Game, Set, Match, History
A short story dedicated to Nutters like me who love the Hebrides and would quite happily holiday there year after year. And for those of us who believed that Andy Murray would win Wimbledon and make us proud and to the man himself thanks for doing it in such style.
“We’re on our holidays. We’re on our holidays.” Dad roared as he came through the door on a hot July evening. Sam aged ten rushed from his seat in the living room where he was watching a nail biting Andy Murray semi-final and ran into his dad’s arms. Before they both jogged round the kitchen screaming at the top of their voices. “We’re on our holidays, we’re on our holidays.”
Mum who was an avid Wimbledon and Andy Murray fan chuckled from the living room before returning her attention to the Television. Andy Murray was leading in three sets and bound for another final and she didn’t want to miss a moment.
Upstairs Rosie signed as she turned her fan up to high to reduce the intense heat in her bedroom while adding a few notches up on her MP3 player. “Here we go again.“ She thought “Another year and another round of the media and her mother getting excited that this is the year that Andy Murray will win Wimbledon. Her mother was as high as a kite now. On Sunday she will be even worse before it will all be doom and gloom before she decides that next year is the year. Shortly after the tennis was over the McAllister family will start their frantic packing for their annual holiday to the Hebrides. Another bloody holiday in the Hebrides.” Rosie thought gloomily. “Two weeks of endless light, lots of talk about the weather and trips to yet another wind swept beach. Boring, boring, boring, in fact beyond boring.”
Her parents had discovered the islands when she was a baby. She was sick of being regaled stories of how she ate her first prawn in a hotel in Port Ellen Islay renowned for its seafood. Paddled first in the sea in the beach below the RSPB reserve at Loch Gruinart. Before her birth her parents had holidayed in exotic places. Rosie poured over photos of their trips to Australia fascinated in particular by photos of Sydney Opera house and bridge. Tanned happy photos of her parents enjoying a barbecue on the beach looking young, relaxed, happy and sickeningly loved up. There were trips too to India, Malaysia, USA, Canada and even Brazil. “Not for her.” Thought Rosie bitterly. Wanderlust had been exhumed and her parents had decided that she and her little brother had to know their own country. So year after year to the Western Isles the McAllister family went. And for the past five years there hadn’t even be a new island to explore or the thrill of a new cottage. Her parents had fallen in love with the island of Harris and a cottage by the beach at Seilbost near the famous Luskentyre beach.
It just wasn’t fair especially when her friends got to go to New York, Tuscany or even a package holiday to Ibiza. Anything was better than another holiday in Harris.
Her phone beeped. Her friend Emma’s text appeared on her phone. “Want to meet up for some chips? The DVD at mine?” “Yes.” Thought Rosie some respite from the boredom that lay ahead. Rosie thundered down the stairs shouting at the top of her voice.
“Going round to Emma’s Mum.”
“No. You’re not.” Mum replied. “Early night remember? We’ve to be up at 4am to make the ferry.” Rosie shot her mum a murderous look.
“Mum that’s not fair. One night. Come on Mum.”
“No.” her mum answered back. “Tea then bed and you can take that look off your face. It won’t get you anywhere. I’ve made a nice lasagne your favourite. Go set the table. We’ll have it once the match is over. Andy’s nearly won in three sets. Can you believe it? This is the year Rosie this is the year.”
Rosie looked at her Mum and started to argue and then saw her Dad’s face. Her mum might send her to her room as a punishment. Her Dad would go straight for the jugular and confiscate her mobile phone. Without her phone the impeding holiday was beyond horrific. As she thought of no contact at all with the outside world and her friends. Linlithgow maybe small but in comparison to Harris it was a metropolis and it was essential she kept in touch while she was away.
Early the next morning she could hear the household getting up. They were all so noisy and excited it was hard to ignore. She knew that she only had minutes seconds maybe before the door would open and her Dad would come in to wake her. Sure enough very quickly the door opened and her Dad peered into the gloom that was her bedroom. Rosie liked to sleep in total darkness so she had blackout blinds that ensured total darkness all year round. “Yet another reason she hated the Hebrides.“ She thought. “In summer it seemed to be light there all the time.” “Time to get up Rosie.” Her Dad said. “Our 2013 adventure to the Hebrides begins.” “More like total nightmare.” Rosie thought as she dressed in black her signature uniform. It was appropriate today one as it was her favourite colour and two it reflected the darkness and gloom of the impending holiday.
