I was a pretty good tennis player in my day, though I had a screwy serve that caused me a lot of grief. I still hold the record for double faults in the dark corners of the tennis world's San Joaquin Valley.

I was a below average player throughout both high school and college. I was promoted to coach, which was apparently the reward for my continuing mediocrity.

During that year I drove my players to tournaments from town to town through vineyards and between cotton fields, offering advice and comfort to my mediocre players.

They may have just felt sorry for me. God bless 'em, if that was it.

This sad chapter of my athletic failures still haunts me and it may be the cause for the terrible dream that afflicted me last week.

I found myself playing the best tennis player in the English royal family, Prince Charles, (my judgment) and yes, the husband to Camilla and the late Princess Diana.

In this dream I was honored to be in the presence of what's left of the British Empire, Queen Elizabeth II, who sat primly on a bench on the sidelines, gloating as her son vanquished me.

She was there apparently to make sure I couldn't use my mediocre tennis-playing skills to cheat or rob her little boy of a legitimate victory.

Charles wore his street clothes when he played me -- his street shoes made a terrible clatter; I wore what I always wear in my dreams: nothing at all. It was particularly embarrassing since I was running and jumping in front of the Queen.


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Why should I continue to be humiliated when it's my dream, after all? Surely, as the person dreaming I should be fully clothed, especially since I'm playing in front of the Queen. Whatever happened to good taste?

Instead I have to be in a constant state of dishabille, or nearly nude, in front of the queen of England.

Why should I insist on dreaming in this embarrassing state? Are there some mitigating facts I have overlooked?

Anyway, I occasionally find myself inappropriately undressed in my dreams and I don't know why.

Sometimes I find myself unclothed when I'm standing in front of a new class on the first day of term and unsure what course it is that I'm supposed to be teaching. Even then I find myself dressed only in my underwear (or less). My dreams are apparently intent on my utter humiliation.

This immodest display should not have occurred in front of the Queen of England and I want to apologize to all of my English friends for the spectacle I'm forced to display.

A humorist has said "People who insist on telling their dreams are among the terror(ists) of the breakfast table."

Please forgive me for offending so many of you.

So Charlie, as those of us who know him best, owned the tennis balls and the royal tennis court. I guess you know that almost everything in England belongs to him or his family.

And most perplexing, Charlie refused to let me use the tennis net.

He insisted that we play what he called "low ball" which really isn't tennis at all; I couldn't serve, we had no rallies or lobs and I wasn't allowed overhead smashes with the Queen sitting so near.

My reputation preceded me so everyone flinched when I swung my racket.

Naturally, I was prevented from showing off any of my best shots.

But I played by Charlie's rules and out of deference to his sober, tight-lipped mother, kept the tennis balls low and slow.

Eventually, during the night, my aching tennis elbow returned and I complained to Charlie.

He was heartless and sneering at my discomfort.

He accused me of "lollygagging," as he called it, which was outrageously unfair, but my elbow really hurt.

Then I woke up, ending this sorry episode with Charlie and his severe mother.

Now, what should I make of this crazy dream?

Maybe there are some lessons here for me.

What about my goals in life?

Is it obvious that I am too content with my low-ball life? What does it say when I'm content to play tennis without a net?

Should I care that I'm willing to play unclothed in front of the Queen of England? It's just a dream, after all.

And why should I care so much about winning when winning hasn't been all that important in my waking life?

Dan Harper is an Aptos photographer, journalist and former English department chairman at Cabrillo College. He can be reached at dnaharp@gmail.com. His column appears occasionally.