At exactly noon on Monday, June 23, but not a moment before, the gates of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club will swing open and a torrent of fans who have been queuing along Church Road in the London suburb of Wimbledon, many of them for hours, will begin to flood the club's 12 acres. The lucky ones, those with reserved seats at Centre Court or No. 1 Court, can afford to spend the next two hours—play never begins before 2 p.m.—touring the surrounding area, especially the Tea Lawn. Those with grounds passes who wish to watch tennis do not have this luxury; seating at the outside courts is first come first served, and the stands are usually filled by 12:30. Unlike Americans, the British do not appear to mind the hour-and-a-half wait for play to begin; in fact, they seem to thrive on it. Finally, there are those who are content merely to mill about in the walkways, observing the scene, hoping for a glimpse of Chris and John, or maybe Bjorn. To them, Wimbledon is a lark, an annual two-week festival involving more than mere tennis. In truth, that's precisely what it is.
That singles are coming up is indicated by the placing of the stanchion in the alley before the net is raised.
The reasons for their cheery smiles: an afternoon off from school and ice lollies.
When it's teatime, the official Wimbledon band most certainly does not play on.
During play, ball girls must stand just so and stock-still, but, after all, an itch is an itch.
This may not be her first Wimbledon, but she and her refreshment retain their sparkle.
It's only 4½ hours since the semifinal match began, but already you can read all about it.
Champagne and prawns make a special picnic, but strawberries and cream are the tradition.