather than competing for a small piece of plastic in a 6 player draw at a shuttered seaside resort.

I lost the match 6-4, 6-2 and I will spare you the tennis player's jukebox of "closer than the score suggests" and "he knew he'd been in a match" greatest hits.  The bottom line is that my new serve didn't hold up and my concentration was all over the place.  I'm hitting the ball well but playing without the essential glue of concentration.  My mind is like a hyperactive fly with a bewildering array of juicy shits to choose from. 

I handled the loss like a true Englishman.  A brief post-match analysis followed by obliteration in the bar - my first taste of alcohol in 3 months.  There's nothing like waking up in a hot hotel room with a stinking hangover and finding that your other half wants you dead, your contact lenses are welded to your eyeballs and the large grazes on your knees and elbows have stuck to the sheets.   The latter condition appearing to cheer up the other half until I pointed out that the maid will almost certainly draw the wrong conclusion that the blood was from the female client in the room.  Especially given that I strategically placed a tampon on the pillow before being dragged out on a miserable "recovery walk" in the afternoon.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Senior Open Llafranc-Costa Brava

I'm currently on the North-East coast of Spain in an off-season holiday resort.  It hadn't occurred to me that in the 21st Century there were still whole towns that could afford to spend most of the year in repose.  I thought this concept had disappeared along with half-day closing, deliveries from the egg man, the green cross code and a respectable, spectacled Rolf Harris recording top 40 hits (rather than fondling under 14s).

But if something's worth doing, it's worth doing well - shuttered restaurants, large scale building works along the front and at any moment you feel like you could come face to face with an Ellesse tracksuit enthusiastically priced at £150.  This is how it used to be in the old days - freezing families hiding being wind-breaks on the beach, being wallet-raped by monopolistic hotel restaurant owners and spending a month's wages on a Lacoste tennis shirt.  All being an acceptable price to pay in exchange for that rarest of holiday treats - free parking and close by too!  The other half has exceptional timing as she is accompanying me - whenever we go on holiday and neither of us are drinking (3 months for me, 35 days for her) it inevitably ends up as a wall-staring and clock-watching contest.

I play in a round robin draw and played my first match fresh off the plane yesterday.  As I get older my preparation needs increase - if I ever reach the over 75 category I'll only be able to play one match a month, the rest of the time will be spent warming-up and squeezing my piles.  So, it was less than ideal that I was forcing down lunch walking to the courts.  After a good start my mind started wandering and my legs stopped working - and I found myself at 6-2, 2-5 and serving.  As always when given no choice my concentration improved and I won 6-2 7-5.  Rather than obsessing over rackets, string tensions and double-bend forehands I would be better off buying a plastic gun and tying it to my forehead.

If I win tomorrow I have the final on Sunday (not grand slam events these you know).  If I lose I will experience the full holiday from hell complete with Jilly Cooper novels, construction dust croissants and envious fantasies of the hotel bar.  Great motivation to win.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

New ITF Seniors Dress Regulations

The World Championships are currently taking place in South Africa but it appears that the ITF have been busily frying bigger fish.  A new pronouncement has been issued from ITF towers which I pass on in full below.  Before I do so I would like to make the point that I am generally against anything which restricts people's freedom of choice.  However I feel in this case that the proposed changes outlined below will improve the tournament experience for all.

Statement From Francoise De La Mode, ITF Publicity Department (20/3/2017).

"Until 5 years ago the ITF seniors operated identical dress regulations (section 42, a - f) to both the Pro and Junior circuits.  In 2012 it was felt that the clothing regulations for Seniors should be relaxed given the amateur nature of the competition.  These changes included removing the restriction on advertising space, logo size and eliminating the requirement of matching kit for doubles teams.  Although these changes were well received initially there have been many documented instances of Seniors flouting the spirit of the regulations.  The committee found that this flouting of regulations has resulted in smaller Women's draws at tournaments and, in many instances, the mass withdrawal of female entrants once events are under way.  Of particular note is the number of complaints from organisers, players and their families about middle-aged male players playing in sleeveless tops.  These players appear under the delusion that saggy-skinned biceps and sweaty, matted underarm hairs are attractive in nature and that said garments also achieve the result of 'flattening of the stomach'.  Similarly it is felt by the committee that despite protestations to the contrary wearing capri pants isn't 'cool' for middle aged men, isn't a reflection of macho vigour and doesn't "get the birds".  As it's not beyond the wit of a young Rafael Nadal to realise his sartorial foolishness it's disappointing to witness a procession of obese, elderly no-hopers also fail to come to the same, inevitable conclusion. 

As appealing to players' common sense, decency and accurate self-image has clearly failed to produce the desired results the following penalties will apply henceforth:

1)  Wearing a sleeveless shirt whilst playing:  7 day ban.
2)  Wearing capri pants whilst playing:  30 day ban.
3)  Wearing capri pants with a sleeveless shirt:  Year ban.
4)  Doubles teams wearing matching cargo pants and sleeveless shirts:  Death by stoning.

Our hand has also been forced into introducing a ban on players in changing rooms using club-provided hairdryers to dry their cock and balls (at the eye level of seated players) whilst conducting loud conversations about stock markets.  Whistling and / or singing George Michael songs in the showers will also be prohibited as will eating noisily and talking with your mouth full at player parties.

