The Meanwood “Grand Slam”

Doug Sandle

I am not very good at tennis, but nonetheless there were times, especially in the Summer after Wimbledon had finished, when inspired by real tennis players, I fancied I might be capable of playing a few games with friends. About 35 years ago, four of us decided on one bank holiday Monday to play a game of mixed doubles, and it was suggested that we try and find a free court at Meanwood Park. As we all lived closer to Cardigan Road than to Meanwood Road, we came into Meanwood by my car. The vehicle I had at that time was a Renault Hatchback (R16?), a car that for some reason seemed popular with teachers and lecturers. My first vehicles had been old battered Land Rovers, but the silver grey Renault was my first “proper” car, my pride and joy, and which at the time of the Meanwood tennis match I was still paying for on HP.

It was a hot sunny day, and we arrived at Meanwood Park quite early, there being no-one else playing at the courts. There was some maintenance and building work being done, and by the roadside and in a “siding” that is now the car park, there were some piles of sand, stones, bricks and a parked steam roller – the work abandoned temporarily for the day’s holiday. The tennis game was proceeding with its usual interruptions – contested decisions as to whether the ball was “in” or “out”, and the score being forgotten, – deliberately or through lack of concentration – all giving rise to arguments and the disintegration of what was supposed to be a proper match into a less formal knock-around. About forty minutes into the “game”, someone shouted over to us from the courts’ entrance. As he approached we gathered he was asking if any of us had a car – a silver grey one parked near the park’s entrance. “Is there a problem?” I asked. “I guess so,” he replied, “it’s been crushed by a steam roller!” We thought he was joking, but he insisted that it was the case.

And so it was. The car’s bonnet and front had been crunched and flattened, the lights and windows all smashed, and paint work elsewhere scraped and split. Evidently some young lads had broken into the steam roller, discovered the keys and decided to have a run around. They lost control and the steam roller mounted the parked car. When the flattened “heap” was transported to my usual garage near Woodhouse Street, the garage hands, much to my annoyance, just laughed (and it did look like something from a comic strip – Desperate Dan or the Bash Street Kids perhaps). I was not happy – I loved that car and it was obviously a write-off. However, surprisingly the garage mechanics saw it as something of a challenge and said they would have a go to see if they could restore it, as the engine was not too badly damaged and they would have a go with fixing and part replacing the body. To my amazement and relief, after a few weeks the Renault was back with me, looking as good as new. I can’t remember who was winning the game at the time – but it was certainly a Grand Slam!

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