I don’t consider myself to be that old, but I am finding myself saying phrases such as ‘When I was growing up’ and ‘But back in my day it wasn’t like that’ with ever increasing frequency.
For example, when I was growing up fruit and veg could only be bought when it was in season. One would consume summer fruits in the summer and autumn fruits in the autumn. Strawberries were reserved for a small window of time between June and August, and it was a family event when 'Me Ma' would return from the greengrocers (no super-duper-massive-hyper-market) on a Tuesday or Friday (her shopping days) and upon unpacking bags would produce a punnet of perfect red Strawberries.
Now, I take things for granted that once were treats (such as strawberries), because they can now be sourced virtually any time, any place. Once-upon-a-time strawberries were reserved for summer days only, to the point where the timing of their appearance on the shop shelf was synonymous with the arrival of Wimbledon - the great british summer spectacle.
My first memory of Wimbledon was being stung by a bee. A big bee too. It was a warm, July evening, and most likely feeling inspired by watching Agassi or Samprass I found an old racquet and a ball. In the retelling of this episode, I am using the excuse of it being a spur of the moment activity as to why I proceeded to play by myself, friendless, knocking the ball repeatedly against the wall in the back yard. Back hand, spin, volley, drop shot, fore-hand, I was on center court and in my flow – and for no good reason a bee took offence to this and registered her displeasure. My reward for such hardship? Sympathy, magic ointment, and a couple of strawberries.
Now, I’m fairly sure this isn’t why the several thousand people who make the pilgrimage to SW19 will be consuming strawberries over the next two weeks, as the crowds gather on ‘Murray Mount’ to gasp, sigh and cheer our favourite racquet wielding Brit. Rather, it’s because it’s not the cherry on top, but the strawberry on top.
Sunny summer days, sunglasses, shorts and dresses, holidays and tennis. Everyone has a spring in their step, the sun is high and the temperatures follow, and strawberries are the taste of extra special, the treat that should never be taken for granted but savoured and remembered. A good strawberry is a memory-joiner, mentally tying events and occasions shared with family and friends to halcyon days, ready to be recalled at a whim as a tale, or a ‘pick me up’ thought.
So, a yummy moist cupcake, with a luxurious jam filling, cream topping and a fresh red strawberry on top would without doubt be a touch of extra special – and as we watch Andy on Centre Court we can enjoy our Strawberries & Cream cupcake, unite with the pilgrims on Murray mount and hopefully create and mark memories of another British Wimbledon victory.
But back in my day, it wasn’t like that. We watched Henman.