Roy woke at four in the morning thinking of his mother Gwen lying dead in the room next door. He rose at five and wandered the web: Barclays bank fined for fixing interest rates; Barclay brothers, no relation, feuding with residents of Sark; Boris Johnson’s hire bikes sponsored by Barclays bank, his journalism in a newspaper the Barclay brothers owned. The Barclays London Mayor, someone had joked – Johnson himself. Previews of Murray versus Karlovic, Germany versus Italy. Roy read on and on: gruesome murders, race rows, outrage over speeding fines, rival politicians re-positioning; addiction; intrigue; anticipation; gloom.
At seven came the small, encroaching sounds of a stirring suburb satellite – cars starting and departing, neighbours distantly closing and opening doors – took him back to setting off for the City in its early Big Bang days, when the Square Mile sucked in expertise like Roy’s to measure pitfalls and probabilities. His commuting compass had swung towards the capital’s core. He’d felt a trickled-down sense of moving up. His salary had begun to rise. Kristie was all his at home, the girls, safe and small. Nothing much was hurting him any more.
From ten o’clock he slumbered again, lullabied by nothingness TV until and stirred by Serena Williams crushed a sacrificial Hungarian. There was no point going to work. Roy studied Williams, looked her up, remembered Richard her “big character” dad, father also of the older Venus and step-father of another sister who had been murdered, gunned down on the very same, gang-run Los Angeles streets from which the Williams family had risen.
Serena’s parents were divorced, though, and angrily. Serena herself had just been seriously ill. Death and sickness had haunted the road to glory, to all that achievement against the odds. Riots had ravaged Croydon, women leaping from burning buildings. In this world, no one could be sure of anything.
Murray won again, but dropped a set. Sharapova had earlier done the same. Nadal, the Spanish bull, number two seed, lost. Balotelli scored, brilliantly, twice to put the Germans on the rack before half time. A late, late penalty halved the Italians’ lead, but victory was still theirs. After his second, Balotelli had torn off his shirt off, struck a body-builder pose. Roy read that as a small boy Balotelli had nearly died of faults in his intestines, been fostered when aged three, and was locked in a bitter feud with his Ghanaian birth parents, who he’d accused of giving him away.
Roy went to bed, restless, dissatisfied, wrung out by the vastness of the human story and its wild improbabilities, and wondering how long it had been since he’d reviewed his life assurance policies.
All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE.
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