Squash has been my favourite game
since I gave up tennis in the tropics, because of the shortage of daylight after office
hours. Now that I am past 70, it keeps the circulation going and the muscles tuned. Having
only been a moderate performer, one's ego does not suffer too much as sharpness declines
and too many games are lost.
I first played the game back in 1934, on a concrete
court at school, which backed onto the Fives courts. The latter was regarded as a much
more important game. I remember once terrifying myself by trying to play with a golf ball!
Now 56 years later, I still enjoy my club league
matches at the Oaklands Park courts in Chichester. In the meantime I have played squash in
many unexpected places, with unexpected people.
In India, during the war, most military stations had
squash courts, and a game was always to be had, as all the clubs had a resident
professional. At one stage, I took some leave in Peshawar, on the North West Frontier,
where the club professional seemed unusually good. His name was
Hashim Khan (subsequently
seven times World Champion).
After the war, I spent many years in Africa. Ten years
out in the bush did not improve my game. Some stations had open concrete-floored courts,
but none on which I served. So I was delighted to get back on court at Cambridge during a
course at home. The enjoyment was short-lived. In my second game, there was a loud bang,
and my right Achilles tendon came completely adrift. Many months in plaster, and several
more trying to straighten out my foot, kept me off court until I got back to the bush.
Later on, we found ourselves in capital cities, notably
Lusaka, Zomba and Lilongwe, where there were proper courts and the standard of squash
could be quite high. Our one-time Zambia National Champion, Harry O'Connor, has in recent
years won the World Veterans' in Canada, and the British Open Vintage twice. In those
Jonah Barrington came out in the British summer to train at altitude, with a
sparring partner, and I well remember some fascinating demonstration matches with Mike
Corby, as well as Jonah's flamboyant coaching sessions.
There were also numerous keen players in Malawi. Our
No.1 Nigel Hunter, ran up Zomba Mountain every morning. My own modest achievements
included playing at No.5 for Malawi against Kenya and Zambia. Once I just lost the Plate
in the Malawi Championships by three penalty points (at 7 all in the fifth, after one and
a quarter hours!). This gave me ambitions, and on leave I entered for the South of England
in Britain; I got two points in the first round! (off Andy Dwyer).
In the tropics, the game is different, in that at
altitude and in heat, even the slowest ball flies around the court. A dead drop shot is
nearly impossible, at least for club players, and almost everything leaps off the back
wall. Rallies can become interminable. In later years, I have played in Colombo and Dar es
Salaam, and in these humid places there is an added hazard. After about two games, the
sweat starts dropping off the bottom of one's shorts, with unfortunate consequences for
the surface of the floor.
I always take my racquet on trips abroad. There is a
nice club near Antibes, and hotels in capital cities, such as Rome, often have courts. I
once found a court near my hotel in Copenhagen, where I was challenged by a lady, who
turned out to be the runner-up in the recent Danish Championships!
A notable change since I first joined the Chichester
club in 1968 has been the relative improvement in the ladies' game. I remember in those
days a senior lady player complaining that because no man would play with them, they could
not get any pace into their game. Things have certainly changed since then.
I have been a member of the Veterans SRC of Great
Britain for several years. This gives the opportunity of taking part in age group
competitions, and joining the congenial fraternity of older squash players. I am now
waiting for the day when there is no-one else left in my age group, when I shall triumph
The 'Tim Dening Challenge', an over 35 singles squash
trophy is now played each year at the Chichester Lawn Tennis and Squash Club in West
Sussex, England, in memory of Tim and his love for the sport.