Our intrepid reporter Grant Mortar talks everything from knighthoods to manhoods, and mermaids to robots,
with Britain’s own racquetball hero Andy Murray, 12.
If you drive into Dunblane on the A999, hanging a left at Kwik Save and then, at the roundybout, taking a sharp right – and I mean a sharp right, twice I missed that turn, my satnav practically women’s-tennis-grunting at me in opprobrium, once I nearly drove all the way up to the Dunblane Hydro (a hotel, not some Victorian water-powered mill) – eventually you’ll find yourself in the loose gravel carpark of the Dunblane Golf and Crown Green Bowls and Darts and Cross-Country Running and Tennis Club. The clubhouse is done out as though the furnishings have been borrowed from a BBC department which preserves relics from the 1970s and early ‘80s, in case they want to make a new installment of Life on Mars. The regulars look like Martians. Some of them look as though they’ve been on a PPI holiday for the past twenty years. Since that wallpaper was fashionable, methinks. They don’t make much of their links with the local hero here – this was the site of his first sweaty, all fingers and thumbs fumblings with the sport - but if you buy a pint of heavy at the bar, the surly barmaid might answer a few questions about him. She might recall some anecdote about the man as a boy bristling with talent and hate. She might tell how his screams upon losing a point used to short-circuit the electrics, or how he once stole a golf cart to run down an umpire who made a bad line-call. She might even, in hushed tones, discuss how he smashed up the TV when England won some meaningless football friendly. But when she does tell of these things, watch how shifty her eyes will be. They’ll be forever tick-tocking toward the door. That’s not boss-eyedness, though God knows it’s common in these parts. No. She’s scared. For her life. She fears that, if she says the wrong thing about the local hero, his mother might appear, SHAZZAAAAMMMM and cut out her tongue with a rusty For this is the dark side of success, right here.
The light side we all know about. We thought the Olympian summer of 2012 couldn’t be topped (our small island came third
in overall medals won in those, our home games). But 2013 has proved to be just as thrilling for the British sports fan. In
cycling, Chris Froome became only the second ever British winner of the Tour De France (in its centennial year). In golf,
Justin Rose won the US Open in some style. In rugby, the British and Irish Lions beat perennial rivals Australia. In Australia.
In cricket, we also paid the Aussies back for years of misery by completely dominating them in the Ashes series. A young
British sprinter named James Dasaolu recently ran the second quickest time ever recorded by a UK athlete, and he’s only
going to get faster. Mo’s “done the MoBot” yet again. Brits who, for years, had to get used to being known as “gallant losers”
or “nearly men” are suddenly winning, and we don’t really know how to handle it.
The last time I met walking stereotype Andy Murray was in July 2009, when he hadn’t a title to his name, nor a pot to piss
in. Indeed, after my interview with the Murray-ster, 56, it was revealed the flat he pretended was his “crib” was actually a
squat. Which explained the faulty electrics (a common theme in Scotland), the graffiti on the stair, and the busted lock on t’door.
Indeed, the Murr-anda Rights was discovered to be homeless and struggling to cope with a skag addiction which threatened to ruin his burgeoning raquetball career. Thankfully, the Murr-derer’s turnaround since then has been nothing short of incredible. The kind of “learning about yourself” process rarely seen outside reality TV formats like the Apprentice, in which business knowhow is secondary to character arc. You see, the Mur(dock out of the A-Team) has discovered how to make his inner beast work for him. All that rage, all that antipathy, all that pent-up angst now grunges out of him on the tennis courts of Wimbledon, for example, where this year he became the first British player, complete with cock, to win the All England Club’s championship in 77 long years. The last time I met Andy Pandy, 89, the Scottish ne’er do well chuntered on for hours about getting “pleasure from other people’s leisure” as though it were an interview for the position of Sports Hall attendant. Now, of course, the monotone-fingernails-on-a-blackboard-voiced Murray is
He’s a bona fide British champ.
