Got a place in mind?

Collaborations

In this series of photographs I have asked writers if they have a 'Place in Mind'.
I then take a photograph of that place and send it to them. They write 350 words about that place that stand beside the photograph.

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Geoff Dyer

Cartwright Gardens. London

The only thing I love more than playing tennis is discovering new tennis courts. I chanced upon these, at Cartwright Gardens, as I was cycling into Soho. It seemed an idyllic, completely urban oasis but since it was part of London University I assumed the courts were only for use by students. Then I found out that although they were indeed University courts they were available to the public. There followed a brief honeymoon period because these were the nearest courts to my house and one of the four was always available. Then it became apparent that two of them were so cramped - at both ends and at one side - that they were virtually unusable. The other two were ok at the back but badly hemmed in on the other side. The poorly maintained surface chewed up balls so fast that after three games they were fit only for a dog to chase. And the lines, which must have been freshly painted when I first chanced upon this secret place, faded quickly so that it was like playing on the ghost of a court. This raised a larger question: when is a court not a court? In no time at all I became so fixated by the inadequacies of these almost-courts that I hated playing on them. In the middle of rallies I would be saying to myself: "Why can't they maintain the courts properly? I mean, you pay money to play here and the courts are barely playable at all..." My opponents were less troubled than me, which may be why I lost consistently.

Still, at weekends, when it's impossible to get a court elsewhere in London, I often end up playing here even though I hate playing here. It is, as they say, better than nothing. But in my experience of things that are better than nothing they never are. So although I am glad to have found a place where I can play at the weekends, all the time that I am playing I'm also thinking to myself that I would rather not be playing at all.

Geoff Dyer - Cartwright Gardens. London