July 04, 2008

The Couchsitters' A-Z guide to queuing for Wimbledon tickets

Arrival time — Getting in The Queue at the right time is crucial. On the first day, we arrived at around 3pm (the day before) and were 65th and 66th in line. On the second day, we pitched our tent at around 6.30pm, putting us is 259th and 260th positions. Rumour around the campsite was you had to arrive by 10pm the night before to secure Centre-Court seats. If a ground pass is more your style, arrive at around 6am on the day of play to be one of the lucky 6000.
Buying tickets — Make sure you are fully cashed up before you hit the ticket booths, as cold, hard cash is the only form of payment the peeps at Wimbledon will accept. Also, don't freak out when the old biddies in front of you are taking forever to choose their seats — we were cursing the ones in front of us, imagining all the good seats were quickly being snapped up at the other booths — because this ain't Ticketek with it's computerised fanciness, it's old school, and each booth has a set amount of printed tickets to sell.
Clothing — Just because the Poms tell you it's summer, and are baring their sunburnt flesh like it's a heatwave, doesn't actually mean you can get away with pretty sundresses and Havaianas. Prepare for all weather conditions, because during the day you could be sitting smack, bang in the sun, but it's bound to cool down in the evening.
Do's and don'ts — More than just a line, The Queue for Wimbledon is a highly-organised, people-moving machine. There are stewards left, right and centre, 24 hours a day, and with such organisation comes rules. Queuers are asked to keep down noise levels for the benefit of both local residents and fellow campers, once you are in The Queue, you are not allowed to leave (a mere technicality, see Multiple days), fires and barbecues are not allowed, tents should sleep a maximum of two people and there is strictly no Queue jumping...
Endless waiting around Whoever came up with the saying 'patience is a virtue', surely musta queued for Wimbledon tickets back in the day. Over the two days, we spent over 34 hours waiting around in The Queue. Now that's a whole lotta thumb twiddling!
Food — Take some. At the very least, stock up on some suitable snackage before you go. To save your wallet (and your taste buds) pack yourself some lunch to take into the grounds — just make sure it's in a soft cool bag, as they won't let eskys in. If you do come unprepared, never fear, various local takeaways will come around with their menus and will deliver to your tent. The guys in the tent next to us even convinced one pizza joint to stop off and grab them some beer and wine on the way.
Getting drunk — Don't do it. By all means, share a few bevvies with your tent neighbours, but don't go overboard — a killer hangover is guaranteed to ruin your Wimbledon experience.
Hygiene — To combat the lack of showers, we took along some baby wipes and antiseptic hand gel. But in the end, we just had to pack on as much deodorant as possible and hope for the best. While queuing is no time to be precious about such things as greasy hair and unwashed pits, princesses can find some comfort in the fact the toilets were exceptionally clean.
Insanely early wake-up call — Ahh, there's nothing like a steward shaking your tent at 5.30am to really get your day going! Yes, I did say 5.30am. They'll tell you they'll wake you at 6am, and then they'll trick you by doing it half an hour earlier. There's no time for pulling your sleeping bag over your head and trying to steal some extra precious minutes of snooze time, either — you've only got about 45 minutes to get dressed, pack up all your stuff, take it to left luggage and get in line.
Jumping The Queue — Don't even think about it. Everyone is very protective of their place in The Queue, and you'll always find someone asking to inspect your Queue Card, making sure you haven't stolen their well-earnt spot.
Killing time — Some people play cards, others read, while some decide to just drink away the boredom. It's always a good idea to bring something to keep you entertained, at least for a little while. If all else fails, chatting to your tent neighbours (provided they aren't knobs) is a great way to wile the waiting away.
Left luggage — With only one bag per person (measuring no more than 45cm x 30cm x 30cm) allowed into the grounds, you're gonna have to leave your tent and luggage somewhere. Luckily, the Wimbledon peeps have already thought about it, and provided mobile left-luggage facilities near the camping area. For only £1 per item, you can dump your stuff. Don't forget that they close an hour after the last play of the day, so don't get caught out.
