Synopsis & Opening Chapter of Shared Dreams Novel
Brief Synopsis for ‘Shared Dreams’ By Rob Watson.
All over the world people are dreaming of sporting glory. The harsh fact of sport is there can only be on winner. This story follows three sets of rivals in three different sports, all heading for a showdown as they have their eyes fixed on the same prize. There are two female tennis players, Lauren the all American golden girl and undisputed number one, going up against the feisty, scrappy working class Nikki from England. Style of play are just one of the stark contrasts between the two of them, Lauren plays with the perfect efficiency of a textbook personified, whilst Nikki's technique makes her look like she's chopping wood with an axe that's too heavy for her. Lauren dominates her opponents with a serene brilliance, Nikki has to scrap for every point and often leaves opponents wondering just how she beat them. Lauren is a sweetheart who charms everyone, Nikki is known as the mouthiest bitch on tour and uses her banter to get an edge on her opponents. Lauren has her sights set on the perfect year of winning all four major championships, Nikki is focussed on winning Wimbledon and making her break through into the big time, only one of them dreams can come true.
Nick is the metronomic golfing machine from America, a mysterious loner that the press can't get to open up at all. Lee is the English golfer who sprays the ball all over the place but has extravagant skills that help him match Nick's achievements, he's perfect for the press as he loves talking to them and nobody knows what he's going to say next. Firmly established as the world's two best players, their paths often cross, this time their big clash comes at St Andrews as the home of golf hosts the Open Championship. Both of them are desperate for the win, only one of them can.
The English Rugby League season is dominated by two teams on opposite side of the Pennines, Warrington and Leeds. Warrington are defending champions and make up for their lack of size with great speed, desire and class. Leeds are bigger, stronger and just as determined to end up as Champions. Alfie and Virginia are Warrington fans and Ronni their friend is a Leeds fan, the story of the season is told by interaction between them via text, email, msn chats and the occasional meet up. The two teams meet in the Grand Final at Old Trafford to decide who will be champions, Virginia and Ronni both have younger sisters who are blind, Ronni commentates on matches for her sister Charlie and Alfie commentates for Virginia's sister Mona.
All three story strands will leave you guessing as to which rival is going to live out that particular dream. Some readers might find themselves pulling for one rival, others might want the different rival to win. All six of them deserve to win, but only three of them will. Every sporting dream that is lived out is always someone else’s nightmare.
‘Do you people ever take no for an answer?’
‘It’s against company policy.’
‘How can you sleep at night?’
‘I can afford one of those luxurious beds.’
‘You have no guilt about what you’re involved in?’
‘I’m just a business man.’
‘You’re a corruptor.’
‘When are you going to grow out of your naivety? Sport is big business.’
‘Sport is supposed to be a pure contest, a simple way to find out who is the best.’
‘It’s long since been about much more than that. Your love for sport has blinded you to the sinful thing it now is.’
‘Sport is not sinful, it can never be. People can be sinful, people like you, and you just happen to be involved in sport. Sport itself is still a great metaphor for life, a fantastic way to reveal character and awesome fun.’
‘So outdated I can’t believe it.’
‘Don’t make this out to be a simple curse of the modern world. You just have to look back to the 1919 World Series to realise your company is not breaking any new ground. Trust me, just a few minutes after each sport was invented people started to bet on it and figured out a way to cheat at it. My worry is that the cheats are becoming more prevalent. What’s worse, some cheating is now deemed to be acceptable and sickeningly is often termed “professional”. Kids around the world are watching their so called role models cheating almost as a matter of course. Most of it can be understood by saying it’s the wrong type of competitiveness gone too far. But the drug cheats and the match fixers, they’re the ones who are sinful, not the sports that they disrespect so much.’
‘So you think gambling is sinful?’