We aren't savages".  End.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Seniors Open Rafa Nadal Sports Centre

Generally, my curiosity has been waning at the same rate the hairs have started growing out of my nose and ears.  Therefore I offer no more information on the Rafa Nadal Academy than I did in my last post.  I played next door, I didn't look round and on the three occasions I was present I only saw a handful of players (although the courts were a distance away) and they were having a water fight.  Either way about 60,000 euros a year is a hell of a lot to pay for anything apart from a house, a car or a weekend spent as Kim Kardashian's knickers.

I won the tournament, although with Friday's withdrawal it only meant playing two matches.  But we'll call it 3 matches, after all a wise Oriental man once said "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting".  While the qualifying match was a straightforward 0 & 0 win, the final was a bit more tricky.  I won 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 in a fairly drawn-out affair (2hr 45m) on slow bouncing courts in hot conditions.  I competed well and enjoyed it which certainly beats losing in abject misery.  I'm still waiting for the other half to congratulate me - so far all that has been managed is "I hope you didn't wear that t-shirt with those shorts with your complexion". 

Competition is tricky at the moment as I'm adjusting my game style, changed my forehand two weeks ago and completely changed my serve last week.  As always, hope reigns supreme that it will be worth it in the end.  At my age it's just a case of whether it's ready next month, next year or never at all.  But without the dream what's the point anyway?

Incidentally, it was brought to my attention after my previous blog post that it was possible my no-show opponent might have had an accident that prevented due process.  You don't have to be a soothsayer to know that was unlikely - and this was confirmed by Saturday's opponent who confirmed the guy's plan was to fly home after his first match.  He must have been too worried about the Ryanair check-in fees to say anything as he strolled past the tournament desk.  Twat.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Terminal Timewasters

There would be a special place in hell, if it were to exist, for people that waste other people's time.  It being the one personal commodity which is limited and can never be retrieved - unless you are Dr. Who.  Even worse, one lives in ignorance as to how much remains.  Over half of mine is probably expended already.  So what starts as a blog post, then develops into a rant would in an ideal world result in a general improvement in consideration - and everyone basking in the glow of empathy.  Instead it is just more vicious soundbites spewed forth through your ears into the internet black hole.

The tournament I am currently playing has a round robin format.  Today's opponent played yesterday, lost and was scheduled to play against me today.  With the morning rearranged I headed over with a friend driving.  I waited an hour while the organisers plucked their chest hairs hoping he would materialise like Monkey's cloud, which of course he didn't.  45 minutes each way, an hour waiting multiplied by two people.  Clearly it's too much to ask the risible piece of fucking shit to text or call the organisers to say he wasn't turning up.  Of course there are no possible repercussions for the chap who probably selfishly feasted on an ice cream while I was sat there with my pink carnation and a pitifully hopeful expression on my face upon the arrival of any stranger.  Now I know how the dog feels when it's only the postman at the door.

I don't have the words to describe how boiled my piss gets with social crimes such as these.  The worst of it being that the perpetrators are also the types who remain blissfully unaware of the disruption in their wake.  So, when in slow motion, they are falling to the pavement with my boot in their mouth they then have the gall to marvel at the injustice of it all.  If you are one of these terminally selfish miscreants bear in mind that next time you are 15 minutes late for a league match you have kept 7 other people waiting.  And that's why they fucking hate you.

The tournament is being held at the clay courts at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor, Mallorca. Word has it the academy doesn't actually own any of the clay courts which, although sort of on-site, are owned by the council.  Word also has it the academy's position is that hard courts are the best training surface for player development now and not clay.  One has cause to speculate if the two things are somehow intertwined....

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Quod Potest Fieri Cito

Forgive me, but you're an easy sector to move to the bottom of the pile when real life intervenes, a situation I intend to avoid wherever possible.  For some bloggers the hiatus would offer time to recharge batteries, find inspiration and maturely reflect on what to write.  For me, I'll rush through this post stopping only to check my i's before e's which won't matter as I have forgotten everything anyway despite being alcohol free since New Year's eve (where I drank 2017's entire quota in one sitting).  Be forgiving and give me another chance, I'll stay hard next time I promise.

I think at some point last month I played a final in Wales, or Scotland.  Anyway, one of Britain's poorer satellite regions where people still dress in hessian sacks.  It was a pleasant surprise to find that we had a flesh and blood umpire on a real chair for the final.  In the past I have always preferred umpires on the rare occasions they are provided, as it allows you to concentrate on fewer things.  Unfortunately my experience on this occasion was that without line judges they were as useful as tinder in a nunnery.  There were some real howlers called at crucial times in this match - including a shot at match point down that I hit a foot out on the umpire's sideline that was called in.  Under normal circumstances I would have intervened but a couple of  earlier horse manure calls were still fresh and steaming and there appeared to be some balancing of the universe going on.  The consensus from the other courts was the same - with one match even having both players arguing with the umpire over a call.  I'm not sure how Mr. Magoo passed his obtained his LTA credentials - maybe he thought he was pulling a next-in-line ticket at the opticians.

Full marks though to the event for going to the trouble of organising officials - it's something they aren't required to do (many higher grade events don't) and is one of many instances of 'beyond the call of duty' for which I would recommend this event. 

The final itself was very enjoyable apart from the fact it took 3h 16mins to lose 6-7, 6-4, 3-6.  In hindsight I probably shot myself in the foot with the tactics, but that's the price of trying to practise things with one eye on the future.  I was pleased by the fact I stuck with what I wanted to improve.  Fitness wise it provided a kick in the arse as, again, my footwork got sloppy through tiredness in the third set.

And a kick in the arse I'll get as I'm off to the academy in Mallorca for 3 weeks of sadomasochistic tennis pleasure with a couple of tournaments mixed in.