2019. Four years not coming to England
The last event I covered was actually Channel VAS – same sponsor/promoter, just a different name/location. When Karim Gawad was dominating the world… But thanks to our Master in Command Danny Lee, guess who is BAAAAAAACK!!
Since that moment, Covid – lost my mum and nearly my brother – and the whole chabbam about Brexit.
You would have loved the whole process to be recognised as living in the UK to get your forever-pass at the Customs: starting with “provide us with your UK passport or Irish driving licence”.
Well, if I had that, I wouldn’t need to fill out the forking form to get a Brexit pass, now would I? God love Customs.
Middle of the night departure from Nice Airport
A flight at 7am, meaning alarm clock at 3am as I’m a one hour drive from the airport. God bless my mate Martine who actually drove me there at 4.30 am, I kid you not…
Flight fine, 1h45 to reach Heathrow’s tarmac. It took us about the same time to get to the terminal, though – first, our spot was already used, then the automatic guidance system was down, and we needed a human to do it.
55 minutes it took us!
Welcome to the UK….
Then, of course, the lovely Customs moment, when they realise that despite having a Passport with an English address, I didn’t come for four years… Thank the Lord I did all the paperwork and was allowed to “come home” after a few minutes of standing at the desk.
OK, to be fair, I didn’t miss the weather. But I missed my London more than I would think. And I especially miss my friends Dave and Debbie Peters, who are kind enough to welcome me in their home since I do not have a place in London of my own now. If you know the Wimbledon Racquet Club in Pembroke Road, well, they are one of the reasons the Club was/is successful for about 20 years.
Yes, it was nice to go and have a little bite in a lovely little café at Wimbledon Chase. Calm, excellent food, and served with a charming smile on top. Loved it.
Now, this edition of Optasia was a big change for us. It was still Danny Lee organising it – as he was doing for Channel Vas, and our adorable sponsor Bassim Haidar backing it up – but a completely different set up: new name, new venue, and no tournament hotel.
A FLAT IN SOUTHFIELDS
Right. Usually, we arrive at the hotel the afternoon before the start of the event. But on this occasion, Danny asked if we could arrive on the day – Steve Cubbins coming from Whitley Bay and me from France – which actually made our lives just a bit more complicated than planned as the check-in was 3pm, and the event started at 1 pm.
Thank the Lord for my friend Dave Peters, who managed to liaise with a very busy Danny to get the code for the keys, then get the keys, drop my bag at the flat, bring me the keys back to the Optasia venue, along with photos and a written description of how to get to the flat – quite nice at 10.30 pm after a long day of work! GOD BLESS YOU DAVE.
All the players are in different accommodations all over Wimbledon. The PSA crew and the refs are in a Premier Inn, Linda Davie, a volunteer and famous character of the Tour is in another hotel. Completely different feel to a normal event.
We are pretty happy with the location of our flat. It’s right at the back of the Southfields Tube Station, with plenty of shops/cafés/restaurants all around, even a 247 corner shop. That means walking 20m to the venue. Which is entirely doable. Perfect location to be honest.
On a personal note, it was GREAT to come back to the Wimbledon Club, with Squash Director Stacey Ross – who used to work with SquashSite around 20 years ago – who started the ball rolling with the PSA I actually covered a few years back. Nice to see Caroline, Jane and all the people from that welcoming club. More on the club and Stacey tomorrow!
And so the event is “battre son plein”, full blast, and so far, we had a “few” upsets. The seeds are dropping like flies and the seats are pretty close to sold out from the quarters onwards. Wish you were here?
I am. 🙂