10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

To The Bins And Back! Part Three In An Occasional Series About Life In Lockdown In London • Some Tennis News Too

By Alix Ramsay

Week seven of lock-down and the natives are getting hairy. With not a barber’s shop or a hair dressing salon open anywhere, the good people of Blighty are looking awfully disheveled.

Every day, the government gives another Covid-19 press conference and every day another cabinet minister is put before the media to say their piece on how things are going – and, clearly, on the personal grooming front, things are not going well.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, took his turn on Saturday but no one can remember much about what he said; it was the mullet, all fuzzy on top and unfashionably long at the back, that stole the show. As for BoJo, the prime minister: his tonsorial style has always been unique but these days he appears to be modelling himself on Worzel Gummidge. It is not a good look on anyone.

Novak Djokovic has been holed up in his Marbella hideout for weeks and he doesn’t seem to be doing well in lockdown. The other day, his missus posted footage of her giving him a haircut. Or, rather, of her shearing him.

Djoko’s hair is the eighth wonder of the world. During longer matches, you can actually see it growing and after so many weeks away from the barber, it appeared that a large rodent had made its home on his head. Wielding electric clippers and a route map, Mrs D scalped her beloved and made him more or less presentable for his Instagram duties.

Given that there is nothing else to do, we thought we would watch all of Djoko’s now famous Instagram chat with his mate, Chervin Jafarieh, with the pair of them banging on about the Self Mastery Project. Blimey, that is 79 long minutes of our lives we will never get back.

It seems that the world No.1 is keen to improve himself every day and he wants to be present and conscious in every single moment of those days; present and conscious in everything he does, even in the simple business of drinking a glass of water.

“Being present and being conscious of the fact you’re drinking water,” he started to explain without a hint of a giggle. So keen was he on this idea that he claimed that some people had seen miraculous things happen by adopting this philosophy.

“Through that energetical transformation,” he enthused, ungrammatically, “through the power of prayer, the power of gratitude, they managed to turn the most toxic food or maybe the most polluted water into the most healing water. Because water reacts. Scientists have proven that. The molecules in the water react to our emotions, to what is being said.”

Just as a warning: don’t try this at home, children.

He also advised against having “nervous discussions and conflictional [sic] discussions with your close ones at the table during the meal”. Which got us to thinking: maybe Mrs D isn’t much of a cook and, in the past, he may have mentioned this around teatime. A life lesson may have been learned in years gone by.

Imagine the present scene: Mrs D summons her husband and children to the dining room. She has prepared, with her own fair hand, the evening meal. Her husband is poker faced and says not a word as he surveys the offering in front of him (by now, he has been married long enough to know what is good for him). Through the power of prayer and gratitude he tries to imagine that what is on offer is both healing….and edible. It may do little for his digestion but it does save a row with the other half.

Yet despite the gobbledygook of water being changed by the power of thought and emotion, it may not be quite as bonkers as it sounds.

Many moons ago when I was at college, the college cook did her very best to kill us three times a day. She was the only chef who could boil an egg in such a way that the yolk was bullet-hard while the white was still runny. Breakfast was revolting and the day’s culinary fare went downhill from there.

Worryingly, this cook liked to produce colour coordinated meals. We had the white meal (white fish, white sauce, mashed potatoes and anaemic cauliflower), the orange meal (shop bought potato croquettes, the ones coated in luminous orange breadcrumbs, tinned baked beans and tinned ravioli – honestly, this one wasn’t half bad because she hadn’t actually made any of the component parts) and the beige meal.

The beige meal covered a multitude of sins. No matter what the meat – lamb, beef or pork – it was all uniformly beige and came in uniform, round slices. Known to us as roast beast, the only way to identify it was by the sauce: apple for pork, mint for lamb and bog-standard brown gloop for beef.

This invariably came with soggy roast spuds – beige, of course – and vegetables that had been boiled to within an inch of their lives and then left to keep warm for hours. By the time the veg arrived at the table, it was – and you are ahead of me here, I can tell – a remarkable shade of beige with not a hint of texture or flavour. What that woman could do to a brussels sprout does not bear thinking about.

It was then that we all developed our own methods of survival.

Decades ahead of Djoko and his pal, we would close our eyes and try to imagine that this really was chateaubriand, that these were dauphinoise potatoes and that that was bearnaise sauce. Or we did in the beginning. By the end of the first term, we were so poor, so hungry and so worn down by it all, we just shut our eyes and dreamed of cheese on toast as we munched. Anything but roast beast and buggered sprouts.

Anyway, Djoko and Chervin blathered on – Chervin, at one point, promoting his “Golden Mind” drink that retails at a mere $50 a slug – about detoxification and nutrition. What type of water should we be drinking? What type of salt should we be using?

Should, Djoko asked in all seriousness, we use Himalayan sea salt? Er, no, Novak because there is no such thing as Himalayan sea salt. The clue is in the name. It comes from close to the Himalayas. The Himalayas would be a mountain range. They ain’t got no oceans up there. It’s rock salt. No matter, Chervin overlooked that and advised against the product – it’s pink because it has contaminants in it that Chervin doesn’t like. Good to know, then.

Djoko’s guru also advocated the practice of fasting as he went through various types of diet. He mentioned vegetarianism, veganism and, alarmingly, something he called “breathatarianism” [sic].

Breatharians believe that they don’t need food as, Chervin explained, they are “people living off sunshine, grounding to the earth and their breath”. Fortunately, he does not advocate the practice. Phew.

We can only hope that the lockdown restrictions in Marbella are relaxed quickly and that Djoko can get back to the day job. If he doesn’t find something to distract him soon from his ponderings and philosophising, he will disappear up his own nether regions quicker than a rat up a drain pipe. He is the president of the ATP’s player council, after all, and the players need him to be firing on all mental cylinders when everyone gets back to work.

But while lockdown is causing many of us to lose our grip on reality, Captain Tom Moore is still showing us all how it should be done.

Last week, we reported on his remarkable fund-raising efforts: he walked 100 laps of his garden just before his 100th birthday and raised £32.8million for the National Health Service charities. He has now signed a book deal worth £1.5million and he will donate that sum to the NHS, too.

My best mate has a relative by the name of Rich Constable who lives in the wonderfully named Sugar Land in Texas. Rich has spent most of his life in the US, moving there from the UK as a wee boy after his dad got a job with the Schlitz brewery company. But Rich is still a Brit through and through, albeit a displaced one. Three quarters English and one quarter Welsh (these fractions matter when you are a Brit), he is still very much in touch with his roots.

In the story last week, we called Capt. Tom a “global superstar”. Journalistic exaggeration, we heard you cry. Not so, we say.

Rich heard the story of Capt. Tom and put out a request to all the Brits he knew on Facebook: could they send him a letter, just an envelope, so that he could have the special Royal Mail post mark honouring Capt. Tom’s achievements. Pen – my mate – responded sharpish and some days later, the envelope arrived.

Rich proudly posted a picture of the envelope with its postmark “Happy Birthday Captain Thomas Moore. NHS Fundraising Hero. 30th April 2020” with the message “Capt. Tom is a hero to all of us all over the planet.”

Captain Tom, then, is a global superstar. And the people of Sugar Land know it.

But now, if you will excuse me, it is time to take my ludicrous hair (I look like an alpaca that has been put through the hot wash cycle), my rubbish and my recycling outside for the arrival of the bin boys on Monday. My weekly dose of freedom. To the bins and back!