Wednesday, July 10, 2013

More tennis

You’ve hit the nail on the head, Hat – only an OBE for Virginia Wade. And, presumably, for Ann Jones. (Both, for the benefit of the non-initiated, won the Wimbledon singles title, relatively recently; but both, as their names suggest, were only women.) The men-in-suits are going to have to give some thought to that one.

You’re allowed not to watch tennis, Roobeedoo. I can go you one better – on July 30, 1966, we took our four children to clamber on the ruins of Kenilworth Castle, the sort of thing we often did with them – while all of England was watching television.

The interesting thing is that that afternoon has something of the quality of one of those memories that gets burned into the mind. I’m sure you know what I mean – the moment when you heard of a birth or a death (and sometimes, quite trivial moments as well) get remembered along with where you were standing and how the furniture was arranged. It is as if our outing to Kenilworth was impressed on my memory not by anything that was significant to me, but by the national excitement which was fizzing in the air and the strange quiet of the afternoon. Maybe July 7, 2013, will turn out to be the same for you.

This is turning into an essay on memory. Yesterday I read the obituary of the woman who was one of the four Glasgow students who stole the Stone of Scone from under the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1950. Now there was an exploit! Quite apart from all other considerations, the Stone is very heavy.

I’ve read their book, No Stone Unturned. They buried it in a field in England and left it there for some months, while the English closed the border for the first time in centuries and searched all cars. When things quieted down a bit, they dug it up and took it home, under the driver's seat of a small car. When I became a Glasgow student myself, in 1954, I was proud to be associated, however remotely, with such an endeavour.

They wanted to give it back from Scone Palace, but the Earl of Mansfield, who lives there, wouldn’t play ball, so they left it in the ruins of Arbroath Abbey instead.

I remember reading about it in the New York Times, there in West Allenhurst, NJ, that Christmas Day or the next day. I was near the end of my first term at Oberlin. It was the last time our family was together – my father told me he was leaving as I was getting on the train to go back to Ohio. That’s one of those memories, mentioned above – the cold, and the dark station platform. Dark, I am sure --but it's a long way to Ohio. I was presumably catching a suburban train to NYC. Where did I spend the night, and how proceed? Memory fails entirely.

And maybe the last-ness of that Christmas has entwined itself with the memory of the stealing of the Stone.

(The English eventually gave it back. It’s here in Edinburgh Castle – I think. Somewhere around, anyway.)


I finished ribbing the second Mind the Gap sock. I think ribbing is more tedious when it comes first. But it’s done! On with the sock!


  1. I may be wrong, but I don't think even that honour for Ann Haydon-Jones.

  2. Memories linked to powerful emotions - negative as well as positive - seem to be laid down in a diferent part of the brain. My mother could remember rows she had had with people when her illness had already robbed her of the ability to remember arrangements and practical matters.