I was delighted to finally put the Lawn Tennis Writer’s annual Awards lunch put to bed, it honestly felt like a huge load off my mind and why I decided to take a few days off before throwing myself into the swing of pre-Christmas celebrations. An outstanding invitation to stay a few days at Alan Minshaw’s delightfully converted farm house near Malpas was not without a reason even though I was there in early August when we even managed to play a couple of hit and giggle games of tennis on his private court. Only this last time was a different story. Three weeks after my last visit Alan suffered a massive heart attack while watching his sons race at Oulton Park on the August Bank Holiday Monday. The mere fact that he’s alive today is short of a miracle and basically due to the quick thinking of nearby pit side paramedics who worked tirelessly for almost an hour keeping him alive and then rushed him to hospital in an awaiting ambulance rather than the standby helicopter. This enabled them to continue working on his heart which gives you an idea just how serious this incident was. Immediately on arrival at the hospital he was put into an induced coma which he slowly came out of some two weeks later. Everyone thought the worse but luckily Alan is extremely fit and recovered well with only a slight loss of memory and slurring speech to start with which, by the time I arrived, was all but unnoticeable.  Staying with Alan during those few days prior to Christmas was, if anything, an eye opener. It was hard to comprehend just how close to death he had come.

For obvious reasons he was not allowed to drive and I ended up driving everywhere including to The Old Hall Tennis and Country Club for lunch one day. This is where Alan often worked out, usually a couple of days a week. The number of people who stopped by our table to have a chat and wish him well was amazing, and all were surprised at just how well he looked. We even went to his daughter, Emma’s 50th birthday celebrations in Tattenhall’s village hall, his first foray since the heart attack and understandably everyone there was equally amazed to see him looking so well.  A couple of days later I returned to London on bright clear, sunny morning arriving in time to attend a friend’s pre-Christmas drinks party. This was followed by the usual round of proverbial drinks and dinner parties and why I decided to head for Sandbanks to stay a few days with friends Fanny and Robert. It was unseasonably warm weather and each morning Fanny and I would take Jake, their adorable springer spaniel Jake, for long walks along the nearby sandy beaches, what bliss! I have to say there’s never a dull moment chez the Thomases household, whether its people coming to lunch or dinner, dogs being dropped off for a few days stay, or collected or even fitting in a spot of pre-Christmas shopping in nearby Parkstone, it is all part of pre-Christmas fun and enjoyment and why I like this time of year.




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