Downstairs her Mum was in sharp contrast to Rosie. Dressed in what she thought represented the colours of the Hebrides. A navy blue top, bright green trousers and purple jewellery. In Rosie’s view maybe suitable for models in magazines but not for 40 plus mothers. But she knew well enough not to mention this to her parents. Her Mum would give her that hurt puppy dog look that she did so well and her Dad would immediately jump to the defence of his wife.
Refusing an offer of breakfast Rosie went out to the car curled herself into her sleeping bag, put a hoodie over her head and burrowed down for the long journey ahead. She didn’t re- emerge until their car screeched to a halt at the ferry loading in Ullapool. They had just made it by the skin of their teeth again. “Why oh Why.” Rosie thought. “Could they not get there on time? After this length of time you would have thought they would learn. Adults loved to drum lessons into children but failed to learn any themselves or worse acknowledge that they needed to learn them.”
Peering out of her sleeping bag her heart groaned further, Fog to the right of her. Fog to the right of her. Like the thick pea soup that her Grandmother loved to serve her which secretly made her want to gag. Particularly as her Grandparents had a strict rule of eating everything on your plate.
“Choppy crossing over the Minch today.” The Cal Mac Man chortled as he took the tickets from them. “Hope you’ve got your sea legs on.”
“Marvellous.” Though Rosie. “Revenge.” Out of the four of them Rosie was the only one who loved a choppy Atlantic. This would give her peace for the crossing as the others huddled below deck. Sure enough as the ferry edged through the gloom into Stornoway. Rosie was the only one who enjoyed the crossing. After a very large breakfast she’s enjoyed the sensation of being in the wild sea as the waves bashed the cafeteria and the observation lounge. As she re-joined her family she was delighted to see that her Mum was as green as her trousers. Her Dad was as white as Ash and even her brother had been reduced to silence. “Revenge!” She thought. “A dish best served cold.”
However thoughts of rough seas and sick bags were soon set aside as the McAllister family drove out of Stornoway and made their way over the grey hills to Harris.
“If Sam sings that he’s on his holidays once more.” Thought Rosie. “I’m going to swing for him really I am. It’s a favour to humanity really.”
Her Dad’s optimism that the weather would be better on Harris was short lived the further they got along the road the bleaker the weather got. When they reached Tarbet the main town on Harris it was more than torrential. It was a tsunami Harris style.
The Harris Half Marathon was reaching completion as more and more drenched runners ran into town and down to the ferry terminal.
“Nutters.” Rosie thought. “Absolute nutters. Let’s be honest to live here you’d have to be but to run in these conditions like this was totally beyond her.”
“Rosie you should enter the Half marathon.” Her dad said eating into her thoughts. Rosie stared at him incredulously before spitting at him withal her teenage angst at the bleakness of her situation. “Why on earth would I want to do that STUPID.”
In reality Rosie was one of the best cross country runners at school and getting better all the time. Entering S5 after the summer she had ambitions of winning the annual school cross country race. But that was in the flat of the Lowlands not in the hills and bleakness of Harris.
As Rosie raised her eyes and gave her Dad a murderous look. Rosie’s mum caught the look in the mirror and exploded. She’d been biting her tongue all day and could hold herself no longer.
“For God’s sake Rosie Grow Up just grow up. Your brother’s showed more maturity that you today. We’re here it’s our holiday. We want to enjoy it not see your sulky face all the time. So get a grip or I will seriously look forward to a time when we don’t have to take you on holiday.” Rosie was about to retort back but seeing her mum was on the verge of tears and was genuinely upset thought better of it. Instead she sat back in her seat in stony silence and stared out of the window.
Sam as siblings do saw he had the upper hand and chattered on in a sing song voice that he knew wound Rosie up to maximum effect. As they reached the brow of the hill that spread out to the beautiful beach of Luskentyre even Rosie had to admit it invoked in her happy memories. Not that she was going to admit that to the rest of her family.
Before they knew it they were driving up the rocky pathway to their cottage beside the beach. As they entered the cottage the skies cleared slightly and the light changed. Rosie in her bad temper didn’t notice. But her mum did and she mused the meaning. “An Andy Murray historic Wimbledon win? Rosie emerging from her teenage blues? Or better weather on the way? Could she be greedy and ask for all three?” She asked herself as she shut the door of the cottage.