Multiple days — Wanna get decent seats for more than one day in a row? Well make like the Couchsitters (that'd be us) and sneak out of the tennis at about 6pm, quickly set up your tent, grab your Queue Cards, then power walk back to the tennis to watch the rest of the day's play. Technically you're not spose to do this, but once you have your Card, your spot is basically set in stone. We just pretended we were ducking off to quickly grab some food... and who said crime doesn't pay?
Newspapers — There will be various people pushing their designated paper to you all morning, which is great for getting the lowdown on the day's play. Just don't fall for any of the freebies they are offering (binoculars, giant foam hands, radios) as they will be confiscated before you enter the grounds — they aren't fans of 'ambush marketing' at The Championships, you see.
Only one Queue — In previous years they have had two Queues running along the pavement outside the grounds, one running North, the other South, causing havoc on the street and making queuers face the conundrum on which line to choose. This year, they decided to keep it simple, and have one line weaving through Wimbledon Park. Much easier and much comfier!
Parking — You can park in an official carpark for £25 a day (not available overnight) OR you can do what we did and visit parkatmyhouse.com, an easy-to-use site where people rent out their driveways, garages and resident parking spots. We got a park about 10 minutes walk away, and it only set us back £5 a day — bargain!
Queue Cards — Each and every person in The Queue is given a Queue Card, these precious babies are printed with the date, and are numbered to show your position in The Queue. Guard them with your life, and have them on hand at all times — you never know when someone is gonna demand to see it!
Radio — We took the portable radio off Punts' dashboard and listened to Radio Wimbledon (87.7FM) to catch the next day's Order of Play.
Stewards — The Stewards are your friends (unless you are barbecuing, being noisy at 2am or trying to Queue jump) and they are on hand 24 hours a day. Seek out a Steward on arrival to make sure you are queuing in the right spot, and have a chat to them when they walk past as most of them are very friendly and more than willing to help out.
Tent — Please don't think you can simply rock up without any sort of shelter — it might be summer, but it does get bloody cold, and it rains! Tents and sleeping bags are a must! We'd also recommend a blow up mattress or a foam mat, we didn't and we paid for it. Earplugs would also make a good investment, as there is always someone talking in a nearby tent, always.
Underground — If you are travelling on The Tube, the nearest station is Southfields (not Wimbledon, like most people assume). It's about a 10-minute walk and there'll be heaps of signs pointing you in the right direction.
Various Queue stages — Once you get woken up at 5.30am, the real queuing begins. Once everyone is packed up, you get in line in order of your Queue Cards. Then, you wait around for a while before The Queue slowly snakes it's way towards the grounds, by now it's about 7am. At about 8pm, after standing around for an hour, some Stewards will come around and give you your wristband (see Wristbands), then you will form three lines, one for Centre Court, One for Court One, and one for Court Two and Ground Passes. After inching your way along the lines, you will the go through security (see X-ray) over a bridge and to the gates, where you will wait... again. At 9.30am they will start selling tickets and will let you in to a small area of the grounds, where everybody waits until you are finally unleashed at 10.30am. Yes, there's a lot of waiting!
Wristbands — Before you go through security, you will be asked which court you would like to be on and you'll be given a coloured wristband to signify which court you are allowed to buy tickets for. You'll need to keep the wristbands on until you buy your tickets, and while you don't really need them after that, most people keep theirs on as a badge of honour.
X-ray — Don't try and take any sort of weapons into the ground, as everyone has to have their bag X-rayed, their face scanned and their body metal detected.
Yobbo Aussies — There's no escaping them! While we had our very own encounter with one very dunken Aussie sheila (see post below), you're bound to run into more than a few Australian-flag-bearing dickheads throughout the Queue and around the grounds. If you aren't Australian, we apologise and promise we aren't all complete tools.
Zzzs — Dont expect to catch many of these. Even the most well-prepared queuer is bound to find themselves victim of noisy neighbours and cold conditions. And if they do manage to find themselves sleeping peacefully, you can always count on the 5.30am wake-up call to put and end to that!