This year, through a random act of kindness, I got a chance to visit the grounds of the legendary Wimbledon on opening day.
My friend, Piyush, a tennis enthusiast was in town from the US just for the event. I met up with him and his friend, who had a spare ticket and kindly offered it to me. Even if you don't play tennis or are not a fan, it's hard to turn down the opportunity to experience this quintessential British tradition.
As Martina Navratilova, a tennis legend, once said of the spirit of Wimbledon. 'It's the feeling that some people have before they even get there. But those that didn't have, they certainly get it later. It touches everyone.'
It certainly touched me. I came out of SW19 an addict. It might have been that Wimbledon evoked a certain sportsmanship in me from my old days as a swimmer. I could smell the familiar scent of adrenaline from the talented players. The vibe was certainly competitive, yet it was all housed in a friendly and intimate environment.
There are lots to love about Wimbledon - fresh, perfectly cut English lawns, 18 identical, symmetric courts, Pimm's Cups (though over-priced) that get you into the summer sports spirit and the Wimbledon classic, strawberries and cream. Last but certainly not least, my favourite unsung heroes, the ball boys and girls and the look of deep commitment and focus on their faces.
I was hooked on the experience. I went back to wait in the infamous Wimbledon Queue last Saturday so that I could taste it all over again. Despite the six hour wait (no joke), I still didn't get in! But I'm glad I was there. The Queue is one of the characteristics that make up the Wimbledon experience. It's the fairest and most organised queuing system in the sports world.
Then another act of kindness struck, my friend, Laura Lee, secured two show court tickets on Monday on our behalf. It was at Court 1 where I witnessed a match which has now gone down as one of the most compelling games in tennis history. Novak Djokovic came back from two sets down to defend his championship title against Kevin Anderson. The three hour plus game was put on hold due to darkness and was extended to the next day. (Djokovic narrowly won in the end).
Naturally, the only thing left to do after my SW19 week is to translate all of my excitement down onto a plate. And there's no better way to tell my Wimbledon story than via an Eton Mess. After all, strawberries and cream are synonymous with Wimbledon. Like the game of tennis, it's dynamic, sometimes messy and unmistakably packed with flavour - a dish that is always guaranteed an ace :)
1 meringue (I chose Raspberry meringue for colour)
250 ml cream
Zest from 1 orange
A splash of basalmic vinegar
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 pack of strawberries
1 pack of raspberries (or black berries)
a handful of dark chocolate
a handful of crushed hazelnuts or almonds
Break the meringue in big pieces on a plate
Whip the cream with orange zest until it achieves soft peaks (or mix the store-bought whipped cream with the zest)
Scatter the cream on the plate
Mix the berries with balsamic vinegar, sugar and vanilla extract
Put the berries on top of the cream and the meringue
Melt the chocolate and spoon it over the plate
Sprinkle the crushed nuts