Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wimbledon & "The Royal Box"

On a trip I took to England in the late twentieth century, I happened to be there at the same time the famous Wimbledon Tennis Championship Matches were being played. Although I was not a big tennis fan, my traveling companion was, so the two of us took the train from London to the site of the town where the matches were being held. Once we got through the ticket gates to get spectators onto the grounds of the park, we split up. She was going to try to see an actual tennis match, and my only goal was to take photographs of all the color and spectacle that are associated with an event like this in the wide world of sports. As I was wondering around, I saw a small sign on the side of a giant-sized building that said "Press Entry". Back in those days, in my home state, people that did news writing or news photography would apply to the state police headquarters for a Press Pass, that would allow them to pass through barriers, etc., in order to get to the location of a news event. I had one of those press passes because of my work as a state newsletter editor, as well as some freelance photojournalism. Having no idea if it was good in England at something like this, I looked into my wallet, got out my press pass, showed it to the official at the door, and without a word, I was inside! What I was inside of, I had no idea, so I just wandered around trying to figure out where I was, and what was going on. I decided I must be in the media area for the famous "Wimbledon Center Court". Press photographers stood in line for the opportunity of a ten minute interval of getting a seat in center court to photograph and report on whoever might be playing when that photographer's turn came up. It turns out John McEnroe was one of the players out on the court when my turn came, so I got to photograph him making some shots, as well as throwing one of the "hissy fits" he was so well known for. After my brief interlude as a spectator in Center Court was up, I continued to roam the inner hallways of the big green building until I came to an open door to a room with no one in it, but filled with gorgeous, dark green wicker furniture. I loved wicker furniture, and besides, I was tired, so I went into the empty room to sit down and rest a spell. I sat there a while, noticing what a great view this room had of the tennis court it looked out over, although there was not a match going on in that particular tennis court at the time. But, I thought, it would make a good photograph anyway---showing the beautiful, throne-like wicker chairs, their matching fabric cushions, and the tennis court in the background. So I brought my camera to my eye to snap the shot. Just then, a guard seemed to come out of no where, approach me, and say, "I am sorry, madam, but no photography is allowed in "The Royal Box". I quickly put away my camera. However, the guard had not told me to leave, so I sat there a few minutes longer, replaying in my mind what he had just said. What did he mean "royal box"? My only experience with the word "royal box" was in the context of a box of gelatin with the brand-name "Royal". But the time was approaching for me to meet my friend for the train ride back to London, so I exited the room with the pretty green wicker furniture. After I was just outside the room and in the adjacent hallway, I looked above the door to see that there was a sign up there saying "Queen's Box". I had not seen the sign when I first entered the room because I was so captivated by the green wicker furniture. "Oh, my!" I thought, not believing what had just happened! So here is my travel tip for this blog entry: If you are in a country ruled by a monarchy, and you see the sign "Royal Box", it is probably not referring to a gelatin box! (Disclaimer: I am pretty sure that an incident like this could not happen in the post 9/11 era, and the state police quit issuing press passes years ago. So it is safe to say "Long live the Queen!")
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