Going Back Again…

I love going back to England to see my family and visit all the places that meant so much to me growing up.  My mother still lives in Wimbledon in the same house where I was raised, very close to the Wimbledon Tennis Championship grounds.  Tennis was a big deal in my family and my father turned us all into reasonable players from an early age.  I ended up playing for my university and was quickly named ‘The Slammer’- I hit very hard but the ball wasn’t always that well controlled.  My mother asked me once to play with her regular ladies four but I nearly took one of her friends’ heads off with an awe-inspiring cross court backhand and was never asked to play again.

Living so close to Wimbledon, I was able to watch world class players warming up before their games on the practice courts situated right behind my parents’ back yard.  I saw everyone from Bjorn Borg to John McEnroe practice without realizing how lucky I was to be in such a privileged position.  During the Wimbledon tournament it was always a thrill to go to the Centre Court.  My father knew everyone who worked at the grounds so we would often get in for free finding any seat available to watch the stars play.  Things have changed so much now and the grounds are almost unrecognizable from when I was young, but those memories of watching tennis with my father on the most famous court in the world, are very special.  As I grew older I worked at the championship as a chauffer, driving players from their hotels to the stadium and during my final year at university I did personal security for all the tennis players including my idols, Navratilova and the great Steffi Graf.   I had been given the job because at that point in my life I was interested in either becoming a police officer or going into personal protection, but that was before theatre and dogs really came into my life and changed my path forever.

My father died in 2003 and I miss him every day.  My mother had a tree planted for him in one of his favorite places, the Hurlingham Club, of which he was a member for 50 years.  Hurlingham is an old private sports club that has a waiting list as long as your arm to become a member and is a slice of old, genteel England.  Quiet and refined, it was the place that we would spend the weekend and while my parents played tennis, my sister and I would take off and explore the vast grounds right next to the River Thames.  Again we had no idea how privileged we were to play in such an environment, but it was an important part of our protected world.  Hurlingham is where I attended grand dances along with sons of lords and boys from Eton – the school for princes.  I think my mother was secretly hoping that I would meet a prince or the son of a wealthy land owner, but even though there were a few hopefuls, I never really fit in with that social set and much preferred to get into my muck boots and walk my clients’ dogs on Wimbledon common.  If I had become Lady Victoria in my vast manor house, no doubt I would have surrounded myself with dogs and horses, but then I would probably never have become a trainer and had the opportunities I now have to help dogs and their humans world wide.

I’m writing this because I have just returned from England again, visiting many places of my youth.  Although so much has changed, these places remain important to me.  My father’s tree stands on the side of a small lake, in front of some tennis courts, with a plaque at the bottom to honor his memory.  As I stand in front of his tree with my head full of memories I can see him playing tennis on the court behind me, intense and competitive, in his element and loving this sport that was so much part of his life.  I miss you, Dad, and hope that wherever you may be, you are executing the perfect forehand or making your opponents crazy with the drop shots that you were so famous for.

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14 thoughts on “Going Back Again…

  1. Pingback: Going Back Again… | Victoria Stilwell Positively | Top Tennis Review

  2. Laura J. Greco de Bove Moses

    This is so nice. It reminded me of when I lost my gramps. Although I wasn't brought up near Wimbledon I was always privileged IMO as I had vast amounts of land owned by my family where I could explore and walk for hours with our dogs without a care in the world.

    Well done with all you've achieved with dogs. If I can achieve just half of what you have, I'll be very happy.

    I knwo your Dad would be very proud of you, just as my gramps is proud of me.

    Laura xx

  3. DeLinda

    What a wonderful childhood you had! Reading about it made it come alive... My mum passed awhile back so I sympathyze with you about losing a parent, it's good to go back to a place that reminds you of them. To celebrate the life they enjoyed while on this earth. I am sure your father is filled with loving pride while he watches his daughter make a difference. Much love to you for all that you do!

  4. Amanda


    Thank you for sharing your memories...they are precious.

    And thank you for pursuing a career in training dogs and their humans. Your passion is amazing!

    By watching and reading "It's Me or the Dog", I have learned things I never thought about before. Your knowledge is helping my husband and I raise our Beagle/Basset we adopted from a rescue. His name is Dewey and is 4 months old and he is already learning!

    I look forward to new episodes and hope to one day meet you.


  5. Linday Jane Caress

    Dear Victoria , I thought your blog was lovely and it brought back memoreis of my Dad .. I didn't realise you lived in America . I thought your shows were recorded to contract when you were over there .I wish you the best of luck in 2011 and hope all your dreams come true . I love your shows and find you an inspiration . Our beautiful Golden Girl is so happy and loves to be free ! Lindsay xx

  6. Joanne

    I SO related to your article. Not long ago, I took my children for a ride through the "old neighborhood". Though much closer than yours, it still reminded me of good times and that I was so lucky to have the childhood I had. Time does pass on, and with the love of friends and family, especially being blessed with children, it enables you to pass on these wonderful values to the next generation. Thank you for all that you do. I am inspired by you and your teachings. Victoria, you truly do make the world a better place.

  7. Rachel

    Thank you for sharing such a warm heartfelt sotry about your father and your childhood! Brought a tear to my eye thinking about my mother, whom was taken away from us far too soon.
    Again thanks for your hard work and dedication to our little friends. I am an avid fan, and use many of your techniques in my own dog service, While You're Away!

  8. Cherrie

    Victoria, I also lost my father in 2003, exactly 2 weeks after my son was born. They say when one door closes another opens. What do you think was your door that opened when you lost your father?

  9. Amanda Z.

    Oh Victoria,
    To be you! You have been successful in all of the things that I love! You write so well, you are an actress/ singer, dog trainer, you were a dresser at The West End. Plus you come from my favourite country in the world. Perhaps someday all 5 feet of me will me your personal security... or personal stylist. Sounds like an amazing childhood which turned into an amazing adulthood where you inspire and help so many of us.

    All Best Wishes,
    Amanda Z.

  10. Lisa

    I am so glad your life took the path it did. Your show has helped me with my beagle and now with a foster pit who has baldder cancer but for now feels great and getsinto lots of trouble :)!

    Nice to get to know you a bit and keep doing what you are doing

  11. Diane Garrod

    Thanks for sharing those wonderful memories. The passing of a parent (both mine are gone now) is painful, but it is the memories, the celebration of their life that keeps them close to our hearts. Love seeing this side of you and many, many blessings for you as you continue your work with the dogs and owners that need it most!


  12. Renate

    Hello Victoria,

    So glad you found the path to theatre and dogs!

    My father died in 2001 and the passing of time hasn't alleviated how much I still miss him. My family planted a tree in his honor the day after his funeral, not in a famous or public place, but in a nice spot visible from my mother's living room window. It's nice to see similiar traditions worldwide. Really connects us as spiritual, human beings, no matter where we live.

    You are the worlds' Lady Victoria, and we are grateful for your humble, friendly, wise personality! :o)

    Keep up the good work! Enjoy the holiday season and best wishes for a wonderful, prosperous 2011 to you and family, and all the dogs who are fortunate enough to meet you.


  13. Raina

    Remember Victoria, you Dad will always be in your heart. He is always looking down on his little girl and smiling at all that you have accomplished in your life. You are a wonderful person and you have touched the lives of so many people and their pets.

  14. Brian Holmes

    Memories of my youth in Wimbledon include seeing you in the mornings outside Wimbledon High as I walked up the hill towards Kings College.

    Glad you had a good trip home.

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