Review of the reads – July 2023

Words by:
Yusef Sayed
Featured in:
July 2023

Yusef Sayed’s review of the reads.

Everyone for Tennis!
By Mike Garrs
Published by the author, price £20

As tennis fans look forward to Wimbledon, Mike Garrs has compiled a new book that looks back at the 100-year history of a popular local tournament. The Sandilands and Sutton-on-Sea Tennis Week sees competitors taking to the courts of houses along the coast with a spirit of community. Except for the inevitable showers, the tournament has only been interrupted by the war and Covid.

Garrs, president of the tournament since 2008, draws upon archival newspaper reports of early events as well as more recent records and reminiscences to tell the story. This is a broad overview taking in all the winners and cups, details of the draw meetings, AGMs and social occasions that have been key to the successful continuation of Tennis Week. The nearby Grange and Links Hotel, now closed, plays a major part in setting the scene across many years, as do the evocative house names such as ‘The Paternosters’ and ‘Briarwood’.

Touching tributes are paid to notable personalities who have made an impact, from former president Basil Hopwood to staunch supporter and one-time secretary Anne Whitty, to whom the book is dedicated. Rare achievements like the ‘Triple Crown’ – of singles and doubles wins for a single player – are highlighted.

And there are intriguing connections that look beyond the court, too.

minimalist sport played against the backdrop of wide empty beaches is contrasted, then, with a wealth of history and detail. This will be a valuable document for entrants, committee members and local residents, though there may be less appeal to the general reader. The text is often presented in more of an informative long caption style, proceeding year-by-year, rather than a historical narrative. As such it cries out for more photographs, especially of the players and parties, to accompany the words – something to consider as the story continues.

opies can be ordered from the author: and proceeds will go towards the tournament funds.

Flat and Boring There Isn’t It?
By Amanda Pearson
Published by Paul Dickson Books, price £12.50
This collection of poems celebrates the Lincolnshire fenlands. Conveying sensory impressions in rhyming verse and haiku, Amanda Pearson turns away from the rush of modern town life and media feeds, to focus on our rural weather and wildlife.

There are playful approaches to form here and there, from zigzagging lines representative of drivers sliding across muddy roads, and the cloud of words standing in for bothersome gnats – but the inventive use of eye rhyme (‘look where you’re going’/‘could be your undoing’) is elsewhere let down by more unadventurous repetitions, notably the use of ‘bright’ and ‘white’ multiple times within the same poem (‘Cloud Art’). And for a writer who has a “strong aversion” to words like ‘neutral’, the abundance of ‘grey’ doesn’t reflect the distinct hues in Lincolnshire’s landscapes: ‘grey clouds’, ‘grey power stations’, ‘grey sails’, ‘grey squirrels’…

Having begun to write about her experiences in prose before distilling her impressions down into verse, it also seems unnecessary for Pearson to include the accompanying introductions to each poem but the photographic section that appears in the middle of the book adds tremendously to the overall picture.

From vast skies to delicate, dew-drenched cobwebs and flowers, and the unexpected beauty of lichen on the log pile, Pearson says her photos help her find the words – they don’t replace the words.

These are poems rooted in place rather than a poetry of personal introspection. There are nice mergings of local associations in simile, like that of landscape and labour in ‘Storm in a Teacup’ (‘tears bloated clouds, spilling their contents./Like grain from a split sack, fat raindrops fall’). Or as when the rustle of trees in the fenlands calls to mind the coast, ‘to complete/the illusion of a day on the beach’. These hint at the possibilities in Pearson’s writing but there is a rich vocabulary of names, dialect, and species designations that would further illuminate such locally inspired poems.

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