To mark Wimbledon fortnight, that regular test of Malcolm’s boredom threshold, the Times Literary Supplement has Ferdy Mount reviewing Jon Henderson’s biography of Fred Perry.
This is hardly Malcolm’s usual fare, but he was caught by the opening paragraph:
As Fred Perry came back into the dressing room after becoming the first Englishman to win Wimbledon in twenty-five years, he heard a club official murmur to his opponent, Jack Crawford: “The better man lost”. Crawford, a popular, easy-going Australian and the outgoing champion, was given a bottle of champagne. Perry claimed that he was left empty-handed. The All-England Club members’ tie, automatically awarded to the new champion, was left unceremoniously draped over the back of a chair, as though nobody on the committee could actually bear to present it. When Perry turned professional in 1936 after retaining the title for the next two years, his membership was immediately withdrawn, with almost audible relief exhaled from blazered breasts.
It gets better:
It was mostly a question of snobbery and class hatred, twin contagions which had their epicentre in SW19. Perry was not forgiven for having gone to Ealing County School rather than Rugby or Repton, or for his father having been a Labour MP. Sam Perry was the most upright and honourable man imaginable. He started work in a Cheshire cotton mill at the age of ten on a shilling a week, devoted his life to the Co-Operative movement and declined a peerage. Yet even this patriotic and moderate-minded public servant had to put up with Young Conservatives in dinner jackets yelling at his election meetings, “Which flag do you stand for, Perry, the red flag or the Union Flag?”.
There is a small extra frisson when one remembers that Sir William Robert Ferdinand Mount ran Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit for a while (he was too “wet” to be tolerated for long), and wrote her Manifesto for the post-Falklands khaki Election of 1983. To keep things in the Old Etonian family, Mount’s cousin is mother of a certain David Cameron.
The whole review is on-line. It is pointedly titled At least he won. It is also well worth the trip.
Now, Malcolm, about that book-cover at the head of this post.
That’s not a cheap crack of a comment, surely?