‘No not at all, some people might, but not me. Gambling by its definition is trying to predict the outcome of which is unknown to anybody. You people try to take away the unknown, you want to bet on things you know are going to win. I don’t even have too much of a problem with you getting insider information and betting from the knowledge gained from that, although I’d never give you any myself. If you’ve done more and better research than the bookies, then maybe more fool them for betting on the outcome. As soon as you start fixing those outcomes, however you do it, that’s when I put you on a par with the devil.’
‘We’re just protecting our investment, like all those city financers.’
‘Almost sounds like you believe that. You’re messing with people’s dreams and ruining the gladiatorial splendour of sport. I refuse to believe that they’ll ever be a kid that dreams of one day being a big sports start, just so they’re in a position to take a huge bribe.’
‘People don’t stay as kids forever.’
‘Maybe they should, the world would be a much better place. A sickeningly horrible side effect of the bribers and the drug takers is that, in a way, we’re all tarred with it. No athlete can produce a lifetime best performance in a major event without virtually all of us wondering whether they’ve taken drugs, probably just a nagging little thought in the back of our minds, but it’s there all the same. One of the great things about sport should be the occasional big upset, the day when somehow, someway on that given occasion, David actually does beat Goliath. Now anytime that happens the nagging thought in our minds is, “Did Goliath take a bung?” People like you have damaged sport forever, I want to do all I can to make sure that your damage is limited.’
‘So you’re telling me I can keep you in our “maybe” file.’
‘You can put me straight into your no file and don’t ever think of moving me.’
‘Told you we don’t have a ‘no’ file.’
Like many other tennis fans I’d got up early to watch the final of the Ladies Singles at the Australian Open. Of course she was in the final and of course she won. Just as predictably she’d done it in style and with a complete orthodoxy about everything she did. It had reminded me of watching an episode of Colombo - you knew who was going to win, you only watched to find out how they’d do it. Along with everybody else who watched it, I was wondering whether this year she’d win the Grand Slam. I firmly believed that I was one of a miniscule number of people who could stop her.
I hope the commentators had their bibs on because they drooled over her right from the start. Every flowing groundstroke was described as if it was perfection, the like of which had never before been seen on a tennis court. Each of her, admittedly few, errors were glossed over and then talked about as if she’d only done them to appear more human. So good shot or bad shot, she seemed to have that ability to endear herself to everyone. That classical American, golden girl smile of hers began to break out mid way through the second set, when it became clear she was going to win. To be brutally honest I felt it became clear she was going to win about half way through the coin toss. From the moment they stepped on to the court, her inexperienced opponent had done an excellent impression of a rabbit caught in headlights, committing the unforgivable, but all too common, error of playing the reputation of your opponent, rather than the ball. The tennis ball doesn’t know who’s hitting it, you shouldn’t care either.
Back in the studio, they started the whole Grand Slam debate. Churning out all the stats, not been done since 1988, the other three events all on different surfaces, only need one bad day or one injury and the dream is over. Despite all these “obstacles”, all three so called experts in the studio fully backed her to do it. Including the last two Grand Slam tournaments of the previous year she’d now won three in a row, another three seemed like a matter of course in the minds of these people. These ex-players had such bold opinions, especially when you consider that during their careers, there was more chance of Lord Lucan and Shergar reaching a Grand Slam final than any of them.
Just let me at her at Wimbledon, on my favourite surface and with a patriotic crowd behind me. Let’s see how she likes it when someone stands up to her and drags her into a close, long lasting contest. No rabbit in the headlights, just a steely glare. Wax lyrical and drool all you want, but trust me, she’s beatable, she’s beatable, she’s beatable.
In Melbourne it was thirty degrees and hardly a cloud in the sky. Back here in Warrington the sun hadn’t come up yet, but all the signs were that it was going to be one of those miserable, grey days that back up one of the many stereotypes of the Northwest of England. Being up even earlier than normal meant that I started my fitness work for the day that little bit early. The second bedroom of my rented two bedroom terrace house had long since been turned into a gym. By the time I’d done all my stretching, my sit ups and thirty minutes on the bike it was just about light enough outside for me to go for a run. Victoria Park was almost literally on my doorstep and a great place to run around. I do own a treadmill but had never liked running on them, so only use that when the weather is extremely bad or when it’s dark. On this occasion I was early enough to have the park to myself. Over the last few years I have designed a few runs around the park and nearby areas with the length varying from two miles up to twenty, decided on the five mile “circuit” this time. As always when I get back from a run, I got my skipping rope out in the back yard and did two hundred skips. After that there was more stretching before a shower.
