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Phil's Travels - Wimbledon-ish, London (08.20)


Phil's Travels - Wimbledon-ish, London (08.20)

For the first time in over 20 years, we are not going to sunny Cyprus for summer hols. As a result I will being working and staycationing around the UK and this is likely the first of a series of pursuant summer shorts (not real shorts you understand, as my bandy, white legs should never be seen in public until after a good browning under a Cypriot sun).

My first short relates the tale of my trips to the Wimbledon-ish part of London. One of our clients owned a hotel in the area and needed a strategic review. As part of my cunning plan for work and our first Augustine staycation weekend, I hired a car on Thursday morning for the next four days. I got chatting to the lovely lady who checked me in, who turned out to be not only the manageress of the branch, but also boss for the London region. She told me the impact of C19 was massive on her business. Of the six stores around London (including Heathrow T4), only two were open and that this flagship store was now staffed with only four people, compared to 22 pre-C19. She did not know when T4 would reopen, same for our 760-key baby we asset manage at T4, we are all waiting on Heathrow Airport to announce when the terminals will reopen.

My car was a genuine Sheikha mobile - a small, cute, GCC regulation white, SUV. I drove to Wimbledon via Putney in no time (some traffic, but not pre-C19 levels) all the while on a conference call. In Wimbledon I visited part of the Common (not a Womble in sight), Cannizaro House (now a Hotel du Vin, more of which in a later pair of shorts), the Village, the Broadway, Colliers Wood and St George's Hospital (home to a peculiar and very large 'hotel').

For a bit of glamour and light relief, I drove around the perimeter roads to the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club - best known as the venue for the Wimbledon Championships (for tennis that is, not croquet). For such an extensive facility (covering 17ha and offering 40 grass courts, plus an array of clay, indoor and acrylic courts), it allegedly has only 445 members and a few honorary members. Believe it or not, it was founded in 1868 at the height of the croquet craze as the All England Croquet Club. Tennis was not introduced until much later, 1875. The club moved to its present location in 1922, well after the Tube was invented and yet so very far away from the nearest Tube station (Twickenham, the home of rugby, suffers from the same logistical flaw). Anyway, catching glimpses of the facilities, one can see it is massive, oozes posh and is utterly immaculate. Tennis must be much more profitable than croquet these days, as the old Car Park 3 was being redeveloped during this C19 lockdown period and the club recently acquired the lands of Wimbledon Park Golf Club for further tennis related expansion. But what of croquet, I hear you cry. It may still be referenced in the name, but there are no permanent facilities for croquetters. The 445 members (most of whom play tennis presumably) are said to permit, on occasion, two practice courts to be converted to a full-size croquet lawn. But who would have the temerity to partake of such a sacrilegious pastime on such sacred turf remains a mystery to your blogger.

My tour took me through the residential heartland of Raynes Park and into Kingston, up river to Surbiton and across river to Hampton Court (where I wanted to get a gander at The Kings Arms, an acquisition we supported a while back).

I tried to return home through the deer infested Richmond Park, but Chestnut Avenue and the Diana Fountain acted as a giant cul-de-sac and spat me back out on to Hampton Court Road. From there I relied on the sat-nav, which took me back over the river, through Kingston and onwards to Hammersmith Bridge. Little did the retarded device know that Hammersmith Bridge has been closed indefinitely since April 2019. Consequently, I had to drive back up river to Chiswick Bridge, whereupon, safely on the north side of the Thames, I got home in no time (and en route noticed the Bristol Cars showroom in Olympia was no more - I have since read that the company was quietly wound up in the pre-C19 era of 5 March 2020; how the delightful Mr King must have cried into his Bristolian leather interior; a very sad passing indeed).

Next day I revisited the Wimbledon-ish area again using Tube and trains - both empty and Waterloo eerily quiet. With temperatures hitting 36C, my armpits were missing the air-conditioned cool of the Sheikha mobile (a much more comfortable way to travel to Wimbledon-ish than on Victorian public transport). Still, I made it home in time for the drive to Eastbourne that afternoon (see next blog). Note: amazing how trains seem to run like clockwork in this era of C19, even in this rail-buckling heat (I have not heard of a single rail buckle or wrong kind of sun all summer).

Finally, I would like it noted that this week was a week of firsts in so many ways for yours truly:

  • 1st Tube ride since March 2020.
  • 1st business trip outside Central London since February 2020.
  • 1st business lunch since March 2020 (fish from a stationary canal boat in Paddington, eaten on a spacious and thoroughly socially distanced quayside, and benefiting from Rishi's £10 discounts).
  • 1st 2x shaves in a single week since March 2020, but the lockdown locks remained (forcing David to do a double-take and to compliment me on my flowing locks).

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