Do you ever get a “What if…?” moment? I do. Maybe it’s because I’m too lazy to go and investigate things properly or it might be that I find my own solutions more amusing. As a school report at age six said, “Ailsa is gifted with immense imagination”. They thought I was a terrible liar.
I don’t like tennis. I may be in a small minority but I’ve never understood the game and since they introduced the obligatory ‘I am about to vomit” grunting, I cannot watch it. At school we didn’t have enough space and we had to learn with four singles games going on at the same time on one court. This could be where Tennis and I parted company.
I don’t understand the scoring. That got me thinking this morning, sitting out under the awning with my morning coffee and pain-au-chocolat. Love is nothing I can understand – the inventor of the game was obviously bitter and twisted, a lost paramour rendering him acidic for life. Nought to fifteen then fifteen to thirty – now that makes sense if you are using fifteen as the basis. Why did they then jump to forty? I am now lost which is when I drifted off into a “What if…” few minutes where known facts and conjecture mix together to bake a better cake.
Elizabeth I liked pirates, we all know that. It was her father, Henry VIII who introduced indoor or real tennis. This was looking promising. Welcome on the scene Harmless Harry, ex-pirate, privateer and co-fighter with Drake. Just as in my generation there are any number of women called Elizabeth following the coronation of our monarch, so in those days, every other man was called Henry.
Sailors are not known for their original humour and wit now, nor were they then. This was how, after losing the lower half of his left arm, Henry got his nickname. He had been known as Hearty Henry up until then but his courage was less noticeable than his handicap. Drake introduced Henry to Her Majesty who was toying with the idea of founding a hospital for Maimed Mariners. Henry would be one of the first residents, there being a lot of limbless ex-pirates following the Armada debacle.
During his time at court, while becoming another seafaring sweetie of Good Queen Bess’ Harry discovered the hectic, sweaty game of real tennis which is more akin to the’ modern squash, bouncing off walls etc. He was taken with the idea but decided to modify the game to suit his disabled colleagues.
This explains a lot – having lost one limb each, they could only count to a maximum of fifteen and after a few rallies they were tired so only counted on two of them. Zero, fifteen, thirty, forty – hah! Got it.
Now you might be asking yourself why, when the score is level the umpire (Empire) shouts “Deuce”. That is a little embarrassing. By the time they got to that stage in a game, the players, supporters and even the Umpire (Empire) were getting hot, sweaty and tetchy. Finding they had more to play, they uttered a cussword well-known to all sailors.
Once the new version of Lawn Tennis became genteel, a new word had to be found. Having toyed with “Fork” or “Folk” the good people in charge decided to resort to an existing “polite bad word” as in “What the deuce do you mean, Sir?”
I am getting to quite enjoy the game, now I know the truth but I still have to watch with the sound off. I’m sure even Harmless Harry wouldn’t have liked that development.