A Sporting Chance

So, it’s Wimbledon final today. I have no interest in Wimbledon – save it’s home to the common where the Wombles live. Also, I’ve a friend who lives in Wimbledon. From her balcony, one can see the famed tennis grounds. The actual tennis itself, though, holds no interest for me. 


I was on twitter last night and there was much tennis-talk filling my stream. I ignored it until one tweet caught my eye. It told me that Andy Murray, who is playing in the men’s final as I type, is a survivor of the Dunblane Primary School Massacre. That made me pay attention and I marvelled at the man’s ability to triumph over such an appalling event. 


I remember Dunblane well. I was living in Singapore at the time, the 22 year old wife of a 33 year old Singaporean who was bankrupt (financially and morally, as it turned out) and living in a dump. I was jobless (my then husband’s precarious position as a bankrupt meant he couldn’t sponsor me for residency and, as he was on bail for a number of corporate crime, I was denied a working visa whenever I found an employer willing to apply for one for me). I was also a few weeks away from homelessness.


For weeks, I didn’t bother getting out of bed until just before my husband was due to come home. For what? Why would I bother? It’s not like there was anything for me to do. I slept an unnatural sleep – unconscious for hours and waking more tired than I’d been when I’d gone to sleep. I had no energy for anything. I was isolated. I had no friends and no possibility of meeting any. Efforts to be upbeat took too much energy, so they didn’t last. Sometimes, I would have crying jags that could last literally hours. I ate once a day – if that – and would probably have killed myself if I could have summoned up the energy.

I remember I was in that awful dump, listening to the BBC World Service – which was my lifeline – when I heard a news report from Scotland. Evil had visited a primary school in the small town of Dunblane, a place I’d never even heard of. As I listened and learnt the details of the horror that had unfolded that March morning, I sat on the floor and sobbed. 


My heart broke for the 16 children and their school teacher who were mercilessly – and repeatedly – shot in their school building.  I grieved for their shattered bodies and the shattered dreams of their families. My spirit screamed in agony for the parents who had hugged and kissed their children goodbye that morning as they sent them off to school, and who would never hold them again. My soul ached for the children who survived – but would forever be haunted by the sights and sounds and smells of that morning. My heart broke for the community that had been rent by this horrible, reprehensible crime.


Even as I sat on the floor, with my face in my hands, hot tears splashing into my palms and my shoulders juddering, I did wonder if I was over-reacting. I asked myself how I could be so affected by something that had happened nearly ten thousand miles away, in a place I had never heard of, to people I didn’t know. I wondered if I was just using this terrible news as an excuse to ‘legitimately’ let go of some grief I had stored inside myself. It didn’t feel like that, though. I was genuinely upset at what I was hearing. Deep inside me, something gave up. It was as if the hopelessness I felt inside me was reflected in the outside world.


The thought of a man deliberately loading up two guns and going to a primary school with the sole intention of robbing babies of their lives, parents of their babies, a community of its future, shocked me and seemed personally offensive.

On Wednesday, March 13th, 1996, I felt as though Hope had taken a look around her, given her head a resigned shake, packed her suitcase and headed for sunnier climes. Two months shy of his tenth birthday, Andy Murray was there that day. He saw and heard and smelt and felt what happened. I know a thing or two about trauma. From a personal, professional and an academic point of view, I know  what trauma can do to a person. That’s why I’m in awe of the man currently slugging it out on the court in Wimbledon, attempting to be the first British man to win the men’s single’s final there since (I believe) 1936.


It takes a lot of character, a lot of talent and a lot of drive to make it to Wimbledon. It takes more to make it to a final. And it takes more again to triumph over witnessing a massacre and end up on centre court in Wimbledon for the men’s final.