European Fun in Milton Keynes

Published on Saturday, January 7, 2023

European Fun in Milton Keynes

While everyone else was putting the finishing touches to their Christmas shopping (or if you’re my husband just starting theirs!), the last weekend before the festivities saw me headed to Milton Keynes for a weekend at the European Mixed Team Championship  qualification event. Battling it out for a qualification spot from Group 1 were England, Norway, Slovakia and Poland.

We were an elite group of just four umpires, the others being Seamus from Ireland, Maija from Finland and Vidmantas from Lithuania. As I couldn’t officiate matches involving England, it was a less busy event for me, although the recent snow (of which none where I travelled from in Yorkshire, but in evidence from Junction 15 of the M1 onwards) put paid to any plans of a leisurely jog around the lake in my free time.

My first outing on the Friday afternoon was for the Norway-Poland tie and a new one for me when first the score screen at the back of the court got stuck on 14-11 and by the conclusion of the first end, the tablet had also given up the ghost. As I unfolded my paper score sheet and swiftly made a note of the score in the first game, on came the referee with a clipboard for me to rest on.... no wait, not a clipboard, it was a moderately sized hardback book. The technology failed to come back to life, so I valiantly completed the match balanced on the Complete Works of Shakespeare...

There were various touches to make the competition atmosphere a bit more lively, including the ‘team roar’ by each team at the start of the tie (I’m not sure what the Polish team were shouting but it sounded feisty!) and also the playing of music in the intervals. So catchy were some of the choices of whoever was choosing the tunes that it was difficult not to bop along, leading to my embarrassment in being told that I’d been singing along in the chair during one of the intervals - much to the amusement of match control. Fortunately, the court side microphones were muted during intervals, thus sparing my blushes, although I didn’t discover that until some time later!

After hours when the matches had finished, there was some fierce competition upstairs around the ping pong table - as well as much hilarity as we attempted the alternate hitting doubles rules (cue a number of collisions!).

At the end of the three days, England comfortably finished top of the group and progressed to the next stage, but there were some close games in the other ties, with a couple going right to the wire and decided by the final match. A shout out to the top class team of line judges, who not only put in their usual professional shift but also ensured a stream of pre-Christmas hugs came my way. A fun way to spend a December weekend and I’m pleased to say that ‘Santa’ got his act together while I was gone...

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