And his arrival at the Dunblane Golf and Crown Green Bowls and Darts and Cross-Country Running and Tennis Club is befitting of his new celebrity status. First I hear the music: a thudding bassline that seems to echo up from the very bowels of the earth. Then I see the fleeing golfers on the first.
They’re spilling their clubs, running so wildly you might think a “travelling community” had tried to set up camp on the tee. Then,
coming over the hill, a monster: shaggy-haired Andy Murray’s souped-up, twin-exhaust, spoilered, gold wheel-trimmed beach
buggy. The Scot’s ladyfriend’s hair pouring out of the back of it like a magical carpet. I get my photographer to fire off a few shots
of this, since the women’s magazines are forever going on about how she gets her hair like this. So carpety.
But it’s not her I’m here for. She’s but a cheerleader, and not even the chief cheerleader. No – that role is reserved for the
Murrjango’s mother incarnate.
And I’m here for the star Quarterback, if I’m not mixing my sports metaphors too much.
Murray skids to a halt outside the clubhouse, his back tyres grinding the flower garden to shit. He jumps out through the windows
as though he’s in The Dukes of Hazard. Flexes his muscles. Buffs his resplendent hair. Farts. Murray is clad in a Sergio Tacchini
football casual tracksuit, only it appears to be a custom job, like the buggy. It’s all tartan, and the famed Italian designers have
even incorporated a sporran into the design of his tight shorts.
Behind the bar, the barmaid chokes back a sob. I get the feeling she’s had quite a few run-ins with the scamp-ish Murray, perhaps going back years. Possibly to the time Murray lost his virginity to the game of bat and ball on those hallowed concrete courts round back of the clubhouse, by the bike sheds.
Murray switches off the engine of his buggy and collects a photocopier-sized ghettoblaster from the back seat. He clicks play on the tape deck, wedges the blaster on his powerserve-enhanced shoulder, and pimp-walks to the door. Kicks it open.
A few old guys at the bar nod, give him the thumbs up. One of them puts an ageing paw over the top of his whisky glass,
perhaps in case the Murrjangle clambers up on the bar in the manner of his après-Wimbledon racquetball win when he
galumphed up to the posh seats to see his mammy. I approach Murray, 6, proffer a hand. He looks at it as though it contains a brand of barley water that isn’t Robinson’s. I tell him I’m there to interview him, ask does he remember our last apocryphal meet. He looks me up and down as though I’m a ballgirl who just dropped the ball I was supposed to retrieve on a headlong, hunchbacked net-dash. I try to engage him with warm-up chat about music. To settle both our nerves. “What you listening to Mr… I mean Sir… Is it
But he can’t hear me. The music’s too loud. It’s rap, I think. All snarly and fighty. I think it may be Kanye West. The lyrics go like this: “Bloody murder, murder, murder.” Murray mouths along with all of they. “Is it Kanye?” I ask, upping my own volume a notch.
He fixes me with frenzied eyes: “It’s ma Spotify, ya bawbag.”
After a few more misunderstandings, not least of which is my inability to comprehend how he can have Spotify on a tape-playing ghettoblaster, I come to understand that Murray’s music choice is rather eccentric. It seems that every tune he “goes aboot to” is a tune he thinks is about him - from Marie, Marie (which he wails along to as Murray, Murray) to the old tune from the Murray Mints ad - Murray Mints, Murray Mints, Too Good to Hurry Mints.
We take a seat by a large panoramic window offering a wonderful view of the first hole, and also of his skid marks which have
cut up the turf. Murray’s missus is still sat in the front of the buggy, unmoving, her hair like molten gold, and I get the impression
she might be a mermaid.
Have you ever seen her feet? She’s forever hid behind other seats in a tennis ground or else sat in a beach buggy, looking
slightly confused as to why she’s not conditioned in the last ten seconds. I’m convinced there’s a fish-tail down there. Mark my
The barmaid serves us with a couple of glasses of barley water which Murray sniffs first in order to ensure its Robinson’s.
I slap my Dictaphone on the low table.
