Guinness Book of Records

Into my mid thirties I was just about able to retain my place in the Hampshire squash team - strictly at number five. There were various strong and mobile players above me (ah mobility), including the England international John Lelievre, his brother Richard, Martin Shaw, who I never used to lose to and then who I never managed to beat, and Mark Taylor, soon to become a doctor.

This was at the end of my first squash-playing existence. As Evelyn Waugh presciently wrote: ‘Decline and Fall’. I had to be particularly careful at that time to titrate the amount I played against the ill-effects on my bad knee. And I had to make sure that when I did play, it was flat out, nothing wasted. Otherwise I quickly lost even more of my diminishing speed.

With this in mind, I conscientiously took up my Hants place in a match against Kent on the Friday evening of an inter-counties weekend. Kent were good opposition and I was looking forward to a hard game. Unfortunately their number five dropped out at the last minute, and they weren’t able to field a replacement. In a kindly gesture, the Kent team manager, Ian Wright, agreed to give me a game. Ian was a good club player, but nothing like the county standard of the time. So one way or another I was going to have an easy game.

However, if I was going to play well the following day an easy game was the last thing I wanted. When I won the spin for service I felt justified in starting as quickly as I could. Soon we were deep into the first game without my going hand out. To my shame I went on to win the game 9-0 without losing service. The second game began in the same way, with Ian doing his darnedest to win his first rally, and me continuing with my ridiculous efforts to prevent this. Somewhere in the middle of this game we both started to relish what was at stake: would Ian manage to win the serve at least once in the course of the match?

I went two games up after just eighteen rallies, in several of which I had hurtled all over the court to preserve my pristine record. We both needed to towel down in the sixty second interval allowed in those days, enjoying the absurdity of the situation. The third game started. Ian continued to go for winners at every opportunity - he only needed to get lucky once - and I continued to move like a rampant hippo in getting the ball back.

Sad to tell, eventually I made it. Happily, no one was more pleased than Ian.

The clock now winds forward five or six years. I’d moved with my family to Buckinghamshire, and I had to pay my first visit to my new GP, a brilliant physician, the saturnine and worryingly named Dr Geoff Payne. Dr Payne greeted me and asked, was I by any chance the Aubrey Waddy in the Guinness Book of Records? Of course not, I said, how could that be? But then it came back to me. At the bar after our game, Ian had joked that since our match was certainly unique - a top level (in amateur terms) game where the losing player did not once get to serve the ball, it ought to be in the Guinness Book of Records. I hadn’t paid any attention, but it dawned on me that he had actually submitted the story, and it had been published.

I went to a lot of trouble to try to discover the year in which the story appeared. Dr Payne no longer had his copy of the book, Guinness were conspicuously unhelpful and the hours I spent in charity bookshops went unrewarded.

So I have the frustration of having made it into the Guinness Book of Records, admittedly for an ignominious reason, without ever having seen the entry.

Sadly, Ian Wright died a couple years ago. I never had the chance to reminisce with him about my ignoble behaviour.

Does anyone have a photo of Ian that I can post here? A good guy and a good sport.