Every year, at the start of Wimbledon fortnight, mum used to tune in and not tune out until she'd watched every stroke. She even had a green carpet in the living room, stretching from her favourite chair to the TV screen like the pristine grass of Centre Court on the first day. I was sure she would mark it up with tramlines but maybe dad thought this was a step too far.
My sister and I were banished to the garden, or to our room to play, but no chance of catching up with our usual after-school programmes. Even rain didn't stop play because thanks to the good old BBC we got endless repeats of matches already played and, in the case of really severe weather, an action re-play of last years' final. So no respite for us.
When Wimbledon was announced my little sister would wail 'Oh no, cold food' which made us all laugh but didn't deter mum from her course. So, cold food it was. But we didn't mind. It was nice to see mum so happy and we got to eat strawberries and cream every day.
Finals weekend was organised like Operation Overlord so that nothing could disrupt the viewing. Food was available in the fridge, but serve yourself. The phone was unplugged. Anyone having the temerity to knock on the door was sent off with a flea in the ear. A bottle of white wine and a smoked salmon sandwich were placed on a small table next to mum's chair, along with a box of tissues in case her current favourite didn't win. When dad came home from the pub he was told to sit down and shut up.
I've never known why she was so keen. She'd never really played tennis and, in general, didn't like sport. Dad was a rugby man and although I preferred football I would watch just about anything. I still do.
Mum's on her own now but my sister and I arranged for her to have satellite TV and treated her to a subscription to Sky Sports. She can hardly believe all the tennis that's on, all year round. It's a problem with the carpet, of course, as it doesn't match the red of the clay courts, but she's considering the options.