I should be in the Wimbledon Queue right now. My tent should be pitched in Wimbledon Park and I should be lying down reading my book, all settled in for the long wait. I should have my Queue Card, The Overnight Queuing Code of Conduct, and the oh so gloriously named A Guide to Queuing. Instead I am at home. I have been saving since I left The Queue last year and have enough put aside for Federer’s first three rounds. With The Championships cancelled for 2020 I will miss not only Federer but the joy of queuing. And it is a joy. The Queue is one of my favourite places on earth. It is my summer holiday. Blissful days of reading in the sun, hiding from the rain, eating take-away pizza or curry in the park. Days of chatting to people, of applying layer after layer of suntan lotion, and ignoring life for just a moment. The Queue is a wonderful place for people watching, it is the world’s most polite festival, and most organised campsite. And like all the best holidays it is not only relaxing but exciting, for the days of queuing are interspersed with watching glorious tennis in the grandest cathedrals of the sport.
Last year I decided to take my Lecia with me to Wimbledon. It is uniquely unsuited to the job of sport photography. It is an analogue, manual focus camera without a zoom lens, into which I loaded a black and white roll of film. I can’t now remember the logic behind taking it, but I am glad I did. For the thing the Leica is wonderful for are moments and places exactly like the Wimbledon Queue.
So here they are. A few of the highlights from my Queue photographs.
A Very Orderly Queue: The Wimbledon Queue is the most organised campsite in history, as tennis fans pitch their tents back to back along predetermined lines.
Lining Up: Temporary absences from The Queue are permitted for no longer than 30 minutes so Wimbledon campers make themselves comfortable sat outside their tents.
Walk to the Purple Q: Upon arrival at Wimbledon Park queuers will be handed the all important Queue Card before being direct to walk along the line of tents to the purple flag proudly baring the letter Q.
Comfortable Queuing: With days of queuing ahead comfort is of the upmost importance. Everyday blowup mattresses are pulled from tents to become sun lounges.
Ingenious Sleeping Arrangements: For much of the day shade is scarce in Wimbledon Park. Neither exhaustion or sunstroke will leave you able to enjoy the tennis and so solutions must be found, or better yet, created.
Honorary Stewards: The Honorary Stewards keep The Queue running smoothly and fairly. Most importantly though, they are genuinely wonderful people who contribute to the joy of queuing.
Very Civilised: Breakfast, lunch and dinner outside the tent. What’s not to love about a holiday picnicking in the park, particularly if done in such style?
Roger and Rafa: It takes a certain level of fandom to camp in the Wimbledon Queue. Here Roger and Rafa fans fly their flags, comfortably and peacefully coexisting while they wait for the chance to see their guy in action.
Finally Some Shade: As the evening draws closer the sun finally moves behind a row of trees lining the park, welcome shade begins to edge its way towards the tents.
A Queue or a Festival?: The Honorary Stewards wake campers at 6am, and organised chaos ensues as campers take down their tents, or move aside to prepare for another day of waiting. Through it all The Queue feels more like a festival than a group of people waiting for something.
My Tent: Draped in a Swiss flag my tiny tent, purchased for carrying while hiking for days on end, doesn’t help much with the sun or the rain, but it gives me a place to sleep and an imagined stoop to holiday on while awaiting tennis.