Saturday, 25 June 2011

A Very British Summertime

I experienced two moments today that felt like the perfect embodiments of British summertime, or at least what I want it to be like.

Moment one came while watching Wimbledon and a match between the 2nd seed Djokovic and the 32nd seed Baghdatis. The match took place on Centre Court in clear sunshine and, in front of a passionate crowd a classic example of the British affection for the underdog unfolded. Djokovic is a great player, perhaps one of the only real challengers to the Nadal/Federer dominance of the past 8 years, and I’m sure if or when he comes up against either of them he will get a much more favourable response from the crowd, but by the 4th set of this afternoons match it was abundantly clear where their affection lay, and it wasn’t with the Serb.

Baghdatis, the 26 year old Cypriot, always looked likely to lose the match, his opponent was that little bit sharper and more assured, as you’d expect from someone rated as highly as he is, but especially in the 4th set he put up such a spirited fight that the crowd warmed to him to a degree usually reserved for the plucky but doomed British players at this tournament.

At 4 games to 2 down in that set, with the overall score at 2 sets to 1 in Djokovic’s favour, it seemed almost a foregone conclusion that the Serbian ace would see the rest of the set out with a minimum of effort but Baghdatis battled on and it reached the point where every point he won was cheered to the rafters and calls of “Come on Marcos” rang out.

Djokovic eventually won 6-4 and though he looked a little frustrated with the crowd’s reaction, he’s experienced enough to know that it was affection for the Cypriot rather than any negative opinion of him or his performance.

It’s a British stereotype, but I suspect it actually extends to most nationalities, the affection for the underdog, stories of someone battling to try and beat a far superior foe, often regardless of whether they eventually win or not. I’m not a massive tennis fan, nor do I have any particularly strong feelings of any kind for Baghdatis, but I really enjoyed this particular game and found the way the crowd got behind the player kind of inspirational.

Moment two came while watching footage from Glastonbury, specifically watching Elbow’s set on the Pyramid Stage. I love Elbow, especially the previous two albums, and a number of their songs seem to have been written almost with this particular moment in mind. They were playing just as the sun began to set, in front of a crowd which stretched out as far as the eye could see. It was one of those perfect festival moments, the kind that when you see them on TV fill you with an intense longing to be actually in that field. It doesn’t hurt that Guy Garvey has to be one of the most likable people making music at the moment, his charisma and charm was clear to see as he interacted with the crowd and likewise their affection for him was displayed through passionate sing-a-longs and some entertaining crowd stunts. The performance of ‘One Day Like This’ was suitably euphoric, ‘Lippy Kids’ was incredible and ‘Open Arms’ provided the very definition of a feel-good moment as the entire crowd sang the chorus at the top of their lungs while the sun began to sank behind the Somerset hills. However the song of theirs I want to finish this blog with is the studio version of the one which I believe was the strongest performance of the lot, a fantastic rendition of ‘Grounds for Divorce’.

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