Aldeburgh: Former tennis champion Christine Janes serves up long-lost poetry

THEY were written more than 30 years ago to help her children read and make them smile.

Now, former tennis champion Christine Janes, who lives in Aldeburgh, is publishing a book of her lovingly-penned poems after her family decided they deserved a wider audience.

Mrs Janes, who reached the Wimbledon final in 1961 when she was known as Christine Truman, has found herself embarking on a literary career at the age of 70.

The book, Dilly and Other Poems, was illustrated by her neighbour, the artist Liz Summers, and is due to be published next month by Leiston Press. The poems follow the adventures of the lead character, Dilly.

The mother-of-four will also be back at Wimbledon in May to read the stories to children of members of the All England Club.

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“I wrote the poems for my children 35 years ago,” she said.

“They were just little stories I made up. My father always said to me ‘you should get them published’ so I kept hold of them. I’d always kept them in a file.

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“I really enjoyed writing them and the children enjoyed them too, but it was just a hobby.

“I’d always thought I would do something with them one day but like lots of things in life, you don’t get round to it.

“I was on the phone to my sister in Canada last year and she said ‘whatever happened to those poems?’ so I got them out again.”

Mrs Janes, who has been married to Gerry, a former rugby player, for 43 years, said she approached her long-time neighbour – a professional illustrator who has worked on a number of books – about doing something with the stories.

“I said to Liz ‘I am just having a clear-out of some rubbish but have a look at these’ and she came back with them illustrated. I nearly fell off the doorstep!”

There were originally just half a dozen books made – one for Mrs Janes on her 70th birthday in January, one for her sister and one for each of her four children, Nigel, 40, Caroline, 38, Richard, 35, and Amanda, 33.

“Once the draft book had been made, everybody said ‘can I have one?’ so we thought we would go ahead and publish it,” she said.

“After that, I’ve been inspired to write some more. I enjoy it, but it’s a lot more difficult than playing tennis.”

Since the book was illustrated, another of Mrs Janes’ neighbours, Dana Taylor, made a number of Dilly dolls.

And while Mrs Janes, the 1959 French Open champion, is now more likely to have a pen in her hand than a racquet, she is still making the best of her sporting life – one of the poems in the book doubles up as a tennis lesson.

She will be signing copies at The Aldeburgh Bookshop, on April 16, and will be reading at the All England Club, at Wimbledon, on May 12.

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