My wrist feels fine now, going to the hospital tomorrow to get it checked out. I’m sure I’m ready to play, almost five months is far too much time to go without hitting a tennis ball. After my shower I grab a huge bowl of fruit salad and crash out on my sofa. Put the DVD of the 1980 Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final, of course I know who’s going to win because I’m seen it a hundred times before but I still find it immensely watchable. Wonder what she’s doing right now.
Finally I get some time to myself. After the on court prize giving ceremony, the post match press conference, the post shower and change photo shoot and then the post photo shoot press conference, I strongly desire some alone time. At times it’s almost enough to put me off winning, nothing could ever put me off winning, but all that stuff can be a drag. To be fair the Aussies are actually quite cool about it, other countries can be a lot worse. I know the press are just doing their job and it is part of mine to talk to them, but sometimes it’s just crazy. Then, when I’m finally through with them, my friends and family are all over me. I love them all to bits but none of them seem to realise I need my alone time, took me a good half an hour to get them all out of my hotel room.
Lower myself into the hot bath that I ran for myself, contrary to some reports I’m nowhere near diva enough to have someone run my baths for me. On this occasion I got the temperature perfect, hot but just about bearable. Lean back so everything below my chin is in the water. I’d positioned the trophy in the bathroom, so I can see it clearly from the bath. That’s what it’s all about, not the publicity, the money, the adoration of the tennis public, none of that. It’s about the trophies, the trophies that make up the history and essence of this great game. Every time I get my name etched on one of those four trophies I add to my tennis immortality. Long after I’m gone my name will still be engraved on all four of them. All four of them in the same year would put me in one of the most elite clubs. That would be tennis immortality. Everybody in tennis is talking about it and most people seem to think that I will do it this year. I’ll be giving it everything and really do believe that I’ve got a great chance. Most of my opponents are either not yet at their peak or are past it. There are always plenty of the eastern European girls that can be tough to beat. Plus I’m sure there are many American girls who are getting fed up of the attention I get. But in all honesty the only player at all likely to be the one to stop me from fulfilling my dream is Holly, the Belgian girl who is so strong on clay courts that she’ll be tough to beat in Paris.
When I say my dream, I of course mean my tennis dream. I’m glad tennis isn’t the be all and end all of my life. Don’t get me wrong, nobody works harder than I do to be a great tennis player. But I never want my whole life to be merely about hitting a ball with a bat. There’s so much good I could do with the status and money tennis has afforded me. I want to, and even feel obliged to leave a great lasting legacy that will improve the world as a place to live in. That sounds incredibly self important, but really it’s the other way around. My tennis career makes me feel humble, so many great people out there give their lives up to great causes and none of them get the attention and praise I do. In twenty years time when I’ve set up, worked on and dedicated my life to many great charities, then I could fully accept being held up as a great role model. I really do love my tennis, but I’ve always only seen it as one chapter in my life. Not sure when I’m going to bring this chapter to a close. If I have to go out sometime, then going out immediately after completing the Grand Slam would be a great time to do it.
I step out of the hospital feeling a great sense of freedom and release. Finally the specialist had given me the go ahead to start hitting balls. Of course he’d told me to take it easy and gradually work my way back into playing competitively. Phrases like “take it easy” and words like “gradually” are all relative. I fully intend to be playing on tour within a month. Drive home in an excited state, picturing myself hitting balls again.
As soon as I get home I grab one of my racquets from a bag in my gym room and start rehearsing a few shots. Before long I’m twirling the racquet around in my familiar, showboating way, feels orgasmically good to have it in my hand again. For years now the racquet has not felt like an object, it feels like the thing that was missing from my left hand at birth.
