More of London’s madness!

Gordon Forbes at Wimbledon, 1963
Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Born in South Africa in 1934, Gordon Forbes was a seasoned tennis professional who clinched his first junior title at the tender age of twelve, initiating a stellar career among the tennis elite. Forbes and his doubles partner, Abe Segal, formed an unstoppable force in the fifties and sixties, etching their names in the annals of the sport. But it may well be Forbes’ witty and insightful writing that is his most enduring legacy, most notably his iconic memoir, A Handful of Summers, published in 1978, in which he lifts the lid on the highs and lows of such a career. The following diary entry comes from that book, written in July 1968 whilst in London for Wimbledon. Despite an early knockout in the first round, Forbes remained in good spirits, embracing the event with an infectious enthusiasm.

The Diary Entry

Enormous serving today by Clark Graebner. Absolute devastation. Fred Stolle in ruins. Bernie Schwartz is so impressed that he eats a whole bag of peanuts during the match without noticing. Allen Fox beats one of the Russians at chess today, and for some time is speechless. He goes about wanting to tell people, but before he can find words, they’ve gone away! 

Tonight we all went out to eat at Provans and I told Raymond at some stage during dinner that he was a great liver of life. He replied that he was also a lover of life; then Abie said that he would rather be a great lover than a great liver, whereupon Raymond said that whereas he loved to be a liver, Abie lived to be a lover. Then Harry Fowler, who was studying the menu, looked up and announced that he was a lover of liver, and that was what he was going to order. That broke up the conversation. Later on, Harry squirted sneezing powder all up and down the room, and the place collapsed in a hurricane of sneezes. More of London’s madness!

Further Reading

A Handful of Summers was first published in 1978 by William Heinemann. It’s a very funny book, utterly charming, and I recommend it to all, whether you enjoy tennis or not. In 1995 he followed it with Too Soon to Panic, and in 2015 he completed the trilogy with I’ll Take the Sunny Side. Sadly, Forbes died from COVID-19 in December 2020. He was 86.

Diary entry excerpted from A Handful of Summers: A Memoir by Gordon Forbes. Copyright © Gordon Forbes 1978. HarperCollins. Reprinted by kind permission of Gavin Forbes.

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