And for a moment, I truly believe Murray is about to slap his dick on the table, perhaps as some symbolic gesture: this is the first dick in 77 years… That type of thing. But thankfully his fumbling in the pants-area is only a precursor to something else. From his sporrany manbag, he produces a few items and drops them on the table instead. A mobile phone with a smashed screen (I’m dying to ask, was he watching the new Sky Sports coverage of England’s national side on it?), a crumpled ten pound note which has a picture of his own face sellotaped on top of Darwin’s (and maybe Jane Austen, given time?), some banana peel, and, weirdly, two chains. Both contain a half-heart pendant. Both are engraved with the letters BFF.
Bestest Friends Forever.
I can’t not ask. So, framing my question carefully, I enquire as to who vies for the affections of the Howlin’ Mad Murr-dockster.
Turns out one has been presented to him by Mr Scotland Alec Salmond, the other by “some wide-o called Cameron.” I press him on the identity of this ‘Cameron’. Murray thinks it’s probably Cameron Frye “out of that fuckin Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fillum. Ya ken the sucker played by Alan Ruck. The one whose car gets totalled.” I ask him whether it might possibly be David Cameron. Of course, we all know Diddy Dave wouldn’t be seen dead with a Scotsman, but if there’s a chance of reflected glory, he’ll make one BFF-pendant-shaped exception. Murraykins takes exception to my use of the word “Diddy”. He prefers “wee man”. Indeed, it seems as though the whole interview is going about as badly as our previous meet, when our only “bonding experience” came as we crossed the streams in his bathroom. When I ask him what he feels about all that palaver; with his being in line to follow those other famed recipients of a knighthood - Fred Goodwin, Jimmy Saville, Robert Mugabe – the notoriously truculent Murray clenches a fist.
And I don’t think he’s about to celebrate a match-point cross-court bat-stroke.
I ask him how it feels to be a champ.
Murray takes time to answer. First he pulls a banana out of his sock. Slowly, he unpeels it. Takes one bite, and then
tries to peel it back up like it’s a sleeping bag. Then he puts it back in his sock. Finally, he growls: “From ma oaksters
to ma wee tippytoes it feels fuckin... fuckin...” But he can’t finish the sentence. I feel there’s some uneasiness with fame
here, however it’s becoming increasingly clear I can’t push him on any of these slippery subjects. When he wanders off to
take “a wazz” in the “bogs”, I can’t help but find myself wishing he’ll also go in there to stew up some skag (or however it is you take it). Because he used to be a lot more fun when he was a loser.
While Murray’s gone, I wave at his missus. I really should have found out her name for this interview, but – be honest – does it really matter? What matters is her lovely
She continues to stare, flat-ahead. She’s looking for a horizon that isn’t there, a silver-lined cloud which does not exist Maybe. Perhaps she’s not a mermaid. Perhaps she’s a robot, specifically designed to like tennis? Murraldinho returns from the bogs, still zipping up his Sergios. He looks discombobulated. I ask him what’s up. He tells me there was “some NED” with a puffin-face in the bogs, waiting for him. Apparently he’s always in there. “Him and they Yankee actors offof that movie about what it’s like to wake up every day in Scotland, ya ken the one?”
“Aye. That’s the feller. All of um following me aboot now, wantin a piece of me. I cannae move for sycophants.” He collects all his junk offof the table. “I’m gonny make like a tree. And leave.”
I wince. “You can’t leave yet, Andy, 34… We’ve hardly even tackled the thorny subject of - ”
But he won’t listen. Once the Murraymound’s mind is made up, nobody can change it. Apart from his mam. Apart from Ivan Lendl.
I watch him go, a tear tickling the corner of my eye. But as he leaves, in that combine-harvester-sounding rev-engined beach buggy of
his, something magical happens. His missus waves at me again, only she doesn’t use her hand. She uses her mermaid’s tail.
Only a prince can step out with mermaids, I think. And for that reason, I say make Andy Murray, 104, a knight of the realm.
I’m with Diddy. And Alex Salmond. Andy Murray is my new BFF.
Indeed, he’s the whole of Britain’s new BFF. He’s worth it, just like his bird’s hair.