All over the wall in my gym are many different things that motivate me. Some are posters, some are articles about me from my biggest wins so far, but the one I make myself read every day is an article written after my most disappointing loss. First round of Wimbledon last year and this is how it reads:
“No forehand, no backhand, no serve and no heart. Nikki Ellis showed herself yesterday to be just another in the long line of false hopes for British Tennis. After last year’s march to the fourth round as a twenty year old that excited the whole nation, she went out this year to a lower ranked opponent. What’s more she went out in straights sets with barely a whimper. The fact that after last years performance here she went on to have a consistent year on the tour, breaking into the top 30 in the world, makes yesterdays pathetic loss all the more disappointing. Indeed the word loss doesn’t do the appalling nature of her defeat justice, surrender would create a more accurate image. Clearly she seems to be one of the numerous British sports stars for whom the tiniest bit of success is more than enough to satisfy them. In this crazy world of modern sport she’s probably already earned plenty to be living in a luxurious house, driving a fancy car and will never have to do a days work in her life. The surprise is that she’s only made the one appearance on ‘Question of Sport’, hasn’t brought out an autobiography yet and hasn’t cashed in on her slim figured, fresh faced good looks with several modelling contracts and ‘lads mags’ photo shoots. Although I’m sure all of those are just around the corner. If ever any one sports star could be held up to be an example of the British disease of sporting mediocrity then it is Nikki Ellis. Sorry to disappoint tennis fans around the country, but I’m afraid your long wait for a female star to be proud of is not over yet.”
Considering that’s supposed to be an insight into my life, so that the British public can understand me more, then it is amazing just how spectacularly wrong he is.
For someone to launch such a vicious attack on someone’s lack of professionalism and character, you’d think he would be professional in his own work. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I thought a big part of a journalist’s job was to do research. Luxury house? Two bedroom terrace. Fancy car? Eight year old Volkswagen Polo. Never do a days work? I’ve seen this man and trust me if he followed my fitness regime for a day it would, in all likelihood, kill him. You’d also think that such a shocking loss might actually have a story attached to it and that at the very least it was the journalist’s job to investigate to see if there was any reasoning for the result. The press conference afterwards as so dull that not one of them asked any question that compelled me to reveal I had a slight tear in my right calf, severely hindering my movement and my speed. Take away my movement and you may as well take away my racquet. I absolutely hate making excuses, so I would never volunteer the information that I was carrying that injury. However I wouldn’t have lied about it either, yet not one of them asked a question along the lines of; ‘You didn’t seem to have anything like your usual amount of movement and court coverage today, was that because of some injury?’ The ‘no serve, no forehand, no backhand’ comment I can completely handle. I know full well that my technique on all those shots is nowhere near most of the top girls out there. However I take that as a compliment. The fact that I’ve been ranked inside the top thirty, despite all those flaws, mean that my footwork, speed, endurance and tactical mind must be exceptional. Most of all it means, my heart must be one of the strongest out there. No heart? Me? That’s so far from the truth I can’t believe he wrote that. As for this grouping together of all British Sports Stars as mediocre losers, well that just amazes me. Why does the football team getting knocked out in a Quarter Final have any bearing on me? If the Athletics team get a poor medal haul at major championships does that mean no British golfers will succeed that year? I agree there are plenty out there happily living in their “comfort zone”, and I have at least as much distain for them as anybody else does. But the least I’d expect from a journalist writing an article about one person, is that they treat that person as an individual. As for the modelling and the photo shoots, I can only assume that is wishful thinking on his behalf. If he knew me at all then he’d be fully aware that I do not long to see myself high up the FHM Top 100 sexiest females list. My one and only ambition in life is to be the best tennis player I can possibly be. Anything else that goes with that will just be superfluous, luxurious excesses.
Shared Dreams is available to buy on kindle and is available in paperback format from the following link: http://www.feedaread.com/books/Shared-Dreams-9781782991458.aspx.
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