I’m a little behind with my posts. Hope you’ll understand that my days are full from 7am to late at night with the tournament, so bear with me as I catch up!!
Arriving in the U.K…..Thursday morning May 25
As I look out the window of this plane, I see irregular shaped green fields with hedge rows bordering them. I see cars. Small cars, all driving on the wrong side of the road. A sure sign that I have crossed the Atlantic and will be landing in jolly old England very soon.
This might be my sixth or seventh time to England. I’m comfortable here. For one thing, they all speak English, even if I have to listen carefully to understand them when I first arrive. It will take a few days before I walk to the left side of a car to get in the passenger seat, and also to look right first before crossing a street or risk getting run over. I wouldn’t say it feels like a second home comfortable, but I’m at ease here.
We are now taxiing to the gate at London Gatwick Airport. No cellular service until I top off my Lycamoble SIM card. Then I’ll be back in business. As “connected” as I am at home, I couldn’t stand not to be able to use my phone for texting, Facebook and to call home.
Jump ahead 12 hours. Yes, I’m still up! It was a full day starting with pickleball friend, Lisa picking me up at Gatwick Airport and taking me to my hotel in Gillingham. It’s clean but a very basic hotel. The weather is unusually warm, near 75° today. No A/C in this room, but I’m sure at least tonight I will sleep thought the traffic noise from the busy road coming though the open window.
After I got checked in and my luggage in the room, we drove to Maidstone where eight of us gathered at the Maidstone YMCA to play pickleball. My pickleball family grew with a few players I didn’t know before! Afterwards, we went for dinner at a local pub called Lord Raglan just outside Maidstone. I love pubs. Often they are on the side of a country road in the middle of nowhere, with friendly folks who chat between tables and usually good food. Lord Raglan’s didn’t disappoint. The weather was still warm and sunny so we ate at a picnic table outside. It was lovely.
Back to the hotel after dinner and finally to bed at 11:30.
Today the U.K. Open Pickleball tournament started with the men’s and women’s singles events. No, I don’t play singles so it was a great time to reconnect with my European friends. There is nothing to compare to the comradre of the pickleball family. Over the next few hours I was covered with other people’s sweat from all the hugs and kisses from friends from Spain, Finland, England, and from new friends from Northern Ireland, France and Scotland. Everyone hugs, most cheek kiss, many lip kiss and the Spanish kiss on both cheeks! It’s a love fest!
My women’s doubles partner, Liz Easdale from Scotland arrived by train about 5pm and we had a few games when there was an open court. Since we have never played together it was good to have a little practice. After everyone left for the day, Liz and I went back to the hotel for a couple of beers (for her) and pear ciders (for me) and dinner. It was nice to sit in the air conditioning in the hotel bar and chat, since our room was hot and stuffy.
Saturday…….women’s and men’s doubles
Up early, breakfast at 7am, a short 10 minute walk to the venue and the tournament starts around 9:30. It was organized into men’s and women’s doubles 3.0 and below, and 3.5 and above. The 3.5+ was broken into four pools of which you played one game to 11 with each team in your pool. There were 5 teams in my pool, however due to drop outs there were some pools that only had four teams. Surprisingly, there are only three Americans (including me) playing, and one is living in England for six months. The other is Jim Ludwig, tournament director of the US Open that was held in a Naples just last month.
Liz and I lost our first match to a very good SLAP team. (South London Area Pickleball) We then won our next three matches by a good margin each. After all the pool play was completed we qualified for the quarter finals, and were matched up to play the strongest team in the field. Unfortunately we lost. It was a good game that we enjoyed very much, but couldn’t outplay the skills of one of our opponents who is a 5.0 player. We lost 11-8 but felt good about scoring 8 points. It was a pleasure to play them even with the outcome. That team ultimately won the gold medal.
So tomorrow I will play with my pickleball husband, Leo in the mixed doubles. The skill levels of the European players, especially the English and Spanish have elevated since the 2016 Amsterdam tournament. So it will be another challenging day, filled with great games and competition.
Tonight, its dinner at the hotel again, this time alone since it’s quite late and to bed.