The next day despite her best efforts Rosie woke up early. She saw 5am, 6am, 7am and by 8am she admitted defeat and got up. It was always so light here she hated it. Her humour was slightly restored when she entered the sunny large kitchen looking out a beautiful summer day. The view was of the turquoise blue of the Atlantic beyond. Piled up on the basket on the pine table was freshly baked bread from Croft 36. Croft 36 had a farm shop beside their croft by the sea. They also delivered bread and home-made meals to self – catering cottages. This was one thing Rosie couldn’t fault her mum on. The food was delicious. By the time she had finished breakfast there was a slight thaw in her black mood. So much so she actually agreed to a game of Monopoly with her brother on the deck knowing she would beat him and that her competitive brother would hate that. The game went on all morning as her mum and dad unpacked and made the cottage their own. After a lunch of crab quiche and salad again courtesy of Croft 36. Rosie’s mum was ready for the pre Wimbledon commentary. Rosie couldn’t bear to watch the antics of both her Mum or Andy Murray. Last year her mum had shouted through the whole match first at Federer then at Murray, then at Federer for not giving Murray a chance. Before putting her head in her arms at championship point and declaring she could take no more. Finally crying hysterically as Andy made his losing speech. Rosie wasn’t going through it again. Despite her Mum’s optimism that this was the year. Rosie had heard it all before. So she shocked her parents and herself by offering to take her brother down to the beach for the afternoon. Her delighted parents waved them off as her mother mused that perhaps miracles do happen even to the blackest of teenagers.
Down on the beach it was a perfect Hebrides day. The sun was yellow shinning bright. The sand was white speckled with the Machair on the side of the beach with flowers of yellow, white, purple and pink. And the sea was a myriad of different blues and greens merging to the brilliant blue of the sky beyond. Rosie had to concede it was pretty on days like these. She was also cheered by the sight of familiar faces playing a game of rounder’s. One advantage to coming here year after year was that they had a network of friends whose parents also returned year after year. This was one thing that helped time pass. Sam and Rosie quickly joined in carefully selecting different teams. At home Rosie wouldn’t be seen dead playing rounders. But here it was tradition and on the beach it was a good way of whiling away the hours. Susan Rosie’s best friend was also fielding and they caught up with one another with a smile and a wink. They didn’t see each other from one year to the next despite having each other’s mobile number. But as soon as they were reunited on the Island it was as if it was yesterday since they had last seen each other.
After an hour or so of fielding they finally got the batting team out and could enjoy gaining points themselves. As Susan took to bat across the beach sauntered Andy McLeod. Another dark cloud of the Hebrides holidays. Andy was the bane of Rosie’s life in Harris. For the past few years everywhere Rosie went Andy seemed to be. With Island ancestry and family still here Andy attended a Gaelic school in Glasgow. He loved to show off he was practically a local. Rosie despised him.
He took over as usual taking the bowling position. He threw the ball. Rosie missed. He threw again another miss. She had to make this one count show him she could bat. She put the bat behind her and went to belt the ball as it came towards her. She stumbled and fell face forward into the sand. “I hate this place.” She thought as she lay there totally humiliated hearing Sam’s squeals of laughter from his fielding position. Suddenly she was lifted up by strong arms. She looked up it was Andy. With a sympathetic smile he said “Sorry Rosie bad ball.” As he set her on the beach.
After the game was over Andy came over and suggested that as his house was close by he’d walk them both back. Sam waited for Rosie to give him a chilly brush off as she’d done in previous years. Instead she bestowed a gleaming smile and they set of across the sand. Football Sam kicking a ball in front. “Would you like to maybe go a walk with me tomorrow?” Andy suggested.
Last year. Yesterday. This morning even the prospect of a walk with Andy would have appalled Rosie. Now it sounded like the perfect idea. As she said yes.
Sam bounded into the cottage just before 6am shouting.
“Andy, Andy, Andy” as Rosie blushed bright red.
Her mum rushed from the living room and ran to them with a hoarse voice crying
“You’ve heard then? Andy’s gone and won Wimbledon in three easy sets.” As tears rolled down her cheeks. “He’s made history. He’s gone and done it didn’t I always say he would?”.
Sam turned to his sister and for once gave her a break. With a mischievous grin he said
“Yes Andy has certainly made a lot of people happy today.”